Q & A with Lucy Wolf
We had the pleasure this week to sit down with our amazing brand ambassador and leading sleep consultant Lucy Wolf to help answer some of the top questions that have come into ourselves and Lucy over the past few months.
Have a read and we hope you can pick up a few tips here to get some well deserved rest 🙂
I’m a first time mum to a 7.5 month little girl, and I need some advice on daytime napping: I’ve gotten her into a terrible habit of lulling her to sleep in my arms. If I try to move her or put her down she wakes and won’t go back to sleep, so inevitably I end up leaving her sleep on top of me from anywhere between 10 mins and an hour. Do you have any advice on how to train her somehow to nod off herself for a daytime nap?
First of all, it’s not a terrible habit allowing your baby to fall asleep in your arms. In fact it is the most natural and comfortable place for her to sleep, although I do appreciate that it can often mean that the parent is trapped for the duration of the nap as any attempt to place down results in your child waking. I think first and foremost we need to celebrate attending to our children in such a sensitive way and now if you are ready, then you can help her to sleep more independently for her naps.
Before you would attempt this, it is important to ensure that she is able to go to sleep herself at bedtime without being held in your arms. If she currently cannot, then it is here you need to start. Using my age-appropriate feeding and sleeping balances from my book The Baby Sleep Solution, begin to lay a foundation by creating sleep times that are in sync with her natural rhythm. This way, any learning that she needs to do will be made easier in the long run. Then start to establish a formal bedtime routine in the bedroom and do the same for the nap as well. Give her 20 minutes at bedtime and at least 10 minutes at nap time. If you are then ready to transition from arms place her in the cot-awake and use my stay-and-support-approach to comfort her through the transition. When working on naps always try for 1 hour to help her to take the nap. If she doesn’t go to sleep in this time frame then, abort mission and re-try within an hour. Only attempt a nap in the cot twice in the same day-after that use the car or the buggy-but don’t revert back to holding as this will create a mixed message.
In all likelihood she will nap, but initially she will probably wake quite soon thereafter. Unless she is easily re-settled –get up and move on to the next suggested nap time. The length of the nap will improve over the course of 2 weeks and if within that time naps are still short, then you can start to use the stay and support approach mid- nap now as well. My expectation at this stage would be that going for the nap now is an easy exercise, so it is only helping her stay asleep, that is now challenging, if at all. Once you are making progress don’t forget then to fix your naps in place so that the final gap between the last nap and bedtime does not exceed 2.5-4 hours. I hope that helps and wish you every success in making the changes.
I have a 20 month old boy who is a very bad sleeper. He wakes up few times a night and screams for no reason. It’s not night terrors because he’s awake while he cries, and he’s been like this since he was few weeks old. We’ve been to the doctors and he’s fine, they just said it’s a bad habit. He never slept more than 4 hours in a row and this happens very rarely. Do you have any advice for how we can help him get past this?
Generally with children who have been historically poor at sleeping they are in a constant cycle of overtiredness that tends to continue to promote the reported issues that may be resistance to sleep and waking up hysterical in the overnight period. Sometimes the upset overnight can also be attributed to parents changing how they deal with the night time activity-so for example if you sometimes, feed or sometimes bed-share or sometimes let him to cry-then you may find that the crying is more intense as a result.
Once underlying medical issues have been ruled out-then I tend to try to begin what I describe as begin a sleep learning exercise. This means that we look at all the force factors that affect sleep and then put a plan in place to encourage better sleep tendencies. At 20m months then most children will require 1 nap a day-this nap is best addressed at 1pm and to be encouraged to nap for 1-2.5 hours depending on what he needs himself. It is significant to ensure that you operate a feeding and sleeping balance so that feeding and sleep and in sync with each other-this means a breakfast on wake up, mid morning snack, lunch before then nap, another healthy snack on wake up and then a dinner ideally offered about 5pm. This then allows us to begin to observe an earlier bedtime and a smaller wake period before sleep time that can enhance his ability to stay asleep overnight.
It may be helpful to ensure that you have reduced high sugar, proceeds food and little or no screen time and that he is getting lots of outside activity and fresh air. It may also be helpful to make sure that there are no bottles before bedtime and the last milk feed if applicable is offered before 615pm.
Establishing a calm bedtime routine in the bedroom will help to promote positive feeling around sleep and if he is upset at bedtime then use my stay and support approach to encourage the transition from low sleep ability to high sleep ability skills as bedtime specifically.
To address now the overnight in a predictable way-it is important that the night is handles only one way and the stay and support approach is a good replacement for occasional drinks, bed sharing or cry I out techniques. This approach encourages you to stay and verbally, physically and emotionally accompany him on the journey towards better sleep. Be mindful that making the changes alone, is not enough, it will then take anywhere from 10-21 days to see improvements overnight, but with a predictable and measured response from you, together with an age appropriate feeding and sleeping balance you will start to see better sleep for your family.
My twins were born 8 weeks early, do I work from their actual or corrected age.
Generally I adjust the age range to reflect the corrected age, especially when I am starting to make changes to a child’s sleeping pattern. I would not normally want parents to begin a sleep learning exercise until their child is 6 months corrected and what I find normally is that once we are making progress, most children fall in between their actual and their corrected age.
As they get older this matters less as the bandwidth for the ages tends to encompass both the adjusted and actual age-it is more relevant within the first 9 months where I tend to categorise in the following ways:
0-2 month|2-4 months| 4-6 months| 6-8 m and then 8-12 months, 12-15 month and 15m-3y so you can see that once they are beyond 8 months then they will fall into the same bandwidth either way.
When you are helping twins to sleep better, I generally follow my feeding and sleeping balances with them at the same time and then, when necessary, I wake them within 15 minutes of each other in the morning and at nap time, so that we can routinely have the same day layout and bedtime for both. I find twins will synchronise then thereafter Congrats and all the best.
How do I make room sharing work?
Having two or more children share a room can be a sleep challenge for some parents. The first key guideline would be to ensure that all parties that share a room must be able to sleep through the night first for this to work well or if you have multiples then you must have your child or children learn to sleep through the night in the same space, without panicking and hooking out a wakeful child in an effort to preserve the sleep of another. My ideal scenario with siblings is to have them independent in the overnight period before you put them together. If this is not possible, I would sometimes even remove a good sleeper and help the sleepless child learn the skill of consolidated sleep and then reunite them.
After that piece is taken care of, it is then important that you have some room sharing guidelines for the young children to adhere to, for example:
- No talking once lights go out
- No waking someone that is already asleep
It can be helpful to sometimes stagger bedtimes in the beginning to avoid over stimulation in the run up to bedtime. Obviously, it may take a while for all the parties to get good at sleeping together, but persevere if this is what you want for your children, or of course if space dictates that your children must share.
What can I do to help my child transition to the crèche?
A lot of our children will be in day care when we return to work. I always suggest that you work on your sleep about 6 weeks or so before your return to work date so that you don’t have any issues that could be avoided. To have a smooth (ish) transition to crèche then try to ensure that your child is well rested and capable of sleeping without parental input. Make sure that you are using an age relevant time structure by day and that you crèche are willing at the start to work on this with you.
Some children will never sleep as well in a crèche than they would at home and the reverse is also true. It can take 3-4 weeks for your child to fully establish their sleep in the crèche and provided that they are already able to put themselves to sleep at home for naps then this is easily transferred to day care. You would hope that as he settles in that your new child-carer will give him some extra attention as he gets good at sleeping somewhere else and with others too.
Send a security item with him and a sleeping bag if it is allowed and a few quick phrases that you say at home that your minders will repeat. A good sleep environment away from home would ideally be dark and without too many disruptions and if music is playing that it plays for the duration of the sleep.
You already know that it is likely that there will be settling in issues and possibly some sickness as they are exposed to others, but that will all settle down within the month. Good luck!