Ask the experts

My 10-month-old baby daughter wakes every morning at 5am. If I put her to bed later will she sleep in later?

Andrea is a trained health visitor, and child sleep expert. She is also the mother of four children.  She specialises in gentle, child-centred techniques, which respect the values and parenting styles of each individual family.

Andrea has helped hundreds of families to overcome their children’s sleep problems. She specialises in gentle, child-centred techniques, which respect the values and parenting styles of each individual family.

As a leading authority in her field, Andrea’s work is recognised by paediatricians, child health practitioners and health journalists. Andrea is also the author of her latest book “Andrea Grace's Gentle Sleep Solutions” and is the health visitor expert for ITV1’s “This Morning”. Having a medical background and training, she is able to treat babies’ and children’s sleep problems in a safe and holistic way.

Q. My 3 month old baby sleeps in bed with me. I find it easier that way, as I am breast feeding. Now I want to move her into a cot but each time I try to, she screams. Is there anything I can do?

Start a little bedtime routine, shortly before you know that she is due to sleep for the night. After having her bath and clean nightclothes on; breastfeed her sitting in a chair next to her cot. Keep the bedroom light on and do not allow her to fall asleep at the breast. After she has fed but is still awake, hold her close and wind her well. During this time, sing a familiar gentle song that she will come to recognize as a sleep signal and then place her into her cot whilst she is sleepy but awake. She is very likely to cry, as all of this will be new to her but she will be reassured by your calm and quiet manner. There is no need to leave her on her own; in fact it is much better if you remain comfortingly beside her. This way, she will learn that her cot is a safe place. When she wakes in the night, feed her but do not allow her to fall asleep at the breast. Make sure that you place her back into the cot whilst she is still awake. By breaking the milk/sleep association you will allow her to naturally drop her night feeds when she no longer needs them. Once she is used to falling asleep in her cot, aware of where she is and without the breast in her mouth, you will be able to withdraw as she settles. This independence will enable her [and you!] to sleep peacefully through the night.

Q. My 10-month-old baby daughter wakes every morning at 5am. If I put her to bed later will she sleep in later?

Putting your baby to sleep later is very unlikely to help her sleep later in the morning and might lead to her become sleep deprived. Babies are programmed to wake early by both internal and external triggers such as hormone levels, light levels and hunger.

By six months, babies sleep in roughly 90 minute sleep cycles. As the night progresses these cycles become increasingly light. So typically babies will sleep deeply for the first part of the night but sleep becomes more fragile just before dawn. The result is that some babies miss out their final sleep cycle and become over tired and grumpy as a result.

The key to helping her sleep in for longer is to make sure that she settles to sleep by herself at the start of the night. This way, she is more likely to self settle when stirs early in the morning. Black out blinds can be useful in telling her that it is night time. Avoid giving her a night or dawn feed – provided she eats and drinks well during the day, she doesn’t need one. Using feeds as a sleep prompt may become a habit.

Remember that babies are naturally early risers. If she has had 10 hours sleep or more and wakes up cheerful, looking well rested, you may need to accept it for now!

Q. What exactly is a good bedtime routine, and why is it so important?

A good bedtime routine will help your baby to feel safe and sleepy and will help him or her to sleep through the night. It will also help YOU feel in control when you are tired and stressed at the end of the day. Follow the steps below and see what a difference it will make.

Begin your routine shortly before you know your baby is ready for sleep.

The routine should start no more than an hour before he is due for a bedtime feed. Don’t necessarily expect a baby of just a few weeks old to be ready for bed at 7pm – your routine may have to start later in the evening. It’s pointless starting a bedtime routine at 6 O’clock if your baby doesn’t go to sleep until 9 O’clock.

Take everything that you need for the night with you, to avoid having to come back into the living area.

Follow a similar bedtime “script” by using familiar phrases and actions at key points during the routine.

Bath your baby every night unless there are genuine reasons why you can’t – and sing the same “action” song in the bath each night.

Go directly to your baby’s sleep room after the bath.

Clean nappy

Milk feed – with the light on to prevent your baby from falling asleep over the feed.

Goodnight song or story – same one each night.

Place them in their cot whilst awake but sleepy, to settle for the night.

Your baby’s bedtime routine should be a lovely experience for both of you. Even though it is the end of the day, and you are both tired – try to make your bedtime routine a special time. It is important that before he settles to sleep for the night, your baby knows just how much you love him.

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