April: Expert Hadley Seward Answers Your Baby Sleep Questions
Every month on Facebook we'll be hosting live Q+A sessions with sleep experts in the field of baby sleep. This month we had Hadley Seward from Bonne Nuit Baby back to help your family rest better.
Always remember that advice is specific to a baby's age and schedule, therefore we hope you find something helpful, but you should always consult a paediatrician or sleep consultant for specific, tailored guidance.
Melanie: My daughter is 10 weeks old and exclusively breastfed.
At the moment she wakes at around 7am, feeds and then will sometimes go down in her next to me crib for another hour. I will then try and let her only stay awake for 1.5hrs at a time in the day before getting her to nap. Her naps will then range from 30mins to 2hrs at a time with her having max 3 naps a day. Morning, afternoon (around 2ish) and then late afternoon. The problem with her naps at the moment is she will only go to sleep and stay asleep on me jiggling her in her carrier using a pacifier to soothe her. If I try to put her down in her crib she'll only stay asleep for max 20-30mins and then that will throw the rest of the day out and she'll be fussy and cranky from there on in.
How can I get her to nap in her crib in the day? I'm nervous to start to try and put her down instead of being in the carrier as she's so much happier and content if she's had a few good naps.
We then try and start to put her down for the night from about 7pm after a feed by swaddling and rocking her and playing music, but she will sometimes take up to 2.5hrs to get her down properly and usually takes 2 or 3 go's of trying to put her in her crib before she'll stay asleep, sometimes she'll wake and scream so we have to start the process again. We've tried waiting for 20mins with her asleep in our arms before we put her down which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. So her by the time she goes down it's between 8:30-9:30pm. She'll then stir 2hrs later for a dream feed, then again 3hrs later than every 1-2hrs max after that till 7am.
How can I get her to sleep for longer stints in the night or is she still too little for this at the moment?
Hadley: Congratulations on your little one! It's great that you're already thinking about creating healthy sleep habits.
At 10 weeks, her circadian rhythm isn't fully mature... but it will be soon! In terms of her naps, I would start to give her practice going down for the nap in her crib, since that's your ultimate goal. It could be that you start by putting her in the crib for one of her naps and patting/shushing her until she falls asleep. The ultimate goal is that she falls asleep with the same conditions (in her crib, perferably alone) that will be there when she wakes up -- that way, she'll just fall back asleep. Again, this is your longterm goal but it's ok to start with baby steps.
In terms of bedtime, babies this age don't need a hard-and-fast bedtime. The fact that she's taking so long to settle makes me wonder if she's overtired by the time she's in bed. Be sure that she's sleeping in a super dark, quiet spot and that you're putting her down 1.5-2 hours after her last nap -- earlier if you notice tired signs. It's always better to aim too early versus too late.
Katie: We're struggling with naps for our 8 month old son. We're trying to time them at 9, 1 and 3:30ish. The 1 & afternoon nap tend to happen when we're out and about so although not ideal, he tends to sleep, either in his pram or the car. 80% of the time, it is a fight to get him to sleep. He shows all the signals and we try and put him down in his cot as soon as we see these. He then just screams and refuses to sleep. We've tried returning at intervals (5, then 10, then 15 mins until asleep), not interacting with him, but this just seems to work even less. If we're at home for the day, it's normal that we'll only manage to get him down for just one of his naps, for maximum an hour.
If we put him down in our bed, and stay with him for 10 mins, he will go straight to sleep. I try not to do this as feel it's a bad habit, but on the days I need him to sleep, I do it as I generally know it'll work. But, ideally, I'd want him to nap in his cot.
Also, when he does nap, it's only for around 30 / 40 mins each time. Lack of sleep during the day I'm guessing doesn't help with his overnight sleeping - he's still waking up at least twice. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Hadley: Thanks for your question. It sounds like he's having some issues self-soothing himself to sleep at naptime (and back to sleep overnight). Your nap schedule sounds appropriate for his age, though he will soon need to drop the third nap (and bedtime will need to be moved earlier to compensate).
My overall advice would be to take 2 weeks and be super consistent about what you do: I'd aim for the morning and mid-day naps to be in his cot (very dark, quiet room) and the 3rd nap can be on-the-go. If he's taking a long time to settle, try putting him down earlier than you have been (e.g., 830 and 12.30) -- he may have a sleep debt that's making him too overtired to easily settle. If you don't see any progress, then you may need to consider some sleep training in order to help him to learn to self-soothe... that would help him both to nap for longer stretches and help his overnight sleep. There are different methods depending on the situation and the baby's personality, so feel free to reach out if you need extra support around that!
"No, an earlier bedtime doesn't necessarily mean an earlier wake time. It could be that he's tired earlier than you think and will just sleep longer."
Katie: Thanks Hadley. In terms of an earlier bedtime - he goes down latest at 7 (and he's generally pretty good at going to sleep then too. So does this mean a 6:30 bedtime? Isn't this too early, meaning an even earlier morning wake up? Thank you!
Hadley: No, an earlier bedtime doesn't necessarily mean an earlier wake time. It could be that he's tired earlier than you think and will just sleep longer. Usually, you'll be able to see if it's helpful or not within a few days! It may be that you need to shift his entire sleep schedule earlier temporarily to allow him to catch up on sleep and then, once he's more well-rested, you can try to shift it later in 15 minute increments until you're back at the 9am / 1pm / 330p / 7p schedule.
Elisa: My daughter is 3years old (so not really a baby but still...), from birth she slept really well at night, easily 12hours in a row with a 2-hour long nap in the afternoon. For 7 months now, she doesn't want to go to bed and wakes up several times a night. She only sleeps 8hours a night (interrrupted every 3-4h) and always comes to sleep in our bed. She is very frightened and doesn't want us to leave her, so when we tuck her in she starts crying & yelling and follows us back to the living room...We put on 3 lamps in her bedroom for her to feel safe. During the day she also cries often, because she is tired but she doesn't want to nap. What can we do to help her sleep better and how can we avoid her sleeping in our bed the entire night?
Hadley: Toddlers are fun, right!? (I have one too!). It sounds like she's just not getting enough sleep per day, which is making life difficult for everyone involved. I would sit down with her and try to figure out what is worrying her about being in her room alone -- quite often it is something very specific (but not something apparent to the parents). For example, we just learned that my son would like his door cracked a bit so that he can see our bedroom door to assure him that we're there. See if you can first determine the root of the cause. Secondly, if your goal is really to have her to stay in her bed overnight, I'd recommend a family sleep meeting where you discuss the family sleep rules (simple rules like: we all stay in our own beds). Explain to her that everyone needs more sleep and that more sleep = the ability to run faster, jump higher... anything that will get her excited about it. Explain to her that starting that night, she needs to stay in her bed after bedtime. Then *each and every time* she gets out of bed and leaves her room between bedtime and when it's time to get up, calmly and silently walk her back to bed and leave the room again. Lastly, I'd recommend getting a toddler "ok to wake" clock so that she can see that it's nighttime versus time to be out of bed.
Caitriona: My son is 9 weeks old and doesn't really nap in the day unless he is being pushed around in the pram. How can I start to introduce a day time nap in his crib? Thanks so much
Hadley: Congratulations on your baby! It's so great that you're already thinking about healthy sleep habits at this young age. First off, be sure that you're offering frequent naps to keep your little guy well-rested -- babies that age typically need to nap every 60-90 minutes (or at the first sign of tiredness). Over the next month, I would begin to give him some (gentle) practice spending time in the crib at the beginning of nap time -- even if it's only for 5-10 minutes. The more practice you can give him, the better. Also be sure that you're putting him down in a very dark, quiet room. Hopefully this will encourage him to try falling asleep there (especially if you're getting him down before he's overtired) and you'll be able to wean him off os the stroller naps.
Angelica: At what age shall I start some kind of sleep routine with my baby? He is currently 3.5 weeks old and his sleep times are quite random at the moment. I have heard all kinds of controversial advice. Would really appreciate some help. Thanks!
Hadley: Thanks for your question. At 3.5 weeks I would aim to get into a sleep rhythm during the day -- a lot of parents like Eat Sleep Play. Don't aim for a schedule -- it's not going to happen this young -- but instead aim for short awake windows -- 45-60 minutes max (less if you notice tired signs). I found it really helpful to set a timer on my phone when my baby woke up so I could easily see how much time was last (or remind me that time was up!).
It's never too early to start doing a very simple routine for sleep -- at this age, it can just be putting her into her swaddle/sleeping bag and singing a song. Just something consistent that she associates with sleep. As she gets older, you can start to lengthen the routine. I hope this helps -- good luck!!
We'll be hosting monthly live Q+A sessions with experts over on our Facebook page, so you can get your baby-related sleep questions answered.
Until then, you can learn more about Hadley on her website Bonne Nuit Baby or take advantage of her Sleep Tip Tuesdays on Instagram.