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My tips for helping your little one learn how to sleep

Every mother would like to be able to give their baby a kiss and a cuddle, say goodnight and just put their tired baby down to sleep or for a nap and be able to walk away assured that their little one will, in a few short minutes fall into a restful sleep calmly.

The problem is that this rarely happens by its self. Parent hope that eventually with love and reassurance their baby will learn the art of self-soothing and for some lucky parents this is the case, but for most, their baby’s sleep and ability to self-soothe gets worse over time. Parents are exhausted and confused, knowing that they cannot continue what they are doing but are so sleep deprived and exhausted that they continue to lack a better option.
We know that feeding, rocking, cuddling, driving or using a pacifier to help our baby settle to sleep is setting us up for disaster, but for many reasons, we continue with these sleep props for want of a quick result and an easy life. Even if it takes 20 minutes to settle our little one in our arms only to hear them wake 20 minutes later still tired and restless. Why do we continue with these settling techniques when we know in the back of our minds that they are not a long term solution. The conclusion is the fear of crying…….

I see mothers every day who are struggling with sleep and settling their little ones and the common denominator in all cases is that parents are afraid of the effect crying will have on their little ones. But the effect of this dependence has a detrimental impact on every other part of the family’s lives, including the baby who is often cranky and restless when awake. During consultations, I talk with parents about the effect that this dependence on support has on baby and the whole family, most of you reading this will be living this daily.

What’s important is that we recognise that this current situation is not working for the baby or the family and can’t continue, so a plan, implement and improve the situation.

Every mother has heard a horror story of some other mothers experience of controlled crying, and most will vow never to do this to their little ones. But is there no other o other option? To actively settle you little one or just leave them to cry it out. Of course, there is, but it’s about finding what’s right for you and your family.

Now if you Google ‘Help settling baby’ you will get 1,200,000 results in less than a second, there are 1000’s of sleep and settling books on the bookshelves and many people in your life who will tell you what you should do so I’m not about to pretend that I have all the answers,
what I would like to do in this article is to tell you that you can do something and with some
Gentle persuasion improves your child’s sleep and settling long term.

Sleep and settling to sleep are a learned skill and learn this skill, like everything else it takes practice, practice practice. While your child learns how to settle in their cribs without sleep crutch’s they will most likely cry wanting the familiar to assist them, but the more often they do this, the more familiar this will be and the calmer they will become. There is no reason why you can’t be there beside them, supporting them through this learning curve until you can leave them to self settle after they have become more familiar with the new routine.
The crying for most is inevitable, but when a parent is there reassuring them, baby knows they are not alone they are just confused and tired.
I have included the information below to assist the parent in helping their child learn how to self
The first thing parent needs to do is recognise the problem (the sleep crutch) and the effect that this is having on their child and family. I recommend writing this down and displaying it somewhere that you can review it during your new settling plan.
. The next is to write out a routine for your baby, which is age-appropriate and one that fits in with your family. It would help if you tried to follow this routine as closely as you can over the next few weeks.
A baby learns through experience and so if you are trying to help your child learn how to sleep, it is essential that you follow a regular routine and keep fairly consistent. The first 2 days may be difficult and confusing for baby, but by following a routine, you create familiarity in the day-to-day, which helps babies feel calmer and more secure. I genuinely believe that routine early in a child’s life helps them grow into a more self-confident little people.
When babies have sleep issues their sleep and feeding cues can get muddled so parents can often miss or misread cues, this is why establishing a routine while trying to improve sleep is so important. After just a few days to a week of establishing a routine, babies often start to show you cues that they are hungry or tired 5-10 minutes before they are due for a feed or sleep on their routine, because they are now on an established routine these cues are easier to read and parents are more likely to respond to these cues more efficiently. A child’s sleep is directly related to their daily routine and nutrition so if your baby is snacking, comfort feeding, falling asleep at the breast or not feeding enough during the day it’s fair to say that this will continue into the night.
. By establishing a routine, we want to give you, the parent, the knowledge and reassurance that all your child’s needs are being met during the day, so you can be more confident in your behaviour when settling your child. We are also teaching your child that they can expect that today will be pretty similar to yesterday and your reaction to their behaviour will also be similar. A bath and bedtime routine is vital to teach your child that this next sleep is s important to teach your child that this next sleep is ur child that this next sleep is different from their day sleeps, it helps them relax for a longer, deeper sleep at night. The most important aspects of a bath and bedtime routine are moving from living area to bathroom to bedroom and not back to the living room. Remember that the living room for a baby or toddler is where all the fun happens, so when you are trying to teach your baby that it’s time for a big sleep not returning to the living area tells them that once we start bath time that’s the end of the day. Bath can be followed by a quiet play or a story then a milk feed and bed.
And then the fun starts.
How to settle your baby?
Okay so when you have decided that you’re current settling is not working, and you need to put steps in place to improve this situation, but what steps?

When writing up your new routine, you should also write up a step by step settling plan each the step should be in place for three days to one week, whichever you feel more comfortable with, if you decide to go for three days you need to do three days at every step or if you choose five days you need to do five days at every step for example:

Step 1: 4 days

Establish routine and sleep times. Need to encourage good blocks of day time sleep that are more than 45 minutes naps ( 35-45 minutes are indicative of one sleep cycle, this is when a
baby wakes when they come into a light sleep and cannot get back into a deep sleep. Babies need to learn how to sleep for more than one sleep cycle during the day to help them sleep
longer at night too)

No more feeding to sleep – can feed baby then rock to sleep and to resettle to sleep to encourage these longer sleeps and settling without feeds at night (may help to have dad

Step 2: 4 days

Need to help baby fall asleep in the cot – can rock until calm then put into the cot and pat to sleep and keep patting until they fall asleep.

Be aware that it may take a younger baby20 minutes to settle or resettle a baby over 6mts 20-40 minutes and a toddler up to an hour or more to settle. But you will be there with them reassuring them the whole time.

Step 3: 4 days

Allowing 5-10 minutes to self settle before going in to assist, when you do go in to help you can assist right to sleep.

Step 4: 4 days

Allowing 10-20 minutes to try self settle or resettle before going in and assisting, reducing assistance and reassurance until you can be just beside them when they fall asleep After 16 days baby should be able to self settle with little or no help within 10-20 minutes. You decide the steps you want to take with your baby. The only rule is that your step by step plan starts with assistance but ends with allowing baby 20 minutes to self settle without assistance. While implementing your settling plan, the below information may help.

During the first few days, I call this the Body Clock reset stage – kind of like being jet-lagged, or starting a diet the early few days are hard, but it gets easier as days go on.

When you start putting your baby into the cot to settle its best to think of them being jet-lagged, and if you have ever experienced jetlag you will know that the best cure for this simply lie there in your bed and try to sleep at the time that you should be sleeping in the current time zone (sleep times on the routine). It usually takes about 3-4 days to reset your
body clock, this is the same for babies and this is my reasoning for each step being 3-7days long. Inevitably the hardest part of settling for your baby will be trying to settle to sleep in their cot without their usual crutch and your baby will cry. The important thing is that during this stage you will be there to reassure your baby the whole time when settling and resettling so although they will cry wanting the familiar to help them get off to sleep you will be close reassuring them while they learn this new skill. During this time you can pat shush sing or stroke anything so long as they fall asleep without their old sleep crutch.

As we do not want your baby to become then dependent on you being there patting and shushing them to sleep you need to start allowing them time to try self-settling before going
in and assisting extending the length of time before going in to assist every few days or by listening to their cry gradually increasing the time you are allowing your child to self-settle
until you have reached 20 minutes, I prefer this method to the in and out method as it allows your child a reasonable length of time to try self settle than when you do go in to assist you can stay and assist them until they have settled or are comfortable enough for you to leave.
I often find that a baby may have 2-3 really good days and then a terrible day. It is on these days that parents lose faith and revert to old. It is usual for this to happen and essential that you don’t give up on your baby and all their hard work now.

Using the same techniques for each waking will teach your baby the right cues and minimise confusion.
You may wonder why I request that eventually, you move to 20 minutes of self-settling. The reason for this is that studies show that it takes most babies and toddlers about 20 minutes to settle to sleep or resettle back into a deep sleep. When parents interrupt this settling or cry down process to go in and offer brief assistance, the cry down / settling process then has to start again, and so your reassurance at this stage may be hindering not helping you child to settle. This is why many parents who have tried the in-out settling method only started to work after they had reached the 20-minute mark.
Parents find it easier to follow the settling plan above when they have a better understanding of crying and its association with sleep. So here is a little information for you melatonin for you to be aware of before settling.
Initially, it may take your baby around 20-40 minutes to cry down to sleep. The longer the sleep problem has existed, and the worse it is, the longer your baby will cry for. As your child’s sleep and settling improve this will become shorter, within 2-3 days provided you have stuck with your settling plan, your child may just cry initially then grizzle to sleep. I often find that a baby who is crying down will have 3 breaks between bouts of crying then settle right to sleep on the shorter 4th bout of crying. These breaks in crying need to last for a minimum of 5 seconds to be classified as a break, often parents will notice a change in their baby’s cry after a break but not necessarily that it gets quieter, quite often it can be the opposite. As a general rule a baby will generally cry for 3-7 minutes because you’ve put them to bed, often this is a temper cry. This cry then changes to a different cry often a more emotional sounding cry that last about another 7 minutes, then a break 5-15 seconds (1st break), then the second wave of crying about 7-10 minutes and then the baby has another break 5-15 seconds(2nd break), baby then moves into another change in the cry often this is the loudest and last, again around 10 minutes then another break of 5-15 seconds(3rd break) baby will then either go to sleep or briefly cry 1-2 minutes and fall straight to sleep.

If your child has gone into this 4th bout of crying and has not settled within 4 minutes and seems to be getting more distressed, this shows that they have tried to cry down can’t quite get there and need assistance. It is now if you really want to pick your baby up that you can pick them up and reassure them before starting again. If you feel that you cannot put your child back down after that you are probably best to wait a while longer before attempting a settling plan as giving up at this stage is just putting your baby through a This is a normal cry down process shows that your baby has done a full cry down process and the more often you baby is allowed to try self settle the easier and quicker it will become for them. This is a very safe and healthy way to fall asleep.

If your baby is crying down interference during this will cause the process to last longer if you notice signs that your baby is crying down just wait a little longer before assisting them.
Try to wait until a lull in their cry before going and assisting them and remember the power of 3. It takes most people, including babies, about 20 minutes to settle to sleep.

Deciding to tackle your baby’s sleep and settling can be a daunting prospect so when you’re up at 3 am, for the 5th time, tonight try to remember that you are not the only one, at this very moment many other mothers are doing the same thing and in the same situation.

If you’re not comfortable with your current situation, change it and make decisions you feel comfortable with to feel more confident and get support from family and friends.

Even though it may seem overwhelming at times, sleep problems can be solved- but it takes commitment, patience, love and consistency.

Lullababy SOS conduct in-home extensive day and night consultations to support you, and your little one through sleep training the service includes routine and settling plan establishment, assistance with settling and follow up support, I also conduct mothers group consultations for those who don’t want to go at it alone and telephone support for interstate clients. Sometimes all you need is someone there with you to tell you that you’re doing okay. So if you’re thinking of booking into a sleep clinic first consider if you would prefer to tackle the situation at home, which is much less stressful on baby.

To book a consultation to help you devise an individual settling plan and routine for your
little one just call: Lullababy S.O.S Elaine Harvey 0406211352 or visit for more information

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