Got a little tike? Then chances are sleep, showers, and sanity are all seeming so last year. And that is ALL good, cause you’re raising this little legend, but if you’re starting to think a few tips from a sleep expert might be in order, then read on, help is at hand! Lisa from Cherish Your Sleep, is here with some pearls of wisdom to help you all get some more shut eye.
Tell us a little bit about you!
Me - I am first and foremost a mum to three beautiful little humans - I had three babies in three years so it’s a very busy life over here. I am a certified and experienced Child Sleep Consultant (my back ground prior is as a Qualified Early Childhood Educator working with babies and toddlers for over 20 years) - I have been running my business “Cherish Your Sleep” for 7 years, helping families worldwide on the path to improved sleep. I am also the Co-regional Director for Australia Pacific at the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. I absolutely love my job, helping families and guiding them down a holistic path to improved sleep.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about newborns at sleep?
That they sleep ALL day and NIGHT and will just go to sleep when they are ready. Newborns also experience what is more commonly known as the fourth trimester which means they need the closeness, the cuddles etc which is really normal and encouraged but some parents aren’t expecting it. I actually think that most new parents don’t have the appropriate amount of correct education around realistic baby sleep expectations. Parents are often unaware of how long babies can stay awake for between sleeps, what the environment should be like, how to get their babies to sleep. For many parents it does come easy, but for for a lot of parents, they struggle because they don’t have the right information about such things.
What’s the first thing you suggest parents do if they’re having troubles getting bub to snooze?
The are actually two things that work cohesively to be honest - Wake windows and environment. I recommend parents look at the actual environment where their little one sleeps. The environmental factors are so crucial for good quality sleep yet information out there is so conflicting and therefore many parents have their babies sleeping in an environment that is not conducive to good quality sleep.
Wake windows - how long can their baby stay awake between naps is crucial, overtired babies, struggle to settle and stay asleep.
I always say - sleep is about putting baby down at the right time, in the right place and then allowing some time to settle and sleep.
What’s the biggest difference between baby sleep and toddler sleep?
Babies have super short wake windows that are often missed and babies can get overtired really quickly, which leads to short naps and potentially a crying baby. Also with small babies, sleep can be impacted on by unseen issues - for example - reflux, oral ties, intolerances - and these things result in very unsettled babies and therefore unsettled sleepers.
Toddler sleep - you are now dealing with walking, talking little people, trying to find their way in their little world - that can communicate and bring many battles to the table. They do have the ability to sleep more “like adults” - for longer periods of time without needing feeds, but you are now up against nightmares, dropping naps, fears and imagination which can impact on their sleep.
What things can parents try at home themselves, and when should they get help?
I empower parents to look at what they are currently doing to help their little one to sleep, and have the mindset that every few days, they start to taper off their help, so that their baby learns to settle with less help, if the issue lies with settling.. The key foundations to healthy sleep habits are:
Optimal sleep environment, good sleep hygiene, an age appropriate routine (wake windows), nutrition - making sure baby isn’t hungry. So a parent can rule out any issues relating to these foundations and then focus on settling and resettling in a way that feels comfortable to them. I think the right time for a parent to ask for help, is when their current situation is no longer sustainable and has become a problem for them/their family. What one family sees to be as an issue, may actually not be an issue for someone else. It really is dependant on how each individual family is coping and what they see might become a problem.
What tips do you have for transitioning to big bed?
The transition to the big bed is often done way too early for many toddlers. Ideally, the right time to transition your toddler to a bed is when they have control over their impulses and understand boundaries. I know there are many children that have a successful transition to the big bed at an early age, but I always suggest that this be done as close to aged 3 as possible where you can talk through the process of what is about to happen. I think some families have a toddler, fall pregnant with their second and move the toddler to a bed so the cot is available for the new baby, but I actually see more sense in buying a second cot and keeping the toddler where they are, particularly if they are sleeping well. You do not want to be dealing with a new baby, and a toddler with new found freedom at bedtime. My motto is DON’T FIX WHAT IS NOT BROKEN.
Some practical tips are to have lots of conversations about the transition before it takes place, providing clear and reasonable limits around what bedtime will look like, get your toddler involved in choosing linen and making it a bit of an exciting milestone. A bed rail is a really great idea - you’ve gone from an enclosed space to this big open bed with no boundaries, and that can really impact on your toddler. Praise praise praise your toddler for the great job they are doing in sleeping in a big bed.