The lovely Hayley from @thegentlemama joined us live on instagram recently, to answer your sleep questions, chat about what is normal biological baby sleep, and give some really useful tips to help with nap tranfers, naps gaps, and surviving being nap trapped.
Here is Part 2 of the transcription of the chat that Hayley & I (Lianne, founder of Sienna Apparel, Hi!) had - I hope you find it useful mama!
Lets get to the questions!
Q1 - I have a 5 month old, nearly 6 months, exclusively breastfed, naps whenever they want (usually in a car or on a walk). Never stays asleep if he is moved, haven't let him lap alone yet. He wakes twice after falling asleep between 7pm & 9pm for a feed, and then goes back to sleep for 3-4hrs, and then wakes every 45 mins to 2 hourly for feeding or comfort, he won’t take a dummy – not yet weaned, I doubt a bottle would make a difference? Sometimes I feel like I’m fine on it, and other times I feel like death.
Actually, a lot of what she has described there is really normal sleep, really normal. Sleeping for 4 hours, and then waking every 45 mins – 2 hours, that sounds perfectly normal to me. Baby’s will have a chunk in the night where they have deeper longer sleep, and then waking up more frequently after that towards the beginning of the day, that is absolutely normal. They find it more difficult to get into deep sleep and link those sleep cycles as they get towards the beginning of the day, so I wouldn’t panic about that. In terms of the beginning of the night, waking twice between 7pm and 9pm, it sounds like there could be that there is some over tiredness there. Something that rarely gets covered is that if a baby is overtired, they will generally wake up earlier towards the beginning of the night, they will struggle to get into deep sleep in the first place, and then when it comes to the end of the sleep cycle, instead of being in kind of deep sleep and coming a little bit out, they are already in light sleep, they wake up properly. So it’s actually good to try and get them to sleep a little bit more in the day if you can. Or to make the gap between the last nap and bedtime a little bit shorter. Read their sleepy signals, ideally you want to just have the early sleepy signals when you are about the finish the bedtime routine rather than when you start the bedtime routine. So when you start bedtime routine you shouldn’t see any sleep signals at all. That could help with the first wake ups in the evening as typically if they are not overtired they should sleep for a longer chunk at the beginning of the evening.
Lianne: Great! There are a few things to try there then. So you also mentioned sleepy signals, is that like rubbing their eyes etc?
Yes, so there are loads of sleeps signals, I actually have a sleep signals decoder if you go to my Instagram, go to the link and it will go through to the website (www.thegentlemama.com), and you can download the decoder. It’s essentially going through the different signals for the different ages and different stages for sleepiness – so whether it is an early sleepy signal, or a late sleep signal, and whether it’s for babies or toddlers. And it is really unique to every baby, so you will find that one baby will get red eyebrows when they are tired, and another on will start clenching their fists. Some might do all of those things, its different for each one. But the key is to start getting to know those signals and to watch your baby, get familiar with the signals, and once you understand them it’s easier to respond.
Q2 – My daughter is 2 years old, wondering when should a bottle of milk at night be taken out of routine. And also, she sometimes doesn’t nap in the day, do I keep that up, or try to get her to sleep?
At 2 years old, you can drop the nap if they are ready for it. So if the toddler is not interested in sleeping, or is fighting sleep at bedtime, then yeah you can drop that nap. Maybe do it alternate days to begin with, so take it slowly, and build up the stamina to cope with it. But yeah if she’s not sleeping through the day then she’s probably ready. But at 2 years old that absolutely fine. A lot of people try and prolong it, and in some cultures, there are some cultures where their babies stay up later, then a nap during the day will stay for longer. But in English culture, you can totally take out that nap early. And then other point about dropping the bottle at night, I would say, it’s absolutely fine to drop that if you need to at this stage, after 18 months, their tummies are developed enough, and they can cope without the night without having milk. Every baby is completely different, but you could try it and see how it goes, it’s not dangerous to drop it if they are not crying out for it in the night. But they should tell you, if they are still hungry, then you could still have it and maybe just decrease the amount slowly over time and see if that helps.
Q3 - In the day, I tend to wear my little boy a lot, and at night they feed to sleep, is exclusively breastfed. He will only nap when he’s being held, which is fine for now, but I’d would like to get to the point where she can put him down during naps and have some me time. He wakes up as soon as he is transferred, any advice on how we can start getting him comfortable with solo napping?
This is probably one of the most common questions that I get asked, because babies love contact naps. They are so healthy for the baby to have that contact nap, it's giving them skin to skin, or even if it’s through your clothes they’ve got your heartbeat and the warmth, they’ve got the security. You know, if we think back to caveman times, babies who were in arms were much more likely to survive than babies who were laying down on their own. A bear could easily walk in and take that baby. So yeah, its natural and its normal for them to want to contact nap. If you want to transfer them, one of the most important things is for them to be in arm drop sleep. Which means that when you lift their arm up, it should just drop back down. If they catch the arm, in any way or if they jolt, in any way at all, then they are not ready to be put down. Because they are not in deep enough sleep. So arm drop sleep is the opportunity, once they are in that stage. That’s when you try it. If you are baby wearing, and even if you are not - the key to laying them down, is having them close to you still. To begin with you might want to try it with a flat surface that is safe that is not the crib because it’s safe to do this. So maybe on your own bed, and then supervising them throughout the nap to make sure they are safe, and there’s nothing around them – no pillows or anything like that. You hold the baby and keep your physical contact exactly the same as you lie them down, so you bend over the baby until its laying down. And you gradually move your hands out, and you keep there for a minute – you’ve got to use those core muscles! – and pause, until the baby is settled, and then slowly you can start to move your body away from theirs. In position, on the bed or whatever surface it is first. Before you start to remove your physical contact from them. Otherwise, they are going to be in an unsettled state of sleep due to the move, and they will feel it, and that’s when they wake up.
I always advise a nap trap survival kit. Should be wherever you might end up trapped in some way, or where you are supervising your baby during sleep, and it is basically a box or a drawer full of the most useful things that you will need to turn that into a trapped situation into quite an enjoyable one. So headphones, phone charger, iPad, healthy snacks, - maybe you want to have. Your journal, you can do your meditation while you’re sitting there. Get your laptop and do a little bit of work, if they are laying beside you, maybe with your leg next to them for a bit of physical contact or something. Water, coconut water is great, healthy snacks, energy bars or bliss balls that don’t need to be in the fridge. Any of that stuff is great to keep there, so that if they are trapped they have got something to keep them going.
Lianne– I love that idea! & also, if you put them down for a nap on their own, you only get up and clean anyway! So you may as well be nap trapped and chill out!
Q4 - Someone is asking how they get their 8 month old to sleep through. She says, I’ve tried not to feed her and give her water as suggested, it’s very tiring. Tried everything. Has the same routine evert night, any help or advice?
I would definitely not switch, milk for water. Water has no nutritional value in it, and milk, if they are wanting it at night, sometimes it is for comfort, and other times it is for nutrition. And at 8 months, it is definitely for nutrition. So, I would never switch it or water, and it’s just going to make the baby more hungry rather than make them sleep longer. So it’s not really helpful. Sleeping through the night is not something that babies do, they just don’t. You might get a rare baby that will sleep solidly, but a baby who is sleeping in a biologically normal way will wake up, and they will wake up for many different reasons. But whilst us adults will wake up in the night and then we settle ourselves, because we can change our position, and change the heating in the room, or get a sip of water or pop to the bathroom. Our babies can’t do that. They need support with all of that stuff. So when they call out for us on the middle of the night it is for a reason, and sometimes it might be for comfort. You might not be able to go through another tick box to go through – you know, he’s fed, he’s comfortable, he’s warm, sometimes it is just for reassurance. They just need cuddles and physical contact, and that is ok. Somehow, sleep trainers have convinced everyone that baby should be sleeping through the night, And they shouldn’t be! It’s a survival mechanism, a baby who wakes and tells you what she needs is a good sleeper. Honestly, if I could reach all mums before they had their baby and just let them know what normal biological sleep looks like for babies. I feel like so many would be much more relaxed, and their journey would be much more pleasant.
Lianne– Yes! I spent so much of my mat leave trying to ‘fix’ my daughters sleep, and she did sleep through eventually when she was ready.
Hayley– Yes, parents spend so much time working on their child’s sleep, and you don’t need to. When baby is developmentally ready, they will sleep through. So long as you are supporting their sleep, and making sleep a happy, healthy place to be so that they can build a healthy relationship with it then you are doing a brilliant job!
Lianne– Yeah, I’ve heard people say that when you settle your baby, you are teaching them how to settle themselves when they are developmentally ready.
Hayley– Yes, co regulation. The pre-frontal cortex is not developed enough in a baby’s brain for self-regulation. They cannot settle, they cannot rationalise, they can’t think logically. They physically, neurologically do not have the ability for it. So they need to be supported with this, and as soon as they can co regulate, then they can start to learn the skills they need to be able to self-regulate. But it takes time.
Q5 - My 22 month old still drinks a load at night, I’m still happy to provide, but is that ok?
Yeah, actually there is a phrase that I wish all parents knew, which is if it’s not a problem for you and your baby. It’s not a problem. If you are happy to provide the milk, and your baby is enjoying having the milk, it’s not a problem.
Q6 - My 14 month old still needs rocking to sleep, it can take 20 mins or more, when she wakes in the night, sometimes will be awake for 3 hours straight. She struggles with naps, they are down to one nap. There is usually an awake window of 5-6 hours, before the nap at 12pm, then they will only sleep for 30 mins, and will only sleep on me for the rest of the nap. I’m at a loss, nothing seems to work. I’ve used white noise, payed for a sleep package, and nothing has worked. We tried cry it out which we hated, but it didn’t work. Would really welcome any advice, we have baby no.3 on the way & really want to get more sleep.
Yeah, its sounds like a lot of that is quite normal. In terms of getting them to lie down for the first part of the nap, and then they wake up and they need to contact nap, again it is a very, very normal thing to happen. That once they have had that first part of sleep, they can’t get back into the really deep sleep because they don’t need so much. So then the only way they will get that sleep is if you are holding them, and that’s ok. If it’s causing a problem for you, then that’s when we need to look at other alternatives. But there is so much going on for that family that I would say a consultation would be needed to work through everything really.
Lianne – I just have one more question here, quite a few people are asking about rocking to sleep. They are saying that they are happy to do it for now, but they are starting to get a bit worried as they are getting older. Any advice around that, in terms of swapping out the rocking?
So yes I am presuming they mean they are standing up and swaying with the baby. That can get heavy, and it does feel like a workout – which is hard working after having a baby. So getting a good nursing chair can be a lifesaver, I really love the Pottery Barn one – it’s basically like an armchair that rocks. If you can get something like that, that is comfortable, that you can feel like you are resting in, with arms that are high enough so that the baby is resting on your arm, but you have the support of the arm on the chair, so you are not actually lifting your baby that can be really helpful. Another option that isn’t as much of a work out as standing up and rocking, is if you use an exercise ball. And most of us will have one of these from our pregnancy, but bouncing them on that can be another really good way instead of rocking, and it uses different muscles so that can be a good one. So the reality is that when we stand up, our heart rate changes, and it’s that change in heart rate that the baby likes. Babies are actually soothed by a standing heart rate, and it is thought that it is a survival thing because if the mother is standing then the mother can flee. Again, caveman thoughts. So that’s where baby wearing comes in, you can use that also. Or enlist your partner, or your husband!
Lianne– Yes! I know a lot of women who breastfeed struggle with Dad doing bedtime don’t they. We were the same, when it came to bedtime, Sienna would only really want me. Even when she stopped feeding to sleep, she wouldn’t fall asleep on the boob anymore, I had to rock her or sing to her or shush her, and then eventually none of that worked and she was really active, so I would have to just put her in her cot and just wait until she fell asleep, but she wouldn’t let Rob do that, so that was quite stressful. Is there any advice for getting your other half involved?
Hayley– Yes, start early! And give them loads of opportunity to bond with the baby, during the day, during play. Because the stronger that connection, then the easier it will be for them to help out with bedtime. They have to be involved and they have to have a bond, and connect with the baby in order for that to work. Because the whole reason that they want you is yeah, you’ve got boobs and you smell amazing, but also, you have that bond, and they like looking up at your face. And it makes them feel amazing, but a partner can do that absolutely as well if they do have that bond. And they do put that effort in, from the beginning is ideal.
Lianne – Last one! “Average wake times for a 6 month old please?” She says she tries to read her cues, tries to put her down but she doesn’t want to sleep, sometimes she misses the cues, and she will be awake for hours and doesn’t settle for bedtime either.
Hayley– So yes, download my guide to reading your babies sleep cues, and as for awake times, it is around 2 hours. 5-6 months old is around 2 hours, and then it goes a little bit longer. But yes at 6 months old, you are looking at 2 hours roughly, although it is different for every baby. Generally, you’ll find that the morning wake window is a little bit shorter, and then it gets a little bit longer as the day goes on.
I hope you have found this helpful mama! If you would like to download Hayley's Free Sleepy Signals Decoder, head to www.thegentlemama.co.uk
I love helping new mamas in any way I can, so I often hold Instagram Lives with people who can help with feeding/sleeping, to see our other episodes, check out our Instagram page @siennaapparelltd . See you there!