Sorting Sleep for Christmas
The gift of sleep for Christmas is probably what most parents want the most! In this post I want to share my biggest tips for sorting your little one’s sleep for the festive period and beyond.
Focus on your little one’s daytime sleep first
Of course, everyone wants sleep at night time but the daytime sleep has such a huge impact on how your little one will sleep overnight so it really is the best place to start, if you want to ensure that you all get more sleep over Christmas. If you’ve got a tiny baby up to three months old, then your main focus at this age should be getting into a gentle routine and concentrating on feeding. However, you can have a more structured routine in the first three months, if you would like one. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be putting too much pressure on getting baby through the night at this age because they still need to feed. However, rom three months upwards you might be starting to think ‘well, there are still quite a lot of night wakings, and I’d quite like to improve on this!’ Or indeed, if you’ve got an older baby – 10, 11, 12 months or a toddler – then obviously we can look at whether or not we can get them through the night at that age.
The reason that daytime sleep plays so much into the night time is that if their daytime sleep is either not enough and they’re really tired or if it’s too much, then what you’ll find is there will be a lot more night waking and, definitely, early waking, too. You will also find that from 3-4am onwards, that’s when it’s really, really hard for your little one to stay asleep.
If we’re particularly overtired, or if we have had too much sleep the day before, then we’ll naturally wake up early in the morning and it will just be impossible to get back to sleep. So if you’re seeing those sorts of wakings with your baby or toddler and more early morning waking, then I’d encourage you to have a look at their day time sleep and see what it looks like.
One place to start with this would be with awake windows. These are essentially the time a baby or child wakes up from an nap or in the morning to the time they should next sleep. So, for example, at around six months of age, we’re looking at around about two and a quarter hours of awake time in between baby’s sleeps. Perhaps pushing to two and a half hours later on in the day. Once baby gets to around 10 – 11 months, this increases and it tends to increase by about 15 minutes every month. Once baby is over 12 months you might think about dropping naps and moving into that transition, of which you can read more about here.
Awake windows are so important because, by following them, you will ensure that your babies aren’t overtired and, therefore, you will be able to put them down for a nap when they’re ready – rather than necessarily looking for sleepy cues, which some babies show, but some babies don’t.
If it gets to the end of their awake time and they’re not showing signs of being sleepy, I advise that you still put them down for their sleep.
If you go over their awake window no real negative will happen – but this is the optimum time to put them down when they will most easily fall asleep naturally on their own and sleep for longer. If you want to see what an average routine would look like for your baby or your toddler’s age, then please click here to purchase my downloadable routines which include awake windows and cycles and are all age-specific.
This is my first tip and I cannot emphasise it enough: if you want to sort your baby’s sleep for Christmas, pay attention to their awake windows and ensure that they do not become overtired.
But if you’ve tried the awake windows and you’re still not getting sleep and you’re thinking ‘I’ve done everything, I’m trying everything. They’re in a routine. I’ve looked at the daytime sleep, but they’re still just not getting it’ then another huge factor that can affect a little one’s ability to sleep is actually how comfortable they are and whether they’ve fed enough during the day.
If your baby has a slight food sensitivity, if they have an intolerance to something or if they’ve got a little bit of reflux and your baby is not sleeping well then I would look into whether there’s any chance that your baby could be experiencing a little bit of discomfort. If you follow me on Instagram then you will know that I talk a lot about tummies and how they can affect a baby’s sleep – just think how you feel if you go to bed after a heavy meal! If you think your baby has some gastro problems that are affecting their ability to sleep through the night then I’d really advise you to look into them, because once a baby is on solid food they should be able to sleep through the night on their own.
Settling to sleep by themselves
If you want to get sleep sorted before Christmas then it is seriously worth considering if your little one is settling to sleep on their own. If you do want to reduce night time waking, then this really is one of the biggest things that you can look to do for your baby or for your toddler, even if they can’t fall asleep on their own at the moment. What you tend to find is when they come into light sleep throughout the night time, you’ll often find that they’ll wake up, they’ll come into light sleep and they’ll wonder to themselves ‘where’s that boob? Where’s that rocking motion? Oh, where’s that hand that was on me? Where is that person sat in the corner of my room watching me fall asleep?!’ And if they don’t see it then they will want it because that is what they are used to at the start of the night. This means that they’ll cry out and then you will get back to them and you’ll have to do that thing again until they’re settled. As baby grows, you want to help them to self-settle calmly back to sleep without having to provide that support.
I must impress here that this is not teaching them to just never cry out at all. I think that’s where some people get really confused with the idea of self-settling but of course we want our children to cry out to us if they are in pain, unwell or having nightmares.
When we look at self settling, it basically means falling asleep on their own, falling asleep independently, confidently, happily without your support.
There are a number of ways that you can do this. If you want to find out in more detail how that is exactly, then have a look at the baby or toddler online sleep course, which you can work on over Christmas. Christmas time is a really good time to do it, because lots of families contact me and let me know that actually both parents have some time off and so they can support each other. Of course, if you are around family, this can be tricky and locations can make things harder, but I’d encourage you to really work on self-settling because it is such a healthy sleep habit to encourage little ones to do. But if you do want to work on self settling, it’s moving away from feeding to sleep or rocking to sleep or patting to sleep to then being able to put your little one down in their comfortable their bed, telling them very confidently, ‘It’s time to sleep now. Darling, I love you so much’ and then leave the room. It really can be as easy as that. Believe me, it really can.
There are huge benefits to if your little one learning to sleep on their own: they’ll sleep better in different locations, they’ll wake up less overnight and I actually think that they have more confidence generally, because they are very self sufficient when it comes to settling themselves.
Christmas time is a time for celebrating the joy that our children bring to our lives and I really hope that this blog post has provided you with some starting points to help you to sort your little one’s sleep this Christmas. For more support from my online courses over the holiday season, please click here.