Sleeping beauties: Mum's top tips

Sleeping beauties: Mum's top tips

Four mums chat about the tried and tested strategies they used for getting their babies to sleep


Clara, mum to Catalina

We’d read that newborns spend most of their time sleeping, but Catalina certainly didn’t. For the first month she scarcely napped at all during the day, and my midwife jokingly called her a “hypermanic” baby, saying that we should prepare ourselves for years without sleep! But over the weeks she’s begun to nap more – I think that’s partly because I’m getting better at picking up on her tired signals, then putting her down in a darkened, quiet room. At night, she sleeps well for the first half but is much more wakeful after that. At first we thought she had reflux as she would writhe around and cry out, coughing and snorting as milk came up into her throat. Our GP gave us Infant Gaviscon but said he didn’t think it would help much. Unfortunately he was right: we’ve tried it a few times and it hasn’t made any difference. Now he suspects that Catalina has colic rather than reflux, and has told us to tuck her in very well to keep her from writhing around. But even with her body swaddled and pinned down with a sheet, she still manages to whip her head from side to side for hours on end. It’s impossible to sleep next to her but we don’t want to put her in a room on her own yet because of the risk of her choking. So, since she was six weeks old, we’ve been giving her a feed followed by a bath at around 6pm, and then she gets a top-up feed before we put her to bed at around 7-7.30pm – that’s helped us feel sane and be able to cope better with the lack of sleep. We also work in shifts: I go to bed in the spare room at 8pm and sleep until 2am while my husband gives Catalina a late feed. Then I take over and he goes into the spare room for the rest of the night. When I was pregnant a friend said I should enjoy having long nights of sleep while I could, and now I know what she meant!’

Ivana, mum to Marko

Marko was a good napper but a bad night-time sleeper. He had colic and, until a few months ago, reflux and teething problems. He’d sleep for 2-3 hours then wake and scream. We’d carry him around, singing and almost jumping, before one big burp seemed to solve the problem! Then he’d sleep for another 2-3 hours. Each evening was different but what worked best was to give him a bath while we talked about our day. Songs and cartoons calmed him but he’d be more awake after a story! When I was desperate for more sleep, I moved him to our bed – and he still sleeps there. This made me feel like a failure until I read What Every Parent Needs to Know, by Margot Sunderland, which says that rather than spoiling your baby, sleeping together can make you closer – and that’s what I feel. He started nursery at 13 months and now night sleep isn’t a problem because his days are so busy, but I still breastfeed him before he goes to bed.I’d advise new mums to find a local mother and baby group where they can share experiences, and not to take their children’s sleep problems personally. Some babies just aren’t good sleepers!’

Denise, mum to Ben, Ollie and Lilly

It really seemed as if Ben didn’t want to sleep. He was colicky, he had reflux – he had everything! Our GP put him on ranitidine for reflux, which helped, but we still had to drive him around upright in his car seat to send him to sleep. Then my husband and I would lie next to him to get him to stay asleep. There was a constant too-ing and fro-ing between beds. One of my mum’s neighbours, who used to be a nanny, advised cooled boiled water with a bit of brown sugar dissolved in it, which worked for the colic. Ben was happier and more comfortable after that, but was never a really good sleeper – he’d wake up, then sleep again, wake and sleep… My other two adore their sleep and will actually ask to go to bed. How lovely is that! Ollie was colicky too, but the brown sugar water sorted that out. I could get him to nap in the morning and afternoon and he was very good about settling at night – although he only began sleeping through at 18 months. Lilly was an awful sleeper to start with, – she would wake every couple of hours like the others, and threw up after every feed, too. Then tests revealed she was lactose intolerant and she was put on Nutramigen, a formula for babies with digestive disorders. Once we got her sorted with the milk thing her sleep improved. At around eight to nine months old she would go down at 7-7.30pm without a murmur. And she never once got out of her cot or her bed and wandered around. She just went straight to sleep. She has definitely been the best sleeper. I think it’s important to listen to everyone’s advice and try what they suggest, because children are different so what didn’t work for one might work for another. And you’re not superwoman, you don’t know everything!’

Denise is the inventor of Lillipops – the iced soothies that help relieve morning sickeness

Vicki, mum to Joseph and Edward

Joseph suffered from disturbed sleep patterns, and often needed comforting before he’d settle down. He also had colic, which was hard going, and often just fell asleep through sheer exhaustion. Looking back, we over-cuddled him to sleep, so then he couldn’t go off without being held, and it took years of broken nights to undo the habit. We were advised to try controlled crying, but were nervous about it – it sounded quite extreme. Edward was totally different. From the moment he was born he slept soundly for four hours at a time, woke for an efficient ten-minute feed, then went straight back to sleep again. I’d been easygoing about where Joseph napped, letting him sleep in the car and the pushchair, but I always insisted that Edward took all his naps in his Moses basket and, later, his cot, upstairs in the dark. At four months we moved Edward into his own room. As with Joseph, we did the bath, milk, calm music and stories routine, then laid him in his cot still awake with his cuddly toy, turned off the light and closed the door! He never seemed to have any problem going straight to sleep. I find that having a daily routine for nap, meal and sleep times is even more crucial when you have more than one child. It allows everyone else to work or have some downtime while the baby is asleep. And if you’re having difficulties, seek help from a sleep expert before bad patterns become too entrenched.’

Written by Sarah Poulton

For more sleep solutions, have a look at our article I need sleep! for baby bedtime routine ideas.


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