Will a dark room help your baby to sleep better during the day?

Again, sooo many opinions! Some say your baby needs to nap in a room filled with light so they don’t get confused with day and night. Others say the room needs to be dark.

Just think for yourself, if you want a nice “Nanna Nap” on a Sunday afternoon, will my nap be nicer in a dark room or a room filled with light? Obviously the darker room. WHY?

As human beings, our brain (the pineal gland) naturally produces a hormone called Melatonin when it’s dark. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal gland is “turned on” and begins to actively produce Melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel drowsy and get you ready for night time sleep.

Darker Room – More Melatonin – Better Quality Sleep

Bright lights inhibit the release of Melatonin.

Now, in regards to your baby’s nap during the day.

If your baby is having his nap in a bright room, the initially falling asleep might be a problem although I have found, once the room is dark this process happens a lot faster. We all have a normal sleep cycle which means you’ll have brief wake ups. A baby’s sleep cycle is 45 min which means he needs to learn to resettle back to sleep after 45 min. If he is having a brief wake up and the room is bright and filled with toys and things that can stimulate him, he will wake up more than he was meant to. They usually struggle to resettle back to sleep from this point.

If you baby is having a nap in a dark room, the pineal gland will be “turned on” and a little bit of Melatonin will be released into the bloodstream and he will have a much better quality sleep. When he has a brief wake up in a dark room, he will not see anything and will not be stimulated unnecessary. The resettling process back to sleep will happen a lot easier and quicker.

When my twins were little (0-4 months) they also had their naps in a bright room (I didn’t know better). They never slept for longer than 45 min. By 4 months I was exhausted and took them to sleep school. At sleep school they separated my twins and let them sleep in a room with no windows. It was pitch black in the room. That first day they slept for 3 hours!

To change your baby’s room from bright to dark is a small change to make to try and improve your baby’s nap time.

Why not try it out.​

Christine

Sleep Training and where Happy Sleepers fits in

Sleep training is a very personal and sensitive topic. It also has become a very hot topic over the years on blogs, websites and even on my Facebook page.

I am very happy that mums start to realise how important healthy sleep habits are for their babies but also for them as parents. Sound sleep for everyone is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As always, interest breeds information and it seems like there’s a new sleep training book coming out every other month these days with the hope of clarifying the issue for everyone who’s finding the information a little overwhelming. I thought I’d offer a quick overview of the different methods of sleep training, and where Happy Sleepers falls into the mix.

1.  The extinction method is the one that has created so much controversy. Also known as “Cry-it-out”, this involves putting your baby to bed, closing the door, and not opening it again until the next morning. This method is very difficult, for obvious reasons, and it doesn’t address the fact that the baby might be crying for legitimate reasons like :

  • Needing a nappy change
  • Having a foot caught between the cot railings
  • Vomited all over the cot

2.   Another popular approach is the “No cry sleep solution”. It’s been a big seller for many years  and must have helped a lot of parents, given its popularity. It’s a very gradual approach, which is good for parents who want to take things slow. I have no objections to this approach, but it can take a few months, literally months to get results. All the while, Mom, Dad and Baby aren’t getting the sleep they need and the drawn-out process can lead to parents giving up.

3.   Then we have the “Dr Sears approach”. I really wish he would rename this “31 ways to get your  baby to sleep for 20 min”, because that is what he is doing :

  • Nursing to sleep
  • Rocking to sleep
  • Driving to sleep

All great approaches if you don’t mind getting up to nurse, rock or drive six times a night.

4.   The “Ferber method” involves putting your baby to bed, leaving the room, and go back in after progressively longer intervals. This involves some crying. It’s a very popular method and it works for a lot of babies. It’s not very versatile though, and many parents find it too difficult to leave the room while their baby is crying.

5.   Finally, we have the Happy Sleepers approach. We follow Dana Obleman’s Sleep Sense approach, which is, hands down, my favourite technique and I’ve done it with my own twins. The Happy Sleepers Program actually has a number of different approaches, which allows you to customise the program to your baby, as well as your level of comfort with leaving her alone.

If you prefer to stay in the room with her the entire night, that’s covered in detail, including what to do when she cries and when to start easing your way out if the room. If you want to leave the room and check periodically, I’ve got a step-by-step guide to that approach as well.

What all the approaches in the Happy Sleepers Program have in common is that they teach your child how to fall asleep independently and stay asleep independently. Once your baby has learned how to fall asleep independently, it doesn’t matter how often she wakes at night, she will be able to put herself back to sleep.

I often hear people say: “The right approach is the one that works for your baby” and I totally agree. Just make sure it’s actually working; it’s actually teaching your baby to sleep on her own and not fitting the criteria in which she’ll agree to go to sleep.

If she’s got to have her dummy, her stuffed animal and a ride in the car to fall asleep, she’s not learning anything and she’ll be demanding all that at two in the morning when she wakes up.

Now there you have it in a nutshell.  Contact me if you want more information the Happy Sleepers Program.

Sleep well

Christine

Can the dummy interfere with my baby’s sleeping?

I always say, if your baby is using a dummy or he is co-sleeping with you, or he’s been rocked / fed to sleep, but everyone is sleeping well, then there is no problem. Why change something if everyone is happy sleeping?

The problem is when one or all of the above is happening and because of that, baby and mum and/or dad are not sleeping. Mum needs to get up every 45 min / every 2-3 hours to help baby to go back to sleep because he is unable to do so himself.

You need to understand how sleep skills and sleep associations (or sleep props) works, to know if a dummy can interfere with your baby’s sleeping.

To fall asleep independently (with no sleep props) and resettle yourself back to sleep when you wake overnight (sleep cycle), is a skill you need to learn as a baby. Most adults (I hope so :-)) don’t need someone to pat their backs in order to go to sleep or to go back to sleep. We just do it automatically. When a baby or even a toddler, hasn’t learned how to fall asleep independently, they usually rely on external factors (sleep props/associations) to help them to go to sleep. They cry out for mum to bring back whatever they need to go back to sleep. When a baby has no sleep skills at all and is unable to resettle back to sleep, he can wake up every 45 min overnight!! That is very exhausting.

Typical sleep associations are:

  • Rocking to sleep
  • Patting to sleep
  • Co-sleeping (relies on the parents’ present)
  • Feeding to sleep and the most common one…
  • DUMMY

Most newborns when they start to cry in the beginning, they get a dummy in the mouth (if they want it or not) and then every time they want to go to sleep as well. In the newborn phase it’s ok to give your baby a dummy because they don’t adapt any habits. You can do whatever you want in the first 3 months. The problem though is, if you rock your baby to sleep/feed him to sleep/give a dummy to go to sleep in the first 3 months, when he reaches 4 months and he becomes more aware of his surroundings, he starts to adopt that habit. If you pat him to sleep, at 4 months he thinks:”Ok, mum pats me to sleep, I guess this is normal “, he starts to rely on the action to go to sleep. The same happens with feeding to sleep/rocking to sleep/ the dummy.

So what happens now?

Every time your baby wakes after a sleep cycle and he is going to cry out for you to bring back the DUMMY so he can go back to sleep. This process can happen every 45 min overnight. If your baby relies on a dummy to go back to sleep, it definitely interferes with his sleeping.

What can I do?

You need to remove the dummy 100 % (day + night) and/or other sleep associations (sleep props) and teach your baby sleep skills.

Once your baby doesn’t rely on an external factor (Like a dummy) to fall asleep and resettles back to sleep, he will start sleeping through the night.

If you need help with removal of a dummy and/or any other sleep props in order to teach your baby sleep skills, call Christine @ Happy Sleepers.

Why is my baby resisting bedtime?

You’ve had a long day with your baby/toddler. You’re tired and all you need is a break. You want to put your baby /toddler in bed and walk out but now he/she is resisting bedtime. Very frustrating!

There can be a few reasons why your baby/toddler is resisting bedtime:

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated
2. A nap happened too close to bedtime
3. Sleep associations
4. No bedtime routine
5. Toddler (Time to skip day time naps)

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated

When a baby/toddler is overtired, they work themselves UP instead of down. When your baby is so worked up due to overtiredness, it can be very difficult to get your baby down at bedtime. It’s very important to look at your baby’s maximum awake time between naps to prevent overtiredness. Here is a bit of a guide:

  • 0 – 1 month : up to 40 min
  • 1 – 2 months : 40 min – 60 min
  • 2 – 3 months : 60 min – 80 min
  • 3 – 4 months : 60 min – 90 min
  • 4 – 6 months  : 1 hour 15 min – 1 hour 45 min
  • 6 – 8 months : 2 hours – 2.5 hours
  • 8 – 10 months : 2.5 hours – 3.5 hours
  • 10 months & up : 3.5 hours
  • From 13 months : Only 1 nap at midday

Be careful for over stimulation, especially if your baby is still very little. Don’t plan too many activities on one day for your baby. Over stimulation causes overtiredness which means a very difficult bedtime.

2. A nap happened too close to bedtime

When this happens your baby is not tired enough and will resist the bedtime. It’s always good to have a specific bedtime because then it’s easier to plan from what time my baby should be awake for.

For example: if my 4 month old usually goes to bed at 19:00 pm, her maximum awake time is 60 min – 90 min. We usually work on the maximum time at night to make sure your baby is tired enough, which means your 4 month old should be awake from 17:30 pm onwards.

My 10 month old should be awake at 15:30 pm. If your 10 month old wakes 15:00 pm from his last nap, start your bedtime routine 30 min earlier (18:00 pm) and in bed 30 min earlier (18:30 pm).

3. Sleep associations

Usually a baby is able to fall asleep with the sleep association (dummy/feeding to sleep/rocking to sleep), but is unable to stay asleep throughout the night (resettle himself back to sleep) without the association. When a baby struggles to fall asleep at bedtime, it’s because the sleep association that always worked for him, doesn’t work anymore. If this is your scenario, then it’s a good time to start teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently (without any sleep association) before he gets a new association. By teaching your baby to fall asleep independently will also teach him how to resettle himself back to sleep independently which will give him the Gift of Sleep for the rest of his life!

4. No bedtime routine

All of us prepare ourselves for sleep at night for example:

  • You put your PJ’s on
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get a glass of water
  • Get in bed
  • Read a few pages from your book & now you are ready for bed…

A baby/toddler also needs to psychologically prepare themselves for sleep. You can’t just “dump” them in the bed and expect from him to sleep now. That’s where a bedtime routine comes in handy. If you do the same routine every night at approximate the same time, your baby will start to recognise the routine and know that we’re getting close to bedtime and sleep time. A baby only needs 15 min – 45 min to prepare himself for bed. A 30 min bedtime routine is ideal.

A bedtime routine can look like this:

18:30     – Bath
-PJ’s
-Bottle/Breastfeeding
-Story
19:00     -Cot/Bed

5. Toddler (Time to skip day time naps)

Between the age of 2.5 years & 4 years toddlers are big enough to start skipping their day time nap. If a toddler is only having an hour during the day from 12 pm – 1 pm and he is not tired at 7 pm to go to bed, he is ready to skip his day naps. Initially it can be very difficult to start skipping the nap. They are usually good during the day without the nap, but start getting very cranky around 5 pm. If you’ve decided to start skipping your toddlers nap, it’s a good idea to have an earlier bedtime at night (6 pm) for about 4 – 6 weeks until their bodies got used to the new routine of no day naps. NO, the earlier bedtime will not lead to earlier wake ups.

Hope this helps to get your baby/toddler easier into bed at night.

Good luck and sleep well!

Christine

Baby wakes as soon as I put her down in her cot

This is one of the many frustrations when your baby is not a good sleeper.

Finally your baby has fallen asleep in your arms and you want to put her down in her cot. You quietly tiptoe towards your baby’s cot and slowly lower her into her cot…
Yet the minute she hits the mattress, she opens her eyes and starts crying!

NO!! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING??

Well there is a very good reason for it…

When your baby falls asleep in your arms, her body and brains goes into “sleep mode”. The brain relaxes the body and gets ready to sleep. When you move your baby to her cot, your baby’s body is moving (It sounds a bit silly, but the brain communicates with the body all the time. The brain determines what the body is doing). Her brain thinks “why is my body moving?”. “I’m supposed to sleep. I’m in “sleep mode”. The brain thinks the body is in danger so he brings the body “out of sleep” instead of “deeper into sleep”.

It is very important for the baby to “fall asleep” where she is going to “wake up” and that is in her cot. She needs to be wide awake, not drowsy, when you transfer her to her cot for a sleep (Day & Night).

You will see, her sleep will improve within a day or two.
Good luck
Sleep well

Christine

Why can’t my baby resettle himself back to sleep?

Here is what’s happening in the middle of the night, when your baby wakes up and starts crying: You jump up, as quickly as you can, and run to your baby’s room. You don’t want your baby to wake up too much, so as soon as you get there, you put the dummy in his mouth and start patting him back to sleep. Luckily it only takes him a few minutes to go back to sleep, but it’s happening 4-6 times at night. I’m exhausted!! Why can’t my baby resettle himself back to sleep?

There is 2 big reasons why:

1. Sleep associations
2. Resettle time

1. Sleep associations: Do you see what happened? Every time your baby wakes, he started crying, because he is unable to go back to sleep without your help. He needs something (dummy, patting, feeding) from you (external) to help him to go back to sleep. He is unable to self sooth. The only way he is going to learn how to self sooth is by identifying all the things (dummy, patting, feeding) he needs from you to go back to sleep, you need to say “good-bye” to it and then you need to teach your baby how to self sooth.

2. Resettle time:

​When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and you go in your baby’s room straight away, when is your baby going to learn how to resettle himself? He never gets the chance (time) to learn. You’re always there. The resettling back to sleep is always assisted. You need to give your baby a chance to learn. The next time when your baby cries, wait 10 min before you go into his room (newborns 5 min). Give him some time to learn. Usually the first couple of nights you still need to go into your baby’s room after the 10 min, but then he starts to learn how to resettle within the 10 min time frame. If you do this together with the removal of your baby’s sleep association, your baby’s sleep will start improving ALOT!

Good luck
Sleep well

Christine

How can I get my baby to nap longer during the day?

This is the one million dollar question for many parents. It can be very frustrating if you’ve been struggling for 30 min to get your baby to sleep and then he only sleeps for 30-45 min.

There is 2 parts to day naps:

  1. Falling asleep independently.
  2. Staying asleep independently by resettling back to sleep (learning to go back to sleep after waking up too early).

In order to improve both parts the following will help:

1.Your baby’s room needs to be dark.

One of many reasons why babies struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep during the day is because there is no Melatonin on board to help. Melatonin is a “sleepy” hormone your brain produces when it gets dark at night to prepare you for sleep. The darker it is, the more Melatonin is on board, the better you sleep. Because it’s not dark during the day, there is no Melatonin but if you make your baby’s room as dark as possible (even during the day), it will help getting some Melatonin on board.

2.Have a naptime routine.

Like with bedtime at night when you have bedtime routine, it’s also important to have a naptime routine. Your nap-time routine doesn’t have to be as long as your bedtime routine, but it’s just as important. Your baby needs to psychologically prepare himself for sleep; he needs that wind down time. You can’t just dump him in his cot and expect him to sleep. What happens in one sleep situation needs to happen in all sleep situations. For example: If you baby is sleeping in a sleeping bag at night, he needs to be sleeping in a sleeping bag during the day as well.

3.An example of a naptime routine.

  • Tell your baby it’s naptime

“Hannah, it’s naptime. Let’s go and have some sleep”

  • Pick her up and walk het to her cot in her room
  • Change her nappy
  • Close the curtains (Don’t do it before the time)
  • Put her in her sleeping bag
  • You can read her a short story or sing a song if you want to
  • Put her in her cot
  • Kiss good-bye
  • Walk out

4.Put your baby in her cot awake.

It’s very important not to feed your baby to sleep or rock her to sleep in your arms and then transfer her to her cot. Because she is in a sleep “state” and all of a sudden her body moves, her brain will wake her up immediately, because “why is the body moving?”. The brain thinks the body is in danger and brings the baby out of sleep instead deeper into sleep.

5.Eliminate nap time sleep associations.

Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep independently. He needs to fall asleep without any help. That means:

  • No dummy
  • No rocking to sleep
  • No feeding to sleep

6.Put your baby down for a sleep before he is overtired.

Each age group has a max awake time. Put your baby down within this time frame and it will prevent over tiredness. When a baby is overtired, they work themselves up instead of down.

7.When your baby wakes from a nap.

Don’t go in straight away, he might resettle himself and go back to sleep. For newborns (0-12 weeks) wait 5 min before entering the room. From 12 weeks up, wait 10 min before entering the room. If your baby is not crying, don’t go in.

To fall asleep independently, only takes about 2-3 days of consistency.

To stay asleep, be able to resettle and sleep for more that 45 min, can take 4-6 weeks.

Consistency is the key!

Be patient.

Hope your baby’s napping improves.

Christine

My 6 month old still wakes up at night. What can I do?

Your goal is to help your baby learn how to get himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Some babies seem to instinctively know how to do this; others need a little coaching from their parents.
There are many things that can cause a child to wake up during the night. A big reason why babies wake up at night and cry out to their parents is:

  • sleep associations and the fact that they can’t settle themselves back to sleep. The association or sleep prop might be feeding to sleep, a dummy or rocking to sleep. Babies at the age of 6 months do not need to feed overnight unless parents were otherwise advised by a paediatrician. Stopping night feeds might stop the wakings.

The most valuable thing you can do for your child is to put him in his cot awake at bedtime and allow him to fall asleep independently without rocking feeding etc.
Other reasons for wake ups could be:

  • teething. Use some teething gel and the recommended dose of Baby Panadol or Nurofen before bedtime; that might help baby through one or two nights of teething. The pain shouldn’t last more than a few nights.
  • Check that he isn’t wet or cold or that he isn’t in discomfort because of a weird position he got himself into.

This is how you can help him learn to comfort himself and go back to sleep:

  • If your child needs a clean nappy or other care, provide what he needs with minimum disturbance: Keep the lights dim, speak softly and no more than you need to, change the nappy and place him right back in his cot (or change his nappy in the cot if you can), and quickly return to your bed, as at bedtime.
  • If your baby’s crying persists longer than 5 to 10 minutes after you’ve left, return to him without turning on the light, quietly tell him it’s time to sleep, then leave again. Repeat your visits at progressively longer intervals within the 5-to 10-minute range and be firm: no picking up. If you pick him up, your baby will expect a lengthy cuddle and will redouble his crying when you place him down again; sleepiness will be delayed even further. In most cases, this technique will take more than one night. It generally takes 3 to 5 nights for your baby to fall asleep and resettle himself back to sleep without too much fuss.

How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?

When I say: “My baby is sleeping through the night”, it doesn’t mean that your baby is never going to wake up.  All human beings wake up a few times during the night, but because we have sleep skills, we just “sooth” ourselves back to sleep and we don’t remember waking up in the first place. A baby also wakes a few times at night (Sleep cycle) but when they have the ability to resettle themselves back to sleep independently, then they sleep through the night.

There can be a few reasons why a baby doesn’t sleep through the night.  When a baby is between
0 – 6 months, we don’t push for them to sleep through the night.  Some babies can sleep through without any feeding overnight but some babies still need the feeds until they are 6 months.  From
6 months we can say with confidence that they don’t need overnight feeds, they need sleep.  When a baby is between 0 – 6 months you can teach them healthy sleep habits and teach them how to resettle independently.  When a baby has learned that skill, he will or start sleeping through the night by himself or he will feed once, but will go back to sleep independently with no fuss.

Once they’ve reach the 6 month mark, you can pull the feed overnight.  They don’t need it anymore.  When a baby is 6 months and older and not sleeping through the night, there can be a few reasons why:

  • Your baby’s room is not dark enough.  The darker your baby’s room, the better he sleeps (day and night)
  • Your baby’s room is too noisy:  Get white noise if your baby’s room is too noisy.  Trucks, dogs and birds can be very annoying 5 am and can easily wake your baby.
  • Your baby relies on sleep props to fall asleep and stay asleep:  Your baby can’t be put down in his cot and settle himself to sleep independently.  He needs a dummy/rocking/feeding in order to fall asleep and the same when he wakes in the middle of the night.
  • You attend to your baby to quickly:  When your baby wakes from a sleep, he needs to learn how to resettle himself back to sleep.  If you attend to him too quickly and help him to go back to sleep he will never learn how to do it on his own.
  • You’re not consistent:  If you decide on something, stick to it.  Don’t change your method every second day.  You’re confusing your baby and how is he supposed to learn something you’re not even sure about?
  • Your baby is already asleep or halfway asleep when you put him in his cot:   Your baby needs to be wide awake when you put him in his cot for a sleep.  He needs to fall asleep in his cot.

How long is sleeping through the night?

Again, sooo many opinions! Some say your baby needs to nap in a room filled with light so they don’t get confused with day and night. Others say the room needs to be dark.

Just think for yourself, if you want a nice “Nanna Nap” on a Sunday afternoon, will my nap be nicer in a dark room or a room filled with light? Obviously the darker room. WHY?

As human beings, our brain (the pineal gland) naturally produces a hormone called Melatonin when it’s dark. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal gland is “turned on” and begins to actively produce Melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel drowsy and get you ready for night time sleep.

Darker Room – More Melatonin – Better Quality Sleep

Bright lights inhibit the release of Melatonin.

Now, in regards to your baby’s nap during the day.

If your baby is having his nap in a bright room, the initially falling asleep might be a problem although I have found, once the room is dark this process happens a lot faster. We all have a normal sleep cycle which means you’ll have brief wake ups. A baby’s sleep cycle is 45 min which means he needs to learn to resettle back to sleep after 45 min. If he is having a brief wake up and the room is bright and filled with toys and things that can stimulate him, he will wake up more than he was meant to. They usually struggle to resettle back to sleep from this point.

If you baby is having a nap in a dark room, the pineal gland will be “turned on” and a little bit of Melatonin will be released into the bloodstream and he will have a much better quality sleep. When he has a brief wake up in a dark room, he will not see anything and will not be stimulated unnecessary. The resettling process back to sleep will happen a lot easier and quicker.

When my twins were little (0-4 months) they also had their naps in a bright room (I didn’t know better). They never slept for longer than 45 min. By 4 months I was exhausted and took them to sleep school. At sleep school they separated my twins and let them sleep in a room with no windows. It was pitch black in the room. That first day they slept for 3 hours!

To change your baby’s room from bright to dark is a small change to make to try and improve your baby’s nap time.

Why not try it out.​

Christine