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Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With Sleep Expert Tina Southwood

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with sleep expert Tina Southwood? Don’t worry, you can read all of the advice she shared here

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your fertility, pregnancy and parenting questions from a top expert. 

This week, infant sleep consultant Tina Southwood was on board to answer questions.

The founder of Sleep Baby Sleep, Tina’s a maternity nurse and baby sleep consultant with over 20 years of experience. She specialises in overnight postnatal care, supportive mothers with feeding their babies and has extensive experience working with babies who suffer from colic and reflux, sleep and feeding routines. The mum-of-two is also a specialist in sleep training and sleep issues for twins and premature babies.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

My baby boy is seven months old and will still only be awake for two hours between each daytime nap. This means that he still needs three naps most days. The first two naps are no problem but during the third he won't go down in his cot at all. I’ve read by now he should be OK with two naps but some days this means after the lunch time nap he would need to go four to five hours before bedtime. I’ve tried to keep him up longer for lunch time nap to stretch it out but it doesn't go well.

Tina: First I would start by stretching his two daytime sleeps out by 15 minute increments, and work on this over the space of a week. I agree four to five hours of awake time is a long stretch for a seven month old. But he should be able to cope with three to four hours of awake time, especially if he's had adequate sleep in the day.

I have a 10-month-old little girl who is still waking for a feed at night. She will go down brilliantly at 7pm, wake at about 11pm for a bottle and then at about 3.30 to 4am for another. Usually then she will sleep through to 7am. I have always been convinced that when she eats more solids she will sleep better and this has already proved to be true but I am unsure whether to start to wean her off her night bottle in the hope that she might sleep through. I work full time and the thought of suffering a week or so of completely broken nights’ sleep while I do this is what prevents me from giving it a go! Is her sleep pattern relatively 'normal' or should I start to wean her off?

Tina: So long as your daughter is taking adequate amounts of milk and solids throughout the day, is gaining weight and is otherwise healthy I would start to wean her off of the night time milk by reducing it an ounce each night.

My son is 18 months old and is still waking through the night for a bottle and to get into bed with me. He has an afternoon nap of one to two hours and normally goes down at 1pm. In the evening he has his dinner between five and six then goes for a bath at 7pm and will go straight to bed after with a 7oz bottle of milk. Around 11pm he starts to get a bit restless and normally between 12.30am and 2am he will come into our room. If we take him back into his room it will take a 7oz bottle of milk to settle him back off to sleep until about 4.30am to 5am, after which he will wake again. If we are too tired to take him back to his room he will fidget, kick and climb our pillows for a good hour or so before he sleeps.

I love having him in bed with us but at his age and with me being 28 weeks pregnant this is something we cannot do anymore. I’ve tried stair gates on his door but this didn’t go down well and he spent the whole night crying at the gate. I really would like to get him sleeping through the night and possible without having to get him a bottle to settle him before our new arrival is here.

Tina: First I would start with reducing the amount of milk you offer him when he first wakes up and also for any other bottles during the night. At bedtime I would sit with him in his own room and offer reassurance but try really hard not to communicate or reason with him, but be firm and consistent. Also it is important that he gets an adequate amount of sleep during the day so he doesn't go to bed over-tired. I would be aiming for an hour and a half of daytime sleep.

It's important you baby gets an adequate amount of sleep during the day so he doesn't go to bed over-tired.

Can you recommend any sleeping pills that work but are safe and not addictive for me?

Tina: I would stick to more natural sleep inducing foods. Why not try a banana, kiwi fruit and a bowl of porridge an hour before going to bed.

My nine month old is still waking frequently through the night. He was breastfed until about two weeks ago and we have slowly moved him on to a bottle as I am back at work. He eats plenty and has a 7oz bottle at 5am, 2pm and 6.30pm. The problem is that he wakes every two to three hours every night. He only needs shushing generally but it means my sleep is really broken. He falls asleep on his own at 7pm but seems unable to settle himself in the night. Any tips?

Tina: As you have mentioned he eats plenty during the day so it's more likely to be a habit that has been formed and I'd suggest you offer the 5am bottle closer to 6am as I'm guessing he starts the day at 5am? By starting the day slightly later this should start him on a better track for all of his daytime sleeps.

My 22 month old son is going through a phase of waking up somewhere between 5 and 5.45am and is ready for the day. Sometimes he'll sit in his cot and talk to his toys or sing and chat away but mostly he calls for me. Unless he's actually upset and crying we're trying to delay going in for 10 to 15 minutes to try to teach him that it's not waking up time yet .

Usually he's down by 7.30 to 7.45pm but recently he's called out or cried until 8.30pm sometimes. He shouts that he needs a nappy change (when he doesn't) or that he 'need you mummy' and when you go up he laughs and is fine. I don't want to ignore him all the time and for him to get upset but I really don't know what to do. He usually sleeps between one to two hours during the day. And there seems to be no correlation between amount of nap time and what time he wakes up...Help!

Tina: You are doing all of the things I would suggest by not rushing to him. You might like to try (just for one or two mornings) offering him his milk as soon as he wakes early to see if he will resettle afterwards. Also for this age group a daytime nap of up to two hours sometime between 1pm and 3pm should work well.

Having sleep regression with my little man. How can we get him to go down at bedtime? Currently cuddling for ages and he then struggles to stay asleep when put down in his cot. He’s five months old and I'm not prepared to do CIO!

Tina: I suggest you work on daytime naps and encourage extended sleep cycles during the day. Ideally daytime naps should be around one and a half hours. If he wakes up after just 45 minutes, work on trying to get him back to sleep however you can. And make sure he has no sleep after 4pm. This should mean he is tired enough at bedtime but not overtired as he has had enough daytime rest.

Ideally daytime naps should be around one and a half hours.

My two year old is very hit and miss with her daytime nap. Sometimes she will go down easily after lunch for about an hour and a half, other times she just refuses it completely. When she doesn't nap I just put her to bed for 6.30pm instead of 7.30pm and she tends to still wake at about 7am. I am a little worried that she is too young to be missing out this nap though? What age do children tend to go without a daytime nap and could I be doing her harm by letting her stay awake all day? Sounds a little silly but it just seems like such a long time for a two year old to be awake for.

Tina: This depends on the individual baby or toddler. I tend to keep naps going for as long as possible or until you notice it starts to have a knock on effect with battles at bedtime or early morning waking. But as this doesn't seem to be the case with your daughter and so long as her mood and behaviour is okay on the days she misses naps,  I would let her dictate.

My 20-week-old daughter fights going to sleep for nap and night time. Previously we had a rocking cradle which she has now outgrown and she now refuses to sleep in her crib upstairs both for naps and at night. It’s a real battle to get her to sleep. Once I put her in her crib she screams and is inconsolable.

I have tried patting her on the back, sitting with her, playing white noise and lullabies and using blackout blinds – but nothing seems to work. She is also only sleeping for approximately 30 minutes at a time before she wakes up and cannot put herself back to sleep. At night she sleeps for about four hours before feeding. Do you have any tips which we can use to help to get her to sleep?

Tina: Consistency and patience is what will help your baby to settle on her own. As soon as you notice her tired signs i.e. eye rubbing, ear pulling, back arching and general fussiness, place her into her cot, using calming words, such as ‘it's sleepy time darling, night night.’ Sit with her to keep her calm, but try not to communicate aside from using the calming words. Keep using this strategy for every nap she has. Eventually she will learn to fall asleep without the need for being rocked.

My eight month old is still sleeping in her Moses basket within her cot as whenever we put her down in her cot she rolls onto her front and gets stuck there. I'm worried about her sleeping on her front. I know the SIDS risk reduces significantly at six months – am I being paranoid or should I let her sleep in her cot knowing she will end up on her tummy?

Consistency and patience is what will help your baby to settle on her own.

Tina: This is a developmental milestone for baby which un-nerves many parents. Offer plenty of tummy time during the day. Personally I would be happy for an eight month old baby to sleep on her tummy if this is the position she chooses.

You can read all about safe baby sleep here.

My six month old has never slept for more than a couple of hours at a time no matter what we try. She starts off the night OK but then thrashes about as if uncomfortable, waking up sometimes as much as every 15 minutes and needing to be soothed back to sleep or moved to a different position. We have tried everything. Any help would be gratefully received as I'm like a zombie.

Tina: Have you tried any colic relief remedies? Even though your baby is six months, trapped wind can still be a problem. Try offering either gripe water or Dentinox colic drops to the afternoon and evening feeds to see if this helps.

My baby is nine weeks old and really struggles to get off to sleep. Daytime naps are particularly hard. She will only go off if rocked and swayed and most days will only sleep in a sling on me. I have tried putting her down awake but drowsy, only picking her up when she cries, then putting her down again when calm, but she just gets more and more worked up each time. Any advice? I feel as if I spend longer getting her to sleep than she actually does sleep for.

Tina: This is a common problem in a baby of nine weeks old. I would try swaddling her and keep the lights low, also only keep her awake for 45 to 60 minutes before placing her down for another nap. Consistency is key – your baby will get there eventually.

Even when your baby is six months, trapped wind can still be a problem.

My 18-month-old still wakes up every four to six hours at night. She goes to bed at 7pm after bedtime routine bath bottle cuddle and in the night garden. Then she wakes up from anywhere between 12.30 to 3.30am at least two to four times screaming hysterically.

Tina: It sounds as if your little one could be over tired. I would suggest trying to encourage at least one good daytime nap of an hour and a half, ideally after lunch so your baby goes to bed less over tired.

If you need more sleep advice, visit our better sleep section.

Which topics would you like to be covered during the Wednesday Lunch Club? Let us know in the comments box below.

 
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