Mother and Baby

Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With Baby Sleep Expert Katie Palmer

Missed our Wednesday lunch club with sleep advisor Katie Palmer? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

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Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, sleep advisor Katie Palmer was on standby to answer questions about your baby’s sleep.

Before settling as a sleep consultant, Katie completed her maternity practioner training and worked as a private maternity nurse. She then moved on to a sleep trainer and troubleshooter, helping parents through those tough times when your baby refuses to sleep.

Katie aims to support parents with practical advice and a relaxed and friendly approach – skills that have been honed since she became a mum herself.

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

My 10 month-old daughter was going down at 7pm every night with no problems and sleeping through or having one wake during the night. Now she won't go down at 7pm and is wide awake moving around and standing in her cot, screaming if laid down. How can we make bedtime easier again? Samantha Becker.

Katie Palmer: Hi Samantha, make sure she is having enough day time sleep so that she is not over tired and winding herself up at bedtime. Start bedtime wind down from dinner. So when she has finished eating, try not throwing her up in the air, playing boo etc. After a bath, keep lights a bit dimmed and voices low so she starts to get calm. Milk and story then say good night.

Once you have left the room give her a chance to settle on her own. She may be a bit noisy but if it’s just moaning and whining that's fine, she's tired and is telling you all about it. If she starts to get upset, go in and lay her down then leave. If she jumps up the minute you leave then ignore and wait five minutes before going back in and doing the same.

If you keep rushing in and out and battling for her to stay down you will just add fuel to the fire and it will go on longer. Be calm, you are going into to let her know that you are there and laying her down to let her know what you expect. The more consistent you are, the quicker she will understand what she should be doing. You are a comforting presence but not engaging with her. Think robot Mum.

The more consistent you are, the quicker she will understand what she should be doing

My 16 months old needs to feed to fall asleep. She doesn't settle on her own. She wakes up one to three times a night. She's teething at the moment, too, so I find it difficult to stop comforting her. Lorena Camacho.

Katie Palmer: Sleep training while teething is hard so for now I would work on getting her to bed still awake instead and then deal with the night waking later. Maybe move her bedtime back a bit so that she isn't completely asleep when you put her down or give her milk first, then a story, then bed. Lay her down, say good night then leave. If she gets distressed go in and lay her down again and say ‘bedtime’.

You can either stay by the cot as a comforting presence but not engage with her or wait five minutes then if she is still crying go in lay her down, a long sshh and then walk out and keep repeating. Only go in if she is crying. If she sounds like she is calming down or stopping then stay out. If she is trying to calm down on her own and you walk in you will only wake her up again. Once you have mastered bedtime you can concentrate on the night times.

My baby girl, who's five months old, does well getting to sleep but still wakes for one or two night feeds, she doesn’t drink anywhere near the recommended amount during the day, any advice how, when I can drop these feeds? Other than that she self-soothes and settles well sleeping 12 hours. Emma Jenkins.

Katie Palmer: If she isn't taking enough in the day she may still need the feeds at night. Try adding a dream feed around 10.30/11pm before you go to bed. Hopefully she may then go on to the morning. If she still seems hungry and really knocks back the milk then maybe discuss with your Health Visitor or GP about weaning her early so that is getting more in the day and doesn't need it at night.

Once you have mastered bedtime you can concentrate on the night times

My 18 month old little girl wakes up around midnight most nights and struggles to go back to sleep alone. I have to literally sit in her room until she falls asleep which some nights is about four hours later! I am exhausted and it is starting to affect our everyday life! I struggle to listen to her cry for any length of time, so haven't tried the CIO (Cry It Out) method yet. I had to sleep on a mattress in her room last night so I could get some rest. This is driving me crazy! Any tips on getting her to sleep through? Fiona Montgomery

Katie Palmer: Make sure that your daughter is getting lots of opportunity to settle in the day during her naps so that you know she can do it. Then when she wakes, don't rush in, give her some time to settle on her own.

If she is just moaning and groaning leave her be. If she starts crying then wait for three minutes, then go in and lay her down, say either a long sshh or ‘bedtime’ and walk out the room. The idea is not to get her to stop but to go in to let her know you are there and what you expect her to do.

Gradually make the time before you go in longer although never more than 10 minutes. If she stops crying you stop timing and reset the clock. She will protest at first, no one likes change but in few days she will learn to settle herself.

I’m 26 and I have a 14-and-a-half month old girl, who's never slept through the night. If am honest it’s probably been my own fault. For a while I had a bedtime routine and used to let her fall asleep in her cot while I held her hand, but then she started looking for me through the night.

She could wake up to roughly seven times a night and I would sit by the cot and hold her hand or lay my hand on her so she knew I was there but eventually I would give up and bring her in my bed. The routine then went out the window and I would let her fall asleep on me or my partner or the couch downstairs.

Since Saturday I have started controlled crying to help her self soothe and have a bedtime routine back in order, but although I think it could be working she sometimes make herself sick, I am not sure if am feeding her at the wrong time or something?

What I would do for her to sleep full nights. When not teething and have we no tears during the day, she falls asleep on us still then goes in her cot. Fiona.

Katie Palmer: Your daughter just needs practice at going to sleep on her own and not with you. Start by re-introducing a bedtime routine, dinner, play, bath, milk, story, bed. Do this quietly with the lights down low.

Put her in bed, say good night and sit next to the cot. And then over the following night move further away or you can do controlled crying. If you are choosing the latter option then start by timing for five minutes.

It’s only if she is crying, if she stops you stop timing and reset the clock. When you go in you are only going in to let her know you are there, not to make he stop. Lie her down, say ‘sleep time’ and walk out. Whichever you choose you need to stick with it day and night. It may get a bit worse before it gets better but keep calm and consistent and you will see results in days!

Your daughter just needs practice at going to sleep on her own and not with you

My son, Frank, is 17 weeks old and he has been formula fed from nine weeks. His daily feed pattern is between every two and two and a half hours (approximately 5-6oz each feed of aptimil first milk). Within every cycle he stays awake for around one and a half hours and sleeps for approximately 40mins.

I am concerned as this has been the same since he was just a few weeks old and every article I read suggests that he should be taking two to three longer naps throughout the day now instead. Frank is a healthy, happy baby and for the last two nights he has just started to sleep nine hours straight but before then his nights could consist of three to five wakes.

I know all babies are different but as a first time mum I could really do with a bit of reassurance that everything is OK or a little bit of advice to put us on the right track. You help would be greatly appreciated please. Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Great news that he is feeding so well but I think the feed times need stretching out a bit so that he is really hungry and takes a good amount so that he lasts three and a half to four hours. If he is getting sleepy during his feeds try waking him up with a nappy change, or break the feed up a bit so it may take a bit longer to get in but he's having it more like main course and then dessert. If you really struggle then you could consider using a hungry baby formula.

A sleep cycle is approximately 45 minutes so it sounds like he hasn't learnt to knit his cycles together. Keep sleep times to roughly the same time each day. So a morning nap about two hours after he woke of 45 min/ hour then a lunchtime one of two hours and an short one late afternoon.

For his longer sleep, if you hear him waking, don't rush straight in. Give him a chance to settle. Settling can be noisy at first until he becomes expert at it. If he doesn't sound like he is going back to sleep then go in and quietly give him half of his next feed - like it’s the middle of the night then put him back to bed. He will then get used to the idea that this is a longer nap and you can gradually cut out the milk an oz at a time. Hope that helps.

How can I get my 18 month old into a bedtime routine? If he doesn't sleep in the day he will go to sleep at around 7pm, if he has a nap no matter what time or how long, he will stay awake until 10pm! He sleeps until around 8am normally. Help! Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Daytime sleep is just as important as night time and it sounds a bit like he has got used to having too little sleep, so you need to remind him what a great thing sleep is. Always start the day at the same time. No matter what time he went to sleep that night, he needs to start his day around 7am (if you want him in bed for 7pm, 8am if 8pm bed etc). He needs to have a structured nap at roughly the same time each day. He can sleep for an hour and a half.

Then start your bedtime routine from dinner. So dinner, quiet play, bath/wash, pjs, drink, teeth, stories and bed. This gives his body time to adjust and get ready for sleep - his brain will understand what is happening and release melatonin that makes him sleep. Say goodnight and put him to bed. If he doesn't go to sleep, that's fine. As long as he is happy and safe he's fine.

If you need to go in, keep the lights off, use a low voice and just say "bedtime", lay him down and walk out the room. He may not get it straight away but again keeping consistent and your bedtimes will be much easier.

Our three year old son, Aiden, has NEVER slept through the night – as you can imagine we are now nearing the end of our tether, exhausted, depressed from lack of sleep and worried of the problems this may cause Aiden if we don't sort it.

To give you some background, he has always slept in his own cot/bed in his own room. From a baby we used to rock him to sleep until my partner, Lee, decided enough was enough and we tried controlled crying for a week to get him to settle himself. This worked, but he still woke up several times during the night. Initially, this may have been because I was breastfeeding.

When I stopped breastfeeding at six months and went to a bottle, we still continued to feed him during the night, up until a year ago when we weaned him off his night-time feeds. Unfortunately he still wakes two to three times a night on a good night, up to six on a bad night/if he's ill. We take it in turns to get up with him two nights on, two nights off but this is taking its toll. We're exhausted! So any help would be greatly appreciated. Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Think about your bedtime routine, do you play an active part in getting him to sleep or can he go to sleep on his own without you in the room? If you are in with him, then that needs to change before he can do it on his own through the night.

Start by having a chat with him about going to sleep on his own. It's just a nice discussion, not a telling off, about how nice it would be to have a whole night’s sleep without needing Mummy and Daddy because they need their sleep, too. Think together of some nice things that you can all do when you've had a good night's sleep. Special things like a trip to the cinema, bike ride etc. Write them down and put them in a box.

Also have a reward chart with things like, I can put on my pj's by myself, I can brush my teeth, I can go to sleep on my own, I can sleep on my own all night. Each time he does one he gets a sticker and if he gets all then he gets one a special token from the box. It’s important that some of the things on the chart are things that he can already do. This is about making him feel good about it so he strives to get all the stickers.

If you don't have a good night, don't make a big deal about it. Just a comment like ‘That’s a shame you didn't get all your stickers. Better luck tonight.’ Next you need to change your response to how you react to any night time wakings.

Once you've had your bedtime routine and said good night you need to switch off onto robot parent mode. You've had your kisses, cuddles and chats and now its sleep time. If you are staying with him to sleep then sit at the end of the bed, and gradually move further away as the nights go on. Only move further once he is happy with where you currently are.

If he isn't happy with that, quietly but firmly tell him that you will either sit on the bed or leave the room. If he doesn't lie quietly you walk out and leave him for a few minutes, then if need be go back to sitting on the bed. Whenever he wakes in the night you go back to doing the same. Go in, lay him down and go back to wherever you were when you put him to bed. You are there as a comforting presence but not to chat and cuddle. The idea is that he gradually gets used to settling on his own, while feeling reassured that you are nearby. It will take a bit of time but if you stay consistent he will get the message. Good luck!

Hi, I am struggling with an early riser. My eight month old son slept through from seven to 16 weeks and then began waking three times a night. At six months we moved him into his big cot in his bedroom which he shares with his three year old brother. He then only began waking twice a night at around 2am and 7am which I didn't mind too much.

When he eventually dropped his middle of the night feed he began waking at 5.45 and not going back to sleep, despite being visibly tired. When he wakes he is very vocal and wakes his brother up and sometimes his sister, too, who sleeps at the other end of the hall. I don't think he particularly needs feeding when he wakes at that time but I can't think how else to keep him quiet and I don't want to get up at that time because I work until 12am and so am extremely tired.

During the day he only gets one good nap from 1.30 until 3pm because my son is at preschool so I have to drop him off and pick him up at times when Albie really wants to sleep. The car journey is only five minutes so he naps then but doesn't stay asleep and then struggles to get back to sleep if I try to put him down. The whole household is becoming an overtired mess as we are all generally good sleepers. Please help! Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: I think he needs to practice settling so he gets quieter. Really hard in the week with school runs, so start it at the weekend. Put him down in his cot and hopefully he'll settle himself. If not go in, lay him down, say ‘sleep time’ and walk out. You may need to do it a few times until he gets the message.

When he wakes up don't rush straight in. He's only calling to tell you he's awake, not ringing a bell for room service. It won't do him any harm to wait for five minutes. When you go in to get him up, instead of going straight to him, open the curtains or turn on the light and say hello before you get him up. This helps him to realise the difference between you coming in to tell him he needs to go to sleep and getting him up for the day. The hope is that when he wakes early and he will learn to settle himself.

Unfortunately he may wake up his brother, so if possible move one of them somewhere else for a week so Albie gets used to the change. Also make sure he isn't going to bed too early. Bedtime should be 6.45/7pm if you want him to wake closer to 7am. Good luck

My son is nearly two now but is petrified of his own room and is constantly up in the night. We have tried all sorts to get him used to it even going to lengths as using controlled crying. He wakes up in his sleep crying and screaming. What can I do to get him to stay in his own bed for the night? Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Make sure you encourage lots of positive play in his room so it isn't a place he's scared of. Try a game of hide the teddy and get him to run around and find it. Have a nice gently bedtime routine, don't rush to get him into bed. When it is time to put him to bed, say good night and then sit by the bed. You are just there as a comforting presence not to engage with him.

Every time he wakes you will need to go back to sitting by him but not interacting. When you first go in, say ‘Its sleep time’ and then sit down so he feels reassured that you are there. As his confidence grows, gradually move further away. In the morning praise him on how well he has done, but don't mention it, if it was a bad night. Also he may need a night light near him all night if he doesn't already have one.

I have a 20 month old daughter who has slept through the night from six weeks. She is now waking daily at 5am and is wide awake ready for the day ahead. I'm looking for advice on the use of gro clocks from an early age. She is quite bright and understands dark outside is night time etc. Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Gro clocks are a great tool, but they are not magic and you will have to enforce the meaning. Talk to you child about it in the day, so it’s not suddenly sprung on her at bedtime. Then at bedtime get her to set it for you. Remind her that we're not getting up until the light goes on/sun comes up etc.

If she wakes up and calls out, then ignore unless she is persistent. Then go in and say, ‘It’s still night time, back to sleep’, lay her down and walk out. Keep doing it until the light comes on the clock. Then make getting up an event. ‘The clock says it’s time to get up!’ Open the curtains. Over breakfast talk about what happened, ‘Remember that we don't get out of bed until the clock tells us, before that it’s sleep time.’ Mean what you say and be consistent and it will start to work

Make sure that he isn't going to sleep on his milk. Maybe give him milk then a story and put him down awake

Hi I have a 17-month-old son who doesn't sleep through the night he settles and sleeps around 9.30pm and wakes at 3 to 4am for milk and then I have to rock him to sleep and he will wake around 6-7am. Any suggestions? Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Bring your bedtime routine forward so you are aiming to get him into bed for 7.30pm. Make sure he doesn't sleep for more than two hours in the day and is up by 4.30pm so that he is tired earlier. Make sure that he isn't going to sleep on his milk. Maybe give him milk then a story and put him down awake. Then you can either gradually get him used to the idea of going to sleep alone, so starting with you holding him but not rocking, then sitting next to him with a hand on him, then sitting next to him to being able to put him down, stay for a minute and leave.

Otherwise you can put him down and go back every five minutes if he's crying. Lay him down and then leave, continue until he settles. Whichever you choose you will need to do throughout the night so he doesn't get mixed messages of what is happening. Stick with it and you will see results.

My 14 month old is still waking every night between 2am -4am. She always had milk then I changed it to water but the last three nights, she pushed water away and spends the next two hours crying to be held! Please help the baby number two is due in March and I need to get her sleeping. Anonymous.

Katie Palmer: Check that your daughter is having plenty of good meals and snacks during the day so she isn't hungry at night. Also make sure that she isn't going to sleep on or with milk. If you know she can put herself to sleep at bedtime you can feel more confident that you are not asking her to do the unexpected during the night. Then in a night, pick a technique and stick to it unless she is ill.

Either stay with her as a comforting presence but not engaging with her or go in, lay her down and then leave, wait five minutes and then do the same. You will need to maintain this through the night so she always gets the same message.


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