Q&A with baby sleep expert Lisa Clegg

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A mum of three, Lisa Clegg works as a full time nightly maternity nurse and has helped hundreds of families with her advice on sleep, feeding and routines. Lisa’s also got her own book out, titled The Blissful Baby Expert, and provides a free parenting email advice service through her website.

Q: My 7 1/2 week old seems to have now got the hang of sleeping at, but the actual time he finally goes down varies from one night to the next - sometimes it can be as late as 3am before he settles. Do you have any advice on starting to encourage a consistent bedtime (at a reasonable hour!)? We already do bath time at a similar time each night and put him in his pyjamas etc.

Lisa: Babies under 10-12 weeks need to nap roughly every 1 1/2-2hours and if they are kept awake longer than 2 hours then overtiredness sets in and they can actually then end up staying awake for hours thereafter. Try to encourage a nap sometime between 4-5pm, a bath around 5:30/45 then milk feed once dressed and calm feed and wind down by 7pm so sticking within the 2 hour rule.

Q: My baby girl is nearly 8months old, breastfed since birth, the last few nights she has been up almost ever half hour wanting me, sometimes to feed but certainly last night more was for comfort. She is then tired through the day. Last night was worst due to the fact that everytime I detached her, she woke straight away crying. Any suggestions to help her sleep a bit longer between feeds?

Lisa: It's really important to teach a baby how to self settle without needing help from a dummy, feeding or cuddling to go right off to sleep. If you always use one of these methods to get her completely off to sleep each time then every time she passes through the sleep cycle, she will look to that exact same help to resettle all over again. Begin to put her down drowsy with reassurance as you are still present and use a pick up put down method and ultimately work towards being able to put her down awake did walking away, without her needing you to stay. Once you can do this then she will sleep for longer periods as will know how to settle herself each time she passes through the sleep cycles overnight.

Q: My wee boy is 9 months. He hasn't ever taken a dummy so when he goes to sleep he likes to be cuddled to sleep. This can take a while and as I have a two year old to get to bed we really need to break the habit or give him some sort of comforter as he gets upset when not cuddled to sleep. Any suggestions?

Lisa: I'm a big fan of muslin squares as comforters. They are large enough for baby to find easily in the night, especially if you put a couple in the cot, they are washable and you will never have an issue about buying more if you lost one. Start by giving him this to hold each time you cuddle him off to sleep over the next few days and progress to putting in the cot with it and reassuring him when needed if he needs you to as he settles.

Q: What if your baby won't go down awake without crying? My son has never been able to get himself to sleep. I don't believe in leaving him to cry, so we can't really put him down without him being rocked or fed to sleep. Recently he's also refused a bottle in the evening (he's breastfed but has always taken the odd bottle of expressed milk or very occasional formula, and will still happily take one during the day from anyone) which makes it difficult for me to go out and leave him, even with my husband.

Lisa: You can use a pick up put down method or gradual retreat where you feed him, but try to keep him awake or at least drowsy as you put him down, rather than feeding or rocking right to sleep. You can then sit close by and place a hand on him or pick up as and when needed to calm and reassure. Encouraging him to be attached to an alternative comforter like a muslin will also help as that will mean he can use that to resettle himself some of the time rather than always needing you to feed or cuddle right off to sleep.

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