Baby Sleep Advice


Baby Sleep advice.

Oh how many times do you read that heading or something similar? We are constantly seeking so there is a constant source of information. Some fits with your parenting and some do not. What makes something ‘fit’ with us? Is it the speed at which you get results? Or the ease of access to the information, perhaps the desperation for sleep? Most probably it is a combination of all of these and more. The challenge being; much of the advice is conflicting and can often prompt an emotional response in us. First and foremost, our logic reasoning brain goes ‘off line’ when our emotional brain is in ‘full flight’. Desperation may result in poorly considered decisions, conversely, exhaustion can leave caregivers completely unmotivated and stuck in a cycle of delirium without productive action.

To stimulate some constructive decision making processes ... here is some food for thought. Like all food, some will love it, some not, and some even intolerant or sensitive to it, so read with your mind open and you heart in it’s place.

Babies wake frequently overnight and some of them do it for a long time, so when is it a problem? Babies need milk for growth, and they can only hold tiny amounts of milk at one time, so they have to wake often to feed. As they grow they are more able take bigger volumes that then sustain them for longer periods, and they begin to get a day night pattern happening. Critical reminder; we are ALL very different in how we sleep and what we eat, as are babies, so this is a ball park discussion. Around 5 to 8 months of age, babies may be able to sleep through the night with just one feed only, others may sleep through without a feed occasionally but overall are more settled with a feed. Some babies have stopped feeding overnight at this age but the norm is vastly variable. It is really hard not to compare your baby’s sleep to that of another, because the range of normal is enormous, so to it is hard not to be convinced to provide care that you would prefer not to, because family and friends tell you that you are insane if you don’t do it. However there is a rule of thumb; a baby stops waking for a feed when they are no longer hungry. Sometimes exhausting or work or family pressures to have uninterrupted sleep results in hurrying something that is a totally natural occurring event; longer baby sleeps. Teaching a baby to sleep might result in some unexpected and undesirable outcomes because your baby may begin to feel challenged or uncertain at night about the care they receive, and that in itself may cause them to wake more often. All the stories of grandparents saying ‘I left you to cry’ and you were okay, is often reliant on memory, and our wonderful memories can bypass the hard stuff and focus on the good, leavening us with selective recall about events.

When is night waking a problem?   When your baby is over 3-4 months and is waking each 45 minutes to an hour for a feed, or is really distressed for a long time before going to sleep, or is waking often and taking ages to return to sleep or is all of the above – then there is a problem. This is when parents become absolutely exhausted and may reach out for assistance. But where do you go?

Available support for baby sleep challenges. The range of support is quite amazing, from your nurse through to specialist in home care. It is hopeful the following list will help you in your decision making process.

- what is your motivator to make change, is it for you, your baby, your partner, your in-laws?

- realistically, what you want to achieve? Hint: babies do need to eat overnight, but maybe not every hour!

- how do you want to see change? Do you want it gentle and considerate of your baby’s emotions and  experiences or do you want to close the door and come back in the morning?

- to date what care and support has your baby experience at sleep time?

- so what do you  think your baby knows of sleep so far?

- who would you trust? A healthcare professional or alternative care professional, a stranger, another parent, your mother? We all have different trust points?


If you reach out for help firstly ask those who have seen literally thousands of families do well with some resources and not so well with others – they are a wealth of knowledge and experience and use contemporary knowledge to inform their practice; start with your nurse who us unbiased and respectful of the individual differences between and within families.


If you are looking for a resource, consider ones that fit with your values, be it a quick fix, or evidence based and informed, or gentle and driven by the babies cues and behaviours or a combination

- if you are looking for advice and even, in home support ASK QUESTIONS because baby sleep advice and home visiting is a completely unregulated industry and anyone can say they are an expert.

Ask about the philosophical underpinning of what they do

Ask about their qualifications, remembering evidence based interventions that are underpinned but the most recent understandings of infant brain functioning and capacity may be important considerations to your family.

Engage someone who has been referred by someone you trust

Keep your maternal/paternal radar on full alert to the elaborate words that are covering up bizarre interventions

In the event that you engage the services of someone and they are in your house and they are not doing what you expected, you have the right (and obligation for your babies sake) to say ‘stop now’ and ‘thanks but no thanks’. You have a right for a refund if they have not provided the service they led you to believe they would.

Go to websites and look for credibility or FB because a larger audience means a more discerning audience (sometimes!)


Trust you internal guide ... your gut instinct. If is feels wrong to you, it probably is because there is nobody who knows their baby better than you do.


Author Helen Stevens. Manager of Clinical Services, Educations and Research SAFE SLEEP SPACE. Author; ‘Safe Sleep Space’ (2012), ‘Foundations and Fundamentals: The first four months of life: a parent’s handbook’ (2015) and contributing author “The Science of Mother-Infant Sleep’ (2014).    


© Safe Sleep Space August 2015

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