The Experts: Sleep Problems

ANDREA GRACE – Child Sleep Expert & Health Visitor

Andrea tackles three common baby sleep issues: How to help a younger baby to sleep all night in the cot; How to establish a perfect bedtime routine and what to do if your little one rises before dawn.

My 3-month-old baby sleeps in bed with me. I find it easier that way, as I am breast-feeding. Now I want to move her into a cot but each time I try to, she screams. Is there anything I can do?

ANSWER: Start a little bedtime routine, shortly before you know that she is due to sleep for the night. After her bath; breastfeed her with the light on and do not allow her to fall asleep at the breast. Then hold her close and wind her well. During this time, sing a familiar gentle song that she will come to recognize as a sleep signal and then place her into her cot whilst she is sleepy but awake. She may cry, as all of this will be new to her but she will be reassured by your calm manner. There is no need to leave her on her own; you can remain comfortingly beside her. This way, she will learn that her cot is a safe place.
When she wakes in the night, feed her but do not allow her to feed to sleep. Put her back into the cot whilst she is awake and comfort her there if necessary. Try not to pick her up. She will soon drop her night feeds when she is no longer dependent on them for settling off to sleep. Teaching her to sleep without feeding will enable her [and you!] to sleep peacefully through the night.

What exactly is a good bedtime routine, and why is it so important?
A good bedtime routine will help your baby to feel safe and sleepy. It will also help YOU feel in control when you are tired and stressed at the end of the day. Follow the steps below to help your baby sleep through the night.

  •  Begin your routine shortly before you know your baby is ready for sleep.
  •  Routine should start no more than an hour before the bedtime feed. You may have to start later in the evening if your baby is very young. It’s pointless starting at 6pm if your baby doesn’t go to sleep until 9pm.
  •  Follow a similar bedtime “script” by using familiar phrases and actions at key points during the routine.
  •  Bath your baby every night unless there are genuine reasons why you can’t – and sing the same “action” song in the bath each night.
  •  Go directly to your baby’s sleep room after the bath.
  •  Clean nappy.
  •  Milk feed – with the light on to prevent falling asleep over the feed.
  •  Goodnight song or story – same one each night.
  •  Into the cot awake but sleepy, to settle for the night.

Your baby’s bedtime routine should be a lovely experience for both of you. Even though it is the end of the day, and you are both tired – try to make your routine a special time.

My 10-month-old baby daughter wakes every morning at 5am. If I put her to bed later will she sleep in later?

Putting your baby to sleep later is very unlikely to help her sleep later in the morning and might lead to her become sleep deprived. Babies are programmed to wake early by both internal and external factors such as hormone levels, light levels and hunger.
By six months, babies sleep in roughly 90-minute sleep cycles. As the night progresses these cycles become increasingly light. So typically babies will sleep deeply for the first part of the night but sleep becomes more fragile just before dawn. The result is that some babies miss out their final sleep cycle and become over tired and grumpy.
The key to helping her sleep in for longer is to teach her to settle by herself at the start of the night. This way, she is more likely to self settle when stirs early in the morning. Black out blinds can be useful in telling her that it is nighttime. Avoid giving her a night or dawn feed – provided she eats and drinks well during the day, she doesn’t need one. Using feeds as a sleep prompt may become a habit.
Remember that babies are naturally early risers. If she has had 10 hours sleep or more and wakes up cheerful, looking well rested, you may need to accept it for now!

Toddlers: Five Basic Essentials for a Good Night’s Sleep…
1. A consistent bed time routine.
2. Avoid late and long afternoon naps.
3. To fall asleep in her own bed at the start of the night.
4. To fall asleep without you with her.
5. Avoid bringing her into bed with you

Andrea is a trained health visitor, and child sleep expert. She is also the mother of four children. She has over twenty years of experience of working with babies and children and has helped hundreds of families to overcome their children’s sleep problems. She specialises in gentle, child-centered techniques, which respect the values and parenting styles of each individual family. She has her own sleep clinics in London and has a success rate of approximately 97%. As a leading authority in her field, Andrea’s work is recognised by pediatricians, child health practitioners and health journalists. Andrea is also the author of “Teach yourself Baby Sleep” and is the health visitor expert for ITV1’s “This Morning”. Having a medical background and training, she is able to treat babies’ and children’s sleep problems in a safe and holistic way. Please feel free to contact Andrea direct at: