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Mums! How to get more sleep with young children

Along with morning sickness, weight gain and piles, sleep deprivation is another joy of motherhood that many of us would rather do without. Often the sleepless nights begin during pregnancy, with relatives and friends helpfully telling us “it’s just your body’s way of getting you ready for all those sleepless nights with the baby.”  Exactly what you don’t want to hear when you’re exhausted even before the baby’s arrived.

Sleep little darlings, sleep! 

When it does arrive, sleep becomes an obsession. Why is the baby sleeping so much in the day? Why won’t it sleep at night? How can my husband sleep through the crying? Will I ever sleep again? These questions, and many more, are uttered like a mantra by new parents.

For Australian expat Terri-Anne Leske, who gave birth to nine-week premature twins Eli and Olivia in May 2012, the early days of being a new mum were extremely tough. Her daughter had colic, and her son had reflux, of which he has only just gotten over. “I had two really hard babies, and everyone, including the doctor, said reflux babies don’t sleep well so in the early days it was very rough,” says Terri-Anne.

The twins spent their first six weeks in Mount Elizabeth Hospital before going home, and after three months of demand feeding around the clock, expressing first and then feeding from a bottle, Terri-Anne began to run out of steam and knew that something had to give. She’d had fellow Australian friends recommend Tizzie Hall’s Save Our Sleep book, and had read it during pregnancy. “Some people had also recommended Gina Ford, but for me she was a little too full on and harsh,” she says.

Within a week of using the sleep routine techniques in the book, Terri-Anne and her husband Tom started to see an improvement. Methods included letting the babies self settle at bedtime, so rather than rushing into their rooms at the first cry and picking them up, the new parents would wait and routinely pat them down. “They are now the most amazing sleepers, and have kept in the full night’s sleep routine ever since.” But what is it about the book that works so well for Terri-Anne’s twins? “It covers everything from a routine point of view, and explains why babies do certain things. The book didn’t leave its place by the side of my bed for a long time.”

Sleep training and routines aren’t for everyone, but many parents do swear by some kind of routine or schedule for their babies. For Terri-Anne it meant she could save her sanity (her words), and it has strengthened hers and her husband Tom’s marriage. “It also means that I can manage ten times better as I’m not too tired.  And it has helped Olivia and Eli mentally, they have completely thrived on the routines and are so much happier now.”

Tizzie’s top baby tips for getting more sleep

1. Follow a routine from as early as possible, babies feel safe and secure if they know what and when things are going to happen. 

2. Always feed your baby until your baby is full, never restrict the amount of breast, formula milk and solids you give your baby. 

3. Catnapping can be caused by hunger, coldness or too little awake time. If you put your baby to bed at the first sign of tiredness your baby might be tired enough to nap but not tired enough to sleep.

4. Make sure your baby is warm enough to sleep safely and well. Too little bedding can cause an older baby to roll to the unsafe sleeping position of his or her tummy. 

5. Always put your baby to sleep where you intend for your baby to wake up. Or your baby will wake up, be confused and not get to the next sleep cycle.

It’s also worth checking these out for some alternative information and advice on baby sleep routines and schedules.

Gina Ford, The Contented Little Baby series

Baby Sleep Fairy

Jo Tantum, Baby Secrets

Robin Barker, Baby Love

Dr Sears

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