It's such a hot topic, isn't it. We all want to know how to get a good nights sleep for children, which translates into a great nights sleep for ourselves. We caught up with Gem from Calm and Bright Sleep Support to ask some burning questions we all have about how parents and children can all get better nights sleep. We asked her loads of questions, maybe you’re pregnant, or have a child and need a little advice. Read on and learn a bit more about how two amazing sisters Gem & Eve could help you. If you would like to watch the Instagram Live then click here.
“I love talking to other mothers. It's the favourite part of my job, as well as supporting families. Calm and Bright Sleep Support started with a very exhausted mother who was my big sister, Eve, 11 years ago. She was in the real depths of sleep deprivation. My niece Tilly was 10 months old. She was still feeding and co-sleeping, she was just exhausted. But she didn't know what changes to make to help. The thought of leaving her baby to cry was completely foreign to her. So she created her own method of very responsive, interval control crying which worked within two nights. Amazed at the results, my sister wanted to spread the word and started volunteering in her community alongside the health visitors. I'm a paediatric nurse and mum. I joined my sister 7 years ago when my son was 6 months old and since then we've been helping families together across the globe with sleep. We've got a team of amazing people, who are all NHS professionals, who are paediatric nurses, health assistants, or clinical psychologists. We support families with sleep age from zero right up to six."
Q1 When do I start a sleep program for my child?
"Okay. So it really depends on the baby, and there is no right or wrong. It's a very personal journey. And I think mothers are ready at different times and that's okay. There's no wrong in this. If what you're doing is working for your family, then that is great. You can start setting the scene quite early. We are all about the fourth trimester, so you're doing everything on demand for the first three months of a babies life. That's so important. And from that point onwards, and sometimes a little bit before that, depending on the baby, you can start gently setting the scene for self settling, still with feedings in the night, still responding and very much being there. The easiest time to do it is around six months but you can do it at any point and there is so much that you can do."
Q2 My baby's a really early riser. Is there anything I can do to stretch the sleep out longer?
"Yes. Everybody's getting in touch with us about these lately. It's a really good thing to talk about. The number one reason for early wakes in children is over tiredness. We recommend bringing bedtime forwards, not putting it backwards and not exhausting your baby or your toddler. So if they wake up at say 5am it's important that you keep those boundaries in place and don't start their day until 6am. On our program we do something called 'stir to sleep' which is where you stir the baby in their sleep at around 10pm to trick the baby to fall into a deeper sleep cycle later. Try and accommodate some sleep in the day, even if it's in the buggy or the car. This is the main thing really, and those boundaries for us are not starting the day until it's an acceptable wake time."
Q3 Should I be cutting out feeds through the night at nearly 8 months?
"So you don't have to, but you can. Nutritionally from six months, babies don't need a feed through the night unless advised by healthcare professionals. If you're breastfeeding, it's really important that you do that gradually. So through the one-to-one support that we offer, we advise you how to ween breastfeeding slowly through the nights. You can stop and still keep that lovely night time feed and the morning feed."
Q4 I’ve heard babies sleep in cycles of 40 minuets, how do you recommend getting them back to sleep for longer nap if they wake after 40 minuets?
"This is a really common question we get asked. Yes, a sleep cycle is between 40 and 90 minutes on the whole, babies do about 40 minutes and short sleeps are really normal in the first three months. It's because of the melatonin rhythm and they don't produce melatonin until three months. When they get to three months and the melatonin starts coming, that's the time between three and four months when there's a massive sleep progression. So that's really hard for people, but that is actually a turning point in the sense of it's actually a progression because they're starting to produce melatonin, which is exactly when they could link in their sleep cycles a bit more effectively. So as far as how to do it, if you're putting a baby down for a sleep and they're waking at 40 minutes and then you get them up and they're still really tired, that is a really clear indicator that they haven't had enough sleep. So in that instance, I probably wouldn't rush in when they wake up, I would maybe do a little visit as an end of sleep signifier and that it's ready for nap time to end, it gives them an opportunity to get back off to sleep. That nap gap is really important as well. In our plans, you won't find any set times at all because obviously every baby is different, we can help and give loads advice on these."
Q5 Have you got any advice from parents who are worried that their babies have reflux or potential allergies or intolerances?
"Absolutely, we support lots of children with health needs. Based as a paediatric nurse and as a mum of a son that had reflux, when you bring reflux or another health need into the mix, it just adds a whole new dynamic to sleep and feeding them. And that's really hard because it's hard enough without adding stuff like that. We support lots of children with varying different health needs. Reflux and allergies are probably the most common. We’ve also got so many amazing natural remedies that we recommend from our experiences as nurses and mothers. So it's very much a holistic care we offer"
Q6 When they get to toddler age and start having nightmares / night terrors or being nervous about going to bed, how do you go about helping them get back to feeling comfortable at night time?
"It’s a really difficult age for kids. They are processing emotions and they're forming emotional bonds with people outside of their family. And that whole world is very exciting and real all of a sudden. They might just need a bit of reassurance when it comes to sleep. Children having nightmares and dreams are really, really common from about ages 3 to 12. Night terrors are less common they effect 3-6% from ages 4 - 12 . The difference with the two is with nightmares and dreams, children remember them, and that's harder for the child because they might then be scared at night time. With night terrors, they don't have any recollection of them. It happens in the deepest part of it and non REM sleep. So it's terrifying for parents and any parents that have had them with their child will know they are almost in a trance-like state. But in the morning the child will have no memory of that. It's very traumatic for parents, but less so for the child but really vivid, nightmares and dreams are really difficult to process. Worry dolls can be a great help. They are all about externally processing everything when they're overly excited or wound up. They can help them to validate their emotions. I recommend them to everybody."
To hear the whole interview head over to our Instagram and watch is on our IGTV. Click here to head over there. Calm and Bright Sleep Support is all about empowering parents. Yes, you'll have all the obstacles that can disrupt sleep, but ultimately you have the tools it’s just about getting the advice and support you need.
To find out more about them and see the plans they have to offer click here.