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‘Sweet dreams are made of this’: How to make sleep easy (Part 1)

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Part 1: Day time sleep

Many families approach held. seeking advice on how to make sleep easy and stress-free. And when we meet that goal, the days and nights become so much more enjoyable for everyone. As a paediatric doctor and a Mum of two, I know there is an overwhelming amount of information available on sleep and a lot of the advice is conflicting. It can make things even more confusing. Making sleep easy for your whole family, requires a re-think of the traditional advice on sleep.

My baby cries on waking from his nap and is difficult to soothe. Does he need more sleep? Should I try and re-settle him?

Trust that your baby’s body will take the sleep it needs

Waking up from a nap can be quite a vulnerable time for people of all ages: babies, toddlers, kids and adults. You might jolt awake, feel disoriented, and wonder how long you’ve been asleep for. For your baby, perhaps their environment has changed since they fell asleep. Perhaps they fell asleep being fed, carried or cuddled in your arms. Now they wake up and find themselves in their cot: a rude awakening for sure! Crying on waking is not a sign your child’s nap has been too short. Sleep, falling asleep and waking are not under our conscious control. We can trust that your baby’s little body will take the sleep that it needs over a period of a few days.

If your baby is dialled up and crying when they wake up from their nap (or at any time of the day), you can always use the tools of physical contact, cued care, feeds, and sensory experience to help dial them down. That’s why many suggestions for how to soothe a crying baby including offering them a feed for that power package of feel good hormones (read on to hear more a

bout this), cuddling them for that close physical contact or stepping outside for a change in sensory experience.

I spend ages trying to get my baby to sleep! I try shushing/patting/rocking them and feeding them in a dark room but it takes a long time to get them to fall asleep

Your baby is cueing to you that his body is not ready to take sleep

If your baby is fed, warm and dialled down but not falling asleep, that means that their sleep pressure is not high enough and their body is not ready to take that sleep. Instead, move onto something that meets your needs and theirs: self-care, feeds, sensory or otherwise and be open to your baby falling asleep when he needs to. When we take the focus off sleep, sleep looks after itself. If your baby is upset and dialled up, use your tools to help dial them down and you’ll open up that opportunity for sleep if they need it then.

I need my baby to nap so I can get things done

Parents sometimes try to get everything done whilst their baby is napping (shower, eating a meal, housework etc.). However, some babies have lower sleep needs and only will have short day naps or cat naps. This means that some parents can’t reliably plan to meet their own needs when their baby sleeps. That's why I always recommend that parents try and un-hook their self-care time from when their baby sleeps. Instead, it means that parents might need to get creative with how they fill their days and meet their needs. For example, perhaps sits in a bouncer whilst the parent has a shower or baby joins you in the shower. Perhaps both of you go for a walk together outside for the exercise and sensory experience. Perhaps you baby wear and have the benefit of being handsfree! When parents fill their days with things that meet their own needs as well as the needs of their baby, sleep takes care of itself. Suddenly the days are more enjoyable, there's less clock watching and worrying about naps. It can really take the stress out sleep.

About our sleep program

held. proudly support families using the Possums Approach and the Neuroprotective Developmental Care (NDC) baby toddler sleep program. It's a revolutionary sleep program that turns mainstream sleep advice on its head and offers a much-needed alternative to infant sleep training, providing sleep help without letting your baby cry. NDC is based on cued care: responding to your child in the way you think they are asking. The sleep program utilises your child’s biological hormones, their biological sleep regulators (sleep pressure and circadian clock) to make sleep easy and stress-free. Click here to book an online sleep consultation now

About the author:

Dr Clementine David is an Australian trained paediatrics doctor, the CEO and Founder of held. and a mum of two young kids who have unique personalities and sleep needs.

held. are proudly the first accredited Neuroprotective Developmental Care Practitioner in Asia providing holistic evidence-based care in: antenatal education, sleep, settling, breastfeeding support and newborn care. held. is based in Hong Kong but provides online consultations to families all around the world. Click here to read more about our services

Tags: sleep, baby sleep, day naps, baby waking, baby crying, unsettled baby, how to soothe a crying baby, sleep help, sleep consultant, Possums sleep program, NDC baby and toddler sleep

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