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‘Sweet dreams are made of this’: How to make sleep easy (Part 2)

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

Part 2: Night time sleep

Making sleep easy for your whole family, requires a re-think of the traditional advice on sleep. In Part 2, we focus on how to make night time sleep as easy as possible.

We want babies and their parents to be getting as much sleep as possible overnight

When your baby wakes up overnight, I recommend you do whatever works to get everyone back to sleep the fastest. For many families, this will be a milk feed or a quick cuddle or co-sleeping in a safe bedsharing environment. Some families might decide that they wish delay responses to their baby’s cues or ‘sleep train’. What can happen for those families is that their babies can end up being dialled up and awake, getting less sleep instead of more, which is the opposite of what you want. So, I recommend doing whatever works and is manageable for your family, because we want to maximise the amount of shut eye that everyone’s getting overnight.

As parents, it’s also important to think about your own sleep health as well. Are you stressed about sleep? Unfortunately, the more worry about sleep, the more likely we are to have disrupted sleep. Do you have a regular sleep and wake time? Are you sedentary during the day and getting enough exercise? How much caffeine are you drinking and when? Are you avoiding electronic devices before bed? Do you have a relaxing winding down activity? What’s your sleep environment like? Is your bedroom sleep-friendly? (At the bottom of the post, I’ve linked some good resources on sleep health, other energy zappers that can contribute to tiredness, and strategies to support your mental health).

Did you know that breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep overall than those families who need to use bottles overnight?

Feeding for a baby is so much more than just the transfer of milk from breast to tummy or bottle to tummy. It’s a big power package of happy hormones: sucking, a cuddle in the arms of a loving carer, satiety with a happy tummy full of milk, and the burst of oxytocin hormone, which provides feelings of relaxation and love for both Mum and baby. All of this helps baby (and Mum) to dial down and let their sleep hormones take over and help them fall back to sleep again. Whenever there’s a sleep problem, our holistic approach always checks in with feeds first, because if a baby isn’t getting that big wave of feel good hormones, it can be hard for them to dial down, and take that sleep when they’re needing to.

Feeds are the perfect tool for dialling your baby down and feeding to sleep is the perfect design of our physiology. For families whose babies are waking up frequently overnight, we need to check that feeds are working and that baby isn’t waking up excessively because they’re hungry. (Click here to read about the difference between normal night waking and excessive night waking).

What about bottle feeding families?

To make nights easier, I recommend bottle feeding families experiment with pre-preparing milk and bottles to make overnight feeds as easy as possible. Parents who are bottle feeding can still aim to replicate the relaxing, sleep-inducing hormonal effects of a breastfeed, with low lighting, close cuddles, skin contact and feeding their baby using paced bottle feeding.⁠ (Paced bottle feeding is one of the topics covered in our ‘Newborn Preparation’ antenatal education session. Click here to read more about this service)

Regardless of how a family is feeding overnight, I recommend they try and make the environment dark, cuddly, relaxed and quiet. I recommend experimenting with only changing dirty nappies and not wet nappies routinely overnight. For some babies with sensitive skin, this might mean putting on a thick layer of a zinc oxide barrier cream. Other things to try and experiment with might be not wrapping/swaddling your baby to make nights easier. The research demonstrates that contrary to popular belief, babies don’t swallow a lot of air when they feed, so there’s no need to burp them or hold them upright after feeds. I recommend parents experiment with this to make the nights as easy as possible.

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 and provides online consultations to families all around the world. Click here to read more about our services

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

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