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Sleep. No-one can prepare new parents for the lack of, and with so much conflicting advice out there it can be hard to feel compelled to adopt a certain routine or schedule.

Rosey Davidson is the founder of Just Chill Baby Sleep, an infant sleep consultancy focused on providing straight forward, no-nonsense sleep advice to parents. As the ultimate sleep guru (ask anyone who has ever worked with Rosey), we asked her for some advice on her most commonly asked questions. 

Setting up a great sleep environment is important, but how do you go about this and why is it so crucial?

Our sleep environment is the set-up of where we sleep. We can all benefit from optimising this – babies and adults alike. First of all, it’s important to think about temperature. We all sleep a little better when things are on the cooler side. The Lullaby Trust, the baby sleep charity, say that the safest temperature for our little ones is 16-20 degrees Celsius. If you can’t control the temperature of the room, you should adapt the layers that baby is wearing. In really hot temperatures its fine for baby to just wear a vest or a nappy to bed. If you are unsure how warm your baby is its best to feel the back of their neck or their chest. It’s very normal for their hands and feet to feel a little cooler than the rest of them. We do have a guide for what to dress baby in for bed on the blog on our website.
Make sure your sleep environment is as tech free as possible (no TVs etc!). The blue and white light from devices, and bright lights, can interfere with our sleep hormone melatonin. When doing nappy changes or night feeds I suggest an amber reading light, or a low lamp to avoid waking up you and your baby fully at this time. Amber, red or pink are the best colours to help us sleep.
The next really helpful pointer for sleep environment is to black out those bedrooms! Darkness helps us sleep and helps facilitate the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Often, we are putting our babies to bed when it’s still light outside, and it gets lighter in the morning way earlier than we would like them to get up! Keeping things dark can really help them to switch off, and to stay asleep a little longer.

Do you need a routine? And when and how do you go about starting one?

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to this. It’s a really personal thing as to when you might want to start having a bit of a rhythm to your day. I do believe that all humans do like to have a routine of sorts. Most babies seem to naturally fall into their own routine by around 6 months, but if they haven’t done this then you can absolute start implementing one. Many will benefit from a gentle rhythm to their day even earlier. A really great way to start is to simply aim to start the day at roughly the same time each day. This can help anchor your day, so that baby’s naps will hopefully start to follow a bit of a pattern. I think it’s really important to be able to go out and socialise a little, especially with things starting to open up a little more, but also to give baby the opportunity to sleep if they are tired. A routine shouldn’t be so rigid that you can’t get out once in a while.

How do you help your baby settle themselves, if that’s the route you want to take? Is it important for them to settle themselves?

It’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with helping your little one to sleep. This is perfectly normal, and in many cases not an issue at all. Some babies are fed or rocked to sleep and get a settled night, or you might find your situation quite manageable as it is. However, if you are in a situation that feels unsustainable and you would like to work on sleep, it is worth assessing how your little one falls asleep. For some babies how they fall asleep at night is how is what they come to expect between each sleep cycle when they stir (i.e., rocking, feeding, patting etc). If you want to work on them connecting sleep cycles independently then practising putting baby down awake is a good place to begin. You can do this really slowly by layering in new ‘habits’ before removing the old, or you can start a bit quicker if you feel it would be beneficial for your family. It is important to note the temperament of your baby. Some need more gradual change, and some are fairly relaxed and may adapt really well. Find a method and plan that suits you, your baby and your belief system.

How can we go about managing sleep regressions?

As babies and toddlers move through developmental milestones it isn’t unusual for sleep to be temporarily disrupted. They may wake more frequently at night, take shorter naps or fight falling sleep. These periods of disruption are often referred to as ‘sleep regressions’ even though they are triggered by phases of developmental progression. Whilst most babies tend to reach key milestones at roughly the same age as each other, all babies are different and will experience these phases of development when they are ready. The only real ‘regression’ that we recognise is the ‘4-month sleep regression.’ It isn’t really a regression at all, it’s actually a progression in your baby’s development. It is a good sign that your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing.
This phase of change represents the biggest change in sleep that your baby will go through, making the structure of their sleep cycles much more like those of an adult. Once this change in sleep has occurred, we all, babies and adults alike, naturally wake between each of these cycles. It can be a good time to work on sleep if you want to.
You can help your baby to get their sleep back on track and support them to practice how they can fall asleep themselves. Learning to sleep independently can be tricky for some babies, but it is absolutely achievable over time. Some babies will naturally adjust to their newly matured sleep patterns and sleep well again within a few weeks, others need some help to practice new skills in order to sleep well.

For sleep, I’m sure a lot of us know there isn’t a one size fits all, what’s the best advice you’d give for getting support?

Do some reading and research. We have some great free resources available. Remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to sleep. We are all individuals, and you are your baby’s expert. My YouTube channel and our blog are a great place to start. I also have lots of guest lives and podcasts in my highlights on Instagram. You might find that with a few tweaks you are able to make some really great progress. If you do want some more tailored help, we offer 1:1 telephone calls and online courses. When looking for a sleep consultant it’s important that you take into account your parenting style and beliefs and choose someone who fits with that.
Ultimately, you will sleep again, and you don’t have to suffer sleep deprivation long term. We all deserve a good night’s sleep!
You can find out more about Just Chill Baby Sleep here: www.justchillbabysleep.co.uk

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