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1 Jan 2022


Jo Emmerson

As a parent, especially a new parent, it can feel like all you talk about is sleep (or poo). Why won't they? What can you do about it? When will they? How broken it makes you feel when you don't sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time for months on end....⁠

There will be All The Advice from all directions. ⁠

Ultimately, all you can do is read up on the options (including the option to do nothing and know that frequent night wakes are normal) and go with what you feel is right for you and our family.⁠

It damn near killed me. No exaggeration.

If I had known about @pandas_UK at the time, I would have been on the phone to them. As it was, an excellent GP and help from @littlesleepstars got me back on my feet.⁠

I honestly never though, in a million years, we would reach a point when my little one would actively ask for sleep.⁠

But he did. And, thanks to signing, he was able to ask for a sleep a good 6 months before he was able to say the words. And as any new parent knows - 6 months is a VERY LONG TIME, especially when you're sleep deprived.⁠
Try This

Start a bedtime routine as soon as you like. Although very young babies will not immediately respond to a routine, it has been shown that children crave and recognise patter and consistancy (hey, don't we all?), and the sooner you start, the sooner they will start to recognise and understand.

Example Routine
Keep it simple. Five simple steps that you can repeat everty night, such as:
1) Bath*
2) Nappy & dressed
3) Cuddles & Book or a Song
4) Milk
5) Bed

Talk about this routine a lot. Tell them before you start what you are going to be doing
"It's nearly bedtime little one, so we're going to start getting ready. So, step 1 is - we will have a bath, step 2 is - I will help you get dressed, step 3 is - we will have snuggles and a story, step 4 is - milky time, step 5 is - sleepy time."

As you move throught the steps, remember to list off what you've completed and what comes next:
"ok my love, so we've had a bath and you've got your pjs on, what's next? That's right, step 3 is -"
(and list out the remaining steps).

You can use this simple tips with children of all ages, from a couple of weeks to a couple of years. If they are not yet talking, you can be their voice.

By repeating the list over and over during each bedtime, over the course of a few months you are doing several things:

1) most importantly, you are helping your little one learn to predict the pattern and what is expected of them at the end (although I can't guarantee sleep just yet).
2) you are expanding your little ones' exposure to language and therefore helping to develop their vocabulary.
3) by repeating the numbers you are introducing numeracy
4) after a period of roughly 3 months of consistently repeating the above, you will be able to 'edit' the routine if you need to. For example if you are late getting started, you can cut the bath, just take little one to the bathroom and talk to them about the bath and then move on to getting them dressed.

* You might not want to bath your baby every night (and for very little ones, you might not bath them at all for a couple of weeks) that's fine. This is a sample routine, you can adapt to your family's lifestyle. One tip I would offer is, regardless of whether you bath them or not, introduce a quick sit on a potty as part of the bath routine. You can do this from around 1month old, with absolutely no expectation of them using it! The point is, you are setting up habits and experiences now which will serve you and your little one further down the line. When you come to introduce a potty to replace a nappy, they will already be used to the feel of the plastic on their botty. When you come to supporting your little one out of night time nappies, they will be used to emptying their bladder before bedtime.

As with anything to do with children, we are in a marathon, not a sprint. For every action, response, tool, technique or tip you put in place now, ask how it will serve you and them in a year, or in five years, or in 20 years... that's the timescales we're working to ;)

A final tip:
Show your pre-verbal and/or chatterbox little one the sign for bed whenever you are putting them down for a sleep. Let them know what you're doing, what you are expecting of them. Give them the tools to tell you when they need a sleep now and down the line you can save yourself a lot of overtired guess work.⁠ See a video of how to sign 'bed' here

Most of all, be gentle with yourself. Sleep deprivation is hideous, and makes you second guess and doubt yourself all the time. This phase will pass. Honestly, it will x

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