Q. How do I get my three-year-old to sleep when she is put to bed? Bedtime is 7:30pm but she can stay awake until 11pm some nights even after we’ve had a busy day. She does play for a bit at bedtime and other times she will sit chatting to her teddy or reading a book in the dark! She shares a room with her six-year-old sister, as we don’t have an extra room. There are times both girls play a little at bedtime but the six-year-old is generally asleep fairly quickly. Both children wake between 7:30am and 8:30am. My three-year-old stopped napping at aged two.
Unfortunately you can’t make a person sleep. With children in this age group you want them to have healthy sleep habits; to fall asleep independently and in a timely fashion. To help this happen you need to create the right environment at the right time. Your daughter seems to finds it difficult to switch off.
Q. My little girl is 10 months and in the last few months her night-time sleep has become really disturbed. She could be tossing and turning all night and wakes up tired whereas for her naps during the day she is out for the count with very little movement. Why is there a difference between day and night sleeps?
Restless sleep can be caused by a number of factors with day and night-time sleep differing greatly anyway. Initially I would rule out any reflux, allergies, food intolerances, wind, and constipation with your GP that typically can present with a restless sleeper, specifically at night-time. I would also want to make sure that it is not pain related, but since it has been going on for a few months I think you would know at this stage.
Q. I am breastfeeding my six-month-old baby and want to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Every night he wakes up once and if I feed him immediately, he will fall straight back to sleep. In order to minimise disruption to everyone else in the house I feed him in the bed beside me and we all fall back to sleep for the rest of the night. This routine works so well, I’m reluctant to change it. He will go to sleep in the evening in his own cot, so I don’t feel I’m getting him into a ‘bad habit’, so to speak, but I seem to have a lot of peers, some breast feeders, some not, who think what I’m doing is almost sinful! Can you tell me if it’s okay to continue what I’m doing?
Firstly, it is great that you have your little person and yourself in a lovely routine, with a level of independence and a defined place of sleep at bedtime and that your baby is also just waking once for a potentially required feed. Although, the health agenda strongly discourages bed-sharing, as a practitioner and as a breast feeding mum myself, I am aware that this is a very efficient approach, provided it works for you, and also you are making an informed decision where safe sleep is concerned. To that end, I would remind you that in general our beds are not designed with small children in mind, so ensure that it is a firm flat surface with no loose covers and at no time can your child get stuck in gaps between bed and wall and indeed under covers or pillows.
Q. My son is nearly 18 months and still hasn’t slept a full night. He always wakes and wants to get into my bed! And I give in…
After 18 months of interrupted sleep you must be feeling exhausted. Motherhood is challenging at the best of times and being sleep-deprived can make it even harder. With ongoing sleep issues, you will need an entire sleep overhaul and some significant lifestyle changes – but it will be worth it when both you and your little man start to get consolidated uninterrupted sleep.