Ask The Expert: How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?
Q: MY BABY is six weeks old and we're exhausted because of the sleepless nights. What is the best way of helping her sleep longer?
A: Baby sleep expert Charmian Mead, author of 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine (Vermilion, £12.99), says: Focusing your efforts and energy on a structured day routine will naturally result in longer periods of sleep at night. There are four key points that will result in longer periods of sleep:
1. Milk or food intake
"As part of your daily routine, feed your baby until full, allowing an hour for each feed whether that's milk or solid food. This allows time for winding. When breastfeeding, offer both breasts at each feed. The length and quantity of milk intake should be greater than any feeds given at night. Gradually increase milk intake each week until sleeping through the night. Make sure the time spent feeding is active and not comfort sucking or snoozing, which teaches positive associations with feeding."
"Your baby's digestive comfort will make all the difference to how much sleep both parents and babies get. Babies are unable to wind themselves for the first 10-12 weeks but take on a lot of air while drinking and digesting. Winding frequently and alleviating air throughout the feeds means your baby will not only be able to drink more milk but will be comfortable during and after, and sleep well between feeds. Wind every 0.5 to 1 oz on a bottle and every five minutes or so on the breast."
3. Awake time
"Structuring some time awake after feeds allows time for digestion before a nap and gives the baby awake time during daylight hours. This is the happiest time to be awake, being full and wind-free. This also means your baby should only wake at night when truly hungry and settle quickly back to sleep."
4. Sleep positions
"How and where you put your baby to bed will determine how long they sleep. A baby who's tucked in securely to a Moses basket or cot will sleep for longer than a baby who's left to sleep in a chair or play mat. Create a positive environment for solid sleep, swaddled at night in a blacked-out room and tucked in firmly over the shoulders during the day. If the startle reflex is strong, swaddle during the day too.
"It's a myth that a baby needs to get used to noise and can sleep anywhere in the first few months; a baby who sleeps solidly at night will be a much lighter sleeper during the day so naps are best in the bedroom where noise is limited and lighting dimmed, with a daily pram nap and perhaps skin-to-skin cuddles."