Mum and child sleeping togetherHere are some tips that worked for our family

Babies
Babies can sleep through the night at 3 months, but not
all babies do.

Bearing in mind that I have had fair success with my four
children, things that we found helped were:

  • I gave the babies a good feed in the evening (my babies seemed to want to be breast fed from about 5 till 7!). In the hope of a good nights sleep I let them stock up! Eventually, when about six months a final feed of solids about an hour before bedtime seemed to help them settle.
  • My babies had a play and a bath after the feed. Although they were drowsy after the feed I wanted them to settle themselves in their cot, not rely on a feed to make them sleepy.
  • My three girls loved lying on a long-haired soft baby
  • sheepskin. My son liked my (old, worn-out) silk
  • pyjamas. They loved the feel against their skin, and it
  • settled them quickly. Find out what your baby loves.
  • Eventually a favourite soft toy will emerge that will
  • help the baby to feel secure and reassured when they go
  • to sleep.
  • I encouraged my husband to spend time with each baby near bedtime and gradually go from play to cuddling, swaying and rhythmic patting. He was very good at being patient in the evening, whereas I had often looked after the baby all day and needed some space. If you are a single parent you will need to stay calm and patient a little longer to settle the baby yourself.
  • We found soothing music near bedtime set the mood, and my eldest daughter settled best when we played classical music. (The child-minder was amazed at the quieting effect on my daughter of playing Mozart)
  • I put the baby in the cot when they were awake but sleepy. Some of my babies cried a little, but on the whole they managed to go to sleep by themselves.
  • When the baby was less than three months old I woke the baby at about 10.30, gave it a final feed and then let my husband settle the baby whilst I went to my bed. This way I managed to get the longest stretch of sleep possible.
  • I am not good between the hours of 11 and 5. If the baby woke for a feed I spoke very little, kept the lights dim, changed the baby’s nappy (diaper), then fed the baby and left.
  • I always put the baby down for a nap after lunch. I tried not to do any activities that interfered with this. This was my best chance of catching up with some sleep if I needed it or getting on with things. My eldest daughter continued her nap until she was 4! Fantastic!
  • At one point I used a dummy (pacifier) with my son. The night after I had to get up three times to put the dummy back in his mouth the dummy became history! My babies had to learn to settle themselves.
  • We did use the ‘controlled crying’ technique. When the baby found it hard to settle itself we would make sure it was warm and dry, then leave the baby to cry, coming back every few minutes to reassure the baby with words and touch, then leave the room again. I have to say it does work, but it was much harder to do when the baby woke in the middle of the night and we didn’t want our other children / neighbours disturbed.

My reasoning behind using this technique was that I can
cope much better with my baby if I have a good nights
sleep. I can respond more positively and have more
energy and enthusiasm. A happy mum means a happy
baby, so getting the baby to sleep through the night was
worth the week of training the baby to settle itself.
If you are going to do try this technique, plan to start it
on a Friday night or at a time (holiday) when you and
your partner can afford not to be firing on all cylinders,
and can take it in turns to comfort the baby. If you have
a partner, get them involved with settling the baby and
in consoling you when you find it difficult to hear your
baby crying. If it is hard, just remember why you are
doing it and how much your baby will benefit when you
both get a good nights’ sleep. All of my babies learned
to settle themselves within a week of starting this
method, but it can take up to two weeks.

In the early weeks the baby slept in a Moses basket next to my bed, but after a few months I moved them to their own room to avoid me waking when they made little noises or just whimpered in the night.

After three months I only gave the baby water in the night.

When the babies were sleeping through the night and unexpectedly woke up, we often gave them a paracetamol elixir (or paracetamol and anti-histamine

[Medised] -even better for helping baby sleep if they
have a cold or cough). My theory was that if there was
no other explanation why they are crying in the night,
they were probably teething or in pain. Strange how
sometimes they settled and stopped crying the moment
they tasted the medicine! Possibly a placebo effect, but
it worked, and in the middle of the night that was what I
needed.

Young Children
My children have always been good at going to bed.
Things that helped were:

  • Having a set bed-time, with the younger children going
  • to bed earlier