Elaine Harvey is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Early Childhood Educator. Her business is Lullababy SOS and she helps Parents with all things baby and toddler related with a special focus on sleep and routine. Elaine has worked globally with over 10,000 families over the past 18 years. She has helped families understand how they can help their babies grow and develop with a healthy routine, as well as helps parents find their confidence in their own parenting power. Elaine is also the Australian Director for the International Association of Sleep Consultants. She offers a wealth of knowledge and experience, so we were so honored to have Elaine join us in our Bubble to discuss a number of questions our community were interested in having answered.
What are some good sleep associations for new babies? My 8 week old baby is sleeping in their bassinet for no longer than 20 minute naps during the day. They are amazing at sleeping during the nightThis is a really normal sleep pattern for an 8 week old. To give you a bit of context with what's going on. Previous to 8 weeks ago, that baby was in your womb and had no natural body clock. So, for the first 6 weeks of their life they still have a lot of their maternal melatonin, which really helps with their sleep. Newborn babies will tend to sleep about 18 hours per day, but in short bursts. From about 4-8 weeks you will start to notice your baby's night time circadian rhythm starts to regulate, but also about 6 weeks of age your baby wakes up to the world. Part of the reason your baby wakes up to the world is because they no longer have all the maternal melatonin, although they are still getting some from breastmilk (if breastfeeding) which is important to note that breast milk at night time has much more melatonin as opposed to in the morning. So that's a good point to remember if you are expressing and bottle feeding your baby at different times of the day and night. At around 8 weeks of age you should notice your baby is doing about 6 hours at the beginning of the night, then about 4 hours and then 3 hours which should get them through until the morning. So if your baby is doing that, you are smashing it! The best way to maintain this is by maintaining a good bedtime routine with them. Daytime sleeps are still really sporadic at this age, still sleeping in small bursts and spending most of the time in the REM sleep cycle - which is where your baby is making lots of noises and sounds - so it's important to not react to all those noises or pick them up unless your baby begins crying.
For longer day time sleeps, it will probably take until around 4 months for your baby to get in to a better daytime circadian rhythm and have longer naps.
How long should an 8 week old be awake for before their next nap/sleep?
So at 2-3 months old, your aiming for about 16 hours of sleep for your baby. Out of that 16 hours, we would like 3-4 hours to be during the day. The number of naps they should be having is 3-4 naps during the day with their awake window being about 1.5 hours between naps. You can have a look at the info graph (beside) to use as a guide, but also make sure you follow your babies lead a little bit. So if you're putting your baby down at an hour, and they're taking 15 minutes or so to go to sleep, they may need their awake window pushed out a little bit more. It's also important to reassess their awake window every 2 weeks when they are a newborn, and every month or so as they grow older.
I would love to know how to stretch the night sleep longer than 3 hour intervals. Baby is 3 months of age
When a baby, at 3 months of age, is waking at 3 hour intervals it is most likely due to the way they are falling asleep. So if you are feeding your baby to sleep and then transferring them in to the cot afterward, what happens is your baby starts to realise that they are falling asleep on you. So as your babies circadian rhythm matures what happens is they go through stages of sleep - light sleep cycles and deep sleep cycles. So when you feed or cuddle them through that first light sleep cycle prior to placing them in their cot, they then go through their next light sleep cycle after 3 hours of sleep. So this is when they will stir and wake a little and notice that they're in a different place. So if baby is where they were when they went to sleep, they'll stir a bit but then often doze back off to sleep. If your baby is starting to get used to feeding or being rocked to sleep, they become unsettled at that 3 hour mark and tend to need that feeding or rocking to help them resettle again and then the cycle repeats. So my advice at this age would be to start implementing a really good bedtime routine with your baby so that your baby gets in to some good habits prior to 4 months of age. A great routine resource is shown below.
I'm interested in Elaine's view on dummies for sleep and when/how is best to remove the dummy?
So some babies love dummies, all the time, where as some babies aren't too phased by a dummy. Most babies are abit of both, if you keep offering them a dummy they will get used to it and start using it. Newborns have a natural instinct and really strong sucking reflex, around 3-4 months of age that reflex isn't as strong anymore but it is also the time where behaviours will start to become more familiar. So if you are using a dummy, I would aim to use it as a tool in my kit but not as a 'go to'. I would also aim to try and remove the dummy before 4 months of age.
My 8 week old baby refuses to sleep in the bassinet, cot or pram. She only falls asleep on my chest, in the carrier or during a breast feed. Also is a very light sleeper. Any advice?
I tend to find that happens alot with reflux babies, or babies who have tummy issues. The feeling of the pressure on their tummy is quite soothing for babies with tummy issues. When you've got a newborn baby who's refusing to sleep in the cot, pram, bassinet, or anywhere really aside from Mum's arms - I would suggest trying to swaddle your baby quite tightly. The tight swaddle will create the same kind of pressure of being held or laying on their tummy. Also tucking them in when they are in their cot will help with that feeling of being connected. To transition to sleeping in the cot or bassinet I would suggest starting the transition slowly, daytime naps on you and night time sleeps in the cot. Once you have worked on this you can then work on getting your little one in to their cot for the first nap of the day, and so on. So it's just about leaning slowly in to getting some sleeps in the cot or bassinet.
How can you help baby connect sleep cycles during the day? My baby is 4.5 months of age and she requires us to help her settle frequently. We gently pat her to sleep, however it's taking 25-30 minutes to resettle and it's becoming exhausting
So I would go with looking at her awake times between naps, so check out that info graphic shared earlier. At 4.5 months of age her awake window needs to be about 2 hours during the day and 2.5 hours at the end of the day. So stretch your babies awake windows out a little and I would also look at implementing a really good nap time routine and encouraging her to self settle in the cot. It's absolutely fine to help your baby settle back to sleep between sleep cycles, but the fact it's taking so long probably means she isn't tired enough when going to sleep. I would also recommend to find a less rhythmic way to get baby to sleep, so instead of consistent patting I would try mixing it up with some rubbing and jiggling and "shhh"ing.
My 5.5 month old has gone from sleeping through the night, or with 1 wake up, to now waking 3 times a night and sometimes not wanting to go back to sleep. This has been going on for about 4 weeks. She still is napping twice a day, for 2 hours per nap
I would assume from this question that there is an external association when baby is going to sleep. If there isn't with going to sleep, then it might be the feeding to sleep during the night. So if you have mastered the going to sleep that's great, however if you are feeding to sleep during the night - which is fine for a newborn - but at 5.5 months of age they are basically learning that's what happens during their REM sleep cycles. So if you're feeding to sleep during the night your baby is probably now used to that association when going to sleep. This info graphic (to the side) is a great guide to how to manage overnight wakings.
My 10 month still feeds twice overnight. Both my husband and I try for up to an hour to settle him back to sleep without a feed, however he won't go to sleep unless he's had a feed. Is it possible he is just genuinely hungry?
It is absolutely possible that your baby is just hungry. Biggest thing I'd look at is the night time routine, how they are falling to sleep at night, ensuring you aren't feeding to sleep during the night. Also make sure he's getting good balanced meals during the day. I like babies to have 1/3 fat, 1/3 carbs and 1/3 protein for all their meals. I would suggest carbohydrates coming mainly from vegetables as opposed to from grains, healthy fats such as avocado, eggs, dairy, good cuts of meat, coconut, nuts etc. So if you are concerned your baby isn't getting enough calories during the day, I would start by looking at those suggestions. If you do feel they are eating enough during the day I would try and start reducing the amount of milk you are giving him overnight and also make sure you are putting him back in his cot when he is awake.
How do you transition a 14 month old to one nap during the day? Also, how do you stretch out their awake time at the beginning of the day?
I would try and keep your baby in bed until at least 5am. With the sun coming up earlier this can be trickier unless you have completely climate controlled your baby's room. Then I want you to look at what the middle of your baby's day is - not what the middle of the day is. So the middle of your baby's day might be 11am. So this would mean when dropping down to the one daytime nap, you'd be putting baby down at 11am. I also suggest doing two lunches, one before 11am and one after waking from her nap. Around 15 months is the average age to drop down to 1 nap during the day, so that's a great place to start.
At what age do toddlers drop their last day time nap?
So toddlers will often seem to drop their day time nap at around 2 years of age for about 2 weeks. They will fight it but please don't accept that they are ready to drop their nap. So if you keep their routine and keep putting them down for a rest for those 2 weeks, even if they don't sleep, just keep the routine going and they should hopefully get back into taking their daytime nap. At around 3 to 3.5 is when, on average, your little one will be ready to give up their day nap altogether.
For any further questions or advice you can jump over to Elaine's Instagram @lullababySOSbabywhisperer or her website. Elaine offers mostly online, telephone and email support, however she is also located close to Coolangatta, QLD, where she offers in home support. You can view more information on the support she can offer you, and your family, on her website.