Expert Dee Booth The Sleep Fairy Talks Getting Your Baby Sleeping Through The Night

We recently launched our new private Facebook group, MORI Families, a place for expectant and new parents to connect for advice, support and just to find like-minded parents. To launch our group we hosted a live Q+A with DeeBooth The Sleep Fairy, who answered questions about getting baby to sleep at night, how to nap during the day and how to balance sleeping with feeding.

All advice has been tailored to each baby's specific requirements based on their age, sleep and nap schedule and their feeds. We hope you find some help and guidance from this, but always remember to seek professional, tailored help for the safest routine and advice.

Baby with dummy and rabbit tedding sleeping in bedSophie: I have a 14 week old boy called Zach. He has a routine in the evening and is relatively easy to put down to bed. He has a bath at 5.30pm-ish and is usually in bed asleep between 6-6.30pm. However sometimes he is so tired that he refuses his last bottle and wakes an hour later to drink it - this doesn't bother me as he goes down very easily afterwards! We have started to put him into his cot sleepy and he is slowly learning to self-soothe with my hand on his chest shushing and picking up if necessary. He wakes once for food any time between 1-4am and is usually quite easy to settle after that too! Our troubles occur from 5am! He's raring to go for the day. He moans (never cries) until we admit defeat and start our day! We've tried settling him and always treat it like a night time get up but he's all smiles and giggles!!!! We've tried bed time earlier and later but nothing seems to help with this! What would you suggest? Also, his daytime naps are so so random. I like to get out and about in the day but always try to work around his naps and leave early to get a walk in. He often wakes as soon as I've stopped walking though so find myself pacing the pavements. He often fights the day time sleep and sometimes will just have 3 lots of 20 minutes. I can see he's knackered but he fights it so much. I try to get him down when I see his signs for tiredness but quite often he gets very agitated with it and wants to have fun instead! I'm not sure if knowing his feeding schedule will help - he's not a massive eater! He eats every 3 hours between 3-5 oz and has a dream feed at 10pm every night. In total he drinks between 28-32oz a day and is formula fed. He also takes a dummy to get to sleep (not always but more often than not!) Any advice concerning his early waking and his lack of daytime naps would be much appreciated as I'm worried he's not getting the rest he needs! Thank you!

DeeBooth: If your baby is going down to bed at 6-6.30pm and waking at 5.00am, he is having 11 hours good sleep in the night, which is great for a baby of this age. If you want him to sleep later in the night, you will need to get him to bed at least an hour later. I know you have tried this but you will need to do it consistently for a week or so for it to take effect.

It also looks like you would be better giving bigger feeds every 4 hours as this will allow longer between feed to get a decent nap in. If he is having small feeds, they won't be keeping him full for very long, meaning that he will be finding it hard to fall asleep, even if he's tired. By 14 weeks a 4-hour schedule should be fine, and he should take more milk as he will be hungrier.

Baby holding a yeti teddy and sleeping in a cotKate: My baby is 5 months old. He has just started rolling from back to front but can't roll from front to back yet. He keeps waking himself up when he is asleep/falling asleep by rolling over onto his front because he can't get back onto his back again. He sleeps in a MORI sleeping bag in a Chicco Next2Me crib. We've just stopped using a sleepyhead because he's now too big for it. Is there anything I can do or is it just a phase?!? He used to be a pretty good sleeper until this rolling issue started. Thanks!

DeeBooth: It is a phase and it will pass! He needs to get used to sleeping on his front. It might be time to move him to a full size cot or cotbed so that he has more space to move around and flip back onto his front when he works out how. You will probably have some crying when you leave him on his front and you can either leave him to get on with it or stay nearby a shush and pat his bottom to give him reassurance. It should only take a few days.

Eloise: My 17 month old has only been self settling to sleep in her cot since 14 months of age, but still getting a lot of night waking and she's not self-settling. I'm having to sit in her room until she goes back to sleep which can take 2 hours plus, so sometimes she ends up back in our bed! Any suggestions to help her self settle when she wakes in the night? She doesn't nap in her cot during the day we tend to be out so she naps in the buggy for anything from 30mins -1hr. Occasionally she's cuddled to sleep for her nap.

DeeBooth: It is great that your daughter can put herself to sleep at bedtime. It would really help to get her napping in her cot too as she needs to transfer the skills she has learnt at bedtime to other times. If you could do this for a week or so, and then for 3 days a week, it will help her to get used to being awake and falling asleep in her cot at other times. You can then try moving away from the cot when she wakes in the night. Start with a couple of nights sitting by her door. Expect her to protest, but she will calm down, because she can. Once she's used to you sitting by her door, you can sit outside the door when she wakes.

Baby yawning and looking at the cameraLu: Our 2 Year old (26months to be exact) keeps waking up in the night and asking for us. She's in a big bed, sometimes she cries and sometimes gets off and comes to us. She does not want to be in a room on her own. She naps from 1-2/2:30pm during the day. We have a routine fobedtimeme and she's happy to go into her bed and knows it's bed time when we turn the lights of. She sleeps from 8-6:30, 7 during the night but always wakes up and looks around for us. It's been like this since she started being active when she was 10 months and started standing and walking. We don't know which approach to take anymore. We always put her back in her bed and normally she goes straight back to sleep. Sometimes we need to do this once, other nights several times. Any advice is very appreciated! Thank you, Lu

DeeBooth: It is great that your little girl can get herself to sleep too, so like Eloise above, she needs to get used to transferring these skills to night-time wakings. You could put a gate on her bedroom door, and when she wakes, instead of putting her back to bed, sit outside the gate and tell her to go back to bed. By doing this, you are taking any pleasure out of her getting up and she will soon not want to get up in the night. She will probably protest the first couple of nights, but you can shush her from outside the gate and wait for her to calm down. If you're not making any progress after 3 nights, you will need to look at her bedtime behaviour too, in which case, drop me a message and I will talk you through the next step.

Lu: Thank you! I think we might try the gate. However, when I tried leaving her in her room before asking that she goes back to bed she was crying so much that she threw up at the end. She's a very strong minded girl!

DeeBooth: Don't give her milk before bed, if you do. And sit by the gate for a few days. That should help x

Emma: I have a 4.5 week old called Olivia. I'm trying to bring my milk through after a C section so have been told to demand feed.  We don't have any routine yet partly because of this but should we? She doesn't sleep more than about 9 hours a day. 5 of those are usually between 10-6 am sometimes broken into 2. Other times like last night she will sleep from 12-5 am. I don't usually wake her for a feed if this happens as I feel she needs the sleep. I thought babies were meant to sleep up to 16 hours a day. 

Should Olivia be sleeping more? And should we be trying to encourage a sleep routine or is it too early? Any advice would be much appreciated! 

DeeBooth: It sounds like you're on the right track with the demand feeding to get your milk established. At 4.5 weeks, it is absolutely fine to have no clear routine. If you feel that your milk isn't coming through, you should see a lactation consultant to have your baby's latch checked as this can affect milk supply and feeding. But if you feel the latch is fine, continue with the demand feeding and when your baby is 6-10 weeks old you can think about spacing the feeds to every 2 hours and then 3 hours a few weeks later.

When you are adding up her sleep, if she is sleeping on the breast in addition to the 9 hours a day, that is fine. If not, I would expect her sleep to increase when she gets used to being in the outside world. It is still early for a sleep routine, but you can try putting her down, or encouraging her sleep once she's been away for an hour or so. Even if she sleeps in a sling, or on you at this stage, it will be good for her to have the extra sleep.

Mother and two children sleeping and hugging in bedAnnie: Our son is 6 weeks old. Is this too early to start encouraging different sleep patterns? He usually has a nap from 7-8pm then wakes for a feed. After which he is awake for a couple of hours until his next feed. He is usually asleep from 11pm until 2.30am then wakes for a feed. He is back down very quickly and then wakes for another feed at 5.30am. One more feed and then he's usually asleep until 9am. I'd like to aim for 7-7 with a couple of night feeds, but I'm not sure how to approach this as I've been letting him lead everything so far. I'm going to start a play/bath/lullaby/feed bedtime routine this week, will this help? Or is he too young to encourage a different routine? P.s. If it is relevant, he is exclusively breast fed.

DeeBooth: It sounds like your baby is leading you beautifully at the moment. It looks like you have a really good routine. I think you should stick with what you are doing for now. He will let you know when he is ready to start going to bed a bit earlier. At this age, babies generally sleep for one long chunk of the night, 5-8 hours, so if you were to try to put him to bed at 7, he would potentially be awake in the early hours. In a few weeks or so, he will start to appear tired earlier, and you will need to put him to bed earlier. Expect bedtime to creep earlier, rather than one day jumping to 7.00. I hope that helps.

Ruth: Our 14 week old daughter is pretty good when it comes to bedtime, we usually put her down after a bath at 6.30pm and while sometimes she fights it usually she settles ok. We then dream feed at 11pm and she sleeps until anywhere from 3am-6am. (We prefer it nearer to 6pm though that hasn't happened this week!) It's naps that are so hard. For example, after her morning feed at around 8am (if she fed at around 4am) she's awake for a little bit of chat & play and then when she starts showing sleepy signals I put her back in her cot with a dummy, and pat her tummy and shush until she falls asleep. However she usually wakes around 30mins to 1hr later but is still showing tired signs and is really grumpy but refuses to be settled back to sleep. Any ideas? My main problem is getting her to settle for her naps, without always resorting to rocking her to sleep on me! Thank you so much.

DeeBooth: Naps can be tricky to get established early on. What ultimately needs to happen is for your baby to learn to put herself to sleep so that she can transition from one sleep cycle to the next. When you are ready, you will need to do a bit of sleep training so that she can learn to calm herself down and fall asleep independently. 14 weeks is quite early to be doing this, you may want to wait until she's 16-20 weeks, at which point, give me a call and I can help you with this.

Debbie: I have a 7 week old and wondered how I can encourage her to sleep for longer than 2 hours at night. I breastfeed her, but she usually wakes every two hours in the night. Is there anything that you think may help? When she is up, she only feeds and goes straight back down.

DeeBooth: As your baby gets a bit bigger, she will start to go longer between feeds which will allow her to sleep longer at night. She is still tiny, and getting used to life on the outside and wants to be close to you. It is great that she feeds and goes straight back down when she does wake. You can try stretching the time between feeds gradually, maybe 15 minutes a week, and this will have a knock-on effect to the night feeding and waking. Some babies sleep for longer at night, but some just need to feed regularly through the night. If you're not getting any longer stretches at 12 weeks, drop me a message.

Baby under blanket sleeping soundlyLouisa: Hi there, we're struggling with sleep regression I think. My daughter is 19 wks, formula fed and for the past few weeks won't sleep longer than 45 mins to an hour in one go. She is addicted to the dummy, and if she wakes and hasn't got it, will scream until it gets put back in. She will easily go back to sleep once she has it, but the hourly get ups are getting really hard. She will nap well during the day, 45 mins or hour and a half if I reinsert the dummy, and will usually be fast asleep by 6.30pm. How long will this last! She was great at doing at least 4 hour stints until a few weeks ago!

DeeBooth: What a lot of people forget is that a regression is just a move backwards. So your baby's sleep regression has probably already ended and you now need to bring back the good sleep. She was doing brilliantly with 4+ hour stints, so you should be able to get them back. I think that you will probably need to get rid of the dummy, as it sounds like she can't keep it in her mouth but can't get to sleep without it. You can do this gently with cuddling and rocking, and then shushing and patting or go hardcore and let her have a bit of a shout (personally, I'd go with the gentle approach at this age). By doing this, you are letting her learn to calm herself down and she will then be able to put herself to sleep. Once she can do this, she will link her sleep cycles and sleep for longer periods, waking you when she's hungry.

Kate: My 4.5 month old son gets fed to sleep and if he wakes up I feed him again and it's quite easy for him to settle - even if he does wake up 4 times a night! Naps during the day are trickier, I've read conflicting things about whether he should sleep in his cot in darkness but I always have to rock him to sleep, he screams a bit then falls asleep and only for half an hour - on me. Are there any tips to make this less of a battle and for him to sleep longer? Thanks

DeeBooth: What you are going through is very common (ie, you are not alone) and is a very easy habit to fall into. Your baby hasn't yet learnt to calm down and fall asleep independently. Some babies do this easily and without a fuss, and others struggle, and need more encouragement. The first step is to try to stop feeding to sleep. You can rock to sleep to get over this, and then shush and pat, or you can go with a bit of crying (but not for longer than 20 minutes without checking). Once he can calm down and fall asleep independently, he won't wake as much in the night, and his naps should get longer.

Naps should be in a darkened room as sunlight inhibits the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. It doesn't need to be pitch dark.

Penny: My little one is now four weeks old and is drinking/sleeping on a fairly consistent 3-4 hour cycle, and has been feeding really well since birth. However, in the night, normally after her second feed (around 3am) she makes a LOT of noise for the rest of the night. Not just little sighs/squeaks etc but quite loud grunts and noises that sound like she's pushing. She looks perfectly happy, not stressed or in pain, and still has her eyes shut, so she may be sleeping through it blissfully, but it's extremely hard for me to sleep! I don't want to move her out of the bedroom yet, so is there anything else you could suggest that might be causing this or might help? Thanks so much in advance! Penny

DeeBooth: At 4 weeks the gut is still very immature, so some grunting could mean that she's just trying to pass wind or move her poo down. If she's sleeping through all the grunting, it could just be what she does in her sleep. If she seems distressed, or is pulling her knees up it could be that she has wind or is struggling to digest. You could look at your diet, as things like chocolate, broccoli, beans can pass through your milk and make wind. But if she's fine the rest of the time, it's probably your evening food that's causing the problem.

Mother drinking coffee with baby on bedIsabelle: My son is 19 weeks and sleeps well - normally from about 9pm - 5:30am in his cot - after that we co sleep and he feeds /sleeps til about 8:30 or 9. If he's wakeful my husband has him up with him as he gets ready for work. During the day he generally has one longer nap and one or two short sleeps. The longer one is generally in the pram and shorter ones in his cot at home. What we struggle with is how to create the night time routine without him getting really upset. If I feed to sleep it's very peaceful and he goes down. However until a week or so ago he would have happily been held and sung to sleep taking about 20 mins. Now that, or laying him down doesn't seem to work. He is wakeful - but doesn't seem to want to be held buy his hands are flailing around. I've tried putting him down and staying with him and shushing or singing but he seems to be struggling and getting overtired. I pick up if he gets upset and then put down. But it goes on for over an hour so I end up feeding to sleep in the end. Should I just feed to sleep for a while or is there a better approach to putting him down that would work better to teach him to self smooth? I've tried an earlier bedtime but he just keeps his eyes open looking around the room with no inkling of sleep til 8:30. 

DeeBooth: It sounds like you've had a good routine but have had a regression. As babies get older and more aware, what was working, often stops working and we feel like we have to do more and more to get them to sleep. So you have a couple of options, you can go back to feeding to sleep for a few weeks and then try weaning him off this by rocking and singing, and then wean him off that by shushing and patting. Or you can pop him in the cot and let him have a bit of a cry, checking him every 15-20 minutes. This is quite a tough thing to do, and may not appeal to you particularly at this age, in which case, go gently. Babies go through developmental leaps and this affects their sleep, which will then need fixing. You baby is still young, so feeding to sleep, although not ideal, is fine as all habits can be broken.

Lacey: Our 18 month old has a bottle to go to sleep, she settles herself with her bottle but doesn't always go off and then needs more milk to settle. Equally if she wakes, we give her a small bottle to go back to sleep. We've never been able to just lay her down, say goodnight and walk out. The same for if she wakes at night. Any suggestions on how we start getting her to have a bottle with her reading and then settle herself, and get herself back off if she wakes in the night? She does sleep straight through 12 hours most nights, she's a dream but is like to know how to move forwards with getting her to sleep xxx

DeeBooth: It sounds like you need to get rid of that bottle! She's old enough now to not need a bottle of milk before bed, and definitely not in the night. Instead, offer the milk in a cup, which she may well reject, brush her teeth and put her to bed. You could use a bit of tough love, put her to bed without a bottle and let her have a bit of a cry. You can lay by the cot when she cries, or leave her for 15-20 minutes periods until she falls asleep. Let me know if you need more info on this as the session is about to end!

We'll be hosting more live Q+As with a host of other professionals that focus on baby development, health & future along with pregnancy and motherhood. Just join our MORI Families group to stay updated.

If you'd love to get in touch with DeeBooth The Sleep Fairy, you can reach her via her website where you can find out more about her services & how to get your baby to sleep.

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