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Baby sleep learning

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Baby sleep learning

My very first blog

I'd like to dedicate this first blog to my little sister, Lesley, who's expecting her first baby in 10 weeks time - I'm such an excited aunty to-be again. Can't wait. I felt she might benefit from some of this info on baby sleep learning! Go sis xxx

This topic came into my head at the end of a busy week where I’d helped many parents with their baby’s sleep problems. I felt really sad that some of them felt really stuck. They didn’t know where to get help or the right sort of help. Many had resorted to the Internet or a parenting book but still failed to find the answer. They’d tried ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’ seemed to work.

We live in a world with lots of information but we don’t know how to filter out all the chaff before we find gold.

Parenting and baby sleep books

I’ve read most of the sleep books and many left me feeling confused and bewildered (and I’m a nurse and midwife!) including Gina Fords’ ‘Contented Little Baby’. This book incensed me so much that I nearly missed getting off at my bus stop! It isn’t good for breastfed babies in particular, as your supply will reduce dramatically if you miss out night-time feeds (you produce less prolactin). Babies, especially newborns, will need at least two nighttime breastfeeds. The more you breastfeed the more milk you produce. Strict routines and breastfeeding do not go together. It might be nice for the mother to sleep through the night and I know sleep deprivation can be the next thing as torture. But I have seen milk supply just ‘go’ after following Gina Ford to the T.

Baby whisperer

The Australian Baby Whisperer (Sheyne Rowley) – a great read, very sensible but way too long at 769 pages; not very practical when you’re so sleep deprived – we all need a quick fix. Then there’s Tizzie Hall, Save Our Sleep and the 7 o’clock bus – very dogmatic, basically, if you miss putting the baby to sleep at exactly 7 pm, that’s it, the whole night is stuffed as you’ll never get your baby off to sleep. Robin Barker’s Baby Love – I find to be sensible and middle of the road, with good instructions on how to do various methods.

newborn baby

Now what sort of book would I write?

Well I think a blog suits me just fine for the mo. It's topical, short and sweet with a few nuggets of gold in each one. So here goes to my first blog!

So you’ve probably worked out that I’m not a prescriptive sort of Child and Family Health Nurse (Ex Health visitor from the UK). I’m a bit of a Robin Barker with a lot of psychology (I have a degree and majored in child psychology, maternal adaptation, and adjustment) and a lot of common sense. I’ve been working one on one with families in the home for the past 16 years. So I’ve seen lots of sleep problems.

It was fascinating, for me, coming from a health promotion perspective in the UK and preventing sleep problems to the way we manage babies and sleep in Australia.

Prevention of baby sleep problems

Prevention of sleep problems aimed at starting from newborn (from @2 weeks or as soon as breastfeeding is established). Advising the mum it was a good idea to start to put her baby down awake in the cot once her baby demonstrated tired signs.

It’s important that they learn to self-settle. If occasionally you want to hold your baby to sleep that’s absolutely OK but not to do this all the time. If you do, then the baby will have a sleep association, with you and being held and not with the cot or wherever you choose to put your baby to sleep. The earlier you start to train your baby, then the easier it is to do.

breast feeding


It’s important that the baby has a full milk feed before putting down to sleep. An empty belly is not conducive to sleep. So in the case of a breastfed baby, that means feeding a full feed on one breast and offering the second side till it’s refused. If they fall asleep on the first side then you can change their nappy halfway through a feed rather than the start of a feed. It’s also important to make sure that your breastfeeding is well established and your baby is gaining weight before starting any settling.

A formula fed baby needs to have their full amount and the guide on amounts on the side of a can of formula is exactly that – a guide. A formula fed baby typically feeds for @15-20 minutes. If they feed in a shorter time frame then they may not have had enough or they may need a different teat. If it’s too slow a flow they get tired and may not take their requirements and if it’s too fast a flow and it guzzles the feed in 5 minutes then he/she won’t feel satiated.

formula for baby

Feed requirements

The standard mathematical formula for feed requirements is 150mls/KG divided by the number of feeds in 24 hours, for example, a baby weighing 4.95KG will require 123mls of formula every 4 hours if he has 6 feeds a day or 93mls if he feeds 3-hourly and has 8 feeds a day. But remember IT IS JUST A GUIDE. Some babies need a little more, some need a little less. Go by what your baby is saying to you. If you’re not sure talk to your nurse or doctor about it. Remember every baby is different. That’s what makes parenting interesting and fascinates me. One rule doesn’t fit all and why there are so many parenting books out there!

OK so we’ve looked at putting the baby down awake in the cot/bassinette and we’ve said a full tummy is important.

When you put them down do you swaddle or not? Now that is a whole debate by itself and I think that needs a blog topic all of its own! Your baby is in the cot, full tummy, milk drunk, eyes open. You’ve done a bit of activity with baby – maybe some tummy time on the floor and a bit of cuddling and face-to-face talking. We’ve worked out the baby is tired because we’ve seen the tired signs.

Tired signs

What are these signs you’re thinking? Babies can’t talk till @8 months so we’re going to look at non-verbal cues. A young baby (under 3 months) will do some or all of the following: jerky arm movements, facial grimacing, ‘vagueing’ out with their eyes (looking into space) and then the whinging starts. They’re usually showing these signs by @1-1¼ hours after the start of a feed. An older baby (3-4 months) will be tired @1 ½ -2 hours and will be able to yawn and rub his eyes.

These times are guidelines and remember the baby will tell you by his non-verbal cues.

So he’s in the cot and ready for sleep.

crying baby

Now I’m not sure if you parents out there know this…but nearly all babies will have a bit of a wind-down cry or make a bit of noise as they go off to sleep. I’ve yet to meet a baby who greets his cot happily, especially to begin with. It’s important to know that I’ve been a midwife and child and family health nurse for 28 years now! And I’ve spent a lot of time on postnatal wards, special care nurseries as well as delivering babies and working in the community.

If you want to teach your baby to self-settle these are the first important steps.


Remember to put your baby down FULLY AWAKE IN HIS COT before 3 months. You will thank yourself later for doing this!

Baby sleep boy gender

I’ll talk about re-settling and sleep in more detail in another blog.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now for blog no 2…

And by the way, you can comment via Twitter and send me your ideas for future blogs. If you want to give me a problem/scenario on parenting feel free to send it my way…

Was that too inviting??? I may get a deluge methinks!

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