After one or several bouts of illness, getting baby's sleep routines back on track can be a real challenge. Throw teething, caring for a pre-schooler and your own sleep deprivation into the mix, and that challenge may seem insurmountable. Help is at hand though: OHbaby! sleep expert Dorothy Waide offers her tips and advice.
Question: I have a three-year old, and a seven-and-a-half-month-old who is breastfed. My baby has been sick for the past four months with a runny nose and a rattly chest, and has had antibiotics several times that have not helped. She's also teething so sleeping all night has been a dream not often realised. She isn't well established on solids yet either, she would barely eat 20ml of purée twice a day. I've not wanted to do any type of sleep training due to all of this, as I know I like cuddles when I'm not feeling well, but I would so dearly love to have a full night's sleep. She can settle herself, but has phases of wanting me to settle her, probably because she isn't feeling well. What do I do?
Dorothy Waide replies: With regard to teething there are many alternative remedies to help reduce babies' pain. I tend to use Kava drops, teething drops and Viburcol (visit www.qhealth.co.nz). I will also offer additional pain relief with Pamol during the day and Nurofen at night. Pamol takes away the pain and Nurofen takes away the inflammation and pain.
It is perfectly fine to offer cuddles and comfort when babies are ill or teething but they also need sleep for their bodies to heal so I think the best thing you can do is to teach your daughter to self-settle.
Have you considered cranial osteopathy or acupuncture for helping her body to heal after having so many illnesses? I also tend to use First Defence as this can help re-build their immune systems.
At eight months it is important to offer solids before milk so firstly I would suggest putting her on the same meal routine as your toddler.
To encourage her to eat well during the day you need to stop feeding during the night. As you are cooking or preparing food for a three year old I would offer the same foods to your baby. I would offer both finger food and purée or mash as the finger food teaches her texture, taste and smell. It is important that she experiments with her food as this will encourage her to eat well.
Dream feeds can also cause night waking so you also need to resettle her at this time of the night. Once she stops drinking so much milk in the night I think you will see her food intake in the day increase.
It is not easy dealing with a toddler as well as a baby who is up during the night but one thing to remember is that each child will have different emotional needs and remember to include lots of cuddles during the day. Her routine should look something like this:
7am Breakfast with her sibling. Offer breast milk once she leaves the highchair and you have finished with her sibling.
9.15am Morning tea, offer full breastfeed.
9.30am Nap, minimum one and a half hours. If she wakes before this you need to resettle.
11.30 Lunch - same as her sister and offer breast milk once she leaves the highchair.
2.00pm Afternoon tea, offer full breastfeed.
4.30pm Dinner - same as for her sister, offer breastfeed once she leaves the highchair. Bath, story, clean teeth, full breastfeed.
6.30-6.45pm Bed for the night, resettle if she wakes.
Always put her to bed the same way during the day as at night. If you use a sleeping bag she goes in that for her daytime naps as well. Most babies wake up after 20 to 45 minutes. They have different levels of sleep and the two most talked about are the light sleep and the deep sleep. If she wakes after 45 minutes when she goes from her light to heavy sleep it's important to do a full resettle during the day. To do the resettle in the beginning it is better to get in there as soon as you hear her waking and pat or "sshh" her back off to sleep. You need to stay in there for as long as it takes to get her back to sleep. After a while you will need to let her try to settle herself once she wakes and then intervene after a period of five to 20 minutes.