A sleep expert shares her tips to help your baby get the sleep they need

Discover expert advice from Tara, The Gentle Sleep Specialist, on helping your baby sleep better. Learn about the importance of recognising sleep patterns, creating healthy sleep associations, and fostering self-settling skills for more restful nights.

WORDS: Tara, owner of The Gentle Sleep Specialist

Hey tired parents, Tara here, owner of The Gentle Sleep Specialist. With 17 years’ experience working with families as a former Paediatric Nurse and now an infant and toddler Sleep Consultant, I’ve helped countless families. As a trusted resource for leading baby brands and health centres, I’m excited to share my top tips for helping your baby sleep better. Let’s dive in.

At around four months of age, your baby’s sleep patterns start to change, transitioning into more adult-like sleep cycles. These cycles include brief awakenings between sleep phases, where babies instinctively check for familiar conditions I.e. the ones they are used to and as it was when they fell asleep. While these awakenings are normal signs of development, they can disrupt sleep if your baby relies on external measures to fall asleep or return to sleep. If something has changed when they awaken to when they fell asleep this is when you get the call out, so for example if you are no longer there, the breast is gone, the dummy fell out. This reliance creates a pattern where your baby needs assistance to settle back into sleep, leading to frequent waking throughout the night and during naps. Recognising and addressing this pattern is often the key to better sleep for you but primarily for your little one too. It makes sense why for some little ones its feeding to sleep, some are used to going into their own sleep space, for some its the dummy or patting. This then becomes their association with sleep.

So, this leads me to my first point

Sleep pressure is king. Think of your little ones awake times as an opportunity to build sleep pressure. If your babe is sleepy on feeds, dozes on car trips or in their swing for example these things can lead to a loss of sleep pressure which can cause difficult settles. Think of their awake time as an opportunity to feed, play and connect and build the pressure for sleep.

The right awake times: Your little one is more prone to more disrupted sleep when over or under tired. I recommend pairing the general awake time for your little one’s age with observation 10 min before or after the recommended time. Then what you are looking for is the calm before the storm. So rather than waiting for irritability and drastic tired signs. Keep an eye around the time they are due for loss of engagement, turning away, going quiet. This can often be a great spot for better sleep.

Give your babe time to see if they will settle or re settle. Sometimes we become so programmed to jumping straight in we often don’t get to see if our little ones will re settle. Are they just transitioning between cycles, or a partial wake? If you feel anxious about your little one when they are sleeping my best advice is to ensure safety and follow SIDS safe guidelines. It’s important to choose the right mattress for your baby’s sleep environment. One product I highly recommend, with safety in mind, is the BabyRest Duo Core Mattress. It’s the first cot mattress in Australia to feature unique dual-sided technology and is engineered to provide the right amount of support and comfort from newborn through to toddler. Remember, sleep is an essential part of their physical, emotional, and developmental well-being and you have every right to encourage good rest but also get some good rest yourself.

Finally, and often most importantly

By fostering self-settling skills, babies can learn to transition between sleep cycles independently, resulting in more consolidated and restful sleep. To encourage self-settling, the aim is to allow our babies the opportunity to experience wakefulness within their sleep space and drift off to sleep without external sleep aids. Offering comfort and reassurance without immediately resorting to their usual methods and providing comfort without completely putting them to sleep helps babies learn to fall asleep and return to sleep. This promotes longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep for both babies and parents. A solid plan and support will really help with this adjustment.

We are always here to help, so please feel free to reach out anytime!

With love,

The Gentle Sleep Specialist x

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