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3 year old sleep problems? It is not too late!


So many times I overhear in playgrounds, café’s and at school mothers telling of how horrendous their 3 year old’s sleep is and how they have accepted the way things are because it has been happening forever, and how they’ve just become used to being exhausted, hoping their child’s sleep issues would self resolve, some even discourage other mothers from trying to change things because “nothing ever worked for mine”. Some have visited their GP over and over to be told “you just have a difficult child, some children don’t like sleep” – Rubbish! – One women I spoke with today waited 7 years for her child to sleep through the night! In my experience in most cases we actually have to be proactive to help our little people sleep well.  

The problem is, by the time their child is 3, many parents believe the problem is too big.

I recently visited a family with a 3 year old little girl. Things were very bad, there were frequent wake ups and miss H needed to sleep on top of Mum. Even then she slept fitfully and was never well rested, there were food issues too which often go hand in hand with sleep deprivation. Miss H was in daycare 4x a week and both parents were working demanding jobs, functioning on next to no sleep. There were also 3 other children in the mix. Desperate times!

Within just 2 weeks miss H was going to bed calmly and happily, and sleeping in her bed all night. No tears, bedtime delays or sleeping in Mum and Dad’s bed. The food issues resolved quickly and the whole dynamic of the household changed. Mum and Dad described their experience as “life changing”. 

So please, if you feel like it is too late, or your situation is beyond hope, get in touch. I take on difficult cases where “nothing has worked” previously and provide extensive follow up support should you need it. You don’t have to live in the haze of sleep deprivation with your older child.

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Toddler Sleep Tips

Toddlers and sleep is a whole different ball game to babies. These little people have a lot more going on in their heads, have often been through an introduction of a sibling, daycare and/or a house move. Not to mention, they have stamina!

The most common scenario’s in this age group is “I have to lay with my toddler at bedtime and multiple times through the night” or “I can’t get my toddler out of my bed since her baby brother arrived” or “bedtime is such a fight”.

In all of these scenarios, the first thing we need to address is one on one time. Often a toddler not wanting you to leave is because they are missing time with you. Try to spend 20 minutes of un-rushed one on one time before bed. Away from the baby. Dad takes the toddler while Mum is busy with the baby. What the toddler needs is the opposite. They are likely feeling pushed out and are painfully aware that you have so much less time now. It is a major deal for a 2 year old.  As much as possible when bub is not feeding, leave bub as long as they are happy and spend time with you toddler. Toddler directed play as much as possible so they feel in control, when the rest of their life feels out of control.

Offer as much choice as possible through the day to help your toddler feel in control. – What cup, clothes etc. 

The next thing we need to address is TV. I usually like to limit TV before 5.30pm, ideally not at all, at this age things children see on TV can come back to them at bedtime or through the night as “scaries” also TV throws out blue light which stops the production of melatonin in the brain, the hormone needed to help Sophie  sleep. There is also research that suggests it negatively impacts learning ability, independent play and focus. The recommendation for a child age 5 is 2 hours a day or less. The recommendation for screen time for a child under 2 years is 0 hours. I have found screen time negatively impacts many of my client’s behaviour and ability to switch off pre sleep. Melatonin can be delayed in up to 2 hours from blue light. This is the same with a blue night light. 

Another really important factor any toddler sleep issues is a bedtime routine chart.

Use lots of colour, if your toddler is arty or likes sensory stuff, using finger paint and glitter is a good one. You can let her choose her own stickers make a big deal out of choosing the ones she wants. A bedtime routine chart helps bedtime battles and stall tactics. Put up a picture of each of the steps in your routine and use pegs to pin up when each one has been done, even better if you can use pictures of her doing each bedtime activity. A visual timer for if your little one  has issues finishing up an activity. Making sure once the timer runs out you really do finish up the activity, reading, bath, tv, whatever, will ensure she knows this is an “always” not a “sometimes” rule.

The bedtime routine - This should be an hour at most. Must be consistent. Many people do the bedtime routine all over the house, and the tv is on or bright lights are on and the child simply can’t switch off and suffers “fear of missing out”. Talk through and help him process his day – this is so important at this age group, sometimes children can be bubbling up inside with so much tension and excitement about the day and they do not know how to process it, get it all out before you go into the bedroom so nothing is stopping him settling. Ensure he has water, has been for a wee if toilet training etc.  Set your limits and stick to it. Dinosonres or other audio relaxation for children will be helpful.

The transition to the big bed – I don’t recommend doing this any earlier than 2.5 years unless your child is climbing out of the cot. After 2.5years they have better comprehension to stay in bed. If you need the cot because a new baby is coming, buy the 2nd cot or borrow one. It is far better to keep your toddler in their cot then introduce yet another transition before they are ready. If they are climbing out of the cot before 2 years and you are not using a sleeping bag, this is certainly something to try. Sometimes putting in on backwards can stop them undoing the zip and then climbing out. Many clients have got an extra 3-6 months of decent sleep in the cot by doing this. When your toddler is ready to make the transition, let them pick the sheets, a new teddy, a new nightlight and keep the whole thing as positive as you can. If this trasition is done at the right age.

Setting boundaries – if your toddler is currently only sleeping in your bed or with you laying next to them  and you would like to change this, you have to set some reasonable limits and begin to distance yourself. Depending on the age of the toddler this may involve gradually distancing yourself from their bed every few nights, or leaving the room and returning them when they get out. Your approach may or may not include gating the door. The important thing is to choose an approach that suits the age and comprehension of your child and stick to it. Please take into consideration if your child has separation anxiety as well. I do not recommend closing the door – doors are too permanent for little people! If you are unsure how to go about things, or you have implemented the above tips and are still struggling, give me a call for some individualized help.

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Tips for a smooth holiday period with your little one

Around mid January each year I get an influx of calls both past and new clients telling me “it’s all gone wrong, ever since we went away/had visitors/the older kids were off school the wheels have fallen off and we are not sleeping…help”….

And so I do. But there are some simple tips to make the holiday period easier on you and your baby to prevent this from happening.

In the early months- first year it is great if you can do family gatherings at your house so that your children can take their naps when they usually would without disruption! As they get older it may be a good idea to visit one side of the family on one day and the other the following day. Both in the morning to avoid the late afternoon grumpiness that comes with a big day!

The best thing to do in this situation at a family gathering is build in some quiet time away from the crowd for your little person to rebuild their energy, in an older child this may be playing with some favourite toys, watching a favourite show or just cuddle time with mum. Do this before they enter the “red zone”. For a younger child, this is building in time, preferably their usual nap time to have a sleep in a quiet place. If you have no quiet place or dark place, use white noise and a black out for your pram or buy some grow blinds. PLEASE try to avoid at all costs keeping a sensitive child up way past their bedtime for the convenience/pleasure of others, from personal experience, it is not worth it. (but then again, I’m not the type who deals with sleep deprivation well) Leave in time to do your bedtime routine at home (and earlier than usual if no nap has been achieved).

If your young bubba has absolutely lost it, you missed the cues and they are hysterical: swaddle, find a dark wardrobe, boob/bottle and blare the white noise. Taking bub back to the womb environment is the best fix for overtiredness/over-stimulation.

If you are going away for a week or so make sure you build one nap into your day at a hotel/house so bub can get a block of sleep. Take your usual sheets, comforter, white noise etc.

If you are staying with family and bub wakes in the night because it is an unusual environment or they have been awake all day…try not to revert back to “old ways” (you may for example sit and comfort bub rather than pull them into bed, if you have recently taught independent sleep) in the interest of quickly quietening bub to avoid waking everyone. This almost always leads to this same pattern going on for weeks following the stay and then you having to fix it again once you get home.Not fair on bubba.

If you are travelling across time zones, wake them at their usual time in the new time zone and expose them to sunlight to help reset the body clock. Naps may be off for the first day or two, you may get a night waking at 3am..expect it but don’t get up and play, try to keep things very low key if bub wants to have a party in the night.’

Remember a well-rested child at home is more likely to sleep in unfamiliar environments at their usual sleep time, if a car nap is all you can manage and you are travelling anyway it may be worth timing this with your little one’s usual nap time and doing an early bedtime if the nap is short.
If all else fails, all naps are on the go and you are out partying til late. Don’t panic, it happens, just get right back on track as soon as you get home to avoid everyone being more sleep deprived than they have to be.

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A heartwarming testimonial

A recent testimonial from a 4 month old baby - Day/night stay. 

Hi Claire,

Thank you doesn't seem to be enough for what you've done for my family. Little miss A is a completely different baby, more settled with her sleep associations now that she knows what's going on and having a more predictable routine has been brilliant. I'm in such a better place too, which has meant I've been able to truly enjoy my time with my kids, and you can't put a price on that.

But mostly, thank you for the times you were there for me when I wasn't coping, the last minute house visit, the messages at all hours, the support you gave when I was diagnosed with pnd, the advice on all things baby- including A's intolerances and professionals to see.

You have looked at both of my children holistically and catered your approach to meet their individual needs, which I am truly grateful for. What would I have done without you!?! Don't even want to know!!

No doubt I'll still be in touch as things change, but I wanted to say how grateful I am for everything you've done.

I will continue to recommend you to anyone I know needing some help (and even when my grandkids come along in 25+ years)!! Haha

Thank you so much Claire, you have truly changed this time in our lives for the better. Xx



3 Things You Can Do as a Single Parent to Manage Sleep Deprivation and Night Waking in Children

There are few things more frustrating for tired, single parents than trying to solve the problem of children who do not sleep well. When your children wake up frequently at night, they become sleep deprived and more difficult to handle during the day because they are cranky and tired. You also are sleep deprived when your children don’t sleep well, which makes it more difficult to be patient with them.


Single parents especially suffer when their children have trouble sleeping through the night because they don’t have a partner with whom to share the duties and get some rest. Our tips will help you get your children to sleep better so that you can get more sleep, too.


1. Create a Stress-Free Home That Promotes Health and Sleep


While you certainly are not doing anything intentionally to contribute to your child’s sleep trouble, you may be doing so inadvertently. For example, kids who live in cluttered homes experience more stress. Cluttered homes also impact family members’ ability to focus and process information.


Thus, minimizing the clutter in your kids’ bedrooms can relieve stress and make it easier for them to relax and sleep. To rectify the situation, work with your kids to sort their belongings and find a place for everything they want to keep. While some kids may be unwilling to part with some of their things at first, you can entice them to do so by discussing the virtues of donating clothing and toys to goodwill or proposing the idea of selling their excess belongings to a second-hand store or having a yard sale.


Assist your kids in organizing their belongings in closets and dressers or on shelves. If you need some storage ideas for your kids’ rooms, check out the DIY storage ideas from DIY & Crafts.


Another way to create a stress-free environment for your kids to promote health and sleep is to add elements of nature to their rooms. Studies show that exposure to nature boosts people’s moods and reduces stress. Consider adding a painting or photograph of nature to your children’s bedroom wall or placing plants on their windowsill. If you’re worried that the plants will not receive the proper care they need to grow and thrive, think about creating a terrarium with your kids or using succulents that require less care than typical houseplants.


2. Dim Lights After Sunset


Melatonin is a hormone that impacts our sleep and wakefulness. Research shows that kids who are exposed to bright artificial lights after sunset develop a later rise time for melatonin, which makes it difficult for them to relax and fall asleep at their bedtime. One solution is to dim the lights in your home after sunset. Another solution is to pay attention to when your children naturally settle down and seem ready for bed. There is a chance you may have set a bedtime that is too early for their natural rise in melatonin.


3. Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine


Kids thrive when parents create consistent routines. Once you find the ideal bedtime, stick to it each night. In fact, you should establish a regular nighttime routine that signals to your children that it is time to begin winding down and preparing to sleep. Researchers contend that irregular bedtimes interrupt kids’ normal, 24-hour circadian patterns, which then disrupt their physical and mental functioning.


Consistent bedtimes result in better-quality sleep and more sleep, which fosters brain development. You can turn bedtime into a consistent routine by including a regular bath time, story time, and lights-out time.


It’s also a good idea to avoid large meals close to bedtime and to avoid giving your kids sugary snacks or drinks or caffeine within a few hours of going to bed. You also should limit stimulating activities after dinner and not allow electronics and television at least 20 minutes before bedtime.


There is no magic formula you can use to get your kids to sleep better, but there are some steps you can take to improve their sleep and limit night waking. Begin by creating a stress-free home that promotes health and sleep. Then, dim your lights after sunset and create a consistent routine for your kids.


Image via Pixabay by fujikama

Written by 

Daniel Sherwin


Help My Toddler Isn’t Napping!

Is your 2 year old fighting their day sleep? 

Below are reasons why this may be happening.


1. A developmental leap – Nap resistance often coincides with a leap in development either cognitive emotional or motor development. Your toddler is too busy figuring things in her head to even entertain the idea of sleeping! Be flexible but stay consistent, staying on track will ensure your naps return in a week rather than a month.

2. Moving to a big bed too soon – Often an 18month-2 year old does not have the cognitive ability to know they have to stay in their big bed. Parents often think they have “cracked it” when for the first few weeks to months their “perfect little sleeper” stays in their big boy bed all night. The novelty soon wears off and they begin to wander at nap time, get out of bed, open and close the door. Be cautious about making the transition before 2.5 years unless your little one is climbing out (on a side note, use a sleeping bag to deter this, if needed, put it with the zip backwards).

3. Sleep associations – This is usually the case if bub hasn’t been the best of sleepers to start with. If you have not introduced a comforter or similar, do it now. There can often be a bout of separation anxiety around 2 years, a comforter can give reassurance and help your toddler look forward to special snuggle time with their favorite toy. If your child is not sleeping independently at night time, they probably won’t be doing it at naptime either, naps are harder to achieve than nights as a general rule…start with fading out some of those sleep association that are connected to you at bedtime, if you would like your toddler to sleep independently at nap time.

4. The room environment – Is the room brightly lit? It’s not bedtime, it’s playtime! If the room is not conducive to sleep you will not have melatonin production on your side to help them relax down. Most adults close the blinds when they take a nap in the day….for good reason.

5. The timing of your nap – If your nap is too early or too late it will be completely out of, or on the edge of a sleep window which will make it difficult for your little person to nap easily.  

If despite these tips your little one still isn't napping, don't assume it is time to drop the nap, get in touch for some personalised help!

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Chronic Sleep Deprivation - Overnight Stay Case Study!

Baby Jude, 10 months old, was waking 1-2 hourly overnight.  

I arrived at 5pm to greet Sara and Jude. Mummy looked TIRED. I talked with them about what they had gone through to date (3 sleep school stays, all of which said "you have a very stubborn baby, maybe just pat him to sleep this time") countless methods, crying, co sleeping... naturopaths, GP's Peadatricians. You name it this family had done it. Jude was a reactive, persistent but absolutely adorable and sensitive little boy. His smile lit up the whole room, he warmed to me instantly, he reminded me so much of my 2 year old.

After bathtime we quickly moved to the bedtime routine and decided on an in room settling option as the "cry it out" option had failed miserably at the last attempt. Jude fell asleep! by himself, in his cot, without the dummy (his choice)! Mum said that this had never happened before. 

Throughout the night Jude continued to wake frequently but self settled each time. The longest stretch of sleep he did was 5 hours. This was monumental for Sara who had been standing up to sleep/sleeping 1 hour blocks for months. I left Mum feeling happy but apprehensive as to what the next night would bring. 

Over the next few nights there was steady improvement but it was a hard slog, Jude was very sensitive to over tiredness and as a result of the new settling, naps were not great for a few days there...which lead to frequent wakes in the first half of the night. 

But! On day 10 HE DID IT - Jude slept through the night for the first time EVER. He did it again the next night too!! 

Finally, some relief for Mummy. This was one of the most tired I have ever seen a parent, her health was rapidly declining, so scared to wake bub once he was down that she had to be completely silent. She told me she felt like she lost a year of Jude's life to sleep deprivation, and that my visit that night was a pivotal moment, as she felt there was no other option but to check into hospital.....SO SAD, but so happy she found me.

5 baby sleep products worth buying!!

Many of us spend hundreds on products to help bubba sleep better. The majority of these products fail to help! Here are my 5 top products that will actually be worth buying. 

1. A decent swaddle like a Miracle Blanket https://www.thesleepstore.com.au/shop/wraps/fitted-wraps/unisex/miracle-blanket-natural-miracle-blanket
 Or a big flat muslin like Aden and Anais:  https://www.thesleepstore.com.au/shop/wraps/muslin-wraps/unisex/aden-anais-4pk-muslin-wraps-dreamer
these are so important for good sleep from birth. 

2. A good white noise machine, that actually turns up loud enough and plays continuously. This one says it shuts off after 15 minutes but i have used it at a clients house and it does have an option to play continuously, and is loud. https://www.babybunting.com.au/my-baby-sound-spa-on-the-go.html

3. A comforter. Many of my clients bubs love the Jelly Cat rabbits, soft and gorgeous!! http://www.jellycat.com/eu/bashful-bunnies/ 

4.  A helpful wind down after a busy day for a toddler is an audio from Dinosnores https://www.thesleepstore.com.au/shop/toolbox/relaxation-cds/story-cds/dinosnores-tyrannasaurus-relaxation-story-cd

5. Some black out blinds, for sensitive sleepers! These go anywhere, you can also get blinds for a pram if your bubba needs to nap on the go. Remember, you can not force a sensitive sleeper to sleep easily in the light, it is best to work with it as much as you can to avoid an overtired cranky child. https://www.thesleepstore.com.au/shop/myroom/blackout-shade/-none-/the-gro-company-gro-anywhere-blackout-blind-black


Case Study: A Day Stay Consultation

Baby O – 5 Month old Bubba who was co sleeping and breastfeeding to sleep at every waking (around 5 times a night) and every nap. Bedtime was around 10pm and morning wake time 9am. Bub had recently begun to roll and had actually fallen out of bed recently. Mum was exhausted, desperate to change things before they got worse and Dad really wanted to come back to bed with his Wife. 

When Mum called for help she decided that after being presented with all the package options a Day Stay Consultation would be best for her family. She would rather have the hands on support one on one then be unsure if she was implementing her chosen sleep training method correctly, this way she could ask questions as we were implementing rather than after the fact. 

Prior to our consultation I had asked Mum to put a few things in place to optimise our time together, these strategies in themselves started to make an improvement in O’s sleep.

I arrived at 8am, to a smiling excited Mummy and a beautiful baby boy having nappy free time on his playmat.  I had asked Mum to wake Bub at 7am so that his naps would align with biologically optimal timeframes. I spent the first half an hour or so getting to know Mum and Bub, talking about any reservations, questions or concerns she had, and what she did or did not feel comfortable with, we also discussed what may be best suitable for baby O given his calm, happy nature. We decided to leave the cot in Mum and Dad’s room and work on an in room settling method, incresing our intervention should we feel that he needed more support.

First nap: Mum asked that I implement for the first go, so that she could watch, as communication is difficult when in a dark room and trying to be peaceful and quiet so Bub can sleep as easily as possible. Baby O did amazingly a few cries, but mostly grizzling, and we even left at the start because he was happily chatting to himself. He settled within 20minutes and Mum was extatic, didn’t even need hands on, he just put himself to sleep.

Seccond nap: Mum’s turn to implement. I had expected some more crying as Mum was there with boobs full of milk and this was baby O’s 2nd time in his life not feeding to sleep. 7 minutes of quiet grizzling and chatting is all it took! Baby then slept for 1hour and 15minutes, longest in his life!

Third nap: Much of the same, took a little longer as we were attempting this in the cot, and I usually suggest to do this in a pram or car as there is no biological sleep window here, 30minutes of mostly talking, again baby O needed minimal assistance, and just,Put. Himself. To. Sleep!

Mum was so happy with the results and surprised at how it was not “traumatic” at all. I left Mum feeling confident with her new settling method, excited to show Dad and excited for the night ahead….That night baby only woke twice for a feed.

Top Sleep Tips for Your Newborn

Dummies - babies love to suck to be soothed. Dummies are effective for overstimulated, tired newborns. It turns on the calming reflex. It is a good idea to phase this out by around 10-12 weeks so it does not become a strong sleep association that you have to replace every 2 hours overnight. In the early weeks be careful that you have breast feeding established before you use a dummy.

Swings/rocking/pram etc – Great way to settle,  this is very soothing to a newborn. A swaddled newborn who is rocked will go off to sleep easily provided wake time is correct. This often loses effectiveness towards 6-12 weeks. Try to use this as your back up rather than your go-to with a baby older than 3 months.

Swaddling –  if your baby is not rolling a swaddle is SUCH a good idea. This stops the startle reflex waking your baby up after 20 minutes and brings them back to a womb like environment. If bub is rolling it is time to transition the swaddle, taking one arm out at a time (the process should take a week). If bub still hasa strong startle reflex and/or is rolling early but you feel you need to keep swaddling to protect their sleep,  you can keep swaddling and use a “safe t sleep” or sleep positioner to keep them in place.

White noise – has to be loud to be effective, rain, water, shhing , radio turned to static are all effective. Great for sensitive sleepers and/or drowning out noisy siblings or pets.

Cat napping and the “4 month sleep regression”- Work on “drowsy but awake”, from 6-12 weeks using shhing and patting to settle in the cot (with pick ups if needed). This teaches bub to connect their sleep cycles. The 4 month regression is a leap forward in development where bub begins to feel the shift from deep to light sleep more prominently than they did as a newborn and tend to wake up after 45 minutes. This is more exaggerated if bub has not learned to settle to some extent out of arms/without feeding etc.

Keep a log of naps and feeds it is quick and easy to do and you can spot issues when things go pear shaped.

Go for a walk - once a day ( 3rd or 4th nap is a good idea), Being stuck inside doing “feed, change nap repeat” is not much fun, get out, meet a friend for a coffee, or just for some fresh air, especually if bub has had a difficult day.

Split feeding - during the bedtime routine (one feed before bath, one straight after, before you take bub out of the towel)  is a great way to ward off overtiredness and keep things relaxed after bath time.  

10 reasons to help your family get more sleep

1.       Better rested parents – Dad doesn’t get his head bitten off, kids don’t get screamed at – Peace is restored.  You owe it to yourself. A better relationship between you both. The amount of families who tell me prior to working on sleep their marriage was breaking down….

2.        Heath and Immunity – If the whole family is exhausted chances are you are all sick, very often. Adequate rest helps the immune system function as it should.

3.       Safety – studies have shown that driving whist sleep deprived is the same as driving while intoxicated. Not only for yourself but your toddler/baby. Notice bub gets much more clumsy when tired? More sleep may help you avoid a trip to A&E!

4.       Happier kids! So many parents tell me they thought they had a “difficult” child until they got adequate rest. So many “behavioural issues” are actually sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation in children can even be misdiagnosed as ADHD.  Poor understanding, problem solving, frustration and lack of interest in anything are all common symptoms.

5.       Better appetite/eating habits – babies that are tired do not eat well! I have had clients struggle to help bub gain weight, until they help them sleep! THEN they start gaining weight, and eating more.

6.        Muscle development occurs during sleep. Sleep boost the hormone needed for growth. If sleep is fragmented normal muscle growth can’t occur and cells and tissues can’t repair as they should.

7.       Memory – can’t function at work? Feel like you gave your brain up for children? You are probably just tired! While we sleep our brains store important information and discard irrelevant information. This is even more important for kids who actually need to cycle through all stages of sleep in order to retain information.

8.       Lessening of Separation Anxiety – Is your child always clung to you, won’t let you put them down on the floor and crying as soon as you walk half a metre away? Well rested children cope better with ALL situations than those that are not rested, including periods of separation.

9.       More confident parenting – when your child is rested, and you can think clearly you are confident in the choices you make for your baby, you are not always second guessing yourself and parenting is SO much more enjoyable with SLEEP!

10.   Language and motor development – so so so many of my clients notice once they get their baby or toddler sleeping they start talking more or start crawling or walking.