Tuesday 12 November 2019

And so to sleep? - Baby sleeping routines

What do you do if your child is not sleeping? Bernice Mulligan talks to actress (and sleep-deprived mum) Tara Leniston about her experience, and Pampers sleep expert Wendy Dean gives her advice

'Routines don't always work overnight, so persevere and adapt the routine to suit your lifestyle and your baby's temperament'
'Routines don't always work overnight, so persevere and adapt the routine to suit your lifestyle and your baby's temperament'

Bernice Mulligan

"I honestly don’t know why Dylan wakes up so much," explains actress Tara Leniston, as we speak about her oneyear- old boy and his apparent dislike for the land of nod.

“He’s just such a bundle of energy, and such a sociable little child. At 3am, he thinks it’s time to party!”

Leniston, who has worked with the likes of Jackie Chan and MTV, gave birth to Dylan in February 2010. However, she says that since then he has never slept for more than four hours a day.

“For the first three months, when I was breastfeeding, he was waking up every hour and a half. It was exhausting, but everyone told me it’d get better once he got older. The fi rst milestone was supposed to be three months, and then six months. Let’s just say, I’m still waiting!”

We may be laughing, but chronic sleep deprivation following childbirth is no laughing matter, as Leniston can attest to.

“When you’re really tired, the doubts begin to creep into your mind about your abilities. You’re running on half empty all the time. And it’s been really hard on my fiancé Andrew because he still has to go to work every day despite the sleepless nights.”

Wendy Dean is founder of Baby Sleep Answers (www.babysleepanswers.co.uk) as well as Pampers’ sleep expert. She knows all about the struggles Leniston is going through, because she went through it herself with her kids. This prompted Dean to research techniques to help children sleep and ultimately led her to write The Baby Sleep System. To date, it has helped almost 7,000 families overcome their children’s sleep problem.

“The secret is to find out what is causing the problem in the first place,” explains Dean. “Babies wake as part of a natural sleep cycle but if a prop is used to get them to fall asleep – ie being breast- or bottle-fed, being rocked off to sleep, or using a dummy – they may need the same prop to get back to sleep again. “The key is to encourage them to go to sleep prop-free, and to help the baby learn to self-soothe in the cot.”

This sounds blissfully straightforward, but Dean acknowledges the reality isn’t so.

“I’ve met some very desperate parents – you can’t underestimate what months and months of deprived sleep does to people, they get so down and can’t see the woods for the trees.”

Leniston agrees with this, having suffered from postnatal depression after giving birth to Dylan.

“I didn’t have the classic symptoms, such as not bonding with Dylan – I adored him right from the start – my problem was that I thought I was a bad mother because he wasn’t sleeping. And I think that was linked to my own sleep deprivation.”

Dean says it’s important to remember that there are no quick-fix solutions. “Routines don’t always work overnight, so persevere and adapt the routine to suit your lifestyle and your baby’s temperament. If you are fi nding it tough, don’t worry, you will fi nd a rhythm that works for your little one.”

Leniston says she would “love” to find a method to help Dylan sleep more, especially since she is returning to acting after a year’s maternity leave, and has a big project coming up in the summer.

“I know one day he’ll sleep. When he’s a teenager, I’ll be kicking him out of bed! I’d just like it to be sooner rather than later.”

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