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What I did today... Wendy Dean Baby-sleep expert

'Our website deals with people from all over the world, including a lot of Irish mums. The main website would receive hundreds of queries every day and I have a team in place to deal with that.

"Every day, I do a number of personal website-based consultations with parents who have babies under the age of two years who are not in a healthy sleep pattern. I carry a personal caseload of about 10 queries every day. About 98pc of my caseload is about props -- these can be rocking the baby to sleep, giving the baby a dummy, the baby falls asleep but the dummy falls out of its mouth and the baby starts crying -- or feeding the baby until it goes to sleep.

"Parents should try to avoid giving babies props like this. The aim should be to help all babies learn to self-settle. I recently had a mum who signed up for a personal online consultation. Her baby girl was nine months old and waking three or four times throughout the night. The mother told me that she had a bedtime routine of tea, bath, story, and then she bottle-fed the baby in her arms and held it until it fell asleep. She then laid the sleeping baby in its cot.

"I advised her to introduce a different routine. This constituted a quiet period leading up to bedtime, then a bath and a massage before the mother would give the baby the bottle in her arms.

"If the baby fell asleep, mum would rouse her by changing her nappy or playing a quiet game before putting her down into the cot. Because the baby liked to fall asleep on the bottle, I was not happy about this situation.

"I advised that the mother try to soothe the baby by patting her in the cot and, if that did not work, to pick baby up and soothe her on her shoulder, continually patting her.

"When the baby stopped crying, she was to put her back down in the cot. The same cycle would continue until the baby went to sleep on the mattress. When the baby woke up in the middle of the night, the mother could offer her a sip of water. However, she was not to re-introduce the old feed-to-sleep routine, but continue the pat and soothe routine. It takes a while for a baby to adapt to this new routine, but if you stick to it, gradually there will be an improvement every night until the baby goes to sleep and stays asleep."

Wendy Dean is founder of babysleepanswers.co.uk, author of 'The Baby Sleep System: Proven, Practical Advice to Help You Get Your Child to Sleep' and a mother of four. She is a member of the Pampers Village parenting panel

Health & Living