Dragons' Den sleep deprieved mum offers sleep tips
Posted: 05 Oct 2010 14:47
As some of your know the inspiration for our fantastic Magic Blackout Blind was our daughter Ella, who was a terrible sleeper from the word go. When I went back to work after having Ella I still regularly had 4 hours sleep at night, so I feel like I have "done" sleep deprivation. The second time around we have learnt from our mistakes and, touch wood, our son Morley sleeps really well. It struck me that some of you may also like to hear what we have learnt about sleep. (Not that I am setting myself up as any kind of expert - I think I created a lot of the issues we had with Ella). So here are my top tips for a good night (and time off in the day time).
With Morley I have followed EASY which is Eat Activity Sleep and then you time - still don't manage the you time bit but the EAS has worked well. This means separating out milk from sleep time. I used to feed Ella to sleep as a baby which meant she was used to falling asleep with me. Then when she woke in the night she needed me or milk again to get back off.
Bedtime routines are great. If you can get into the habit of having stories and or a song before putting children to bed not only is it a lovely time to share together, it sends a clear message of what is coming - this happens every night before you go to sleep. Morley knows when I start to sing it’s all over and he points to his cot.
3. Ten minutes
I have now learnt to wait ten minutes before I go back to anyone. With our first baby I used to wake up when she did and rush in to comfort her a) because I thought she would settle more quickly if I didn't allow her to fully wake up and b) because I wanted to protect my husband. I was worried about him losing sleep. I have now realised that everyone naturally goes through periods of deep sleep and periods of wakefulness in the night. By rushing in I was not letting Ella learn to drift back off to sleep. It's really difficult with two children because I am always worried that they will wake each other up but I now always wait 10 minutes and most of the time they go back to sleep and don't wake up anybody but me.
The ten minutes rule also works well when you are teaching children to go to sleep by themselves. Leave it ten minutes then go back and cuddle and put straight back down. It is good to time this and have something to do while you are doing it. 10 minutes can seem a very long time when a child is crying! When Morley was a baby we thought he had colic and Neil and I would pace up and down with him every evening feeding a bit, winding a bit, getting stressed out. When he was about 2 months I couldn't face another night of it and I tried the ten minute rule and he went to sleep after 8 minutes! He was just tired every evening! I know lots of babies do have bad colic so I know this isn't a miracle cure, I had just assumed Morley had it and he didn't.
4. Block out the light
Once we had finally won the battle of getting Ella to sleep at night time, she started to wake at 5am every day in the Summer. Magic Blackout Blind was our answer. It gives us 2 hours extra sleep in the summer and makes her believe its bedtime when the nights are light. Some people have said to me that they don't want to block out light as they don't want their children to get used to sleeping in darkness and then not being able to sleep elsewhere. You can take Magic Blackout with you so this wouldn't be an issue but if it’s a principle issue, I think the extra sleep when you are at home is worth it, they often don't sleep that well on holiday anyway!
5. Go with it
When you have children a lot of people give you advice and suddenly want to help you. We have found that parenting is all about doing what is right for you and your children, what is right for your little family. And I have recently been quite surprised to learn how different my two children are in almost every way. I think partly Morley was just born to be a better sleeper than Ella. No one should give themselves a hard time about not being able to get their baby to sleep or having a toddler that creeps in the bed every night. Parenting is a bit of a rollercoaster of ups and downs (normally to do with feeling guilty about various things). The second time around I am definitely more focussed on the ups.
Laura Westwood (mum to Ella 4 year old Morley 15 months)