The tried and tested sleep secrets used by Sarah Carpenter

  1. Sssshhhhhhh…

You want to keep all your night feeds very fuss free as any little bit of stimulation can       wake your baby up. Have the room dimly lit (if you can, rely solely on a night light during   the feed), only change their nappy if you have too, whisper to your partner and try to avoid talking to your baby.

2. Stop, Look and Listen!
Don’t jump up to quickly in response your babies every sound. I have always encouraged parents to wait to see that their baby is properly awake before getting up in the night, and yet I almost ruined my first full night’s sleep! When HTC started to stir around midnight, I thought he needed a feed, so I started to get up…but by the time I was at the bottom of the bed he had gone back to sleep. I felt sure he would wake again quickly so I just lay at the end of the bed on top of the duvet. The next thing I knew it was 7.10am and I was rather cold and stiff!

3. Identify a Pattern
As soon as you realise your baby is sleeping less, start to look for a pattern: there will be certain times of the day when they are more awake and happy and other times when they are awake but grumpy. When you see this pattern start to encourage it e.g. If baby is happiest in the morning don’t put them back down for a sleep until later on when they are ready. Also try to avoid putting them in the pram at this time, instead use it to have some play mat or bouncy chair time. Interact with baby – they are never too young to sing or read to, or just show them black and white pictures. It may be that they are only happy being awake for a short time (around fifteen minutes), but you will see this stretch quickly over the next few weeks, and when they are ready, put them down for a sleep.

4. The Witching Hour
All babies are likely to have a stretch in the day when they are awake and fractious – commonly known as the ‘witching hour’. At this time they will be very demanding of your attention: do what you can to distract them until they are ready for the next part of their day (it is quite common for this time to be late afternoon before bath time). It will feel like nothing is working, but it’s important you don’t get desperate and go out walking as this is not a habit you want to get into. If you can get them over this grumpy ‘hump’ without feeding them or pushing them off to sleep then it will pay dividends at night.

5. Daytime Naps
Your baby will start to have roughly three naps during the day (a general rule of thumb is that they will be awake for roughly two hours in between naps – this will include a feed). Vary where you put them for a sleep so you can be flexible with your day – it’s a bad habit to always have them in the sling, cot or car seat because, for your sanity, you don’t want to be (a) always out walking or (b) always stuck in the house.
It’s important to allow your baby to sleep during the day to avoid over-tiredness as this can have a knock on effect to your night, don’t make the mistake of thinking at this stage restricting day sleeps will mean they are more tired at night!

6. Mix it Up
When your baby has a sleep in the day you can help teach them it’s for a daytime nap – rather than for the night – by making things different from your nighttime routine. If they’re in their cot, you can keep the blinds open and keep their mobile above the cot if that’s where it is positioned (refer to routine section to see how to prepare the bedroom for nighttime) for example. It’s important to teach your baby to distinguish between going down for their long nighttime sleep and a daytime nap so you can avoid turning night into day.

7. Early Wakers
Once you have decided what time to start your day, stick with it. So, if baby wakes before the time you plan to kick off the day, give them the chance to re-settle themselves or assist them if required…but try not to pick them up before the allotted time (remember the 30 Minute Rule – see the routine section).

As babies get bigger think about what time they wake up from their last daytime nap – this can disrupt the length of their nighttime sleep! Ideally they should only have about a 15-20 minute nap in the afternoon and no later than 5pm.

8. Full Tummies
A baby needs to be full to settle properly so persist with your final feed of the day to make it a good one!They also need to be winded – if they’re at all uncomfortable you cannot expect them to settle well, so always spend the time at every feed to wind them. It can sometimes take time but it is worth it.

9. Comforters
Not everyone likes to introduce a comforter and not every baby will take to one. If it’s something you like the idea of, have it in the crib with baby at night and you can keep it close by to use at sleep times during the day. I’m a huge fan of the cuski ( ) – you can sleep with it before baby arrives and then give it to them your smell on it so they can always feel secure. It’s all down to personal preference, and although it can assist them self-settle, you also want them to be able to sleep without it so do not use it all the time. This rule can also apply to dummies.

10. Timings
As with the information in the routine section, the times of their sleeps will vary day-to-day but you will quickly see a pattern emerging. Don’t force it, but once you get an idea of roughly what times each day they will sleep you can then plan your days around them.


“At 6 weeks my daughter wouldn’t sleep for very long periods during the night and was sleeping in a Moses basket on the couch (which meant one of us was always up with her) as she refused point-blank to sleep in her crib…this is when I decided I needed some expert help and I called Sarah. After spending 3 nights (2 hours a night) with us, my daughter was sleeping in her crib from 7pm – 4am. Then at 11 weeks she started sleeping 7pm – 7am. I cannot thank Sarah enough for what she has done for us, she has completely changed my attitude to motherhood and I am much more confident and relaxed than what I was at 6 weeks.”

Lisa Gordon

“Sarah came to help us when Matilda was six weeks old. She had what we thought was bad reflux and seemed in a lot of pain. She rarely slept and cried every time she was put down. My husband and I were exhausted and getting very little sleep ourselves.

Sarah came for a couple of nights and was fantastic. Her arrival was a turning point and I dread to think what Matilda would be like now if she hadn’t come to help. She realised straight away that Matilda was very sleep deprived. We went back to basics and Sarah taught me how to swaddle Matilda (my husband and I were convinced she did not like swaddling) and settle her without picking her back up. She helped me establish a day and nighttime routine which factored in feeds, sleep and play time. She also offered advice on breastfeeding, bath time, tummy time and any other worries I had. I was able to text or call her as often as needed, and I did!

With Sarah’s support I realised that Matilda was not necessarily crying from pain but because she was one very tired girl. Her reflux was not nearly as bad as first imagined. Matilda is now five months old and although we have moved, I still ask Sarah for her advice. She has a very sensible approach which is invaluable when books, midwives and health visitors all offer conflicting ideas that tend to cause more worry than relief. I would thoroughly recommend her to anyone struggling over a newborn baby. I thought that getting in a maternity nurse meant I was failing in some way as a mother, but I am so pleased I was persuaded otherwise. Sarah made all the difference and people can’t stop commenting on what a lovely smiley baby I have.”  Philippa Hawkins


2 Responses to “Sleep”

  1. Helen Cook August 13, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Fantastic advice Sarah.


  1. kept in the dark « themummyyears - August 1, 2012

    […] Sleep […]

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