Q&A with sleep guru Heidi Skudder

Sleep Coach Heidi Skudder speaks to Mums the Word about common issues when sleep training and how to keep on target!

For the past two weeks, 9 month old Joseph has been through a new sleep regime. In short it has involved throwing away his dummy, enduring regular crying intervals, and a lot of creeping around outside his door stopping myself from running in and feeding him. The goal was to get him sleeping 7pm-7am. This is hugely achievable! By the end of week 1 he had slept the full 12 hours two nights in a row and I was mildly freaked out by sleep. Euphoria aside – week 2 has not been as plain sailing and I am now fully established in a 5am wake up nightmare.  5am in my book is still night time! My goal in week 3 is to extend the 5am wake up call to 6.30am.

Our sleep trainer Heidi has answered some of your questions sent to Mums the Word and explains how I can get Joe to sleep until 7am.

What tips do you have on getting rid of the dummy and why it is important?
The dummy can be useful if you have a baby who is refluxy, as it helps keep milk down after feeds. However once your baby grows out of reflux symptoms or is over 12 weeks, the dummy can become a problem.  It is different for every child, some children can use dummies to age 3/4 and never have them affect sleep, other babies will start waking several times a night for the dummy. It is only a problem if it is a problem for you.   Getting rid of dummies during sleep is best done cold turkey, a halfway house will only confuse your child. To take the dummy away, introduce a comforter instead and use a sleep training method to help soothe your child.
How important is the daytime routine and tips?
A day time routine means that your baby will be well fed and rested, which is key to a good nights sleep. The most common misconception I come across is that babies who sleep in the day won’t sleep at night – in fact it is the opposite! A child who is well rested during the day will go to bed more easily and not be overtired, meaning they sleep better too. Sleep breeds sleep!
How do I maintain my new sleep routine? What happens if they get ill or start teething?
Unfortunately when your child is unwell (sickness, temperature, chesty cough) you cannot sleep train. However you can try and keep your child in their cot without interfering too much and just helping them to sleep that way, so that all their good habits are not unlearnt. If you really do fall into bad habits, as SOON as your child is better, revert straight back to your sleep training method. The sooner you get back to it, the easier it will be.

A good sleeper generally won’t wake often from teething, if they do during a bad phase of teething, offer teething gel, some calpol but then do let them self settle back to sleep themselves without intervening.

Any tips on tackling the 5am wake up? How do I not fall in to the trap of my baby waking up 5.30am/6am and it's the start of the day?
Early morning waking is closely related to overtiredness. Is your baby having enough day time sleep for his age? It can very quickly become a habit so my advice would be set for cut off time (e.g. 6.30am) and ignore anything earlier than that. It may take a week or more but baby will stop waking so early. You can also try moving bedtime earlier to see if it has an impact.

If you have any questions about sleep training then please comment below or comment on Instagram @__mumstheword

Alternatively you can reach out to The Parent and Baby Coach (a la Heidi).

  • Nicole
    Posted at 07:58h, 13 December Reply

    I’ve already implemented sleep training and have a great sleeper now (yay!) who is now six months and usually wakes at 7.15/7.30am (bed at 7pm-ish). However for the past few days she has been waking around 6.30am! Her day time routine hasn’t changed and she sleeps well during the day… she is teething at the moment but she doesn’t cry when she wakes and quite happily plays. I am making sure I leave her in her cot until 7am. Any idea what’s causing the early wake up and how to get her back to normal? Thanks!!

    • Lucy
      Posted at 16:27h, 13 December Reply

      Hey Nicole, I am having the same issue with Joe (although 9mths old). He has improved slightly (was waking at 5.30am) and now waking at 6am. This morning I left him for 45 mins grizzling, crying on and off and then giggling in his cot. I wondered if it was teething. Will see what Heidi says but I’m going through the same thing…Also – 6.30am is good!

  • Nicole
    Posted at 07:52h, 14 December Reply

    Hi Lucy – ouch -5.30am is early! Today she woke at 6am! Really not sure what’s going on… I’m wondering if she needs to drop her afternoon nap or even morning nap? Look forward to hearing what Heidi has to say.

  • Dominique
    Posted at 09:25h, 16 January Reply

    Hi Lucy, I have already used sleep training on my now 13 mth old but occasionally she reverts to early wakings-and we’re going through a spell now. It can be tricky to leave her for long periods in the mornings as she has a piercing scream (even when not distressed!) which can wake my 2.5 yr old. That said I will start using white noise tonight with him and try and leave her for longer moving forwards. Any idea how long it can take to see a difference? Thanks!

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