Unfortunately, the journey to uninterrupted nights is blighted by disruptions. However, as long as you have already introduced good sleeping practices there is no reason why you can't get back on track once the hurdles have been passed.
Night nappy changes and feeds are unavoidable in the early months, but they don't have to prompt a two-hour play session. If you keep them strictly functional, with the lights down low and avoiding eye contact with your baby, he will get the message that these are different from day changes and feeds.
Teething can be a painful and protracted process.
- Infant paracetamol can take away the pain (but it is not suitable for babies under 3 months old). Teething gels can help numb your baby's gums -the effect only lasts for around 20 minutes, but it may be enough to get her back to sleep.
- Homeopathic remedies are also effective: if your baby is cutting her front teeth, try camomilla (widely available from chemists, health food stores and homeopathic pharmacists). For a slightly older baby cutting her molars, ask a homeopathic pharmacist for podophyllum. With both remedies, make sure you follow the recommended dosage.
- Stick as closely as possible to your sleep plan, while accepting that there will be times when she needs you to be with her.
Between teething bouts, return as quickly as possible to your established sleep strategy.
Illness in babies and young children can take many forms, and the symptoms are often worse at night.
- If your baby is unwilling to sleep at night because she has been dozing during the day, sit quietly by her bed and urge her to be calm, even if she can't sleep.
- If she normally sleeps in her own room but you feel she is too ill to be left alone, setting up a camp bed for yourself in her room will cause less disruption than moving her into your bed.
- Stick as closely as possible to your established routine, and return to it properly as soon as you feel your child is well enough to do so.
Although illness in children is always distressing and tiring for parents, it is usually short-lived. If you have already established positive sleeping practices, you should find your child returns readily to these once she is feeling better.
Long-term illness: asthma
If your child has asthma, coughing or sneezing at night may make it difficult for her to enjoy sleep.
- Keep soft furnishings to a minimum.
- Keep pets out of her bedroom.
- Use special anti-allergen bed linen.
- Vacuum her mattress regularly.
If your child has any other long-term condition that disturbs her sleep, discuss with your doctor or health visitor what you can do to reduce her symptoms at night to help her sleep better.
When away from home, try to stick as closely as possible to your child's established night-time routine.
- Get everything (such as her travel cot) ready before you begin putting her to bed, and make sure you take her comforter with you.
- You may want to be more flexible about her bedtime at such times. The more firmly established her nights already are, the less disruptive occasional deviations are likely to be. If you are still in the early weeks of a new sleep program, you may have to accept that the penalty for breaking the routine could be the hard work you have to put in to get her back on course once home.