Ideally, we recommend weaning your child off the dummy at around six to 12 months of age and replacing this ‘transitional object’ with another source of comfort such as a soft toy. Every baby is different though and some continue to take a dummy well beyond their first year.
If you are tackling the issue of dummy dependence at home, you could try putting your baby to sleep without their dummy and using settling techniques, including shushing and gently patting your baby, if they become distressed.
If you are using a staged approach to tackle dummy dependence, you could start by limiting use during the day. Try putting your baby to bed without the dummy at first to see how they respond. You can go back in and offer the dummy if your baby is protesting loudly after three to five minutes.
Gradually increase the amount of time before offering your child the dummy if they spit it out or lose it during the night.
While dummy use has been associated with reducing the risk of SIDS, prolonged use can increase the chance of ear infections and impact on speech development.
Starting preschool is a big step and one that may be met with excitement and nerves. Prepare your child for the transition ahead of time by taking a tour of the kindergarten together. Talk about what they are most excited to learn when they start and what their favourites activities are. Establishing a routine and mapping out what needs to happen before leaving the house (e.g. breakfast, brushing their teeth, getting dressed and putting on a hat and sunscreen) gives children a sense of structure and familiarity. Keep the lines of communication open during this crucial stage of your child’s development.
You can turn on the lights and talk softly to your child to reassure them that everything is okay. Night terrors usually last five to 10 minutes and may occur several times during the night. Try to remain calm and wait it out. The good news is that children tend to outgrow night terrors.
It is not uncommon for children to refuse to eat certain foods or resist the taste, texture, or smell of what’s been dished up. Try offering new foods along with a familiar food and be consistent (avoid using bribery). Never force feed a child. It can cause further resistance to food and create new issues. If your child’s growth has been impacted, you should consult your doctor or paediatrician.
Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development and children outgrow it. Try not to sneak away from your child. Instead, try to put their mind at ease by calmly explaining that you will return. You can also try offering a comfort toy or special object to remind them of you until you return.
Trying to negotiate with a toddler in the midst of an angry outburst is a futile exercise. Your child is overloaded with emotions in that moment and they need to let it out. Try to stay calm (although easier said than done), wait it out and be consistent with your response if your child is having a tantrum. Avoid giving in to your toddler’s demands just because you are in public, for example, as they will come to expect the same response next time.
Encourage plenty of daytime activity to help your baby distinguish between awake and sleep time. From birth to two months, the amount of awake time may vary from 30 minutes to 60 minutes and can include some tummy time (placing your baby on their tummy to encourage them to raise their head and strengthen their neck muscles). Look for tired signs, including crying, grimacing and yawning and try to lay your baby down drowsy but awake, which gives them an opportunity to self-settle. At night, you can try implementing a ‘sleep routine’ consisting of a bath, gentle massage and a feed to relax your baby before bed and use techniques such as the PLAC8™ method (outlined in the book Keep the Sleep) to resettle your baby if they wake.
Beware of terms such as ‘sleeping through the night’ and comparing your baby to others. Every baby is different.
In the first three months, babies rarely sleep for more than four to five hours at a time without needing a feed and the sleep patterns of very young babies can be erratic.
‘Sleeping through’ is defined as a five-hour stretch of sleep, according to baby sleep studies. At around three to four months of age, your baby will have more awake time and may start to sleep for longer periods at night.
However, it is not uncommon for babies to wake overnight. Babies often start to wake as they approach developmental milestones, including learning to roll, crawl and cruise.
Seventy-eight per cent of babies aged six to 12 months regularly woke at least once during the night, according to research from Swansea University, UK.
If you have excluded overnight hunger, consider whether your baby is sick, in pain or too hot or cold. A baby who is experiencing discomfort may draw their knees up, squirm or arch their back. If they are in pain, this may be accompanied by a high-pitched shrill or “cry for help”. Keep an eye on your baby’s temperature and whether they are too hot or cold. An effective way to check is to feel their back or tummy, which should feel warm and dry, not cold or sweaty.
Once you have excluded these factors, you can then consider whether there are any habits linked to sleep. For example, if your baby is dummy dependent or has become accustomed to being rocked or fed to sleep, you will need to address these behavioural factors.
Baby sleep cycles are shorter than adult sleep cycles, ranging from 20–40 minutes for young babies and 50–60 minutes for older babies.
Babies take longer to get to sleep and move between light or active sleep (called Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep) and deep sleep (called Non-Rapid Eye Movement or NREM). They experience more light sleep than adults and may wake after one cycle.
Sleep patterns are influenced by your baby’s temperament and their stage of development. Babies develop what’s called “sleep maturity” as they get older and night wakings decrease. Sickness, teething and pain can affect your baby’s sleeping patterns. Separation anxiety and night terrors can also affect sleep in older babies and children.
In the early months, a baby’s circadian rhythm (or body clock) is still developing. This makes it difficult to establish a routine before the age of three to four months. However, you can start to spell out the fundamentals by giving your baby a feed, some awake time and then prepare your baby for sleep. Pay attention to your baby’s tired signs as babies can progress from being tired to overtired in a short period of time.