Golden slumber: An expert explains how to get your child to sleep

Golden slumber: An expert explains how to get your child to sleep
Paediatric sleep consultant Erica Hargaden

Paediatric sleep consultant Erica Hargaden meets many parents who every night are putting huge work into getting their child to sleep — lying down with them, rubbing their backs, rocking them, staying in bed with them to keep them asleep.

These parents never intended to co-sleep with their child, says Hargaden.

“They’re not happy. The situation is fraught, and parents want help to be guided out of it as gently as possible.”

A mum of three children aged 10, eight and four, Hargaden recently launched The Sleep Series — online at babogue.com — educational videos for parents who want to improve their children’s sleep. The videos are chaptered by age, offering advice specific to child’s developmental stage.

“Sleep’s a learned behaviour, a process of maturity from newborn to three years old— it evolves and changes through the developmental stages,” she says.

When parents talk about their child’s sleep regressing at four months old, she says it’s at this stage sleep cycles start to develop.

“Before four months, children were sleeping — but not going through sleep cycles. From four months old, circadian rhythm maturity starts happening — a child’s less likely to stay asleep in the way they did when they were younger.

Their sleep needs shaping and structure, a bit of routine and leading from their parents.

Hargaden wants parents to know the importance of napping in a child’s 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. “Good napping means a rested child who’ll be able to initiate and maintain sleep better. Night sleep matures first and napping second.”

She wants parents to know what their child’s biologically capable of. “A four-month-old isn’t able to stay awake the same length of time between naps as a six-month-old,” she says, adding parents should frame expectations within a child’s age range: four month olds need three to four naps a day, six to eight month olds need three naps, nine to 14-month-olds need two, while 14 to 16-month-olds will start to transition to one nap.

“I often hear parents say their child was napping brilliantly and now at nine months they’re not. It’s usually down to tiny tweaks, maybe a longer time between naps or a third nap to be dropped.”

The Sleep Series includes schedules, napping insights, seven steps for better sleep and lots of tips/tricks.

Each developmental Sleep Series costs €99, with the Complete Sleep Series costing €259.

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