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Sleep and the younger child

Last Updated 11:47am, 9 September 2021


As your child grows parents often start to wonder if their child is ever going to sleep through the night.

As part of our Health visiting offer, we can support you if needed with your child’s bedtime routine to ensure they get ultimate comfort should you want to move towards the day that they will start sleeping through in the future.

We want this information to be available to every parent because:

  • Introducing good sleep habits at a young age is a fantastic way to support a lifetime of healthy sleep.
  • Positive sleep associations will help your child to wind down at bedtime and allow this to be a calm and relaxing experience for you both.

The NHS website has lots of information that you might find useful within it for all ages:

What can impact on sleep?

There are some important things to think about that may impact sleep – these may vary depending on the age of your child.

  • Is the room- temperature, noise, lighting, stimulating toys appropriate for your child’s age?
  • Diet- could your child be hungry? Depending on the age of your child consider:
    • What are the normal expected feeding patterns for a child of your child’s age? For example, if you choose to continue to breastfeed for longer periods your child under or over the age of one and beyond may well still be needing a feed overnight.
    • If already on a solid diet and an older child is your child’s diet balanced or is the evening meal very early?
    • If already on a solid diet and an older child is your child receiving stimulating food or drinks- caffeine or high sugar content?
    • If you are unsure chat to your PHN Team about infant waking and milk intake.
  • Daytime naps- could these be too little or too much. It’s a myth that overtired babies/children sleep well.
  • Are there any pets, perhaps entering your child’s room or moving around when your child sleeps?
  • Is screen time including television time too close to bedtime?
  • Health conditions – skin conditions; reflux, threadworms, and asthma are just some of the things that may impact sleep. If you are unsure chat to your GP, pharmacy, or PHN team.
  • Is the bedroom a positive place to be? Using your child’s bedroom for timeout/behaviour management for children can create the bedroom as a ‘negative’ place. For more information and advice chat to your PHN team.
  • Sleep associations – this is the BIG one! Some babies continue to breast or formula feed overnight until a year old and beyond.  After the first six months, if you are hoping to encourage them to start sleeping through, it may be beneficial to pop your baby in the cot awake or semi drowsy once fed.

Bedtime routine tips

If you are trying to encourage your baby of six months and older to sleep through the night, the following tips may help.

  • The routine is about preparing your child for sleep and should be a positive experience for you both. Try to make it calm, relaxed and child focused.
  • Brushing your child’s teeth as part of your child’s bedtime routine is really important part of this routine. Here is some information on how to do this effectively every day:
  • Try to create a clear difference between night and day from a very young age. Dimming lights, turning down the radio/TV, and talking more quietly all help.
  • Remove screen time at least one hour before bedtime – did you know that screens such as iPads, televisions, computers and game consoles give off a blue glow which can stimulate the brain and stops the release of melatonin. (Melatonin is the hormone you need to sleep).
  • Start quiet time 15/30 minutes before the routine for bed.
  • Routine for bedtime should be around 45 minutes- any longer and they can lose focus of what is happening.
  • Prepare bedroom – dim lights, draw curtains/blinds, and remove toys from sleeping space.
  • If your baby is over a year and has a milk feed before bed, try to give this feed before the bath and away from the sleeping area. For older children milk association in relation to sleep routines can be a challenge. However, remember the cuddles your baby has whilst feeding are really important in building close and loving relationships so make sure you make time for these still.
  • Bath time, warm, relaxing and calm where possible – this is a great way to support the release of that lovely sleep hormone. If you are unable to bath, then a full body wash is great too.
  • Straight into the bedroom from bath, ideally do not go back into living areas, and instead get dressed for bed in the bedroom.
  • Stories/massage/calm songs/relaxation music (for older children it may be a time to connect and debrief from day and end the day on positive).
  • Keep regular sleeping hours and be consistent with your routine.

Bedtime is an opportunity for you and your child to spend time together. It is important to make it pleasurable so that your child looks forward to going to bed.

Further information and support

Contacting your Health Visitor

  • email your local Public Health Nursing Hub where a Health Visitor will respond to your query
  • Text us for health-based advice via our Chat health number; 07520 631721 and receive a response back via text. (This number cannot be used to book or rearrange appointment time)s.
  • phone your local Public Health Nursing Hub to discuss any queries with a Health Visitor.

Virtual Family Focus sessions

Devon Public Health Nursing are offering digital group sessions for parents to attend, covering a range of experiences that parents might face during the early days. These friendly virtual parent sessions are undertaken via Microsoft Teams and facilitated usually by one of our Community Health Workers.  We call this Virtual Family Focus.

If you want to attend a group session which aims to give more information about sleep, join us for a Family Focus Sleep Session.

To book your place email your Public Health Nursing hub stating your name, your child’s name, your email address, and your telephone number and which session/s you would like to attend. We will then send you an invite link.

Contacting your Children’s Centre

Children’s centres offer families targeted support for a variety of situations. Children’s centres in Devon provide Early Help services to the whole family, from pregnancy through to age 19, when families most need support using the ‘team around the family’ approach.

Action for Children run the Children’s Centres in the Devon County Council area

There’s also a fantastic online option where you can talk to a family practitioner about a range of questions that you may have.

Online Solihull Approach Parenting Course

You can also access an online Solihull course that supports you in understanding your baby at a variety of different points in their life

Solihull approach parenting courses graphic

What will I need to complete the online course?

All you need to get started is your access code, an up-to-date internet browser on a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone (the local libraries or your school may be able to provide access to this), and an email address. Go to the website and apply the code Tamar when prompted. You will be asked for your email address and a password of your choice. This is so that you can return to the site, sign in and your account will remember that you have access to the course(s) and will resume from where you last left the course.

Other sources of information you may find useful

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