Sleep advice from our Baby Room Leader
Welcome to July’s blog, and what a wonderful month it has been here at Great Wood Farm. I’m Rachel the Baby Room Leader, and when Kate asked me to write this month’s blog post I struggled to decide what to write about. When it comes to babies, every single aspect of their little lives are so important, how could I choose one? We spend the days following routines, listening to their needs and wants, encouraging play based learning and most importantly making sure the babies feel safe, secure and loved. A huge part of our job is also listening to parents, and I like to think that here in the baby room all of our practitioners have formed great bonds with parents and carers (even through a pandemic!).
So, what do parents ask us most about? We give many tips for weaning, health advice, but most of all we talk to parents about sleep. A common question we ask at the morning drop off is “how did they sleep?”. Yes, we really do feel for parents who don’t get much sleep and then go to work; you are troopers! But most of all it’s because this is something that will impact the child’s whole day. We all know sleep promotes growth so it is super important, but if a child is tired it can affect their mood, resilience, routine and learning. I thought this blog could give you an insight to sleeping routines in the baby room.
There is an inspiring quote from Mind Stretchers which is ‘’inside, outside and beyond’’. This resonates with our ethos at Great Wood and in the baby room we like to spend much of our time outdoors, as well as time inside in both the Younger and Older sides of the room. All of the practitioners enhance areas both in and out, to make learning inevitable in magical and inspiring spaces. An area we have recently enhanced is our outdoor sleeping hut. We like to think that this space feels cosy and relaxing, as the babies lay on their beds to snuggle down for a daytime sleep they look up to twinkly fairy lights on the roof while listening to the sounds of nature around them. We believe that if you make sure the environment is right, it will make it easier for the baby to feel secure and therefore sleep, which is especially true for babies who are still settling into nursery life.
One thing we must discuss is how to encourage safe sleeping. The safest room temperature for babies is 16-20°C, and this is really important as babies can’t regulate their own temperature as older children and adults can. At nursery we check the wall thermometer before every sleep time to make sure it is a comfortable temperature and therefore use the appropriate amount of bedding. A clear cot is a safe cot so we make sure there are no loose objects laying around near the sleeping babies. Practitioners are always nearby to check on the babies and hush them back to sleep if they stir.
When putting the babies down for a sleep, we use calm and comforting tone, explain to them it’s sleep time while gently stroking their head or face, or some babies like a back rub or bottom pat. Routine is so important, and I’m sure you know that establishing a calm bedtime routine from the start could help settle your baby at night-time. Consistency is key. NHS England quotes that babies between 4 and 12 months old need around 12 to 16 hours sleep including daytime naps, and babies aged between 1 and 2 years need 11 to 14 hours including daytime naps. I have also found that sometimes when your baby struggles to sleep at night, letting them sleep longer during their daytime naps helps. I know to parents this might sound crazy, but from my experience for some children it works so it might be worth a try. Routines will change from time to time, for example during growth spurts and sleep regression, so follow their lead.
We do spend a lot of time in the woods at nursery, and we love babies to have their naps while on walks, surrounded by nature and breathing in the fresh air, this is fantastic for their immune systems. Of course, when the weather is not appropriate the babies have their sleeps in our sleep room inside, listening to white noise which is proven to help babies sleep. This is any continuous sound, such as rain on the roof, ocean sounds or ‘shhh’ sounds from practitioners. White noise works when it is consistent, the baby hears the sound and realises that it is time for sleep. We use it throughout most of the sleep time here at nursery as babies go to sleep at different times, but at home it’s a good idea to turn it off if you can once the baby is in a deep sleep. This is because it’s good for the baby to hear normal sounds from around the home too and get used to these during the night.
While writing this blog I did want to touch on sleep cycles and sleep regression, but maybe this could wait for another day! After nearly ten years of nursery experience, one thing I know is that not one child is the same. This is true for their personalities and routines, and what works for one child may not work for another. There’s so much contradicting information out there for parents and so many different pressures and opinions. One thing I always say to parents is trust your gut, you are the parent and you know best; but never be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Here are some reliable websites that I like to use for up-to-date information around safe sleep: