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July 13, 2016

Baby sleep consultant Emma Purdue shares her advice for helping your little one to slumber in the warmer months

Keeping cool

Sleep in the summer months can be challenging for babies and toddlers. It’s lighter, warmer and we are generally busier, all things which are not conducive to good sleep!

We spend all winter fiddling with the heater trying to get our children’s bedrooms just right, now we need to bring out the fans, open the windows and turn on the air conditioning. Just like winter you should aim to have your baby’s room temperature between 18-24 degrees. So if their room is north-facing and getting the sun all day, chances are it’s hitting well above 24 degrees, and then you are trying to swaddle them or use a sleeping bag on top of that!

We all know that swaddling and sleeping bags are great positive sleep associations, so we don’t want to have to stop using them as it gets warmer, but you will have to adapt what you are doing. Swap your warm swaddle for muslin, bamboo or cotton. The most popular swaddles make summer weight versions, such as the ergoCocoon swaddle in 0.5 tog bamboo and the Mum2Mum with a nice mesh fabric over the feet, Miracle blanket is cotton and if you pop the feet out and only swaddle the body this is a good cool option too. A lot of the summer versions of swaddles don’t offer as much protection against the startle reflex as the lighter fabric has more give. If your baby has a strong startle reflex you might prefer to try an Aden + Anais muslin swaddle. These can either be used traditionally over the baby or in the penguin swaddle.

The penguin swaddle means instead of wrapping the big corners of your swaddle around the baby, place the first corner over your baby’s arm and under his or her body. Ensuring her body weight is holding the swaddle in place and that her arms are at the sides of her tummy, not pulled backwards. Repeat on the other side, wrapping over the arm and under the body. Once finished, your baby has two little penguin wings (fully swaddled arms) but her torso is clear of any fabric and you can sleep her in just a singlet or onesie and she won’t overheat.

A simple way to adjust the warmth of your swaddle or sleeping bag is by adjusting what your baby wears underneath the swaddle. Remember babies generally don’t sweat efficiently so they can’t cool themselves in the same way adults can. In the peak of summer your baby or child might be sleeping in just a singlet or onesie made from cotton or bamboo with just one layer of swaddle or a lightweight sleeping bag. You might find you need to add an extra layer overnight, after your late-night feed, as the temperature drops – or have a fan in your baby’s room with a plug-in timer set to stop at 10/11pm when the air begins to cool. This way you don’t need to alter their clothing.

Sleeping bags such as the ergoPouch come in a 0.3 tog, the Grobags in cotton come in 0.5 tog, and Aden + Anais muslin sleeping bags are also a 0.5 tog. The smaller the tog rating the cooler the bag is. Merino Kids make a cotton summerweight bag which is suitable for 20 degrees and above.

Out and about

Sleep while out and about can also be a challenge over the summer months. The beach and parks are calling your name! I always encourage new parents to teach their babies to sleep at home in the cot and on the go in the buggy or stroller and the more you do this, the easier it gets. Try walking them to sleep once a day or every second day, so the buggy becomes like a second bed and they quickly settle to sleep. Try to mimic their usual sleep environment, so use a sleeping bag or swaddle if possible, and have the buggy reclined flat with a snooze shade or sun cover to block most of the light out. If your baby needs white noise at home, you might find the noises at the beach or out and about are enough to mimic this. If not, try your smart phone or a Baby Shusher.

It’s very normal for your baby to not sleep as well in the buggy or stroller as they do at home. Their nap might be shorter or they might need a bit of rocking to get off to sleep. Try not to peek in at them too frequently. You don’t want them to catch you peering in at the end of a 45-minute sleep cycle; this is a sure way to guarantee they don’t link their sleep cycles while you are out.

On holiday

Travel and holidays over the summer months can also disrupt your children’s sleep. Even travel within New Zealand is tiresome for children and especially babies. I would expect 24-48 hours of possible unsettledness after a long trip. Try to spend this time getting them settled back into their routine with regular naps and feed times. If you can, try to take their bedding from home with you, even whip it straight off the cot and into their bag. This will mean the portacot has a familiar smell when you set it up on holiday.

If your baby or toddler is unusually unsettled at bedtime in a new holiday location, try sitting by their cot or bed and gently reassuring them that they are okay, and you are there as they fall off to sleep. Don’t fully assist them to sleep if possible. Or you could sit with them for a few minutes then tell them you need to quickly do a small task and will be back. This works well with toddlers who are over 18 months. Come back within 1-2 minutes and praise them for staying in their new bed so nicely. Sit with them a few more moments and repeat the ‘pop-out’ until they fall asleep. Be sure to tell them in the morning that you came back and they were asleep. Both of these techniques help to minimise tears and increase confidence in babies and children when they are feeling uncertain about sleeping in a new environment.

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