When Grandma won't follow your sleep routine

Mothercraft nurse Beth Barclay answers your questions.
Mothercraft nurse Beth Barclay answers your questions. 

Q: We find it hard to get into a routine as we have our baby minded by his grandmothers 2 days a week who rock him to sleep and leave him napping on their lap? Is this the reason he is not self settling for us?

A. Firstly how wonderful to have two grandmothers caring for your baby every week and no doubt showering him with love and cuddles! I can imagine that all they want to do is hold him forever and savour every moment when it’s just the two of them!

I am not sure what age your baby is but in my experience consistency is a key factor in establishing a workable routine for you and baby and guiding/teaching him to settle himself. So I would encourage you to have a chat to both grandmothers and explain how important it is that they try to implement the same routine that you and your son have at home. You could explain that if there is consistency in his care and routine then he will be a happy contented baby. He will be less likely to become over tired and grumpy and maybe even a bit confused from one day to the next. This is especially important at the end of the day when you may be trying to prepare dinner, bath and feed baby to put him down for the night and be energised enough to spend time with your partner!

So a good rule to follow is to keep in mind the “feed, play, sleep” strategy which works so well in my experience particularly for babies under six months.  So when he wakes from his sleep (no cat napping I hope!) he should be given a breast or bottle feed generally within 15 minutes or so, after a nappy change and a cuddle and chat.  Then some “play” or just awake time, and there are guidelines for this relevant to their age. But soon enough you will be able to read the “tired” signs, and they can vary with each little baby. There could be one or several indications, from yawning and rubbing his  eyes to jerky movements with their arms and legs, staring into space or just getting grisly and cross….then it is off to bed! And try to keep the same routine for bed time, so eventually baby will understand this part of his daily routine and resist less and less.  As babies work towards their much needed hours of sleep in a 24 hour period they will become happier, more relaxed and will be less resistant to self-settling in their cot.

I understand that when your baby is being cared for by his grandmothers that the environment changes for him.  But if the "going to bed" routine remains the same ie wrapping, blinds/curtains down, quietly talking to him to soothe him and then tucking him firmly into his bed, then he should start to improve his ability to self-settle. If the situation is starting to get a little out of control, then I would be happy to assist you with some added support and education.

A good rule to follow is to keep in mind the “feed, play, sleep” strategy

I hope this advice has helped you, I know this chat with your family won’t be an easy one. It is important though for everyone who loves and cares for your baby, that some simple guidelines be implemented. Then everyone will be enjoying your new arrival, including you and your partner!

Beth Barclay is director of Mothercraft for Babies and has 15 years experience working with mothers and babies. 

Do you have a sleep and settling question for Beth?
Send an email to editor@essentialbaby.com.au with 'beth' in your subject line, or contact Beth via her website for a personal consultation.