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Dr Jumoke Thomas discusses sleep concerns

On Thursday 16th July, Colief launched its new online clinic, which take place fortnightly and hosted by a member of the newly formed Colief Expert Panel. The panel includes GP Dr. Jumoke Thomas, child psychologist Maggie Redshaw, paediatric dietician Judy More and health visitor Dawn Kelly.

The first clinic was hosted by Dr. Jumoke Thomas and discussed the topic of sleep, and how to cope when little ones aren’t sleeping as much as parents would like.

Here’s a reminder of what was covered at the most recent clinic.

Q. Lots of queries about teething: Does teething usually have an impact on sleep? My little boy’s just cut his first tooth and there looks to be another one on the way. He’s been waking up a lot more than usual. Any suggestions on how to help him?

A. Some babies are completely unfazed by new teeth appearing while it can be very distressing for other little ones, making them clingy and tearful. Some parents find teething gels or granules helpful while others turn to an appropriate paracetamol treatment, if required. Teething rings can be useful during the day but should not be used at night – Dr Thomas

Q. Another very frequently asked question: Is it normal for some little babies not to sleep during the day? My baby will only take short snoozes or catnaps, usually when we’re out for a walk or in the car. She’s fine during the night but I’m a bit worried that maybe she’s not getting enough sleep when we’re home.

A. It can be exhausting for new parents when little ones avoid naptime. Sleep is vital for all of us, adults and children alike, so it’s not surprising that sleep (or lack of) can cause such anxiety in new parents. For you, it’s clearly not an issue when you’re out and about but if you’re at home it’s important that your little one gets enough sleep. Set a napping routine in place – cuddle, darkened room and little noise – so baby learns to associate this routine with sleep – Dr Thomas

Q. A question from a tired mum: Our 1-year old has never been a great sleeper and needs to be cuddled to sleep. I don’t want to leave her crying but is there any advice you can give on how we can help her fall asleep naturally, all by herself?

A. Turning one is a big milestone as your little girl begins to move around more and starts to chatter. You might find that you need a little more time to prepare her for bed, especially if she’s resisting a daytime nap. You could try putting her down in her cot before she’s completely asleep, helping her to fall asleep on her own. Comfort her with some gentle head stroking and leave the room quietly. Avoid taking her out of the cot. If she doesn’t settle, return and repeat the process but avoid engaging in chat or cuddles. A two-way monitor can also help to reassure her that you’re not too far away from her. If she wakes during the night, a comforting pat can help soothe her and help her drift back to sleep – Dr Thomas

Q. Short and to the point: On average, when do children stop needing a nap?

A. All children are different so they tend to vary widely in when they decide to put an end to their daytime nap. It’s not unheard of for a 1-year old to keep going all day without a sleep while some 4-year olds still need a snooze in the afternoon – Dr Thomas

Q. A question from a mum who points out how official advice can change over the years: My mum tells me that when I was a baby I slept on my tummy but it’s not recommended these days. Why are babies now supposed to sleep on their backs?

A. Placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. NHS advice is that the safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in a room with you for the first six months.

Q. We received lots of variations on this question: When can I expect my baby to sleep through the night? My daughter’s a week from turning six months and I’m still waiting.

A. If I had a pound for every time I’m asked this by a new parent….! Rest assured, while it might seem like you’re the only mum at baby group with a frequently waking tot, plenty of babies wake in the wee hours. Again, a good bedtime routine can help here. You could also try giving your baby something to comfort her, like a baby blanket, stuffed animal or even a small piece of muslin. Giving your baby a feed before you go to bed – between 10pm and midnight – encourages baby to ‘tank up’, hopefully encouraging them to sleep thanks to their full tummy – Dr Thomas

Q. A relatively straightforward question from a new dad: Roughly how much sleep does the average baby need?

A. All babies are different and some little ones need more sleep than others. Generally though, a newborn might sleep up to 18 hours in a 24-hour period, broken up into three to four hour slots at a time. Small babies need to wake frequently to be fed so it’s completely normal to have interrupted sleep with a little one. As babies grow, they need fewer night feeds and can sleep for longer – Dr Thomas

Q. A very new mum mailed us with this query: My 5-week old loves sleeping in her swing seat and car seat but doesn’t seem as comfortable or happy in her cot. How can I help her get used to sleeping in the cot?

A. Some babies love the motion of a swing or car seat which can be very calming. After all, it’s a similar movement to what they experienced while in the womb. The best way to help your baby feel happier in her cot is to start implementing a gentle bedtime routine. Place her gently into her cot when she’s almost asleep, but not quite. A soothing pat can help to reassure her and help her drift off – Dr Thomas

Q. Hi! I have a 3 month old who is fed to sleep (breastfed) every night. Have you got any tips for transitioning from this so that daddy can share bed times too!

A. Hi Lauren, thanks for joining today’s session. Are you thinking of transitioning to a bottle or is it that your baby will only fall asleep on the breast? Dr Thomas

He’s not a fan of bottles! We’ve tried three brands so far so ideally I’d like to see if there are tips for so someone else can help settle him to bed

You’re not alone in this! Many babies simply never take to the bottle. When he is a little older you can try a sippy cup which can work well. For now though, you could try giving him that last feed before bed then letting daddy give him a cuddle before putting him down. Do you think that would work? Dr Thomas

It’s certainly worth a try! I will keep going with bottles though as I’ve got a baby free day planned next month so sort of need him to accept one!

And thank you!

You’re most welcome. I agree, keep trying with various types of bottles/cups but do leave a gap in between. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. Let us know how you get on – Dr Thomas

Dr. Koso-Thomas is a General Practitioner with over 16 years of experience. She works part-time as a GP partner in a busy practice in Kent and enjoys the multifaceted aspect of Family Medicine caring for patients from birth to old age. She has a special interest in women’s health, maternal and child health issues and risk management.