Sleep – Your Questions Answered by Sleep Specialist Niamh O’Reilly

A big hello to all the readers of Thoughts Tots and Tea!  Thank you so much Dee, for having me along to this Q and A, relating to all things sleep!

I am going to do my best to answer your questions but please bear in mind, I am sometimes working off limited information so there will be times when I will have to keep things as general as possible! I will also be mentioning (although not fully explaining) sleep techniques to help encourage little ones to become independent sleepers. These techniques can be found in my book “No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep”. They are not about leaving little ones to be upset on their own so there’s no mention of “cry it out” etc but I always encourage parents to be a part of the process and to be present whilst their little ones learn a new skill – becoming independent sleepers!

Here we go!

My 22 month old is refusing to sleep in his own bed! He currently shares our room as we are short on space and I’ve have to prioritise his school going Brother with the other room. Typically Each night one parents has to lay with him to go to sleep which isn’t a problem. He transfers to his own bed fine but this only lasts a couple of hours before he is back in ours. How do I break this cycle? 
Firstly, I am going to presume that your little guy is still in a cot at 22 months but actually where he sleeps is incidental. Your first issue is that for him, he falls asleep in one place and then when he rouses later, he’s somewhere else! That’s confusing for him.  And then he ends up back in your bed again.  You will probably need to start teaching him to fall asleep on his own in the first place.  So, this means, in his bed/cot rather than in yours.  Eliminating musical beds for little ones will enable them to fall asleep confidently and independently. Find a technique that you like and stick to it. Teach him this skill and once that’s done, You too will be confident to move him back in with his big brother. Whether in a cot or a bed, I have techniques outlined in my book as mentioned above

Is 2 years too late to start a routine? 
It’s never too late to have a routine. If your little one needs a nap it can be helpful to have a little structure in your day so that naps are happening at an appropriate time during the day and you can work out meals, milk and playtime around that.
If you are talking about a bedtime routine, I think it’s really important that there is some sort of “end of day” ritual in place. Particularly helpful for toddlers who love to know what’s coming next!

Any tips for a cot hating baby? When’s a bed age appropriate? 
The best time to move a baby from cot to bed is when they are able to climb out of their cot – so, when it becomes a bit dangerous!
Ideally, this is around the 2.5 to 3 yr mark.  Anytime before that, and I accept that all babies are different, they may not have the sense or even the physical ability to manage beds (and the freedom they provide!)

Our bedtime routine involves baby having horseplay on our bed and then eventually winding down and falling asleep with one of us. Then transferring to her own cot asleep. How best to change this in preparation for baby number two? 
It’s not always the end of the world to have little ones fall asleep in our arms or with us beside them, IF IT’S NOT A PROBLEM!  Once they are sleeping well throughout the night, then there is no issue. So, if it’s a bottle that helps them nod off and then you don’t have to repeatedly feed overnight, then there is no problem.
BUT, once the expectation is that you will re-fill bottles or lay with them when they wake overnight, then it can become a problem!
As I mentioned in the first question above, helping them to learn how to soothe themselves will be key to starting a process of becoming able to resettle themselves at night!
But, I would suggest you cut back on the “horseplay” – a calm environment is best to encourage good quality sleep for little ones.

How can I help my 7 month baby sleep on his own easier, I’ve tried crying it out but hated it. 
I am not a fan of cry it out either.  While I dont advocate Controlled crying, I do expect there to be some crying, but it will be more as a result of frustration as your little one won’t be getting their “normal” reaction from you. I prefer that parents remain a large part of the comforting process rather than leaving it to the little ones to work it out for themselves
In general, it takes five to seven nights of training to break the habits that have been in place up to now. I would also ask that you give yourselves a window of at least two – three weeks for the process to really sink in.
At 7 months, I would make sure he is getting an appropriate amount of daytime sleep and that he is not getting overtired by bedtime to make any changes you want to make in terms of settling at bedtime an easier process.  |
None of us like change, but when we are well rested (and this is true of babies too), we are definitely more amenable!

Have you a strategy for dropping night feeds other then water? (7months)
I would be suggesting you do one of two things:
a. Start by reducing the amount in the feed you want to drop by an ounce or so over the space of a week or two. So, one ounce less for two nights, then two ounces etc until there’s little point in offering.
b. Just do it. Bite the bullet. We often pre-empt things that might not actually happen. Give your little one the opportunity to surprise you!

What should I do if a bottle is the only thing that will settle my two year old at night? 
Again, if it’s not a problem for you, then it’s not a problem.  Many parents are ok with little ones having a drink overnight, but if it is becoming a pain for you, then just get rid! 
If your two yr old has a drink of milk at bedtime, take it out of the room. Offer them their last drink downstairs or in another room.  Tell them that there is no milk in the bedroom, and milk happens downstairs. Breaking the association with drinking milk in the bedroom will often help when you are trying to get rid of it overnight.
Find another way of settling them without a bottle, by using one of the many sleep techniques available.  But stick to your guns! Consistency is key. Especially with toddlers!

Do you recommend teddy’s and comforters at every age or do you feel there’s a cut off point?
I have no issue at all with comfort items for little ones, no matter the age! I think with soothers/dodies/dummies, there is a time limit, but not with teddies etc. As my nana used to say “Use what helps, not what hinders”!
I will say though, that in terms of safety, I would suggest that only one comforter or teddy would be in a cot with young babies. Too many teddies, while they can look quite cute, can create problems with airflow around baby as they sleep. So, safety first!

How can I get my 1 year old to sleep past 5am?
Ah yes, the Early riser!
Generally early morning awakenings have a lot to do with what happened the day before, and often it can lead to a catch 22 situation where your child has a poor night’s sleep and then sleeps badly during the day. On average I would recommend a one yr old has a short catnap in the morning and one longer sleep closer to lunchtime. Then bedtime should be around 7pm.
An early riser generally wakes at 5am as this is the time their sleep cycle settles down during the night and your child then remains in a light sleep for the rest of the early morning. Therefore if your child is overtired going to bed they generally wake at this time. As your child is in a light sleep in the morning time it does not take a whole lot to rouse them fully, therefore if they are overtired they will wake as the brain is working to keep your child awake. They also tend to go back into a deep sleep after this light phase. So, if you don’t persist, you will find your little one will lose out on 2hrs sleep each night (that’s one full nights sleep in a week), as will you!!!
When your child awakes early in the morning as there will be a certain amount of habit mixed in you need to be consistent in your approach, otherwise your child will not really know what to expect, they won’t know if you are going to pick them up or leave them be, this can be frightening for a child. You may need to prepare yourselves for a week or two to get up at 5am and try resettling your child until it is time to start the day.

What tips or routine could I develop around nap time to encourage it? 
I think having some strong sleep associations in place would be a good idea here. Things that help encourage little ones to understand what’s coming next!
Having a one liner like “night night sleepytime” or “night night I love you” will in time, help your little one learn what comes next.
Using a baby sleeping bag at both bedtime and for naps means that the association is starting to be created. Just like putting a bib on, means food is coming!
Dim the lights, close the curtains, thus encouraging the production of melatonin, which is our sleepy hormone.

Is a nap really necessary for toddlers? 
It depends on the toddlers age, but often children up to age 3 will need a nap during the day.
You will know if it needs to be dropped if they start to refuse to go to bed at the usual time. I tend to drop naps gradually over a few weeks, rather than just cut it completely. It’s less of a shock to the system that way!

What’s the best time for bedtime? 
A little like the last question, it’s hard to answer without any specifics. So if I was to guess that you are basing your question on a day that starts at 7am, then along with appropriate nap amounts for your child’s age, bedtime should be somewhere between 7 and 7.30pm

Do you think a bath every night is necessary? 
The short answer is no! But, if it’s something that helps with your bedtime routine, then by all means keep doing it.  If it starts to complicate your evenings then it doesn’t have to be part of your end of day routine.
The bedtime routine should be pretty uncomplicated and easily managed by one parent at the times where that might be necessary.
A bedtime routine for a baby/toddler from around 6 months might look something like this:

6.15 pm – Bath (optional)
6.30pm – A little massage and a cuddle while getting into pyjamas and gro-bags

6.45pm – Get last bottle/feed organised and sit down and read a couple of stories
7.00pm – Bedtime. Say goodnight and pour yourselves a glass of wine!

Obviously this can be adapted to suit older children. But the main message here is to keep it simple. The more you stress about it the more likely it will descend into bedlam!

Is letting my toddler fall asleep on me and then transferring for nap and bed a bad habit? Why?
Again, this is not a problem, unless it’s a problem for you!How would I now change this? To change this, I suggest a gradual approach. And this applies to babies and toddlers.

Start by gradually having him a little more awake when he goes to bed initially. Even if it means that the first few times he might fall asleep in arms. Then a few nights later try him in the cot/bed when more alert. Reduce the assistance you give him over time so that the first time he might be 90% helped to sleep. Next time 85% you/15% himself and so on.

How do I wean a 2 year old off motion for falling to sleep? 
I would use the exact same approach as in the last question – gradually!

My near three year old wakes for hours at a time during the night. Wide awake and is hysterical looking to go down stairs won’t settle in his bed or mine. Is this habit or something else is it something o can break. 
Without the full picture of his daytime routine – for example, I don’t know if your three year old is still napping.  If he is, I would suggest you reduce that and gradually eliminate it.  Also, overtired children tend to have poorer quality sleep and this can lead to persistent and prolonged overnight wakings.  Make sure they are going to bed at a reasonable time!
If you allow him to go downstairs, it can become more habitual so I would take care not to encourage it! There is also a school of thought that would say that toddlers are huge fans of being in control. It could be that he is able to be in charge overnight, as you are tired and would give ANYTHING for the easy life so take care that this is not the case!

At what age should I start a bedtime routine and expect a baby to sleep through the night? 
I have mentioned bedtime routines earlier but with regard to sleeping through the night:
My answer is always – NO ONE SLEEPS THROUGH! We all wake, at various intervals throughout the night. It’s often what we need to get back to sleep that’s the problem!
Perhaps your little one falls asleep on a feed/bottle and so then needs it to fall asleep again later. Same can apply if they fall asleep on you/with you.
With regard to bottle fed babies, I expect them not to need any overnight feeds between 7pm and 7am from 8-9 months (sometimes earlier, sometimes a little later)
Breastfed babies are harder to judge as they will often need feeds overnight well into their first year, depending on feed levels during the day.


I hope you found this helpful and remember you can find Niamh and her whole range of services at 


Niamhs book “No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep” is available to purchase on amazon. I highly recommend it in general but for new Mums in paticular even during your pregnancy as there is a great section in the beginning all about preparing for baby with invaluable hints and tips. It’s a very easy read and in plain terms you can understand with strategies we can all easily adapt and put in place. As always Niamhs advice throughout the book is realistic and doable. It’s not about “crying out” and getting rid of soothers that’s for sure. Niamhs approach is a breath of fresh air. Its a read that new mums, old mums and generally exhausted mums could really benefit from. Many points within the book can really put you at ease about what’s going right and what’s going wrong as I think we all fall into the trap of over thinking what we’re doing. She really sums up well what’s going on in those first six months and therefore really allows you to go a little easier on yourself. Above all you can find reassurance in this book that you’re not doing everything wrong, it’s not hard to get it right and all the other mums aren’t doing a better job then you. You can be reassured that no new baby automatically has a sleep routine, that feeding, heat, comfort, nappies, naps, age and growth all play an integral part to both the success and failure of your child sleeping. Most of all we must remember not to compare each other and that even the most established routines can go off the rails from time to time but persevere and you can get them back. A book I’m very glad to have on the shelf and will most definitely continue to dip in and out of it over the next 12 months for both boys I bet.


Im currently giving away a signed copy of N

Enjoy Dee x






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