Expert advice: How to sleep train a newborn

October 9, 2020Advice, Gift Inspiration, Lifestyle, Parenting

About Jo Tantum, Baby Sleep Expert

Meet Jo Tantum, Purflo’s resident sleep expert! Paediatric Sleep Consultant Jo Tantum, a previous Purflo customer herself and Mum of 1, has been working with babies and parents across the globe for more than 30 years. Jo was a key speaker at ‘The Baby Show’ for 7 years and a Sleep Expert for Prima Baby Magazine for 8 years. She has also appeared on GMTV, Richard and Judy, ITN news and was the resident Sleep Expert on ‘Live With Gabby’. Jo is a well-respected expert in the industry and has written for many parenting magazines such as Mother & Baby, Boots Parenting and Baby London, she is a Sleep Expert for Baby magazine and Annabel Karmel online. And has worked for many leading baby companies including Pampers, Mamas and Papas and John Lewis.

Huge congratulations to you and your new little bundle! I’m sure you are feeling overwhelmed and really tired right now as you adjust to being a parent. Especially if this is your first baby or if you are adjusting to life as a larger family. Depending on what sort of birth you had, whether you had a C-Section, or had to stay in hospital, there will be all sorts of questions and worries you may have swirling around in your head. You may be lucky enough to have family who live nearby or some supportive friends but you may find that everyone has a different answer or solution to your questions. This can be really confusing and the information is often conflicting.

To help, I have put together some questions and answers that I find are the most asked ones. These answers are from me as a Paediatric Sleep Expert but also as a Mummy.

My newborn baby will only sleep on me or my husband’s chest. I love it but I really need to get on with other things, like housework and laundry. What should I do? I feel guilty!

Please don’t feel guilty about nurturing your baby, this is the 4th Trimester. Your baby has been inside you for the past 9 months and is feeling pretty overwhelmed in the big wide world with all the different sounds and smells. They are used to hearing your heartbeat, which calms them while your body heat regulates their temperature and they love to hear you breathing and to feel the rise and fall of your chest.

Can your partner help or do you have family and friends that can help you with the housework and laundry? Don’t feel bad about asking for help. They could also take your baby for a walk whilst you have a rest. Having your baby in a sling can help you move around more easily and get some things done. This stage of your baby’s life is so short so savour every delicious minute as you will never get it back and those moments you will cherish forever.

My baby hates the moses basket and won’t sleep in it. I’m exhausted as I’m having to rock or feed her for most of the night. Help!

Your baby isn’t used to laying on something hard and flat so put a lovely soft bamboo muslin over a mattress.  As you swaddle them with a lightweight, breathable material, they will feel more safe and secure in their baby bed. You can also use a sleep aid that plays womb sounds, which will help them settle better as they adjust to life outside in the quiet.

Put both your hands over your baby and gently rock them from side to side, this will make them feel sleepy and help to them get used to their new environment. Often your baby needs to be nearer to you so try placing their crib next to your bed and at the right height so that you can easily reach out a reassuring hand. Try and take it in turns in the night with your partner so you at least get some rest. 

My baby is awake a lot at night but very sleepy in the day. What am I doing wrong?

You are not doing anything wrong. Babies can’t tell the difference between night and day so you need to help them to adjust to life outside of the womb.

Try and make daytime light, wake them up for feeds at least every 3 hours so they get enough calories in the day. Change their nappy half way through a feed to wake them up. This way they will have a full feed rather than snack, which will mean they wake up more often at night, hungry. Talk and sing to them and have a mini ‘play’ time after a feed so they don’t get into the habit of falling asleep.  

In the night try and make it as dark as possible. Your baby isn’t afraid of the dark: your womb was dark and that was the most safe and reassuring place for them so it’s good to recreate that feeling when they sleep with a cosy baby bed. During the summer, use blackout blinds in the bedroom to block out the early morning sun. Unless suggested to do so by a healthcare professional, you won’t need to wake them in the night for feeds. Only change their nappy if it’s dirty and try and do it before the feed otherwise they may wake up full and you will find it difficult to resettle them and use low lighting during these feeds as full light from a lamp can be too stimulating.

Swaddle your baby while they sleep so that they feel secure and won’t flail their arms around and wake themselves up with their startle (moro) reflex. Remember, a new baby up to 6 weeks old will sleep on average 17-19 hours and will need a nap every 45 minutes to an hour of being awake. Try to follow these guidelines to make sure that all the family gets as much sleep as possible.

My Mother in law says that I’m spoiling my baby as I hold her a lot. Am I spoiling her?

Trust your Mummy instincts on this and cuddle your baby when she needs you. She’s just arrived into a new world that can be scary and daunting for her, so she needs lots of reassuring cuddles. Perhaps get your husband to speak to her so she can be more sensitive to your feelings. Becoming a mummy is a big deal and you need to react to your baby however you feel is right. If that’s with lots of cuddles and holding her then that’s the right thing to do and she won’t be spoiled at all, just very secure and well loved.

Our baby cries all the time, sometimes for an hour or two. I  feel useless as I can’t get her to stop and neither can my wife. We know something is wrong as our friends’ baby is happy and doesn’t cry!

Firstly you are brilliant parents! You are doing your best and you are seeking advice, which means that your baby is in the best hands possible -yours. Secondly, all babies are different and they cry for different reasons.

Most newborn babies need a feed at least every 3 hours and more often for breastfed babies. They will be tired after only 45 minutes to an hour of being awake so your baby could be overtired. When they show signs of tiredness such as yawning, grizzling and staring into space then swaddle them, hold them, say “shh” and move into a quieter, darker room.

If your baby has other symptoms like being sick, eczema, runny explosive nappies, waking frequently in the night- i.e. every  hour, writhes when feeding and doesn’t like to be put down flat then go back to the GP or paediatrician as they may be suffering from reflux or a dairy allergy. Your healthcare professional will look at medication and a different formula or if you are breastfeeding then they may consider an elimination diet for at least 3 weeks. Please don’t worry: once your baby is getting the help they need, they will become much more settled.

For support via Email, Phone or FaceTime, please contact Jo at