Secrets to getting baby to sleep

RACHEL Waddilove knows a thing or two about bringing up a baby.

The grandmother, maternity nurse and all-round parenting expert has spent 40 years assisting end-of-their-tether mothers and fathers - among them Gwyneth Paltrow and Lord and Lady Mountbatten - on matters ranging from breastfeeding ("great if you can do it") to baby-led weaning ("absolutely not").

She now stands somewhere on the parenting spectrum between Gina Ford and Mary Poppins.

With a new book just hitting the shelves, the original supernanny is calling for a "return to foundation parenting" - starting with a sensible, guilt-free approach to getting much-needed shut-eye for the whole family.

Sleep Solutions: Quiet Nights for You and Your Child, from Birth to Five Years is touted as an "accessible, practical and realistic" guide for the under-rested.

How to get one's little cherub to sleep is the question she comes up against time and time again in her work, she says.

"It is the most important thing for a family. Sleep deprivation really can drive a wedge between partners," she says.

"Any well child can sleep through the night from a young age.

"A lot of it is very basic stuff, like making sure a baby isn't going to sleep on an empty stomach or sleeping in a light room."

There is also nothing wrong, she says, with leaving a child to settle themselves so long as they are safe and not in pain.

After a week of the routine Waddilove advocates in her book, she says infants should be sleeping like babies.

Recent findings of a study at Philadelphia University showed that waking at various points in the night is part of the natural developmental course.

It found that by the age of six months, most babies woke once or twice in the night, with just 6% of children waking every night by the age of three.

The inference was that leaving a "signalling" (crying) baby to "self-soothe" or "cry it out" might be the most sensible response.

Much of the official advice doled out to new parents these days, she adds, is "nonsense".

Among her pet peeves are the WHO's guidelines not to wean a child before six to eight months, and the widespread advocacy of baby-led weaning - letting a baby pick their own food from a plate, rather than spoon-feeding them puree.

Don't even get her started on attachment parenting, which in its most basic form is when a child sleeps in their parents' bed and is strapped to their mother in a sling.

"It's not fair on the child. The idea is that a child chooses when to detach from its parents, but if it's always been attached, the child doesn't know anything different and the detachment process can be very traumatic," she says.

"Parents have got in a real muddle as to how they should be

parenting their children," she concedes. Not least because of the amount of conflicting advice.

An increase of older parents, she adds, who have money and want to give the best to their children, can also encounter particular difficulties.

"Rather than children being taken to everything there is to be taken to, rather than just letting them use their imagination, let's have a few toys or even some pots and pans and let them sit on the kitchen floor," she says.

"It's so important for children to be able to build their imagination and be given a bit of freedom."

An increase in working mothers, too, is blamed for creating anxiety in families - not least because, in her view, most women ultimately yearn to be stay-at-home mums.

Because they can't be with their children, there is greater guilt among mothers, who then over-compensate.

"Parents find it difficult imposing discipline. People have lost where and what the boundaries are - 'Is this behaviour acceptable or not?' And if it's not acceptable, deal with it."

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