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Baby on BoardRTÉ One, Thursday, 8.30pm

Episode 1: Sleep

Series 2

Issues of concern

See Episode 1: Sleep...

See Issues of concern...

NB: This programme was only available for 21 days and has now expired.


Sleep Problems:

Research has shown that up to 25% of preschool children have a persistent sleep problem. Children can have just one type of problem or can have a mixture of problems. It can be difficult to define exactly what is a sleep problem as what may be a problem for one family will not be for another.

Signs of sleep deprivation:

  • Decreasing activity
  • Quieting down
  • Losing interest in people and toys
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Looking 'glazed'
  • Fussing
  • Yawning
  • Lying on Floor or chair
  • Asking for dummy, bottle or to nurse

Proposed method for Emma and Abdul:

For Emma and Abdul Gráinne, suggested that they:

- Start a bed-time routine to include bath, pyjamas and a story.
- Darken the bedroom and put on a night light.
- Place Yasmine in cot and tell her it is night time.

Yasmine was still crying after this so she advised they use an approach called 'Progressive Waiting'.

Progressive Waiting Approach (controlled crying)

Day At first Wait Second Wait Third Wait Subsequent Waits
1 3 5 10 10
2 5 10 10 12
3 10 12 15 15
4 12 15 17 17
5 15 17 20 20
6 17 20 25 25
7 20 25 30 30
  1. Put child in the cot awake. Let him/her fall asleep under the same conditions that will be present when he/she wakes normally during the night (in his/ her cot and not being held or rocked. Let the child fall back asleep the same way after night time waking.

  2. If he/she cries or calls for parent at bedtime, upon waking at night, check him/her briefly at increasing intervals. The chart suggests the number of minutes to wait before going in to him/her. If the interval seems too long for you start with intervals you feel you can manage - for instance, one, three, and five minutes the first day. Any schedule will work, as long as the waiting periods increase progressively, and as long as you continue the process long enough for your child to get practice falling asleep under the desired condition.

  3. When you reach the maximum number of minutes to wait for a particular night, continue to leave the room for the same interval - no longer - until your child finally falls asleep while you are out of the room.

  4. Each time you go to your child, spend no more than one or two minutes with him/her. Remember, your job is to reassure the child, not necessarily to help him/her stop crying: the goal is for the child to learn to fall asleep on their own.

Emma decided to modify this method. She remained in the room lying on her bed until Yasmine fell asleep. Gráinne suggested that she try moving out of the room on a gradual/phased basis. Moving towards door, then outside the door until Yasmine falls asleep without a parent/caregiver being in the room.

The important thing is to be firm and consistent.

Proposed method for Jenna and Stephen:

For Jenna and Stephen Gráinne suggested that they:

  • Introduce a calming and soothing routine before bedtime.
  • Place t-shirt belonging to mum in the cot. A baby's sense of smell is more defined than that of an adult. (Be mindful of safety, tuck in like a sheet)
  • Vary the methods of getting Lewis to sleep (breast, dad singing or in the buggy).
  • When Lewis wakes in the night, do not talk. Say "shhh" or "night night" but refrain from conversation.
  • Do not turn on lights.
  • Keep their activity slow and quiet.
  • Develop key words as Asleep Cue.

Gráinne suggested that Jenna and Stephen follow these steps

  1. Place Lewis in cot when very sleepy.
  2. Say 'shh' and rub baby's back
  3. If baby crys or becomes frantic pick up and cuddle, say 'shh shh', rub back and place back in cot, continuing to 'shh' and rub back.
  4. Continue this process until baby falls asleep
  5. If baby wakes, after being asleep for any period, continue from step 1 above.
  6. Both parents can carry out this method



I always ask parents if in their heart of hearts their baby's wakeful ways and coping strategies are truly upsetting you. Or does the problem lie more in the perceptions of those around you. Is it in your baby's routine, in your management of it, or simply in the minds of others?

Every baby is unique, every mother is unique, and every family is unique.

  • Am I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful, angry or frustrated?
  • Is my baby's nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage, job or relationship with other children?
  • Is my baby happy, healthy, and well rested?
  • What naptime and bedtime situation would I consider "acceptable"?
  • What naptime and bedtime situation would I consider "pure bliss"?


Series 2: Programme Archive