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Health: Can’t sleep? Meet the podcast mums who will send you to the land of nod

© Nadine Boyd PhotographyPost Thumbnail

Babies are wonderful things. They bring so much joy and unlock a level of love we just never thought possible. But their arrival really does knock life as we know it on the head.

With a new baby comes a schedule of feeds and changes, not to mention the wonderful world of sleep deprivation.

Even without kids, it’s fair to say the anxiety and stress that Covid has brought has kept us awake at night.

However, help is at hand with a new podcast designed to help parents – and those without little ones – get more shut-eye.

Sleep Mums is the brainchild of TV presenter Cat Cubie and baby sleep expert Sarah Carpenter.

“In a year when many of the usual networks aren’t available to parents it is exactly the zero-judgement, funny and real support that people with new babies need,” Cat said.

“It’s informational and conversational so it’s not just a guide to all things baby sleep, it’s like having a blether with friends at the same time.

“And it’s something that’s so important now. Covid has meant there hasn’t been much support available for new parents.

“I just felt we had the skills to do something positive and in a way that made it accessible.

“You can listen to a podcast while rocking your baby to sleep at 3am, or walking them round the block for a nap.

“And it’s a big hit with dads. We might be the Sleep Mums, but the show is inclusive of everyone.”

Cat and Sarah have formed a close bond since they first met five years ago after the birth of Cat and husband Ollie’s first child, Indy.

“When my daughter was five months old, we were up feeding every hour and I was struggling with the mental health anxieties that go hand in hand with sleep deprivation,” Cat explained.

“Indy was up feeding every 45 minutes – and I was exhausted and felt isolated.

“So we decided to call in the expert! I was given Sarah’s contact details through a friend.

“She was eight months pregnant but came and slept on the floor and, within weeks, had given me back a full night’s sleep and we’d become close friends.”

The 39-year-old added: “Sarah helped me and Indy sleep, which was life-changing.

“The whole experience made me realise that baby sleep – or lack of – can be caused by a great number of things. It’s all trial and error. There is no one size fits all. And that it’s a great talking point.

“There is so much literature on baby sleep. You can spend hours trawling the internet at 3am, terrified you’re doing something wrong.

“I was writing about my experience of motherhood, but I thought a podcast that people could listen to would be a great idea.”

Using Cat’s broadcast experience and Sarah’s baby sleep expertise, the pair launched The Sleep Mums.

Now in its second series, it has ranked in the UK’s top three parenting podcasts.

From sleep myths to sleep hacks, each weekly episode looks at a baby sleep topic with five take-aways that will help your baby sleep better, from bedtime routines to keeping naps on schedule.

“I think it works because we are real mums with real experience, so we know how our listeners feel, and they are probably knackered!” Cat said.

“We also tell our own anecdotal stories which shows we can sympathise because we have been there!

“The truth is, it isn’t a one plus one situation. You just have to do what you have to do, even Sarah, who is an expert, will vouch for that!”

Cat added: “I suppose this is a natural progression for me. I’ve gone from doing MTV in my 20s to focusing on mum stuff in my 30s, but I suppose you go with what you know, and the life you are living.

“We still have our ups and downs but my kids sleep well now. And there is no underestimating the power of sleep. We all need it to function. Parents need it and babies need it and if there are any perils of wisdom we can share to help, we are more than happy to.

“I just wish there had been something like this when my kids were younger.

“Sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone and there are countless other families out there going through the same thing.

“And I think, this year, that has been more important than ever before.”

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The Sleep Mums podcast mainly focuses on baby sleep but much of the advice also works for adults. In each episode Cat and Sarah share five tips on a sleep topic. Here are their top sleep tips for little humans… and bigger ones too!

1. Sleep set-up

Making sure the layout of your room works for you, matters. It goes back to our caveman days; the need to feel safe to allow us to drift off to sleep.

The ideal temperature for a baby to sleep in is between 16 and 20 degrees, roughly the same for adults. We recommend safe swaddling for newborns as it keeps them nice and snug and – for the cave baby inside – makes them feel much more secure.

2. Have a bedtime routine

Many of us use a pattern of things that set us up for the land of nod. Putting a glass of water by the bed or reading a book are things that help tell our minds and bodies it’s bedtime. It’s the same for babies, the process might be different but the idea is the same. Familiarity gives comfort.

3. Warm milk at bedtime

This tip for getting children go off to sleep peacefully has been around since before Mary Poppins. As we go to sleep our body cools down, which triggers a sleep response. Having warm milk speeds up this process by heating our body up more so sleep should come more easily.

4. Breakfast alarm

Most of us set an alarm every day, although if you’ve got young kids you probably don’t need one!

One of our sleep hacks for parents of young babies is to help encourage the idea of setting baby to be their morning alarm (but at a decent time, of course).

It might sound impossible but, with perseverance, can really work. If you give baby their first milk feed of the day consistently at the same time they will start to wake up at that time for a feed.

Disclaimer: This absolutely does not work on teenagers!

5. The golden rule

The Sleep Mum’s Golden Rule is that it takes between three and five nights to disrupt a pattern and three to five nights to solve it.

It can be really reassuring to know that if it all goes horribly wrong, with wee bit of consistency you might only be around a week away from making things better. It’s not quite as simple as that, you’ll have to listen to the podcast for the full story!

This idea of consistency or changing habits works for adults too. So, if something isn’t working, and you’re not too exhausted, change it!