Author of The Gentle Sleep Book, Sarah Ockwell-Smith (calmfamily.org) is a parenting expert with a background in psychology, who has specialised in sleep coaching for ten years.
‘Using smell is good. The only scent that’s clinically proven to help sleep is lavender. If a baby is over three months, put some lavender-scented bath products in the bath. Add some lavender in a diffuser for a couple of hours. You can use lavender oil as perfume for a couple of months, so the baby links that smell to restful, peaceful times.
Playing music can help – use Alpha music, which is very simple, 60 beats per minute. It’s better than classical or lullabies. White noise works well with newborns, but is ineffective after three or four months.
Blackout blinds aren’t necessary unless you live near light pollution or there’s a bright moon. It’s really important that they’re not shut in the day - daytime naps need to be taken in the light, or you’ll really confuse baby’s body clock.
For older babies, diet is important. In order to secrete the hormone that’s conducive to sleep, we need to eat lots of protein and carbohydrate. Some parents think it’s all about filling them up with carbohydrates, but it’s important to include proteins - avocado, nut butter, beans, pulses, yoghurt. Give them a bedtime snack – almond butter on toast or something. Make sure they’ve got enough polyunsaturated fats in their diet - that’s been linked to sleep issues. One of the only supplements I’d consider giving is Omega 3 – oily fish two or three times a week, or flax seed. Magnesium is also important - you’ll find it in kale, walnuts, dark chocolate. I’d think about using magnesium oil spray on the soles of their feet or epsom salts in the bath.’