Maintaining Your Child’s Sleep Schedule Over the Holidays

 

With the holidays approaching, many new parents who have recently gotten their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a little over the holidays.

And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded.

Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper and turkey bones.

But I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning and an iron will, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home.

There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays. One is travel and the other is family and friends, so I just want to tackle both of those topics individually.

First off, travel.

If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to take a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. (Although if you’re looking for an excuse to cancel your trip, not wanting to throw your baby’s sleep schedule out of whack is a pretty good one. Just sayin’!)

If you’ve already started, not to worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to business as soon as you get home.

If you’re driving to your destination, a clever trick is to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. So if at all possible, get on the road right around the time that baby would normally be taking their first nap.

If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when baby gets up. It’s a great chance to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make that next nap that much easier.

If you’re flying, well, my heart goes out to you.

It’s no secret that planes and babies just don’t seem to like each other, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll hear me say this) that you do whatever gets you through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do.

The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.)

Alright! So you’ve arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, comes the hard part.

Because in the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for.

But now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s place, it’s just the opposite. Everyone wants baby awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously overstimulated. And it’s exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to get to sleep.

So if you need permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right here and now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the “I’ll just sneak in a take a quick peek,” routine that baby’s in the middle of sleep training and you’re not taking any chances of them waking up. Let them know when baby will be getting up and tell them to hang around, come back, or catch you the next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some baby time based on baby’s schedule.

I know it sounds harsh, but the alternative is an almost immediate backslide right back into day one. Baby misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then overtiredness kicks in, cortisol production goes up, and the next nap is ruined, which results in more overtiredness which derails nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re headed home and it seems like baby did nothing but cry the entire trip.

I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly.

So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you’re not budging on baby’s schedule. She took her naps at the right times, and now it’s time for bed. The only catch is that, with all of the company staying at the house, there’s only one room for you and baby.

No problem, right? Bed sharing for a few nights isn’t the end of the world, after all.

I wish I could make it that easy for you, but again, you want to make this as little of a deviation from the normal routine as possible, and babies can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night.

So this may sound a little unorthodox, but if you’re sharing a room, what I suggest is simple.

Make it into two rooms.

I’m not saying you need to bust out the lumber and drywall, but I do suggest hanging a blanket, setting up a dressing screen, or, yes, I’m going to go ahead and say it, put baby in the closet.

That sounds crazy, I know, but really, a decent sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, she won’t be distracted by being able to see you, and people accidentally walking in and out of the room are much less likely to distract her.

And while we’re on the subject of “no exceptions,” that rule extends to all other sleep props. You might be tempted to slip baby a pacifier or rock her to sleep if she’s disturbing the rest of the house, but baby is going to latch on to that really, really quickly, and chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking baby back to sleep or putting her pacifier back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot worse than a half hour of crying at 7:00 at night.

Now, on a serious note, I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed. There’s a house full of eyes and they’re all focused on the new baby, and by association, the new parent.

The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these family gatherings, but in those moments, remember what’s really important here.

Your baby, your family, and their health and well-being.

There may well be a few people who feel a bit jaded because you put baby to bed just when they got in the door, and your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is ridiculous, but remember you’re doing this for a very noble cause. Perhaps the most noble cause there is.

So stand tall and remember that you’re a superhero, defending sleep for those who are too small to defend it for themselves. If you want to wear a cape and give yourself a cool superhero name, you go right ahead. WonderMom, UberMama, The Somnum Inducere, if you’re feeling really fancy. Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by the masses.

Ignore them. You’re on a mission.

My Favorite Things: A Sleep Gift Guide

‘Tis the season of gift guides, and I don’t want to disappoint, so I’ve rounded-up a few of my favorite things to create a sleep gift guide just for you! If you’re a client of mine, a few of these items won’t be new to you, as I recommend all of these things to my clients and friends with little ones struggling with healthy sleep.

Here are product recommendations I give to clients, to help create a healthy sleep environment for their babies, in one convenient sleep gift guide.

In this sleep gift guide, you’ll find snuggly things, comforting things, and things that promote health and sleep. I work with all of my clients to create the perfect sleep environment for their little ones, so it’s only natural that I would include items that help create the perfect setting for sleep! Without further adieu, here are six of my favorite sleep things!

Homedics-soundspa

1. HoMedics SoundSpa

Whether you have a busy, noisy household or not, a white noise machine can be a godsend, and HoMedics SoundSpa is my pick. Not only does it help mute outside noise with ambient sound, it means you no longer have to run a fan, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer to help your little one sleep (and yes, I’ve had clients use all of these things, and more, to try to create ambient, soothing sound in the nursery).

If you’re familiar with Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby method for baby sleep and soothing (which you likely are because you’re here), then you know that one of the 5 “S”s is shushing to soothe your baby (and swaddling another – you can read my thoughts on swaddles HERE). Think of the HoMedics SoundSpa as a shushing machine…that never runs out of breath — it really does work!

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2. Hushh for Baby

On the go? Don’t want to pack your sound machine, or don’t have the space to pack it? Hushh for Baby is a portable white noise machine, compact, and outfitted with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, able to be charged by the included micro-USB cord. Hushh for Baby also comes with a handy clip, so you can clip it to a stroller while out and about!

bitta-kidda

3. Bitta Kidda Sleep Sack

I am a strong proponent of sleep sacks, and the Bitta Kidda Sleep Sack combines two of my favorite sleep items: a sleep sack and a lovey. If you’re not familiar with the term “lovey”, you’ll know it as a comfort object. Remember Linus’ blankie? A lovey is an object babies (and small children) use to self-soothe at night. Bitta Kidda has attached two lovies to their sleep sack, neither of which will cover your baby’s face, making it a safer lovey option.

9805_1-security-blanket-toy-muslin-grey-elephant

4. Lovey

Notice that a ‘lovey’ is the closest I’ll come to recommending crib toys. I know toys are cute, and perhaps you think they’ll engage your baby so that she will spend more time in the crib, but crib toys are dangerous and unnecessary.

Aden + Anais make security blankets I like to recommend: the Silky Soft Musy Mate and the Classic Issie security blanket.

honeywell

5. Honeywell Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier

With a built-in UV sanitizing bulb and filter, the Honeywell Germ-Free Cool Mist Humidifier ensures that only the cleanest moist air is being filtered into your room. Humidifiers help ease breathing, and help avoid sickness from the drying effects of the heat during the winter months.

Notice I’ve made no mention of a baby monitor, in recommending items to add to your nursery. That’s because I want parents to be able to sleep, too, and baby monitors are not conducive to sleep, when you’re wakened throughout the night by your baby’s sighs, coos and occasional cries. If you’re already attached to your monitor, take a look at these tips to liberate yourself from baby monitor purgatory.

But what about older children, you ask? Not to worry, I’ve got something for them, too!

ok-to-wake

6. OK to Wake! Alarm Clock and Night Light

The OK to Wake! clock is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-age children. If your toddler is popping out of bed super early, you can use the OK to Wake! option on the clock. Setting the hour you wish your toddler to wake (or stay in bed until), the clock glows green when it’s okay for him to get out of bed. OK to Wake! also features a digital display, so your child can read the time. Additional options include a night light feature (glowing yellow instead of green, so as not to confuse your little one) and alarm clock. All-in-all, the OK to Wake! clock is the perfect item for teaching sleep responsibility to your little ones.

Now I want to hear from all of the parents out there — what sleep items do YOU recommend for adults?

 

 

AAP Releases New Safe Sleep Guidelines

Safe sleep guidelines is a topic that I never tire of sharing, and it’s important to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) research-backed suggestions. The AAP recently revised their safe sleep guidelines, and I thought it would be great to take a moment to share those with you, as well as to take a look at how those guidelines have changed over the years.

I'm discussing the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated safe sleep guidelines, and taking a look at how those guidelines have changed over time.

Back is best

In 1992, the AAP instructed parents to lie their infants on their backs to sleep, which resulted in an overall decrease in the occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) across the country. But while SIDS deaths decreased, infant death by suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia rose, prompting the AAP to revisit and further explain their safe sleep guidelines.

What is a safe sleep environment?

The American Academy of Pediatrics again changed their safe sleep guidelines in 2011, this time with an emphasis on the explanation and demonstration of safe sleep environments for infants. The AAP made three additional safe sleep recommendations, to reduce the overall occurrence of infant deaths, including SIDS related deaths. Those recommendations included:

  • Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  • Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.

Further recommendations included:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
  • Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  • Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).

Updated guidelines

So, what’s different between 2011’s AAP safe sleep guidelines and those recently released? The AAP now recommends that infants share the same bedroom as their parents, or room share, for at least the first six months of an infant’s life, and ideally, the first year. This comes as a result of new research findings, showing a decrease in sleep-related infant deaths in those infants room-sharing with their parents. The AAP also included the recommendation of immediate skin-to-skin time after birth, regardless of feeding or birth type, for a minimum of one hour, as soon as the mother is “medically stable and awake.”

Breastfeeding is still recommended, and the AAP urges parents to move babies to their [separate] sleep space as soon as feeding is completed, to further reduce the risk of accidental death [should a mother or father fall asleep while holding the baby].

While these recommendations are not hugely different from what they have been, they do further explain ideal safe sleep conditions, back by research showing a reduced rate of infant mortality. In addition, AAP is urging doctors to have more in-depth conversations about infant sleep environments with new and expecting parents, in an effort to communicate ideal safe sleep environments and field any questions parents may have.

If you have any questions about your baby’s sleep environment, I am available to review and make recommendations for the safest sleep environment for your little one.

Daylight Saving Time Sleep Tips

Twice a year, parents around the country groan in solidarity. No, it’s not summer and winter break, but close: Daylight Saving Time. Who knew that an hour, a simple hour, could throw off even the most organized of people’s schedules? What does this mean for your child’s sleep? Well, I’m sharing some daylight saving time sleep tips to help you and your little one(s) make the transition smoothly.

daylight-saving-time-sleep-tips

Before I share some of my daylight saving time sleep tips, I thought I’d give you a little history lesson about the little time change that often affects our lives in a big way.

Germany was the first country to institute daylight saving time in 1916, as a way to conserve fuel during World War I. The United States eventually followed suit in 1918, but was followed inconsistently. Can you imagine what it was like to travel between time zones? You would constantly need to ask for the time, just to sync your own watch to the local time observance!

President Franklin Roosevelt made daylight saving time official in 1942. Called “War Time”, year-round observance of daylight saving time again became inconsistent, as localities were not mandated to follow under federal law. A confused transportation industry pushed to have daylight saving time regulated by the federal government, and the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed. However, states could exempt themselves as long as the entire state observed the exemption. Confused yet?

Today, all but two states, Arizona and Hawaii, observe daylight saving time by setting their clocks forward one hour the second Sunday in March, and one hour back the first Sunday in November. Lasting 34 weeks each year, daylight saving time’s twice yearly time changes manage to upend people’s schedules every change.

Daylight Saving Time Sleep Tips

Whether you’re springing forward or falling back, daylight saving time can throw a wrench in your child’s seemingly flawless sleep schedule, so I’m sharing some daylight saving time sleep tips to keep everyone in sync.

  • Split the difference
    Ease your child into her new schedule by splitting the time difference. Adjust nap times and bed time to be a half hour earlier or later (fall back, spring forward) for three days following the change. On the fourth day, put your child down at the same times you usually would, but know that it can take about a week for your child’s body to adapt to the time change.
  • Hide the Time
    For toddler age and older children who have digital clocks in their room, put a piece of tape over the minute area on their clock. This way your child will see the hour, but not the minutes (which may confuse them with the time change and earlier/later bedtime to adapt).
  • Bide Your Time
    If you have a baby, they are going to take a little more coaxing to adjust. If your baby wakes and hour earlier than usual, say 5am instead of 6am, resist rushing into the room when she first cries. Wait until ten after the first day, twenty after the following day, and then 6:30 the third day. By the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and she’ll be waking up at her usual hour.

Hang in there, remain consistent, and if all else fails, schedule a call with me to see how we can get your little one back on track!

How to Keep Your Child Awake

I talk about sleep a lot. Here on my blog, with family, friends, clients and colleagues — sleep is a never ending topic of conversation, as it should be given my career! However, I was just telling a former client that we, as parents, spend so much of our time wishing our children would sleep, and when it’s not an appropriate time to sleep, we bend over backwards to keep our child awake. Am I right? Strange, isn’t it?

I’m going to take a break from talking about children and sleep today. I know, I know, you came here because you’re anxious to have your child develop healthy sleep habits, but did you know that wakefulness, at the right times, can help your little one sleep better?

keep-child-awake

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know how important routine is in helping children develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. And if your kiddo has healthy sleep habits, he’s not likely to fall asleep at random times or when you’re out running errands. This is because your kiddo has a routine and picks up on the sleep cues of that routine. Driving to the grocery store, in between naptimes, is not an appropriate time to sleep, especially if you want your little one to stay on schedule.

There are, however, times when your kiddo may be so tired out that you look in the rearview mirror to see her head nodding. Or, you leave the room to prepare dinner, only to return and find that your kiddo is rubbing her eyes while watching her favorite show. The alarm bells go off and you begin, like every other parent, to act like a crazy person, knowing that your child will be up until midnight if she naps now.

I’ve been known to tap my daughters’ legs if they try to nod-off, but I wanted to see what other parents do when faced with this dilemma. I asked parents and parenting writers to share how they keep their kiddos awake, and here’s what they said:

Michael Jackson is always a go to when we need to stay awake. WE DANCE! (Not my child, my nephew). Emily K.

We roll down the windows, turn up the radio and sing along at the top of our lungs! And just yesterday we gave the 5-year-old my phone to watch Funniest Home Videos on YouTube so he’d stay awake on the ride to baseball practice. Dana Kamp

I’ve tried tapping my son’s leg, opening his window and turning the radio up in the car — none of which worked — until I had a stroke of genius. My son is a mega-dinosaur fan, and a Jurassic Park fan (even the horrible 2nd and 3rd installments), so I pulled up a YouTube video of Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park ride on my phone; he was absolutely transfixed. Lauren B. Stevens

We listen to an audiobook, talk to the child, or let them throw shoes around in the backseat (I know, I’m a horrid parent). Elizabeth Broadbent

I am a terrible singer, so what I do is make up insane, very loud songs while poking at my kids and trying to engage them to sing along. If I’m able to move around, there is definitely ridiculous dancing involved, too. Their misery at my awfulness usually keeps them conscious long enough to keep them from dozing off! Kim Bongiorno

I may or may not have slammed on the brakes and screamed. Elly Lonon

I will engage in an active conversation with my child (he’s 4) so sometimes that takes imagination. We will look for things out the window to talk about. Sing songs together. Even make things up. C. is a boy that the later he is up past his bedtime the earlier he wakes up in the morning, so if his schedule gets jacked up – everyone’s life gets jacked up!!! Holly K.

I tell fart jokes. NJ Rongner

We play I spy or sing or iPad but not movies. Movies equal sleep. We do thinking games. Sometimes you just need them to stay awake! Sarah B.

“Look! A bear!” Lindsay Gallimore-O’Breham
Now you have plenty of options for the next time your kiddo attempts to take an impromptu nap! So, what do you do to keep your little one awake when s/he’s nodding off at the wrong time?

Rock-a-Bye Baby: When Rocking Your Baby Is a Bad Idea

Hey new parent! Yes, YOU! I know, I know, you’re deliriously happy and sleep deprived — welcome to the parent club! Are you still swaying, side to side, even after putting your baby down? Rocking your baby is an incredibly natural thing to do, and many tired moms often continue to rock while standing, even without a baby in their arms! If you’re rocking your baby to get her to sleep, terrified of her eyes snapping open once her little body hits the crib or bassinet, you could be doing yourself a disservice.

rocking-your-baby

Much like taking baby on drives to get him to sleep, or long walks in the stroller, you’re using motion to help calm your baby to sleep…and you’re not alone.

What happens when the movement stops? Does your baby wake almost immediately, or does she sleep for a short time and then wake up crying, forcing you to begin the entire process again from the start. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but you need to hear it — rocking your baby to sleep is not doing him or her any favors. In fact, you’re providing your baby with a sleep prop that a.) doesn’t work long term, b.) doesn’t teach your baby necessary sleep skills, and c.) is exhausting to maintain.

Yes, I know, it seems to work for your little one, and some sleep is surely better than none, you think. And yes, research says that rocking your baby is excellent for stimulating your baby’s developing brain. However, you really want to keep the rocking to awake hours with your little one. While you want to stimulate your baby’s brain during waking hours, you want your baby’s brain to wind down to rest (and grow) while sleeping. Rocking your baby is counterintuitive, as she will show outward signs of calm and relaxation, but her brain is actually too stimulated to allow her to fall into that deep, much needed, REM sleep.

Again, I am not advocating against rocking your baby to calm, cuddle or bond with him, I’m saying that you should break the habit of rocking him to sleep. If you find that you’re having to rock your baby to sleep before each nap and at bedtime, your baby has developed a habit that you’re going to want to change. You want your baby to learn how to fall asleep independently.

What do I mean by “fall asleep independently”? When you put your baby in her crib awake, after having shown sleep signs, you are allowing her to learn how to fall asleep on her own. The more your baby practices falling asleep independently, the better her sleep will be, and the more rested your baby and you will be.

If you’re having trouble breaking your rocking habit, don’t fret. I offer a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to assess your family’s needs.

5 Tips for Traveling with a Baby

When you’re traveling with a baby, be it a vacation or a quick overnight trip to visit family, you need to keep your baby’s sleep routine in mind. Trust me, organizing your trip around your baby’s sleep schedule will make for a more enjoyable time away from home! Just think about how you’ve felt in the past when you ignored your own sleep schedules, booking a red eye and returning to work that day, or forgetting to factor a time change into your travel plans — imagine your fatigue and irritability multiplied by ten, and that’s how your baby will feel.

Traveling with a baby can be a breeze if you follow these 5 tips!
Original photo by Eduardo Merille, adapted with text overlay

 

To help the entire family enjoy a restful trip away, I’m sharing 5 tips for traveling with a baby:

1. Pack for comfort

Yes, you should be packing comfortable shoes and clothing if you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing, but you also need to keep your baby’s comfort in mind. When you’re traveling with a baby, make sure you pack her favorite sleep items, whether it be a comfort object, such as a small blanket or stuffed animal, or a favorite pair of pajamas. You want to do as much as you can, without packing the entire nursery, to recreate your baby’s normal sleep experience. Don’t have room for your white noise machine? Download one of the many white noise apps available for phones and tuck your phone away in the room to drown out any unfamiliar noises.

2. Take it easy

Try to fight the urge to schedule lots of fun adventures during your time away, filling almost every moment of your holiday. Yes, you’re excited, you’re finally getting away! However, your baby will be unable to keep a harried and over-scheduled pace, and will likely make you regret it (trust me). By all means, plan fun outings and adventures, but space them appropriately, allowing time for your little one to get the rest she needs.

3. Consistency is key

You’re on vacation to have a break from your everyday routine, but the routine you don’t want to break is that of your baby’s. Try, as much as possible, to honor your child’s nap and bed times. An occasional nap in the car, or later bedtime likely won’t completely derail your little one, but you want to try to keep sleep schedule deviations to a minimum. In addition to trying to keep your baby on the same sleep schedule, you also want to keep your sleep routine the same. If you usually do bath, bottle, book and then bed, don’t forget to pack a book or two to maintain that routine.

4. Maintain usual sleeping arrangements

Again, consistency is key when traveling with a baby. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start while you’re on vacation. Most hotels offer cribs, and many families find that finding hotels that offer suites help make traveling with a baby much easier. With two rooms, able to be separated by a door, you’ll be able to put your baby down at her usual time, without forcing yourself and your partner to turn in for the night at 7pm. Keeping your sleeping arrangements the same as at home also makes it easier for your little one to transition to and from home while traveling, and less likely to develop a habit of climbing into bed with mom and dad.

5. Be patient

Be aware that even if you follow your baby’s sleep routine and schedule closely, your little one may still be a bit unsettled in the new environment, possibly crying or waking at odd hours. Remember how you felt sleeping in a strange place as a child, and be patient while your baby adjusts. Treat sleep disruptions as you would at home, going in every 5 minutes or so for reassurance, but not bending your normal sleep rules.

The more you take it easy while traveling, and consistently stick to your baby’s usual routines, the better time your entire family will have. Remember, I’m only a phone call away, should you need guidance. Safe travels!

Get Baby to Sleep Longer

“My baby is one year old and he doesn’t sleep! He takes a short nap in the morning and then plays the rest of the day. He doesn’t go to sleep until really late and then is up extremely early. My husband and I are struggling to function without sleep — is there something wrong with our baby?”

Want to get baby to sleep longer? Take a look at your baby's current sleep habits and use some of these tips to get her back on track.

The plea above is a pretty typical one, one that I hear from parents who contact me every week. No matter the age of their baby, she just isn’t sleeping; parents want to get baby to sleep longer, and their baby needs to sleep longer. When I look at the searches that bring parents to my website, the search terms are usually regarding questions about how much sleep their little one should be getting for her age, or how to increase the length of her naps, even questions about consolidating nighttime sleep. The simple answer is that all three of those questions are the answer — if you want to get baby to sleep longer, you need to focus on all areas of her sleep.

While the case above is an extreme one, I do often work with parents of babies who are only sleeping 6-8 hours a day, which is definitely not enough for a growing baby, so let’s take a look at how your baby is falling asleep.

If I had to guess, you’re probably using at least one sleep prop — rocking, feeding to sleep — to get your little one to fall asleep. You’re not going to believe me, but the best way to get your baby to sleep is to put her into her crib or bassinet while she’s still awake. Yes, awake! When you remove the sleep props and place your tired baby in her crib while she’s still awake, you’re allowing your baby to learn how to fall asleep on her own, without outside assistance.

Now, you’re not going to plop your baby into her crib and close the door, so don’t worry. What you do want to do is to a.) learn how to spot your baby’s sleep signs, both throughout the day and in the evening, and b.) establish a nap and bedtime routine and be consistent with it (you must be consistent). When you establish a sleep routine, your baby knows that at the end of the routine, it’s time to sleep — this way there are no surprises.

Sleep begets sleep, so once you learn to spot sleep signs, create a routine and tackle daytime naps, you’ll likely find that your baby sleeps better at night, and vice versa.

If you find yourself struggling to establish a sleep routine, or have tried the above suggestions and are still unable to get baby to sleep longer, I offer a 15-minute phone consultation, at no charge, to talk about how we can get your little one some much needed rest.

 

Have a newborn? Take a look at these tips for helping your newborn baby sleep longer.

 

Identifying Baby Sleep Signs

If you’re letting your baby dictate her own schedule, it can often be difficult to spot her sleep signals, which can lead to an overtired baby (and a struggle to get her down). Don’t wait for your baby to yawn to recognize fatigue, there are many other baby sleep signs that indicate that it’s time to put your little one to bed.

Yawns and face rubbing aren't the only baby sleep signs. Read on to learn how to spot signs your little one is ready for a nap.

It can be tricky to get into a sleep routine during your baby’s first few months, especially as her body is adjusting to their natural circadian rhythm. You’re waiting for adorable baby yawns, and even some eye rubbing, but they rarely appear – what’s going on?

Less Obvious Baby Sleep Signs

Infants can exhibit less obvious sleep signs, which are often difficult for new parents to decipher. If you notice your little one scrunching her nose, pulling her ears or rubbing anywhere on her face, it’s a good sign that she’s ready for a nap.

Irritability

Irritability is another common sign of fatigue in babies. One minute she’s cooing at you, the next she’s red-faced and crying. As you begin your checklist (hungry, wet, etc.) she suddenly calms down and is all smiles again – what’s going on? Your baby has already become a master at hiding her fatigue, and her “mood swings” are the result of trying to fend off sleep.

Hyperactivity

If you’ve ever experienced the wrath of an overtired baby, you know that it can be unbelievably difficult to rein her in after she’s past the point of no return. Overtired babies are active babies. Squirming in your arms, arching her back, crawling around everywhere; babies in overdrive are tired babies. Some babies will push through fatigue, or hide it from you completely, by becoming more active to overcome feelings of tiredness. Your baby may even seem a bit hyperactive when she’s overtired.

Monitor Awake Time

If you’ve missed the signs, or have a calm little one who exhibits absolutely no baby sleep signs, you’ll want to gauge naps and bedtime by paying attention to your baby’s awake time.

Infants can handle approximately an hour-and-a-half of awake time before needing a nap. If your baby wakes for the day at 6am, then she will be ready for a nap at 7:30am. Once she wakes up, you’ll want to take a look at the clock and note her next nap time, an hour-and-a-half from then; continue this throughout the day. Have an older baby? I’ve included a simple awake time chart, by age, in this blog with baby sleep tips.

If you’re still having difficulty determining a healthy sleep schedule for your baby, I’m here to help. I offer a 15-minute sleep assessment, at no charge, for parents struggling to help their baby get restful sleep.

When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

I receive questions from tired and frazzled parents every week. Sometimes the answers are a simple solution that fatigue caused weary parents to overlook, and other times the issue is a little more involved, taking a bit of investigative work to uncover. This is often the case when your baby won’t sleep, as in your baby catnaps day and night, but never gets a solid block of good sleep. I’m here to help.

You feel that you've tried everything, but your baby won't sleep. Let's take a look at what might be interrupting your baby's sleep.

As I said, most questions I receive revolve around the amount of sleep their baby is getting (how much should she be sleeping?), how to lengthen the duration of naps, or how to stretch nighttime blocks of sleep. I’ll let you in on a little secret — all of those items are typically the cause when your baby won’t sleep.

To master a skill, one often needs a solid foundation as a starting point. When your baby isn’t getting enough sleep for his age, not napping long enough during the day, and not getting solid stretches of sleep through the night, this disrupts the chances of your baby establishing a healthy sleep routine. As I tell all of my clients, sleep begets sleep.

Let’s take a look at how your baby sleeps when she is sleeping. Is she getting the proper cumulative amount of daily sleep for her age? If you’re unsure how much sleep your baby should be getting at her age, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests babies between 4 months and one year of age get around 14 hours of sleep per day, from there on until preschool age, your child should be getting around 12 hours of sleep per day.

How Is Your Baby Falling Asleep?

How are you putting your little one down to sleep? Are you nursing him to sleep and transferring him to the crib? Are you rocking him to sleep and then transferring? I throw out these ideas because the majority of parents soothe their infants to sleep and then put them in their crib. By soothing your baby to sleep, you’re a.) not allowing him to learn to fall asleep on his own, b.) unknowingly teaching your baby to sleep only when soothed by yourself, and c.) creating a scenario in which he may wake once the rocking or soothing stops (when you go to transfer him) or he may wake and be startled to no longer be in his parent’s arms. Ideally, you want to put your baby in his crib when he’s drowsy, but not completely asleep.

Establish a Routine

I often find that there is a lack of routine or lack of consistency in routine when I encounter a family with sleep concerns. In order for your little one acquire healthy sleep habits, you have to practice over and over and give it at least two weeks to become firmly ingrained. Take a look at these 7 baby sleep tips for help in establishing a healthy sleep environment and routine.

Are YOU the cause?

I understand completely — you’re tired, you’re frazzled, you’re new to parenting and you just want everyone to sleep. Don’t get upset with me, but you may be the cause. I don’t think you’re purposely trying to sabotage your baby’s sleep, but you’re inadvertently creating a stumbling block. Take a look at these 5 ways parents sabotage their baby’s sleep and see if you’re guilty of any.

Call For Backup

If you’ve gone down the checklist, tried establishing a routine (and gave it a couple of consistent weeks) and your baby won’t sleep, it may be time to call for backup. Sometimes you just need an outside [well-rested] eye to take a look at your baby’s sleep practices to determine the culprit. I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment to struggling families, so now might be the best time to call. I look forward to speaking with you!