Liberate Yourself From the Baby Monitor

You’re just drifting off to sleep when you hear a coo/ gurgle/ snuffle/ whimper/ sigh broadcast through the baby monitor on your nightstand (or in some cases, in your hand!). Trick question – what do you do? Do you a.) rush in to make sure that your precious bambino is okay, b.) remain awake and alert for a few minutes to wait for another whimper, c.) drift into a dozy-light sleep for the remainder of the night so that you can monitor the monitor, or d.) turn the monitor off, roll over and slip gracefully into and through several wonderful sleep cycles that night, waking rested and ready to take on the day?

Today I’m going to talk about liberating yourself from the baby monitor.

If you find that your sleep is suffering because you're alerted to sounds from the baby monitor, it's time to liberate yourself!

Don’t misunderstand me, baby monitors serve a great purpose, especially if you want to get some work done outdoors or have a soirée at the end of the drive with your neighbor while your baby naps. The parents I worry about are the ones who sleep with the baby monitor on their nightstand, volume loud enough to alert you to every sigh or snuffle their baby makes throughout the night. Hey there, I’m looking at you! Yes, YOU!

If you are sleeping on the same floor as your baby, and your little one has no medical needs requiring constant surveillance, I want you to turn that monitor off. If you feel that going cold turkey with your monitor is too difficult, then please, please do yourself a favor and turn it down.

Think about it. If you’re spending your entire night of sleep on-call with the monitor, being woken by the intermittent sounds your sleeping baby makes, you are not going to be well rested the next day. You owe it to yourself to turn that baby monitor off, especially if your baby is now sleeping through the night – you do not need it, and I would say that you’re likely sabotaging your own sleep by using it.

Video monitors are even worse, in my opinion. Not only are you drawn to the sound of your baby, but you now have a video feed (with night vision!) you may feel compelled to monitor. If you truly have a concern, for fear of SIDS or another medical reason, then I do suggest using the baby monitor with sensor pad to put your mind at rest. I would simply urge you to resist the draw of constantly checking the monitor and allowing yourself to sleep while a high tech computer system monitors your baby.

Take one step closer to getting the healthy sleep you need by turning off that baby monitor. Again, if you need to ease into it, I suggest beginning by turning down the volume and turning off the camera. Once you liberate yourself from the draw of the baby monitor, your mind and body will thank you!

When Your Baby Is Afraid To Sleep In His Crib Or Room

Whether you’re transitioning your baby from your room, or your baby develops a sudden aversion to his room, it can be upsetting to both you and your child. As a parent, you want your child to feel safe, secure and nurtured, so it can be alarming when, suddenly, your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib or room.

Whether you're transitioning your baby from your room, or suddenly your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib, it can be upsetting to both you and your child, but there are ways to overcome the aversion.

You know how difficult it can be to break a habit, whether it be nail biting or driving to a new job (how many of you have accidentally found your car heading towards an old workplace?). Transitioning your baby to his crib or to her nursery is very similar to breaking a habit or routine. It takes time, patience and understanding for your little one to learn their new sleeping environment (or adapt after developing an aversion).

If you and your baby are just beginning sleep training, be assured that her protests are only temporary. If you’ve been co-sleeping or tending to your little one in a bassinet at your side, the sudden relocation to another sleeping environment is often met with tears; I’ve even had parents tell me that their babies start to cry the minute they walk into the bedroom!

If your baby begins crying when you walk into the nursery, you can pride yourself in having an incredibly bright little one! The protestations will typically be short term, but your little one has already grasped the concept that her crib, his nursery, is where the bedtime routine takes place and it is almost bedtime. If you’re met with objection, tears or cries, it’s often because your little one knows that it’s bedtime, but doesn’t yet know how to sleep on her own or has not yet adjusted to the new environment.

If your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib or room, understand that the adjustment will take time and practice. Be patient with your baby and talk her through the process in calm and soothing tones, reassuring her that all will be okay. It often helps to discuss what is going to happen with older babies or toddlers: “We’re going to take a bath, then you’re going to have some milk. We’ll read a book together and then it’s time to sleep.” Discussing the bedtime routine, before it happens, with your little one can often allay fears.

Remind yourself that any protestations from your baby are only temporary, as it typically takes just a short time for little ones to grow beyond their fear and learn how to put themselves to sleep.

Though you may not believe it now, your little one will have her routine so ingrained that, once she’s able to walk, she may head into her room at the first signs of sleepiness! Remember to be patient, that practice makes perfect and that I’m just a phone call away if you need assistance.

 

Eliminating Afternoon Naps

I typically talk about ways to help your child sleep, and work with families every day on establishing a healthy nap and bedtime routine, but today I’m going to switch gears. Yes, today I’m going to talk about eliminating afternoon naps.

If bedtime is again becoming a battle, you may want to consider eliminating afternoon naps.

I know, I know, you’ve come to enjoy that slice of quiet time in the afternoon, relishing the calm and cleaning up after the morning’s chaos. But, unless you want your nights to stretch endlessly, and bedtimes to once again become a battle, you should be on the lookout for signs indicative of eliminating afternoon naps.

Knowing when to remove the afternoon nap can be tricky, as little ones will often still go down for an hour or two in the afternoon even if they’re ready to go without a nap. How can you tell? If you’re finding that your little one is having a party in his crib for an hour or two after bedtime, and waking at his normal time…tired, that’s a pretty good sign that he’s ready to go without an afternoon nap.

I understand that every family needs to do what’s best for them, so if you want to keep the nap and have your little one up later, make sure you move back their wake time to compensate, ensuring that they’re getting the proper amount of sleep.

My suggestion is that you push bedtime back to no later than 8:30p.m. and remain consistent. This is an all or nothing proposition – you either keep the nap and push back bedtime, or eliminate the nap. Remember the consistency I advocate with sleep routines? Consistency will establish a new routine if you’re pushing back bedtime to allow for a nap, or forgoing the nap altogether.

If you decide to eliminate the nap [and keep the same bedtime], replace that time with quiet play in her bedroom. Books are best, but quiet play with LEGOs or something similar is fine as well. Remember, your child is used to heading to her room mid-day for that nap, so you will continue with that routine to transition away from her nap (and you’ll still get a little quiet time for yourself).

You may experience some late afternoon meltdowns in eliminating afternoon naps, but be consistent. It takes two to four weeks for our bodies to adjust to new sleep patterns, so keep this in mind if late afternoon becomes difficult during the transition and push through it.

 

If you’re struggling to remove your child’s nap, call me — I’m more than happy to assist you (and provide moral support)!  Just send me an email with the subject “I NEED HELP”.

The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

Did you know that sleep is closely tied to your mental health? New mothers, especially, are at risk of developing postpartum depression, with sleep deprivation being one of the many contributing factors. I’m a testament to this fact, having battled postpartum depression myself. In fact, my own experiences are what led me to become a sleep consultant – driven by the desire to help other struggling families.

According to Harvard Medical School, 10% to 15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Not even husbands are immune, as Harvard reports that as many as 10% of new fathers develop PPD within the first year after their child’s birth.

It's no coincidence that many new mothers suffering from PPD report sleep deprivation. Learn more about the link between sleep and postpartum depression.

The Link Between Sleep and Postpartum Depression

The Atlantic featured a brilliant article, explaining how postpartum depression, or early parenthood depression, can affect even adoptive parents. A curious thing, right? Hormones are only a small contributor of postpartum depression, as sleep deprivation has the ability to cause a slew of emotional problems, including feelings of stress and anxiety.

My own experience with PPD began subtly; I wasn’t necessarily sad and weepy, instead, I was constantly overwhelmed. Honestly, I was just trying to keep my head above water in a completely sleep deprived state. Each day my anxiety grew and I was finding it harder and harder to keep a smile on my face and pretend to be the super awesome mother that I thought I should be. I was exhausted, anxious and downright miserable.

It’s no coincidence that my PPD was paired with sleep deprivation — 3 a.m. was an incredibly depressing and lonely time for me. It’s a vicious cycle, as this article from WomensMentalHealth.org explains:

While the fact that new mothers are often sleep-deprived will surprise few, the concern is poor sleep is considered to be a risk factor for depression, and depression may in turn contribute to or exacerbate sleep disturbance.  Several studies indicate that postpartum women with depressive symptoms experience poorer sleep quality, less total sleep time, longer sleep latency (longer time to fall asleep), less time in REM sleep, and more sleep disturbance than women without depressive symptoms.

Given the data, it’s clear that new parents need sleep to avoid negative affects on their mental health. I’ve been there, and I’ve made it my mission to help other families struggling to find a balance between caring for their babies and ensuring that the entire family is getting a healthy amount of sleep. It’s never too early to start, as there are things you can do help your newborn sleep longer, tips to avoid common baby sleep pitfalls, as well as inadvertent ways you might be hindering healthy sleep.

If you suspect you might be suffering from postpartum depression, please call your doctor immediately. If you are having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, do not keep them to yourself. Once you’ve gotten treatment, I’ll be here to work with you and your baby’s sleep issues.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Readers should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Gift of Sleep Consulting does not assume any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

Crib Toys: Use Them or Lose Them?

Imagine you are drowning in a sea of toys, the Legos, Barbies, stuffed animals and stacking blocks slowly creeping past your chin. You’re wading through those toys, trying to get a secure footfall to climb from them, but the toy level continues rising until you’re head is almost covered.

Everywhere parents look, toys are being marketed to them or their children. Get the scoop on crib toys and whether or not you should buy them.

It’s every parent’s nightmare, and I’m sure this scenario has never happened, but the toy creep is one of parenting’s unsolved mysteries. You set out with good intentions and through the course of the year, birthdays and holidays add to the growing toy collection in your home.

Before you know it, you have toys in your car for entertainment, toys in your diaper bag, cribs toys strapped to the crib with plush toys creating a pillow top for the crib mattress — you even have special toys just for the bathroom. It happens to the best of us, but I want to talk about the toys that may be in your child’s bedroom or nursery, specifically crib toys.

Toys are educational, some are cute and cuddly, others sing songs and have flashing buttons for your child to interact with – in short, most toys marketed for babies these days have some educational value, which is great and I encourage you to use them with your baby…just not in the crib.

These days you can find crib toys including everything from a projector to a moving seascape that can be strapped to your child’s crib – they’re cool, they’re fun — but they don’t belong in the crib; cribs are for sleeping.

Those projectors? They’re sabatoging your efforts to put your child to sleep. The lights, the movement, all of that serves to stimulate your baby’s brain, rather than lull her to sleep.

While I do advocate the use of one security toy (or “lovey”) in the crib, once your child is old enough, I do not advocate the use of any other toys in the crib. Not only are toys, blankets, and other loose articles unsafe for your sleeping baby, they also communicate the opposite message of what you’re trying so hard to convey – cribs are for sleeping, not playing.

Think about it from your own perspective. If someone ushered you to a bed full of books you’ve wanted to read, movies you’ve been waiting to see, apps and gadgets, would you be sleeping in minutes or staying awake to enjoy all of your favorite things? The exposure to screens – TV, cell phones, tablets – before bedtime are the first things sleep specialists recommend doing away with when an adult comes in with sleep issues. Babies and children are no different.

Although baby toys are not the same as electronics with lighted screens, your baby will want to play with crib toys, stimulating his brain when he should be winding down for the day. Even if your little one is tired, those toys will keep him awake (like you checking Facebook “one last time” before you go to bed).

To reiterate, I am not against babies having toys, they just don’t belong in their crib. The only item I suggest having in the crib with your little one is the attachment or security object I mentioned earlier, as a way of soothing or providing comfort for your baby (I recommend that mom sleep with the object before introducing it to your little one’s crib so that her scent also serves to comfort).

Remember, not only is a bare crib a safe crib, it’s also conducive to healthy sleep!

Baby Sleep Products That Don’t Work

Parents with little ones struggling with sleep issues are often prey to companies willing to exploit people to make a dollar. If you take a look at the sheer number baby sleep products being marketed, your head will spin with the countless choices available. These products offer the promise of soothing your little one into a peaceful slumber, but are they really worth the expense?

The number of baby sleep products being marketed today can be enticing, but don't fall prey to placebos and sleep aids.

 

Yes and no. Take a look at the billion dollar diet industry, rife with products that promise quick fixes and weight loss…with absolutely no changes to your routine. We know successful weight loss requires a change in lifestyle, and sleep is no different. Enacting healthy sleep habits for your baby requires a plan and a change to your old bedtime routine; you’re teaching your child healthy habits instead of using baby sleep products that function as aids or placebos.

Melatonin

Would you take a supplement unregulated by the FDA? If the answer is no, then why on earth would you give it to your child? Does Melatonin work? Yes, it can, but it can be harmful as well, not to mention the fact that administering melatonin does nothing to correct the underlying issues causes sleep disruption. I’m adamantly opposed to administering melatonin to children, and you can read more of my thoughts on this topic in my blog post, Melatonin and Children.

Herbal Syrups

There are a plethora of herbal syrups available on the market, each promising to help your baby sleep. Ever hear of a Snake Oil Salesman? You’ll be wanting your money back after you purchase one of these concoctions.

Lotions, Oils, Balms and Sprays

So many to choose from, but which do you choose? These products can definitely calm and soothe your little one, and are great for promoting bonding and loving touch and massage. But, these lotions, oils and sprays can give you a false sense of security when your baby stops crying, calms and goes to sleep. It’s a miracle! Or is it?

Guess what? You’ve still not targeted the root of what’s causing sleep issues with your little one, and taught her how to sleep on her own. More than likely, she’ll be up in a couple of hours, and then a couple of hours after that, and so on and so forth.

Lullaby Plush Toys

Your aim is to teach your little one how to go to sleep by himself, so why, oh why, would you put him in the crib with a toy that can stimulate him? Blinking lights (no matter how “soft”), talking and singing stuffed toys serve only to create a stimulating, play-like environment for your little one. Keep the crib austere and simple, and your little one will know that when they hit the crib it’s time to get down to business, the sleep business that is.

A Book Promising to Put Your Child to Sleep

If you’re a parent, with a young child, who watches the news or is on social media, you can’t have missed the recent news stories touting a new book, developed by a scientist, that promises to make any child sleep. Look, I get it. Many parents are desperate to help their child sleep more/better/quickly. You gave up on the myriad of sleep help books on the market, but are thinking that this may be the easier route to go. Don’t do it. Well, you can get the book to read as a nice bedtime story, but don’t put all of your sleeping eggs in the miracle sleep book basket. Plain and simple, this book is a sleep prop, a band-aid that doesn’t get to the root of the sleep issues your child is having.

If you’re at your wits-end, and find yourself considering one of the products mentioned here, call me instead. I offer a complimentary phone consultation, and can work with you to ditch the props and placebos, working towards healthy sleep routines for your baby.

When Illness Causes Baby Sleep Problems

You and your baby have finally mastered an amazing sleep routine and your little one has never slept better. Whammo! Your baby gets sick, you fall into bad sleep habits to comfort your little one, and the healthy sleep routine is out the door…or is it?

When illness causes baby sleep problems, keep the following tips in mind.

There is no need to completely throw away all of the amazing work you and your baby have done to ensure that sleep is happening in a healthy environment and in a routine manner. When illness causes baby sleep problems, keep some of the following tips in mind.

NIGHT WAKINGS

It’s a given that when a cold or illness strikes, the ‘Sleep Fairy’ goes on vacation. Think about how you sleep when you’re sick, and the level of discomfort you feel at nighttime — your baby is no different (except she can’t take Nyquil). So when illness causes baby sleep problems, anticipate night wakings, prepare yourself by having a plan for dealing with those wakings. Here’s the key — how you handle those wake-ups will make a big difference.

I’m also a parent, so I understand how tempting it is to go into the nursery when your little one is sick and do whatever you can to help assuage the discomfort by rocking or re-introducing a feed. Don’t do it. I’m not saying you’re not to comfort your little one, definitely go into the room, but don’t fall victim to all of the sleep props you’ve worked so hard to rid.

By all means, share a short cuddle with your little one, wipe her nose or offer some other type of comfort, but do not interfere with her sleep skills. Don’t rock her back to sleep, don’t feed her to sleep, don’t re-introduce any of the sleep props you eliminated (or start adding new ones!).

NIGHT FEEDS

The only time you should re-introduce nighttime feeds is if your pediatrician recommends it (IE your baby may need additional fluids due to his illness). Even then, you should only feed your little one at night for a few days, as in three days. Three days is my rule of thumb, any longer and you risk creating a new ‘routine’ for your baby, with him now waking each night expecting a feed long after the cold is gone.

MUSICAL ROOMS

I know it’s tempting, but please do not bring your baby into bed with you at night. I know, I know, you want to comfort your little one and be right by her side, but don’t do it. Routine, remember? Your baby needs to sleep in her room, in her crib (or whatever room or bed she usually sleeps in). If you feel the need to be by your child’s side while she’s sick, go to her.

That’s right, go to your baby’s natural sleep environment instead of uprooting him and bringing him into yours. Drag some cushions or an air mattress into your little one’s room and sleep in there for a night or two to monitor him.

Remember my rule of thumb? Do not spend more than three nights in your baby’s room, or else you may find yourself moving in permanently (and neither I nor you want that to happen).

What happens if everything falls apart? First of all, go easy on yourself, tending to a sick baby is not easy. Second, remember all of those healthy sleep skills and routines you and your baby worked so hard to achieve? You remember the structure, right? Well, get right back on the horse as soon as you and baby have come through the worst of it.

Start over, and if you need support to get back on track, remember that I’m just a phone call away.

Swaddles and Baby Sleep

Swaddles. Swaddling has been around since ancient times (more specifically, the Paleolithic era), so it makes sense that questions surrounding swaddling are ones I receive frequently. Is a swaddle a sleep prop? How do you feel about swaddles? Simply put, I love swaddles. I think they are great for newborns and can help calm your baby, which is conducive to sleep.

I'm asked all of the time about my stance on swaddles. Swaddling is great for newborns, but weaning an older baby from the swaddle can be difficult.

Physiologically, swaddling helps combat your baby’s Moro or startle reflex by keeping flailing arms and legs secured. With her arms and legs secured, your baby is less likely to wake herself from a sleep by startling.

If you’re worried about your baby overheating, I suggest just keeping an eye on your little one. If your baby is becoming sweaty, either loosen your swaddle or switch to a lighter blanket for swaddling – cotton muslin is a light, breathable fabric that is great for swaddling.

While I’m all for swaddling newborns, I must point out that swaddles can become sleep props (for both you and your baby). Your baby gets used to being wrapped and associates it with sleep, so when she kicks out of her swaddle, or loosens the wrap, she’ll likely wake and need you to come re-wrap her.

As your baby grows, her relationship with the swaddle becomes more complex – she thinks she needs to be swaddled to sleep, but hates having her arms and legs trapped at the same time (contradictory, I know – wait until she reaches toddlerhood!). As your baby begins to experiment with her movement, it will become increasingly difficult to keep her swaddled.

I suggest transitioning away from a swaddle by the third month. To begin transitioning, start by swaddling from the waist down, leaving the arms free. Try a nap without a swaddle. Bedtime is often the easiest time to start transitioning from the swaddle because your little one is typically the most tired at this time of day. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, try going swaddle free at bedtime.

I know of a mom who was still swaddling her eight-month-old, sewing together four receiving blankets so that they would have a large enough blanket to swaddle their baby. Not only is it unsafe to swaddle a baby who is rolling on her own, but using a swaddle at this age is definitely a sleep prop. If you’re in this situation, you really want to lose the swaddle by going “cold turkey.”

I won’t sugarcoat it – it will be difficult for you to wean your baby from the swaddle when you’ve been using it for so long. The swaddle is now a sleep prop for your baby, and he is going to protest when you put him to bed without being wrapped tightly. But, both you and your baby will be better off once you’ve removed the swaddle for sleep.

If you absolutely can’t lose the swaddle overnight, I suggest using a transition object – the Zipadeezip. The Zipadeezip can help your little one transition from being tightly wrapped by being a safe, enclosed sleep garment. The Zipadeezip resembles a swaddle, but is quite a bit looser, allowing arm and leg movement (almost like a body sleeping bag, but not quite a sleep sack). I recommend using this if you want to ease your baby from the swaddle more slowly.

In a nutshell, I’m all for swaddling up to three months of age, after that I suggest removing the swaddle (for both safety and sleep association purposes). If you’ve tried weaning your little one from her swaddle but are still having difficulty, please give me a call and we can work out a strategy together.

8 Signs You’re Ready to Transition From Co-Sleeping

As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m asked many of the same questions from tired parents everywhere (read: You’re not alone!). One of the most popular questions I’m asked pertains to co-sleeping. I’m often contacted by parents to help with transitionining their baby from co-sleeping to a crib. The short answer is yes, I can definitely help you with that!

Co-sleeping is a personal decision, and I work with families with a wide variety of sleeping arrangements. I’ve written a blog addressing concerns that some new or expecting parents have about co-sleeping, called Is Co-Sleeping Dangerous? Since I’m asked the question so often, I thought it would be fun to create a tongue-in-cheek list of 8 signs that you’re ready to transition from co-sleeping.

transition-from-cosleeping

You’re Now Going to Bed When Most People Eat Dinner

Your little one won’t sleep without the warm, snuggling embrace of mom, so you’re now on her schedule…which means you’re going to bed at 6pm and waking at 4am (because you can’t sleep 12 hours like she can). Oh, and you’re not a morning person, what’s a mom to do?

You Get Nothing Completed Throughout the Day (or Night)

Those early 3-4 naps a day times are rough on co-sleeping moms. You have time to put a load of laundry in, but no time to dry and fold it because naptimes call.

You’re Both a Human Pacifier AND An All Night Buffet

You’ve given up sleeping in a nighty because your little one has an all-access pass to your breasts. You’re exhausted from waking multiple times throughout the night from the tugging sensation of a nursling, who’s both suckling for comfort AND for nourishment…ALL NIGHT LONG.

You Find Strange Things in Your Bed

Bed-sharing parents share their sacred space to keep their little ones feeling secure and comfortable while they sleep. However, you may be ready to transition your preschooler when you begin finding strange things tucked underneath the pillow…like a wrench. True story.

You’re Being Kicked From Within AND Without

If you bed-share, you’re used to shuffling around the bed with your little one’s movements, removing stray little appendages as they work their way over your face and across your body throughout the night. But when you’re pregnant, and are beginning to get kicked by in-utero and by your bed-sharing little one, it may be time to transition to make room for baby.

You’re Shopping for a Larger Bed

Your bedroom is small, so a queen-sized bed is the largest you should really go, but you need more room to accommodate the family. You can invest in a king-size bed that will be a tight fit in your bedroom, or you can finally transition your toddler/preschooler to their own room.

Your Bedroom Looks Like a Summer Camp Cabin

Your little one has outgrown your bed, or you now have a baby sharing the bed with you, so you add a small mattress so your child can sleep on the floor. At this point your bedroom now resembles a sleepaway camp cabin or a squatter’s den, with both you and your partner tripping on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

You’ve Developed Ninja-like Skills

In an effort to have a little alone time with your partner, you lay down with your baby to get her to sleep. Once her breathing has settled and she’s entered the world of dreams, you stealthily swap a pillow or plush toy for your body, maneuvering out of the bed and creeping out of the room like a ninja in the night.

All kidding aside, just as weaning a baby from bottle or breast can be difficult, I understand that it can often be challenging to transition a little one from co-sleeping to crib. If you’re struggling with the transition, give me a call so that I can guide you through the process.