Sleep Consultant Tips: Physical Activity and Pediatric Sleep

I think it’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in this country, whether you or a family member contracted the virus or how your daily life has changed in response. At the outset, one of the ways the pandemic changed daily lives for those with children was the very real quarantine that occurred. Today I’m talking about the role of physical activity in pediatric sleep.

Pandemic and reduced activity

Just over a year ago, the country ground to a halt. Schools and daycares closed, and people were told to quarantine at home, limiting their contact with others. In addition to this quarantine, businesses were forced to close, and playgrounds across the country were closed, some even taped-off; most parents would likely have been scared to bring their children to playgrounds, even if they were open.

News reports and state departments of health warned families against meeting with other groups outside their household. As a result, many children who frequently played with friends and others outside their home were left without playmates or outlets for exercise. And for parents trying to juggle the obligations of family with those of work, the lack of daycare meant that they needed to juggle working from home and keeping their toddlers active and engaged

School-age children lost gym class and recess, and club and school sports were canceled. This left children of all ages without any physical outlet for their sometimes endless energy reserves. Paired with the stress of the disruption of everyday life, it’s understandable that many children have developed sleep issues in the past year.

Link between physical activity and pediatric sleep

Studies have shown a correlation between physical activity and sleep quality in children for years, but the outcome may be surprising to you. While I’d like to say that more exercise during the day means your little one will sleep better at night, that isn’t definitive. In fact, the association between physical activity and sleep is largely a matter of genetics and circumstance, and as with anything in life, there are always exceptions to the rule.

On average, most children will benefit from thirty to sixty minutes of physical activity per day. This means they will have sufficiently tapped into energy reserves and will have tired their bodies to a point where they fall asleep relatively quickly at bedtime and sleep well. However, you know your child best, so if you’re finding that your kiddo is having a difficult time after getting adequate exercise during the day, you may need to play with their schedule a bit.

Takeaways

One of the biggest takeaways from studies of the physical activity and pediatric sleep association is that moderate exercise during the day can help your child fall asleep faster. Too much exercise and you might find that your kiddo is wired when it comes to bedtime. This energy surge is due to the body releasing cortisol to provide a burst of energy; it’s a survival mechanism that engages when the body is overtired. This can start a cycle of poor sleep marked with fatigue or less physical exercise throughout the day and poor sleep at night. 

If you’ve ever traveled with your little ones, you’ve likely experienced the sleep cycle I’m talking about. Let’s take Disney World as an example. Your little ones spend an exciting, yet long, day in the park – it’s magical, after all! When you get back to your hotel, your kiddos are quite literally bouncing off the walls. You’re exhausted, and you expected them to conk out as well. What you’re witnessing are the effects of being overtired. 

The best way to master the physical activity and pediatric sleep connection is with balance and moderation. Moderate exercise can help most children fall asleep faster at bedtime. An abundance of exercise can wreak havoc and launch your little one into a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and over- or under activity. 

If you’re having trouble finding balance, reach out to me! I’m happy to hop onto a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to see if my services are a good fit for your child’s sleep struggles.

Tips From the Sleep Consultant: Let’s Cut the Guilt

If you’ve ever spent time in parenting groups, you’re sure to know what I’m referring to in this blog title – parent guilt, mom shaming, mom guilt. Whatever you want to call it, it’s pervasive and is damaging to new parents. As a sleep consultant, I don’t condone judgment of any kind – my career is built around helping struggling parents, not judging them or their parenting skills.

Be wary of internet experts

When I see articles from “experts” slamming the notion of self-soothing, I take concern. Even more alarming is that these articles and blogs instill fear in new parents who are desperate for solutions and undermine what I stand for. When some internet experts get large enough platforms, they can do real damage to parents who need help.

Every time I come across these articles – that are doing exactly what they claim articles of the opposite viewpoint are doing (fanning the flames of fear) – it breaks my heart. Once upon a time, I was a first-time mommy who was sleep-deprived, riddled with tremendous anxiety all the time, and just generally miserable. I was a boat taking on water fast with no rescue in sight. It’s a difficult place to be in. What got me through was a support team of friends, family, and professionals who never judged, who offered me advice when asked, and THAT made all the difference. And that is what I try to do for every family I support. 

How I work

Despite what some of these inflammatory internet articles tell you, I’m not a monster selling snake oil. If you’ve stumbled across this blog, you’re likely in search of answers for sleep issues your baby or toddler is experiencing. The first thing I want to tell you is that you’re not alone. In fact, almost every parent who contacts me is in a state of sleep exhaustion, is anxious, and is genuinely concerned for their child’s wellbeing. You only need to read a little about health to know that sleep is essential for people of all ages, from infants to adults. 

The second thing I want you to know is that I use the Sleep Sense™ program, which is a straightforward, tried and true method for teaching little ones how to go to sleep – and sleep through the night – independently. The program I use isn’t about making babies cry themselves to sleep or cracking a whip until they learn to self-soothe. 

Speaking of self-soothing – a concept many internet experts take issue with – we can call it something different if you like. Perhaps it’s the term people take issue with? Whatever the case, when you work with me to sleep train your baby, you learn how to provide consistent sleep cues for your little one, and they learn how to recognize sleep cues (through routine) and how to transition through sleep cycles themselves.

The beauty of choice

One of the reasons I maintain this blog is to provide information for struggling parents and give them a glimpse of what it’s like to work with me – in a no-pressure environment. If you like what you see after glancing through my blog, you can schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with me to talk about what you’re experiencing and see if I can help. Again, there’s no obligation to work with me, and I absolutely won’t tell you to do something you’re uncomfortable with.  

Again, no one should be forcing anyone to do anything or go against beliefs or comfort. And articles shaming parenting techniques do exactly that in an underhanded, passive-aggressive way.  

I’ll get off my soapbox now and go back to supporting the families who came to me for help. That’s what I do… it’s my mission.

Sleep Coach’s Corner: Let’s Huddl!

I’m taking a moment today to talk about something other than baby sleep training tips. But trust me, it’s related! While I’m a sleep coach, I’m also a human, and the pandemic isolation was something I struggled with as a very social person. I’m an extrovert, and I really enjoy meeting new people – this is part of why my career centers around people! So, I took to the internet to explore new ways of socializing, and I stumbled across a fantastic platform that allows me to connect with different people across the globe and help struggling families – win-win! Let’s talk about huddls.

What is huddls?

At its most basic, huddls is a safe virtual meeting space designed to connect people; it was developed during the initial pandemic quarantine. If you’re already familiar with Cameo, a platform for people to purchase recorded messages from their favorite celebrities and personalities, you have an idea of what huddls is. But, instead of getting a prerecorded message, you’re able to interact with people in real-time. This is perfect for quelling pandemic-induced stress and anxiety and provides a great – socially distanced – social outlet.

You’re probably wondering where I come in. Well, huddls is branching out into connecting people with experts to receive advice and consultations, in addition to socializing.

How I use huddls

Huddls allows me to offer quick consultations or ask the expert services for those clients who don’t need an entire sleep training package but need quick, topical assistance. It also allows me to offer seminars I used to conduct in-person through a safe, secure platform. 

How you can use huddls

Huddls experiences are perfect for those who’ve already gone through sleep training with their little one or those whose rockstar sleepers are experiencing consistent sleep disruptions. Maybe you’ve tried transitioning your little one from two naps down to one, and it’s just not working out. Or, your toddler is suddenly waking at 3 a.m. each morning, ready for the day. You can book an experience to get advice from me about overcoming some of the most common sleep hurdles. 

Sometimes, sleep training issues are more complex than a 30-minute chat warrants, and I’ll suggest hiring my services to tackle it together. If you end up hiring me, I’ll credit the cost of our huddl experience from your sleep training package.

Connecting through huddls is easy. Visit my huddls profile to view the live experiences I currently offer. Not seeing what you need? You can also click on “Suggest An Experience” to request a personalized chat. Perhaps the best part is that you can team up with your fellow mom friends or mom group to book a live experience with me together. Huddls uses Zoom as its video conferencing platform, so it’s a platform you’re likely already familiar with.

Why I like huddls

Professionally, huddls allow me to connect with my clients more closely than a phone call. I feel like it’s sometimes difficult to feel a genuine person-to-person connection on a phone call, but video calls allow for facial expressions and other nuances lost over the phone.

While I highly recommend trying out the huddls platform to connect with me – I offer free experiences there – I also recommend huddls for anyone struggling with limited socialization outlets while this pandemic continues its course.

Sleep Consultant Tips: New Year Resolutions

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year for the record books. I’ll put this in sleep consultant speak: dreams came true, nightmares were realized – it was a year of chaos and uncertainty (and I’m not just referring to sleep training toddlers). Because of this, I’m sure more people than ever committed themselves to New Year resolutions, determined to flip the script on what has become known as a dumpster fire year. 

Now that we’re a month into 2021, how is the progress on your resolutions? If you’re struggling, consider changing strategies and adopting one of these resolutions:

Wear pants

Let’s deem 2021 the year of the pants. If you’re cracking a smile, then you’re my target audience here. You know who you are – all business on top, pajama party on the bottom. And while I, personally, have never conducted a sleep consulting call without my pants on, I’m pretty sure at least one of my tired parents was half-dressed. 

With Zoom now a part of our lexicon, everyone – from students to parents – uses the video conferencing tool to communicate remotely. This has meant getting half-dressed for many professionals, with business attire from the waist up to everything from yoga pants to pajama bottoms from the waist down (and sometimes no pants at all!). For this reason, a top resolution this year will be to wear pants – bonus points for wearing pants without elastic waists!

No binge-watching

Okay, this one’s harsh. Maybe set a baby step kind of resolution where you have a time limit to binge-watching your favorite show. So, instead of watching the entire season of The Mandalorian or Bridgerton, try only watching two episodes in a sitting.

If you’re watching The Mandalorian as a family, it’s my duty as a sleep consultant to remind you to turn off the television at least an hour before settling into bed – that goes for both you and your little ones. Healthy sleep habits aren’t just for the kiddos.

Improve juggling skills

If only I was actually referring to tossing items in the air and catching them, one after the other. In this instance, I’m talking about juggling life. You know, working full time – remotely – while staying on top of your children’s virtual schooling; while keeping the house tidy with everyone home all the time; while planning, shopping for, and cooking healthy meals; while getting enough exercise; while sleeping at least eight hours each night; while practicing self-care, all while scheduling time for rest and relaxation. That’s the type of juggling I’m referring to here. And that’s entirely a joke – no need to improve your juggling skills. You’re doing a fantastic job – keep it up!

Work on social skills

If you’ve been following the rules of pandemic engagement, then you’ve not likely had a lot of social time in the last year. Resolve to dust off your social skills this year and plan some outdoor, socially distant get-togethers (that sounds like an oxymoron). Plan a trip somewhere new and explore with your family – state and national parks are great for this. Planning trips or other recreational activities are proven to help mental health, easing anxiety and giving you something positive to look forward to during bleak times (I’m looking at you pandemic quarantine).

If you’re still not ready to plan outings, no worries. Why not schedule Zoom calls with a handful of your closest friends, like a Friday happy hour, or start a Zoom book club? Planning a regular call with friends will help ease the isolation and prevent you from falling off the map. 

Get better sleep

Getting more or better sleep is actually a serious resolution and one that many Americans commit to each year. I read that only eight percent of people keep their resolutions each year – that’s less than 10 percent! If your resolution is for the entire family to get better sleep this year, then check out these baby sleep tips. And if you’ve resolved to dedicate yourself to baby sleep training this year, call me. I’m ready to help your family get the healthy sleep they deserve, and I promise to wear pants on our video calls!

Tips From the Sleep Consultant: Coping with Anxiety

My last couple of sleep coach blogs, focusing on parent to parent straight talk, were well received, so I’m here again to share some tips from a sleep consultant. Today I’m going to talk about anxiety. Every new parent’s been there – your baby’s behavior doesn’t match what the parenting books tell you, so a lingering suspicion begins to form in the back of your mind. This can be caused by anything from a missed milestone to, you guessed it, poor sleep. Here are a few ways to channel inner peace and cope with the anxiety that comes with parenting.

Do I or don’t I?

While you may feel like you’re on an island, I would say that the vast majority of new parents contacting me about baby sleep training are riddled with anxiety. Their baby isn’t napping, or they struggle to get their baby to sleep at night, or they struggle with a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. Whatever the cause, most parents have a second sense telling them that something’s off.

Looking for information about baby sleep training is like taking a trip down the rabbit hole, with conflicting information everywhere and absolutely nothing working. I know what you’re encountering because I had the same experience when I was a new mom, desperately trying to help my daughter sleep. The driving forces behind my becoming a sleep consultant were the anxiety and frustration I suffered trying to figure it all out – and I didn’t want other new parents to go through the same experience.

So, you’re obviously scouring the internet and flipping through baby sleep books for a solution, which means you already know that you need help. I’m definitely biased, but you really can help ease your anxiety by contacting a sleep consultant and getting a feel for the sleep training process. One of the first things I tell prospective clients – because almost every new parent asks – is that no, I don’t make babies cry it out, but yes, there will likely be some crying.

It’s a natural physiological response

Many new moms panic when they feel the first fingers of anxiety starting to claw at them. The frightened reaction makes sense, but many moms don’t know that they’re wired to respond this way as a built-in biological alarm to keep their baby safe. Pair this response with the hormone drops in new moms’ bodies and a severe lack of sleep, and you get a bonafide fight or flight response replete with heightened feelings of anxiety. 

Simply put, you are programmed to respond to your baby’s cry, whether you like it or not. Half the battle is understanding that your response is normal. The other struggle is where I come in as a sleep consultant. Continual sleep deprivation will make you more sensitive and open to feelings of increased anxiety. So, those middle-of-the-night wakings your baby is experiencing aren’t helping your mental state. But would if I told you I could help your baby get at least six hours of unbroken sleep, potentially even double that amount? 

Fuel in the tank

My role in helping new parents goes far beyond helping a baby develop healthy sleep habits. When a baby sleeps well (aka through the night), new parents sleep well. More sleep for parents allows them to fuel their sleep tanks. And more sleep in the tank means, yep, you guessed it, better mental health and fewer middle-of-the-night wakings that trigger anxiety. 

So, if your anxiety levels are reaching all-time highs because your baby’s not sleeping, give me a call. I’ve helped hundreds of families develop healthy sleep routines.

Sleep Coach’s Corner: Why Sleep Training Doesn’t Always Work On Your Own

I haven’t done the math to give you a precise percentage, but I can – with confidence – tell you that the vast majority of parents who contact me for help have already tried some form of baby sleep training on their own. They’ve gathered advice from friends and family, scoured the internet, poured over books – and yet nothing they’ve tried has worked. With miscellaneous tips and tricks – and no solid, straightforward plan – it’s not surprising that sleep training efforts fail. Today I’m talking about why sleep training doesn’t always work when you try to do it independently. 

Inconsistent training

The first hurdle I often see is that many of my parents give up too soon when it comes to sleep training their little one. They may have excellent advice from a book or family member; they just don’t stick it out. I’m going to lay it out straight for you – it typically takes two to four weeks for a tiny human to adapt to change. Now, before you start thinking all hope is lost, let’s put things into perspective.

How long have you been dealing with sleepless nights? Be honest here. When exhausted parents reach out to me for help, they’ve been dealing with broken sleep or split nights for at least as long as it takes to form a habit. The good news is that many of the families I work with will see results within a week, and often within two weeks. Many babies just need some nudging – and a consistent routine and schedule – to learn healthy sleep habits.

Not going all-in

I get it – by the time parents consider baby sleep training, they’re exhausted and overwhelmed. And with so much ‘noise’ out there about sleep training a baby, it’s understandable when parents are tentative with their approach. You have got to be committed to sleep training, or the likelihood of failure is high.

Being fully committed to the process means setting a routine and sticking to it; it also means you go all-in. Many families want to dip their toes into sleep training by focusing on just their baby’s naps. I’ve got news for you – if your baby isn’t napping well – or napping at all – it’s because of their nighttime sleep. You have to work on all sleep, not just individual parts. However, the easy part is that once you figure out your routine, it will be the same (sans bath) for both naps and nighttime.

No support

In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island.” When it comes to sleep training, it’s difficult to commit yourself to a routine if your partner isn’t on board. And it’s tough for me to work with families where the partners disagree about sleep training or aren’t both willing to commit to a routine. I’ll put it this way – if there isn’t ‘buy-in’ with both partners, sleep training has a high likelihood of failing. 

The support area is also part of my role in this process. I believe in sleep training, and I’ve got almost ten years of experience working with babies and toddlers. While I’m a Philadelphia area sleep consultant, I work with many families across the globe when they don’t have a sleep consultant in their area. In fact, I’ve been conducting virtual appointments for years, so the pandemic didn’t derail my coaching when it forced people to go virtual.

If you’re struggling with sleep training, please give me a call. I’m happy to help your family – schedule your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation today!

Sleep Coach’s Corner: Sleep Training and Vomiting

If that title didn’t grab your attention, then I don’t know what will! Vomiting is one of those parenting experiences that nothing can really prepare you for. It’s scary and often distressing for everyone. And if you’re in the middle of sleep training, it can be stressful to know how to navigate it. Let’s take a look at how to handle things when your baby throws up during sleep training.

Why it happens

Intense crying and even coughing can trigger a baby’s gag reflex, causing them to vomit. When a baby is allowed to cry longer than usual, their increased mucus production can also contribute to triggering the gag reflex. I will note here that the Sleep Sense™ program that I use is not a “cry it out” sleep training program. The goal of sleep training is not to create additional stress for a tired family.

The simple way of explaining why some babies vomit during sleep training is that babies cry to communicate. Without language, their only method of communicating is through crying. When you change from rocking your baby to bed to calmly putting them into their crib, they’re confused, and they’ll let you know. As you remain firm in putting your baby to bed without rocking them to sleep (or feeding them to sleep), your baby will communicate their confusion through crying. This increased crying – whether in intensity or in the length of time – often triggers a baby’s gag reflex, resulting in them throwing up. 

Preparation is key

If you don’t do this already, now’s a great time to start; double or triple sheet your baby’s mattress with protective barriers in-between. This is great for nighttime diaper leaks as well, as it allows you to quickly and quietly strip the soiled sheet and get your baby back to bed. I also suggest having a change of clothing set out before bed or naptime, in addition to wipes for cleaning up, in the event a change is needed. 

Sleep training and vomiting: what to do

Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to discuss what to do when your baby vomits during sleep training. The first thing you need to do is to remain calm. Your baby is already feeling a bit of distress, so your goal is to exude calm as you go through the process of cleaning your little one up and getting them back down.

Now that you’re the epitome of calm, you need to change your baby. Move your little one to a clean area of the crib, clean them up, and change their clothing. In case you missed it, you are not removing your little one from the crib. Use a gentle tone and touch to soothe your baby and reassure them that they’re okay.

With baby cleaned up, you need to strip the crib. Beginning at the corner closest to the vomit, remove the top sheet and protective barrier and start rolling it on itself until you have enough space to move your baby onto the fresh sheet. Roll the remainder of the soiled sheet and remove it from the crib. 

With your baby and their crib cleaned up, give them a quick cuddle, some soothing words, and then retreat to your chair if you’re remaining in the room. 

I will reiterate that it can take up to two weeks for your baby to adapt to their new, consistent sleep routine. While it’s distressing to see your baby cry until they vomit, they’ll eventually settle into the routine once they understand the sleep cues you’re giving them. After a few days of consistent sleep training, your baby will understand the cues that let them know precisely what will happen, leading up to a nap or bedtime. 

Hang in there tired parents! As always, if you’re struggling to find a sleep routine that sticks, or you need help creating a healthy sleep routine, give me a call. I’ve helped hundreds of Philadelphia area families – and families across the globe – get the sleep they need.

Sleep Coach’s Corner: The Importance of Consequences

The Importance of Consequences

As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m used to getting questions about sleep from tired parents. And because my job has everything to do with children, I often lend an ear to nervous first-time parents and provide gentle guidance. In addition to being a “baby whisperer,” I’m also a “parent whisperer,” which is why I want to discuss the importance of consequences in parenting.

The hot stove analogy

When was the last time you purposely placed your hand, palm down, on your stove’s hot burner? You haven’t, right? You don’t put your hand on a burner because, at some point, you learned that you’ll get burned. In other words, you know there will be a negative consequence to your action.

Whether you learned about the hot stove by being told or through experiment, you understand the importance of consequences. As a sleep consultant, most people associate me with newborns and infants, when I actually work with a lot of parents of toddlers. Toddlers are curious little creatures, so when I’m called for help sleep training a toddler, it’s often because curiosity and testing the boundaries of independence are ruling behavior. It’s normal.

Establishing routines and setting boundaries

One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children – apart from love – is that actions have consequences. Teaching consequences is all about establishing boundaries. If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, hang in there.

Whether it’s sleep training a toddler or teaching parents how to sleep train a baby, my approach is to establish a routine around naps and bedtime. A consistent pattern provides predictability and structure – after a couple weeks, your little one knows that it’s bedtime when you begin your routine (and acts accordingly). By teaching a consistent sleep routine, you’re essentially setting expectations and creating boundaries.

Toddlers are some of the greatest boundary-testers, and they’ll try to push each and every one of them, especially bedtime. They’re developing a sense of self and are experimenting with autonomy, which often comes out around bedtime. And because this boundary-pushing behavior often surrounds sleep in toddlerhood, I’m called in for help.

Where consequences come in

Working with parents on sleep training a toddler is partially about setting and establishing a routine and partially establishing consequences. And if this sounds harsh, look at it this way – your toddler isn’t able to set their own boundaries, so you have to do it for them.

Since many little ones have transitioned to a toddler bed by this age – or have mastered the art of climbing from their crib – getting out of bed during the night is a behavior that needs to be curtailed by enforcing consequences. And how you treat getting out of bed at night is the framework for how you’ll guide your toddler’s behavior by establishing consequences to their actions.

Applying consequences

As with anything, change takes time. You need a set routine to apply consequences to your little one’s actions, and it will go a little like this:

Give a warning. Tell your toddler what they’re doing wrong and let them know what the consequence will be if they continue to do what they’re doing. For example, if they’re getting out of bed, let them know that you’ll have to close their bedroom door (this is if you tend to crack the door).

Apply consequences. It could be closing a cracked door or simply not engaging with your toddler when they get out of bed at night. Your toddler will learn that it’s not fun to get out of bed at night if mommy and daddy don’t play or snuggle with them. For other daytime behaviors, you may enforce a time out spot as a consequence.

Be consistent. The only way to learn – anything – is through practice or repetition. Remain consistent in boundary-setting and applying consequences. It may take a week or two of closing the door or quietly steering your toddler back to bed, but they’ll get it eventually.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be consistent with your routines and responses. So many times, I have Philadelphia area parents – who I’ve worked with previously – sheepishly call me back. More often than not, their little ones are struggling with sleep because the parents relaxed or dropped the routine. It happens – a lot!

If you need to start from scratch or require a bedtime routine refresher, give me a call! Book a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation today.