4 Tips for Getting Baby to Sleep Better

Stop putting it off. I mean this in the nicest of ways, but if you keep saying you’ll get around to getting baby to sleep better, the reality is that you’re putting off the inevitable. And if your baby isn’t sleeping well, the longer you wait to make changes to their sleep routine, the harder those changes will be to make. In an effort to make things super easy for you, I’m throwing out four easy tips for getting baby to sleep better, that you can implement today. I mean, why do it tomorrow if you can do it today, right?

 

Tips for getting baby to sleep better

 

Keep it dark

Have you ever tried sleeping in the middle of the day? Unless you’ve outfitted your room, or are sneaking down to the basement for a quick nap, you’re going to be met with sunlight streaming in through the windows. Darkness is where it’s at, and as soon as you create a dark environment, the sooner your baby will understand that bedtime or naptime is coming.

Blackout shades or blinds are the easiest, and most inexpensive, fixes for a bright room; if you’re installing blinds, it’s imperative that you have them cut exact, or else you’ll have tiny beams of light cutting through the room like little lasers.

One thing many parents don’t think of is the light of the television or other electronics. Electronic screens emit blue light, which serves to keep baby (and you) alert and awake, opposite of your desired effect. The body needs darkness to trigger the release of melatonin, which aids in sleep, so turn off the electronics, or move to another room, at least an hour before baby’s bedtime.

Keep it cool

If you’re anything like me, your sinuses get dry and you become stuffy in the winter, when household heat is running constantly. And when I can’t breathe well, I don’t sleep well — it’s no different for babies. That feeling of snuggling into the warmth of your covers, body covered from the cool air of the room? So cozy! And babies love it, too.

Not only do babies sleep best in a cooler room — ideally between 65 and 70 degrees — it’s also safer for them. A hot room can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS, so keep the heat down and use a sleep sack or layered onesie to keep your baby core temperature up, making them comfortable while they sleep.

Keep it boring

Take a look around your nursery. Do you have bright prints on the walls? Maybe a mobile above the crib or hanging from the ceiling. How about one of those super cool, light-up faux aquariums that attach to the side of the crib? The reality is that all of these things are wonderful for stimulating your little one’s mind, but terrible for a quiet, comfortable sleep environment.

Instead, use your playroom, or a nook in your living room to create an area of stimulation for your baby, and try to keep all of the bright colors, lights and toys out of your nursery. Without much to look at, or play with, your baby will do what they’re meant to do in the nursery — sleep.

If you don’t already have one, consider adding a white noise machine to your nursery, to filter out the background noise of household activity or environmental noise. If you have other children, a white noise machine can be your baby’s sleep savior!

Keep it predictable

Think about how you perform when you have a set routine — you may even already practice a nightly bedtime routine. The truth is, babies respond extremely well with a consistent bedtime routine because they’re able to pick up on the cues.

Once you’ve taken them into the quiet of their nursery, perhaps reading them a book by a soft light, or giving them a warm bath, your baby starts to produce melatonin. Your baby’s body begins to relax, knowing that slumber is imminent, and they’re ready to welcome sleep.

While these tips for getting baby to sleep better are simple, and easy enough to begin implementing today, know that it will take some time for your baby to adjust to the changes. If you stay consistent, both you and your baby will reap the rewards of a healthy, restful night of sleep.

Getting Your Partner Involved

Take a look at nights in your household. Are you and your partner sharing nighttime duty equally, or is one of you the go-to person for nighttime wake-ups, while other partner sleeps soundly and pinch-hits on occasion? If the latter is the case, don’t worry, it’s completely normal and I see it all of the time with the families I work with. However, today I’m going to talk about what we can do to get both of you on a level playing field with your baby’s sleep routine.

Before we get into the debate about dads and the term “babysitting,” I want to clarify that “partner” means “other party,” as in, the partner not most actively involved in baby’s nighttime wakings. In my experience, babies waking throughout the night typically are relying on external sleep props, and most often the sleep prop in question is nursing; this obviously leaves out dads.

When nursing is used as a sleep prop, moms are often up and down throughout the night, shuffling between the bedroom and the nursery, or between the bed and the crib. When this is happening multiple times throughout the night, mom begins feeling the effects of the constant sleep disruptions, and baby is being deprived of the skills they need to be able to navigate, on their own, between sleep cycles.

After time, mom may become resentful, after waking for the umpteenth time during the night, listening to the sounds of their partner enjoying a restful night of sleep. And those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions can be brutal, not only because of the frequency and how disruptive they are to mom’s sleep, but because of how the mind wanders in those quiet, nighttime nursing moments. I can’t tell you how many times sleep deprived moms have confided in me about a deep resentment and frustration — even anger — with their partners, because they, alone, are in charge of nighttime wakings (while dads get to sleep through the night).

If you’re one of those moms, know that you’re not alone, but also know that so many of those dads feel helpless as well. In fact, many of those dads are incredibly supportive, but at a loss for ways they can help, apart from waking with their wives and keeping them company throughout the night — while this is sweet, it just means that both partners will suffer the effects of disrupted sleep, and that’s not good for anyone in the family.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sleep training can change your nighttime dynamics. No, seriously. You see, sleep training often goes smoother when the dad takes charge. Dads don’t have milk to offer, which babies realize, so this often is the key to breaking the association between nursing and sleep. When dads respond to babies’ calls in the night, they quickly learn to fall asleep independently. Dads get to become the heroes, and moms get to enjoy nights of uninterrupted sleep — everyone wins!

Take this former client, for example. She and her husband turned to me for help, with an 8 ½ month old baby boy who didn’t nap and was up multiple times throughout the night. The mom hadn’t had more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep since the baby had been born and was at her wits-end with fatigue. I quickly stepped in and ordered the mom to a different floor in the house, leaving dad to nighttime duty. This is what she had to say:

Before Jennifer came in to help us, I was delirious with sleep. After I forgot to buckle our son’s car seat into the car — for the second time — I knew that my lack of sleep had become dangerous, and it was time to do something about it.

When Jennifer told us that I would not be handling nighttime duties, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like not having to wake with my son throughout the night; my husband was definitely on-board and wanted to help however he could, but he couldn’t believe that our son could sleep through the night, either.

The first night of sleep training, both my son and I slept through the night. I would have slept longer, except my breasts were about to burst after six, glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep! My husband reported only two night wakings, both of which lasted less than five minutes before our son went back to sleep. Without me rushing in to nurse, he was able to navigate himself back to sleep, and I was able to reclaim precious hours of sleep myself.

Letting dad take the lead may be just what you need to get you and your baby into healthy sleep routines, but you have to be willing to let your husband step in. I’ll give him instructions for what to do throughout the night, while you just need to keep yourself sequestered and sleeping.

 

If you’re ready to take back your nights, give me a call so that we can discuss the best plan of action for your family!

Schedule a time to talk with me now!  

How to Create the Perfect Nursery

Whether you’ve been trying to conceive for a long time, or discovered you were unexpectedly…expecting, at some point your thoughts have turned to the nursery. What room to use, what crib should you pick out, bedding, decor, and then maybe, just maybe, you thought about something practical, such as a changing station (but not likely). If you want to save yourself some time, and some sleepless hours, you’ll follow my advice for creating the perfect nursery — and it has nothing to do with matching paint chips with potential themes.

 

 

Skip the fun stuff

I know, I know, you’ve always wanted to create a bright, colorful, themed nursery, and you have the Pinterest board to prove it. And while that nursery will likely photograph really well and look like a lively and happy place to be, it’s counterintuitive to your baby getting healthy sleep.

Call me the fun police or a spoilsport, but the reality is that those nurseries with colorful characters, decorations and hanging mobiles only serve to provide stimulation, instead of a calm and restful atmosphere. Try to keep your baby’s nursery walls free from bright and/ or busy prints (blank walls are ideal), and keep to a muted color scheme, to ensure that your baby isn’t scanning the walls and decorations when they’re supposed to be sleeping. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of opportunities to decorate your little one’s bedroom in the future.

Go dark

Perhaps one of the best investments you can make for your baby’s nursery, and likely one of the only items in there that will stay, long after the toddler years are gone, are blackout curtains, blinds or shades.

How well are you able to sleep with daylight pouring through the window? Probably not so well without a sleeping mask, but unfortunately, your baby doesn’t have that option. Creating a dark room for your baby will help them fall asleep without a lot of fuss, especially for those daytime naps and lengthy summer daylight hours. Your baby is already comfortable in the dark, having spent ten months in your wonderfully dark womb, so creating a sleep environment that mimics that is ideal.  

The cooler the better

Not only do babies sleep best in a cooler room — ideally between 65 and 70 degrees — it’s also safer for them. A hot room can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS, so keep the room cool and use a sleep sack or onesie to keep your baby comfortable while they sleep.    

Think Princess and the Pea

Just like the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale, your baby won’t be able to sleep well if they’re uncomfortable, and remember, they sleep most of the day. Put the money you’d planned to spend on nursery decorations towards a comfortable and safe crib mattress. For safety reasons, your baby’s mattress should be firm, as soft mattresses can pose a suffocation risk.

While you may be disappointed by your lack of nursery flair, I guarantee you’ll thank me once you bring your baby home and they’re sleeping soundly. If you’re unsure about your baby’s nursery, or have concerns about your little one’s sleep, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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!

Can I Co-sleep and Sleep Train?

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you’re wondering if you and your baby can co-sleep and sleep train, it’s probable that something just isn’t working for you. If something’s not working for your baby’s (or your own) sleep habits, my job as a pediatric sleep specialist is to help you find what works. And if you’re not ready to make some major changes, you’re not going to like what I have to say. The short answer is that no, you can not co-sleep with your baby and sleep train.

 

Notice that I didn’t say that room sharing was off-limits. I’ll get to that later, but right now, I want to address bed-sharing and sleep training. Co-sleeping is a personal decision, and I work with families with all types of sleeping arrangements — my job is to address concerns and come up with solutions that work for both parents and babies. I find that those co-sleeping families who contact me are looking for one of two solutions; they either want to transition their child from their bed, or they simply want their little one to sleep better while bed sharing.

Personalized transitions

If you’re looking to transition your child from your bed, I can definitely help your little one make a smooth transition. My approach to moving your little one out of your bed, and into their own, is tailored to your family’s needs. I take a look at your baby’s existing sleep habits, their personality and temperament, and come up with a personalized plan to make your baby’s transition, from your bed to their own, work for the entire family.

Co-sleeping and sleep associations

Those of you who came to this article through an internet search, in hopes of finding a way to better streamline your baby’s sleep habits while bed sharing, are not ready for my assistance — and that’s fine! When you are ready to transition your baby out of your bed, give me a call and I’ll be more than happy to help.

But now you’re probably wondering why I can’t help you now. Let me explain.

The majority of my co-sleeping clients bed share because there is an established breastfeeding relationship. Co-sleeping makes mother’s breast accessible throughout the night, and as a result, the breast becomes a sleep prop or a sleep association. This means that each time your baby wakes at the end of a sleep cycle, they head right to the breast — hungry or not — to soothe themself back to sleep. The longer that association remains, the more difficult it is for your baby to be able to transition between sleep cycles on their own.

Think about it. You, perhaps unknowingly, have sleep strategies you employ when you wake in the night. Maybe you shift positions, re-adjust your pillow or blankets, or maybe you take a quick drink of water. Whatever it is that you do to get yourself comfortable enough to go back to sleep can be likened to your baby’s need to nurse themself back to sleep. And in order to break the association between nursing and sleep, your breast needs to be inaccessible to them.

Room sharing as an alternative

Remember when I said I didn’t rule out room sharing? While not ideal, those parents who strongly desire to stay in close proximity to their baby can set up a crib in their room, or attach a sidecar to their bed (but a sidecar may make it even more difficult to break the breast-sleep association). The most important thing is that you’re happy with your sleeping arrangements.

I will leave you with this — the longer a sleep habit persists, the more difficult it is to change. And the longer your child shares your bed, the more difficult it will be to get them to sleep on their own. But when they do make that transition, they’ll acquire the sleep skills they need to have independent, healthier, sounder sleep, which is especially important during the formative years.

If you’re ready to make a change, or are simply wondering if a sleep consultant is right for you, contact me to set up a complimentary 15-minute phone sleep assessment by clicking HERE.

 

BONUS: Did you catch my interview today with Jim Masters of CUTV.  If not, take a listen HERE.

Eight Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

Eight Tips For Easing Separation Anxiety

Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well.  One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around.

The thought process, it would appear is one of…

  • Mommy’s not in the
  • Therefore, Mommy is somewhere
  • I would prefer to be there with
  • Make that happen, or mark my words, I shall raise the most unimaginable of And those ruckuses leave us, as parents, to wonder, “Am I doing something wrong?

After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Beth from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her sitter, even overnight. And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”

About Separation Anxiety: Two things to keep in mind.

First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always conveyed through the rosiest of lenses.

And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child.

So what is it, exactly?

Separation anxiety typically starts to occur around 6-8 months of age, when your little one starts to realize that things continue to exist, even when they’re not in sight. It’s a cognitive milestone known as “object permanence” which is defined as, “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.”

In other words, out of sight no longer means out of mind.

So as your baby begins to grasp this concept, they realize that if you, their favorite person in the whole world, are not there, you’re elsewhere. And, hey, wait a minute. If that’s the case, then you might not be coming back.

It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it, but it’s also a little heartbreaking. This realization, for a baby, is obviously cause for full-blown panic. The thought of a parent leaving and not returning causes anxiety in most grown-ups I know, so you can hardly expect an infant to take it with great decorum.

Anyways, that’s what happens in your little one’s brain when they suddenly start having a fit every time you leave the room. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s a sign that your little one is learning, and that they have a secure attachment to their parent. Awesome.

But, as many of us know, it also means that leaving them with a sitter or dropping them off at day care can be an absolute horror show.

But what we really want to know, or at least what I really wanted to know when it happened with my children, isn’t “What’s causing this?” What I wanted to know was, “How do I prevent it?”

Well, the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to if you could. I mean, really, wouldn’t you be just a little devastated if you left your child with a stranger and they were just completely OK with it? “Bye Mom! See you at dinner!

 

Don’t worry about me. You guys have fun!”

I’m guessing that would actually be significantly more troubling than some tears and howling.

But we obviously want to keep things at a happy medium, and if you’re struggling with a child who’s pitching an absolute fit every time you try to run an errand or head out for date night, I’ve got some suggestions to take the edge off until this phase runs its course.

1.    Lead by Example

Your little one follows your cues, so if you’re not willing to let her out of your sight, they probably, albeit un- consciously, feel like they’re not safe if you’re not in the room. So designate a room where they can explore a little and play without your direct supervision. It’s a small adjustment, but it has a tremendous effect.

2.    Don’t Avoid It

Learning about separation and reunion is an important milestone, so don’t just take the path of least resistance and stay with your child 24/7 until they’re seven years old. (It happens. Believe me.) Let them know that it’s okay for them to get upset when you leave and reassure them that you’ll always come back when you do. If there are some tears around it, that’s alright. This is an important concept that they need to get on board with.

3.    Start Slow

Once your little one has started to demonstrate the understanding that they’ll be spending some time with someone besides a parent, make it a short outing. Don’t plan on dinner and a movie or an overnighter for the first few attempts.

4.    Start With Someone Familiar

Kids typically do a little better being left with a grandparent or family friend who they’ve already spent some time with, and who they’ve grown to trust a little, so call in a favor, put some wine in the fridge, and plan to spend at least an hour away from the house for the first few attempts.

5.    Stick Around for a While

After your sitter, parent, friend, or whoever is watching your little one arrives, plan to hang around for a half hour or so. Seeing that this is someone you’re familiar with will go a long way in reassuring your child that they’re “good people” and worthy of their trust.

6.    Face the Music

Many of us have, at least once, attempted to distract our toddlers and then sneak out the door without saying goodbye. After all, it’s the goodbye that provokes the reaction, right? But even if it provokes some tears, it’s important for your child to understand that you’re going to leave sometimes, and that you’ll be back when you say you will.

7.    Establish a Routine

Much like bedtime, a solid, predictable goodbye routine helps your little one recognize and accept the situation. A set number of kisses and hugs, a memorable key phrase, and a clear indication of when you’ll be back should be just the right balance of short and reassuring.

8.    Speak in Terms They’ll Understand

Instead of telling them how long you’ll be gone, tell them when you’ll be back in regards to their schedule. After nap time, before bed, after dinner, before bath time, and so on.

Nothing is going to prevent your child from getting a little bit upset when you leave, (And as I said before, thank the stars for that, because if they didn’t, oh your poor heart,) but you can definitely keep the fuss to a minimum.

Now, I should add here that these techniques are suggested for kids who are dealing with ordinary, everyday separation anxiety. There is also a condition called Separation Anxiety Disorder which is obviously more serious and warrants a trip to your pediatrician if you suspect your little one might be afflicted with it.

But for run-of-the-mill fit-pitching when you try to leave the house for an hour or two, these tips should go a long way towards remedying the problem. Be consistent, supportive, assertive, and calm. Before long, your child will understand the concept of you leaving and coming back.

In fact, this concept that will also come in handy when you start to leave them alone in high school.

“I’m leaving for the night, but rest assured, I’m coming back. So you just remember that before you invite your rowdy friends over.”

But until then, if you feel like your little one’s separation anxiety has led to some not so great sleep habits…I’m here to help.  A FREE Sleep Assessment call is just a click away.  SCHEDULE A CALL WITH JENNIFER

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8 New Year, New Mom Resolutions

This one goes out to all of the new moms out there — you know who you are. You may feel like you’re in the trenches, and you are, but the new year is the perfect time to claw your way out. In case you don’t have the time to come up with any resolutions, or a lack of sleep has completely zapped your brain power, I’ve come up with some suggested resolutions that all new moms can adopt.

 

 

1. Burn nursing bra

Yep, when was the last time you wore a regular bra? If you’ve paused for more than two seconds to ponder that question, then it’s time to light the nursing bra bonfire. Besides, those things do absolutely nothing to support the girls, so you’re doing them a favor.

2. Stop wearing maternity clothes

Yes, I know how comfortable they are, but how long are you going to wear panel pants after your baby has left the womb? If you want to have an accurate gauge of where your body is post-baby, the best thing for you to do is to go back to regular clothing.

3. Be kinder to body

Look, gravity may have made your belly look like a sad pancake once the baby came out, but know it won’t stay this way forever. Also remind yourself that, unless your body plays an integral part in your livelihood, it’s okay to not be back to your pre-baby body two weeks after giving birth. Remember that your body just did the most amazing thing ever — it grew a HUMAN — and it expanded over the course of nine months. Give it time and be kind to yourself.

4. Make Target run at least once a week

If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you need to be able to step away to preserve your sanity…even if it’s for a 30-minute or hour long trip to Target. I know a mom who used to head to Target once a week, after her husband got home, just to window shop and walk the aisles. And while that hour was liberating for her, and necessary to clear her head [and feel like a human again], she still felt guilty about feeling overwhelmed and needing a break. What’s your Target?

5. Ditch the guilt

Going to the gym, stepping away to take a shower, returning to work, allowing a friend or family member to a.) watch the baby while you sleep, b.) prepare or bring over a healthy, home cooked meal, or c.) both of the above — whatever it is that’s making you feel guilty, you need to get rid of it. Seriously. Not a single person on this planet is perfect, especially a new mom running on a handful of hours of sleep. In fact, enjoy the fact that you can be a space cadet and step away from your mom-duties for a moment now, because it’s all over once your baby learns to talk.

6. Devise sock system

The key to avoiding disappearing socks is to create a system early. It can be as simple as doing baby laundry in a separate load, or, taking that one step further and buying a dedicated lingerie back, just for baby socks. Whatever it is, get on it before the socks begin disappearing (and they disappear fast!).

7. Cut caffeine intake

I know, this sounds a little like a Bridget Jones Diary entry, but really, try to cut your caffeine intake. Make it a point to replace half of your daily coffee/tea/soda intake with water — your body will thank you.

8. Call a sleep consultant

If your baby just isn’t sleeping, causing the rest of the family to lose sleep, it’s time to call for backup. It can be difficult to ask for help sometimes, but this is not something you want to put off, especially if everyone can start getting more sleep.

Call me today for a complimentary 15-minute phone consult, to see if your family can benefit by working with me.

 

How Screen Time Affects Your Child’s Sleep

While digital tech was invented to be a time saver and tool of efficiency, and it is, research is showing how excessive media access is eating away at quality time and creating health habits that are inefficient for growing children. And while those electronic devices are having a myriad of negative affects on our little ones, I want to focus on some recent findings about screen time and sleep.

 

Screens and sleep research findings

Now that tablets and smartphones have been around for a decade, studies are beginning to release reports on the very real ways screen time is affecting our children’s sleep habits.

We know how important the role of sleep is for healthy child development — from infants to preschoolers (and beyond) — which is why it surprises me that companies are now developing and marketing apps to babies as young as six months old! The earlier screens and mobile electronic devices are introduced, the greater the effects of screen time on our children’s health and well-being.

Study after study has reiterated how important the role of sleep is to the cognitive development of children, especially in the first two years. Per Scientific Reports:

…reduced sleep duration in the first two years of life may have long-term consequences on later developmental outcomes. These findings are mirrored by several follow-up studies in children and adolescents, showing significant associations between sleep difficulties or irregular bedtime and later problems with mental and physical health and lower cognitive and academic performance.

For example, a study published in Scientific Reports found that extending down the age of screen time exposure, to infants and toddlers, correlated with disrupted sleep in those babies. The study followed babies, ranging in age from six to thirty-six months old, and their interactions with mobile electronic devices, such as tablets or smartphones. The findings are eye-opening, pertaining to those infants and toddlers with daily screen use, finding that the amount of overall sleep lost by babies 6-36 months old, per hour of screen time use (over maximum guidelines), amounted to 15.6 minutes. Wow.

In addition, a review of over five dozen studies, targeting children ages 5 through 17, found that “more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.”

 

Recommendations

So what exactly are the recommended screen time guidelines? Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), screen time recommendations are as follows:

  • For children under 18 months old, screen time should be limited to video chatting
  • Children 18-24 months should only be exposed to high-quality media, with parents watching alongside to help them understand and engage with what they’re watching
  • Children 2-5 years old should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming; again, parents should watch along with them to help them make real world connections
  • Children 6 years and older should have established and consistent limits on the time spent using media, with parents ensuring that digital media doesn’t take the place of sleep, physical activity or real-life personal interactions

Strategies for managing screens and sleep

I think the first step to managing screen time in your home is paying attention to your own habits, in addition to those of other household members. Take a look at what those apps geared towards babies and toddlers are teaching, and replicate those activities with physical play, blocks and flashcards. As tempting as it may seem (we all need a bathroom break), make sure that you’re supervising all screen time activity with your little ones, and engage your child as they interact with media. And most importantly, for both you and your child, shut off devices (this includes the television) at least an hour prior to bedtime, to reduce blue light exposure. Lastly, for those of you with older children, make sure that mobile devices and screen electronics do not go into the bedroom at night.

 

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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?