5-Year Check-In with a Former Client

Today I’m changing things up and sharing a guest post from a former client of mine. Five years ago, Lauren called for help with her 8-month-old son, Declan. Declan wasn’t napping and was sleeping in clips of two to three hours at night, max. As a result, Lauren was deliriously tired and extremely emotional when she called for help. Now, five years later, Lauren shares how Declan is sleeping as he prepares to enter first grade.

 

Having some bedtime fun!

 

Years ago I wrote a one-year follow-up for Jennifer, and now I’m here to check-in at the five-year mark. The short answer is that all’s quiet on the home front and, having just turned six, Declan sleeps between ten and eleven hours a night. However, we still have to follow a bedtime routine to keep him on a schedule, and he’s unable to participate in some activities because of his early bedtime (he’s asleep by 7 p.m.). We’re used to this now, and I don’t think Declan’s life is suffering as a result (there are many more years of opportunity ahead).

Some things have become more evident with time, especially regarding the high level of alertness and difficulty we had with Declan sleeping as an infant. At the end of his kindergarten school year, Declan was evaluated and deemed to be highly gifted as a result of testing. Sleep issues are a commonality among gifted children — and adults — which explains some of the trouble we had early on. This study gives a brief overview of the incidence of sleep issues in the gifted population if you’re interested in reading more about the topic. We joked early on that Declan’s sleep issues were due to FOMO and his desire to take in every detail of the world around him — we weren’t far off. Once Declan got older, we integrated what I call a “brain dump” as part of his regular bedtime routine. After reading a book, we’d take a few minutes to talk about the day — or anything pressing on his mind — so that he wouldn’t lay awake processing instead of going to sleep.

The positive side of this is that while it’s common for gifted children to have issues sleeping, it’s not impossible for them to develop routines that help them get the sleep they so desperately need. In all, it took about a week of following Jennifer’s instructions to get Declan sleeping through the night and napping like a champ throughout the day — it is possible (and Declan never “cried it out” in the process). I’ve checked back with Jennifer throughout the years to consult with her about stumbling blocks, and each time it was because we needed to change what we were doing, whether it was removing all naps, transitioning Declan to a bed, or pushing bedtime back to a later time.

Declan and myself sharing some downtime.

 

I won’t say that Declan’s sleep is without issues today — that would be a lie. He’ll still try to weasel his way out of going to bed at least once or twice a week, and he’s out of sorts if vacation or other activities push his bedtime back. And then you have those times when Declan falls asleep on the bus ride home, making it a struggle to get him down that night, or those nights when he’s sick and materializes at our bedside in the middle of the night (so scary!). If we’re traveling late at night, we can usually tell when Declan’s fighting sleep because he starts talking a mile-a-minute. If we don’t engage him, we’ll be met with silence and then snores within minutes. Some days, especially those marked with a lot of physical activity or summertime swimming, Declan will admit to being tired (!) and express a desire to go to bed earlier. However, this rarely happens, but when it does, we know he must be exhausted, and we jump into action to get him ready for bed.

My only regret about contacting Jennifer those 5+ years ago is that I didn’t do it sooner. If you’re on the fence about hiring Jennifer to work with your family, let me reassure you that she’ll be with you along the way and will provide suggestions based upon your family’s needs and comfort level. Don’t go as long as we did; healthy sleep is so important for early childhood development, so get your little one on track as soon as possible!

 

THANKS LAUREN!

Attachment Parenting & Sleep Training

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: attachment parenting and sleep training are not mutually exclusive. Nope. And this may surprise some of you, but sleep training does not require you to leave your babies to cry themselves to sleep. Shocking, isn’t it? Sleep training is all about giving your baby the tools to sleep independently — which sounds at odds with attachment parenting, I know — in the sense that babies learn to go to sleep without a sleep crutch. You might even consider sleep your child’s first step towards independence.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely practicing attachment parenting in some form or another. Many parents I encounter don’t subscribe to all tenets of attachment parenting, but pick and choose the elements that work best for their family and beliefs.

Dr. Sears and attachment parenting

Popularized by William and Martha Sears, attachment parenting at its most basic involves being as close and as responsive as one can to their baby and its needs; and by having its needs met consistently a baby will grow into a well-adjusted, happy, healthy member of society. Attachment parenting materializes in the form of wearing your baby, breastfeeding on-demand, bed-sharing and responding to your baby’s cries immediately.

I’m not going to enter into a debate about parenting philosophies, except to say that I’m a neutral party here. The reality is that there is no evidence showing that attachment parenting is any better than other parenting philosophies — it merely aligns better with what some parents desire for their children.

Therefore, this blog is aimed at those parents who are in need of help with their baby’s sleeping habits, but feel conflicted; many of my attachment parenting clients share that they think that they’re “cheating” by utilizing sleep training. Look, who cares what it is as long as everyone in the family is sleeping healthily? No one needs to be a martyr here.

The Seven B’s

Dr. Sears was helpful enough to provide a bulleted list of main principles of attachment parenting that he termed, “The Seven B’s.” The Seven B’s include: Birth Bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bedding close to baby, Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry, Beware of baby trainers, and Balance.

Original attachment parenting concepts

I would, however, like to point out that the original tenets of attachment parenting were not so rigid. In fact, an Atlantic article points out that the originators of attachment parenting theory — psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby– glossed over breastfeeding and never mentioned co-sleeping. What Ainsworth and Bowlby emphasized was the importance of a mother being engaged with her baby while feeding it, not whether the baby was fed by breast or by a bottle, and that “a mother’s attention does make a difference.” The Atlantic article also points out that sleep and babywearing were never mentioned in the original attachment parenting discussion.

Where the uncertainty stems from

So, we know that babywearing, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding weren’t explicitly mentioned by the originators of attachment parenting theory, which makes the following quote from the Ask Dr. Sears site a bit outrageous:

Attachment parenting teaches you how to be discerning of advice, especially those rigid and extreme parenting styles that teach you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby; you know, the cry-it-out crowd. This “convenience” parenting is a short-term gain, but a long-term loss, and is not a wise investment. These more restrained styles of parenting create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child.

The above quote is in response to the Beware of baby trainers ‘B’ and is a little out there; anytime a philosophy doesn’t allow for anything to stray into the gray area, I question it. Just as every baby is different, every baby’s needs are different, and a baby that isn’t sleeping well needs a little assistance to get there. Helping your baby develop healthy sleep skills and habits does not “create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child.” In fact, you noticing that your baby is having issues sleeping, and teaching your baby sleep skills, means that you are an expert in your child.

If it ain’t broke…

Look, if your family is bedsharing and everyone is sleeping well, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re co-sleeping and your partner is now taking up residence on the couch in the other room, while you struggle to stay awake during the day from frequent night feedings and wake-ups, I’d say that bedsharing isn’t working for you and it may be time to consider other options. And one of those options is teaching your baby healthy sleep habits, which includes learning how to fall asleep independently.

The reality is that you cannot bedshare and teach your baby healthy sleep skills. Think about it, teaching babies to fall asleep independently isn’t feasible when mom is in arms’ reach at all times. And if you’re not ready to sleep in separate rooms, room sharing is a viable option for sleep training.

But the crying…

Again, sleep training does NOT require you to leave your baby to cry until they fall asleep. I do suggest giving your baby a few minutes to see if they can fall back to sleep on their own. But, the idea that sleep training requires parents to close the door at bedtime and leave their little ones until the next morning, regardless of the intensity or duration of their crying, is preposterous and, frankly, not at all accurate.

I hope I’ve alleviated any concerns you may have about sleep training and practicing attachment parenting. If you have further questions, or would like to talk about how I can help your family achieve healthy sleep, give me a call!

 

5 Common Myths About Sleep Training

Parenting can be a sensitive topic, and the advice is not in short supply. From the time you celebrate your baby shower to your first visitors in the hospital, you’re bombarded with “advice” on how to parent your baby. And likely, from the moment your baby is born, you’ll be asked how your baby is sleeping, even before your baby has had an opportunity to find their rhythm. So, as an ode to all of the awful and unsolicited advice new parents receive, I’m going to discuss five common myths about sleep training.

Your first week or two of being a parent inevitably blessed you with the most beautiful, peaceful baby who slept most of the hours in the day. You likely didn’t heed the advice of well-meaning friends and family who told you to sleep when your baby slept and took in every moment of your adorable sleeping beauty. And then your baby flipped days and nights and began to be awake more. Now you panicked and began scouring the internet for suggestions on how to get your baby to a.) sleep at night (like the rest of the human world), and b.) sleep longer. And in the process surfing the web for information, and checking out books on baby sleep, and getting well-meaning advice from friends, family, and strangers, you discovered that the wealth of information you were being given was conflicting, making you more confused than when you first began your research. Take a deep breath, put the bad advice, books, notes, printouts, and bookmarks aside and read on while I debunk common myths about sleep training.

1. If you let your baby sleep too much during the day, it will keep them up at night.

Unlikely, but it does occur on a rare occasion. Now, if your little one is sleeping through the day and not getting a wink of sleep at night, you may need to take a look at daytime napping, but again, “sleeping too much” is rarely the case. In fact, newborns need a lot of sleep, and I don’t recommend that your baby be awake for more than 2-2 1/2 hours at a time if they’re under six months of age. For newborns, that number is closer to 45 minutes to an hour.

You might be surprised to hear that overtiredness often keeps babies awake at night because it goes against what we think we know about sleep. The reality is that an overtired baby has missed falling asleep when they were tired, and their bodies are cycling back into wakefulness.

 

2. Sleeping is a natural development and can’t be taught.

Yes-ish. Everyone cycles through sleep stages through the night, waking and falling back asleep each night. You likely don’t remember waking because you already know how to slip right back into your next sleep cycle. However, babies can take some time to learn how to smoothly transition between sleep cycles.

If you’re in the habit of nursing or rocking your baby to sleep, your little one can become dependent on that motion or routine to fall asleep — we’ll call it a sleep crutch. As your baby cycles through sleep stages during the night, they wake and don’t know how to get themselves back to sleep without being nursed or rocked, so they cry out for you. Part of sleep training is teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently.

3. Babies will naturally dictate their sleep schedule.

In a perfect world, babies would regulate their own sleep needs and always be well-rested; unfortunately, this is not the case. Much like the constant care babies need with diapers and feeding, they rely on their caregivers to help them develop healthy sleep habits. Left unregulated, babies’ sleep cycles would become erratic; missing a sleep cycle by just 30 minutes can cause cortisol levels to elevate which is when we experience cranky babies who are overtired.

Read more about identifying baby sleep signals

4. Sleep training is stressful for the baby and can affect the parent-child attachment.

This is just not true. In fact, you may have consulted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for information about safe sleep practices, a source I’m sure you trust. Well, a 2016 study conducted by the AAP found that “Both graduated extinction and bedtime fading provide significant sleep benefits above control, yet convey no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.” And, both parents and babies slept better through the night — win-win!

5. Babies are not “designed” to sleep through the night.

Babies don’t come with manuals, so I’m not sure who dictated what babies are or are not “designed” for — sheesh! What I can tell you is that trusting your child’s physiology to dictate their sleep schedule, their eating habits or their behavior is a recipe for disaster.

Look, you’re obviously reading this for a reason — most likely because you’d like your baby to sleep better. I’m here to tell you that I can help you and your baby develop healthy, independent sleep habits that will have the entire family getting restful nights of sleep. When you’re ready to get started, give me a call to see how I can work with your family to guide you to healthy sleep.

 

Why Does My Baby Wake Up At 3 A.M.?

The witching hour. Sleep regression. Whatever you call it, early morning wakings can be the bane of any parent’s existence, especially when the alarm is set to sound just an hour or two after your baby begins crying. To better understand why your baby is waking at the literal crack of dawn, you need to understand a little more about humans and sleep.

 

It’s a chemical thing

You’ve likely heard about melatonin and its involvement in the sleep process, helping to balance circadian rhythms. When it comes to sleep, melatonin is like a warm bath, relaxing us and getting our brains ready to rest. On the flip side, our bodies release the hormone cortisol about three hours before our natural wake time. Cortisol acts as a stimulant and is released during times of stress, but also acts as our body’s way of waking itself up.

What happens in babies

Even with your baby’s cycle of melatonin and cortisol release — which can be working perfectly –, there can be some mishaps. Once your baby’s body begins releasing melatonin in preparation for sleep, there is only a small window of time for your baby to fall asleep. If your baby misses their melatonin window, their tiny body responds by releasing cortisol, which is why you’ll sometimes notice a surge of energy and wakefulness when it’s supposed to be bedtime.

The cycle

Now that you know how this cycle works, you can better understand the 3 a.m. wake up. Remember that your body begins releasing cortisol three hours before your natural wake time. If your baby’s circadian rhythm puts their natural wake time at 6 a.m., 3 a.m. would be the approximate time that their body stops releasing melatonin and begins to release cortisol. When the release of cortisol corresponds with the end of a sleep cycle, your baby will more than likely wake. However, babies who possess the skills to self-soothe and go back to sleep will wake but eventually drift back to sleep without a fuss — much like we adults do every night. Those babies who haven’t yet developed independent sleep skills, or who rely on a sleep prop, will wake fully and begin crying when they can’t fall back to sleep.

How to fix it

I’m often called by panicked parents who are desperate to “fix” their baby’s sleep problem. If your baby hasn’t developed the skills to sleep independently, and are thus waking early, then nothing is broken, it’s simply not yet learned. This is where the work comes in.

Know that your baby’s sleep isn’t going to be solved overnight, but know that you can take steps each day to help your baby learn how to sleep independently — and soundly.

I can’t say this enough — create an environment conducive to sleep. If you’ve not already, start by making necessary changes to your baby’s nursery. Add blackout curtains or shades to ensure that your baby’s room is nice and dark — perfect for encouraging continual melatonin release through the night. Remove the ceiling projectors and any other bright or shiny items that may stimulate your baby — you want your baby’s nursery to be boring so that they’ll want to sleep. 

Finally, make sure that you’re committed to a consistent and predictable sleep schedule. Keeping a consistent sleep routine can better train your baby’s body to work in tandem with their natural circadian rhythm. And most importantly, make sure you’re teaching your baby the skills they need to sleep independently.

If you’re unsure how to teach your baby to sleep independently, give me a call. I offer a free 15-minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your situation, so book a call now.

The Four-Month Sleep Regression

Google the phrase “sleep regression.” C’mon, I dare you. What do you see? A lot of articles with words like dreaded, survive, beat in the titles. Like anything, something simple can quickly become alarming when put into a negative context — much like sleep regression in babies. The reality is that the four-month sleep regression isn’t a regression at all. How about that?

 

The word itself is alarming as it typically denotes taking a step back or as the dictionary says, “a return to a former or less developed state.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s take a look.

What sleep regression isn’t

There’s a tendency to label any rough nights (or days) a baby has as a sleep regression, which just isn’t the case. The reality is that babies undergo a tremendous amount of physical, mental and emotional growth and development in their first year of life, which often affects sleep and understandably so. Teething is often the culprit, as are growth spurts and other developmental milestones. It’s happening because your baby is developing and moving forward not backward.

Sleep stages

To better understand what is going on with your 4-month old, it helps to have an understanding of sleep, in general. Sleep is comprised of four stages which, when combined, make up the human sleep cycle and is repeated throughout our slumber.

Stage 1

This is the stage when you’re just drifting off, maybe you’re losing your place in your book or your eyes are closing to the sound of the television — stage one is a snoozing stage.

Stage 2

This is the stage that is considered entering into an actual sleep state. If you wake from this second stage, you definitely realize that you’d been sleeping just moments before.

Stage 3

If sleep was a competitive sport, stage three would be just beneath the level of greatness — you want to reach this place, it’s great for your body, but you still have more work to do.

Stage 4

Nirvana. In stage four of the sleep cycle, you hit REM sleep and your brain begins to recoup from the day — this is the state of dreams.

Newborn sleep stages

Your newborn only cycles through two sleep stages for the first few months of their life — stage three and stage four or REM sleep, the two deepest cycles. New parents should take in this time as it’s when their baby will be sleeping the soundest with no outside help.

What happens around month 4

Around month three or four — as your baby is developing — your baby begins to expand their sleep cycles into the four stages. When this happens, your baby transitions from spending half of their sleep time in REM to only a quarter. And with more time spent in lighter sleep stages, there’s more opportunity for your baby to wake.

Where problems arise is when parents see this as a regression in sleep — the reality is that this is the time that your baby is developing and learning how to transition throughout the stages of sleep they’ll be cycling for the remainder of their lives and it’s a big change! There will be a disruption of sorts in the sleep cycle as your baby learns how to smoothly transition between sleep stages. As adults, we typically slide through the sleep stages effortlessly, without even remembering waking between — your baby hasn’t developed that skill yet, which is why they’re waking more at this time.

Remove the props

Up until this time, you may have been swaddling your baby for sleep or using a pacifier to calm them at bedtimes and nap-times. Now that they’re spending more time in a lighter sleep, they’re going to notice that the pacifier has dropped from their mouth when they cycle between stages, or they’ll notice that their little body isn’t wrapped snuggly and their startle reflex may wake them. This is the time when you want to remove sleep props so that your little one doesn’t begin to form sleep associations (that can easily become sleep disruptors).

Create the perfect environment

This is the time you want to perfect your baby’s sleep environment, if you haven’t already. Make sure that the room is cool and dark without any distractions — you want to create a space that allows your baby to focus on transitioning through sleep stages and resting, not becoming alert and wanting to play.

 

If you reframe how you view what is commonly known as the four-month sleep regression and instead view it as yet another opportunity for your baby to grow, you’ll be in great shape to get through this phase. And if you feel you need support, don’t hesitate to contact me! I offer a free 15-minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!

 

How to Drop to One Nap

Just when it seems you’ve gotten into a comfortable rhythm of morning and afternoon naps, your baby’s sleep behavior begins to change, and you start to wonder what’s causing the disruption. Are you sitting down? The culprit may be that your baby…needs less sleep. There, I said it. It’s entirely possible that the changes you’re witnessing are signs that your baby is ready to transition to one nap a day.

Signs your baby is ready

Before you begin panicking — and I get it, those naptime hours were the times you got to relax a little and focus on things you needed to accomplish — make sure your baby really is ready to transition from two naps to one.

You may find that your baby is completely rocking their morning nap, and then struggling to go down in the afternoon. Or maybe your little one struggles to go down for their afternoon nap two or three days in a row, and then completely conks out for their afternoon nap on the fourth day. The rule of thumb here is that if your baby is struggling to go down for their afternoon nap the majority of the days in a week, it’s a good sign that they’re ready to transition to one nap.

Another sign that your baby is ready to transition to one nap is if they’re rocking both their morning and afternoon naps, and then wide awake when bedtime rolls around. If your baby is taking an hour or more past their usual bedtime to settle into sleep, it’s a good sign that they’re ready to drop a nap.

Because developmental milestones happen often, and can typically cause changes in sleep, you want to make sure that your child’s disrupted sleep pattern lasts at least two weeks before deciding to transition to a single nap per day. While the two week period may be difficult, it’s worth knowing whether or not it’s time to make a change (rather than having to backtrack later). And on that note, once you’re sure your baby’s sleep issues aren’t due to a growth spurt, make sure that you’re committed to transitioning to one nap, because you definitely do not want to waver here — it’s confusing for baby and more work for you — so stick to it.

How to transition to one nap

While the steps to transitioning your baby from two naps to one may look incredibly easy, realize that the transition will happen over time — as much as you may want to, do not rush the process.

Begin by pushing your baby’s morning nap a half hour later every three days, until naptime is at 12:30pm. Know that this transition can take anywhere between 4-6 weeks, so be patient and trust the process. If you don’t rush, you’re more likely to commit to this schedule change, and everyone will be happy.

I know, I know, pushing your baby’s naptime back is no easy feat, now that they’re firmly into a sleep schedule. To make things a little easier, try to avoid going for car rides or walks with the stroller during your baby’s usual naptime, to prevent them from falling asleep (and derailing their transition’s progress). Try engaging your little one in a physical activity during their typical naptime, to try to distract them from their fatigue. If need be, give your baby a piece of fruit to give them just enough pep to make it until their newer, later naptime.

You may also find it helpful to temporarily move up your baby’s bedtime, just until they adjust to their new schedule. Don’t worry if you encounter inconsistencies on your baby’s part along the way, it’s important that you remain consistent, and their little body will follow along shortly.

If you hit a rough spot in your baby’s nap transition, just think of how much freer you’ll be once your baby is down to one, middle-of-the-day nap — it’s so worth it!

If you’re having difficulty transitioning your little one down to one nap a day, feel free to reach out to me to see if you can benefit from my help.

 

Does Teething Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

Teething symptoms in babies is much debated — just ask your pediatrician…and then poll your friends. Some pediatricians will say that an elevated temperature is not a sign or symptom of teething, but ask parents of multiple children and they’ll tell you otherwise. A quick internet search will yield results listing a handful of baby teething symptoms, but what you rarely see listed is disturbed sleep patterns.

Timing of teething

Many of my clients often feel that their baby has just gotten the hang of a healthy sleep routine when it’s suddenly derailed. And if this sleep regression happens between the ages of 4 and 7 or 8 months, teething typically gets the blame.

Teething symptoms

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — a good source of answers to all of your baby questions — does concede that teething in babies may be accompanied by some not-so-fun side effects; it’s interesting to note that their listing of signs and symptoms of teething is preceded by the following statement:  “Teething occasionally may cause….” Notice the word in italics. The reality of many parents with teething babies is much different than an occasional symptom or associated discomfort, and you’ve likely experienced anecdotes from both sides — not a single symptom or side-effect, or a completely miserable, drooling baby.

The AAP’s official stance is that teething may — occasionally — cause and/ or be accompanied by mild irritability and crying in your baby (no surprise there because, ouch.). Your baby may also exhibit a low grade temperature — not exceeding 101 degrees Fahrenheit — excessive drooling, a desire to chew on something hard, and have swollen, tender gums.

Teething and sleep

What the AAP doesn’t mention is that your baby’s sleep may be disrupted during this uncomfortable period. It stands to reason that, if your baby is experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with teething, those symptoms won’t simply disappear during naptime and nighttime. And, as any good parent does, you want to do whatever you can to take away any of your baby’s pain or discomfort, by any means possible. Am I right?

The truth is that teething can disrupt your baby’s sleep, but it can also derail any progress you’ve made with sleep training, if you suddenly decide to run in at the sound of the first wimper. Now, I’m not saying you should leave your baby to cry when they’re in pain, but you shouldn’t use teething as an excuse to fall back into bad sleep habits, either.

According to a Parents.com article, parents may give their baby Tylenol to help reduce teething pain. However, the article warns that, while teething can cause sleep disruptions, a change in behavior — a disinterest in playing or inability to be distracted — can be a sign of something other than teething. In essence, teething isn’t so painful that your baby should be crying incessantly; if this is the case, you need to call your pediatrician.

As you would at any other time, give your baby some time to calm themself when they awake from sleep crying. I’m not saying to completely ignore a baby in distress, but don’t disregard the pause just because your baby is teething. Allowing your baby to work through the discomfort and self-soothe will ensure that they’re getting the sleep they need for their growing body, tooth buds and all!

Is your little one having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and you are sure it’s more than teething?  Let’s chat! Please reach out to me!  Visit me HERE and get in touch for a complimentary sleep assessment.

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.