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.

getting partner involved

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!  

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.

co sleep 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.

When Illness Causes Baby Sleep Problems

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

 

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

 

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

NIGHT WAKINGS

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

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

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

NIGHT FEEDS

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

MUSICAL ROOMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

transition-from-cosleeping

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

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

You Get Nothing Completed Throughout the Day (or Night)

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

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

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

You Find Strange Things in Your Bed

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

You’re Being Kicked From Within AND Without

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

You’re Shopping for a Larger Bed

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

Your Bedroom Looks Like a Summer Camp Cabin

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

You’ve Developed Ninja-like Skills

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

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

Help Your Newborn Sleep Longer

You’ve welcomed your newborn into the world, brought her home and are now navigating the ins and outs of new parenthood. You begin to ponder the ‘wisdom’ from well-meaning friends and family; they’ll tell you that sleep is a thing of the past now that you have a newborn, and that the words newborn and sleep are not, in any way, connected. You find yourself wondering if sleep deprivation really is a right of passage into parenthood.

newborn-sleep-longer

 

I’m not here to tell you that you won’t have sleepless nights, but I can tell you that it’s never too early to begin laying the foundation for healthy sleep habits with your newborn. Understanding newborn sleep patterns, and ways you can work with your new baby to help her sleep for longer stretches of time, is the first step toward a lifetime of healthy sleep for both your child and yourself.

Establishing a simple bedtime routine early can yield a big payoff in the months to come: sleep! Helping your newborn develop sleep skills, and learn to sleep for longer periods of time, is the key to establishing healthy practices. I’m going to tell you a little secret: the first step towards establishing newborn sleep habits is to put your little one down awake. Yes, awake.

You can begin by putting your baby into her crib in a drowsy state, but the goal is to work towards putting your newborn to bed in an increasingly wakeful state. Keep working on this for a few weeks, each time putting her down more wakeful than the previous night. Once you are able to put your baby to bed wide-awake, she is in a position to get herself to sleep on her own, paving the way towards longer stretches of nighttime sleep.

What about night feeds, you ask? If your baby has slept for a 4-5 hour period without eating, she’s proven that she is capable of sleeping longer without a feed. Once your baby is able to go to sleep on her own and sleep for a longer stretch of time, hold her to that standard; you know she can do it, so give her the opportunity to put those sleep skills to use!

If you find your baby waking an hour and a half in, but she’s proven that she can sleep for four to five hours in the past, don’t rush in. Is she really hungry, or is she simply transitioning between sleep cycles? Your first instinct will be to rush into your newborn’s room at the first sounds of fussing, but make yourself pause; wait five minutes to see if she can get herself back to sleep.

This pause is crucial to the development of your baby’s sleep habits – if you don’t allow her to practice the skills you’ve been working on, she won’t have the opportunity to execute the techniques she’s learned.

You’ll know that your hard work is paying off when the initial nighttime stretch of sleep is longer than others throughout the course of the night. It’s typical for the first period of nighttime sleep to last between four and five hours, with shorter stretches for the remainder of the night. You’ll find that the first block of nighttime sleep lengthens over time, with shorter stretches towards the early morning hours. Don’t be alarmed, this is a great sign! This sleep pattern is the consolidation of nighttime sleep process. The initial, longer stretch of sleep is what you are working on developing and making longer.

Questions? Please don’t hesitate to call or email me with questions about newborn sleep habits.

5 Ways Parents Sabotage Their Baby’s Sleep

Sleep-Sabotage

Your baby’s first year is typically marked by a blur of amazing milestones, and a healthy sleep routine is often the most difficult to master. Many parents are often surprised to find that they are often the cause behind their little one’s sleep difficulties. Today I’m going to share five ways parents unintentionally sabotage their little one’s restful sleep routine.

Don’t Be a Night Owl

With many parents working long hours, it can be tempting to keep little ones up late. Many parents will push back baby’s bedtime in order to spend a little more time with him/her, with some parents going so far as to wake their little one to fit in a snuggle. It can be tempting to push back bedtime, but you and your baby will be happier when you’re all well rested. Set an early bedtime and enforce it nightly.

Set a Routine…and stick to it

An integral part of your baby’s sleep patterns is teaching him/her when to sleep. By setting a sleep routine, your baby will know what to do and when to do it; this goes for naps and bedtime. Instead of hoping your baby will master the art of expecting the unexpected, set a sleep routine that leaves out the guesswork. Your routine can be as simple as setting bathtime for six o’clock each night, and running through a familiar BATH-BOTTLE/BREAST-BOOK-BED sequence. By six-thirty, your baby knows that it is time to sleep.

Help Your Baby To Peaceful Sleep
Help Your Baby To Peaceful Sleep

Don’t turn ON the lights!

Newborn and infant nights are marked with feedings and diaper changes, but those sleep interruptions don’t have to last an hour or more. The fewer stimuli you present during the night, the quicker your little one will fall back into a restful sleep.

No Midnight Dance Parties

It can be tempting to rock, bounce, walk, sway, and cajole your baby, in an effort to get him/her back to sleep in the middle of the night. Not only do some of these actions stimulate your baby into a more wakeful state, but you’re also sabotaging your little one’s ability to learn how to soothe him/herself back to sleep. Treat sleep like any other skill you practice with your baby during his/her first year; learning to sleep is a skill just as important as learning how to eat from a spoon, grasping objects, or even crawling. Save the dance parties for daylight hours.

Save the Helicopter for Flying

As tempting and instinctual as it is to rush to your infant’s crib at the sound of every mewl or whimper, try to give your little one time to soothe him/herself. Sleep is a skill, and babies need the time to learn how to effortlessly glide from one sleep cycle to the next. When parents rush in at the slightest peep, they are unintentionally disrupting a learning process [that adults take for granted]. When you hear your baby stir in the night, pause for a couple of minutes to allow your little one to soothe him/herself into the next sleep cycle.   As parents, we’re attuned to the needs of our children, and fostering healthy sleep habits is of the utmost importance. If your nights are disrupted, or bedtime is a battle, remember these five tips and get back on the road to restfulness.   Are you ‘0’ for ‘5’? Keep up the great work! Are you unintentionally sabotaging your little one’s sleep? A few adjustments will get you back on track.  Not sure where to start?  Contact me!   I want to hear from you!

Mistakes To Avoid For Baby Night Feedings

 

When we become first time parents (or even second or third time) to a newborn, we are so worried about so many different things such as baby night feedings, is the baby eating enough, pooping and peeing enough, are they sleeping too much during the day or not enough?

And are you recording all of it to share with the doctor during her first month well visit?

It can all get to be a bit overwhelming.

It boggles the mind that a person so teeny tiny can run us ragged and make us question everything.  Well, as my little gift to all of you new parents out there (whether it’s your first rodeo or not), I’d like to impart some wisdom that I have learned first through being a new parent myself (twice) and also through all of my training to become a child sleep consultantMistakes to avoid for baby night feedings.

Mistakes To Avoid For Baby Night Feedings

Mistake #1: Turning on the light when it is supposed to be night.

I too made this mistake when I was a first time mommy.  When my newborn awoke in the night to feed, I’d go into her room and turn on a light or two so I could properly see what I was doing while changing her diaper and making sure she latched on properly.  This is probably one of the worst things I could have done!  While I was in the process of trying to fix her day/night confusion, I was sabotaging my efforts by turning on the lights.  This sends the wrong signal to your little baby.  The signal that WAKE UP!  Let’s interact! Definitely not conducive to a healthy sleep environment.

While I recommend that parents make the daytime feedings as bright as possible, during the night I suggest that you accomplish the feed and everything that comes along with it in as much darkness as you possibly can.  Why?  Because we want the baby to learn that night time is boring and should be a time to sleep (because…well…there’s nothing better to do).  This means that if you can become a pro at changing the diaper in the dark…YOU ROCK!  Although those soiled diapers can cause a bit of a harder time to sort out if you can’t see what you are dealing with.  If you do need at least some light, make sure it is as low as possible and turn it off as soon as you no longer need it.  This will help keep your baby’s body in the zone for sleep and that much quicker to return to his or her crib or bassinet once the change and feed is complete.

Mistake #2: Late night TV – Catching up on all the shows on your DVR.

Sure, sitting in the dark while your baby takes her time feeding can be pretty tiring and boring.  I know I thought turning on the TV would help keep me awake through the feed and also keep me entertained.  Boy, could I have been more wrong.  It’s probably one of the worst things I could have done for my daughter’s sleep habits at night and my own.  Television equals entertainment.  It also equals stimulation via the picture and sound.  Televisions emit blue light which is stimulating to the human brain.  So while I was trying to keep myself entertained with the late, late show, I was also waking my brain (as well as my daughter’s) making it that much harder for me to go back to sleep once my babe was tucked back into her crib.  The sound was also a problem because it was causing a distraction for my daughter.  She should have been solely focused on eating.  Instead she was torn between her hunger and all the action coming from the TV.  Some of those early night feeds took forever.

Mistake #3: Cuddle them close, but don’t look them in the eye.

It’s the middle of the night.  You’re exhausted and all you want to do is sleep.  That’s a reasonable request from a sleep deprived parent.  To help get you tucked back into bed sooner, I recommend that when you are feeding your little one via nursing or bottle, do not make eye contact or talk to your newborn.  By doing so you again are stimulating the baby and rousing her more out of sleep.  While we don’t want to make a feeding a sleep prop (Heavens no!) we also want the little mister or miss to get down to business and eat so they can go right back to sleep once finished.  If you are not looking and smiling at or talking to the baby, he or she will again find the night time pretty boring and realize there is no pajama party going on in the wee hours of the morning.

Mistake #4:  If you are currently making the mistakes to avoid when feeding your newborn at night…

Relax!  You can fix it!  The great thing about newborns is that they haven’t been around too long to form deep rooted habits.  Tonight, follow the tips above and begin teaching your precious little bundle of joy that night time is for sleeping and daytime is for interacting and play (as well as many, many naps).

If you are finding that making the transition to becoming a new parent is a bit harder than you thought it would be.  I want to tell you that you are not alone.  I am available and more than ready to help you guide your baby on a path to healthy sleep habits.  I welcome you to contact me today 267-382-0826 and let me know that you would like to learn more about my Newborn Sleep Consultation.  Be sure to mention this blog post for a special discount.