How To Sleep Train A Baby: Potty Training Edition

toddler-potty-training

Ah, yes. You’ve come to the point where your little one is sleeping well, but it’s time to potty train at night. No more diapers, no more training pants, we’re talking about how to sleep train a baby to get through the nighttime potty training phase. Don’t panic, we’ll get through this together.

Day training

If you’re just at the beginning of the potty training journey, look away, focus on the days, and come back and read this in six months or so. Both you and your little one have enough to handle with the daytime milestone, so you want your baby to become a daytime potty pro before even thinking about tackling nights. For now, nights are business as usual. Carry on. (more…)

Back to School Sleep Tips

Ah, summer vacation, the time when we let our hair down and enjoy the sun ‘n fun. It’s also a time when we tend to relax the rigidity of the school year schedule and make some room to breathe. Bedtime routines are often collateral damage, are they not? (more…)

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.

Screen time child 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.

How to Keep Your Child Awake

I talk about sleep a lot. Here on my blog, with family, friends, clients and colleagues — sleep is a never ending topic of conversation, as it should be given my career! However, I was just telling a former client that we, as parents, spend so much of our time wishing our children would sleep, and when it’s not an appropriate time to sleep, we bend over backwards to keep our child awake. Am I right? Strange, isn’t it?

I’m going to take a break from talking about children and sleep today. I know, I know, you came here because you’re anxious to have your child develop healthy sleep habits, but did you know that wakefulness, at the right times, can help your little one sleep better?

keep-child-awake

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know how important routine is in helping children develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. And if your kiddo has healthy sleep habits, he’s not likely to fall asleep at random times or when you’re out running errands. This is because your kiddo has a routine and picks up on the sleep cues of that routine. Driving to the grocery store, in between naptimes, is not an appropriate time to sleep, especially if you want your little one to stay on schedule.

There are, however, times when your kiddo may be so tired out that you look in the rearview mirror to see her head nodding. Or, you leave the room to prepare dinner, only to return and find that your kiddo is rubbing her eyes while watching her favorite show. The alarm bells go off and you begin, like every other parent, to act like a crazy person, knowing that your child will be up until midnight if she naps now.

I’ve been known to tap my daughters’ legs if they try to nod-off, but I wanted to see what other parents do when faced with this dilemma. I asked parents and parenting writers to share how they keep their kiddos awake, and here’s what they said:

Michael Jackson is always a go to when we need to stay awake. WE DANCE! (Not my child, my nephew). Emily K.

We roll down the windows, turn up the radio and sing along at the top of our lungs! And just yesterday we gave the 5-year-old my phone to watch Funniest Home Videos on YouTube so he’d stay awake on the ride to baseball practice. Dana Kamp

I’ve tried tapping my son’s leg, opening his window and turning the radio up in the car — none of which worked — until I had a stroke of genius. My son is a mega-dinosaur fan, and a Jurassic Park fan (even the horrible 2nd and 3rd installments), so I pulled up a YouTube video of Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park ride on my phone; he was absolutely transfixed. Lauren B. Stevens

We listen to an audiobook, talk to the child, or let them throw shoes around in the backseat (I know, I’m a horrid parent). Elizabeth Broadbent

I am a terrible singer, so what I do is make up insane, very loud songs while poking at my kids and trying to engage them to sing along. If I’m able to move around, there is definitely ridiculous dancing involved, too. Their misery at my awfulness usually keeps them conscious long enough to keep them from dozing off! Kim Bongiorno

I may or may not have slammed on the brakes and screamed. Elly Lonon

I will engage in an active conversation with my child (he’s 4) so sometimes that takes imagination. We will look for things out the window to talk about. Sing songs together. Even make things up. C. is a boy that the later he is up past his bedtime the earlier he wakes up in the morning, so if his schedule gets jacked up – everyone’s life gets jacked up!!! Holly K.

I tell fart jokes. NJ Rongner

We play I spy or sing or iPad but not movies. Movies equal sleep. We do thinking games. Sometimes you just need them to stay awake! Sarah B.

“Look! A bear!” Lindsay Gallimore-O’Breham
Now you have plenty of options for the next time your kiddo attempts to take an impromptu nap! So, what do you do to keep your little one awake when s/he’s nodding off at the wrong time?

Get Baby to Sleep Longer

“My baby is one year old and he doesn’t sleep! He takes a short nap in the morning and then plays the rest of the day. He doesn’t go to sleep until really late and then is up extremely early. My husband and I are struggling to function without sleep — is there something wrong with our baby?”

Want to get baby to sleep longer? Take a look at your baby's current sleep habits and use some of these tips to get her back on track.

The plea above is a pretty typical one, one that I hear from parents who contact me every week. No matter the age of their baby, she just isn’t sleeping; parents want to get baby to sleep longer, and their baby needs to sleep longer. When I look at the searches that bring parents to my website, the search terms are usually regarding questions about how much sleep their little one should be getting for her age, or how to increase the length of her naps, even questions about consolidating nighttime sleep. The simple answer is that all three of those questions are the answer — if you want to get baby to sleep longer, you need to focus on all areas of her sleep.

While the case above is an extreme one, I do often work with parents of babies who are only sleeping 6-8 hours a day, which is definitely not enough for a growing baby, so let’s take a look at how your baby is falling asleep.

If I had to guess, you’re probably using at least one sleep prop — rocking, feeding to sleep — to get your little one to fall asleep. You’re not going to believe me, but the best way to get your baby to sleep is to put her into her crib or bassinet while she’s still awake. Yes, awake! When you remove the sleep props and place your tired baby in her crib while she’s still awake, you’re allowing your baby to learn how to fall asleep on her own, without outside assistance.

Now, you’re not going to plop your baby into her crib and close the door, so don’t worry. What you do want to do is to a.) learn how to spot your baby’s sleep signs, both throughout the day and in the evening, and b.) establish a nap and bedtime routine and be consistent with it (you must be consistent). When you establish a sleep routine, your baby knows that at the end of the routine, it’s time to sleep — this way there are no surprises.

Sleep begets sleep, so once you learn to spot sleep signs, create a routine and tackle daytime naps, you’ll likely find that your baby sleeps better at night, and vice versa.

If you find yourself struggling to establish a sleep routine, or have tried the above suggestions and are still unable to get baby to sleep longer, I offer a 15-minute phone consultation, at no charge, to talk about how we can get your little one some much needed rest.

 

Have a newborn? Take a look at these tips for helping your newborn baby sleep longer.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Three Myths About “Sleep Training” Your Baby

This is for all of the parents out there who are apprehensive about sleep training, or simply can’t imagine it being a smooth process. Like anything, the best things in life are earned, and if you’re having trouble helping your little one develop a rhythm of healthy sleep habits, common misconceptions about sleep training can only serve to hinder any progress. When I hear arguments against sleep training, it seems that three myths prevail:

SLEEP-TRAINING-MYTHS

 

YOUR BABY WON’T LOVE YOU IN THE MORNING

Who loves, cuddles, snuggles, feeds, plays, changes wet diapers and nurtures your little one? You do! When most of your baby’s day is spent being cared for, do you really believe that a week of sleep training is going to negate everything else you do for her?

Making changes to a sleep routine, no matter the age of the person, will likely be met with some resistance, and change can often be difficult. Will your baby be a little unhappy that you’re no longer rocking her for an hour to put her to sleep? Likely, yes, but once she falls into a healthy sleep routine and begins getting the sleep s/he needs, you’ll more than likely have an even happier baby than before!

SLEEP TRAINING MEANS LEAVING YOUR BABY TO CRY IT OUT

Perhaps the number one misconception, in terms of sleep training, is the idea that babies are left to cry, and cry…and cry, until they are so exhausted that they fall asleep. Folks, this couldn’t be further from the case. Let me be perfectly clear, the Sleep Sense Program is not a “cry it out” program; in fact, you can remain in the room with your little one if it makes you more comfortable.

Babies communicate through crying, and when you change their bedtime routine they’re communicating their confusion. Think about it, you’ve been rocking your little one to sleep each night, and gently placing her into her crib once she falls asleep, of course she is confused! The good news is that your tired arms will get a rest and your baby will likely only take a few days to get over her confusion. Children adapt to change quickly and your little one will be getting herself to sleep calmly in no time at all.

SLEEP TRAINING IS TOO STRESSFUL FOR BABIES

Let me allay your fears: there is no evidence that sleep training produces any long or short term psychological effects on children.

Will there be crying? As I previously mentioned, your baby will likely be confused by the changes you’re making to her sleep routine, which can be anywhere from five to forty minutes of crying. Again, if the thought of your baby crying makes you cringe, you are more than welcome to remain in the room with her. The big picture is that it will only take a few days, with a bit of crying, for your baby to learn to fall asleep calmly and independently; the “stress” felt by your baby is minuscule in the grand scheme of things.

You can choose to do nothing. You can continue to rock your baby to sleep, rushing into her room anywhere from one to ten times a night to rock, nurse, or bounce her back to sleep. In this scenario, neither parent nor baby gets healthy sleep, depriving one or both of them of the sleep s/he needs to feel rested and refreshed. This can go on for months, and even years, creating poor sleep habits that can affect your little one later in life; there is evidence linking poor sleep with difficulty focusing in class, and even obesity, in school age children. The slew of problems associated with unhealthy sleep, and the trickle down effect, seem more stressful to me than a few fussy nights!

If one or more of these sleep training myths has hindered you from contemplating making simple, yet effective, changes in your little one’s sleep routine, I hope I’ve put your mind a little more at ease.

Where do you start and how do you begin making changes towards ensuring your baby adopts healthy sleep practices? Call me for a Complimentary Sleep Assessment so we can get acquainted and to discuss your baby’s sleep habits!