Child Sleep Tips to Move Bedtime Earlier for the Start of School

My blog post this week is to help move bedtime earlier for the start of school this fall.  This school year my newly minted five year old daughter Lizzy will be starting Kindergarten.  How did this happen.  Just 5 short years ago she was a tiny adorable newborn with a set of lungs that could wake the dead.  In what seems a blink of an eye, she has grown into an amazing young girl and now is preparing to make the big leap to riding a school bus and continuing her education.  And boy is she ready (read insanely excited).

One of the responsibilities that I have as a mom is to make sure that she is ready for this new chapter in her young life.  I need to make sure we have purchased a new back pack, new clothes, new shoes, a year’s worth of school supplies and that we both know where her bus stop will be.  But another and equally important responsibility is to make sure that Lizzy is physically and emotionally ready for the first day of school.

One way I can ensure this is that she is getting her necessary 11 – 12 hours of sleep each night.  This all starts with an age appropriate school year bedtime.

During the summer months, like many families everywhere, we, pushed bedtime back a bit to accommodate the longer sunshiny days.  There is so much to see and do during the summer between running and playing and trips to Grand mom’s pool that we need an extra hour or so to accomplish it all.

So now this leaves me with a daughter who is able and expecting to stay awake until the sun begins to set.  What’s a mother to do to correct this before school starts?  She will need to wake up earlier in the morning to get ready for school as she is not a child that can be rushed in the morning.  Lizzy loves to slowly acclimate to the day ahead and as hard as there is no pushing her to move faster.

Well no fear if your child is similar to my Lizzy, here is a gentle solution that will slowly acclimate their young little bodies to an earlier bedtime and hopefully  keep the first weeks of school mid week meltdown to a minimum.

First thing that needs to be done is to make sure you have good black out shades installed in their room (I have blogged about the importance of black out shades in the past for healthy child sleep habits).  The brain (and child) can become confused as to what to do if sunlight is still streaming through the windows when the body is being tucked into bed for the night.  If the room in which the bedtime routine is taking place is appropriately dimmed prior to the start of the bedtime routine, your child’s body will pick up on bedtime cues and continue to release melatonin into the system.

You will also want to (if you haven’t done so already) limit screen time before bed.  This includes TV, iPads, tablets, smart phones and computers.  As I have discussed previously, all of these devices emit blue light which acts as a stimulant to the brain and for many children can make it much more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.  My advice is to turn all of these devices off at least 45 minutes prior to bed and spend time together as a family doing something a little more low key.

The next order of business is to slowly begin moving bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every 3 – 5 days.  What this does is gently allow your child’s body to adjust to an earlier bedtime rather than go cold turkey the night before school starts and they are bouncing off the walls and full of energy when you are trying to calm them down for bed.Start of School - healthy child sleep tips.

Sound familiar?  Continue moving  your child’s bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments every 3 – 5 days until you have reached your desired school year bedtime.  Many children can make this adjustment easily by moving bedtime every 3 days, but for the little ones who need a bit more time to adapt, you’ll want to stick to the 5 day plan.

While making this adjustment, be prepared for your little ones to push back on what you are trying to achieve.  It’s in their nature and should be expected.  Just remember to stand your ground and stick to the plan.  As long as you are consistent, they will see there is no wiggle room and cease protesting.

And finally, be sure to build excitement about the school year ahead and all the new and great experiences that your child will experience.  I for one am treasuring the time with my Lizzy.  She is so excited about Kindergarten and I am going to enjoy this because I know eventually, years down the road, the beginning of the school year will be met with lackluster acceptance rather than the bubbling enthusiastic daily countdown we are dealing with currently.

Sweet Dreams everyone and we’ll be seeing you at the bus stop.  J

Sleep Tips: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines and Sleep Rules

Congratulations, you have made it through the first two years with your little one and now they have graduated from diapers and baby food and have leaped into (with gusto) the world of the Toddler/Preschooler.  If your son or daughter have settled into great sleep habits, congratulations to you on stressing the importance of sleep to your family. Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines

But as your rock star sleepers continue to grow mentally, physically and emotionally, you’ll most likely need to modify your bedtime routine to accommodate their growing skills and needs.  And a fantastic addition to the bedtime routine is introducing sleep rules sometime after the age of two (when the toddler and preschool years are in full swing).

Sleep Tip: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines.

As I wrote about in a previous blog post, toddlers and preschoolers are born boundary pushers.  If they see an opportunity to rebel against the rules and possibly get away with it, they will try it.

It’s just part of what makes a toddler a toddler and can continue to be part of a preschooler’s bag of tricks if they have been able to push boundaries and succeed in the past. That is why consistency when it comes to bedtime and sleep is so important.

When your son or daughter was a baby, you (hopefully) established an effective and enjoyable bedtime routine to set the tone and expectation that bedtime was near.  It was a great opportunity to wind down from the days events and spend some quiet special time together.

Some of the key elements of an infant bedtime routine usually includes a bath, possibly some infant massage, a feeding, maybe a story or song and then kisses and one last quick cuddle before being placed into the crib to drift off to dreamland.

When updating your toddler bedtime routines you do not need to totally reinvent the wheel, rather just rotate out the components that are not applicable such as the infant massage (because let’s face it, toddlers rarely have the ability to stay still long enough to offer a soothing massage) and the pre bed feeding as it is no longer a necessity to offer a breastfeeding or bottle just before bed at this age and stage.

However, let me take a moment to address breastfeeding into toddlerhood.    If you are a family that is still enjoying an active breastfeeding relationship past 12 months I wish to applaud you on your decision and commitment.  There is no reason to cease this bonding relationship until you are ready to.  But I will share that if you would still like offer an evening breastfeeding, a great time to do it is after dinner but before the bedtime routine.

So swap out the massage…check and swap out the feeding…check, check.  But I bet you are asking what to add in place of the massage and swaddle?  Great question, and I have the answer!  My suggestions are using the potty and brushing of the teeth.  With the addition of these two components, a toddler or bedtime routine can look similar to this:

  1. Bath
  2. Lotion and pajamas
  3. Brush teeth
  4. Use the potty one last time
  5. Story
  6. Song
  7. Sleep Rules (we will get to that in a minute)
  8. Kisses & hug and into the crib or bed (is it time to transition to a bed?)

Oh, and before I forget, a gentle reminder that a bedtime routine for any age should take no longer than 30 minutes start to finish (including bath).

Toddler Sleep Tips: Setting nighttime expectations via Sleep Rules

Now you may have noticed component #7 in the bedtime routine is SLEEP RULES.  This is something that I use with both of my daughters and suggest all of my families use with their toddlers and preschoolers.  It can be introduced once your little one is two years of age and at first you will be reciting them with the hopes and expectation that soon (usually after 6 months of nightly repetition) your son or daughter will start and continue to recite them back to you!  Sleep rules are great because they clearly define your expectations for your children from the time they are tucked in bed until it is time to wake up in the morning.

The rules should be simple to comprehend and easy to follow.  I should also add that they should be realistic in scope.  Sure, we would love for our children to stay in bed until 8:00 or 9:00am Saturday morning (and if yours do I am jealous), but reality is that toddlers and preschoolers are born early risers (anywhere between 6:00 – 7:00am).  That being said, asking your little one to stay in bed and remain quiet for an additional hour or two just isn’t going to happen.  Don’t give out hope though…one day they will be teens.  🙂

So, without further delay, I would love to share with you my 4 Easy Sleep Rules:

  1. Stay in bed
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Stay quiet
  4. Stay asleep or in bed until the clock says it’s morning.

And there you have it.  Easy ways to update your child bedtime routine to fit the needs of a toddler or preschooler while also incorporating simple to follow sleep rules that will help ensure that you all get a good night’s sleep.

As always, I welcome you to reach out to me to discuss this and all sleep related topics further.  Help getting your little one’s sleep back on track could only be a phone call away.

To Healthy Sleep!

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An Account from a Once Frazzled Sleep Deprived Mommy

An Account from a Once Frazzled Sleep Deprived Mommy

This week’s blog post comes courtesy of guest blogger Lauren, The Median Mommy (www.TheMedianMommy.com), And one of my wonderful clients.

 

One year ago, I was a frazzled mom, prone to tears, constantly overwhelmed, forgetful and fatigued.  My 8 month old son was not a napper, and was up multiple times during the night.  Thankfully, I was at home with my son, but after eight months, I was completely drained and in desperate need of some help.

My son, Declan, was not a napper.  This kiddo would stay up all day if you let him (and is still the same way).  At the point when we finally sought help from Jennifer, from Gift of Sleep Consulting, D was napping in 20-30 minute clips, three times a day.  I was unable to get anything done, and I constantly felt stressed and under great strain to get even the smallest of tasks done.  No naps during the day, and waking every two hours at night, meant that if I actually remembered to bring my grocery list when I went to the store, I would still forget items, due to my inability to concentrate.

Enter Jennifer from Gift of Sleep Consulting.  After posting about our sleep troubles on my blog’s Facebook page, Jennifer reached out to me.  Admittedly, I was wary at first.  Pay someone to teach us sleep habits?  It seemed so…strange.  Who does that?  We did, that’s who.  Money was tight for us at that time, but my husband and myself (most especially me) were prepared to do whatever it took to get D into healthy sleep habits.  Apart from buying our ERGObaby, hiring Jennifer’s expertise was the best investment we made in our son’s first year.

We immediately began adopting healthy sleep practices & routines, I became better at reading D’s cues, and I transformed into a bonafide Sleep Nazi.  For us, healthy sleep habits for D were an investment and a commitment.  We kept a rigid schedule around D’s naps and bedtime, which meant sacrificing some of our needs/wants to ensure that we were home in time to follow sleep routines.  In fact, D didn’t attend his first story time until he was over a year old, because story times, both bookstore and library, were all held during D’s morning nap time.

Admittedly, having such a rigid schedule made scheduling social time difficult.  D’s tight nap schedule also only gave me a very small window for me to run household errands.  But, the trade-off, well, wasn’t a trade-off at all.

Today, we have an 18 month-old who knows what to do when we begin his nap or bedtime routine.  We’ve traveled for weekend and week-long trips, and the only bumps we’ve encountered were due to us having blown off a nap(s) (MommyCon was one particular instance of that).

I’ve had a year of good sleep, and now groan inwardly on those rare occasions that D wakes in the night (usually during teething episodes).  While we want to add to our family, I find myself wondering how I will function without getting a good night’s sleep!

Eighteen months in, I’m proud to have a toddler that sleeps when he’s supposed to!  Sleep is one of the most discussed topics in my parenting circles, yet many of the parents I see don’t want to change their routines(?!).

If you find that you’re struggling to get your little one to sleep well, you should consider hiring Jennifer to guide you.  As I said, it was the best investment we made that first year.  Sleep is incredibly important to your little one’s overall health, and I wish that we hadn’t waited so long to ask for help.

 You can read about our experience HERE.

Fostering Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Baby

 Fostering healthy child or infant sleep habits is extremely important for their overall health and well being. The path to developing healthy soothing skills can start very shortly after birth and the best way to begin reinforcing these very important skills is the environment in which your baby learns how to sleep independently (with the help of some Rock Star self soothing skills).

Promoting healthy sleep for infants and small children has become my passion and goal for every family I come in contact with.  Including The Median Mommy!

Encouraging healthy sleep habits: The temperature of the room does matter!

Did you know that most little ones prefer to sleep in a room that is on the cool side rather than warm? Studies have shown that a too warm sleep environment can actually be very detrimental to infant sleep. Just like for most of us grownups, a too warm sleeping environment can make it very difficult for your child to go to sleep. It is also suggested that it may be one of the contributors to SIDS.

I recommend to all of my clients whether their child is a newborn or well into their preschool years to make sure their little one’s room temperature falls somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the clothing your little one is dressed in for bed should be right along the same lines of what you would wear to bed. And a great addition to a baby or toddler’s bed is a baby sleep sack instead of a blanket (see last week’s post regarding my love for this wonderful invention). Remember cool and comfy and not warm and stuffy.Mistakes to Avoid When Feeding Your Newborn at Night

Encouraging healthy sleep habits: Although a bedding set is super cute, it can also be super dangerous.

I encourage all of my clients of infants to remove all items from their child’s crib that are non essential for safe and healthy sleep. This includes, crib quits, blankets, bumpers that are not breathable and see through as well as pillows and stuffed animals. Although a “Lovey” can be introduced around 7 months of age. All your baby needs in their crib for safe sleep is a mattress, sheet, secure swaddle (up until 3 months) or a sleep sack. That’s it!

Encouraging healthy sleep habits: The darker the better

A very dark room during all sleep periods (daytime naps included) actually helps your little one want to sleep. If the nursery or bedroom is too bright via natural sunlight streaming through an uncovered window or blinds, your little one will find it much harder to settle to sleep. As sunlight hits our skin and is absorbed, our body naturally releases chemicals to cue our bodies to be awake. The more we can do as parents to block light from getting in the room the better to stop this from happening.

Also, darkness is a fantastic clue or indicator that one should be sleeping and with help and consistency, your baby can begin to pick up on this clue. A dark room = sweet dreams for little ones if you want to get your baby to sleep through the night

Encouraging healthy baby sleep habits: White noise, the soothing static lulling your little one to sleep.

Using some sort of white noise in your baby or toddler’s room can help them sleep longer and more soundly by blocking out environmental noise. You would be surprised at how the slightest outside noise can arouse a baby in a light sleep state.

A favorite among many of my clients is a box fan or portable white noise machine. I’ve seen some pretty expensive models sold in baby stores but have to admit that if you can find one that is under $30.00 and can easily be taken with you on family vacations or overnight trips you’ll be all set. Oh and if it can also be battery operated…BONUS. You never know when you will lose power during a pretty noisy thunder storm.

In closing, if your little one is having trouble falling or staying asleep, please be sure you have evaluated their sleep space for the tips above and make adjustments where necessary. As always, I welcome your questions or comments concerning this week’s topic.

Jennifer Schindele is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant and President and Founder of Gift of Sleep Consulting located in Philadelphia, PA.  Jennifer’s mission is to help parents give the gift of sleep to both their children and in turn, themselves. Her mission is executed by Jennifer Schindelepersonalizing a step-by-step program to gently help teach the child to independently fall asleep, and stay asleep, the whole night through (and nap peacefully during the day).  

 

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child: Proper Bedtime Clothes

 Can you give a guide of how to dress a baby for sleep by temperature? (I find it so hard to figure out what my babe should wear in this in between weather when the house temp is 72…but then drops to 68!).

This is a great question! It is often difficult to gauge how best to dress our little ones when the temperature can easily swing one way or the other over the course of a night. My advice is to take a good look at how you would dress yourself for bed and then dress your little one accordingly. As most babies and young toddlers are too small for a blanket, what I would suggest is a long sleeve t-shirt or onesie under a heavier weighted sleep sack (fleece or velboa) along with a pair of socks. The sleep sack would take the place of a blanket and sheet that we grownups would normally use.  Baby clothing store/brand Carters also makes a great option they call a sleep bag that is fleece and has long sleeves and a zipper in the front. All your baby would need underneath is a onesie and socks and they are all set.

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child: Sound Sleep While the Temperate Plummets

Once the weather has finally grown cold and we have entered into winter, I would suggest that parents of babies and young toddlers dress their little ones in a footed sleeper with a heaver weight sleep sack over top.  Depending on how cold your house gets in the winter, you may even want to make the footed pajamas fleece as well or be sure to add a onesie under the attire.  Our house usually dips down to 66 degrees at night during the winter months so I make sure that I dress both of my daughters appropriately.  BUT…while my older daughter tends to catch a chill easier, my younger daughter is definitely the furnace of the family.  That little girl gives off some incredible heat!  And since, as I have discussed in previous blogs that an overheated child will find it harder to sleep, and may cause a SIDS risk, I take this into consideration when I dress her for bed.  Usually we dress her in thinner long sleeve pajamas under a fleece sleep sack with some nice warm socks.  Sometimes I’ll even leave her onesie on if I feel it’s especially cold.

But I will admit, to new parents, knowing what is right can definitely be confusing.  We all want to make sure that we send our babies off to dreamland prepared for the night ahead, but then I remember as a first time mom also being nervous that my daughter would be too hot or too cold.  Confidence in this comes with time and experience.  And also a bit of experimentation.Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child: How To Check If Your Baby Is Too Cold?

A good way to check if your baby is too cold is to touch their core (stomach). If it is nice and warm then you are great. If it feels a bit chilly, add an additional layer. This piece of advice goes for daytime as well as night time too.

I do hope this bit of information helps my readers that are new parents.  I love the transition from summer to fall and then fall to winter.  Winter makes some great sleeping weather!  I just wish mother nature would decide it’s Fall already!  I’m ready for the beautiful fall foliage.

Sweet Dreams!

When Babies Start Teething – Sleep Training During This Time.

Teething Babies: The good, the bad and the ugly

Is your baby not sleeping through the night because of teething?

You see, the good news is – your little one is getting teeth!  Hooray…he won’t be the only baby that’s sporting the all gum smile.  The bad news is, it might come with some sleeping problems and the ugliness of it may be that you will use your teething baby as an excuse for everything that has ever gone wrong in your life!  Okay, I admit…that might just be a tad on the dramatic side.

When Babies Start Teething and Sleep Training – Could it actually work together?

Now the question remains whether your little teething bundle of saliva can actually sleep, sleep train, be trained for to sleep and/or sleep better while teething.  The answer is a resounding YES!  If you are going to wait for your baby to stop teething before you actually train or teach him or her how to sleep, you are going to wait well over 2.5 years. Since sleep is a skill that we need to teach our children, the faster we give them the Gift of Sleep the better.

When Do Babies Start Teething? Sleep Training During This Time.
When Do Babies Start Teething? Sleep Training During This Time.

Helping Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

If you want to help your baby sleep through the night, take restful naps, be healthy, happy and still have teeth, you can help your baby or toddler by teaching him or her how to sleep unassisted (sleep training your baby).  Think about it, if your little one can put herself to sleep without you help she won’t wake you up during the night the 5 times he wakes at night due to sore gums.  In my experience as a sleep consultant, I have found that children who have learned the skill of self soothing and sleeping handles teething and illnesses much better.

Teething Causing Baby Sleep Problems

Teething can cause a slight regression in tour child’s sleeping habits.  HOWEVER, be careful that YOU are not the one regressing, using “teething” as an excuse.  If your child wakes during the night due to teething, go to him or her, provide some comfort (soothing words or careful touch), administer the necessary medication and  then allow your little one to fall back asleep without any props or assistance (no pacifier, no bottle and no rocking).  And as a side note, I have found Ibuprofen to be a very effective pain reliever in babies over 6 months of age.  Just be certain to carefully read the dosing instructions on the package and consult your pediatrician to double check before administering.

Lastly, a good way to test whether your child is fussy due to teething, is to think about whether they are showing other signs of teething, and whether or not it is also bothering them during the day.  If it truly is teething, it won’t be bothering your little one just at night.

Getting My Baby to Sleep Through the Night Reflections

Just this past weekend we hosted a joint birthday party celebrating two shining lights in my life.  At the beginning of August, Lizzy turned 4 and in a few days Katie will be turning 2.  We had a wonderful time and the girls had a blast playing with cousins and friends and binging on a special treat of apple juice boxes…and reflecting on getting my baby to sleep through the night.

Celebrating birthdays is a wonderful time to reflect on how far both of my girls have come since their arrival into the world.  It’s also a great time to remember how far I have come as a mommy.  And that is something I am very proud of as my first year as a mother was not exactly what I expected it to be.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I had quite the bumpy start when I became a mother.  The post pregnancy hormones hit me hard and I suffered from a bad case of Post Partum Depression (PPD).  I was weepy and anxious all the time and really not sleeping much at all (even when my daughter was sleeping).  I wasn’t feeling very bonded with my baby and finally before I began treatment for my PPD I began having irrational thoughts and questioning whether I was meant to be a mother.

Once I began treatment for my PPD, I slowly but surely began feeling like I could handle being a mommy.  I had already begun researching how to help my daughter sleep better and longer and was seeing improvements daily.  The night she slept 5 hours straight for the first time was almost magical.

I was feeling encouraged and was setting goals for myself and testing my comfort zone such as outings to the mall with my baby (sitting at home all day long makes caring for a baby seem almost like a prison sentence and actually can make your anxiety worse).  Little by little I was getting there until one day I truly felt like a mommy and that my baby ROCKED!  I mean it!  She truly was amazing (and still is)!

Not only was she napping well during the day (taking 5 hours total worth!) but she was consistently sleeping 11 hours at night and doing it totally independently of me.  I just gave her a kiss goodnight and gently placed her in her crib wide awake she did the rest and was asleep within minutes.  The struggles that we had previously were gone and now she could not wait to go to sleep.

Getting My Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Sleep training my little girl was one of the best things I could have done for both of us.  Because she was such an awesome sleeper, I was able to catch up on my sleep debt and be a happy mommy and reconnect with my wonderful and supportive husband.  This mommy was well rested and had finally gotten her groove back.

Getting My Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Getting My Baby to Sleep Through the Night

And you know what?  All of the sudden the months that seemed to drag on forever began to fly by!  My daughter was growing and becoming her own little person and I was beginning to think that maybe she needed a little brother or sister.  At this revelation, my therapist announced that I was ready to graduate from treatment.  Add another gold star to my cap! 🙂

Fast forward a month or two and I was planning a first birthday party and helping my body get ready to carry another baby.  I was so excited to become pregnant again because I felt like I missed out on all the “good stuff” at the beginning the first time around because of my PPD.  Of course I was cautiously optimistic because the chances of suffering from PPD, but I also knew that I would know the warning signs sooner and be able to seek help before it got as bad as it did after my first pregnancy.

And, if I hadn’t decided to make changes to the poor sleeping skills both my daughter and I possessed when she was a newborn, I am not sure that I’d have my second daughter (who btw is an AWESOME sleeper).  And I wouldn’t have found my calling in life to help all the moms out there who are currently in the same boat as I was.  Every family that I work with does touch me personally and I am so happy to say that through helping families tackle their sleep challenges I have made some great friends that I know will be part of my life for years to come.

So you see…my sleep consultant career is so much more than a job to me and my clients are also shining lights within my life.  Not just my beautiful daughters.  And let’s face it; you really can never have too many lights in your life.