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.

myths

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.

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?

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!

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!