In the blink of an eye, the holiday season is here again, and I know that I have many nervous parents wondering how they’re going to stay on top of the busy season and keep their little ones well-rested and healthy. I’m here to tell you that it likely won’t be perfect, but with a bit of planning and foresight, you can help your baby stay on some semblance of a sleep schedule. (more…)
Google the phrase “sleep regression.” C’mon, I dare you. What do you see? A lot of articles with words like dreaded, survive, beat in the titles. Like anything, something simple can quickly become alarming when put into a negative context — much like sleep regression in babies. The reality is that the four-month sleep regression isn’t a regression at all. How about that?
The word itself is alarming as it typically denotes taking a step back or as the dictionary says, “a return to a former or less developed state.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s take a look.
What sleep regression isn’t
There’s a tendency to label any rough nights (or days) a baby has as a sleep regression, which just isn’t the case. The reality is that babies undergo a tremendous amount of physical, mental and emotional growth and development in their first year of life, which often affects sleep and understandably so. Teething is often the culprit, as are growth spurts and other developmental milestones. It’s happening because your baby is developing and moving forward not backward.
To better understand what is going on with your 4-month old, it helps to have an understanding of sleep, in general. Sleep is comprised of four stages which, when combined, make up the human sleep cycle and is repeated throughout our slumber.
This is the stage when you’re just drifting off, maybe you’re losing your place in your book or your eyes are closing to the sound of the television — stage one is a snoozing stage.
This is the stage that is considered entering into an actual sleep state. If you wake from this second stage, you definitely realize that you’d been sleeping just moments before.
If sleep was a competitive sport, stage three would be just beneath the level of greatness — you want to reach this place, it’s great for your body, but you still have more work to do.
Nirvana. In stage four of the sleep cycle, you hit REM sleep and your brain begins to recoup from the day — this is the state of dreams.
Newborn sleep stages
Your newborn only cycles through two sleep stages for the first few months of their life — stage three and stage four or REM sleep, the two deepest cycles. New parents should take in this time as it’s when their baby will be sleeping the soundest with no outside help.
What happens around month 4
Around month three or four — as your baby is developing — your baby begins to expand their sleep cycles into the four stages. When this happens, your baby transitions from spending half of their sleep time in REM to only a quarter. And with more time spent in lighter sleep stages, there’s more opportunity for your baby to wake.
Where problems arise is when parents see this as a regression in sleep — the reality is that this is the time that your baby is developing and learning how to transition throughout the stages of sleep they’ll be cycling for the remainder of their lives and it’s a big change! There will be a disruption of sorts in the sleep cycle as your baby learns how to smoothly transition between sleep stages. As adults, we typically slide through the sleep stages effortlessly, without even remembering waking between — your baby hasn’t developed that skill yet, which is why they’re waking more at this time.
Remove the props
Up until this time, you may have been swaddling your baby for sleep or using a pacifier to calm them at bedtimes and nap-times. Now that they’re spending more time in a lighter sleep, they’re going to notice that the pacifier has dropped from their mouth when they cycle between stages, or they’ll notice that their little body isn’t wrapped snuggly and their startle reflex may wake them. This is the time when you want to remove sleep props so that your little one doesn’t begin to form sleep associations (that can easily become sleep disruptors).
Create the perfect environment
This is the time you want to perfect your baby’s sleep environment, if you haven’t already. Make sure that the room is cool and dark without any distractions — you want to create a space that allows your baby to focus on transitioning through sleep stages and resting, not becoming alert and wanting to play.
If you reframe how you view what is commonly known as the four-month sleep regression and instead view it as yet another opportunity for your baby to grow, you’ll be in great shape to get through this phase. And if you feel you need support, don’t hesitate to contact me! I offer a free 15-minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!
Just when it seems you’ve gotten into a comfortable rhythm of morning and afternoon naps, your baby’s sleep behavior begins to change, and you start to wonder what’s causing the disruption. Are you sitting down? The culprit may be that your baby…needs less sleep. There, I said it. It’s entirely possible that the changes you’re witnessing are signs that your baby is ready to transition to one nap a day.
Signs your baby is ready
Before you begin panicking — and I get it, those naptime hours were the times you got to relax a little and focus on things you needed to accomplish — make sure your baby really is ready to transition from two naps to one.
You may find that your baby is completely rocking their morning nap, and then struggling to go down in the afternoon. Or maybe your little one struggles to go down for their afternoon nap two or three days in a row, and then completely conks out for their afternoon nap on the fourth day. The rule of thumb here is that if your baby is struggling to go down for their afternoon nap the majority of the days in a week, it’s a good sign that they’re ready to transition to one nap.
Another sign that your baby is ready to transition to one nap is if they’re rocking both their morning and afternoon naps, and then wide awake when bedtime rolls around. If your baby is taking an hour or more past their usual bedtime to settle into sleep, it’s a good sign that they’re ready to drop a nap.
Because developmental milestones happen often, and can typically cause changes in sleep, you want to make sure that your child’s disrupted sleep pattern lasts at least two weeks before deciding to transition to a single nap per day. While the two week period may be difficult, it’s worth knowing whether or not it’s time to make a change (rather than having to backtrack later). And on that note, once you’re sure your baby’s sleep issues aren’t due to a growth spurt, make sure that you’re committed to transitioning to one nap, because you definitely do not want to waver here — it’s confusing for baby and more work for you — so stick to it.
How to transition to one nap
While the steps to transitioning your baby from two naps to one may look incredibly easy, realize that the transition will happen over time — as much as you may want to, do not rush the process.
Begin by pushing your baby’s morning nap a half hour later every three days, until naptime is at 12:30pm. Know that this transition can take anywhere between 4-6 weeks, so be patient and trust the process. If you don’t rush, you’re more likely to commit to this schedule change, and everyone will be happy.
I know, I know, pushing your baby’s naptime back is no easy feat, now that they’re firmly into a sleep schedule. To make things a little easier, try to avoid going for car rides or walks with the stroller during your baby’s usual naptime, to prevent them from falling asleep (and derailing their transition’s progress). Try engaging your little one in a physical activity during their typical naptime, to try to distract them from their fatigue. If need be, give your baby a piece of fruit to give them just enough pep to make it until their newer, later naptime.
You may also find it helpful to temporarily move up your baby’s bedtime, just until they adjust to their new schedule. Don’t worry if you encounter inconsistencies on your baby’s part along the way, it’s important that you remain consistent, and their little body will follow along shortly.
If you hit a rough spot in your baby’s nap transition, just think of how much freer you’ll be once your baby is down to one, middle-of-the-day nap — it’s so worth it!
If you’re having difficulty transitioning your little one down to one nap a day, feel free to reach out to me to see if you can benefit from my help.
Stop putting it off. I mean this in the nicest of ways, but if you keep saying you’ll get around to getting baby to sleep better, the reality is that you’re putting off the inevitable. And if your baby isn’t sleeping well, the longer you wait to make changes to their sleep routine, the harder those changes will be to make. In an effort to make things super easy for you, I’m throwing out four easy tips for getting baby to sleep better, that you can implement today. I mean, why do it tomorrow if you can do it today, right?
Tips for getting baby to sleep better
Keep it dark
Have you ever tried sleeping in the middle of the day? Unless you’ve outfitted your room, or are sneaking down to the basement for a quick nap, you’re going to be met with sunlight streaming in through the windows. Darkness is where it’s at, and as soon as you create a dark environment, the sooner your baby will understand that bedtime or naptime is coming.
Blackout shades or blinds are the easiest, and most inexpensive, fixes for a bright room; if you’re installing blinds, it’s imperative that you have them cut exact, or else you’ll have tiny beams of light cutting through the room like little lasers.
One thing many parents don’t think of is the light of the television or other electronics. Electronic screens emit blue light, which serves to keep baby (and you) alert and awake, opposite of your desired effect. The body needs darkness to trigger the release of melatonin, which aids in sleep, so turn off the electronics, or move to another room, at least an hour before baby’s bedtime.
Keep it cool
If you’re anything like me, your sinuses get dry and you become stuffy in the winter, when household heat is running constantly. And when I can’t breathe well, I don’t sleep well — it’s no different for babies. That feeling of snuggling into the warmth of your covers, body covered from the cool air of the room? So cozy! And babies love it, too.
Not only do babies sleep best in a cooler room — ideally between 65 and 70 degrees — it’s also safer for them. A hot room can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS, so keep the heat down and use a sleep sack or layered onesie to keep your baby core temperature up, making them comfortable while they sleep.
Keep it boring
Take a look around your nursery. Do you have bright prints on the walls? Maybe a mobile above the crib or hanging from the ceiling. How about one of those super cool, light-up faux aquariums that attach to the side of the crib? The reality is that all of these things are wonderful for stimulating your little one’s mind, but terrible for a quiet, comfortable sleep environment.
Instead, use your playroom, or a nook in your living room to create an area of stimulation for your baby, and try to keep all of the bright colors, lights and toys out of your nursery. Without much to look at, or play with, your baby will do what they’re meant to do in the nursery — sleep.
If you don’t already have one, consider adding a white noise machine to your nursery, to filter out the background noise of household activity or environmental noise. If you have other children, a white noise machine can be your baby’s sleep savior!
Keep it predictable
Think about how you perform when you have a set routine — you may even already practice a nightly bedtime routine. The truth is, babies respond extremely well with a consistent bedtime routine because they’re able to pick up on the cues.
Once you’ve taken them into the quiet of their nursery, perhaps reading them a book by a soft light, or giving them a warm bath, your baby starts to produce melatonin. Your baby’s body begins to relax, knowing that slumber is imminent, and they’re ready to welcome sleep.
While these tips for getting baby to sleep better are simple, and easy enough to begin implementing today, know that it will take some time for your baby to adjust to the changes. If you stay consistent, both you and your baby will reap the rewards of a healthy, restful night of sleep.
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?
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?
Hey new parent! Yes, YOU! I know, I know, you’re deliriously happy and sleep deprived — welcome to the parent club! Are you still swaying, side to side, even after putting your baby down? Rocking your baby is an incredibly natural thing to do, and many tired moms often continue to rock while standing, even without a baby in their arms! If you’re rocking your baby to get her to sleep, terrified of her eyes snapping open once her little body hits the crib or bassinet, you could be doing yourself a disservice.
Much like taking baby on drives to get him to sleep, or long walks in the stroller, you’re using motion to help calm your baby to sleep…and you’re not alone.
What happens when the movement stops? Does your baby wake almost immediately, or does she sleep for a short time and then wake up crying, forcing you to begin the entire process again from the start. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but you need to hear it — rocking your baby to sleep is not doing him or her any favors. In fact, you’re providing your baby with a sleep prop that a.) doesn’t work long term, b.) doesn’t teach your baby necessary sleep skills, and c.) is exhausting to maintain.
Yes, I know, it seems to work for your little one, and some sleep is surely better than none, you think. And yes, research says that rocking your baby is excellent for stimulating your baby’s developing brain. However, you really want to keep the rocking to awake hours with your little one. While you want to stimulate your baby’s brain during waking hours, you want your baby’s brain to wind down to rest (and grow) while sleeping. Rocking your baby is counterintuitive, as she will show outward signs of calm and relaxation, but her brain is actually too stimulated to allow her to fall into that deep, much needed, REM sleep.
Again, I am not advocating against rocking your baby to calm, cuddle or bond with him, I’m saying that you should break the habit of rocking him to sleep. If you find that you’re having to rock your baby to sleep before each nap and at bedtime, your baby has developed a habit that you’re going to want to change. You want your baby to learn how to fall asleep independently.
What do I mean by “fall asleep independently”? When you put your baby in her crib awake, after having shown sleep signs, you are allowing her to learn how to fall asleep on her own. The more your baby practices falling asleep independently, the better her sleep will be, and the more rested your baby and you will be.
If you’re having trouble breaking your rocking habit, don’t fret. I offer a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation to assess your family’s needs.
When you’re traveling with a baby, be it a vacation or a quick overnight trip to visit family, you need to keep your baby’s sleep routine in mind. Trust me, organizing your trip around your baby’s sleep schedule will make for a more enjoyable time away from home! Just think about how you’ve felt in the past when you ignored your own sleep schedules, booking a red eye and returning to work that day, or forgetting to factor a time change into your travel plans — imagine your fatigue and irritability multiplied by ten, and that’s how your baby will feel.
To help the entire family enjoy a restful trip away, I’m sharing 5 tips for traveling with a baby:
1. Pack for comfort
Yes, you should be packing comfortable shoes and clothing if you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing, but you also need to keep your baby’s comfort in mind. When you’re traveling with a baby, make sure you pack her favorite sleep items, whether it be a comfort object, such as a small blanket or stuffed animal, or a favorite pair of pajamas. You want to do as much as you can, without packing the entire nursery, to recreate your baby’s normal sleep experience. Don’t have room for your white noise machine? Download one of the many white noise apps available for phones and tuck your phone away in the room to drown out any unfamiliar noises.
2. Take it easy
Try to fight the urge to schedule lots of fun adventures during your time away, filling almost every moment of your holiday. Yes, you’re excited, you’re finally getting away! However, your baby will be unable to keep a harried and over-scheduled pace, and will likely make you regret it (trust me). By all means, plan fun outings and adventures, but space them appropriately, allowing time for your little one to get the rest she needs.
3. Consistency is key
You’re on vacation to have a break from your everyday routine, but the routine you don’t want to break is that of your baby’s. Try, as much as possible, to honor your child’s nap and bed times. An occasional nap in the car, or later bedtime likely won’t completely derail your little one, but you want to try to keep sleep schedule deviations to a minimum. In addition to trying to keep your baby on the same sleep schedule, you also want to keep your sleep routine the same. If you usually do bath, bottle, book and then bed, don’t forget to pack a book or two to maintain that routine.
4. Maintain usual sleeping arrangements
Again, consistency is key when traveling with a baby. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start while you’re on vacation. Most hotels offer cribs, and many families find that finding hotels that offer suites help make traveling with a baby much easier. With two rooms, able to be separated by a door, you’ll be able to put your baby down at her usual time, without forcing yourself and your partner to turn in for the night at 7pm. Keeping your sleeping arrangements the same as at home also makes it easier for your little one to transition to and from home while traveling, and less likely to develop a habit of climbing into bed with mom and dad.
5. Be patient
Be aware that even if you follow your baby’s sleep routine and schedule closely, your little one may still be a bit unsettled in the new environment, possibly crying or waking at odd hours. Remember how you felt sleeping in a strange place as a child, and be patient while your baby adjusts. Treat sleep disruptions as you would at home, going in every 5 minutes or so for reassurance, but not bending your normal sleep rules.
The more you take it easy while traveling, and consistently stick to your baby’s usual routines, the better time your entire family will have. Remember, I’m only a phone call away, should you need guidance. Safe travels!
“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?”
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.
If you’re letting your baby dictate her own schedule, it can often be difficult to spot her sleep signals, which can lead to an overtired baby (and a struggle to get her down). Don’t wait for your baby to yawn to recognize fatigue, there are many other baby sleep signs that indicate that it’s time to put your little one to bed.
It can be tricky to get into a sleep routine during your baby’s first few months, especially as her body is adjusting to their natural circadian rhythm. You’re waiting for adorable baby yawns, and even some eye rubbing, but they rarely appear – what’s going on?
Less Obvious Baby Sleep Signs
Infants can exhibit less obvious sleep signs, which are often difficult for new parents to decipher. If you notice your little one scrunching her nose, pulling her ears or rubbing anywhere on her face, it’s a good sign that she’s ready for a nap.
Irritability is another common sign of fatigue in babies. One minute she’s cooing at you, the next she’s red-faced and crying. As you begin your checklist (hungry, wet, etc.) she suddenly calms down and is all smiles again – what’s going on? Your baby has already become a master at hiding her fatigue, and her “mood swings” are the result of trying to fend off sleep.
If you’ve ever experienced the wrath of an overtired baby, you know that it can be unbelievably difficult to rein her in after she’s past the point of no return. Overtired babies are active babies. Squirming in your arms, arching her back, crawling around everywhere; babies in overdrive are tired babies. Some babies will push through fatigue, or hide it from you completely, by becoming more active to overcome feelings of tiredness. Your baby may even seem a bit hyperactive when she’s overtired.
Monitor Awake Time
If you’ve missed the signs, or have a calm little one who exhibits absolutely no baby sleep signs, you’ll want to gauge naps and bedtime by paying attention to your baby’s awake time.
Infants can handle approximately an hour-and-a-half of awake time before needing a nap. If your baby wakes for the day at 6am, then she will be ready for a nap at 7:30am. Once she wakes up, you’ll want to take a look at the clock and note her next nap time, an hour-and-a-half from then; continue this throughout the day. Have an older baby? I’ve included a simple awake time chart, by age, in this blog with baby sleep tips.
If you’re still having difficulty determining a healthy sleep schedule for your baby, I’m here to help. I offer a 15-minute sleep assessment, at no charge, for parents struggling to help their baby get restful sleep.
You’re just drifting off to sleep when you hear a coo/ gurgle/ snuffle/ whimper/ sigh broadcast through the baby monitor on your nightstand (or in some cases, in your hand!). Trick question – what do you do? Do you a.) rush in to make sure that your precious bambino is okay, b.) remain awake and alert for a few minutes to wait for another whimper, c.) drift into a dozy-light sleep for the remainder of the night so that you can monitor the monitor, or d.) turn the monitor off, roll over and slip gracefully into and through several wonderful sleep cycles that night, waking rested and ready to take on the day?
Today I’m going to talk about liberating yourself from the baby monitor.
Don’t misunderstand me, baby monitors serve a great purpose, especially if you want to get some work done outdoors or have a soirée at the end of the drive with your neighbor while your baby naps. The parents I worry about are the ones who sleep with the baby monitor on their nightstand, volume loud enough to alert you to every sigh or snuffle their baby makes throughout the night. Hey there, I’m looking at you! Yes, YOU!
If you are sleeping on the same floor as your baby, and your little one has no medical needs requiring constant surveillance, I want you to turn that monitor off. If you feel that going cold turkey with your monitor is too difficult, then please, please do yourself a favor and turn it down.
Think about it. If you’re spending your entire night of sleep on-call with the monitor, being woken by the intermittent sounds your sleeping baby makes, you are not going to be well rested the next day. You owe it to yourself to turn that baby monitor off, especially if your baby is now sleeping through the night – you do not need it, and I would say that you’re likely sabotaging your own sleep by using it.
Video monitors are even worse, in my opinion. Not only are you drawn to the sound of your baby, but you now have a video feed (with night vision!) you may feel compelled to monitor. If you truly have a concern, for fear of SIDS or another medical reason, then I do suggest using the baby monitor with sensor pad to put your mind at rest. I would simply urge you to resist the draw of constantly checking the monitor and allowing yourself to sleep while a high tech computer system monitors your baby.
Take one step closer to getting the healthy sleep you need by turning off that baby monitor. Again, if you need to ease into it, I suggest beginning by turning down the volume and turning off the camera. Once you liberate yourself from the draw of the baby monitor, your mind and body will thank you!