Expect the Unexpected: Traveling with Young Children

Today’s blog is a guest blog by Lauren Stevens, a client of mine more than SIX years ago! She recently embarked on a two-week European vacation with her husband and six-year-old son. Lauren’s here today to share how hopping continents and time zones went and how she handled major changes in her son’s typically consistent bedtime routine.

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The [Amazing] Benefits of Sleep

You, like many other people, probably think of sleep as a time when your mind and body rest and slow down, but in truth, sleep is a time when your body is working at a furious pace. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.” It might surprise you to learn that how and why we sleep is still unknown to scientists, but they do know that sleep is required for us to remain functional and healthy. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of sleep, and why it’s not only crucial for your baby to get a healthy amount of sleep, but why slumber is vital for you as well.

benefits of sleep
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Holidays and Healthy Sleep

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…)

Healthy Sleep Tips for Adults

I’m going to switch gears and focus on YOU. Are you practicing what you preach when it comes to healthy sleep? While my main focus is on helping families get their babies to sleep soundly, it’s still essential for you to get a good night’s rest. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to fall asleep and get the requisite number of hours of sleep your body needs to perform, this post is for you.

adult sleep tips (more…)

5-Year Check-In with a Former Client

Today I’m changing things up and sharing a guest post from a former client of mine. Five years ago, Lauren called for help with her 8-month-old son, Declan. Declan wasn’t napping and was sleeping in clips of two to three hours at night, max. As a result, Lauren was deliriously tired and extremely emotional when she called for help. Now, five years later, Lauren shares how Declan is sleeping as he prepares to enter first grade.

Dragon and a baby
Having some bedtime fun!

Years ago I wrote a one-year follow-up for Jennifer, and now I’m here to check-in at the five-year mark. The short answer is that all’s quiet on the home front and, having just turned six, Declan sleeps between ten and eleven hours a night. However, we still have to follow a bedtime routine to keep him on a schedule, and he’s unable to participate in some activities because of his early bedtime (he’s asleep by 7 p.m.). We’re used to this now, and I don’t think Declan’s life is suffering as a result (there are many more years of opportunity ahead).

Some things have become more evident with time, especially regarding the high level of alertness and difficulty we had with Declan sleeping as an infant. At the end of his kindergarten school year, Declan was evaluated and deemed to be highly gifted as a result of testing. Sleep issues are a commonality among gifted children — and adults — which explains some of the trouble we had early on. This study gives a brief overview of the incidence of sleep issues in the gifted population if you’re interested in reading more about the topic. We joked early on that Declan’s sleep issues were due to FOMO and his desire to take in every detail of the world around him — we weren’t far off. Once Declan got older, we integrated what I call a “brain dump” as part of his regular bedtime routine. After reading a book, we’d take a few minutes to talk about the day — or anything pressing on his mind — so that he wouldn’t lay awake processing instead of going to sleep.

The positive side of this is that while it’s common for gifted children to have issues sleeping, it’s not impossible for them to develop routines that help them get the sleep they so desperately need. In all, it took about a week of following Jennifer’s instructions to get Declan sleeping through the night and napping like a champ throughout the day — it is possible (and Declan never “cried it out” in the process). I’ve checked back with Jennifer throughout the years to consult with her about stumbling blocks, and each time it was because we needed to change what we were doing, whether it was removing all naps, transitioning Declan to a bed, or pushing bedtime back to a later time.

reading books
Declan and myself sharing some downtime.

I won’t say that Declan’s sleep is without issues today — that would be a lie. He’ll still try to weasel his way out of going to bed at least once or twice a week, and he’s out of sorts if vacation or other activities push his bedtime back. And then you have those times when Declan falls asleep on the bus ride home, making it a struggle to get him down that night, or those nights when he’s sick and materializes at our bedside in the middle of the night (so scary!). If we’re traveling late at night, we can usually tell when Declan’s fighting sleep because he starts talking a mile-a-minute. If we don’t engage him, we’ll be met with silence and then snores within minutes. Some days, especially those marked with a lot of physical activity or summertime swimming, Declan will admit to being tired (!) and express a desire to go to bed earlier. However, this rarely happens, but when it does, we know he must be exhausted, and we jump into action to get him ready for bed.

My only regret about contacting Jennifer those 5+ years ago is that I didn’t do it sooner. If you’re on the fence about hiring Jennifer to work with your family, let me reassure you that she’ll be with you along the way and will provide suggestions based upon your family’s needs and comfort level. Don’t go as long as we did; healthy sleep is so important for early childhood development, so get your little one on track as soon as possible!

THANKS LAUREN!

Does Teething Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

Teething symptoms in babies is much debated — just ask your pediatrician…and then poll your friends. Some pediatricians will say that an elevated temperature is not a sign or symptom of teething, but ask parents of multiple children and they’ll tell you otherwise. A quick internet search will yield results listing a handful of baby teething symptoms, but what you rarely see listed is disturbed sleep patterns.

Teething Sleep

Timing of teething

Many of my clients often feel that their baby has just gotten the hang of a healthy sleep routine when it’s suddenly derailed. And if this sleep regression happens between the ages of 4 and 7 or 8 months, teething typically gets the blame.

Teething symptoms

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — a good source of answers to all of your baby questions — does concede that teething in babies may be accompanied by some not-so-fun side effects; it’s interesting to note that their listing of signs and symptoms of teething is preceded by the following statement:  “Teething occasionally may cause….” Notice the word in italics. The reality of many parents with teething babies is much different than an occasional symptom or associated discomfort, and you’ve likely experienced anecdotes from both sides — not a single symptom or side-effect, or a completely miserable, drooling baby.

The AAP’s official stance is that teething may — occasionally — cause and/ or be accompanied by mild irritability and crying in your baby (no surprise there because, ouch.). Your baby may also exhibit a low grade temperature — not exceeding 101 degrees Fahrenheit — excessive drooling, a desire to chew on something hard, and have swollen, tender gums.

Teething and sleep

What the AAP doesn’t mention is that your baby’s sleep may be disrupted during this uncomfortable period. It stands to reason that, if your baby is experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with teething, those symptoms won’t simply disappear during naptime and nighttime. And, as any good parent does, you want to do whatever you can to take away any of your baby’s pain or discomfort, by any means possible. Am I right?

The truth is that teething can disrupt your baby’s sleep, but it can also derail any progress you’ve made with sleep training, if you suddenly decide to run in at the sound of the first wimper. Now, I’m not saying you should leave your baby to cry when they’re in pain, but you shouldn’t use teething as an excuse to fall back into bad sleep habits, either.

According to a Parents.com article, parents may give their baby Tylenol to help reduce teething pain. However, the article warns that, while teething can cause sleep disruptions, a change in behavior — a disinterest in playing or inability to be distracted — can be a sign of something other than teething. In essence, teething isn’t so painful that your baby should be crying incessantly; if this is the case, you need to call your pediatrician.

As you would at any other time, give your baby some time to calm themself when they awake from sleep crying. I’m not saying to completely ignore a baby in distress, but don’t disregard the pause just because your baby is teething. Allowing your baby to work through the discomfort and self-soothe will ensure that they’re getting the sleep they need for their growing body, tooth buds and all!

Is your little one having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and you are sure it’s more than teething?  Let’s chat! Please reach out to me!  Visit me HERE and get in touch for a complimentary sleep assessment.

Getting Your Partner Involved

Take a look at nights in your household. Are you and your partner sharing nighttime duty equally, or is one of you the go-to person for nighttime wake-ups, while other partner sleeps soundly and pinch-hits on occasion? If the latter is the case, don’t worry, it’s completely normal and I see it all of the time with the families I work with. However, today I’m going to talk about what we can do to get both of you on a level playing field with your baby’s sleep routine.

Before we get into the debate about dads and the term “babysitting,” I want to clarify that “partner” means “other party,” as in, the partner not most actively involved in baby’s nighttime wakings. In my experience, babies waking throughout the night typically are relying on external sleep props, and most often the sleep prop in question is nursing; this obviously leaves out dads.

getting partner involved

When nursing is used as a sleep prop, moms are often up and down throughout the night, shuffling between the bedroom and the nursery, or between the bed and the crib. When this is happening multiple times throughout the night, mom begins feeling the effects of the constant sleep disruptions, and baby is being deprived of the skills they need to be able to navigate, on their own, between sleep cycles.

After time, mom may become resentful, after waking for the umpteenth time during the night, listening to the sounds of their partner enjoying a restful night of sleep. And those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions can be brutal, not only because of the frequency and how disruptive they are to mom’s sleep, but because of how the mind wanders in those quiet, nighttime nursing moments. I can’t tell you how many times sleep deprived moms have confided in me about a deep resentment and frustration — even anger — with their partners, because they, alone, are in charge of nighttime wakings (while dads get to sleep through the night).

If you’re one of those moms, know that you’re not alone, but also know that so many of those dads feel helpless as well. In fact, many of those dads are incredibly supportive, but at a loss for ways they can help, apart from waking with their wives and keeping them company throughout the night — while this is sweet, it just means that both partners will suffer the effects of disrupted sleep, and that’s not good for anyone in the family.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sleep training can change your nighttime dynamics. No, seriously. You see, sleep training often goes smoother when the dad takes charge. Dads don’t have milk to offer, which babies realize, so this often is the key to breaking the association between nursing and sleep. When dads respond to babies’ calls in the night, they quickly learn to fall asleep independently. Dads get to become the heroes, and moms get to enjoy nights of uninterrupted sleep — everyone wins!

Take this former client, for example. She and her husband turned to me for help, with an 8 ½ month old baby boy who didn’t nap and was up multiple times throughout the night. The mom hadn’t had more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep since the baby had been born and was at her wits-end with fatigue. I quickly stepped in and ordered the mom to a different floor in the house, leaving dad to nighttime duty. This is what she had to say:

Before Jennifer came in to help us, I was delirious with sleep. After I forgot to buckle our son’s car seat into the car — for the second time — I knew that my lack of sleep had become dangerous, and it was time to do something about it.

When Jennifer told us that I would not be handling nighttime duties, my husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like not having to wake with my son throughout the night; my husband was definitely on-board and wanted to help however he could, but he couldn’t believe that our son could sleep through the night, either.

The first night of sleep training, both my son and I slept through the night. I would have slept longer, except my breasts were about to burst after six, glorious hours of uninterrupted sleep! My husband reported only two night wakings, both of which lasted less than five minutes before our son went back to sleep. Without me rushing in to nurse, he was able to navigate himself back to sleep, and I was able to reclaim precious hours of sleep myself.

Letting dad take the lead may be just what you need to get you and your baby into healthy sleep routines, but you have to be willing to let your husband step in. I’ll give him instructions for what to do throughout the night, while you just need to keep yourself sequestered and sleeping.

 

If you’re ready to take back your nights, give me a call so that we can discuss the best plan of action for your family!

Schedule a time to talk with me now!  

Eight Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

Eight Tips For Easing Separation Anxiety

Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well.  One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around.

The thought process, it would appear is one of…

  • Mommy’s not in the
  • Therefore, Mommy is somewhere
  • I would prefer to be there with
  • Make that happen, or mark my words, I shall raise the most unimaginable of And those ruckuses leave us, as parents, to wonder, “Am I doing something wrong?

After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Beth from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her sitter, even overnight. And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”

About Separation Anxiety: Two things to keep in mind.

First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always conveyed through the rosiest of lenses.

And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child.

So what is it, exactly?

Separation anxiety typically starts to occur around 6-8 months of age, when your little one starts to realize that things continue to exist, even when they’re not in sight. It’s a cognitive milestone known as “object permanence” which is defined as, “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.”

In other words, out of sight no longer means out of mind.

So as your baby begins to grasp this concept, they realize that if you, their favorite person in the whole world, are not there, you’re elsewhere. And, hey, wait a minute. If that’s the case, then you might not be coming back.

It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it, but it’s also a little heartbreaking. This realization, for a baby, is obviously cause for full-blown panic. The thought of a parent leaving and not returning causes anxiety in most grown-ups I know, so you can hardly expect an infant to take it with great decorum.

Anyways, that’s what happens in your little one’s brain when they suddenly start having a fit every time you leave the room. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s a sign that your little one is learning, and that they have a secure attachment to their parent. Awesome.

But, as many of us know, it also means that leaving them with a sitter or dropping them off at day care can be an absolute horror show.

But what we really want to know, or at least what I really wanted to know when it happened with my children, isn’t “What’s causing this?” What I wanted to know was, “How do I prevent it?”

Well, the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to if you could. I mean, really, wouldn’t you be just a little devastated if you left your child with a stranger and they were just completely OK with it? “Bye Mom! See you at dinner!

Don’t worry about me. You guys have fun!”

I’m guessing that would actually be significantly more troubling than some tears and howling.

But we obviously want to keep things at a happy medium, and if you’re struggling with a child who’s pitching an absolute fit every time you try to run an errand or head out for date night, I’ve got some suggestions to take the edge off until this phase runs its course.

1.    Lead by Example

Your little one follows your cues, so if you’re not willing to let her out of your sight, they probably, albeit un- consciously, feel like they’re not safe if you’re not in the room. So designate a room where they can explore a little and play without your direct supervision. It’s a small adjustment, but it has a tremendous effect.

2.    Don’t Avoid It

Learning about separation and reunion is an important milestone, so don’t just take the path of least resistance and stay with your child 24/7 until they’re seven years old. (It happens. Believe me.) Let them know that it’s okay for them to get upset when you leave and reassure them that you’ll always come back when you do. If there are some tears around it, that’s alright. This is an important concept that they need to get on board with.

3.    Start Slow

Once your little one has started to demonstrate the understanding that they’ll be spending some time with someone besides a parent, make it a short outing. Don’t plan on dinner and a movie or an overnighter for the first few attempts.

4.    Start With Someone Familiar

Kids typically do a little better being left with a grandparent or family friend who they’ve already spent some time with, and who they’ve grown to trust a little, so call in a favor, put some wine in the fridge, and plan to spend at least an hour away from the house for the first few attempts.

5.    Stick Around for a While

After your sitter, parent, friend, or whoever is watching your little one arrives, plan to hang around for a half hour or so. Seeing that this is someone you’re familiar with will go a long way in reassuring your child that they’re “good people” and worthy of their trust.

6.    Face the Music

Many of us have, at least once, attempted to distract our toddlers and then sneak out the door without saying goodbye. After all, it’s the goodbye that provokes the reaction, right? But even if it provokes some tears, it’s important for your child to understand that you’re going to leave sometimes, and that you’ll be back when you say you will.

7.    Establish a Routine

Much like bedtime, a solid, predictable goodbye routine helps your little one recognize and accept the situation. A set number of kisses and hugs, a memorable key phrase, and a clear indication of when you’ll be back should be just the right balance of short and reassuring.

8.    Speak in Terms They’ll Understand

Instead of telling them how long you’ll be gone, tell them when you’ll be back in regards to their schedule. After nap time, before bed, after dinner, before bath time, and so on.

Nothing is going to prevent your child from getting a little bit upset when you leave, (And as I said before, thank the stars for that, because if they didn’t, oh your poor heart,) but you can definitely keep the fuss to a minimum.

Now, I should add here that these techniques are suggested for kids who are dealing with ordinary, everyday separation anxiety. There is also a condition called Separation Anxiety Disorder which is obviously more serious and warrants a trip to your pediatrician if you suspect your little one might be afflicted with it.

But for run-of-the-mill fit-pitching when you try to leave the house for an hour or two, these tips should go a long way towards remedying the problem. Be consistent, supportive, assertive, and calm. Before long, your child will understand the concept of you leaving and coming back.

In fact, this concept that will also come in handy when you start to leave them alone in high school.

“I’m leaving for the night, but rest assured, I’m coming back. So you just remember that before you invite your rowdy friends over.”

But until then, if you feel like your little one’s separation anxiety has led to some not so great sleep habits…I’m here to help.  A FREE Sleep Assessment call is just a click away.  SCHEDULE A CALL WITH JENNIFER

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Vote one of the Top 200 Sleep Consultants in the US

8 New Year, New Mom Resolutions

This one goes out to all of the new moms out there — you know who you are. You may feel like you’re in the trenches, and you are, but the new year is the perfect time to claw your way out. In case you don’t have the time to come up with any resolutions, or a lack of sleep has completely zapped your brain power, I’ve come up with some suggested resolutions that all new moms can adopt.

new mom resolution

1. Burn nursing bra

Yep, when was the last time you wore a regular bra? If you’ve paused for more than two seconds to ponder that question, then it’s time to light the nursing bra bonfire. Besides, those things do absolutely nothing to support the girls, so you’re doing them a favor.

2. Stop wearing maternity clothes

Yes, I know how comfortable they are, but how long are you going to wear panel pants after your baby has left the womb? If you want to have an accurate gauge of where your body is post-baby, the best thing for you to do is to go back to regular clothing.

3. Be kinder to body

Look, gravity may have made your belly look like a sad pancake once the baby came out, but know it won’t stay this way forever. Also remind yourself that, unless your body plays an integral part in your livelihood, it’s okay to not be back to your pre-baby body two weeks after giving birth. Remember that your body just did the most amazing thing ever — it grew a HUMAN — and it expanded over the course of nine months. Give it time and be kind to yourself.

4. Make Target run at least once a week

If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you need to be able to step away to preserve your sanity…even if it’s for a 30-minute or hour long trip to Target. I know a mom who used to head to Target once a week, after her husband got home, just to window shop and walk the aisles. And while that hour was liberating for her, and necessary to clear her head [and feel like a human again], she still felt guilty about feeling overwhelmed and needing a break. What’s your Target?

5. Ditch the guilt

Going to the gym, stepping away to take a shower, returning to work, allowing a friend or family member to a.) watch the baby while you sleep, b.) prepare or bring over a healthy, home cooked meal, or c.) both of the above — whatever it is that’s making you feel guilty, you need to get rid of it. Seriously. Not a single person on this planet is perfect, especially a new mom running on a handful of hours of sleep. In fact, enjoy the fact that you can be a space cadet and step away from your mom-duties for a moment now, because it’s all over once your baby learns to talk.

6. Devise sock system

The key to avoiding disappearing socks is to create a system early. It can be as simple as doing baby laundry in a separate load, or, taking that one step further and buying a dedicated lingerie back, just for baby socks. Whatever it is, get on it before the socks begin disappearing (and they disappear fast!).

7. Cut caffeine intake

I know, this sounds a little like a Bridget Jones Diary entry, but really, try to cut your caffeine intake. Make it a point to replace half of your daily coffee/tea/soda intake with water — your body will thank you.

8. Call a sleep consultant

If your baby just isn’t sleeping, causing the rest of the family to lose sleep, it’s time to call for backup. It can be difficult to ask for help sometimes, but this is not something you want to put off, especially if everyone can start getting more sleep.

Call me today for a complimentary 15-minute phone consult, to see if your family can benefit by working with me.

AAP Releases New Safe Sleep Guidelines

Safe sleep guidelines is a topic that I never tire of sharing, and it’s important to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) research-backed suggestions. The AAP recently revised their safe sleep guidelines, and I thought it would be great to take a moment to share those with you, as well as to take a look at how those guidelines have changed over the years.

I'm discussing the American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated safe sleep guidelines, and taking a look at how those guidelines have changed over time.

Back is best

In 1992, the AAP instructed parents to lie their infants on their backs to sleep, which resulted in an overall decrease in the occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) across the country. But while SIDS deaths decreased, infant death by suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia rose, prompting the AAP to revisit and further explain their safe sleep guidelines.

What is a safe sleep environment?

The American Academy of Pediatrics again changed their safe sleep guidelines in 2011, this time with an emphasis on the explanation and demonstration of safe sleep environments for infants. The AAP made three additional safe sleep recommendations, to reduce the overall occurrence of infant deaths, including SIDS related deaths. Those recommendations included:

  • Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should be immunized. Evidence suggests that immunization reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  • Bumper pads should not be used in cribs. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.

Further recommendations included:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
  • Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  • Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).

Updated guidelines

So, what’s different between 2011’s AAP safe sleep guidelines and those recently released? The AAP now recommends that infants share the same bedroom as their parents, or room share, for at least the first six months of an infant’s life, and ideally, the first year. This comes as a result of new research findings, showing a decrease in sleep-related infant deaths in those infants room-sharing with their parents. The AAP also included the recommendation of immediate skin-to-skin time after birth, regardless of feeding or birth type, for a minimum of one hour, as soon as the mother is “medically stable and awake.”

Breastfeeding is still recommended, and the AAP urges parents to move babies to their [separate] sleep space as soon as feeding is completed, to further reduce the risk of accidental death [should a mother or father fall asleep while holding the baby].

While these recommendations are not hugely different from what they have been, they do further explain ideal safe sleep conditions, back by research showing a reduced rate of infant mortality. In addition, AAP is urging doctors to have more in-depth conversations about infant sleep environments with new and expecting parents, in an effort to communicate ideal safe sleep environments and field any questions parents may have.

If you have any questions about your baby’s sleep environment, I am available to review and make recommendations for the safest sleep environment for your little one.