Crib Toys: Use Them or Lose Them?

Imagine you are drowning in a sea of toys, the Legos, Barbies, stuffed animals and stacking blocks slowly creeping past your chin. You’re wading through those toys, trying to get a secure footfall to climb from them, but the toy level continues rising until you’re head is almost covered.

Everywhere parents look, toys are being marketed to them or their children. Get the scoop on crib toys and whether or not you should buy them.

It’s every parent’s nightmare, and I’m sure this scenario has never happened, but the toy creep is one of parenting’s unsolved mysteries. You set out with good intentions and through the course of the year, birthdays and holidays add to the growing toy collection in your home.

Before you know it, you have toys in your car for entertainment, toys in your diaper bag, cribs toys strapped to the crib with plush toys creating a pillow top for the crib mattress — you even have special toys just for the bathroom. It happens to the best of us, but I want to talk about the toys that may be in your child’s bedroom or nursery, specifically crib toys.

Toys are educational, some are cute and cuddly, others sing songs and have flashing buttons for your child to interact with – in short, most toys marketed for babies these days have some educational value, which is great and I encourage you to use them with your baby…just not in the crib.

These days you can find crib toys including everything from a projector to a moving seascape that can be strapped to your child’s crib – they’re cool, they’re fun — but they don’t belong in the crib; cribs are for sleeping.

Those projectors? They’re sabatoging your efforts to put your child to sleep. The lights, the movement, all of that serves to stimulate your baby’s brain, rather than lull her to sleep.

While I do advocate the use of one security toy (or “lovey”) in the crib, once your child is old enough, I do not advocate the use of any other toys in the crib. Not only are toys, blankets, and other loose articles unsafe for your sleeping baby, they also communicate the opposite message of what you’re trying so hard to convey – cribs are for sleeping, not playing.

Think about it from your own perspective. If someone ushered you to a bed full of books you’ve wanted to read, movies you’ve been waiting to see, apps and gadgets, would you be sleeping in minutes or staying awake to enjoy all of your favorite things? The exposure to screens – TV, cell phones, tablets – before bedtime are the first things sleep specialists recommend doing away with when an adult comes in with sleep issues. Babies and children are no different.

Although baby toys are not the same as electronics with lighted screens, your baby will want to play with crib toys, stimulating his brain when he should be winding down for the day. Even if your little one is tired, those toys will keep him awake (like you checking Facebook “one last time” before you go to bed).

To reiterate, I am not against babies having toys, they just don’t belong in their crib. The only item I suggest having in the crib with your little one is the attachment or security object I mentioned earlier, as a way of soothing or providing comfort for your baby (I recommend that mom sleep with the object before introducing it to your little one’s crib so that her scent also serves to comfort).

Remember, not only is a bare crib a safe crib, it’s also conducive to healthy sleep!

Baby Sleep Products That Don’t Work

Parents with little ones struggling with sleep issues are often prey to companies willing to exploit people to make a dollar. If you take a look at the sheer number baby sleep products being marketed, your head will spin with the countless choices available. These products offer the promise of soothing your little one into a peaceful slumber, but are they really worth the expense?

The number of baby sleep products being marketed today can be enticing, but don't fall prey to placebos and sleep aids.

 

Yes and no. Take a look at the billion dollar diet industry, rife with products that promise quick fixes and weight loss…with absolutely no changes to your routine. We know successful weight loss requires a change in lifestyle, and sleep is no different. Enacting healthy sleep habits for your baby requires a plan and a change to your old bedtime routine; you’re teaching your child healthy habits instead of using baby sleep products that function as aids or placebos.

Melatonin

Would you take a supplement unregulated by the FDA? If the answer is no, then why on earth would you give it to your child? Does Melatonin work? Yes, it can, but it can be harmful as well, not to mention the fact that administering melatonin does nothing to correct the underlying issues causes sleep disruption. I’m adamantly opposed to administering melatonin to children, and you can read more of my thoughts on this topic in my blog post, Melatonin and Children.

Herbal Syrups

There are a plethora of herbal syrups available on the market, each promising to help your baby sleep. Ever hear of a Snake Oil Salesman? You’ll be wanting your money back after you purchase one of these concoctions.

Lotions, Oils, Balms and Sprays

So many to choose from, but which do you choose? These products can definitely calm and soothe your little one, and are great for promoting bonding and loving touch and massage. But, these lotions, oils and sprays can give you a false sense of security when your baby stops crying, calms and goes to sleep. It’s a miracle! Or is it?

Guess what? You’ve still not targeted the root of what’s causing sleep issues with your little one, and taught her how to sleep on her own. More than likely, she’ll be up in a couple of hours, and then a couple of hours after that, and so on and so forth.

Lullaby Plush Toys

Your aim is to teach your little one how to go to sleep by himself, so why, oh why, would you put him in the crib with a toy that can stimulate him? Blinking lights (no matter how “soft”), talking and singing stuffed toys serve only to create a stimulating, play-like environment for your little one. Keep the crib austere and simple, and your little one will know that when they hit the crib it’s time to get down to business, the sleep business that is.

A Book Promising to Put Your Child to Sleep

If you’re a parent, with a young child, who watches the news or is on social media, you can’t have missed the recent news stories touting a new book, developed by a scientist, that promises to make any child sleep. Look, I get it. Many parents are desperate to help their child sleep more/better/quickly. You gave up on the myriad of sleep help books on the market, but are thinking that this may be the easier route to go. Don’t do it. Well, you can get the book to read as a nice bedtime story, but don’t put all of your sleeping eggs in the miracle sleep book basket. Plain and simple, this book is a sleep prop, a band-aid that doesn’t get to the root of the sleep issues your child is having.

If you’re at your wits-end, and find yourself considering one of the products mentioned here, call me instead. I offer a complimentary phone consultation, and can work with you to ditch the props and placebos, working towards healthy sleep routines for your baby.

White Noise Machines, Babies, and Nurseries

You’ve just gotten your fussy baby down for a nap, and your neighbor decides to mow the lawn. Or, the mailman rings the bell for you to sign for a package…just as you had gotten your little to sleep. Better still are the early morning wake-ups, caused by the garbage truck or overzealous birds in the summertime. It could even be as benign as you putting dishes away in the evening, or peeking your head in to check on your baby before heading in for the night. If you have a baby with bionic hearing, or is an extremely light sleeper, read on.

white-noise-babies

 

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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!

Sleep Aids For Children

Hi there!  And welcome to this week’s blog post!  This week I wanted to talk about questions I am often asked during different social type settings (parties, networking events and activities for my girls) once I have shared that I am an infant and toddler sleep consultant.  The top two questions are; what exactly is a sleep consultant and who would need to hire one?

Now, I know some of you are already thinking that you know the answer to that question, but for those who are not entirely in the know (or a bit fuzzy due to extreme sleep deprivation), I’ve decided to give you some insight into who I am and what offer to exhausted parents everywhere.

What is a Sleep Consultant?

As acertified child sleep consultant I work directly with families who are struggling with their infant, toddler, preschooler or young adolescent who have not yet learned the skill of being able to soothe themselves to sleep and stay asleep all night long.  Together with the parents, I create an in depth and personalized sleep plan that is easy to follow while also providing step by step guidance. I am effectively holding my client’s hand while they are implementing the strategies in their plan.  I am there to celebrate their successes, discuss questions and concerns and deal with setbacks.

I work to educate new parents about the sleep needs of a newborn and how best to gently begin teaching healthy sleep skills from day one.   Or offer assistance in helping create a great daytime and nighttime schedule for the new family to work with as well as sleep aids for children.  It is amazing how just making a few changes in the daily lives of a newborn can dramatically affect their ability to sleep.

Sleep Aids For Children

Why would a family consider a sleep consultant?

If your baby, toddler or preschooler isn’t sleeping through the night, then neither are you.  This lack of sleep will leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated and mentally and physically stressed.  I understand the feelings of helplessness, exhaustion, and confusion of being a new parent who isn’t getting the sleep they need to be the best parent they can be.

This sleep deprived state also makes it extremely difficult for parents to solve their little one’s sleep issues on their own.  And I am uniquely positioned to help these families for several reasons.  I’ve been where they are…having struggled with my own child’s sleep problems, so I know exactly how these parents are feeling!  I know strategies that will help teach your child how to fall asleep without any assistance from you and stay asleep until morning.  It’s because of my knowledge and training that I am able to create personalized plans for all of my clients based upon the child’s needs and what the parents are most comfortable with.

I think Dr. Marc Weissbluth puts it best, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”

Sleep is so important to our well being and our health that parents should make it a priority to ensure that their children are taught the skills needed to fall asleep independently.  The foundation for this skill can be taught as soon as the baby is born.  This is my mission and my passion.  I have made it my career to help as many families as I can get the sleep they need to be healthy and happy.  A well rested baby is happy, curious, engaging and ready to take on the world.

If you had the opportunity to ensure that you are giving your little one the best possible start in life, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to make that happen?

The bottom line is that my job is to help families be as happy and healthy as they can be.  And one of the most important ingredients in that equation is a good night’s sleep for everyone in the family.  This is my mission, passion and my job within the community.