If you are one of the many families finding themselves at home more than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve likely had your share of ups and downs over the months. While many families have enjoyed the additional family time, cabin fever is taking its toll. Here are some tips for staying sane with kids during quarantine. (more…)
Sleep Problems in Babies
2020 was off to a great start. Your baby was a napping and sleeping rockstar, and all was well. And then a global pandemic forced people indoors, shuttered from the outside world, many furloughed or even fired from their jobs. If your baby’s suffered from a sleep regression, you’re not alone. While a milestone may not be to blame, a dramatic shift in your family’s routine or heightened stress and anxiety can be the culprit. (more…)
If you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you’re wondering if you and your baby can co-sleep and sleep train, it’s probable that something just isn’t working for you. If something’s not working for your baby’s (or your own) sleep habits, my job as a pediatric sleep specialist is to help you find what works. And if you’re not ready to make some major changes, you’re not going to like what I have to say. The short answer is that no, you can not co-sleep with your baby and sleep train.
Notice that I didn’t say that room sharing was off-limits. I’ll get to that later, but right now, I want to address bed-sharing and sleep training. Co-sleeping is a personal decision, and I work with families with all types of sleeping arrangements — my job is to address concerns and come up with solutions that work for both parents and babies. I find that those co-sleeping families who contact me are looking for one of two solutions; they either want to transition their child from their bed, or they simply want their little one to sleep better while bed sharing.
If you’re looking to transition your child from your bed, I can definitely help your little one make a smooth transition. My approach to moving your little one out of your bed, and into their own, is tailored to your family’s needs. I take a look at your baby’s existing sleep habits, their personality and temperament, and come up with a personalized plan to make your baby’s transition, from your bed to their own, work for the entire family.
Co-sleeping and sleep associations
Those of you who came to this article through an internet search, in hopes of finding a way to better streamline your baby’s sleep habits while bed sharing, are not ready for my assistance — and that’s fine! When you are ready to transition your baby out of your bed, give me a call and I’ll be more than happy to help.
But now you’re probably wondering why I can’t help you now. Let me explain.
The majority of my co-sleeping clients bed share because there is an established breastfeeding relationship. Co-sleeping makes mother’s breast accessible throughout the night, and as a result, the breast becomes a sleep prop or a sleep association. This means that each time your baby wakes at the end of a sleep cycle, they head right to the breast — hungry or not — to soothe themself back to sleep. The longer that association remains, the more difficult it is for your baby to be able to transition between sleep cycles on their own.
Think about it. You, perhaps unknowingly, have sleep strategies you employ when you wake in the night. Maybe you shift positions, re-adjust your pillow or blankets, or maybe you take a quick drink of water. Whatever it is that you do to get yourself comfortable enough to go back to sleep can be likened to your baby’s need to nurse themself back to sleep. And in order to break the association between nursing and sleep, your breast needs to be inaccessible to them.
Room sharing as an alternative
Remember when I said I didn’t rule out room sharing? While not ideal, those parents who strongly desire to stay in close proximity to their baby can set up a crib in their room, or attach a sidecar to their bed (but a sidecar may make it even more difficult to break the breast-sleep association). The most important thing is that you’re happy with your sleeping arrangements.
I will leave you with this — the longer a sleep habit persists, the more difficult it is to change. And the longer your child shares your bed, the more difficult it will be to get them to sleep on their own. But when they do make that transition, they’ll acquire the sleep skills they need to have independent, healthier, sounder sleep, which is especially important during the formative years.
If you’re ready to make a change, or are simply wondering if a sleep consultant is right for you, contact me to set up a complimentary 15-minute phone sleep assessment by clicking HERE.
BONUS: Did you catch my interview today with Jim Masters of CUTV. If not, take a listen HERE.
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.
Whether you’re transitioning your baby from your room, or your baby develops a sudden aversion to his room, it can be upsetting to both you and your child. As a parent, you want your child to feel safe, secure and nurtured, so it can be alarming when, suddenly, your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib or room.
You know how difficult it can be to break a habit, whether it be nail biting or driving to a new job (how many of you have accidentally found your car heading towards an old workplace?). Transitioning your baby to his crib or to her nursery is very similar to breaking a habit or routine. It takes time, patience and understanding for your little one to learn their new sleeping environment (or adapt after developing an aversion).
If you and your baby are just beginning sleep training, be assured that her protests are only temporary. If you’ve been co-sleeping or tending to your little one in a bassinet at your side, the sudden relocation to another sleeping environment is often met with tears; I’ve even had parents tell me that their babies start to cry the minute they walk into the bedroom!
If your baby begins crying when you walk into the nursery, you can pride yourself in having an incredibly bright little one! The protestations will typically be short term, but your little one has already grasped the concept that her crib, his nursery, is where the bedtime routine takes place and it is almost bedtime. If you’re met with objection, tears or cries, it’s often because your little one knows that it’s bedtime, but doesn’t yet know how to sleep on her own or has not yet adjusted to the new environment.
If your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib or room, understand that the adjustment will take time and practice. Be patient with your baby and talk her through the process in calm and soothing tones, reassuring her that all will be okay. It often helps to discuss what is going to happen with older babies or toddlers: “We’re going to take a bath, then you’re going to have some milk. We’ll read a book together and then it’s time to sleep.” Discussing the bedtime routine, before it happens, with your little one can often allay fears.
Remind yourself that any protestations from your baby are only temporary, as it typically takes just a short time for little ones to grow beyond their fear and learn how to put themselves to sleep.
Though you may not believe it now, your little one will have her routine so ingrained that, once she’s able to walk, she may head into her room at the first signs of sleepiness! Remember to be patient, that practice makes perfect and that I’m just a phone call away if you need assistance.
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.
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!
You and your baby have finally mastered an amazing sleep routine and your little one has never slept better. Whammo! Your baby gets sick, you fall into bad sleep habits to comfort your little one, and the healthy sleep routine is out the door…or is it?
There is no need to completely throw away all of the amazing work you and your baby have done to ensure that sleep is happening in a healthy environment and in a routine manner. When illness causes baby sleep problems, keep some of the following tips in mind.
It’s a given that when a cold or illness strikes, the ‘Sleep Fairy’ goes on vacation. Think about how you sleep when you’re sick, and the level of discomfort you feel at nighttime — your baby is no different (except she can’t take Nyquil). So when illness causes baby sleep problems, anticipate night wakings, prepare yourself by having a plan for dealing with those wakings. Here’s the key — how you handle those wake-ups will make a big difference.
I’m also a parent, so I understand how tempting it is to go into the nursery when your little one is sick and do whatever you can to help assuage the discomfort by rocking or re-introducing a feed. Don’t do it. I’m not saying you’re not to comfort your little one, definitely go into the room, but don’t fall victim to all of the sleep props you’ve worked so hard to rid.
By all means, share a short cuddle with your little one, wipe her nose or offer some other type of comfort, but do not interfere with her sleep skills. Don’t rock her back to sleep, don’t feed her to sleep, don’t re-introduce any of the sleep props you eliminated (or start adding new ones!).
The only time you should re-introduce nighttime feeds is if your pediatrician recommends it (IE your baby may need additional fluids due to his illness). Even then, you should only feed your little one at night for a few days, as in three days. Three days is my rule of thumb, any longer and you risk creating a new ‘routine’ for your baby, with him now waking each night expecting a feed long after the cold is gone.
I know it’s tempting, but please do not bring your baby into bed with you at night. I know, I know, you want to comfort your little one and be right by her side, but don’t do it. Routine, remember? Your baby needs to sleep in her room, in her crib (or whatever room or bed she usually sleeps in). If you feel the need to be by your child’s side while she’s sick, go to her.
That’s right, go to your baby’s natural sleep environment instead of uprooting him and bringing him into yours. Drag some cushions or an air mattress into your little one’s room and sleep in there for a night or two to monitor him.
Remember my rule of thumb? Do not spend more than three nights in your baby’s room, or else you may find yourself moving in permanently (and neither I nor you want that to happen).
What happens if everything falls apart? First of all, go easy on yourself, tending to a sick baby is not easy. Second, remember all of those healthy sleep skills and routines you and your baby worked so hard to achieve? You remember the structure, right? Well, get right back on the horse as soon as you and baby have come through the worst of it.
Start over, and if you need support to get back on track, remember that I’m just a phone call away.
You’ve finally gotten into a groove, the whole house is sleeping great at night. Getting eight glorious hours of sleep has allowed to stay up past 9pm with your partner, enjoying some kid-free time. Just as you’re beginning to get really comfortable with this routine, you hear a cry. It’s 5:30am. As the days go on, your little one begins waking earlier and earlier, and you find yourself setting the timer on the coffee maker for 4:30am. Your baby is waking too early.
If you’ve just begun The Sleep Sense Program, you’re used to your baby waking too early; early waking is pretty normal in the first couple of weeks, as your little one learns how to consolidate sleep. Don’t worry, the early mornings will become later as your little one becomes a master at sleeping.
If you’ve been working on transitioning your little one from being an early riser – with no success – give these 5 tips a try:
1. Make sure the room is dark enough.
I’ve stressed the importance of keeping the nursery dark for naps and bedtime, but you also want to make sure that the room is dark enough to facilitate sleep. You may need to adjust your window coverings with the changing seasons, as summer brings early daylight – a change in the lighting in the room, no matter how slight, may be enough to stimulate a wake up. My advice is too ensure that the room is as dark at 5:00am as it is at 3:00am.
Environmental noise is one of the top culprits of sleep disruption. Remember those early sunlight hours I was just referencing? Well, the birds will be up with the sun and they can get pretty noisy (so can the garbage truck that rolls by at 5:30am).
While I recommend investing in a white noise machine, you can easily use a fan to help block out any errant noises.
Pick a minimum wake up time (for me it’s 7:00am) and stick to it. It’s amazing how the time can creep up on you when you relax your minimum, allowing for ten early minutes. Before you know it, those ten minutes turn into twenty minutes, and then an entire half hour earlier. Pick your minimum and stick with it.
4. Take a look at your bedtime.
Many parents are taken aback when I tell them to move their child’s bedtime earlier. The fear is that moving bedtime earlier will create an earlier wake time. The reality is that their child is very likely waking early due to overtiredness. Try moving your baby’s bedtime just 30 minutes earlier and see if it makes a difference in his morning wake time.
Much like sleep training, you need to give your baby time to adjust to changes in her sleep schedule. If you put her to bed early one night, and don’t see any change in her wake time, don’t give up! Allow two weeks before trying something different.
5. Be aware of sleep associations.
Does your baby get fed as soon as he wakes up? If your baby loves to nurse, and nursing has played a large role in his sleep associations, he could be waking early because he’s looking forward to nursing.
Just like bedtime, it may help to put a little distance between wake time and first feed (or whatever your baby is anticipating first thing in the morning). Change a diaper, sing a little song or dance and then transition to nursing/feeding. Having a short break between waking and feeding can help break the association.
Hang in there and remember that you’re doing a great job! If you need more suggestions or a customized plan for you and your little one, please give me a call.
I know, I know, you never thought you’d be asking this question, especially after all of the sleepless nights you’ve endured. But now you’re noticing some changes in your little one’s sleep patterns, which is leading to you to wonder if, perhaps, your baby is sleeping too much.
The simple answer is that there is no limit on daytime sleep for babies. Every baby has different sleep needs; some sleep for a solid three hours, others do well with a quick one-hour nap to recharge. If your baby is responding well with the length of daytime naps he takes (and not exhibiting signs of overtiredness) then the question of your baby sleeping too much shouldn’t be an issue; there should be no need to tweak his schedule.
On the flip side, if your little one is struggling with bedtime, it may be an indicator that she’s getting too much sleep during the day. Take a look at the last nap of your baby’s day. Has her last nap lengthened, pushing closer to bedtime? If so, you may want to begin gently waking her from that nap.
The best way to gently wake your little one is by creating noise outside his door; open the nursery door, make some noise in the hallway, turn on the light. While I normally wouldn’t advocate for waking a sleeping baby, if the last nap of his day is interfering with his bedtime, you may gently wake him (but be prepared – he may be grouchy for the next 10-30 minutes!).
I’ve not encountered too many babies who “slept too much,” but every so often I come across a baby who sleeps more than the recommended hours for her age. If you’re concerned your baby is sleeping too much, consult your pediatrician. In very rare cases, an underlying health issue is the culprit (ie. low iron). For the vast majority of babies, there is no such thing as too much sleep.
Always remember that sleep begets sleep. If your baby is napping well throughout the day, she is setting herself up for a restful night of healthy sleep. Many well meaning friends and family members may instruct you to pull daytime naps or keep her up during the day to make her tired for bedtime — please do not do this.
Keeping your baby up during the day, in an effort to ensure bedtime sleep, will only result in an overtired little one. Once your baby hits the point of overtiredness, it can be extremely difficult to get him calm enough to get himself to sleep. I’m sure you’ve experienced being so tired you couldn’t sleep; this is exactly what your baby is experiencing when he is overtired.
Let your baby nap throughout the day and try not to wake her. If you are concerned that your baby is sleeping too much, consult your pediatrician to rule out any underlying health issues.
If you’re having difficulty getting your baby to nap well throughout the day, I’m more than happy to work with you to offer suggestions.