How Screen Time Affects Your Child’s Sleep

While digital tech was invented to be a time saver and tool of efficiency, and it is, research is showing how excessive media access is eating away at quality time and creating health habits that are inefficient for growing children. And while those electronic devices are having a myriad of negative affects on our little ones, I want to focus on some recent findings about screen time and sleep.

Screen time child sleep

Screens and sleep research findings

Now that tablets and smartphones have been around for a decade, studies are beginning to release reports on the very real ways screen time is affecting our children’s sleep habits.

We know how important the role of sleep is for healthy child development — from infants to preschoolers (and beyond) — which is why it surprises me that companies are now developing and marketing apps to babies as young as six months old! The earlier screens and mobile electronic devices are introduced, the greater the effects of screen time on our children’s health and well-being.

Study after study has reiterated how important the role of sleep is to the cognitive development of children, especially in the first two years. Per Scientific Reports:

…reduced sleep duration in the first two years of life may have long-term consequences on later developmental outcomes. These findings are mirrored by several follow-up studies in children and adolescents, showing significant associations between sleep difficulties or irregular bedtime and later problems with mental and physical health and lower cognitive and academic performance.

For example, a study published in Scientific Reports found that extending down the age of screen time exposure, to infants and toddlers, correlated with disrupted sleep in those babies. The study followed babies, ranging in age from six to thirty-six months old, and their interactions with mobile electronic devices, such as tablets or smartphones. The findings are eye-opening, pertaining to those infants and toddlers with daily screen use, finding that the amount of overall sleep lost by babies 6-36 months old, per hour of screen time use (over maximum guidelines), amounted to 15.6 minutes. Wow.

In addition, a review of over five dozen studies, targeting children ages 5 through 17, found that “more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality.”

Recommendations

So what exactly are the recommended screen time guidelines? Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), screen time recommendations are as follows:

  • For children under 18 months old, screen time should be limited to video chatting
  • Children 18-24 months should only be exposed to high-quality media, with parents watching alongside to help them understand and engage with what they’re watching
  • Children 2-5 years old should be limited to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming; again, parents should watch along with them to help them make real world connections
  • Children 6 years and older should have established and consistent limits on the time spent using media, with parents ensuring that digital media doesn’t take the place of sleep, physical activity or real-life personal interactions

Strategies for managing screens and sleep

I think the first step to managing screen time in your home is paying attention to your own habits, in addition to those of other household members. Take a look at what those apps geared towards babies and toddlers are teaching, and replicate those activities with physical play, blocks and flashcards. As tempting as it may seem (we all need a bathroom break), make sure that you’re supervising all screen time activity with your little ones, and engage your child as they interact with media. And most importantly, for both you and your child, shut off devices (this includes the television) at least an hour prior to bedtime, to reduce blue light exposure. Lastly, for those of you with older children, make sure that mobile devices and screen electronics do not go into the bedroom at night.

How to Keep Your Child Awake

I talk about sleep a lot. Here on my blog, with family, friends, clients and colleagues — sleep is a never ending topic of conversation, as it should be given my career! However, I was just telling a former client that we, as parents, spend so much of our time wishing our children would sleep, and when it’s not an appropriate time to sleep, we bend over backwards to keep our child awake. Am I right? Strange, isn’t it?

I’m going to take a break from talking about children and sleep today. I know, I know, you came here because you’re anxious to have your child develop healthy sleep habits, but did you know that wakefulness, at the right times, can help your little one sleep better?

keep-child-awake

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know how important routine is in helping children develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. And if your kiddo has healthy sleep habits, he’s not likely to fall asleep at random times or when you’re out running errands. This is because your kiddo has a routine and picks up on the sleep cues of that routine. Driving to the grocery store, in between naptimes, is not an appropriate time to sleep, especially if you want your little one to stay on schedule.

There are, however, times when your kiddo may be so tired out that you look in the rearview mirror to see her head nodding. Or, you leave the room to prepare dinner, only to return and find that your kiddo is rubbing her eyes while watching her favorite show. The alarm bells go off and you begin, like every other parent, to act like a crazy person, knowing that your child will be up until midnight if she naps now.

I’ve been known to tap my daughters’ legs if they try to nod-off, but I wanted to see what other parents do when faced with this dilemma. I asked parents and parenting writers to share how they keep their kiddos awake, and here’s what they said:

Michael Jackson is always a go to when we need to stay awake. WE DANCE! (Not my child, my nephew). Emily K.

We roll down the windows, turn up the radio and sing along at the top of our lungs! And just yesterday we gave the 5-year-old my phone to watch Funniest Home Videos on YouTube so he’d stay awake on the ride to baseball practice. Dana Kamp

I’ve tried tapping my son’s leg, opening his window and turning the radio up in the car — none of which worked — until I had a stroke of genius. My son is a mega-dinosaur fan, and a Jurassic Park fan (even the horrible 2nd and 3rd installments), so I pulled up a YouTube video of Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park ride on my phone; he was absolutely transfixed. Lauren B. Stevens

We listen to an audiobook, talk to the child, or let them throw shoes around in the backseat (I know, I’m a horrid parent). Elizabeth Broadbent

I am a terrible singer, so what I do is make up insane, very loud songs while poking at my kids and trying to engage them to sing along. If I’m able to move around, there is definitely ridiculous dancing involved, too. Their misery at my awfulness usually keeps them conscious long enough to keep them from dozing off! Kim Bongiorno

I may or may not have slammed on the brakes and screamed. Elly Lonon

I will engage in an active conversation with my child (he’s 4) so sometimes that takes imagination. We will look for things out the window to talk about. Sing songs together. Even make things up. C. is a boy that the later he is up past his bedtime the earlier he wakes up in the morning, so if his schedule gets jacked up – everyone’s life gets jacked up!!! Holly K.

I tell fart jokes. NJ Rongner

We play I spy or sing or iPad but not movies. Movies equal sleep. We do thinking games. Sometimes you just need them to stay awake! Sarah B.

“Look! A bear!” Lindsay Gallimore-O’Breham
Now you have plenty of options for the next time your kiddo attempts to take an impromptu nap! So, what do you do to keep your little one awake when s/he’s nodding off at the wrong time?

Get Baby to Sleep Longer

“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?”

Want to get baby to sleep longer? Take a look at your baby's current sleep habits and use some of these tips to get her back on track.

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.

 

Identifying Baby Sleep Signs

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.

Yawns and face rubbing aren't the only baby sleep signs. Read on to learn how to spot signs your little one is ready for a nap.

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

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.

Hyperactivity

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.

When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

I receive questions from tired and frazzled parents every week. Sometimes the answers are a simple solution that fatigue caused weary parents to overlook, and other times the issue is a little more involved, taking a bit of investigative work to uncover. This is often the case when your baby won’t sleep, as in your baby catnaps day and night, but never gets a solid block of good sleep. I’m here to help.

You feel that you've tried everything, but your baby won't sleep. Let's take a look at what might be interrupting your baby's sleep.

As I said, most questions I receive revolve around the amount of sleep their baby is getting (how much should she be sleeping?), how to lengthen the duration of naps, or how to stretch nighttime blocks of sleep. I’ll let you in on a little secret — all of those items are typically the cause when your baby won’t sleep.

To master a skill, one often needs a solid foundation as a starting point. When your baby isn’t getting enough sleep for his age, not napping long enough during the day, and not getting solid stretches of sleep through the night, this disrupts the chances of your baby establishing a healthy sleep routine. As I tell all of my clients, sleep begets sleep.

Let’s take a look at how your baby sleeps when she is sleeping. Is she getting the proper cumulative amount of daily sleep for her age? If you’re unsure how much sleep your baby should be getting at her age, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests babies between 4 months and one year of age get around 14 hours of sleep per day, from there on until preschool age, your child should be getting around 12 hours of sleep per day.

How Is Your Baby Falling Asleep?

How are you putting your little one down to sleep? Are you nursing him to sleep and transferring him to the crib? Are you rocking him to sleep and then transferring? I throw out these ideas because the majority of parents soothe their infants to sleep and then put them in their crib. By soothing your baby to sleep, you’re a.) not allowing him to learn to fall asleep on his own, b.) unknowingly teaching your baby to sleep only when soothed by yourself, and c.) creating a scenario in which he may wake once the rocking or soothing stops (when you go to transfer him) or he may wake and be startled to no longer be in his parent’s arms. Ideally, you want to put your baby in his crib when he’s drowsy, but not completely asleep.

Establish a Routine

I often find that there is a lack of routine or lack of consistency in routine when I encounter a family with sleep concerns. In order for your little one acquire healthy sleep habits, you have to practice over and over and give it at least two weeks to become firmly ingrained. Take a look at these 7 baby sleep tips for help in establishing a healthy sleep environment and routine.

Are YOU the cause?

I understand completely — you’re tired, you’re frazzled, you’re new to parenting and you just want everyone to sleep. Don’t get upset with me, but you may be the cause. I don’t think you’re purposely trying to sabotage your baby’s sleep, but you’re inadvertently creating a stumbling block. Take a look at these 5 ways parents sabotage their baby’s sleep and see if you’re guilty of any.

Call For Backup

If you’ve gone down the checklist, tried establishing a routine (and gave it a couple of consistent weeks) and your baby won’t sleep, it may be time to call for backup. Sometimes you just need an outside [well-rested] eye to take a look at your baby’s sleep practices to determine the culprit. I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment to struggling families, so now might be the best time to call. I look forward to speaking with you!

Liberate Yourself From the Baby Monitor

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.

If you find that your sleep is suffering because you're alerted to sounds from the baby monitor, it's time to liberate yourself!

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!

When Your Baby Is Afraid To Sleep In His Crib Or Room

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.

Whether you're transitioning your baby from your room, or suddenly your baby is afraid to sleep in his crib, it can be upsetting to both you and your child, but there are ways to overcome the aversion.

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.

 

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.

When Illness Causes Baby Sleep Problems

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?

 

When illness causes baby sleep problems, keep the following tips in mind.

 

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.

NIGHT WAKINGS

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!).

NIGHT FEEDS

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.

MUSICAL ROOMS

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.