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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Time Zone Travel: Dealing with Jet Lag

If you read my recent post about holidays and sleep, you may have noticed that I, ahem, skimmed a bit in the plane travel section. Plane travel can be tricky with sleep, not only because of the sheer amount of time it takes between arriving early and then flying but also because cabin pressure often causes uncomfortable physical effects that easily disrupt your little one’s ability to relax. Throw in travel between different time zones and you have a veritable obstacle course to tackle with your baby’s sleep patterns. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can deal with jet lag when traveling between time zones.

jet lag (more…)

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…)

Maintaining Your Child’s Sleep Schedule Over the Holidays

Child sleeping

With the holidays approaching, many new parents who have recently gotten their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a little over the holidays.

And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded.

Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper and turkey bones.

But I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning and an iron will, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home.

There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays. One is travel and the other is family and friends, so I just want to tackle both of those topics individually.

First off, travel.

If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to take a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. (Although if you’re looking for an excuse to cancel your trip, not wanting to throw your baby’s sleep schedule out of whack is a pretty good one. Just sayin’!)

If you’ve already started, not to worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to business as soon as you get home.

If you’re driving to your destination, a clever trick is to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. So if at all possible, get on the road right around the time that baby would normally be taking their first nap.

If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when baby gets up. It’s a great chance to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make that next nap that much easier.

If you’re flying, well, my heart goes out to you.

It’s no secret that planes and babies just don’t seem to like each other, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll hear me say this) that you do whatever gets you through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do.

The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.)

Alright! So you’ve arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, comes the hard part.

Because in the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for.

But now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s place, it’s just the opposite. Everyone wants baby awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously overstimulated. And it’s exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to get to sleep.

So if you need permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right here and now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the “I’ll just sneak in a take a quick peek,” routine that baby’s in the middle of sleep training and you’re not taking any chances of them waking up. Let them know when baby will be getting up and tell them to hang around, come back, or catch you the next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some baby time based on baby’s schedule.

I know it sounds harsh, but the alternative is an almost immediate backslide right back into day one. Baby misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then overtiredness kicks in, cortisol production goes up, and the next nap is ruined, which results in more overtiredness which derails nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re headed home and it seems like baby did nothing but cry the entire trip.

I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly.

So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you’re not budging on baby’s schedule. She took her naps at the right times, and now it’s time for bed. The only catch is that, with all of the company staying at the house, there’s only one room for you and baby.

No problem, right? Bed sharing for a few nights isn’t the end of the world, after all.

I wish I could make it that easy for you, but again, you want to make this as little of a deviation from the normal routine as possible, and babies can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night.

So this may sound a little unorthodox, but if you’re sharing a room, what I suggest is simple.

Make it into two rooms.

I’m not saying you need to bust out the lumber and drywall, but I do suggest hanging a blanket, setting up a dressing screen, or, yes, I’m going to go ahead and say it, put baby in the closet.

That sounds crazy, I know, but really, a decent sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, she won’t be distracted by being able to see you, and people accidentally walking in and out of the room are much less likely to distract her.

And while we’re on the subject of “no exceptions,” that rule extends to all other sleep props. You might be tempted to slip baby a pacifier or rock her to sleep if she’s disturbing the rest of the house, but baby is going to latch on to that really, really quickly, and chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking baby back to sleep or putting her pacifier back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot worse than a half hour of crying at 7:00 at night.

Now, on a serious note, I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed. There’s a house full of eyes and they’re all focused on the new baby, and by association, the new parent.

The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these family gatherings, but in those moments, remember what’s really important here.

Your baby, your family, and their health and well-being.

There may well be a few people who feel a bit jaded because you put baby to bed just when they got in the door, and your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is ridiculous, but remember you’re doing this for a very noble cause. Perhaps the most noble cause there is.

So stand tall and remember that you’re a superhero, defending sleep for those who are too small to defend it for themselves. If you want to wear a cape and give yourself a cool superhero name, you go right ahead. WonderMom, UberMama, The Somnum Inducere, if you’re feeling really fancy. Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by the masses.

Ignore them. You’re on a mission.

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?

5 Tips for Traveling with a Baby

When you’re traveling with a baby, be it a vacation or a quick overnight trip to visit family, you need to keep your baby’s sleep routine in mind. Trust me, organizing your trip around your baby’s sleep schedule will make for a more enjoyable time away from home! Just think about how you’ve felt in the past when you ignored your own sleep schedules, booking a red eye and returning to work that day, or forgetting to factor a time change into your travel plans — imagine your fatigue and irritability multiplied by ten, and that’s how your baby will feel.

Traveling with a baby can be a breeze if you follow these 5 tips!
Original photo by Eduardo Merille, adapted with text overlay

To help the entire family enjoy a restful trip away, I’m sharing 5 tips for traveling with a baby:

1. Pack for comfort

Yes, you should be packing comfortable shoes and clothing if you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing, but you also need to keep your baby’s comfort in mind. When you’re traveling with a baby, make sure you pack her favorite sleep items, whether it be a comfort object, such as a small blanket or stuffed animal, or a favorite pair of pajamas. You want to do as much as you can, without packing the entire nursery, to recreate your baby’s normal sleep experience. Don’t have room for your white noise machine? Download one of the many white noise apps available for phones and tuck your phone away in the room to drown out any unfamiliar noises.

2. Take it easy

Try to fight the urge to schedule lots of fun adventures during your time away, filling almost every moment of your holiday. Yes, you’re excited, you’re finally getting away! However, your baby will be unable to keep a harried and over-scheduled pace, and will likely make you regret it (trust me). By all means, plan fun outings and adventures, but space them appropriately, allowing time for your little one to get the rest she needs.

3. Consistency is key

You’re on vacation to have a break from your everyday routine, but the routine you don’t want to break is that of your baby’s. Try, as much as possible, to honor your child’s nap and bed times. An occasional nap in the car, or later bedtime likely won’t completely derail your little one, but you want to try to keep sleep schedule deviations to a minimum. In addition to trying to keep your baby on the same sleep schedule, you also want to keep your sleep routine the same. If you usually do bath, bottle, book and then bed, don’t forget to pack a book or two to maintain that routine.

4. Maintain usual sleeping arrangements

Again, consistency is key when traveling with a baby. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start while you’re on vacation. Most hotels offer cribs, and many families find that finding hotels that offer suites help make traveling with a baby much easier. With two rooms, able to be separated by a door, you’ll be able to put your baby down at her usual time, without forcing yourself and your partner to turn in for the night at 7pm. Keeping your sleeping arrangements the same as at home also makes it easier for your little one to transition to and from home while traveling, and less likely to develop a habit of climbing into bed with mom and dad.

5. Be patient

Be aware that even if you follow your baby’s sleep routine and schedule closely, your little one may still be a bit unsettled in the new environment, possibly crying or waking at odd hours. Remember how you felt sleeping in a strange place as a child, and be patient while your baby adjusts. Treat sleep disruptions as you would at home, going in every 5 minutes or so for reassurance, but not bending your normal sleep rules.

The more you take it easy while traveling, and consistently stick to your baby’s usual routines, the better time your entire family will have. Remember, I’m only a phone call away, should you need guidance. Safe travels!

Tips for Helping Baby Sleep Safely: Holiday Travel Can Create Challenges

As you pack your bags for holiday travel, do not forget to pack what you’ll need to ensure a safe sleeping environment for your baby away from home.

newborn sleeping
newborn sleeping

Infants who can only lift their heads slightly rely on you to ensure that they are placed on their backs, and that they always have space to breathe that is free of pillows and soft bedding. If a child is placed on his or her stomach on a soft surface such as a pillow, sofa or adult bed, they cannot clear their faces enough to breathe.

In 2010, there were 35 injury-related deaths to Kentucky children under 1. Of those, suffocation was the cause of at least 60 percent, with 34 percent involving suffocations in bed. That’s a whole classroom of kids lost to unsafe sleep. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates have been decreasing since we started to place babies to sleep on their backs. Unfortunately, deaths from unsafe sleeping conditions continue but are preventable. Here are some simple guidelines to use in making sure your child is sleeping in safe and healthy conditions:

  • At home, decorate yournursery walls and furniture with color and imagination, but leave your baby’s crib free of any extra soft material that can cause suffocation.
  • Use a bassinette, portable or permanent crib with a firm, well-fitting mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Bassinettes are useful because you can place them right next to the side of the bed within your reach, but the baby remains safe in his/her own protected space, and they can also be easily moved to another room during the day.
  • Find fitted sheets in bright patterns or colors, in cotton or soft flannel, but always keep blankets, bumpers, pillows, clean laundry, stuffed animals and other toys out of your baby’s crib.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool to avoid overheating, and dress your baby in a sleeper warm enough that they do not need a blanket.
  • Smoking is associated with an increased rate of SIDS as well as other health problems.
  • At home, and especially on the road, a portable crib can be very helpful. Adult beds, infant car seats and swings are not safe places for babies to sleep. Babies in adult beds can end up under the arm or body of a sleeping adult. A baby in an adult bed could also fall into the crack between the bed and wall or headboard and becomewedged there.
  • Avoid using positioning devices that claim to reduce SIDS, as none have been shown to do so, and some wedges were recalled after actually being found to increase the risk of suffocation deaths

Every month in Kentucky, we review deaths of babies who died because of unsafe sleeping environments. Please use the above information to be sure that your baby is safe at home, during travel and while visiting.   Dr. Susan H. Pollack is a pediatrician at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and is Kentucky State Safe Kids coordinator.   LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 4, 2012) – The following column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Dec. 2.   By Dr. Susan Pollack

Vacations for Kids – Healthy Sleep Tips While On The Road

Summer is in full swing and you know what that means…VACATION!  While the idea of traveling on your much anticipated holiday is very exciting, for some parents it can also be met with a bit of anxiety.  The reasoning might very well be because you have worked hard to get your little one on a great schedule and sleeping through the night.  Now that everyone’s sleep is back on track you probably don’t want to do anything that is going to cause you to undo your great work.  Below are some of my tips and suggestions to make your vacation one to remember while also creating a great little traveler.

Don’t Over-Schedule!

Vacations for Kids - Healthy Sleep Tips While On The Road
Vacations for Kids – Healthy Sleep Tips While On The Road

Many parents want to make the most of every moment of their vacation.  While seeing the sites and enjoying the attractions are why you planned your family’s vacation, keep on the agenda time every day (preferably at the same time) to allow for rest and relaxation.  A great time to pencil this in is early afternoon just after lunch.  It allows everyone to recharge their batteries for the remainder of the day while also allowing your little napper the sleep time they need.  And speaking of naps…

Limit The Number of Naps That Your Baby or Toddler is Taking in The Car

The occasional car nap is okay once in a while, but if you find your little one napping often in the car over the course of your vacation, you may run into difficulty getting them to take naps in their crib or bed once you have returned.

Avoid too late bedtimes

A slightly later bedtime during your vacation is okay, but if you consistently keep your little one awake well past their bedtime, you are setting the scene for the perfect toddler meltdown storm.  And we parents like to avoid that at all costs.

Keep to the same bedtime routine and rules while away on vacation

Although you might be miles away from home, continuing with the normal bedtime routine will help set the stage and expectation of sleep.  Babies and toddlers love to test boundaries, and if given an opportunity during the vacation, you could be looking at bedtime battles every evening and wakings during the night.  If night wakings do occur, respond as you would at home and guide your little one back to sleep independently.

Create Your Child’s Own Sleeping Space in Your Home Away From Home.

If they are small enough to use a portable crib for sleep, I suggest bringing along your child’s lovey, blanket or sleep sack, and your own crib sheets (and pack n play if possible).  Familiar sleep items and the familiar smell of your child’s sheets will help reinforce the sleep expectation while also guarding against the temptation to bring your baby or toddler into bed with you.  Speaking of bed sharing…

Don’t Bed Share with Your Little One if You Don’t Normally Do It at Home.

If your child spends a week in your bed while on vacation they will surely want to continue this new standard once they are home.  Besides the possible safety issues I can guarantee that your baby would much prefer sleeping with you than in their own crib.

If possible, Allow Your Child Time to Fall Asleep Alone in Your Hotel Room.

Now, I am not advocating leaving your child unattended.  But I am suggesting that once you put your little one down for the night you sit right outside your hotel room door or on your balcony (preferably with some prearranged wine and snack via room service) for at least a half hour to allow your sleep trained child to fall asleep without distraction.  Once they are asleep you can move back into the room and get ready for bed yourself.

Portable White Noise

Hotels and the area around some vacation houses can be rather noisy throughout the night.  If your little one normally listens to white noise while sleeping at home, I strongly suggest you continue use during your vacation.  I am a huge advocate of using white noise in a child’s room to reduce possible waking in the night due to environmental noise.  I know that Amazon.com has quite a few portable options to choose from that can fit right in your baby back.

Enjoy yourself and your family

Vacations are a great time to reconnect and refresh.  Enjoy the time you spend together and make the most of the experience while also keeping a watchful eye on your little one’s sleep needs.

Sweet Dreams!