7 Baby Sleep Tips

As a sleep consultant, I am constantly asked for baby sleep tips: what is the secret to getting your baby to sleep through the night? The reality is that there is not one secret, or one way, to get your baby to sleep through the night. Teaching your baby healthy sleep habits is the best foundation for getting your little one to sleep through the night. These baby sleep tips will help you set the foundation for healthy sleep habits and a good night’s rest!

7-BABY-SLEEP-TIPS

 

#1 WATCH THE WAKING HOURS

Sleep begets sleep, so ensuring that your baby or toddler is napping well during the day helps prevent overtiredness. Overtiredness is a sleep killer, making naps and nighttime sleep difficult for your little one. Let’s take a quick look at how long your child should be awake between naps throughout the day:

NEWBORNS (0-12 weeks): 45 minutes of awake time

3-5 MONTHS: 1 1/2 – 2 hours of awake time

6-8 MONTHS: 2-3 hours of awake time

9-12 MONTHS: 3-4 hours of awake time

13 MONTHS to 2 1/2 YEARS: 5-6 hours of awake time

The key to great naps is ensuring that your little on is put down before she gets overtired. Once you’ve mastered nap times, you’ll find that bedtime will be a smooth process.

#2 DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

It’s no secret that humans, adults and children, sleep better in a dark environment. Make your child’s room as dark as possible, using blackout shades or curtains, to create a dark and cozy environment conducive to sleep. Be mindful of any ambient light you may have in the room, such as digital alarm clocks or night lights, as these items can possibly disrupt sleep.

#3 BE PREDICTABLE

Babies and toddlers thrive with the predictability of set routines and schedules. Establishing nap and bedtime routines aids greatly in creating healthy sleep habits. Keep your child’s bedtime routine predictable as well, lasting no longer than 30 minutes. Establishing these routines signals sleep for your little one. Here is an example of a typical bedtime routine:

  • Bath (5 minutes)
  • Put on pajamas (5 minutes)
  • Nurse or bottle-feed (10 minutes)
  • Read a book (10 minutes)

The keys to establishing your baby’s bedtime routine is ensuring that a.) it happens at the same time each night (or within a 30 minute window), and b.) the routine follows the same order each night (predictability, remember?). Remember that bedtime is a time of quiet, devoid of any stimulation, so be boring. If your little one throws a blanket or stuffed animal from their crib, or stands up, quietly replace the item and leave the room — no talking!

#4 FEED AFTER NAPS, NOT BEFORE

A vast majority of babies and toddlers have difficulty sleeping because they associate feeding with sleep. Unknowingly, you’ve created an association that makes your little one think that she needs to nurse or have a bottle before she can fall asleep. By feeding your little one after nap time, you can break this association.

NOTE: This tip pertains to naps only; your little one needs a full tummy at bedtime to prevent night wakings.

#5 SAME PLACE, SAME TIME

As I’ve stated, routine and predictability are the secrets to establishing healthy sleep habits for your baby or toddler. Place your child to bed in the same place each day for both nap and bedtimes. If your child is with a caregiver during the day, create a similar sleep environment to establish familiarity. Keep nap and bedtimes on a set schedule (or within the same 30 minute window) to establish a predictable routine.

#6 TRY THE 1, 2, 3 SYSTEM

Night wakings can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome with babies and sleep. When your baby begins to fuss, try to wait before running in to tend to her.

The first day, wait one minute before going into the nursery, two minutes the second day, three minutes the third day, and so on. The purpose of this is to allow your baby time to self-soothe back to sleep. Everyone wakes briefly at the end of each 45 minute sleep cycle, including babies, and the 1, 2, 3 system helps you teach your baby what you already know — how to transition between sleep cycles.

#7 TAKE FIVE

Once you’ve gone through your baby’s nap or bedtime routine, be mindful of the final five minutes of the routine. The last five minutes of your child’s sleep routine should be calm and quiet, setting the tone for sleep. This means no tickle fights and no television (ticklefights are perfect for when your little one wakes!).

These baby sleep tips are often all that is needed to get your child to sleep, and sleep well. If you find that you’re still struggling after implementing these tips, I’m available to give you guidance.

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!

Sleep Tips: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines and Sleep Rules

Congratulations, you have made it through the first two years with your little one and now they have graduated from diapers and baby food and have leaped into (with gusto) the world of the Toddler/Preschooler.  If your son or daughter have settled into great sleep habits, congratulations to you on stressing the importance of sleep to your family. Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines

But as your rock star sleepers continue to grow mentally, physically and emotionally, you’ll most likely need to modify your bedtime routine to accommodate their growing skills and needs.  And a fantastic addition to the bedtime routine is introducing sleep rules sometime after the age of two (when the toddler and preschool years are in full swing).

Sleep Tip: Updating Toddler Bedtime Routines.

As I wrote about in a previous blog post, toddlers and preschoolers are born boundary pushers.  If they see an opportunity to rebel against the rules and possibly get away with it, they will try it.

It’s just part of what makes a toddler a toddler and can continue to be part of a preschooler’s bag of tricks if they have been able to push boundaries and succeed in the past. That is why consistency when it comes to bedtime and sleep is so important.

When your son or daughter was a baby, you (hopefully) established an effective and enjoyable bedtime routine to set the tone and expectation that bedtime was near.  It was a great opportunity to wind down from the days events and spend some quiet special time together.

Some of the key elements of an infant bedtime routine usually includes a bath, possibly some infant massage, a feeding, maybe a story or song and then kisses and one last quick cuddle before being placed into the crib to drift off to dreamland.

When updating your toddler bedtime routines you do not need to totally reinvent the wheel, rather just rotate out the components that are not applicable such as the infant massage (because let’s face it, toddlers rarely have the ability to stay still long enough to offer a soothing massage) and the pre bed feeding as it is no longer a necessity to offer a breastfeeding or bottle just before bed at this age and stage.

However, let me take a moment to address breastfeeding into toddlerhood.    If you are a family that is still enjoying an active breastfeeding relationship past 12 months I wish to applaud you on your decision and commitment.  There is no reason to cease this bonding relationship until you are ready to.  But I will share that if you would still like offer an evening breastfeeding, a great time to do it is after dinner but before the bedtime routine.

So swap out the massage…check and swap out the feeding…check, check.  But I bet you are asking what to add in place of the massage and swaddle?  Great question, and I have the answer!  My suggestions are using the potty and brushing of the teeth.  With the addition of these two components, a toddler or bedtime routine can look similar to this:

  1. Bath
  2. Lotion and pajamas
  3. Brush teeth
  4. Use the potty one last time
  5. Story
  6. Song
  7. Sleep Rules (we will get to that in a minute)
  8. Kisses & hug and into the crib or bed (is it time to transition to a bed?)

Oh, and before I forget, a gentle reminder that a bedtime routine for any age should take no longer than 30 minutes start to finish (including bath).

Toddler Sleep Tips: Setting nighttime expectations via Sleep Rules

Now you may have noticed component #7 in the bedtime routine is SLEEP RULES.  This is something that I use with both of my daughters and suggest all of my families use with their toddlers and preschoolers.  It can be introduced once your little one is two years of age and at first you will be reciting them with the hopes and expectation that soon (usually after 6 months of nightly repetition) your son or daughter will start and continue to recite them back to you!  Sleep rules are great because they clearly define your expectations for your children from the time they are tucked in bed until it is time to wake up in the morning.

The rules should be simple to comprehend and easy to follow.  I should also add that they should be realistic in scope.  Sure, we would love for our children to stay in bed until 8:00 or 9:00am Saturday morning (and if yours do I am jealous), but reality is that toddlers and preschoolers are born early risers (anywhere between 6:00 – 7:00am).  That being said, asking your little one to stay in bed and remain quiet for an additional hour or two just isn’t going to happen.  Don’t give out hope though…one day they will be teens.  🙂

So, without further delay, I would love to share with you my 4 Easy Sleep Rules:

  1. Stay in bed
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Stay quiet
  4. Stay asleep or in bed until the clock says it’s morning.

And there you have it.  Easy ways to update your child bedtime routine to fit the needs of a toddler or preschooler while also incorporating simple to follow sleep rules that will help ensure that you all get a good night’s sleep.

As always, I welcome you to reach out to me to discuss this and all sleep related topics further.  Help getting your little one’s sleep back on track could only be a phone call away.

To Healthy Sleep!

click to schedule

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Healthy Sleep Habits for The Toddlers – The Tornado Known as Katie

Encouraging healthy sleep habits in a toddler leads to a child who is curious, engaging and ready to take on the world because the are well rested and able to learn.  The world is their Oyster!  Speaking of well a well rested toddler, would you like to see the latest work of art from my youngest daughter?  I speak of the little 2.5 year old Toddler Tornado that we affectionately call Katie (or Catherine Grace) if she’s really reaching F5 territory. Well, if you glace below, you’ll see the absolutely lovely purple sharpie creation that dear sweet child left for me on one of my kitchen cabinets and part of the wall while I stepped away for no more than 2 minutes to quickly get myself dressed so we could start our day.  Apparently, it was 2 minutes too many and just enough time for Katie to procure said purple sharpie from goodness only knows where and scribbles with a flourish that Picasso would be proud of.

Katie's  Artwork

Beautiful isn’t it?  Katie was quite proud of it as well until she saw my reaction.  Mine was a Home Alone hands on either side of the face reaction while I was saying in quick succession, “Oh My Gosh!  OH. MY. GOSH!”  I’m  fairly certain that she thought I had lost my mind.  “Oh Katie what did you do?” I asked as I tried to reign in my emotions and not to sob like a baby cry.

Her response, now deflated of all confidence, “ I drawed for you.”  Well, obviously!  Rapid fire quick I started asking where did you find the marker…WHERE IS THE MARKER?  A clear panic in my voice as I thought what else she could have beautified.  Looking back, it wasn’t one of my best parenting moments.  But it was PURPLE PERMANENT MARKER!  And yes, you can get most of it off with rubbing alcohol and a little elbow grease, but alas, that cabinet and wall will need to be repainted.

 

It’s been a learning experience for all of us.  Now all markers have been gathered and stored on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet.  Safe for only about a month or two max knowing Katie.   But lives are full of learning experiences aren’t they?  And while I have learned to never under estimate a highly intelligent and curious toddler, my dynamo of a toddler has learned quite a bit in her first 2.5 years.

Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits: A New Beginning = A Second Chance

father holding newborn baby
father holding newborn baby

From the moment that my second daughter was born I vowed that I was going to do things differently and not fall into the painful, sleep deprived patterns that we found ourselves in with the birth of my first daughter whom we affectionately call Lizzy.  I’ve written about my sleep deprived experience with my first daughter in an earlier post (read all about it HERE) and how I found my way back to the land of the well rested.

So when Katie was born I knew I didn’t want to slide down that slippery slope again.  We were going to practice healthy sleep habits right from the start. Now that doesn’t mean that we jumped into sleep training a newborn.  That’s crazy talk!  But what it does mean is respecting Katie’s need for sleep and being sure to allow her the time to slowly learn how to self soothe and put herself to sleep unassisted.  As amazing as it may sound, often times I laid Katie down for her naps awake in her crib and gave her time to try and put herself to sleep.  And you know what…most of the time she was successful.

Of course, if ever she was having difficulty completing this task I would step in and help her along.  But from the first week of life (and after leaving the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), we slowly introduced healthy sleeping and eating practices.  And, well, Katie thrived and grew fast.  During the day she took awesome naps and was happy and content.  At night, when she woke up to eat I made sure that I continued to foster healthy sleep and eating habits for a newborn and avoiding common nighttime feeding mistakes.  And slowly but surely over the course of the next 12 weeks,

Katie settled into a predictable nap time and bedtime routine and would drift off to sleep totally on her own.  Better yet, she also now was only waking once a night to feed.  Yay for longer nighttime stretches!

But that’s not to say that there weren’t some bumps along the way.  Of course with age, sleep migrates from that of a newborn to that of an infant and often that is when families will call me in a panic asking what happened to their awesome easy sleeper.

And our Katie was not immune to the sleep disruption during these changes. But that is a story for another day and I will continue with that part of the story in next week’s blog post. Until then…Sweet Dreams!

Healthy Sleep Habits = Happy Child

Healthy Sleep Habits
Healthy Sleep Habits

Healthy sleep habits for your baby or child are extremely important for the 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).

Here are some great tips and insights about creating the perfect sleeping environment for your baby.

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.

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 habit: 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 sleep habit: 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.

 

Snooze…how one Momma got her groove back by teaching her baby to sleep

The review below was written by my client Courtney who was sleep deprived due to her baby boy not sleeping well at night and having unpredictable naps during the day.  It was a pleasure to work with Courtney and I am so glad that she is finally getting the sleep she needs and deserves. 

Sleep Daily Bloom

I have been hesitant to write this review for various reasons. The biggest reason being that I’ve been nervous that if I announced  “my baby has been sleeping 13 hours every SINGLE night,” I would be jinxing myself.

It has been one whole month since Jennifer Schindele of Gift of Sleep Consulting has changed my life. She came to my house, “assessed” the sleeping (or lack thereof) situation and came up with a sleep plan for my baby.  I’m not going to go into all the lovely details but I was doing a handful of things that contributed to a baby that did not sleep at night. I’m pretty sure I was just too tired to change and I needed this knowledgeable woman to come into my life and give me some guidance.

My family is now accustomed to peaceful evenings and a happier mama.

If you find yourself in  a similar position, I highly recommend giving Jennifer a call. She is a miracle worker!