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Natalie Willes is extremely mediagenic and is frequently used as a media expert.

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How to Successfully Sleep Train Baby with Older Siblings

As my team and I worked tirelessly to develop the Baby Sleep Trainer video training series one thought that came up through the feedback channels was that sleep training really is a lifestyle change. Much like exercise or diet, if you want your child to have healthy sleep habits throughout their childhood, then you must ensure that you are enforcing good sleep habits in your family’s day-to-day life. So, how do you work towards good sleep habits for your infant while still meeting the needs of your older children?

There are two main categories when discussing maintaining good sleep training habits for younger children while caring for older siblings’ sleep.

1. Infant schedule is in conflict with sibling’s outings (+ there’s a need for napping on-the-go):

This can happen when a young infant naps three times a day, and one or more of their naps overlaps a time when a parent needs to be out for school pick-up or drop-off, or for some other activity. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that it’s only a matter of time. Usually these types of conflicts occur most when baby is between 4-7 months of age. In those early months it is near impossible to take baby out and not have them either be in the car during nap time, or have them in the car outside of nap time where they fall asleep anyway. In either case, it’s best for Mom and Dad to just do the best they can to avoid taking baby out unnecessarily, and try very, very hard not to be stressed when baby is off schedule. When baby naps on the go, that should be counted as their first, second, or third nap of the day, and once they get home, they should be kept awake until as close as possible to their next scheduled nap time. Once babies get into a two nap schedule (around 7 months, when they nap around 9 am and 1:30 pm) it becomes much easier to navigate school pick-ups and drop-offs, and perhaps even move around a baby’s schedule to accommodate their sibling’s outings. If parents have any reinforcements to call in such as a carpool, or grandparents watching baby during school pick-up, this would be a time to call in that help.

2. Infant sleep training waking older sibling:

I have to say, there is a near constant concern amongst parents that a crying younger sibling will wake an older sibling throughout the night. Let me start by saying that I have worked with hundreds of families who have a baby plus an older child(ren), and I can count on one hand the amount of times a crying baby woke the older child! This is astonishing even to me. Older toddlers and school-aged children typically sleep very deeply overnight so they aren’t usually bothered by the cries of their baby sister. Ensuring they have their own white noise and a closed bedroom door also helps. Even so, some parents feel better sending the older child out for a sleepover with grandma for a few days, or even inviting big brother to sleep in Mom and Dad’s room on the one condition that they must remain quiet and sleep all night, or risk losing the privilege of the sleep over and get sent back to sleep in their own room. Finally, discussing with your older toddler or child that baby brother is going to be learning how to fall asleep without help, and might be crying a bit, can go a very long way. If they know that it’s their job to be quiet and sleep at night so that baby brother can get some sleep as well, you may be surprised at how motivated they are to help out with the sleep training process.

There is a lot of apprehension that goes along with sleep training, but thankfully disrupting older children’s sleep through the training process is almost never something parents find to be an issue.

How to Deal with the Stigma & Judgment of Sleep Training

As a sleep consultant I spend a tremendous amount of time disabusing people of their previous beliefs regarding sleep training. As any parent who has spent anytime in a parenting Facebook group, or googling anything about children and sleep, knows there’s A LOT of information out there. Most of it conflicts with each other and everyone has an opinion. Because so much of sleep training involves your child protesting falling asleep without help (read: crying), well-meaning family members and friends don’t think twice about making verbal judgments about people’s choices to sleep train. It can be very difficult if you are a mother who has been primarily responsible for feeding and caring for your child overnight, and during the day, and are starting to feel the fatigue associated with lack of sleep. Since it can take a lot of courage to pursue sleep training, it is absolutely crushing when a parent’s spouse, partner, parent, or friends chooses to make a comment that second guesses one’s choice to sleep train.

Even though there can be a lot of stigma and judgment around sleep training from one’s friends and family, there are three main things you can say or do to combat other people’s comments in a friendly, but direct way.

1. Tell them the facts

Depending on how close this family member is, you want to make sure you start by sharing with them just how much this lack of sleep is truly hurting you and hurting your child. Cite specific instances that show how this lack of sleep is affecting you and your child – ie. tell your spouse when you nearly hit someone with your car, or that you snapped unnecessarily at a friend (or at them!), or that you are forgetting small tasks. You can also tell them that lack of sleep is diminishing the joy you feel as a parent. As far as baby is concerned, point out dark circles under your little one’s eyes or other ways you’ve noticed lack of sleep has affected their demeanor. In addition to factually stating how lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life, arm yourself with scientific fact. Tell them that lack of sleep affects children’s brain development, increases their likelihood of childhood obesity, generally makes them more irritable, and reduces their body’s ability to fight off infections and common childhood diseases. If you dig a little deeper online, you’ll find a multitude of studies supporting the links between lack of sleep and harm to your body, and that of your child’s.

2. Tell them the plan

Confidently outline your plan. Remember that you control the message, and you have one chance to “sell” your friend or family member on what you are going to do. Help them realize you’ve done a lot of research, gotten help where you’ve needed to, and feel confident that even though there will be crying that it will be best for the baby. Be clear that you may need help, and clearly outline what you might expect in the way of support during the process. Here is where you also want to acknowledge that crying will be involved. Ask what specific concerns there may be with the crying, and be prepared to factually respond to concerns. As an additional resource to this post, I’m providing my very favorite go-to, scientific articles to show that sleep training is not harmful to children, despite what many sources on the internet might say (get the article links below). If your spouse or family member has specific concerns about crying, note the articles, and do some additional research to prove that your child will be safe and healthy through the process. Also be ready to involve your pediatrician as back up! Most doctors will be on board with a well thought-out, sleep-training plan, and that can hold a lot of weight with loved ones who are concerned about sleep training.

3. Tell them you’ve made your choice

This last one is admittedly a little tricky. When I advise my one-on-one clients on how to navigate family members who are giving them a hard time about sleep training, I can take into account a variety of factors and produce talking points I think will go over well with that person’s specific concerns and personality type. Since I’m advising the general public, take what you think might work from this last tip. Sleep training can be a somewhat daunting task and it’s hard to be confident that you’ve made the right choice until you’re on the other side with a blissfully sleeping baby. But, if you have come to the decision to sleep train – you need to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Tell your loved one that you have made your choice, will not be backing down, and that sleep training is challenging enough as it is without dealing with judgment and criticism. Explain that you’ve done everything you can to factually dissuade their concerns, but that you will not be changing your mind about pursuing this path. Go back again and kindly state that you love your loved one, you love your baby, and that you are in trouble and need help. Remind them you would love their help and support, but at the very least you will not tolerate them making this path more difficult. Ask them (to the extent possible) to keep any negative opinions to themselves. A caveat to this is if the person you are speaking to is your spouse or partner (and the parent to your child). It is not a wise idea to pursue sleep training if this person is not on board. But, if you find your spouse or partner is 100% against sleep training, I would let them know that you respect their wishes, but can no longer be counted on to be the primary caretaker of your child overnight. If they do not wish to support you in sleep training, they will simply have to take on the entirety of the overnight care for your child. If your baby requires feeds, attempt to have your spouse or partner feed them bottles, OR, establish 1, 2, or 3 feedings each night (whatever you feel is necessary), then hand your child to your spouse or partner and go back to sleep. Again, remember that you must modify this advice to fit your particular family dynamic, but know that it’s amazing how quickly you can get a partner on board once they are primarily responsible for taking care of your child overnight.

Remember that being clear, direct, and confident can go a long way in getting loved ones on board with training, or at least in helping them to keep their opinions to themselves until the 1-2 week process of training your child has passed.

Get Natalie's Favorite Scientific Articles

How to Help Your Sick Baby Sleep Best and When to Resume Sleep Training

As if it doesn’t take so much time and courage to finally get a sleep training plan going, it seems that so often something like illness threatens to put a wrench in your plans! Since it seems to take so much motivation to start sleep training in the first place, illness often stops the process short, and parents struggle to resume training again. Here I’ll discuss how to maintain whatever progress has been made in terms of a child’s sleep, and when it’s safe to resume the sleep training process.

First of all, evaluate where you are in the sleep training process. If it’s in the middle of the first night of training when you discover your son has a fever, I would suggest abandoning all sleep training plans until your child is totally healthy. If, however, you are to the point in sleep training where your child has made substantial progress, then it would make sense to simply attend to your child as needed, but continue to focus on them falling asleep unassisted.

When your baby is ill, whether or not they are sleep trained, it’s vital to attend to every need they have associated with the illness. If the pediatrician approves fever-reducing medicine, use that to comfort your child. If your child has a fever and is dehydrated, address that with a feeding (while making sure baby doesn’t fall asleep while being fed). Whatever your child needs, fulfill that need! Just simply remember not to actually facilitate your child falling asleep. That needs to be done totally unassisted. Remember that illness usually does not mean a child suddenly needs help in falling asleep, and that falling asleep unassisted is not a skill a child loses when they become ill. Love them and care for them, but don’t be there as they fall asleep. That is a sure fire way to maintain whatever progress your child has made in their sleep training journey.

Instead of bringing your sick child into your bed (and thus helping them fall asleep), keep them in their crib in their room, and simply share the room with them. Sleep on an air mattress, bed or couch, and be right there in case they need you. But, once again, don’t be physically present with them as they go from being awake to asleep. Watch them on the monitor to make sure they are safe, and as soon as their eyes close and they fall asleep, go in and sleep near them so that you are there for whatever they may need as they wake through the night.

You’ll know it’s safe to resume your sleep training plans when your child is 100% healthy (no fever, vomiting or other signs of illness) for at least 24 hours. It is also highly advisable that you take your child into the pediatrician to verify that they’re totally healthy before jumping back into any serious sleep training.

How to Properly Dream Feed Your Baby

Dream feeding is one of those terms that gets tossed around so much that everyone assumes that everyone else knows the exact meaning of the term. Yet when you dig a little deeper, you realize that people have WILDLY different definitions of the same exact word!

Just so everyone is on the same page – a dream feed is when a parent goes to their sleeping infant, picks them up (or props them up in their crib to offer a bottle), feeds the child, and then puts them back down *asleep* without the baby ever having woken up. A dream feed is NOT a dream feed if a child opens their eyes at any point in the process. Generally speaking, a dream feed is done between the hours of about 9:30pm and 12:00am. Technically, if all other terms are met, but the feed is done outside of these hours, the feeding is still a dream feed.

Dream feeds are a great tool from birth (or a few weeks after, when babies are not quite so sleepy), through to when a baby is done being swaddled. It is very challenging to dream feed a baby, even a very young one, without waking them up if they are not swaddled. Generally speaking, it’s wise to stop dream feeding around 14-16 weeks of age.

I like dream feeds for young babies not because they necessarily prevent babies from waking up to eat at night, though sometimes this is the case, but more so because I appreciate the “insurance policy” of extra calories at night. As long as a baby is young enough that the dream feed itself does not wake them and fracture their sleep, doing a dream feed can insure that they are getting as many calories as possible during their day.

Some babies respond beautifully to a dream feed, especially those with reflux! From about 7pm on through to about 2 or 3am, the body is flooded with the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for many things, chief amongst them making the body feel drowsy and relaxing the long muscles (abs, legs, and arms). Since the abdominal muscles are relaxed, it’s common for babies with a lot of reflux to tolerate a dreamfeed without spitting up, and without needing to be burped or held upright afterwards. I can speak to this from personal experience with my own extremely reflux-y, wholly unmedicated daughter. Since the concern for calorie intake is so high with reflux babies, dream feeds can be especially useful for them.

The bottom line, is that a dream feed – if understood for what it truly is, and if done correctly, can benefit baby AND parents by offering an extra dose of nutrition and helping baby sleep (parents too)!

5 Tips to Get Two Babies Under 2-years-old to Sleep in the Same Room

5 Tips on How to Get Two Babies Under 2-Years-Old to Sleep in the Same Room

1.Get a feel for your older child’s sleep temperament.
Is your older kiddo a sensitive sleeper? Or can he sleep through fire engine lights and sirens going past his window? Get a feel for how easily your older child wakes, and especially how easily he falls back to sleep when woken up, and this should give you an idea of when to have the younger baby sibling join in the same room. If your older child is a light sleeper, it’s best to wait until he is sleeping as solidly through the night as possible. However, if the older sibling seems to sleep through just about anything, having a few-months-old infant in the room who is still waking through the night should be no big deal.

2. White Noise.
White noise is this sleep consultant’s secret weapon! Even if your older child is not a sensitive sleeper, it’s an extremely wise idea to use very loud white noise in the room both children are sharing. This will serve to block out any cries, coughs, or other sounds from disturbing either child.

3. Put the older child to sleep first, if possible.
This tip can really go either way, with whichever child seems to be the deeper sleeper going to sleep first, followed by the lighter-sleeping sibling going down about 20-30 minutes later. This can be tricky in cases where infants are the ones that fall asleep earlier but are also light sleepers (this seems to be most often the case). In this scenario, the younger sibling can be put down first, but Mom and Dad should work very, very hard to try to teach the older sibling to go to sleep quietly instead of being loud and rambunctious and waking up their baby sibling.

4. Cribs
One of the most common mistakes parents make is transitioning their older child out of a crib too soon, in order to give it to a new sibling. I favor keeping children in cribs as long as it is safe to do so. Many kids can stay in cribs until they reach the age of four! Unless an older child is crawling out of the crib, it’s wise to keep crib-aged siblings sharing a room in individual cribs instead of having the older sibling able to get up and walk around, disrupting the sleep of their younger sibling.

5. Consider a room within a room.
In some cases it might be a good idea to create a “room within a room” for the younger of the two babies. Ikea’s Dignitet curtain wire makes it possible to create a curtained off space anywhere walls and a ceiling are present. Curtaining off an infant’s crib (while leaving a video monitor and white noise within the curtains) can allow the older child more freedom to move around, read a book, or otherwise just co-exist more comfortably while sharing a room with a baby brother or sister.

7 Most Common Baby Sleep Training Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

 

1) Not understanding what sleep training is
Sleep training is not about bedtime routines and lavender massages. However, it is about your kiddo learning how to go from being awake to being asleep all on their own. Meaning, being able to fall asleep without the help of a caregiver, a car, a swing, or a pacifier. In that way, nearly all sleep training methods are similar. As parents, you want to develop a plan where you can put your child down awake, and find a way that you feel most comfortable dealing with the inevitable protest crying that will initially occur (like doing timed checks, for example). Then most importantly, making the commitment from that bedtime and on, that you will not assist your child to fall asleep. After several days, babies and toddlers will learn to fall asleep unassisted, and sleep training will be complete. The whole goal is getting baby to sleep longer by teaching them how to put themselves to sleep.

2) Not sleep training for naps and nighttime simultaneously
One of the biggest mistakes I see families make before working with me is their attempt to sleep train only for nights without training for naps at the same time, or vice versa. In an effort to not let their children become, “overtired,” parents often help their babies fall asleep for naps during the day, while only sleep training at night. Because there is so much melatonin in the body at bedtime, kids fall asleep relatively easily for bedtime, and throughout the night, yet struggle to nap unassisted during the day. In this case, after a few days the child might sleep well at night, however, when parents try to tackle nap sleep, the child uses all their stamina from solid night sleep to then fight naps – making nap training extremely difficult. Worse so, if a child continues to receive help to sleep during the day, it is usually only a matter of time until a sleep disruption (such as illness or travel), causes nighttime sleep issues…which then requires a parent to start from square one. The parent now has to help their child fall back to sleep for bedtime, and in the middle of the night – all over again. In this circumstance, it’s only a short period of time before sleep training progress completely falls apart.

3) Keeping the pacifier
Unless a child old, and dexterous, enough to reach out in the middle of the night and quickly put a pacifier back in their mouth, sleep training while using a pacifier isn’t really sleep training. The truth is, whatever your child relies on to fall asleep at the onset of bedtime or nap time will be the same thing they’ll want to have to fall back to sleep with throughout the night. Even older babies who can easily re-insert the pacifier in their mouths often experience significant nighttime wake ups just looking for their pacifier. Ensuring a child can fall asleep without any help whatsoever is always the best route to pursue for long-term results, and a well-rested baby.

4) Not making an ideal sleep environment a priority
I always require that 4 things be present when sleep training a baby: Loud white noise, a very dark room, a video monitor, and a safe crib (with NOTHING in it other than a mattress, a well fitted sheet, and baby – with possible exceptions being a mesh bumper and a very small lovey). Babies do not need much to sleep well. Studies have found that loud white noise helps humans fall into deeper levels of sleep faster, and stay there longer. Darkness helps the body produce a constant level of melatonin to further aid in easily falling asleep. A safe crib is a no brainer – never allowing your child access to an unsafe crib is very important, especially as they will be in it all night on their own. And finally, a video monitor helps parents know when their babies are actually asleep and awake, which provides peace of mind in knowing their babies are safe.

5) Starting sleep training without having a plan in place
Families who want to start sleep training will be a lot more successful if they have a plan in place first. All sleep training plans should contain 4 parts: What to do at bedtime, how to deal with middle of the night wakings, how to make sure kiddos start each day at the same time, and how to train for naps. Obviously, reading many books and working with a sleep training professional can take a lot of the guesswork out of how to deal with all of these different aspects of sleep training, however, not having a plan is a recipe for disaster. Sleep training requires time, consistency, and patience. Without a solid plan in place, it can make it difficult to stay consistent over the several days or weeks it may take to properly sleep train a child.

6) Not sticking with it
When done properly, sleep training usually takes about 3-4 nights for night time sleep, and 1-2 weeks for naps. This might seem like a small amount of time, but similar to caffeine or sugar withdrawals, shifts like this can actually feel pretty agonizing at first. One of the biggest mistakes that many families make is shifting gears or quitting after only a few days due to not getting immediate results. The commitment must be to stick with sleep training for 1-2 weeks, which usually results in huge success, regardless of the training method parents use.

7) Letting illness get in the way of healthy sleep habits
Once a child knows how to fall asleep unassisted for naps and bedtime, they do not suddenly “unlearn” what they have learned…unless a parent reverts back to helping the child fall asleep. I am adamant with the families I work with in informing them that – once your child masters falling asleep on their own, do NOT go back to helping them fall asleep. Even when they are ill, love them, comfort them, medicate them under doctor’s orders, but when the yawn of sleepiness comes, always put them down awake and let them fall asleep on their own. I even advise my clients to share a room with their children over night just in case their child needs them, but to simply stay out of the room when the child is actually falling asleep.

Top 5 Reasons to Hire an Infant Sleep Consultant

Why Hiring a Sleep Consultant is Better than Using a Sleep Training Book

1. Books give conflicting information
Not only do all books contradict one another, they all do so adamantly! Reading more than one sleep training book can give parents the sense that they have to pick one single method, and stick with it. This makes parents feel as if there is only one right way to sleep train, and that it’s up to them to try each method one-by-one before figuring out which is the “right” one. Sleep consultants know the gamut of methods, and the advantages and disadvantages that each offers, which saves parents the mental and emotional fortitude required to read various books and decide which one may be the most effective.

 

2. Books have an agenda
Many sleep training books base their advice on inaccurate assumptions, or assumptions based on the author’s personal life experience, instead of on personal practice with 100’s or 1000’s of babies. Just because a particular author’s life view lines up with a parent’s perspective, does not mean that their sleep training advice will be sound. Also, an author’s agenda can come through the writing and make parents feel guilty for favoring a certain sleep training approach that does not align with the practices in the book. A good sleep consultant’s agenda is to help families, and to pick whatever method will produce the best results, with the least amount of tears and drama to a family. Parent’s cannot get that from a book which includes only one single method.

 

3. Books can’t answer questions
There is not a single parent in the world who has read a sleep training book, tried to implement the book’s method with their baby, and not found themselves with a question that was not answered in the book. What then? The beauty of working with a good sleep consultant means that a person who has worked with hundreds of children, some just like yours, has already personally experienced what your baby is doing, and knows the exact answers to your questions.

 

4. Books don’t know your baby
Many parents read popular sleep training books, and realize that the approach in that book seems tailored to a baby with a different personality from their own baby. When working with an infant sleep consultant, that consultant can tell parents right off the bat which types of methods tend to produce which types of results –  with which types of babies. Instead of repetitive trial and error, and weeks or months of crying, a parent can get a tailored plan in just a few hours, and feel confident that the method they’re using is going to be the most effective for their individual child.

 

5. Books don’t know you
Regardless of how effective a method is on an individual child, sleep consultants know that in the end, they’re really training the parents, not the baby. Sleep consultants are usually hands on, working closely with parents and most importantly, they motivate parents to be consistent over however long sleep training takes. Studies show that virtually all sleep training methods work on all babies, provided that parents implement said methods consistently over as long as is needed to get results. This means that parents have to stick with a plan even when they may not be getting results right away (which might mean they picked the wrong method, likely because they didn’t work with a high-quality sleep consultant who may have picked a more effective method from the get-go). Getting through the 1-2 week process of sleep training can be tedious and a loving, ever-present consultant is what parents really need to make it through the process and end up with a happy, well-rested baby.

4 Tips to Help Establish Good Sleeping Habits with Your Newborn Baby

  1. Establish an eat, wake, sleep cycle early.

 

Remember that things with newborns take time. Just because it’s impossible to keep your 2-week-old awake while she nurses, does not mean it will be impossible to keep her awake during a feed in 2-3 weeks. Initially, it’s helpful to at least try to focus some energy on establishing an eat, wake, sleep cycle. Help your newborn try to stay as awake as possible during their feeding, and then keep them awake a bit longer until you see a yawn or other tired sign, which is when you will get them to fall asleep for a nap. If you try to put some energy towards helping your newborn somewhat disassociate feeding and sleeping, it will be one less habit to break when the time comes to sleep train baby.

 

  1. Learn your newborn’s sleep cues.

 

This can be tricky as not all newborns exhibit sleep cues, and when they do, they can go from awake to asleep very quickly.  A sleep cue can be something as simple as a unique kind of cry or yelp, a certain rhythmic head motion, or a glassy-eyed stare.  Keep in mind, too, to look for these cues about 35-50 minutes after a newborn wakes. Very young babies often want to sleep frequently.

 

  1. Establish an environment that is conducive to sleep.

 

Even though your 5-week-old baby seems to sleep anywhere, it’s very helpful to get them used to a healthy sleeping environment in the initial weeks of life. All that’s really needed is a crib or Pack n’ Play, loud white noise, and a very dark room. Even if you help your child fall asleep by bouncing or rocking, giving them at least some opportunities to practice sleeping in an appropriate sleep environment can help the shift to sleep training be less shocking later down the line.

 

  1. Relax

 

The most important thing to remember is that needing to sleep train can simply not be prevented. Newborns do not just come out of their mother’s bodies knowing how to fall asleep unassisted. As such, parents develop ways to help their babies fall asleep, and whether it’s co-sleeping and nursing throughout the night, using a swing, or sleeping in a carrier, any assistance that a newborn gets to fall asleep is interchangeable, and all of these habits are equally difficult to break. So, if you cannot prevent the need to sleep train, do the best you can during those intense newborn weeks to do what you need to do in order to get the sleep you need. Then worry about breaking the inevitable habits you have formed later down the line, when it’s more developmentally appropriate for your child to fall asleep unassisted. In other words, relax during those early weeks, and try not to worry too much about creating habits. Do what you can to foster positive sleep habits, but most importantly, take advantage of bonding with your baby.

6 Common Sleep Training Myths Debunked!

Have you ever stopped to think about what the definition of sleep training really is? Unfortunately, several incorrect sleep training stereotypes exist – from shutting the door on a newborn 8-week-old baby for 12 hours, to eliminating all night time feedings, to surrendering your family values to a sleep trainer who stays overnight at your home for several weeks – we’ve heard it all. With all the different parenting philosophies and advice, it’s easy to get lost in a whirlwind of information. No matter what sleep preferences you believe in for your baby, read on to learn what sleep training really is, and what it doesn’t have to be.

1) Sleeping Through the Night

“Sleeping through the night” is the single biggest misnomer in the realm of sleep training. In actuality, no human goes to sleep and stays asleep all night. Babies and adults alike usually wake up between 3-6 times each night!

When a person (baby or adult) is an independent sleeper, that means they are able to put themselves to sleep from these normal nocturnal arousals. However, a child will only know how to put themselves back to sleep throughout the night if they are able to fall asleep 100% on their own for all naps and at bedtime.

2) Zero Nighttime Feedings

Sleep training does not necessarily equate to baby sleeping through the night without any nighttime feedings – and sleep training certainly does not mean elimination of night time feedings if baby is hungry. Regardless of the information learned from countless baby sleep books, fellow parents, and strangers at the grocery store, the fact remains that: A child’s parent and pediatrician are most equipped to decide whether or not that child still needs a nighttime feeding(s). Parents know their baby best. If a baby is waking in the middle of the night due to hunger, a feeding should be given. For the overwhelming majority of babies over the age of 4 months, more than 1-2 nighttime are not necessary. If your child is a healthy weight and their pediatrician has okayed fewer or no nighttime feedings, parents can rest assured that most or all of baby’s nighttime wake ups are not directly due to being woken up by hunger. Finally, if a child is truly waking up due to hunger, then he should feed and fall immediately back to sleep, putting himself to sleep throughout the rest of the night with relative ease. If a child is still waking repeatedly at night, it is likely that few or none of the feedings are due to hunger and are instead due to the fact that baby is relying on the feeding to put himself back to sleep.

3) A Stranger Staying The Night At Your Home

Another common sleep training myth is that hiring a sleep consultant means the consultant stays overnight in your home and gets paid every hour through the night to work their so called magic, and teach your baby to sleep through the night. This definitely does not have to be the case. The vast majority of sleep consultants have one in-person or video conference consultation, usually in the light of day, followed by turning back a personalized plan and being available for follow-up support. A good consultant can gather all the information they need about your family from whichever initial questionnaire they have you fill out, combined with the hour long consultation. Finally, the best consultants are available for heavy follow up support, especially via text and email, so that they can answer questions, spot issues, and tweak the plan if needed.

4) Crying It Out – All Night Long

The biggest elephant in the room when we talk about sleep training is crying it out, or the “CIO” method. No parent wants to hear their baby cry, especially with all the contradicting and often misleading messages regarding the potential harm it may cause for baby. In my extensive experience working with babies, protesting during sleep training is because baby is frustrated they aren’t getting help to fall asleep. In almost every single case of sleep training for infants and toddlers, some form of checking in and comforting baby during the falling asleep process is possible. During sleep training parents need to commit to not physically facilitating their child to fall asleep, but visits and comfort are almost always okay. Remember that when a baby is given the necessary space to learn what it feels like to take control over his body and allow himself to fall asleep, he will eventually (and usually quickly) learn how to fall asleep on his own.

5) Rigid Sleep Habits For A Newborn Baby

In most cases, it is not advisable to consider sleep training a baby younger than 16 weeks of age. Sleep training a baby aged between 4 to 6 months usually yields the fastest results with the least amount of overall crying, but it really is never too late, nor is there any age above 16 weeks in which it is inappropriate, to sleep train a baby.

The reason we avoid sleep training newborns is because newborns are not always cognitively capable of falling asleep without assistance. Even in cases where a very young infant is able to fall asleep unassisted, they are usually not cognitively able to sustain a regular sleep schedule with regular naps. Meaning, even if a 2 month old can fall asleep without help, they are not usually capable of abiding by the wake times or nap lengths necessary in order to successfully sleep train. If you find yourself with a newborn who struggles with this sleep, try the tips mentioned it this earlier blog post.

6) Adhering to Harsh Rules  

A sleep consultant’s main role is to guide parents in how to help their child learn to fall asleep without assistance. If techniques or advice recommended by a sleep consultant make mom or dad feel uncomfortable, the sleep consultant should be prepared to make adjustments according to what works best for the family. In fact, a good sleep consultant should tell you in significant detail exactly what their sleep program is like before they allow you to hire them. Even when I have clients reach out to hire me on the spot, I always call and speak with them first, outlining my methods and going over what they can expect, so that they go into the process with eyes wide open. If a parent is not comfortable with a certain consultant’s style, they should keep searching until they find someone whose techniques they feel comfortable with and with whom they feel they can develop a good rapport.

Final Thoughts

While sleep training can be a lot of things, now you know what it is and what it is not. If you have any questions about common sleep training misconceptions, post them in the comments and I’ll answer your questions in a future blog post.

 

Sweet dreams everyone!!

 

How Your Child’s Temperament Influences the Sleep Training Process

BW Blog Post ImageI can speak directly to the role a person’s genes play in their personality. Throughout my life, particularly after I had children and embarked on the sleep training process, I have dealt with varying levels of anxiety. As a more newly married couple my husband would simply tell me to, “Stop worrying about things,” which of course only made me worry more about worrying. A few years ago I discovered the book The Female Brain. Finally! An answer to why I always felt the way I did. It turns out the female brain is highly influenced by the ebb and flow of women’s monthly hormonal cycle. Further, our brain is wired from the womb to have higher levels of empathy, and some would argue compassion, than our male counterparts.

The most illuminating part of reading The Female Brain came in the author’s assertion that just because we know the way we often feel is influenced by chemical put out by our brains, we do not need to allow these chemicals to rule our lives. For example, just knowing that I am more prone to react to a negative situation with anxiety as I draw nearer to my menstrual cycle allows me to be in more control of my reactions, and to use other methods to quell my anxious feelings (like meditation, certain herbal supplements, self-hypnosis, etc). Instead of feeling like my anxiety has to rule my life, I feel as if I can have a lot of control of my anxiety.

And this brings us to genetics, personalities, children and sleep. I believe there are several pieces of a puzzle that come together to make up the sleep training process: A child’s natural temperament or personality, the parents’ natural temperament or personality (and thus their ability to be consistent in implementing the sleep training plan itself), and the type of training method the parent chooses.

These three factors together total the sum of the sleep training experience, however, they do not usually make up equal parts. If a child is extremely strong willed, the parent’s consistency and the type of method chosen will often take a back seat to the child’s personality fighting the process itself. If the child is very mellow and the method is very lax, but the parent is very strong-willed and thus hyper consistent in implementing the method, sleep training is be successful faster.

It is extremely important for parents to use the knowledge that a baby’s personality greatly impacts the sleep training process to their advantage. At the very least, a mother can know that two babies (her own and her friend’s baby, for example) undergoing the same training method at the same age will almost certainly not react identically – why would they?

A child’s personality has a lot to do with how quickly and easily the sleep training process will be. An easy going baby will take well to any type of method and either its regular or intermittent implementation. Generally speaking, the stronger willed the child, the more that child will benefit from extreme consistency on the parent’s part in implementing the training method. Additionally, strong willed children generally benefit from methods where the parents don’t do a lot of the “helping” in getting a child to sleep. Easy going kids don’t mind terribly if their parents check in on them while they (the child) are trying to figure out how to fall asleep on their own. A very strong willed child is more likely to stay awake to see if this next time their parent checks-in will be the time they are finally able to get what they think they need in order to fall asleep (bottle, nursing, rocking, bouncing). One can imagine that a very strong willed child can wear down the defenses of a very easy going parent.

Just because our personalities are largely determined by genetics does not mean that a parent can absolve themselves of guiding and disciplining their children since, “They’ll turn out the same way no matter what.” To the contrary, being armed with the knowledge that a child’s temperament influences how resistant they may be to change or to learning new things on their own means the parent needs to make sure they increase their loving consistency to help guide their child grow in to happy and healthy adults. This not only goes for sleep, but also in all other discipline areas. Awareness of a child’s personality should also guide a parent to know what battles to fight, and which to let go. In my opinion, sleep is always a beneficial battle to wage, and your child will benefit greatly from healthy sleep habits throughout their childhood and into the rest of their life.

How to Spring Forward Gracefully

Daylight Saving Time Sleep TrainingYou like that play on words? See what I did there?!?

Nothing stirs up anxiety in new parents, especially those who have painstakingly sleep trained their babies, more than impending time changes. But, fear not fellow parents – the Spring time change is by far and away the easier of the two time changes for babies to tolerate, and, it can sometimes have the added benefit of changing your up-before-the-son child to a up-just-after-the-sun-but-I’m-still-ready-to-play-RIGHTNOW kiddo.

Prepare the room – nothing gets kids up bright eyed and bushy tailed more than sunlight at 5:00 am. Prep for that ahead of time by making sure as much sunlight is blocked from your child’s room as possible. While early sunlight may not be an issue yet (especially in northern parts of the US) in about month’s time we will all find it streaming into our children’s room well before the 6:00 am hour. Sunlight is comprised of mainly blue colored light which tells the brain to cut off melatonin production and prepare to be awake for the day. Covering up that early morning sunlight can help ensure your child continues sleeping late(r) in the morning throughout the rest of the spring and summer months.

Remember that your child cannot tell time, nor do they care what time your watch reads. On the Sunday morning of the time change simply move your child’s entire daily schedule one hour forward. Do you usually start your day around 6:30 am? Simply wait for the clock to read 7:30 am before getting your son or daughter up. Whatever time you normally nap your little one, put them down about an hour later than their typical nap time. Remember, these times will “feel” to your child as the exact same times they are normally accustomed to sleeping. Bedtime should also be an hour later on the clock.

After Sunday you have a choice – move your child’s schedule later or keep your child’s wake and sleep times the same as prior to the time change. Parents of extremely early risers may find this time change to be music to their sleep-deprived ears, while Moms and Dads who need to get out the door at 7:00 am no matter what may loathe the idea of having to wake up their little guy every morning to start the day on time. To the first group I suggest simply staying on the later schedule. If you find your little one getting up earlier and earlier make sure you maintain those naps and bedtimes to those later hours – that should ensure that their morning wake time remains as late as possible. To the latter group, simply wake your child up at the time you need to begin your day and move their naps and bedtime earlier as well. They may be somewhat resistant at first but usually within 1 to 2 weeks’ time you’ll find your child has adjusted nicely to the time change.

How to Pair Siblings When Sharing Rooms

Child Bedroom

Many times parents will find themselves trying to decide which two children to pair together. For our purposes let’s say we have three children aged 5 months (a girl still taking a night feeding but not usually waking otherwise), a 3 year old girl, and a 7 year old boy. Let’s also say Mom and Dad need to split those three kiddos amongst two bedrooms.

At first glance it would make the most sense to pair the two youngest children. After all, they’re both girls and the oldest is getting to the age where he likes to have some privacy. If I were in charge of pairing these kiddos, however, my first choice would be to pair the baby and the 7 year old and my second choice would be to pair the 3 and 7 year old together and allow the baby to have her own room.

The first thing you need to identify is which of your kids is the finickiest sleeper. Do you find your baby is extremely sensitive to other people? My oldest child seemed to wake at the drop of a feather when she was a baby. I always allowed her to sleep independently no matter what because pairing her with another human being during night sleep would definitely equal more night wakings.

Or, more likely, is your 3 year old incredibly tough to get back to sleep if anything ever wakes him in the middle of the night? My son is nearly four and he is just getting to the point where he is obedient enough to stay in his bed all night. If he gets woken up by something in the middle of the night I have a 50/50 chance that he’ll go back to sleep. Worse, if he won’t sleep, he’s at age where I still cannot always reason with him which might result in a houseful of people awake in the middle of the night because the three year old is yelling or playing instead of sleeping. I would never, ever pair him with a baby for fear he would distract the baby and thus lose out on sleep himself. The oldest child, however, may be the one who can cope the best with the errant cries of a 5 month old baby. Not only are older children usually better at putting themselves to sleep after a nocturnal sleep disruption, but they have also reached the age where they finally value their sleep. They want to go back to sleep, and if they can’t sleep they’re better at entertaining themselves instead of relying on Mom or Dad to get them through those nighttime hours.

Each family is different and will have their own set of personalities so I encourage you to think outside of the box and be creative about your room sharing pairs.

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Night Wean

Baby Asleep Black and White

There are a few signs to look for when deciding to wean your baby off of night feedings.

Age:

I usually advise my clients that after the age of 4 months it’s safe to assume that your baby is able to go down to one feeding from bedtime through morning. For various reasons some parents decide, along with the approval of their pediatrician, that it’s time to wean off all night feedings from bedtime to morning (which at this age should be about 11-12 hours). Personally, I don’t suggest cutting out all night feedings until at least 5 to 6 months of age unless parents wish to do otherwise. Once your child is firmly into their 6th month it is acceptable to wean them of all night feedings. Notice I say acceptable – many parents choose to maintain a night feeding for some time and provided baby goes back to sleep immediately after a single night feeding there is nothing wrong with continuing to feed at night.

Weight:

The advice on weight and night weaning is all over the map. The lowest weight number I’ve been told by a number of pediatricians is that infants can go 10 hours without feedings at 11 lbs and 8 weeks of age. This seems extremely early to me, however medically acceptable it may be.

To reduce to a single feeding per night I advise parents wait until baby is within 11 to 13 pounds. To eliminate to no feedings I advise babies be at a minimum of 14 pounds, though there is no rush to eliminate the single night feeding before 5 to 6 months of age.

How their feeding is affecting them:

Perhaps beyond age and weight, this should be the biggest factor in deciding whether or not to keep a night feeding. If your baby wakes once a night, takes in a hearty feeding, falls back to sleep soundly, and remains sleeping until the earliest of 6:00 am the following morning than keeping a night feeding is acceptable.

If at any age past 4 months you notice that a) your child wakes repeatedly after their single feeding, b) your child does not fall asleep after their feeding and is awake for more than 5-10 minutes before falling back to sleep, or c) your child takes in next to nothing for their feeding and then falls to sleep immediately at the breast or bottle, then it is time to consider dropping their night feeding. These are all indicators that the feeding may not be *needed* and that your child may be waking for some reason besides hunger.

Daytime feedings:

If you are ever concerned your baby is not very hungry throughout the day you should immediately look to their nighttime feeding habits. If they are taking in more than 4-6 ounces a night they may be taking in too much and Mom and Dad should consider cutting out night feedings all together.

How to Wean off Night Feedings

Baby Bottle Photo

Whenever I work with a client who is looking to wean off night feedings we discuss a few different methods:

*The Gradual Wean (breast)

If you have an idea of about how long your baby nurses for each of their feedings simply cut down the amount of time you feed by 1 minute per feeding each night. Once you hit 2 minutes for a single feeding you’re ready to stop that feeding completely.

*The Gradual Wean (bottle)

To wean a bottle fed baby, reduce the bottle by 1 ounce each night until you hit 2 ounces. Once you get to that amount you’re ready to stop the feeding all together.

*Cold Turkey

This is always an option if a parent wants to skip the gradual process. Going cold turkey is especially good in situations in which parents realize baby is in fact taking in quite little throughout the night. Many times babies are waking to pacify and not to feed and are thus not really taking in too many calories. When going cold turkey Mom and Dad must make sure baby has had a complete feeding within 30 minutes of bedtime and then give no more feedings until the morning.

Some babies do NOT tolerate the gradual weaning of feedings very well. They become furious over the feeding being done before they are quite done eating. If you notice this is the case with your baby consider the cold turkey method of cutting out night feedings.

The methods above can be used to eliminate just one or all nighttime feedings, depending on what Mom and Dad think is appropriate for their particular baby.

Keep in mind that babies take about a week to make up during the day for what they’re not taking in at night. Even if you don’t seen an immediate appetite change the next day, give it a few days and your little guy or gal will be taking in more ounces to make up for the nighttime feeds in no time.

Nursing mothers, especially with babies younger than 8 months, should seriously consider pumping every night at bedtime once all night feeds have been eliminated. This will go a very long way in maintaining your supply.

Eczema, Face Scratching, and Sleep

Peggy Y. recently reached out on Facebook and asked,” Is there any advice on how to sleep train/stop swaddling a 6 month old that scratches her face until she bleeds? My daughter has really bad eczema on her face and one night she broke free and I found blood all over her. I don’t want to swaddle forever, but she scratches so much. Please help/advise.”

My oldest child still deals with eczema flare ups from time to time, so I know first hand the difficulty associated with trying to keep a baby from incessantly scratching at those itchy patches.

The best solution I’ve found to deal with this particular reader’s problem is to sew the ends shut on your baby’s long-sleeved shirt/pajama/onesie. This may not stop the scratching, but will keep the nails from breaking the skin.

If like me you’re not very crafty, then consider purchasing something from Bamboo Bubby. They have specially designed sleeves and sleep sacks in natural fabrics that can keep the itchy to a minimum.

In addition to physically covering the hands, make sure to:

*Keep your baby’s fingernails short;

*Maintain your baby’s room at a cool temperature (body heat rises at night and the hotter the body is, the more eczema will flare up);

*Use a dermatologist approved and baby-safe moisturizer right before bedtime;
and

*Use only 100% natural and non-irritating fabrics for sheets and pajamas.

Hopefully with a few changes Peggy’s baby can soon sleep soundly through the night.

How to Protect Sleep During “Milestones” (Standing, Sitting, Walking)

Baby in diaperAnother week, another post!!


I have to admit, I was surprised to see this as having received the most votes this week. Can’t quite put my finger on why I’m surprised, just that I am.

First I should elaborate on what a milestone consists of. There are two different types of milestones: physical (like those mentioned in the title) and cognitive. I will focus today on physical milestones, mostly because those tend to disrupt sleep in a very obvious way. 

As a reminder, this post is about protecting sleep during milestones. This implies that your child is already sleep trained, or at least well on their way to being sleep trained. Much of the advice will not apply if you are still helping your child fall asleep for naps, bedtime, and/or throughout the night.

Babies usually progress through their milestones in the following order: rolling, sitting, rocking on knees/crawling, standing, and walking. I’ll go through each one of these and how to deal, but you’ll start to see I sound like a broken record 😉

Rolling:

Ahhh, the one that started it all. I remember when my son first started rolling in his crib, I’d try to “pin” him down by securing a blanket tightly around his body and tucking it into the sides of his crib. That bought me, oh, about 18 hours of no rolling, then he broke through it.  Since most parents start their babies sleeping on their backs (AS THEY SHOULD), this means baby is rolling from back to stomach. I always advise my clients to chat with their pediatricians on what to do when baby starts rolling. Almost all pediatricians seem to suggest that if your child flips on their own, you’re okay to leave them that way to sleep. A few peds will suggest rolling them back to their backs until a certain age…but that often causes a jack-in-the-box effect; you roll baby, baby rolls back, and on and on for hours. If you’re concerned about stomach sleeping, as I was, there are now several products on the market, including the Hi Sense Baby Monitor and the Snuza, and soon the amazing Sproutling.

One thing I would suggest all new parents remember is that your baby is not the first baby in the history of the world to roll! In my opinion, it is rarely, if ever, a wise choice to physically restrict your child from moving the way they’d like to in the crib. Having said that, many parents have found that switching their baby into a Merlin Magic Sleep Suit seems to keep the rolling at bay for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months!

If you find your child is rolling and is very unhappy about it, I would recommend employing whatever sleep training method you used the first time you helped your child learn to fall asleep on their own. You can check-in, you can cry-it-out, or anything in between, but my     recommendation is to either try the Merlin, or with doctor’s consent, leave them be and let them sleep on their stomachs. As an aside, I find that children tend to sleep more soundly once they’ve learned to roll and flip – the more freedom they have to move (around the 4 month mark and beyond), the happier they are. Do you like being stuck sleeping in just one position all night?

Sitting, Rocking on Knees/Crawling

I also vividly remember the first time I caught my daughter sitting in her crib! I didn’t own a video monitor (ah to be poor and married while your husband attends law school) so it was quite a shock to walk in and see a sitting child where I’d left a prone one! 


These milestones really trip parents up because they feel they need to “knock” their littles one over in order to try to compel them to go to sleep. Often with sitting, babies don’t cry, they just don’t sleep. They either take forever to fall asleep because they get stuck sitting up, or they end their nap early and just sit around, haha. What you want to keep in mind is that the crib is often your child’s only place to truly be free! They will love to practice all their skills there.  So, my advice is the same as above, and especially if your child does not seem sad or upset about their state, it’s better to just leave them be. Set a minimum amount of time for their nap, usually 60-90 minutes, and allow them to stay in their crib for that amount of time, even if they wake early. If you find that sitting/rocking/crawling keeps them awake, give them about the same amount of time to fall to sleep for a nap, then retry your nap again later. The less you interfere, the faster they’ll “get it”. Also, try to teach/show them how to fall over/lay down during their waking hours. It may just help them figure out how to get out of the sitting position in their crib.


Babies will often want to “try out” a new skill over and over and over again over a 3-5 day window, then sort of be “over it” once they’ve mastered it…all the more reason to stay out of their way. The faster they master the skill, the faster they’ll get back to lengthier sleep periods. 

Standing and Walking:

Next to rolling, I think standing is the hardest milestone for parents to deal with. This is because most babies legitimately get stuck in the standing position and can’t figure out how to get down. But, guess what happens when Mom comes in to lay the standing baby down? That’s right, just like that jack-in-the-box that baby jumps right back up again!

My advice is largely the same as above, and I would also suggest standing your baby in their crib and showing them how to slide down. Again, like all of these milestones, if you just keep out of it to the extent possible and do not help your babies fall back to sleep, it will pass within just a few days. It’s only when you start to introduce new sleep associations that you run into problems.

Getting Caught in the Corner:


I don’t consider this a milestone, but it is a physical issue that seems to frustrate a lot of parents. My clients are often asking if they can/should “reposition” their baby if they appear to scrunched up in the corner of the crib or if they simply otherwise appear to be in what looks like an uncomfortable position.

If you don’t have anything in your child’s crib, you shouldn’t necessarily need to reposition your baby, as long as you’re able to verify that they’re breathing. Again, this is a question that should first be asked to your pediatrician. Another caution to keep in mind is breathable bumpers. These are popular with my clients as well, but I have personally witnessed a small 5 month old flip to his side, then belly, then scrunch up to the crib and shove his face on the *only* piece of solid fabric on the whole breathable bumper. I prefer to have the mattress, the fitted sheet, and the baby in the crib, nothing more. Perhaps a tiny lovie is fine, but by and large the crib would seem to be the safest place in the entire house, perhaps even safer than their carseat. 

Thanks for reading! Please remember to follow me on www.facebook.com/babysleeptrainer.com and be sure to share, comment, and like this post!!

Getting Newborn Babies to Sleep Longer Stretches at Night (0-12 Weeks)

Hello my lovely First Time Mommy Group ladies!! What a fantastic topic you’ve picked this week.

I sooooo often have mamas calling me in desperation in the newborn stage.  I acutely recall that when I had my first child people would tell me, “Don’t worry, things get so much better after week 12.”  They may as well have said after year 12, because that’s how it felt to hear that I’d need to endure another several weeks of the newborn stage.  So, without further ado, here are my tips for scoring long(er) stretches of sleep during the first 12 weeks.

-Have realistic expectations.

I feel the need to put this at the top.  Let’s remember, newborns are busy learning how to keep their bodies at the right temperature and HOW TO BREATHE, so give them, and yourself, a little break when it comes to expectations.  Before I gave birth, I read a certain popular baby sleep book that made me feel like if I did A + B, then my 8 week old should definitely be doing C.  If she wasn’t doing C, it was because I was doing something wrong.  That’s crap.  If your newborn isn’t sleeping well DO NOT SWEAT IT!  Please.  Just don’t.  Even if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to there are a myriad of other factors at play.  Over half of all newborns suffer from painful reflux, others lack the gut bacteria to properly digest many of the trace amounts of common foods found in breast milk and thus have excruciating gas.  And many are just unhappy being newborns.  (This is just a personal theory here, but I SWEAR some children just hate being helpless newborns. I don’t blame them. Being a baby sucks sometimes.)  Anyway, do your best then just let the rest go. 

-Set up a proper sleeping environment.

This will matter more and more as baby gets past the 6-week mark.  Set up a room for your baby to sleep for naps and bedtime.  The sooner your baby starts to associate darkness and loud white noise with sleep, the easier his or her life will be.  People always worry their baby will become addicted to or dependent on darkness and white noise and then won’t be able to sleep without it.  Newsflash, I don’t like to sleep in planes, trains, or automobilesI prefer sleeping in my bed, with my pillow, etc.  Many adults swear they sleep just fine through any errant noise, but studies show that constant pink (what we think of as white) noise helps the brain go into more stable levels of sleep. You can also just not use white noise or darkness and then see how that goes 🙂 Most (not necessarily all) babies sleep better with loud white noise and as-dark-as-possible darkness. This is a post about how to get your kiddo to sleep better, after all…

-Do not let your baby sleep longer than 2 hours at a time from 7 am to 7 pm.

This has got to be the single most effective thing you can do encourage your newborn to have longer stretches at night.  Granted, this will literally be impossible to accomplish for most babies before 4 to 6 weeks.  When those new newborns want to sleep, try as you might, they will not wake up.  But, as soon as you see that you’re able to wake them up a bit, do so! Take off their clothes, expose them to the cooler air, put them in a baby tub filled with lukewarm water.  Simply put, do anything you can to wake them up if they’ve been asleep for longer than 2 hours. 

-Keep wake times to a minimum.

Wake times matter much less after the age of about 4 to 5 months, but they mean everything to a newborn.  Keep those newborns awake for about 50 to 60 minutes (including feeding and changing time if they’re awake during the feeding) and then start to get them ready for a nap by swaddling them, taking them to their room, and actively trying to get them down for a nap.

-Perfect your swaddle technique.

I can’t tell you how many parents tell me their kid hates the swaddle. But nothing could be further from the truth.  In my experience while there are some few babies that truly hate the swaddle, most parents mistake their child’s fussing for hate.  Try to implement use of the swaddle for naps and at bedtime.  Try it for several weeks before writing it off. 

-Feed your baby every 2.5 to 3.5 hours during the day.


If possible, try to establish a cycle where your baby wakes up and eats immediately (while staying as awake as humanly possible), remains awake to complete the 60 minutes of wake time, sleeps for some amount of time, then wakes again and eats. This is a great way to ensure your kiddo gets as many calories during the day as possible and, hopefully, sleeps longer stretches at night.

And there you have it mamas.  I hope these tips help. Also, don’t forget to follow me on facebook.com/babysleeptrainer and SHARE THIS POST to your heart’s content!!

When is the Ideal Age to Nap Train and Why?

Hello mammas! I’ve come to enjoy these weekly posts for the FTMG group – maybe I’ll start to post more often! If you’d like to have your question answered in a future blog post then head over to www.facebook.com/babysleeptrainer, like the page, and post your question there.

Notice that this week’s question has to do with nap and not night training. Nighttime sleep can start to develop longer stretches as early as 6 weeks of age if certain things are done to encourage those longer stretches (Wanna know how? Like the page and tell me so 😉

Naps, however, are a totally different story. The brain doesn’t start to organize daytime sleep until much later, at the earliest of about 14-16 weeks. I strongly recommend waiting to try to elicit longer stretches of daytime sleep (assuming your baby is not having long naps already) until she is at least 14 to 16 weeks old. In some circumstances, where Mom is completely exhausted or is returning to work and would like to have baby know how to put herself to sleep before leaving her with the nanny, earlier nap training can take place at about 11 weeks. Even when a client wants to move forward at that early age, I evaluate each baby individually; the stronger willed the baby is, the more likely I am to take them on as a client at an earlier age. More laid back babies are often not as difficult to handle, so I encourage Mom to wait it out just a few more weeks.

There are a few reasons I don’t like to nap train until at least 14-16 weeks of age, apart from the brain not having reached the milestone of consolidating day time sleep yet. First, it seems to take longer. When I work with little guys younger than the age range above, it seems to take them a little more time to catch on to falling asleep unassisted. Even when they do master that skill, their brain may be keeping them from having nice, long naps anyway, so we do a lot of work and still can end up with short naps. Secondly, it’s really unpalatable to Mom. Any type of sleep training that yields lasting results involves some sort of protest crying (read: we sleep peeps use the euphemism “protest”, when what we’re really referring to is the regular crying babies do when they’re pissed off, tired, frustrated, or upset). Crying, of the protest or any other kind of variety, is reallllly tough on Moms, especially for Moms of newborns. And rightly so! Because crying is so difficult on Mom (and Dad), I try to avoid starting any type of nap training in the newborn stage.

I’ve said before on this blog and I’ll say it again right now – when I say sleep training, I’m almost always referring to teaching the baby to fall asleep without your help. My experience, both professional and personal, has shown me that (most) babies as young as 4-6 weeks are capable of falling on their own. To get there, though, requires an EXTREMELY experienced parent or caretaker. You couldn’t write a book that would explain every nuanced way to sleep train that early since there are many elements that vary so much from baby to baby.

SO, besides the brain’s capability of consolidating daytime sleep into longer stretches, why else wait until 14 weeks to nap train? Because the brain is also starting to excrete melatonin at more regular (not random, like in newborns) intervals during the day at that age. The sun is doing its thing in regulating melatonin and it’s cousin, the circadian rhythm.

In addition to the biological reasons to start at this age, I’m also a proponent of dealing with sleep issues as early as possible. It may be impossible to internalize or accept this as a first time parent, but generally speaking the older your baby gets, the more resistant they are to change. A 4 month old baby needs more sleep, and needs sleep more, than he will at 6 months of age. A 6 month old needs more sleep than an 8 month old, and on and on. The longer you wait, the more upset your little one will be about the change in their sleep habits. I like to tell my clients that it’s easiest to sleep train a baby between the ages of 14 weeks to 6 months, then slightly less easy from 6 months to 8 months, than tougher from 8 months to 10 months.

Whatever you do, blog readers, please consider nap (and night!) training your babies before the age of sleep 10 months. Once baby hits that stage it’s more like dealing with a toddler rather than a baby. A 10 month old can often stand, yell, and just generally flip out way more than a younger infant. Also, a 10 month old can go way longer without sleep than a 4 month old, which means more energy and stamina to protest. Doing it earlier is easier on Mom and, more importantly, on baby.

One thing to keep in mind is you want to count age from your child’s estimated due date. So, if your kiddo was born 2 weeks early, you’ll want to wait until they are 16 weeks to nap train, since that’s 14 weeks from when they were the full 40 weeks. When we talk about brain development in the first 6 months, ever week counts.

Until next week!! Remember, if you like what you see, make sure to follow me on www.facebook.com/babysleeptrainer, and don’t hesitate to share, share, share this post with all your friends.

How Many Naps Should a Baby Have per Age and Why?

Hello First Time Mommy Group mamas! And all my other parents reading along, I hope you enjoy this post, too.

This week we’ll be discussing how many naps a baby should have per age and why.

0-8 weeks

Babies do some crazy stuff those first 8 weeks. Sometimes they sleep around the clock, sometimes they sleep in 10 minutes increments, sometimes they’ll only sleep one 5 hour block from noon to just before dinner, then they’ll be awake all night. Whatever they’re doing, they’re supposed to be doing it. Instead of telling you how many naps a day your (very) newborn should be taking, I’ll instead tell you one of the biggest favors you can do for your little one and yourself is to wake that baby up once it’s been asleep for two hours for a nap. In other words, from 7 am to 7 pm, don’t let that little guy or girl sleep longer than 2 hours at a stretch without getting them up, feeding them, and keeping them awake for a little while before putting them back down. However, even doing that will be next to impossible with most 2-3 week old babies. So, just try your best. If you start to get stressed or anxious, immediately stop what you are doing and go back to what was working. Those first two months are tough enough and babies are just figuring out how to eat, digest, and keep themselves warm, so give them a little break. You’ll both get there eventually.

8-14 weeks

Around this age is when kiddos should be having 4-5 naps. You may very well have a cat napper, which is totally typical and totally okay. That might mean your baby is taking 5 short naps a day. Or, say your baby has a nap or two a day that are nice and long, then short naps the rest of the afternoon. That’s okay, too! Just follow the rules above about not letting her sleep longer than two hours for a single stretch and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a good nap pattern. Towards weeks 11-14 you should try to gently guide your baby to a four nap pattern, if they’ll allow themselves. Aim for a 2.5 to 3 hour cycle where baby is awake for about an hour+, then sleeping for about an hour+ (if possible, do NOT beat yourself up if you can’t get your baby to sleep longer than 30 minutes. This is normal and with some hard work down the line, it will pass).

14 weeks to 6/7 months

This is the age range when you want to solidly move your little guy into a 3 nap pattern. If you have a fourth nap that’s hanging on, work hard to get rid of it. Ideally you’d have a baby napping sometime in the 8 am hour, again in the 11 am hour, then once more in the mid afternoon. This is also when its a good time to start sleep training. A lot of people, (like A LOT), advocate not sleep training until 4, 6, or even 9 months. Sometimes I think when I talk about sleep training and other people talk about sleep training, we’re not talking about the same thing. When I talk about sleep training a 3.5 month old, I’m talking about teaching them how to fall asleep without any help. They can still eat a night, they can still nurse, they can still do all the things babies do, they’re just also capable of falling asleep for naps and at bedtime unassisted. So, this is the age where you can work towards setting a firm start time of the day and also teaching your baby to fall asleep without your help. This is also where you can start to work on lengthening naps. If you can teach your child to fall asleep unassisted, using whatever method you wish, then you are well on your way to getting your kiddo on a consistent three nap schedule.

You want to aim for naps that are about an hour or longer.

6/7 months to 14/18 months

By this age your little one should be taking two solid naps, one at about 9 am and a second around 1 pm. Each nap should be lasting about an hour or more in duration.

14/18 months – 3 years plus

Somewhere around months 14 to 18 babies will drop down to one nap. They should maintain this nap until they’re about 3 years old, and perhaps on into the fourth year. Ideally this nap should last anywhere between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours.

And here’s where I answer the “why” portion of the original question.

The first nap of the day for baby is mentally restorative and the second nap of the day is physically restorative. All subsequent naps are simply “bridges” to bedtime. They are necessary, but are of little cognitive or physical importance. They also have a tendency to be problematic, either because they are difficult for baby to fall asleep for or because they start and end late in the day. Many parents allow their babies to take 3rd (or 4th) naps that occur way too late in the day. As a general rule all daytime sleep should end by no later than 3:30 or 4:00 pm. Sleeping past 4 pm is the same as adults taking a nap at 7 pm. Maybe once in a while if you fall asleep so close to your normal bedtime it’s not a big deal, but if you went to sleep every day at 7 pm for 45 minutes, you would quickly develop a problem falling asleep for the night before 2 am. Sleeping too late in the day causes nighttime sleep issues for babies.

Ideally babies need to complete more than once sleep cycle per nap. Each sleep cycle is about 30-60 minutes in length, depending on the baby and their age. So, I like to aim for naps that get past that pesky 45 minute mark many kiddos seem to love so much. You’ll find a strong correlation between babies that don’t know how to put themselves to sleep, and those who don’t nap long enough. That’s because they’re finishing a sleep cycle during a nap and then waking up and not being able to fall back to sleep because they don’t know how to without your help. Certainly babies who are sleep trained often struggle with short naps, but those struggle are usually usually short lived, and the short naps are usually addressed by dealing with other sleep-related problems (cutting off other naps, not letting naps go too late, timing naps appropriately, etc).

Once a child goes down to one nap, the benefits of the morning and afternoon nap are combined into one.

So there you have it! Please post any comments below and be sure to subscribe to the blog in the upper right hand corner. Also, be sure to follow me on facebook.

How to Deal With Sleep Regressions

Here is this week’s answer to the First Time Mommy Group sleep poll.

Wowza, is this a loaded topic or what?! Let’s start by breaking down what each of these things mean to your baby’s sleep.

Sleep Regressions –

There are all sorts of sleep regressions. While some regressions occur due to circumstances like travel or illness, which we’ll discuss below, many occur for seemingly no reason at all. Many researchers have noted that there are certain periods of cognitive and/or physical development, or leaps, that tend to seriously affect sleep. Many of you have heard of the Four Month Sleep Regression and others like it. The Wonder Weeks is a good resource to use to know when developmental leaps occur and how much they are likely to affect your baby’s sleep.

Just like with everything else, every baby reacts differently to developmental leaps. Additionally, some babies will sail through certain leaps without batting an eye, only to be harshly affected by the subsequent leap.
While the bad news may be that developmental leaps often do disrupt sleep, the good news is that when handled correctly, the sleep issues that arrive along with the leaps need not be permanent.

Travel –

Travel often disrupts sleep for two reasons. Either the parent chooses to leave behind routines and schedules in favor of a more relaxed vacation, or, the parent is forced to tend to their baby in ways and at times they normally would not while at home. Regardless of what transpires on vacation, babies often come home jet lagged and accustomed to a new, more parental-hands on set of sleep associations.

A few “If” tips to avoid sleep regressions due to travel:

*If you are driving four hours or less to your destination, try to leave after your child’s second nap, or after their first nap if they’re down to a single nap per day. That way when you arrive your child can go down for bedtime shortly thereafter.
*If you are driving five to nine hours, leave at or shortly before bedtime. Once you’ve gotten to your destination, simply keep the child up for about 15-30 minutes, then redo their bedtime routine and put them down for the remainder of the night.
*If you are driving ten hours or more, I would suggest driving during the day starting at whatever time is most convenient. Most babies will not sleep soundly all night in their car seats and driving through the night increases the likelihood that the driver will have an accident.
*If you are staying in a hotel, be sure to ask for a handicap-accessible room. These often have spacious bathrooms that can accommodate a crib or Pack n’ Play.
*If you are traveling with an infant who is not yet standing and they will be sleeping in a Pack n’ Play, consider purchasing a SnoozeShade and bringing along a portable white noise machine.
*If at all possible, give your child at least 15-20 minutes to work though any night wakings they may have (assuming they are sleeping through the night prior to you having left on your trip) before tending to them.
*If at all possible, honor your child’s need to nap in the hotel room/bedroom you’re staying, especially for their very first nap of the day.

Illness –

If you think about it, illness often (but not always) tends to disrupt sleep for one main reason: the parent reverts to helping the child fall back to sleep. I cannot tell you how.many.times I get emails from clients whose babies had been sleeping through the night perfectly until they get a cold/cough/teething. In an effort to calm and comfort the child, the parent soothes them with feeding, rocking, or co-sleeping. The illness resolves itself, but many times the new sleep associations linger. Regardless of if new undesirable sleep associations remain after the illness has passed, just having an illness that wakes the child at night is enough to keep her waking for days or weeks once she is no longer sick.

Solutions –

So, how do we deal with all these issues?

Regressions/leaps – My best piece of advice is not to change anything from what you are currently doing. If you have a fully nap and night trained baby/child and you notice their sleep is disrupted due to a regression (leap or other reason) continue to move forward. If you do not normally help your child to sleep, do not start to do so now. If you need to shorten their nap times or put them down earlier to compensate for poor naps go ahead and do so. But, do not revert to helping them fall asleep simply because they are struggling to sleep during the regression/leap. Simply set the schedule and keep them on it, and wait out the end of the regression/leap. They usually last anywhere between 4 and 14 days.

If your child is not yet sleep trained, these leaps will often cause a mildly problematic sleep situation to worsen drastically. In this case, I would again suggest trying to continue on with the status quo. Almost certainly parents of non-sleep trained children will choose to use more involved methods to help their child fall back to sleep or work through the regressions. I simply ask those parents to be extremely watchful of when the regression/leap has passed and to try to immediately scale back the extra help they were giving the child once the regression is over.

Travel – Besides following the “If” tips above, I would suggest trying to get your child on the local time zone as quickly as possible. This goes for when you’re on the trip and for when you arrive back home. The easiest way to get the child back on the local time zone is to make sure they actually wake up and start the day around 6:00 or 7:00 am local time.

Once you arrive back home and you find that you’ve fallen into some sleep associations you’d like to break, I suggest giving your child one full day for every two hours they were off per time zone before addressing sleep. So, if they were off by five hours, you should give them about three days before starting to work on sleep. Once you get them back on their time zone, immediately start back at square one with whatever sleep training method or plan you used when you originally trained them. Keep in mind that methods that worked quickly on younger children tend to illicit a much stronger response from older children. Be prepared for things to take a full 7-14 days of consistency on your part before things improve. If you did not have a sleep trained child prior to having left on your trip and find yourself in a more difficult sleep situation once you return from your travels, then is as good a time as any to buckle down and do some sleep training. Feel free to use any method you wish, but do something to address the sleep issues as they are unlikely to fix themselves (for the long term) on their own.

Illness –

I always tell my clients, if you child is ill, tend to them! Administer Tylenol or another age-appropriate pain-relieving drug. Give them fluids if necessary, but avoid the breast at all costs. Instead, give them liquids via a bottle or sippy with a light on, change them if they’ve soiled themselves. The only thing to avoid is helping them fall back to sleep. In other words, once you’ve addressed whatever it is that was wrong, PUT THE CHILD BACK DOWN AWAKE. If they are feeling ill and you administer pain-relieving medicine, make sure to sit with them until the medicine has kicked in. Love them, cuddle them, treat them, but once it is time for them to go back to sleep, they do so on their own. Once again, this is assuming your child already knows how to put themselves to sleep. If they do not know how to fall asleep on their own, wait until their illness has finished before tackling that issue. Like travel, you may find that illness exacerbates a moderate problem into a full blown sleep-crisis.

Once the child has been illness free for two full days (literally during two full day-time days), check on them if they wake at night, but if they are healthy and safe, leave them immediately. On subsequent nights if wakings persist, consider whether it is necessary for you to enter the room at all.. Watching them via video monitor may be all that’s needed to make sure they fall back to sleep without your help.

I often like to sleep with my children when they’re sick, especially if there is a high fever present. If this is the case for you, I’d suggest moving in a mattress or sleeping bag into the child’s room. Put them down awake and let them fall asleep on their own. Once they’re totally asleep, enter the room and sleep on the floor next to them. You should definitely monitor your children while they’re ill if you so choose to do, but you want them to fall asleep on their own before you make your way into their room.

Finally, I lump teething into the illness category. Teething almost never disrupts sleep, but if you find that it is, simply treat the child with a pain-reliever if you choose to do so, stay with the child until the medicine has kicked in, then put them back down awake.

I hope you’ve all found this helpful!! Please include any questions or comments below.

Until next week!

Natalie

PS – Be sure to follow me on facebook – facebook.com/babysleeptrainer

FTMG: Early Morning Waking

This is a post for the new weekly First Time Mommy Group sleep poll. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to answer all your excellent questions!

Question:

Why does my baby struggle to sleep between 4:00 am and 6:00 am?

Answer:

As a baby/toddler sleep consultant, I typically work with babies aged 14 weeks to 2 years. Regardless of the child’s age or whatever other issue the parent is facing (short naps, needing to feed to sleep, fighting sleep in general, etc) an overwhelming majority of my clients share one single issue – their child seems to struggle with sleep at some point within the hours of 4:00 am to 6:00 am. For some children their sleep is simply lighter in the early morning hours, for others they seem to fall back to sleep easily from all feedings that take place until that elusive 4:00 am hour, at which point they seem to wake every 30 to 60 minutes until the sun comes up, or worse, they never go back to sleep once woken up any time after 4:00 am.

Why is it so hard for kids to sleep deeply the closer they get to 6:00 am? The answer lies in the brain’s melatonin secretion. This hormone, which is responsible for making us feel sleepy, peaks between the hours of 2:00 am and 4:00 am. From the hours of 4:00 am on there appears to be a precipitous drop in melatonin secretion. Less melatonin means the body has a harder time staying asleep.

While this drop in melatonin makes it harder for some children to stay asleep, it doesn’t mean that those children are incapable of sleep during that time, or that they should be starting their day any time before 6:00 am (no one should be starting their day before 6:00 am ;)) It simply means that many children find it harder to stay asleep during those hours.

I recently spent the night with a set of twins I was helping to sleep train. As I shuttled between the two of them, observing their sleeping and waking periods, I witnessed first hand how difficult it can be for little ones to remain soundly asleep in those early morning hours. This particular mother I was working with decided to employ an extinction based method which meant that while I was physically present in the room with the babies the entire night, I was there to observe them instead of interfere while they were learning how to put themselves to sleep. While each twin worked through a few night wakings in the early part of the evening, it was readily apparent how hard it was for each one of them to stay soundly asleep as we approached the 5:00 am and 6:00 am hour.

While these twins were clearly waking frequently around 4:00 and 5:00 am, I also noticed that they repeatedly cycled from being awake and crying to appearing totally asleep. In fact, many times while they were crying out their eyes remain closed. Even though their sleep was irregular, it was still mostly sleep with some errant cries of between 5-10 minutes.

Just because a child is struggling to stay asleep in the early morning does not mean they do not want to be asleep. They’re simply having a harder time sleeping than they normally do. Their circadian rhythm most likely has them set on a cycle where they are meant to be asleep for about 11-12 hours at night (regardless of brief wakings at night for feedings). If they are waking before those 11-12 hours are up then they almost certainly need and want to fall back to sleep, they are simply having a hard time doing so.

Now, what do you do to eliminate this early morning waking? An excellent way to help your child conquer early morning waking is to make sure they know how to put themselves to sleep during the rest of the day and at bedtime. One of the other reasons it’s so tough for babies to sleep early in the morning is because when they wake up they’re unable to fall back to sleep because they are reliant on some thing or some one to put them back to sleep. Due to the lack of melatonin causing them to feel sleepy, many babies will find it all the more difficult to fall back to sleep, even once presented with their normal sleep helps (nursing, rocking, pacifier). That is why it’s vital for children to know how to fall asleep completely on their own – if they’re capable of putting themselves during the day, then they are all the more likely to employ that skill at 5:00 am.

Next, parents should aim for an earlier, not later, bedtime. While it may seem counterintuitive to put a child to bed earlier in order to compel them to sleep later in the morning, the truth is that children are likely to wake up at the same time in the morning regardless of what time you put them to sleep at night. If you put a child to bed too late in the evening you are simply robbing them of sleep. Most children aged 4 months to 4 years need a bedtime of between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. The younger they are, the earlier the bedtime, generally speaking. Having a bedtime that is too late also increases the likelihood your child will experience nightmares, night terrors, and random night wakings. An earlier bedtime usually produces healthier, longer, and higher quality night sleep.

A word of caution – many parents who are unable or unwilling to attempt Cry It Out for naps or bedtime often find themselves attempting it for these early wakings. Moms and Dads are sleep deprived and miserable and finally decide to give in and see if crying will do what they are unable to do, which is put the child back to sleep. Cry It Out is the LEAST effective when tried for the first time in the middle of the night or for naps. Please do not try to deal with early morning wakings with CIO unless you are also using CIO at bedtime and for naps.

If your child is really struggling with early morning waking I would urge you to look at their sleep habits in totality. Make sure you are finding a way to help them learn to fall asleep for naps and bedtime without your help whatsoever. Also put them down for bedtime earlier rather than later. Once these two things are in place, you’ll then want to reduce or eliminate your interaction with them during the hours of 4:00 am to 6:00 am.

I would love to hear any questions you’d like answered in upcoming posts! Please comment below and let me know what questions you’d like featured in upcoming polls.

 

In Defense of White Noise

Let’s start from the beginning with what we actually know about white noise.  In the womb, fetuses are exposed to sound that ranges from, at a minimum, 72 decibels all the way up to 111 decibels. That means for the last 14 weeks of their development, all humans have been hearing near constant sound akin to a vacuum cleaner at a 10 foot distance, all the way up to the equivalent of sitting in a club with a band playing.  To make this even clearer, 120 decibels is the pain threshold – fetuses regularly experience sound only 9 decibels lower than that threshold.

 

So, your bundle joy comes out into the world where they’re regularly exposed to typical conversations  (60 decibels) or roaring busses and trains (90-100 decibels). However, a lot of the time, it’s just quiet…a little too quiet to their newborn ears that are used to constant (loud) sound.

 

When it comes to sleep, they struggle! It’s no wonder.  Ever since we started flipping babies to their backs to sleep (something I wholeheartedly support), newborns the world over have struggled to sleep.  Parents resort to a whole range of tools to help their babies fall, and stay, asleep.  Back in the day, a baby would be put to sleep on their belly, with their arms and legs tucked under them.  Their Moro reflux would be quieted by their tucked limbs and deeper sleep was easier to come by.  Now, on their backs, they’re swaddled and shushed, rocked and nursed, anything to help them fall into that deep, restorative sleep.  You know what we’ve found is very, very effective at helping babies sleep? White noise! Cue singing angels.  It turns out constant, whirring, lovely white noise actually helps infants decrease their heart and respiratory rates, along with their crying, and motor activity, and most importantly it increases the time they spend asleep!! Essentially, babies get stressed out being out of their womb-like environments, and simulating the womb with darkness and white noise chills them out.

 

Not only do they chill out and calm down, they also fall asleep 3 times faster than babies without white noise.  We – sleep experts, pediatricians, people who pay attention to what’s happening around them – do not recommend white noise just because, we recommend it because it works!

 

Now, you have Dr. Papsin coming out against white noise.

There have already been a fair number of refutations that have come out against this doctor’s study, but I want to go in a little deeper to what Dr. Papsin is claiming.  He’s saying that, “Maybe they’re (white noise machines) not so good for the baby. Maybe they don’t want to hear a heart sound. Maybe they want to hear their environment.” (emphasis added)

 

The Huffington posts says that, “the authors of the new study acknowledge that a major limitation of their research is that it analyzed the machines’ maximum output levels, but not necessarily how parents use them in everyday life. ”

 

So, here we have parens up in arms over the use of white noise.  I’ve had 6 clients in the last 24 hours asking if they should stop using their white noise machines.  I will say the following – according to the Huffington Post, the recommended limit for noise or sounds in infant nurseries (I’m assuming this is in a hospital setting? I couldn’t find where this limit came from) is 50 decibels.  That is a full 10 decibels QUIETER than a normal speaking voice.  That means that just the normal voice you speak to your infants in is “too loud”. So let’s say your white noise is louder than that – is it louder than a garbage disposal? Because that’s 80 decibels, barely exceeding the level of constant noise in the womb.  And in all likelihood your white noise isn’t as loud as a garbage disposal because common sense would dictate that that’s too loud, and you wouldn’t want your infant exposed to that level of sound during sleep.  And even if your white noise is as loud as a garbage disposal, where is it? Is it within 8 inches of your baby’s head? Probably not. Sound decreases over distance, so it’s not fair to assume that a sound machine placed on a table a 2 to 10 feet away emitting a sound at 80 decibels (garbage disposal level) is still too loud by the time it reaches the baby.

 

To wrap things up, I want to point everyone to the original study.  Dr. Papsin and his co-researchers didn’t actually study any babies.  Not one.  If you read the abstract you will learn that all the researchers discovered was that THREE of the FOURTEEN machines they studied were capable of putting out sound that was higher than 85 decibels and that because 85 decibels, “exceeds current occupational limits for accumulated noise exposure in adults” we should take some measure to study to use of white noise for infants during sleep.

 

Let’s please use our common sense when we measure Dr. Papsin’s study against all the other data (and common sense) out there that supports the responsible use of white noise.

A Fork in the Road

Recently I heard someone mention how a very, very tiny change in a the path a plane takes when it leaves Los Angeles can determine whether that flight will land in Australia or Japan. The pilot knows, of course, that  few degrees up or down makes all the difference.  I wish so badly that parents could realize what an enormous difference their actions and behaviors can make on their children’s sleep in the long term.  One simple act can make the difference between having a child who sleeps for a nap, or one who will fight naps for months or years to come

I’ve spoken before how different my two children are.  My oldest child, Olive, seemed to come out of the womb and only want to be with me.  I believe this trait in her personality (which I am now very grateful for) caused her to struggle with going down for naps.  She wanted to be with me so badly that the simple act of separating myself from her made her quite angry and frustrated. My younger child, Milo, was an “angel baby”.  If I didn’t do this work and know so many children perhaps I wouldn’t have taken such note of his temperament, but knowing what I do helps me see that he is an absolute anomaly amongst babies.  Milo slept well for naps very early on – he took to my schedule and slept for nearly every nap for as long as I wanted him to.  He slept well at night, took well to early night-weaning, and on more than one occasion I counted a 12-day span without one.single.cry.

As Milo has grown older (as of this blog post date he is 26 months old) he has had some struggles with sleep.  He has a parasomnia called Rhythmic Sleep Disorder in which he can frequently rock for 2-3 hours at the start or middle of the night – he is often awake almost the entire time.  For the most part, however, he has always gone to sleep easily and without complaint, and has been happy to stay in his crib for whatever duration of time I deemed his sleep period should last.  But, Milo is a human, and I knew that eventually he’d start to realize that I stay awake while he goes to sleep, and that he’d rather stay with me than have me leave him alone in his crib.  For months I’ve been waiting for this to rear it’s head, and a few weeks ago, it finally did! It started with a small protest when I put him in his crib.  Where normally he’d lay down happily, this time he cried out for me.  I reassured him gently, and he lay down.  However in the last week or so he has grown to a full-on cry when I leave the room.

If I weren’t a sleep consultant, I would have thought something was wrong with him.  I would have gone to him, comforted him, then started telling all my friends that, “He used to be such a good sleeper until this separation anxiety started, and now he won’t go to sleep without me!” But, I am a sleep consultant! I know first hand how my seemingly minor actions can have enormous impacts on my kids for weeks and months into the future.  Today Milo cried hard when I put him down for a nap, he called my name and spent several minutes crying.  A small part of me wondered whether he would stop and go to sleep, and then I reminded myself that if he decides to start down the path of no naps (like many toddlers do), that would be his choice, but that I would not further incentivize him to stay awake.  He was out cold in 7 minutes.

So many clients come to me after having made a few decisions they thought were largely inconsequential. Please know that so many of the choices we make as parents, even the ones that appear minor, can make a huge difference down the line. Don’t be a credit card parent – don’t give in and do things that make “right now” easier if you know down the line you’ll have to remedy a behavior.  Take it from me, it’s not pretty and it’s not easy.  Work hard to instill good practices and guidelines now for how you will deal with potential issues as they come up in the future.  We all come to forks in the road with our kids – should I let him work through this night waking or should I go to him right away? If my daughter expressly disobeys me but I’m comfortable on the couch, should I get up and immediately address the behavior, or just let this go? Your small acts, your choice when you come to the fork in the road, can make a bigger difference than you think.

 

Family Trip vs. Vacation

Ahhhh, the family trip. Anyone with kids knows that traveling with your kids, especially young kids, doesn’t really equate to a “vacation.”  I, cynically, like to say that the term “family vacation’ is an oxy-moron.  I understand now why my own parents and my husband’s parents took regular vacations without the kids.  As I write this, I can think of numerous friends I have who seem to genuinely enjoy traveling to far-off lands with their children.  I should have one of them write a guest post on this blog because one of the very last things I ever want to do is (willingly) shell out tons of cash, get on a plane with two kids, and then spend several days out of my house/away from my things.  I love my children, but traveling with them can be tough! Maybe that’s just for uptight people like myself, or maybe I’m just saying what everyone is thinking (I have a tendency to do that, usually at inopportunes times and places such as weddings, family dinners, and movie theaters).

However, I don’t dislike traveling with my kids enough that I avoid it all together. I still adore my in-laws (lucky, I know!) and since they live in Oregon and we live in LA, I make it a point to visit at least twice a year.  Plus, I’m starting to enjoy taking my older daughter, 4, on trips now that she isn’t napping and can appreciate places like the zoo and Disneyland without having to leave halfway through to take a nap. The following is a list of things that makes traveling with kids easier.

1. If you are visiting extended family, and you actually like your extended family, plan your trip around times you know people will be off work and at home.

My mother-in-law is my favorite member of my husband’s side of the family (again, just saying what everyone is thinking).  I discovered on my most recent trip to Oregon that I throughly dislike visiting if she’s at work all day.  My husband usually has to work while we’re here and my kids are totally out of their element.  Even though my father and mother-in-law have created a nursery for my son AND a spare room for my daughter, my kids still know something’s up and can be a little more difficult to deal with than usual.  Combine that with visting a place where I don’t have tons of friends and rainy weather and it just plain sucks to be home all day, essentially alone, with them.  I don’t know why I didn’t notice this until this last year, but I’ve now decided that my trips will be planed around days when I know my mother-in-law will be home to hang out with me.  You can tailor this to fit your own needs, but having some familial reinforcements can be super helpful and fun!

2. Try to keep your kids on schedule, and try to mimic their sleep environment, especially with a very dark room and a very loud fan.

My in-laws indulged me years ago by letting me tin-foil the windows in the nursery.  That was four years ago.  I walked into that room to put my son to bed last week and was informed that the windows have since been re-tin-foiled.  It’s been really easy for my kids to sleep here because their rooms are very dark, and because I’ve made sure to use the same type of cheap, loud fans I normally do for white noise.  Just having these two elements has really made an enormous difference in their ability to sleep, especially for my 21 month old.  It’s been really easy for him to nap through the noise because it’s so loud and so dark in his room.  He might sleep better here than at home!

3. Even though you should try to keep your kids on schedule, consider it a vacation for them and let them have fun!

I would say my kids, in general, watch quite a bit of TV, maybe up to 2 – 2 1/2 hours on some days.  When we vacation, especially in someone else’s home, they watch a lot more TV than they normally do.  They also skip meals and graze more often.  Since I’m already being uptight about making sure they go to sleep on time and nap, I try to let other things slide.

4. Do your best to research local, cheap babysitters ahead of time.

If you happen to be religious, it’s helpful to find a local church of your same denomination several weeks before your trip and get in touch with whatever adult is in charge of the youth program.  Have them recommend some potential youth in their congregation that might be interested in babysitting for you. Call these kids and ask them if they’d be willing to babysit and ask them what their fees are, and talk to their parents as well (since they won’t know you).  It helps to mention that you are also Jewish, Catholic, Hare Krishna, etc.  Speaking with the adult youth leader, and perhaps having that person give you personal references on a particular young person can be very helpful.  That way, you can have a a nice 16 year old come to your destination, babysit for a low fee, and you can go out an enjoy yourself! Plus, if your kids sleep well at night, you can likely put them down for the night and have the babysitter come over after their asleep and just sit around and watch TV.  It’s also a good idea to speak with a few other people that that person has babysat for, and, let’s be honest, it’s better if the babysitter is a girl.  Again, that’s just what everyone else is thinking.

5. If you’re sharing a room with a kid in a Pack n’ Play, make it as conducive a sleep environment as possible.

I’ve heard really great things about the SnoozeShade for Pack n’ Plays. This incredible cover does a wonderful job at blocking out light and muffling sound.  It’s really hard to share a room with some kids, but this cover can really alleviate several issues that come along with room sharing.  If you’re unable to get the SnoozeShade, I’ve had parents experience success simply by covering the entire Pack n’ Play, save one corner facing away from you, with heavy blankets.  It’s important that you make absolutely certain the child will have adequate air circulation if you have the Pack n’ Play covered, but the heavy blankets block out noise and light, and that will help everyone sleep easier. Also, use a fan for white noise.

Hopefully some of these tips will make traveling with your kiddos a bit easier!

 

White Noise For Baby

Sound Machine for BabiesOf all the standard advice I give out to mothers of newborns to toddlers, the one piece that seems to immediately make a difference is the implementation of  white noise.  There are all sorts of products on the market, from a sheep you put inside the crib that emits a low frequency whirrrring sound, to a $60 “sound conditioner“, but my number one recommendation is the cheapest, loudest box fan you can find, something like the good ole’ Lasko 3733.  Just turn that baby on to the loudest setting, face it towards the wall (so your little one doesn’t get too cold), and you have the most effective sound machine on the planet.

A box fan on it’s loudest setting will seem too loud for mom and dad, but will be the perfect volume for baby.  Also as a hilarious aside, another household object that is the perfect loudness would be something like a blowdryer, which one would NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER USE AS A WHITE NOISE MACHINE except for if you are Lori Broady and a show called My Strange Addiction did an episode on you where they showed how you’re addicted to sleeping with your blowdryer and you co-sleep with your 4 year old and have burned her on not one, but multiple, occasions, and how you have started a fire with your blow dryer addiction.

Moving on, the volume of white noise is of utmost importance.  The womb is very, very loud.  I’ve read reports that the decibel level inside the womb is about 90 decibels. N I N E T Y.  That’s as loud as a lawnmower! So, you want your newborn to sleep well? Crank up that fan as loud as it will go.

Some new parents, and even some more seasoned parents, think it’s wise to have babies nap not only without white noise, but while also being exposed to ambient noisea, thinking that somehow this will create a baby that can “sleep through anything”.  Let me tell you this right now – having an infant who can sleep well in that kind of an environment is about as common as having a baby that is “by the book” and sleeps easily on a schedule without too much help from mom and dad.  It might be possible, but it’s unlikely.  And frankly, it’s unfair.  There is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t give your baby and child every possible chance to sleep successfully.  Darken their room, turn on a fan, create cues for them so their brains are immidiately attuned to sleep when those cues are given.  Do the best you can to make sure their sleep environment is as accommodating to their needs as possible.

When to Wake a Toddler From a Nap

Recently I’ve had several clients contact me for help with their infants, but in the course of our consult, we’ve touched on their older child, often around 3 years of age, who has either stopped napping or naps infrequently, but still badly needs a nap.  When I give them some suggestions to follow to help their toddler get back to napping daily, most often the next thing I hear about is how it’s wonderful that their child is napping again, but now they won’t go to bed at night!

If you find yourself in a similar scenario, and one that I found my own self in with my 4 year old, try to limit the nap to 60-90 minutes, and then wake them up.  Many times the act of waking a toddler will back fire because then the child is then groggy and cranky, and that behavior ruins part or all of the afternoon-in this case I would suggest you watch your toddler around the 60 minute mark after they fell asleep.  They will usually stir somewhat when they go through a sleep cycle (which occur roughly every 60 minutes for kids that age) and that is the ideal time for them to wake up since they are not in a deep REM sleep cycle.  Also, it’s often best if a sound wakes up your child, instead of you.  If possible, when you see them cycling from one cycle to another, close a cabinet outside their room, or drop something not too loud right outside their door, or walk by their room loudly if you have wood floors.  My experience has shown me that children who are woken by some external sound as opposed to a parent who is gently shaking them awake is often more successful in terms of the child’s attitude and temperament once they get up.  It’s as if they have a chance to “come to” on their own terms.

I would also suggest you adopt a later bedtime, by about 30 minutes, for the older toddler who naps.  This should help solve the problem of them not falling asleep at night.

How to Adjust With Daylight Saving Time Ending

First off, does everyone know it’s Daylight SavinG Time, NOT Daylight SavingTime? Also, does everyone know that DST is ending, and the only time you denote time as, say, 9 pm PST, Pacific Standard Time (or Mountain or Central or whatever), is after DST ends until it starts again, so between the months of November and March? You’re actually supposed to say 9 pm PDT, Pacific Daylight Time, for the majority of the year.  Okay, now that that little rant is over, let’s move on.

So many parents, especially those with babies that are below the age of 9 months, are terrified of DST, particularly when DST ends, or we “fall back”.  Different sleep experts have different methods they recommend to deal with the time ending.  I know some who like to prepare for it a few weeks ahead of time by gradually moving the schedule later or earlier, so that when DST starts or ends , their kids will be used to waking and sleeping at their regular times.  I like to be pretty laid back about DST.  To me, I treat it the same way as I treat sleep when I travel. Studies show that it takes people 1 day to adjust for every 1 hour they need to adjust to.  If you travel from one coast to the other and you are three hours ahead or behind, it will be about 3 or 4 days until you’re back to waking and sleeping at your typical times.  So, with babies, the time change should only take about 1-2 days to adjust to.

I recommend that you split the difference by 30 minutes.  Let’s say your baby typically wakes up at about 6 am. You would get up on the day of the time change and look at your clock and you wouldn’t go to your baby or child until 5:30 am – which really feels like 6:30 am.  If you’re the type of parent who has a baby that typically wakes at 6 am, but you wait to go to them until 7 am, then I would do the same thing- go to them at 6:30 am, which will only feel 30 minutes later to your baby or child than it normally does when you go to them.  From there, you just go on about your day like normal.  You’ll be about 30 minutes behind your schedule all day, putting bedtime at 30 minutes “earlier” (by the clock) than normal.  If your baby normally goes to bed at 7 pm, on the day of the change you put him down at 6:30 pm, which will feel like 7:30 to him, so only 30 minutes later than he normally goes down.  The next day, you forget about the time change and you just go on with your regular schedule at the regular start time.

Even as I just wrote this, it sounds incredibly complex to me – just remember that you want to try to ignore the fact that the time has changed.  When DST ENDS, that first day, go completely by the clock and do everything 30 minutes earlier than you normally do, then the next day, do everything completely like normal.

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

My dear friend Tamara Johnson, author of 31 Dates in 31 Days, sent me a short message a while back about a book she’d heard about on NPR entitled Dreamland, Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. The author, journalist David K. Randall, had decided to deeply research sleep after he had started sleepwalking.  I decided to give the book a read while on a recent vacation sans kids (remember actually reading on a plane?).

I was completely engrossed in this book from page one.  The first quote that caught my eye was when Randall noted that, “This is a book about the largest overlooked part of your life and how it affects you even if you don’t have a sleep problem…as I spent more time investigating the science of sleep I began to understand that these strange hours of the night  underpin nearly every moment of our lives.”  Randall goes on to talk about how cops, truck drivers and ER doctors are turning to sleep researchers for help in understanding how sleep effects the brain’s ability to make decisions.

This sentiment, unsurprisingly, resonates strongly with me.  I think sleep, for children and adults, is as vital as the nutrients a person takes in.  Dreamland purports that how you sleep impacts what you decide to eat and how much money you make, and a plethora of other things that comprise who you are as a person.  Randall states that, “All of those things that add up to what you consider you – your creativity, emotions, health, and ability to quickly learn a new skill or devise a solution to a problem – can be seen as little more than by-products of what happens inside your brain while your head is on a  pillow each night. ”  That is heavy stuff.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed how little importance many people place on sleep.  Especially amongst the parent-set it’s treated as a luxury.  A lack of sleep is worn as a badge of honor to represent just how much one is willing (and should!) sacrifice for their children or their work.  But I think looking at sleep in that light is downright dangerous. In New Jersey you can be PROSECUTED FOR VEHICULAR HOMICIDE if you are a driver that causes a fatality after being awake for 24 straight hours or more.  Study after study after study shows the terrible effect lack of sleep, but as a society we think very little about how too little sleep can effect our lives. Dreamland is an excellent read that helps a person understand all the important, and sometimes mind-blowing, things that take place in a person’s brain and body while they’re asleep.

Crying and Cortisol

A lot of anti-sleep trainers out their talk in depth about cortisol in relation to crying babies.  The basic idea is that crying is stressful for babies, so their brains will flood their bodies with cortisol – the stress hormone – which causes long-term damage to the brain itself, plus a number of other issues.

When I was a first time mother, this cortisol thing scared the crap out of me.  Forget sleep training – I was terrified that my baby was getting flooded with cortisol all the other times she cried during the day, and that was a lot!

An article on Babble.com states the following, “Dr. Allan Schore is often cited as showing that stress hormones like cortisol, released during intense crying, damage nerve cells in the brain, leading to unhealthy attachments and psychological disorders. He demonstrates that a repeated pattern of unmet needs disrupts a child’s stress-regulating systems and can alter the way her limbic structures process emotion.”  Petrifying, right? This Schore dude is telling me that if my baby is crying intensely, their little body will release cortisol, and then they could have brain damage.  BRAIN DAMAGE. ***BRAIN DAMAGE***

Now, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve known lots of babies, and especially lots of babies that cry a lot.  I don’t think I know any that have suffered brain damage.  So, I dug a little deeper into this study that those anti-cry-it-out folks like to tout as the reason you shouldn’t use crying as a tool -ever- to help your baby or toddler learn to sleep.  It turns out that, “the claims of brain, personality, and attachment damage come from research conducted with grossly neglected children (some studies use data from Child Protective Services cases).” Source

So this study people use to tell me that I’m damaging my kids by letting them cry is based on data pulled from CPS.  Right.

Can we take a step back now and talk about what sleep deprivation does to infants, toddlers, and kids? An article in New York magazine notes that, “The surprise is how much sleep affects academic performance and emotional stability, as well as phenomena that we assumed to be entirely unrelated, such as the international obesity epidemic and the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A few scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure: damage that one can’t sleep off like a hangover. It’s even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a tweener and teen—moodiness, depression, and even binge eating—are actually symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.” (Emphasis added.) Source.

We have one scientist that’s taking data from abused kids and saying that in their cases, excessive crying (probably among other things), causes this cortisol release.  And the we have a WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER scientists telling us that lack of sleep amongst kids can cause symptoms of  ADHD, obesity, and, also terrifyingly, permanent changes in brain structure.

If you’re on the fence about whether you think using crying as a tool to help your infant, toddler, or child learn to sleep is detrimental, shift your focus to what we know happens to the body and the brain when children don’t get the sleep they need.

I Struggle, Too

When I was a new mother with a screaming baby, I used to feel like the people I admired, that I’d go to for advice, had it all down with their kids, that they never struggled and that their kids never had sleeping issues.  I don’t know if it’s common to think this, but if it is, I’m here to tell you, that is simply not true.

Last week my 20 month old son finally switched from two naps to one.  I’d been waiting for this change for months and months and it finally happened.  Because of him now sleeping from 12-2, that means I can’t pick my daughter up from preschool until close to 3 pm.  Prior to this, I’d been picking her up around 1:30 then brining them both home for a nap.  So, with my son’s new napping schedule, and my daughter already being four, this meant she suddenly and abruptly dropped her nap as well! You have to understand, sleep training is really my life.  I practice everything I preach to my clients in my own life.  To have these changes happen so suddenly was interesting.  I think I just couldn’t bring myself to accept that my daughter who had struggled soooooo much with naps for the first 3 years of her life, would now stop napping during the day.  She has been sleeping so deeply and so well, and I fully planned on keeping her napping until kindergarten.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen with my son when he dropped to one nap.

Anyway, so in one week my baby goes to one nap, which is a huge deal (!) and my older baby drops her nap all together! Everything seemed to be going smoothly…until my son started waking for 2 hours every night from midnight-2 am. He has a disorder called Rhythmic Sleep Disorder, that’s not really a disorder but more of a behavior, where he rocks violently while he’s in deep sleep.  It extremely common, and while terrifying to hear/watch, it’s usually completely harmless.  However, over this week when he dropped his nap, his RSD started getting very strong.  He came very, very close to breaking one of the slats on his crib with his head.  And then, he finally rocked so hard he’d wake up.  I would eventually go to him, and he would sit in my arms for a while, then I’d put him back to bed, then he’d go right back to rolling around in his crib.  Eventually I’d would just go go to bed while he was still awake.

Of course I started researching and researching.  I started putting him to bed a bit later, made sure not to make any sounds between 11 pm – 1 am, and I decided to wait it out.  My daughter did something similar, but with her it was an indication that she was ready to drop her second nap.

Eventually, the waking stopped.  At least, I hope it’s stopped.  I tell you this lengthy story because I want everyone out there to know that I struggle with my kids, too.  When I have to hear them cry while struggling to learn a new skill, I  feel at times I am literally unable to hear any other sound other than their crying. I know what it’s like, I know how you feel! But, I also have a knack for this.  I find the solutions, I research, I have an incredibly wide base of knowledge and experience to draw from.  I love my babies, and I start to love the babies and the mothers – and sometimes fathers – I work with, too. I believe in what I do and I believe the sleep a baby gets is an important as the food he’s consuming.

I know how it feels to have a child that won’t sleep, and I know how to get passed it, and I’m so grateful when you guys let me share that knowledge with you!

Beginners Guide to Swaddling

I have this very distinct memory of my first child, Olive, breaking out of her swaddle when she was just 3 weeks old.  The girl needed to be swaddled, or else she wouldn’t really sleep, and I was at my wits end.  Along came my friend Morgan Olson who shared her incredible swaddling technique. I really wanted to embed the video in this post, but I was unable to figure out how to do so.  Anyway, this swaddle technique was indispensable. I only did one thing differently than in the video-I always inserted the bundled baby in a SwaddleMe blanket, instead of just wrapping her in another blanket.  That’s because Olive would break through the first swaddle unless she was strapped into something else! She was one strong cookie.

I recommend the swaddle to all new parents.  Occasionally there are babies that do better without it, but I encourage all parents of babies 1-12 weeks to give it a real try.  Often babies will protest the swaddle by crying while being swaddled, but quiet right down once they’re swaddled tightly all the way.

Also, I got tons of grief from all sides of the family! My parents were always talking about how the baby looked like a burrito and how she wasn’t getting enough time to develop her limb control.  They quieted down substantially when they had a chance to take care of her and they saw how the swaddle automatically induced a relaxed response in her.  It’s like the fan for white noise.  If you get your baby used to it from birth, then once they get swaddled and hear the fan, they know it’s time for bed.  My daughter still chills out at 4 years old when she hears her beloved fan.

If you use the swaddle, be prepared to drop the swaddle.  I have another incredibly distinct memory of the day we “dropped” the swaddle at 13.5 weeks.  Olive had started kicking so vigorously that she was able to flip herself over onto her belly while still completely wrapped.  Imagine my horror when I caught her stuck, face down, in her crib.  I decided the next day she had to sleep without it, and what an excruciating day that was. She was still taking four naps at the time, and she did not really ever fall into a deep sleep for any of them.  Finally, at the end of the day with an exhausted baby, I finally decided to flip her on her stomach to sleep.  She cried for a few minutes, then slept deeply for her nap.  From that day on, several of the issues I’d been experiencing with short napping disappeared. She slept better and more soundly once I started putting her to bed on her stomach.

Now, I know that tummy sleeping is highly controversial, as it should be! The only reason I felt comfortable allowing Olive to sleep on her stomach was because I owned an AngelCare movement sensor monitor.  I’m going to write an upcoming post on that monitor, so stay tuned!

I hope you all give the swaddle a fair shake.  I’ve heard some recent recommendations that we not swaddle babies so tightly because they’re unable to reach their hands to suck on for self soothing.  I feel that I dropped the swaddle so early that that was never really issue for us, and I don’t really recommend tight swaddling past 14 weeks of age.

One final thing to keep in mind is to keep your baby dressed very lightly underneath the swaddle, especially if the heater is on in the winter, or if it’s summertime.  A onesie and perhaps a pair of socks is sufficient clothing underneath the swaddle in most cases.

 

 

 

Australian Infant Sleep Study

How could I have a blog on sleep training and not address this study out of Australia? Nearly everyone I know who is aware of my deep passion for helping infants and toddlers sleep sent me this article the week it came out.  It was posted to my facebook page, people called me on the phone about it.  “Finally!” they cried (not really, no one cried, except the babies in the article), “Proof once and for all that Crying It Out (CIO) is not harmful!”

It would have been great if the study could have proven such a thing! There is such a raging debate on both sides of this issue that it would have been wonderful to finally have a definitive study that absolutely proved that using CIO could be an effective and non-harmful tool  – and by no means the only tool – in helping babies and toddler learn to sleep at night.

I think my favorite part of the study is where researchers note that, “modern parents have ‘unproven concerns’ about the ‘patting on the bottom’ technique (which they would call ‘controlled comforting’) and other behavioral interventions. (NY Times parenting blog)

That right there characterizes the exact idea I try to communicate to new moms.  In the US we have somehow developed this outright fear of our babies-of hurting them psychologically and emotionally, and we’ve been duped into believing that the crying of a newborn necessarily means that we must always and immediately attend to the baby.  Of course you attend to your baby, of course you meet it’s each and every need, but sometimes I take particular issue with the way mothers are told that, “Crying is a late sign of hunger” by many pediatricians.  Of course I’ve taken that quote somewhat out of context, but every time I hear it I’m reminded how we’re always taught to think of a crying infant as a hungry infant.  There are simply so many other needs a baby must have met.  They have no other form of communication, so a reasonable person would expect a baby to cry a lot.

Newborns and infants cry when they’re cold, which happens frequently since they have such little body fat.  They cry when they have an itch they can’t scratch, they cry because the room is too bright, or they’re tired, and yes, absolutely they cry when they’re hungry.  I don’t know why I’ve veered off on this crying tangent, except that I feel like CIO is frequently equated with not feeding your baby enough.  And thus begins so much guilt mother’s feel. I would argue that our mother’s and grandmothers just didn’t feel as guilty as we do now.  It took me several years of parenting before I stopped feeling bad constantly for not being a good enough mother.

It would be better if as mothers we all supported and loved one another.  I desperately wished that as a society of mothers we traded in our guilt for a belief that our fellow mothers are probably doing the best they can.  I think that for many of us that comes with time, but if we could address the guilt before it ever began, well that would make transitioning to motherhood much, much easier.

 

A Few Words on Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child book coverHealthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth (HSHHC) is hands down my favorite child sleep book.  There are many others that offer great methods and programs, but none come close to flat out convincing a parent that doing, and sometimes sacrificing, whatever it takes to instill excellent sleep habits in a child is one of the most important things one can do as a parent. It will particularly resonate with those who like to come at things from a logical and statistically significant stand point.

I came upon this book when trying to implement various other methods with my first child.  While many books made great points, none could convince me that they were 100% qualified to talk about what they were talking about.  Also, I found that parents all over the spectrum, from co-sleepers to families who put their baby’s in their own cribs from day one, had positive things to say about Dr. Weissbluth’s methods.

HSHHC is also extremely thorough. It begins by discussing how sleep is different during the day and at night and how essential timing of a baby’s wake time is in order to achieve a successful nap, and goes on to actually tell a parent how to deal with many typical sleep issues.. Of course, like any book, a parent can read it and still find them self struggling when their baby is not reacting as the book said it would in a given set of circumstances, but overall it is a quality work that appears to be medically and scientifically sound.  If there is one single sleep book I would recommend to a new, or even more seasoned, parent it would be this one.

Ultimately, I think the book’s highest value comes from chapters 5 and 6. In this portion of the book, Dr. Weissbluth discusses what a parent can do for their child from age newborn to twelve months in order to preclude many common sleep issues!

I owe Dr. Weissbluth a lot.  He got me started down this path of helping others bring sleep harmony back into their homes, and I am so grateful he choose to spend his time doing longitudinal studies amongst children the world over to prove what I now know to be the truth-sleep is as important as the amount of food infants and children eat, it is restorative, it is important, and it is to be respected.

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Recent Press

How to Successfully Sleep Train Baby with Older Siblings

As my team and I worked tirelessly to develop the Baby Sleep Trainer video training series one thought that came up through the feedback channels was that sleep training really is a lifestyle change. Much like exercise or diet, if you want your child to have healthy sleep habits throughout their childhood, then you must ensure that you are enforcing good sleep habits in your family’s day-to-day life. So, how do you work towards good sleep habits for your infant while still meeting the needs of your older children?

There are two main categories when discussing maintaining good sleep training habits for younger children while caring for older siblings’ sleep.

1. Infant schedule is in conflict with sibling’s outings (+ there’s a need for napping on-the-go):

This can happen when a young infant naps three times a day, and one or more of their naps overlaps a time when a parent needs to be out for school pick-up or drop-off, or for some other activity. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that it’s only a matter of time. Usually these types of conflicts occur most when baby is between 4-7 months of age. In those early months it is near impossible to take baby out and not have them either be in the car during nap time, or have them in the car outside of nap time where they fall asleep anyway. In either case, it’s best for Mom and Dad to just do the best they can to avoid taking baby out unnecessarily, and try very, very hard not to be stressed when baby is off schedule. When baby naps on the go, that should be counted as their first, second, or third nap of the day, and once they get home, they should be kept awake until as close as possible to their next scheduled nap time. Once babies get into a two nap schedule (around 7 months, when they nap around 9 am and 1:30 pm) it becomes much easier to navigate school pick-ups and drop-offs, and perhaps even move around a baby’s schedule to accommodate their sibling’s outings. If parents have any reinforcements to call in such as a carpool, or grandparents watching baby during school pick-up, this would be a time to call in that help.

2. Infant sleep training waking older sibling:

I have to say, there is a near constant concern amongst parents that a crying younger sibling will wake an older sibling throughout the night. Let me start by saying that I have worked with hundreds of families who have a baby plus an older child(ren), and I can count on one hand the amount of times a crying baby woke the older child! This is astonishing even to me. Older toddlers and school-aged children typically sleep very deeply overnight so they aren’t usually bothered by the cries of their baby sister. Ensuring they have their own white noise and a closed bedroom door also helps. Even so, some parents feel better sending the older child out for a sleepover with grandma for a few days, or even inviting big brother to sleep in Mom and Dad’s room on the one condition that they must remain quiet and sleep all night, or risk losing the privilege of the sleep over and get sent back to sleep in their own room. Finally, discussing with your older toddler or child that baby brother is going to be learning how to fall asleep without help, and might be crying a bit, can go a very long way. If they know that it’s their job to be quiet and sleep at night so that baby brother can get some sleep as well, you may be surprised at how motivated they are to help out with the sleep training process.

There is a lot of apprehension that goes along with sleep training, but thankfully disrupting older children’s sleep through the training process is almost never something parents find to be an issue.

April 24th, 2017|Siblings, Sleep Disruptions, Sleep Training|

How to Deal with the Stigma & Judgment of Sleep Training

As a sleep consultant I spend a tremendous amount of time disabusing people of their previous beliefs regarding sleep training. As any parent who has spent anytime in a parenting Facebook group, or googling anything about children and sleep, knows there’s A LOT of information out there. Most of it conflicts with each other and everyone has an opinion. Because so much of sleep training involves your child protesting falling asleep without help (read: crying), well-meaning family members and friends don’t think twice about making verbal judgments about people’s choices to sleep train. It can be very difficult if you are a mother who has been primarily responsible for feeding and caring for your child overnight, and during the day, and are starting to feel the fatigue associated with lack of sleep. Since it can take a lot of courage to pursue sleep training, it is absolutely crushing when a parent’s spouse, partner, parent, or friends chooses to make a comment that second guesses one’s choice to sleep train.

Even though there can be a lot of stigma and judgment around sleep training from one’s friends and family, there are three main things you can say or do to combat other people’s comments in a friendly, but direct way.

1. Tell them the facts

Depending on how close this family member is, you want to make sure you start by sharing with them just how much this lack of sleep is truly hurting you and hurting your child. Cite specific instances that show how this lack of sleep is affecting you and your child – ie. tell your spouse when you nearly hit someone with your car, or that you snapped unnecessarily at a friend (or at them!), or that you are forgetting small tasks. You can also tell them that lack of sleep is diminishing the joy you feel as a parent. As far as baby is concerned, point out dark circles under your little one’s eyes or other ways you’ve noticed lack of sleep has affected their demeanor. In addition to factually stating how lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life, arm yourself with scientific fact. Tell them that lack of sleep affects children’s brain development, increases their likelihood of childhood obesity, generally makes them more irritable, and reduces their body’s ability to fight off infections and common childhood diseases. If you dig a little deeper online, you’ll find a multitude of studies supporting the links between lack of sleep and harm to your body, and that of your child’s.

2. Tell them the plan

Confidently outline your plan. Remember that you control the message, and you have one chance to “sell” your friend or family member on what you are going to do. Help them realize you’ve done a lot of research, gotten help where you’ve needed to, and feel confident that even though there will be crying that it will be best for the baby. Be clear that you may need help, and clearly outline what you might expect in the way of support during the process. Here is where you also want to acknowledge that crying will be involved. Ask what specific concerns there may be with the crying, and be prepared to factually respond to concerns. As an additional resource to this post, I’m providing my very favorite go-to, scientific articles to show that sleep training is not harmful to children, despite what many sources on the internet might say (get the article links below). If your spouse or family member has specific concerns about crying, note the articles, and do some additional research to prove that your child will be safe and healthy through the process. Also be ready to involve your pediatrician as back up! Most doctors will be on board with a well thought-out, sleep-training plan, and that can hold a lot of weight with loved ones who are concerned about sleep training.

3. Tell them you’ve made your choice

This last one is admittedly a little tricky. When I advise my one-on-one clients on how to navigate family members who are giving them a hard time about sleep training, I can take into account a variety of factors and produce talking points I think will go over well with that person’s specific concerns and personality type. Since I’m advising the general public, take what you think might work from this last tip. Sleep training can be a somewhat daunting task and it’s hard to be confident that you’ve made the right choice until you’re on the other side with a blissfully sleeping baby. But, if you have come to the decision to sleep train – you need to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Tell your loved one that you have made your choice, will not be backing down, and that sleep training is challenging enough as it is without dealing with judgment and criticism. Explain that you’ve done everything you can to factually dissuade their concerns, but that you will not be changing your mind about pursuing this path. Go back again and kindly state that you love your loved one, you love your baby, and that you are in trouble and need help. Remind them you would love their help and support, but at the very least you will not tolerate them making this path more difficult. Ask them (to the extent possible) to keep any negative opinions to themselves. A caveat to this is if the person you are speaking to is your spouse or partner (and the parent to your child). It is not a wise idea to pursue sleep training if this person is not on board. But, if you find your spouse or partner is 100% against sleep training, I would let them know that you respect their wishes, but can no longer be counted on to be the primary caretaker of your child overnight. If they do not wish to support you in sleep training, they will simply have to take on the entirety of the overnight care for your child. If your baby requires feeds, attempt to have your spouse or partner feed them bottles, OR, establish 1, 2, or 3 feedings each night (whatever you feel is necessary), then hand your child to your spouse or partner and go back to sleep. Again, remember that you must modify this advice to fit your particular family dynamic, but know that it’s amazing how quickly you can get a partner on board once they are primarily responsible for taking care of your child overnight.

Remember that being clear, direct, and confident can go a long way in getting loved ones on board with training, or at least in helping them to keep their opinions to themselves until the 1-2 week process of training your child has passed.

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April 17th, 2017|Crying, Guilt, Science of Sleep, Sleep Training, Uncategorized|

How to Help Your Sick Baby Sleep Best and When to Resume Sleep Training

As if it doesn’t take so much time and courage to finally get a sleep training plan going, it seems that so often something like illness threatens to put a wrench in your plans! Since it seems to take so much motivation to start sleep training in the first place, illness often stops the process short, and parents struggle to resume training again. Here I’ll discuss how to maintain whatever progress has been made in terms of a child’s sleep, and when it’s safe to resume the sleep training process.

First of all, evaluate where you are in the sleep training process. If it’s in the middle of the first night of training when you discover your son has a fever, I would suggest abandoning all sleep training plans until your child is totally healthy. If, however, you are to the point in sleep training where your child has made substantial progress, then it would make sense to simply attend to your child as needed, but continue to focus on them falling asleep unassisted.

When your baby is ill, whether or not they are sleep trained, it’s vital to attend to every need they have associated with the illness. If the pediatrician approves fever-reducing medicine, use that to comfort your child. If your child has a fever and is dehydrated, address that with a feeding (while making sure baby doesn’t fall asleep while being fed). Whatever your child needs, fulfill that need! Just simply remember not to actually facilitate your child falling asleep. That needs to be done totally unassisted. Remember that illness usually does not mean a child suddenly needs help in falling asleep, and that falling asleep unassisted is not a skill a child loses when they become ill. Love them and care for them, but don’t be there as they fall asleep. That is a sure fire way to maintain whatever progress your child has made in their sleep training journey.

Instead of bringing your sick child into your bed (and thus helping them fall asleep), keep them in their crib in their room, and simply share the room with them. Sleep on an air mattress, bed or couch, and be right there in case they need you. But, once again, don’t be physically present with them as they go from being awake to asleep. Watch them on the monitor to make sure they are safe, and as soon as their eyes close and they fall asleep, go in and sleep near them so that you are there for whatever they may need as they wake through the night.

You’ll know it’s safe to resume your sleep training plans when your child is 100% healthy (no fever, vomiting or other signs of illness) for at least 24 hours. It is also highly advisable that you take your child into the pediatrician to verify that they’re totally healthy before jumping back into any serious sleep training.

May 24th, 2016|Sickness, Sleep Training, Videos|

How to Properly Dream Feed Your Baby

Dream feeding is one of those terms that gets tossed around so much that everyone assumes that everyone else knows the exact meaning of the term. Yet when you dig a little deeper, you realize that people have WILDLY different definitions of the same exact word!

Just so everyone is on the same page – a dream feed is when a parent goes to their sleeping infant, picks them up (or props them up in their crib to offer a bottle), feeds the child, and then puts them back down *asleep* without the baby ever having woken up. A dream feed is NOT a dream feed if a child opens their eyes at any point in the process. Generally speaking, a dream feed is done between the hours of about 9:30pm and 12:00am. Technically, if all other terms are met, but the feed is done outside of these hours, the feeding is still a dream feed.

Dream feeds are a great tool from birth (or a few weeks after, when babies are not quite so sleepy), through to when a baby is done being swaddled. It is very challenging to dream feed a baby, even a very young one, without waking them up if they are not swaddled. Generally speaking, it’s wise to stop dream feeding around 14-16 weeks of age.

I like dream feeds for young babies not because they necessarily prevent babies from waking up to eat at night, though sometimes this is the case, but more so because I appreciate the “insurance policy” of extra calories at night. As long as a baby is young enough that the dream feed itself does not wake them and fracture their sleep, doing a dream feed can insure that they are getting as many calories as possible during their day.

Some babies respond beautifully to a dream feed, especially those with reflux! From about 7pm on through to about 2 or 3am, the body is flooded with the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for many things, chief amongst them making the body feel drowsy and relaxing the long muscles (abs, legs, and arms). Since the abdominal muscles are relaxed, it’s common for babies with a lot of reflux to tolerate a dreamfeed without spitting up, and without needing to be burped or held upright afterwards. I can speak to this from personal experience with my own extremely reflux-y, wholly unmedicated daughter. Since the concern for calorie intake is so high with reflux babies, dream feeds can be especially useful for them.

The bottom line, is that a dream feed – if understood for what it truly is, and if done correctly, can benefit baby AND parents by offering an extra dose of nutrition and helping baby sleep (parents too)!

April 20th, 2016|Dream Feed, Sleep Training, Swaddling, Videos|

5 Tips to Get Two Babies Under 2-years-old to Sleep in the Same Room

5 Tips on How to Get Two Babies Under 2-Years-Old to Sleep in the Same Room

1.Get a feel for your older child’s sleep temperament.
Is your older kiddo a sensitive sleeper? Or can he sleep through fire engine lights and sirens going past his window? Get a feel for how easily your older child wakes, and especially how easily he falls back to sleep when woken up, and this should give you an idea of when to have the younger baby sibling join in the same room. If your older child is a light sleeper, it’s best to wait until he is sleeping as solidly through the night as possible. However, if the older sibling seems to sleep through just about anything, having a few-months-old infant in the room who is still waking through the night should be no big deal.

2. White Noise.
White noise is this sleep consultant’s secret weapon! Even if your older child is not a sensitive sleeper, it’s an extremely wise idea to use very loud white noise in the room both children are sharing. This will serve to block out any cries, coughs, or other sounds from disturbing either child.

3. Put the older child to sleep first, if possible.
This tip can really go either way, with whichever child seems to be the deeper sleeper going to sleep first, followed by the lighter-sleeping sibling going down about 20-30 minutes later. This can be tricky in cases where infants are the ones that fall asleep earlier but are also light sleepers (this seems to be most often the case). In this scenario, the younger sibling can be put down first, but Mom and Dad should work very, very hard to try to teach the older sibling to go to sleep quietly instead of being loud and rambunctious and waking up their baby sibling.

4. Cribs
One of the most common mistakes parents make is transitioning their older child out of a crib too soon, in order to give it to a new sibling. I favor keeping children in cribs as long as it is safe to do so. Many kids can stay in cribs until they reach the age of four! Unless an older child is crawling out of the crib, it’s wise to keep crib-aged siblings sharing a room in individual cribs instead of having the older sibling able to get up and walk around, disrupting the sleep of their younger sibling.

5. Consider a room within a room.
In some cases it might be a good idea to create a “room within a room” for the younger of the two babies. Ikea’s Dignitet curtain wire makes it possible to create a curtained off space anywhere walls and a ceiling are present. Curtaining off an infant’s crib (while leaving a video monitor and white noise within the curtains) can allow the older child more freedom to move around, read a book, or otherwise just co-exist more comfortably while sharing a room with a baby brother or sister.

April 19th, 2016|Siblings, Sleep Training, Videos, White Noise|

7 Most Common Baby Sleep Training Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

 

1) Not understanding what sleep training is
Sleep training is not about bedtime routines and lavender massages. However, it is about your kiddo learning how to go from being awake to being asleep all on their own. Meaning, being able to fall asleep without the help of a caregiver, a car, a swing, or a pacifier. In that way, nearly all sleep training methods are similar. As parents, you want to develop a plan where you can put your child down awake, and find a way that you feel most comfortable dealing with the inevitable protest crying that will initially occur (like doing timed checks, for example). Then most importantly, making the commitment from that bedtime and on, that you will not assist your child to fall asleep. After several days, babies and toddlers will learn to fall asleep unassisted, and sleep training will be complete. The whole goal is getting baby to sleep longer by teaching them how to put themselves to sleep.

2) Not sleep training for naps and nighttime simultaneously
One of the biggest mistakes I see families make before working with me is their attempt to sleep train only for nights without training for naps at the same time, or vice versa. In an effort to not let their children become, “overtired,” parents often help their babies fall asleep for naps during the day, while only sleep training at night. Because there is so much melatonin in the body at bedtime, kids fall asleep relatively easily for bedtime, and throughout the night, yet struggle to nap unassisted during the day. In this case, after a few days the child might sleep well at night, however, when parents try to tackle nap sleep, the child uses all their stamina from solid night sleep to then fight naps – making nap training extremely difficult. Worse so, if a child continues to receive help to sleep during the day, it is usually only a matter of time until a sleep disruption (such as illness or travel), causes nighttime sleep issues…which then requires a parent to start from square one. The parent now has to help their child fall back to sleep for bedtime, and in the middle of the night – all over again. In this circumstance, it’s only a short period of time before sleep training progress completely falls apart.

3) Keeping the pacifier
Unless a child old, and dexterous, enough to reach out in the middle of the night and quickly put a pacifier back in their mouth, sleep training while using a pacifier isn’t really sleep training. The truth is, whatever your child relies on to fall asleep at the onset of bedtime or nap time will be the same thing they’ll want to have to fall back to sleep with throughout the night. Even older babies who can easily re-insert the pacifier in their mouths often experience significant nighttime wake ups just looking for their pacifier. Ensuring a child can fall asleep without any help whatsoever is always the best route to pursue for long-term results, and a well-rested baby.

4) Not making an ideal sleep environment a priority
I always require that 4 things be present when sleep training a baby: Loud white noise, a very dark room, a video monitor, and a safe crib (with NOTHING in it other than a mattress, a well fitted sheet, and baby – with possible exceptions being a mesh bumper and a very small lovey). Babies do not need much to sleep well. Studies have found that loud white noise helps humans fall into deeper levels of sleep faster, and stay there longer. Darkness helps the body produce a constant level of melatonin to further aid in easily falling asleep. A safe crib is a no brainer – never allowing your child access to an unsafe crib is very important, especially as they will be in it all night on their own. And finally, a video monitor helps parents know when their babies are actually asleep and awake, which provides peace of mind in knowing their babies are safe.

5) Starting sleep training without having a plan in place
Families who want to start sleep training will be a lot more successful if they have a plan in place first. All sleep training plans should contain 4 parts: What to do at bedtime, how to deal with middle of the night wakings, how to make sure kiddos start each day at the same time, and how to train for naps. Obviously, reading many books and working with a sleep training professional can take a lot of the guesswork out of how to deal with all of these different aspects of sleep training, however, not having a plan is a recipe for disaster. Sleep training requires time, consistency, and patience. Without a solid plan in place, it can make it difficult to stay consistent over the several days or weeks it may take to properly sleep train a child.

6) Not sticking with it
When done properly, sleep training usually takes about 3-4 nights for night time sleep, and 1-2 weeks for naps. This might seem like a small amount of time, but similar to caffeine or sugar withdrawals, shifts like this can actually feel pretty agonizing at first. One of the biggest mistakes that many families make is shifting gears or quitting after only a few days due to not getting immediate results. The commitment must be to stick with sleep training for 1-2 weeks, which usually results in huge success, regardless of the training method parents use.

7) Letting illness get in the way of healthy sleep habits
Once a child knows how to fall asleep unassisted for naps and bedtime, they do not suddenly “unlearn” what they have learned…unless a parent reverts back to helping the child fall asleep. I am adamant with the families I work with in informing them that – once your child masters falling asleep on their own, do NOT go back to helping them fall asleep. Even when they are ill, love them, comfort them, medicate them under doctor’s orders, but when the yawn of sleepiness comes, always put them down awake and let them fall asleep on their own. I even advise my clients to share a room with their children over night just in case their child needs them, but to simply stay out of the room when the child is actually falling asleep.

April 14th, 2016|Getting Baby to Sleep Longer, Nap Training, Sleep Training, Videos|