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6 01, 2014

Sleep Training Series:Part 1

January 6th, 2014|Categories: Sleep Training|Tags: , , , |

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.  Leo J. Burke

 You’re tired. Your child is tired. Nobody is happy. You have decided that it’s time to hunker down and commit to sleep training/sleep coaching/sleep shaping (it goes by many names) to help your child sleep through the night and take restorative naps.

But where to start? You’ve read a thousand books and each one contradicts the other. It’s enough to make anyone frustrated.

Thinking about Sleep Training?

Folks who don’t face sleep issues may scoff at the idea of ‘teaching’ a child to fall asleep, but what many people fail to realize is that falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. And just like anything in parenting, if you want to teach your child a new skill, it is going to require time, patience and a ton of consistency.

Every sleep training method can work, but only if you are 100% committed to it. How can you commit to something you know nothing about? Well you’re in luck! This article will be the first in a series of posts examining the most common sleep training techniques from gradual to the most direct, along with the pros and cons with each method.

Let’s start at the beginning…

The first place to begin before any sleep training begins is with a solid pre-sleep routine. I often refer to this as a wind down routine. A wind down routine is a short series of steps that go through with your child right before their nap and/or bedtime. It is fairly consistent from day to day and between naps and bedtime. This vital step helps to cue your child’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep. In fact, a wind down routine is so important for great sleep that it’s even recommend for adults.

A wind down routine might include one or more of the following, depending on your child’s age and if it’s before a nap or before bedtime;

  • diaper change or potty time,
  • nursing/bottle,
  • pajamas,
  • brushing teeth,
  • reading a book together,
  • prayers/quiet song,
  • rocking/ cuddling
  • bed
The Next Critical Step…

So now you have the perfect wind down routine and are using it consistently. Excellent! The next important step is focus on your child’s daytime routine.  Ensure that your child is on a solid routine or about to begin one. That means he or she is taking restorative naps (most children 3 and under still need to nap) and has a relatively early bedtime.

 

Want more tips to help your baby sleep through the night? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night guide.

If the child’s routine isn’t on track, then you are not going to have success sleep training. Why? Because you can’t sleep train a chronically overtired child. You may be teaching them to fall asleep independently, but they will still continue to wake up at night, take short naps and be miserable because their routine is off and bedtime is too late.

This is a really important point, so it’s worth repeating : 

If you want to solve all sleep issues, then your child’s daytime routine needs to be addressed too.

So therefore make sure you child is napping well during the day and going to bed on time each night. Sleep begets sleep and what happens during the day, has a direct effect on the quality of your child’s night sleep.

Know Thyself

Once you have a wind down routine in place and a great daytime routine, you will want to begin thinking about what your parenting philosophy is and what kind of person you are. What does this have to do with helping your child learn great sleep skills?

Everything!

In order for sleep training to be effective, you have to be extremely consistent day in and day out-for several weeks.  In order to teach a child a skill, they need to practice it over and over again in the same manner every time. I really can’t emphasize how important the consistency factor is. Please don’t skim over that part and think it won’t apply to your child.

It will.

This means you have think about your personality and your parenting philosophy.  Understanding your feelings in regards to parenting, will help you to follow a method you really and truly believe in and feel comfortable with.

It’s great that your cousin’s-best friend’s-brother’s -sister-in-law had success with crying-it-out after 4 nights. But if you find it difficult to listen to your child cry for two minutes alone, then it’s that method isn’t right for you. It’s unlikely you won’t be able to follow through for one night, let alone four. Choosing a method that fits with your comfort level and personality is the first step to seeing success.

Know Thy Child

The same holds true for your child as well. What is your child’s temperament and personality? Can your child easily adapt to new situations or are they more stubborn strong-willed and persistent? Not only should you pick a method that you can stick to, but you need to also pick something what is best for your child.

Unfortunately, sometimes the two are not the same.  If you have a strong-willed child, then it’s even more important that you pick a suitable method that you can sustain for the long haul.

So there you have the beginning steps that are vital for successful sleep training. It’s important to begin with these steps first so that you can choose which method you need.

Sometimes though, just establishing a great wind down routine, a  consistent and well-timed daytime routine and an age appropriate bedtime is all you need to solve your sleep issues.  If it isn’t, then stay tuned. In the upcoming articles, I will explore the most common sleep training methods. You can read the next article in Part Two: Understanding Crying.

Remember to pick up your free Sleeping Through the Night guide, here.

Don’t want to wait and too tired to read? Get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now and see our consultation page to select your package.

27 06, 2018

3 Reasons Your Toddler Won’t Go To Sleep at Bedtime

June 27th, 2018|Categories: Toddler Sleep|

Toddler Won’t Go To Sleep At Bedtime?

“This is the the song bedtime that doesn’t end,

Yes it goes on and on, my friends”

If you have a toddler that seems to take forever to get into bed, or fall asleep, then this is your anthem. (My apologies to Lamb Chop Play Along for my version.)

When your child was a baby, you may have envisioned that a toddler would be easier to put to bed. No more rocking, feeding, changing, changing again and more rocking. For hours and hours.

After all, with independence and the ability to communicate with words, comes less work for Mom and Dad, right?

But it is sometimes for precisely those reasons that bedtime gets dragged on and on.

“I need another glass of water”

“I have to pee”

“Why are leaves green?”

After you explain in detail, chlorophyll and by extension, photosynthesis, you say a silent prayer that this is finally IT and you can close the door and relax for the night.

Um, no.

Ten minutes later, the process is repeated.

As frustrating as these extended bedtimes are, there are usually specific reasons why they occur.

Usually; the child is overtired, undertired and/or the expectations around bedtime haven’t been well-defined.

It can take a little bit of figuring out which one is the main reason, but once you do, bedtime can return to an easy, relaxing and quick process.

Let’s figure out what’s going on. And more importantly, how to end it.

Reason #1 Why Your Toddler Won’t Go To Sleep

The number one reason why your toddler won’t go to sleep quickly and easily at bedtime is because they are overtired.

When kids are either not getting enough sleep, or bedtime is too late, they form a sleep debt and become overtired. Both of these terms mean that the child is sleep deprived.

A sleep debt is the difference between how much sleep a child should be getting and how much they are actually getting (similar to an actual financial debt).

“Overtired” is a description of what happens to their body when the sleep debt and sleep deprivation takes over (similar to when you dip into your overdraft in your savings account). If you want to read more about how overtiredness affects children, check this article out.

Now you may be thinking that in order to use the term “sleep deprived”, a child would have to be trying to survive on only a few hours of sleep, however, even an hour less of the recommended amounts, can start a child’s body and brain into a downward spiral.

In response, the brain releases stimulating hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to try and fight the fatigue, and parents are left with a hyper, defiant child, doing naked somersaults on their bed.

No?

Just my child?

Alright, let’s carry on then.

Having a sleep debt is extremely common, so common in fact that we almost don’t even seem to recognize it as a society. We say things like ” the terrible twos, or threenager threes” to describe the behaviour that comes with this age group, not taking into account how much of that unruly behaviour is due to sleep deprivation.

To counter this, it’s important to get your child on an age-appropriate routine. That usually means having a nap if the child is under three to four years of age and a bedtime that isn’t too late.

Reason #2 Why Your Toddler Won’t Go To Sleep

The second reason for a bedtime that drags on is because your child is undertired.

Say what?

I know, I know.

It may sound confusing, and it can be, when you’re a tired parent. But from this sleep consultant’s eyes, certain patterns emerge when a bedtime that is going on for-evah, that help me tell if the child is over or undertired.

This most frequently happens to kids who love to take long afternoon naps (of which, I was never blessed with). Understandably, the caregiver wants to enjoy this much deserved downtime.

But if the nap goes on for too long, it can not only shortchange the nighttime sleep, but it sets us parents up for failure come bedtime.

They child just hasn’t accumulated enough wake time from the end of the nap until bedtime. They aren’t tired yet, but rather, they are undertired.

Again, we may or may not see naked somersaults.

For example, if your three year old naps from 12pm-3:30pm and then bedtime is around 7pm, this is only about three and a half hours of wake time for that child.

And while a typical toddler’s day is usually lopsided, (meaning that there is a longer wake period in the morning before the nap than there is in the afternoon), three and a half hours is too short for a child this age. They won’t be tired and you may see a lot of protesting, stalling and negotiating.

Similarly, a toddler won’t go to sleep when the nap has gone too late into the afternoon.

We all have certain points in the day when our body’s internal clock makes it more receptive to sleeping. This clock, called the circadian sleep rhythm, promotes ideal times sleep times within your child’s body by lowering your child’s core temperature and releasing sleep hormones (melatonin) into the bloodstream. This occurs during the day to promote a nap, and then again in the evening to encourage the onset of night sleep.

 

Toddler Sleep Troubles Got You Down? Sign up for the FREE Toddler Sleep Solutions Guide. Easy tips for exhausted parents!

However, if the child is being put down for a nap too late into this ideal time, then it will affect the bedtime circadian rhythms.

Once again, without having accrued enough wake time in the late afternoon, and now sleeping against the body’s natural sleep clock, the child will have a very difficult time falling asleep.

Some parents choose to do a later afternoon nap so that their child can stay up late; usually in the summer months when schedules are more relaxed.

And while, this can be beneficial when we have an event or occasion that we would like our kids to attend in the evening, overtime, a bedtime that is too late will start to cause problems.

The reason for this is due to how the brain cycles through sleep at night.

Early evening sleep allows the brain to cycle through more deep sleep (called Non-Rem) which is cut off with a late bedtime and doesn’t reappear even if a child sleeps in the next morning. Deep sleep is needed for a child’s brain to fully refresh and restore itself each night.

You can see an example of this below as illustrated by the thick, colourful line.

Over time, with too many late bedtimes and a shortened supply of Non-Rem sleep, the body and brain become sleep deprived.

Night wakings start to occur and the child, not feeling well-rested will start to act out, have tantrums or meltdowns.

It can create a vicious cycle, so it’s best to move bedtime up a touch earlier if you start to see this happen.

Reason #3 Why Your Toddler Won’t Go To Sleep

Finally, the last reason that bedtime can be extended is when expectations aren’t crystal clear.

In this article about how to end toddler bedtime battles, I talked about how kids need parents to be a confident pilot to steer them through the storm (of their big emotions, reactions, limit testing, etc). And this applies in particular to the whole bedtime wind down process.

It needs to be well-defined and consistently implemented.

If there is a lot of inconsistency each night, your child will feel insecure without structure. And what do they do when they feel like this?

They test the limits in an effort to define the rules for themselves.Boundaries will be pushed further and further to see where they end.

At first it might seem funny or cute (*cough*, *cough* naked somersaults *cough*) when such antics emerge, but it can quickly spiral out of control.

Unfortunately, if we allow things to go too far, then we get annoyed and react out of anger and frustration. Not really what we want during bedtime, right?

It may not seem logical, but when toddlers start negotiating, pleading or stalling, it’s their way of asking for limits. If bedtime is taking too long, what they really need are fair, firm and consistent rules.

The other component to this is that there needs to be follow through with implementing those rules. If bedtime is 7:00 pm and it’s 6:59 pm, and they haven’t settled down yet for story time, then follow through.  It’s essential that you stick to the rules that you have implemented and forgo those stories.

Will your child joyfully accept your decision, and hop gleefully into bed?

Uh, no. Not a chance.

But! They will quickly learn that you mean what you say and in turn, you will see a dramatic reduction to the stalling.In fact, this age group can respond much quicker to sleep training, expectations and changes than a baby will. Even though they can protest louder and longer, if you implement things correctly, it will quickly dissipate.

So there you have it.

Three of the most common reasons why our little ones resist bedtime and how to solve each of them.

If you have other issues with your toddler’s or preschooler’s sleep, be sure to join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page for more resources as well as grabbing your copy of the Sleep Solutions Guide for Toddlers and Preschoolers; Easy Tips for the Exhausted Parent. 

Too tired to read anything else? Just want a plan of action that’s done for you? Book a mini consult under the A La Carte options and we can plan out a step-by-step method that’s right for your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 06, 2018

Your Child’s Sleep and Summer; How to Enjoy Both

June 6th, 2018|Categories: Travel Tips, Uncategorized|

Sleep and summer; the two CAN co-exsist when you have kids!

Summer is approaching! Woohoo!

But wait, we have kids. 😉

And if your kids are like mine, they turn into hot (literally and figuratively) messes when their sleep routine is off.

So how do we mange to enjoy the summer, but still keep our little one’s sleep on track? Can our children’s sleep and summer both be enjoyed without sacrificing one for the other?

Why yes, yes they can.

Here are my top summertime sleep tips for families.

Create an Ideal Room Environment

Whether you’re traveling on the road or, enjoying a stay-cation, your child’s sleep environment can make or break a quality sleep session-especially naps. Since sleep is regulated by the brain, it is the brain that we need to pamper and work *with*, not against.

Therefore, you need to ensure three things are in place…

1) A dark room 
The master clock that regulates our sleep is called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus which is located behind the optic nerves in the brain as seen in this diagram…

 

When the brain perceives darkness, it sends signals to your child’s brain to release melatonin into the bloodstream. Since melatonin is the hormone that makes your child feel sleepy and helps them fall asleep easily, we want to encourage this as much as possible.

Make your child’s sleeping location as dark as you can, especially for nap time so that Mother Nature does the work for you. At home, this is relatively easy to do, but when travelling, you may need to be a tad creative. I always travel with several king sized sheets for exactly this reason. 😉

2) A cool environment 
17-21 degrees Celsius is the recommended room temperature for sleeping. This isn’t just for kids, but for moms and dads as well. The cool environment mimics what the body wants to do naturally during the sleep process- lower its core temperature. And again, this helps your child to go to sleep quicker.

3. White noise
The birds are loud first thing in the morning, usually before the sun is even up! Since this corresponds with your child’s lightest stages of sleep, using white noise will help to mask this unwanted interruption.

White noise is also wonderful for camping or hotel stays. We
I prefer white noise to music as white noise blends all the sound frequencies together, whereas music does not, leaving the potential for an early wake up.

Plan Travel around Naps

I often get asked the question; “if we have a long day of travel ahead of us, how do we factor naps in”?

First, we need to understand that naps en route are not the same quality as a nap that is in a flat and motionless bassinet, crib or bed.

The brain isn’t able to descend into the deep stages of sleep (think of yourself trying to nap during a car ride) and thus produces a more shallow, less restorative or refreshing nap.

However, any sleep is preferable over NO sleep. If your child naps easily while travelling, then you can take advantage of that.

I do recommend to parents to try and leave after the first nap of the day. That way your child can start the day off with a fully restorative nap in their own environment.

If they should take a short second nap (many older babies are too stimulated by all the sights and sounds to nap for long periods), at least they had a good foundation at the beginning.

If they day is exceptionally long, and the naps are exceptionally short, an extra nap may sneak in, or, better yet, plan for an early bedtime to help recoup the lost daytime sleep.

For older toddlers and preschoolers, naps should end by 3pm to ensure that they will easily go down for bedtime.

If the older ones skip their nap entirely, plan for a super early bedtime to avoid a large sleep debt forming.

Encourage Quality Sleep in Different Locations

Whether your child is going to be napping in a hotel, tent or another house during summer vacation; we want them to be able to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply. How do we do this?

1) Maintain Routine
Regardless of your child’s age, the first rule is to maintain a similar daytime napping schedule (as best as you can)(see previous tip) and wind down routine. By doing this, not only does it help your child to fall asleep quicker in the new location, but it also puts the biochemical reactions in motion and cues your child’s body that it’s time to sleep.

2) Recreate Home 
This isn’t the time to be creative, unless you like gambling with sleep. 😉 Bring your child’s lovey, white noise, night light-whatever they use at home, you should take on the road. It’s also helpful to use the same sheets and pajamas without washing them, so they have the familiar scents of home.

3) Give Them Time
Don’t just plop your toddler in a new Pack and Play and expect them to go to sleep. Give your child time to get acclimatized in the new location *before* you put them down to sleep. They will want to explore it, so let them! This allows the novelty to wear off, gives them play time without the stress of hoping they will fall asleep and allows you to troubleshoot while they do so.

Manage Bedtime During Summer Events

There are a few different options if you have an event that runs later into the evening. You can choose whatever feels right for your family.

1) Hire A Babysitter

This option is best for children that are already sleep trained and familiar with the babysitter. If your child doesn’t know the babysitter, then to ensure success (and less stress for you!), have the new caregiver do a few trial runs with you present in the days or weeks leading up to the event.

 

Want your child to sleep through the night before you head out for vacation? Download the FREE sleep guide; Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night

2) Half and Half

In this situation, everyone attends the event and then one parent leaves and takes the child home at bedtime. You can also then hire a babysitter to watch your kiddo once they are asleep and return to the event, or, that parent stays home for the rest of the evening.

3) Move Nap

If your child can handle it, you can move their nap a touch later in the day. Most kids need a short morning wake period, and if we move the morning nap too late, it will backfire and result in a super short nap.

So if your little one is on a two nap schedule, I recommend leaving the morning nap where it is, but pushing nap two out a little later in the afternoon. If they are down to a one nap routine, then this is the one you would move later.

Don’t do anything too drastic because again, it can result in a shorter nap, so stick around the fifteen to thirty minute mark.

When we move this nap later, the hope is that your child will still nap for their regular amount, but it now ends later in the afternoon. This will give you more breathing room for a slightly later bedtime, without making them overtired.

4) Put Them To Sleep at the Event

This is a wonderful option if you are at someone’s house, but would like to stay later without compromising your child’s sleep.

In this scenario, you would bring your child’s Pack and Play, lovey, white noise, etc., and put them to sleep in a quiet room in the house at bedtime. Do a regular bedtime routine at this new location-don’t panic or feel you need to extend it-just get them down at their regular bedtime.

When it’s time to transfer them to the car, keep all the lights off so the daytime hormones don’t start to interfere with things.

Once home, do the same thing; keep the house dark and get them into their crib or bed. Should they happen to wake up during the transfer, treat it like it’s a night waking at two in the morning and do a brief soothing session to help them go back down quickly and easily.

5) Later Bedtime

I’ll admit it, this isn’t my favourite option, but it *is* an option. 😉 If your child is an independent sleeper, already on a great routine, doesn’t have a sleep debt, then moving bedtime later once in awhile can likely won’t create chaos. It allows everyone to enjoy the summer nights without having to sacrifice family time or anyone’s participation.

If your child has a sensitive sleep temperament though, expect a few night wakings for up to three nights after. To help counter this, do a slightly earlier bedtime the next night or two.

Sleep and summer can go hand-in-hand. While it may not always be perfect, it doesn’t have to be a disaster, either. With a little planning and following the tips above, you can help to ensure that everyone has fun, but stays well-rested too.

Need help getting your child on a better sleep routine? Join and like the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page and download your free sleep guide here. 

 

4 12, 2017

Help Your Newborn Nap Without Being Held

December 4th, 2017|Categories: Newborn Sleep|

Help Your Newborn Nap Without Being Held; 7 Tricks To Try

Helping a newborn nap anywhere other than a parent’s arms, is one of the most asked questions I hear from new parents. They are always keeping their eyes peeled for anything that helps their little one sleep well. They know it’s what’s best for baby – and of course, much better for them, too. 

So what happens when they discover their newborn will only sleep in mommy or daddy’s arms? When they transfer her to the crib or another more permanent sleep location, she wakes right up, which results in the dreaded mini-naps. We know that with parenthood comes sacrifices, but showering and using the washroom shouldn’t be some of them.

If this is you, don’t worry! You’re not alone, and like so many new adventures (and misadventures) in your baby’s young life, it won’t last forever. Newborns move from periods of light and deep sleep very quickly. Thankfully, as your little one closes in on four months old or so, her nap periods will become longer.

But you don’t have to wait that long. You will be able to enjoy basic hygiene rituals once again.

Newborn Nap Tricks

For now? Don’t give up! You’ve still got options – it’s absolutely worth giving these a try:

1. Watch baby’s wake time. Keep it very short! Newborns can only handle 45 minutes to 1.5 hours of being awake before needing another nap or bedtime. For more specific wake times by month, see this info-graphic.

2. Offer a pacifier. When you notice him start to become drowsy, it can provide a soothing distraction.

3. Swaddle your little one. Moms, you can even tuck the swaddle into your shirt or sleep with it overnight first. Then when you swaddle your little one, it has your comforting scent on it, helping your newborn nap easier out of your arms. (When swaddling, leave room for your baby’s knees to bend and their legs to sprawl open a bit. A solid guideline is to leave room for two of your fingers between the baby’s chest and the cloth. And when you see your baby begin to try to roll , it is time to immediately ditch the swaddle. Do not wait for them to actually complete it. )

Struggling with your newborn’s naps? Get even more tips, routine suggestions, and solutions, in the Newborn Nap Guide ebook.

4. Hold the baby for about 15-20 minutes after he nods off.  Then slowly transfer him to his crib or other sleeping location, moving slowly as to not induce the moroz reflex. This all allows for deeper sleep.

5. Safe sleep is sound sleep. Follow the ABCs of safe sleep to help you rest easy. Baby should be Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib or bassinet. There should be no bumpers, toys, pillows, blankets, positioners  or baby nests, (yes, that includes products such as Dock-a-Tots). The crib should be empty other than a tightly fitting mattress sheet. This is the most safest sleep environment for your baby, which will help you have peace of mind.

6. Create a peaceful environment in your baby’s bedroom. White noise, a dark room to make the most of your child’s melatonin release can all prove helpful.  It’s a myth that it can be helpful to get your baby used to napping in a brightly lit room. At first your new baby *will* nap anywhere, but as she begins to produce her own melatonin, it will be important for her biological systems that she naps in a dark room. This will help to encourage long naps. Adding white noise at a moderate volume, keeps her in slumberland even when the dog barks or her older sibling comes home from school.

7. Create a warm and cozy sleep surface. If you feel that the sheets are too cool and possibly waking your newborn up, warm them up before placing her down. You might even decide to lay a hot water bottle on the crib mattress to warm it up, but make sure it’s just warm and not hot, and remove it before you lay your baby down. Remember, your baby’s skin is more sensitive than yours.

When to ask your doctor…

If your baby is waking and crying after being put down, is experiencing poor weight gain, is spitting up or arching, making clicking sounds when drinking, pulling off the breast or bottle and crying,  it might be time to ask your doctor if there could be anything wrong. Two common reasons are due to reflux and/or trouble transferring breast or formula milk due to a tongue or lip tie. If you’re feeling worried, the good news is that these two problems are easily remedied by experienced professionals. 

No matter which tips or tricks you decide to try, know that your little one is obviously feeling a close bond with you these days, and that’s something to celebrate. In the meantime though, make it a priority to make naps (and life) a little more comfortable for you both.

Need more newborn nap help?

There’s a mouthful! But if you’re needing more tips to try, join Baby Sleep 1o1’s Facebook page for weekly Q and A  sessions.

16 08, 2017

The End of Toddler Bedtime Battles

August 16th, 2017|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

It’s bedtime.

You have a two year old…

“Let the (toddler bedtime) gamessssssss, BEGIN!

You see your toddler yawn and rub her eyes. Glancing at the clock you realize bedtime is on its way.

You decide to get her to pick up her toys by “making it a game” like the last parenting blog you read had suggested, but it only results in you playing the “game” alone as she starts to dance around you.

After bath, she proceeds to run around naked while you desperately try to get her dressed. Finally catching her you get her PJs on in a manner that you imagine it would be like to dress a goat.

Next comes potty time. You’re getting more tired and it’s not even your bedtime, but she seems to have even more energy-how is that possible? But you see her rub her eyes again.

Bedtime snack follows. She complains about it and starts crying. And yawns again. You quickly get her another snack and then take her to her room.

There (and after finally getting her to stop jumping on the bed), you think your work is done. But you hear;

One more story

“I have to pee”

“Why is the sky blue?”

“I need a hug”

“I have to pee again”

After honouring all the requests, you leave the room.

Collapsing on the couch, you marvel at your child’s ability to stall. Putting your feet up, you turn on the TV and hear her door open. You meet her in the hallway and decide that it may be easier to just lie down with her.

“It’ll only be for a few minutes” you say to yourself, but aren’t able to leave until forty-five minutes later.

Annnnnd *scene*.

Did I just describe your nightly ritual?

Most of the parents I help experience some, if not all, of the previous scenario during bedtime. The good news is that this can be a thing of the past.

Change Your Frame of Mind

When I help parents, the first issue we work on, is mom and dad’s mindset.

They have been stuck in a cycle of doing all the work during their toddler’s bedtime and (understandably) truly believe their child needs 37 glasses of water and 24 songs, in order to fall asleep.

But there is a difference between a need and a want. The child doesn’t need the water, they want it.

Because the parent has (out of love and desperation) regularly been accommodating their wants, the child begins to expect it each night, and it quickly develops into what is called a sleep association.

To be able to fall asleep independently though, without the sleep associations, parents must believe that their child  is capable of learning this valuable skill.  Before they can change their child’s habits, they must change their own.

The transition from constantly helping a baby, to, stepping back and allowing a toddler to be more independent, can be a little scary and let’s be honest; a little bittersweet. But the good news is that parents don’t have to do all the work anymore. Their child can start to take ownership of bedtime.

Solution

When mom and dad are able to trust in their child’s ability, we see amazing progress in a very short time. Children begin to feel their parents confidence. So set the bar higher and be amazed when they rise to the occasion!

If you find yourself worrying that your toddler can’t sleep without you, or without all the “stuff” you’ve been doing for her, ask yourself these two questions;

“Does my child behave differently for me than for other family members?”

“Does my child go to sleep easier for another caregiver such as a daycare worker, grandparent or relative?”

95% of the parents I work with say yes to one or both questions. Why is that? It’s not that your child likes them better, that they are more skilled or have a magical formula.

It’s because;

  •  your child feels the most safe with you (really, her tantrums are a compliment 😉 ),
  • she knows what buttons to push (It’s not manipulation, it’s nature. Toddlers are hard-wired to test limits.) and
  • your child is incredibly smart by this age and understands cause and effect

To begin, start working on your mindset when it comes to your child.  Every time you catch yourself thinking “my child needs me to….”, reframe the sentence to “my child wants me to…”.  

As simple as it sounds, by consciously thinking about the situation differently, your brain will begin to frame your thinking about bedtime differently. too. It will give you the clarity in the moment, stopping you from responding on autopilot.

Toddler Bedtime Battles Got You Down?

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Next, make a list of all the things your toddler can do. If they can follow instructions through the day, list that off, if they can play independently, write that down. Whatever it is, even the smallest task, make a note of it.

Third, review it and see how those skills can transfer to bedtime.

Recognize that if your little one usually is able to get their shoes or jacket out when you ask, they will also be able to get their toothbrush out when you ask.

If they can choose a shirt in the morning, they can choose their PJs or a stuffed animal to sleep with at night.

Finally, pick one or two areas that your child can start doing and implement that each night. Not only will this give your child some ownership, but it will help you to see how quickly they can learn a new skill.

Understand, Acknowledge and Deal With Your Fear

“Wait, what?!? I’m tired, not scared.

Well, maybe I’m scared I’ll never sleep again…”

Ok, so hear me out.

Often we feel that there are many external reasons why our children aren’t sleeping well such as;

  • Molars,
  • Not enough outdoor time,
  • Weren’t at daycare that day and aren’t tired out
  • Were at daycare that day and are overstimulated
  • Company stayed late,
  • Another sibling/parent/friend revved them up.

The list goes on.

But as much as we want to blame external factors, most of the time, it’s because of us.

And I lovingly say this without judgement because I’ve gone down this road, too and speak from experience. But us parents are usually the main reason why bedtime spirals out of control. And the reasoning lies deeply-seated, almost unconsciously in fear.

The fear of the unknown, of our child’s outburst, of other parent’s judgement of us, of resistance, but most of all, fear that our children will stop loving us.

It can be hearbreaking to think we may do something to lose the love/bond/attachment that we have with our children and from that, stems the inability to set and enforce limits.

However, as crazy as it sounds, children feel MORE secure and MORE loved, when there are clearly defined limits. They feel confident in our abilities and that reduces their need to test them.

Think about this; who would you trust more to fly you through a storm?  A pilot that was nervous, skittish, and indecisive or, one who was confident, had a concrete plan and was secure in their decisions?

Our children are the same way. If they see you as a nervous pilot, they are going to be nervous travelers who are going to question your every move.

Solution

Take some time to think about what is holding you back from enforcing limits around bedtime and through the night. Then find ways to deal with that fear.

If your child’s potential to tantrum is scaring you, then seek out and research parenting experts that can put your mind at ease. If you’re worried about others’ opinions of your parenting style, then this isn’t the time to post your intentions on social media.

If having no plan is scaring you, then let’s work together to create one that suits your family.

Whatever it is, consciously acknowledging and accepting what is preventing you from getting your child on a solid sleep routine is an important step towards seeing success. Don’t let fear stop you from what needs to be done.

Spend Quality Time Together

Sometimes parents find themselves feeling guilty at bedtime. It can stem from many areas, but a common one is when a new sibling enters the picture.

We can’t avoid it-newborns require a lot of attention.  And it’s normal to worry that the older child may feel displaced, left out or ignored.

However, when parents allow guilt to dominate their decision making at bedtime, problems can emerge.

As the stalling begins or the requests are made, parents feel obliged to honour them which they hope shows their love. Unfortunately this leads to reinforcing the very patterns they are hoping to change.

Solution

To get out of this loop, first focus on spending quality time with your little one during the day. It doesn’t need to be long, just twenty minutes of dedicated one-on-one time can help strengthen your bond.

It also doesn’t need to be complex outings; just sitting together and reading a book, taking a walk, doing a puzzle, or playing with toys is enough to strengthen the bond between the two of you.

But quality time, means quality time.

Be present in the moment. Focus on them without any interruptions. Put away the electronics. 

They are little people, but like us, they like to talk, share, complain to an active listener. They don’t always need you to solve their problems, but they do need to feel like they are being heard.

Second, when you are talking with your child, don’t shy away from discussing how having a new sibling makes them feel (or whatever the issue is). Listen and empathize. It’s normal for the older siblings to not love the changes, and like us, they want to feel validated.

If they say they hate having a new sibling, empathize; “Yes, having a new baby in the family is hard.”

Although our gut reaction is to try to convince them that they don’t really mean it, by empathizing, we allow space for their feelings and show them that we respect and  honour what they’re going through.

Crystal Clear Expectations

Have you ever had a boss reprimand you for not doing your job properly, even though expectations were never clearly explained?

If so, then you can relate to how your toddler may feel about bedtime.

Many parents mistakenly assume that their child knows what is expected in the hour leading up to sleep. But you know what they say about assuming. 😉

Sometimes parents aren’t really sure either, and this is like a personal invitation for a power struggle to develop.

Toddlers can find our triggers quite easily, namely the  “Big Three”;

  • saying they are hungry/thirsty,
  • needing the washroom and
  • needing love (hugs, kisses).

Children can sense the indecision, and as soon as that door is cracked open, the pleading and negotiation begins.

Solution

So, what does your perfect bedtime routine look like? Does your child know this? Have you ever specifically told them what you expect? If not, now is the time to start.

Begin by having a short, positive, and encouraging conversation about sleep; why your child needs a good night’s sleep, why *you* do as well (it’s important for your child to understand that mommy and daddy need rest, too) and how each member of the family can help support each other in achieving this.

Clearly and with love, communicate your expectations around bedtime for your child so they always know what to expect. Ask for their suggestions too, which encourages and empowers them to take ownership of their sleep routine.

Talk about how bedtime should go and what each person’s job or responsibility is such as;

  • Dad finishes up the cleaning the kitchen
  • Mom starts the bath,
  • Kids pick up four toys each and then brush their teeth
  • Have bath and start wind down routine
  • Read two books
  • Cuddle for five minutes
  • Parent leaves room by 7:00pm

Make this into a fun chart and post it where everyone can see and follow it.

Remember to only commit to what you feel comfortable doing though, because it’s vitally important that you are able to follow through.

If bedtime is 7:00pm but your toddler has taken fifteen minutes getting their PJs on and there is only time for one book, then one book it is.

Will there be protests? You bet.

But that’s normal, so take it in stride. Don’t take their protests personally or engage in a power struggle. Empathize, encourage them to move faster tomorrow, but don’t go back on your word. The more consistent you are in following the expectations, the more they will be too.

Watch the Clock

If you go back and read the opening scenario, you will see that as the night routine moves along, the child continues to shows sleep signs, but yet is hyper and energetic. This is a classic over-tired sign in toddlers and preschoolers.

When children become exhasuted, their body will begin to produce extra stimulant hormones to fight the fatigue. This is why in theory they should be tired according to the clock, yet are doing cartwheels and somersaults in their bedroom.

Solution

Avoid creating a sleep debt like the plague! Sleep debt/exhaustion/sleep deprivation; different terms to describe the same thing. Kids that are over-tired. You can read more about how over-tiredness impacts children here.

The culprit?

A bedtime that is too late.

Most two and three year olds, can only handle about four hours to four and a half hours of awake time after their nap has ended. Meaning a mid-day nap that ends between 2-3 pm, places bedtime by 7:30pm at the latest.

However for children who have been chronically over-tired, they may benefit from an even earlier bedtime for awhile.

Moving bedtime earlier helps to capitalize on how the brain cycles through sleep. Since there are more deep NREM sleep cycles in the first part of the night (the kind the body needs to rid itself of the sleep debt), early bedtimes provide more opportunity for this restorative type of sleep.

Children whose bedtime is too late, lose out on the maximum amount of this deep sleep because the brain doesn’t replace it later on in their sleep cycle. Even if they sleep in (which is not common unless extremely sleep deprived), the quality of sleep is not the same.

You Can End the Toddler Bedtime Battles!

You really can. Don’t be scared of your child’s big emotions. Change your mindset, face your fears and put a plan into place that gives your toddler structure and limits. As crazy as it may sound at first, one of the most loving things you can do as a parent is to say “no”.

Sleep is essential for your child’s development (not to mention your sanity), and by allowing them to get to sleep more independently, you are taking care of their most basic and fundamental need.  You got this!

Have a question about your toddler’s bedtime routine? Feel free to ask it during one of my FREE Q & A sessions on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook Page, most Wednesday nights between 8-9pm CST.

24 06, 2017

Does My Baby Still Need to Feed at Night?

June 24th, 2017|Categories: Baby Sleep|Tags: , |

Baby still need to feed at night? Here’s how to tell!

You know the drill: you have spent an hour trying to get your baby to bed for the night. You haul your exhausted body to bed, only to be woken up a few hours later to the sound of crying.

Climbing out of your warm covers, you scoop up your baby and try to feed her. She takes a few sucks and then is back asleep. Laying her back down, you try to return to sleep but you can’t-you know she will be back up in an hour to repeat the process.

And so you start to wonder;

“does my baby really need allllll of these feeds, or am I being used as a human pacifier” ?

Whether I’m teaching workshops, doing my free Q & A sessions or working with private clients, it’s a common question.
Usually it’s followed up with; ” I’m totally fine with feeding-if she truly needs it-but how do I know? She never refuses a feed and it seems to be the only way I can get her back down”.

It’s rare for a baby to not feed at least a little when offered a breast or bottle. Even older babies, who may be waking every 1-2 hours often still eat when offered. But this doesn’t always mean that they are hungry. Confusing, right?

So let’s clarify something.

A baby waking at night feeding for true feeds, and, waking at night and wanting to eat because the baby is used to falling to sleep while feeding, are two separate things.

You can have a baby that wakes to feed at night to satisfy true hunger and still knows how to fall asleep independently. The two are not mutually exclusive because sleep training does not mean forced, premature night weaning.

However, if your baby is only feeding as a means of getting back to sleep and isn’t taking full feeds, this is usually referred to as a sleep association, prop or crutch.

Confused yet?
But wait, there’s more.

It’s common for children to combine these during the night; sometimes waking because of a sleep association and other times needing to be fed.

How does a tired mom decide which category her child falls into?

To answer this question, we need to examine a few factors.

Factors To Consider

Before we start, we need to consider your baby’s;

  • age
  • growth, weight percentile (both current and past)
  • general health, and any medical concerns
  • daytime sleep routine and amounts
  • bedtime
  • whether the child is falling asleep feeding or not
  • feeding routine and
  • intake amounts; day vs. night

When I work with my private clients, I also get their opinion on where they feel they are in their breastfeeding journey (if applicable), as well as their feelings/instincts on whether the feeds are needed out of hunger or wanted as a means of getting back to sleep. (To read more about sleep associations click here.)

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It is also important to factor in any medical professional’s opinion that you value such as the child’s doctor and/or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

While we want to get a complete picture, I do find that most of the time, mama knows best. Sometimes there have been one-too-many opinions and my moms are feeling a bit overwhelmed and are just looking for some guidance. I know you’re tired, but don’t discount your own gut instinct.

How Many Night Feeds Per Age

Let’s start by looking at some common feeding patterns. Please note: this is just an average. Every child is unique and you need to consider all the factors mentioned above.
Case in point; I’ve seen 4 month olds go 11-12 hours at night without a feed, and other 4 month olds that needed 3 feeds throughout the night. But here are some average night feeding amounts.

0-3 Months: Feeds every 2-3 hours

4-5 Months: Bedtime feed, plus 1-3 more feeds through the night

6-8 Months: Bedtime feed, plus 1 feed

9-11+ Months: Bedtime feed, 0 night feeds

If your baby is feeding more frequently than listed above, she may have developed a sleep association with the breast or bottle. Use the following checklist to help you narrow it down more.

Night feeds may be needed if:

  • Your baby is younger than 8 months
  • Your baby can fall asleep independently
  • Eating solids are not a part of your baby’s regular daytime routine
  • Your baby takes a full feed at night
  • Your baby is going 1.5-2.5 hours between milk feeds during the day, and takes a significant feed at each one
  • Your baby goes back to sleep easily and quickly after a night feed
  • Crying escalates and continues for a long time if you try to wait to feed your baby at night
  • Your baby is regularly waking up at similar times for a night feed (eg: 12:30AM and 4:30AM)

When Are Feeds Not Needed?

A feed may not be needed if:

  • Your baby is 8 months or older
  • Your baby frequently falls asleep at the breast or bottle
  • There are a wide variety of solids being consumed, 3 times a day
  • Your baby only nurses or drinks to get themselves back to sleep
  • Your baby is going 3-4 hours during the day between milk feeds
  • Your baby stays awake for 20+ minutes after a night feed, and is happy
  • Your baby returns to sleep (after fussing/babbling for a while) if they wake at night and you don’t feed them
  • You describe your baby as a “snacker” during the day but takes long feeds at night
  • There is no consistency in night wakings; sometimes she sleeps until 3am, other times she feeds at 11pm.

Still Not Sure?

“Ugh! I’ve read everything and I’m still not sure-does my baby need to feed at night, or not?”

If after reading the above categories, you still are undecided on what your child needs, I recommend that you continue to offer night feeds but begin to document your child’s night wakings.

For 7- 10 days, record/log their daytime feeds and amounts, as well as night time wakings and intakes each time you offer the bottle or breast.

Once finished, review the information you have collected. What do you see?

Do you notice which feeds are larger than others?

Are there any similar patterns from night to night?

Babies four months and older may fall into a pattern of a feed at bedtime, and then two more after that during the night. Using that information you may find that the bigger/longer feeds may be the “true” ones and the shorter feeds may be the ones that are the sleep associations.

If you find there are several more feeds than that (and there are no health concerns or weight gain issues), you can talk to your IBCLC or doctor about weaning some of the extra night feeds.

Want to discuss the results of your night feed logs? Join the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page to participate in the weekly Q & A session, or book a private mini-consultation from the A La Carte section to spend more time in a one-on-one discussion.

P.S. Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of the Baby Sleep 101 sleep guide. Get it here.