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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.

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.

Don’t want to wait? Ready to get started on helping your family have healthy, restorative sleep now? Please see our consultation page to select your package.

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. )

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.

 

 

6 04, 2017

11 Month Nap Regression; Tips for Getting Back on Track

April 6th, 2017|Categories: Baby Sleep|Tags: , , , |

11 Month Nap Regression

Finally, it seemed like your baby was settling into a good routine and then BOOM, the 11 month nap regression strikes.

As babies grow and begin to sleep more consistently, many parents feel that they are “out of the woods” in terms of dealing with sleep issues. So you can imagine how frustrated they feel when their little sleeper begins to “regress” and starts skipping their nap or having night wakings.

Overall, I think the term “sleep regression” is widely overused, but I do find there are a few certain key places where it’s appropriate and around 11 months is one of those times.

But first; let’s define what we’re specifically talking about when we use the term sleep regression.

What is a Sleep Regression?

I discussed sleep regression in my post 4 Month Sleep Regression: What It Is and How To Fix It, but here’s a quick refresher:

In order for a child to truly be going through a sleep regression, in my opinion as a sleep consultant, they would have to have been a solid sleeper for at least two months prior.

Anything less than at least two months of a solid sleep routine; long, restorative naps and sleeping 11-12 hours through the night with perhaps a night feed, is not as likely to be a regression.

But let’s say your baby has been a rock-star sleeper from months 8 through 10. Then as she approaches 11 months, you start to notice that she’s fighting naps. IF nothing else has changed-no alterations in her routine, no illness or vacations in the past few weeks, then this could be the 11 month nap regression.

What Causes the 11 Month Nap Regression?

Sleep issues start to creep up around this time due to the fact that your baby is growing stronger, developing and becoming mobile. Many physical milestones occur around 11 months and they can wreak havoc on your baby’s sleep, specifically their naps.

Whereas before your baby used to just lie around looking at the ceiling, she is now crawling, cruising, pulling up, standing or walking independently.

And as she practices these new skills, they are going to tire her out, similar to us adults when we start a new exercise routine. Using new muscle groups intently and frequently now is tough work!

The tricky part is, that because of her age, she will still appear awake and social. Eleven month old babies can tolerate longer wake periods than a younger baby can and they can engage with their environment for longer as well. But now we also factor in a baby who has discovered that she do all these exciting feats, which makes it harder to detect that she’s tired.

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Unfortunately for us parents, if we miss a baby’s just-ready-for-sleep window (which can be hard to detect) and they enter into an overtired state, they can get even more active due to a surge of fatigue-fighting hormones. . Add in all the entertaining and exciting new skills she can do, and she will likely keep herself awake too long if we don’t step in

When we do go to put them down for a nap, they are too wound up to sleep and continue to practice their new skills in the crib.

Talk about being misleading!

What we see on the surface isn’t a reflection of what is going on beneath.

Many parents mistake this behaviour as an indication that their child needs fewer or shorter nap times, but reducing rest periods, when the children is exhausted, is a one-way ticket to disasterville.

When children don’t stick to a consistent napping schedule they quickly begin accumulating a sleep debt; waking up at night and early in the morning. Now we have morphed from a developmental blip to a sleep-debt bomb.

Solving the 11 Month Nap Regression

Ok, so here’s how you get back on track. Let’s diffuse this bomb.

Step One: Start the morning nap earlier

You may be in the mindset that your child is moving towards needing later or even fewer naps, but that’s going to result in more problems. What we can do instead, especially if your child is starting to wake up earlier than 6AM, is to begin the morning nap a little earlier.

For example, if the child woke up at 6AM, and their morning nap is usually around 9AM, then putting them down for a nap around 8:30AM can assist with them settling down quickly and easily.

Step Two: Cap the morning nap

Keep this nap to about an hour in length. Keeping your child’s morning nap shorter, “protects” the afternoon nap by ensuring that your child is ready to sleep for a second nap. It also helps the second nap to not start too late, which if it does, can interfere with their night time sleep.

Step Three: Give your child time to settle down

How exciting it must be to realize you can move yourself, without needing to rely on someone else. From your baby’s perspective, it is much more interesting than napping. This explains why many children will skip their nap and instead practice their new skills during nap time.
If this happens, don’t panic and don’t end nap time prematurely. If they are happy and safe, sit down and enjoy a cup of (decaf) tea. There isn’t anything you can do at this point, so it’s better to give both of you some downtime and it allows them the opportunity to fall asleep.

I know it may not seem like it after a few days of skipped naps, but they will get back on track.

How long? Wellllll, the 11 month nap regression can last several weeks, but if you follow these tips, you may reduce it down to only a few days.

Step Four: Have an age appropriate bedtime

At this age, we’re looking at a wake period of about 3.75-4 hours after a solid second nap. It is also ideal to have it before 7:30pm. If you feel your little one is extremely tired, then you may even put them down closer to 3.5-3.75 hours for a few days and then move it out to 4 hours. If there wasn’t a second nap to base off of, then you’re looking at a stupidly  super early bedtime.

Since this regression can last a few weeks, stick with the above advice during this period to help keep on track of any sleep debt issues that may emerge.

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30 01, 2017

Sleeping Through the Night; Two Mistakes Most Parents Make and How to Avoid Them

January 30th, 2017|Categories: Baby Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Sleeping Through the Night

Whenever I teach workshops or talk to parent groups, I will hear “I just have a quick question-why isn’t my child sleeping through the night?”.

Although the question may be quick, the answer isn’t. It’s difficult to give a short summary in a sentence or two.

There are a plethora of reasons for night wakings, and in order to be able to offer advice, I need to know specifics about that child; age, personality, sleep temperament, napping routine, bedtime, plus more.

What’s Your Definition?

“Sleeping through the night” means something different to every parent. And it can look different at various ages.

We have different expectations for a four month old versus a four year old. The first one will likely still need to wake up to feed during the night, whereas the latter won’t.

If the four month old wakes up to eat twice a night but goes right back to sleep and overall sleeps 11-12 hours each night, I would consider that sleeping through the night. If the four year old did the same thing, I would not.

Keep in mind that children and adults alike, do not technically sleep straight through the night, without waking. We all wake up throughout our sleep cycles, however most of the time it is not a full, conscious, “gee, I’m awake and it’s 3am” type of waking.

We shift our position, get comfortable and go back to sleep. This will occur in children as well. This a normal and healthy sleep pattern. The trouble happens when a baby or child fully wakes up and signals, cries or calls for a parent multiple times a night.

A Tale of Two Culprits

But putting those details aside, and assuming a child is healthy, and I can summarize the two main mistakes that parents inadvertently make that can cause and encourage night wakings.

First, I want to preface the information with the caveat that you should always check with your child’s doctor if you believe there may be a medical reason for the sleep issues.

This can include (but is not limited to) severe reflux, poor weight gain due to breastfeeding difficulties, insufficient transfer of milk, tongue or lip ties, snoring, mouth breathing, food or environmental allergies, restless leg syndrome or obstructed sleep apnea.

If no medical issues are present, then one of the following two issues may be at play;

  • Sleep debt accumulation: the child is chronically sleep deprived and exhausted
  • Sleep Associations: the child is unable to fall asleep independently

What is a Sleep Debt?

Sleep debt is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep, and leaves your baby, toddler or preschooler feeling mentally worn-out, physically exhausted, and can dramatically impact their mood, thought, and behaviours.

In most cases sleep debt occurs when a child habitually does not get the required amount of sleep each day and night, leading to chronic sleep deprivation.

This occurs most often when children are;

  • being kept awake for too long during the day,
  • naps that may not be occurring at the right biological times,
  • or bedtimes that are too late.

A sleep debt can be thought of like a financial debt; the more money you take out, the greater the debt becomes. If you don’t replenish the money, the debt remains.

Similarly, the longer the child goes without the proper amount of rest, the more overtired they are and the bigger the sleep debt becomes.

In both examples, if the debt is large, making a small one-time deposit doesn’t clear up the debt.

How Do I Know if My Child Has Sleep Debt?

When children are overtired, they can get revved up as their body releases more stimulating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in an effort to counter the exhaustion.

It is common for parents to tell me that their toddler will have a ton of energy in the evening, or as they try to rock their baby to sleep, the child is crying in their arms, pushing away and arching their bodies. The harder the parent works, the harder the child resists the attempts to soothe her.

Being overtired also manifests itself as;

  • seemingly scared of or,
  • hating their crib/bed,
  • excess crying,
  • taking extended periods to go to sleep.
  • Appears to not be tired and acts hyper, almost manic
  • Clingy behavior
  • Unable to settle

Getting Out of Debt

Luckily, these issues can be resolved by adjusting the child’s routine so that they are getting more sleep. One of the easiest ways to do this is by moving bedtime earlier in the evening.

For children under the age of 5, regular bedtimes earlier than 7:30PM work best. If you suspect your child has a sleep debt, then moving bedtime up by 20 – 30 minutes may help them feel more rested.

Some children even need a bedtime closer to 45 minutes to an hour earlier. If you’re not sure, this wake time infographic below can help you determine the right bedtime for your child.

 

Can you guess what the number one follow up question is, when I suggest an earlier bedtime? Parents wonder if it means their child will now wake up earlier in the morning.

To that I say a resounding “no”.

The reason is that when a child is overtired, doing an earlier bedtime allows their brain to acquire more cycles of sleep, which is like putting money into their sleep bank and reducing the sleep debt.

Why Your Child Needs an Early Bed Time

During a child’s sleep, their brain cycles through REM and Non-REM (NREM) types of sleep.

REM sleep is light, active, helps to consolidate memories and results in dreaming.

NREM is a deep sleep that helps the body to repair itself, release growth hormones and helps to clear the sleep debt.

The structure of night time sleep is such that there are more cycles of the deep NREM sleep in the first part of the night than there are later on.

When a child is overtired, an early bedtime helps to take advantage of this.

When we put a child to bed too late, the potential maximum cycles of Non-Rem sleep that they could be receiving, is cut off.

Part of this is due to the fact that a child’s morning wake up time is biologically set. A young child that goes to bed at 7pm has a better night and more cycles of NREM than a child that goes to bed at 9pm.

They will both likely still wake up at the same time in the morning. And if they don’t, for many children, if they do sleep in (past 7/7:30am), it can be a red flag that their body is extremely overtired and the quality of their sleep is already compromised.

Naps Are Necessary For Sleeping Through the Night

How many of you have been given the advice to skip your child’s nap because it will help them sleep better at night?Did you know that doing so will almost guarantee the opposite to happen?

Ensuring your child is taking long, regular naps is a crucial component for a healthy, debt-free and sleeping though the night, routine.

This is much easier said than done, I know. Helping a child to nap better can be a challenge because it takes much longer for a child’s brain to consolidate naps than it does for night time sleep. Whereas night sleep starts to get on track within a week of dedicated work and problem solving, naps take closer to 2-3 weeks.

 

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The good news is that it absolutely can be done! By maintaining a regular napping routine that matches a child’s natural sleep rhythm, we can help a child get the maximum amount of sleep cycles they need for a healthy nap.

The timing of when a nap happens is just as important as how long the child naps. This important fact is often overlooked when sleep problems are discussed.

To begin with, consider how long your child can stay awake in between naps. It will slightly increase the older your child gets, but only slightly.

For more tips on napping, see here and here.

The Skill of Falling Asleep Independently

The second area that commonly causes sleep problems in children over four months of age are sleep associations. Around four months of age your baby’s circadian rhythms will begin to mature, allowing your baby to develop the ability to fall asleep on their own. However, sometimes as parents we don’t realize that this transition is taking place. Out of love, we continue to “help” until our child becomes so dependent on our methods, that it feels like they “need” it to get to sleep.

These can include:

  • Physical stimulation, such as rocking, holding, or bouncing
  • External props, such as feeding, soothers, or bottles

When we begin to remove the extra help, this can produce tears of frustration in our little ones. If you’re a parent overwhelmed with sleep deprivation yourself, it can be difficult to recognize this. But keeping the context of the crying in mind can be helpful. If you’ve taken your child’s daytime routine into proper consideration, have fed and changed your child, then the crying that is happening is a result of being frustrated.

Consistency is Key

Once you’ve determined which external factors are at play you can start to remove them. This is the act of sleep training.

Sleep training is ONLY helpful in these situations. It does not fix a child that is waking and crying at night because of a poor daytime routine-that will continue to happen long after a sleep association has been weaned if the sleep debt is not first addressed.

Now, I know that the term most people are familiar with is Crying-It-Out (CIO) (AKA Extinction), but that isn’t your only option. You can choose to wean sleep associations slowly or quickly, depending on your preferences.

The key here is consistency: every day, every nap, every bedtime, and every night waking (minus the one or two that are for true nutritional purposes). For more information see my sleep training series here.

Ensuring that you remove bedtime “associations” not only helps establish a healthy bedtime pattern, but children who fall asleep without a sleep association experience better night sleep cycle transitions. This, combined with an age-appropriate daytime routine, in turns leads to children sleeping through the night.

Compare the dotted line with the solid line in the image below and you will see how a child that can move through sleep cycles easily has a deeper and more restorative sleep.

 

 

 

Removing all the sleep associations in the world won’t help if you don’t address an underlying sleep deficit and keep your child on a healthy sleep routine. It’s also important to introduce these changes during times when you are distraction-free and can focus on the task at hand, so avoid attempting to implement any changes during vacations, travel, when you are hosting visitors or doing home renovations.

If you find yourself slipping back into old habits then break the changes up into small, manageable steps. The easiest first step is to make sure that your child is napping at appropriate intervals, and that bedtime is consistent and meets their needs. This is the foundation for any sleep training that you may want to implement later on.

If you have a child that isn’t sleeping through the night, you may be too tired to make any changes yourself. Are you feeling overwhelmed and want someone to make a plan for you and guide you through the process? Book your consultation today and save yourself time and frustration or join me during one of my free Q and A sessions every Wednesday night from 8-9pm CST on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page.