22 07, 2014

Want Your Child to Sleep Better? The Timing Is Everything!

July 22nd, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Sleeping Through the Night, Toddler Sleep|

When it comes to children and sleep, tired parents want to know how to help their child sleep better. The problem is, where to begin?

There is so much information out there, that it’s hard to sort out fact from opinion.

Add in Facebook forums, friends and family’s “advice” and we end up not doing anything because of the information overload and overwhelm.

Many parents have heard the term “sleep training” and wonder if that is what is needed. It may be, but there is something much more important that needs to be addressed first, otherwise sleep training efforts will fail.

Do you want your child to sleep better?

The majority of sleep issues in children that I encounter as a certified pediatric sleep consultant fall into two categories; dependency on sleep associations and insufficient sleep amounts.

While sleep training can help change sleep associations, a more important issue; having a healthy sleep routine, (which doesn’t require any formal sleep training at all), is often overlooked when parents are struggling to solve their child’s sleep problems.

If a child’s routine isn’t on track, that is, they aren’t waking up, napping and going to bed at the right biological times for their age, they can become overtired, or sleep deprived, extremely quickly.

It can be hard to believe that that term ‘sleep deprivation’ may pertains to your child. I know it can seem so extreme, but young children require such large amounts of sleep, that even missing one or two hours can have significant repercussions.

Is your child overtired? Here are some common signs:

  • Your child wakes up crying during the night, in the morning and/or after a nap
  • Your child cries, arches their back, squirms or throws a tantrum before a sleep period or while you’re trying to do your wind down routine
  • Your child frequently starts the day earlier than 6:00am
  • Once your child is sleeping, it is fitful and short; waking every few hours in the night or after 25-30 minutes for a nap
  • Your child will frequently fall asleep during a car ride, even if it’s short and/or they just had a nap
  • Your toddler or preschooler becomes cranky, irritable, emotional, defiant, or hyper in the late afternoon

How to Get Back on Track

To help get a child’s sleep on track, I frequently recommend that parents ensure that nap and bedtimes match biological rhythms or sleep windows after 4 months of age. The reason for this is scientifically based.

Our bodies are regulated by naturally occurring circadian rhythms or body clocks, which are controlled by a master clock called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or SCN for short. The SCN is responsible for our sleep/wake cycles, feeding patterns, body temperature regulation and other cycle fluctuations. The SCN is located in the brain, close to where the left and right optic nerves cross paths.

Why Do We Need to Consider Light Intake?

So why is it important to know about how light impacts our kids’ sleep?Because children’s sleep/wake cycles (and yours too) are regulated by the amount of light that is received by the SCN.

As the child’s brain perceives different intensities of light throughout the day, it will regulate when the child is best suited for a nap or bedtime.
If a child naps at a time when the SCN isn’t preparing the body to sleep, or if they are kept up too long when their body is actually biologically ready to sleep, they are going against their natural sleep drive.

The longer they stay up past their sleep window, stimulating hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released into bloodstream in an attempt to fight the fatigue.

Want more tips to help your child sleep better? Get your FREE copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night.

It seems counter-intuitive, but overtired children do not fall asleep easily nor sleep solidly once asleep.

The more overtired they become and the harder it is for them to eventually settle to sleep. This is why many of my clients first come to me with the complaint that their child is resistant to sleep, is “wired” or hyper and doesn’t look tired, even though the parents know this can’t be the case.

This is why the timing of sleep is a crucial factor when establishing a healthy sleep routine in children.

If this key component isn’t addressed, then sleep problems will often persist.

When parents master this critical element of their child’s routine with a solid and consistent nap routine and well-timed bedtime, sleep issues will have a much higher chance of being resolved quickly.

Joleen Dilk Salyn is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Baby Sleep 101. She helps tired parents get their children sleeping through the night by working with the science of sleep and healthy sleep best practices. She is the Western Canadian Representative of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants and in addition to her certification as a sleep consultant, also holds a Bachelor of Education, and Post Baccalaureate in Education. Joleen is also a mother to two wonderful children.

 

1 07, 2014

Baby Waking Too Early? 5 Reasons Why

July 1st, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep|Tags: , , |

Do you have a baby waking too early? If so, does this sound familiar;

You’ve just struggled with getting your child down for the night for what has felt like an eternity. Finally, you can leave her room and go to bed yourself. When you wake next,  it’s because you hear your child up and ready to start the day. Looking at the clock, you see that it’s 4:45 am.

Rushing into her room, you try every trick;

…bottle,

…breast,

…rocking,

…holding,

…singing.

But alas, she just will not go back to sleep. By this time it’s 5:30am and you have had enough so you turn on the lights and decide to begin the day.

If the above scene strikes a chord with you, you’re not alone. As a sleep consultant, I hear from many parents that struggle with their child waking up too early to begin the day. Below is a list of the five most common reasons children wake up early and suggestions on how to deal with them.

1. Realistic Expectations

Your baby waking too early can have many root causes, but first, it’s important to have realistic expectations of your child and define what waking “too-early” actually means. If your 8 month old regularly wakes at 6:15am, while it may be early for you, it is actually age appropriate.  Anything after 5:30am is considered biologically appropriate for children under 5.

But take heart, while 5:30am does falls into the category of age appropriate, it is on the rare side for a child to wake at this time  (do I hear a collective “whew” ?). Most children are naturally wired to start their day a little later; between 6:00-7:00am.

Solution:

Become familiar with your child’s regular sleep patterns and how it relates to normal wake up times. If your baby regularly sleeps until 7:00am but starts to progressively wake earlier and doesn’t seem well-rested, you may be dealing with early wakings (EWs) even if it’s after 5:30am. Therefore, it’s important to know what is a typical sleep pattern for your child.

But, if your baby wakes up after 6:00am and is happy and able to easily make it to nap time, then you may just need to adjust your expectations and go to bed a bit earlier yourself. 🙂

2. Overtiredness

The number one cause for a baby waking too early, is due to being overtired the day or night before. As contrary as this sounds, children usually wake up too-early because they have a too-late bedtime.

Often parents may keep quite a consistent nap routine but bedtime becomes the culprit for the overtiredness and they put their child to bed too late. Many parents will say that their child doesn’t appear tired before ” X” time, and often they wait until they see eye-rubbing, yawns and meltdowns.

But the appearance of these signs usually indicates that a child has missed their sleep window and has moved from tired to overtired. Overtired children do not sleep as well as a child *just* starting to wind down.

Solution:

Bring bedtime up earlier consistently for at least 2 weeks. How much earlier will depend on the age of your child and their current nap routine. But in general, most children do best with a bedtime between 6:00-7:30pm.

Need help getting your child to sleep through the night? Download your copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night; 5 Tips Every Parent Needs To Know

3. A Baby Waking Too Early Due to Insufficient Naps

Late bedtimes aren’t the only place where a child can become overtired. Not getting the proper amount of naps during the day can also lead to sleep deprivation. Sometimes naps can be a struggle to establish and in the beginning we get stuck with short naps, but naps that refresh and re energize a child, are essential for a healthy sleep routine for most children 3 and under.

Solution:

Work on establishing long and restorative naps for your child and it can help with the early mornings as your child works on their sleep debt. Keep bedtime early if their naps are not over an hour to help compensate for the missing sleep.

 4. Hunger

There is a lot of varying opinions about when a baby can go all night without needing to eat. As a sleep consultant my philosophy is that under 9 months of age, some babies, especially breastfed, may still need to eat at night. However, there is a difference between needing and wanting.

On average, after 4 months of age, if a baby needs to eat during the night, they usually only need 1-2 feeds. A baby  wanting to eat more than that, could possibly have developed a sleep association with the breast or bottle. (Always check with your child’s doctor if you are considering night weaning).

Once milk feeds (breast milk or formula) are well established, many babies will drop the earlier night feeds first and a 4:30/5:00am feed will remain for a while. If your child is under 9 months and is waking up in the early morning, they could be hungry, especially if they have gone since bedtime without a feed.

Solution:

Ensure that after 4 months of age, your child is taking full feeds regularly, and well-spaced during the day. The older a child becomes, the more social they are and easily get distracted while feeding, especially if feeds are happening too close together.

This can then result in extra night wakings, trying to make up for missed calories during the day. If this is happening, do milk feeds in a quiet room, to minimize distractions.

If your child is under 9 months of age and seems hungry, try feeding them at their early morning wake to see if they feed and go back to sleep. However, if you find that your child stays awake for a long time after the feed but is happy, the feed may not be needed.

5. Environmental Factors

Throughout the night, our brain alternates through both NREM (deep sleep) and REM (lighter sleep) patterns. If you were to document these cycles, the image or architecture of these patterns are reminiscent of waves. You can see a very simple version of this here.

In the early part of the night there are deep waves that show more cycles of NREM sleep and as the night progresses into the early morning hours, you see more shallow waves, representing REM sleep.

Since our brains are more frequently in the lighter stages of sleep in the early morning hours, we are all (babies and adults alike) more prone to waking from outside disturbances such as noises and lights.

Street traffic, morning song birds, the rising sun (especially in the summer), can all intrude into your little’s ones sleep and is more likely to wake them up during this time as opposed to the first few hours after bedtime.

Solution:

You can help to buffer early morning sound disturbances with by playing some white noise in your baby’s room. White noise can be as simple as turning on a fan, or a radio off the dial or more elaborate like purchasing a sound machine specifically designed to play monotonous sounds all night long.

If the early morning sun is the culprit,  again, there are a range of options. While black out blinds can be purchased for your child’s room, garbage bags, dark sheets or towels can also be placed in their room to achieve the same effects for very little expense.

Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to be consistent for several weeks with any changes you make. Giving their body time to adjust to sleeping in a little later in the morning does take some time, therefore patience is essential.

If you are needing help to determine why you have a baby waking too early, please contact Baby Sleep 101  and we can put together a customized sleep plan that is perfect for your child.

Have a question? Join Baby Sleep 101 for a free weekly Q & A session on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page.

Need help getting your child to sleep through the night? Download your copy of Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night; 5 Tips Every Parent Needs To Know

 

 

17 06, 2014

Short Naps Explained

June 17th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Naps, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , , |

Does your child continually take short naps? Modern Mama recently featured Baby Sleep 101’s article on the reasons for short naps and how to change that in Short Naps Explained.

15 05, 2014

Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better?

May 15th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Guest Post, Sleeping Through the Night|Tags: , , |

Baby and Child Feeding  Advice

The following is a guest post written by child-feeding expert, Kristen Yarker. A little background on how she came to write this article for me…

My second child is a much more cautious eater  than my first was. Whereas my daughter would try everything right away, my son takes a very long time to try new foods. Mealtimes were becoming increasingly frustrating for both of us and I was feeling a bit lost on how I should approach things with him. Like many of you looking for sleep advice, I was conflicted by all I was reading and the contradicting advice I was getting. What I was looking for was evidence-based and expert advice on what approach I should be taking with him.

Enter Kristen.

I came across Kristen’s website and looked around, signed up for the newsletter and then left it at that. Then my son had a few more meals spent crying and turning his head away from every food I offered. That was the final straw and I went back to her website and purchased her e-book, Provide, Trust, Love (And Then Introduce New Food).  Her book was fantastic and exactly what I was looking for. It completely identified my son to a “T”  and gave me a detailed plan on how to approach my situation.

Because I was so impressed with the advice and the methodology (hint: it’s a lot like what I do with my clients when we change sleep habits!), I asked her if she would like to comment on some questions that I frequently get from clients on feeding. Here is her first post.

 Kristen Yarker, Child-Feeding Expert

I’m a child-feeding expert. Since 2008  I’ve helped Moms and Dads in BC be confident that they’re providing good nutrition for their children today, and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Now I’m providing online seminars and an e-book so that parents everywhere can have the success that I’ve helped local families achieve. www.kristenyarker.com

Here’s the answer to the first of a number of questions that I’ll be answering.

   “My baby is large/small for their age and the pediatrician told me to start solids early because they aren’t sleeping well at night. Is this a good idea?”

I understand why Moms and Dads (desperate for some sleep) grasp on to the myth that feeding a baby solid foods will make them sleep through the night. However, it is a myth. Feeding your baby solid foods won’t make your baby sleep through the night.

 Sleep and Eating Milestones

It’s true that some babies start sleeping for longer stretches through the night at about the same time that they start solid foods. But it’s not that the solid foods have caused the sleeping. It’s that for many babies, the developmental stage when we start to feed them solid foods coincides with the developmental stage when they start sleeping for longer periods of time. Sorry exhausted Moms and Dads, it’s not the solid foods causing longer sleep.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Furthermore, big babies don’t need to be fed solid foods early. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are at the top end of the growth curve. Breast milk and formula are very rich. And, your baby is likely an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. Therefore, continuing exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until about 6 months is recommended (the same as average-size babies).

Also, small babies don’t need to be fed solid foods early. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are on the small end of the growth curve. As I mentioned above, breast milk and formula are very rich and your baby is an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. So continue to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby until about 6 months (the same as average-size babies).

Wait Until 6 Months

In summary, starting solids early won’t provide big babies or small babies with extra nutrition. Nor will it make your baby sleep through the night.  Introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)

 

www.kristenyarker.com

www.facebook.com/VitaminKNutritionConsulting

 

Did you feel your child was waking at night because they needed solids? Did you start solids before 6 months? How did it go? Share your comments below. And if you liked this article and found it helpful, please share it with others.

13 05, 2014

Sleep Training Series Part 7: Extinction

May 13th, 2014|Categories: Baby Sleep, Sleep Training|

Sleep Training with the Extinction Method

Welcome to Part 7 in this sleep training series. The conclusion of this topic  brings us to by far the most talked about method of sleep training; Extinction or as many (incorrectly) refer to it ; ” Cry It Out”.

I have covered various techniques to help parents change their child’s sleep associations, and clearly, Extinction is only one of many methods, but this option is definitely the most well-known and most controversial. Part of the controversy stems from the misunderstanding of not only this method, but of sleep training in general.

Sleep training, and especially Extinction, is not about putting a child down, closing the door and ignoring them until morning. Sleep training is only about removing learned habits, and Extinction has guidelines around it.

Like all techniques, there are certain steps that are vital to helping you see success quickly. If you don’t do the preliminary work, set up a great routine, keep bedtime early in relation to the naps, then it will fail.

Want to help your child sleep better? Download the FREE Sleeping Through the Night Guide.

So if you haven’t read how to set yourself up for success yet, please start at the beginning of this series  and read through them. If you’ve already done so, then let’s move on to a more in depth look at the Extinction Sleep Training Method.

Love it or hate it, Extinction usually evokes strong opinions. Advocates testify to its quick success rate and ease of process, while critics feel it’s a harsh option. Some go so far as to state that it can cause life-long biological and neurological negative changes.

For an in-depth discussion on this, please see: Helping Babies Cope with Stress and Learn to Sleep

The Method

If choosing Extinction, there is very little you have to “do” for this once you begin. It’s more about what you do prior to starting.

Set up a quality daytime routine with restorative naps and early bedtimes and pre-select your child’s night feed time, if they still require one. If you were choosing this method for a toddler or preschool-aged child, it would be important to child proof the room for any safety issues ahead of time if they were in a toddler bed.

At bedtime, you would do your wind down routine with your child. This would be the time for kisses, cuddles and snuggles.

Then, making sure your child was still wide awake, (hopefully relaxed, but not so much that their eyes are closing, or getting heavy), you would lay them down, and then leave the room.

When Do I Go Back Into The Room?

When using Extinction, the general practice is that you stay out of the room until it’s time for a feed. If no feeds are being offered, then you may choose to stay completely out until morning.

****HOWEVER****

Just because you choose Extinction, it doesn’t mean that you need to ignore your baby, your parenting instincts or common sense. 

If, for any reason, you want to check on your child, then please, go do it.

The overall goal of Extinction is that, most of the time, you are giving your child time and space to get themselves to sleep. If you briefly interact with them here and there, it isn’t going to set their progress back.

Crying When Using Extinction

You wouldn’t put a time limit on their crying for the night time (except if it was time for a feed) but for naps you would limit it if they didn’t sleep. Depending on their age, you may choose to end the nap after an hour of trying.

Many parents often very understandably worry about the amount of crying that their child may do, but it has been my experience that the child often fusses less than the parent anticipated. This is in no doubt due to having a predictable and age appropriate routine in place ahead of time.

It’s important to note that children cry out of frustration from having sleep props and associations removed, but they also cry when they’re overtired. By keeping bedtime early and having restorative naps, overtired crying is greatly reduced, allowing sleep associations to change rather quickly.

 A Few Tips For Success

1. Your child needs to be on a great daytime routine ahead of time to help minimize the amout of crying. This is will impact success significantly.

2. If your child still requires a night feed, have an idea of what time it is happens at, so you know when to enter the room.

3. Ensure your child’s sleep environment is comfortably cool and dark to encourage sleep.

4. Have a good support system in place to help you remain consistent in your approach.

5. A video monitor can be a useful tool to help parents remain consistent as they can see what is going on without entering the room

How Long Does It Take to Work?

Extinction tends to work the quickest of all methods, *if* the child’s daytime routine is on track  with well timed naps and an early bedtime (I’m not sure if I mentioned that yet. 😉 ). Often in as little as 4 nights, parents can see changes. Again as always, naps will take longer to notice progress.

Pros and Cons Of Extinction

Pros

  • Usually works the quickest of all the sleep training methods
  • Is the ‘easiest’ to do in terms of parental involvement
  • One of the few select methods that is successful for multiple age groups
  • Can result in less crying overall in comparison to other methods because the child begins sleeping more solidly after only a few nights

Cons

  • A lot of misinformation and shaming on the internet in regards to choosing this method
  • Can be challenging for some parents to maintain long enough to see the success
  • A parent’s mindset can quickly hinder progress
  • A successful daytime routine is vital for seeing changes quickly

 

Although Extinction or Cry It Out can be very difficult for some parents, it is often the quickest technique to see changes. But like every method, it has its advantages and disadvantages and each family needs to evaluate them according to their own parenting philosophy.

Are you  unsure if Extinction is right for your child? Contact Baby Sleep 101 today and we can help determine what is right for your family and put together a customized sleep plan.

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