Sleep Tip Sunday
Start your week off right with weekly tips for great sleep!
Sunday, June 19: Happy Father’s Day! During the first few months of baby’s life, dad can feel a little helpless because baby depends so heavily on mom. When it’s time to start teaching your baby some new sleep skills, dad can actually help out a LOT! Here are a couple of ways:
- Start to determine what times of night baby really eats, and which times he is just snacking for comfort and falling asleep again. These wakings can be transferred to Daddy-Duty around 4-6 months! He can go in, soothe and comfort in his own way, and put baby back down. This won’t only help baby learn how to sleep through these less needy wakings, but will give mama a break from being a human pacifier!
- Once the bedtime feed is finished, transfer bedtime duties to dad. He can snuggle, rock, read, and sing to baby to help her learn that both mommy and daddy provide the comfort needed to fall into a sound sleep.
- When you start sleep teaching (any method!), mom and dad being partners is a huge part of success. Participate with your spouse in deciding which method you can both be consistent with and help her work through the very difficult emotions that can sometimes accompany this transition.
- Be a first-responder. Regardless of method, make it your responsibility to try to help baby back to sleep first, especially as night-time feeds decrease to 0-1 per night. Yes, you are tired, but I guarantee that mama is awake as well. Letting her stay in bed while you see what’s happening with the baby will give her some relief from always being ‘on’.
- Enjoy those nights when you are snuggled in a rocking chair with your little one…they go so fast! You won’t be tired forever–or maybe you will be–but this level of need from your baby will go away. Hold her close while she believes your arms to be exactly where she wants to always be.
Sunday, May 29: There are a lot of news sources reporting on some new studies done on the “Cry-It-Out” Method of sleep training. I’ve had some parents ask me what I think about it. Through my FSI certification, I did extensive research of my own on all of the methods of teaching kids how to sleep. There are pros and cons of each method, which I explore in this blog post and the ones that follow it. But here are the guidelines I stand behind regarding every sleep teaching method there is:
(I’ve provided links to further reading for your convenience).
- Before you jump into the comments/message boards, read the articles and understand the breadth of the studies themselves for your own knowledge. We are often very quick to quip and leave nasty comments on articles based solely on their titles. Don’t just wrap yourself up in arguments (with strangers, nonetheless!), because it will often leave you angrier. Spend your energy doing what you believe is best for your own child.
- No sleep training methods that feel wrong to you will be the right choice for you and your baby. No one is trying to convince you to do something that you, in your gut, don’t believe is the best choice for you. Parents also will not be consistent with a method that doesn’t feel right, and to teach sleep skills you have to be consistent. Consider what your philosophy is around sleep and how best you can attain your goals.
- ANY method that doesn’t encourage parents to first set their baby’s up for success by providing an optimal sleep environment, a sleep-schedule that works with your baby’s needs, age and stage of development, and a routine around sleep that helps your baby enter sleep as calmly as possible is one that I do not support. Plopping a baby down in her crib at 11pm when she’s overtired to “cry it out” when she has always been nursed to sleep is absolutely confusing and most likely won’t work.
- The worst thing you can do is nothing. What do I mean by this? The worst thing for your child’s health (and your health too) is to continue allowing your wee one to be chronically exhausted. It will affect his/her development, appetite, future sleep habits, and so much more.
- Regardless of your opinions around cry-it-out or any other method, I entirely disagree with any parent-shaming any other parent’s choices. It is toxic, non-productive, and creates a parenting culture that does more harm than good. I have yet to meet any parent who loves the sound of their child crying, who could listen to it all day; however, they may be choosing a specific method because they’ve been listening to their child cry all day and everyone is at the point of exhaustion where something has to be done to get their baby rested. Respect one another and empathize with how difficult all of these decisions can be. You’ll need empathy too someday, trust me.
Sunday, March 20: Does your baby snore? Snoring is pretty common among infants BUT that doesn’t mean it should go unchecked. In fact, snoring usually indicates that your baby isn’t getting the right kind of restorative sleep, and if it goes on for too long it can lead to significant sleep-debt. Snoring can indicate a cold or allergies, it can even mean a new tooth is on its way–we have sinuses in our gums that can become swollen when teething and lead to snoring! However, snoring can also mean that your baby has enlarged adenoids that are taking up a lot of space in the cranial airways, making it difficult for your baby to get enough air by breathing through his nose. If you suspect that the snoring your baby is experiencing is not normal, have her checked out by her pediatrician or by an ear-nose-throat doctor. A very simple and painless exam will help point you in the right direction as to the cause of those noisy night times!
Sunday, March 6: One week from the Spring Ahead time change! Are you ready? Read this!
Sunday, February 21: Newborns do not yet have control of their limbs. It’s almost as if some invisible puppeteer is pulling strings in a haphazard way as your baby lays their quietly, flinching every time their own hand bops them in the face. This can make it very hard for your baby to get the rest he needs…hence why we swaddle young babies. My daughter was a Houdini of sorts and would always break out of her swaddle, then continue batting herself in the face and wake up crying (I would, too!). She could even break out of those Velcro worm blankets (I don’t know what they’re called). Then, a friend of mine gave me a Miracle Blanket (click to see product on Amazon) and our swaddle nightmares were over. I realize there are tons of products out there that work wonders like this. However, this is the one that stole my heart. In fact, we used it on her arms after she was too long to fit in the pouch any longer! Her sleep immediately got better. If you are a swaddle-master with a baby blanket (my favorites were always the Aden and Anais blanets because of their length and the give in the fabric), good job, you! At any rate, swaddling can make a huge difference. Just be sure that you’ve dressed your baby appropriately so she doesn’t overheat in her little cocoon.
Sunday, February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day! There’s no doubt that with a baby or babies in your house, your heart has grown larger than you ever imagined possible. One way to promote a little extra bonding and simultaneously relax your little one this Valentine’s Day, try an infant massage. There are so many resources out there if you’re wondering how to best relax your baby using massage–including specializing massage practitioners in your town who will teach you infant massage techniques. If you find that it helps your baby wind down before bed, it’s a wonderful thing to incorporate into the bedtime routine!
Click Here to see my favorite baby massage oil. It’s unscented and organic, so there is very little chance of irritation to skin. Always be sure to read ingredients before using anything on your baby’s skin. Put the bottle in a cup of warm water (no warmer than 100 degrees) to heat the oil to body temperature for extra relaxation!
This is one of my favorite YouTube instructional videos about infant massage:
Sunday, February 7: Sign up to receive the new SlumberBaby Newsletter and get two freebies PLUS loads of free tips, tricks, and subscriber only discounts! Everyone deserves to sleep like a SlumberBaby!
Sunday, January 24: Need some direction on all things sleep? On Saturday, January 30th at 7pm La Stella Blu will be hosting a Sleeping 101 Class. Come chat with Missoula’s Child Sleep Experts, Jenni Fuller and Melissa Eastlick in this special event! The ladies will be sharing tips on how to help your child develop a healthy sleep foundation, as well as provide information on what good sleep looks like from infancy to early childhood. This event is registration only, so please do call the store, (406) 317-1074, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign-up. There are 20 spots available at this FREE event!
Are you far from Missoula, but still need some help with your child’s sleep? Thanks to the wonders of technology, I am able to work with clients who are located anywhere in the world and still provide daily support and direction. Just send me an email, anytime, to get started!
Sunday, January 10: Even though it is oh-so-tempting and cozy to hold your newborn 24/7, it’s important to give her some opportunities to sleep without being held. This is a gentle way for your baby to get used to sleeping in a still and independent space, laying a foundation for down the road (4-6 months) when you will be able to instill some great sleep habits. Also, your baby will likely go into a much deeper sleep if allowed to sleep on her own. Motion, movement, and the smell of mom often keep baby at a higher level of alertness than if she’s somewhere that is less stimulating. Added bonus? Mom has a chance to go to the bathroom and give her arms a stretch!
Sunday, January 3: Many parents who choose to co-sleep eventually reach a point at which they feel that they and their child are ready for their own sleep-spaces. Sometimes, it’s tempting to move your baby or toddler to her own bed for nights, but keep co-sleeping for naps, or vice-versa. The most successful approach, however, is to transition your child to her own sleep space for ALL sleep. Finding comfort in her own bed or crib will occur much more quickly if for each sleep-period (nights and naps) she’s able to count on being in her own bed. Sleeping with her for naps but not nights (or vice-versa) can be confusing and slow a successful transition.
Sunday, December 6: Between 4 and 6 month of age is the perfect time to being encouraging some good sleep habits with your baby. At this point, day and night confusion is beginning to sort itself out. This is a great time to introduce a consistent routine before each nap and before bedtime that helps to communicate with your child that it’s time to rest. You can also begin to use a combination of sleepy cues (signs your baby gives like rubbing her eyes, fussiness) and the clock to work into a more predictable schedule. Remember, while these skills can take a while to become habits, you are setting your baby up for great sleep throughout her childhood!
Sunday, November 29: When we are new parents, it’s especially tempting to think about how our children compare to other children–or how our parenting compares to how others parent. This is such a slippery slope, and the genesis of what we now refer to as “The Mommy Wars”, especially when it comes to sleep habits and skills. “My sister’s kids sleep until 8:00 a.m. and take three hour naps, no matter what time she puts them down!” Whether this is true or not (and in an age when we tend to let the most gilded version of our experiences out into the public eye, I tend to think it’s not), remember that everyone struggles with something as a parent. The friend you have who’s child sleeps in might also be waking up four times a night. Your neighbor’s child who eats nothing but green vegetables, while you hide your daughter’s in smoothies, could be struggling mightily with defiance on another front. It truly is comparing apples to oranges. Remember that every child develops differently, that every parenting style and philosophy is unique, and that healthy and thriving are the only two verbs you need to worry about.
Sunday, November 22: Our culture is one of fierce independence. “I can do it myself!” is something that we say with pride, even if we can’t really do it ourselves. This thinking is the opposite of so many other cultural norms across the globe, in first-world and third-world countries alike. One thing that we have trouble swallowing is that it’s okay to ask for help. One of the first signs we taught our daughter was the sign for “help” and now that she can talk it’s something that, mid-frustration about something she can’t yet do, I’ll remind her to calmly ask for. I want her to always know that there are people in her life who will help and that all she needs to do is ask.
“It takes a village to raise a child…” is not just about allowing all sorts of different people influence and educate your child, it’s also about allowing someone else to wipe their noses, put them down for a nap, keep them safe, and so on. It means asking for help with the tasks that are getting less of your attention now that you have a baby to take care of. If, every time you sit down to nurse your baby all you can think about is chores that need doing, older kids who need attention, that load of laundry that’s been sitting in the washer for two days, or work outside of the home you are falling behind on, you are going to miss out on the joy of being present during one of the most miraculous experiences there is. Many parents struggle with trusting others to “do it right.” Well…they might not do each chid-rearing task, household chore, or work-related item the way you would, but accepting that it works, or that the intention is a good one, and that it is helpful will lead you to feel grateful towards anyone picking up some of the slack so that you can maintain your sanity. Also, new moms are so hesitant to ask for help with things like learning how to breastfeed or their child’s sleep because there is a subliminal message that the moment we give birth, we are blessed with innate knowledge of how to do these things with ease. If anything, after my daughter was born, I was even more clueless than ever about how to proceed with each day and each need she had. I’m not saying you should take the advice of every source that will very willingly tell you how they approached any given challenge, because there is simply too much of it. However, build your villiage and ask or help, without shame and with the knowledge that all over the world mothers seek their village over and over again to do this very important work.
Sunday, November 15: Do you have a jack-in-the-box toddler who pops up and out of bed almost as soon as you think you’ve gotten her back to sleep in her big-kid-bed? This phenomenon is a very quick route to exhausted parents resorting to just pulling their toddler into their own bed so that everyone can finally get some rest. Guess what? That is exactly why your sweet one keeps getting up! She’s relying on you finally giving in, and when you do you are reinforcing the behavior, making every night just as long, or longer, than the last. Do you want to instead set the stage to encourage and empower your little one to stay in her own bed all night? It can be a process, but one thing that might really turn things around is the ‘really boring return’. As many times as it takes, you walk your child back to her room where, if possible, she gets into bed without your help, pulls the covers up on her own, and with as little fanfare as possible, you go back to your own bed. Just a warning, the first few nights can be really taxing and you might have to return your child an insane amount of times. BUT if every return-to-bed is boring and reward-free (another song, another book, mom lays down in bed with me, I get a glass of water, I get special attention at night), children will soon realize that getting up and out of bed isn’t as fun as it once was. They are then more likely to link their sleep cycles together without interrupting them to go wandering. If possible, keep toddlers in their cribs until age three. If it isn’t possible, look into purchasing an Okay-To-Wake clock that will help your child learn when it’s morning and time to be social. Most of these clocks also have a nap setting, to help your child know when a nap or quiet time is officially “over.”
Sunday, November 8: Trying to break the pacifier habit in your baby? The Binky is a possible sleep crutch getting in the way of solid, restorative sleep, especially if baby wakes up when it falls out. My advice? Cold turkey! No more binkies…you will be so surprised at how quickly your child adjusts to not having one, despite prior attachment. For older kids, a more involved process might need to happen, but with the little ones, just make them disappear. Kids find new and sustainable ways of soothing.
Sunday, November 1: A sugar-binge and excitement last night followed by a time change today is no doubt leaving some parents feeling like they are living at party-central! Despite staying up a little later last night, did your wee one wake up nice and early this morning? Maybe even extra early, due to the time change? Never fear. There are things you can do today to help get things back to normal AND on the new time. Keep in mind that keeping your child up past the point of her tiredness will not result in longer sleep…in fact, it will most likely result in the opposite. Gently move your child towards the new time by setting her whole schedule forward…meals, baths, stories, outside time…these things all act as cues; they are how your child tells time right now. You’ll find it much easier to move sleep times if you move other activities as well. Spend some time outside in the light today if possible. Trek through some fallen leaves, walk to the park, play with the dog outside. Daylight helps regulate your child’s circadian rhythm and the fresh air helps give her a little extra energy on a day when she likely needs it. Finally, while Halloween treats abound, be careful of sugar intake. It provides a momentary high and then a crash. Given too close to sleep time, you may go from a happy child to one who is too tired to sleep, without anything in between.
Sunday, October 25: Pay attention to awake time to get the most out of sleep. If your child’s “awake time” window is too long, his or her cortisol and adrenaline responses will be activated. These two hormones are what, historically, would help us survive in times that it would be dangerous to fall asleep. Once these hormones rise, you may have trouble putting your child to bed. OR, you might be able to put your child down but then he or she will wake shortly after and will not go back to sleep easily, because those hormones will only continue to rise. To get the most out of sleep, try to put your child down for bed or a nap before this occurs. Pay close attention to how long your child has been awake and when he or she usually starts displaying sleepy cues (eye rubbing, yawning, whining, or a burst of energy and giddiness). It’s best to start the routine before those cues become rampant, that way you can trigger sleep hormones and better ensure a solid rest. Here are some basic guidelines for awake windows by age. Remember, these may vary by individual child:
0-2 months: 30-60 minutes
3-4 months: 60-90 minutes
4-7 months: 70-120 minutes (at around 4 months, you can begin relying more on a schedule than on sleep-cues alone and provide more structure by the clock for your little one).
8-15 months: 2 1/2- 4 hours
15 months-dropping of nap: 4-6 hours
Sunday, October 18: If you’re like me and you like to know the “WHY?” behind all sorts of things that are purportedly “good” for us (Why in the world should I drink green juice? What good is stretching before a workout? Why should I pause for ten minutes to meditate? How will yoga make me happier?) then this is the Sunday for you. Here are FIVE Ted Talks about how beneficial sleep is for you and your family, what goes on in your brain and body while you sleep (hint, it’s WAY more than you think), and why functioning on too little sleep for any length of time can have long lasting negative benefits (like early onset Alzheimer’s.) We know that exercise is good for our muscles, brains, heart, and mind. We know that meditation and yoga is great for presence and stress relief. We know that nutritious food fuels not only our bodies, but our brains AND prevents many diseases. Through these TedTalks, you’ll learn how great sleep can benefit your mind, body, heart, and soul…and get a glimpse into why I’m such a sleep-geek. 🙂 Have a great week, everyone!
Sunday, October 11: Many parents think that when cooler weather arrives, they need to crank up the heat and layer on the warm jammies and thicker blankets for their babies. Actually, babies and toddlers sleep much better when it’s a little cooler in their room (68-70 degrees is optimal). We’ve all had that experience of holding a sleeping baby who begins to sweat in our arms once they fall asleep, or pulled a sleeping baby out of a carseat only to see a sweat-mark left behind where her head was. Babies’ temperatures regulate at a much faster rate than those of older children and adults; they also have a very kissable layer of baby-fat keeping them cozy. You definitely do not want to overheat your baby by creating too many layers or a room that is too warm. Overheating can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for your little one. Also, he simply will not sleep as well as he could if he’s uncomfortably warm. Now, that doesn’t mean you should resort to the other extreme and open the windows during a snowstorm! In the fall/winter if your baby sleeps in pajamas that cover her arms and legs/feet, they should be just fine, temperature wise if you keep an eye on the thermostat. During the day, when she’s awake, bundle up and explore the wintery world together! Fresh, cold air and sunshine will definitely help generate some long, restorative naps!
Sunday, October 4: In addition to cutting sugar, especially in the afternoons, some foods can actually promote sleep! Wondering what to make for dinner and wanting to give your baby or child a good start to a restful night? Try some of these:
- Nuts and seeds, like walnuts, cashews, and almonds. Also, pumpkin sees and sunflower seeds can have a calming affect.
- Lamb, chicken, pork, turkey, beef
- Beans, lentils, and hummus
- Dairy Products (non-sweetened)
Sunday, September 20: NO MORE NAPS! It’s common for children to no longer take a nap around the age of 3 or 4 years old. It’s also common for children to continue needing a nap well into their early school-years. Then there are kids who will nap some days, but not others. Try not to measure this benchmark by an age, but more by what you see in your child’s behavior and never jump too quickly to eliminating a nap. If she’s still napping peacefully for an hour or two at age 4, and sleeping soundly through the night, it’s obvious she still needs it. If she babbles and sings through nap time every day and makes it through until bedtime in good spirits, she may be done with napping. However, it’s important to remember that rest is good for everyone (even you!). If your child no longer takes naps, it’s still important to offer some consistent downtime at the same time each day. Kids need our help to take a break, otherwise, they would burn themselves out by 5pm each day! Pick a time that aligns with her previous nap time, rename it “Quiet Time”, and encourage her to pick an activity that allows her to slow down: paging through her favorite books, doing a puzzle, or maybe even lying down. Don’t automatically jump to having movie or TV time each day to provide quiet time, as we want her to develop the skill of rest without tech stimulus. Parents can model this behavior (and enhance their own health) by also finding a quiet activity to do during this window–reading, writing in a journal, or playing a game or puzzle with your child. You will notice that your child’s batteries reboot and she is far more playful and pleasant until bedtime with a rest period in her afternoon. Soon, this will become a habit for her and she’ll look forward to it. It also teaches a very valuable life skill of taking a breather in the day, that many of us adults could be better at! If you child is in preschool or kindergarten, consider having the first hour after she returns home be “quiet time”. This will help her transition from the school day to playing at home.
Sunday, September 13: Does your baby or toddler get a burst of energy and joy in the evenings? He could be overtired. Many parents think that this behavior means that their child is hours away from needing to go to sleep, but in reality, the opposite is true. In young children, exhaustion can manifest in a variety of ways, but one that seems to baffle some parents is when their child is really happy and energetic–maybe even hyperactive– right when we think they should be winding down. Because of a sleep deficit, their adrenaline kicks in to compensate. If you go too far down this road, you might miss the optimal sleep window altogether and wind up with a baby who won’t go to sleep until very late, leaving parents who have to get up in the morning with very little shut-eye. If this sounds all too familiar to you, try an earlier bedtime…start the wind-down routine before this burst of energy starts to counteract its appearance, and enjoy some quiet time with your little one. It will be much easier to coax your baby into a sleepy state if she’s happy and relaxed as opposed to hyperactive and combating your every effort to have a regular and successful bedtime. Extra tip…this can also happen with teenagers, so helping them learn how to wind down before the adrenaline kicks in is important, too!
Sunday, September 6: Type “Baby Nurseries” into Pinterest and you will find the most elaborate, decked out, adorable nursery ideas on the planet. My advice? Save your money and keep the nursery simple, at least when your baby starts sleeping in that room. Music boxes, mobiles, night lights that change color, and beautiful hangings all over the walls are what dance through many mama’s heads as they anticipate the arrival of their little one, but really, too much stimulus can create hang-ups for your baby’s sleep. No need to create a barren landscape, but avoid anything that hangs over the crib, crib bumpers (for safety purposes), and if you feel that you must use a night light, use one that is very low wattage with a gold or yellow light–avoid blue/LED lights as they stimulate the brain. Sometimes any kind of light will keep baby awake, so giving it up all together might be something to try. If toys must live in the baby’s room, put the majority of them in a bin or in the closet, with a select few “out” and in view. All in all, you want your baby’s room to be an oasis from the chaos of playing, dancing, toys, visitors, and new experiences. He should know what happens in this room: relaxation, calm, and rest. As your child grows, you’ll know if he or she can handle more stimulus in the space where he sleeps. Many children with special needs will always need a “muted” space in which to catch some zzzzz’s….and their breath…from the stimulating world in which we live!