The Perfect Sleep Environment

A great sleep environment leads to great sleep.  So what constitutes a great sleep environment….

1.  Ensure the room is dark and I really mean pitch dark.  If light is going into your child’s eye then it signals to the brain that they should be awake.  Therefore the sleep hormone melatonin is not released and then your child will have difficulty drifting off the sleep or even staying asleep.  If their little peepers happen to open during lighter sleep between sleep cycles, they wake up and and then nap is over.

Some parents are concerned that their baby will then need to always sleep in the dark.  I can understand their concern. However, the darker it is, typically the better we sleep as humans.  Most of the time baby will be at home sleeping in the crib so that is really where we want create the perfect environment. Sure, naps out and about may not happen in total darkness, but that is not where most of your baby’s sleep is taking place, so no need to worry.

2.  There should be nothing in the crib other than your baby, either swaddled or in a sleep sack.  You can introduce a small lovey in the form of a stuffed animal or blankie once your baby can roll over both ways comfortably. Mobiles, aquariums and stuffed animals that play music are just too stimulating and send a mixed message.  Baby now wonders if it is sleep time or play time.

3.  Swaddling works great until a baby reaches 3 months old and then I reccomend the sleep sack.  It keeps your baby cozy and the same temperature throughout the night.  And you can rest easy not worrying about her getting tangled in a blanket. It has an added benefit down the road.  Babies who sleep in a sleep sack are a less likely to make a break for it and climb out of the crib.

4.  White noise can be a great tool to drown out external noises that may wake your baby.  If you live on a noisy street, have a dog or other children in your house, white noise can provide that buffer of sound to drown out all of the startling noises that may wake your baby

Are You Addicted To Your Baby Monitor?

Are you addicted to your baby monitor?

I have worked with families that report their baby rolled over at 2 am, at 3:37 am he was awake but did not make a sound and they think he may have sneezed at 5:07am. How do they know this? Because they watch their video monitor throughout the night.

Monitors have a time and a place. If you are in the basement exercising while your baby is napping, it can be a great tool. If you are teaching your child to sleep well, it is great to keep an eye on her. Does she have an arm stuck in the bar? Is there any need for me to intervene or be concerned? But for some people that are so tuned into the monitor, it is disrupting your sleep.

You don’t need to hear every little squeak and squawk that your baby makes through the night. Some babies are very, very noisy sleepers. Every time they squeak and squawk, you are going to wake up and it is going to wreak havoc on your sleep.

If you’ve got a baby who is now successfully sleeping well through the night, I would encourage you to turn it down and start getting the good quality sleep that you deserve as well. Your baby will let you know if they need you!

And if you do not have a baby that is sleeping well, then you know who you can call!

Is She Ready To Move To A Big Girl Bed?

Childhood is full of exciting milestones: first tooth, first solid foods, first steps. Making the switch from a crib to a bed is another sign your child is growing up. For some parents the idea can be a bit nerve-wracking. They wonder what life will be like if the child is free to get out of bed whenever he wants. Will he be roaming the halls at night? Will he ever settle down and go to sleep?

The closer your child is to age three, the better. In My experience, anything younger than 2.5 years old is too early. Very young children do not have the cognitive ability to really understand the boundaries and expectations around staying in bed when they can so easily get out on their own. This can make it hard to enforce the rules and can create power struggles.

If your child is not sleeping well currently and is testing the boundaries around sleep, it is not a great time to move to a bed.  I recommend sorting out the sleep issues first and then making the transition from crib to bed.

Make it fun, but not too fun. You can get your child involved with picking out the new bed and choosing new bedding, but it is a delicate balance. You don’t want to make too big of a deal about it because you don’t want to put added pressure on the child. If he gets really excited about the process he might have a hard time settling in and actually going to sleep!

Beware of the honeymoon phase. Most toddlers do well with the transition until the fun wears off. Once the novelty is gone and the child gets comfortable (usually around the two-week mark) then the games usually start up. The key is to be prepared ahead of time so you know what to do when this happens.

If your child comes out of bed, you will need to remain calm and implement a consequence such as closing the door.  With consequences, I always like a reward. So reward good behaviour for staying in bed and sleeping the night there.

And of course, if you need help with this transition, I am here to help you make it a smooth one.
I do not want to sleep

Do You Want The Job of Your Dreams?

You can have it all. No, you really can!

And I did not believe it until I started as a paediatric sleep consultant 4.5 years ago. I have been able to have a career, be my own boss and still be there for my kids and family when they need me most. 

I have not had to miss out on field trips, Christmas concerts and volunteers teas because I have had to be at work. I get to set my own schedule and pick my own hours.

I have ran my own business that continues to grow each year. I have learned so much and have been able to earn a great income. A little spending money for mom never hurts.

I have be so fortunate to be in a profession that really matters. Sleep is a basic need and so many of the families I have worked with have reported that working with me was life changing. I have helped moms out of depression and even helped rescue a few marriages.

And I have never had any formal childcare for my kiddos. I always work around my family, because as we all know, they come first.

I really feel like this a dream job that just doesn’t really exist in the real world. Maybe I am dreaming?

And now you can have this perfect job too. For the first time in Alberta, you can train to become a paediatric sleep consultant. I am offering a 3 day mentorship workshop in Calgary on Nov 6, 7 and 8. Yes, it is a Saturday, Sunday and Monday because I know how hard it can be round up childcare for three consecutive weekdays.

There will only be 8 spots and I will begin taking applicants immediately. The first 3 people to be accepted into the mentorship program will get a free gift from me.

When you leave after the three days you will have all of the tools to set up your own sleep consulting business. Think business in a box. And I will offer you one on one mentorship to help you every step of the way.

My Baby Does Not Want Me To Leave Her Sight?

Your baby starts to cry when you go to the other room. You can’t seem to put her down at all these days. It sounds like you may be in the midst of separation anxiety. It is a very common developmental stage that many babies go through between 8-14 months. Some experience it a little more often and severely than others. And it may surprise you to hear there is a correlation between sleep and separation anxiety.

I find that children who sleep well, take proper naps and get a solid night sleep are less prone to bouts of separation anxiety because they are well rested.We all know, if we are not feeling rested, we tend to be a little quick to anger and are unable to regulate our emotions well. Our children feel the same. So, it makes sense that a baby who is not sleeping well might be a little clingier through the day, might be quick to cry over the littlest things at certain points in the day. Furthermore, babies who have honed thier skills and abilities around going to sleep on their own, are much more confident with the independence and experience less separation anxiety.

The first step is to have a good look at your child’s sleep schedule and make sure they are getting the sleep they need. Another thing to do is to practice peek-a-boo. I know it sounds silly but when babies are learning, they don’t always understand that when things leave their sight, they don’t disappear permanently. That ís why they tend to cry as soon as you walk out of the room. They don’t yet understand that just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you do not exist anymore. By practicing peek-a-boo and walking out of the room, they learn that Mommy is still here. It will teach your child that just because you’re gone doesn’t mean you are not coming back. That ís a good thing to practice at any age.

If you need to go to the bathroom or you have to answer the telephone, it is not the end of the world if your child starts to cry when you do that. Because the more you cater to this, the more it typically occurs. If every time you take a step to leave, he starts to cry and so you do not leave, it reinforces the behaviour. He learns that all he has to do to keep her in the room is start to cry and she’ll never leave.That ís definitely not the behavior you want to try to encourage. I always tell parents that you are the parent, so you get to set the rules and boundaries. Your child will follow your lead.

Now, if you are about to start sleep training and you are worried your baby is going through some separation anxiety, then an “in the room” approach will be best because you can be by the crib side. This can be comforting to a lot of parents and many babies as well.

So don’t let separation anxiety delay you from giving your child the gift of sleep. Your child will not only sleep much better, you will likely notice the separation anxiety improves as well.

Are You Ready To Stop Seeing Your Clock Before 6:00am?

Some babies are natural early birds, but most are not and there are many things you can do to encourage a later morning.

You might be surprised to hear it all starts with bedtime. Here is a list of must dos…

  • Ensure the bedtime feed is before bath or at the beginning of the routine and your little one is wide awake for the feed.
  • Ensure baby is going down wide awake all on her own with no one in the room.  This includes not falling asleep with a soother!
  • Ensure baby is not at all overtired. Try bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier.
  • If baby wakes between 5am-6am it is best to stay out of the room if at all possible.  Seeing mom or dad is just too stimulating and now they know you are awake too, so there is usually no going back to sleep. They think it is party time!
  • Wait until a minimum of 6am to take baby out of the crib.
  • After taking your baby out of the crib, turn on the lights, open the blinds, do a diaper change and then offer a feed. Make sure baby is wide awake.
  • Ensure the room is pitch dark and you are using white noise to drown out all of those early morning noises like Dad getting ready for work.
  • Make sure nap one is not too close to taking baby out of the crib in the morning. I suggest counting the amount of wake time from 6am, not from the time your baby woke early.  If I knew I could get back into bed an hour or two after I woke, I wouldn’t mind starting my day before 6am either.
  • It can take 4-6 weeks of being super consistent before your baby’s body clock is reset and he starts sleeping in later.

Uh Oh! Time Change

Daylight Savings:  Spring Forward 

I love the fact it is light out later and summer is coming but I am always sad to loose that hour of sleep. It not only affects children’s sleep patterns, but adults as well. In fact, statistically there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. It really does have an effect on all of us and it can increase our sleep debt — especially in children who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. That is usually why people notice it the most in young children.

So what is the best way to handle it?

My advice is to “split the difference.”

So if nap was usually 9:30am it is now 10:00am.  This will actually feel like 9:00am to your baby. Do the same with afternoon nap and bedtime. This will mean that your baby is going to bed a little earlier or sooner than the normal wait between sleep, but it is not so much that is should interfere with their schedule too much. It may take her a bit more time to fall asleep as she may not be as tired, but within a week she will be back on track again. On day and night 4, move to the correct time on the clock again.

The good news is the spring forward time change is typically an easier one than the fall back change. Most parents like to see the clock says 7:00am as opposed to 6:00.spring forward

Does My Baby Need to Eat During the Night?

“My daughter is five months old, and wakes to eat every two hours. Is it OK to not feed her?” Well, the short answer is yes. It is OK not to feed her. When we look at this, eating every two hours is similar to what a newborn would need.

With her being five-months-old, there’s really no reason why, unless she’s having some serious health issues. But apart from that, there’s really no reason why she is needing to wake up every two hours for a feed. What I really want you to look at is how she gets to sleep at bedtime.

I always tell people, the first place to look is bedtime. What’s going on there? My guess is that she’s bottle feeding or nursing herself to sleep at bedtime, and then you transfer her to the crib.

What happens then is that a baby believes that a bottle or breast is the fastest and best way to get into sleep. It’s not a matter of hunger. It’s more a strategy for getting to sleep, as they do not know any other way. When she has a wake up in the night, her response is to cry, mostly like, have you come, and recreate the sequence of events that happen to get her to sleep in the first place.

This is a strategy issue. She’s using that bottle or breast through the night to get herself back to sleep. The good news around all of this, is that this is a fairly easy fix. If we get her falling asleep independently at bedtime, not allowing her to fall asleep on the bottle or breast, that’s going to solve a lot of these night wakings because she’s going to learn how to get to sleep.

If she has any kind of wake up in the night, she should be able to start handling this more herself, and relying less and less on the bottle or breast. I would encourage you to start there. Let’s get this baby sleeping through the night, because really, given her age, there’s no reason why she can’t be sleeping a solid 10 to 12 hours a night. That’s the good news there.

Sounds like a great idea, but many parents are unsure of how to get their baby falling asleep on their own. First ensure that baby is not getting sleepy during the bedtime feed, the easiest way to do this is to move the feed to the beginning of the bedtime routine, yes even before bath. At about 3 months, I always move the feed to the beginning of the routine.

Babies become metabolically capable of beginning to sleep through the night at approximately around 13 pounds and 3 months. When I work with a baby, I always take it case by case for babies between 3-6 months if we are going to cut out all night feeds.

With every single child I  work with our goal is always to get them falling asleep independently at bedtime. This is where all the magic happens!

Testing the Waters

Just when you think you’ve nailed this sleep business and your baby has been going to bed happily and sleeping through the night for weeks…BAM! Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, he’s waking up every few hours and crying for long periods of time.

Before you start to panic and tell yourself you are destined to an eternity of sleepless nights with a cranky baby, let me just reassure you that this is perfectly normal and happens to many babies who have previously been sleeping well. There is usually a good reason, and it’s often only a phase that will pass soon enough.
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Here are the top reasons this might be happening.

1. Your child could be simply testing the waters. As adults, we usually understand that once we learn a rule (don’t drive on the wrong side of the road, don’t cut in the front of the line at the bank, don’t drink a double espresso before bed), it’s always going to be the rule.

But children don’t think that way, and for them this new bedtime knowledge is not yet crystallized. In their minds, just because something was the rule today, this does not necessarily mean it will be the rule tomorrow or three weeks from now.

Most children will repeatedly test you around everything, as you probably know, but they will especially test your expectations around sleep. That’s why it’s so important to stick to the plan. Don’t start bringing baby into bed with you at night when he cries, or rocking him back to sleep every two hours…not after all that hard work you did. Just stay the course and soon he will figure out that bedtime and sleep routines are here to stay.

2. If your baby was sleeping soundly every night and is suddenly waking and crying, it’s possible she might have an ear infection. With some children it isn’t as easy to detect, and they may not be pulling on their ears or fighting a fever (usually a telltale sign). If you suspect your baby might be waking from pain, take her to the doctor and have her ears checked out. Once she is treated she will most likely start sleeping soundly again.

3. If your baby is protesting at night and it seems out of the blue, it’s also possible it could be related to a developmental milestone. If your child has recently learned a new skill (rolling, crawling, walking etc.) this could be what’s causing the momentary ripple in bedtime routine. Remember to stick to the plan and it should blow over in a couple of weeks.

Remember: Whatever the reason for your baby’s night-waking or tantrums at bedtime, don’t panic and rush in and resort to sleep props to get them to sleep. You have to remain consistent with your response and expectations or you will quickly undo all the progress you’ve made. The more you stick with the plan, the more your baby’s healthy sleep habits will just become part of his daily routine, which will set him up for a lifetime of sleeping well.

What have I learned in the last 4 years?

It has been 4 years since I embarked on my journey of becoming a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. I am a big believer in personal reflection and want to share with you what I have learned over the last 4 years.

•I have the best job in the world.
•Sleep is a skill that must be learned.
•Sleep is becoming more valued in our society.
•Sleep consultants are becoming much more common and widespread. When I started, I was the third person in Calgary that worked with families to help improve the sleep of their children. Now there are over 40 sleep consultants in Calgary.
•I am truly blessed to be the first Sleep Sense Consultant in Alberta.
•Dana Obleman, the founder of SleepSense is an amazing women and mentor.
•Lack of sleep can tear a family apart.
•No parent likes to hear their child cry.
•Having a child go to sleep without relying on anything external to themselves is where all the magic happens.
•Every parent hits their breaking point when they just can not take the lack of sleep any longer at different times.
•The sooner you teach a baby to sleep well, the better.
•Sleep training does not mean sleeping through the night.
•Balancing work and family is difficult.
•The group of SleepSense Consultants I am part of is a wonderful and supportive group of women whom I admire greatly.
•Our yearly conventions are a highlight of my year.
•Referrals are the backbone of my business.
•My family comes first.