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.

Sleep Training During the Holidays

This may sound a bit strange, but it’s my opinion that the holidays can be a good time to “sleep train” your child.

I know, I know. Things are busy, you’ve got shopping to do and parties to go to… But here are TWO reasons why you should consider this:

Reason #1:

The Christmas season is the ONE time of year that pretty much everyone is able to take a few days in a row off work. This is a big one, because it frees up both you AND your partner to be able to fully participate in the process. The first few nights and days always go much better if both mom and dad can be there to help and support each other. And no one has to get up early for work.

Reason #2:

You’ve usually got a lot of friends and family around… and they can help you out! If your sister is staying with you for a couple of days, feel free to ask her to take the baby while you grab a nap during the day.

Tip: I’ve found that friends and family respond really well to something like this… “I’ve been doing some research, and we’ve decided to make some improvements to our son/daughter’s sleep. It should only take a couple of days, but do you think you could help me out by_________.”

(Just fill in the blank with a small job or two that would make your life easier. Maybe get them to make dinner for you, or do the laundry, etc.)

If this sounds like something that will work for your family, then you can download the sleep sense program right away.

Clink on the link below to find out more….

http://www.sleepsense.net/share.html?p=jammytime&w=buynow

No need to wait until the new year to start those resolutions!

Holiday Travel Plans

Now that you have worked so hard to get your child sleeping well, the last thing you want to do is see their sleep regress.  Do Christmas travel plans leave you feeling nervous?

Here are a few tips to keep your little one sleeping well during the holiday season.

An occasional car nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm, but if your baby spends a couple of days taking car seat naps here and there and having late bedtimes, she may become so overtired that by the time bedtime rolls around , she has a complete meltdown and seems to “forget” all her sleep skills and just cries the house down.

If that happens, you might start to get very nervous because (a) your baby, who has been happily chatting herself to sleep for weeks, is now crying again, and (b) your mother-in-law is standing outside the door repeatedly asking you if you’re sure the baby is okay. You may start to give into this pressure and bend your expectations for your baby’s sleep. It’s easy to see how you could revert back to your own familiar ways in no time if you gave into this pressure and fear.

 It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because the rule is the rule at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at Grandma’s house. This may mean that your baby cries for some time at bedtime or has a night waking or two. The best way to handle it is to not do too much different than you would if the regression happened at home. You can go in every ten minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

 Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket and white noise!

Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler while traveling. Bed sharing is a big no-no! Even it’s it is only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred location, you could find yourself starting all over again when you get home. Most hotels have a crib you can use or rent, or take your pack and play along and use that as a crib.

 If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. This could be the bathroom (if it’s big enough) or the closet. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so that if she has a wake up in the middle of the night she is not so excited to see her two favorite people that she ends up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.

May your days be Merry and Bright and your nights be Silent.
Safe travels!

Neugeborenes mit Nikolausmütze

Night Wakings

Ah, night wakings….

Young babies still need to eat during the night, so getting out of bed to feed your baby is a necessity. But night after night of interrupted sleep can catch up with you and make you feel like the walking dead when you make that sleepy trek to the crib.

Worse still is when your baby just won’t settle after feeding and you spend what feels like hours rocking and soothing, only to have your child wake up the second she lays her little head down.

Fortunately, there are ways to make the process less painful. Here are some tips to help make night feeding faster and less exhausting for everyone:

First of all, remember that it’s not your job to put the baby down asleep. Nothing is more frustrating than feeding your baby for 20 minutes and then having to spend another half-hour trying to get him back to sleep. Soothing your child to sleep every time you feed him will just set you up for more frustration down the line, as your baby will not learn to self-soothe. The key to cutting out night feeds is to ensure your baby stays awake for the feeding and you the put him back in the crib awake.  If he really starts to cry, pick him up briefly and give him a little cuddle before laying him back down again.

I always recommend starting the night feed with a diaper change to ensure your baby is awake enough to take a great feed. Keep the lights down low. Artificial lights interrupt melatonin and can seriously affect your child’s ability to go back to sleep. You can keep a dim light on in the hall, but you don’t want full light in the room or your baby will not be able to settle easily. It’s also important to keep any electronics with lights (alarm clocks, stereos, laptops etc.) out of the baby’s room, as the light they emit will also affect melatonin.

Keep things business-like. It’s not party time; you just want to feed your baby and put her down and go back to bed. Keep your voice quiet and gentle and don’t greet your baby with too much excitement. The more enthusiastic you sound, the more your baby will think it’s time to play, not sleep.

Even when you remain calm and quiet and keep the lights low, your baby still might not settle right back to sleep. But don’t panic and pick him right back up again if he squawks or cries a little. Wait and see if he will fall asleep on his own. Remember that this phase won’t last long, and soon your baby (and you!) will be able to sleep through the night.

Baby feeds on MOM's breasts

Oh No, My Baby is Sick!

You have worked so hard to get your little one sleeping well. And then they get sick!

Today I want to give you some tips for handling sickness so that you don’t derail all your progress. There’s a few things that you do need to keep in mind.

The first is your baby is going to wake in the night. Anyone who is ill does not sleep as well as they normally do. So do not panic, even the best sleepers do not sleep well when they are sick.

It’s realistic to expect that your sick child is going to have some night wake-ups. How you handle those wake-ups will make a big difference.

One of the big mistakes people make is that they start to intervene in their child’s sleep skills. Meaning they go in, they try to rock or they start to feed again. They try to lull baby to sleep in their arms or go back to all their old sleep props.

I understand why people do that because you want to comfort your baby when she’s sick. I’m not saying don’t comfort her. You can absolutely go in.

Have a short cuddle, wipe her nose, give her a drink of water, whatever you need to do to offer some comfort, but you don’t want to interfere with her sleep skills.

You’re not going to rock her back to sleep. You’re not going to feed her to sleep. You’re not going to do any of the things that you’ve worked so hard to get rid of.

The only time you would ever go back to a nighttime feed, obviously, is if your doctor or pediatrician suggests it. If she’s had a high fever for several days, she might need some extra fluids through the night.

You want to make sure that those only happen for a few nights. Three is kind of my rule of thumb. If anything happens for more than three nights, then there is the danger that the baby is going to now expect this and start waking up looking for feeds even once the sickness is gone.

Another big mistake people make is that they bring their baby into bed with them.
I understand where that desire comes from. Again, you want to comfort your sick child. If you’re really concerned about your child through the night, it is much better for you to go to him than to bring him to you.

Throw down an air mattress. Spend a night or two in his room to keep an eye on him. Again, remembering my rule of threes, try not to do it for any longer than three nights or you might find yourself six months later still sleeping beside his bed.

If everything falls apart, cut yourself a bit of slack. Sometimes it happens. Know that as soon as your baby is well again, just get right back on track.

Just start again. You know that she can do this. It’s just a matter of proving to her that she needs to use her own skills once again.

And if you need some help, I offer 20 minute to calls to past clients for a discounted rate of $39 or a refresher package which includes 2 phone calls and a week of e-mail for $149.sick baby

Fall Back

Time change has snuck up on us once again.  And now we are left with the task of resetting our children’s body clock by an hour. This year it just so happens on Halloween night.

My recommendation to all parents is that they just leave their clocks alone so it’s not a psychologically upsetting event to see your little one up an hour earlier. Just get up at your usual time and start the day. After a cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, then you can go around changing the clocks. It will feel much better this way!

If for example your little one usually takes a morning nap round 9:30, you will adjust this to 9:00 am for the 3 days after the time change. It will be a bit of a push for your child, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule. Do the same for the afternoon nap.

Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7 PM, I recommend putting that child to bed at 6:30 PM for the first 3 days following the time change. (This will FEEL like 7:30 to your child.) And it will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes everybody’s body roughly one week to adjust to any kind of change in sleeping habits. On the 4th night at bedtime, just get in line with the new time. So your baby is back to going to bed when the clock says 7:00 pm, and adjust naps to the correct time on day 4 as well.

If you have children over the age of two, you can put a digital clock in the room and put a piece of tape over the minute numerals, so that they can see if it is 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock, but they cannot see the minutes, which often confuses toddlers. I would just set the clock forward half an hour so that at 6:30, it reads 7:00 and I would let them get up a little earlier than normal, knowing that by the end of the week, they would be back on track and sleep until their normal wakeup time.

If you are dealing with a baby, you cannot do that. Do not rush in as soon as you hear your baby waking up, because you do not want to send a message that getting up at 6 a.m. is okay now. So if she normally wakes at 7:00am, but is now up at 6:00, you will wait until 6:10 on the first day, and then 6:20 the next, then 6:30 the next day and by the end of the week, your baby’s schedule should be adjusted to the new time and waking up at their usual hour.

Our little creatures
Our little creatures

Baby Headbangers

All parents of toddlers have witnessed the full body flailing of their enraged child. It is something to behold. Kids definitely don’t hold back when they’re angry or upset! This can be disconcerting to the parent, but even more disconcerting is when your toddler repeatedly bangs her head against the wall or the sides of her crib or the floor—for apparently no reason at all.

According to parents.com, as many as 20 percent of babies and toddlers between the ages of 6 months and 24 months intentionally bang their heads. For some, this can last a few weeks and for others up to a few years, usually settling down by the age of three or four.

Why do they do it?

Comfort – You know how rocking in a rocking chair or falling asleep on a boat can be soothing? The back and forth rhythm can be calming and help you relax. Head banging has the same effect for some babies when they discover that the repeated motion helps them feel at ease.

Anger or frustration – Young children do not have the verbal skills they need to express the storm of emotions they go through, so banging can help them vent these feeling.

Pain – Some babies and toddler bang their heads as a way to self-soothe when they have teething pain or earaches.

Attention – Children who realize that you find the head banging upsetting might do it to get your attention. The more you try to stop them, the more they will see it as something that can get a rise out of you.

In very rare cases, repeated head banging can be a sign of an underlying issue such as autism. If you notice other behavioural or developmental issues with your child, it’s always a good idea to get him checked out, especially if the head banging continue past the age of four.

So what do I do?

The first step is to make sure your child is safe and protect her from hurting herself. Children that head bang will generally not cause themselves harm; they will only bang hard enough to comfort themselves, not to cause actual pain or injury to themselves. Resist the urge to line the side of the bed or crib with pillows, as this is a suffocation risk. Remember that your child will not bang hard enough to cause himself pain.

Give her some extra attention when she’s not banging. This is always helpful for most attention-grabbing behaviors from kids. A few extra minutes playing or sitting down to read books can go a long way to giving your child what she needs. Try not to get too upset or make too much of a fuss when she’s actually banging, because this will set up a negative reinforcement situation. Just make sure she’s safe and try to distract her if possible. If not, let the banging session run its course and carry on with your day.

Offer your child other solutions for soothing himself, such as cuddling and playing some calm music, giving him a warm bath, singing a song or telling a story.

wunder bumper
Wunder Bumper – A fantastic product to soften the blow for headbangers.

Once your child develops the ability to speak and express himself more, he will most likely stop the head banging. Remember: we all have our ways of expressing anger, frustration and sadness. Head banging might seem like an alarming way to do it, but most of the time it’s perfectly safe and won’t cause any long term damage or trauma.

Are Soothers Bad For My Baby?

A lot of parents who use soothers feel a twinge of guilt the first time they stick a pacifier in their baby’s mouth. However, dealing with a screaming infant in the grocery line or on a long car trip will make most parents try just about anything they can think of to calm the child down!

The truth is, it often works. Babies are born with the instinct to suck. They have limited means of expressing what they want and can’t let you know if they’re hungry, thirsty or in pain. Sucking soothes them and brings them comfort, which is why a baby will suck on just about anything you put in its mouth, whether it’s a bottle, breast, finger or toy.

But at a certain age, kids are more than capable of learning to self-soothe, and pacifier dependence can cause long-term problems. I recommend getting rid of the soother between 3-4 months if it is interfering with sleep. It is at this age, when that sucking reflex starts to diminish as well.

Here are some reasons you should consider ditching the soother:

Sleeping

Soothers interfere with the consolidation of nighttime sleep. If your child uses one to fall asleep, she will most likely wake in the night and then not be able to get back to sleep until she has it again. . Even if the child isn’t bothering you to help find the soother, there are still times when it’s causing a full wake-up for retrieval. While brief wake-ups are common in the night, when a child is soother dependent it often leads to fragmented sleep, which can make for a tired and cranky toddler the next day.

Dental problems

Pediatric dentists recommend getting rid of soothers by the age of 2. Overbites and crossbites can occur, which lead to problems with chewing, speech and appearance.

Ear infections

Studies are now linking pacifier use with recurring ear infections. In fact, children who use soothers regularly are up to three times more likely to develop ear infections.

Speech

Around the age of one, kids enter into their speech development phase. This means they will start trying on sounds and words and will often babble to themselves and others while they learn this new skill. If they constantly have a soother in their mouths, they might be less likely to practice talking.

Also, constant soother use can make it harder for a child’s tongue and lip muscles to develop normally, according to Patricia Hamaguchi, a speech-language pathologist and author of Childhood, Speech, Language, and Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know.

I have found that parents are often far more worried about the idea of taking it away, than the actual reality of it. Most children are over it within a day or two.

Get Better Sleep Tonight

During my 3.5 years as a sleep professional, I’ve gotten used to people asking me what the “secret” is to getting a baby to sleep through the night.

Of course, there is no ONE secret. Teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some shortcuts, either!

With that in mind, today I’d like to share with you 7 different shortcuts you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better.

Let’s get right to it:

Sleep Shortcut #1: Watch the waking hours

One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep – especially for babies and toddlers – is overtiredness… and many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their children get overtired!

Here’s a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:

Newborns (0-12 weeks): 45 minutes of awake time
3-5 months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
6-8 months: 2-3 hours of awake time
9-12 months: 3-4 hours of awake time
13 months to 2.5 years: 5-6 hours of awake time

If you make sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you’ll find that they fall asleep more easily at naptime… AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too!

Sleep Shortcut #2: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

We humans (babies and toddlers included) sleep better in the dark.

Try making your child’s room as dark as possible. (I recommend using blackout blinds, taping cardboard over the windows, or whatever it takes!)

In many cases, even the glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle!

BONUS TIP: Try to keep your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too. This can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day!

Sleep Shortcut #3: Be Predictable (And A Little Boring)

Babies and toddlers love predictable routines. And a predictable bedtime routine (lasting no longer than 30 minutes) is a great way to let your child know when the time for sleep is coming.

A typical bedtime routine might look something like this:

– nursing or bottle (10-15 minutes)
– bath (10 minutes)
– put on pajamas (5 minutes)
– read a story or sing some songs (5 minutes)

Make sure that this routine is the same every single time. Remember, you want bedtime to be as predictable as possible for your child!

After your bedtime routine is complete, be boring. Lots of children will try to “drag out” bedtime by playing games, throwing toys out of the crib, standing up, etc.

Don’t participate.

If your child has thrown their blanket or favorite stuffed toy out of the crib, calmly return the item without saying a word. Be boring, and the games shouldn’t last too long!

Sleep Shortcut #4: Feed AFTER Naps, Not Before

For a lot of babies and toddlers, the single biggest reason they don’t sleep well has to do with a feeding-sleep association.

In other words, your child has “linked” the ideas of feeding and sleeping. They think that they need a bottle or nursing BEFORE they can fall asleep.

By feeding right after naptime – instead of before – you can help your child break this feeding-sleep association.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This strategy should only be used before naps, not before putting your child to bed for the night. (A full tummy is needed to make sure your child doesn’t wake up hungry during the night!)

Sleep Shortcut #5: Same Place, Same Time

Remembering that our children love predictability, it’s a good idea to have your child sleep in the same place – at the same time – every day.

This means that naptime should happen in the same place as nighttime sleep – rather than in carseats, strollers, your lap at the coffee shop, etc.

For many parents, simply changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of nighttime sleep.

BONUS TIP: When you are putting your child to sleep for the night, it’s a good idea to make sure that they fall asleep where you want them to stay asleep.

In other words, if your child falls asleep in your arms on the couch and then wakes up during the night in a completely different place (like their crib), chances are they’ll be surprised… and start crying to let you know about it!

Sleep Shortcut #6: Try The “1, 2, 3? System

When your child wakes up during the night – or during a nap – and starts crying or fussing, try to wait a specific length of time before going in to check on them.

The first day you try this, I recommend waiting exactly one minute before going in to check on your child. On the second day, wait two minutes. Three minutes on the third day, and so on.

Why?

Well, everyone (babies and toddlers included) will wake up briefly at the end of each 45-minute “sleep cycle.”

Most adults wake so briefly that we don’t even remember it in the morning. But children who haven’t learned to fall asleep independently need a little longer.

This “1, 2, 3? System gives your child the opportunity to get themselves back to sleep – without your help. And once your child has learned this skill, you’re home free!

Sleep Shortcut #7: Take Five

Before you put your child to bed (for naps or at nighttime), make sure the five-minute period before they are put to bed is very calm and relaxing.

No throwing your toddler in the air… or watching TV… or tickle fights… in the five minutes immediately before bed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I totally encourage tickle fights and any other kinds of rowdy fun you can think of with your children. It’s fun for the whole family! Just NOT in the five minutes before bed. (Right after waking up is a great time to play!)

The Next Step?

Like I said, these are “shortcuts” – quick tricks that, for some parents, are the missing piece of the puzzle that gets their child sleeping through the night.

And while I hope that you’ll be one of the lucky parents who’s able to solve their children’s sleep problems using one of these tricks, I’m also here for you if you need a little more guidance.