Sleep issues are epidemic in our society. Many of us go through our days feeling tired and rundown. Often, we feel fine until we hit that dreaded afternoon wall of exhaustion and end up in a long line at a coffee shop for a hit of caffeine to power through the rest of the day. We might even joke about how little sleep we get, maybe even take pride in believing we're able to function well on only five hours of sleep while we’re working on an important project or studying for college exams.
But chronic sleep deprivation is no laughing matter. In fact, it has been linked to diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. I have said this many times, but it bears repeating: sleep needs to be a priority. You know your body won't function at its best when you don’t eat regular meals, right? You also know the opposite is true, that your body doesn’t function at its best when you overeat at mealtimes. You know that the right balance of regular, healthy meals throughout the day is crucial to your health and survival.
Getting good sleep is just as crucial because sleep is about restoration. It’s when your busy brain can finally rest its neurons and create proteins that help repair cell damage while your immune system produces infection-fighting antibodies to battle bacteria and viruses. And in children, the brain releases growth hormones during sleep. It’s absolutely vital that you get enough rest so your body can recover from your day and prepare for the next one.
We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep we can feel foggy, spaced out, emotional, irritable, and we have trouble focusing. And if it continues long enough, this lack of sleep can lower your body’s defenses and put you at risk of developing a chronic illness.
Here are some conditions that are known to be caused by ongoing sleep deprivation:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, research has found that sleep duration and quality can be predictors of levels of Hemoglobin A1c, an important marker of blood sugar control. Recent studies suggest that the better you sleep, the better able your body is at regulating your blood sugar.
Sleep apnea is a common cause of insomnia, and people who suffer from it have been found to have an increased risk of hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and irregular heartbeat. According to Harvard Medical School, for people with hypertension, one night without enough sleep can cause elevated blood pressure all through the following day.
The link between depression and sleep is complex. It's a bit of a "what came first, the chicken or the egg” problem. Is the person depressed because he can’t sleep, or is it that he can’t sleep because he’s depressed? There is research that shows that people suffering from both depression and sleep apnea experience a decrease in depression once the sleep apnea has been treated and they start sleeping well again. The National Sleep Foundation claims that people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.
It's easy to brush aside the importance of sleep as we navigate through our busy lives. Getting quality sleep is just as important as eating well and exercising. The good news is that if you’ve been sleeping poorly, you don’t need to worry that the damage is already done. It’s never too late to start sleeping well, and your body will do its best to repair and restore itself while you’re getting the rest you so desperately need.
I'd love to help you with your sleep struggles so you can get the healthy rest you need. Book a complimentary call with me today!
This week I wanted to talk with you about the number one bedtime mistake I see parents making when they put their baby to bed.
Visit any baby site on the Web, search for “my baby won’t sleep,” or any phrase you would use, and you'll discover that almost every single site will tell you about the importance of a bedtime routine.
So will I.
I think a bedtime routine is a crucial first step in creating predictability for your baby. It teaches her that it’s time to make a transition from day into night.
Even adults have our favorite bedtime routines, right? Most of us prepare for sleep in the same orderly fashion every night before we climb into bed. Without these routines, we would feel a little uncomfortable and worry about whether or not we would fall asleep easily.
Our adult bedtime routine is important to us. So imagine how important it is to an infant or small child who is still learning how to do everything the right way. And this is where parents keep making the number one bedtime mistake.
Most of the time parents skip right over it. “Oh, a bedtime routine, right. Sure. Next problem?” because we’ve heard it so often.
But the biggest mistake that parents make is that somewhere in the routine, the baby sleeps!
I bet you’ve heard that your baby should have a bath, so you’re going to do a bath, you’re going to get jammies on, you're going to read a story, and then you’re going to do a feeding.
There, right there, that’s the snag.
You feed your baby to sleep, either on the breast or with the bottle.
Most people turn off the lights when it's feed time, get the environment nice and cozy, and that becomes your child’s cue that it’s time to start relaxing into sleep.
Stop right there. This is your number one bedtime mistake. Why?
If you nurse or bottle feed your baby to sleep and then transfer them to the crib, guess what? Your baby won't sleep through the night. Don't be surprised to find that 30 to 45 minutes later baby wakes up. And you’ve got to start her bedtime routine all over again.
Bath, great; PJs, great; feeding fine. It’s totally acceptable to feed a baby before bed. In fact, I encourage it, but keep the lights on high enough that it helps keep her alert. Don’t let her start to fall asleep.
Right now, you’re thinking “What? Don’t let her fall asleep? Isn’t that the point of the bedtime routine?”
Again, if you think of sleep as a journey, I don’t want you to allow your baby to start the journey too soon. When your baby start the sleep journey it looks like doziness, heavy blinking, closing the eyes and opening them. Don’t allow that to happen during the nighttime feed.
You want to keep your baby’s eyes open. You want to teach her that food is a nice step in the bedtime routine, but it is not for the purpose of sleeping. That comes next.
If your baby has a really strong association between eating and sleeping, I suggest you break it up with an extra step right after the feed. So feed her first. Then sit baby up on your lap, maybe read a short story together, just to help interrupt that mental connection between feeding and sleeping.
Then place your baby into the crib while she is still awake. This is how you start The Sleep Sense Program. I’ll teach you how to do it right so that it feels natural. It's the number one way your baby is going to learn the skills she or he needs in order to start sleeping through the night without any upset or restlessness.
So think about your baby's current bedtime routine. Even though you have one that was working, I'll bet you're noticing it isn't as effective as it was when your baby was much younger. And I'll bet you and your baby are both ready to make a healthy change and upgrade that bedtime routine to one that will last a lifetime.
If you want to know more about helping your baby learn to sleep through the night, I’d love to help. Just schedule your complimentary call with me today and you and your baby will both be getting a good night’s sleep in no time!
Before we have children, we dream about what it will be like. Many of us are starry-eyed and, yes, a little naive, about what it means to be a great mom or dad. And we often invent a long list of "good parenting ideas" we think we must stick to.
Before the birth of our first child, we've already decided that our kids won’t watch TV, eat sugar or ever step foot in a McDonalds.
I remember declaring to friends and family that I would never let my kids play video games. (I bet you can guess how that turned out.)
And then we discover that the reality of parenting doesn't match the dream.
Let me just say that most of the ideas on your list are genuinely good ones. And if you're willing to be flexible you can find ways to incorporate them into everyday life. For example, you'll find it easier to keep your child's eating habits free of excess sugar as opposed to being completely sugar-free.
But be careful of trying to stick to ideas which don't work and cause more harm than good.
I got a letter the other day that really showed me how often we hang on to a good parenting idea even when it hurts our family.
This mother started her letter by telling me she was against any sort of cry-it-out method for sleep training. She had decided it was wrong. And she thought it created unnecessary suffering for her child.
But she went on to write three desperate paragraphs about how her two-year-old daughter would not go to sleep at bedtime and woke up about five times a night, needing to be rocked back to sleep.
She described being so tired and frustrated that she was living each day, angry and impatient, snapping at everyone around her, even her daughter.
She admitted to yelling and swearing, and on one occasion, felt herself getting a bit rough with her child. She hadn’t slept in her own bed for twenty-two months, and (no surprise) her marriage was suffering.
My heart broke for this woman. Not because I felt sorry for her, but because she was so committed to this notion that her child “crying it out” was a bad idea. Even though that was the only way to fix the situation.
By hanging on so tightly to this idea she had about what a good parent should do, she was actually hurting herself and her family.
And she couldn’t see that by refusing to engage in sleep training for her child, her exhaustion and frustration were hurting the people she loved the most. All she could see was that she wasn't parenting "the correct way".
Sometimes, being a parent means doing the hard thing. It means doing something that upsets you because you think it will distress your child.
But let's look at it differently.
Would you let your child eat only potato chips and jelly beans because she gets upset when you ask her to eat vegetables? Would you let her run out into traffic because you don't want to limit her freedom? Of course not.
Your job is to teach her to eat a balanced diet, avoid oncoming cars, and to get a good night's sleep.
I urge you to rethink your mental list of "good parenting ideas". Think about creative ways you can incorporate them into your family’s daily routine so that they actually work with your life, not against it. And allow yourself to acknowledge and delete those ideas which do more harm than good.
Parenting is so much harder than any of us imagined. Let's give ourselves permission to ditch the good ideas that turn into rigid standards we set for ourselves and our children, and stick with the ones that genuinely add to the overall health and well-being of our families.
“Why Won’t My Baby Sleep Through The Night?”
When he was an infant, I often asked my firstborn this question. I asked it in a sweet voice. I asked it in a pleading voice. I asked it in an exhausted voice. But no matter how many times I asked, he never gave me the answer. I did not understand why my baby was keeping me up at night.
I can remember the night— and some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about— when I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. My son just would not stay asleep and I had hit rock bottom. I was exhausted from waking up multiple times every night and having to soothe him back to sleep. My husband found me at 3:00 am, sobbing away in our living room.
When our babies don’t sleep well, we tend to grasp at every possibility. We think it might be teething or gas. We worry that she’s too small and she needs to eat in the night, or he’s too big and he needs to eat more or he won’t feel full. The list of reasons is endless.
Are any of these explanations the real truth? Sometimes. But barring those times when your child has a burning fever or a new tooth coming in, the real reason most babies won’t fall asleep easily or stay asleep is that they just haven’t learned how.
The #1 Reason Why Babies Don’t Sleep Well
We all have habits that help us fall asleep each night. We have bedtime routines that we follow without really thinking about it. And we rely on these routines because we've learned that they help us transition from the busyness of our day to a restful sleep.
Most of us have a favorite position on the bed that we turn to when we feel sleep about to come. Some of us need a glass of water beside the bed, some need white noise or music, while others can’t sleep without an open window. Whatever the differences might be, these are sleep strategies, and without them, we’d have trouble drifting off.
The same goes for babies. But there’s one major difference.
Many parents who haven’t developed a sleep strategy for their babies will complain that their child can only fall asleep with the bottle, or while breastfeeding, or while being rocked or patted.
The trouble with offering just these types of routines is that it teaches a baby to associate their parent with the act of falling asleep. So when they awaken in the middle of the night, they can’t doze off again unless they are rocked or patted or given a bottle. They haven’t learned how to connect the act of sleeping with any other routine. And that’s why so many babies, and parents, are up at 3 am, exhausted, and crying.
Night waking is common in babies. But when they wake up and a parent isn't there, they tend to come fully awake and cry. They don't know what to do. Unlike older children who have learned to snuggle a toy or change positions to fall back to sleep, babies are waiting for that interaction with mom or dad.
And they've learned that crying not only allows them to express frustration, but it also makes mom or dad magically appear at the side of the crib.
And then they get rocked or fed and the familiar routine soothes them back to sleep.
But it isn’t long before both parents and babies discover that this routine doesn’t always work. It begins to wear off. Baby doesn’t always fall back asleep. Or she wakes up more often and can’t go back to sleep on her own. So she fusses more. And mom and dad sleep less and less.
And everyone starts getting cranky.
Creating Better Sleep Strategies
There are lots of sleep strategies I can help you teach your child so that her bedtime routines will allow her to fall asleep, even from a very young age. And when she wakes up in the middle of the night she'll be able to go back to sleep all on her own.
Contrary to popular belief, babies are quite capable of sleeping through the night. And helping her learn those skills while she's young will make future bedtimes , and nighttimes, less stressful.
A well-rested child is a healthier, happier child. And a well-rested parent is a happier and healthier adult.
If you're ready to discover my tried-and-true sleep strategies for you and your baby, please let me know. I'd love to help you get a good nights sleep. Book a complimentary call with me today!
“Will putting cereal in my baby’s bottle help her sleep better?”
I’m frequently asked this question. Someone, maybe your mother or grandmother told you, “Oh, put cereal in the breast milk or the formula, and this baby will sleep all night.”
We’ve all experienced trying to fall asleep on an empty stomach. So the idea of a little extra food in baby’s formula before bedtime or after a midnight wake-up seems sensible.
The Cereal Myth
Unfortunately, this is one of those old wives’ tales that gets handed down through generations. And you know what? You’re right to stop and ask “Will putting cereal in my baby’s bottle help her sleep better?”
Something to consider is that your baby might not be old enough to eat cereal. The rule of thumb about solids is that it’s safe to start introducing them into your baby’s diet anytime between the fifth and sixth month, but not before.
And when it comes to introducing your baby to solid foods, it’s good to take it slow and be selective about which types of food you choose. There's some evidence to suggest that starting solids too early can lead to future allergies.
I know how tempting it is to want to trust the advice of family and friends when you’ve got a three or four-month-old baby who is up every hour throughout the night.
And when you hear her crying at night and you know she isn’t sick, it’s natural to worry that she’s hungry. So the idea of feeding her again, and adding some cereal to ease those hunger pangs and help her sleep better, seems like a good one.
But the only time hunger is actually the issue is when you know you’ve got a baby who’s been struggling to gain weight or has any other type of health issue. Then, yes, hunger might be causing your baby to keep waking up during the night.
However, for healthy babies who are gaining weight well, food is not the problem.
So if hunger isn’t the source of her inability to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night, what is?
The Way Babies Learn to Sleep
Did you know that the way babies learn to go to sleep can affect how well they sleep?
Most of the time babies are rocked to sleep. Or they’re bounced to sleep. And many are fed to sleep.
But what begins to happen is that they associate the rocking, the bouncing, and the feeding with the actual act of falling asleep.
Now, for most babies, an hour and a half or two hours into the night they’re going to have a wake-up. That’s normal and natural. There’s no way around that.
Actually, most of us have wake-ups through the night. And over time we learned that if we roll over and relax, we’ll go back to sleep. (And if we don’t, we always have reruns on Netflix to bore us back to sleep.)
However, when babies have a wake-up, they actually can’t go back to sleep without their bedtime routine. Why? Because they’ve learned to associate being fed, bounced, or rocked with the act of falling asleep.
They haven’t learned another way to go to sleep.
Which brings me back to the idea of feeding a baby at bedtime.
This is hands down the number one reason why your baby wakes up during the night and is unable to fall back asleep.
She has learned to associate this nighttime feeding with both bedtime and sleeping. So when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she cries because she can’t fall back to sleep without her routine.
It’s confusing for her and exhausting for you.
Change Baby’s Bedtime Routine
So your baby has learned the bedtime feeding routine. It’s safe. It’s familiar. And for a little while it was working great for both of you.
But as she gets older your feeding strategy isn’t working as well. And you find yourself in the drugstore checking out serums that promise to make tired eyes look “well-rested and youthful” again.
What’s happening is that as baby grows older, the bedtime feeding routine becomes less and less effective because her body doesn’t respond the same way to the extra food. She doesn’t get drowsy right away and in some cases, doesn’t fall asleep. But the routine has become a familiar habit. And she expects it even when it isn’t working.
And that’s the real problem.
The good news is that there are other ways you can teach your baby to learn how to sleep without feeding. Here are just two examples:
1. Once or twice a week start placing her in her crib when she is tired but not actually asleep. This is one way to let her get used to falling asleep on her own without the feeding process.
2. As your baby gets older, help her stay awake both during and after feedings so that she stops associating melatime with bedtime.
There are plenty of additional ways to change up bedtime strategy so that your baby learns how to fall asleep without food, and also learns how to fall back asleep after a wake-up in the middle of the night.
And you won’t need to be up at midnight or 2am or 3:30am adding more cereal to formula or breast milk. Why? Because you’ll be too busy sleeping.
Are you curious about how to create a new bedtime routine for your baby that doesn’t involve feeding? I’d love to chat with you about how we can start teaching your baby to sleep comfortably through the night.
Give me a call at (209) 813-0609 or email@example.com and let’s work on a more personalized bedtime routine for you and your little one.
I often hear from parents that they aren’t “into” sleep training their children. I’m a sleep consultant and to be perfectly honest; I’m not so much into sleep training either. It’s not the sleep training that I enjoy. It’s the result which is a well-rested, happier, healthier family!
We are a nation of chronically sleep-deprived people that continue to miss our sleep cues daily. Our children are just not getting the rest they need at night, and it is an epidemic that needs our attention. I know when I’m up multiple times a night for any reason, I feel terrible the next day. Why is it any different for a baby or child? Just because they can’t express themselves in the same way we can, trust me, they feel terrible!
Exhaustion in little ones often manifests itself as hyperactivity and is, therefore, unfortunately, not attributed to sleep deprivation. Humans are designed to get consolidated sleep at night and need it to feel well rested during the day. Fragmented sleep doesn’t allow for proper brain development and has been proven to contribute to childhood obesity, hyperactivity, and an increased risk for diabetes in children.
Most people that question what I do assume that my method of sleep training is a “Cry it Out Method” which has gotten a lot of scrutiny because you leave your baby unattended to cry until they go to sleep. My approach couldn’t be more different. My sleep plans are much gentler and, I believe, more effective. It drives me crazy when parents tell me that their baby is a terrible sleeper. That’s because you haven’t taught them to be a good sleeper. EVERY baby can learn to be an amazing sleeper. Just by making some small changes to schedule and feeding times can make a huge difference in how well a baby sleeps.
For me there was absolutely no other way than to sleep train my children and here’s why:
I can always make it to 7pm:
Let’s face it, being a parent is hard work! It takes mental clarity, stamina, and consistency that can often make a well-rested person feel tired. Knowing every day that my children will be in bed at 7 pm, go to sleep quickly and not wake until 6:30 am the next morning keeps me sane. If my children were up late every night, woke multiple times per night and were up early every day, I just wouldn’t be as good a mother. And I guarantee I wouldn’t have happy, well-adjusted children.
It saves my marriage:
Marriage is hard work and combined with parenthood is a lot of work. Staying connected to your partner after the arrival of children can be challenging at times. My husband and I have gotten every night from 7 pm on for the last eight years (since we became parents) to ourselves. Even though we don’t sit down to a candlelight dinner every night at 7 pm, we know that time is ours. 2 hours before we go to bed that is quiet, uninterrupted and blissful. We can have an adult conversation and listen to each other. I am confident my marriage survives and thrives in large part due to our young children’s bedtime.
My children can sleep anywhere:
We have taken our children everywhere with us. We bring their stuffed animals and maybe a familiar blanket and wherever we are in the world, they sleep, and they sleep well. They can go to grandma’s house, and grandma knows they will sleep ALL night long. They know when they are tired and very rarely protest at bedtime. People often say to me that they don’t look tired and can’t believe I am putting them to bed. To that, I say, you’re right, they don’t look tired because they are well rested and know to go to bed before they are overtired. My 6 & 8-year-olds will ask to go to bed if they have had a particularly long day. My children have gone to bed when we have had a party downstairs!
I know we'll get sleep at night:
My children go to sleep all night long, and so do we. We have our sacred sleep space, and they have theirs. My children have never even asked to sleep in my bed and wouldn’t want to. They have their sleep sanctuary that calls to them every night, and it is entirely separate from mine. There’s no musical beds or bed sharing in the middle of the night and because of this- we ALL sleep well. I don’t believe that as parents of young children we have to wear our fatigue as some “badge of honor.” Being a rested parent is a fantastic gift to give your child.
I thought I would do it differently:
Before our older son was born, I had preconceived ideas about how I would parent. He arrived in June of 2009, healthy and beautiful! After six weeks of co-sleeping, I found myself so exhausted that I wasn’t enjoying being a mother the way I imagined it to be. When I found someone to help me teach my baby how to sleep, it changed my life! By eight weeks of age, he was a fantastic sleeper, and I was able to get the rest I needed to be the best mom I could be.
Figure out a way that works to get your children sleeping:
I am certainly not here to tell you that you have to sleep train your children. 20% of babies become good sleepers on their own. So, if you have one of those babies then that is great! For the other 80% of babies they don’t “outgrow” being bad sleepers and statistics show that three to five years later they are often still struggling with sleep. I had a recent 4-year-old client that had NEVER slept through the night in her entire life! The parents thought she would outgrow it. I am here to tell you there is help and I don’t believe it is ever too late to teach your young child to sleep well. I have worked with children up to 8 years old and had great success. Whether or not you agree with sleep training, your children should be getting adequate, consolidated sleep every night.
It’s not always convenient:
Let’s be honest- always being consistent and insisting on bedtimes and naptimes every day is far from glamorous. Life can seem like “Groundhog Day,” and the routine can be tedious. But, when I see how happy and healthy my children are the monotony of the schedule is TOTALLY worth it! We have missed many Birthday parties, dinners out with friends, and other social engagements that conflicted with our children’s bedtime and nap times and I don’t care. My children’s health and well-being are more important than any social engagement. I don’t believe children have to fit into our busy schedules. We should respect how much sleep our children need and rearrange our lives to make sure they get it.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need In 24 Hours?
NB – 3 months: 16 – 18 hours
3 – 6 months: about 15 hours
6 – 9 months: about 14 hours
9 – 12 months: about 13 – 14 hours
12 – 24 months: 12 – 13 hours
3-8 years: 11-13 hours
If your child isn’t getting this much sleep, I would take a good look at your schedule and figure out how to make this a priority starting today. Good sleep hygiene is as important as proper nutrition for your children. The priority of adequate sleep often takes a back seat to our busy lives.
If you’re struggling with a baby or child that isn’t sleeping well don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need to make it a priority or be more consistent- do something about it. Don’t spend another day being exhausted because your children aren’t good sleepers. Parenthood is exhausting enough when we’re well rested!
I'd love to hear more about your kiddos' struggles with sleep. Book a complimentary call with me today.
Questions about sleep training? I'm here to help. I'd love to hear your comments below!
Do you know the story of Catherine O’leary’s cow that allegedly kicked over a lantern and started The Great Chicago Fire of 1871?
The Chicago Tribune spread rumors that the cause of this fire was an angry cow which somehow kicked a burning lantern into the barn. This disgruntled animal belonged to Catherine O’Leary, an old woman who was milking her cows at the time.
A lot of hate was directed toward Catherine and, she was haunted because of it for the rest of her life. Although the Chicago Tribune later admitted that their story was a complete lie, it didn’t stop the people from blaming Catherine!
What’s this have to do with teething, you ask?
Well, when a new client shares with me their baby’s sleep struggles there’s one thing they always mention, teething. I’ve realized that as parents, we always want a reason why our babies aren’t sleeping well and teething almost always becomes the scapegoat like Catherine’s cow!
While it’s true that teething does cause mild discomfort to babies and can even cause a few side effects teething symptoms only last for about a week. And, teething symptoms are not nearly as uncomfortable as parents typically imagine them to be. We hear about teeth “breaking” or “erupting” through the gums, which conjures up some cringe-worthy images, but nature is not nearly so heartless in this instance. Baby’s gums move out of the way to allow for incoming teeth.
As parents, we are naturally inclined to want to comfort our babies when they’re in pain, and rightly so!
But, before you decide that your baby is in constant pain and doomed to be a terrible sleeper because they’re teething, remember that many experts believe it doesn’t cause a significant amount of pain.
Understanding a baby and what they need can be one of the most challenging parts of parenthood. It’s my job to educate my clients about the most common reason their baby isn’t sleeping well and it’s most likely because their baby hasn’t been taught the skills he or she needs to be a good sleeper.
“Props”, such as feeding and rocking to sleep are effective in the first few months of a baby’s life. But, as a baby gets older and more aware, these “props” stop being as helpful in a baby’s journey to sleep. And, rather than give their baby some space to learn independent sleep skills, parents intervene and add even more “props” to a baby’s bedtime/naptime routine.
You end up with a baby very dependent on outside help to get them to sleep. This “help” causes disruptive night time sleep and short, unpredictable naps as well as tired, frustrated parents.
Babies teethe for the better part of two years of their life. That’s a long time to go without sleep!
Most of my clients report to me that teething doesn’t bother their babies at all. I’ve even heard they had no idea a tooth was coming until they saw it!
If your baby is waking many times throughout the night, remember that teething does not cause nearly enough pain to disrupt sleep night after night for months. There’s something else at play here, most often you have a baby that’s not learned good sleep skills. I’d look into teaching your baby to sleep well before placing the blame on the ‘cow’ that caused The Great Chicago Fire.
If you’re looking for someone to help you and your little one get the rest you need, click here for a complimentary call with me.
I’d love to hear about your baby’s sleep challenges and share with you exactly how I can help you teach your baby to be an amazing sleeper with gentle sleep solutions that work.
Have Questions About Sleep Training Your Little One? I'd Love To Hear From You! Comment below.
As the parent of a new baby, there are SO many questions we ask ourselves, especially about sleep (or, the lack thereof!).
Babies do not come with instruction manuals, and even after spending nine months doing endless research on what to expect when baby arrives, there’s an unavoidable feeling of unpreparedness as soon as we come home from the hospital.
Every baby is different, so nothing can prepare you for your child in particular.
And since this is just about the most significant responsibility that a human being can have, to raise another human being, we feel a tremendous responsibility to get it right.
Unfortunately, there are no dress rehearsals for parenthood. Your first run-through is the final performance, which only increases our anxiety and resolve to figure out anything that might be wrong with our babies.
And since babies basically eat, poop, cry and sleep, we seem to be naturally very focused on those four things.
What to feed baby is often a debatable topic on its own, and we usually find ourselves with a sudden interest in poop that we never knew we had!
This leaves us with sleeping and crying, and as a sleep consultant for infants and children, rest assured, I’ve done a ton of research on both.
The biggest question that parents have when they start sleep training is, “Will my baby cry?”
Babies cry all the time. In fact, if a baby didn’t cry, it would be cause for concern.
What parents are really asking me is, “Will my baby cry, and will I be able to provide comfort when they do?”
Why is this the biggest concern with new parents?
Well, nobody likes to hear their baby cry, but thanks to Google parents can access a HUGE amount of misinformation that states that if we don't respond immediately to our baby's cries, then we're doing them harm.
My friends, Anna & Layla at mybabycare.org/ just touched on this in their new blog, and it's a great read! mybabycare.org/4-mistakes-parents-make-in-their-first-year-im-sure-we-all-do-1/
Did you know this wasn't an issue until Dr. William Sears came out with his Attachment Parenting theory in 1993? Before this, parents were pretty comfortable with the fact that baby might cry for awhile if they woke in the night. Although this may be unpleasant, it wasn't a concern.
When Dr. Sears' book was published, an entire generation of new parents began to believe that any crying is causing all kinds of harm. Sears cited studies to back up his claim, but those studies looked at babies who were suffering from colic and a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.
And so this highly charged argument has gone on for nearly 25 years now with people that support attachment parenting accusing sleep training advocates of neglecting their babies for their own benefit.
I'm surprised that the pediatric and scientific community hasn’t done more to prove or disprove this assertion, given the magnitude of the consequences. After all, if we’re causing our babies brain damage by allowing them to cry, even for a short period, wouldn’t almost every parent in the world alter their approach to prevent it?
One reason Dr. Sears’ claims didn’t provoke an immediate and widespread investigation was that they were hugely misleading. The Yale researchers who conducted one of the studies his research pulled from responded to his use of their work by saying, “Our paper is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect. It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”
Another went so far as to actually note in the study’s own conclusion that, “Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behavior appears to be unrelated to this effect.” So the mother’s response or lack of it to the condition of persistent crying was inconsequential.
So that’s the argument against the original suggestion that started this whole movement, but its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”
Well, back in 2012, Dr. Anna Price, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Children's Hospital's Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an extensive study that followed a group of two hundred and twenty-six children. The study measured mental health, sleep, stress regulation, child-parent relationship, maternal health and parenting styles.
Five years later, she followed up with the families to see the if the one-third of the children whose parents had employed some method of sleep training had experienced any of the terrifying side effects that Dr. Sears had warned us about in his book.
The result, they had not. In fact, to quote the study, “There was no evidence of differences between intervention and control families for any outcome. Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects.”
But critics continue to try to shoot holes in the evidence. “The sample size was too small,” is a common complaint, no matter what the size of the study might be. “We need further study,” is another, assuming that further study supports their position, which, as of yet, it hasn’t.
So in March of last year, when Pediatrics published another peer-reviewed study that showed sleep training to be both effective and safe, it didn’t change the mind of Dr. Sears or his followers.
But for those new parents who have been bombarded with misinformation and hearsay regarding the safety and efficacy of sleep training, it’s yet another assurance that you can feel confident in the fact that getting your child to sleep through the night is important, safe, and beneficial to your entire family.
Because there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s the fact that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for mother and baby alike.
So the answer is yes, sleep training is safe. Sleep itself is glorious, rejuvenating, and beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire family. Focusing on your child’s sleep habits is something you can feel good about, and a commitment that will pay off exponentially.
In short, your baby and yourself can both sleep soundly, knowing you’ve made the right choice.
Is your baby waking many times each night? Are you curious about sleep training? Contact me today, and we'll talk about exactly how to teach your baby to be a fantastic sleeper with gentle sleep solutions that work.
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As a professional sleep consultant, I hear the term “regression” used in regards to just about every imaginable circumstance. Essentially, if baby doesn’t sleep well for a couple of nights, parents start dropping the ‘R’ word. Some people subscribe to the idea that there’s an eight month regression, a 9 month regression, a 1 year regression, as well as teething regressions, growth spurt regressions, and so on. Others see these as simple hiccups caused by extenuating circumstances.
But the four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, and it’s permanent.
So in order to understand what’s happening to your baby during this stage, first you need to know a few things about sleep in general. So here’s the science-y part, told in plain English.
Many of us just think of sleep as an on-or-off situation. You’re either asleep or you’re not. But sleep actually has a number of different stages, and they make up the “sleep cycle,” which we go through several times a night.
Stage 1 is that initial stage we’re all familiar with where you can just feel yourself drifting off, but don’t really feel like you’ve fallen asleep. Anyone who has ever seen their partner nodding off in front of the TV, told them to go to bed, and gotten the canned response of, “I wasn’t sleeping!” knows exactly what this looks like.
Stage 2, which is considered the first “true sleep” stage. This is where people tend to realize, once woken up, that they actually were sleeping. For anyone taking a “power nap,” this is as deep as you want to go, or else you’re going to wake up groggy.
Stage 3 is deep and regenerative. Also known as “slow wave” sleep, this is where the body starts repairing and rejuvenating the immune system, muscles tissue, energy stores, and sparks growth and development.
Stage 4 is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is where the brain starts to kick in and consolidates information and memories from the day before. It’s also the stage where we do most of our dreaming.
Once we’ve gone through all of the stages, we either wake up or come close to waking up, and then start over again until the alarm goes off.
So what does this have to do with the dreaded regression we were talking about originally?
Well, newborn babies only have 2 stages of sleep; stage 3 and REM, and they spend about half their sleep in each stage. But at around the third or fourth month, there is a reorganization of sleep, as they embrace the 4-stages of sleep that they’ll continue to follow for the rest of their lives.
When this change takes place, baby moves from 50% REM sleep to 25% in order to make room for those first two stages. So although REM sleep is light, it’s not as light as these 2 new stages that they’re getting used to, and with more time spent in lighter sleep, there’s more of a chance that baby’s going to wake up.
That’s not to say that we want to prevent or avoid baby waking up. Waking up is absolutely natural, and we continue to wake up three, four, five times a night into adulthood and even more in old age.
As adults, however, we’re able to identify certain comforting truths that baby might not be privy to. When we wake in the night, we’re able to recognize that, “Hey, I’m here in my bed, it’s still night time, my alarm isn’t going to go off for another three hours, and I’m reasonably certain that there are no monsters lurking under my bed. I can go back to sleep”
And we do. Usually so quickly that, the next morning, we don’t even remember the brief encounter with consciousness.
A four month old baby, of course, lacks these critical thinking skills. To a four month old baby who fell asleep at her mother’s breast, the reasoning could go much more to the tune of, “OK, last thing I remember, there was a familiar, beloved face, I was having dinner, and someone was singing me a soothing song about the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Now I’m alone in this dark room, there’s no food, and there’s probably at least three, possibly four, scary monsters in the immediate vicinity.”
That’s probably an exaggeration, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a four month-old baby?
Anyways, now that baby’s suddenly realized that Momma’s not around, and they’re not entirely sure where they’ve gone, the natural response is to do a little freaking out. That stimulates the fight-or-flight response and, next thing you know, baby’s not going back to sleep without a significant amount of reassurance that everything is OK.
The other major contributor to this 4 month fiasco, I find, is that up until this point, parents have either been putting their baby to sleep with a pacifier, or by rocking them, or by breastfeeding them, or some similar technique where baby is helped along on the road to falling asleep.
Now that baby’s spending more time in light sleep, and therefore has a higher probability of waking up, this suddenly becomes a much bigger issue. These sleep props or sleep associations can be very sneaky indeed, because although they may be helpful in getting your little one to that initial nodding off stage, the lack of them when they wake up means that baby’s not able to get back to sleep again without some outside help. Cue the fight-or-flight, the crying, and the adrenaline. When this starts happening every half an hour, parents can find themselves in a nightmarish situation.
So, the good news for anyone experiencing the dreaded Four Month Sleep Regression is that it’s not, in fact, a regression at all. A regression is defined as “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,” and that’s actually the opposite of what your baby is experiencing. This would be much more aptly titled the “Four Month Sleep Progression”
So, onto the big question. What can you do to help your little one adjust?
First off, get all of that light out of baby’s room. I’m not kidding around here. You might think that baby’s room is dark enough, or that baby might not like the dark, and that it’s comforting to have a little bit of light coming through the windows or seeping in from the hallway.
Baby’s room should be dark. I mean coal mine on a moonless night kind of dark. Tape garbage bags over the windows if you have to, or cover them with tinfoil. (Just be prepared to explain it to the police when the neighbors accuse you of running a grow-op.)
Newborns and infants are not afraid of the dark. They are, however, responsive to light. Light tells their brains that it’s time for activity and alertness, and the brain secretes hormones accordingly, so we want to keep that nursery absolutely pitch black during naps and bedtime.
The other nemesis of daytime sleep, (and nighttime for that matter, although not nearly as often) is noise. Whether its UPS ringing the doorbell, the dog warning you that the squirrels are back and for sure going to attack the house this time, or something falling on the floor three rooms away. With baby spending more time in lighter sleep, noises will startle them easily and wake them up, so a white noise machine is a great addition to your nursery.
“Wait, isn’t that a prop,” you’re asking. Well, in a way, it is, but it doesn’t require any winding, resetting, reinserting, or parental presence. It’s just there and it can be on as long as baby’s sleeping, so it’s not a prop we need to avoid.
Bedtime routines are also an essential component to getting your baby sleeping well. Try to keep the routine to about 4 or 5 steps, and don’t end it with a feed. Otherwise, you risk baby nodding off at the breast or the bottle, and that will create the dreaded “association” that we talked about earlier.
So try to keep the feed near the beginning of the routine and plan the songs, stories, and getting into PJs towards the end. The whole process should be about 20 - 30 minutes long, and baby should go into their crib while they’re still awake.
If you’re noticing baby getting fussy before bedtime, you’ve probably waited too long. Four month old babies should really only be going about two hours between snoozes, and bedtime should be between 7 and 8 at night.
Now, there are going to be regressions, actual regressions, later on in your little one’s youth. Traveling, illness, cutting teeth, all of these things can cause your little one to have a few bad nights in a row. But when it comes to the four month “progression,” I’m happy to report that this is a one-time thing. Once you’re through this, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they’ll essentially be following for the rest of their life. Four glorious stages repeated multiple times a night.
And by taking this opportunity to teach them the skills they need to string those sleep cycles together, independently, prop-free, without any need for nursing, rocking, or pacifiers, you’ll have given them a gift that they’ll enjoy for the rest of their young lives.
Of course, some kids are going to take to this process like a fish to water, and some are going to be a little more resistant. If yours falls into the former category, count yourself as lucky, take delight in your success, and go ahead and gloat about it on Facebook.
For those of you in the latter camp, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Just email me firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call (209) 813-0609 and we can work on a more personalized program for your little one.
The most common thing I hear after working with clients is, “I can’t believe I waited so long to get some help!” So if you’re considering hiring a consultant, now is absolutely the time. I offer a free 15-minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!
Here’s to a well rested family!
Daytime sleep is essential for the health and well-being of your baby. With so many of us working, this often leaves our babies napping at daycare. I hear over and over from clients that their babies don’t sleep well at daycare.
It can be super noisy and cause children to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Here are a few tips for you about daycare sleep:
Fortunately, there are things we can do to help with this since daytime sleep is essential for keeping your baby happy and alert during the day.
Check out these helpful tips.
Tip Number 1:
Check the daycare center attentively. Don’t be afraid to ask if they know exactly why your baby isn’t sleeping well. Ask them to show you their nap area. Is the area quiet for taking a nap? Check out if babies are crying around that area could be disturbing the sleep of others? Are they are providing all the comforts to your baby and making it as close to home as possible? Interviewing will help you to find out that if the place is conducive for your baby’s sleep.
Tip Number 2:
Find out how they get your baby fall asleep. It is the most important thing ever. Some daycare centers are good at this and they will ask you and do things exactly as you tell them. Other places, insist on rocking babies to sleep which inhibits a baby from having a long, restful nap. This only makes it easier on them and more difficult on your baby. Remember, you are the boss here. You’re paying the bill.
If are very clear and say, "Listen, I put my baby down, awake, and he falls asleep on his own. All he needs is a quiet environment and a crib of his own and he'll do great," why wouldn't they want that? That makes their job easier!
But some daycare centers have very strict policies. They will give comfort to your baby but in their very own way.
Tip Number 3:
This tip is basically for the few babies who don’t sleep well in any condition other than home. Many of us as adults can relate to this. Most of us sleep well in our own bed, not so well in other places and this make sense to us.
In this instance, if you’ve give guidelines and your baby still isn’t sleeping well at daycare then it’s okay to give him an earlier bedtime. Otherwise, he’ll be grumpy all evening and that’s no fun for anyone.
Tip Number 4:
Ask them to give you a complete nap report of your baby on a daily basis. This will help you to understand when your baby wants to sleep and if his sleep tank is low then you can make him fall asleep during your ride to home.
If your baby is not going to daycare everyday then it’s fine. He’s home with you on some days and sleeps well so he’ll have a chance to make up for days when he doesn’t sleep so well at daycare. What we want is to get your baby’s clock in line with a consistent bedtime.
If your child struggles with naps no matter where they try to sleep, it might be a good idea to look into teaching your child the sleep skills that he or she needs to take long, restful naps.
Children don’t give up their nap until about the age of 3, so that’s a long time to struggle with daytime sleep.
Contact me today to set up your FREE 15-minute consultation where we can discuss your child’s sleep.
I’d love to help however I can.
Jo Anna Inks
I help tired, frustrated parents get their babies sleeping through the night and napping well so everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need!