Toddler Sleep Schedules [with 2-1 information!]

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Considering the popularity of my blog post for sleep schedules from 4 months to 18 months, I thought it was time to give toddler sleep some love! Read on to learn about different schedules for toddlers from 18 months [or 1 nap] to age 3! I will preface this blog post the same way I did my first schedule post by saying that all children are different and yours might not necessarily fit into this schedule perfectly every single day but it is just meant as a guide to know what is typical at each age and as your child grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a toddler on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - meals, naps, and nightsleep. When looking at these schedules, what's important to note is the time awake in between sleep times, not necessarily the time on the clock [unless otherwise indicated]. I generally recommend laying the child down 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

18 months [the start of the 2-1 transition]

Children at this age need roughly 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime with 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

Prior to the transition [age 13-18 months]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
9:45am - 10:45am - nap#1 [to hold off the transition until this point, it's beneficial to cap this nap at 1 hour]
12:00pm - lunch
2:00pm - snack
2:45pm - 3:45pm - nap#2 [a full 4 hours of awake time between naps 1 and 2]
5:30pm - dinner
6:30pm - bedtime routine [should not include any milk, last milk with dinner!]
7:15pm - bedtime [asleep by this time]

One week into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
10:15am - 12:15pm - nap [we pushed out the first nap by 15 minutes every 3 days. If the nap ends at noon or later, we move to bedtime. If the nap ends before noon, we do a catnap/quiet time around 3:00pm]
12:30pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
2:30pm - small snack
5:00pm - dinner
5:30pm - bedtime routine
6:15pm - bedtime

Two weeks into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am -  breakfast
10:00am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
11:00am - 1:00pm - nap [we continued to push the nap out by 15 minutes every 3 days]
1:15pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
3:15pm - small snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:00pm - bedtime routine
6:45pm - bedtime

Four weeks into the transition [transition complete]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:15am - lunch
12:00pm - 2:00pm - nap [nap was pushed out by 15 minutes every 3 days to a 5.5 hour waketime]
2:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime


19-23 months 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:45am - lunch
12:30pm - 2:30pm - nap [if the child's 1 nap is well-established, we should move to a 'by the clock' nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm. This nap should be no longer than 3 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:00pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:30pm - bedtime

2 years old 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime. After age 2.5, children do not developmentally *need* a nap like they did prior to this age [although the longer you can hang onto it, the better!] Keep in mind that if your child has dropped their nap, they should now be clocking the full 12-12.5 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on what time they normally wake up in the morning.

A 2 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 2.5 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
2:30pm - snack
5:15pm - dinner
5:45pm - bedtime routine
6:30pm - bedtime

3 years old

Children at this age require 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 9-12 hours at nighttime. For children who no longer nap, they should now be clocking the full 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on their usual wake-up time.

A 3 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should still occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours [but may need to be closer to 1-1.5 hours to not interfere with nightsleep] and not past 3:00pm
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 3 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30 - 2:30pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
3:00pm - snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Creating an Ideal Sleep Environment for Your Baby [a.k.a. The Baby Cave]

As October is SIDS Awareness Month, I wanted to write a post not only detailing what an ideal sleep environment for baby would be in terms of helping to promote quality sleep, but also ways that parents can achieve this while also making sure baby is safe. SIDS rates in Canada have fallen in recent decades and awareness and education is key.

Below, I will discuss the 3 main components that make up an ideal sleep environment for baby, and some tips to help ensure we have a safe environment for our little nuggets as well.

Baby Cave Component #1 - Temperature

The temperature in baby's room is an important factor for several different reasons. First and foremost, a cooler room for baby = better quality sleep. Over a 24 hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. Our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5:00am. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping baby's body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep. It can also help baby fall asleep quicker. If we provide an environment for our baby's body to fall asleep more comfortably, it will do so in a faster manner. If it’s too hot or too cold, baby's body will waste energy trying to regulate, making it harder for baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. So what is the ideal temperature for optimal sleep? We are aiming for somewhere in the neighborhood of 68-72°/19-21°. If you live in a house that is difficult to control the temperature and it is tough to achieve a room temperature in this range, dressing baby for the temperature is your next best option. Check out my chart here for what to dress baby in for varying room temperatures.

The next important reason for being aware of the temperature in baby's room is to reduce the risk of overheating. Interestingly enough, the risk of SIDS is higher in the colder months as caregivers tend to bundle baby up excessively by placing extra blankets [try a sleepsack instead!] or clothes to keep them warm. But over bundling may cause infants to overheat, increasing their risk for SIDS. Your baby should never feel hot to the touch - if you feel baby's chest or abdomen and it is hot or sweaty, we need to remove a layer of clothing or lower the room temperature. 

Baby Cave Component #2 - Darkness Level

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It's tough to stress how much a dark space for baby can transform their sleep. Many parents fear by creating this ideal sleep environment, we are only conditioning baby to be a finicky sleeper, but it could not be further from the truth. An ideal sleep environment helps cultivate a good sleeper, and good sleepers are adaptable. Parents may report that their children have a bit of a tougher time sleeping in a new sleep environment when it is not dark [say, at daycare] but this is likely more closely related to the fact that it's a new and different sleep environment than the fact that it's not as dark as they are used to at home. While these children may go through a period of adjustment [just like any child would!] they are no worse off than a child who may have become accustomed to sleeping in a bright room at home. Why does a dark room make such a difference?

  • Quality of sleep: the quality of sleep is much higher in a room that is cool and the quality of sleep is almost much higher in a room that is dark. Darkness is essential to sleep. The absence of light sends a critical signal to a child's body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the body's internal "sleep clock" in ways that interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep. Melatonin, often known as the "sleepy hormone" or the "vampire hormone" influences sleep by sending a signal to the brain that it is time for rest. This signal helps initiate baby's body's preparations for sleep—muscles begin to relax, feelings of drowsiness increase, body temperature drops - but melatonin is only produced when it is dark. Light exposure inhibits the naturally timed rise of melatonin, which delays the onset of the transition to sleep and sleep itself. So baby may be able to fall asleep eventually, but the onset of sleep is more challenging and the quality of the resulting sleep would be lower.
     
  • Overstimulation: as we all know, babies [and older kids as well!] are very easily overstimulated. Overstimulation happens when a child is swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise, and activity than he or she can cope with. A stimulating environment is important for our children to play in as it helps them learn and grow, but children also need downtime and the opportunity to spend time in a calm and stimulation-free environment. One big source of stimulation is light, but luckily it's also something that we can control especially at sleep times. By blocking out this stimulation when our babies are trying to sleep, we are making it easier for them to fall asleep [especially if your baby is an independent sleeper who falls asleep on their own without parental assistance] and to stay asleep [as all children will wake at the 30-45 minute mark for naps, and a dark room can help promote the transition into that next sleep cycle]. Especially if you are struggling with naps, experiment with getting baby's room darker - sometimes this in of itself can help encourage more quality daytime sleep. How dark are we aiming for? On a scale from 1-10, 1 being bright and sunny and 10 being pitch black, we want to get that room somewhere between an 8-10 day and night. This to me would mean that if you're in baby's room anytime during the day or at night and you were to have your hand outstretched in front of your face, it would be hard to make out your hand. 

A fantastic product to help achieve the proper darkness level [but still keeping it super affordable!] are these window covers. My kids spent a lot of time with tin foil over their windows as I struggled to find something that was equally as effective - until a client sent me a link for these! Life changing! Check 'em out!

Baby Cave Component #3 - Noise

This point goes hand-in-hand with the above point. While a baby can be easily overstimulated by light stimulation, another major source of overstimulation is sound stimulation. It isn't realistic [and oftentimes impossible!] to control all of the sound in our homes - you may live on a busy street or you may have other children at home that don't understand the concept of being quiet while baby sleeps. So while sound outside of the room cannot often be controlled, we can rely on white noise inside of the room to help block out or mask some of that noise. White noise has so many benefits for a child's sleep, including increasing the quality of sleep and helping to reduce stress and avoid overstimulation. While again, parents may be worried about a child becoming dependent on white noise, thankfully it's not addictive or habit-forming [want to get rid of it? Turn it down a notch every day until it's gone]. And even if your child does grow up to be an adult that prefers some sort of ambient sound when they sleep, it's much easier to re-create a sleep environment with a bit of background noise than to re-create a completely silent sleep environment. When baby was in your tummy, there was constant white noise [and it was about as loud as a lawnmower!] Silence is often deafening for babies. 

To use white noise safely and effectively, it's important that we ensure it is not too loud [it should be no louder than 50-60 dB, or about as loud as if you were in the bathroom with someone while they were showering]. The best spot to place the source of white noise in baby's room would be across from the crib, not right next to it. White noise should always play continuously [I'm talking to you, Sleep Sheep] and not on a timer. It should play for the entire duration of nightsleep and for naps as well. We should also be playing a boring, constant, and monotonous sound. No music [too stimulating!] or anything with 'too much' going on - plain white noise is great, or a constant rain/waves/heartbeat noise. White noise is also a great cue for sleep for baby, and especially if you are working on eliminating any sort of props from a child's sleep routine [nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, bottle, etc.] replacing that with another sleepy cue [like white noise!] can help with that transition.

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Extra Tips to Help Encourage a Safe Sleep Environment 

  • Always place baby to sleep on their back. Even once baby is able to roll, continue to always lay baby down on their back. Once they can roll on their own to their tummy, it is safe for them to sleep in that position, but back to sleep always.
  • Using a fan. The use of a fan has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 72%. A ceiling fan is great if it's available, but even a table fan can work to help encourage proper air flow.
  • Use a sleepsack. Blankets on a baby are likely to be kicked off within minutes, rendering them quite useless [and unsafe!] but a sleepsack isn't going anywhere. Kids don't often learn to pull blankets onto themselves until about 3-4 years of age, making a sleepsack very useful to keep kids cozy!

    Find more tips and guidelines here!

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

How to Shift an Early Schedule

Summer is here! Which means lots of sun, lots of fun, and lots of - early morning wake-ups (boo!)  At this time of the year my inbox is flooded with parents desperate for help with children who are waking too darn early. It could be the late evening sun or the early morning sun [get that room dark parents!] that starts the problem, but it's often getting trapped in an early bedtime/early wake-up cycle that perpetuates the problem. I have a few posts here and here that address some other reasons why your child would wake early [and I'd recommend reading those first before proceeding with this article!] but this post is going to focus on one common cause of early wake-ups - a bedtime that is too early.  So if you've troubleshooted all other possible causes of the early wake-up but suspect this is your problem, read on parents!

What do we define as an 'early wake-up'?

You and me both sista!

You and me both sista!

'Early' is a bit subjective - early to one family might mean 7:00am and early to another family might mean 5:00am. For the purpose of this article, I define 'early' as a) anything earlier than 6:00am and b) a wake-up time that resulted in less than ~10-12 hours of nighttime sleep. 

What do we do first?

The first step when working to eliminate an early wake-up is to ensure that there isn't anything external that could be waking baby at an earlier hour. Is it too bright in baby's room in the evening or early morning? If you think of a scale from 1-10, one being bright and sunny and ten being pitch black, we want that room between an 8-10 for all sleep times. An 8-10, to me, would mean that any time you are in that room [for any sleep periods] and you were to have your hand outstretched in front of your face, it should be hard to make out your hand. Melatonin [the sleepy hormone] is only produced when it's dark [thus why it's called the 'vampire hormone'!] If that room is too bright when baby is trying to settle at night or trying to re-settle in the early morning, we aren't getting help from melatonin and this can lead to early wake-ups. Cheap ways to get that room nice and dark include black garbage bags on the windows, tin foil, a dark blanket, cardboard, etc. [go full ghetto on that room!] For something more long-term, check out these window covers - they work fantastic and are super affordable as well.

Once you've got your baby cave rockin', you've read my other two articles above and eliminated those factors as possibly contributing to your early wake-ups, and you're pretty certain you've got a baby stuck in an early wake-up/early bedtime cycle, your next step is a schedule shift.

What is a 'schedule shift'?

The term is pretty self-explanatory - we are attempting to shift the schedule. We never want to just push baby's bedtime later in hopes of shifting the schedule, as too-long of a stretch before bed will almost always lead to an early wake-up. We need to shift the entire schedule - naps and bedtime. Because we are stretching baby, the schedule shift can cause some overtiredness but we just have to persist - give the schedule shift a full week before deciding if it is working or not. The schedule shift looks differently for different nap schedules so I've broken it down by number of naps:

If your baby is on a 3 nap schedule:

  • Continue to leave your baby in their crib until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your baby up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • Do not put down for baby's first nap until 8:15am. As baby progresses through the schedule shift, you'll want to push this 'no nap before' rule to 8:45am. Using an extra long wind down routine before sleep times to help calm baby if they are getting a bit overtired is a good strategy to help us make these desired nap times possible.
     
  • Do not put down for baby's second nap until 11:15am. As baby progresses, your goal is no put down before 11:45am [as a note, if your baby is currently not an independent sleeper, your goal would just be for baby to be soothed to sleep by about 15 minutes after these ideal put down times. So, perhaps you'd start rocking them at 11:45am with a goal of them being asleep by 12:00pm].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's third nap until 2:30pm.  As baby progresses, the goal would be no put down before 3:45pm [the variation here is bigger because this awake time is the least sensitive of the day, so we are able to stretch it a bit more without disastrous results].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's bedtime until 6:15pm. Our ultimate goal for put down will be no earlier than 6:45pm. Because bedtime is the most sensitive time of the day, an extra long bedtime routine is a really good idea! If you have a particularly tough day, a put down of 6:00pm would be appropriate, but keep working on it!

If your baby is on a 2 nap schedule:

  • Continue to leave your baby in their crib until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your baby up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • Do not put down for baby's first nap until 9:00am. As baby progresses through the schedule shift, you'll want to push this 'no nap before' rule to 9:15am. Using an extra long wind down routine before sleep times to help calm baby if they are getting a bit overtired is a good strategy to help us make these desired nap times possible.
     
  • Do not put down for baby's second nap until 1:00pm.  As baby progresses, your goal is no put down before 2:00pm. The variation here is bigger because this awake time is the least sensitive of the day, so we are able to stretch it a bit more without disastrous results [as a note, if your baby is currently not an independent sleeper, your goal would just be for baby to be soothed to sleep by about 15 minutes after these ideal put down times. So, perhaps you'd start rocking them at 2:00pm with a goal of them being asleep by 2:15pm].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's bedtime until 6:15pm. Our ultimate goal for put down will be no earlier than 6:45pm. Because bedtime is the most sensitive time of the day, an extra long bedtime routine is a really good idea! If you have a day with two short naps, a bedtime put down of 5:45-6:00pm would be appropriate, but keep working on it!

If your child is on a 1 nap schedule:

  • Continue to leave your child in their crib/bed until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your child up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs/beds alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • For a child younger than 2 years of age: you want to slowly shift their nap later and later into the day until you are not putting them down for their nap any earlier than 12:15pm. What time did you put them down for their nap yesterday? Take that time and add 15 minutes. Every few days, add another 15 minutes until you are not laying them down until 12:15pm at the earliest [our ultimate goal is a nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm].
  • For a child 2 years of age or older: you want to slowly shift their nap later and later into the day until you are not putting them down for their nap any earlier than 12:45pm. What time did you put them down for their nap yesterday? Take that time and add 15 minutes. Every few days, add another 15 minutes until you are not laying them down until 12:45pm at the earliest [our ultimate goal is a nap occurring between 1:00-1:30pm].
     
  • Continue to always be flexible with the timing of bed based on when your child woke up from their nap. For a child under the age of 2, we are aiming for bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. For a child that is age 2 or older, bedtime should occur about 5 hours after the nap ends.

In summary...

Early wake-ups are tricky. The stronger your child's internal clock is, the stickier these early wake-ups will be. It can take time and patience to re-set that internal clock but it is possible! Hopefully the above strategies can help your family and I appreciate you taking the time to read! Have a wonderful summer!


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

The 2,3,4 Schedule

Who's read about the 2,3,4 schedule for napping? Read on to find out what my thoughts are on whether this type of schedule can work for your baby.

What is the 2,3,4 schedule?

The 2,3,4 schedule for napping is pretty simple - two hours after your baby wakes for the day, you put them down for their first nap.  Three hours after that nap ends, you put them down for their second nap. Then 4 hours after that 2nd nap ends, you'd put them down for bed. Pretty simple right? Seems like a dream!? Read on :)

Who is the 2,3,4 schedule recommend for?

The 2,3,4 schedule is often recommended for babies 6 months and up.  Some experts recommend it if your baby is napping for a total of 3 hours/day. Other sources recommend that solids are introduced before beginning this nap schedule (not sure what solids has to do with it but hey!)

Hey Pam, what do you think about this schedule?

I'm glad you asked! I personally am not a big fan of the 2,3,4 nap schedule. I'm sure it can work beautifully for some babies (I would think very easy-type babies that are naturally good sleepers and aren't very sensitive to sleep could do okay on this schedule). But for a vast majority of babies that have trouble sleeping (meaning most of the families I work with or families that would be seeking out sleep advice right now!) it can often spell more trouble.  And here's why:

1) Most babies are not ready for 2 naps at 6 months of age

I personally recommend trying to hold off the transition to 2 naps until baby is closer to the 8 month (adjusted) mark.  Reason-being that a 6 month old (unless it's a baby who has consistently always taken very long naps or consistently always slept through the night) will have a very hard time coping with the longer awake times needed to sustain 2 naps. On a 3 nap schedule, baby is generally awake about 1.75-2.5 hours during the day. This is a good number. Once we jump up to 2 naps, baby needs to be awake more like 3-3.5 hours (or even 4 hours if we are attempting a 2,3,4 schedule!) This is a huge jump and many babies will not be able to cope with these long awake times without becoming overtired (which can then lead to short naps, nightwakings, bedtime battles, early wake-ups, etc.)

2) There is a shortage of awake time in the day

If you add up 2 + 3 + 4, that = 9 hours. So on a 2,3,4 schedule, we are aiming for baby to be awake for a total of 9 hours in a 24 hour period. If we take that 9 hours and add the 3 hours of naps we are aiming for with this schedule, that gives us 12 hours. Let's take a 7 month old for example who requires 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. With those 9 hours of awake time + 3 hours in naps (12 hours) that leaves us with 12 hours remaining. That means we would need that baby to sleep for 12 hours every single night in order for them to not start waking earlier than they already are. With this schedule, what can slowly happen is the wake-up time creeps earlier....and earlier....and earlier. Until we're stuck with an early wake-up and no way to get out of it. Here's a visual to help you to process this:

700am - baby wakes up for the day
900am-1030am - 1st nap of the day (great nap baby!)
130pm-300pm - 2nd nap of the day (there's our 3 hours!)
700pm - bedtime

Now this baby needs to sleep for 12 hours that night to make it back to 7am, but baby has already had 3 hours in naps so they only have about 11 hours left in their 'sleep bank' to get them their 14 hours. So baby wakes up at 630am (because baby had 1 feed, so we exclude time awake for that):

630am - baby wakes up, ready to take on the day
830am-1000am - 1st nap of the day
100pm-230pm - 2nd nap of the day
630pm - bedtime (uh oh...we are getting earlier. Now we are expecting baby to sleep 12.5 hours to get us back to 700am, but with those 3 hours in naps, baby still only needs about 11 hours of sleep so chances are, they will now wake at 600am. And the next day 530am.....and so on).

Do you see what I mean!? The lack of daytime awake time can shift the schedule earlier and earlier. At 7 months of age, I would be recommending more like 9.5-10 hours of awake time in the day (and a 3 nap schedule, like the one outlined here) to ensure baby doesn't start waking at the crack of dawn.

3) 2 and 3 hours is too short, 4 hours is too long

For a 6-7 month old baby, a 2 hour interval before the first nap is spot-on. This is exactly what I would recommend. But at 10, 11, or 12 months of age, for many babies (especially those sleeping well at night) this is much too short. We might start to see baby taking a long time to fall asleep or refusing that first nap entirely! Then we're really pooched. 
For a 6-7 month old baby, a 3 hour interval before the 2nd nap is a bit long, but not terrible. At 8/9 months of age, this may still be appropriate, but at 10,11, or 12 months of age, this is often too short. And yet again, what we'd likely see, is short naps or refusals.
For a 6-7 month old baby, a 4 hour interval before bed is WAY too long. Heck, this is even too long for an 8,9, and probably even 10-11 month old baby! Again, some easy-type babies or naturally good sleepers may still sleep well at night with this long awake time, but for the majority, baby will start to become overtired and bedtime battles, nightwakings, sleep-cries, and early wake-ups will ensue (see my blog post here on more appropriate timing for bed). The timing of bed is the most sensitive time of the day and the most important for us to really nail. It's the time we want to mess around with the least.  

In summary...

If a 2,3,4 schedule is working for your family - GREAT! Do not change a darn thing. As I always say, if it ain't broke - don't fix it! But if you're attempting this schedule and it's just not working for you, consider the above reasons to be why. A more flexible and age-appropriate schedule is what I would recommend. I suspect a lot of experts recommend this schedule because it's 'easy'. It's easy to just say 2,3,4 and be done with it! But this definitely does not work for everyone and many babies are more sensitive to those extra few hours in the day - and that's okay :) 


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

GUEST POST: Rob Lindeman on How to do Bedtime Fading

This guest post is brought to you by Rob Lindeman of Sleep, Baby! He is a sleep coach, entrepreneur, and writer living in Massachusetts. He blogs at http://www.essentiallyhealthychild.com.

 

How to Do Bedtime Fading: Best Sleep Training Method?

The so-called “cry it out” techniques for sleep training are getting a lot of attention. Meanwhile, there is another method that gets very little press, but which is highly effective. It’s called “bedtime fading”.

What is Bedtime Fading?

Bedtime fading is a method for teaching a child to fall asleep that is based on a simple principle: a child who is not tired will not go to sleep!

Babies and children are famous for “fighting” bedtime. Parents tell me that their child “fights” sleep. Or they tell me the child fights the parents at bedtime. The truth is that the child is fighting neither sleep nor the parents. She is fighting the time. She isn’t ready to sleep yet. Forcing the baby to bed earlier than she wants to is a recipe for conflict. Worse, the baby may develop negative associations surrounding sleep. This is never a good thing.

The Three Key Features of Bedtime Fading

One key feature of bedtime fading is finding the child’s “natural” time of sleep. This is presumably later than the perplexed parents want, but it’s what the baby wants. There are a couple of ways of finding out what the natural time of sleep is. See “The Bedtime Fading Technique” below.

Another key feature is “sleep onset latency“. This is nothing more than the amount of time it takes a person to fall asleep after getting into bed (or the crib in this case). Sleep experts agree that it’s never a good idea to have a long sleep onset latency, with a limit at about 20 minutes. Anything longer than that suggests the individual will not or cannot sleep. Ideally, you want the child to be falling asleep within 10 minutes. Less than 5 minutes, though okay, suggests that the child has a “severe sleep debt”. This is another way of saying “she’s totally exhausted”.

The third feature are good sleep associations. We want the child to associate going to sleep with calm and quiet. We want her to feel comfortable and safe. This step is essential to teaching the child to self-soothe, and to wind herself down to sleep on her own, without assistance from caregivers.

How to Do Bedtime Fading

Step One

The first step is to determine the baby’s natural sleep time. There are at least two ways to figure this out. The first is to keep a sleep diary. Parents or caregivers write down the times the child falls asleep every day. They should do this for every nap as well. Doing so provides useful information for them and for the sleep coach. The last time she falls asleep is probably the time she is “set” to fall asleep.

A second method for determining baby’s sleep time is called the “response cost” method.

[A Digression: The official name of this method is called “bedtime fading with response cost”. I never liked this expression. It’s high-tech expression for a truly low-tech idea.]

It works like this: you put the baby to bed at the time you want (the desired bedtime). If the child doesn’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, you remove the child from the crib or bed and allow her to play (quietly) and otherwise stay awake for 30-60 minutes. This is the “response cost” to the child. Then you try again. If the child still won’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, you repeat the procedure. You do this until the child falls asleep rapidly. Now you’ve found the child’s natural bed time.

Step Two

For at least two days, you treat this later bedtime like the normal bedtime. This means establishing a steady, consistent bedtime ritual.  You want to aim for any activity that promotes calm and quiet.  I recommend starting the routine at dinner time, no matter how late. From then on the routine is completely predictable. It’s usually a mix of these activities: a warm bath, brushing teeth (if she has teeth), book reading, lullabies, prayer, etc.

Step Three

From here, you gradually fade bedtime earlier to your desired bedtime (hence “bedtime fading”). Experts differ as to the number of minutes to fade and the number of days to stay at each bedtime. Some recommend fading 30 minutes earlier every night until hitting the target. Others recommend moving in 15 minute increments. This is my preference. Half an hour is too big a jump for some children. I also recommend two days for each bedtime. This means the entire bedtime fading technique may require two weeks or more to complete. It is well worth the effort.

Setbacks can happen. Sometimes the child will revert to her previous “natural bedtime”. If so, I recommend repeating the fading technique, but this time taking it more slowly. Perhaps spend three days at each time point.

Other children might fall asleep well as a result of a successful bedtime fading campaign but will continue to wake up frequently at night. In this case, many experts recommend using an extinction method (since we don’t want to call it by its more infamous name. Okay, okay: cry it out.)

This is Great! How Come I’ve Never Heard of It?

Good question. Here’s a baseball analogy: Say your team has a power hitter batting in the clean-up spot (fourth in the order). He’s having a monster year. By the end of April he already has 12 home runs. People are already starting to compare him to Barry Bonds or even Babe Ruth. Camera crews follow him to every ballpark. He’s all they talk about during the sports segment on the evening news. Meanwhile, the guy hitting in front of him (the number three hitter) is quietly having a career year. He’s in the top 5 in just about every offensive statistical category. Why? Because pitchers don’t want to face the monster following him. So they throw strikes to the number three hitter, trying to get him out. And instead of getting him out, he’s getting hits. But no one pays attention because the monster sucks up all the headlines.

That’s kind of like what’s happened to bedtime fading. Extinction methods are like the home run hitter hitting clean-up. Bedtime fading is like the number three guy racking up all the amazing numbers that no one notices. Bedtime fading is an amazingly successful technique that is based on all the principles we know are essential for good sleep: a tired child, consistency, routine, and good sleep associations.

 


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Never Wake a Sleeping Baby!...???

There are pieces of advice that all of us parents have heard at one time or another after we have babies. 'Never wake a sleeping baby' is probably right up there with 'keep them up longer and they'll stay asleep longer' and other similar gems of sleep wisdom. While the 'never wake a sleeping baby advice' is quite harmless compared to some of the other 'helpful' advice out there, it is still not the whole truth. In this post, I will debunk this rumor and look at the times that it is absolutely a good idea to wake that sleeping baby.

Wake your sleeping baby if....they are a newborn.

Day/night confusion occurs often with newborn babies. We know that light (artificial or natural) helps to set our body clocks, but in the womb, baby is exposed to very little light. Also, your baby is more prone to being active when you are resting (i.e. at night) and sleeping while you are moving (i.e. during the day) as the rocking motion of you going on with your day-to-day life lulls your unborn child to sleep. With these two factors at work, children will often be born a bit confused about when they should be awake more frequently and when they should be sleeping longer stretches. So, with all newborn children, I would recommend waking them every 3 hours during the day for a feeding. There is no need to keep them awake after the feed if they fall back asleep, but this helps to a) make sure they are taking in enough calories during the day to sleep longer at night and b) exposes them to light during the day to help re-set their body clock.

Wake your sleeping baby if... too much daysleep = not enough nightsleep.

Naps are very important for all children. Getting adequate rest during the day is crucial to a child's physical and mental development. However, nightsleep is far superior to daysleep and should be protected at all costs. If you think your child may be sleeping excessively during the day which in turn is leading to lower than average nightsleep (i.e. much lower than 11 hours for most children) then you may want to look at capping naps during the day. What would 'excessive daysleep' look like?

3 months and under: any single nap longer than 3 hours
4 months: any single nap longer than 2.5 hours and/or more than 4.5 hours of total daysleep
5 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 4 hours of total daysleep
6 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3.5 hours of total daysleep
7/8 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3.25 hours of total daysleep
9-13 months: any single nap longer than 2 hours and/or more than 3 hours of total daysleep
13+ months: more than 3 hours of total daysleep

Some babies have higher sleep needs than others so don't look at capping daysleep unless you are noticing a direct effect on nightsleep.

Wake your sleeping baby if... you are holding off a nap transition.

Nap transitions can be a really stressful time in a baby's (and your!) life. They often lead to early bedtimes, early wake-ups, and overtiredness is almost always inevitable. One way that we can make sure that these nap transitions are less taxing is if we are holding it off for as long as we can. Nap transitions are something that we never want to rush into. Dropping naps before a child is truly ready can be disastrous for both day and nightsleep. One of the easiest ways we can hold off a nap transition is by waking baby in the morning and/or from naps in order to keep the last nap for as long as we can. I would recommend trying to keep 3 naps until as close to 8 months (adjusted) as possible and 2 naps until as close to 18 months (adjusted) as possible.
Let's take a 7 month old, for example. We may have to start waking our 7 month old up at 7:00am to ensure we can fit in 3 naps before 5:00pm. We might also have to start waking this baby from their 2nd nap at 2:00pm to ensure we can fit in a 3rd nap from 4:30-5:00pm.
For a 17 month old, we might have to start waking this child at 7:00am as well, and then waking from the first nap after an hour to ensure we can fit in a 2nd nap from 3:00-4:00pm. Holding off these nap transitions helps to avoid a cycle of overtiredness and promotes a smoother transition.

Wake your sleeping baby if... the last nap is running too late.

As I mentioned above, protecting nightsleep at all costs is very important as allowing baby the opportunity to clock 11-12 hours of nightsleep (excluding time awake for nightfeeds) helps ensure your child is well-rested. To protect that nightsleep, in addition to making sure that naps aren't excessive, we want to avoid baby napping too late in the day. When a nap runs too late in the day, it encroaches on nightsleep territory. This can cause a too-late bedtime (resulting in insufficient nightsleep), nightwakings, sleep-cries, and potentially an early wake-up the next day (again, resulting in insufficient nightsleep). 
Waking baby from their last nap of the day to protect bedtime is a must. What time should we be waking them by? For a baby that is between 3 months and 8 months of age, you want to ensure that naps are finished by 5:00pm.  For a baby that is  8 months (or whenever they transition to 2 naps) and older, naps should be finished by 4:00pm.  For children that have transitioned to 1 nap, this 'nap cut-off' may be even earlier than 4:00pm depending on how long of an awake time they need before bed (i.e. for a 2 year old, sleeping until 4:00pm would likely mean they aren't falling asleep for the night until 9:00pm, so you'd likely want to end naps by 3:00pm to ensure a relatively early bedtime).


For more of these 'Sleep Wives Tales', check out my blog post here, where I debunk 5 more of these rumors about baby sleep!


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

My Top 10 Twin Sleep Tips

Say that 5 times fast!
I wanted to give some love to my twin families - there's a lot of you out there! At any given time, I am working with at least one twin family (I think my record was seven sets of multiples at once - wowza!) I can still remember my first twin case and how nervous I was. I don't personally have multiples so how the heck am I going to help a family with two babies!? Well you know what? A lot of the same rules still apply with multiples vs. a singleton child. There are definitely some difference and a lot of extra factors that come into play but I've actually come to find that my twin babies are my best sleepers. They are so adaptable and resilient - they've had to be! They have to be able to sleep through their siblings' noises and that can be a lot of noise! With that, I wanted to offer up my TOP 10 TIPS on twin sleep to help you amazing moms and dads out there get a few extra winks tonight:
**note that while I've consistently written 'twin' babies throughout this article, these tips apply to all multiple families - twins, triplets, quads (this is the sound of me bowing down to you, by the way).

TWIN TIP#1 - WHITE NOISE

This had to be my #1 tip, there's just nothing else that compares to the need for white noise with twins. White noise has not only been shown to reduce stress in children and help them sleep, but it also works really well to block out sound. Now, usually we're trying to block sound from the house from reaching baby but in the case of twins, we're trying to block sound from one side of the nursery to the other side. White noise is a very effective way to help Baby A sleep through Baby B's noises, and vice versa. In fact, with twin families, I actually recommend double white noise in the babies' room (for example, a white noise machine and a noisy fan). You would place one source of white noise (noise machine) halfway between the cribs and the other source of white noise (fan) on the noisiest wall of the nursery (for example, a wall that's adjacent to your living room, kitchen, a noisy street, etc.) Using double white noise really helps to muffle sounds coming from inside and outside the room so our babies can sleep peacefully day and night.

TWIN TIP#2 - START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON

I can imagine that when you are pregnant with twins, you envision the sleeping arrangement your children will have. Will they share a crib for the first few months? Will they start out in separate cribs next to each other? Will you start them in the same room but split them up eventually? Now, what you envision might not be exactly what ends up happening (lots of families who contact me end up resorting to sticking one baby in another for naps or even naps and nights because Baby A naps much worse than Baby B) but if you decide after the 16 week mark to sleep train those babies, sleep train them where you want them to be sleeping eventually. Even if you're worried that this will = less sleep for Baby B - go for it. This helps them to become acclimated to each other's sounds (and you're using double white noise now, right?) and it avoids yet another transition down the road when you do decide to move them back in together. Maybe you're okay with them being separate for naps and only together at night - it's completely up to you and what works best for your family. What's important is making sure where you start is where you want to end up.

TWIN TIP#3 - WRITE IT ALL DOWN

I'm not sure how any family with 2+ babies can make it through a day without writing everything down but I'm surprised to find out that some don't! Heck, I have to write things down with only 1 baby or I forget what time they woke up, what time I have to put them down, etc. Especially once you decide to make sleep a priority and really focus on establishing healthy sleep habits for your babies, keeping a sleep log is of utmost importance. This really helps you to see patterns, progress, where things need to be tweaked, and helps you to stay on track. On my sleep logs, I recommend families include:
- Morning wake-up time
- All feedings (breast/bottle/solids)
- Mood before naps (happy, tired, fussy, alert, yawning, etc.)
- Put down times for naps, asleep times, and wake-up times
- Mood upon wake-up from sleep (did they wake up happy? Crying? Babbling? Fussing?)
- Bedtime put down and asleep time
- Any nightwakings, nightfeedings, sleep-cries

TWIN TIP#4 - KEEP THEM ON SCHEDULE

Now this tip is not only for your babies' sake but for your own sanity's sake. I remember when my son was 9 months old and my daughter was 3. He was on a 2 nap schedule and she was on a 1 nap schedule. This meant that I had a child sleeping from 1000am-1130am, 100pm-300pm, and 300pm-400pm. OY! That gave me a window of less than 2 hours in the morning, 1.5 hours in the afternoon, and a few hours in the evening to actually leave the house. It was TOUGH. Now, this is sometimes life with two kids of different ages and with different sleep needs but this is an example of why keeping your multiples on the same sleep schedule is so important - to avoid having one baby sleeping all.day.long. This becomes especially important if you decide to sleep train - I recommend to my families that you always wake the babies within 15 minutes of eachother. If Baby A wakes at 700am, we wake Baby B at 715am. If Baby A takes a 30 minute catnap, unfortunately, we wake Baby B at the 45 minute mark. With time and consistency, most multiples end up 'syncing up' their schedules and while it's unfortunate to short-change one child, in the long-run it's worth it. This is another reason I say it's okay if they are waking each other up from each other's sounds - we want them on the same schedule anyway so they are doing the dirty work for you!

TWIN TIP#5 - FEED TOGETHER, FEED APART

In the beginning months when the babies are young and eating frequently throughout the night, it makes sense to feed Twin A when Twin B wakes for a nightfeeding. This avoids one child being awake all night (hey, the opposite of Tip#4!) so it helps buy you and your partner more sleep. But once we start to focus on the babies sleeping longer stretches at night, you want to give both children the opportunity to sleep through (whatever that means for their age). This means only feeding the child that wakes up and allowing the other child to wake naturally when they are hungry. Another option that can work amazingly well for many families is establishing a dreamfeed early on. This can help your babies' long stretch of sleep coincide with yours. Note that I don't recommend starting a dreamfeed with older babies that are not sleeping well at night (i.e. if you haven't started one yet and your 4 month old twins are not sleeping well at night and are waking 3+ times, a dreamfeed is not a good option for you. A dreamfeed is a better option for newborns (0-3 months) or for babies 4 months+ that are already sleeping fairly well at night).

TWIN TIP#6 - SLEEP TRAIN

Okay, okay, you don't have to if you don't want to but I would really, really recommend it. First and foremost, sleep training does not = cry it out. There is a stigma about sleep training and it entailing hours of dreadful crying while we sit back and think about how terrible and awful we feel about the whole process. It doesn't have to be like that. There are many gentle approaches we can use with young and older children alike to help them learn that oh-so-important skill of independent sleep. While it's true that sleep training twins is often more challenging than singleton babies, it is far from impossible. Yes things take longer to come together. Yes the gentler methods are often much more difficult when there's two babies to consider. But as I mentioned above, my twin babies are often my best-sleeping babies. Parents are usually more motivated because they lack the time/energy/patience to deal with sleep issues x 2 and they also are much more aware of the need for a solid schedule and foundation for sleep for their children. So if you find yourself at that 16 week mark and things just aren't going your way -  don't be afraid of change. While the prospect of less sleep is  daunting, it's short-term pain for long-term gain. The positive changes that you and your babies will experience from sleep coaching are endless. If you feel you can't go it alone? I'm here for you moms and dads :)

TWIN TIP#7 - ADJUSTED AGE

This is a short tip but it's a question I get a lot.  We always want to follow the babies' adjusted age when it comes to sleep scheduling. While 38 weeks is full-term for twins, I would still consider these babies two weeks early. This applies to starting sleep training (at 16 weeks adjusted), when trying to figure out the babies' schedule, sleep needs, amount of awake time, or even when anticipating sleep regressions or leaps.

TWIN TIP#8 - IDENTIFY THE SENSITIVE SLEEPER

There's always one of them. One twin who is just a teeny bit more finicky than the other. One twin that puts up a little bit more of a fight. One twin who is just a little bit more sensitive to sleep. I can usually identify the 'Sensitive Sleeper' with ease by just reading the Intake Forms I receive from my families. Once we identify which one of the babies is the Sensitive Sally, we stick closer to their schedule. What do I mean by that? For young babies especially, 15 minutes can make or break a nap or bedtime. Putting them down just 15 minutes early can result in 30 minutes of playing/hanging out/laughing/whatever else those crazy babies can do while lying awake in a dark room (!?!). Put her down 15 minutes too late? Crying/yelling/I-can't-handle-life screaming. So you now know we are to be waking the babies within 15 minutes of each other but what does that mean for the timing of the next nap? How do we know what time to put them down? Let's take twin babies who are 6 months old (adjusted), for example. We know that at 6 months of age, the babies could probably handle about 2 hours of awake time between 1st and 2nd naps. Baby A woke up at 10:00am from his 1st nap and we woke Baby B woke up at 10:15am. We know baby B is the sensitive baby so we'd count our 2 hours from the time she woke up, so as to avoid one of the above situations arising.

TWIN TIP#9 - HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

The biggest difference between sleep training a singleton baby and sleep training multiples is the time it takes to see full progress. Many families ask me, "How long will it take until I see results?" and while there's no for-sure answer to this question, this is a general guideline that most babies follow. Depending on the age of baby, method used, consistency of parents, etc. progress generally goes as follows:

  • 3-5 nights - baby is now 'sleeping through the night' for their age
  • 7 days - baby is now falling asleep within 30 minutes for all sleep times with some combination of babbling, fussing, soft crying
  • 10 days - baby is now showing progress with longer naps although things may still not be consistent
  • 2-4 weeks - baby is now showing consistency with naps (consistency meaning, for example, nap 1 is always the longest nap, nap 2 is over an hour but shorter than nap 1, nap 3 is 30-45 minutes long). Nap lengths may not be exact day-to-day and that is normal

Now what about for twins? I'd say you could multiply that time by 1.5 or even 2. Nighttime can take 5-10 nights to come together, the babies may take closer to 10-14 days until they are falling asleep easier for sleep times, longer naps may emerge after 2 weeks instead of a week and a half, and true consistency may not materialize until 3-8 weeks instead. But do not let these numbers deter you! As I mentioned above, many times my twin families are my quickest studies, and while these things take time (sleep training is a journey!) the end result is well-worth the effort.

TWIN TIP#10 - ALL OTHER RULES APPLY

As I mentioned above, many of the same principles apply to twins and singleton babies alike. The following sleep concepts are the same across the board:
- Swaddling newborns (especially those preemie twins - they need that snug feeling!)
- Super dark bedroom
- Feeding upon wake-up from sleep (i.e. an 'EASY' routine) or at least separating from sleep by 30 minutes and some sort of activity
- Consistent sleep routines (nap and bedtime)
- Early bedtimes 
- Avoiding the overtired state
- Not rushing in 
- Using all the tools in the first few months - you are in survival mode!
 


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Hello Spring! Surviving the Spring Forward

Ummm weren't we JUST falling back? Time flies! Daylight savings time begins on March 12th in Canada and the US and it's the time of year all of the parents of early risers look forward to....at least for a few days.

What to Do?

This time shift definitely has less of an impact on our children's sleep than falling back in the Fall. If your child is already on a good sleep schedule, your first option is to not make any in-advance changes. For a child who sleeps 7:00pm-7:00am, their new wake-up time will be 8:00am (woop!) and there isn't much of an impact here. Your bedtime will be shifted an hour later but the effects of the time change are only apparent for a few days, maybe a week tops.

For children (like mine!) who are already on a later schedule (think 8:30-8:30 or the like) the sleep-in will result in an even later wake-up and subsequently, an even later bedtime. What we can do in this case is split the difference of the wake-up time. Wake your child up 30 minutes early on the day of the time change, so as not to rob them of too much nightsleep, but also not to let them sleep in too much resulting in a way-too-late bedtime. 

If you're really keen on keeping your child on the same schedule, you can wake them 1 hour early on the day of the time change so as not to see any lasting effects from the time shift (however if your child has a very strong internal clock, you may find them still not able to fall asleep until their 'usual' bedtime).

As always, the best way to re-set our internal clocks (and those of our children) is by exposing them to lots of light during awake times(specifically early morning and late afternoon) and keeping all routines (sleep, feeding, and otherwise) consistent and at the same times.

This is an important time to make sure your child's environment is conducive to sleep. It will gradually begin to get lighter and lighter in the evenings so that cave-like sleep space becomes even more important. As always, I highly recommend my Blackout EZ window covers as an awesome and affordable way to get baby's room as dark as possible.

Happy Spring everyone! 


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Why Sleep Training Doesn't Work

I would say about 85% of families that contact me for a sleep consultation have tried some form of sleep training on their own and failed...sometimes miserably. Oftentimes, these parents will say to me, "I've tried everything" which I consider a challenge. There are usually many things that families don't consider or aren't doing properly when putting a sleep training plan into action. It's not that these families are intentionally sabotaging themselves, it's just that, especially with those children that are more 'sleep-sensitive', the stars almost have to be aligned in order for this difficult process to be successful. Below, I've included the top 8 reasons that sleep training fails, and what we can do instead to help make it a success!

Sleep Training Fail #1 - Starting with a nap

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With any of the families I work with, I always recommend that when starting a sleep coaching program, we begin with nighttime. The reason for this is that your baby's drive to sleep is much higher at nighttime, thus ensuring that sleep will overcome your child more easily. At nighttime, there are less distractions, there is less room for error, and there is more sleep pressure (and your baby's circadian rhythm, or biological clock) driving your child to sleep. At nighttime, when your baby's drive to sleep becomes overwhelming, she will flip from 'wake' to 'sleep' like a switch. This same phenomenon does not occur during the day and your baby can easily fight sleep all day if she wants to. 
While it's true that we can sleep train for only nights and not naps, I personally do not recommend sleep training for only naps and not nighttime. Chances are you will have much more success with getting your nights straightened out, which will give you the confidence to pursue nap coaching once you are ready.

Sleep Training Fail #2 - Feeding too close to sleep times

I've said it once (or maybe more than once), I'll say it again - feeding too close to sleep times, even if your child is not falling asleep eating, can hurt sleep. While it's true that with newborn babies, our goal is to 'tank them up' to sleep longer, once a baby is past the 16 week mark (a.k.a. the age where we can begin gentle sleep coaching), we want to focus more on healthy sleep habits to help baby sleep longer vs. stuffing their bellies to try to get an extra hour or two out of them. To be honest, if you are getting much more than 2 wakings at night at 4 months, or much more than 1 waking per night at 6 months+, those wakings are not likely hunger-related (I am assuming a healthy, well-fed child) so no amount of food before bed is going to make these wakings go away. Instead, we want to direct our attention to ensuring that the feeding-to-sleep association is completely removed, that 'food' and 'sleep' are two completely separate events to the child, and are in no way related ("I do not need food to sleep, I can sleep on my own!") We do this by making sure to follow an E.A.S.Y. routine (with nursing/bottlefeedings upon every wake-up instead of right before naps) and moving the last feeding of the night to the very first part of your bedtime routine (i.e. before the bath). I'll stress this again because it's very important - even if your child is not falling asleep eating, if the feeding is occurring too close to the timing of sleep, it can still cause an association.

Sleep Training Fail #3 - Drowsy but awake

This fail is related to the above and is another big reason sleep training can be unsuccessful - helping your child to the 'drowsy' state. Whether it be feeding too close to sleep times that is making your child drowsy or you are rocking/bouncing/shushing your child until drowsy and then putting them down, this can actually interfere with your child's learning of how to sleep. I'm sure you have heard from many different people to put baby down 'drowsy but awake' and this couldn't be more true for newborn babies (0-4 months of age). Putting baby down in this state from a very early age can help you to avoid ever needing to sleep train (WIN!) but once we make the decision to help our baby learn to sleep independently (after the 16 week mark), you want the child to be falling asleep completely independently - from the wide awake (but calm) state.
Why does drowsy but awake work against us? When a baby is in the 'drowsy' state, they have actually already entered the first few stages of sleep. This drowsy state is similar to back when you were in class and you started nodding off - you could faintly hear what the teacher was saying but you weren't really retaining any of the information. This dazed and confused state is how a baby feels when we are putting them down drowsy. We plop them in their cribs and they suddenly jerk wide awake, completely unaware of how they got themselves in the crib. They are still going to associate 'falling asleep' with wherever they became drowsy, and therefore when they wake (if they do indeed end up putting themselves to sleep) they are going to need you to recreate those same conditions that helped them to 'sleep' (or to 'drowsy').
To achieve the 'wide awake but calm' state, simply go through your child's normal sleep routine (if it's a nap, this routine should only be about 5 minutes long and might end with a song or two in the rocking chair) aiming to help calm them and prepare them for sleep - not to get them drowsy. While you might think that getting them halfway there will help lessen the amount of crying that will ensue, the opposite is actually true. 

Sleep Training Fail #4 - An overtired baby

Making sure you are well-educated on the amount of sleep your child needs, how long your child should be awake at any given time, and what a typical daily schedule should look like for their age is extremely important before implementing any sort of sleep training plan. While some overtiredness is inevitable while sleep training, not giving your child enough opportunities to sleep, keeping them up much longer than their recommended awake times, or putting them to bed way too late, will be disastrous for sleep training.  No amount of sleep training will work on a child who is overtired and whose schedule is not meeting their needs. Simply sleep training without any plans to establish an age-appropriate schedule for your child can result in lots of unnecessary tears (for both parents and child!) Babies are a lot of work, they take up a lot of our time and are very inconvenient at times, especially when their sleep needs are so high, but respecting a child's need to sleep (and sleep often!) is well-worth it, I can promise you that. So before you plan to sleep train, take the time to devise a nap schedule for your child, put a few days aside to devote all your attention to the process (a long weekend works great for working parents) and try not to listen to others who say your child, "doesn't need to sleep that much". 

Sleep Training Fail #5 - No support

Sleep training is tough. It's hard. It's never fun. But the pain is worth the prize when you have a child that falls asleep easily, stays asleep longer, and truly LOVES to sleep. Having someone supportive on your side through this process is extremely important. It might be your partner, a friend, your mother, an aunt, uncle, a sleep consultant ;), etc. Whoever it may be, you need someone to be able to vent to, to cry to, to help you be strong. Setting boundaries for your child is all about being consistent and sleep training is likely the first boundaries you are having to set in your child's life. Change is not easy, especially for babies, and there is bound to be some protest to these changes. If you don't have someone to lean on during this process, it can make it very difficult to follow-through with the 1000% consistency that you need in order to be successful. Your supportive person should be on the same page as you with the process, you don't want to be trying to convince this person that what you are doing is right or trying to validate your actions the entire time. You need a rock.

Sleep Training Fail #6 - Lack of consistency

As I've mentioned already, consistency is key. No matter what method you choose, from the super ultra gentle to the more direct, as long as you are 1000% consistent, you will see results. As humans, we are programmed to want quicker results, to see some concrete progress within a short period of time, which is why the gentler sleep coaching methods can be tougher for parents - simply because they take longer to work. But again, if you are consistent, things will come together for you. I always encourage my families to try any one method for one week. If you are making sure not to make any of these sleep training mistakes and are completely consistent for a full week, your child should be well on their way to great sleep within that time. Switching up the method too much (especially going from something more direct to something more gentle) or throwing in the towel multiple times can be confusing and unfair to the child. Make sure that when you begin, you are fully committed to the changes and that there's nothing going to stand in the way of you being successful (like too many activities scheduled, family in town visiting, travel, etc.)  I generally recommend that my families are able to dedicate at least two weeks (and preferably a month) without any major disruptions.

Sleep Training Fail #7 - Fear of the early bedtime

I talk about early bedtimes a lot. There is no time that is more important for an early bedtime than during sleep coaching. Naps will almost always suffer during sleep training, at least for the first few days. The best thing for your baby on a day of craptastic naps is an early bedtime. There is no advantage to stretching your child to an 'appropriate' bedtime when said stretching will just result in your baby becoming overtired and waking crying every 3-4 hours all night long because the bedtime was too late. How early is too early? For a child that is still waking to eat at night, the earliest I recommend putting baby down is 4:30pm. For a baby that is sleeping through without feedings, the earliest bedtime I use is 4:45pm (and these are put down times). Do not fear the early bedtime! It will be your best friend on days where things just don't go your way. To prepare your child for an early bedtime, make sure you are completing your full bedtime routine (bath included) as this will help signal to your baby 'bedtime' vs. 'just another nap'. Contrary to popular belief, if your child wakes up 45-60 minutes after an early bedtime, it often means that bedtime was still too late, and not too early. If your baby does wake, treat it like you would any other nightwaking according to your sleep coaching plan. Avoid taking the child out of the room or feeding them back to sleep as feeding at this time a) can create a habitual waking very quickly and b) will set the rest of your night up to be fragmented with every 3-4 hour wakings.
The timing of bedtime is especially important on the first night of sleep coaching (remember, because we always start at bedtime). Stretching bedtime, even by 10 or 15 minutes, can result in much more crying and protesting (as an overtired child has a build-up of stress hormones in their body, which makes sleep very difficult).

Sleep Training Fail #8 - Method does not match family

There are many different methods we can use to help baby to sleep. From those deemed 'no cry' (spoiler alert: there will still be tears) to the more 'let cry'. How do you choose which method is best for your child? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my parenting philosophies? You want to pick a method that YOU are comfortable with and that YOU can be consistent with. Sleep training will always take you out of your comfort zone but doing your research and picking a method that is best aligned with your unique views on the subject is very important.
  • How severe are my child's sleep problems? If your baby's sleep issues are substantial (rely on many props to fall asleep, has accumulated a large sleep debt) you may want to consider a more gradual approach to help baby learn to sleep. If your child's sleep issues are minor and only some small adjustments need to be made, a more direct approach might be in your best interests.
  • What is my baby's temperament? If you have a very easy-going and adaptable baby, you'll likely have success with any method you decide to use. Children that are more 'sensitive' or 'alert' may need less stimulation/parental intervention in order to be successful within a reasonable amount of time. Remember, the process is not necessarily 'gentler' for the child if intervening too much is making it more difficult.
  • How old is my child? More 'direct' approaches are often not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months (i.e. Extinction-type methods) but there are many gentler options for babies between the age of 4-6 months (or after 16 weeks of age, adjusted). For toddlers/preschool-aged children who need a parent to help them fall asleep, gentle approaches are often recommended so as to help avoid episodes of separation anxiety.

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

The (Dreaded) 8-10 Month Sleep Regression

You came out of the 4 month sleep regression unscathed (sort of) and things are going pretty well in sleep-land when BAM! the 8-10 month sleep regression hits you like a ton of bricks. Babies seem to always be going through 'something' - whether it be a growth spurt, a mental leap, a regression, or some other super-fun phase that gets in the way of sleep. If we are prepared for these 'regressions' and understand why they are occurring, it can make it easier to get through and perhaps help to avoid a true 'regression' at all.  Read on to find out about the two main reasons for the 8-10 month sleep regression, the 4 month sleep regression's less popular friend.

What is a sleep regression?

The 4 month sleep regression is vastly different from the 8-10 month sleep regression because the 4 month sleep 'regression' isn't really a true 'regression'. A regression would mean that, with time, the baby's sleep would eventually resume as usual, but unfortunately, that's not what happens. The changes in a baby's sleep at 3-5 month's of age are here to stay. With the 8-10 month sleep regression, the changes are often temporary and are due to a baby's brain development. There is a lot that goes on cognitively at this age, and all of these changes can affect baby's sleep - whether that means they start waking more at night and/or start fighting/refusing naps.  Not coincidentally, these 'regressions' (which generally occur at 4 months, 8-10 months, and 18 months) all occur around the same time as nap transitions.  If we aren't prepared to handle these changes in baby's sleep, this can lead to the child becoming overtired, overtiredness leads to difficulty falling and staying asleep, and before we know it, a 'regression' has occurred.

8-10 month sleep regression cause #1 - Physical milestones

There is so much going on in baby's life at this age. They might be sitting up, scooting, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and some might even start walking. Baby is also learning the basics of communication and might start teething (if they haven't already). This is a lot in a little baby's life, and all these things take time, energy, and practice. Sometimes this 'practice' can occur at the wrong times, when baby should instead be sleeping. It can be hard for a baby to learn to shut down their brain, particularly a child that doesn't have self-soothing skills to begin with. Those babies that need more help to sleep may now start to really fight your soothing efforts, finding them too stimulating, and may try to take these opportunities of your company to show you their sweet new moves. If your 20 minutes of rocking has now become 60 minutes, that may be your baby's way of telling you that they are ready to be going down more awake on on their own, as your presence is inhibiting their ability to fall asleep, instead of helping.
If your baby is already an independent sleeper and has started to have some serious party time in their crib before sleep times, firstly you want to make sure that their environment is conducive to sleep. We want to be extra-vigilant that there is nothing stimulating in our child's crib and that their room is pitch black. A baby can be stimulated by anything - a wallpaper design, a toy across the room, a pattern on their crib sheets - so making sure that room is nice and dark will surely bore them into sleep (check out this company here that makes awesome custom window covers to get baby's room pitch black). As well, using a sleepsack for naps and nighttime helps to cut down on monkey business - it's not impossible to roll/sit up/crawl/stand with a sleepsack on, but it makes it more difficult. If baby is already sleepy, they might decide it's not worth the fight. Additionally, make sure your baby's sleep schedule is meeting his needs. Does he need a bit more awake time before naps so that he's tired enough to sleep easily? Here's a good way to determine if pushing a nap later might help:

  • If your baby is taking a long time to fall asleep (much more than 15 minutes) with lots of protesting/playing but then still takes a good nap (over 1 hour) that he wakes up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later. 
  • If your baby falls asleep quickly at naptime, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later.
  • If your baby falls asleep quickly for a nap, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up crying from - try pulling the nap back by 15 minutes.
  • If your baby falls asleep within 1-15 minutes for a nap and then takes a long nap (over 1 hour) - you have nailed it, don't change a thing.

What not to do:

Don't give too much attention to the nap/bedtime battles. You don't want to make long-term habits for a short-term phase. This regression will pass in time, but if you make a habit of now rocking the child, letting them sleep in your bed, sitting with them until they fall asleep (unless you are already doing these things), or skipping naps entirely, this regression now turns into a new habit for the child, one that will be tough to break.

8-10 month sleep regression cause #2 - Nap transition

Eight months is the age where your 3rd catnap needs to be eliminated, if it hasn't already. Especially if you are finding the child refuses this nap at least 50% of the time, if the 3rd nap is occurring much past 4:00pm, or if with the 3rd nap, you are now clocking less than 11 hours of sleep at night - it's time to go. I generally recommend that even if you're not seeing these obvious signs of readiness by 8 months of age, you should still begin the transition towards a two nap schedule. Nap transitions are tricky and they can be messy if we're not handling them properly. If we  jump too quickly into a two nap schedule, this can cause baby to become overtired... and a regression is born. Nap transitions aren't a race - slow and steady really is best. Start by slowly adding awake time before each of your naps - maybe 5 minutes onto all of them or 15 minutes before one nap. The best order to add time in is middle first (2nd and 3rd nap) then 1st nap, then bedtime. It is normal during a nap transition to flip-flop back and forth between 2 nap and 3 nap days depending on baby's wake-up time and the quality of the naps. With time, you will find that you are unable to fit in a 3rd nap before 4:00pm so you'll want to use an early bedtime to compensate. I can't stress this enough, this is where nap transitions go wrong. Parents become too stuck on a 'set' bedtime, but now that we've lost an entire sleep period, that stretch between the 2nd nap and the 'set' bedtime is way too long, causing the child to become overtired (bedtime battles, nightwakings, sleep-cries, and potentially an early wake-up the next day are all symptoms of a too-late bedtime). There is no advantage to a later bedtime if the child is awake crying every 3-4 hours because the bedtime was too late. Do not be afraid of a temporary early bedtime during nap transitions - it is essential.

What not to do:

Don't let that third nap hang around too long if it's obviously causing issues with nightsleep. Naps are important but nightsleep is far superior.  If your 3rd nap is interfering with nightsleep and causing baby to clock less than 11 hours at night - it's time to go. 
Don't rush the transition - slow and steady is best.
Don't stall in the transition. You need to continue to slowly stretch baby's awake times to move them to a solid 2 nap schedule. Your day will likely start out like this:

7:00am - wake-up
9:30am-11:00am - nap 1
1:45pm-3:15pm - nap 2
6:15pm - bedtime

and should eventually look like this:

7:00am - wake-up
10:00am-11:30am - nap 1
3:00pm-4:00pm - nap 2
7:30pm - bedtime


Sleep regressions are an exhausting part of parenting but we all go through it at some point.  During these times, just remember to be flexible, be prepared, and be careful not to create a new sleep crutch (or bring back an old one).  As hard as it can be to remain consistent at times, it really is best for everyone and helps the regression pass in a more timely manner.

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

What to Dress Baby in at Night

I get the question, "What should I dress my baby in at night?" a lot. Therefore, I've made a handy chart for you to refer to if you're just not sure. This chart was created for children who wear a sleepsack to bed [which I recommend for all babies and children alike!] but the same idea can be applied to children who are not wearing a sleepsack or who are swaddled. The recommended temperature for baby's room, in order to provide the optimal environment for good-quality sleep, is between 19-21°C [68-72°F].

** as a note, 'TOG' is the rating used to describe the warmth or 'thermal resistance' of a product. The lower the 'TOG', the more lightweight the sleepsack is. Most sleepsacks come with a TOG rating on the package.

** as a note, 'TOG' is the rating used to describe the warmth or 'thermal resistance' of a product. The lower the 'TOG', the more lightweight the sleepsack is. Most sleepsacks come with a TOG rating on the package.

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Source: http://gro.co.uk/pages/what-to-wear

Daylight Savings Time and Your Baby's Sleep

Remember the good 'ol days when Daylight Savings Time meant an extra hour of sleep? HA! Those years are far behind us. Around this time of year I receive countless e-mails from families worried about the upcoming shift. Should you be concerned? Not if you have a solid plan of action. Read on for some strategies to cope.

True that!

True that!

Plan of Action #1 - The Slow Schedule Shift

For those families with children who are already perpetual early risers, this strategy might be right for you.  This strategy is also best for those with younger babies (8 months and under). Putting a little work in ahead of time can help to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible.  How do we do this?

Shift your baby's schedule 15 minutes later starting on the Wednesday before the time change hits. I don't recommend pushing any more than 15 minutes as you don't want baby to end up overtired (and we know that pushing bedtime too late usually results in an early wake-up anyway! Not cool baby!) So, for instance, if your baby is 6 months old and you usually put him to bed 2 hours after his 3rd nap ends, you would push him to 2.25 hours in hopes that he'll also sleep in 15 minutes later the next day. The next day, push each nap time 15 minutes later as well. Continue this schedule of 15 minute stretches until the time change hits, when (hopefully) your schedule will have shifted later by 1 hour.

Plan of Action #2 - The Big Shift

This strategy might work well for families with children that aren't waking up too early (later than 6:00am) or those who have older babies (over 8 months of age). Keep their schedule the same up to the time change but then on the day after the shift, push the schedule (as much as she can handle) back to her 'normal' routine. Your bedtime may be on the earlier end for a day or so but with time (and lots of natural light! As that is what sets our internal clocks!) she should settle back into her old schedule.

Plan of Action #3 - Plan? What Plan?

This "strategy" works best for those kids who are already waking up and going to bed at a reasonable time (7:00am or later with a 7:00pm or later bedtime) or who are not prone to overtiredness/easy type children. Your child wakes at 6:00am on the morning after Daylight Savings (which is still actually 7:00am) and you'll stick to your same schedule and put him to bed at 7:00pm that night (which to him will be 8:00pm).
Or, maybe your baby is an early bird but you don't really mind a few earlier mornings. You'll be waking up at 4:00am for a few days (which again, is still 5:00am) but he will adjust in a few days and start waking up at his old 5:00am soon enough.

What Else Can We Do to Help with Daylight Savings? 

  • Shift all your routines later, not just sleep times.
  • Making your baby's sleep space as dark as possible is essential for helping to reset their internal clock. Check out this great company here for custom window covers to completely darken your baby's sleep space.
  • Continue to always leave your baby in their bed until 6:00am (new time). If this transition is too big to achieve on the first day, do it gradually over a few days.
  • Natural sunlight is key for resetting our internal clocks, so take baby for a 20-30 minute early morning walk for a few days after we fall back, as the sunshine will help baby process that it's morning and will help to resolve any confusion with her circadian rhythms.
  • What not to do? Don't try to make the jump to their 'normal' bedtime too quickly. This will only lead to overtiredness and likely an early wake-up the next day. Embrace an earlier bedtime for a few days. The good news about Daylight Savings is that the effects only last a few days (keep this in mind when you're all excited for a later wake-up in the Spring. Sorry to burst your bubble!)

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

My Baby's Nightwakings - Habit or Hunger?

Frequent nightwakings are within the top 3 issues that I deal with on a daily basis. It's tough enough to be consistent with baby sleep during the day, but when it's the middle of the night and all you want to do is go back to sleep - it's even harder. But sending a consistent message 24 hours/day is very important in order to see success with our babies' sleep, and that means trying to stay strong even in the wee hours. First, let's take a look at what the 'average' nightsleep of your baby at each age looks like:
 

Average Nightsleep for Babies 0-12 Months

0-2 months: every 2-3 hour feedings during the day and night (could mean as many as 5 nightfeedings)
3 months: 3 nightfeedings, longer first stretch emerges (about 4 hours long)
4 months: 2 nightfeedings, first stretch is about 5 hours in length
5 months: 2 nightfeedings, first stretch is 6+ hours
6 months: 1 nightfeeding, longest stretch is 6/7 hours
**in order for baby to go longer than 6/7 hours at night, solids need to be well-established, meaning 3 meals/day consisting of all 4 food groups in addition to milk
7 months: 1 nightfeeding, 6/7+ hour stretch
8-9 months: this is the average age that babies will drop all nightfeedings
10-12 months: babies may have an occasional nightfeed, but are able to sleep through most nights 

**this chart is assuming that baby is gaining weight properly, healthy, and has no other medical concerns. Speak to your doctor if you have any doubts


Trying to decide whether your baby is waking out of habit or out of hunger? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your baby eating enough during the day? Sometimes babies will get stuck in a cycle of taking in too many calories at night thus leading to less during the day (also called 'reverse cycling'). Baby truly needs this feeding, but it's important to reverse the cycle.
     
  • Does your baby eat and then fall back asleep quickly and easily? Sometimes when a nightwaking is habitual and not hunger-related, it will take baby quite some time to return to sleep afterwards.
     
  • After your baby feeds, does s/he then sleep in sound 3-4 hour stretches? If you're feeding baby only to find them waking up again every hour all night long, you likely have a habitual waking on your hands.
     
  •  If you don't feed, will baby stay up crying for an extended period of time? A baby who fusses or cries persistently if s/he's not fed may truly need the feeding.
     
  • Does your baby fall asleep for the night completely independently from the wide awake state? If baby is a self-sufficient sleeper with no sleep props and is still waking for a feed, it might be truly necessary.
     
  •  Is baby under the age of 8/9 months? It is very likely that before this age, baby may still need at least 1 nightfeeding.

 

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Early Wake-Up? Ask Yourself These Questions

There's a few topics that I get questions about every single day; short naps, too many nightwakings/nightfeedings, the 4 month sleep regression, and early wake-ups. The latter is what we will be discussing today. Nobody likes to see a "5" on their alarm clock in the morning (unless you're crazy like me and set your alarm for that time!) and a 5:00am wake-up call from your baby is even less desirable (you're not cute at 5am baby! You're just not!) If you're finding that your wake-up time is creeping earlier and earlier, or maybe it's always been early, there's usually a reason for it. Generally, the natural wake-up time of most children is anywhere between 6:00-8:00am. Especially if that early wake-up call means your baby has clocked less than 11-12 hours of nightsleep, ask yourself the following questions to see if you can get to the bottom of it:

  1. Is your bedtime too late? A bedtime that is too late for baby is a recipe for an early wake-up. The majority of babies do best with a bedtime of between 6:00-8:00pm. Check out my blog post here for help finding your baby's ideal bedtime.

  2. Is your bedtime too early? While you all know I love me an early bedtime, we never want to get stuck in a perpetual 5:00pm bedtime cycle, as this, over time, will lead to baby waking up early. A super early bedtime is great on crappy nap days or when we are trying to chip away at some sleep debt that may have accumulated from weeks/months of poor sleep, but it's not meant to be used consistently over the span of several days/weeks.

  3. Are you keeping baby awake too long in between last nap and bedtime? That stretch between the last nap of the day and bedtime is the most sensitive of the day, and if we are stretching it too far will lead to nightwakings, sleep-cries, and a potential early wake-up the next day. Check out my blog post here for the maximum interval of wakefulness your baby should have, at any given age.

  4. Is your baby hungry? If that 5:00am wake-up is 3.5-4 hours from your last nightfeeding, then baby may be truly hungry at that time and it's a good idea to feed him and put him back down to allow him time to fall back asleep and continue his nightsleep. Many babies will keep one last early nightfeeding into their 9th month.

  5. Are you always leaving baby until 6:00am? Getting baby up before this time lets him know that this is indeed an appropriate wake-up time. We always want to ensure we leave baby until 6:00am to discourage any wakings prior to this and to send a consistent message, 24 hours/day.

  6. Is baby falling asleep independently with zero props? Sleep is the lightest between 4-6am and if baby relies on any props to go to sleep for the night initially (yes, that paci counts!!!) then when they wake up in these early morning hours, they will need you to re-create these same conditions but since sleep is so light at this time, it is harder for them to fall asleep even with your assistance.

  7. Is baby's bedroom dark enough? Especially with the summer solstice in June, the sun is up early. If baby's bedroom is too bright at this time (and with sleep being very light at this time as well) it may be difficult for the child to return to sleep. Turn that bedroom into a baby cave!

  8. Is your baby teething? The most common 'sleep symptom' of teething is a temporary early wake-up. Again, we know that sleep is light in the early morning hours and if baby is uncomfortable/in pain/discomfort then it will be difficult for them to return to sleep at this time. The effects are at their worst one week before the tooth pops through, with the worst offenders being the top front teeth and the molars.

  9. Is baby overtired? An inappropriate daytime schedule (not enough naps/daysleep, baby being kept awake too long in between naps, etc.) is a major cause of an early wake-up. The best solution for an overtired baby is an early bedtime to help them catch up on sleep (as well as a round of sleep training if the cycle of overtiredness is caused by negative sleep associations!)

  10. Is baby going through a nap transition? Early wake-ups are inevitable as baby transitions to a new nap schedule, even with well-rested children who consistently sleep through the night.

  11. Is baby reaching a new milestone? At the peak of mastering a new skill (crawling, standing up, walking, talking, terrible 2's, etc) baby may temporarily wake early for 2-3 weeks.

 

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

A Letter to Your Family about Sleep

Dear helpful friend/family member/neighbour/random person at the grocery store,

This letter is intended to help you understand the complicated world of baby sleep. As we parents all know, things are always changing. Twenty years ago there wasn't any "Professional Sleep Consultants" to help teach babies to sleep. So why now and why should we listen to them? Because we are now discovering how important sleep is to children of all ages, and how detrimental sleep deprivation can be. There is no one single thing that will magically work for all babies to help them sleep, but there are many things that families may be doing (or advised to do) that can be the exact opposite of helpful. I hope that this article will help bring some of this unhelpful advice to the surface, and to help you understand why exactly it is ill-advised. The following "un-advice" is taken directly off my Facebook page from family members of my lovely followers.

Sleep Un-Advice #1 - "Your daughter doesn't need to sleep so much during the day. If she stays up longer, she will sleep better at night."

Ahhh yes. The 'ol "keep them up so they will sleep longer" schpiel. This is the crème de la crème of poor sleep advice. I strongly believe that sleep is the area that the most poor advice is given simply because there is so much with baby sleep that is opposite of what you would think. As the saying goes, "sleep is not logical, it's biological". Babies need to sleep. A lot. WAY more than most would think. To give you an idea, here is a breakdown of sleep needs per day over the first 12 months of life:

Under 2 months: 16-20 hours
3 months: 15.5-18 hours
4 months: 15.5 hours
5 months: 15 hours
6 months: 14.5 hours
7/8 months: 14-14.5 hours
9-11 months: 14 hours
12-14 months: 13.5-13.75 hours

Do you know what happens when a baby is overtired? There is a hormone in our bodies called 'cortisol'. This is the same hormone that is secreted when we are stressed....or when we are sleep-deprived. The more sleep-deprived we are, the more this hormone is secreted. Once we have reached the state of overtiredness, with all this cortisol pumping through our bodies, it is nearly impossible to fall asleep. I'm sure you have experienced a time when you are so dead exhausted, you go lay down in your bed, only to find yourself staring at the ceiling for hours because you simply cannot fall asleep. The same rule applies to babies, only amplified since they are so young and sensitive to sleep. In order to avoid this overtired state, babies need to sleep...A LOT. To give you an idea of how long a baby can tolerate being awake before they become overtired, here is a breakdown of the maximum awake times for the first year:

Under 2 months: 45-60 minutes
3 months: 1.5 hours
4 months: 1.75-2 hours
5 months: 2 hours
6 months: 2.5 hours
7 months: 2.75 hours
8/9 months: 3 hours
10-14 months: 3-4 hours

Keep in mind, these are the maximum awake times. Meaning we want baby to be asleep before we hit this maximum time. As well, some babies may require a bit less awake time before they reach that overtired state (especially between morning wake-up and first nap, this time is often very short as this nap is a continuation of nightsleep).

How much a baby needs to sleep and how often a baby needs to sleep is often something that is grandly underestimated by families. Sleep is a biological need, not a luxury - it's food for the brain! Sleep begets sleep - the more sleep a little baby gets, the more its little body wants!

I get the same thing. My child naps too much during the day and if I just kept him up he would sleep longer at night. And I also get that a 6:30-7:00pm bedtime is ridiculous and that I’m too tied down to a schedule. I love that my child is a happy baby because he has a great sleep routine! I will preserve that for as long as I can! And frankly I’m ready for bed by 8pm anyways!
— Momma C

Sleep Un-Advice #2 - "No one believes me when I say the earlier you put the baby to bed the longer he/she will sleep."

I know I said the above 'advice' was the cherry on top, but I might have to call it a tie here. Not only are early bedtimes something that families push back on, but it's something that a vast majority of my clients push back on as well. I don't blame them, it really does seem opposite that an early bedtime would = a later wake-up but it couldn't be more true. Now why is that?

Babies all have natural wake-up times that are predetermined before they are even born. As an adult, you are likely either a night owl or a morning lark. I bet if you asked your Mom or Dad whether this rang true while you were a baby as well, they would agree. We can't fight biology. We can't fight these natural wake-up times. All we can do is respect them and put baby to bed at an appropriate time so as to allow them to clock the 11-12 hours of nightsleep they need. Every single night. In 90% of cases, a baby's natural wake-up time is anywhere between 6:00-8:00am.


Let's take a 5 month old baby named Julia for example. Julia has a natural wake-up time of 7:00am. Julia's mother knows this because Julia is very well-rested and she sleeps through the night for her age (meaning two nightfeedings). Knowing that Julia's natural wake-up time is 7:00am and that she needs 11-12 hours of nightsleep with two nightfeedings, that would mean Julia would have to be asleep for the night between 6:30-7:30pm in order to clock a full 11-12 hours of nightsleep (subtracting, of course, the time it takes for her to eat twice at night). What will happen if we put Julia to bed at 9:00pm because 6:30pm is "just too early to be going to bed"? She will wake up at the same time in the morning but will only have slept 9.5 hours. As well, since Julia's bedtime was too late for her, she may wake up crying several times in the night. Now Julia will be extremely overtired, which may lead her to take short naps the next day and thus perpetuate the cycle of overtiredness. There really is no advantage to a later bedtime if baby is up every 3-4 hours crying because the bedtime was too late. This goes hand-in-hand with Un-Advice#1 - babies need a lot of sleep, and we need to respect their need for said sleep.

Sleep Un-Advice #3 - " I get told that I am letting my children run my life, they should be fitting into my lifestyle instead of me working around theirs."

This criticism always really baffles me. I know for me, when I became pregnant with my first child, I knew my life was about to change drastically. I knew that I wouldn't get to do all the things I used to do, to take vacations on a whim or meet my friends for coffee at the drop of a hat. Babies change your life. When you have a child, your mission in life is to take care of this little person - to feed them, clothe them, nurture them, and to ensure they are healthy and happy. Babies are never convenient, and especially where it comes to sleep, they are highly inconvenient. A baby's sleep needs are SO high, as I've mentioned above. They need to sleep - A LOT. But this sleep is just as important to them as being fed nutritious food. We wouldn't starve our babies, so why sleep-starve them? We wouldn't feed our children junk food so why feed them junk sleep? Now, of course I am not staying that you are now house-bound for the first 2 years of your life because your baby needs to sleep, we all know life happens. An occasional nap on-the-go here or a late-ish bedtime there is not going to be detrimental to your child. But guess who deals with the ramifications of these late bedtimes or missed naps? Especially for those babies who are especially sleep-sensitive, a late bedtime can lead to a sleepless night and an extra early wake-up the next day....for baby AND Mom/Dad.
We are all just trying to do what's best for our children, and healthy sleep IS what's best for them. Babies are only babies once. Their sleep needs are ever-changing and there will come a time when they don't need to nap, where they don't need to be asleep for the night in the 6's, and where a late bedtime won't throw them off for the next 3-5 days. But for now, adhering to a good sleep schedule and allowing your baby the opportunity for lots of good quality, healthy sleep is only going to benefit them in the long-run.

I’m on baby #3. The first two slept anywhere and everywhere and still do. My third was a whole different baby who is an absolute nightmare when she even slightly deviates from her norm. She’s been called a “bad baby”, I’ve been told that we shouldn’t have more because she’s “too much”. Sleep training has saved my marriage and given me a sweet, happy baby. So while I am strong in my convictions that our sleep habits work - I do get worn down when I hear all the complaints listed here: “your kid controls your life”, “she should/shouldn’t be tired”, “she needs to learn to sleep anywhere”, etc.
— Momma J

Sleep Un-Advice #4 - "A baby will be more portable and sleep anywhere if they're taught to."

I have written about this popular 'advice' on another one of my articles (as well as a few other helpful 'suggestions' that friends and family love to share including starting cereal to help baby sleep and crying it out damaging babies), you can check it out here . But I will write about it again now because I am just very passionate about this topic. While it seems logical that always putting baby to bed in his/her crib, in a pitch black bedroom with some lovely, soothing white noise is going to spoil baby and cause them to not be able to adapt to any other situation, this is entirely false.

Why do we use a dark bedroom for baby sleep? First off, because babies (especially older babies) can be stimulated by just about anything - a wallpaper pattern, a toy across the room, a shadow on the wall. All of this stimulation can lead to poor sleep. As well, from a scientific standpoint, a dark bedroom stimulates the production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone). The brighter the days and the darker the sleep times, the more melatonin is secreted (and therefore, the quality and quantity of sleep is increased).
And as for white noise? A baby in the womb is subjected to constant noise - the sound of mom's blood pumping, her heart beating, and muffled voices from the outside. It is quite daunting to go from constant sound for 9 months to dead silence. White noise has been shown to reduce stress in babies and to help them sleep better - it helps them to power down at the end of the day, a day that is filled with 100 new sights, sounds, and experiences. In addition to white noise helping babies to decompress, it also is crucial in muffling the sounds of the house which can wake baby during naps and/or the night. While some may say that "baby should get used to the noise" what would you do if you finally fell asleep for a nap and then someone started vacuuming outside your door, the dog started barking, doorbells are ringing, kids are running around outside your room screaming. You wouldn't be too impressed. So why shouldn't a baby have the luxury of a quiet and peaceful sleep time, especially when we know how important this sleep is to the child? Sure there are going to be times where the child may need to sleep in a noisy environment or perhaps a bedroom that is not pitch black but this is the beauty of healthy sleep - a child who is well-rested and given the opportunity to have quality, restorative sleep learns to LOVE sleep. They don't care where they do it, their bodies just love it. Why should we provide our children with improper sleeping conditions 100% of the time just so that the 10% of the time when they are sleeping in these non-ideal conditions (say at the beach, or camping,etc.) that they might be adapted to it already? Well-rested children are extremely adaptable, and the key to helping a child become well-rested is providing them with opportunities for healthy sleep.

My son (who is currently 18 months) has slept in his pitch black bedroom, in his crib, with his double white noise blaring for every single sleep time since the day he was born. We took a leap of faith and went camping one day, mainly because I wanted to experiment with how he would do in these non-ideal sleeping conditions. In the bright camper, with no white noise, dogs barking, kids screaming, he took his usual 3 hour nap. His body loves to sleep, it doesn’t care where it’s doing it, it just knows it WANTS it!
— Pam

Any way you slice it, we are all just trying to do what's best for our kids. Not all babies are easy babies, and it can be hard to walk in the shoes of someone with a more sleep-sensitive child if all you've had are easy children. Not all babies can sleep anywhere, anytime, in any environment. If you had a child like this - consider yourself lucky! And to be honest, it likely wasn't anything you did to make them that way, you were just dealt a lucky hand. As well, our expectations of 'good sleep' are vastly different across the board. While one mom might consider it 'normal' for her 12 month old to be waking up 2-3 times at night (and therefore she doesn't feel the need to keep baby on an age-appropriate schedule during the day), other parents know that life can be better than that! That a baby can sleep much better than that if we provide them with the right tools. So the next time you are ready to criticize a friend/family member/neighbor/etc. on what they choose to do in order to help their child sleep better, consider instead applauding them for respecting their child's need for sleep, even if it means sacrificing a bit of their own time to attain it.

 

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

My Cry-It-Out Homework

Chances are at some point in your parenting career you have googled, "Is CIO harmful" ,or "The effects of CIO on babies", or something similar to that. I know I did; when my 4 month old was up 183943 times a night - and the things I read were horrible! Terrible! "I will never do that to my child", I thought. But the more I read, the more I really researched what these 'studies' were all about, the more I realized that, no, this was not harmful to my child. What was more harmful to her was the lack of a routine and the sleep deprivation that she was experiencing. The endless hours of screaming at night because she was utterly exhausted, the 'micro-naps' during the day. And not to mention my own sanity - I was losing it! So when I decided to become a Professional Sleep Consultant, I did some more 'CIO Homework' and I found those same studies/articles and also some "Pro" CIO studies/articles and I debunked them. Keep reading below for my findings: 

 

ANTI-CIO  #1: 
"Ongoing childhood stress can permanently alter the way a child’s brain works".
-2013 United States Lactation Consultant Association.  Editorial written by Kathleen KendallTackett. 

“PRO”-CIO #1:
"Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects (positive or negative). Parents and health professionals can confidently use these techniques to reduce the short- to medium-term burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression".
-Official Journal of the AAP
 

The first Anti-CIO study was conducted on the neuropsychology of trauma, with a focus on the longterm impact of childhood abuse.  The participants in this study were a range of ages, some adults and some under the age of 5.  The findings were consistent with the theory that chronic stress is bad for the brain, and this was especially true for children.  Ongoing childhood stress can permanently alter the way a child’s brain works. Now that last sentence there is where this study loses its credibility in a CIO debate. Ongoing childhood stress is bad for the brain.  Letting your baby cry to teach them self-soothing skills in an otherwise rich and loving environment is NOT “ongoing childhood stress”.

The “Pro” CIO study (I put pro in quotations because I don’t believe that anybody is necessarily “pro” CIO) was conducted by a team of researchers in Australia.  The study included 326 children with parent-reported sleep problems at the age of 7 months, and followed them over a 5 year period.  There were no marked differences emotionally in the children who underwent sleep training techniques as babies, as well as any attachment issues between mother and child in the families that used CIO techniques.



ANTI-CIO #2:
"Science Says: Sears quotes a study that states that infants who experience persistent crying episodes were ten times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior".
-askdrsears.com

“PRO” CIO #2:
What some may diagnose as ADHD, might really be chronic sleep deprivation, potentially stemmed from poor sleep habits beginning in infancy.
-National Sleep Foundation
 

The article written by Dr. Sears entitled “Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful” is probably the most quoted article by anti-CIO advocates.  But his “science” is flawed.  The study he cites was conducted at Pennsylvania State with 116 families and concluded that babies who persistently cried were more likely to develop behavioral problems later in life. From this, Dr. Sears fuels his anti-CIO advocacy, claiming that CIO = behavior problems, plain and simple. What Sears does not divulge in his article is that this study has NOTHING to do with the cry-it-out method.  In fact, this study instead was examining whether persistent crying in infancy was a symptom of underlying issues such as hyperactivity, which could develop later in life.  As well, the study pointed out that the responsiveness of the mother to the persistent crying made no difference as “the infant who cries excessively in early infancy will be likely inconsolable”.  This study, therefore, cannot be used to prop up the anti-CIO arguments.  Besides, what about children that have colic as infants?  Are they doomed to be riddled with behavioral problems because of a mystery condition that causes persistent and lengthy bouts of crying?  Not likely.

There are many credible articles citing the similarities between a child with ADHD and a sleep deprived child.  It has been hypothesized time and time again that what was thought to be ADHD (in some cases) is in actuality chronic sleep deprivation, which could potentially date back to when a child was a baby and wasn’t taught how to sleep properly.  A study performed at the Department of Psychiatry in Taipei, Taiwan, polled the parents of 2643 first to ninth graders and discovered that dyssomnia (sleep-disordered breathing problems and daytime inadvertent napping) were related to ADHD symptoms as reported by mothers and teachers.  Perhaps if these children were given the necessary tools as babies, and had their sleep needs respected, they would not be exhibiting as many or all of these symptoms as school-aged children.

 

ANTI-CIO #3:
"CIO leads to increased cortisol levels in a baby’s brain, and increased cortisol levels inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system".
-Clinical Lactation, study conducted at the University of North Texas.

“PRO” CIO #3:
"Just like adults, when babies are under stress, cortisol is produced. But how does this really translate to "trauma to brain development"? Babies are stressed if they are hurt, too cold, too hot, too hungry, and too tired, but crying is a means of expressing that stress, not the cause of the stress".
- www.slate.com, article debunking the journal produced by ‘Clinical Lactation’ written by Melinda Wenner Moyer
 

In the study supporting the Anti-CIO argument, 25 infants, ages 4-10 months, went through a 5-day CIO sleep training program at a lab in New Zealand.  The researchers measured the blood cortisol levels in both the infants and the mothers before and after the babies were put to sleep on the first and third nights.  The theory concluded that the cortisol levels of the babies certainly rose during the study, and never dropped, which is dangerous as even though there was an absence of crying after a couple of nights, the cortisol levels remained high, meaning the babies continued to be stressed.

What is an interesting finding here is that the babies’ cortisol levels did in fact rise, but they did not increase upon leaving the children to cry themselves to sleep.  It is impossible to conclude that the babies were indeed stressed by the sleep training methods when there was no rise in the levels.  What we can conclude is that it is likely the babies were stressed from being put to sleep in an unfamiliar environment, but there is no further study done on babies at home in their beds, and their cortisol levels upon sleep training.



ANTI-CIO #4:
In a study performed on rats, rat mothers who were nurturing towards their rat babies (i.e. licked their babies often) produced more growth hormones and changed the chemistry of the DNA in certain genes involved in the offspring's stress response.
-Dr. Michael Meaney, professor at McGill University 

“PRO” CIO #4:
"CIO is not a punishment, it is not a result of a mother who does not wish to nurture their child, it is a lesson in self-soothing".
-article written by Chad Skelton in the Vancouver Sun

In this study performed by Dr. Michael Meaney (and quoted by many anti-CIO advocates), female rats and their nurturing behaviors toward their babies were observed.  It was discovered that the level of care a rat mother gives her pup changes the chemistry of the DNA in certain genes involved in the offspring's stress response.  If in the first 10 days of life (which is equal to the first 6 months of a baby’s life), you have a low nurturing mother rat, the gene that controls anxiety is never turned on, and the rat is anxious towards new situations for the rest of its life.  We can therefore allegedly conclude that when we use the CIO method with our children, they will turn into anxious children.  I digress.
First and foremost, there aren’t many sleep experts that would promote CIO (strict CIO – i.e. Extinction) on a baby under the age of 6 months.  Second, this comes back to the assumption that a mother who chooses CIO is not a nurturing parent.  We are choosing to ignore a baby’s cries at certain periods in the day – sleep time – not around the clock.  An otherwise nurtured child who was taught self-soothing techniques by a parent using CIO will in no way have the same ill effects as an abused and neglected child.  CIO is not a punishment, it is a lesson.  A child who is crying before a sleep period (we are talking over the age of 6 months) is not necessarily communicating to you that they NEED you, more likely it’s that they WANT you.  When your child wants to play with the electrical outlets, and he cries when we move him away, do we allow him to continue playing because he cries? No. He doesn’t need to play with the outlet, he wants to.


 

The CIO vs. non-CIO debate has been around forever, and always will be.  Everybody is entitled to their own opinion on this matter, but I think it’s worth researching both sides in order to have an educated opinion on the matter.  I think it is quite obvious that the bulk of the ‘research based’ evidence toted by the anti-CIO advocates is highly skewed, and sometimes just plain inaccurate, and not even performed on humans! Every parent has a different set of philosophies, of beliefs, and what works for one family does not necessarily work for the next. But if you are facing the decision of whether to sleep train your child please do your own research and come to your own conclusions about whether or not this is harmful to your child. While CIO is not the only way to teach a child to sleep, it's important for you to feel confident in whatever method you choose. 

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'..... How to Cope with the Rolling Phase

fun fact: this video is almost 15 years old...WHAT?!?

fun fact: this video is almost 15 years old...WHAT?!?

Ahhh the dreaded rolling phase. I remember this so well with my second baby....it sucked. When my ovaries start twinging and I think I want a third baby - I remember this phase and it snaps me back to reality. As awful and frustrating and stressful as it is, it is very short-lived. In this post, I will give you some helpful instructions about how to cope with the rolling phase as best we can.

 

 

How to prevent the rolling phase

There are some ways we can seemingly prevent this phase (or at least, delay it as long as possible so that hopefully by the time the phase hits, baby is efficiently rolling both ways). A few tricks are:

  1. Swaddling baby. Keep your baby swaddled for as long as possible. Until baby is able to roll in the swaddle, you can continue to keep her wrapped up. This often prevents baby from rolling in the crib (ensure that the swaddle is nice and snug as this makes rolling even more difficult).
  2. Merlin's Magic Sleep SuitI recommend these a lot as I really think they are pure magic. The Sleep Suit is perfect for babies who are unable to be swaddled (babies who are rolling in the swaddle or babies who are busting out of a swaddle even after using The Super Swaddle or a Double Swaddle (Super Swaddle + a velcro swaddle sack)). Also helpful for keeping babies positioned on their back (so not so helpful if your baby is a tummy sleeper who has just begun to flip onto his back). We are able to keep baby in one of these Suits until they are efficiently rolling both ways, and then the transition to a sleepsack is (generally) seamless.

The rolling phase has hit....now what?

You've done all you can to prevent this phase from coming (and it is a lot easier to prevent it if baby is a back sleeper, if baby is a tummy sleeper the rolling phase is a lot trickier) but it's now here. So what do you do when baby flips over, gets stuck, and cries? Well, there are a couple of things to try:

  1. The child has just started rolling and it is only occasionally disrupting sleep. Put baby down in the usual position (so on back for a back sleeper, tummy for a tummy sleeper) and leave. If baby rolls over and is upset, always make sure to wait a minimum of 10-15 minutes before deciding if an intervention is required. If after the initial wait baby is very upset (more than just fussing), go to him, flip him, and walk out. This allows the child the opportunity to learn to sleep in the new position and/or roll back himself. You may choose to continue this for as long as it takes or move onto step 2 which is....
  2. The child has been rolling for a while (may be able to roll back), sleep disruption is regular and frequent, and may be doing this for the attention or because it's fun. Put baby to bed in the new position (so on tummy for a back sleeper, on back for a tummy sleeper). If the child gets upset, use whatever method you are comfortable with (see sleep coaching methods here) for as long as it takes until the child has fallen asleep in the new position. Same goes for any nightwakings until midnight. After midnight, if baby is still struggling to sleep, use plan 1 above. This takes the novelty out of rolling and teaches the child to learn to sleep in the new position. After three days, it doesn't matter which way the child sleeps, she is used to both.
  3. The 'One Free Flip' Rule. This is the most direct of the three approaches. For this technique, you put baby down in their usual position (back for a back sleeper, tummy for a tummy sleeper) and leave. If they roll over, you flip them back one time only. After that, it is up to them to either roll back or fall asleep in the new position. You would only use this method for a baby who you know can consistently roll both ways, they just seem to have magically forgotten as soon as they are in their crib.

In addition to following one of the plans above, it is also of pivotal importance to practice practice practice during the day. Practicing rolling front to back and back to front. It is especially important to practice right before sleep times, so incorporate a rolling session into your nap time/bedtime routine so it is fresh in his mind when he goes into his crib.
Making sure baby's bedroom is pitch black is especially important during this rolling phase, as we want to limit distractions. As well, you may want to consider introducing a small lovey (see my favorite product for young babies to the right) at this stage (if you are comfortable with it) as it gives the child something to do with their hands (especially those that were once swaddled and now have a new-found freedom of movement) while they are 'stuck' in their new position. 

Start this rolling plan at bedtime, as the drive to sleep is much higher at night and they are less able to fight us (as sleep will eventually overcome them). Once bedtime is not an issue, naps won't be an issue either. If you are consistent, the process should only take about three days.

Once babies are able to roll freely both ways in their cribs, they become much better sleepers. If we are constantly rolling them back to their preferred position all night long, we are not giving them the opportunity to learn to love different sleeping positions (this is especially important for back sleepers, as the vast majority of back sleepers turn into tummy sleepers, and once they learn to love their tummy, they sleep much better).


Have you gone through the rolling phase? How did it pan out for you? Share your stories below and we can all commiserate together ;)

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

5 Reasons Why your Child Isn't Sleeping through the Night

This blog post is meant to be PART THREE of my Toddler Sleep Series on Nightwakings (you can reads parts 1 & 2 here and here) but really, this information applies to babies and toddlers alike. Unless you have an all-star sleeper from birth (and damn you if you do. We are all jealous of you!) then we need to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row before your child will sleep through the night (whatever that may mean at their age, see here for the definition of 'sleeping through the night' by age). This list is meant to give you a helpful idea of the top 5 things that we as parents might be doing to sabotage our chances of our child sleeping peacefully the whole night through.


1. Baby is not falling asleep independently

What's that you say? You knew I was going to say that? Well sorry folks, but it's absolutely true. Unless your child magically fits into that very small category of babies who can be nursed/rocked/bounced/cuddled to sleep and stay asleep all night long (and I hate to say it but even if they are, there is a pretty good chance that their sleep might regress and you can start to see nightwakings in your future) then we need to ensure that our child is falling asleep 100% independently with NO props (that bottle that baby takes to bed? That's a prop too! That paci they use to fall asleep? Prop!) In order to help your child fall asleep independently, some sleep coaching will likely be necessary, and there are a range of methods from the 'let cry' to the 'no cry' that can help them do just that. Why is it so important that they fall asleep on their own? We often use this analogy and it's the best way to help parents realize why it's so crucial.
Imagine if every night you fell asleep in your comfy cozy bed, but when you woke up in the middle of the night, you were in your kitchen. You would sit up and wonder how the heck you got here and of course, being so confused, you would not simply be able to roll over and fall back asleep. You would have to get up, walk back to your bedroom, and fall back asleep in your bed. Now imagine this happened to you night after night after night. Soon, you would start fighting sleep in hopes of catching the person that keeps moving you! Now think of it how a child sees it. Every night the child falls asleep snuggled up to Mom, maybe with a boob or a warm bottle in her mouth. When she wakes up everything has suddenly changed. Now she's in a dark bedroom, all by herself, the boob and bottle are nowhere to be found. Unlike an adult who just gets up and walks back to their bed, baby is unable to simply get up and re-create these conditions she used to fall asleep. So what does she do? She cries. And if this same sneaky change of scenery keeps happening night after night, she might start to fight sleep in order to prevent it from happening. Our goal with babies and children alike is for their to be no surprises in the middle of the night. We want everything to be exactly the same when baby falls asleep as it will be when they wake in the middle of the night (as all children do!) These same rules apply to toddlers, and laying in bed with your toddler until they fall asleep is going to cause the same issues as nursing a baby to sleep.

2. Baby is being put down 'drowsy but awake'

I am sure all of us at some point have had someone tell us that we need to be putting our babies down 'drowsy but awake', and while this is great advice for someone with a newborn baby (0-4 months), after this age, we really want to be putting baby down wide awake, and helping to teach them to go from that wide awake state to a fast asleep state completely on their own. Why doesn't drowsy but awake work? While it seems like helping baby to that drowsy state will facilitate the falling asleep process, it actually works the exact opposite. When a baby is in the 'drowsy' state (eyes open but heavy, looking around but slowly) they've already entered the first two stages of sleep. Now, when they are put down in this drowsy state, they are either going to a) fight sleep or b) succumb to sleep, but they are still associating the 'falling asleep' part with wherever they became drowsy. So what happens when they wake at night? They need those same conditions re-created (as we talked about in #1). So instead of bouncing/rocking/nursing baby until drowsy, make your bedtime routine short and sweet, include a song/short rocking right before put down time to relax baby, but not to help them become drowsy.

3. Baby is being fed too close to sleep times

This goes hand-in-hand with #2. A feeding too close to sleep time will work against us in the same way that helping baby to the drowsy state works against us. First off, even if baby is not falling asleep while being fed, it is pretty likely that this feeding is helping them to that drowsy state, and as we talked about in #2, we want baby falling asleep 100% on their own. Second, feeding baby too close to sleep times can still cause a feeding-to-sleep association even if it's not necessarily to sleep. When a feeding is the last thing that we are doing at the end of the night, guess what's the first thing on the child's brain when they wake at night?  Ding! Ding! Ding! Food!!!! As well, while it's pretty popular advice to 'tank baby up' before putting them down for the night in the hopes that they will sleep longer, past 4 months of age we really don't want to be trying to 'clusterfeed' baby anymore. Think about how you feel right after you eat a huge meal. Your digestive system goes into overdrive and it would be difficult to sleep (and if you did sleep, it would be a very restless and non-restorative sleep). Same goes for baby. In reality, if you are seeing multiple nightwakings all night long past 4 months (or any nightwakings at all past 8/9 months if baby is growing on time), they aren't hunger-related, so no amount of food is going to make them stop. Therefore, try moving the last feeding of the night to the beginning of your bedtime routine (for a baby 8/9 months or younger that still wakes multiple times a night) and for a baby 8/9 months who is still waking during the night, move the feeding even further, to immediately before/after dinner (or a cup/bottle with dinner if you've introduced one). This same advice goes for toddlers. Food = calories and calories = energy, and if we are giving our toddler a late-night or middle-of-the-night snack, that food turns into a burst of energy and your child is going to have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. Make sure that you are separating any snacks from bedtime by at least 30 minutes and that you are feeding your child enough healthy food during the day to ward off any late-night hunger.

4. Baby's daytime schedule is not age-appropriate

'Sleep is not logical, it's biological'. This is what I tell my families when they call me crazy for all the sleep-related advice that seems so backwards; tanking baby up won't help them sleep longer, early bedtimes = later wake-ups, and more daysleep leads to more nightsleep. That last one there couldn't be more true. The more baby sleeps during the day (as long as it's not in excess), the more baby will sleep at night. A well-rested child accepts sleep more readily, sleeps better, and sleeps longer than an overtired child. This means that in order to see A+ nightsleep, we need to see A+ daysleep - naps aren't optional, your child needs them. Making sure that your baby isn't kept awake too long in between naps (see here for how long is too long), making sure that baby has an appropriate number of naps and an age-appropriate bedtime (read here to find out if your baby's bedtime is too late). Keeping baby up in hopes that they will sleep longer at night may work for one night, but sleep debt is accumulative. Following that night up with another day of crappy naps and another too-late bedtime will almost certainly backfire. Making sure you respect your child's need for sleep will pay off in a big way.

5. Rushing in too quickly in the middle of the night

Guilty! When I was a first-time mom, I rushed in at first peep. I rushed in before there even was a peep. I didn't let my daughter learn to soothe herself because I was so afraid of my baby feeling any sort of pain, sadness, or loneliness. But as the months went on and the sleep got worse, I came to realize that I myself was sabotaging it. By rushing in too quickly, I wasn't giving K the chance to soothe herself in the middle of the night, and what I was the most shocked to discover were the phenomenon of 'sleep-cries'. All babies will have the occasional sleep-cry (and overtired children can have many sleep-cries over the course of the night, and the combination of chronic overtiredness and an inability to self-soothe means these sleep-cries may often turn into full-blown nightwakings). A sleep-cry is exactly as it sounds - a cry that baby makes while in their sleep. The cry is often a very piercing cry, it almost sounds like they are in pain, and it can last up to 10 minutes in duration. Rushing in during a sleep-cry will only awaken the child when they would have simply returned to sleep on their own (if you have a video monitor as I do, you can see that in fact, babies eyes are still closed while crying). If you are experiencing many sleep-cries within the first 3-4 hours of baby falling asleep, this is a good sign that your child is overtired and you may want to take a look at their daytime schedule and bedtime to see if it's meeting their needs. Sleep-cries are the reason that I always recommend to all my families to wait 10 minutes (up to 6 months) 15 minutes (up to 11 months) and 15-20 minutes (for toddlers) before deciding if you should intervene in the middle of the night. Your baby may surprise you one day and return to sleep unassisted, and they would never have done it if you hadn't given them the opportunity.


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

How the Wonder Weeks Affect Sleep

Have you guys heard of the 'Wonder Weeks'? The Wonder Weeks is a book that was written by two doctors and describes ten developmental growth spurts that baby goes through in her first 82 weeks of life. These developmental growth spurts aren't the same as the physical growth spurts, although they do occasionally overlap. During these developmental growth spurts, or 'Wonder Weeks', baby is putting so much effort into learning new skills that she begins to act out of sorts (what they describe as the 3 C's - clingy, crying, and cranky). Not surprisingly, and what I want to talk to you about, is that these Wonder Weeks can affect baby's sleep. Read on for a description of the different Wonder Weeks and how they can throw a wrench in your baby's sleep schedule.


Wonder Week 5 - The World of Changing Sensations

Previous to this leap, your baby's perspective of the outside world is soft and undefined - in other words, it hasn't changed much in his mind from life in the womb. Suddenly, he is able to make more sense of this new world, and this is very overwhelming to him. 
How does this affect sleep? This is the age where the evening fussy period begins to develop. A big cause of this evening fussy time is overstimulation from the day, and overtiredness. The evening is often the busiest time of the day in a family's household - dinner is being prepared, older kids have activities and need to do their homework, mom or dad is just coming home from work. That means that sometimes baby can be kept up awake much longer than he should be (remember, at this age it shouldn't be any more than 1 hour max). To help combat this fussy time, make sure baby is still soothed to sleep every hour, even during this busy time. Try to keep the house as calm and relaxed as possible, to make the transition from day to night easier on baby.

Wonder Week 8 - The World of Patterns

Babies at this age are now experiencing the world in a whole new way. They start to recognize simple patterns (not just visually, but things like 'I have 2 hands!' or 'I can move my leg like this!') Baby starts to be able to focus on things for longer periods of time, and becomes more curious about the world around her.
How does this affect sleep? This increasing alertness makes it all the more important that baby's environment is conducive to sleep. If her sleeping area is too bright, she may have trouble shutting off her brain.  If it's too loud and chaotic, she may have a hard time powering down for sleep. Ideally, baby's bedroom should be pitch black, and playing white noise can help reduce stress and help baby sleep better.

Wonder Week 12 - The World of Smooth Transitions

One of the big physical milestones that baby will have hit around the 8 week mark is the ability to bat at and kick objects with her arms and legs. These movements were often very jerky and clumsy - which is normal for a baby who is just learning how these limbs work! But approaching Wonder Week 12, baby's movements become smoother, more precise. As well, baby is also starting to perceive more changes in the world around him - how moms voice goes higher when she's singing a song, how the room becomes dim when the sun goes behind the clouds, how the dog always barks when the doorbell rings. The world is becoming a more organized place to baby!
How does this affect sleep? Around this age, as baby becomes stronger, he may start to break out of his swaddle. Many parents take this as a sign that baby no longer wants to be swaddled, but at this age most babies still do have at least a touch of the startle reflex and thus swaddling is still necessary. Oftentimes, we need to switch up our swaddling technique so that baby isn't able to  break-free. Check out this video below for the most amazing swaddling technique out there (and trust me, my baby was a Houdini and I tried everything!)

Wonder Week 19 - The World of Events

As adults, there are a lot of things that our brain does that we just don't think about, such as our ability to predict the outcomes of certain events. For example, we know that when someone jumps in the air, they will come down. This is what baby's brain is working on during this Wonder Week - learning very simple sequences of events (I drop my toy, mom picks it up, I drop it again, mom picks it up again - fun!)
How does this affect sleep? Now that baby is able to (somewhat) predict what will happen next in certain circumstances, having consistent routines becomes even more important. Babies do not like surprises, they thrive on routine and predictability. Your baby is now able to understand that a warm bath means it's bedtime soon, or that when mom sings 'Twinkle Twinkle' it means it's nap time. Click here for ideas on how to begin a flexible routine with baby. Wonder Week 19 also coincides with the '4 month sleep regression'.  Read up here to prepare yourself for this change in your baby's life.

Wonder Week 26 - The World of Relationships

Babies at this age start to be able to perceive distance between objects (or between people). To baby, the world is now a very big place and he is so very tiny. Things he wants are out of reach, and when mom leaves the room, there is no way to get her back! Therefore, babies at this age begin practicing ways of getting to these things that they want - by crawling, scooting, or rolling!
How does this affect sleep? As you can imagine, this new-found realization of how big the world is can bring with it some anxiety. Unless you are co-sleeping with baby, sleep times are a time of separation, and baby may begin to fight them! Help baby to realize that just because you're not right there beside her, doesn't mean you are gone forever. Play peekaboo, or practice leaving the room for short periods of time and then returning with a big smile on your face. Soon she will realize that you are still there for her even if you're not next to her 24/7.

Source: The Wonder Weeks HOW TO USE THIS CHART: After speaking with the good folks at 'The Wonder Weeks', they want to encourage parents to remember that just because baby is in a 'stormy' period, it doesn't mean we should stop parenting them (with the mindset that "Oh! It's okay, they're just in a Wonder Week!") In fact, the exact opposite is true, baby needs you more during these stormy periods. If you are well-informed about each of the wonder weeks (and I encourage you to read up even more about your baby's development), then you are better able to help your baby to make these cognitive leaps. 

Source: The Wonder Weeks
HOW TO USE THIS CHART: After speaking with the good folks at 'The Wonder Weeks', they want to encourage parents to remember that just because baby is in a 'stormy' period, it doesn't mean we should stop parenting them (with the mindset that "Oh! It's okay, they're just in a Wonder Week!") In fact, the exact opposite is true, baby needs you more during these stormy periods. If you are well-informed about each of the wonder weeks (and I encourage you to read up even more about your baby's development), then you are better able to help your baby to make these cognitive leaps. 

Wonder Week 37 - The World of Categories

Babies at this age love to start experimenting. They like to see the way food feels when you squish it, but that's it's different from the way yogurt feels. He is now able to group people, objects, animals, sensations into categories.
How does this affect sleep? Baby may start to experiment in other ways, perhaps in how acting a certain way affects the way his parents react. When I wake up throughout the night, how do my parents react? Does my mom rush in with a bottle or a boob and help me back to sleep? Or does my crying at night not serve much purpose, perhaps mom pops her head in to say 'it's okay, go back to sleep'. Baby may start to test these limits to see what will happen, and if baby gets what he wants, then these tests not become new habits (or if baby has always awoken many times at night, these habits continue or become worse). Obviously there are times when baby's cries can signal a need vs. a want, but if these cries are occurring 8 times a night every single night, then it is no longer something a baby at this age needs.

 



Wonder Week 46 - The World of Sequences

During this Wonder Week, baby is now learning that there is an order to things in life. There is a certain pattern of events that needs to occur before he is successful at something (big block goes on the bottom, then the smaller one goes next, then the smaller one goes after).
How does this affect sleep? While some parents may have become more relaxed with baby's routine, it is still so important at this age.  If nothing else, make sure you continue a consistent bedtime routine with your child. Repetition and structure help children feel safe. Bedtime declares that the day is over. When you are loving and firm about when it is time for bed, you are building your children’s confidence in their world. Repetition for young children is comforting — ever wonder why they want the same story over and over? The repetition of the getting ready for bed routine (getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, a drink of water, a story, a hug, goodnight) lets your child know what to expect and helps him or her feel secure.

Wonder Week 55 - The World of Programs

This Wonder Week begins your baby's journey into toddlerhood. He has made so many big discoveries in the past year but he still has so much to learn about the world around him. This Wonder Week brings with it the understanding that there are multiple means to an end (in other words, different sequences can accomplish the same thing). 
How does this affect sleep? Lots going on around this time! Many babies may just be learning to walk, weaning from breastfeeding may occur around this time and a lot of moms (or dads!) may be returning to work. Not coincidentally, this is also the age where separation anxiety is at its peak, and it can most certainly affect sleep. So what can we do to ease the anxiety that your toddler may be feeling during this time (keep in mind too that separation anxiety can hit at any time throughout baby's life and often seemingly comes out of nowhere):

  • I know you're tired of me saying it but...consistent and soothing nap and bedtime routines are increasingly important during the throws of separation anxiety.
  • Check yourself. Your baby can feed off of your emotions and if you're anxious, tense, upset, or worried, then chances are your child will feel those emotions right along with you. When you're putting baby down for sleep, be relaxed and confident, and it will help your toddler feel that way as well.
  • Help him feel better about good-bye. Sneaking away is one of the worst things you can do and will only compound your child's feelings of anxiety. The last thing you want an anxious child to think is that by letting you out of their sight, you're gone forever (well, it feels like forever to them!) Say a loving, confident, firm good-bye and let your child see you leave. He will learn that when you say good-bye, it still means you'll come back.
  • Comfort your child but don't create new (and bad!) habits. If your child is fitfully protesting at naptime, or waking throughout the night in tears, then you should absolutely comfort them. Your child's psychological needs must be met as well! But keep these interactions short and sweet - this is not the time to sing songs, read books, turn on a TV show, bring baby into bed with you, or lay on the floor in baby's room (guilty of this one!) New habits are created at lightning speed, so even after the separation anxiety is gone, the new habit is here to stay.

Wonder Week 64 - The World of Principles

Your toddler is now starting to think about different ways to accomplish his goals, and what the consequences of his decisions are. He may start to imitate others or role play his daily life. He may begin nagging/whining to get his way, or showing signs of aggressive behavior, and he is starting to figure out how to get someone to do something for him. 
How does this affect sleep? When it comes to sleep at this age, you need to start thinking of your 'baby' as a toddler. Sleep issues at this age are not usually sleep-related, and are now discipline-related. A child this age is learning how to get his way, and what actions get him those things (crying at bedtime means I get to stay up later, crying throughout the night means I get mom's attention, crying during nap time means I don't have to nap!) Breaking the cycle of positively reinforcing negative behavior is key. Children learn from repetition, therefore just as soon as he can figure out that his negative behavior elicits a positive reinforcement, he can learn that his negative behavior does not elicit a positive reinforcement.

Wonder Week 75 - The World of Systems

During this final mental leap (which occurs around 17 months), your child is now able to perceive 'systems' (meaning your family is different from a friend's family, etc.) He is also now understanding that he can choose how he wants to act; helpful, patient, careful, etc. His little conscience has begun to develop!
How does this affect sleep? We discussed limit testing during Wonder Week 37 but this Wonder Week is where it really comes into play. As written in the Wonder Weeks book, "You can’t spoil babies, but you can toddlers! By understanding what is happening inside that little head of your newly formed toddler – and remember, they are pretty savvy – you can shape the future behavior of your toddler and set values and norms that will carry him through life." This can be applied to our child's sleep as well - whatever he has come to expect with sleep times at this age will shape how he feels about sleep for the rest of his life. While setting limits is hard (nobody likes to see their child upset!) it is an absolutely essential part of parenting. The first limits that a child can test are those that come to sleep (and unfortunately, these are the limits that parents are often the most lax with!) 


What do you guys think? Are you a Wonder Week believer? Even if you're not, I hope you've found some of this information helpful in understanding what's going on in your little one's brain and how that can have adverse effects on how your child sleeps. Thanks for reading!

Source: http://www.thewonderweeks.com/can/

How to Create a Routine for Your Baby

I have been reading a lot of questions from parents about how and when to create a routine for your baby so I thought it'd be best if I created a blog post to help do just that! What I want to mention is that there is a big difference between a 'routine' and a 'schedule'.  I don't necessarily believe in rigidly scheduling a baby, I believe that there needs to be flexibility as babies can be very unpredictable. But without a doubt, babies thrive on routines. Babies like to know what to expect and they do not like surprises! If everyday is different, every naptime is in a different location at a different time, feedings are erratic and chaotic, then a baby may become overstimulated, stressed, overtired, and just miserable! This post is aimed at helping you decide if and when you should start a routine with your baby, or if your current routine needs a tune-up. 

When should I start a routine with my baby?

I honestly think that it is never too soon to get into a loose routine with your baby. As we all know, newborns are never predictable. They sleep erratically, they eat around the clock, they spend as many hours awake during the day as they do at night. But you can still begin to incorporate a very flexible routine to your baby, and you may find that by 6-8 weeks, they fall into a very predictable pattern. So what type of a routine can you begin with a baby this age?

  1. Soothing nap routines. As I mentioned above, newborn babies sleep around the clock. They are pretty much awake long enough to eat, and then they are back asleep. This is how it should be. Starting around 2-3 weeks, you will likely find that baby is starting to have more distinct awake periods, but still no more than 45 minutes at a time. This is a good time to start incorporating a soothing nap routine that does not involve feeding. We can do this by following the E.A.S.Y. routine (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). What this means, is that once baby is awake from a nap they would receive a feeding -EAT- either nursing or a bottle. Depending on the length of the feeding, they would have about 15-25 minutes of -ACTIVITY- time (which at this age would likely involve looking at mom, a toy, tummy time, playmat time, etc.) Then it would be time for your soothing nap routine. This is a very short routine, only about 5 minutes long, and could involve a combination of diaper changing in a dimly lit room, swaddling, rocking, singing, books, etc. Again, the soothing routine should be short, only about 5 minutes, as we don't want baby to become overstimulated or overtired. At the end of the routine you would put baby down in her chose nap location -SLEEP- (possibly in her crib/bassinet/playpen, in a swing, or even on mom!) Then the Y in E.A.S.Y. which means -YOU- time which if you're like most moms involves some combination of cleaning, caring for older kids, cooking, and hopefully taking a nap yourself! Once she is awake from the nap, the routine would repeat itself again (and again...and again...babies sleep a lot!!)
  2. Consistent bedtime routines. A bedtime routine is something else that can be started from day one. Bedtime routines are so incredibly important for all children, and even for adults! If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be the importance of a consistent bedtime routine for your child. The bedtime routine should't be anything too fancy or too long and drawn out - make it 30 minutes max. A feeding, a bath, a massage, jammies, books, songs, bed. This bedtime routine is going to help relax baby and prepare them for sleep (think of how chaotic the life of a baby is. Everything is new to them!) They need some time to decompress at the end of the day, and a bedtime routine helps them do just that. 

What does a day in the life of a newborn (6 weeks) look like?

8:00am - wake-up, feeding, play time, then nap routine
8:45am-10:45am - nap, feeding upon wake-up, play time, then nap routine
11:45am-12:30pm - nap, feeding upon wake-up, play time, then nap routine
1:30pm-2:00pm - nap, feeding upon wake-up, play time, then nap routine
2:45pm-4:45pm - nap, feeding upon wake-up, play time, then nap routine
5:45pm-6:45pm - nap, feeding upon wake-up, play time, then bedtime routine
7:45pm - asleep for the night, likely 3+ feedings throughout the night

 

Routines at 3-6 months

By the time baby is 3 months old, they are very alert, curious, and vocal! While they should still only be awake 1.5 hours at a time, it gives you a lot more time to play and explore. If you haven't already, this is a really great age to start following the E.A.S.Y. routine (see above) to try and really start separating feeding from sleeping. In addition to the soothing nap routine and consistent bedtime routine, you can also start to implement a consistent sleeping place. If you had planned on your baby sleeping in their crib long-term, now is a great time to start making that the only place that baby sleeps (unless of course they fall asleep in the car or stroller). Babies this age learn habits at lightning speed (good or bad!) so as long as you are consistent with putting baby in the crib for sleep times, they will catch on very quickly.
Now that we have our consistent sleep place, we also want to ensure that this sleeping place is conducive to sleep. We want that room to be pitch black (daytime and nighttime!), white noise should be playing continuously, and the temperature should be kept fairly cool.

What does the day in the life of a 3 month old look like?

7:00am - wake-up, feeding, play time, nap routine
8:30am-10:30am - nap, feeding, play time, nap routine
12:00pm-12:45pm - nap, feeding, play time, nap routine
2:15pm-3:15pm - nap, feeding, play time, nap routine
4:45pm-5:15pm - nap, feeding, play time, bedtime routine
6:45pm - asleep for the night, likely 3 feedings throughout the night

 

Routines at 6+ months

If you've waited this long to begin a routine with baby, it's still not too late! If you are finding that baby is still completely unpredictable and erratic, take a look at the environment that you have created for him. Does he nap on the go all day long? Are some naps in the swing, others in the car, some in the crib? Does he sometimes get nursed to sleep, other times you let him cry in hopes he'll fall asleep, and other times he gets rocked to sleep? If so, then it's quite obvious that the inconsistency in his day-to-day life is leading to an inconsistency in his sleep patterns. It's worth mentioning again that babies thrive on routines and predictability. Now that baby is on a solid 3 (or less) nap schedule, it is easier to ensure that we are home for the majority of naps so that baby can get healthy, restorative sleep in their crib. If you're wondering how often babies 6 months and up should be sleeping, check out my blog post here for sample schedules, and note the amount of awake time I recommend in between naps. This is a great guide for you to know how long baby should be kept awake in between sleep times.
Baby is also now at a great age to really work on healthy sleep habits and falling asleep independently with no associations. If you are finding that your previous short soothing routines are now turning into hour-long ordeals before baby will fall asleep, only to find them awake 30 minutes later, that is a pretty clear indication that these soothing efforts are no longer working for your child and that they need to learn how to fall asleep on their own. 
 


It is a pretty amazing feeling to be able to put your child down in their crib, walk out, and know that they will fall asleep quickly and easily, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. And everybody can attain this! It's all about being consistent and having these routines in place for baby so that they know what to expect and that their sleep space is a safe place.