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.

Which Sleep Coaching Method Is Right For You?

You have decided that it is time to sleep coach your baby. But where do you start? Well first, you'll want to read my blog post here for the 10 Steps to Starting a Sleep Coaching Plan, and then the next step is the most important one - picking a sleep coaching method.
There are a lot of methods out there from the 'no cry' to the 'let cry' but the end goal of them all is the same - for baby to be falling asleep independently, free of any sleep props or associations. Read on below for the most common techniques and how they work. 

The Chair Method

What does this method entail?

Also called 'the Sleep Lady Shuffle' or 'Camping Out', this method involves putting baby down to bed completely awake then placing a chair beside baby's crib. From the chair, you are able to verbally reassure the child, pat intermittently, shush, or even pick him up if he is very upset. You stay in the room until the child is asleep and return to the chair if baby wakes up throughout the night (and it's not a designated feeding time). Every 2-3 nights, you would move the chair further and further away from the crib until baby is falling asleep without you in the room.

Who is this method for?

This method, although it will almost certainly involve some crying, is labelled a 'no cry' method because of the level of parental intervention. You are there for baby every step of the way and aren't leaving them alone to 'cry it out'. While this method is 'gentle', it can be very difficult on the parents. It is hard to sit in your child's room and watch them cry while trying not to engage with them too much. As well, for children who are not used to having mom and dad nearby (i.e. children who were not previously co-sleeping), the presence of their parents may be more stimulating than comforting. That being said, this method is a great choice for parents who are trying to move baby to their own bed, and it also works well for toddlers who are used to having mom or dad lay with them until they are asleep.

How long does this method take?

The gentler the method, the longer it takes. Since this is on the gentler side, it can take up to 2 weeks to see full results. But of course, every child is different.

 

Pick-up/Put Down

What does this method entail?

As with all methods, after your bedtime routine you will put baby down wide awake and walk out. You may choose to set intervals of when you will check on baby or to make it even gentler, you will do the checks whenever baby's crying has reached a certain level of intensity. During the checks, you can go to baby, pick them up until they are calm + 1-2 minutes to further relax them, and put them down still awake. You would repeat the Pick-up/Put Downs until your child is asleep.

Who is this method for?

This method works beautifully on babies under the age of 6 months. It is gentle enough that baby is not being left alone for extended periods of time and you are able to help calm them if they are particularly worked up, but still allows them to self-soothe without you present. While this method works great for young babies, it may be too stimulating and confusing for older babies/children.

How long does this method take?

As always, it depends on the baby, but for a young baby using this method, progress will be seen in about a week's time. For an older baby, it may take longer than that, up to 1.5-2 weeks.

 

Controlled Comforting

What does this method entail?

Also called 'Ferberizing' or 'Check & Console', this method is more direct than the previous two. With this method, you put baby down awake and check on him at progressively longer intervals. Instead of picking him up at the checks, you would reassure baby verbally, or with a few quick bum pats, for 2-3 minutes. This method helps to reassure baby (and yourself!) that everything is okay, but is meant to allow baby to fall asleep on his own. You can tailor this method to your individual family by keeping the check intervals super short, or spacing them out more.

Who is this method for?

This method works great for a family that is okay with using a more direct approach to help baby sleep, but that still wants to be able to reassure baby that they are near. This method can be used on a baby 4 months and up, or for parents who have tried and failed with a gentler method. 

How long does this method take?

Since this method requires less parental intervention, it would work quicker, likely in about a week (depending on the child).

 

Modified Controlled Comforting

What does this method entail?

Also called 'Graduated Extinction', this method is very similar to Controlled Comforting, except that you would only complete a few checks, and none thereafter. The idea is that the constant checks may be too stimulating, so by completing a few, you are still letting know baby you are there for them, but not continually intervening, perhaps prolonging the process.

Who is this method for?

This method might be a good fit for a family who has tried Controlled Comforting without success. Or for a child who seems to get riled up by the checks, but parents still want to complete a few to reassure the baby (and themselves). I would only recommend this method for a baby who is 6 months or older.

How long does this method take?

Since this method involves even less parental intervention than the last, it would work quicker, likely in 5 nights or less.

 

Extinction

What does this method entail?

This one's pretty simple, after placing baby in his crib awake, he is allowed to self-soothe for as long as it takes without parental intervention. This would be the stereotypical 'cry-it-out' and definitely isn't for every family. Depending on the age of your child, you may choose to have designated feeding times at night, so that you aren't simply shutting the door until morning. Even though this method may involve the most initial tears, it actually results in less crying overall since it works the quickest, but it can be stressful for families and difficult to follow-through with.

Who is this method for?

This method may be a 'last resort' for a lot of families who have tried everything else without results. Some children simply become too riled up with the checks, while other parents are just looking for the quickest path to better sleep. This method is straight-forward and no-nonsense but is definitely not necessarily the best method for families. I wouldn't recommend using this method on a baby younger than 6 months of age.

How long does this method take?

Since this method is the most 'direct' it will work the quickest, usually in 1-3 nights. If it takes much longer than that, that is an indication that baby's schedule may be off (i.e. overtired or undertired), that you are still feeding too close to sleep time, or that this method is not right for your child.


Sleep Coaching Reminders

No matter which method you choose, the key is consistency. Any of the above methods will work if you are 200% consistent. There is no right or wrong choice, it all depends on your parenting philosophies and your baby. Whatever you choose, make sure you are giving it at least a week to decide whether it is working or not. Baby needs to realize that the old way is gone, and the new one is here to stay....and he needs to practice!

How can a sleep consultant help you reach your end goals? The above descriptions are a very general overview of each method.  A sleep consultant can help to personalize each plan, to make sure all your ducks are in a row before you begin the plan, and offer unlimited support throughout the process. There are ways we can tweak each method to meet your individual needs, or break each of them into baby steps to help you comfortably achieve your goal.
As well, it is important to note that sleep coaching is not a fix-all solution to sleep problems. There are lots of other components we need to factor in to help baby to sleep better. The majority of the families that I help have tried to 'sleep train' baby on their own in the past without taking all the steps into consideration. Sleep coaching isn't just for a few days or for a few weeks, it's a whole new way of putting baby to sleep.

Please note that I did not invent any of these methods nor do I necessarily endorse them, this is just meant to be a helpful overview of the most popular sleep coaching methods. Thanks for reading!

Toddler Sleep 101 - PART TWO - Crib to Bed Transition

There are a lot of milestones in the first 3 years of a baby's life; sitting up, crawling, walking, sleeping through the night, and the list goes on. But one of the transitions that really makes you realize that your little baby is no longer a baby is the transition from crib to bed. Now, this transition can either be easy and pain-free (for all parties involved!) or....the opposite. There are some key components that we need to keep in mind when deciding how, when, and why we are transitioning to a big kid's bed, and this blog post is meant to help you with that decision. Read on and I hope you find it helpful!

The When

The biggest reason that the transition from crib to bed ends in disaster is that parents are making the switch far too early. We want to keep our child in the crib as close to 3 years of age as humanly possible. Why is that?
Before 2.5-3 years of age, children simply do not comprehend the imaginary boundaries of a bed. Once you are removing those crib bars, you are removing those boundaries. In addition, even if your child does understand that they are to stay put in bed, before this age they lack the impulse control to actually follow through and stay in bed. Too often, parents make the switch and the first few nights/weeks/even months are blissful. The child stays in their bed and there are no issues. But then one night, Johnny discovers that he can get out of this bed...and now he is free to roam his bedroom and maybe even the house! Now you have a child with "Jack-in-the-Box" syndrome, who pops out of bed every time you leave the bedroom. Exhausting.

But your child is climbing out of the crib, you say? There are a few tricks we can try to keep them in the crib a bit longer, to hopefully buy you a little more time:

  • A sleepsack. Ahhh I love sleep sacks. It is darn near impossible to scale a crib in a sleepsack. If you've used one from baby-hood - don't stop now! I had my daughter in a sleepsack until we made the transition to her bed around 3 years of age. Grobags make sleepsacks all the way up to 7-9 years of age! 
  • Turning the crib. This may seem a bit strange (and probably look a bit strange in the bedroom) but works really well especially if you have a crib that has ends that are taller than the sides. Simply flip the crib so that the headboard/footboard face outwards. This is often enough to deter a climber (at least for a while!)
  • Video monitor with the talk-back function. If you have a video monitor (love me a video monitor!) with a talk-back option, watch your child after you put him down for sleep. If he starts to lift his leg over the crib rail, say a stern, "NO!" into the monitor. You may have to repeat this a few times but he'll get the idea.
  • Lower the crib mattress. Seems obvious but sometimes gets missed! As well, make sure to remove crib bumpers or anything else that could give your child 'leverage'.

If you have tried all of these tricks religiously and your child is still able to climb out of the crib and is risking injury, it may be time to make the big move.

If your child does not climb out of the crib and seems happy and content in there, you may be asking yourself how you know when to transition. It's simple - when your child asks for it! By the time he can come to you and say that he would like to be sleeping in a big kid's bed, it's likely that he's now able to grasp what is happening, why it's happening, and what the rules are while it's happening.

The Why

Too often parents decide to move baby to a bed in hopes of correcting poor sleep habits. The transition should be a reward for good behavior, not a solution for poor behavior. I can almost guarantee you that if your child does not sleep well in a crib, they will not sleep better in a bed (and more likely, will sleep worse!)
This transition is not only a milestone in your life as a parent, it is a milestone in your child's life as well. An 18 month old does not understand what these changes mean. They aren't able to get excited about picking out sheets, or putting the bed together, or deciding on what the new rules of a bed are. But a 3 year old sure would! 
Parents with another baby on the way might feel that the arrival of a sibling is reason enough to make the move to a bed but I will caution you against that. It is not uncommon for an older sibling to 'regress' in certain ways (sleep being one of them!) when a new child is brought into the family. I don't know about you, but getting up all night long with a newborn and walking a 2 year old back to their room 100 times a night because they have been moved to a bed too soon does not sound like fun in my books ;) If it's at all possible (and this is exactly what we did) purchase a second crib for your toddler (even a less expensive one or second-hand one since you will only be using it for a few months or so) so that we aren't making the switch out of necessity, before the child is ready. If this isn't possible and you have to move the older child to a bed, make the move after the baby is born, not right before. That way, your older child does not feel 'pushed out' by the baby, and will have a few months to become acclimated to the new family dynamics. This is only a possibility if you had planned on co-sleeping with your baby in a bassinet for the first few months.

The How

It is so important to have a plan of action once you've decided that it's time to move to a bed. The first step will be choosing what type of bed your child will be moving to. A toddler bed? A twin? Straight to a double? It's entirely up to you. My personal recommendation is to start by removing a side of the crib (if that's possible with your particular model) to get them acclimated to sleeping without the confines of a crib but without making the transition seem so drastic, and then moving them straight to a twin bed. Especially if money is tight, a twin bed is your best option since it won't be long before your toddler outgrows a toddler-sized bed (as essentially, it is the exact same size as a crib). Involve your child in the process of picking out the bed and the accessories. This helps them to begin to understand what is happening and to get excited about it!

Your next steps will include:

  • Toddler-proofing the bedroom. Even though our goal is for the child to stay put in his bed all night long, that sometimes is not a reality. Since he is now able to have free-reign of his bedroom, you want that bedroom to be safe. If you wish, installing bed rails might be a good idea, especially if your child seems to move around a lot during the night.
  • Holding a Sleep Rules Meeting. This is why it's so important for your child to comprehend the transition. We want to be sure to sit the child down before the big move and explain to them what is happening, why it's happening (for good behavior I hope!), and what the rules of the new bed are. They need to know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they don't follow the rules. 
  • Have a game plan for set-backs. In a perfect world, your child will successfully transition without ever having the desire to leave the bed and roam the house (I can proudly say this is the case with my daughter, but we have yet to see if it will as easy with my son!) But in reality, this may not be the case, so we want to have a plan of action for the "Jack-in-the-Box syndrome" that we talked about earlier. If your child leaves their bed to roam, you will want to silently return them to their beds. The key here is silent - emotionless. The solution to helping a toddler learn to stay in bed is making it unrewarding to leave, and even negative attention is still attention. If he is getting a rise out of you, then he is likely to continue the behavior.
  • Consistency. It's impossible to say how long the transition will take, but I can promise you it will be a lot quicker and easier if you remain 200% consistent. Toddlers love to test their boundaries but it is our job as parents to set those boundaries and stick to them.

Has your child made the move from crib to bed? How did it go for you? How old were they? Let me know in the comments below, and good luck to those embarking on this adventure! 

THE PACI

Ahhh pacis. They are simultaneously lifesavers and sleep ruiners. If you're stuck doing 'the paci dance' all night long, then this blog post is for you!

Why pacis are great

There are a lot of pros to pacifier use:

  • Protection against SIDS. Pacifier use has been shown to help reduce the risk of SIDS and is recommened for sleep up to age 1. However, it is also recommended that you put baby down for sleep with the paci, but not to replace it once it falls out.
  • Helps babies pacify themselves and satisfies the suck reflex. A pacifier is a great way for baby to soothe themselves. As well, most babies have a need to suck that exceeds the time spent on the breast or the bottle. Instead of mom becoming a human pacifier, the paci meets this need.
  • Easier weaning. If your child has a strong suck reflex, it is a lot easier to wean the child off the paci vs. his own thumb/fingers. In terms of sleep coaching, tackling a pacifier association is much easier than a feeding to sleep association so if it's a matter of choosing between the two to help your baby sleep, the paci is the way to go.

Why pacis are not-so-great

There are also cons to pacifier use:

  • Risk of nipple confusion if introduced too early with a breastfed baby. Speak to a lactation consultant/educator if you have concerns about breastfeeding and pacifier use.
  • Overzealous suckers may change their tooth alignment or delay speech. Especially important for toddlers still using the paci.
  • May cause sleep associations and disturbed sleep. When a baby is dependent on a pacifier to fall asleep at night, they often will need these same conditions re-created when they wake up in the middle of the night. A baby under 8/9 months is likely not able to replace the paci on his own, so he will call to you to come do it for him.

How do I know if the paci's got to go?

There are a lot of babies that are completely okay with falling asleep for naps/bedtime with a pacifier and not really caring that it falls out at night. These babies may awaken at night (as all babies do) but are able to self-soothe back to sleep without having to call for their parents to replace their paci. For these babies, the parents may not perceive the paci as an issue and may choose to keep it for an undetermined length of time.
More commonly, however, a baby who needs the pacifier to fall asleep will also need it every time they wake up at night. For a newborn baby, these wakings happen a lot. You can check out my blog post here for more about how newborn sleep works. Even for an older baby, you may be having to do the 'paci dance' all night long every 45 minutes - 2 hours. If this is the case, your baby isn't getting the consolidated sleep she needs, and neither are you.
Even if your baby is in the former category and is able to fall asleep with the paci and sleep all night long, there are things you need to consider. How long do you plan to keep the paci? Eventually the child is going to need to learn how to sleep without it, and the longer they are using it, the harder it is for them to 're-learn' how to sleep. As well, taking a paci away from a toddler is often a much more difficult feat than taking it away from a baby.

When to ditch the paci

Unfortunately there is no magic age as to when we should be getting rid of the sucky but as I tell all my clients -  the earlier, the easier.
Before the age of approximately 8 months, babies haven't grasped the concept of "object permanence". What that means in paci-terms is that if the pacifier is not right in front of their eyes, it does not exist to them. This isn't to say that if you try and put your baby down for a nap without the paci when they are used to always having it that they won't cry, but it's not the actual paci they are crying for, it is because they do not know how to self-soothe in any other way as they have not yet been taught this skill.
Between 8 months and 18 months, babies have now grasped the concept of 'object permanence' but it's still unlikely that they have formed a deep attachment to the pacifier. So taking it away in this age range may be more difficult than when they were young babies, but still not a huge undertaking.
If a toddler over the age of 18 months has routinely used his pacifier to sleep, taking it away after this age may be a bit more of a challenge. The child has now likely formed a real bond with it, it is like a lovey to them, and taking it away will likely cause tears and anger (from you and your child!) However, it is far from impossible.

How to take away the paci

 Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

Under 18 months: I'll be completely honest and tell you that at this age, cold turkey really is best. There are a lot of so-called 'gentle' methods of weaning the baby off the pacifier at an early age (one called 'The Pull-Out Method' involves letting the baby have the paci until he's almost asleep and then removing it from his mouth and continuing this until he is asleep. Torture!) While all of my families that I work with whose children have a paci addiction think it's going to be an awful and horrid process, it really is never as bad as they think it will be. It will take some sleep coaching because we really are re-teaching baby how to fall asleep, but it's likely the child is already used to falling asleep 'independently', it's just a matter of them finding a new way to soothe themselves that doesn't involve a dummy. As parents, you need to pick a sleep coaching method and stick with it, but more often than not it is one or two rough nights and then you are in the clear. For young babies as well, we are still able to keep the pacifier for use during awake times without confusion if you wish. Just make sure that once you take it away at sleep times, that you are 200% consistent with it. We use a pacifier still with my 15 month old and when he goes down into his crib, he will take his paci out and hand it to me. It's drilled pretty clearly into his head that he's not allowed to sleep with it :-)

Toddlers: there are lots of very creative ways that we can help a toddler ditch the pacifier, but the main components of any weaning process are:

  • Preparing your child in advance. Talk to the child about what's going to be happening and why you are taking the pacifier away. Toddlers do not like surprises; they thrive on predictability. We don't want him to just wake up one day and it's gone. Make sure that the paci weaning isn't occurring around the same time as another big event in the child's life (such as a move, travel, or the birth of another sibling). We don't want too much change at once.
  • Limit use up to the Weaning Day. Try only letting the child have it in certain locations like the car or the bedroom. Instead of giving them the paci, offer another security object for them to hold and walk around with.
  • Don't offer it. This one may seem plain and simple, but often children don't ask for the pacifier as much as parents are quick to offer it. As well, most kids will go through periods where they become disinterested in the paci. Take advantage of these 'lulls' and see if making the paci permanently disappear during this time is enough for them to forget about it completely.
  • Be patient and be firm. There are bound to be good days and bad when ditching the paci but this is to be expected, so be prepared. There may be days where you feel like quitting but especially with toddlers, consistency is key. If they have any inclination that their tantrums/crying/whining/screaming/etc. is going to 'break you' - they will do it. Toddlers are smart!

As far as the 'how' of weaning the toddler off the paci, I have heard lots of stories of different ways that parents have helped their child say bye-bye to the sucky. From cutting the nipple, to sending the pacis away to children who don't have any, to sticking the pacis in a Build-a-Bear teddy so that they are still near when they sleep. You know your child best and what kind of tactics will be the most successful.


I would love to hear your stories. How did you wean from the pacifier? Share your success stories below!



Toddler Sleep 101 - PART ONE

I write a lot of posts about baby sleep so I thought it was time that we addressed our older kids' needs! While it's true that a vast majority of my clients are under the age of 1, there is also a significant portion of them that are toddlers/preschoolers. While many parents might feel that when their babies have trouble sleeping we can 'wait it out' and it will disappear once they are a bit older, more often than not this is not the case. I hope this series of posts can help you to get your big kids' sleep back on track because it is never too late to instill healthy sleep habits with our children!

What are some common toddler sleep issues that parents may face?

Toddler sleep issues can actually be very similar to some of the issues that we see with babies. The biggest ones I encounter are:

  • Early wakings (before 6:00am)
  • Nap transitions (transitioning from 2 naps to 1 or 1 nap to 0)
  • Transitioning to a big kid's bed
  • Bedtime & naptime battles
  • Nightwakings (either from nightmares, night terrors, sleep associations, or other reasons)

In part one of my blog post, I will address the first two issues above, and stay tuned for part two and three where I will discuss the final three.

Toddler Sleep Issue #1 - Early Wakings

I consider an 'early waking' to be anything before 6:00am. Anything after this time is a perfectly normal and acceptable time for a toddler to rise. Some of the most common reasons a toddler may be waking before the sun is up are:

  • Bedtime is too late.  Are you sick of me talking about late bedtimes yet? I hope not, because I will never stop! While it seems opposite that a late bedtime would = an early wake-up, you need to remember this saying: sleep is not logical, it's biological. Simply put, a bedtime that is too late will almost always lead to a wake-up time that's much too early. If you are struggling with your toddler waking too early, try putting them to bed earlier. Check out my blog post here on how to find the ideal bedtime for your toddler and here for other causes of early wakings.
  • Parental inconsistency in the early morning hours. We need to be consistent in the way we respond to our children when they wake before it is 'acceptable' to be awake. If your child woke up at 2:00am, you wouldn't get them up and start the day, as we shouldn't if they wake up at 4:30 or 5:30am. We need to treat these wakings just as we would any other nightwakings. To help teach them what an acceptable time to wake-up is, I recommend a Gro Clock. Now, the key to these clocks is consistency. If you lose interest in the rules of the clock, so will they. Even if they wake up five minutes before the sun comes up, you walk them back to their room and tell them it's not time to get up because Mr. Sun is still sleeping. They might put up a fight the first couple of days but if you are consistent, they will learn the rules!

Toddler Sleep Issue #2 - Nap Transitions

Nap transitions can be a hairy time for everyone. We just recently went through the 2-1 transition with my son and while for us it was smooth as butter, it was not the same experience with my daughter years ago! The key to a successful nap transition is preparation, consistency, and patience. You need to have a plan of attack and you need to be consistent and patient with the process.

Rule #1 - don't rush the transition.  Many parents may think that once their child hits 12 months they should be transitioning to one nap. I can tell you right now that the vast majority of 12 month olds (aside from those perhaps who have been consistently sleeping through the night forever and who take 2 hour + naps) still need two naps. The normal age for babies to transition to one nap is 13-18 months (with the average being 15 months). Transitioning too early will almost always lead to a baby who becomes overtired and thus may begin taking short naps and/or waking at night. Some of the signs that baby may be ready to go to 1 nap include:

  1. Refusing the afternoon nap even after adjusting the awake time. Once you need more than four hours in between first and second naps, it is probably time to transition. The occasional nap refusal is normal, but if baby is refusing the second nap 50% of the time, it may be time to drop the nap.
  2. Afternoon nap is occurring too late in the day and thus pushing bedtime too late. If you are struggling to get that second nap in before 4:00pm every single day, it may be time to transition to one nap.
  3. Nightwakings that are otherwise unexplained. If you have a good daytime schedule, an age-appropriate bedtime, your baby is falling asleep independently and without props, but starts to have nightwakings while on two naps, it may be time to drop that 2nd nap and move to a one nap schedule.
  4. Early wakings that are otherwise unexplained. If baby starts to wake up earlier than usual (and clocking much less than 11 hours of nightsleep) and it cannot be explained otherwise (i.e. bedtime isn't too late, no sleep associations, etc.) then it may be time to move to one nap.

The same goes for the 1-0 nap transition. Most kids still need 1 nap up to 3 years of age or beyond (in fact, according to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, 91% of children at age 3 are still napping). Parents may think that just because a child starts to fight the nap that this means they don't need the nap anymore while in fact sleep issues at this age are more about discipline and less about actual sleep. Some of the signs that it may be time to drop the child's nap include:

  1. Consistently playing through nap time even after adjusting the awake time before the nap. Children's sleep needs are always changing so you may need to play around with the timing of their nap once they get a bit older. As well, if your child is sleeping in until 9:00am and you are trying to nap them at 1:00pm, it probably won't fly. It may be in your best interests to wake your child up at 7:00am to get them back on a regular napping schedule before deciding to drop the nap altogether.
  2. Consistently taking a very long time to fall asleep at bedtime. It is very normal for toddlers who still nap to have a long transition time before bed but if bedtime is getting pushed to 9:00pm or 10:00pm or even later, it may be time to drop the nap and move bedtime earlier. Or, if the child is in a pattern of a late bedtime, a late wake-up, and a late nap, you may want to break the cycle by waking them up at 7:00am so that they are tired earlier for their nap and thus tired earlier for bed.
  3. The child doesn't suffer any negative side effects when a nap is skipped. This one is very important. If your child skips their nap and then is an absolute demon in the evening (MY KID) then they are not yet ready to get rid of said nap. If after skipping a nap your child is pleasant and happy all the way to bedtime, this is a good sign that they may be ready to drop their nap.

Rule #2 - have a plan of attack.  With nap transitions, we don't want to just dive in head first without a plan. A lot of times, parents will just drop the second nap, push the first one later, and be done with it. While it's possible that this may work for your child, in my experience this will lead to baby becoming overtired. Our #1 goal during nap transitions is to minimize overtiredness. With the 2-1 nap transition a solid plan would be to:

  • Move the first nap of the day slowly later in the morning (possibly by about 15 minutes every few days).  If the first nap ends before noon, try for a cat nap in the afternoon around 3:00pm to help baby get to a 'normal' bedtime.
  • At the beginning, the stretch between the nap and bedtime is going to be quite long (around 6 hours) but as you stretch the nap later, you should also decrease the awake time before bed (until the nap is occurring about 5 hours after baby wakes for the day, and bedtime is occurring about 5 hours after the nap ends).
  • Eventually, you will want the nap to be occurring around 12:30-1:30pm (or about 5.5 hours after baby wakes for the day) and bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. Once you are on this schedule, your one nap is well-established and there is no need to tweak unless you are getting lengthy monkey business before the nap/bedtime.

For the transition from 1 nap to 0 naps, the key to making this successful is:

  • Continuing to offer a 'quiet time' in the middle of the day (somewhere between 1:00-3:00pm). This quiet time should be occurring in the child's bedroom with no electronics. Around 45 minutes is sufficient and helps the child to recharge their batteries (thus hopefully avoiding a late afternoon meltdown!)
  • Move the bedtime earlier.  I cannot stress this enough! Children this age still require 11-13 hours of sleep every single day. If they aren't getting any of that sleep during the day, they need to get it all at night. To figure out what your child's bedtime should be once their nap is dropped, take the time they wake up and subtract 11-13 hours from it. If they seem irritable and cranky throughout the day and/or are having difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, chances are you need to move bedtime even earlier and they need even more sleep.

Rules #3 - have patience.  As I have mentioned a few times, nap transitions can be hairy. There's likely to be some short naps, some frustration, perhaps some nightwakings or sleep-cries, but if you stay consistent and trust the process, it will all come together. Often, once parents don't see immediate results they are quick to switch things up and try something else, but with babies consistency is key. As well, a nap transition doesn't just happen overnight. It can take weeks from the first day that you decide you are ready to drop the nap to when baby is well-established on their new schedule. Take it from me, I just went through the 2-1 transition with my 15 month old and it has taken six weeks from the day I decided that I was done with the afternoon nap to today where he is solidly on one glorious nap.


Stay tuned for PART TWO of Toddler Sleep 101 where I will be discussing how and when to transition to a big kid's bed. Are you struggling with any toddler sleep issues that I haven't listed above? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

A Sleep Consultant's Favorite Sleep Products

I'm so excited to write this blog post! I feel like Oprah, except sadly none of you guys are getting new cars or trips to Australia. Sorry! I hope you find this list helpful whether you're an expecting mom, or a mom looking for recommendations to help baby sleep better. I've also included links to where you can buy these products (and for great prices!)

Gro Bags

Motorola Video Monitor

I survived my first child without a video monitor. I didn't even know they existed three years ago. It was on my must-have list for baby #2 and my family thought I was nuts for wanting one (they already knew I was a sleep freak, so it shouldn't have surprised them very much). I have no idea how I lived without one. And all my family now agrees with me. They are amazing. If your kid is sneaky like mine, they will like to lay there in complete silence and trick you into thinking they are sleeping. How about peace of mind if your child has slept 10 hours straight for the first time in their life?? The Motorola camera lets you zoom in so close you can see their chest rising and falling. Baby starting to climb out of the crib? Toddler getting out of their bed and roaming around their bedroom when they should be sleeping? Baby protest crying or is there a leg stuck in the slats? Endless reasons why a video monitor rocks!

 

 

 

White Noise Machines

You know by now how much I love white noise.  Read about all the reasons why here if you haven't.  Buying a good white noise machine is important.  You always want to be sure that the noise machine plays continuously, and that the noises are soft and soothing. I have tested some machines that have the most awful noise settings. The two I have linked are tried and tested by yours truly and I give them my stamp of approval.

These are my favorite sleep bags for babies AND toddlers. They range in sizes from wee babies all the way up to 7-9 year olds! My daughter wore a Gro Bag until she was almost 3 years old and we never battled with her trying to climb out of the crib and we always knew she was toasty warm. In addition to the great range of sizes, Gro Bags also come in different 'TOG' ratings (temperature ratings) so you can have a lower TOG for the warmer months, and a higher TOG for the cooler months!





Aden & Anais Receiving Blankets

These are the creme de la creme of receiving blankets and are the perfect way to swaddle baby up tight.  Made of muslin cotton they are super breathable and super stretchy (and not to mention huge!)  In addition to making great swaddle blankets, they also make the perfect 'lovey' for an older child (my son won't sleep without his blanky and because it's breathable I never worry about it covering his face!)

Aden & Anais Crib Sheets

These crib sheets are so crazy soft and are perfect for keeping baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  In addition, they are elasticized the whole way around which makes them a breeze to change!

Trixie Tracker

I recommend keeping a sleep log to all my families, especially if you are struggling with baby's sleep. A sleep log helps you to see patterns and to be able to compare your baby's sleep with the 'average' recommended sleep for other babies his age. This can help give you peace of mind as to whether your child is getting enough sleep or not. Trixie Tracker is a great tool to help you log baby's sleep. They have a free trial, and an app that you can download to log sleep anywhere. 

Graco Pack'n'Play

A definite must-have for if you plan on doing any travelling with baby. Too often parents get trapped into co-sleeping with baby while on vacation and this is a hard habit to break once you are home! Bringing along a playpen and setting it up in a dark space (walk-in closets and bathrooms work great!) is an easy way to give baby his own space. Check out my blog post here for other tips when travelling with baby.  

Aden & Anais Security Blankets

Can you tell I love this company yet? They have such awesome products! I recommend these security blankets to all my families who are new to introducing a 'lovey' to their babies.  They are small - about the size of a large washcloth - and made of the same super breathable cotton as the receiving blankets.  They are also trimmed in satin, perfect for babies to suck on!  They also come in a 2-pack which is very important if one gets stuck in the wash or if one goes missing!

 

 

Great Bedtime Books

Everybody has their favorite bedtime books for their children but I just thought I would share mine with you. I absolutely love Julia Donaldson books for my older child, and Sandra Boynton books for my baby. For infants, you want something short and sweet because their attention spans are practically nil and you do not want them to become bored of the bedtime routine. Reading is such a critical part of any bedtime routine - did you know it is recommended that children will have been read 5000 books by the time they reach Kindergarten? That's the equivalent of about 3 books per day. It's easier to get all that reading in if we as parents enjoy the books as well! 

The Gruffalo
CDN$ 9.49
By Julia Donaldson

Aluminum Foil

Ok this is a bit of a joke but I literally bring this stuff with me when I travel. It is the easiest and most effective way to block light no matter where you are. A roll of aluminum foil and some painter's tape and you are set!

 doesn't get classier than this!

doesn't get classier than this!

The Going-To-Bed Book
CDN$ 4.88
By Sandra Boynton

 

 

Fisher-Price Musical Seahorse

I want to preface this recommendation by saying I know there are a lot of horror stories out there about the seahorses smoking but from what I understand there was an issue with a) the battery compartment which was re-designed and b) people using rechargeable batteries with the seahorse.

Most sleep experts will recommend that baby's crib is 100% boring with nothing in it - no mobiles, toys, etc. For me personally, I think a small object that plays soft music for a short period of time is a great tool to help baby fall asleep calmly and peacefully. I love the Fisher-Price Seahorse because the music is very soft and soothing, the light on his belly is very dim, and the sound only plays for 5 minutes - not long enough to create an association. My daughter at 3.5 years old still sleeps with hers in her bed and I can hear her occasionally in the middle of the night wake up, push his belly, and fall back asleep. The Seahorse is small enough that it is easy to throw in your bag when you travel and it helps to re-create the feeling of home wherever you are.

Fisher-Price Soothe & Glow Seahorse
CDN$ 32.25
Fisher-Price, Inc.

Gro Clock

Got an early rising toddler on your hands?  The Gro Clock is (part of) your solution! This handy clock saved our lives when my daughter started waking at the crack of dawn when we moved into our new house. If you think about it, toddlers really have no way of knowing whether it is morning or not. Here in Northern Canada, it is still dark until about 8:00am or later! This clock has a sun that rises in the morning, letting the child know it's an appropriate time to wake up. The success of the clock is 100% dependent on parental consistency. You need to be consistent in not letting the child get out of bed until the sun is up, even if it is only 5 minutes before. If you lose interest in the rules of the clock, so will they. 

Gro Clock
CDN$ 50.00
OYACO

Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing

I am a swing lover and this swing is awesome! It folds up for easier storage, plugs in (SO important especially if you are using the swing for sleep, I can't imagine how much I would have spent on batteries without this option!), and it can swing both ways (which I found helped my little guy sleep better in the swing). Definite must-have!

 





Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

I love this product so much for transitioning baby from swaddle to sleepsack! It is perfectly designed to help muffle the startle reflex while still providing baby with enough range of movement while they sleep. It also helps to prevent baby from rolling in their crib which is a tough phase for baby sleep! You can visit their website here to learn more about their product or to purchase one for your baby.

Dreamfeeding

Thinking about trying a dreamfeed with your baby? Read here to find out if this technique is right for you, what the right way to implement it is, and how to wean off of it when you are ready.

What is a dreamfeed?

A dreamfeed is a method of 'tanking baby up' at night to reduce nightwakings and disturbances caused by hunger. Infants normally have a single long sleep period that is around 4-8 hours long (depending on their age) but because baby does not go to bed at the same time as Mom and Dad (or they shouldn't be!) this long sleep period does not coincide with their parents' sleep. Some of the advantages of dreamfeeding are:

  • Parents get to sleep through the night instead of waking for a feeding in the middle of the night.
  • Takes some of the guesswork away as to whether baby is truly hungry when they wake throughout the night.
  • Weaning from a dreamfeed is easier than weaning from a nightfeed.

Who should try a dreamfeed?

I would only recommend starting a dreamfeed on a baby that is under 4 months of age, and the earlier you start, the better. The reason it is not highly recommended to use after the 4 month mark is because at this age (as we know from my post about the 4 month sleep regression) sleep is more adult-like. What that means is that baby's first chunk of sleep at night (the time when you'll be wanting to dreamfeed) is very deep sleep. Because of this, it may be difficult to get baby interested in feeding, and if he does eat, it may not be a very big meal. If baby is dreamfeeding and then waking up a few hours later for another meal, the dreamfeed is not working. Dreamfeeding does not work with all children, and it almost never works on babies who are chronically overtired.

How do you dreamfeed?

Breastfeeding mommasgently lift baby out of the crib and place her at the breast. Encourage baby to latch by stroking her cheek, or tickling her lips with your nipple. It may take some time for baby to rouse enough to latch. Once baby is done, place her back into the crib (one side is sufficient while dreamfeeding and helps baby to get more of the hindmilk). Burping is not necessary after dreamfeeding because baby is so relaxed that little to no air is taken in. Swaddling is very helpful when dreamfeeding as it makes it easier to lift baby out of/into the crib and helps to prevent them from startling when you place them back to bed. This might be one of the best feedings you have as a nursing mother as baby is very calm and there are no distractions.
Bottlefeeding moms/dadswhen dreamfeeding with a bottle, baby stays in her crib the whole time. Gently slip the nipple of the bottle in between baby's lips - this and the taste of the milk is often enough to induce baby to drink. If baby is too sleepy, you can help rouse her a bit by tickling her cheeks or chest. Make sure there is plenty of milk/formula in the bottle as insufficient milk may frustrate or waken baby! Again, no burping is necessary. Some moms who exclusively breastfeed find it is easier to dreamfeed with a bottle, and it also lets Dad get involved in the nightfeeding process.

The dreamfeed should be conducted around 10:00-11:00pm, before the parents go to sleep. It is important not to dreamfeed baby too late or it may disrupt sleep and/or cause nightwakings. If you are new to dreamfeeding, you'll want to try it for a week before deciding if it is working or not. It can take that long for baby to get used to it. At first, baby may not latch or drink very much but it becomes easier with time.

When and how to wean from the dreamfeed

Most parents wean from the dreamfeed around 7/8 months once solids are well-established and baby is able to last the whole night on just the dreamfeed. Weaning from the dreamfeed is done by moving the dreamfeed 15 minutes earlier every 3 days or so, hence gradually extending the time in between feedings. The baby is less hungry with the earlier dreamfeed and therefore will not drink as much.

How to Maximize Your Newborn's Sleep

newbaby.jpg

Your little bundle of joy is here - yay! Congratulations!  Woo hoo!  You have been waiting for this moment for a long time!  If you're like me, you read all the books out there on pregnancy and the first years but did any of those books tell you much about sleep?  Probably not.  Maybe a page or two.  Something along the lines of, "make sure you put baby down drowsy but awake and your life will be a breeze!" Ahem.  I beg to differ.

3.5 years ago I was in your shoes.  A first-time mom (or maybe you're not a first time mom but your other children slept like angels!) who thought she was prepared for it all.  But most books don't really prepare you for baby sleep, which is crazy considering newborns sleep for 16-20 hours per day!  That's what this blog post is here to do.  Let's get you ready and set you up for success... or at least hopefully less sleepless nights ;)

How does newborn sleep work?

We've all heard the saying, "sleep like a baby" but what does "sleeping like a baby" really mean? While it's true that babies sleep a lot (babies under 1 month of age require 18-20 hours of sleep every single day) most babies don't sleep for very long.  This sleep will occur in 2-4 hour chunks all throughout the day and night (sigh).  There are a couple of factors that influence this fragmented sleep: 
Hunger.  Newborns grow at an alarming rate - most have doubled their birth weight by 6 months!  In order to ensure they are receiving all the nutrition they need to sustain this growth, they need to eat around the clock.  Trying to schedule feedings or eliminate nightfeedings at this age is a huge no-no.
Sleep Cycles.  In addition to this need for constant nourishment, newborn babies' sleep cycles are also vastly different from an adult's sleep cycles (or even from an older baby's sleep cycles!) Adults spend most of their sleep (about 80%) in non-REM (or deep sleep) whereas a newborn baby only spends about 25% of their time in deep sleep, and the majority (75%) in REM (or active) sleep.  In addition to most of their time being spent in active sleep, a newborn's sleep cycles are very short, only about 45-50 minutes long.  While an adult likely only has about 4-5 sleep cycles a night, your newborn baby has twice that many - and that means double the chances of waking up between sleep cycles.  In addition to the sleep cycle transitions being more frequent, active sleep is a much lighter sleep state.  These two factors combined is why we see frequent wakings in newborn babies.  So don't fret if your baby is up many times a night, these wakings are designed to keep your wee baby safe and healthy.  The fact that baby spends so much time in an active sleep state means that she will wake to feed and she will be protected from SIDS.  Although these every 3-4 hour wakings are completely normal, there is a lot we can do in order to ensure these wakings aren't occurring every single hour all night long, that they continue to improve rather than worsen, and that we are setting baby up for healthy sleep habits in the future.

So what can we do to maximize a newborn's sleep?

Keep the intervals of wakefulness short and sweet

Newborn babies need to literally sleep around the clock.  They are awake long enough to eat, and then are back down to sleep.  And this is how it should be!  Do not worry about separating feeding from sleeping at this young age because your attempts will be futile.  They will almost always fall asleep at the breast/on the bottle and then wake up again in time to eat and fall asleep again.  After the first few weeks, baby will start to become more alert and will be capable of staying awake for longer periods of time but these 'longer periods of time' are actually still very very short!  A baby 1 month or younger should not be awake any longer than 45 minutes, and a baby 2 months or younger should not be awake longer than 1 hour at a time.  This means that you need to be starting your soothing routine with enough time to ensure baby is asleep within these windows.  If not, you will have an overtired baby on your hands and an overtired will have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  In addition to making sure baby's intervals of wakefulness are short, we also want to start shifting baby's bedtime earlier once they hit 7/8 weeks.  Newborns naturally have a late bedtime (anywhere between 9:00-11:00pm) but it's important we start moving it earlier (likely to around 8:30pm by 2 months).  This bedtime should shift 20 minutes earlier every 2 weeks or so and should be in the recommended 6:00-8:00pm range by 4 months.  See my blog post here for more about age-appropriate bedtimes for babies.

Swaddle

I cannot recommend swaddling enough to you.  "But my baby hates to be swaddled, he fusses and cries and kicks and squeals".  This is all normal.  It is the process of swaddling that babies dislike.  Once they are wrapped up nice and snug they sleep much better.  Helping newborns sleep better is all about recreating the womb.  And the womb was a cramped place!  Babies find comfort in this snugness.  In addition to comfort, swaddling helps to muffle the startle reflex (this startle reflex for babies is similar to how you feel when you get the sensation that you are falling while you are asleep.  Imagine if this happened to you all night long!  The worst!)  In order for the swaddle to be effective, it needs to be snug around the arms and loose around the legs. Check out this video here for the best swaddling technique out there.  My son was a little Houdini and we tried every swaddling contraption on the market but this technique ensured he was wrapped snug all night long.  To ensure your baby is safe while swaddling, make sure you are dressing them in lighter clothing (or even just a diaper) and that you are always placing them on their backs while swaddled.

Avoid day/night confusion

It is very normal for babies to come into this world with their days and nights confused.  If you think about the womb, it is dark 24/7 so a baby's biological clock has not had a chance to set itself to 'daysleep' and 'nightsleep', but there are ways we can help them to set their clocks.  Keep the daytime bright and noisy.  You can still put baby to sleep in his dark bedroom, but just ensure that baby's awake time (however short) is spent in sunlight (or artificial light, but sunlight is always much preferred!)  At nighttime, keep all the lights off.  When you feed baby, be completely boring.  Do not talk, sing, or engage baby in any way.  It's right to business and then back to sleep.  As well, if baby seems to be sleeping his entire day away, wake him up every 3 hours for a feeding.  There is no need to keep him awake as this will lead him to become overtired, but at the 3 hour mark gently rouse him, feed him, and let him fall back asleep if he wishes.  

Routines

Routines are so incredibly important for babies (for all children actually!)  It is never too early to begin a consistent and soothing nap/bedtime routine for your child.  The nap routine does not need to be long, only about 5 minutes and is generally a shortened version of the bedtime routine.  The bedtime routine is usually longer and may include a bath, massage, books, etc.  These routines are a cue for sleep for baby.  He will know that no matter where he is, no matter what time it is, that when this routine occurs, it is time for sleep.

E.A.S.Y. Method

The E.A.S.Y. Method is a great technique we can use to ensure that we are always separating feeding from sleeping in baby's little brain.  Very young infants, as I mentioned above, will only wake to eat, so we don't have to worry about feeding them to sleep - it's inevitable!  But once baby is a bit older and able to tolerate a bit more awake time, the E.A.S.Y. Method is great for ensuring that an association does not develop.  The acronym stands for Eat Activity Sleep You.  So basically you want to try to ensure that baby is eating upon wake-up from sleep times, followed by some light activity, then nap time, and then of course 'You' time (which if you are like most moms this involves some combination of cleaning and hopefully relaxing!) 

White noise

I am a big fan of white noise.  Check out my article here for the reasons why I love it so much.  It all really goes back to the theory that we want to recreate the womb for baby.  The womb was a noisy place, about as loud as if you were standing next to a lawnmower.  The sounds of your blood rushing, your heart beating, muffled voices.  It is a bit daunting to go from the noisy tummy to dead silence.  White noise has been shown to reduce stress in babies, and not to mention that it helps to drown out all the sounds of your house (especially helpful if you have older children or a dog that loves to bark during nap time!)  Due to the recent studies on white noise, you want to ensure you are not placing the machine right next to baby's head (it benefits baby more when it is placed on the wall that you are trying to block noise from) and we don't want it too loud.  If you are concerned about the volume, there are many free apps you can download that test decibels.  The white noise should be about 50 dB (by comparison, normal conversation is 50-60 dB).  In addition to a white noise machine, I recommend placing a fan in baby's room.  Not only does this provide more sound blockage (double white noise! woo!) but fans in baby's room have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.

The Swing

In addition to being a white noise lover, I am also a swing lover.  When you have a newborn baby, you really want to use all the tools you can to get that baby to sleep.  Do not worry about creating bad habits at this young age.  Womb Recreation 101 includes a little bit of motion.  Babies were in constant motion in mom's tummy, this movement would lull baby to sleep.  I'm sure you remember what would happen as soon as you laid down for the night - baby would start kicking up a storm!  So to help bring that tummy motion to your newborn baby, we introduce a swing.  And if the swing works for sleep - use it!  The key to successful swing sleep is ensuring we are still swaddling baby in the swing, putting the swing in baby's dark bedroom with white noise playing, and placing baby in the swing awake and allowing him to fall asleep on his own.  By allowing baby to fall asleep independently, you have helped teach a valuable skill and once it comes time to transition baby from the swing to the crib (usually somewhere around 4 months) the switch will be easy peasy!  My favorite swings are those that can swing both forwards and backwards and side-to-side, as I found that I was more successful when I switched up the swinging direction.  As well, most babies are soothed by a fast swing but feel free to turn it down once they are asleep (or even off if baby doesn't mind).

Dark bedroom

Once again, we are going to recreate the good ol' womb.  So far we've wrapped baby up nice and snug, we've got the white noise playing, and we may even be using motion to help baby to sleep.  Now, we are going to get baby's bedroom nice and dark just like mom's tummy.  A lot of parents may feel bad for putting baby in their dark bedroom, and some may even think baby will be scared of the dark.  I can assure you that this is not the case.  A baby does not yet know that the dark is something they should be afraid of.  They have just spent the past 9 months in total darkness!  A dark bedroom is especially important as baby gets older and becomes more alert.  An older baby can be stimulated by wallpaper - no lie!  Ideally, we want that room so dark that we can't even see our hand in front of us - during the day and at night.  Cheap (and the most effective!) options include black construction paper, black garbage bags, or my personal favorite - tin foil!  You won't win any design awards but your baby will sleep better!

 

Life with a newborn baby is rarely easy but is incredibly short-lived.  The first few months are all about surviving.  I hope the above tips are helpful in making this time in your life and your baby's life a little bit easier and a little more restful :) 

The Dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression

The '4 month sleep regression' has celebrity status in my sleep world.  I hear this phrase almost every single day; from an exhausted mom of a 5 month old, wondering why her baby's sleep has gone downhill in the last month, to parents of a toddler who say that "their baby has never slept well since 4 months of age", or even from a mom of a 3 month old, worried about the upcoming "regression".  I am here to help you realize what goes on around 4 months, and how we can prevent a true 'regression' from occurring.

What is a sleep regression?

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A sleep regression is thought to occur when a baby who is normally sleeping well begins to wake frequently at night and/or fights/refuses naps.  These regressions seem to come out of nowhere and can last indefinitely.  There is thought to be a regression around 3/4 months, 9 months, and 18 months.  Not at all coincidentally, we can see that all of these 'regressions' occur around the same time as nap transitions (the 4-3 nap transition around 4 months, the 3-2 nap transition around 9 months, and the 2-1 nap transition around 18 months).  In my opinion, these regressions are really just our babies' sleep needs changing and parents are not prepared to handle these changes properly, thus leading to baby becoming overtired.  You know by now that an overtired baby will wake frequently at night and/or fight/refuse naps so - voila!- a 'sleep regression' is born.

So what causes the '4 month sleep regression'?

Four months is a very busy time for babies.  There is a lot that happens with our children's sleep at this age.  Four months is the time where a baby's sleep becomes more like an adult's.  I won't bore you with the details about how this happens, but it's important to know a little bit about why some of the things that you were previously doing (i.e. rocking/nursing to sleep) seem to quit working at four months of age.
Previous to 4 months, when a baby would fall asleep, they would immediately enter into a deeper non-REM sleep.  This is why you would have been able to rock/nurse your baby to sleep and then put them down without them waking up.  As well, they were likely able to sleep just about anywhere; in the car seat while grocery shopping, in the stroller while you took a walk, or in the carrier while you did your household errands.  Around 4 months, as sleep becomes more 'adult-like', your baby will not enter immediately into that non-REM deep sleep stage as soon as they fall asleep.  Instead, they will first enter into a lighter sleep stage of non-REM.  If we are nursing/rocking baby to sleep, and then try to put her down....POP!  She is up, wide awake, and ready to go.  Then the process of helping her to fall asleep is repeated again and again, only causing baby to become overtired.

Four months is also the age where some babies begin to roll.  This means that the swaddle is no longer safe to use.  The downside to this is that most babies at this age still have some, if not all, of their startle reflex (which is what we are trying to prevent with the swaddle).  Simply unswaddling our babies and moving straight to a sleepsack will often cause baby to begin waking themselves up at night or start to have difficulty falling asleep/staying asleep for naps.  This is why I am such a fan of the Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit.  It is a fantastic tool for babies who aren't able to be swaddled but just aren't ready for a sleepsack quite yet.

At four months, we begin to see sleep patterns mature and nightsleep consolidate.  This means that your baby who was previously sleeping in until 7:00 or 8:00am may begin to shift his natural wake-up time earlier, to around 6:00-7:00am.  This then means that we need to begin shifting the bedtime earlier as well to account for this.  It is a very common misconception that putting your baby to bed later will help them to sleep in - it is the exact opposite that is true.  Putting your baby to bed later in hopes that they will start to sleep in will only backfire and lead to an overtired baby who will in turn wake up even earlier.  This early to bed, early to rise pattern is here to stay and trying to fight it is going against baby's natural sleep rhythms.  Check out my blog post here to find out if your baby's bedtime is too late for his/her age.

As I touched on briefly, 3-5 months is the average age that the 4-3 nap transition occurs.  The longer wakeful periods begin to push baby's naps later therefore making bedtime too late as well.  Remember, around this age we do not want any nap occurring later than 4:30-5:00pm.  If you are finding that the 4th nap is happening much past this time - it is time to drop that nap and move bedtime earlier.  That is the key!  Bedtime needs to move earlier to account for that entire sleep period that's been eliminated.  

As I mentioned above, at four months of age it becomes increasingly difficult for baby to fall asleep on-the-go.  Where a newborn could sleep through just about anything, babies at four months are becoming increasingly aware of their surroundings.  Many parents find it inconvenient to be home every 1.5 hours to get their baby the rest that she needs but if we keep trying to push babies to fit into our schedules, they are going to re-pay us by waking frequently at night.  In addition to this increasing awareness making it difficult for babies to nap on-the-go, it also means that your previous methods of soothing baby to sleep (i.e. nursing/rocking/bouncing/etc.) in fact become the opposite of soothing - they become too stimulating for baby.  If you are finding that you are spending hours using all of your tricks to get baby to sleep, she might be telling you that she needs to be falling asleep more on her own.

So what can we do to avoid this 'regression'?

It is all about recognizing our baby's changing needs and having a flexible schedule that is in sync with our child's natural sleep rhythm.  We as parents may think that because we started one way (by always nursing to sleep, by rocking to sleep, by holding baby for all sleep) that this is the way that baby will always need to sleep.  This is definitely not the case!  When these things stop working we need to switch it up and find something new to help our babies get the sleep they need.  Sometimes, a little bit of sleep coaching is necessary to break the cycle of overtiredness and to reinforce healthy sleep habits but at such a young age we are able to use super gentle methods and they unlearn these 'bad' habits very quickly.  But just remember, no amount of sleep coaching will work on a baby who is overtired and whose schedule is not meeting their needs, so do not be quick to 'sleep train' your child unless you are prepared to make sure baby is napping enough during the day and at the right times, and is in bed at night with an age-appropriate bedtime.  Otherwise, this sleep training will only lead to even more overtiredness and unnecessary crying.
We also always need to be sure that we have an age-appropriate schedule for baby that meets his needs.  Check out my blog post here for what a 'typical day' in the life of a 4 month old should look like.  While it is very true that a baby rarely fits into our schedule, the time that is spent in 'babyhood' is so very short, and besides food, there is nothing else that is more important to a little baby than sleep.

While it would be nice if this '4 month sleep regression' was only a phase that will disappear in time, unfortunately, it is not.  It is more often a product of poor sleep habits and an inappropriate schedule.  As long as we are aware of all the developmental points above and are prepared to adapt to meet our baby's new needs, we will be able to dodge this dreaded regression and continue to enjoy the benefits of a good night's sleep.

Is Your Baby's Bedtime Too Late?

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A vast number of the sleep issues I encounter are products of a bedtime that is too late.  The awake time between the last nap of the day and bedtime is the most sensitive.  What I mean by this is that if we are putting baby down too late, stretching baby out too long, it is a recipe for nightwakings, a restless sleep, and an early morning wake-up.  Therefore, it is vital that we are really 'nailing' bedtime and that we aren't keeping baby up too late.  What time would you put an 8 year old to bed?  Likely not at 10:00pm, right?  Then why should a little baby, only months old, have a bedtime that late?  It should be the exact opposite - babies should be going to bed much earlier than older children as their sleep needs are exponentially more than a school-aged child.  Below, I hope to help you figure out what your baby's ideal bedtime is and whether a too-late bedtime is the cause of your sleep problems.

Why is an early bedtime important?

Sleep coaching helps teach baby how to fall asleep independently.  Just because a child knows how to sleep, doesn't mean they will sleep through the night.  In order to help our babies to consistently sleep through the night (and I mean an age-appropriate length of time, see my blog here for what sleeping through the night means at different ages) our children's needs must be in sync with their natural sleep rhythms.

Parents may think that because their baby is still clocking 11-12 hours of nightsleep with a 9pm-9am schedule that this is working well for them.  While it's true that a small percentage of babies, about 10%, do well with a later bedtime, if your child has multiple nightwakings and rarely does longer than a 3 hour stretch at night, then this late bedtime is in fact not working for your child.
Many parents may think that their baby just naturally rises later in the morning, but if baby is up several times a night, the 'sleeping in' is baby trying to catch up on lost sleep.  A true natural wake-up time is only evident once the child is well-rested and sleeping through the night.

Should I use a 'set' bedtime for my child?

While there are many studies out there that prove that a consistent, or 'set', bedtime is important for children, these studies are for children much older - those who no longer nap during the day.  It is very important that once our children drop their last nap that they have a consistent bedtime every single night.  This consistent bedtime has been shown to help children regulate themselves, develop positive behaviors, and function successfully at home and in the community.  Inconsistent (and especially too late) bedtimes have been shown to have long-term effects on behavior - and none of them good.  So while it is important to have consistency with older children, babies need more flexibility with bedtime.  Bedtime should vary depending on the day's naps, activity level of the day, and the previous nightsleep.  Therefore, bedtime can vary by as much as two hours, especially during nap transitions.

So how do I know when I should put my baby to bed for the night?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, it is of utmost importance that the stretch from the last nap to bedtime is not too long as this will cause fragmented nightsleep.  Below, I will outline how long that last stretch should be, and as well, how many naps on average that babies need at each age.  Keep in mind as well, that if the last nap was very short, you may need to shorten the awake time even more.  

 

0-2 months: babies this age sleep around the clock and have 4 or more naps every day.  Bedtime in newborns is naturally late, usually around 9:00pm or later, but it is important to start moving the bedtime earlier around 6/8 weeks.  By 2 months, baby's bedtime should be between 6:00-8:00pm and should occur about 1 hour after the last nap ends.

3 months: babies this age should be on a solid 4 nap schedule with the last nap of the day ending by 5:00pm.  Bedtime should be no later than 1.5 hours after the last nap ends.  Remember, this is asleep by time so we want to put baby down 15 minutes prior to this to allow him time to fall asleep.  So, this means that bedtime should not be much later than 6:30pm.

4 months: This is the age where babies will transition from 4 naps to 3 naps.  This might mean that your baby will flip-flop back and forth between 4 naps and 3 naps depending on what time she woke up in the morning, and the quality of the day's naps.  If it is a 3 nap day, it is likely you will be needing an early bedtime.  Do not be afraid of an early bedtime during nap transitions - it will be your saving grace!  At 4 months, all naps should be ending by 5:00pm with bedtime happening about 2-2.25 hours after the last nap ends.  So again, this means that bedtime should not be much later than 7:15pm.

5 months: Babies at this age should be solidly on a 3 nap schedule.  All naps should be ending by 5:00pm and bedtime should occur no later than 2-2.5 hours after the last nap ends.  This means that bedtime will be around 7:00-7:30pm which is a very age-appropriate bedtime considering you just lost one entire sleep period when you transitioned from 4 naps to 3, and babies this age still need 11-12 hours of nightsleep with 2 nightfeedings.

6/7 months: Babies still need 3 naps at this age and most stay on a 3 nap schedule until 8/9 months of age.  Naps should be ending by 5:00pm with bedtime happening 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.  So a bedtime of no later than 7:45pm is age-appropriate.

8/9 months: This is the age where most babies will drop their 3rd nap and move to a 2 nap schedule.  This nap transition also means that we want to use a super early bedtime on the days where we can't fit in a 3rd nap or baby refuses it entirely.  Do not be afraid of putting your child down to bed as early as 4:45pm.  This does not mean that baby will be up at 4:00 in the morning!  Remember, less daysleep = more nightsleep.  You have just lost an entire sleep period so baby will need to make up for this loss of sleep during the night.  Our goal with babies younger than 9 months of age is to protect nightsleep at all costs.  There is no advantage to a late catnap and thus a later bedtime if baby is up every 3-4 hours at night crying.  All naps should be ending by 4:00pm with bedtime occurring 3-3.5 hours after the last nap ends.  This means a bedtime no later than 7:30pm.

10-18 months: This section is for babies within this age range but still on 2 naps.  Most babies keep 2 naps until 13-18 months, with the average being 15 months.  Do not be too quick to drop that second nap as the longer we can hold off this transition, the smoother it will be.  Again, all naps should be ending by 4:00pm with bedtime happening between 3-4 hours after the last nap ends.  Note: we would want to use the lower end of that range for younger babies closer to 10-12 months.  As well, as we approach the 2-1 nap transition the afternoon nap will shrink and become less restful.  This means that you will want to shorten the time between this nap and bedtime as well to keep baby well-rested.  Bedtime should be no later than 7:00-8:00pm.  If you are finding that baby starts to wake frequently at night or earlier in the morning than usual, try scaling back bedtime even more, possibly to even 2.5-3 hours after the last nap ends.  This is a normal pattern as we get closer to dropping the second nap.

13-18 months: This section is for babies who have transitioned to 1 nap.  At the beginning of the transition, the stretch between nap and bedtime will be longer as we push the morning nap later and later.  Once the one nap is solidly occurring around 12:00pm, we would want bedtime to be occurring about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends.  And as always, naps should be ending by 4:00pm.

19 months-3/4 years: Baby's one nap will be well-established and consistent at this point and should be occurring around 12:30-1:30pm every single day.  Most children keep one nap until 3 years of age or beyond.  At this point we still do not want to be using a set bedtime, and instead bedtime should occur 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends.  The nap should always be ending by 4:00pm or even earlier if you are finding that the nap is pushing bedtime too late.  You may have to start waking the child up at 3:00 to maintain a bedtime of around 8:00pm.  It is normal for bedtime to become later the longer the child keeps their nap.  

3 years and beyond: This is the average age when a child drops their last nap.  Even though the child is not napping anymore, it is very important that you still institute a mid-afternoon quiet time to help the child regroup and recharge for the day.  If you notice that your child has a fussy time around 2-4pm, that is when they should be in their bedroom for 45 minutes of quiet time.  Now that the child is no longer napping, we will want to establish a consistent bedtime.  In order to find the ideal bedtime at this age, we must keep in mind the total sleep requirements of children.  At 3-5 years of age, children still need 11-13 hours of sleep every single day.  So, if your child wakes up at 7:00am, they need to be asleep for the night between 6:00-8:00pm.  Experiment with the bedtime and if you notice it is very difficult to get your child to sleep at 8:00pm, move the bedtime earlier as it is likely you are missing their optimal sleep window and they are overtired by that point.  As well, what is their mood like during the day?  That is the most important indication of whether a preschool/school-aged child is getting enough sleep.  Do they have a short attention span, or are irritable, moody, cranky, or extra defiant?  Try moving that bedtime earlier to see if it helps.


It can seem daunting to move your child's bedtime earlier when previously they were going to sleep much later but it is very important in order to ensure good quality, healthy, and restorative  nightsleep.  Make sure that if you are working to move the bedtime earlier, that you have a consistent and soothing bedtime routine in place to signal to the child that this is in fact bedtime and not another nap.  At the beginning, you may want to do a bath every single night as this is often a surefire cue to babies that bedtime is impending.  A lot of parents may complain that their spouse will never see the baby if bedtime is so early but if baby was previously sleeping in because of the late bedtime, then the other parent may get an opportunity to see baby in the morning once baby's wake-up time moves earlier and to a more 'natural' time.  Unfortunately, babies very rarely fit into our schedules as their sleep needs are just so high, but there is not much for a baby that is more important than healthy sleep (well, food maybe!) 

5 Sleep Wives Tales - BUSTED!

 what do you mean you'll spoil me if you hold me too much!?

what do you mean you'll spoil me if you hold me too much!?

"Wives tale - a common belief about something that is not based on facts and that is usually false."

When it comes to the topic of sleep, everybody has their theories, their beliefs, their tips and tricks.  Sometimes I cringe reading the advice that fellow moms receive when asking sleep-related questions.  It's not as if the advice givers are purposely passing along fallacious information, it's just that they themselves have likely been given this same terrible advice and are just trying to help a fellow mom in a similar situation.  I am here today to debunk some of the Sleep Myths that you may have encountered so we can break this vicious cycle of bad advice!

Give your baby rice cereal, he’ll sleep longer...

When your baby isn't sleeping at night (and consequently, you are not either) you will do just about anything to get some more shuteye.  This advice has been around forever but it could not be any further from the truth.  In actual fact, starting solids before the age of 4 months has been proven to disrupt sleep.  Well, that's just about the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish here!  Studies have now shown that waiting to begin solids until 6 months protects baby from several complications including iron deficiency, future obesity, food allergies, and illness.  In a perfect world, the equation for a full night's sleep would be as easy as a big bowl of cereal but in actuality, it is not that simple.  Hunger is not the only reason a baby wakes up at night.  Many babies sleep poorly due to sleep associations or overtiredness and in these two cases, hunger has nothing to do with it.  

Keep baby up during the day/before bed, this will help him sleep longer...

This advice could not be any more opposite from what it really takes to have good quality, restorative nightsleep.  We know without a doubt that the recipe for a good night's sleep is an age-appropriate daytime schedule with good naps and proper intervals of wakefulness.  If you're curious how long baby should be kept awake, check out my blog here for an idea.  Well-rested children accept sleep more readily, sleep better, and sleep longer than overtired ones.  While it's true that if you keep baby up the whole day one day they may sleep the whole night through because they are absolutely exhausted, be careful - sleep debt is accumulative.  While the effects might not be present immediately, following this night with another day of skipped naps will almost always result in disaster.  When babies (and adults as well) are overtired, the stress hormone 'cortisol' is secreted and cortisol keeps us awake (it's the same hormone that would be released into your body if you were in a situation where you were trying to save your own life - the 'flight or fight response').  Ensuring that babies do not reach this overtired state is pivotal to ensure a good night's sleep.

You need to get used to baby sleeping with lots of noise, so that he will sleep anywhere...

Unless by noise, they mean 'white noise' then this advice is also rubbish.  While it's true that we shouldn't feel like we need to tip-toe around our house every time our baby is asleep, we also shouldn't put baby down and then blare the music, run the vacuum in their bedroom, or whatever other 'tricks' we can use to 'get baby used to the noise'.  Do you, as an adult, like to sleep in a noisy environment or do you prefer your quiet, peaceful bedroom when you're trying to catch some shut-eye?  We should give that same level of respect to our babies when they are trying to sleep.  If you're concerned about noise then I strongly suggest investing in a white noise machine to help drown out the sounds (read about the other benefits of white noise here).  This same thing goes for those who say babies need to get used to bright lights while they sleep or that they should get used to sleeping anywhere.  Babies can't communicate with you that they would rather be sleeping in their cozy, dark, bedroom but I will bet that's what they would say if they could!  It is difficult to meet our babies sleep needs, especially at a very young age, as they need so much, but think of good sleep like food for their brain - we wouldn't feed our babies junk food so we shouldn't feed them junk sleep either. 

If you choose to co-sleep with your baby, you will never get her out of your bed...

In this example, we will define co-sleeping as sleeping in the same bed as your baby (although some terrible advice givers might make this same comment if you disclose that you are sleeping in the same bedroom but different bed as baby).  Although bedsharing has recently been a hot topic in the media for its correlation to an increase in the risk of SIDS, you should never feel that if you have resorted to this (or even if you have willingly chose it on your own) that your baby will never sleep in their own bedroom again until they go to college (slight exaggeration).  I myself was once a bedsharing momma and to be honest, I wouldn't trade those special memories for the world.  But guess what?  My kid doesn't co-sleep anymore (GASP!)  There are many methods we can use to help baby learn to sleep independently, just as we could if baby was falling asleep nursing or by rocking.  So if this is the sleep arrangement you have chosen then enjoy it - and don't feel like you are doomed to a life of fighting for blankets with your school-aged child (unless, of course, that is what you want).

If you let your baby cry, she will suffer attachment issues/ADHD/health problems/etc...

Ah, the age-old cry-it-out debate.  If you are anti cry-it-out I know that I am not going to change your opinion with this article but we need to debunk these myths that are swirling around the Internet and causing guilt and fear in parents who choose to use this method.  Among these 'studies' claiming that cry-it-out is harmful for babies is the idea that "crying-it-out is stressful for babies, flooding their sweet little brains with hormones such as cortisol that interfere with healthy brain development."  While it is absolutely true that ongoing stress is bad for a baby's brain, the stress that is shown to cause developmental problems is the chronic stress suffered by babies who are abused or neglected, or void of any parental figure in their life (such as babies born in orphanages in China).  Does this sound like a baby who is given love and attention during the day but then allowed to cry for a couple of nights to learn self-soothing skills?  Not quite.
As far as 'attachment issues' stemming from sleep training, we must first understand what attachment means.  It is defined as "a child's relationship with his mother or father as it develops over the course of the first year of life."  We help foster this attachment by being responsive to our baby (when he's hungry, when he's wet, when he's sleepy), but attachment isn't this fragile thing that can be broken in a night or two - as per the definition "it develops over the course of the first year of life".  When sleep training is done right (see my blog here for how we can ensure we are setting ourselves up for success) it doesn't take weeks or months.  It takes days.
Conversely, studies have consistently shown that well-rested children with healthy sleep habits have higher IQs and school test scores, and children that are taught delayed gratification and have been set appropriate boundaries are happier and more content.  It is also shown that the risk of depression, obesity and heart diseases are greater in children and adults that are sleep deprived.
Now I'm not saying I'm the cry-it-out lover of the world, but I do not agree with making parents feel guilty or shameful should they choose to use this method to help baby sleep better.  

 

Do you have any more advice that you have been given by well-meaning friends or family?  Share it below and I can debunk it in my next segment!!

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/family/baby...
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NEW & IMPROVED! Sample Schedules for the First Year and Beyond

I will preface this blog post by saying that all babies 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 baby grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a baby on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - feedings, 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. I generally recommend putting baby down (or starting the soothing routine if baby is not falling asleep independently) 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

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4 months

Babies at this age are still sleeping a lot, about every 1.5 hours during the day.  Nightfeedings are still the norm at this age (usually 2) and normally continue until baby is 8/9 months of age.

6:30am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
7:45am - 9:00am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
10:30am - 11:30am - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
1:00pm - 2:15pm - nap#3, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
3:45pm - 4:30pm - nap#4, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
 -- this nap is often only a 30-45 minute catnap
5:30pm - bedtime routine, nurse/bottle at the beginning
6:15pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

4.5 months

Very similar pattern to the above 4 month schedule except baby is able to handle a bit more awake time in the morning and before bed.

6:30am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
8:00am - 9:15am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
10:45am - 11:45am - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
1:15pm - 2:30pm - nap#3, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
4:15pm - 5:00pm - nap#4, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
 -- this nap is often only a 30-45 minute catnap
6:15pm - bedtime routine, nurse/bottle at the beginning
7:00pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

Babies should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night + 2 nightfeedings are normal at this age (first about 5 hours from the bedtime feed, second about 3.5 hours later).

5 months

Five months is when you want to start working on dropping that 4th nap and pushing the 3 nap schedule. The amount of time baby is awake in between naps will slowly lengthen to move them to a solid 3 nap schedule by 6 months. Because you've lost an entire sleep period (nap 4) bedtime needs to move earlier to compensate.

6:30am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
8:15am - 10:15am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
12:15pm - 1:30pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
3:30pm - 4:15pm - nap#3, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
-- this nap is often only a 30-45 minute catnap
5:45pm - bedtime routine, nurse/bottle at the beginning
6:30pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

Babies should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night + 2 nightfeedings (first about 6 hours from bedtime feed, second about 3.5-4 hours later).

6 months

Babies at this age are on a solid 3 nap schedule and may be down to only 1 nightfeeding (more than 2 nightfeedings and you likely have a sleep association problem on your hands).  This is the age when most babies begin to experiment with solids, although breastmilk or formula should still be baby's main source of nutrition until after the first year of life.

6:30am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
7:30am - breakfast
8:15am - 9:45am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
12:00pm - 1:15pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
3:30pm - 4:15pm - nap#3, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
-- common for this nap to be a 30-45 minute catnap
5:30pm - dinner
6:00pm - bedtime routine, nurse/bottle at the beginning
6:45pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

Babies should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night + 1 nightfeeding is normal at this age (about 7 hours from the bedtime feeding).

7 months

Hanging onto 3 naps until as close to 8 months of age as possible is ideal in order to ensure a smooth 3-2 nap transition. This means that at this age, you may need to start capping naps to fit all 3 in before 5:00pm. While waking a sleeping baby is the pits, it can really help to avoid overtiredness down the road.

7:00am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
8:00am - breakfast
9:00am - 10:15am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
11:45am - lunch
12:30pm - 1:30pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
4:00pm - 4:45pm - nap#3, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
5:45pm - dinner
6:30pm -  bedtime routine, nurse/bottle at the beginning
7:15pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

Baby should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night + 1 nightfeeding (at least 7 hours after the bedtime feeding).

8 months (start of transition)

The 3-2 nap transition begins at this age (or you should begin the transition if you haven't already as holding onto naps for too long can start to wreak havoc on nightsleep) and the schedule changes drastically from the beginning of 8 months to the end. You want to ensure to continue slowly stretching baby's awake times to move them to a solid 2 nap schedule (as getting stuck on 2 naps with short awake times can be a recipe for a bad night's sleep). No surprise here - an early bedtime is needed to account for the loss of the 3rd nap.

7:00am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
8:00am - breakfast
9:30am - 11:00am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
12:00pm - lunch
1:45pm - 3:15pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
5:00pm - dinner (starting to offer the last nursing/bottle of the night with dinner or immediately before/after dinner at this age is a great idea to further separate feeding from sleeping)
5:45pm - bedtime routine
6:15pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

8 months (part-way into the transition)

6:30am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
7:30am - breakfast
9:30am - 11:00am - nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
12:00pm - lunch
2:15pm-3:45pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
5:45pm - dinner, last nurse/bottle with or immediately before/after dinner
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:15pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)
 

Baby should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night + 0-1 nightfeedings. If a nightfeeding still exists, it should be close to/after midnight (and at least 7 hours from the bedtime feeding).

9-11 months

Most babies at this age have now transitioned to a 2 nap schedule and will keep these two naps until 13-18 months (with 15 months being average).  We can often comfortably work on eliminating all nightfeedings at this point (if baby hasn't dropped them on his own and as long as your pediatrician is on board as well).  If baby is eating more than once, it is a safe bet that there is a sleep association problem.

7:00am - up for the day, nursing/bottle
8:00am - breakfast
10:00am - 11:30am -  nap#1, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
12:30pm - lunch
3:00pm - 4:00pm - nap#2, nurse/bottle upon wake-up
5:30pm - dinner, nurse/bottle with dinner or immediately before/after
7:00pm - bedtime routine
7:30pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time) 

Babies should be sleeping approximately 11-12 hours at night.  No nightfeedings required at the end of the 9th month (although some parents wish to keep one and that is completely fine as well) unless directed otherwise by your doctor.  If you are working to eliminate nightfeedings, make sure you've tried moving the bedtime feeding away from the bedtime routine and instead, to immediately before/after dinner.

12-18 months

It is a big misconception that babies at one year of age only need one nap.  In fact, most babies still need 2 naps up to 15 months or beyond.  Babies at this age are able to comfortably sleep all night without feedings although many who have sleep associations will continue to wake for feedings into their second year of life.  The schedule below is an average for all babies who are still taking 2 naps, there are not many changes to their schedule until the afternoon nap is dropped around the 15-18 month mark.

6:30am - up for the day
7:15am - breakfast w/ milk or water
9:15am - snack w/ milk or water
9:45am - 11:15am - nap#1
12:15pm - lunch w/ milk or water
2:15pm - snack w/ milk or water
3:15pm - 4:00pm - nap#2 -- the afternoon nap becomes less restorative at this age, bedtime needs to be earlier to compensate
6:00pm - dinner w/ milk or water
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:15pm - bedtime (baby to be asleep at this time)

Babies still need 11-12 hours of nightsleep at this age and most will not be waking up throughout the night for a feeding.

 

I hope you have found this guide helpful to get a feel for what a 'normal' schedule for your child is.  I really do not like the term 'schedule' because I do not believe in rigid schedules for babies or children of any age.  However, it is very important that we are keeping one eye on the clock and one eye on baby to avoid that overtired state.  A well-rested baby is a happy baby!
If you feel you need further help in developing a schedule that fits your baby, or if your baby is waking up much more than the averages I give above, contact me and we can find a solution for your family!

All You Need to Know about Short Naps

The biggest concern that I am confronted by families with when it comes to their baby/toddler's sleep is the dreaded short nap.  Naps are supposed to be a well-deserved break for mom and dad and when they occur in short bursts throughout the day it is neither relaxing for mom or restorative for baby.  Read on to learn some of the major reasons that families struggle with short naps.

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What is a short nap?

We consider any nap under 1 hour to be a short nap.  Short naps can range anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes.  While it is normal for newborns to catnap (as sleep at this age is erratic and unpredictable) over time we should start to see daysleep consolidate and nap patterns mature.
There are situations where a cat nap is normal.  When babies are nearing a nap transition (whether it be 4-3, 3-2, or 2-1) it is normal for their last nap of the day to be shorter.  For example, it is common for a 4 month old's 4th nap of the day to be a catnap, as well as a 7 month old's 3rd nap.  As long as the other naps are a decent length then this is not a problem.

When should we be concerned with short naps?

As I mentioned above, catnapping is common in newborn babies (or those under 3 months of age).  Around 12-16 weeks of age, daysleep begins to consolidate and a pattern of longer naps usually emerges.  While it is true that some babies are truly just catnappers by biology, we want to ensure we aren't setting baby up for failure by making very common mistakes that I will outline below.  If your child is 6 months and still catnapping all day long, you will want to be diligent in working to see if you can improve his naps with the following tips:

 

  • Sleep Associations.  This is the number one reason that a baby will take short naps.  If a child is needing to be bounced/rocked/nursed to sleep then when baby wakes up after his first sleep cycle (which is approximately 45-50 minutes long) he will need those same conditions to fall back asleep.  While at night you might be able to sneak into his room when he wakes up and pop his pacifier in or give him a quick rocking back to sleep, these methods often don't work during the day.  The reason for this is that the drive to sleep is lower during the day and it is harder for baby to return to sleep after a partial awakening.  Even if you rush in at first peep it may be too late and he will fight your efforts, making any chance for a nap extension a failure.
     
  • Inappropriate Schedule.  If your baby is sleeping out of  his natural rhythms then naps will likely suffer.  Too early wake-ups and too late bedtimes will surely ruin a nap schedule.  Creating a schedule that's optimized for sleep is crucial to baby getting healthy, restorative sleep - day and night.
     
  • Inconsistency. Babies and children crave routine and thrive on predictability.  It is important to have a consistent nap routine, a consistent sleeping location, and a (somewhat) predictable daily routine in order for children to take long, healthy, and restorative naps.
     
  • Sleeping Environment. We need to make sure that a child's sleeping environment is safe and conducive to sleep.  Their room should  be dark (if you think of it on a scale of 1-10, 1 being bright and sunny, and 10 being pitch black, you want that room at an 8-10 during the day and at night).  Baby's room should be kept on the cooler side.  As well, white noise is a must-have, especially if your home is noisy or there are a lot of outside disturbances (loud garbage trucks, dogs barking, etc).
     
  • Periods of wakefulness are too long.  While it seems counterintuitive, a baby who is kept awake longer during the day will not nap better.  Keeping your child up longer in hopes that he will 'crash' and sleep better will only backfire.  Babies fall asleep easiest and stay asleep longest if you get them to sleep at the peak of sleepiness.  Well-rested children accept sleep more readily, sleep better, and sleep longer than overtired ones.  So how long is too long?  Here's an idea of the maximum amount of time your child should be kept awake at any given age:

Under 2 months: 45 minutes to 1 hour max
3 months: 1.5 hours max
4 months: 1.75 to 2 hours max
5 months: 2 hours max
6 months: 2.5 hours max
7 months: 2.75 hours max
8/9 months: 3 hours max
10/11 months: 3-4 hours max
12-14 months: 3-4 hours max on 2 naps, 4.5-6 hours max on 1 nap
15-18 months: 5-6.5 hours max
18 months until child drops naps around 3 years of age: 6.5 hours max

Whatever the reason may be, rest assured that short naps are a problem that can be fixed by ensuring that we aren't making any of the above mistakes.  If you are looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation, feel free to contact me for a one-on-one baby & toddler sleep consultation.
 

10 Steps to Starting a Sleep Coaching Plan

You're tired.  You aren't sleeping.  Your baby isn't sleeping.  You've scoured the Internet searching for answers as to why your child is still waking up several times a night and won't nap longer than 30 minutes at a time and you have come to the conclusion that: you need to sleep train.  Perhaps baby is nursing to sleep and this is causing every hour wake-ups, or maybe your little one is addicted to the pacifier and Mom and Dad are doing the paci dance all night long.  Either way, everyone needs more sleep and it's time to devise a plan to make that happen.
Sleep coaching a child is never easy.  But sleep deprivation is even harder.  If you have come to terms with the fact that a little coaching is in your future, here are some steps to take before you begin any plan to get your family back on track.
 

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  1. Make sure you are well-informed about baby sleep.  Read up on how much sleep your child needs, how many naps per day your child should be taking, how long your baby should be awake during the day, and why early bedtimes are important.  Also, read up about dependency issues and make sure you are aware of why your current sleep situation is not working, as this will help you to be consistent during the hard times.


     
  2. Pick a sleep coaching method.  There are many different methods available to use and they range from gentle (especially for younger babies) to more direct (for older babies or parents that are looking for quicker results).  Make sure you and your spouse are 100% on the same page about the method you choose because the most important part of any sleep coaching method is being consistent.  All methods will work as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort for as long as it takes.


     
  3. Get rid of all the sleep props.  This means the paci, nursing to sleep, co-sleeping (all or part of the night), rocking/bouncing/shushing, the swaddle, etc.  We want baby to be able to go into his crib awake and put himself to sleep.  


     
  4. Make sure your child's schedule is age-appropriate.  No sleep coaching method will ever work on a child who is overtired.  Make sure you are not keeping your child awake too long during the day, and especially not before bedtime.  Early bedtimes are especially important during sleep coaching as naps will likely suffer for the first several days/weeks.  Keeping your child up longer in hopes that he will 'crash' and sleep better will only backfire.  Babies fall asleep easiest and stay asleep longest if you get them to sleep at the peak of sleepiness.  Well-rested children accept sleep more readily, sleep better, and sleep longer than overtired ones.


     

  5. Pick a start date.  You want to pick a day when you know that your spouse/relative/friend will be able to help provide support.  You also want to be sure you can dedicate at least two weeks, and preferably a month, without any major disruptions (i.e. travel).  Some families may choose to work on nights first, and once those are in order, move onto naps.  This is a great plan if naps are already decent as it helps to avoid overtiredness.  Regardless of whether you decide to tackle naps and nights at the same time or not, you always want to make sure you begin any sleep coaching plan at night, when the drive to sleep is higher.


     

  6. Prepare the environment where your child will be sleeping.  Make sure your child's room is dark for naptime and for nighttime.  If you think of it on a scale from 1-10, 1 being bright and sunny and 10 being pitch black, we want that room to be an 8-10 during the day and at night.  No nightlights, projectors, etc. as these are too stimulating.  Use room-darkening shades or you could even go a step further and use tin foil or black construction paper on your windows.  You won't win any design awards but your child's sleep will certainly benefit!  Make sure baby's crib is safe and boring.  No toys, mobiles, etc (a small lovey is alright if you are comfortable with it).  As well, white noise is a must.  Make sure the white noise is loud and continuous (no 45 minute timers).  You can even use a fan or a radio set to static if you do not want to purchase an actual machine (although I think this is a very worthwhile investment!)


     

  7. Establish a plan for the middle of the night.  The middle of the night is usually parents' downfall.  It is much  more difficult to remain consistent in the middle of the night - you just want to get back to sleep and the only way you can do that is if your child is asleep too!  Although it's difficult, it is important that we send the same message 24 hours a day.  Keep your expectations for the middle of the night realistic.  Remember - just because a child knows how to sleep does not automatically mean that he will sleep through the night. Help him do so by minimizing overtiredness and having an appropriate sleep schedule.  Read here about average nighttime sleeping habits for babies and decide (with the help of your family doctor) how many feedings you feel comfortable with at night and stick to it.  


     

  8. Write down your plan.  Putting it on paper will help you to be consistent.  Include your sleep coaching method, the rules you will follow, the habits you are trying to quit, and how you will handle middle of the night wakings.  Refer to this plan often, especially in moments of weakness!


     
  9. Keep a Sleep Log.  This is so important in order to track progress and see patterns.  There are many different websites devoted to tracking sleep, but plain 'ol pen & paper also works great!


     

  10. Start!  Give your chosen method a full week before deciding if there are things you need to tweak.  It also takes that long for baby to realize the old way is gone and the new way is here to stay.  I mentioned it before but I'll say it again, the most important aspect of any sleep coaching method is consistency.  Remember - teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a way of life. It does not end after just 1 week of "training".

 

 

Typical Nap & Night Sleep Needs from Birth to 14 months

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Disclaimer: all babies are different and have different sleep needs. The information I will share with you is an AVERAGE amount of sleep/naps that a baby needs at any given age.



Under 2 months: babies will have 4 naps or more and there will be no rhyme or reason; some will be 30 minutes, some will be 3 hours. You can help with day/night confusion by making sure to wake baby up every 3 hours for a feed but don't feel that you need to keep baby awake during the day if she appears sleepy. Babies this age sleep 16-20 hours/day.


3 months: babies will often now be on a solid 4 nap schedule with a nap occurring every 1.5 hours or less. We would like to see most naps be over 1 hour, and you may want to consider conducting 'nap extensions' for any nap under 60 minutes.  At this age, 15.5-18 hours of sleep/day is average.


4 months: babies may start to transition from 4 naps to 3 at this age and bedtime will therefore need to be earlier to make up for the loss of the 4th nap. Naps will occur every 1.5-1.75 hours and many people find that baby will go through a 'cat napping phase' around 4-6 months so keeping them well-rested with an early bedtime will be very important. About 4-4.5 hours in naps is average at this age, and 15.5 hrs total in a 24 hour period.


5 months: most babies will be on a 3 nap schedule with the first 2 naps being around 1-1.5 hours in length and the 3rd nap is usually a cat nap of around 30-45 minutes. We want to ensure that naps are ending by about 4:00pm to preserve an early bedtime. Late naps interfere with nightsleep. About 3.5-4 hours in naps is average at this age, and 15 hours of sleep/day.


6 months: some babies will start to show signs of the 3-2 nap transition at this age by refusing the 3rd nap or the 3rd nap begins too late in the day. We can help hold off the transition by capping the first two naps at around 1.5 hours a piece to ensure the 3rd nap can occur. About 3-3.5 hours in naps is average at this age, and 14.5 hrs/24 hour period.


7 months: at this age we see some babies start to drop their 3rd nap and move toward a 2 nap schedule. During this transition, you will want to use an early bedtime (sometimes as early as 5pm) to make up for the loss of that 3rd nap. The goal with babies still on a 3 nap schedule is to protect nightsleep at all costs. An early bedtime is far more restorative than a late crappy 3rd nap. 2.75-3.25 hrs in naps is normal at this age, and 14-14.5 hours of total sleep/day.


8 months: most babies at this age are solidly on 2 naps and are also moving towards a full, consolidated night of sleep (11-12 hours with no feeds). Nap amounts and total sleep needs are the same as at 7 months, but we will see that total dispersed between two longer naps (around 1-1.5 hours a piece).


9 months: all babies should now be on a 2 nap schedule until around 13-18 months (the most common age to drop to 1 nap is 15 months). 2.5-3 hours of naps and 14 hours of total sleep is average and a baby who is well-established on solids can now comfortably go a full night with no feeding (as per doctor's recommendations).  


10-14 months: at this age, we may have to start playing with our nap times/lengths to ensure that both naps are able to be taken without bedtime being pushed too late. Baby may also start to fight the 2nd nap and start to show signs of being ready to transition to 1. We want to avoid moving to 1 nap too early as the jump in awake time needed from a 2 nap schedule to a 1 nap schedule is quite significant. The longer we can hold off the transition, the smoother it will be.  Most children will be napping 2-3 hours/day at this point, and require 13.5-14 hours of total sleep per day.
 

Early Morning Wake-up Help!

Most parents cringe at the thought of their child waking up any earlier than 6:00am (and for some lucky parents even a pre-7am wake-up will cause distress!) but early wake-ups are common with babies and toddlers.  The following are a few reasons that your previous 6:30am riser could start waking up with the roosters and what to do if you find yourself with this problem.

 

 who needs an alarm clock!?

who needs an alarm clock!?

  1. Overtiredness.  Babies and children have a natural wake-up time of around 6:00-7:00am.  If your child is otherwise sleeping through the night but begins to have an earlier-than-usual wake-up, this could mean that bedtime was too late.  Most children need a bedtime of between 5:30-8:00pm in order to be well-rested enough to sleep through the night.  If the early wake-up is accompanied by nightwakings then severe overtiredness, habit issues, and an inappropriate daytime schedule are likely all to blame.
     
  2. New Milestones.  Early wake-ups can be a side effect when babies & toddlers are on the verge of reaching a new milestone (rolling/crawling/walking/terrible two's/etc).  In this case, an early wake-up could be the norm for 2-3 weeks.
     
  3. Nap Transitions.  Early wake-ups occur during all nap transitions in 95%+ of well-rested children who consistently sleep through the night.
     
  4. Seasonal.  The natural wake-up time of most children will shift earlier with the onset of an earlier sunrise.  The effects of this earlier wake-up would be apparent in May, peak in June, and return to 'later' near the end of July.  Ensuring that you have room darkening shades or using other methods to darken the room will be key to helping prevent this type of early wake-up.
     
  5. Major Teething (e.g. top front teeth & molars).  Although teething does not cause half of the sleeping problems that parents blame on it, the week before these teeth erupt can be particularly hard on baby and can cause a temporary early wake-up.

 

What can we do during this time?
 

We need to tweak the child's schedule to ensure that baby does not become overtired and to maintain a healthy amount of nightsleep.  And we must be consistent!  This will almost always involve using an earlier bedtime.  All of the above scenarios will eventually pass and if we can help baby to continue to sleep through the night and work to not create any bad habits, then everything should naturally fall back into place without any crying, retraining, or severe sleep deprivation for the entire family.

 

Tips for Travelling with Kids

All parents know that vacationing with kids is not usually 'a vacation' at all, but if we are prepared and have a plan of action we can spend less time worrying about sleep and more time worrying about how much sand they've eaten :-)

Before your trip

  • Make sure you are calling the hotel ahead of time to be sure that there is a crib for your baby/toddler to sleep in.  If not, bring along a playpen (there are many hotels whose cribs may not meet the Canadian standards so you may want to think of bringing yours from home anyway).
  • Prepare a 'fun pack' for the car/plane.  Bring along snacks, books, new toys that will keep their attention longer, a portable DVD player, I-pad, and whatever other tricks you have up your sleeve to help pass the time.  Take one thing out at a time and drag it out for as long as possible.
  • Bring along everything from baby's crib to make their environment as similar to home as possible.  This can include their white noise machine (very important!), stuffed animals/loveys/blankies, an unwashed crib sheet, and any other objects your child may use to feel at home.

At your desination

  • Prepare baby's room once you arrived so that it is set for nap/bedtime.  A great place to put baby's playpen would be in the bathroom or a walk-in closet if one is available.  This will ensure that the room is dark and quiet.  It seems a little nuts but I can ensure you that baby won't mind!
  • If the bathroom is too small or there is not a closet large enough for a playpen, then try and designate an area of the hotel room as 'baby's room'.  This might mean being creative and tacking a bed sheet to the walls to divide baby's room from yours.  This is where white noise is important as it will help to drown out the sounds from the rest of the room.  Darken baby's 'room' as much as you can using black construction paper, tin foil, or a blanket/bed sheet on the window.
  • You really want to avoid co-sleeping if it's entirely possible (unless of course you are already co-sleeping).  Depending on the length of your trip, baby will become accustomed to this new sleeping arrangement and you may find it difficult to kick the habit once you're back home.  As well, a baby that is not used to sleeping with mom and dad (and a mom and dad that aren't used to sleeping with baby!) may find that they do not get a restful sleep together.
 this is the life!

this is the life!

Time Zone Shifts

Having a plan in place and understanding the effect that travel has on your child's sleep pattern is important to avoid worry and limit problems.  Children and adults cannot adjust instantly from one time zone to another, although children often have an easier time adjusting than adults.

If you are travelling west (1-3 time zones)

  • Try to keep baby awake until the 'correct' bedtime in the new time zone.  If the change is too significant to accomplish the first night, do it gradually over a couple of days.
  • You may have to wake up early with your child for a day or two.  Try to leave him in his crib as close to 6:00am the new time as you can, but if he's very upset it is not fair to leave him crying since he has not fully adjusted, so you may have to live with an early wake-up for a couple of days.  Chances are you will be awake as well as your body will have not adjusted either.
  • Do not let your child 'over-nap' to make up for a loss of nightsleep.  We want to avoid baby making up nightsleep during the day as this will only lead to less nightsleep the following night and the cycle will continue.  Try to delay his naps (but only by about 15-30 minutes for younger children) to get them as close to 'normal' nap time as possible.

If you are travelling east (1-3 time zones)

  • Your child will probably be staying up later than he usually does for the first night or two.  
  • Wake your baby the next day up at the 'correct' wake-up time according to the new time zone.  Again, if the change is too large to accomplish in one day, do it gradually over a couple of days.
  • Do not let your child 'over-nap'.  Naps, like bedtime, will run late by the amount of the time change, so allowing him to nap longer than usual will only push bedtime even later.

If you are travelling across more than 3 or 4 time zones

  • Children handle these large changes much more easily than adults do.  This is because the drive to sleep during the day when our adult bodies aren't supposed to sleep is much higher in children (especially, of course, with those that are still napping).  Parents often find that their children adapt quickly so there is no need to make big, elaborate plans.
  • You can't force a child to sleep when he is not tired but you can force a child to stay up (within reason) when he is sleepy (or when he should be awake according to the new time zone).  Baby will self-correct quickly by making up for the lost sleep at proper times according to the new time zone.  If you wake him up when he is asleep at the 'wrong times' he will want to sleep at the 'right times'.  This is the most important advice so if you keep it in mind, everything will work out.
  • If you travel east - your child will probably fall asleep much later than usual at first and have to be awakened in the morning.  If you travel west - he will want to fall asleep much earlier and you will have to keep him awake.  Either way, the times he wants to sleep or be awake are going to be very erratic for a couple of days but it should not last for more than that.
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Travelling, especially across time zones, with children can be stressful, but if you have a solid plan in place and are prepared that it will take a couple of days to adjust, it doesn't need to be a major headache.  The best way to re-set our biological clocks is sunshine.  Especially if you are travelling to an exotic place, it shouldn't be too difficult to make sure your child is getting plenty of sun during the day (especially early morning and early evening depending on which direction you are travelling).  Most people make the necessary changes without even thinking about them because of expectations driven by activities, meals, and other obligations.  Safe travels!

What Does 'Sleeping through the Night' Mean to You?

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Everybody has that friend.

The one who says that their baby sleeps through the night at 6 weeks. But the definition of 'sleeping through the night' is different to some than others.

For me, this means baby is sleeping 10-12 hours at night with no feedings.  To others, this might mean that baby is still waking up for 1-2 feedings, but promptly returns to sleep afterwards.  Or even others, their baby might be getting way less than the recommended 10-12 hours of nightsleep, maybe only 7-8 hours, and although it's uninterrupted sleep, it's not nearly enough.

In general, a baby is capable of going 10-12 hours at night with no feedings around 8/9 months, as long as solids are well-established and weight gain is sufficient according to your pediatrician.  Anything earlier than this is a bonus!

To give you an idea of what is in the realm of normal for your baby at any age in terms of feedings at night, here is what you can expect from birth to the age of 1.  Please note that all babies are different, and if your baby has more feeds at night - that is fine!  If they have less - you are lucky!



Under 2 months of age - babies need to eat around the clock day and night, so this might mean baby is waking up every 2-4 hours at night for a feed.  This is completely normal, especially if baby has their days and nights mixed up. One way to help them get their nights and days sorted out is to ensure that you are waking them up during the day every 2-3 hours for a feed.

3 months of age - around this age we start to see a longer first stretch of sleep emerge as sleep patterns begin to mature.  Most babies will do a 4 hour first stretch, and then may wake up every 2.5-4 hours thereafter (usually about 3 feeds/night).

4 months of age - The first stretch is increased to around 5 hours, and the 2nd feed happens about 3.5-4 hours later.  Most babies only have 2 feeds at this point.

5 months of age - First stretch around 6 hours, 2nd feed is happening around 3.5-4 hours later.

6 months of age - As solids begin, most babies at this age are only waking up once at night to eat.  Their first stretch may be about 7 hours long, and they may be comfortably able to go until wake-up time for another feed.  Before we start enforcing this one nightly feed, we want to make sure that solids are well-established for baby; this means 3 meals a day containing all 4 food groups in addition to the milk feeds: grains, protein, fruit/vegetables, and fats.

7 months of age - Babies at this age who are eating a range of solids may be down to 1 feed/night, sometime after midnight.

8 months and beyond - This is around the age where we can begin to work on baby sleeping a full, consolidated 11-12 hours of sleep every night.  Do not worry if your baby is still feeding at night - he will get there!  If you find that he is still waking up for a feed in the wee hours, try moving his nursing/bottle from the end of his bedtime routine to the beginning (i.e. before bath, jammies, etc).  If you try this and he is still waking, move it even further away from sleep time, to immediately before/after dinner.  We want to completely seperate feeding from sleeping in their little brains, as this association is very strong and can cause them to continue waking at night.




So next time a well-intentioned friend tells you their baby is 'sleeping through the night' at 3 months of age, don't feel like you are doing anything wrong - there may just be a difference in definition.