Your Step-By-Step Guide to Nightweaning

Nothing truly prepares us for the sleepless nights that we endure when we first bring home our babies. The one thought that I would always hold onto was that nothing was forever. When my first-born turned one and she was still waking at night for a feed, I started to wonder whether it maybe was forever! With my second [and third!] babies, now armed with much more knowledge about sleep, I vowed to do things differently. I knew it was possible for babies to sleep through the night much earlier than 15 months of age. Below you will find a step-by-step guide to getting that glorious full night of sleep [at least most nights!] The below instructions assume that your baby is healthy and you’ve discussed nightweaning with your doctor. The steps should be followed in order as by tackling one step, it may mean that you don’t even need to move onto the next step! Let’s do this!

Step 1: Look at the schedule

There are two main factors that play a part in babies sleeping well at night: sleep associations and schedule. An independent sleeper who is overtired won’t likely sleep through the night and a well-rested baby that requires help to fall asleep likely won’t either. So we first want to look at baby’s schedule, and mainly, we want to make sure that baby is not overtired. Following age-appropriate awake times is crucial and most importantly, we want to ensure that baby is not awake too long before bed. A baby that is overtired at the on-set of nighttime sleep is much more likely to fight bedtime, experience nightwakings, and wake early the next day. We might confuse some of these overtired wakings for wakings for hunger, so ensuring baby is well-rested first and foremost is key in ensuring we see a reduction in wakings that are not hunger-related.
We’ve made sure baby is not overtired, but now we need to make sure baby isn’t undertired [huh?] Baby sleep is all about finding that balance between enough sleep and not too much sleep. Enough awake time but not too much awake time. A baby that is undertired [by not getting enough awake time in during the day or by napping too much] may try to make up for that lack of daytime awake time by….you guessed it! Being awake at night. If your baby is waking at night and you suspect maybe too much daytime sleep/not enough awake time is the issue, try to adhere to the following rules:

4 months of age: aim for a minimum of 7.5 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 4.5 hours in naps
5 months of age: aim for a minimum of 7.75 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 4 hours in naps
6 months of age: aim for a minimum of 8.25 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 3.5 hours in naps
7 months of age: aim for a minimum of 9.25 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 3.25 hours in naps
8 months of age: aim for a minimum of 9.75 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 3.25 hours in naps
9 months until 1 nap: aim for a minimum of 9.75 hours of daytime awake time and no more than 3 hours in naps
Baby on 1 nap: aim for a minimum of 10.25 hours of daytime awake time and no more than a 3 hour nap
**when a baby first drops a nap, it is normal that daytime awake time will be lower and this is okay. It should only be temporary though and you should work to slowly increase awake times to reach the above goals.

Step 2: Look at the routine

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As mentioned above, the two main factors that contribute to a good night of sleep are schedule and sleep associations. Now that we know your baby is rested, we need to work on eliminating any unhelpful sleep associations. An unhelpful sleep association is anything that your baby cannot recreate on his own throughout the nighttime [I’m looking at you, pacifier!] If your baby is reliant on nursing to fall asleep, a bottle, rocking, pacifier, holding, etc. they will wake requiring these same associations to help them back to sleep. Some form of sleep training will be required in order to reinforce healthy sleep habits. This is the hard part but it’s crucial in order to ensure we have good, lasting, healthy sleep habits. Your baby can do this, believe in him!
When we sleep train, we want to make sure that baby is going down fully awake [not drowsy!] and that we’ve separated food from sleep. Putting baby down too drowsy or still feeding them to close to sleep will reinforce that unhelpful sleep association [i.e. baby is still reliant on you/food to prepare their body for sleep]. If your baby is 16 weeks of age or older, you want to be laying them down ‘wide awake but calm’ or ‘awake, minus the drowsy’ and the last feed of the night should occur at the very beginning of the bedtime routine [before the bath if it’s a bath night or before diaper change and jammies if it’s not]. As a note, it is not important that baby is kept awake during middle of the night feeds [or is woken up at the end of the middle of the night feed]. As long as baby is falling asleep on his own at bedtime, it won’t create an association if baby falls asleep eating in the middle of the night.

Step 3: Look at the age

Alright, so we now have a super well-rested baby that is sleeping totally independently! Woo hoo! But baby is still waking at night to eat. Boo hoo! Are you doing something wrong? Not necessarily! Sleep training does not [and sometimes, should not] equate to total nightweaning. Having a well-rested independent sleeper should drastically reduce the number of times baby is waking at night, but it won’t stop them from waking if they are truly hungry [or if they have a sticky habit, more about that below]. It is very normal for babies to wake at night to eat in their first year of life, often multiple times/night. When we are thinking about nightweaning, we want to make sure we aren’t expecting too much out of baby. What would be expecting too much?

4/5 months of age: expecting baby to eat less than twice per night unless they have dropped feeds on their own
6-9 months of age: expecting baby to eat less than once per night unless they have dropped feeds on their own
**when I say ‘dropped feeds on their own’ this means that baby has started to sleep through feeds without us actively trying to wean them and your doctor has okay’d this

Some babies will naturally consolidate their nighttime sleep earlier than others and may only need 1 feed/night at 4 months of age or no feeds at night by 6 months of age but I wouldn’t recommend trying to actively nightwean a baby down to less than the above.

Now, while we don’t want to expect too much out of baby, we also don’t want to expect too little. While sleep training often greatly reduces the number of times baby is waking at night as it eliminates the sleep association problem, if a baby is used to being fed at a certain time or after a certain amount of hours of sleep, we may now have a habit on our hands. These habitual wakings can be a bit trickier to eliminate and would require us to use our sleep training method to encourage baby to either a) fall back asleep on their own or b) lengthen out their stretch of sleep to something more age-appropriate. What is age-appropriate?

4 months of age: an initial stretch of 5 hours, followed by another stretch of 3.5 hours
5 months of age: an initial stretch of 6 hours, followed by another stretch of 3.5 hours
6 months of age: an initial stretch of 7 hours, followed by another stretch of 4 hours
7-9 months of age: an initial stretch of 7 hours, no second feed
10+ months of age: 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep
**stretches are counted from the beginning of the last feed, not from the time baby falls asleep

If your baby’s stretches of sleep are much shorter, you want to encourage them to wait longer in between feeds to ensure we aren’t feeding the habit. Whichever method you used initially to help baby to learn to fall asleep is how you want to respond if they were to wake before these times. You would continue with your chosen method until baby a) falls back asleep or b) you reach these above times. While it may seem like you are ‘rewarding’ baby by now feeding them after he woke early, you’re still setting the expectation and feeding baby when he is likely hungry [and he may have built up an appetite in that time and if so, it would be very difficult for him to fall back asleep without the feed].
If your baby is hitting these above stretches but still having a lot of extra nightwakings, try to really pay attention when they eat at night. Do they seem hungry? These stretches above are just an average and won’t be suitable for every baby. If your baby is capable of sleeping longer stretches but we’re feeding them too early, we are feeding the habit and that will encourage extra wakings. If you think this is the case, try increasing the time before you feed baby by 15 minutes every few nights to see if it helps.
Once you’ve reached the 7 hour stretch and baby is 6+ months of age, it can be wise to increase the stretch by 15 minutes every week to start working towards that full night of sleep by 10 months of age. So at 6.5 months of age, you might be at 7.5 hours. At 7 months of age, you might want to use an 8 hour cut-off, and so on.

Step 4: Look at daytime consumption

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When a baby has been used to being fed at night [or multiple times per night] their body becomes accustomed to those nighttime calories. If a baby is getting the bulk of their calories at night, we call this ‘reverse cycling’. This is especially common with babies who require food to fall asleep. While this can happen very quickly and easily, luckily it can also be undone [by following the above and below steps!] One of these important steps is to try and increase consumption during the daytime. This might mean adding in an extra feed for a breastfed baby [not right before sleep times though! Make sure any milk feeds are separated from naps by at least 30 minutes + some sort of activity] or increasing ounces in baby’s bottles. Also, try to ensure that baby’s feeds are distraction-free. Try feeding baby right upon waking from sleep with the lights still off, white noise still on, sleepsack on, etc. If baby is bottlefed, make sure the nipple size is appropriate - oftentimes if baby starts to eat less or slower, it can mean you need to increase the nipple size. If your baby is eating solids, try incorporating some high-fat/high calorie foods such as avocado, heavy cream, butter, olive oil, fatty fish, beans, whole-fat yogurt, full-fat coconut milk, eggs, bananas, etc.
If you have any questions or concerns about how much your baby should be eating, please speak to your pediatrician.

Step 5: Look at how you respond

Perhaps one of the most important steps you can take to working on increasing those stretches of sleep at night is waiting it out. Babies are noisy sleepers, especially those new to independent sleep. They wake up, cry a bit, fall back asleep. For babies just new to independent sleep, this can occur after every single sleep cycle at the beginning of the night, as their transition is ‘sloppy’ and unrefined. This gets better with practice! We often mistake partial arousals as cries for hunger and in we go to offer a meal. Despite not really being hungry, baby likely obliges by eating - and a habit is born. While sometimes it’s not easy, especially in the middle of the night, establishing a wait time before entering baby’s room can be a game changer for nighttime sleep. I would start with whatever number you are comfortable with, even if it’s just 1 minute at first, and try to increase the wait time by 1 minute every night or every few nights until you are waiting 10 minutes. I would be waiting even if it is technically time to feed, as you always want to give baby a chance to self-settle before you intervene. Also, if we are rewarding every waking with instant gratification [food] we are really reinforcing that wakefulness and it’s more likely that baby will continue to wake at night even once he’s not hungry! Your baby might really surprise you if you give him that chance!

Step 6: Look at nighttime consumption

You’ve followed steps 1 through 5 but baby is still eating more at night than we’d like [come on baby!] which means we move to the final 2 steps which are the more ‘active’ nightweaning steps. The first step is the slow wean, which means that we will be slowly reducing the amount of calories baby is eating at the nightfeed(s) that we are trying to eliminate.
If you are nursing, time the nighttime feeds for 2 nights and take the average. On the 3rd night, reduce the minutes you are nursing by 3 minutes. Every 3rd night, reduce the feed(s) by another 3 minutes until you are only nursing for around 5 minutes.
If you are bottlefeeding, you will want to reduce the number of ounces in the bottle(s) by half an ounce every 3rd night until you are only offering 2 ounces.
If your baby is 9 months or under and you’re keeping 1-2 feeds/night, you can feed baby as much as he wants at the remaining feed(s).
You should plan to reduce the earliest feedings first. For example, if your baby is 5 months old and eating at 10:30pm, 1:30am, and 5:00am, plan to cut out the 10:30pm feeding. That first stretch of sleep is the most important stretch of the night as not only does it set the tone for the rest of the night [i.e. if we feed too early at the first waking, the rest of the night is likely to be fragmented] but it also contains the deepest, most restorative sleep and is when growth hormones are secreted, memories are formed, and baby’s learning ability and overall alertness for the next day is affected.
Once you are down to 5 minutes of nursing/2 ounces in the bottles, we can move onto the next step:

Step 7: The final step

We made it! If you’re at this step, that means that your baby has an age-appropriate daytime schedule and bedtime. He falls asleep 100% independently without any props and you feed at the beginning of the bedtime routine. He eats well during the day and you have been waiting him out at night [if your baby is 6-9 months of age, I would try increasing the wait time to 15 minutes before this final step to see if that encourages him to skip the feed. If your baby is 10+ months of age, I would try waiting 20 minutes]. You’ve reduced ounces/minutes at night but he’s STILL waking. The last step is to eliminate the feed entirely which is possible now that you’ve really set the stage. You would use your chosen sleep training method [or if you’re a lucky duck and haven’t had to sleep train, read up and find a method that you are comfortable with] and when baby wakes at night and is still awake after your 10 minutes, you’d encourage him to fall back asleep on his own [perhaps by using timed checks, sitting next to the crib, or leaving him to settle on his own]. If you’ve followed all of the above steps, it should not take more than 3-5 nights until baby is sleeping through that waking. If baby is really protesting and you’re losing your resolve, try rocking your baby to sleep instead of feeding [obviously best case scenario is baby falls back asleep on his own but rocking to sleep is better than feeding to sleep!]
If your baby, in this process, has dropped all nighttime feeds and maintains that full night of sleep for 7 nights in a row, your baby has now learned how to sleep through the night successfully and if he were to wake at night, I would not be offering a feed anymore [checking in on him or comforting him is okay of course, but a feed would not be offered]. Once a baby learns to sleep all the way through, sleep generally overrides hunger, which means that hunger isn’t likely to wake him out of a deep sleep and wakings at night are more likely attributed to something else [overtiredness, teething, illness, milestones, etc.]


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

GUEST POST: Rob Lindeman on How to do Bedtime Fading

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

 

How to Do Bedtime Fading: Best Sleep Training Method?

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

What is Bedtime Fading?

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

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

The Three Key Features of Bedtime Fading

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

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

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

How to Do Bedtime Fading

Step One

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

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

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

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

Step Two

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

Step Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

My Top 10 Twin Sleep Tips

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

TWIN TIP#1 - WHITE NOISE

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

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

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

TWIN TIP#3 - WRITE IT ALL DOWN

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

TWIN TIP#4 - KEEP THEM ON SCHEDULE

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

TWIN TIP#5 - FEED TOGETHER, FEED APART

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

TWIN TIP#6 - SLEEP TRAIN

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

TWIN TIP#7 - ADJUSTED AGE

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

TWIN TIP#8 - IDENTIFY THE SENSITIVE SLEEPER

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

TWIN TIP#9 - HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

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

  • 3-5 nights - baby is now 'sleeping through the night' for their age

  • 7 days - baby is now falling asleep within 30 minutes for all sleep times with some combination of babbling, fussing, soft crying

  • 10 days - baby is now showing progress with longer naps although things may still not be consistent

  • 2-4 weeks - baby is now showing consistency with naps (consistency meaning, for example, nap 1 is always the longest nap, nap 2 is over an hour but shorter than nap 1, nap 3 is 30-45 minutes long). Nap lengths may not be exact day-to-day and that is normal

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

TWIN TIP#10 - ALL OTHER RULES APPLY

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


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

Why Sleep Training Doesn't Work

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

Sleep Training Fail #1 - Starting with a nap

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

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

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

Sleep Training Fail #3 - Drowsy but awake

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

Sleep Training Fail #4 - An overtired baby

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

Sleep Training Fail #5 - No support

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

Sleep Training Fail #6 - Lack of consistency

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

Sleep Training Fail #7 - Fear of the early bedtime

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

Sleep Training Fail #8 - Method does not match family

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

  • What are my parenting philosophies? You want to pick a method that YOU are comfortable with and that YOU can be consistent with. Sleep training will always take you out of your comfort zone but doing your research and picking a method that is best aligned with your unique views on the subject is very important.

  • How severe are my child's sleep problems? If your baby's sleep issues are substantial (rely on many props to fall asleep, has accumulated a large sleep debt) you may want to consider a more gradual approach to help baby learn to sleep. If your child's sleep issues are minor and only some small adjustments need to be made, a more direct approach might be in your best interests.

  • What is my baby's temperament? If you have a very easy-going and adaptable baby, you'll likely have success with any method you decide to use. Children that are more 'sensitive' or 'alert' may need less stimulation/parental intervention in order to be successful within a reasonable amount of time. Remember, the process is not necessarily 'gentler' for the child if intervening too much is making it more difficult.

  • How old is my child? More 'direct' approaches are often not recommended for babies under the age of 6 months (i.e. Extinction-type methods) but there are many gentler options for babies between the age of 4-6 months (or after 16 weeks of age, adjusted). For toddlers/preschool-aged children who need a parent to help them fall asleep, gentle approaches are often recommended so as to help avoid episodes of separation anxiety.


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

A Letter to Your Family about Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

My Cry-It-Out Homework

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

 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


 

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

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

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


1. Baby is not falling asleep independently

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

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

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

3. Baby is being fed too close to sleep times

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

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

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

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

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


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

How the Wonder Weeks Affect Sleep

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


Wonder Week 5 - The World of Changing Sensations

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

Wonder Week 8 - The World of Patterns

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

Wonder Week 12 - The World of Smooth Transitions

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

Wonder Week 19 - The World of Events

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

Wonder Week 26 - The World of Relationships

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

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

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

Wonder Week 37 - The World of Categories

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

 



Wonder Week 46 - The World of Sequences

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

Wonder Week 55 - The World of Programs

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

  • I know you're tired of me saying it but...consistent and soothing nap and bedtime routines are increasingly important during the throws of separation anxiety.

  • Check yourself. Your baby can feed off of your emotions and if you're anxious, tense, upset, or worried, then chances are your child will feel those emotions right along with you. When you're putting baby down for sleep, be relaxed and confident, and it will help your toddler feel that way as well.

  • Help him feel better about good-bye. Sneaking away is one of the worst things you can do and will only compound your child's feelings of anxiety. The last thing you want an anxious child to think is that by letting you out of their sight, you're gone forever (well, it feels like forever to them!) Say a loving, confident, firm good-bye and let your child see you leave. He will learn that when you say good-bye, it still means you'll come back.

  • Comfort your child but don't create new (and bad!) habits. If your child is fitfully protesting at naptime, or waking throughout the night in tears, then you should absolutely comfort them. Your child's psychological needs must be met as well! But keep these interactions short and sweet - this is not the time to sing songs, read books, turn on a TV show, bring baby into bed with you, or lay on the floor in baby's room (guilty of this one!) New habits are created at lightning speed, so even after the separation anxiety is gone, the new habit is here to stay.

Wonder Week 64 - The World of Principles

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

Wonder Week 75 - The World of Systems

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


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

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

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!

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!



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.

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...

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.

babynap.jpg


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.
 

steps.jpg
  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".