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...

NEW & IMPROVED! Sample Schedules for the First Year and Beyond

I will preface this blog post by saying that all babies are different and yours might not necessarily fit into this schedule perfectly every single day but it is just meant as a guide to know what is typical at each age and as baby grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a baby on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - feedings, naps, and nightsleep. When looking at these schedules, what's important to note is the time awake in between sleep times, not necessarily the time on the clock. I generally recommend putting baby down (or starting the soothing routine if baby is not falling asleep independently) 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

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4 months

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

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

4.5 months

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

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

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

5 months

Five months is when you want to start working on dropping that 4th nap and pushing the 3 nap schedule. The amount of time baby is awake in between naps will slowly lengthen to move them to a solid 3 nap schedule by 6 months. Because you've lost an entire sleep period (nap 4) bedtime needs to move earlier to compensate.
For more detailed information on this nap transition as well as the other 3 transitions proceeding it, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

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

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

6 months

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

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

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

7 months

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

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

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

8 months (start of transition)

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

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

8 months (part-way into the transition)

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

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

9-11 months

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

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

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

12-18 months

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

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

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

 

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

All You Need to Know about Short Naps

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

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What is a short nap?

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

When should we be concerned with short naps?

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

 

  • Sleep Associations. This is the number one reason that a baby will take short naps. If a child is needing to be bounced/rocked/nursed to sleep then when baby wakes up after his first sleep cycle (which is approximately 45-50 minutes long) he will need those same conditions to fall back asleep. While at night you might be able to sneak into his room when he wakes up and pop his pacifier in or give him a quick rocking back to sleep, these methods often don't work during the day. The reason for this is that the drive to sleep is lower during the day and it is harder for baby to return to sleep after a partial awakening. Even if you rush in at first peep it may be too late and he will fight your efforts, making any chance for a nap extension a failure.

  • Inappropriate Schedule. If your baby is sleeping out of his natural rhythms then naps will likely suffer. Too early wake-ups and too late bedtimes will surely ruin a nap schedule. Creating a schedule that's optimized for sleep is crucial to baby getting healthy, restorative sleep - day and night.

  • Inconsistency. Babies and children crave routine and thrive on predictability. It is important to have a consistent nap routine, a consistent sleeping location, and a (somewhat) predictable daily routine in order for children to take long, healthy, and restorative naps.

  • Sleeping Environment. We need to make sure that a child's sleeping environment is safe and conducive to sleep. Their room should be dark (if you think of it on a scale of 1-10, 1 being bright and sunny, and 10 being pitch black, you want that room at an 8-10 during the day and at night). Baby's room should be kept on the cooler side. As well, white noise is a must-have, especially if your home is noisy or there are a lot of outside disturbances (loud garbage trucks, dogs barking, etc).

  • Periods of wakefulness are too long.  While it seems counterintuitive, a baby who is kept awake longer during the day will not nap better.  Keeping your child up longer in hopes that he will 'crash' and sleep better will only backfire.  Babies fall asleep easiest and stay asleep longest if you get them to sleep at the peak of sleepiness.  Well-rested children accept sleep more readily, sleep better, and sleep longer than overtired ones.  So how long is too long?  Here's an idea of the maximum amount of time your child should be kept awake at any given age:

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

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

10 Steps to Starting a Sleep Coaching Plan

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

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


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


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


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


     

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


     

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


     

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


     

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


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


     

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