The (Dreaded) 8-10 Month Sleep Regression

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

What is a sleep regression?

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

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

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

  • If your baby is taking a long time to fall asleep (much more than 15 minutes) with lots of protesting/playing but then still takes a good nap (over 1 hour) that he wakes up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later.

  • If your baby falls asleep quickly at naptime, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later.

  • If your baby falls asleep quickly for a nap, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up crying from - try pulling the nap back by 15 minutes.

  • If your baby falls asleep within 1-15 minutes for a nap and then takes a long nap (over 1 hour) - you have nailed it, don't change a thing.

What not to do:

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

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

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

What not to do:

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

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

and should eventually look like this:

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


Sleep regressions are an exhausting part of parenting but we all go through it at some point.  During these times, just remember to be flexible, be prepared, and be careful not to create a new sleep crutch (or bring back an old one).  As hard as it can be to remain consistent at times, it really is best for everyone and helps the regression pass in a more timely manner. If you’d like my information on the 3-2 transition, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

 

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

What to Dress Baby in at Night

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

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

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

 

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

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

Daylight Savings Time and Your Baby's Sleep - with new tips!

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

True that!

True that!

Daylight Savings - the gist

  1. On Sunday, November 4th, the sun will be rising an hour earlier than it normally does, meaning we have an extra hour of sunlight in the morning [make sure you have those blackout blinds up!]

  2. On Sunday, November 4th, the sun will be setting an hour earlier than it normally does, meaning we have an hour less of sunlight in the evening.

  3. On Sunday, November 4th, if we haven’t implemented any plan in advance for DST, baby will be waking an hour earlier than he normally does [technically he’s not really waking earlier, the clock is just telling us it’s earlier]. So if he normally wakes at 7:00am, he will now be waking at 6:00am.

  4. On Sunday, November 4th, if we haven’t implemented any plan in advance for DST, baby will be wanting to go to bed an hour earlier than he normally does. So if he normally goes to bed around 7:00pm, he will now be wanting to go to bed around 6:00pm.

  5. If we don’t want baby’s schedule to shift earlier by an hour [according to the clock], we may need to plan in advance and shift baby’s schedule an hour later beforehand.

Plan of Action #1 - The Slow Schedule Shift

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

Shift your baby's schedule 15 minutes later starting on the Wednesday before the time change hits. I don't recommend pushing any more than 15 minutes as you don't want baby to end up overtired [and we know that pushing bedtime too late usually results in an early wake-up anyway! Not cool baby!]

The first step to doing this is extending baby’s darkness exposure in the morning and delaying any morning feeds, if possible. We can do this by leaving baby in their crib in the morning for longer [if baby normally wakes at 6:00am and you scoop them out 10 minutes later to feed, trying leaving baby until 6:30am and then feeding then]. If baby is not happy with this extended time in the crib, pull him out as you normally would but hang out in the dark [no lights/TV/etc.] for those extra 30 minutes [and working up to an hour]. This can be quite challenging if you need to hurry to work in the morning or have other children to tend to so just do the best you can!

How would this look in real life? Baby A [6 months old] wakes at 6:00am on Wednesday and we leave him until 6:15am. We go into the room, lights still off, white noise on, and scoop him up to feed. After the feed, we change his diaper and hang out for some floor time, keeping stimulation low and lights off. At 7:00am, we turn on the lights and leave the room - it’s morning time! We’d repeat this Thursday - Saturday, aiming to get as close to an hour each day as we can.

The second step to this is shifting baby’s bedtime later by that same hour in the days leading up to DST. So, for instance, if your baby is 6 months old and you usually put him to bed 2 hours after his 3rd nap ends, you would push him to 2.25 hours on Wednesday in hopes that he'll also sleep in 15 minutes later the next day. On Thursday, push each nap time 15 minutes later as well [if you’re following more of a ‘by the clock’ schedule vs. using waketimes, then you’d just put baby down 15 minutes later by the clock than you normally would]. Continue this schedule of 15 minute stretches until the time change hits, when [hopefully] your schedule will have shifted later by 1 hour. To make this even more successful, keep evenings super bright and full of stimulation.

How would this look in real life? Baby A [6 months old] wakes at 6:00am on Wednesday and we use the above strategy to avoid light/stimulation until 7:00am. He has a great day of sleep on Wednesday waking from his last nap at 4:30pm. Normally we’d have him down at 6:30pm for the night but we’ll push to 6:45pm. The next day [Thursday] baby A wakes at 6:00am again and we use the same darkness strategy in the morning. Normally we’d lay him down at 7:30am for his first nap [1.5 hours after he wakes] but we’ll push to 7:45am on this day. We’ll do this same 15 minute stretch for all 3 naps, and baby A ends up going down for the night at 7:15pm on Thursday night, waking up at 6:30am on Friday morning. We continue to repeat until the schedule is shifted by an hour by Sunday, so baby A wakes at 6:00am on Sunday [which is 7:00am old time]. Now we can resume our normal schedule and normal timing of naps, and baby A is going to bed at the same time he was before we started the shift and waking at the same time as well.

Plan of Action #2 - The Big Shift

This strategy might work well for families with children that aren't waking up too early [closer to 7:00am] or those who have older babies [over 8 months of age]. Keep their schedule the same up to the time change but then on Sunday, push the schedule [as much as she can handle] back to her 'normal' routine/timing of sleep. Your bedtime may be on the earlier end for a day or so but with time [and lots of natural light! As that is what sets our internal clocks!] she should settle back into her old schedule.

How would this look in real life? Baby B [9 months old] normally has a bedtime of 7:30pm with a wake-up time of 7:30am. She typically takes naps at 10:30am and 3:00pm. On Sunday, November 4th, she will wake up at 6:30am [which is actually 7:30am]. Her parents leave her in bed until 7:00am and then hang out in the dark room for an extra 30 minutes until 7:30am [her normal wake-up time]. Her normal nap time is 10:30am so her parents have her down for her first nap at 10:00am - a bit earlier as she’s quite tired but close to our goal. The second nap starts at 2:30pm and her bedtime is half an hour earlier than normal, at 7:00pm. The next day, she wakes at 7:00am and her parents leave her until 7:30am. She is able to handle a bit more awake time so her naps are back to 10:30am and 3:00pm with her normal 7:30pm bedtime.

Plan of Action #3 - Plan? What Plan?

This "strategy" works best for older kids [think preschool age] who are already waking up and going to bed at a reasonable time [7:00am or later with a 7:00pm or later bedtime] or who are not prone to overtiredness/easy type children. This would also work well if your child is on a too-late schedule [maybe a toddler who still has a nap but bedtime is getting pushed too late]. Your child wakes at 6:00am on Sunday [which is still actually 7:00am] and you'll stick to your same schedule and put him to bed at 7:00pm that night [which to him will be 8:00pm].

How would this look in real life? C is 2.5 years old. He normally has a 2 hour nap from 1:00-3:00pm with a bedtime of 8:00pm, although he sings and talks in bed until 9:00pm and then wakes for the day at 7:30am. His parents would like his bedtime to be earlier so on Sunday, November 4th, C wakes up at 6:30am [7:30am before the time change]. His parents lay him down for his nap at 12:30pm [1:30pm before the time change]. He naps from 12:30-2:30pm and he goes to bed at 7:30pm [8:30pm before the time change]. He talks and sings until 8:30pm [much more reasonable!] and wakes up the next morning at 7:00am.
If you wanted to maintain the exact same schedule as before, you would just keep the nap time at the same time [1:00pm new time, 2:00pm old time] and bedtime at the same time as well [8:00pm new time, 9:00pm old time].

What Else Can We Do to Help with Daylight Savings? 

  • Shift all your routines later, not just sleep times.

  • Making your baby's sleep space as dark as possible is essential for helping to reset their internal clock. Check out this great company here for custom window covers to completely darken your baby's sleep space.

  • Continue to always leave your baby in their bed until 6:00am [new time]. If this transition is too big to achieve on the first day, do it gradually over a few days.

  • Natural sunlight is key for resetting our internal clocks, so take baby for a 20-30 minute early morning walk for a few days after we fall back, as the sunshine will help baby process that it's morning and will help to resolve any confusion with her circadian rhythms. Do the same in the evening before the sun goes down, if possible.

  • What not to do? Don't try to make the jump to their 'normal' bedtime too quickly. This will only lead to overtiredness and likely an early wake-up the next day. Embrace an earlier bedtime for a few days. The good news about Daylight Savings is that the effects only last a few days (keep this in mind when you're all excited for a later wake-up in the Spring. Sorry to burst your bubble!)

 

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

My Baby's Nightwakings - Habit or Hunger?

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

Average Nightsleep for Babies 0-12 Months

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

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


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

  • Is your baby eating enough during the day? Sometimes babies will get stuck in a cycle of taking in too many calories at night thus leading to less during the day (also called 'reverse cycling'). Baby truly needs this feeding, but it's important to reverse the cycle.

  • Does your baby eat and then fall back asleep quickly and easily? Sometimes when a nightwaking is habitual and not hunger-related, it will take baby quite some time to return to sleep afterwards.

  • After your baby feeds, does s/he then sleep in sound 3-4 hour stretches? If you're feeding baby only to find them waking up again every hour all night long, you likely have a habitual waking on your hands.

  • If you don't feed, will baby stay up crying for an extended period of time? A baby who fusses or cries persistently if s/he's not fed may truly need the feeding.

  • Does your baby fall asleep for the night completely independently from the wide awake state? If baby is a self-sufficient sleeper with no sleep props and is still waking for a feed, it might be truly necessary.

  • Is baby under the age of 8/9 months? It is very likely that before this age, baby may still need at least 1 nightfeeding.

 

 

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

Early Wake-Up? Ask Yourself These Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

A Letter to Your Family about Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

My Cry-It-Out Homework

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

 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How to prevent the rolling phase

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

  1. Swaddling baby. Keep your baby swaddled for as long as possible. Until baby is able to roll in the swaddle, you can continue to keep her wrapped up. This often prevents baby from rolling in the crib (ensure that the swaddle is nice and snug as this makes rolling even more difficult).

  2. Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. I recommend these a lot as I really think they are pure magic. The Sleep Suit is perfect for babies who are unable to be swaddled (babies who are rolling in the swaddle or babies who are busting out of a swaddle even after using The Super Swaddle or a Double Swaddle (Super Swaddle + a velcro swaddle sack)). Also helpful for keeping babies positioned on their back (so not so helpful if your baby is a tummy sleeper who has just begun to flip onto his back). We are able to keep baby in one of these Suits until they are efficiently rolling both ways, and then the transition to a sleepsack is (generally) seamless.

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

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

  1. The child has just started rolling and it is only occasionally disrupting sleep. Put baby down in the usual position (so on back for a back sleeper, tummy for a tummy sleeper) and leave. If baby rolls over and is upset, always make sure to wait a minimum of 10-15 minutes before deciding if an intervention is required. If after the initial wait baby is very upset (more than just fussing), go to him, flip him, and walk out. This allows the child the opportunity to learn to sleep in the new position and/or roll back himself. You may choose to continue this for as long as it takes or move onto step 2 which is....

  2. The child has been rolling for a while (may be able to roll back), sleep disruption is regular and frequent, and may be doing this for the attention or because it's fun. Put baby to bed in the new position (so on tummy for a back sleeper, on back for a tummy sleeper). If the child gets upset, use whatever method you are comfortable with (see sleep coaching methods here) for as long as it takes until the child has fallen asleep in the new position. Same goes for any nightwakings until midnight. After midnight, if baby is still struggling to sleep, use plan 1 above. This takes the novelty out of rolling and teaches the child to learn to sleep in the new position. After three days, it doesn't matter which way the child sleeps, she is used to both.

  3. The 'One Free Flip' Rule. This is the most direct of the three approaches. For this technique, you put baby down in their usual position (back for a back sleeper, tummy for a tummy sleeper) and leave. If they roll over, you flip them back one time only. After that, it is up to them to either roll back or fall asleep in the new position. You would only use this method for a baby who you know can consistently roll both ways, they just seem to have magically forgotten as soon as they are in their crib.

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

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


1. Baby is not falling asleep independently

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

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

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

3. Baby is being fed too close to sleep times

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

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

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

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

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


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

How the Wonder Weeks Affect Sleep

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


Wonder Week 5 - The World of Changing Sensations

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

Wonder Week 8 - The World of Patterns

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

Wonder Week 12 - The World of Smooth Transitions

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

Wonder Week 19 - The World of Events

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

Wonder Week 26 - The World of Relationships

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

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

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

Wonder Week 37 - The World of Categories

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

 



Wonder Week 46 - The World of Sequences

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

Wonder Week 55 - The World of Programs

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Week 64 - The World of Principles

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

Wonder Week 75 - The World of Systems

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


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

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

How to Create a Routine for Your Baby

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

When should I start a routine with my baby?

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

  1. Soothing nap routines. As I mentioned above, newborn babies sleep around the clock. They are pretty much awake long enough to eat, and then they are back asleep. This is how it should be. Starting around 2-3 weeks, you will likely find that baby is starting to have more distinct awake periods, but still no more than 45 minutes at a time. This is a good time to start incorporating a soothing nap routine that does not involve feeding. We can do this by following the E.A.S.Y. routine (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You). What this means, is that once baby is awake from a nap they would receive a feeding -EAT- either nursing or a bottle. Depending on the length of the feeding, they would have about 15-25 minutes of -ACTIVITY- time (which at this age would likely involve looking at mom, a toy, tummy time, playmat time, etc.) Then it would be time for your soothing nap routine. This is a very short routine, only about 5 minutes long, and could involve a combination of diaper changing in a dimly lit room, swaddling, rocking, singing, books, etc. Again, the soothing routine should be short, only about 5 minutes, as we don't want baby to become overstimulated or overtired. At the end of the routine you would put baby down in her chose nap location -SLEEP- (possibly in her crib/bassinet/playpen, in a swing, or even on mom!) Then the Y in E.A.S.Y. which means -YOU- time which if you're like most moms involves some combination of cleaning, caring for older kids, cooking, and hopefully taking a nap yourself! Once she is awake from the nap, the routine would repeat itself again (and again...and again...babies sleep a lot!!)

  2. Consistent bedtime routines. A bedtime routine is something else that can be started from day one. Bedtime routines are so incredibly important for all children, and even for adults! If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be the importance of a consistent bedtime routine for your child. The bedtime routine should't be anything too fancy or too long and drawn out - make it 30 minutes max. A feeding, a bath, a massage, jammies, books, songs, bed. This bedtime routine is going to help relax baby and prepare them for sleep (think of how chaotic the life of a baby is. Everything is new to them!) They need some time to decompress at the end of the day, and a bedtime routine helps them do just that.

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

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

 

Routines at 3-6 months

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

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

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

 

Routines at 6+ months

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


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

Which Sleep Coaching Method Is Right For You?

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

The Chair Method

What does this method entail?

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

Who is this method for?

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

How long does this method take?

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

 

Pick-up/Put Down

What does this method entail?

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

Who is this method for?

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

How long does this method take?

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

 

Controlled Comforting

What does this method entail?

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

Who is this method for?

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

How long does this method take?

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

 

Modified Controlled Comforting

What does this method entail?

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

Who is this method for?

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

How long does this method take?

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

 

Extinction

What does this method entail?

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

Who is this method for?

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

How long does this method take?

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


Sleep Coaching Reminders

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

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

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

Toddler Sleep 101 - PART TWO - Crib to Bed Transition

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

The When

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

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

  • A sleepsack. Ahhh I love sleep sacks. It is darn near impossible to scale a crib in a sleepsack. If you've used one from baby-hood - don't stop now! I had my daughter in a sleepsack until we made the transition to her bed around 3 years of age. Grobags make sleepsacks all the way up to 7-9 years of age!

  • Turning the crib. This may seem a bit strange (and probably look a bit strange in the bedroom) but works really well especially if you have a crib that has ends that are taller than the sides. Simply flip the crib so that the headboard/footboard face outwards. This is often enough to deter a climber (at least for a while!)

  • Video monitor with the talk-back function. If you have a video monitor (love me a video monitor!) with a talk-back option, watch your child after you put him down for sleep. If he starts to lift his leg over the crib rail, say a stern, "NO!" into the monitor. You may have to repeat this a few times but he'll get the idea.

  • Lower the crib mattress. Seems obvious but sometimes gets missed! As well, make sure to remove crib bumpers or anything else that could give your child 'leverage'.

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

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

The Why

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

The How

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

Your next steps will include:

  • Toddler-proofing the bedroom. Even though our goal is for the child to stay put in his bed all night long, that sometimes is not a reality. Since he is now able to have free-reign of his bedroom, you want that bedroom to be safe. If you wish, installing bed rails might be a good idea, especially if your child seems to move around a lot during the night.

  • Holding a Sleep Rules Meeting. This is why it's so important for your child to comprehend the transition. We want to be sure to sit the child down before the big move and explain to them what is happening, why it's happening (for good behavior I hope!), and what the rules of the new bed are. They need to know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they don't follow the rules.

  • Have a game plan for set-backs. In a perfect world, your child will successfully transition without ever having the desire to leave the bed and roam the house (I can proudly say this is the case with my daughter, but we have yet to see if it will as easy with my son!) But in reality, this may not be the case, so we want to have a plan of action for the "Jack-in-the-Box syndrome" that we talked about earlier. If your child leaves their bed to roam, you will want to silently return them to their beds. The key here is silent - emotionless. The solution to helping a toddler learn to stay in bed is making it unrewarding to leave, and even negative attention is still attention. If he is getting a rise out of you, then he is likely to continue the behavior.

  • Consistency. It's impossible to say how long the transition will take, but I can promise you it will be a lot quicker and easier if you remain 200% consistent. Toddlers love to test their boundaries but it is our job as parents to set those boundaries and stick to them.

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

THE PACI

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

Why pacis are great

There are a lot of pros to pacifier use:

  • Protection against SIDS. Pacifier use has been shown to help reduce the risk of SIDS and is recommened for sleep up to age 1. However, it is also recommended that you put baby down for sleep with the paci, but not to replace it once it falls out.

  • Helps babies pacify themselves and satisfies the suck reflex. A pacifier is a great way for baby to soothe themselves. As well, most babies have a need to suck that exceeds the time spent on the breast or the bottle. Instead of mom becoming a human pacifier, the paci meets this need.

  • Easier weaning. If your child has a strong suck reflex, it is a lot easier to wean the child off the paci vs. his own thumb/fingers. In terms of sleep coaching, tackling a pacifier association is much easier than a feeding to sleep association so if it's a matter of choosing between the two to help your baby sleep, the paci is the way to go.

Why pacis are not-so-great

There are also cons to pacifier use:

  • Risk of nipple confusion if introduced too early with a breastfed baby. Speak to a lactation consultant/educator if you have concerns about breastfeeding and pacifier use.

  • Overzealous suckers may change their tooth alignment or delay speech. Especially important for toddlers still using the paci.

  • May cause sleep associations and disturbed sleep. When a baby is dependent on a pacifier to fall asleep at night, they often will need these same conditions re-created when they wake up in the middle of the night. A baby under 8/9 months is likely not able to replace the paci on his own, so he will call to you to come do it for him.

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

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

When to ditch the paci

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

How to take away the paci

Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

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

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

  • Preparing your child in advance. Talk to the child about what's going to be happening and why you are taking the pacifier away. Toddlers do not like surprises; they thrive on predictability. We don't want him to just wake up one day and it's gone. Make sure that the paci weaning isn't occurring around the same time as another big event in the child's life (such as a move, travel, or the birth of another sibling). We don't want too much change at once.

  • Limit use up to the Weaning Day. Try only letting the child have it in certain locations like the car or the bedroom. Instead of giving them the paci, offer another security object for them to hold and walk around with.

  • Don't offer it. This one may seem plain and simple, but often children don't ask for the pacifier as much as parents are quick to offer it. As well, most kids will go through periods where they become disinterested in the paci. Take advantage of these 'lulls' and see if making the paci permanently disappear during this time is enough for them to forget about it completely.

  • Be patient and be firm. There are bound to be good days and bad when ditching the paci but this is to be expected, so be prepared. There may be days where you feel like quitting but especially with toddlers, consistency is key. If they have any inclination that their tantrums/crying/whining/screaming/etc. is going to 'break you' - they will do it. Toddlers are smart!

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


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



Toddler Sleep 101 - PART ONE

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

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

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

  • Early wakings (before 6:00am)

  • Nap transitions (transitioning from 2 naps to 1 or 1 nap to 0)

  • Transitioning to a big kid's bed

  • Bedtime & naptime battles

  • Nightwakings (either from nightmares, night terrors, sleep associations, or other reasons)

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

Toddler Sleep Issue #1 - Early Wakings

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

  • Bedtime is too late. Are you sick of me talking about late bedtimes yet? I hope not, because I will never stop! While it seems opposite that a late bedtime would = an early wake-up, you need to remember this saying: sleep is not logical, it's biological. Simply put, a bedtime that is too late will almost always lead to a wake-up time that's much too early. If you are struggling with your toddler waking too early, try putting them to bed earlier. Check out my blog post here on how to find the ideal bedtime for your toddler and here for other causes of early wakings.

  • Parental inconsistency in the early morning hours. We need to be consistent in the way we respond to our children when they wake before it is 'acceptable' to be awake. If your child woke up at 2:00am, you wouldn't get them up and start the day, as we shouldn't if they wake up at 4:30 or 5:30am. We need to treat these wakings just as we would any other nightwakings. To help teach them what an acceptable time to wake-up is, I recommend a Gro Clock. Now, the key to these clocks is consistency. If you lose interest in the rules of the clock, so will they. Even if they wake up five minutes before the sun comes up, you walk them back to their room and tell them it's not time to get up because Mr. Sun is still sleeping. They might put up a fight the first couple of days but if you are consistent, they will learn the rules!

Toddler Sleep Issue #2 - Nap Transitions

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

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

  1. Refusing the afternoon nap even after adjusting the awake time. Once you need more than four hours in between first and second naps, it is probably time to transition. The occasional nap refusal is normal, but if baby is refusing the second nap 50% of the time, it may be time to drop the nap.

  2. Afternoon nap is occurring too late in the day and thus pushing bedtime too late. If you are struggling to get that second nap in before 4:00pm every single day, it may be time to transition to one nap.

  3. Nightwakings that are otherwise unexplained. If you have a good daytime schedule, an age-appropriate bedtime, your baby is falling asleep independently and without props, but starts to have nightwakings while on two naps, it may be time to drop that 2nd nap and move to a one nap schedule.

  4. Early wakings that are otherwise unexplained. If baby starts to wake up earlier than usual (and clocking much less than 11 hours of nightsleep) and it cannot be explained otherwise (i.e. bedtime isn't too late, no sleep associations, etc.) then it may be time to move to one nap.

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

  1. Consistently playing through nap time even after adjusting the awake time before the nap. Children's sleep needs are always changing so you may need to play around with the timing of their nap once they get a bit older. As well, if your child is sleeping in until 9:00am and you are trying to nap them at 1:00pm, it probably won't fly. It may be in your best interests to wake your child up at 7:00am to get them back on a regular napping schedule before deciding to drop the nap altogether.

  2. Consistently taking a very long time to fall asleep at bedtime. It is very normal for toddlers who still nap to have a long transition time before bed but if bedtime is getting pushed to 9:00pm or 10:00pm or even later, it may be time to drop the nap and move bedtime earlier. Or, if the child is in a pattern of a late bedtime, a late wake-up, and a late nap, you may want to break the cycle by waking them up at 7:00am so that they are tired earlier for their nap and thus tired earlier for bed.

  3. The child doesn't suffer any negative side effects when a nap is skipped. This one is very important. If your child skips their nap and then is an absolute demon in the evening (MY KID) then they are not yet ready to get rid of said nap. If after skipping a nap your child is pleasant and happy all the way to bedtime, this is a good sign that they may be ready to drop their nap.

For more information on the 2-1 and other nap transitions, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

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

  • Move the first nap of the day slowly later in the morning (possibly by about 15 minutes every few days). If the first nap ends before noon, try for a cat nap in the afternoon around 3:00pm to help baby get to a 'normal' bedtime.

  • At the beginning, the stretch between the nap and bedtime is going to be quite long (around 6 hours) but as you stretch the nap later, you should also decrease the awake time before bed (until the nap is occurring about 5 hours after baby wakes for the day, and bedtime is occurring about 5 hours after the nap ends).

  • Eventually, you will want the nap to be occurring around 12:30-1:30pm (or about 5.5 hours after baby wakes for the day) and bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. Once you are on this schedule, your one nap is well-established and there is no need to tweak unless you are getting lengthy monkey business before the nap/bedtime.

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

  • Continuing to offer a 'quiet time' in the middle of the day (somewhere between 1:00-3:00pm). This quiet time should be occurring in the child's bedroom with no electronics. Around 45 minutes is sufficient and helps the child to recharge their batteries (thus hopefully avoiding a late afternoon meltdown!)

  • Move the bedtime earlier. I cannot stress this enough! Children this age still require 11-13 hours of sleep every single day. If they aren't getting any of that sleep during the day, they need to get it all at night. To figure out what your child's bedtime should be once their nap is dropped, take the time they wake up and subtract 11-13 hours from it. If they seem irritable and cranky throughout the day and/or are having difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, chances are you need to move bedtime even earlier and they need even more sleep.

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


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

A Sleep Consultant's Favorite Sleep Products

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

Gro Bags

Motorola Video Monitor

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

 

 

 

White Noise Machines

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

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





Aden & Anais Receiving Blankets

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

Aden & Anais Crib Sheets

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

Trixie Tracker

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

Graco Pack'n'Play

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

Aden & Anais Security Blankets

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

 

 

Great Bedtime Books

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

The Gruffalo
CDN$ 9.49
By Julia Donaldson

Aluminum Foil

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

doesn't get classier than this!

doesn't get classier than this!

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

 

 

Fisher-Price Musical Seahorse

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

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

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

Gro Clock

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

Gro Clock
CDN$ 50.00
OYACO

Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing

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

 





Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

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

Dreamfeeding

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

What is a dreamfeed?

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

  • Parents get to sleep through the night instead of waking for a feeding in the middle of the night.

  • Takes some of the guesswork away as to whether baby is truly hungry when they wake throughout the night.

  • Weaning from a dreamfeed is easier than weaning from a nightfeed.

Who should try a dreamfeed?

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

How do you dreamfeed?

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

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

When and how to wean from the dreamfeed

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

How to Maximize Your Newborn's Sleep

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

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

How does newborn sleep work?

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

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

Keep the intervals of wakefulness short and sweet

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

Swaddle

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

Avoid day/night confusion

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

Routines

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

E.A.S.Y. Method

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

White noise

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

The Swing

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

Dark bedroom

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

For more information on newborn sleep, check out my Comprehensive Newborn Sleep Guide here!

 

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

The Dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression

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

What is a sleep regression?

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

So what causes the '4 month sleep regression'?

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

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

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

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

For more information on newborn sleep, check out my Comprehensive Newborn Sleep Guide here!

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

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

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

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

Is Your Baby's Bedtime Too Late?

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

Why is an early bedtime important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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