Mom didn't want to make the same sleep mistakes with her second child:
Four month old, very quick progress:
Nine month old's schedule was not meeting his needs:
Ten month old up all night long:
4.5 month old second child who did not nap and could not self-soothe:
Family felt like they had tried it all:
✖️TODDLERS + PACIFIERS✖️
Is there an ideal age to wean from the pacifier?
I personally recommend ditching the pacifier when we sleep train [anytime after 16 weeks of age, and the earlier you eliminate, generally-speaking, the easier it will be]. Weaning from the pacifier while out of sight is still out of mind [prior to about 8/9 months or so] makes for a much smoother adjustment.
If your toddler still uses a pacifier, I would strongly suggest weaning from it as far away from age 2.5 as you can, as the closer to 2.5 we get, the higher the likelihood that the nap disappears along with the pacifier. If you've already reached the 2.5 mark, I'd wait until after age 3.
Prior to eliminating the pacifier for sleep, make sure you've transitioned to the pacifier being ONLY in the crib. This will help your toddler learn to use other coping skills when he's upset [which will help once we eliminate the pacifier for sleep as well] and can help ensure speech is not affected. I would be eliminating the pacifier before you move your child to a bed and not in combination with any other big transitions [birth of a sibling, potty training, starting preschool, etc.] Work on your toddler attaching to another comfort object as well, as this becomes a good replacement [and is something we can use indefinitely, unlike a pacifier].
The process of eliminating a toddler's pacifier is similar to any other 'prop' that we are working to get rid of - we choose a sleep training method that we feel we can be consistent with [checks, no checks, gradual retreat] and we go for it. With a toddler, we can also have them involved in the conversation around where the pacifier is going and why. Stay tuned for some strategies that you can try with your toddler!
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Blackout EZ window covers are my absolute favorite way to get your child's sleep space SUPER dark. Trust me, I've tried everything and these babies WORK.
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2 year nap strike! ❌
One mistake that parents often make is misinterpreting a ‘nap strike’ as the end of naps. A 2 year nap strike is very common [usually occurring between 20 and 28 months of age] but this is only temporary! If you keep consistent with laying your child down for a nap every single afternoon, there is a very high chance that the nap will come back. It can take a few weeks but hang in there! Beyond the age of 2.5, children do not developmentally 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 a nap like they do prior to that age, but there are many benefits to keeping the nap as long as it’s feasible. Most children do not just stop the nap overnight and may nap 4-5 days one week, then 2-3 days the next week, etc.
❓What are some signs that your child might actually be ready to drop their nap?
✅ They are over the age of 3 and do not fall asleep for their nap within 90 minutes 7 days in a row for 2+ weeks.
✅ On days your child does not nap, he is happy and pleasant through the evening when not watching T.V. and does not have a ‘moody period’ before dinner [or on the flip-side, does not become hyper as this is a sign of overtiredness as well] and doesn’t try to fall asleep in the car/on the couch in the late afternoon.
✅ On days your child does nap, he takes much longer than an hour to fall asleep at bedtime.
✅ On days your child naps, he sleeps less than 9 hours at night.
✅ On days your child naps, he wakes up at night or wakes earlier than 6:00am and this doesn’t seem related to other sleep issues [needing a parent present to fall asleep, too-late of a bedtime, etc.]
Can you prevent your child from being a light sleeper? 😴
A client recently asked me this and it's something nobody has ever asked me before!
We all go from light sleep to deep sleep and back several times a night. Some babies spend more time in light sleep stages before slipping into deeper sleep, and some go from light sleep to deep sleep in almost no time at all, but everyone goes through these cycles every time they shut their eyes.
The truly restorative sleep that we get is in the middle of the cycles. That’s why some of us can get by on less sleep than others, because they get more deep sleep than those of us who spend more time in light sleep stages.
So when someone claims that their baby is a light sleeper, what they probably mean is that their baby tends to spend more time in light sleep than deep sleep, because that’s the easiest stage to wake up from.
Babies also have shorter cycles than adults, and are therefore spend nearly twice as much time in light stages of sleep than grown ups.
So are there ways of teaching your baby to be a deeper sleeper?
💤 1) Teach them how to fall asleep on their own. This is the best gift you can give your child, as if they can fall asleep on their own, they are far more likely to be able to fall back asleep when they are woken up at night. As children get older, they become even better at self-settling if they are woken up, as they refine this important skill.
💤2) Use white noise. Studies have identified that some people’s brains are better at blocking out ambient sound- the constant background noise that usually goes unnoticed [strong winds, car alarms, dogs barking, thunderstorms, furnaces kicking on, etc.] The solution to this is using white noise - a layer of unchanging ambient sound that helps the brain to block out the stimuli so that it isn't working so hard and is able to rest and recharge.
💤3) Other positive changes we can make include: keeping your child's room cool [66-71°/19-21°], lots of natural light during awake times, a consistent bedtime routine, keeping your child’s room SUPER dark, and no TV 1 hr before bed.
Gradual retreat method - how does this look?
If you've made it through all the preparations to begin sleep training your toddler [read my previous posts if you haven't yet!] the next step is implementation.
This is how the gradual retreat method looks:
💤Nights 1&2: After your bedtime routine you would lay your child in his bed wide awake and then walk out. You always want to make sure you are leaving the room to show him it’s okay to leave the room. If he protests, you return to his bedroom, place a chair beside his bed, and sit in it. Try your best to keep as quiet as you can while you sit in the chair - we want it to be boring. If he climbs out of bed or is jumping up and down on the bed, you will want to set the ground rules right away. We will tell him that if he cannot calm himself and lay down then he is choosing to have Mom or Dad leave for a minute. There is one warning and if he continues the behavior then whoever is sitting in the chair will calmly get up and walk out. Move away from the room out of sight for 1m. You may even need to hold the door shut and let him know that once he gets back into bed, you will come back in. After 1m, go back in and tell him the rules again and if needed continue until he realizes that if he chooses the behavior, he chooses the consequence of that behavior. If this is done consistently up-front then we gain control over the process and can start moving forward with the method. Do not ever scold him or become angry with him. Stay in the chair until he falls asleep and then leave. It is your choice whether you leave the door open a crack or shut the door all the way.
💤Nights 3&4: Move the chair halfway to the door. Same procedure as above.
💤Nights 5&6: Move the chair to the doorway inside his room.
💤Nights 7&8: Move the chair into the hall with the door open enough so that he can still see or hear you. If this step introduces too much light into the room, you can stay at the previous step for an extra night and then move to the next step below.
💤Nights 9 and on: The chair is now gone. If he cries, check on him from the bedroom door without going all the way in every 10m or so.
NIGHTMARES VS. NIGHT TERRORS
My graphic above gives you an idea of the many differences between these two events so it also makes sense that we'd handle them differently as well!
Research shows that exposure to the source of a child's anxiety, if we have the tools to manage that anxiety, is the best way to overcome anxiety. So how do we respond when a child tells us they had a nightmare?
🌙 Provide brief empathy and validation. Allow their feelings to be felt heard, which is often necessary for them to be able to move on. This may be a few words, a hug, a kiss, or a quick back rub.
🌙Offer reminders of skills she has for managing fears [deep breaths, calming self-talk - I talked about these strategies in a previous post!]
🌙Remain firm on the rules around sleep.
🌙🌙So put together, it may look like this: You go to your child's room. “I can see that you’re really upset – sometimes I feel that way too [empathy]. Having a scary dream doesn’t feel very good at all [validation]. (said while rubbing their back). Remember, you can tell yourself that dreams aren’t real even though they feel like they are [skill reminder]. I love you.” Then exit [consistency].
I never recommend using 'monster spray' or anything that gives too much power to the nightmare and reinforces the fear.
Try to relieve any possible triggers as well. Some triggers are unavoidable - moving, potty training, family stress [try to avoid arguing in front of your child!]
Episodes of night terrors can be very frightening to parents. As scary as they are, you only want to intervene to protect your child from hurting themselves. Do not talk about night terrors the next day, as your child will not remember these.
Try to ensure your child is getting sufficient sleep for their age. If your child's night terrors occur on a schedule, wake them up 30m before the expected event as this can help re-set the sleep cycle and avoid an episode.
If your child snores or mouth breathes and is having night terrors, mention this to your pedi.
Getting your 2 year old to stay in a bed 🛌 part 2 - Continuing to prepare for sleep training:
Next step is a gate on the door. A 2 year old with free-reign of the house in the middle of the night is a safety concern [yet another reason why the crib is the best place for your 2 year old to sleep!] Don't approach the gate like a punishment. You could even call it something cool like, '____'s castle gate!' and decorate it with stickers.
If your child is over 2.5 and/or you think they could understand it properly, a reward system can be very helpful for this process as well. I like to use something tangible [vs. the promise of something] as I feel with sleep, the reward needs to be quite motivating [as we are removing something the child has an emotional attachment to [you!] vs. with potty training your child does not have an emotional attachment to their diaper]. A bucket with dollar store toys, dinky cars, pots of Play-dough, etc.
Spend time filling your child's bucket. Limit testing happens because kids are kids. But sometimes it happens because their emotional bucket needs some topping up. Kids need time with you when you’re emotionally present. Limit testing is an effective way to get your undivided attention, because negative attention is still attention. Filling their bucket involves something your child is interested in – reading books, playing outside, chase and tickle, etc. – and giving them your full attention while you’re doing it. Carve out small moments during the day. This investment in your relationship will make it easier for them to separate from you when it’s time to sleep.
Lastly, make sure you are talking with your child about this change, what we expect of them, why sleep is so important, and what happens to our bodies when we are tired [arouse some empathy!] Sit them down after dinner on the night you plan to start for a 'sleep rules meeting'. You could even have a chart/book outlining what the bedtime routine will look like [ending with parent exiting the room]. We won't achieve this independent sleep on night 1 but that is the end goal!
Stay tuned for how the 'gradual retreat method' would look!
How do I get my 2 year old to stay in their bed? 🛌
I'm going to assume that you have first tried every single tip I mentioned in my post about how to keep your kid in a crib until age 3 [or beyond]. If you haven't - TRY THEM ALL. While some 2 year old's may do well in a bed, if your child is getting out of their bed, they are not ready for the bed!
You've tried every single last tip and they are still escaping their crib? Time for a bed I guess, but it's going to be a challenge! Remember that a 2 year old does not often possess the necessary impulse control to stay in bed despite wanting to get out of bed, so teaching them to stay in bed is going to be a tough process, but it's doable!
The key first is that if your child requires a parent present to fall asleep at bedtime, there is a 95% chance they are going to require a parent present to stay asleep through the night as well. So to get your 2 year old to stay asleep all night, we need them falling asleep on their own without a parent present.
Because they are in a bed, we are much more limited as to what methods we can use to achieve this independent sleep. We need to be in control of what's happening in the room, so a gradual retreat method is preferred.
In advance, we need to prepare your child's room. It needs to be fully baby-proofed and anything 'fun' should be taken out. Does your child always turn on the light? Unscrew the light bulb. Plays with the noise machine? Put it out of reach. Pulls books off the shelves? Books are gone. That room needs to be B-O-R-I-N-G. Ask your child what could make his bed even better! Is his blanket too hot? Noise from the kitchen making it hard to fall asleep? Would he like to pick out some special sheets or a new teddy? Kids rarely get to make purchasing decisions, so this can be hugely empowering.
Stay tuned for the next steps and how the ‘gradual retreat method’ would look!
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