Top Mistakes Families Make Regarding Sleep, Part IV: Choosing the Wrong Sleep Training Method

It’s extremely important for YOU to be comfortable with whatever sleep training method you use. You want to be comfortable executing your sleep plan through until the end.  Why?  Because consistency is crucial to get your baby sleep well!

If something makes you feel uncomfortable, there’s a good chance your sleep plan won’t work.  Here’s why:

1) Your emotional well-being is an extremely important aspect of your sleep plan.  If you are feeling nervous, anxious and uncomfortable with your plan, your baby might feed off of this negative energy.  This can cause your baby to cry and protest more, making it far more challenging to stick to your plan.  And at the same time, confidence is contagious!  If you are calm, cool, and collected, your baby will feed off of this positive energy.

2) If you are comfortable with the approach you’re taking, there’s a much higher chance you’ll follow through to the end.  Look, implementing a sleep plan typically isn’t enjoyable.  However, it’s one thing to be dreading the process but eager to make changes.  And it’s another thing to have this awful feeling in the pit of your stomach that what you’re doing is wrong.  If your plan isn’t sitting well with you, take a different approach.  Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll end up throwing in the towel halfway through the process.  Cry-it-out isn’t the only option here!

If you’ve been encouraged to let your baby cry-it-out, but your gut is telling you not to do it, listen to yourself!  Look, if you are ready to make changes and are determined to fix your child’s sleep problem, then you’ll definitely want to explore a more gentle sleep training approach.   However, if you’re feeling pressure from people around you to sleep train when this is something you don’t want to be doing, tune them out 🙂  You don’t HAVE to sleep train if you don’t want to!  Sleep training is only for families who WANT to make changes to their current situation.  If your current setup is working for you, there’s no need to change a thing 🙂

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Top Mistakes Families Make Regarding Sleep, Part III: Drowsy But Awake

 

“Drowsy but awake”- the gold standard to aim for in the sleep department, right?

WRONG!

If your goal is to maximize your child’s sleep, it’s important to be placing your baby or toddler down AWAKE at bedtime.

How a baby falls asleep initially at bedtime sets the tone for the rest of the night.  The purpose of sleep training is to strengthen your child’s sleep skills so that he can fall asleep unassisted.  You want your baby to be able to fall BACK to sleep unassisted without relying on a sleep prop.   Feeding, rocking, or patting to sleep are the most common examples of sleep props to avoid.  See, if a baby relies on something to fall asleep at bedtime, there’s nothing stopping this baby from waking up at night expecting the same type of assistance to fall back asleep.

Here’s a very common situation I see:

The parent puts the baby in the crib half-asleep at bedtime.  Or perhaps the parent sits next to their toddler and rubs his back until he’s almost asleep.  When the baby or toddler wakes up in the middle of the night, the parents begin to implement a sleep training method.  Except that this baby or toddler just cries and cries!  Why?  See, if the child needs to be rocked, fed, or patted to a drowsy state in order to fall asleep at bedtime, he won’t consistently put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night without that same assistance.

But my baby sometimes sleeps through the night!  He must know how to put himself back to sleep then, no?

The question to ask yourself is “how strong are your baby’s sleep skills, on a scale of 1-10?”  A baby that is vigorously rocked to sleep and then transferred to the crib out cold would be a 1.  A baby who goes into the crib completely awake and falls asleep by himself would be a 10.  And a baby who needs to be rocked until he’s half-asleep would be a 5.

So a 5 is much better than a 1.  But it’s definitely not the 10 we should be aiming for.  If a baby’s sleep skills are only a 5, it means that he’ll sometimes be able to fall back asleep, while other times he won’t be able to pull it off without your help.

If your goal is to maximize your baby’s sleep as much as possible and attain as much predictability and consistency as possible,  it’s very important for your baby to go down completely 100% awake at bedtime and to begin any sleep training plan at bedtime.

It’s the key to getting yourself an awesome sleeper!

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Top Mistakes Families Make Regarding Sleep, Part II: Inconsistency

When you are implementing a sleep plan, you need to remain 100% consistent so that your baby receives a clear message as to what is expected.  If you’re constantly starting and stopping the process, or if you’re repeatedly switching things up, you’re going to have a very confused baby on your hands.  And if your baby is confused, you’re likely going to get more crying, more protesting, and less sleeping!

Here are two very common examples of inconsistency you want to avoid:

1) Intermittent Reinforcement

This is when the baby cries and cries for any amount of time, only for you to switch things up and give the baby what he wants.  This might mean you eventually pick the baby up and rock him to sleep.  Perhaps you give him a feed.  Or maybe you pat him.  The problem with this scenario is that the baby’s hysterics were rewarded.

Let’s say you have a 3 year-old who asks you for a cookie, and you refuse to give her one.  She throws a temper tantrum, only for you to eventually give in and give her a cookie.  The obvious problem with this scenario is that the 3 year-old has learned to tantrum to get what she wants.  She’s learned the crying and screaming is worth her while!  So next time she asks for something and you say ‘no’, there’s a good chance she’s going to throw another tantrum because it worked last time!

With sleep, it’s no different.  When implementing any type of sleep plan, our goal is to minimize the protesting as much as possible.  Don’t get me wrong, some protesting is unavoidable.  The last thing we want to be doing is encouraging MORE crying by rewarding it.  Always remain 100% consistent and avoid any kind of intermittent reinforcement!

2) Inconsistent Responding

This is when parents respond to their child differently throughout the night.  For example, when the baby wakes at 10pm, the parent sticks to their sleep training method of choice and baby falls back asleep independently.  But when the baby wakes again at 2am, the parent rocks her back to sleep.  The problem with this scenario is that the baby is getting inconsistent messaging.  She doesn’t understand why she’s expected to fall back asleep on her own at 10pm but gets rocked back to sleep in the middle of the night.  This scenario is going to cause confusion on the baby’s end, which leads to more crying.

Conclusion

Without consistent messaging across the board, your sleep training efforts might not get you very far.  I KNOW that implementing a sleep plan can be exhausting, especially when you’re in the thick of things.  I get it!  Just remember that this is short-term pain for long-term gain.

If you are convinced your baby is an alien incapable of giving you good quality sleep, don’t fret.  600 babies later and I still haven’t come across a baby incapable of learning how to sleep well.  Don’t underestimate what your baby can do!

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Top Mistakes Families Make Regarding Sleep, Part I: Baby Becomes Overtired

Overtired babies do NOT sleep well- and here’s why!

What is overtiredness?

A baby becomes overtired when he is past the point of being ready for sleep. Your goal is to get your baby down for sleep just as he gets tired, before he becomes overtired.  When we begin to get tired, our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin.  This is the hormone that makes us sleepy and it helps us fall asleep and stay asleep more easily.  This is why your baby must go to sleep during that short period when his body is producing melatonin.  If that window of time passes and your child still hasn’t gone to bed, he becomes overtired.  At this point, your baby’s body begins secreting a hormone called cortisol, which is a stress hormone created by the nervous system.  Cortisol is what specifically causes difficulty falling asleep, nightwakings, early rising, and short naps.

When babies become overtired, they either become wired and get a second wind of energy, OR they become cranky and irritable.  Regardless of how your baby behaves when overtired, going to sleep and staying asleep will likely be more challenging.

A baby or toddler becomes overtired when he’s awake for periods of time throughout the day that are too long.  Very often, a baby will consistently go down for a nap too late, which leads to short naps.  By the end of the day, the baby is SO overtired that he struggles to settle at bedtime. I’ve even seen situations where a baby’s naps are timed perfectly- but because the baby’s bedtime was too late, it threw the entire night off!

Conclusion

Overtiredness is a well-known sleep stealer.

Make sure you have your baby or toddler on an age-appropriate schedule with properly timed naps, based around biologically appropriate wake windows.  In order for sleep training of ANY kind to work, the child cannot be overtired.  Otherwise, if you remove the child’s sleep crutch (such as feeding or rocking to sleep) AND put him down too late for sleep, he’s not going to fall asleep so easily.  In fact, the sleep training might not work at all.

If you are tackling a sleep problem, make sure you are protecting your baby’s daytime schedule, naps, and bedtime.

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Let’s Talk About BLACKOUT BLINDS!

Blackout blinds are simply awesome.

We, as human beings, are programmed to sleep best in a dark, quiet room.  This is because light suppresses the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us sleepy.  As a result, someone can fall asleep more easily in a darker room than when there’s light beaming in.  And babies are no different.

In fact, it’s especially crucial for babies to have blackout blinds in their room because babies have daytime sleep requirements that adult don’t have (unless, of course, you’re up with a baby all night long!).  Babies also need to go to bed much earlier than adults do.  It’s MUCH more challenging for a baby to fall asleep easily and stay asleep in a room with too much sunlight.

Blackout blinds are especially helpful during the spring and summer months.  The following is a scenario that I see all the time: spring time comes around (specifically the Spring Forward time change), there’s TONS more sunlight beaming into the baby’s room, and the baby suddenly fights sleep and refuses to go to bed.  When I advise the parent to install blackout blinds, the problem suddenly goes away!

This is why blackout blinds are so great!

“But Eva- I want my baby to learn to sleep anywhere!  I don’t want her to rely on blackout blinds to sleep”.

Here’s my response:

1) It’s a bit of a myth that you can teach a baby to sleep anywhere.  Some babies can do it, while others can’t.   No different than how some adults can sleep 8 hours straight on an international flight (like my sister!), while others will never sleep for longer than 5 minutes on a plane without the help of a general anesthetic (such as myself).  Some babies might be able to sleep nicely in the stroller when you’re out running errands.  Yet, there are just as many children who will be too distracted by their environment to sleep nicely while out.

Whether or not your baby can sleep well with lots of outside distraction comes down to his temperament.  If your baby is unable to sleep in an environment that isn’t optimal, there isn’t much that can be done here.  Simply respect your baby’s need to sleep in a dark, quiet room.

2) If you are an avid traveler, you might be worried about how your baby or toddler will sleep when you are away.  Here’s the thing: even if you are away for 2 months out of the year in total, it’s a minority of the year.  Your child is still spending 10 months of the year sleeping in her crib or bed at home.  Prioritize your child’s sleep when he’s home- and worry about vacations as they come.  The last thing you want to be doing is sacrificing your baby’s sleep during those 10 months of the year, with the hope that your baby will learn how to sleep anywhere you go during your 2 months of vacation time.  Either your baby will be adaptable to sleep well without blackout blinds, or she won’t.

On a side note, my older daughter never slept with blackout blinds because she never needed them!  My younger daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t fall asleep unless she was in a dark, quiet room.

Blackout blinds are fantastic.  They will help your child fall asleep quicker and STAY asleep.  What’s not to love?!


 

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Why Do We Need to Follow All These Guidelines on Healthy Sleep Habits?

I recently had a mom ask me a fantastic question.  She said to me “Eva, I don’t understand.  Why do we, all of a sudden, need blackout blinds, and a white noise machine, and a proper daytime schedule, and an age-appropriate bedtime routine?  Because in previous generations, when we were babies, our parents and grandparents weren’t worrying about any of this!”

We’re Always Advancing!

Here’s my response:  Our parents and grandparents didn’t know what we know today.  We, as a civilization, are always growing, learning, and advancing.   We’re always trying to DO better than previous generations.

The medical world has made HUGE advancements, thanks to the amazing research been done over the last number of years and decades.  Diseases and conditions that were previously incurable, and potentially fatal, are now suddenly manageable thanks to these advancements.  Why would we rely on medical knowledge from 30 years ago if the medical community has made new, life-changing discoveries?

Back in the day, parents received medical advice that we would never dream of implementing today.  I can almost guarantee that every single mom or dad reading this article was put to sleep on their tummy as an infant.  Yet, thanks to the “back to sleep” campaign and the extensive research that’s gone into SIDS prevention, the number of SIDS cases has gone down substantially.  Even though our parents and grandparents did something a certain way, it doesn’t mean we’re going to do the same thing.

Advancements in Sleep Science

The world has also made substantial advancements in the world of health and wellness, specifically healthy sleep.  Why not take advantage of all this amazing knowledge that our parents and grandparents didn’t have access to?  If my exhausted mother knew that putting me to bed very late for the night was causing me to wake up at the crack of dawn, she would have put me to bed earlier in a heartbeat!  Instead, she was sleep deprived for years because she didn’t know better.

We are an incredibly privileged generation of parents.  We have access to all this amazing information, advice, and support that can change the quality of life of everyone in your family.  When it comes to getting your baby to sleep well, you have the option to empower yourself with this information.

So if we know that using certain sleep tools help your baby fall asleep faster, why not use them?  If you know that making certain changes will improve your baby’s sleep, why not implement them?  Because your parents never did this?

What can I say- my mother WISHES she knew what we know about sleep today.  Her years as a young mother would have been 100 times less exhausting!


 

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Is sleeping through the night a developmental milestone?

Is sleeping through the night a developmental milestone that all children will eventually reach when they are ready?

GREAT question!  The short answer is NO.  Sleeping through the night is NOT a developmental milestone.  See, here is a non-comprehensive list of examples of age-specific developmental milestones: rolling, sitting up, standing up, crawling, walking, talking, reading, playing with other children.

I should mention that sleeping through the night without milk IS a developmental milestone. The medical community concludes this can safely happen by 6-8 months of age with healthy babies.  But simply sleeping through the night is not a milestone.

Some babies are able to sleep through the night from a VERY early age, while other children are still waking up at night when they’re in preschool!  Sleep is a *skill* that comes more naturally to some babies and children than it does to others.  However, the most high-needs baby can still learn how to sleep well if the right tools are provided.  If your older baby or child is still waking up at night, the problem is likely connected to your baby’s sleep habits.

Here’s a list of factors that could be causing your baby to still wake up at night:

  • Sleep environment isn’t optimal
  • Overtiredness
  • Improper daytime scheduling
  • Reliance on any sleep prop (e.g. nursing, rocking, patting, sitting near child to sleep)
  • Daytime nutrition that isn’t optimal
  • Issues that pertain to emotional well-being

Your child’s development is not related to any of these factors.  You can always make big changes to your child’s sleep habits with a solid sleep plan, regardless of how old your child is.

If you are falling on your face from exhaustion, you don’t need to wait for that magical day to come when your child decides to sleep through the night.  Sleeping uninterrupted at night is not a developmental milestone.  We don’t know how long you’ll be waiting for that day to arrive.  So if you’re ready to start sleeping better, there’s no better time like the present to make changes!

 

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








 

Is it too late to sleep train your baby or toddler?

This is a question I get ALL THE TIME.  Regardless of whether the baby is 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or 2 years, I always have parents asking me if their baby is too old to be sleep trained.

So what’s the answer?  Is it ever too late?

Here’s the good news: It is NEVER too late to make changes in the sleep department- ever!  Now, the older your child gets and the longer he/she holds onto these unwanted sleep habits, the harder it’s going to be to change them.  So this might mean that it’s likely going to take longer for a sleep plan to be successful with an older baby or toddler.   Nonetheless, if you’re ready for change, it’s very doable!

Look, if your gut is telling you to hold off on sleep training for any reason, listen to yourself.  You know what’s best!

But if you know that deep down inside that this is the right time to make changes and that there’s no better time like the present, do it!  Don’t underestimate what kind of gift you are giving your child by teaching him to sleep through the night.  The benefits of uninterrupted sleep to your child’s health, emotional well-being, and development should NOT be underestimated!

I’ve had numerous clients with babies who were struggling to meet a milestone.  I’ve witnessed 12 month-olds struggling to eat solids.  I’ve had 18 month-olds with no interest to walk.  And I’ve seen 2 year-olds who weren’t talking.  Once we managed to fix the child’s sleep problem, the problem has often disappeared!  Suddenly, the baby is eating solids like a champ.  The toddler has learned to run.  And the preschooler’s speech has exploded.

Coincidence?  I’ll let you decide that one 🙂

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Is Cry It Out the Only Way to Sleep Train a Baby?

The following is a scenario I see all the time: The parents have a baby or toddler who doesn’t sleep well.  They want to make changes to their baby’s sleep habits.  But they think their only option is to let the baby cry-it-out and remove all night feeds cold turkey.  The thought of leaving their baby to cry indefinitely makes them too uncomfortable.  In the end, the parents don’t change anything and continue to struggle and suffer from sleep deprivation.

Allow me to dispel two very prominent myths about sleep training:

Myth #1- Cry-it-out is the only way to get your baby to sleep through the night.

Wrong.

The good news is that sleep training doesn’t need to involve leaving your baby to cry-it-out for extended periods of time as long as you have a proper sleep plan in place.  There are many approaches you can use that are supportive, gradual and gentle.

See, sleep training is an umbrella term that describes teaching a baby how to fall asleep unassisted.  If you have a baby who is being fed or rocked to sleep, sleep training might be appropriate so that he can learn how to fall asleep without these props.

Why?

The way in which your baby falls asleep initially at bedtime sets the tone for the rest of the night.  So lets say that you have a baby who is being nursed to sleep at bedtime.  When she wakes up at night, there’s a good chance she won’t be able to consistently put herself back to sleep without the help of nursing.  Sleep training is fantastic if your goal is to eliminate your baby’s nightwakings that are not caused by hunger.

Now, with any type of sleep training approach, there is likely going to be crying.  Your baby is bound to protest change.  Remember- NOBODY likes change, even if it’s good change.  It’s also going to be frustrating for your baby at first because she never learned how to fall asleep without assistance.  Falling asleep independently is a SKILL, just like riding a bike.  However, there are many sleep training approaches you can use that allow you to be present while your baby goes through this learning process.

Myth #2- All your baby’s night feeds must be removed during sleep training

Wrong.

Sleep training and night weaning are two completely different processes.  Sleep training involves teaching your baby how to fall asleep unassisted.  Night weaning, on the other hand, involves shifting calories from the nighttime to the daytime.  Many babies are ready to be sleep trained but not yet ready to be completely night weaned!  If that’s the case, it is absolutely permissible to sleep train your baby while respecting any nighttime nutritional needs your baby might have.

Even if you have an older baby who doesn’t need to be eating at night and is ready to be night weaned, you don’t need to remove those feeds cold turkey!  You can remove them *gradually* so that this process is less painful for everybody.

Conclusion

While sleep training is not usually enjoyable, it doesn’t need to be torturous and involve hours of crying.  Sleep training can be done gradually and in a supportive manner.

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Newborn Sleep Tips: How to Maximize your Newborn’s Sleep

Newborn babies and sleep usually don’t go hand in hand.  And there’s good reason for this- newborn babies wake frequently at night because they need to eat!  However, there is still lots you can do to maximize your newborn’s sleep, make everything as manageable as possible, and get your baby’s sleep habits off on the right foot.  You can definitely avoid future problems down the road!

Here are my top 3 sleep tips for newborn babies:

Tip #1- Pay close attention to your baby’s wake windows.

Newborn babies become overtired very easily because they need LOTS of sleep.  A 6 week-old baby might need to sleep every 60 minutes!  So if you haven’t already done so, download the following sleep chart that has my suggested wake windows and sleep totals for babies and toddlers of all ages.  This will give you a very good idea as to how often your baby needs to go to sleep.

Tip#2- Get yourself the right baby gear.

Newborn babies need to nap very frequently.  While you might enjoy holding your little baby all day long, it’s going to get exhausting after a while!  You want to be able to put your baby DOWN for at least a few naps a day.  The Fisher Price Cradle Swing is a fantastic product for this age range, as is a baby carrier with good back support.  Stroller and car naps at this age are just FINE!

Tip #3- Try to put your baby down drowsy but awake once a day.

Eventually, you want your baby to be able to put herself to sleep 100% of the way on her own.  At this age, she doesn’t need to be doing all the work just yet.  If you’re able to rock her until she’s drowsy before you place her in the crib, you’re doing great!  Getting your baby used to falling asleep somewhat on her own can often avoid huge sleep problems down the road, such as being reliant on feeding or rocking to fall asleep.

Now, if you try getting your baby down drowsy but awake and it just doesn’t work, don’t worry about it.  Try again the next night and eventually she’ll get it.

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








 

Formula and sleep: Will introducing a bottle help your breastfed baby sleep longer?

“Just give him a little bit of formula- it’ll help him sleep longer!”

Boy, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that piece of advice thrown around, I’d be very wealthy!  Parents are always asking me if they should supplement with formula to get their babies to sleep longer.

Here’s the lowdown: If your baby is at least a few months old, and breastfeeding is established, and your have good milk supply, then introducing formula will probably not make much of a difference to your baby’s sleep.

There are two sizable myths around formula and sleep, which have contributed to this misunderstanding:

Myth#1 Around Formula and Sleep: Hunger causes all nightwakings with babies

When a baby is in those first few weeks of life, his sleep patterns will revolve solely around the need to eat.  Babies in this age range spend their lives eating and sleeping, only to wake up from their sleep to eat again!

By the time your baby is a few months old, things change.  Sleep is more complex, which creates a multitude of reasons as to why your baby might be waking up at night.  And most of these potential culprits have NOTHING to do with hunger!

Here are some common sleep stealers:

  • Overtiredness: Perhaps your baby doesn’t have a solid, age-appropriate daytime schedule, or she isn’t napping well during the day.  Or perhaps her bedtime is too late.
  • Sleep environment problem: Perhaps there is too much light in the room, or the temperature is too hot/cold. Maybe the baby isn’t dressed appropriately for the room’s temperature, or there’s too much outside noise.
  • Sleep association: Perhaps your baby needs to be assisted to fall asleep, such as through rocking, nursing or patting.

These are all factors that can cause unnecessary nightwakings, and they have nothing to do with hunger.  So replacing your breasted baby’s feeds with formula might not do a darn thing if the root of your sleep problem isn’t nutritive.

Myth#2 Around Formula and Sleep: Formula fed babies can eat more than breastfed babies

A bottlefed baby CAN take down more ounces in one feed than a breastfed baby can because it’s usually less work for a baby to eat from the bottle than it is to eat from the breast.

HOWEVER, as long as a breastfed baby is eating more frequently during the daytime and can compensate by getting those extra calories, she can sleep JUST as well as her bottlefed buddy can.  Replacing a breastfeed with formula really isn’t necessary!

Here’s the thing…

If you have been legitimately struggling with your milk supply, introducing formula might help with your baby’s sleep.  However, I find that many moms tend to THINK their milk supply is going down, when their milk supply is just fine!  See, if you have an exclusively breastfed baby who’s been giving you lots of wet diapers and who’s gaining weight beautifully, your milk supply probably is just fine.  But always check with a lactation consultant if you’re worried.

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








The 2-3-4 Nap Schedule- Will it work for your baby?

As a sleep consultant, I get asked about the 2-3-4 schedule ALL THE TIME.  Before I give you my thoughts, let me first explain how the 2-3-4 schedule works.

What is the 2-3-4 schedule?

The 2-3-4 schedule is a suggested framework for a schedule to put your baby on who is napping twice a day.  It is suggested for babies over the age of 6 months.  According to this framework, your baby should nap 2 hours after waking up for the day.  3 hours after that nap ends, your baby goes back down for the second nap.  And then 4 hours after your baby wakes up from the second nap, it’s time for bedtime.

Penny for my thoughts?

Thanks for asking!  Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the 2-3-4 schedule.  It’s not something I ever suggest as a starting point because it doesn’t work with most babies.  And here’s why:

1) Most babies by 6 months of age still need 3 naps.

The average 6 month old baby can only be awake for 1.75-2.5 hours before getting tired again.  As a result of these short wake windows, a 6 month-old will likely become VERY overtired on a 2-3-4 schedule.  And overtiredness can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightwakings, early rising, and short naps!

2) The suggested wake windows (usually) don’t work!

If your baby is tired enough for a nap after 2 hours of wake time in the morning, he likely won’t be able to stay awake for 4 hours before bedtime without getting overtired.  And if your baby legitimately needs to be awake for 4 hours before bedtime, he is likely not going to be tired enough to nap in the morning after only 2 hours of wake time.

So look, obviously every baby is different.  If you happen to have your baby on a 2-3-4 schedule and it appears to work, there’s no need to change it!  The advice I’m providing here is not meant to be customized advice for your particular baby; rather, this is a general observation I have made being in this field for a number of years and having worked with hundreds of families.  It just doesn’t work with the vast majority of babies!  If it DOES happen to work for your baby, just remember that he is the exception 🙂

To get proper guidance on age appropriate wake windows for your baby, check out my sleep chart that outlines suggested sleep totals, wake windows, and number of naps!  http://mysleepingbaby.com/sign-free-sleep-chart/

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








How to Survive the Spring Forward Time Change

I think we can all agree that time changes should be outlawed, right?  They’re completely archaic and totally pointless in this day and age.  However, it doesn’t sound like they’re disappearing anytime soon.  So as parents of babies and toddlers, we really need to know how to best navigate these awful time changes.

Because we will be shifting our clocks forward by 1 hour this weekend, many of you want to know how to handle your child’s sleep!  This time change is typically the less evil one, but it’s still a sleep stealer in many circumstances.

Here’s your spring forward action plan:

  1. Install blackout blinds if you don’t already have them in your child’s room.
  2. Gradually push your child’s naps EARLIER so that your baby is back on his previous nap schedule within the week. On Sunday, you might need to wake your baby up from her last nap a bit earlier so that you can get her down earlier for bedtime.  The next morning, wake your baby up at his normal morning wake time so that his schedule is back on track.
  3. If you have a child who no longer naps, try to plan LOTS of non-stop activities that day. See, thanks to the time change, his 7pm bedtime will now be 8pm!  So your goal is to tire out your child so that he’ll be wiped and be ready for bed a bit earlier than usual.  Even if he doesn’t fall asleep until later, wake him up at his normal time the next morning to help his body adjust to the new time.

Now, what if you have an early riser on your hands?  Good news folks!  The universe is handing you a wonderful gift on a silver platter.  And that gift is a later schedule, if you play your cards right!  So let’s say that your baby is consistently sleeping through the night but her schedule is just too early.  Allow her entire schedule to naturally shift one hour later, getting you a later wake time!

Lastly, remember to be patient.  Time changes totally stink and sometimes your child might just need time to get over this hump.
 

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Establishing a Routine for your Newborn Baby

What is a routine?

A routine is a sequence of events that take place in the exact same order every single day.  This is different from a schedule!  A schedule is when a baby wakes and sleeps at the exact same times every single day.  Newborn babies aren’t ready for a set schedule until they’re at least 6 months.  This is because daytime sleep doesn’t neurologically organize and become more consistent until that time.  A routine, on the other hand, is much more age-appropriate for a baby in this age range.

Eat-Play-Sleep

I suggest implementing an eat-play-sleep for your baby.  This means that your baby wakes up, eats, plays, and goes to sleep.

Establishing a routine can be done from day 1 if you have a formula fed baby and from a few weeks onward if you have a breastfed baby and breastfeeding is established.  An eat-play-sleep routine helps separate feeding from sleeping so that your baby doesn’t learn to rely on the bottle or the breast to fall asleep.

Now, in case this wasn’t obvious, the “play” part of your baby’s routine should only be happening during daytime hours!  At nighttime, your baby should only be eating and sleeping.  There should be NO awake time during nighttime hours!

Why implement a routine?

Get this, people: the research actually shows that when your baby knows what’s about to happen next because of this routine, 1) the baby tends to cry less throughout the day; 2) the baby tends to fall asleep more quickly; and 3) the baby tends to STAY asleep more easily.  How awesome is THAT?  Even though your baby might only be a few weeks old, he can pick up on this routine very quickly and EVERYONE benefits!  Adding structure and predictability to your daytime hours will get your newborn baby off on the right foot and allow you to establish solid sleep habits from the beginning.

 

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The Witching Hour: What Causes it and How to Survive it!

Let’s talk about the witching hour, which is that intense fussiness during the late afternoon and early part of the evening.  What causes the witching hour and what can we do to help minimize it?  Is it colic?

It’s often thought that colic is responsible for this fussiness.  However, true colic is only experienced by 15-20% of newborn babies.  So what does this mean for the other 80% of babies who experience this extreme fussiness?

Here is a list of the top four factors that can be responsible for this fussiness, as well as what you can do about it!

Overtiredness

If your baby isn’t sleeping enough during the daytime, this can cause a HUGE bout of crying in the evening.  See, as the day goes on and your baby continuously stays awake for too long between naps and only sleeps for very brief periods, he’s often exceptionally overtired by the evening.  As a result, all he wants to do is wail non-stop!  Tip:  Focus on daytime sleep!  Good quality daytime sleep is absolutely essential for babies of all ages, but especially with newborn babies.  Do what you need to do to ensure that your baby naps frequently during daytime hours.

Want to know how much sleep your baby needs? Download my FREE sleep chart that outlines suggested sleep totals, wake windows, and number of naps!  http://mysleepingbaby.com/sign-free-sleep-chart/

Overstimulation

This is especially common with babies who live in very busy households.  Perhaps you’ve got older children running around your house, or maybe your home is just always busy!  Even though your baby might not be participating in these non-stop household activities, she’s definitely taking everything in.  By early evening, a baby who’s been overly stimulated all day can experience sensory overload and cry non-stop.  Tip:  Babywear!  Get yourself a good quality baby carrier so that you can put your baby on your chest and have your hands free.  Wear your baby close to your chest as it will help relax his little nervous system.  For many parents, babywearing is their savior until their little baby outgrows this phase.

Cluster feeding

This is when younger babies try to eat more frequently during the early hours of the evening in order to “tank up” before giving you a longer stretch of sleep during the first half of the night.  Tip:  Allow your baby to continue to eat as frequently as she wants before going to sleep.

Gas

If you don’t burp your baby well, or if she is sensitive to a food you eat that is passed down through your breast milk, you might not have a happy baby.  Tip:  Make sure that your burp your baby well after each feed.  Otherwise, all these air pockets might accumulate throughout the day until your baby has so much gas that he becomes extremely uncomfortable.

Remember that some of this behaviour is normal and unavoidable!  However, applying these tips should make this phase more manageable for you in the long run!

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Day-Night Confusion: How to teach your newborn baby the difference between day and night

How do you to teach your baby the difference between day and night?Newborn babies do not know when it’s daytime and nighttime because they’ve spent the last 9 months in the womb.   As a result, their biological clock is not developed yet.  So if you happen to have a baby who is up all night long and sleeps all day, unfortunately this is somewhat normal!

The good news is that this phase usually comes to an end by 6-8 weeks of age.  I know this might seem like an eternity if you have a 2 week-old infant at home though!  Try to be patient, as exhausting as it is.

The other piece of good news is that there are steps you can take to help speed this process along:

  1. Expose your baby to as much light as possible during the daytime.  Open up the blinds and keep the lights on during the daytime.  This will help teach your baby’s body the difference between daytime and nighttime.
  2. Limit the length of your baby’s naps during the daytime.  If your baby is napping 3-5 hours at a time during the day, this might be his longest stretch of sleep he’ll give you over the next 24 hour period.  And it goes without saying that you want your baby giving you his longest stretch of sleep when YOU are sleeping!  So for this reason, I’d suggest waking your baby up if he’s been napping for longer than 2-2.5 hours at one time so that you can preserve that longer stretch of sleep for nighttime.  Ultimately, your goal is for this “long” stretch of nighttime sleep to lengthen over time!

Don’t worry about waking your sleeping baby.  There are MANY circumstances where waking your sleeping baby is the best step to take.  And tackling a day-night confusion problem is one of them!

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How to Ensure your Child Sleeps While Travelling

How can you ensure your little ones sleep well when on holiday?

A very important factor that determines how well your baby sleeps while travelling is his temperament, which is inborn.  Part of a child’s temperament determines how adaptable they are.  See, some children can easily adapt to a new environment after taking a few minutes to familiarize themselves with their new space.  If you have an easy-going child, your child will probably be fine when travelling!

However, if you have a child who is very slow to warm to new changes, as shown in the past by the huge amount of time it took her to adapt to her new daycare, or caregiver, or house, it will probably take her quite a bit of time to adjust to her new living arrangements when travelling.

Here are my top tips for ensuring that your child sleeps well while travelling:

  1. Bring as much of your child’s nursery as you can with you on vacation.  Bring anything that your child sleeps with such as a lovey, blanket, pacifier, white noise, bedtime music and stories.  This is important so that your child feels like he’s in a familiar environment.
  2. Continue implementing your regular bedtime routine.  This will help your child wind down for bedtime, just like at home!
  3. Pray to the sleep gods that your child sleeps well.  When travelling, all bets are off when it comes to your child’s sleep, especially if he isn’t so adaptable to changes.

If your child’s sleep regresses while you’re travelling, make sure to be militant about getting things back on track when you’re home.  This might involve re-sleep training!

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Sleep Environment Transitions

Transitioning your child from one sleep environment to a new one can be very exciting!  Yet, it can also be stressful!  How do you transition your baby from a bassinet to a crib as seamlessly as possible? Or move your toddler from a crib to a bed without a fight? Or transition your child of any age from co-sleeping to his/her own sleep environment without too much push-back?

My advice on sleep environment transitions?

My BIGGEST tip for any parent who is experiencing any of these transitions is to incorporate regular playtime with their child IN their new sleep space.  Put your baby in his crib and play peek-a-boo.  Sit with your child in her new bed and have a tea party.  Your goal is to get your child laughing and having tons of fun in his new sleep space.

This piece of advice might come as a shock to many of you who were told to keep the child’s room ONLY for sleep time.  I disagree.  Now, I’m not advising you to play with your child in his room all day everyday.  I’m simply advising you to incorporate 10 minutes of play here and there.  Regular playtime with your child in his new sleep space will really help him become acclimatized to this new environment.  You don’t want your child’s crib or bed to be foreign or scary.  Plunking your baby in the crib for the very first time at bedtime might not go over so well if he’s never been in a crib before!

Regular playtime with your child in his new sleep space also allows him to develop positive associations with this new space.  You want your child to LOVE his new crib or bed.  It’s essential for you to take a bit of time creating wonderful positive associations with the new sleep space for this transition to go well.

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We’re talking about PACIFIERS!

Is a pacifier a helpful sleep tool for babies and children?  Or is it a sleep prop that only causes sleep problems?

Pacifiers are a really interesting device because one day they can be your biggest savior as parents of young babies.  And then the next day, they are the bane of your existence. At one point, I wanted to burn every single one of these within a 500 mile radius of my home!

Pacifiers are fantastic for newborn babies under the age of 3-4 months because babies in this age range have a very strong sucking reflex.  This means that offering a newborn baby a pacifier to suck on can really help calm the baby down!  If you’re breastfeeding, introducing a pacifier can help prevent you from becoming a human pacifier, which can be exhausting.

There’s also some research correlating the use of a pacifier in newborn babies to a decrease risk in SIDS.  The current theory behind this phenomenon is that pacifiers prevent a newborn baby from going into a deep sleep.  Falling into a deep sleep can be hazardous for a newborn baby if something is obstructing their breathing.  Because the use of a pacifier keeps the baby in a lighter sleep, the baby can easily wake himself up in the event of a problem!

Pacifiers can become very problematic around the 3-4 month mark.  This is when babies become aware that they have fallen asleep with the pacifier in their mouth and that it’s fallen out!  This might become a huge problem for you because your 4 month old likely doesn’t have the fine motor skills to put the pacifier back in his mouth on his own.  This means that YOU are stuck doing this for him instead!

Once your baby is older and reaches that 8-10 month age range, many babies develop fine motor skills that are strong enough to grab the pacifier on their own, without your assistance.  So once your baby reaches this milestone, the pacifier shouldn’t be a problem anymore.  The pacifier is usually only problematic for babies in the 3-6 month age range who rely on the pacifier to fall asleep but don’t have the fine motor skills to replace it on their own just yet.

If you have a baby in the 3-6 month age range who heavily relies on the pacifier for sleep purposes, you have two main options moving forward:

  1. Wait it out.  Sometimes the pacifier isn’t too much of a disruption to a baby’s sleep. So if you’re only replacing the pacifier once or twice a night, you can choose to keep things as is.  That magical day WILL come that your baby learns to replace the pacifier on his own.
  2. Teach your baby how to fall asleep without it.  This is very doable!  You’re going to want to remove the pacifier cold turkey as this is the most effective solution.  Pick a sleep training method that you’re comfortable with and stick to it like glue!

Now, you can always reintroduce the pacifier to your baby when she’s older and she can replace it on her own.  So keep in mind that teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the pacifier at bedtime doesn’t mean you need to get rid of the pacifier forever!


 

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The Dreaded 8-10 Month Sleep Regression

Sleep regressions are never fun- and the regression that often happens between 8-10 months of age is no exception.

What is causing this regression?

For the most part, this regression is due to significant brain development. Babies this age go through many developmental milestones such as crawling, scootching, sitting up and standing up. Sleep often goes on the backburner temporarily while your little one enjoys practicing his new skill set. How can you expect them to sleep when their new skill is so much fun?

At this age, babies are also beginning to comprehend your language, which is extremely exciting and stimulating for your baby, making it difficult for them to sleep well.

And lastly, it’s very common for babies in this age range to transition from three daily naps to 2. Nap transitions can often cause temporary sleep trouble because of the unavoidable overtiredness your baby will experience when losing a nap.

What can you do about it?

Here are some tips to get you through this regression with your head above water:

1) Remain consistent: now is not the time to start rocking or nursing your baby to sleep or resorting to co-sleeping if this isn’t something you want to keep up long-term. Keep up with your good sleep habits as best you can.

2) Don’t assume all of your baby’s sleep problems are due to this regression. If your baby wasn’t sleeping well to begin with, it’s unlikely this regression is the root of your current sleep. problems. Waking up more than 1-2 times a night is excessive, even during this regression. You probably have a lingering sleep problem that was worsened by this regression.

3) Don’t assume the problem is always caused by teething. Contrary to popular belief, teething is not the cause of every infant sleep problem.

4) Be patient- Give your baby a bit of time to figure out these new developments. Sleep WILL take a front seat again soon!

5) If your baby is overtired from a nap transition or from sudden nightwakings, always make sure you are putting baby to bed slightly earlier to compensate for the sudden lack of sleep. Keep your baby’s bedtime earlier until she adjusts to her new schedule.

Don’t forget that sleep is a basic physiological requirement. The better your baby is sleeping now, the more successfully she’ll overcome sleep regressions and milestones down the road.

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The Dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression

What’s going on here?  For the first 3 months of your baby’s life, you were able to peacefully rock her to sleep and expect nice long stretches between feeds.  All of a sudden, it’s taking you two hours to rock her to sleep.  On top of that, she’s waking up countless times a night, and she’s cranky and miserable!  You’ve gone to the doctor to rule out an ear infection, so perhaps she’s teething?

What’s really happening?  Your baby’s sleep cycles are maturing!

I prefer to look at this regression as more of a PROgression because it marks a permanent change in your baby’s sleep habits.  When your baby was a newborn, his sleep was much more ‘babyish’- meaning, he slept deeply all the time!  This probably explains why he was able to sleep anytime and anywhere, regardless of noise and distraction.

Once your baby hits that 4 month mark, your baby’s sleep patterns become more ‘adult-like’ where he begins to cycle in and out of deep and light sleep.  Your baby is no longer a newborn!  Yay!  The bad news is that this milestone often causes tons of night wakings and short naps.  This is because your baby now needs help falling BACK asleep at the end of that 45 minute sleep cycle if he doesn’t have independent sleep skills to begin with.

The regression has hit!  Now what? 

With most sleep regressions, life should go back to normal within 1-2 weeks as long as your baby had great sleep habits beforehand.  This regression, on the other hand, is different.  This is not a phase that will magically go away over time.  The changes to your baby’s sleep patterns are permanent so waiting-it-out is not advised here!

Here are some tips to help you survive this regression and get your sleep back:

  1. Make sure the sleep environment for your baby is optimal for good quality sleep. Blackout blinds, a white noise machine and a cool, comfortable room temperature are all a must.
  2. Ensure that your baby is napping frequently during the daytime and that he isn’t awake for longer than 1.5-2 hours between sleeps.
  3. Feed your baby lots during the daytime. If you are nursing, make sure you are feeding your baby on demand, every 2-2.5 hours.  There is often a growth spurt around this time so you want to make sure your baby is well fed!
  4. Do not wean from night feeds. The vast majority of babies this age still need to eat 1-2 times a night.
  5. And last but not least: teach your baby how to fall asleep by himself! It’s essential that your baby learn how to put himself to sleep so that he can figure out how to put himself BACK to sleep when he wakes up at the end of that short sleep cycle. There are many approaches you can use to teach your baby how to do this that range from the most gentle to the most direct.  Pick an approach you’re most comfortable with.

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Why Sleep Training Didn’t Work- Top 5 Sleep Training Mistakes

So you finally geared up the strength, courage and readiness to begin sleep training your baby, expecting that you would be enjoying the fruits of your labour within a week.  And yet, weeks and weeks go by and your baby is still waking up throughout the night!  WHAT GIVES?

The reality is that for sleep training to work, you need to address the multitude of factors contributing to the sleep problem.  Below is a list of the top 5 sleep training mistakes I’ve come across in my career:

 

1) Lack of readiness

In order for you to make big changes to your baby’s sleep, you need to be ready.  And I mean READY to make these changes and stick to them.  Often parents don’t realize what kind of commitment is involved and are not ready to prioritize sleep needs over other priorities.

 

2) Baby is overtired.

Before beginning any sleep training plan, make sure you are well-versed in your baby’s sleep needs.  You should know what a typical daily schedule should look like for your baby.  Improperly timed naps, short naps, extremely large awake periods or a bedtime that is too late will lead to an extremely overtired baby.  Attempting to sleep train an extremely overtired baby with a daytime schedule that doesn’t meet his sleep needs will be disastrous and can lead to copious amounts of unnecessary tears and protest.  Don’t waste your time!

 

3) Putting baby down “drowsy but awake”.

Oh how I loathe this saying, mainly because it confuses parents.  When a baby is a newborn, attempting to put him down drowsy but awake is a fantastic goal.  However, once your baby is old enough to be sleep trained, you want to ensure you are putting your baby COMPLETELY awake in his crib so that he learns to do 100% of the work on his own.  Rocking or feeding a baby halfway to sleep is going to thwart your efforts since this baby isn’t really learning how to fall asleep completely on his own.

 

4) Lack of consistency

Oh man- if only I had a dime for every time I’ve had to remind a family to remain consistent!  This advice applies across the board to those of you who are implementing the most direct approaches to the most gentle.  BE CONSISTENT!  Starting and stopping the process, as well as switching things up multiple times can be extremely confusing and aggravating to your baby, which will likely lead to MORE crying and protesting.  Once you start the process, stick to it like glue and don’t look back.

 

5) Wrong choice of sleep training method

There are many choices of sleep training methods you can implement to teach your child how to fall asleep on his own, and how to fall BACK to sleep on his own.  In order to figure out the right method for you, there are a few factors you should consider:

  • Which method is most in line with your family’s parenting philosophy? It’s essential to make sure you choose a method that you will be comfortable executing consistently
  • How old is your child that you are attempting to sleep train? I don’t recommend using a direct approach like Ferber for toddlers and older babies who are going through separation anxiety.  I also recommend using gentler approaches for babies under 5 months of age.
  • What is your child’s temperament? Is she calmed by your presence in the room?  If that’s the case, it would make sense to you a gradual fading approach.  However, if your presence seems to make matters worse by causing a big distraction, a more direct approach might be a better fit.

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4 Tips on Transitioning a Child from a Crib to a Bed

So your baby is no longer a baby and it’s time to move onto the next exciting milestone: a BIG KID BED!  Or wait, is it time?  Transitioning your little munchkin to a bed too early can lead to a whole new assortment of sleep problems that you want to avoid.  Trust me!

To ensure the transition to a big kid bed is successful, be sure to follow these 4 important pieces of advice:

1) Don’t transition any earlier than necessary

Keep your child in the crib for as long as possible, ideally until at least 2.5-3 years old.  Children under this age range typically do not have the maturity to appreciate the freedom that comes along with sleeping in a bed.  As a result, your child might develop “Jack-in-the-Box” syndrome, popping out of bed as soon as you leave the room.  You’ll be going nuts.

2)  Safety

Now to address the million dollar question- what if you have a crib jumper on your hands?  Does that mean it’s time to transition to a bed?

Not necessarily.  Before transitioning your monkey…I mean toddler, to a bed, try the following tricks to keep your child in his crib:

  • Put your child to sleep in a sleep sack, which will make it extremely difficult to climb out of the crib.
  • If you have a sleigh crib, where the back is higher than the front, turn the crib around so that the higher end is in the front.
  • Put a video monitor in your child’s room and watch him.  When you see him about to practice his diving skills, quickly run into the room and give him a firm “NO!”  You may have to do this a few times for your child to learn, but as long as you’re consistent, they will eventually stop trying.

3) Get excited! 

Sleeping in a big kid bed is a huge deal for your child.  A few weeks before moving your child to her bed, start talking to her about it.  Ger her excited!  Take her with you to pick out her new bed and sheets.  Get her involved with implementing an exciting rewards system.  Let her choose the stickers, decorate her new “Sleep Manners” chart, and let her choose her rewards!

4) Consistency

 Make sure to keep as much of your child’s daily routine as possible, especially his bedtime routine.  Don’t create new bedtime habits unless you’re comfortable continuing them for the long run.  Remember that consistency is key- as long as your child knows what to expect when bedtime comes around, the transition should go smoothly.

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3 Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to Daylight Savings

Remember when daylight savings in the fall meant you got an extra hour of sleep?  If you’re a parent with young children, you’re probably reminiscing about those good old days.  Now that I’ve reminded you that daylight savings is around the corner, you’re likely also dreading a potential 5am wakeup from your little monkeys.

Thankfully, I can help you avoid this catastrophe.  Here are 3 tips to help make this clock change as pain-free as possible.

1) Begin moving your child’s bedtime forward by 15 minutes each night, starting on the Thursday prior to daylight savings. Your child’s whole daily schedule moves back those 15 minutes the day after. This way, you will have shifted your child’s schedule ahead by one hour by the time daylight savings arrives, and he or she will be able to go to sleep right away at his usual time.

2) Keep your child’s room dark so that daylight changes don’t interfere with his/her sleep.  If lots of sunlight tends to shine into your child’s room first thing in the morning, you can tape garbage bags or tin foil to the windows to block it out- I know this might not coordinate well with the room’s décor, but it works!

3) Continue with your regular bedtime and naptime routines.  Ensure you keep to your child’s schedule as closely as possible.  Remember that consistency is key!

Keep in mind that it can still take children up to a week to adjust after the time change.  As long as your children have healthy sleep habits, the time change won’t be as dreadful as you think.

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7 Steps to Creating a Sleep Plan

So your baby isn’t sleeping.  She can’t fall asleep on her own, she wakes up 5 times a night, she naps for 20 minutes at a time, and she has NO structure or routine to her day.  You’re exhausted and sleep deprived….AND SO IS YOUR BABY!

Last night you were so tired that you accidentally put hand soap on your toothbrush and started brushing.  You weren’t so happy.

You finally recognize that your baby’s sleep challenges are not going to magically disappear without some intervention.  You need a SLEEP PLAN.

Here are some steps to follow when coming up with a plan that will get you and your family the sleep you all need and love.  Of course, there is a whole slew of additional factors that can contribute to poor sleep, but this will get you off to a good start:

1. Get ready to make some permanent changes and work hard.

Are YOU ready for change?  This is one of the most important steps to creating healthy sleep habits for your child.  If you are not ready to make significant changes to your life and your baby’s life, you won’t be successful.

For example, some parents are used to going about their daily lives and making their baby’s sleep needs fit into their schedule.  This will need to change.  If you want your baby sleeping through the night, it is essential to ensure he takes properly timed naps in his crib and has a consistent early bedtime.  Otherwise, you will have an overtired baby on your hands…and those babies will never let you sleep at night!

Change is hard for everyone involved, even if it’s good change.  Your baby will probably protest this change at some point, so you need to be prepared to put in the work!

2. Educate yourself on the science of baby sleep and set realistic goals

How many hours of sleep does your baby need over a 24-hour period of time?  How many naps does she need, and how many hours should her naps equal?  How long can your baby likely be awake before needing a nap?  How many night feeds (if any) does your baby need?

It’s extremely important that your goals for your baby are age-appropriate.  For example, your 3 month-old will not be able to sleep 11-12 hours uninterrupted (unless you have one of those Olympic sleeping unicorn babies that I’ve heard about).  On the other hand, your healthy 10 month-old baby weighing in at 23 pounds whose dinner consists of a bowl of macaroni, a chicken thigh, a handful of green beans and a container of applesauce can surely learn to sleep until the morning without needing a midnight snack!

Whatever you do, be realistic and don’t set yourself up for failure!

3. Ensure your baby’s sleep space is optimal

Here are a few tips on making your baby’s sleep space as sleep-friendly as possible:

  • Use a white noise machine to drown out background noise and for soothing
  • Make sure the room is cool, ideally between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius because a room that is too hot can disrupt your baby’s sleep
  • Make sure the room is dark! On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a bright sunny day and10 is pitch black, the room should be an 8.  Too much light can impede your child’s sleep.
  • Make sure that there is nothing overly stimulating in the baby’s room.  Ensure that the room is decorated using pale tones.  Remove any toys from the crib that have buttons, play music, or have flashing lights (e.g. the Baby Einstein sea aquarium).

4. Implement an age-appropriate daily routine

Many of you are reading this with a deer-caught-in-headlights look on your face.  “Routine?  What’s a routine?”  A routine is a set of regular activities that are constantly performed in the same order.  Implementing a daily routine for your baby is important so that her day has structure and predictability and so that she gets the daytime sleep her body needs.  This is essential!

Your baby’s routine should follow an eat-play-sleep structure.  As your baby gets older, the “play” portion of the routine will get longer and he may need to eat again before the “sleep” part of his day occurs.  Make sure you educate yourself on your baby’s sleep needs (discussed in step 2) so that his routine involves properly timed naps for his age and an early bedtime.  Otherwise you’ll have an overtired baby on your hands, which will make sleep training almost impossible.

Make sure that your baby’s nutritional intake is optimal throughout the day as well.  Nutrition and sleep are directly connected, so poor eating habits can directly cause sleep issues.

5. Pick a sleep training methodology

Now comes the fun part- SLEEP TRAINING!  If your baby’s self-soothing skills are weak (or non-existent!), you need to sleep train.  There are a variety of methods to choose from that can teach your baby how to fall asleep on his own so that he can put himself back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night.

For those parents who want a gentler approach, there’s Kim West’s “Sleep Lady Shuffle”, Tracy Hogg’s “Pick Up/Put Down”, and Elizabeth Pantley’s “Plantley Pull-Off”.

For the parents who are comfortable with a more direct approach, Dr. Ferber’s “Progressive Waiting” approach and Dr. Weissbluth’s “Extinction” are the two most popular.

There is no right or wrong choice of sleep training methodology.  All that matters is that you are 100% consistent!

6. Keep a sleep log

Keeping a log will help you track your baby’s progress so that you can make tweaks to his routine when necessary.

7. Be patient!

Give yourself AT LEAST one weak to implement your plan before making any major changes.  Tossing old sleep habits and creating new ones can take time!  Be patient and consistent.  Just remember that by teaching your baby to sleep, you are investing in your child’s health and well-being!

Need sleep? Download the My Sleeping Baby eBook NOW!








Help! My Child is an Early Riser!

Every parent dreads the thought of starting their day before 6am. Even waking up before 7am can be challenging!

Here’s the not-so-good news: If your baby or child is waking between 6am and 6:30am and is well-rested, you may have to accept this reality. On the other hand, if your child is waking before 6am or is waking up between 6-6:30am but is collapsing from exhaustion by 7:30am, it is essential to step in and teach her how to sleep later.

Thankfully, the cause of early rising is usually easy to point out, making the problem quite fixable! Here are a few common culprits of this dreaded 5am wake-up:

1) Overtiredness

If your child is waking up at the crack of dawn, this often means that a) your child’s bedtime is too late; b) the duration of your child’s nap(s) were not long enough; or c) the amount of time your child is awake between his last nap of the day and bedtime is too long for his age. Quite often, a combination of these factors is causing the early rising.

I know this goes against the common misconception that a later bedtime and shorter naps will lead to a later wake up, but the reality is often the opposite. When a child becomes overtired, their nervous systems produce a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is present in their bodies, it is very common for a child to begin waking up early.

2) Too much light

It is essential to ensure your child’s room is DARK! On a scale of 1-10, if ‘10’ is pitch black, it’s ideal for the room to be an ‘8’. If the sun is beaming through the windows at 5:30am, it could wake up your child. Installing blackout blinds is your best bet to avoid this problem.

3) Hunger

For babies under 8 months who aren’t eating enough solid food, an early morning wake up could be caused by this hunger. Giving your baby a dream feed between 10-11pm, where your baby feeds without fully waking up, can help. Make sure your child is getting all the calories and nutrients he needs during the day!

4) Weak self-soothing skills

If your child isn’t able to fall asleep on his own without any help, he will struggle putting himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Make sure your baby is going to sleep drowsy but completely awake and aware of being put to bed.

5) Medical issues

Sleep Apnea, snoring, GERD, or even a mild cold can affect breathing, which will affect sleep. If you are concerned with your child’s breathing, speak to your pediatrician.

If your child is consistently waking up before 6am, fix the problem as soon as possible! Over time, your child’s early rising could become habitual, which means you will need to spend a lot of time teaching him to fall back to sleep at 5am.  It is very important to treat this pre-dawn wakeup as a night-waking- do NOT get your child up before 6am because you don’t want his body to get used to waking at this time.

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