We all know sleep is important — but as a new mom, do you worry that you’re not getting enough?
Is your baby or toddler regularly waking you up throughout the night?
If so, you’re not alone, and it’s important to take notice.
Not only may you be hindering your level of cognitive function (and in turn, ability to care for your family and yourself), but you may also increase your risk of postpartum depression (PPD).
This is a serious claim, so let’s explore what the research has to say about this connection — and better yet, how you can protect yourself against the symptoms of PPD.
New Mothers Are Exhausted
There have been numerous studies conducted which have focused on new moms and the effects of sleep deprivation. Moms are feeling overwhelmed, tired, and worried — it’s a real concern.
Within one study, it was found that even after 18 weeks, postpartum mothers were registering at medically-significant levels of tiredness. In fact, over 50 percent of these mothers were still experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness four months after giving birth.
Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to some devastating physical and mental effects, including the onset of PPD — which is not only triggered by hormonal and psychological changes, but also fatigue. Combine this with restless nights due to the needs of growing babies and toddlers, and an unfortunate cycle can develop.
The point of this article is to reach out to those who are in need. Those who feel ashamed to seek the help that they deserve. It’s important that we ban together, instead of creating unnecessary stigmas — especially since PPD affects between 6.5% and 12.9% of all childbearing women.
Mothers who struggle with sleep deprivation and PPD understand that the struggle is not only real — it’s frightening. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel — you just need to get yourself on the right path.
The Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and PPD
Before we dive into potential solutions, it’s important that we address what may be going on within your body and mind. After all, understanding what you’re experiencing is half the battle.
Knowledge is power, and if you’re already seeking this type of information, you should be proud of yourself.
So, does PPD cause sleep deprivation — or is it a lack of sleep that causes PPD?
Although there is no simple answer here, specialists believe that poor sleep quality and difficulty falling asleep may be an early warning sign of PPD. After all, those who struggle to sleep can suffer from all kinds of symptoms, including anxiety, weakness, lack of concentration, mood swings, and even hallucinations.
Within another study, published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. The researchers studied women who were 6 to 26 weeks postpartum. It was found that women who were suffering from PPD, not only experienced poorer sleep quality in comparison to women with PPD — but sleep quality also worsened as PPD symptoms became more severe.
Since there are numerous biological and social factors that can exacerbate PPD, your onset will likely not develop overnight. In terms of prolonged sleep deprivation, you will likely experience gradual symptoms — so be mindful of how you feel on a day-to-day basis.
What Can I Do?
If you have any inclination that PPD may be affecting your life, know that you no longer need to feel this way. Beginning with issues surrounding sleep deprivation, it’s critical that you implement some of the following suggestions:
Create a family plan that assists you during nighttime care. Whether that means getting your partner more involved, having your sister stay with you, or visiting with your mom — good sleep hygiene is an important area to begin your recovery. Also, do not nap, exercise, or drink caffeine/alcohol 3-4 hours before bed. Having a family member nearby will also ensure that your symptoms are being properly monitored.
Get outside during the day, helping your body’s internal clock reset. This is especially the case for mothers who have been up every night, exposing themselves to bright lights. Avoid using any technology that emits bright light two hours before heading to bed as well. There may also be a linked between PPD and a vitamin D deficiency, so motivate yourself to spend more time outdoors.
Teach your baby to sleep through the night. How, you ask? Well, in the first few weeks there is not much you can do. That’s when you have to sleep when the baby sleeps. But after that you need to be consistent and maintain a regular routine. Make sure that the daytime hours are packed with lively stimuli, in comparison to nighttime hours, which will focus on a calm, quiet environment. This includes approximately half hour before you put your baby down, when your baby is sleepy but still awake. Gradually encourage your baby to fall asleep on their own, as their natural circadian rhythms begin to develop (around six weeks). If you have a toddler, provide them with a comfort object — their favorite stuffed animal or blanket; helping them fall back asleep on their own. If that doesn’t help, consider getting a baby sleep consultant.
Seek a professional opinion. At this point, if you’re having any doubts, it’s important to speak to a professional. There are plenty of non-medication treatments available, including cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Just remember, although sleep loss is both common and normal after the new arrival of a baby, tackling these problems early on could help reduce your risk of PPD. Allow yourself to feel — it’s okay, not to be okay. It’s what you do next, that will make all the difference.
Admit to yourself that you require some level of support. In doing so, the last thing you should feel is embarrassment or weakness — because asking for help is the bravest thing you can do.
Krista Hillis is a psychology expert at Parenting Pod. She loves writing and explaining complex scientific principles in simple terms that all parents can understand.
It’s been a few years since my oldest daughter’s 4 month sleep regression inspired me to become a sleep consultant (it was a doozy!). My girls are now 2 and 4 ½ years old.
And it’s true… it’s easy to forget what things were like (can I blame it on mom brain?!). So, I asked my husband today if he thought our marriage was negatively affected by our oldest daughter’s lack of sleep. I thought he might say something like, “Hmm, I guess it was a little.” I was surprised when he exclaimed, “OH YEAH! Definitely! I mean, we were in complete survival mode. We weren’t even able to take care of ourselves, nonetheless do something sweet for each other! Remember the fights we had? I slept on the couch for the first year of her life so we could tag team sleep deprivation!”
Well… there you have it friends!
Becoming a parent for the first time, or for the sixth time, changes a marriage. It’s inevitable. Though with the right tools, it doesn’t have to change it for the worst. It takes work for me to really see my spouse (and him to see me) amongst the dirty diapers, snotty noses, cooking meals, exhaustion, etc. But I truly believe in the idea that the best thing I can do for my girls is to love their father (and vice versa). I don’t do it perfectly, that’s for sure. But thank goodness, love doesn’t require perfection. Here is a list of ideas to keep the spark alive and to get your sexy back (just in case you’re anything like me):
Self-Care- This is huge for me. If I’m not filling up my own well, it’s literally impossible for me to fill up others. Being a busy mama, I need to keep things simple. My checklist: Am I drinking enough water? I try to start every morning with 10 ounces of water; before coffee. How am I eating? Am I remembering to also pack healthy snacks for myself when we go out, not just for my girls? Did I shower today? Ha! Sometimes I get so busy, that I make sure that the girls look great, but I leave only a few minutes to take care of myself. I feel like a million bucks when I make myself a priority. How can I get more sleep? And, what days am I going to exercise? If I don’t carve out the time, it tends to get put aside. These basics all help me to feel like the best version of myself, which in turn makes me feel like a sexy mama.
Buy New Clothes- And throw the pregnancy panties away! Ha! After I had my daughters, I camped out in those things. But after a while, it no longer felt good to wear them, and I definitely didn’t feel sexy in them. And honestly, I’m still holding on to 15 extra pounds from pregnancy. Even months after delivery, I had nothing to wear. Squeezing into clothes that were too small definitely didn’t make me feel like a beautiful woman. As I learned to love my body, regardless of a few extra pounds, I realized that I deserve to have clothes that fit.
Use Your Resources- Whatever that means for you! We are members at our local YMCA and they offer free babysitting. We take our girls there for an hour on the weekend and we work out together. Doing something good for our bodies and doing it together feels really awesome. We also use the babysitting at our church so we can hold hands and enjoy a sermon together, without our little ankle biters. Also, have you looked around to see if your area offers Parents Night Out (PNO)? Many YMCAs, local churches, or daycares have a night designated for parents to drop off their kids for a few hours, so they can go do whatever! It’s usually only for a small fee, which is even better.
Sitter Swap- I sitter swap with some of my mama friends, as well as with my sister. For Valentine’s Day this year, I’m watching my sister’s kids in the morning for three hours while she and her husband go on a date. We’ll all break for naptime, and then she’s watching my kids for 3 hours, so I can go out with my hubby. We ALL win! Our company’s founder, Nicole, had a great experience with a sitter swap with her neighbor, where they each had a date out a month. You can read more about her experience here.
Watch a Favorite Show Together- Sometimes, all my husband and I have the energy to do after a long day is to watch a show together. We try to cuddle, to at least connect that way. I don’t think connecting really needs to be complicated. Small steps can make a difference. And don’t tell him I told you, but our favorite show is The Bachelor! Ha! It’s our guilty pleasure.
Date Night with Cards or Board Games- Honestly, this takes effort on our part, because our default is to watch a show when our girls go to bed to unwind. Playing games takes thought! However, when we make the extra effort to start a game of cards, things get fun. We get competitive and it really starts the ball rolling for conversation. Brings us back to our honeymoon when we stayed in the mountains and played games (there was no t.v.) and then other, more fun things can happen from there….
Let It Begin With Me- When I’m tired, I tend to see the worst; in myself, my situation and in others. However, small shifts can change my thinking. When I make an effort to notice the small things my spouse is doing right or the things I love about him, those things tend to grow and it actually makes him want to do more! It can snowball with him finding the things I do “right,” as well. So, I try to remember to keep my eyes peeled for his awesomeness, as opposed to what I think he needs to change.
Find Out What Makes Your Partner Happy, and Do More Of It!- For example, my husband really feels love when I do nice things for him. It would mean a lot more to him if I made him his favorite dinner, than if I tell him 100 times that I love him. It’s the acts of service (learn more about Love Languages here) that makes a difference for him. Me, on the other hand, feel most loved spending quality time with someone. You might find this video funny (and relatable!!!): How to Make A Move: The Holderness Family
Go Out With Friends- Either with kids or without. Spending time with other women helps me remember who I am, beyond wiping hineys and baking chicken nuggets. When I make the time to connect with my girlfriends, I remember that I am so many things, not just a mama. I oftentimes come back feeling more whole (and I usually can’t wait to get my hands on my girls, and my hubby!).
Get the Kids Sleeping Well- Honestly, when we were in the thick of chronic exhaustion, we could barely keep our jobs, let alone enjoy special time together. If sleep deprivation is rocking your marriage (and not in a positive way), make a plan with your partner to make some positive changes in your situation. Even making a plan can feel empowering and instill hope. And if you need help, let us help you! That’s what we’re here for. We’ve been there!
So, those are just a few things that I do to help me “get my sexy back” and reconnect with myself and with my hubby. Everyone needs to find what works for them and their relationship. There’s no one size fits all. However, the important thing is figuring out what you and your partner need to keep the spark alive. And know that parenting ain’t for the weak of heart. It’s hard stuff! But your relationship can flourish even amongst the toughest challenges.
February is the month for love. For those of you who haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in quite some time, then we’re guessing what you might love most right now is MORE SLEEP! That’s why in addition to our personalized sleep consultation packages, we are also giving away FIVE Express Sleep Plans®. Our Express Sleep Plans® have been very popular with families who are seeking baby or toddler sleep help. The Express Sleep Plan® is a customized, step-by-step sleep coaching plan that is available for easy and immediate download.
Here’s How to Enter:
(earn up to three entries)
1. Post a comment below telling us what is the biggest sleep issue you’re currently struggling with.
2. Post a link to an article from our blog that you’ve found helpful in your sleep coaching journey.
3. Tweet about the giveaway and tag us @babysleepsite.
How much do you love your sleep? Get more sleep by entering @babysleepsite’s Love Your Sleep #giveaway and you could win one of 5 Express Sleep Plans! http://bit.ly/2DRhBqH
Get your entry in early for the best chances of winning. Starting Monday, February 12th, we’ll choose a winner each day through Friday, February 16th.
It’s that time of year when everyone sets goals for a brand spanking new year. If you are a newbie to the parenting rodeo, your goals probably include attempting to shower more regularly, climbing out from under a mountain of laundry that never seems to be done, and getting some SLEEP! Sleep makes the world go around. If you can get your little cherubs to get some shut-eye so that you can snag some rest yourself, you are much more likely to actually get to the business of achieving your own goals (gym anyone?).
Sleep is one of the most difficult issues that new parents face, and when you are trying to master a sleep schedule for not one but TWO babies, it can feel like an insurmountable task. Friends. It can be done. It can. You can. Trust yourself. With a little bit of patience and perseverance, you can achieve a sleep schedule. Here are some encouraging tips to help you win at the sleep schedule game.
1. Set the Stage
The first thing you want to do when you are trying to implement a master schedule for your twins is to provide them with an environment that is conducive to sleep. Once you have carved out what you want your ideal daytime and nighttime age-appropriate sleep schedule is, make sure that their sleep zone is helping and not hindering their sleep success. Placing your twins in a comfortably cool space that has soft lighting and white noise will increase the odds that they nod off into peaceful bliss. Appropriate attire will also keep them cozy and relaxed.
It may also be helpful to add some environmental flexibility. Some twins do very well in a synchronized schedule, eating and sleeping together. You may find, even if it is just for certain ages and stages, that some separation may help you in your sleep pursuits. Who knows? Separate nap areas may be the missing link to get over the sleep hump.
2. Play Detective: The Little Things Add Up
Like any area of life, making small changes can have a big impact. Every baby, even a twin, is a unique individual. You are the parent of your sweet ones, and you know them better than anyone else. If you take some time to hone in on what is working or not working for your littles, you will likely to able to make small adjustments that can lead to huge changes. Grab a notebook and a cup of coffee, and jot down some details about your dynamic duo. You will likely notice little corrections that can be made that you never noticed before.
One mom told us that after a few days of close observation, she noticed that one of her cuddle monkeys needed to nap for about 20 to 30 minutes longer than her other one to be fully rested in the afternoon. She then was able to whisk in at the first sign of stirring for Baby A and let Baby B get a few more minutes. This led to a happier wake up for Baby B, and better nighttime sleep because he didn’t start out his evening routine overtired. Having flexibility to stagger schedules worked for her and may be something worth considering for some families.
3. Think Two Steps Ahead
Staying two steps ahead is another key to winning the game. When you are evaluating your schedule, be sure to look at not just the here and now, but the here and ten hours from now. If your twinzies woke up earlier than normal and fussy, you can plan for a course correction later in the day. Perhaps settling into a slightly earlier nap to ensure that they don’t begin nap in the overtired state thereby forfeiting needed sleep and setting you up for a fussy evening. This kind of parenting agility allows you to ride through the bumps in the road and make it to your end goal of good sleep for all.
4. Consistency is Key
Just like with a healthy diet or successful budget, consistency is the key to success. Create a workable routine and try your best to stick with it. Things aren’t always going to be perfect. Life happens. Travel, sickness, and seasonal changes to name a few issues can throw you and your twins off your game. Follow the 80/20 rule (aiming to keep your schedule 80% of the time). If you start everyday with the intention of sticking to your sleep schedule and getting back on course when you are inevitably derailed, you will succeed in the long run. It may feel difficult to get ahead on the sleeping game, but we are confident that with a little effort and patience, you can achieve sleep success.
About the Author Out-of-the-box thinker, Krystal Workman, gets creative under stress…and life with twins happens to be full of it! In order to soothe her crying babies while alone, Krystal invented the first ergonomic twin baby carrier—TwinGo Carrier (www.TwinGoCarrier.com)—to cuddle both her babies at the same time. TwinGo now empowers thousands of parents worldwide to keep their babies close. As former President of one of the largest twins clubs in the USA, Krystal assists new parents with babywearing, breastfeeding, sleep coaching, healthy routines, positive discipline, and couple’s therapy. You can get more twin-related information on the TwinGo Blog.
To help you achieve that great sleep you’re looking for, here are 8 tips you can use to get started on improving your baby or toddler’s sleep, and to ensure that you have a well-rested year ahead!
8 Tips for Better Baby and Toddler Sleep in 2018
Don’t put off sleep training because you think it’s “too early” or “too late”
It’s true that there are ‘ideal windows’ for sleep training (and you can read more about those here). But regardless of how old your baby is and where they are in their sleep development, there is some part of their sleep you can be improving right now.
One great step you can make toward improving sleep is to set realistic, clear goals for your baby’s sleep. If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s very hard to find a path there, and too easy to become overwhelmed. Make sure that your goals are specific – instead of setting a goal like ‘sleep through the night’, try setting one like ‘down from 3 night wakings to 2 within first 10 days.’ Once you achieve that goal, you can find another small step forward until you reach great sleep!
Make A Plan!
If you’re going on a road trip across country, most people make a plan. Some will plan it down to the last detail, including where they will stop for potty breaks, while others will make looser plans. If they make it to a city near their planned stop, they might choose to stop sooner or later, while others will do anything to stick to their plan and stop when and where they planned to stop no matter what. Neither of these types of plans are ‘better’ – they reflect the personality types of the people who made them. So, regardless of your personality type, remember that success usually starts with a plan (even if it’s not super-detailed). Now, as to how to get a sleep plan – we can personalize one for you, you can generate a custom sleep plan here, or if you like to ‘do-it-yourself’, you can access one of our general sleep plan templates and workbooks to get some help creating your own.
Get Support From Your Village
Whether you find a friend who’s going through a similar situation with their child’s sleep, or you have your partner/spouse, a friend on Facebook, your parent, or a Sleep Consultant from our sleepy little village helping you through, one thing that will help you succeed in making a big change in your life is your support network. Holding yourself accountable by “checking in” with someone will help you stick to your plan and work toward your goals. So, try to get your village lined up before you start!
Stop comparing your baby to your friend’s baby
It’s soooo frustrating when your friends around you all have babies who sleep great or did after five minutes of crying or something. Believe me, I know! But try not to believe the many ‘myths’ your friends may tell you about sleeping through the night. And consider that a) not all people define “sleeping well” the same way (some might not mind replacing a pacifier three or four times per night, but you might), b) it doesn’t mean they won’t have different sleep issues later (babies change a lot in the first two years!) and c) all babies have easy and hard things about them (some might struggle with sleep and others with eating, for example).
Make sure to lay the groundwork before you start sleep coaching
There are a few things you should do before you start any kind of sleep training, including catching up on sleep (both you and your baby or toddler should do this) and possibly visiting your doctor. To read the full list and get the best start possible, check out 5 Things To Do Before Sleep Training.
So you set your goals and made your plan…but are you keeping with it? It’s an important point to remember! The number one key to successful sleep training is consistency. You have to give a plan time to work, and you have to faithfully stick to that plan before you’ll ever start to see progress. So don’t throw in the towel after just a few nights – instead, stick with it. If you haven’t seen any meaningful changes in 7-10 days, then consider making changes to your plan then, but not before.
Take that first step
Why is a bullet point about taking the first step the very last thing on our list? Because once you have your plan, taking that first step is often the hardest. Often we build up how terrible sleep training will be in our heads and, more often, it’s worse in our heads than in reality. We’re afraid we’ll be sleep training a tortoise and we’ll feel guilty because our baby won’t sleep and it’s our fault. The first step in solving any problem is usually the most difficult, but it’s also one of the most important.
What are your sleep-related plans for 2018? Any of you planning to sleep train? Feel free to ask questions and share your tips below – we love hearing from you!
It’s hard to believe that the new year is almost here, and we have helped so many families get started on their journey to better sleep. As we close out 2017, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the blog articles that our readers loved most this year!
With in-depth advice on topics ranging from newborn sleep problems; to answers about early rising; to nap fighting; and top toddler sleep problems, these articles (not in any particular order!) were really popular this year. Take a look below – you may just get a new favorite too!
Changing sleep habits are a pretty big deal for most of us, and starting sleep coaching is like starting a new fitness program – it takes commitment, determination and lots of support. Deciding the right time to begin sleep coaching can also be challenging for many parents.
With several sleep regressions in baby’s first year alone, it’s no wonder most parents dread the words! But given that every baby is different and regressions may hit at slightly different ages, it can be confounding to know whether your baby’s sleep changes are due to a regression, phase, growth spurt or any other number of factors.
It’s no secret that naps are often a lot tougher than nights when you’re talking about good, quality sleep. Daytime sleep is a lot different than night sleep and many children need more space to learn to sleep independently for naps.
Most of us know that newborns sleep A LOT! And although some newborns can sleep for longer stretches during the day or night, this is definitely not true for every baby. Our article will help you get a feel for what “normal” newborn sleep looks like, and 6 reasons your newborn may not be getting enough sleep.
For help putting all the pieces of the newborn sleep puzzle together, click here!
Toddler-hood can be an amazing and magical time where your baby is suddenly growing into a little person, full of personality, opinions, and questions. But with all this excitement can also come some downright perplexing sleep problems!
It is no wonder this was one of our most popular articles in 2017. To take a look back at how to handle the 9 most challenging toddler sleep problems, click here now!
One of the questions we hear pretty frequently from moms and dads who have newborns and young infants at home is, “How can I get my baby on some kind of schedule?” The problem is, most babies are not ready for strict, by-the-clock schedules until they are about 6 months old. This often leaves parents of newborns and young babies wondering how they can bring some order and predictability to their babies’ days. Creating what we call “fixed points” in your baby’s day is a gentle way to provide some structure and routine, which in turn can help promote better sleep for your baby. Read more about how to use “fixed points” here.
3. Should Your Baby Nap in the Infant Swing?
Chances are you’ve put your baby in the swing for naps at least a few times. Naps tend to be fussier times of the day for infants, after all, and many parents reach a point at which they’re willing to try anything to make naps easier. Enter the swing! But is this a good idea? Should you let your baby take naps in the swing? That’s the topic we’re tackling in our number 3 article – click here to read our take.
For many families, there comes a time when mom and dad are ready to transition away from co-sleeping, and to move their baby or toddler into a crib (or a bed). But this is one of those ‘easier-said-than-done’ things, isn’t it? Way easier for me to type ‘transition away from co-sleeping’ than it is for you to actually do it! ? Fortunately, we are here to help with this process. In our number one article from 2017, we’re looking at how you can gently transition your baby or toddler away from co-sleeping – click to read!
Get the Healthy and Peaceful Sleep you deserve in 2017, With Help From The Baby Sleep Site®!
Ready to banish your sleep challenges once and for all, and start the new year off rested and refreshed? We can help. Our team of expert sleep consultants is standing by, ready to craft a Personalized Sleep Plan® that’s 100% personalized to fit your baby’s needs and personality, and to match your parenting philosophies and goals.
Most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulty sleeping. Most parents of children with Autism also have sleep challenges. One study showed that parents of children with ASD get less sleep, less quality sleep and wake up earlier than parents of neuro-typical children or children without ASD.
You probably aren’t surprised, which is why you are reading this article in the first place! I’m here to tell you that not only are you not alone. . . you are actually among the majority.
These sleep problems in children most often take the form of difficulty falling asleep at bedtime and difficulty sleeping through the night. I once had a client whose child was so frustrated by his ceiling (the white absence of picture) that he didn’t sleep well (had a lot of trouble falling asleep) until they painted a mural on it. Formally, insomnia is the most common sleep challenge among children with ASD.
No one knows the exact cause of extra sleep difficulties among children diagnosed with ASD. It is likely a combination of being unable to recognize cues that prompt sleep; being over stimulated at sleep times; anxiety related to sleep or the dark; being overly sensitive to noises in the house that you hear when lying quietly in bed but might not otherwise notice much or pay attention to; and research suggests that hormones that promote sleep (such as melatonin) may not be functioning the same way as they do in neuro-typical children.
Also, interestingly, research is also noting the possibility that children with ASD might not need as much sleep as other children. So, in some cases, it’s possible the trouble falling asleep is genuinely not being tired enough.
Not getting enough sleep has consequences. We all know that! When children with ASD aren’t getting enough sleep regularly, there has been shown to be a connection with, and increase in, the following(2):
Increased behavioral problems
Poor learning and cognitive performance
Here is what you can do to improve sleep in your amazing child with ASD:
Provide a comfortable sleep setting. Set the stage for sleep success by making sure the room is a comfortable temperature for their preference and their pajamas are friendly and feel “fine” on their skin (loose fit, snug fit, various textures). Use black-out blinds, and if you use a night light use a dim one with an amber glow that stays on all night. Be sure the laundry detergent fragrance you use to wash the sheets isn’t offending to your child (what pleases your nostrils as “flower fields” might hit your child’s as a smelly bog). Consider the background noise in the house and decide if playing white noise through the night might be helpful.
Establish a consistent relaxing routine. Use visual schedules for younger children if helpful. The routine should be the same every night and the steps of the routine should make sense and flow well together. Many children with ASD thrive on boundaries and structure. Having a consistent bedtime routine is a great way for them to feel empowered. There are no surprises and they know what comes next.
Fix your schedule. Ensure bedtime is being offered at an appropriate time so you can ensure they are tired enough to sleep. Being over-tired and not tired enough can often look the same after all. To ensure the best bedtime, offer it based on the recommended amount of time between nap and bedtime, which is 5-6 hours for children 2 years and older, until your child is no longer napping. For additional information about schedules for babies and toddlers and amount of suggested time between naps, follow me here.
Help your child fall asleep independently. That’s what The Baby Sleep Site® is here to help you do. Everyone wakes up many times throughout the night. Without even knowing it, most people wake briefly to check or sense to see if their sleep environment is “right.” Is my pillow in a good position? Is everything like it should be? When your child with ASD, especially, cannot fall asleep alone, then each time he/she wakes up, it is hard to fall back asleep without whatever it took to help him/her fall asleep in the first place. If your child learns to fall asleep alone, most of the time this translates to them being able to fall back asleep in the middle of the night and therefore being better rested.
Maintain healthy daytime behaviors. Offer naps at needed and appropriate times. Offer meals and snacks at set times through the day. Avoid foods or drinks known to be stimulating at the wrong times (high sugar snacks an hour before you hope your child will be asleep, for example). Expose your child to light upon waking up in the morning to get their brains in “day” mode and attempt to stop making sleep hormones. Offer enough physical activity through the day so that your child will be tired at sleep times. This is an important one since many young children with ASD also deal with hyperactivity. Targeting a healthy dose of physical activity early in the day can help tremendously with your child settling more easily into sleep later.
The fact is, up to 80% of children with Autism have difficulty sleeping. The good news is there are things you can do to help this – and we’re here to help as well.
Let us know about your experiences with getting your child with Autism/ASD to better sleep below!
1. Meltzer LJ. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 2008.
2. Sleep and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Carin Lamm, MD. https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/health-and-wellness/sleep. 10/24/17
3. Autism Research Institute. https://www.autism.com/sleeplessness_main. 10/24/2017
4. Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network / Autism Intervention Research Network
5. Sleep Medicine Review. Sleep problems in autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, nature, & possible biopsychosocial aetiologies. Amanda L. Richdale et. al.
It’s time to teach your old nursery themes new tricks! As classic and time-honored as typical nursery ideas are, it should be a journey to try a few twists on the usual themes. Push the envelope a little without going overboard, and you may come up with an idea that will inspire others and make your first moments with your newborn an adventure all its own until their own gifted personality inevitably springs out and brings with it an exciting and unique change in decoration.
1. Astrology, Western or Eastern
Whether by seasons or by years, children come into the world positioned into an astrological category and animal sign. Whether you put stock in these beliefs or not, an astrological nursery theme signifying a child’s birth position or zodiac is a wonderfully fun way to express their presence in their new world.
Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
The Animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig
A unique tribute to a newborn’s life is to recognize and understand how their birthtime might be celebrated and themed in other corners of the world. Beyond blocks, pastels, and florals lies a unique astrological symbol or animal theme. While a rat-themed nursery might not seem too enticing, a sheep or monkey-themed nursery specific to your child’s birth year could be quite the adorable catch! This is definitely a more creative way to express traditional nursery animals when they are instead tied to the year of birth.
2. Story Themes
It’s impossible to know what kind of stories, figures, and themes a child may grow up to be interested in one day, but Mom and Dad can honor their own childhood fantasies and interests in an engaging nursery theme for their new baby.
The Powerpuff Girls: Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup
Sesame Street: Cookie Monster, Big Bird
Cinderella, Snow White, The Wizard of Oz
Prince Charming, King Arthur, Robin Hood
If a fictional theme doesn’t speak to you, look for inspiration in history! You could create a pilot theme for your baby girl inspired by Amelia Earhart, the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean or an astronomy theme inspired by Katherine Johnson, one of the first African-American females to work for NASA. For a newborn, think of positive figures with true heart and character. Obviously, you needn’t place pictures of figures all over the walls, but a significant figure could inspire a simpler theme like the aforementioned flying and astronomy, and it’s never too early to expose your child to positive role models.
3. Colors as Flavors
Instead of rolling out the traditional pastels in pinks, blues, and yellows, try color themes that spin on flavors! Find inspiration from your favorite Kool-Aid or Jell-O flavors or maybe your favorite candy, like Twizzlers or gummy bears. You already know your favorite flavors and fruits, but here’s a few to spark your creativity:
…Just to name a few. Of course, chocolate goes with just about everything. Try mixing tones by mixing flavors! This option provides a “twist” on the usual pastels inspired by our favorite sweet treats and delights without resorting to a simple color theme.
4. Ocean, Land, Sky, Minerals
Look at the world around you. There are vast oceans, exotic lands, vivid skies painted with stars and planets, and a universe all its own found in the rocks and minerals formed within our own planet. Why not build a nursery that sparks visions of the dreamy world around us? Introduce your baby to the wonders of the world with these special, wordly themes.
Mediterranean Blue Seas
Earthy Sandalwood in the forests of Bali
Cosmic planets/stars like Mercury, Mars, Betelgeuse, or the Big Dipper
Minerals, like gold, silver, jade, ruby, amethyst, onyx, pearl, or sapphire
If your travel dreams have been momentarily delayed due to your new parental duties, take yourself on a trip theming the nursery around a desired vacation spot. Sprinkle stars on the ceiling, install lava lamps and star-shaped night lights, splash a paint galaxy onto the walls. Think of your baby’s birthstone and incorporate those colors into the room. Make the theme exciting for your future world explorer!
5. Old-School Cartoons or Video Games
Remember your favorite cartoons and video games from “back in the day”? Honor your most precious memories and pass them on to the next generation with a cartoon/game nursery theme.
The Jetsons or Flintstones
Bugs Bunny or Road Runner
Mickey & Minnie Mouse
PacMan or Ms. PacMan
Older cartoons and games are distinctive, sentimental opportunities to share your best-loved childhood memories with your newborn. These themes are the toybox where you get to “play” again and welcome your little loved one with what you love in the world. Pass it on! Share the love, and have fun!
McKenzie Brower is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Newton Baby. She writes for a variety of mom and baby blogs and is always keeping track of the latest and greatest trends and products for children and families.
This December, we’ve been spotlighting several Baby Sleep Site® families – families who, just like yours, were struggling through awful sleep deprivation and trying in vain to help their children sleep. You’ll learn why they contacted The Baby Sleep Site®, how our team walked them through the sleep coaching process, and how they finally solved their children’s sleep challenges.
Joanie is a teacher and devoted mom whose daughter was a dream sleeper until she started teething at 7 months. Then their whole routine fell apart and Joanie was so sleep deprived that her husband changed his work schedule so he could let her rest during the day. They were truly in survival mode!
Read on and find out how Joanie was able to help her daughter learn how to sleep on her own again and everyone could get the consolidated sleep they desperately needed.
The Baby Sleep Site: What was sleep like in your home before contacting The Baby Sleep Site? What problems were you struggling with?
Joanie: “Sleep was torture! I dreaded bedtime. Gabriela would take forever to go to sleep. Some nights, up to 90 minutes just to get her in her crib. Then another hour to actually get her to sleep. She would be almost sleeping in my arms, and as soon as I’d lay her down, she’d be wide awake, start running around the crib, and no matter what I did – pat her back, rub her belly, shush her, sing, play music, NOTHING would put her to sleep. I would eventually just take her out and rock her until she was asleep. Which wouldn’t have been so terrible, if she didn’t wake up 3-4 times a night like she did, every night.
Before I reached out for help, I tried to sleep train Gabriela on my own using a mix of methods. I HATED leaving her to cry, so I tried more gentle methods, like pick up/put down, the chair method, anything that would stop her from wailing. Needless to say, anytime I put her down, she’d cry. I thought I was a failure, that I was doing something wrong. So, I’d give up and go back to rocking her till she was fast asleep, and seemingly content. Then I’d pray to God, my grandparents who passed on, my cat that’s long passed, anyone that would listen, that she would sleep through the night.”
The Baby Sleep Site: Had you tried other sleep consulting or sleep coaching tools before contacting us? Had you read baby sleep books, or worked with other sleep consultants? If yes, what was your experience like using other resources?
Joanie: “As a teacher, I am by nature a lover of learning and a seeker of information. I read books, articles, blogs, anything I could get my hands on about sleep. I educated myself about sleep training methods, wake times, sleep associations (which I knew she had but didn’t know how to break), naps, recommended daily sleep requirements, you name it. I was on serious ‘information overload,’ and to the point where I didn’t know what to take from what source. So, I tried a little bit of everything in hopes that something would stick. It was overwhelming, and largely unsuccessful.”
The Baby Sleep Site: What were your main goals in sleep coaching? What did you hope that you and your sleep consultant would be able to accomplish together?
Joanie: “My main goal in sleep coaching was to have Gabriela go down easier, and most importantly, to sleep through the night. When she was an infant, she slept like a dream. When she was 4 weeks old, I would set an alarm to wake up and feed her overnight because I was worried she wasn’t eating enough. I’d do a dream feed and be back in bed 10 minutes later. Then teething happened at 7 months and my once well rested, easy sleeper, turned into a monster, who refused to sleep, EVER! Her night wakings were destroying me both physically and mentally, to the point that my husband switched his work shift, and went from working mornings to late afternoons, so he’d be able to be up with her the 3 or 4 times she’d wake, so I could rest. It was horrible!
I work full-time, and when I was getting home, my husband was leaving. We had no family time together, and I was functioning as a single parent for most of the week, because he was at work and couldn’t help out with her when she was actually awake. When I reached out to The Baby Sleep Site, I was hoping and praying that they could help me make sense of all the information out there, and help me figure out how to help my very strong-willed, determined, active child, unwind and soothe herself to sleep. I am convinced that my daughter has pepper up her butt – she is in perpetual motion All. Day. Long! I hoped that they could guide me in ways to help her sleep through the night without making her cry uncontrollably, for hours on end. I was convinced that Gabriela would scream bloody murder for hours on end if I left the room, so I would never try.”
The Baby Sleep Site: What were your initial impressions of working with your consultant? What did you think of your Personalized Sleep Plan®?
Joanie: “From the start I loved how much time and effort Amy put into designing my Personalized Sleep Plan. She didn’t just say, “do this, do that”, she took the time to explain why I should take these steps and how everything tied together. She included a lot of great examples and even shared some of her own experiences that were similar to ours, which helped in 2 ways: it was great to know that I wasn’t the only one who had these issues, and secondly, it made sense of everything I was experiencing. It was so nice to know that someone else could really understand what was happening, and could relate to my daughter. The sleep plan addressed every concern and every question I had before I knew I had them! The other thing that I loved, was that Amy provided me with options, which I could choose based on my daughter and her needs. My Personalized Sleep Plan is amazing, I read through it once a week to keep the info fresh in my head; it helps to keep us on track, and reminds me of how small things make a big difference, and why schedules are so vital to small children and babies.”
The Baby Sleep Site: Briefly describe what the sleep coaching process was like for you. Was it all smooth sailing? Did you hit any bumps initially? Was there some trial-and-error at first?
Joanie: “When we started sleep coaching, it took some trial and error. I wanted to do a limited cry method because I was absolutely convinced that with a method like check and console, or extinction, that Gabby would cry uncontrollably for hours on end, and vomit everywhere. In the past, letting her cry never went well – after a few minutes she would get so worked up and vomit. I guess when I first tried at around 9 months, she still had an immature gag reflex. Well, the first night, I tried the Chair Method that was suggested by Amy, and Gabby was not having it! She was flipping out with me sitting there and not picking her up, so I decided to just rock her to sleep (it was getting late), and try again the next night.
The Baby Sleep Site: So it sounds like you needed to tweak things to account for Gabriela’s temperament and Amy suggested you try giving her some more space to learn her new skill. How did that go?
Joanie: “When 7 pm the next night rolled around, I was so afraid – my heart was racing, I’m not the biggest fan of vomit to be honest. But, I had to try something. I went through our usual routine, then put her down in the crib, and after 5 minutes of crying I checked in on her. She’d settle, then explode when I left. I kept true to it, going the 2nd time after 10 minutes; same thing as before, when I left, she exploded. The next check-in was set for 15 minutes, but at the 15 minute mark, she began to settle a bit – the crying became less intense, so I decided to wait it out for another 15 minutes to see what would happen. After all, she was crying in spurts – she was quiet for a couple minutes, then start again for a couple, settle, cry, etc. At 27 minutes after the last check, GABRIELA WAS SOUND ASLEEP! I couldn’t believe it. I went to bed that night, expecting to be up around 2 am for the usual settling, but when I rolled over to check the clock, I saw that it was 6:30 in the morning. I woke frantically and checked the movement monitor, and the video, the pendulum was swinging detecting movement, and after about 30 seconds, Gabby’s foot moved. SHE WAS OK, JUST SLEEPING PEACEFULLY! This was the first time in 7 months that she hadn’t woken at night. I was sold at this point.
The next night crying was less intense, and after 20 minutes she settled in. Each night thereafter, the crying got less and less. We had a couple of random nights where the crying would get intense again, but she figured it out and fell asleep. There are in fact many nights, now, where I put her down and she lays around playing with her blankie that she sleeps with, happily until she drifts off to sleep. So after some trial and error, with the support of my sleep consultant, we were able to find a solution that works well for my little tiger.”
The Baby Sleep Site: Please describe where you are today, sleep-wise, vs. where you were before contacting us for help. What progress have you made? What goals have you met? What impact has this progress had on your family?
Joanie: “Where are we today? Well, I’m no longer doing things like putting my brand new iPhone in the washing machine and washing it with my clothes, (yes I did this right before we started sleep coaching, and no, it didn’t survive), so that’s definitely a win for mom. On a serious note though, life has changed dramatically for all of us, including Gabby’s ‘big sister’ Olive Oil, who would panic every night when she’d hear Gabby crying at random times throughout. Going back to work soon, I am beyond grateful that I am able to get a full night’s sleep, as well as gained some much needed ‘me time,’ with the schedule Amy helped me plan. Before sleep coaching, I would be lucky to have her asleep by 8:00 p.m. (that was a ‘good night’) from starting at 6:30 p.m. Most nights it was close to 8:30 p.m. before she was asleep. She was overtired, and cranky, and would refuse to sleep no matter what I tried. She cried, I cried, Olive would pace and hide, it was awful! Once she was asleep, we’d get 4-6 hours of sleep, then be up every 1-2 hours until morning. Naps were no bargain either. It was torture getting her down, and some days she’d sleep for 45 minutes. Night wakings got so bad, that my husband changed his tour so he could be up with her at night, so I could get rest.
Sleep deprivation was horrible on me: my anxiety was through the roof, my patience wore short with everyone, and I was all around miserable. It got a little better when my husband was able to tend to Gabby during middle of the night wakings, but we had no quality family time at all. He’d get home around 1:00 a.m., stay up till around 4:30-5:00 a.m., long enough to put her back down again after the last time she’d wake, then be up at 2:00 p.m. to be at work at 4:00 p.m.. He never got to see Gabby, Olive Oil, or me for that matter.
Today, after almost a month, she is sleeping 11-12 hours at night without waking, she goes down to sleep at around 7:00 p.m., we start our routine at 6:30 p.m. still, and is in her crib by 6:50 p.m. She’ll roll around, play with her blankie and unwind on her own, and after 10-20 minutes, she falls asleep ALONE and HAPPY most nights. There have been a couple stray nights where she’d cry when I left, but that lasted no more than 5 minutes. She even says ‘nite nite’ when I get ready to leave. So as for our goals: she’s been sleeping through the night, going down quickly and happily, and not crying 99% of the time. I’d say this is a win! Due to the great success we are experiencing, my family is getting back to a place we want to be. I’m rested, and can function as a decent mom and wife, my husband is going back to the morning shift and will have more quality time with ‘his favorite girls’ – Gabriela and Olive Oil.”
The Baby Sleep Site: Please share some parting thoughts: what are your overall impressions of your experience with your consultant? Is this a service you think other tired parents would benefit from using? What words of encouragement and inspiration would you share with parents who are struggling with sleep?
Joanie: “All I can say is that Amy is like a magic sleep fairy! She was able to help me do what I never thought possible. I considered sleep consultation quite often in the 7 month period of sleeplessness, but always thought that my daughter would just grow out of it. I see now that was not the case. If you are struggling, ask for help! There is no shame in getting support. Being a parent is no easy task! When it is said that “it takes a village,” there is no doubt about that! Working with a Sleep Consultant changed our lives for the better. At a time when I thought I was destined to be a tired, confused mess who washes her brand new iPhone 6S in the washing machine with her laundry, I never would have thought that with some simple adjustments and guidance from people who really know about this stuff, that my life, my family’s lives, would be completely transformed. If you’re on the fence, take the plunge! There is an end in sight, even if you have a high spirited kid with pepper up her butt like mine! Be patient. Be consistent. You will be so much happier in the end. Wishing you good luck, and boatfuls of happy sleep ahead!”