It’s that time of the year again! Holidays, New Year’s, school is out, and some are even taking vacations and family trips. While it’s great to take a break from the daily routine and get away, with the little ones this often means more work than not. Breaking from their regular routine can cause some hiccups along the way, especially with their sleep. It’s hard to keep to their schedule, but sometimes even the smallest things we can do to maintain normality will help avoid the major regressions and make it a little “easier” to travel.
Below are a few of my recommendations to help avoid major sleep regressions while traveling:
1. Book your travel around nap times: If your baby still naps, try to schedule the flight or drive around his naptime. Ideally he would nap on the go, so he can catch up on some of the day sleep that he needs.
2. Sleep Space: Often times when traveling it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s sleep space, especially when staying at a relative’s house. If possible, bring a travel pack-n-play for your little one so that you don’t start creating a new habit of co-sleeping. If there’s no extra room for your baby, try to set up a sleep space as best as you can. Perhaps a corner, a hallway, or even a breathable walk-in closet with the door open. Try to create the environment that is most conducive to sleeping; like making it dark, no screens/TV’s, and the right temperature.
3. Bring the essentials: Trying to replicate his sleep environment will help with the transition to the new space. Consider packing his crib sheets, a few extra loveys and pacifiers, his white noise machine and if possible, a few of his favorite books and toys.
4. Try to keep to the schedule with a little flexibility: Keeping to your child’s schedule and routine while being on vacation is hard, especially now with the holidays. We tend to be up later, have more family gatherings and meals; we’re even out sightseeing the whole day. You can still try to keep to his feeding and nap schedule as best as you can in order to avoid major tantrums. If there’s no time change, it should be easier to stop for a quick lunch when he needs it, or when it’s nap time, perhaps take him for a stroll in the car/stroller if you aren’t home. Ideally, the more naps you can offer your child in his crib, the better, as this will allow for longer/deeper sleep. If you know you’ll be out all day, try to squeeze in his morning nap at home before you go out. If his naps were short and on the go during the day, try to come home for an earlier bedtime.
5. Give some time to acclimate to new sleep space: When arriving to your new location, try to give your child some time to get used to the new space. Perhaps take out some toys and books, and allow your child to crawl/walk around the room, play, and familiarize himself so that when bedtime comes around, he’s already used to the new environment.
Try to enjoy this time with your loved ones as best as you can. Travel and change will always cause some regression, but nothing that can’t be fixed once home. Try to stick to the tips mentioned above, and when you’re back home, more importantly, make sure to go back to your regular sleep habits.
Watching your child wake in the middle of the night screaming and crying from a nightmare is hard to do. We want to be able to calm our child down and reassure them that everything’s OK. But often times, what your child may be experiencing isn’t a nightmare, but a night terror. Many of my Clients confuse night terrors and nightmares, and then in turn don’t know how to respond and avoid them from happening again. It’s important to know what causes a nightmare and night terror, and how to respond to your child for each scenario.
Nightmares occur when your child is dreaming in REM sleep, which happens at the end of the sleep cycle. These often start happening between the ages of 2-5 when their imagination starts growing, and they are learning the difference between what’s real and what’s not. When your child is having a nightmare they will call for you, and seek for your comfort. They will be awake and able to communicate what is bothering them, and the following morning they can continue expressing their feelings about what happened the night before. It may take some time to comfort them in the middle of the night, but eventually with some reassurance they will calm down. Nightmares are very common and are apart of a child’s development. Of course, nightmares are more common after a scary situation or if your child has recently gone through a tough situation.
Make sure to:
Avoid TV and screens 1 hour before bedtime.
Avoid scary shows, videos, games, and books.
Respond to your child when she’s having a nightmare, quickly and reassure her.
Have your child get enough sleep, as being overtired can increase nightmares.
Unlike nightmares, when your child is experiencing a night terror she will not be aware or conscious of it, nor will she remember it the next day. Night terrors occur during NON-REM sleep (coming out of the deep part of sleep), usually within 2 hours of her falling asleep. Night terrors are NOT nightmares; they are not bad dreams and do not occur during the “dream part of sleep.” It is mainly your child getting “stuck” transitioning from one sleep cycle to the next. Night terrors also sometimes occur during a developmental leap. They are more common in boys, and occur in 5% of all children.
Here your child will also scream or cry out and appear a little anxious. However in this case, your child is often inconsolable. Whatever you try to do to calm your child down just doesn’t work; she doesn’t seem to be responding to your voice or hugs. A night terror usually doesn’t last more than about 15 minutes. The good thing is your child will not remember this the next morning. Ideally, since your child isn’t really awake, you are to leave your child be and let her transition to the next sleep cycle on her own. Often interfering can cause more harm, so just monitor her from afar making sure she’s safe through the episode and not getting hurt (i.e. falling out of bed).
Make sure to:
Keep your child on a regular sleep schedule, as lack of sleep can cause night terrors.
Allow for an earlier bedtime (even if by only 30 minutes) so your child can catch up on sleep.
Avoid screens 1 hour before bedtime.
If your child is having consistent night terrors, keep a log to see if there’s a pattern.
If there’s a pattern to your child’s night terrors (always happening at the same time each night), you can wake her briefly 15 minutes before the time of night terror, in order to help her transition to the sleep cycle without experiencing a night terror.
As you can see night terrors and nightmares are very different, and require different responses. It’s important to understand the difference and be able to identify them in your children.
This summer the time came for my third, and last child to drop his nap. Dropping the nap is always the hardest for the child and the parent. This was the time I would do phone calls, work, clean up the house, or even just take a break and eat a meal and shower. The truth is once my eldest dropped his nap almost 6 years ago, it’s never been the same, you’re “on” the whole day! But somehow this time around, I guess I was more resistant, maybe cause he’s #babyj.
The decision came two-fold; he’s over the age of 3, and he’ll be starting full day school now in August. Unfortunately, our school doesn’t allow for naps at this age, so it was time to remove. Also, I started to see the signs that he was sorta ready; not wanting to go to sleep (but eventually did fall asleep much later), and bedtime started getting later and later.
So how do you know when your child is ready to drop the nap?
1. He is between the ages of 3-4 years old.
2. He is fighting the nap.
3. Taking longer and longer to fall asleep, which leads to a later naptime.
4. Completely refuses the nap all together – even after leaving him in the crib for a full hour.
5. Bedtime has now become an issue, where he is not ready to sleep and/or falling asleep much later and later (because nap started too late).
How do you remove the nap?
· Don’t go cold turkey: It’s very hard for your child to go from nap to no nap. Going 12 hour days can become exhausting and they will need a nap every so often to catch up.
· Shorten nap: If your child is falling asleep, just doing it later, make sure to cut the nap short. Don’t allow your child to take a 2-hour nap starting at 2:00 as that will definitely push bedtime much later. Wake him up after 45 minutes.
· Catch up naps: Offer a nap every other day so that your child can catch up on sleep. The full days can affect your child’s mood and they will get too tired and cranky. A nap every so often will help him feel rested.
· Quiet time replaces nap: If your child is no longer napping at all, he will still need some downtime. Have your child lay in his crib/bed for some quiet time every day. He can read books or play quietly (with legos, coloring books, or any calm activity), but the idea is that he is alone, in a quiet, non-stimulating space. TV and Ipad’s are not suggested. Quiet time doesn’t need to last a full hour, but even if it’s a few minutes (15-30 a day) it can really help him.
· Move bedtime earlier: When your toddler was napping, bedtime was probably closer to 8:00 p.m. or so. Now that he will no longer be napping, you will find that the afternoons will a little bit of a struggle. Do your best to get the evening routine done a little sooner and have him in bed earlier. By early I mean, anywhere between 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Once your child is used to being awake the whole day, and is a little older, you can then adjust bedtime to later.
Remember: Removing the nap so he “can sleep longer and better at night” is FALSE. This can actually create the opposite effect. Also, make sure your child is completely refusing and showing signs of dropping his nap for about 1-2 weeks before you remove it completely.
This is the most common question you will get as the parent of a newborn baby: Does your child sleep through the night? It's not about her favorite toy or whether she likes to take a bath. The first thing on people's minds is whether she sleeps.
We all know that sleep is important for our health. But it’s also important for our being. We can’t be our best selves when we lack sleep. Our relationships with our spouses, with friends, and even with our own kids are compromised when we don’t sleep enough.
The problem is that our babies aren’t born sleeping through the night for 12 hours straight. As newborns, they just can’t sleep for long stretches. And that means our sleep will be broken up too.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to last very long. Once your baby is of “sleep training age” you can work on getting her sleeping better. But how? What does that mean? When? With all these questions we turn to books, internet (be careful with what you read!), friends, pediatricians and then before we know it our heads are spinning because we’ve had so many different opinions thrown at us.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Your child might not be ready. Every child is different, and we can’t expect them all to develop exactly the same way; so too with sleep. Still, there are some guidelines for when you can expect to start sleep training. Anything younger than 4 months is a definite no, and anything after 6 months is a go! Between 4 and 6 months, some parents will find positive results in sleep training their child, but not all.
2. You don’t have to stop breastfeeding to do sleep training. Many nursing moms feel that they will have to give up nursing in order to get their child sleeping longer and better. This is not true. Speaking as a mom of 3 who nursed all while still doing sleep training, it is possible! You can definitely nurse as long as you want, while doing sleep training. What we work on is removing the nursing to sleep association.
3. Is my only option to do the “Cry It Out” method? No. You do not have to do this method. What you do need to know is that your child will cry for at least part of the learning process. But you do not need to leave her crying by herself the whole night with no response from you. Instead, you can be in the room to comfort your child, while removing all sleep crutches and helping her learn how to put herself to sleep.
4. So, what does sleep training involve? When you sleep train your child, you are having her learn how to put herself to sleep at the onset of sleep, so she can do it again--by herself--in the middle of the night. The key is putting her down awake in her crib, and responding consistently throughout the process. If she’s already asleep when she is put down in her crib, she will not have the opportunity to learn how to put herself to sleep. And if you start responding inconsistently (leaving her to cry one time, then later picking her up, and then feeding her, etc.) this will only confuse her more and will result in inconsistent sleep behavior on her part as well.
5. What if my child still needs to feed at night? You can still improve her sleep! It is commonly recommended to remove all night feeds starting at the age of 6 months; however, there are parents that aren’t ready to do that, and sometimes a pediatrician might recommend keeping them. That’s OK! You can still have your child sleep longer stretches, and feed when needed.
So what’s my next step?
Rule out any medical concerns, and get your pediatrician’s approval.
Make sure your child is over the age of 19 weeks (adjusted age).
Contact me to set up your consultation and we can begin the process!
Here’s to more sleeping babies (and parents!)
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