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Has your once great sleeper suddenly started screaming at bedtime, waking up at night, or fighting naps? Your baby or child may be going through a sleep regression. Sleep regressions are common and normal. All babies and children go through them. The key to decoding sleep regressions is:

  • Uncovering what is causing the sleep regression- Is it illness or pain, a developmental change, or a mismatch in expectations?
  • Addressing the need- Does your baby or child need medical care, a change in daytime parenting, or an adjustment to her schedule?
  • Preventing new problems- Is how you are responding to your baby or child creating new sleep habits or associations that you can’t sustain long-term?
  • Implementing a back-to-bed plan- Do you have a plan to get back to your usual sleep expectations?

In this blog I will cover some of the top causes of sleep regressions for babies, toddlers, and young children. Links to more detailed blog posts on common regressions by age and how to address them will be added to this post over time. So more to come!

#1 Illness

If your child has a sudden change in change in sleep behavior, especially if it is coupled with pain-like crying, moaning, or clinginess, the first thing you should check for is illness. Obviously fever is a sure sign of illness, but not all illness comes with fever. You might need to be a detective!

#2 Allergies

Seasonal allergies can cause difficulty breathing which can lead to confusional arousals when your baby or child is half asleep, crying, but difficult to settle. They can also lead to snoring and sleep apnea, which should definitely be addressed by a medical professional. Food allergies, especially milk protein allergy, can cause pain when sleeping. Eczema is also a common cause of sleep regressions.

#3 Physical developments

Learning to roll, sit, stand, crawl, and walk can all cause temporary sleep regressions including taking longer to fall asleep and waking more at night. Some research suggests that when your baby’s sleep is impacted (before, during, or after mastering the skill) and for how long, might be related to whether your baby mastered the skill early or late.

#4 Cognitive bursts

Each mental leap a baby and young child makes toward greater awareness and independence often comes with a sense of insecurity. This unease can lead to separation anxiety, more difficulty separating for sleep, and the need for more reassurance at night.

#5 Travel

Newborns and young babies can sleep just about anywhere. But sleeping in a new and foreign space can be difficult for babies once they are old enough to be aware, and potentially wary, of their surroundings. While some babies and children adjust well and can stick to the normal sleep expectations, others need more support falling asleep when traveling. This can lead to difficulty settling back into the normal routine once you get home. [Learn how to prevent travel problems.]

#6 Changes in sleep needs

Babies, toddlers, and big kids’ sleep needs change often and drastically over the first 5 years of life. If you don’t adapt your baby or child’s sleep schedule to accommodate his changing needs, you may see difficulty falling asleep or night wakings. What looks like a sleep regression, may actually be a mismatch in sleep expectations that can be resolved when you adjust his schedule.  [Learn how to get your baby on a schedule.]

#7 Overtiredness

Having chronic sleep debt raises your baby or child’s adrenaline and cortisol. This makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. These sleep difficulties can look a lot like a sleep regression, but without allowing your baby or child to catch up on sleep, things just get worse, not better.

#8 Potty Training

Potty training can cause sleep regressions in two ways. First, potty training makes your toddler more aware of the sensation of needing to use the bathroom. This awareness alone can cause more night wakings. Second, parents make getting to the bathroom before an accident happens a priority. Your toddler learns quickly that if he calls for you, you’ll come running, day or night! This means the increase in waking can turn into more drama.

#9 Switching to a Big Kid Bed

A big kid bed comes with the freedom of mobility and your toddler or preschooler doesn’t have the self-control to stay put. He swings his legs over the side and is running down the hall. Pushing limits to see how much he can get away with isn’t manipulative, it’s his job! Without the feelings of safety that comes with the confinement of the crib sides, he may also feel uneasy in his new sleep space which leads to more bedtime stalling and night wakings. [Learn tips for switching to a big kid bed.]

#10 Family stress or change

Any big life changes such as starting daycare, the birth of a new sibling, parents’ divorce, or moving homes can result in changes in sleep. That’s not to say you need to protect your baby or child from all change. Change is part of life and short term stress, in a loving home, can help, rather than hinder, resiliency.

What about teething?

Teething takes the blame for a lot of sleep problems! The research on how much teething affects sleep is conflicting. Most sleep experts agree that while many parents claim sleep problems started when their baby started teething, the sleep problem likely existed before teething began.  Teething just brought parents’ attention to it. But I’m listing it here because I hear it so often!

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (You’ll need it!)

Many parents deny that their baby is going through a sleep regression for weeks, until it creates new sleep habits that are tough to undo. The sooner you recognize sleep regressions and their cause, the sooner you can make sure it doesn’t turn into a problem.

Here is my philosophy around changes in sleep:

  • 1st night is a FLUKE: Everyone has a bad night now and then, even babies and kids. Don’t stress it!
  • 2nd night is a coincidence: Now is the time to watch out for causes of a sleep regression.
  • 3rd night makes a pattern: Now you need to address the cause so you can get back on track with a back–to-bed plan.

Getting Back-to-Bed with Empathy, Respect and Resolve

Once the cause is addressed, true sleep regressions usually don’t last very long. When a sleep regression lasts weeks or months, it’s likely not a sleep regression anymore, but a new sleep association that was caused by how you responded initially. The key to getting through a sleep regression without causing long-term sleep problems is to address and attend to the cause quickly and then get back to your usual sleep expectations or sleep rules. The longer and more inconsistently you change up how you respond to your baby or child at night, the more likely you will create a new sleep association.

Help for Tired Families Starts Here

Addressing a sleep regression can be exhausting. If you are struggling, I can help you with creating a plan and sticking with it. The Full Consult with Follow-Up provides the most support but the Ask the Sleep Geek consult can be a good choice for you if you just need some help with creating a plan. Both packages can be customized to meet your family’s individual needs.

 

The post Top 10 Causes of Sleep Regressions appeared first on The Baby Sleep Geek.

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Sometimes hearing about someone else’s success is the motivation you need to make a change for your family. In this Spotlight on a Graduate post, Megan, mom to Alden (5 months) and Finn (2.5 years) shares her experience with The Baby Sleep Geek.

  1. What made you decide to reach out to Jessica?

After our first child who was a terrible sleeper, we thought we hit the jackpot with our newborn who started sleeping 8-10 hour stretches at night at 2 months old. Then, we were rudely awakened by the reality of the 4 month sleep regression. Almost overnight, our son became difficult to put down at bedtime, woke every 1-2 hours throughout the night, and would only go back down by breastfeeding to sleep. He would also only nap in the rock-n-play if we wanted to get more than 5-10 minutes out of him. He was a tired, hot mess all the time…we all were.

  1. What sleep challenges were you having prior to your consult and follow-up?

We contacted Jessica, whom we had previously consulted with when our older son was still struggling with multiple nighttime wakenings at 10 months old, for a plan to help us develop healthy sleep habits for our 4 month old. Our goal was to transition back away from multiple nighttime wakenings and limit overnight feedings to just those he required developmentally. We were also eager to establish a better nap routine, including safe sleep practices, before he started daycare.

  1. How has your child’s sleep improved as a result of your consult and follow up?

We are so proud of how far Alden has come in the two weeks since we started working with Jess. He rarely takes more than a couple of minutes to fall asleep for naps or at bedtime, he’s napping beautifully (he’s often napping 1-2 hours for two of his daily naps), when he does wake up especially early from a nap he’ll often put himself right back to sleep, he’s sleeping well at night with 1-2 efficient feedings after which he usually goes back down quickly. Starting daycare hardly seemed to faze him and he continues to nap well in that environment…all of this without the rock-n-play, swaddle or pacifier!

  1. What did you like best about working with Jessica?

When it comes to children and sleep, everyone (and their mother) has an opinion. Go to the internet and you’ll soon be overwhelmed by a thousand other opinions from lay people and “experts” alike who all, somehow, provide conflicting advice. Turning to Jessica for a clear, consistent, evidence-based plan was the best option for our family. We trusted her from our previous experience and knew we could, together, develop a plan with which we were comfortable, that everyone involved in Alden’s care could follow, and that would hopefully yield positive results. There are so many things we love about working with Jessica. At the initial consult, she listens to your situation and determines your individual goals for your child. It’s not a cookie cutter approach. She also provides realistic expectations from the get go, she shared with us immediately that “sleep training” a 4 month old might or might not be met with absolute success. Her daily comments tracking our progress were phenomenally helpful in providing reassurance, reminders of successes, and advice on how to make modifications for further improvement. She’s a real mom who’s been there and is so great about providing feedback without judgement.

  1. What would you tell parents who are hesitant to address their child’s sleep problems?

Our experience with the Baby Sleep Geek has been so positive, that we’re singing her praises to all our friends with babies and small kids. The term “sleep training” comes with some stigma in certain circles, but Jess is wonderful about explaining that in working towards our individual sleep goals, we’re not about to abandon and emotionally traumatize our kids. Rather, we’re doing them a great service by teaching them the skills they need to develop healthy sleep habits that will allow the whole family to be more fully rested, happy and healthy. That being said, we were confident from the beginning that she’d work within our comfort zone. Trust her! Our only other advice is to make sure you’re in a place to fully commit to the hard work involved, while it may not be easy it will be worth it!

Wish your baby or child was sleeping this well? Learn more about the Full Consult and sign up soon!

The post Spotlight on a Graduate: Megan & Baby Alden appeared first on The Baby Sleep Geek.

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Sleep consulting is a booming industry. As the number of practicing sleep consultants grows, so do your options. It may seem daunting to find the best sleep consultant to help your baby or young child sleep. As tempting as it is to go with the first sleep consultant that comes up in a Google search, fully vetting your options is your best bet for finding a perfect fit.  

While most sleep consultants share background information on their websites, a phone interview allows for a more rich dialogue. It also allows the sleep consultant to assess if she is able to meet your needs. Most sleep consultants will offer this at no cost.  

Here are some things you may want to consider:

Have they completed a certification program?
While there are currently no accrediting bodies for sleep consulting (such as the IBLCL for lactation consultants or the ICHWC for health coaches), there are a handful of robust training programs internationally. By selecting a sleep consultant who has gone through a certification program such as the Family Sleep Institute, you’ll ensure they are knowledgeable in evidence-based methods rather than just relying on their own personal approach.

What formal education do they have?
It’s certainly not necessary to have a higher education to be a good sleep consultant but there are many related fields that add value to a sleep consultant’s practice including:

  • Public health
  • Maternal and child health
  • Family studies
  • Child development
  • Nursing
  • Social work
  • Health behavior and education

Do they have training and experience to meet my family’s unique needs?
While sleep consultants can’t diagnose or treat medical conditions, those with specialized training can customize their approach within their scope of practice. If your family has any of these unique needs, consider a sleep consultant with additional training:

  • Breastfeeding (lactation experts)
  • Sensory disorders (occupational therapists) 
  • Co-parenting challenges (marriage and family counselors)
  • Anxiety or depression (mental health counselors)
  • Limit setting and parenting concerns (parent educators)
  • Nutrition concerns (nutritionists)
  • Neurological disorders like autism, ADHD (behavioral pediatricians)
  • General health and well being (health coaches)

What is their professional philosophy on sleep?
Each sleep consultant has a professional philosophy on sleep that guides their practice. This may or may not be the same as their personal philosophy or how they address sleep in their own family. That’s OK as long as their professional philosophy is unbiased, non-judgmental, and supportive of your parenting approach.

What sleep training methods do they support?
Many sleep consultant certifications include a wide-range of approaches, while others limit to one narrow approach. The benefit of using a sleep consultant that has been trained in a variety of methods is that it allows a weaving of approaches to best meet your family’s needs. It also allows the sleep consultant to adjust the approach over time based on results.  

The bottom line: Does it “feel right”?

You’re probably not going to be 100% comfortable with any sleep training approach. If you were you wouldn’t be looking for a sleep consultant, right? The sleep consultant’s role is to guide and support as you step outside your comfort zone. In order to do this well, there must be two-way communication with honesty and respect. If it doesn’t feel like you can have this type of relationship,  trust your gut and keep looking!

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Transitioning to a bed too early can turn a once great sleeper into a frequent bedside visitor.  A toddler climbing out of his crib, certainly means he will climb out of his bed! Climbing out of the crib doesn’t mean you have to immediately switch to a big kid bed. Before switching, focus on setting the expectation that your child needs to stay in the crib.  This way the expectation can be carried over to the bed when you switch at the right time.

Here are some strategies to keep your toddler in their crib as long as possible.

  • If your crib has a higher back, try turning the crib around. Your toddler will not be able to get his or her leg up high enough to swing it over the rail.
  • See if you can lower the mattress down to the floor without creating a gap in between the crib and mattress. That may give you the extra height to keep your toddler from climbing over. If there is a gap large enough for you to get a body part wedged in, don’t do this!
  • If your crib doesn’t have a high back and you can’t lower the mattress further, you can put a sleep sack on your toddler so that he can’t lift his leg high enough over the rail. If you turn it around backwards, he can’t unzip it.
  • Nip it by setting limits. Watch your toddler in a video monitor and when you see him trying to escape, gently but firmly remind him of the rule of staying in his crib. It might take 20 times the first night, but many toddlers learn that trying to escape isn’t worth the effort.

When should I make the switch?
There is no right or wrong time to switch to a big kid bed, but there are definitely some things to consider:

  • If you’ve tried the strategies listed above to keep your toddler in his crib as long as possible and it’s just not working, you’re going to need to make the switch. You can’t expect your toddler to sleep independently if he can’t get back into his crib after he’s jumped out. You are then stuck putting him back in which can create both a night waking problem and power struggles. In this case, you’ll just need to bite the bullet and make the switch.
  • If you’re transitioning your toddler to a big kid bed because you are having a new baby, you want to time the switch carefully so that the toddler doesn’t feel displaced by the newborn. Either switch your toddler to a big kid bed at least a few months in advance so that he is adjusted before the baby comes. Or, plan to keep your newborn in a bassinet for at least a few months to allow your toddler to adjust to being a sibling before you transition him to a big kid bed. Then, allow a little time to pass between making the switch and putting your newborn in the crib.
  • If your toddler is young or small, he may not be able to get in and out of a regular sized bed himself. Again, in order to maintain independent sleep, he needs to be able to get into his sleep space himself. You can use a toddler bed or you can simply place a mattress on the floor.

How do I prepare for the big move?
Your goal is to create an intrinsic desire to sleep well in their new space. Try a family meeting:

  • Discuss what the family rules are for bedtime such as “eyes closed, mouth quiet, stay in bed.” You can make a poster of these rules with drawings or even take pictures of your toddler acting out the rules.
  • Create a haven. Let your toddler pick our new bed linens or a new stuffed animal to bring to bed with him. This is a big milestone and should be celebrated!
  • Turn the whole bedroom into a safe, crib-like space. Remove anything that might be hazardous, secure furniture, and put away any distracting toys.

How can I make sure we stay on track?
Toddlers have limited self-control to stay in their beds so their grown-ups need to help them out:

  • Ax curtain calls. Many toddlers don’t even realize they can get out of bed on their own until that one day they drop their stuffed animal, swing their leg over, and think “I AM FREE”! When this happens, review the rules, and if you need to, silently return your child back to bed as many times as it takes.
  • Use a “tot clock” or “ok to wake” clock. A learning clock is a great tool for letting older toddlers know when it is OK to leave their bed. This type of clock turns green or has another visual cue at a specific time set by the parents. My favorite, the “OK to Wake” by Anaroo also has a nap timer which can be useful to enforce rest time in older children who don’t need a nap but benefit from some downtime.
  • Put a gate in the door. It’s not meant to be punitive, but to keep your child safe from roaming the house. You can even decorate it with markers or stickers. I had a client whose little boy put soccer ball stickers on it and called it his goal!

If you need help with any of these strategies, or are just not seeing success, a little support from one of our sleep consultants can help get you one track!

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I probably shouldn’t admit this but I didn’t realize the time change was coming until a client asked me what she should do about the clocks on Saturday night! When I first started as a sleep consultant I would advise parents to adjust their child’s schedule ahead of the time change. But now I realize that by adjusting ahead, you can actually make it harder on yourself and your child! So for those of you like me who didn’t remember the time change was coming up, don’t stress it! Here are some tips to make the adjustment easier on your family:

Wait until after the time change: I actually recommend adjusting your child after the time changes. The reason for this is that it is easier for a child to shift their schedule when their social cues, like meal times and daycare start time, are also shifted. It is more difficult for parents to shift these cues ahead of time. These social cues help your body to adapt to this shift by their impact on exposure to light—one of the most influential contributors to your body clock.

Follow your child’s cues as you adjust his schedule: The spring time change is generally considered the easier of the two time changes because your child will sleep in later, and who doesn’t love that!? But some children are more sensitive to change than others. Most children take at least a few days to a week to adjust. If you push your child too fast he will end up overtired, so follow your child’s lead. As you shift your child’s sleep time, be sure to also shift meal times.

Bed time: The biggest hurdle is that your child may not feel ready for bed when you want to put him down on the first night after the change. Follow your child’s lead. If he seems tired at his normal bedtime of 7:00 PM (which will only feel like 6:00 PM), roll with it and put him to bed then. But if he’s not ready yet, it is OK to adjust more slowly. Try shifting his schedule by 15 minutes every day or two.

 Morning Wake Up: Your child may want to sleep in later. (If you have an early riser, this might be a good thing for you!) Try to wake your child at the new normal time. This will help your child adjust more quickly. But again, if your child is sensitive, you may need to adjust the wake up time by 15 minutes every day or two. Your goal is to get back to the same amount of night sleep you had before the time change.

Naps: Naps are driven by both sleep pressure and circadian rhythm. If you have a young baby, naps should adjust on their own through this transition period because their sleep pressure builds quickly. If you have a toddler or preschooler, follow the same advice above, trying to get as close to the new nap time as possible, but adjusting for your child’s sleep needs.

Use natural light to your advantage: Our circadian rhythm is driven by light and darkness. With this time change it is going to stay darker later in the morning. As soon as possible, expose your child to natural light after waking. This will cue her body that it is time for her to start her day. Because it will stay light later in the evening, I suggest using black out shades so your child’s body thinks it is dark. This will signal her body that it is time to sleep. You can also dim the lights about an hour before bed signaling to your baby that the time to sleep is approaching.

Don’t stress! Even if you do nothing, your child will naturally adapt to the new time because of social cues and the power of light and dark. Sometimes over thinking it can make it harder on everybody!

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Ahhh the holidays; filled with love, joy and cranky overtired kids! With all the parties, school performances, caroling, shopping and baking it’s a wonder we get any sleep at all.  But I promise you, the better rested you keep your family the more enjoyable your holidays will be. Here are a few ways your baby or young child’s sleep can be thrown off this holiday season and how you can prevent it.

Your child’s sleep schedule is thrown off.
Yup, all those fun events cause kids to stay up late and then sleep in later than usual. They can also throw off your napping schedule.  I suggest trying to stick with the hour rule when possible: try and put your child to bed within an hour of their normal bedtime or naptime and then wake them within an hour of their normal wake time.  This will help them stay on schedule and feel better rested.  Now, you might have a night or two that you can’t follow the hour rule.  Just get them to bed as soon as possible and try to make the next day a quiet one!

Screen time too close to bed.
I have fond memories of curling up on the couch with my family, eating popcorn and watching holiday specials.  It is one of the joys of the holidays!   Around this time of the year we also find kids spending more time on electronics in the evening while we socialize with friends and family.  The blue light emitted from these electronics trick their brain into thinking it is daytime and delays the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Your best bet is to watch that holiday special early in the evening and make sure your kids turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bed.

Sugar!
All those cookies, candies and special drinks can wreak havoc on your kid’s sleep, especially if you have a younger child new to sweets!  If you are going to have a special treat or sugary drink, try having it earlier in the day so the effects have worn off by bedtime.  The other benefit to indulging earlier is that you don’t have an uncomfortably stuffed tummy at bedtime.

Not allowing time to wind down before bed.
A quiet bedtime routine helps children prepare mentally and physically for sleep but with parties and evening activities, we often hastily send our kids to bed without giving them enough time to wind down. If you are visiting family or have company, try to sneak away with your child 15 – 20 minutes before bed time.  If you can’t perform your usual routine, try having some quiet time reading books or simply snuggling in bed for a few minutes.  Make sure to dim the lights so your child’s body knows nighttime is approaching.

Early weaning or lowered milk supply.
It’s not uncommon for you (or even your baby) to become distracted by the hustle and bustle of holiday activity to the point that you might start pushing your nursing sessions further apart or even skip one or two. You might depend more on pumped milk as you leave baby home with a baby sitter to shop or attend parties, but then struggle with keeping up with pumping. This can lead to early weaning-often called holiday weaning-or a lowered milk supply. It can also lead to more frequent night wakings as your baby attempts to supplement the missing daytime feedings with night feedings. Be mindful of your baby’s nursing needs—wear your baby or be comfortable saying no to parties where a baby may not be welcome.

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Newborns and babies under 6 months old can wake multiple times a night for feedings and these feedings might be biologically necessary. This can be exhausting for a new mom. Just as you settle yourself down for bed, your young baby is awake, hungry, and calling for you. But there is something you can do to help: a dream feed.

What is a dream feed? 

A dream feed is a feeding that the parent initiates and is done while your baby is in light sleep. You can breast or bottle feed during a dream feed-either works!

Why do a dream feed?
There are 4 major benefits of dream feeds:

  • To align your baby’s longest stretch of sleep with your first chunk of sleep
  • To ensure your baby is getting enough calories, without risking a sleep association
  • To maintain your breastmilk supply, without extra pumping
  • Eliminate the guesswork of night wakings

Let’s look at each of these benefits……

Align your baby’s sleep with your own sleep
One goal of a dream feed is to line your baby’s longer stretch of sleep up with your first stretch of sleep. Most babies have one longer stretch of sleep, most often in the first half of the night, waking just as moms are settling into a nice stretch of sleep themselves! Using a dream feed can get you a longer stretch of sleep if your baby has one or even two night feedings.

Example for a baby with more than one night feeding:

  • Without a dream feed: Your baby goes down for bedtime at 7:00 pm and begins her long stretch of 5 hours. You go to bed at 10:00 pm but your baby wakes for a feeding at Midnight. Your sleep is cut off after only 2 hours!
  • With a dream feed: Your baby goes down for bedtime at 7:00 pm. You do a dream feed at 10:00 pm just before you go to bed. Your baby begins her long stretch of 5 hours and wakes at 3:00 am. Now you’ve gotten closer to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep!

For babies who are sleeping in much longer stretches of 8 or 9 hours, this might even mean that your baby sleeps through until morning:

  • Without a dream feed: Your baby goes to bed at 7:00 pm and begins her long stretch of 8 hours. You go to bed at 10:00 pm and your baby wakes you for a feeding at 3:00 am. This early morning waking happens to be right in the middle of an adult’s deepest sleep! (You know this because it’s hard to wake up and even harder to fall back to sleep afterwards.)
  • With a dream feed: Your baby goes to bed at 7:00 pm. You do a dream feed at 10:00 pm just before you go to bed. Your baby begins her long stretch of 8 hours and makes it until 6:00 am. Now you can both get up for the day, happy and rested! You’ve gotten a full night’s sleep!

Tank up without the sleep association
Another goal of a dream feeding is to continue with night feedings with a reduced chance that the night feeding creates a sleep association. It ensures your baby gets enough calories but because you are initiating the dream feed while your baby is sleeping, and not as a response to a behavioral request, it is less likely to become a sleep crutch. Your baby’s belly gets tanked up, but he doesn’t associate it with the act of falling asleep because he’s already asleep.

Maintain your supply
A dream feed can be especially helpful for babies who sleep through the night on their own early on or for moms who have returned to work. In both cases, mom’s milk supply may take a hit, but by removing milk through a dream feed you can maintain or even increase supply without having to add in another pumping session.

Eliminate the guesswork
Since you are initiating the feeding time, you have more control over when your baby feeds. No more going to bed anxious about what your night will look like!

When to do a dream feed?
The dream feed works best for younger babies under 6 months old, who are more likely to biologically need a feeding. Adding a dream feed in older babies tends to disrupt sleep. In older babies, it is often more productive to either follow their lead or drop unnecessary feedings.

If you’re doing the dream feed to help align your baby’s long stretch of sleep with your sleep, you’ll want to do the dream feed before you go to bed. This tends to work best between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. If you are doing a dream feed to protect your supply or increase calorie intake, the timing of the feeding is less important.

How do I do a dream feed?
It’s pretty simple!

  • If you’re breastfeeding, just pick your baby up gently and bring your baby to breast. Be sure to keep stimulation low so that you don’t fully wake your baby.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, you can pick your baby up or even prop your baby up right in the crib. Never give your baby a bottle while she is laying down. It can lead to tooth decay or ear infections (both of which can impact sleep—we don’t need that!)

When you’re done feeding, simply place your baby back in her safe sleeping space. There is usually no need to burp since your baby is so relaxed while feeding she is less likely to take in air. And unless your baby’s diaper is poopy or leaking, don’t worry about changing it.

What if my baby doesn’t latch on to my nipple or the bottle?
Your baby’s deepest sleep happens in the first half of the night, so she might be hard to get latched on at first. If your baby doesn’t initially seem interested, you might need to hand express a little breastmilk and place your baby’s lips to your nipple. You can do the same with formula and a bottle nipple. The smell and taste is likely to entice her to latch on. If your baby falls asleep at the breast or bottle, you can use some tactile stimulation like rubbing the side of your baby’s cheek or use breast compressions to increase your flow.

How can I tell the dream feed is working?
First give your baby about a week to settle into the dream feed routine. Then, if you feel like you are getting more sleep, it is working for you! If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t go with it! Generally, if the dream feed is leading to a longer stretch, it’s working.

For some babies, being roused even slightly during that deep sleep that happens in the first part of the night can mess with their sleep rhythm. Here are some signs that dream feeds may not be right for your baby:

  • Your baby is still waking up a short time after the dream feed, so you aren’t getting a long stretch at night
  • Your baby is waking more frequently than before you started dream feeding
  • Your baby cries after the dream feed and has a hard time resettling to sleep

How do I drop the dream feed?
One of the risks of a dream feed is that you make that meal time for your baby. So that means if you don’t do the dream feed, your baby may wake hungry at that time. Planning ahead for how you are going to wean off the dream feed is a good idea. It’s similar to weaning your baby off of other night feeds.

  • For younger babies who still need a night feeding, push the dream feed later over the course of a couple of weeks until it falls sometime after midnight. At this point you can allow your baby to wake naturally if she is hungry. You’ll still get the longer stretch of sleep and your baby may wean this feed on her own.
  • For older babies who do not need a feeding anymore, you can pull the dream feeding earlier so that she is less hungry and then drop it entirely.
  • If your baby seems hungry at this time, but you are still ready to drop it, you might need to decrease the volume of this feeding over time by reducing the length of time you nurse for or the amount in the bottle. By reducing the amount slowly you lower the risk she’ll wake with a hungry belly.

Want to know more about respectful night weaning? You can read more here!  

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Adequate, quality sleep is important for many of the functions needed to perform well at school:

  • Impulse control
  • Emotional regulation
  • Memory acquisition, consolidation and recall
  • Focus
  • Creativity and problem solving under stress

One study found that when children’s sleep was restricted by 1 hour each night, teachers noted academic problems even though they were unaware the child’s participation if the study. Yet many kids are not getting the sleep they need to function their best and it’s especially evident in the beginning of the school year when summer schedules often mean drifting bedtimes and missed naps.

Teenagers are significantly impacted by this, when sleep needs peaks because of puberty, but social life and working may have pushed bedtime later over the summer.

But even parents of preschoolers and younger elementary schoolers find that the bedtime routines become lax over the summer. And if your child is entering his first year of full-day school and naps will be dropped, an early bedtime becomes increasing important.

Easing back into the bedtime routine before the first day of school means your child has time to sleep off any sleep debt that has accumulating during the summer late night fun.

Shift slowing- You don’t want to do so drastically, but instead ease back over a week or so by pulling bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every other night. If your child has developed a habit of sleeping in as well, you can also wake him or her up earlier respectively.

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule- Stick with a relatively consistent bedtime and don’t use the weekends to “catch up”. It’s OK to let your child sleep in an hour or so on the weekends, but a huge variation in wake up time makes it harder to fall asleep that night, leading to a shifting sleep cycle.

Bring back the bedtime routine- A soothing bedtime routine doesn’t just prepare your child emotionally and physically for bed, but also allows you to reconnect with your child. Many kids need the opportunity to share the struggles of the day in order to let go and relax into sleep.

Create a sleep sanctuary- Although fall is right around the corner, your child’s room may still be bright at bedtime. Make it easier for child to fall asleep by using black out shades to create a dark room. Keep it cool and quiet with air conditioner and white noise or a fan.

Limit electronics before bed- As tempting as it is to push homework to the end of the night, exposure to the blue light from computers and iPads can suppress the release of melatonin, the calming hormone, by 30 to 60 minutes making it that much harder for your child to fall asleep. Stick to old-fashioned reading from paper books for the hour before bed.  And for those older kids, create a cell phone curfew, keeping the cell phone out of the bedroom at night.

Use the power of light- If you find your child still struggling to pull himself out of bed, expose him to bright sunlight first thing in the morning. Exposure to light suppresses melatonin and helps set your body clock for an earlier morning wake up.

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Tips for Happy Sleepers in Tents & Campers!

Camping is a cheap and fun way to spend time outdoors with your family. Accordingly to a plethora of studies, spending time outdoors is good for your child’s mind, body, and spirit! However, spending the night in a new space, whether it be a tent or camper, can be tough on sleep. Here are a few tips from pro-camper and sleep consultant Amelia Poppe, to help make camping trips fun (and restful) for the whole family. 

Make your sleeping space as dark as possible
This is probably the hardest part of camping, as most kids will wake as soon as the sun comes up and those birds start chirping. In our camper, I use painter’s tape to secure black garbage bags over the windows.  If you are tenting, you can lay an extra tarp over your tent so that there is less light coming in.

Dress for the weather
Depending on where you camp, nights can get close to freezing. We layer our kids in a few pairs of fleece PJ’s and a fleece sleep sack. We also put hats on them that Velcro under the chin so they don’t fall off. If you’re camping in summer months, your kids may need less clothing than they have at home, especially if they are used to the coolness of air conditioning.  You may want to consider a battery operated fan to keep air moving too.

Give your child his or her own sleeping space
If you can, squeeze a pack and play in your tent or camper. We don’t have room for that so we use the KidCo Pea Pods, which are almost like little tents. That allows each of our twins to have their own sleeping space and it also cuts back on distractions. If you have a baby under 1 years old, remember to keep their sleeping space safe by keeping loose items, blankets, and pillows away from your child’s face while sleeping and place him on his back for sleep.

For older toddlers, you can hang a bed sheet between your sleep space and theirs. Not only does this make their sleeping space darker, but it also separates their sleeping space from ours.

Use white noise
Bring a sound machine or small fan that runs on batteries. Place it between your children or between you and your children. It will drown out each other’s noises and also helps block noises from the campfire (you deserve a little fun!).

Put them down to bed early
Almost all kids struggle to take good naps when they are camping.  It is usually too hot, too light or just too much fun outside of the tent. Because of this I always put my kids down for bed earlier than normal.  Often they will make up that extra sleep at night. Remember to spend a little extra time on the bedtime routine-maybe even bring some books about camping! You’re kiddos will be excited about being in the outdoors and will need the wind-down time!              

Have everything ready the night before
Camping can be cold in the morning and it is no fun to spend 20 minutes digging through the cook box looking for a lighter so you can warm up a bottle of milk or feed a hungry toddler. We lay everything that we know we will need in the morning out so that we can grab it fast.  I even make sure to have a PB&J sandwich ready for my 5 year old.

Be prepared for early mornings
Chances are, your baby or toddler may wake earlier than your campfire-loving companions. Be sure to bring along some quiet toys that your infant or toddler can play with while other sleep in. Or, throw on the baby carrier and take a nice morning hike with your little one. Enjoy nature!

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It’s that time of year. We are all headed out for a week at the beach or lake to enjoy the 4th of July and kick off the Summer. I know what it’s like to pack up all that gear (I have twins so imagine 2 of everything), stuff yourself in the car, and head out of the driveway with that rush of excitement for the fun ahead. But I also empathize with the nagging question in the back of your mind about whether anyone will get sleep! Hopefully my tips will save your sanity and get you some sleep!

#1 Make the room dark.
When your child is sleeping in a new space, the less distractions the better!  Darkness tells the body to produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone. I invested in a travel black out shade that I can hang up in any room. If that is out of your budget I have also used black garbage bags and painter’s tape before.  This works really well but be careful if you have grabby toddler fingers because you don’t want them playing with the bags!

#2 Give your child his own sleep space.
Your kids will sleep better if they don’t hear you in the room with them. If possible, think about staying in a suite or divided room. Yes, you will end up paying more.  However, no matter how many times I do it, eating take out dinner while hiding under the covers of my bed or in the bathroom just isn’t the vacation I dreamed about! If you can’t afford two rooms, you can try putting a pack and play in the bathroom or in any nook-like space. Any space you can place between you and your baby will make sleeping easier.

#3 Make your child’s sleep space feel familiar.
I recommend bringing a sheet from home, their lovey and their pillow, if they use one. I also always travel with my white noise machine.  If you have one that can be unplugged and run on batteries you will be set for any sleep situation.  We even bring ours camping!

#4 Arrive before bedtime, if possible.
This allows your child get used to their sleep space. I always have my twins crawl around in their crib for 10-15 minutes so it isn’t a surprise when I put them down to sleep. If you can time nap to be in the new space, it gives them a chance to adjust before bedtime when everyone wants sleep.

#5 Stick with your routines.
Make sure you have a consistent routine that you do before bedtime and naptime in place before you travel.  That way your child will be familiar with the routine and recognize it well even away from home.

#6 Try and have only one sleep session per day on the go.
Let’s be honest, you are on vacation you are not going to be back at the hotel or house for every nap and bedtime. The reason we travel is to get out and see things, enjoy this time with your family and let yourself relax a little. However, in order to avoid overtiredness I suggest either having one good nap per day or making sure you are back for bedtime. When we travel, if I know we are going out to a late dinner I will make sure to fit in a good nap at the hotel during the day.  Or, if I want to be out during the day, I might do a stroller nap but make sure to be back for an early bedtime.

#7 Do what you need to do to get sleep, but don’t go too far off course.
If your baby sleeps through the night at home but starts waking on vacation, think of using a ladder of comfort. The top of your ladder is the most support such as feeding or rocking them to sleep. The bottom of the ladder is the least support, for example rubbing their back or giving a pacifier. Try and start at the bottom of the ladder and only move up when necessary. The further up the ladder you go, the more work you will have to put into re-teaching when you get home.

Chances are your baby’s sleep may not return as perfect as it was when you left. We all get thrown off during vacation! You may need to set some limits when you get home. The sooner you start limit setting around sleep, the clearer it is to your baby that while away from home things may be different but once we are home the expectations return. You may need to provide some comforting checks during bedtime struggles or night wakings the first night or two. But if you stay consistent, things should fall back into place quickly.

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