Why Won’t My Baby Nap?!

Naps are tricky. If your baby naps you probably feel on top of the world. On the flip side, if you’re baby is having trouble sleeping well in the day, or taking maddening cat naps scattered here and there, your feelings of frustration may be coming to a boiling point. Don’t feel too bad. The reality is, it is SO much more difficult for babies and toddlers to fall asleep in the middle of the day between busy, exciting activity than it is for them to drift off to dreamland at bedtime. In general, night time sleep is actually much easier than daytime sleep.  SO, If you are having trouble with naps 1) you’re not alone, daytime sleep is really tricky and 2) look carefully at these 5 reasons why your baby might not be able to nap well and see if there is anything you can tweak to better promote awesome daytime sleep!

Baby won’t nap well if…. 

  1. Timing is off- Baby is over-tired: Over-tiredness comes on quickly for a baby.  Once your little sweetie is over-tired it is much more difficult for her to fall asleep. Think about it like this: have you ever had a late night and the next day felt so tired that all you wanted was to jump into bed and fall straight to sleep? Then, when you pop into bed, desperate to fall asleep, you can’t? Instead of falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, it takes 30-45 mins? You’re so over-tired that your body can’t relax, unwind and settle into a deep sleep. This is what happens to a baby, expect depending on their age, they can become over-tired as soon as 2 hours after being awake at any point on the day! When we try for naps just a little too late, we have missed the window.  When we “miss the window’ baby gets a second wind, feels alert , over-stimuated and wired and has trouble peacefully nodding off to sleep. Catching baby BEFORE they become over-tired is so key. 
  2.  Sleep Environment is Not Conducive to Sleep: Sleep environment is SO important. Before 3-4 months, the environment didn’t matter as much. If you have a 5, 6,7 month old and baby’s sleep environment is not *perfect* it is actually interfering with your baby’s ability to nap well.  Perfect your baby’s sleep environment so that falling asleep independently (and staying asleep without your help) is as easy as possible for your baby.  Having a baby sleep in an environment that is not conducive to sleep is actually working agains your baby.  If we are expecting awesome naps, we want to make it as easy for baby as possible to be able to sleep well.  Put yourself in their shoes. If someone scooped you up in the middle of the day and put you to sleep in a room that was too hot or cold, too bright, not cozy or comfy, how well do you think you would sleep? Sleep environment matters and it’s our job to create a peaceful sleep sanctuary for our little ones so that they feel calm, relaxed and safe enough to fall asleep all on their own. Keys to a peaceful sleep environment include:*Black- out blinds (darkened room 8 or 9/ 10 darkness- 10 is pitch black)*Continuous white noise playing for all sleep periods*Lovey or blankie used to comfort, nuzzle, cuddle as a way to self-settle*18-22 degree room (cool and comfortable)

    *Bare crib (remove pillows, stuffies, blankets, mobiles)

    *Sleep attire: footed PJs, sleep sac/ sleep bag

    *Peaceful, calming mood to the room (remember, you are creating a “sleep sanctuary”)

  3. Baby doesn’t know how to initiate sleep: There are two points here I would like to make. Firstly, when babies are newborn or even just out of the newborn stage (4 months) napping does not come easily. In fact, your little one under 4 months, does not really have the capability to nap well independently (meaning without any motion, or physical closeness to a caregiver). So it may be a matter of readjusting your expectations and remembering that biologically, 0-4 month range babies still need a little help sleeping well in the day. My second point is that napping well is not necessarily a skill baby knows how to do all on their own even out of the newborn stage and actually requires a lot of guidance from Mom or Dad. It seems a bit strange, “doesn’t know how to sleep.” You would think they just close their eyes and go to sleep, how hard could it be? But the truth is, it is challenging and it takes a bit of practice.
  4. Baby is reliant on Mom or Dad/Motion to fall asleep: This point piggy backs off of my second point. Because Newborns really do not have the capability to nap well independently, parents do whatever they can to get their little ones to sleep in the earlier months. This is totally right and parents should be doing whatever they can to help their little ones get much needed sleep in the day time. What happens though, is these newborns move out of the newborn stage, and they outgrow the need to be constantly rocked to sleep, or pushed in a stroller or bounced on a yoga ball in order to fall asleep. But because parents perhaps do not know any other ways of supporting their little ones to sleep, they continue to rock, bounce, nurse to sleep, even though their baby has outgrown the real need for it. It becomes a matter of removing some old habits, to give your baby a chance to learn how to sleep without assistance from Mom and Dad. This starts with the first AM nap, where you would want to introduce falling asleep in a motionless, still and peaceful sleep space (crib, bassinet) by gently removing the “sleep crutch” used which is impeding on your little ones ability to nap well. 
  5. Baby’s schedule is off: Babies and children have sleep windows in which they are most easily able to fall asleep. When the schedule is off, baby may be sleeping slightly “off the clock” which can impact their night time sleep as well as their daytime sleep. If baby is waking too late in the day, taking late naps and bed time is inconsistent or too late, this all throws the schedule off. Knowing and understanding your baby’s age-appropriate wake windows and required number of naps in the day, will help give you a guideline for how to establish a reasonable schedule for the day. Timing with sleep is especially important.

“Fall Back” Time Change: How to Prepare

“Fall Back” Time Change: How to Prepare

Fall Back Time Change Baby Sleep

This coming Saturday night, (Sunday Morning November 5th, 2017 at 2:00AM) it is time to change the clocks back 1 hour.  Remember the days before kids? “Fall Back” was associated with a positive feeling.  It meant we got a extra hour of sleep! Instead of waking at 7AM, after changing the clocks, 7AM became 6AM and we would carry on sleeping for another 60 minutes! The BEST feeling.

But now, you’re a parent and you have little children and the whole turning-back-the-clocks thing does not mean an extra hour of sleep. Not at all.  In fact, this time change tends to create a bit of stress and worry for families. The truth is though, it’s really not such a big deal.  It doesn’t have to be dramatic transition and everyone should be on track within a week or so. 

The time change is quickly approaching and this is a bit time sensitive, so I am just going to make this simple. Here is what you can do to gently prepare for the time change over the next few nights. 

Basically, the clocks go back an hour which means that 7PM bedtime will be the new 6PM. What we can do before Sunday is gently start to nudge baby or child to bed a little bit later each night until they are falling asleep at 8PM old time (which will be 7PM once the clocks are changed.) The new 7PM will feel like 8PM for your little munchkin so you can spend the next few nights putting your baby down for sleep slightly later by 15 minutes every night or two. 

Whenever you shift sleep starts the whole schedule must shift also. Get baby up 15 mins later in the AM, begin mealtimes 15 minutes later and stretch naps by 15 minutes as well. Continue to do this over the next few days, gradually pushing sleep starts every day or two so  that by the time the clocks actually change, your sweet babe is used to this new bedtime and the schedule remains intact. 

Easy peasy, right? Confused? Maybe this example will help:

Adjusting Over a Few Days : 

(EXAMPLE:  7PM bedtime, 6AM Wake, 1PM Nap )

  • Night #1 Wednesday 5 Days before change: 7:15PM asleep, 6:15AM out of sleep space, 1:15PM Nap start 
  • Night #2 Thursday: 7:30PM asleep, 6:30AM out of sleep space, 1:30PM Nap start
  • Night #3 Friday: 7:45PM asleep, 6:45AM out of sleep space, 1:45PM Nap start
  • Night #4 Saturday: (Clocks change at 2AM) 7:45/8PM asleep, NEW TIME 6AM out of sleep space (7AM old time), NEW TIME 1PM Nap start (2PM old time )
  • Night #5 Sunday CLOCKS ARE CHANGED: 7PM new time (8PM old time), new time 6AM out of sleep space (7AM old time) new time 1PM  (2PM old time), 
  • Night #6 Monday:  7PM asleep, 6AM out of sleep space, 1PM nap start (all new times)

 Look at that! We did it! You could also just make the switch on Sunday morning: 

Immediately Switch Over to the New Time: 

 If you are not one for planning and your family works better just going with the flow you can change the clocks Saturday night, before you head to bed. When you wake up Sunday morning, just assume the new time. Hold your baby or child to your set AM wake time (nothing earlier than 6AM NEW TIME) and do meals and naps as per usual according to the new time. Make sure your baby or toddler gets in a good nap that afternoon so that they do not become over-tired heading into the later bedtime.  The days following the change, be consistent with keeping your baby or toddler in their sleep space until the after 6AM (new time) and make naps a priority.

No matter how you make the change:

  • Don’t forget to adjust meal times accordingly.
  • Get outside in the AM! Get some fresh air and expose baby or child to natural light. Eat breakfast next to the window, open the blinds, let the light shine in!
  • Make sure baby or toddler takes some quality naps leading up to the change and the days following.  Remember, baby will be going down for sleep periods later than normal (gradually or all at once) so we want to make sure baby takes restorative, restful naps as baby is adjusting. 
  • If things look a little hairy the first few days/nights after the time change that’s ok.  Continue to use light and dark and your strong sleep time routines to help regulate sleep/wake rhythms.  Even if sleep gets off track a little, it shouldn’t take longer than 4-7 nights for baby or child to adjust. After all, it is only 1 hour.

So there you have it.  “Fall Back” really isn’t that scary. Consistency (as always) is queen.  If you continue to promote independent sleep, use your strong wind down sleep routines and structure your daytime schedule accordingly, everything should be smooth and settled in about a week. If not, email me 🙂 Happy November!

Toddler Bedtime Fears: 8 ways to help your child feel less afraid

                    Bedtime Fears: 8 Effective Ways to Help Your Toddler Feel Less Afraid

Bedtime Fears. A wonderful new sleep challenge to navigate! (Does it ever end? I think probably, no) Our almost 3.5 year old daughter has started to express fear at bedtime.  This is totally new for us.  Over the last few weeks she has been afraid of all the “spooky things” in her closet. The way her dresses hang, the boxes of diapers and clothes, even her beloved Thomas The Tank toys are making her feel afraid once the lights go out and her imagination comes to life. First it was just one thing in her room, now it seems like almost anything is spooking her out and making her feel nervous and afraid. She refers to these frightening things as “The Scaries.”

 Our daughter has never been afraid of much, especially around bedtime. For the most part, she generally loves going to bed (yes, I know we are blessed. She loves her sleep, like her Mama ;))  Working with preschoolers both in the classroom and in my sleep work, I know that being afraid at bedtime is one of the most common childhood fears that young children experience. Although it can be difficult to navigate, it is perfectly normal. It’s actually a sign that your little one is developing, growing and gaining a more advanced view of the world. So that’s the silver lining. Hope that helps.

If that silver lining didn’t really help, maybe these suggestions will.  Parents, don’t forget: the way you respond to your child’s fear will play an important role in her ability to overcome these night time worries and feel empowered and safe moving forward.

Ways to empower your child and overcome “The Scaries”:

  1. Accept all feelings and allow your child to communicate and express their fears.  Allowing your child to talk about whatever it is that is worrying them is key.  Some children become almost obsessed with their current fear, talking about it or relating to it all day. You can use this to talk things through with your child so that they become more comfortable with the thing that frightens them. For example, my daughter became scared of strange noises but particularly “beeping” sounds. The timer on the stove, microwave, alarm clock, even a squeaky chair scared the heck out of her.  The more she noticed these sounds in the day, learned about the sound and asked me questions, the more she understood that the sound wasn’t actually anything to worry about.  She learned that although beeps were initially scary, they  weren’t going to hurt anyone.  Make sure your child feels heard and understood.
  2. Don’t reinforce fears by over-reacting or projecting worry or serious concern. Try not to make a big deal when your child feels afraid.  Looking for monsters all over the house may actually make your child think that there is something to look for! Over-reacting to your child’s fear may make your child feel more uncertain and afraid. Children are always (and I mean always) watching their parents to see how they handle the world. If you can show compassion but also act like everything is A-OK, they will probably feel more relaxed.  Answer questions and offer reassurance using a loving, calm tone and although you’re not making it a big production, be sure to handle your child’s fear with sensitivity. Let them be heard, tell them that you understand that they feel afraid and that you will always keep them safe, but don’t get overly dramatic and express obvious worry or upset- they will pick up on this and feel even more nervous or uneasy.
  3. Discuss the difference between “real” and “make believe” or “pretend”.  If you haven’t had this conversation before, now might be a good time to begin to teach your child the difference. This concept “real” vs. “fantasy” may take some time to understand, but you can incorporate the discussion into many daily activities.  If you are reading Thomas the Tank Engine (I use that example because I am reading it errry night.) you might ask your child, “Can real trains talk?” Harold the Helicopter can talk in Thomas books. In real life, can helicopters talk? This helicopter is just pretend which means it is not real.”  Or perhaps you’re watching a show.. hmm say…oh I don’t know… Paw Patrol (big Paw Patrol fans over here, surprise surprise.)  While you watch with your child you can point out the differences between Skye, the fun-loving, smart but very competitive little pup with skills of a pilot, vs. a real dog. Explain that some things are make believe. Can real dogs fly through the sky while transporting team members from place to place? No. Skye is lovely, but she is just pretend. Real dogs are not able to do the things that pretend dogs in tv shows can do. Establish this difference using things your child knows and can relate to.
  4. Incorporate daytime games to teach your child that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Ever set up a tent and gone camping in the living room? How about  turning off all the lights in your child’s room and using flashlights to have some shadow fun!? Try to come up with daytime activities that you and your child can enjoy in the dark.  By engaging in positive, safe play with a caregiver, your child will begin to learn that the dark doesn’t have to be scary.  Other daytime activities may include making shadow puppets, using flashlights and music to have a dance party, playing a game of guessing what different shapes are in the dark, then turning the light on to reveal what the items are! See if you can have a little fun with the dark.
  5. Take a look at what your child is watching on TV, or even the books you are reading to them. Often a child’s fear is triggered by something we don’t expect or consider to be frightening.  If your child is already expressing fear around bedtime, pay very close attention to what they are looking at before bed (or anytime).  Many of the children’s movies (Pixar, Disney, etc) have frightening characters and scenes so that is obvious but I am always surprised when my daughter is watching something and I look over and she’s covering her face because she simply does not feel comfortable with the look of a particular character.  Even her favourite shows (Thomas & Paw Patrol) are making her imagination run wild and those two shows are about as tame as they get.  So, pay close attention to what they are watching and reading through the day and I recommend avoiding anything that appears to make them feel nervous or uncomfortable. It can be surprising what they find scary.  
  6. Positive, reassuring “bedtime talk.” Bedtime routine should never be rushed but this is especially important if your toddler feels afraid. This should be a special time to bond and connect but also leave your child feeling safe and secure once you leave the room. Slow down the routine. Once your munchkin is in bed you don’t have to run off and shut the door.  Have a big cuddle before leaving the room, rearrange your child’s team of stuffies (It doesn’t matter how many your child needs 5,10, 15, it’s all good.) Maybe you’ll have some pillow talk and reminisce about the wonderful day you had together, or the delicious breakfast you’re going to make when you all wake up the next day. You could play an audio book for your child to listen to until he falls asleep. All of these positive bedtime activities will provide tons of reassurance but also takes their mind off of their fears or worries. Try to plant a joyful memory or thought in your child’s mind right before leaving the room so that they feel comforted and safe.
  7. Be accommodating. Helping your little one overcome this fear may require some creativity on your end. Try to be accommodating. You may need to remove something from the room or add some new comfort items. What might make bedtime less “scary” for your child? Giving your child a flashlight to put next to his bed so that he has it in the night for reassurance.  Maybe she needs a new special  night light so that the shapes and shadows in her room are less of a mystery. If leaving the hall light on will make him feel more comfortable, leave the hall light on. If she would feel better with the door open, that’s no problem.  Remind your child that if she wakes, she can cuddle one of her sleeping buddies, give them a kiss, close her eyes and go back to sleep.  In our case, my daughter has been afraid of the closet so we initially closed the closest doors. Then we moved the “spooky” dresses out and put them in another room and finally we ended up turning her around so that she no longer faces the closet and instead faces the window.   Now we remind her that she can face the stars and the moon. That seems to be helping. Recently, some of her big train toys have been scaring her in the dark, so together spent some time in the day looking at them and talking to them and we reminded ourselves that they are not scary, it’s just Percy, James and Harold!  When she was still feeling scared by the whole gang, we decided to put them in a basket and move them to Mom and Dad’s room, just for good measure. Remember, don’t make it too dramatic which will confirm that these toys ARE actually scary.  I like to say something like “That’s ok. No problem. Tonight Thomas can sleep in Mommy’s room. How lucky for Mommy!” I’ve also been known to jump into the toddler bed with my daughter for an extra cuddle on the nights that she feels particularly scared at bedtime. Sometimes I’ll rub her back, or we might chat about the day or something we’re looking forward to or we might just lay there for 1 or 2 minutes.  Whatever it is, my presence for even a few minutes seems to help her relax and take her mind off whatever it is that is frightening her. 
  8. Never shame your child. Offer reassurance and support until they feel safe. No matter what the fear is, never shame your child or make them feel silly for feeling the way they feel.  I know, you’re exhausted and frustrated and you personally don’t think the box of diapers is anything to get scared over BUT it’s important to remember that although the fear may be illogical, the FEELING is very real. Address these fears with compassion, sensitivity and understanding and soon your child will learn that she is safe and sound no matter what strange shape the curtains make.  She’ll learn that everything is ok and nothing bad will happen to her in the night.

 BONUS Tip: If your child is waking in the night and coming to your bedside it is important to have a clear plan in place on how these wakings will be handled. This plan might include coming to Mom and Dad’s bed for a snuggle then being returned back to their bed with their flashlight and night light.  Or maybe you set up a little bed on the floor next to your bed. You might decide to go to them, offer them some water and a tuck in for reassurance. Or open their door and turn the hall light on. Whatever works for you and your family.  But get a plan in place so that everyone knows how to handle this in the middle of the night.

I hope this post has given you at least one new idea on how you can help your child overcome their bedtime worries. It’s not an easy one but they will learn that they are safe in the night as long as you are there to support and reassure them.

 

How I’m Handling the 12 Month Sleep Regression

                                                Handling the 12 Month Sleep Regression

The 4 month sleep regression is pretty common. It’s a talked about topic among parents with newborns or babies that have recently come out of the newborn stage and perhaps… waking more frequently in the night. Many of us are familiar with this setback, but I find that the 12 month regression comes up much less often. In my experience, it’s seems that not all babies go through this regression or if they do, it’s not such a big deal. (This is true of any sleep regression- doesn’t mean every baby will struggle with sleep at these outlined times.)

I might not be the most common regression, but it’s very relevant for me at the moment because we are actually facing this regression right now at home. I like to share our personal sleep struggles, in case someone out there is going through the same thing.  Many baby’s sleep will not change at this time, so if you’re approaching the 1 year mark, don’t start stressing and fearing the worst, assuming that sleep is going to fall apart at 12 months.  It’s very possible your bub will sail on through sleeping peacefully without a hiccup. My daughter slept like a dream at this time.  If you do experience a little bump in the road around this time, it’s ok.  It will get resolved and it’s actually perfectly healthy and normal! I’m not writing this to instil fear or worry- it’s meant to reassure you that everything will be fine, and that this regression is developmentally appropriate.

Our little boy is 12 months old and has been sleeping well (not perfect) since he was 6 months (11-12 hours overnight, 1.5-2 hour naps 2xs a day)  Lately though, his sleep has been a bit funky particularly his ability to initiate sleep (I am referring to sleep starts- putting himself to sleep at the start of naps and bedtime.)  I am trying to navigate this regression, and it’s possible that if you are reading this, you are also.

 So here is what you need to know:

1) Most commonly, this regression messes with naps.  It can interrupt night time sleep BUT it is more common for parents to experience a resistance to 1 or both naps around this age: 11-12 months.  This can become confusing for parents and they begin to wonder if the days of 2 naps is over! Baby fights their second nap for 3 days in a row and they think “Huh, maybe he’s ready to transition to 1 nap a day!?” or “Maybe she doesn’t need 2 naps any more!?” This is such a common thought (in fact, after 3-4 days with really poor naps and difficulty falling asleep in the daytime with my little guy, I almost thought the same thing! If I didn’t know better, I too would have been questioning whether he was ready for 1 nap!) But this is not the case, trust me.  A 12 month old is not ready to move onto a 1 nap/day schedule simply because they cannot happily, comfortably handle wake windows of 5-6 hours before and after the 1 and only nap without becoming wayyyy over tired.  They still need that daytime sleep split up throughout the day so that their wake time is closer to 3-4 hours. Much more than that and baby will become over stimulated, over-tired and cra-aa-anky. You probably know by now that dealing with an over-tired baby is a nightmare and this built up over-tiredness can create additional sleep problems like increased night wakings and early rising.

2) If you’ve mastered the art of bedtime and all of a sudden babe is giving you major tears, protest and refusal to fall asleep when it’s time to say ‘night night’ it’s likely she’s going through this little setback. I’ve always been AMAZED at how well my son falls asleep at bedtime.  We lay him down and that’s it.  It definitely took some practice, but once he figured it out, he really loved going to bed! But these last few days bedtime has been difficult.  Drifting off appears to be a major challenge and no one is happy.  This is not pleasant to experience but if either of these scenarios are happening in your home it could be a sign that you’re facing a regression. Confusing and frustrating, yes, but believe me, this won’t last forever. 

Why does this happen….

I would say it’s a tie; the culprits being separation anxiety and MAJOR developmental milestones happening and often at the same time. (SIDE NOTE: Throw in transitioning to daycare or additional caregivers, teething, travel, etc.  All of these things impact baby’s ability to sleep well and can definitely throw off sleep.) 

  1. Separation Anxiety: Baby’s desire to be close to their loved ones starts to peak at this age.  They are more aware of when Mom or Dad are not nearby and parting at nap time or bedtime can be especially hard for them.  They begin to express real FOMO and can’t understand why they have to miss out on the “party” happening in the living room (which consists of a tired Mom, Dad, maybe a sibling and a big mess of Duplo). They are beginning to understand that if they are going to their room to sleep, it means they won’t be playing with Mom or Dad anymore and they may not like this (and they let you know!) They fight sleep in hopes of continuing to join in the non-stop fun of banging around tupperware on the kitchen floor or scooting along the furniture grabbing remote controls or the magazine you are trying to read.  Who wants to sleep when you can play with your loved ones? Fair enough.
  2. Developmental Milestones: This is a HUGE one. Doesn’t it seems like every morning, when you go to grab your little love bug from the crib, they have learned a new skill, or a new sound, or they move in a way you’ve never seen before? At this age, your baby is developing in leaps and bounds. They might be crawling, pulling up to stand (on EVERYTHING- dangerous coffee table, dishwasher, the front door and of course the crib), furniture cruising, perhaps even taking their first steps or walking! This new found mobility and sense of independence is HUGE and VERY exciting but it can interfere with baby’s ability to fall asleep because they are so  excited.  It takes time for these new skills to become mastered and until then baby may find themselves in tricky positions that are difficult to get out of or fall from time to time, or even feel insecure once bedtime hits and they are up on their feet, standing in their crib, unsure how to get back down without help.  Language may also be emerging.  New physical mobility paired with separation anxiety; it’s not surprising that your little one is having a bit of trouble in the sleep department. 

So, what can you do….

Your little one needs sleep now, perhaps even more than normal. They are exerting so much energy and learning so much each day- sleep is vital during big leaps like this so make sure it is still a priority. Look carefully at what they are going through and think about what they need.  Ask yourself,  ‘What’s new here?’ How has my little girl changed in the last 2 weeks? 

In regards to developmental leaps: For example: my guy is crawling like he is on a serious mission ALL DAY LONG. Pulling up on walls, doors, chairs- you name it.  He’s furniture cruising and pointing constantly  saying “ma ma ma ma” all day lonnng. When we do his simple, calming nap time routine and lay him in the crib for nap time, he wants none of it- immediately pulling to stand, falling back down, reaching out of the crib, pointing for the door, etc.  I am making sure that he gets TONS and tons of free time between sleep periods to explore, move, climb stairs, pull up, fall down and practice these new and exciting skills as much as he likes (of course, 100% supervised). These are not the days to confine him to the stroller, or take long car rides or have him unable to move freely from room to room. Let him move and wiggle and play and explore in a safe environment. Playing games like “Ring Around the Rosie” where everyone safely “falls down.” Have him practice getting down from standing position on the carpet with some pillows nearby and you encourage and reassure him. Lately I have been handling tears at bedtime by entering the room as calmly and gently as I can.  (FYI Baby’s ability to sleep well has a lot to do with what kind of energy you as a parent are bringing to the table so always try present yourself in a calm manner no matter how frustrated you feel!)  When I go to my little guy if he is having difficulty falling asleep, I’ll try patting the mattress gently and encourage him to lay down.  I might pick him up, give him a cuddle, remind him that it is sleepy time and lay him back down.  This might be all he needs to calm and relax.  Sometimes it takes a few tries, extra cuddles, a back rub or some reassuring words. Other times though, I leave the room and determine if he needs a bit more space before I go back in. I can usually tell by his fussing or the sounds of his cries if he needs a bit of space as he sorts things out, or if he really needs me.   I decide my exact response based on what I think he needs. 

To help ease the separation anxiety: Ask yourself the same question: What is it that your baby needs? Whenever a baby or child is experiencing separation anxiety it is VERY important to meet baby’s needs in the daytime by focusing on connection time between parent and baby and working on helping baby feel a stronger sense of trust and security when you are close but but also when you are not around. This doesn’t mean you need to stick to your baby like glue. Not at all- and this might make the anxiety worse come time to separate. But you might spend 5-10 minutes down on the floor with your little girl looking at books together, or singing, dancing to your favourite music, tickling, laughing. Studies have shown that gentle “rough housing” can be an effective bonding activity and promotes connection and trust between baby and parent.  Giving baby some alone time is important also.  This will help them learn that even though you are not right next to them, they are safe, secure and loved. Give baby a moment to play with (safe) toys without being interrupted by Mom or Dad. Leave the room for a few seconds and speak from a nearby room to teach baby that just even though you cannot be seen, you are never far.  Pop back frequently to say hi and offer some words of reassurance and positive encouragement, teaching them that when you leave, you will always come back.  If you are able to practice this in the day, they will begin to trust being away from you at bedtime or nap start.  Always tell baby where you are going when you have to leave (sneaking out might feel easier in the moment, but baby may suddenly look up and discover that you have “disappeared” which can actually be more stressful for them than if you inform them of your whereabouts and when you will be returning.)  Focus on a nice, soothing, stress-free bedtime/naptime routine, some extra cuddles or hugs, perhaps staying in the room longer than you normally would have, or visiting more frequently.  Now is not the time to rush bedtime routines or jump from “busy busy busy” to “plunked down in the crib, door shut, asleep.” Give your growing baby a nice chance to unwind and transition into “sleep mode.”  Continue to have confidence in your child and believe in their ability to sleep well and this too shall pass. Remain calm and confident. Oh, and of course, the lovey. If you don’t already have an transitional object or security item now would be the time to really encourage this bond. 

Regressions are never fun, but they are completely normal and a healthy part of any baby/child’s sleep journey.  To assume your baby/child will never have bumps in the road, setbacks or disruptions with their sleep is unrealistic and well, impossible.  Regressions happen because babies are humans.  They are growing, learning, developing, changing, transitioning, adapting, and leaping from one stage to another ALL THE TIME.  As soon as something becomes stable and predictable, baby changes and we are back to navigating an entirely new situation. Parents can never get too comfortable 🙂 Setbacks will happen BUT that they will also pass.  As I sit here writing this today, my little man’s sleep is already getting back to normal.  Until the next thing… 😉

Bedtime For Toddlers: Tips for a smooth bedtime

                         Bedtime For Toddlers: Tips for Smooth & Peaceful Bedtime

baby, sleep, toddler, vancouver sleep consultant, bedtime, sleep training, sleeping through the night

How to put an end to “the asks” at bedtime: When your toddler just wants “one more book, one more stuffy” and one more of everything!

Let’s face it. Toddlers are a TON of fun but they can be exhausting! They are constantly on the move, exploring, learning, processing new information and testing limits! Don’t feel bad if your little munchkin seems to be pushing the boundaries harder and harder everyday.  This is what they are designed to do! It’s how they learn the rules and expectations – what’s appropriate and what’s not acceptable. Many families see this behaviour impact bedtime.  Their 2.5 year old wants MORE and one last book is just never enough.  One more sip of water, one more snack, one more song, one more hug, one more trip to the bathroom, etc. Has your bedtime routine escalated into a non-stop routine of “the asks” where “just one more” never actually really one more? Don’t worry. This is normal toddler behaviour. 

There are ways to get back to a simple but loving bedtime routine for these demanding and persuasive little monkeys.  Here are my tips to help keep bedtime under control so that it doesnt feel like a never-ending battle.

1) Make a Bedtime Routine Chart: This can be as simple or fancy as you like. On cardboard/poster board write out 5 basic bedtime activities that take place. You may decide to include visuals. This can be cut out images/pictures or just basic stick drawings. This might help your non-reader understand the sequence.  Go over the chart with your toddler each night before bedtime so they are clear on the expectations around bedtime.  As you are going through the routine, refer back to the chart to show your child what they have accomplished! Go through the chart together so that your child feels as though he has some responsibility in completing the routine. 

Bath

Jammies

Snack/water + Brush Teeth

Books 

Cuddles + Bed Lights Out

2) Offer “Last Call”: If you know what your child typically asks for around bedtime, give them a chance to do these things one last time before bed. Make it clear that this is their last chance. “Ok, this is the last chance before sleep time to have a drink of water” or ” Let’s try going to the bathroom one last time before bed” or “Here is one last huge bear hug before sleep time.” Give your child the opportunity to have these things, but make it clear that these activities will not just go on and on.

3) Give your child some choice: We want our little children to feel independent and empowered, but if their choices are too open-ended they may end up feeling out of control. Offer your child some choices but keep the options limited so that they can happily and easily make a decision without getting overwhelmed. ” Here are 2 pairs of pajamas. Which ones are you going to choose tonight? The tiger ones or the car ones?” or ” We only have time to read 3 books tonight but you can choose any 3 books you like from this pile!” Young children love to feel as though they were a part of the decision making and this is a nice way to provide choices but still keeps things within managable boundaries. 

4) Communicate: Whenever you are making changes to sleep or are trying to implement some new bedtime rules, make sure you talk to your child about the changes or what it is you expect from him/her at bedtime. Even if they are not very verbal, they can understand quite a lot, and communicating with them is much more effective then just changing something and having them feel alarmed and therefore frustrated. Often, if the rules or expectations have been explained using simple language before hand, the child is much more willing to cooperate because they do not feel surprised but rather they have had time to process the new rule/change. “Tonight, bedtime is going to be a little bit different. We are only going to have 1 snack before bed and when we are finished we will brush our teeth and then get into bed for a cozy story”

5) Consistency: A lot of sleep work comes back to being consistent and this is so very true when it comes to dealing with toddlers who can be extremely determined.  Decide on your limits, what the bedtime routine will clearly look like, and stick to your guns! Toddlerhood is a time to explore and test boundaries and when we are inconsistent (we say no, but then after tantrum our no turns into a yes) our little smarty pant picks up on this inconsistency rather quickly and remembers this for next time.  However, if we can be firm and teach our child that when Mommy or Daddy says no that that is what they mean, our children feel more secure and less frustrated because they begin to learn exactly what to expect and thrive off this sense of predictibilty and stability. 

Holiday Events VS. Baby’s Schedule: How to find a balance

                           Holiday Events vs Baby’s Schedule: How to find a balance

The holidays are a wonderful time of year where family, friends and loved ones all get together to share food, laughter and in my house, wine 😉  As special as it is, it may also be challenging to keep your little one’s schedule completely on track while you’re all bouncing from one event to another, everyone eager and excited to see the baby.  On the one hand, if the schedule is too rigid, than we miss out on all the holiday fun but if we completely throw everything out the window, we end up having to deal with an exhausted, fussy child which creates stress for Mom or Dad (and your little peanut!) Here are a couple of holiday tips on how to strike a balance between enjoying all the season has to offer, without completely abandoning your child’s sleep routine. 

  1. Know your child: Some babies and children are quite easy going and adaptable.  If a nap is missed here and there or bedtime is later than normal, they bounce back with ease the next night and all is merry! Other children though, may have “high sleep needs” or do not deal as well with fluctuations in the schedule or missing much needed sleep. It may mean major meltdowns or upset emotions the following day so you may just need to determine whether the event or function is worth it. You know your child and their needs best, so stick to your gut instinct and don’t be afraid to say no to some and yes to others depending on your priorities and their temperament. 

  2. Staying close to the schedule:  Parts of the routine will definitely fall by the wayside during the holidays- and that’s ok.  Try to stick close to your schedule if possible though, because missing all daytime naps and having a late bedtime will likely turn your sweetie pie into a different child filled with tears, fussiness and tantrums.  Not only that, you (and even more so your child) will pay for it the next day when your little one is over-tired making it harder to return back to the regular schedule after the holidays.  This is a slippery slope which can quickly turn into a number of sleep issues such as night wakings or difficulty at bedtime. So, although the schedule will look different over the holidays, do what you can to keep some parts as close to normal as possible. 

  3. Recently resolved sleep issues are sensitive to inconsistencies: If you have recently worked on or resolved your little ones sleep challenges, keep in mind that your child will be impacted by changes to schedule and routine more so than a child who has deeply ingrained healthy sleep habits.  These children will probably bounce back from these changes a bit more easily, but if you have recently (in the last 3 months) put in a lot of effort and time into helping your little one over-come sleep issues, all your hard work may go out the window if you completely disregard their sleep needs.  

Tips for keeping to a familiar sleep schedule: 

  • Try to plan activities between naps.  If that is impossible to do, consider timing so that babe can get some shut eye in the car or in a stroller or carrier.  If your baby is taking two naps, it is wiser to miss the afternoon nap and go for an earlier bedtime than it is to skip the AM nap. Morning nap usually sets the tone for the day and if you’re able to do an earlier bedtime, baby should not become so over-tired that it is impossible to get them to settle for nighttime sleep. 

  • Try for a reasonable bedtime whether out or on the go: If your little one is a great sleeper in the car, try to time it right that she will fall asleep at bedtime on the drive home and then you can transfer her into bed.  If she doesn’t sleep well in the car, bring along a pack ’n play and a few familiar bedtime items and put baby down where you are.  As familiar to bedtime at home as possible will help in an unfamiliar environment so include sleep sac, lovey, pjs and familiar book etc.

  • Try for a longer (or later) afternoon nap so that he is able to stay up a little bit later in the evening without becoming over tired.  With a later nap, you may be able to have him up at the party/function and then come home and put him to bed a little later than normal with no issues. 

Most importantly, we wish you a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season.  Enjoy this special time with loved ones and have a Happy New Year!

5 Tips for Transitioning from Crib to Bed

                                         5 Tips for Transitioning From Crib To Bed

Pretty exciting, right? Your not-so-little baby is ready to move into a toddler or “big kid” bed!  You may be feeling ready for this transition but perhaps you’re not quite sure how to “switch” them over to their new sleep space. This can definitely be an exciting new milestone, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you ditch the crib for good.

  • Moving them before they are ready may create new sleep challenges: You don’t have to rush this transition.  Sleep experts say that toddlers can sleep in a crib until closer to 3 years of age and really, the longer you can keep them in the crib, the better! Understanding the concept of staying in bed, takes a certain level of cognitive ability and if we make this change too early, your sweetie may not be able to fully grasp this idea, which may lead to many night wakings ( or even wandering around the house in the night!)  If your child doesn’t have the verbal skills to understand big bed rules, we may want to put off this transition until they are mature enough to handle this new freedom.

  • Many toddlers sleep well in the crib because they feel contained and safe: Unless your toddler is literally climbing out of the crib or his body physically needs more space than the crib can provide, many toddlers find comfort and security when sleeping in a cozy and confined crib at night.  Although they may be saying “look at me! I’m a big kid” in the day, they may still do well with sleeping peacefully in the crib throughout the night. 

  • If your child is climbing out of the crib, you have a safety concern that needs to be addressed:  Definitely if your toddler is able to climb out of the crib (or is repeatedly attempting this), it is time to move her into a big kid bed.

1) Timing: Make sure your there are not any other big changes going on:  If your toddler is in the middle of potty training, if you are expecting a new baby, if preschool is about to begin or if you have moved into a new house,  moving your toddler into a big bed is likely not a good idea at this time.  When it comes to any and all big changes in your child’s life, try not to add new changes into his life on top of ones he is currently facing.  NOTE: It is not a good idea to move toddler into a bed as soon as a new baby arrives- having a new sibling is a HUGE life change for your toddler on it’s own.  Best to wait a few months until toddler is used to life with another little one taking Mom and Dad’s time, or make the transition far before the sibling arrives.  When transitioning after the arrival of new baby, keep toddler in the crib and have NB in a bassinet or side sleeper in your room for the first few months- then switch baby to crib and toddler to bed when everyone is ready. 

2)  Safety: Carefully make sure the room is safe. Your child will now be able to move around the room unattended, so we must make sure that things are safety proofed within the bedroom.  Your child may also wander out of the bedroom, so make sure to secure tops of stairs, keep cupboards with chemicals and cleaning products locked/baby proofed. If you are concerned about the safety of your child  wandering around the house consider installing a safety gate on the child’s door or use a baby proof saftey door knob to ensure they remain safe in their rooms throughout the night. 

3) Time to Shop: Involve your child and let them be a part of the process!  Let your toddler help you pick out a mattress and some fun sheets that they seem excited about and even a new cozy pillow.  Keep in mind, all they need at this point is a mattress/blankets/pillow and box spring (not necessarily a fancy race car/princess castle bed) which will keep them nice and low to the ground and also make it easier for them to get in and out of.  Point is, let your child have a a role in purchasing the items for their new sleep environment. 

4) Set up the Bed: Set up the bed so that it is positioned in the corner of the child’s room with the head and side of the bed flush against the wall.  Not only does this provide some extra safety for your toddler, but it may also provide the feeling of being a bit more confined and cozy, similar to how they felt in the crib. You can also put some extra pillows on the floor for protection if your child were to fall out- or you can instal a simple safety rail to prevent this.  

5) Discuss the New “Sleep Manners”: Assuming your toddler is old enough to engage in a basic conversation, have a discussion with your child about their new sleep environment, using a positive and fun tone.  Go over the sleep rules or “sleep manners” in which they must follow throughout the night. For example: “You will be sleeping in your new special bed tonight, so we will do our regular bath, jammies, books and a BIG snuggle and then you will sleep in your bed all night long.  In the morning when the sun is up, we will come in and get you and start our day together! NOTE: If your toddler is already having anxiety around the idea of becoming a “big kid” don’t refer to the bed as a “bid kid bed.” Simply call it a “special bed” if they are feeling nervous about no longer being a “baby” or becoming a “big kid.”

Hope these tips and suggestions are helpful when you decide to ditch the crib (or pass it on to a new sibling) and introduce your child to a big bed. 
 

Peaceful Sleep to you all.

Our Solution: Dealing with the time change

                                  Our Solution: Dealing with the time change

Anticipating changes to our baby and child’s sleep can cause some stress and anxiety.  Sometimes things are indeed big transitions and require a great deal of thought and planning.  But in other cases, smaller things in regards to sleep can actually have a simple way of sorting themselves out if we DON’T over think or create a “step-by-step” plan on how to handle it.  Don’t get me wrong, many sleep changes CAN be stressful and take work and determination in order to improve sleep and it certainly isn’t all easy, by any means.  But I find that the fall back, spring forward time change doesn’t HAVE to be one of these. 

My last post I wrote about suggestions and tips on how to handle the time change so that there is as little disruption and stress as possible.  Sometimes it is nice to have a few tools in the ol’ toolbox on how to handle this specific sleep change.  The suggestions outlined can absolutely be effective and provide a good guide on how to handle the time change in a gradual manner that may suit many families best. However, what I quickly realized after going through it myself with my 15 month old, was that maybe this was one of those instances that often gets over thought and the adjustment may actually be much simpler if we just go with the flow. 

In this case, what I found to be the very easiest was to just change those clocks and never look back! Just assume the new time so that baby adapts to the hour change quickly and hopefully with little disruption.  For us, we changed every clock in the house on Saturday night right before we went to bed so that everything automatically changed with the time (wake times, meal times, nap times and bedtime) and we didn’t think twice about it because we honestly kind of forgot that the clocks had been changed. For us, this made things easier rather than adjusting times in small bits gradually.  We just went about our life as if no time change had occurred.  Using our very familiar, strong and consistent bedtime/naptime routines was key to transition our daugther into sleep and I dont’ think she even knew anything had changed.  It may not be the right solution for all families, but it worked well for us, so I felt the need to share 🙂 

 Many parents struggle with this time change because that AM wake up becomes unbearable, occurring at an even earlier, absolutely terrifying hour which can throw the whole day off. BUT, if you can remember this rule (which applies to every morning, not just when we change the clocks): The day does not begin before 6AM. Any waking before 6AM is still “night time” and should be treated as a night waking.  Over time, if we handle these early AM wakings as night wakings, baby will begin to learn that it is NOT an appropriate time to get up and “party” and that it is still “night night time”, same as when it is 2 AM. So remember that: lights don’t go on and baby doesn’t get up until after that clock turns 6AM (so that we are not reinforcing or encourage early morning wakings)

May seem a little bit useless to be posting this AFTER the actual time change so I do apologize for that, but I felt the need to share.  I’m not saying my last post can’t be helpful- it most certainly can and if you prefer to transition a little bit slower then the last post is likely the right approach for you.  This was just the route we took and it turned out just fine.  Yes, there may be a few rough mornings, but hopefully with consistent and predictible bedtime and nap time routines in place and not getting baby up until after 6AM, it gets smoothed out within a few days. Sometimes I find that our little ones do just fine if we don’t get too worked up and over think things which can lead to some anxiety and confusion. There are those sleep changes that do involve very careful thinking, preparation and planning, but maybe  the 1 hour time change can be excluded from that category?  Your baby may surprise you- they can be incredibly adaptable if we give them the chance. 

Fall Back…To Sleep! How to Handle the Fall Time Change

Remember the days before kids?  When you heard “Fall Back- change the clocks” a wonderful feeling of excitement and pleasure filled your body as we prepared for an extra full hour of sleep! Instead of it being 7AM already, its only 6AM- and you can go back to sleep! Ah, what a good feeling!

The sad thing here is that once you have babies and children, this changing of the clocks doesn’t evoke such joyous feelings.  Now instead of your baby waking at 6AM will they be waking at 5AM old time? Instead of bedtime at 7PM will they not be tired until 8PM? This Fall time change can actually create some stress and anxiety for parents!

So how should we handle this? Firstly, I would like to remind you that patience and consistency go a LONG WAY.  Secondly, this one hour time change may cause a few bumpy days, but with consistency, sleep should get sorted out, back to normal in about a week at most. (After all, it is only an hour). 

Since we are moving the clocks back, when it is 7PM it will actually feel like 8PM for your little munchkin.  SO really it’s just a matter of your child going down a little bit later and you can handle this transition in a few ways:

  1. For a few days before the time change (3-4 should be enough), put your babe down 15 mins later for bedtime, get her up 15 mins later in the AM, and push naps as well. Continue to do this, gradually pushing later by 15 mins,  so that by the time the clocks are changed, baby is already used to this new bedtime. (EX. Night #1 7:15 Bedtime, Night #2 7:30 Bedtime, Night #3 7:45 Bedtime, etc.) Remember though, that if we push bedtime gradually later and later we must also push wake times, meal times and nap times as well.  It all must be shifted.

  2. Just assume the new time. Keep bedtime the same time according to the new time.  Make sure your child takes a good nap that afternoon to make it to the later bedtime. Make sure he doesn’t start the day earlier than 6AM (new time).  Schedule all meals and naps according to the new time.  (P.S.I prefer this method, as I find it’s easiest to be consistent and it rarely takes longer than a week to adjust.)

So there you have it.  “Fall Back” just doesn’t have the same meaning it once had before you were a parent. Remember, if you can be consistent with your child’s bedtimes and wake times and structure the schedule accordingly, everything should be smooth and settled in about a week.  And hey, if it isn’t there’s always the Prairies where these silly time changes do not occur 😉

Tips For a “Smooth Move”

                                                   Tips For a “Smooth Move”

This past week we moved our family from our west side Vancouver home over to the east side. Truth be told, moving with a newly walking (and extremely busy) little 15 month proved to be somewhat exhausting.  However, we made it and here we are, slowly but surely setting up our new place to call home. 

 I knew that this move was gong to be a transition for my husband and I.  We are used to living a couple blocks from the beach and were aware that our new location would be an adjustment.  What I forgot though, that was that moving homes is actually a huge transition for the whole family- especially for my daughter.  It wasn’t until we were fully moved in that I noticed her mood and sleep had been impacted by this major life change for her- and rightfully so!

Not only is it a significant change for most babies over 5 months, but the stress that my husband and I were exhibiting (trying to get everything prepared and organized for the move, cleaning, basically running around like crazy) before the actual move kind of began to rub off on her.  It’s so true that the energy and mood our children give off, is often a reflection of the energy we as parents are putting out there.  On top of that, the new and unfamiliar environment can feel very strange at first for babies and young children. 

I noticed right away that my daughter felt unsure and a bit confused about her new room.  Where had the carpets gone? Why was it so echoey? What are all these big boxes in the way of everything? It sure feels cold in here. Her facial expression each time we’d enter her room seemed like it was saying “what the heck, where are we? Take me home!”  Our first few days in our new home, she refused a couple of naps.  Crying out feeling alarmed by her new sleep situation made sense.  She was certainly noticeably thrown off for a few days, but now, a week later, she is back to her normal self; happy, outgoing, fearless (eek), and back to being a brilliant sleeper.   There were a few things that we did in order to help make this somewhat overwhelming change for her as smooth as possible:

Tips for a “Smooth Move” 

  • Use familiar items: Immediately incorporate toys, loveys, pjs or unwashed sheets that give off that familiar smell during time spent in the room/sleep periods.  These familiar items may be enough to calm and comfort your child in her new space.  (For example, at our old place we had a framed picture of a painted horse and may daughter loved saying “night night” to it each night before sleep- it had kind of become part of our bedtime routine.  I made sure that one of the first things we got out of boxes and up on her wall was this picture so that she would see it and know that she is in a safe, familiar place). 

  • Create a cozy bedroom environment as quickly as possible: Of course there is a lot to do and it can feel like you will never get all the unpacking done- however, try to prioritize your child’s sleep environment FIRST so that they feel settled and comfortable as soon as possible.  It doesn’t have to a perfect magazine (or instagram :)) quality nursery/bedroom but simply setting up a few items to re-create the look of his old bedroom right away should help. 

  • Use all the things you used at your old place for sleep: Use any white noise or sound machine that you may have been using and black out blinds/darkening shade to enhance the sleep environment.  Get these things set up before your first attempt at getting your babe down for sleep. 

  • Use your consistent, strong bedtime routine: You all know a bedtime routine is a must in my opinion,  and this is an especially important time to be using it consistently. The bedtime routine can go a long way in making your little one feel comfortable and gives them a sense of security and calming familiarity. 

Follow these tips to ensure a “Smooth Move” for your sweetie and before you know it, your little one will be just as excited and joyful about their new home as you are!

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