• Dealing with sleep regressions

    Sleep regressions (or for better perspective–“transitions”)

    Sleep regressions aren’t actual “regressions” but more transitions as this article describes. It’s important to remember that sleep is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. The best advice, from my personal experience, is to closely observe your child–pay attention to their behavior (are they going through a developmental leap? learning a new skill? going through a growth spurt? teething?), and be consistent and calm with your responses to their sleep changes.

    Times to expect sleep transitions

    There are a few specific timeframes when you can expect to see some changes in your little ones sleeping patterns. Here is a breakdown of the most common ones. As with all things, your little one may not experience all of these, or may experience them a little outside of these timeframes.

    • 6 weeks
    • 3-4 months
    • 6 months
    • 8-10 months
    • 12 months
    • 18 months
    • 2 years

    Tips for handling sleep transitions in infants

    Our friends over at Discover and Dream offer some tips on dealing with both infant and toddler sleep regressions.

    When dealing with infant sleep regressions you want to help them cope without undoing all the sleep coaching progress you’ve made up to this point. The goal is to gently encourage your baby to break any negative sleep associations, create positive sleep associations by sticking to your routine and help them learn to fall asleep without help from you.

    • During the regression, it’s fine to offer extra feedings. Growth spurts can be a component of sleep regressions so don’t worry about offering an extra daytime or nighttime feeding. This is temporary and you will eventually return to your normal schedule.
    • Offer comfort as needed, but try to avoid making new or reinstating old habits. You will definitely need to offer your baby plenty of extra kisses and cuddles during the sleep regression, but avoid creating new sleep associations, such as rocking or nursing/feeding your baby to sleep.  Sleep regressions are exhausting so ask for help!

    How long can I expect a sleep regression to last?

    A regression can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks so you are bound to get exhausted. Try and see if family or friends can help you with your child during the day or with household tasks. Offer an earlier bedtime if necessary. Sleep regressions often lead to missed sleep, which can lead to overtiredness, which leads to multiple night wakings or an early rising. It’s a vicious cycle so try to get your little one as much sleep as possible to avoid making the situation worse.

    Tips for handling toddler sleep transitions

    Kasey at Discover and Dream says that it’s very similar to what you would do with infant sleep regression. With the biggest difference being that toddlers are WAY more independent, verbal, opinionated….

    So the best thing you can do it stay consistent. Keep up with your nap and bedtime routine, be mindful of delay tactics and use phrases like “this is your last chance for food” or “this is your last chance for potty” and be firm if they continue to push boundaries. Keep in mind, toddlers of ALL people, need strong boundaries to feel safe and secure. 

    If you need more help with sleep, reach out to our friends at Discover and Dream!

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  • Baby sleep coaching: methods and myths

    Sleep “training”

    Let’s talk about something that is somewhat controversial in the mom space. As someone who focuses on natural and gentle parenting (as best I can), I’m also a mama who cannot function without decent sleep. I am prone to PPD and PPA (and deal with high functioning anxiety on a daily basis) and lack of sleep makes things significantly worse.

    Not only that, but I know how important sleep is for development of infants and kids. So my goal is always to set kids up for healthy sleep habits from the start. But that doesn’t mean things always go as planned (hello, parenthood). So with my first, I turned to a sleep coach for help when, after sleeping 12 hours a night for months, our little dude started waking every 45 minutes. He was about 6 months old, and I knew I didn’t want to just let him cry until he passed out (as my then pediatrician suggested….). Working with her taught me so much about sleep and opened my eyes to the world of sleep coaching.

    Gentle Sleep Coaching

    I know a lot of moms don’t like sleep “training” because they think it just means letting baby cry with no support but that isn’t the case. There are many different more gentle ways to help nudge babies and toddlers to better sleep. Certified pediatric sleep coach, Kasey co-owner of Discover & Dream, a sleep coaching services for families, gives us an overview on more gentle methods you can use to help baby sleep better.

    Kasey: “When using a gentle way to teach your baby independent sleep, you will help soothe your baby when they cry, until they learn to sleep without help. This type of method focuses on calming, soothing, and comforting a baby, but still allows a baby to learn to self soothe. Some gentle techniques include the shush/pat method, pick up/put down, rocking, patting, back rubs, and the 5 S’s which is great to calm newborns and young babies (0-3 months).

    Sleep coaching myths

    We often hear moms saying that they don’t want to hear any tears or could never have their child cry-it-out.  And I get that! I don’t know a single mom that LIKES to hear babies cry, especially not their own babies. You’ll even see debates about how sleep coaching can diminish the bond between you and your child or accusing you of doing long term damage to your baby’s brain–but it’s just not true. In fact, there is research proving these are just myths.

    Kasey explains that, “Babies thrive on routine and chances are if your baby is not sleeping well, their routine is not beneficial to restful and restorative sleep. When a new routine is created, old habits have to be broken, and as a result, your baby will be confused and show their frustration by crying. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in their sleep habits, nothing more. Don’t mistake the crying for fear, sadness, or abandonment. Once your baby learns the new way to fall asleep, the tears will stop and your baby will be falling asleep on their own.”

    There are many ways to gently coach your baby to better sleep. And while she says she can’t promise a tear-free experience, she offers gentle methods to try and reduce the tears as much as possible.

    She doesn’t believe in just letting babies cry but letting your child experience some tears while you are there to comfort and love them is something very different–and I agree. As one of my all time favorite gentle parenting experts explains attachment to your baby is about calm and consistent comfort, not never letting your baby cry.

    Most common sleep issues

    One of the most common issues that children have with sleep include sleep associations or “sleep props.” This is anything a child uses to fall asleep.  For example, the breast or bottle, a pacifier, white noise, rocking, swinging, movement in the car can all be sleep props.

    Sleep associations are a normal part of falling asleep. It’s when these props disrupt a child’s sleep that they become a problem.  

    Some children are more sensitive and need the same exact prop all throughout the night and when transitioning during sleep cycles. Eliminating these props and helping children learn to self soothe will be the key to improving your child’s sleep. Often times children that have strong sleep associations usually have very bad sleep patterns. Eliminating sleep props and teaching a baby independent sleep is the cornerstone to improve a baby’s sleep.

    You do you

    Here’s one thing to keep in mind. As with all things parenting related, you have to do you. Do some research (Google scholar style, not just random articles online), talk to a few professionals, asks some moms who have similar values and then go with what makes you comfortable. You’re going to get judgement on either side of ANY issue–so just smile and nod. You can’t let judgement from others be the guide to your parenting decisions.

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  • Newborn Sleep: Tips from a certified sleep coach

    I know sleep is a MAJOR topic for all parents, but especially parents with newborns. With your first baby you hear all about how newborns don’t sleep, but it’s worth noting that you can begin to develop good sleep habit from the start. I team up with a local certified sleep coach, Kasey Gregory at Discover and Dream, to bring you a Q&A to address some of the most important sleep topics when it comes to newborns and young infants.

    Q: Is it possible to set babies up for good sleep habits from birth?

    Kasey: “Absolutely! I started right from the beginning with my second son with shaping healthy sleep habits, gave him love, attention, snuggles, and kisses throughout the day to bond with him and always went by his lead.  When you work on independent sleep from the very beginning iit usually means that sleep training is not necessary or at least not any major sleep training down the road. Just remember that once your baby has been accustomed to one way of falling asleep, it becomes more challenging to undo it.”

    Q: Are wake times truly important?

    Kasey: “Wake times are a very important part of improving your child’s sleep.  Wake time length is the amount of time your child can stay awake before needing to sleep again. If your child is up for too long, he or she may fight sleep. The same goes if your child is not awake for long enough. Inappropriate awake periods also contribute to poor naps and night wakings. Getting the timing “just right” is crucial as it can greatly improve overall sleep. With newborn sleep, nailing those wake windows will help you be successful.  Babies are so sensitive to overtiredness in the early months that trying to put a baby down awake and overtired is extremely difficult.  Keep those awake times short. Newborns need a lot of sleep and they need to sleep often. On average, 0-1 month use 30-45 minutes, 1-2 months use 45-60 minutes, then 2-3 months use 60-80 minutes.”

    Q: What are sleep cues parents should be on the lookout for?

    Kasey: “For babies 12 weeks and younger try and be very observant of sleepy cues because an overtired newborn can have so much trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. You may notice red eyebrows, turns head, blank stare and that means they are getting sleepy. If you put your baby down now sleep will likely come easier and they will stay asleep longer. If they start to yawn, rub eyes, become fussy then they need a nap now as you are getting close to missing their sleep window. Your baby might fuss a bit longer before falling asleep and may wake up prematurely into the nap. If they start to arch their back, demonstrate hysterical crying, make fists then they are overtired. If you put your baby down now it’s possible that they may refuse nap altogether or protest a lot before falling asleep. After 3-4 months you can balance sleepy cues with the time on the clock with wake windows.”

    Q: What’s all the fuss about swaddling? 

    Kasey: “Swaddling can also help your baby sleep better and for longer periods of time.  It will also help soothe a fussy baby. Babies have a strong startle reflex, so the swaddle keeps their arms and legs from failing.  My favorite swaddle is the love to dream swaddle up as it allows your baby to sleep in a more natural position with arms up (This is one of the swaddles listed on Play Learn Thrive’s simplified newborn checklist!)

    Q: Talk to us about sleep associations.

    Kasey: “A sleep association is something that occurs at or near sleep times. So another tip to shape healthy habits early on is to separate food from sleep and encourage full feeds. Some of these associations are positive and others can negatively impact sleep.  Once your baby starts to have longer periods of wakefulness, it’s a good idea to feed them at the beginning of their awake time, followed by changing, play, and then down for a nap.”

    Q: How can you start to form a sleeping schedule for your baby?

    Kasey: “Waking baby every 3 hours during the day will help make sure your baby doesn’t sleep through feeds in those early weeks.  If you let your baby sleep longer than that, they will start to try and make up for the missing intake at nighttime. As the weeks go by, you may have to experiment with capping single naps closer to 2-2.5 hours.  By 6 weeks I was capping my sons nap at the 2 hour mark as that helped him get long stretches at night.”

    Q: Why is my baby sleeping all day, and ready to party all night?

    Kasey: “Most newborns are born with day/night confusion as they sleep a lot during the day, then are up for long periods at night. In the beginning you will need to switch an infant’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.     Here are a few tips to help reverse day/night confusion.

    1. During the day, keep the lights on, talk at a normal tone, keep the blinds open, nap your baby in the light, and go on with daily activities without trying to tip-toe around your baby.
    2. At night you will do the opposite. Keep your voices down, dim the lights, turn off electronics, start setting a calm and quiet environment, and a small bedtime routine to help you baby recognize that sleep is coming.

    Keep in mind that setting your newborns internal clock can take up to 8 weeks to resolve.  Once day/night confusion is resolved you should nap your baby in the dark to ensure good-quality sleep.”

    Q: Any last pieces of advice?

    Kasey: “I would try and implement routines from the very beginning, such as a morning routine, nap routine, and bedtime routine.  This helps to set your baby up and to understand what is coming next. Once a baby begins to understand consistent routines, they feel more relaxed moving through their day.”

    You can follow Kasey and Discover and Dream on Instagram–@discoveranddream

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  • Infant sleep: Understanding the secrets of sleep

    SLEEP! One of my favorite topics. Helping mamas figure out how to get their little ones to sleep is one of my passions. I have helped so many friends and mom’s group friends that people now tag me on sleep posts…And I LOVE IT! After countless hours of research and working with a sleep coach here are some of my greatest findings.

    The science of sleep

    Yes, y’all. There is a science to understanding how little ones sleep. If you can understand the basics you can greatly impact your ability to help guide them to better sleep. So here is an overview of what I have learned through all my research:

    •  It isn’t that babies don’t know HOW to sleep (hello newborn that can barely keep their eyes open during a feeding), it’s that they need to learn how to FALL asleep and get themselves back to sleep when they wake at night. Once babies become more alert their brains are stimulated, and more often than not, OVERSTIMULATED. They need to learn how to shut down and fall sleep. This doesn’t mean that you should be expecting your infant to know how to do this immediately, it’s a gradual process but there are some simple ways you can help it along.
    • Learning to fall asleep and get themselves back to sleep if they wake in the middle of the night is a DEVELOPMENTAL process. It’s important to pay close attention to their sleep cues, following recommended wake times, and understand that babies need WAY more sleep than most people realize.
    •  Babies sleep cycles are different from ours and they don’t start producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) until around four months. This is a HUGE change for their brains and can cause one of the first major sleep regressions. This is when sleep cycles start to become more pronounced. So they come out of deep sleep and have a hard time falling back to sleep (and a sleep cycle for an infant is about 45 minutes…so that is why so many babies start waking either every 45 minutes or every 1.5 hours during this 4 month sleep regression).
    • Sleep regressions are REAL. They happen when babies make developmental leaps (read more about these here), are learning new skills, are going through a growth spurt. This means it’s important to pay attention to what your little one is going through. By observing their behavior you can often understand what is causing the sleep disturbance and then figure out an approach from there.
    • You can build good sleep habits from day one. One of my go to references is Alice Callahan Ph.D and you can read some of her tips here. She has also written a book called The Science of Mom which you can order here. One of my all time favorite blog posts about sleep is written by Dr. Callahan and posted on Janet Landsbury’s blog. I specifically love that it talks about how you can build healthy attachment with your child while also encouraging independent sleep.

    How much sleep do babies need? Way more than you think

    Seriously. WAY MORE. And the more they sleep the better they will sleep. Being overtired or overstimulated is one of the biggest problems in infant sleep. Babies who are overtired have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. They are fussier, clingier and less content in general. Babies aren’t the only ones that need more sleep–in fact the American Academy of Pediatrics says most kids are not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can not only make kids generally cranky but it can impact their social, emotional and academic development, and can have an effect on their physical and mental health. So laying foundations for healthy sleep when your little ones are little, is a big deal.  Also keep in mind that a day should be broken into two parts: day and night–each being 12 hours. So if they wake “for the day” at 7am, then they should be asleep for “the night” at 7pm. Once you get into toddlerhood this changes a little and their night becomes a little shorter.

    Below is a chart the helps you visually see how long infants (and toddlers) should be awake in between sleep.

    Sleep cues

    Babies gives us many clues that they are tired and I’m not talking about yawning (if baby is yawning you have missed your sleep window and are moving into the overtired stage). Sometimes we miss them because, let’s be honest, we are busy AF and overwhelmed as new parents or as parents with multiple kids. But if you have these cues in mind, and are following wake times, it makes it easier to spot a baby that’s starting to show sleep cues.

    • Looking away from you if you try to engage
    •  Rubbing their eyes
    • Rubbing their face against your shoulder
    •  Staring off/seeming very calm

    An overtired baby is a baby that can’t sleep

    Sleep begets sleep. That means: the better baby sleeps, the more baby sleeps. If you want baby to sleep, it’s best to put them down WELL before they “get tired”–this is the perfect time for them to start learning to fall asleep. If they are happy and just starting to get tired, they may be able to drift off. If they are overtired and cranky, not so much. Once your little one is yawning, they are overtired.

    Sleep regressions

    Sleep regressions suck. Seriously. One minute you have a baby that is sleeping great and seemingly out of nowhere they are waking up more often or can’t seem to settle themselves. Sleep regressions often go hand in hand with developmental leaps or when your little one is learning new skills like sitting, standing or walking. Basically their little brains are on overdrive with developing and learning and it makes it harder for them to settle. During a sleep regression the best possible thing to do is try to stick to you routine as much as possible. Comfort baby when needed but also try not to begin any new habits.

    Good sleep habits from day one

    Everyone always asks how I ended up with “such good sleepers”–the truth is, I worked to provide them with opportunities to develop good sleep habits from day one. I think that all babies have the ability to become good sleepers–it might come more naturally to some than others (because all babies ARE different) but if you begin introducing solid sleep habits from day one you’ll be in much better place than someone who doesn’t. And it isn’t all that hard, I promise!

    • Help them figure out days and nights. During the first few weeks make sure that the lights are on and the house is “noisy” during the day. Once it’s evening, turn the lights low or off and have the house as quiet as can be (harder if you have crazy toddlers running around, I know). This helps babies learn that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for sleeping. We used to put the older kids to bed and then turn the lights totally off and watch TV in the dark with the sound on low.
    • Pay attention to wake times and do whatever you need to do during the first few months to get babies sleeping by those wake time windows. Don’t worry too much about habits, but also pay attention to what habits you might be creating…’s a fine line
    • Start letting baby attempt to put themselves to sleep. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, try to put baby down well before the wake time window closes (so they are at their most relaxed) and see if they start to drift off. If they don’t or they start to fuss, no worries. Pick them up, rock them, nurse them. Just try again, and again. The more chances they get to practice the more likely they will learn to sleep independently (it’s a process!)
    • Pause before you respond to every little noise. I don’t mean let them cry. I mean pause. Like wait a few seconds. So many times a baby will just make a little gurgle and we will run over to pick them up. It could be that baby is just making a little noise but that they are still asleep. Also, a note on “crying” in older babies….Listen for a minute to see if your baby is actually crying. If they are just fussing or protesting going to sleep, or babbling to themselves or practicing their pterodactyl screeching (like my 6 month old is currently in the habit of doing) don’t rush in. Let them be alone for a little–even if it’s just a minute or two.
    • Make the room as comfortable for sleep as possible. This includes a white noise sound machine (not one that makes actual sounds like rain or crickets!). We love the Marpac Dohm one because it’s an actual little fan inside so it doesn’t loop. Everyone one in my house has one, including us. I notice a HUGE difference in my sleep if I don’t have it on. We also use black out shades.
    • Swaddle in the early months (0-3 months). Pay attention to whether baby likes their arms in or if they seem to want access to their hands. Babies will sometime “fight” the swaddle but stick with it–they have a reflex called the Moro reflex that makes their little arms flail and will wake them up (that’s why swaddling is so effective at helping babies stay asleep longer. Also think about it this way. you baby was just all squished up inside your uterus for 9 months. Having the pressure from a swaddle helps them feel more secure. There are two swaddles that I would recommend. We love the Woombie for arms in. It zips from both ends, which makes middle of the night diaper changes much easier (don’t unzip their arms and they will fall asleep faster!), and they can’t break out of it. They also have a vented one for warmer weather and a convertible one that can help you transition out of the swaddle. If you find baby likes to rub their face or is starting to try to get their hands close to their mouth they may prefer an “arms up” type swaddle like the Love to Dream–both my daughters preferred getting to their hands and this worked much better for them. It does take a little trial and error.
    • Use a wearable blanket when babies are ready to transition out of the swaddle–usually around 3-4 months. We own many different wearable blankets but my favorite BY FAR is the Woolino.  Wool is a natural fiber that helps regulate body temperature. This sleep sack also grows with baby so you don’t have to buy multiple sizes (so while it’s more expensive than some, you will only be buying ONE vs every size while baby grows). They also have one with feet which is great once you have a walker. If you want something that’s cotton I would recommend the BabyDeedee sleep sack. The quality is amazing, they have really durable zippers unlike some of the other cotton sleep sacks we have tried–and they also have snaps on the top of the shoulders for ease of use.

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