Infant Sleep Tip #7

Infant Sleep Tip #7: Put your baby down drowsy but awake at least once every 24 hours (ideally bedtime or first nap).

Holding our baby as she falls asleep in our arms is one of the most precious parenting moments we get. Feed, nurse, rock, bounce her down in your arms as much as you want those first few weeks/months, without any guilt about “creating bad habits.” Your young baby and you both benefit from that close contact and time together.

At some point – and there is a huge range for this – parents and/or babies do better falling asleep on their own. Some parents need a break to care for other children, work, cook, or simply take a few minutes for themselves. Likewise, some babies may only sleep for short times in someone’s arms.

I remember frequently swaying my firstborn to sleep as she cried, only to have her wake again as soon as I transferred her to her crib. At some point, I realized that she was crying herself to sleep regardless, so why not just have her fall asleep in her crib and avoid the transfer drama? I felt less guilty about the crying if she was in my arms, but it was starting to feel ridiculous. And I was exhausted. That was what prompted me to try a new approach.

Bear in mind that the easiest time to fall asleep in the 24-hour period is at bedtime, provided she’s not overtired, or first nap. When you are ready, try putting your baby in her crib/co-sleeper/bassinette drowsy but awake at one of those times.

What does drowsy but awake mean? Imagine a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being wide awake and 10 being sound asleep. Aim for a 7. She should be fed, clean, snug, and ready for sleep. You can do some singing, bouncing, etc. and when you see her eyelids getting heavy, try putting her down. She might fuss or cry a bit, but you can try some patting and shushing, or of course you can pick her up and try again then or another time. A few sleep experts encourage multiple pickups and putdowns, though depending on temperament, for some babies this can be very stimulating. With alert babies, less is usually more.

More tips to follow soon. In the meantime, wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.

Rebekah

Approaching the End of Daylight Savings Time

I know I’m not the only one noticing how much shorter our days are getting already. Daylight savings 2015 will end on November 1st. Clocks are moved back one hour from 2 a.m. DST to 1 a.m.  For parents of early risers, the upcoming change can be nerve-racking. “He’s already waking up at 5:30 a.m. Does this mean he’s going to start waking up at 4:30 a.m. now?!” Thankfully the answer is no. You are going to gradually shift his schedule to the new time, just like when you are traveling.

So what will it look like? You have a few options. One is to allow your child to wake up at his natural time on the morning of the 2nd. According to the clock, it will be an hour earlier than usual. If he usually wakes up at 6:30 a.m., he will likely awaken at 5:30 a.m. That’s fine. It will be short-lived! Try to keep things low key for 30 minutes until you are ready to start the day. Base the day’s routines (meals, naps, etc.) around the new clock time. If your son’s bedtime was 7:30 p.m., the clock will now read 6:30 p.m. Aim for good naps that day so he can make it to at least 7 p.m. (new time). You can gently push his bedtime back to 7:30 p.m. over the next few nights.

Alternatively, if going “cold turkey” doesn’t appeal, you can also approach the time change incrementally, starting the week before. Push naps, meals and bedtime back 15 minutes later each of the days leading up to the end of daylight savings. For example, if his usual bedtime is 7:30 p.m., he can go to bed at 7:45 p.m. on October 29th, 8 p.m. on the 29th, 8:15 p.m. on the 30th, and 8:30 p.m., on the 31st. By the time daylight savings ends, he will already be adjusted – or at least well on his way.

Regardless of which approach you choose, stay consistent and try not to let him eat or really start his day before 6 a.m. (new time). He’ll be adjusted within a week.

If your child had too late of a bedtime before the time change, this is your chance to move it earlier without too much fuss.  The ideal bedtime for most children is between 7-8 p.m.  So if your son’s bedtime was too late, don’t move it later; just put him to bed at the new time of 7 or 8 p.m.

Note: If your little guy seems plagued by early rising, it’s time to get to the bottom of it. Click here to read my earlier post about the common causes of early rising and how to address them.

*Includes information from Kim West’s Good Night Sleep Tight.

 

 

 

Springing Forward

Today’s post will come as good news to many of us who are sick of being buried in snow and/or coping with our children’s early rising. Daylight saving time starts this weekend. At 2:00am on Sunday, March 8th, 2015, we will turn our clocks ahead one hour. The start of daylight saving time assures us that spring is indeed on the way, even if it is still 17 degrees outside.

What does this mean for our children’s sleep? Generally speaking, it’s a good thing. Children who were waking up at 5:30am will now be waking at 6:30am, a far more civilized hour.  However, those with late sleepers, may need to rouse their child so they don’t sleep the morning away.

What should we do in anticipation of the time changes? We’ve got two options. One is to do absolutely nothing. Just go with it. On Saturday night, put your child to bed at the usual time and allow her to wake at her usual time (though of course, the clock will read an hour later – i.e. 8am instead of the usual 7am). For the next few days, naps and bedtime may all feel a bit too early. For example, if your child’s bedtime is 7pm, you will be putting her to bed at the “new” 7pm, which is really 6pm. However, with a consistent bedtime routine and other good sleep habits, she will adjust within the week. This is a great option for families with early risers.

Alternatively, you can gradually adjust your child’s internal clock to the time change. Put her to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night over the next few nights. For example, if her bedtime is 7pm, put her to bed at 6:45pm Monday and Tuesday nights, 6:30pm Wednesday and Thursday, and 6:15 on Friday and Saturday. Naps and meal times will need to be adjusted in the 15-minute increments as well. This method is usually recommended for young babies and children with already early bedtimes and/or struggling with naps.

Regardless of what approach you opt for, exposing your child to morning sunlight (if you can find some!), focusing on good naps, a predictable and calming bedtime routine (without screen time), room darkening shades and/or white noise, and following your child’s sleepy cues will make the transition smoother all around.

Also remember that if your child was waking early due to another reason (nap deprivation, too long of a wakeful window between nap and bedtime, etc.), it’s likely that the early rising will return in a few weeks. If so, take a look at this earlier post.

Infant Sleep Tip #4

Infant Sleep Tip #4: Manage day and night feedings so that caregivers can get some rest too.

Even though she’s ready to hit the sack around 6 or 7pm, a later evening feeding works well for babies and parents. Rouse her for full, boring feeding 2-3 hours later (around 9-10pm), then put her straight back to bed. Then YOU go to bed too!

Babies can naturally take one long stretch per 24-hour period. At first the long stretch may just be 4 hours, but it will lengthen over the upcoming months to 5, 6, 7 hours and will eventually become her night sleep. We want to encourage the long stretch to be at night after that last 9-10pm-ish feeding. If she takes it during the day in the form of an epic nap, she will legitimately be up all night making up for calories didn’t receive during the day. (Yes, that means wake a sleeping baby from a nap so that she doesn’t sleep through a daytime feeding.) And if she does her long stretch from 6-10pm, then you haven’t benefited from it. So encourage her little body to take its long stretch after that last evening feed.

Note: If mom really needs some more sleep, see if another caregiver can do the next feeding (probably around 1-3am) so that mom can get a solid stretch herself. If breastfeeding, this can be a bottle of expressed breast milk. As the saying goes, “if mama isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Knowing how intense as the first few months can be, we need to do what we can to support ourselves. An uninterrupted 6+ hour stretch of sleep can do wonders for a mom coping with baby blues, postpartum depression, or simply trying to regroup after a challenging postpartum time.

Infant Sleep Tip #3

Happy New Year! This is the third part of a series dedicated to laying a good foundation for sleep with babies under six months of age.

Infant Sleep Tip #3: Look for natural day/night cycle to emerge – usually 6am-6pm or 7am-7pm

Most babies fall into a 6am-6pm or 7am-7pm (or thereabouts) schedule. During the day, we want to focus on full feedings every few hours, outside time, floor time to practice new skills, and napping at appropriate intervals. When you notice your little ones starting to fall apart around 6pm or 7pm, she’s probably ready to call it a day.

Many parents mistake this fussiness as a need for one more nap. But after a 12-hr day, her central nervous system is taxed, and it is time to get her into a less stimulating, more sleep friendly environment. Bring her to the bedroom, give her one last feeding, change her diaper, dim the lights, turn on some white noise (especially if the rest of the house is still up and at ‘em), sing her a song, swaddle her up (if she’s into that), and put her to bed.

A Great Night’s Sleep for the Entire Family

Many times after working with a family to solve their child’s sleep challenges, parents ask me for sleep tips for themselves. My training does not include adult sleep issues, but below are some excellent suggestions from Kim West that often solve the problem. 

In addition to the following tips, I also highly recommend www.lowbluelights.com, who make night glasses and other products that block out blue light, thereby tricking the brain into secreting melatonin while lights are still on. In my household, we use the glasses, night-lights, iphone covers, and lightbulbs.

Here is to a great night's sleep for your entire family!

Tips for Sleeping Well Every Night by Kim West

Did you know that getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night can help you live longer, be thinner, think clearer and look younger? Despite these incredible benefits more then half of U.S. adults get less then 7-8 hours of sleep at night!

If you are one of the 75% of adults who report having a sleep problem, consider some of these helpful sleep tips to start to get the sleep you need and your body craves.

* Go to bed and wake up at around the same time every night (and while you have young children you might want to set your bedtime earlier than usual). Even on weekends, try not to modify it by more than an hour. Routines "condition" us for sleep, psychologically and physiologically, and the conditioned response then makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This tip is essential for children's night sleep and naps too!

* Give yourself one hour before lights out to wind down, letting your body and mind become more relaxed and ready for sleep. Listen to quiet music, take a bath, or read a book. Some people find that light stretches, meditation, creative visualization, or progressive relaxation helps. The average person (adult or child) takes 15-20 minutes to put her/himself to sleep.

* If you need to catch up, rather than tinker too much with your nightly sleep schedule, take naps. But either take a short twenty- to thirty-minute nap or take a longer ninety- to hundred-minute nap so you don't wake up during a non-REM sleep cycle and feel groggy. Before I learned that, I used to set the alarm for one hour and wake up feeling lethargic and lousy, like I needed a major infusion of caffeine.

* Make sure your bed and your bedroom are sleep friendly. Your room should be quiet, dark, and secure, and your mattress, pillows, and sheets should be comfortable. Sort out any temperature-control issues with your partner or spouse!

*Avoid any "screen" time for one hour before bed. That means turn off the TV, computer and cell phone and don't bring them in to the bedroom. The light from the screen tells the body not to secrete melatonin, the drowsy making hormone, making it more difficult to go to sleep.

* Exercise at least twenty to thirty minutes three times a week, but try to do it in the morning or during the day, not in the evening. If possible, leave at least three to four hours between strenuous exercise and sleep, and you certainly don't want to work out right before you go to bed. The same goes for rough housing with your child before bed, try to keep things quiet and mellow at least an hour before bed.

* Try to get some natural light in the afternoon. Go for a walk or sit in a sunny room, and try to get out of the house or at least briefly escape your artificially lit office cubicle. This tip will help your child too!

* Eat dinner at least three hours before going to bed. This of course does not apply to babies.

* Reduce your caffeine consumption (two cups maximum), and don't have any caffeine for at least six to eight hours before bedtime because it stays in your bloodstream. Caffeine doesn't just mean coffee--it means tea, many sodas, chocolate, and some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies. We become more sensitive to caffeine as we approach our forties.

* Nicotine is a stimulant, so if you haven't stopped smoking, poor sleep is yet another incentive.

* Watch your alcohol consumption. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but more than three to five glasses, even less for some individuals, fragment our sleep. We wake up more often at night and earlier in the morning.

*See your doctor if you or your child has asthma, allergies, reflux, anxiety, depression and significant stress to make sure it is not interfering with your sleep.

Sleep is as important as a good diet! Sleep deprivation can cause depression, heart disease and weight gain...not to mention it makes you age faster. There really is such a thing as "beauty sleep.”

Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours as an adult, and remember that children need between 10-11 hours of sleep at night for the first 10 years of their lives!

Don’t “Fall Back” into Poor Sleep Habits!

 

I know I’m not the only one noticing how much shorter our days are getting already. Daylight savings 2013 will end on November 3rd. Clocks are moved back one hour from 2 a.m. DST to 1 a.m.  For parents of early risers, the upcoming change can be nerve-racking. “He’s already waking up at 5:30 a.m. Does this mean he’s going to start waking up at 4:30 a.m. now?!”

Fortunately the answer is no. You are going to gradually shift his schedule to the new time, just like when you are traveling.

So what will it look like? You have a few options. One is to allow your child to wake up at his natural time on the morning of the 3rd. According to the clock, it will be an hour earlier than usual. If he usually wakes up at 6:30 a.m., he will likely awaken at 5:30 a.m. That’s fine. It will be short-lived! Try to keep things low key for 30 minutes until you are ready to start the day. Base the day’s routines (meals, naps, etc.) around the new clock time. If your son’s bedtime was 7:30 p.m., the clock will now read 6:30 p.m. Aim for good naps that day so he can make it to at least 7 p.m. (new time). You can gently push his bedtime back to 7:30 p.m. over the next few nights.

Alternatively, if going “cold turkey” doesn’t appeal, you can also approach the time change incrementally, starting NOW! Push naps, meals and bedtime back 15 minutes later each of the days leading up to the end of daylight savings. If his usual bedtime is 7:30 p.m., he can go to bed at 7:45 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. on October 31st, 8:15 p.m. on November 1st, and 8:30 p.m., on the 2nd. By the time daylight savings ends, he will already be adjusted – or at least well on his way.

Regardless of which approach you choose, stay consistent and don’t let him really start his day before 6 a.m. (new time). He’ll be adjusted within a week.

*If your child had too late of a bedtime before the time change, this is your chance to move it earlier without too much fuss.  The ideal bedtime for a child is between 7 and 8 pm.  So if your son’s bedtime was too late, don’t move it later; just put him to bed at the new time of 7 or 8pm.

Note: If your little guy seems plagued by early rising, it’s time to get to the bottom of it. Click here to read my earlier post about the common causes of early rising and how to address them.

(Includes information from Kim West’s Good Night Sleep Tight.)

Good Night Stars, Good Night Air, Good Night Noises Everywhere

All children take great comfort in predictability; it helps them make sense of their world and regulate their states of being. The bedtime routine is a wonderful opportunity to incorporate soothing rituals into our children’s daily lives, while improving sleep habits at the same time.

As adults, we have learned how to relax ourselves in preparation for sleep. We bathe, dim the lights, read in bed, beg our partner for a foot rub, listen to mellow music. Likewise, our children, including babies and school-age kids, benefit from calming, predictable rituals before going to bed. Activities should all be comforting and quiet. Save the wrestling, tickling, scary stories and tv shows, and anything else that’s potentially stimulating for another time of day.

Here are activities that work well as part of a bedtime routine. Pick 3 or 4 based on your child’s age and preferences.

·      Bath
·      Put on pajamas
·      Brush teeth
·      Go to the bathroom
·      Read books
·      Bottle or nursing
·      Massage
·      Swaddle or sleep sack
·      Plenty of hugs and kisses
·      Sing a (short) lullaby
·      Tell a (short) story
·      Share 3 things about your day
·      Say good night to dollies or objects in room
·      Listen to quiet music
·      Small cup of water with books
·      Prayers, blessings, or send love/kisses/wishes to others

Encourage buy-in. If your child is asserting his independence these days, empower him to participate actively in the routine. He can pick out his pajamas, choose the book, say goodnight to his special dolls, and turn off the light. But you set the time frame.

Anticipate your child’s reactions. If there is one part of the routine that your child resists (perhaps brushing his teeth or combing his hair), get that part over first, before he settles into his snuggly mode.

Think about timing. Your routine could be anywhere from 15 minutes (for a baby) to an hour, depending on your child’s age and temperament. Some need more time to switch gears than others. Keep an eye on the clock though – if your child’s natural bedtime is 7:30, remember to start the routine early enough so he has plenty of time to fall asleep by then.

Follow at naptime too. The naptime routine can be an abbreviated version of bedtime, 1-2 calming activities in your child’s room.

Let him get himself to sleep. Your routine should be relaxing, but not enough to put them to sleep. We want them doing that part themselves. So if your baby keeps conking out reading or nursing, move that activity up in the routine. If it still happens, try shifting your routine earlier.

(Some excerpts from The Good Night Sleep Tight Workbook ©2010 Kim West LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady ®)

Ensuring Good Sleep, Even on the Road!

Here are some tips to make your vacation as smooth as possible, sleep-wise.

Prepare a sleep-friendly environment. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, rental house, or with family, try to create a sleep-friendly environment for your little ones. Bring along unwashed crib sheets (the familiar scent will be soothing), favorite loveys and blankets, sound machine, and night light. If you’re not sure the window shades will be dark enough, pack black trash bags and masking tape or thumbtacks for makeshift blackout shades. The Phil & Teds “Traveller” cot is a great alternative to traditional pack n plays; it is small and light enough to fit inside your suitcase, has no uncomfortable crossbars, and has the added advantage of an optional top in case you’ve got a climber on your hands. (More on that subject in another post!)

Respect your child’s need to sleep – even on vacation. Yes, your child may miss a few naps due to travel and bedtime may be a little later due to older cousins. But try to not abandon your child’s schedule altogether, particularly if you are away for more than a few days. If normal crib naps are not possible, plan to drive during nap times, squeeze in catnaps to take the edge off, and opt out of a late dinner if your little one is showing signs of fatigue. You’ll be glad you made the sacrifice – over-tired children usually don’t make the best travel companions anyhow.

Maintain the rituals. Try to maintain your family’s pre-sleep routine, or at least an abridged version of it. The familiar books, songs, and other positive sleep associations will be especially comforting to them as they adjust to their new environment.

Talk to your children. Even one year olds often understand a lot more than we think. Let your little ones know that you are doing things differently than usual because you are traveling. “Today we are going to take our naps in the car because we have a long drive to grandma’s house. You can rest in your car seat, and we will wake you up as soon as we get there!”

Avoid using the same crutch you just broke. Sure, some sleep regressions may happen during travel. However, if you have recently worked hard to stop nursing your baby to sleep, try rocking her or patting her down instead. It’s less confusing and less intermittent reinforcement, which means ultimately it will be easier to undo.

Nip bad habits in the bud. Let your little ones know that once you are back home, it’s back to business as usual. So if you had a co-sleeping nurse-athon in order to keep her quiet at your in-law’s house, the “open bar” officially closes when she kisses grandma goodbye. It’s much easier (i.e. less crying) to tackle new sleep issues before they are fully engrained.

Enjoy your vacation!


The Early Bird Doesn't Catch the Worm

If your adorable little alarm clock wakes up at 6:15am refreshed and ready for action – though it may feel like the middle of the night to us parents – you may have to just go with the flow. 6-7am is a biologically appropriate time for babies to wake. However, if she is groggy, falling apart by 7am, or consistently waking before 6am, you’ll want to tackle the early rising once and for all.

Here’s a look at the most common reasons for early rising…

·      Too late of a bedtime. I know this doesn’t seem logical. We tend to think that if our children stay up late, they will crash hard and sleep in the following morning. Alas, this is rarely the case. Depending on their age, most babies and young children naturally want to fall asleep (not start bedtime routine) between 7-8pm. Missing their “sleep window” triggers the release of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone, which can make for a harder bedtime, more wakeful night, and early rising.

·      Nap deprivation in general. Babies and young children who are not getting adequate naps on a regular basis tend to wake early in the morning. It’s important to know approximately how many hours of naps your child needs based on their age (understanding that these are averages – some children will need more, others slightly less). For example, a six month old needs approximately 3.5 hours of naps spread out over 2-3 naps, whereas a two year old needs approximately 2 hours of sleep during their afternoon nap. For more information on how much sleep your child needs, click here.

·      Too big of a wakeful window – Too long of a wakeful window prior to bedtime means that your child is going to bed overtired, with cortisol running through their body. This means we need to base bedtime partly on when our baby woke up from their last (or only) nap. For babies under 6 months, the maximum wakeful window is about 2 hours. As babies approach one year, the window extends to about 3 hours. Some well-rested toddlers and preschoolers can handle a 4-hour window, max. It’s important to watch for your child’s sleepy cues and tinker with bedtime to find out what works best for them.

·      Too drowsy at bedtime – Bedtime is the easiest time to get to sleep. If we act as our child’s sleeping pill, getting them to sleep at bedtime by holding, rocking, feeding, or patting them down, then how can we ask them to do it themselves when they stir at 5am, the hardest time of the day to get to sleep?

If none of these ring a bell, take a look at your child’s sleep environment and make sure that there’s nothing external contributing to the early rising. Perhaps the birds chirp in the tree near their bedroom window or the morning light is streaming in through their curtains. White noise or blackout shades can make a big difference during the early morning hours, when babies are feeling relatively well rested after 9-10 hours of sleep.

Wishing you and your little ones many happy mornings together!