Tips For A Restful Summer Vacation

Vacations are… different, to say the least, once you have a baby. They are a little less relaxing and a little more challenging. I’m not only referring to not being able to sleep later on vacay but also all the extra items you have to pack and lug around. There isn’t much we can do about all the extras we have to bring, but there are definitely things that can be done to keep everyone well-rested and happy.

My daughter was 5 months old when we took her on our first family vacation to the beach. I thought it would be a breeze and I would let her sleep on the beach some days and some naps we would go back to our condo. After all, pictures of sleeping beach babies on social media are the cutest, right?! I just decided we would have a go-with-the-flow mentality. She, however, had other plans. Since she was by then sleeping independently at home, trying to change things up threw her for a loop. By mid-week, her night sleep fell apart and was waking often throughout the night. It ended up being a very restless trip for everyone and far from the vacations we once knew.  There are a few things I learned on that trip to implement the following year which made for a totally different and enjoyable vacation.

Some children are very adaptable, but for those who aren’t, like my daughter, here are some tips to help your little one rest easy while vacationing:

  1.  Stick to your normal schedule and routine. If your baby naps at 9:30a and 1:30p, don’t expect to have a happy camper if you push for one nap for the whole day.  Being thrown off schedule for a day here or there doesn’t usually end in a catastrophe.  However, two or three consecutive days of schedule change will likely be unpleasant for everyone.
  2. If possible, have a separate room for your child to sleep. It wasn’t fun for us having to tip-toe into a shared room every night. Sleeping separately also helps if you or your baby is a noisy sleeper to avoid waking the other. If space allows, you can set up a Pack ‘n Play or portable crib in a bathroom or even a closet if there’s ventilation. If a separate space or another room is not an option, try to use a room divider so your baby won’t be able to see you.
  3. If your baby doesn’t sleep well in a Pack ‘n Play, rent a crib. Call around or search online and find a company that rents cribs in the area you will be traveling to. They will usually come set the crib up for you in your condo or vacation home!
  4. Keep the sleep environment familiar. Use white noise. Bring your baby’s crib sheet, lovies and/or sleep sac, etc. from home. Consider purchasing Redi Shades to help darken the room. They are quick and easy to put up and take down.
  5. Don’t stress.  Try to enjoy your time away with your family.  If all else fails, your baby will bounce back within a few days once you return home.

The Four Month Regression

Around the four-month mark, baby sleep patterns begin. Often known as the four-month sleep “regression,” these changes in sleep patterns are actually permanent changes. They can happen as early as three months or as late as five months. Until now, your newborn only woke to feed, for a diaper change, or to have brief moments of social interaction. You may have been getting stretches of three, six, or even eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night (finally!) but now suddenly your baby is waking every hour or two as if she is a week old again. As frustrating as this may be, it is actually a good sign. Your baby is maturing, growing, and her sleep patterns are becoming more adult-like.

During the first two to three months, you could probably tote your infant anywhere and she would sleep through anything. Bright lights and loud noises did not effect her sleep. When your baby’s sleep patterns begin to change, you may find that you’re now having to tip-toe around the house during nap time. Just like adults, your child will sleep better in a cool, dark room that is quiet. Try a white noise machine to help drown out surrounding noises.

Your infant’s nap times are also becoming more consistent. You may find she gets sleepy around the same times each day. Cue circadian rhythm!  Your baby’s body is encouraging her to sleep at certain times.   Try not to plan activities during her nap times. She will begin to sleep more soundly and feel more rested if she is able to fall asleep at these predictable times.  Bedtime will also go smoother if she’s had restorative sleep during the day.

While some may suggest it is best to ride this regression out, it won’t go away on its own, unfortunately. Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep without assistance. You can always start by creating a predictable bedtime routine and placing your baby in her bed drowsy but awake. There are many sleep coaching methods to chose from but the most important thing is to be consistent as babies learn best by the example we set. If she always has a bottle to fall asleep, she will always expect it, or if she is always rocked to sleep, that is what she will expect when she wakes during the night.

There is never a quick fix or one-size-fits-all approach, but if you remain steadfast, your baby will learn how to sleep independently. Quality sleep is something we all need and deserve!

Top Four Reasons Why It Didn’t Work

Maybe you’ve tried different sleep coaching methods or techniques to help your child sleep and finally threw in the towel because it wasn’t working.  The only result was harder, louder crying for your child and more stress on you. Below, you’ll find the top reasons why your child may have difficulty learning to fall asleep independently (and stay asleep):

1- Consistency:  Our children learn best by our consistent example. When you decide on a training method (gentle, moderate or firm), you must be able to stick to it 100% of the time.  If you begin to see improvement but, for instance, on day five or six your child is having difficulty again, you must stick to your plan. Children will test us at times to see if we will return to our old ways or habits.

2-Schedule: Following an  age appropriate schedule for your child is a huge factor in your success. An overtired child is flooded with hormones that make it very difficult to learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s important your child gets adequate day sleep at the right times in order for night sleep to be more restful.

3-Sleep props: Anything that your child is relying on to fall asleep is considered a sleep prop. This could be nursing, rocking, motion/vibration or a *pacifier.  Teaching your child to fall asleep independently without any sleep props is important to your success so that when she wakes during the night she knows how to put herself back to sleep easily.

*Some children have no issue learning to fall asleep with a pacifier. The pacifier becomes a problem when your child expects you to replace the pacifier each time it falls out. If you give the pacifier to her at the start of the night and it falls out, going in to replace the pacifier creates a habit that is not sustainable for the child or the parent, and also does not teach the child to fall asleep independently. If this is an issue with your child, then it is best to eliminate the pacifier all together.

4-Sleep Environment: Once babies reach around 3-4 months of age, their sleep patterns change and they don’t fall asleep as easily as they did during the newborn stage. The days of toting your child here and there with loud noises and bright areas are gone. Your child needs a proper sleep environment much like adults: dark, cool and quiet.  Having a cave-like room actually promotes healthy sleep.

If you’ve successfully followed these tips but are still having difficulties, I’d love to help your family get the sleep they need. Please contact me!

Preparing A Sleep Sanctuary

Healthy sleep is just as important as a healthy diet. Studies show that having a dark, cool and quiet place to sleep will result in more restful, restorative sleep.  If your child is not sleeping soundly for naps and/or at night, take a look at her sleep environment.

DARK ROOM

A dark (pitch black) room will not only help cue your child it’s time to sleep but will also allow her to sleep peacefully. Research shows even a small amount of light can deter us from falling asleep and/or staying asleep. There are so many baby products on the market today that have LED “on” lights (diaper warmers, monitors, humidifiers).  These glowing lights can definitely cause your baby to fixate on them and delay or disrupt sleep.  You may even want to check the brightness of the light on the smoke detector in the room.  All these things can be easily covered by black tape. You will also want to check if any outside light is entering the room. If you need easy-to-install blackout shades for the window, Blackout EZ Shades are the best!  They are cheaper than most blackout curtains, no hardware is needed to install and they eliminate 100% of window light.

COOL ROOM

The temperature at which your child sleeps better is also key. Typically 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Our body temperature drops while we sleep. Dropping the room temperature will help your baby slip into dreamland easier.

QUIET ROOM

A quiet room that masks outside noise will assist your baby into a deep sleep and help her to stay there. White noise is suggested to use while sleeping versus lullaby music. It’s best to have a constant noise at the same volume and pitch versus rain, waves or music where the fluctuations of volume and pitch can vary.  The Marpac Dohm white noise machine is my personal favorite and recommended by The National Sleep foundation.

If you are able to put these three healthy sleep environment tips into place, you will likely find your child is able to rest more soundly.

Fall Back (to sleep!)

shutterstock_470837531Whoever started Daylight Savings Time obviously did not have children!  While adults (without kids) enjoy the extra hour of sleep each year when DST ends, adults with children are dragging because their children have seemed to miss the memo on falling back to sleep for another hour. The reason is that body clocks are set by exposure to light and dark, and by social cues- not by the time on our watch.  Our adult bodies also follow these light/dark/social cues but it is much easier for us to go back to sleep.  It can be quite a challenge for our kiddos to adjust to an hour shift in schedule.  Below are some options and tips to help make your transition smoother.

SHIFTING SLEEP SCHEDULES

If your child happens to be very laid back and easily adjusts to new routines and schedules, then there is no need to prepare days in advance.  On the eve of DST ending, move nap times and bedtime a half hour later.  On DST day, shift forward again by a half hour and your child will be back to his normal sleeping times. (LUCKY YOU!)

Ex: Nap 12:30, Bedtime 7:00 – Normal sleep times

Day Before: Nap 1:00, Bedtime 7:30 – Shift forward by 30 minutes

Day of New Time: Nap 12:30 (1:30 old time), Bedtime 7:00 (8:00 old time) – Shift forward by 30 minutes

If you know your child will need more preparation, then you can begin shifting his schedule over several days.  Here are a couple of options:

Option 1

Four days before DST ends, begin moving nap times and bedtime by 15 minutes each day.  When the fourth day arrives (DST ends), you’ll be right on target.

Ex: Naps 9:00 & 1:00, Bedtime 7:00

Day 1- Naps 9:15 & 1:15, Bedtime 7:15

Day 2- Naps 9:30 & 1:30, Bedtime 7:30

Day 3-Naps 9:45 & 1:45, Bedtime 7:45

DST ends- Naps 9:00 & 1:00, Bedtime 7:00

Option 2

Begin six days prior to the end of DST, and move nap and bedtime forward by ten minutes each day similar to the above example.  By the sixth day, your child should be sleeping at his normal times again.

Even with prepping, some children may still wake early because their bodies have become accustomed to waking at a certain “time” each day.  Similar to when you wake for work during the week, you likely still wake close to that time on the weekend even without an alarm.  So if your child normally wakes at 6:30 everyday, when DST ends, there are some that will wake at 5:30 even with the shift in nap time and bedtime.  It’s crucial to press on and keep with new nap times and bedtime.

NEVER START THE DAY BEFORE 6:00am

If you find your child is having a hard time shifting his morning wake-up time, it’s very important to never start his day before 6:00am.  This means you do not want to go to him and greet him with your normal morning routine until 6:00am or later.  If you think you can soothe him back to sleep, try some shushing or back rubbing.  If you feel you do need to enter the room before 6:00am, keep the lights very, very low with little to no social interaction.  This will help your child understand that it is not time to start the day.

PITCH BLACK ROOM

It’s also extremely important to your child’s transition success that his room remains pitch black until it’s time to wake for the day.  Sunrise will be earlier and any ounce of light can cause his body to wake for the day.  If you need a quick blackout fix, try Blackout EZ Window Cover.  They are installed under your current blinds or curtains (with velcro).  They block 100% of outside light.  The dark room will signal your child’s body to continue sleeping.

A rested child is usually more adaptable to a new sleep schedule.  Make sure your little one is getting the zzz’s he needs prior to time change.  Of course, if you need additional help getting your child shifted to the new time, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

“You’re A What?”

depositphotos_34675341_l-2015Pediatric Sleep Consultant. Yep. It’s a real thing. It’s a profession you don’t usually know about until you need my services and need them ASAP!  I am dedicated to getting you and your family much needed restful sleep. Did you know we can survive longer without food than going without sleep?  That is how important sleep is to our bodies!  Our babies need rest and lots of it for proper growth and development.  Sleep is nourishment for our brains and just as important as eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.  Is your little one getting the recommended amount of sleep?  If not, help is available!

Here’s a simple breakdown of what a sleep consultant can offer you:

1) Step-By-Step Guidance
When you’re sleep deprived it’s nearly impossible to navigate through all the information available on the internet and in books.  I make a clear-cut path for you!   We begin by having a phone conversation about your child discussing everything from age, current sleep habits, schedule, sleep props, sleep atmosphere and temperament and will then discuss the different methods to chose from.  No need to research each method such as: “pick up/put down”, “the chair method”  or “timed checks”.  I will explain these for you.  I leave it up to you on which one would work best with your family. I never push any one particular method. Deciding on a gentle or firmer method is a family choice and should be decided based on what you think your child will respond to best.  Keep in mind that sometimes just a tweak in schedule, routine or adjusting the sleep environment is all that is needed to help your child sleep better.  After this initial conversation, I send you an individualized, detailed sleep plan that you will be able to put into place for your family.

2) Personal Researcher
Did you know there is tons of science-based information on the subject of sleep?!  There is SO much research out there on infant and toddler sleep.  I become your personal researcher. You don’t have to google through hundreds of articles and studies (if you choose not to) on pediatric sleep. I can send you information on anything you request making it easier on you by saving you time.  I give you the most important, science-based information as well as the most recent findings. It’s interesting to see the science behind the reason why we do certain things and why these things work to help our children sleep better.

3) Loudest Cheerleader
Sleep shaping your child is hard work at times. Some fall into it easier than others and some children need more time to adjust. I am with you every step of the way guiding you and encouraging you.  There are days when everything goes by the book but for those days that go awry, I am here to help you get back on track.  Sometimes we need our own personal cheerleader!

If what you’re doing is working, there is no need for my intervention.  But, if your family’s sleep is suffering, you may consider some professional guidance.  A rested family is a happy and thriving family.  If you’ve been unsuccessful in helping your child achieve the rest they need, please send me a message.  I’d love to help!  It’s my passion to help families sleep peacefully!

Bedtime Battles with Separation Anxiety

Daughter Clinging To Working Mother's LegEverything seems to be going smoothly, maybe even for months, then WHAM, you put your baby or toddler to bed and the wailing starts immediately.  It’s out of the ordinary so you question… Is your child sick?  Did a bee just sting your baby? (Okay unlikely but it may pass through your mind.)  You pick your little one up again and console him.  The crying subsides.  Everything seems fine so you put your child back into the crib.  Suddenly the switch has flipped and your baby is crying for you again.  If you’ve gone through the process of elimination and:  1) your child is not overtired; 2) your child is not sick or getting sick, then congratulations! You have just entered a separation anxiety phase.  If you happen to think back over your day or day before, you may be able to recall that your child was more clingy and needy than normal.  This will help to confirm that your child is going through some separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety manifests itself when your child becomes worried or fearful when you leave his sight.  He knows that you are still there but just not with HIM.  Separation anxiety is completely normal and all part of the developmental process.  It is actually a good sign.  It means that your child has made a healthy attachment to you.  You are your child’s safe place and someone he can always count on to be there for him.  Your baby begins to realize that you are leaving him and unsure of where you are going, when you will return… and why oh why are you leaving him?!  As a result, you may experience unusual protest when it’s time to go to sleep.

Separation anxiety usually begins to rear it’s head around 8-9 months of age and peaks around 18 months.  However, it can be evident at a younger age or even much older.  It can come out of nowhere and blindside you.  It can also be the result of a change in routine, a new daycare or just starting daycare.  Maybe there’s a new baby at home or recent family strife.  Sometimes you can pinpoint the cause but often times you cannot.  Separation anxiety phases can last anywhere from 2-4 days to 2-4 weeks at a time.  It does end, eventually.

There are a few things you can do to help ease your child’s fears and hopefully get through it a little quicker.  When you’re with your child, show him a little extra attention and love.  Give some extra snuggles and kisses.  Reassure your baby that you are there for him.  When it comes time for a nap or bedtime, stick to your routine and sleep training method.  You don’t want to create any new habits like taking him out of bed, letting him stay up later or giving an extra bottle.  Confidently tell your child that you will see him in the morning or after his nap.  Babies and toddlers learn best by consistent routine.  You can help ease your child’s anxiety by sticking to your predictable routine.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it –  separation anxiety is definitely a tough period as you may have already experienced or are experiencing.  But with a plan in place, you and your child will overcome.  I promise it doesn’t last forever!

“Look What I Can Do!”

If you’ve never seen the “Stuart” skit from MadTV, do yourself a favor and go to YouTube to have a few laughs.  Anytime my daughter practiced a new skill like rolling, sitting or pulling up in her crib when she should have been sleeping, I always thought of Stuart.

Why do babies love to practice their new skill in bed when they should be sleeping?  Well, it’s because this is the time when there are no other distractions and they are alone with their thoughts.  It’s a big deal to them to be able to accomplish something new and exciting!  Often they may show no signs of being able to do a new skill, then viola, put them in the bed and… hello new milestone!  It may be that your baby doesn’t know how to lay back down or roll back over yet.  While it’s normal for this to take place during sleep times, there are a few things we can do as parents to help them push past these practice sessions and resume restful sleep.

You have two options (well really 3) when your little one begins to practice his new skill and boycott nap time and/or bedtime:

1.  Do nothing. Let your child figure out how to roll back over or lay back down on his own.  Some babies will figure this out fairly quickly and after five or 10 minutes will drift off to dreamland.

2.  Go in ONCE without speaking and roll or lay your little one down and leave. Be very quick and business-like.  This lets your child know you hear his frustration and will help him back to a comfortable sleeping position. However, if your child returns to practicing the new trick, do not return again.  This will lead to multiple returns.  Your child will figure out that you come in when he stands up (rolls over or sits up) and it becomes a game.

3.  Play their game and go in constantly all night long to help your child get comfortable again only to reach your own bed and have to turn around to return to your child’s room. (I doubt you’re into playing tag at 2:00 in the morning).

Your baby will learn that it is his responsibility to lay back down or roll back over and they do learn quickly!  You can assist this process by practicing this new skill with your child over and over again before bedtime which will help him master it even faster.  It usually only takes a few days before he masters the skill and it becomes old news… and everyone is soundly sleeping again.

(Circadian) Timing Is Everything

I often hear parents complain that their child takes super short naps during the day, fights nap time and/or has bedtime/nighttime battles.  Many times when we look at the child’s schedule, the issue is that he’s being offered sleep at biologically inappropriate times outside of his circadian rhythm. Our body’s circadian rhythm is driven by light and dark cues which follow a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm is usually developed in infants by 4-6 months of age and researchers are showing it could develop even sooner for some babies. You may notice that even if your child did sleep outside of this biological rhythm for an hour or two, he still woke up cranky.  (Think quality over quantity!)  Infants and toddlers are biologically predisposed to wake and want to sleep at certain times during a 24-hour period.

So what does this really mean?  Well, if your child is offered a nap aligned with his natural sleepy times, he will fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer!  He will feel more rested and be a happier baby when he wakes.  Have you ever traveled to a different time zone and napped or went straight to bed when you arrived but only woke up feeling super groggy?  This is what’s it’s like for an infant or toddler when he naps at a time that isn’t in sync with his circadian rhythm.  Sure, there are exceptions to the rule and some babies are more sleep adaptable, but if you’re having nap or nighttime problems with your child I would examine his schedule first.

The burning question… When do these natural sleepy waves occur?  For babies 4-7 months old that take 2-3 naps per day, typically the first nap begins between 8:30-9:00, then 12:00-1:00 and a third nap around 2:30/3:00.  For older babies from 8-12 months old, the morning nap should start between 9:00-10:00 and the afternoon nap should begin between 1:00-2:00.  The start times are dependent on when your child wakes for the day and how long the naps last.  An age appropriate bedtime is key as well,  typically falling asleep between 6:00-8:00pm as this is when melatonin onset occurs for infants and toddlers.  This means your child will likely wake between 6:00-7:00am for the day.  We may love and wish for an 8 o’clock wake up, but unfortunately this is not what nature intended.  We will have rested and happier babies if we allow them to sleep when their bodies were made to do so!

 

*Please note the study linked to melatonin onset was done with toddlers, not infants.  Infants usually need an earlier bedtime.