It’s only 12:36pm, but let me tell you. We have had A DAY.
Nathan is on nights for work, so he sleeps during the day while Drake and I try to play quietly. Drake loves to scream and laugh loud, so I figured we would head down to MacDonald Island to play in their indoor playground.
I have everything ready to go, except Drake will not come to me to get his boots or coat on. This is very typical for the stage he’s in. He just wants to be chased and not follow direction…I mean, he is only 1. Finally after some tears, we are ready to go. I load him up into the truck and we head downtown.
After playing for over an hour at the park, nap time is approaching and I start to pack up our things. As soon as Drake spies his boots and coat, the meltdown of the century commences.
I have heard of the “terrible twos” my whole life, but I thought that that really happened once they were actually 2…NOT BEFORE. What kind of unfair universe am I living in???
Kicking, crying, screaming, wanting up, flailing to be put down, you name it, he’s doing it.
I hate when these massive tantrums happen in public. You can’t help but feel like everyone is watching, and I hate the looks I get from other parents who are wondering why I’m not shushing my child. I usually just let him feel his feelings and ride the wave until he calms right down. He eventually starts laughing and rolling all over the floor, which is my cue to get him up and venture off to the vehicle.
Once we reach the truck, another tantrum starts. I’m feeling less patient because I had JUST dealt with a huge fit, so I buckle him in tight, completely ignore the screaming, and then climb into my seat.
The drive was the most peaceful part of my day so far.
We pull into the garage and the crying starts again. “Drake, we’re home! Let’s go get a snack and then get ready for nap” I say as I’m feeling very impatient. He looks at me and tries to kick off his boots while i’m unbuckling him.
In a moment of frustration I say, “WHY are you SO irritating?”
He doesn’t look at me, but instead looks toward the ground, his lower lip quivering and tears welling up in his eyes. He leans his head right onto my shoulder and silent tears fall onto his cheeks.
He is only 22 months, but I’m telling you – he did not listen to one single thing I said today except for that.
I pulled him in extra close as I apologized and told him I loved him. Tears now streaming down from my eyes feeling like the worst mother in the world, and all he does is hug me. He ran to the living room, found his bunny, and used his bunny’s ears to wipe my tears.
Mama, if you’re reading this and feeling like everyone else has it together, except for you – you’re wrong. We’re all struggling to be the best that we can be, but let me tell you 1 thing I’ve learned. Don’t ever get mad at your babies and then put them right to bed. Even though it was nap time for us, I kept him up a little longer, hugged him a little tighter, and made sure he knew I loved him before putting him down.
Why am I relating this experience back to sleep? Well – have you ever had anyone say “I’m so mad at you” or “we need to talk” and you get this intense knot in your stomach and even though you may have been tired, you can’t seem to settle down until either you talk it through or find a solution?
Our children react similarly. If they know we’re angry, sad, or disappointed with them, they won’t be able to sleep well either.
Children are SO forgiving, and even in my moment of frustration this afternoon, Drake ran to get his bunny to comfort me. Let’s all try to be a little more loving, a little more patient, and a little more understanding. They are just tiny, innocent humans.
One of my biggest rules for parents who are sleep training is to remain consistent. Whether it’s the bedtime routine, where baby sleeps, or what the consequences are for leaving their room in the night, consistency is absolutely essential to regular nights of quality sleep.
However, there’s this crazy little thing called life that tends to get involved and throw the occasional curve ball into your routine. Special occasions, family functions, and the occasional emergency can all call for an exception to me made and for your little one to stay up past their scheduled bedtime or miss a nap.
So when can you make exceptions? Well, I would say, “As rarely as possible, but as often as is absolutely necessary.”
The truth is, is you’re visiting family or friends, and you let your little one stay up late in order to extend their visit, they’re probably going to be a bit of a handful the next day. So ask yourself, is it worth it to have a grouchy baby on my hands tomorrow in exchange for a couple of hours of fun tonight?
Another important thing to consider is how well your baby adapts to a change in routine. Some kids are quite good at dealing with a slight change in the schedule, whereas others can get thrown for a loop for the next couple of days if they so much as go down late for a nap.
But I don’t want to sound like I’m condemning parents and kids to a lifetime of repetition. It’s important to have some new experiences and to enjoy life, so yes, exceptions should be made. Just make sure that you evaluate the costs and benefits and prepare as best as you can for the situation.
In addition, I would advise against making any changes too early into the program. If you just started sleep training a week ago, don’t pick this moment to go on a trip or stay overnight at someone else’s house. Once you’ve had a month or two of really solid, quality nights, then you can start playing around with the rules on occasion.
The other piece of advice I would offer when it comes to breaking the rules is, “Try to bend them instead.”
If you’re going to be at a friend’s place when baby’s supposed to be taking a nap, consider bringing along a Pack and Play or a stroller so that they have somewhere to lay down when it’s time for a snooze, or if you have a bit of a drive involved, try to plan so that baby can sleep in the car when they would normally be going down for a nap. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than skipping a nap altogether.
This may all sound a little authoritative, but overtiredness is an absolute monster when it comes to bedtime. Kids who are overtired will have a harder time falling asleep, which leads to a bad night, which leads to more overtiredness, and so on. It’s a cycle you really don’t want to get into.
So you’re ultimately the only one who can decide when it’s okay to break the rules. If you feel your little one can handle it, give it a try. If not, I suggest you play it safe. As they get older, you’ll find they’ll be more accepting of changes in the schedule, but developing them into champion sleepers in these early years will go a long way towards that goal.
I’m sure you can guess what my answer is to this question, since I am, after all, a sleep consultant. I tend to put a high priority on sleep and am, in my humble opinion, justifiably passionate about its benefits for babies and even adults.
But is my passion for sleep clouding my view on this matter, or is there evidence to support my position? Oh, I am SO glad you asked.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer that feeding our kids a healthy, balanced, varied diet is essential to their well-being. I might even go so far as to say that it’s the single most important factor when it comes to our children’s health.
But sleep is, if not equally as important, a very close contender.
Childhood obesity is a huge public health issue, and kids who are obese grow into obese adults, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the myriad health issues that come along with obesity. (But just in case you’re not familiar, they include diabetes, heart disease, all kinds of cancer, osteoarthritis, and joint inflammation, just to name a few.)
But what does sleep have to do with obesity?
A 2008 study by the National Institute of Health looked at the average number of daily hours of sleep that kids between 6 months and two years old were getting, and then compared those results with their occurrences of obesity. The children who got an average of less than 12 hours of sleep a day were over twice as likely to be obese than those who slept for 12 or more. A much larger study done in the UK showed similar results.
With all of the health issues, as well as the general quality of life concerns that come along with obesity, it seems to me that sleep should be a major concern for parents.
However, every day I hear people advising new parents with what I’m sure is meant to be reassuring rhetoric, but I must admit, given the evidence, I find it really upsetting.
“Babies sleep when they want to sleep. Don’t force it.”
“Not sleeping is totally normal for a baby.”
“Just follow your baby’s lead. They know how much sleep they need.”
Can you imagine this same kind of talk if it was concerning baby’s diet?
“Babies know what’s healthy to eat. Just follow their lead.”
“Eating chocolate is totally normal for babies.”
“Kids will eat when they’re ready. You shouldn’t schedule mealtimes.”
If you heard those words coming out of anybody’s mouth, you would immediately qualify them as a lunatic, and you certainly wouldn’t listen to their advice on your kids.
As parents, we all obviously want our kids to live healthy, active lives, and we want to give them every advantage to ensure they get a good start. Making sure they get enough sleep, and teaching them solid sleep skills, will go a long way to promoting their overall health down the road.
I hear this too often, “why would I hire a sleep consultant when I could just find this information in a book or google?”
Well, let me tell you.
Let’s back track a little…
Think back to being 8 months pregnant. At 8 months pregnant, I was SURE I would have a med-free delivery. I figured I would labour at home for hours and then show up to the hospital (midwives aren’t available where I live – I would have jumped all over that) with just enough time to get admitted and have my baby. Then of course I would quickly leave and go back home, because who wants to stay in the hospital for longer than anticipated? Not this chick.
When I hit the 30 week mark of my pregnancy, I started to severely swell. My ankles were permanent cankles, and my legs felt like tree trunks. It’s funny to me now, but shockingly scary back then. I got written off of work by my doctor, so I spent my remaining 10 weeks reading everything I could get my hands on about birth and breastfeeding (nothing about sleep because – I wasn’t going to have sleep problems……..LOL).
10 weeks had passed and I had learned how to perfect my labour positioning and how to get a perfect latch for every feed. I was basically an expert.
Finally, at 40+3, baby Drake arrives.
I’ll summarize my labour and delivery by saying: IT DOESN’T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED.
I’ll also summarize breastfeeding by saying: HOLY OUUUUUUCH.
I will update you by saying: we did successfully make it to 1 year of breastfeeding, but it took a lactation consultant, a tongue tie correction, and a few visits to the breastfeeding clinic.
Fast forward to my sleep situation – as soon as I was having issues with Drake’s sleep, I reached out to a sleep professional. Just like I had reached out to a lactation specialist when I was having breastfeeding problems.
The point of this history is: People have these jobs for a REASON. They are the professionals!
At 4 weeks postpartum, I was not in the right mental or emotional state to pick up a massive baby sleep book, and start implementing my own strategies, crossing my fingers it would work.
Was hiring a sleep consultant a financial investment? Of course!
Was it worth it? YES YES YES.
So what will I do for you that is different than any book available? I will send you a questionnaire that details your child’s current nap and night time habits. I will ask about their temperament and eating habits. In older children we will discuss school routines, screen time allowance, and play. These questions help me get to know your child.
Then, a customized sleep plan is headed your way. I have many moms ask this before hiring me “what method do you use?” And truthfully – I can’t always answer that. That’s because I need to see the answers on your questionnaire to see how your baby reacts to your response – and your tolerance to change as well.
This isn’t a “cookie cutter” approach. Your plan will not necessarily work if your best friend were to implement it on her own child.
The follow-up support is HUGE. This is really where your money is. This is where you have the freedom to message or text me with any questions or concerns you have while you’re implementing the plan. With your plan, you really are set up for complete success. Although, if you’re feeling wishy washy about any portion – that’s what I’m there for.
I actually follow-up with YOU for the first full week, and then the second week as well if things are still a little iffy.
THEN – I don’t leave until your sleep goals have been met. Simple as that.
In summary – do you need to hire someone for every aspect of your life? No. My husband has fixed lots of things around our house that could have been fixed by someone else.
But if you have been struggling with sleep for SO. LONG. and you’ve tried everything and nothing is working – don’t you think reaching out to a sleep professional is worth it? How much is your sleep worth to you? Because mine is worth a whole lot more than $450.
So, is hiring a sleep consultant an investment? Yes.
Is hiring a sleep consultant absolutely worth it? YES.
Let’s talk about travel babyyyy, let’s talk about you and me – let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about TRAVEL!
Travel – the most scary T word when it comes to doing it with kids. I remember feeling so anxious before our first trip with Drake. Would I survive? I knew he’d be fine, but WOULD I BE FINE?
My sister was attending a school down in St. George, Utah while I had given birth to Drake. We had planned to do a long road trip down south to see her in July/August, but I felt compelled to see her with the baby sooner. (I mean, he was over 9lbs at birth – she needed to see Drake as small as possible lol). My mom and I booked a quick 6 day trip for June – Drake would have been 2 months old.
“Perfect!” I thought.
…..until the week before came and I started packing.
I packed my largest suitcase and it was busting at the zipper. 10,000 diapers, 20,000 wipes, 47 outfit changes, 10 bathing suits, a bassinet, sleep sack, noise machine, cream, shampoo, my change table (basically) – all for Drake. For me, a couple outfits and some underwear.
The trip ended up going very smooth. I felt anxious the whole time though – which I feel is a normality among new mothers.
Every noise he made in the night made me flinch – not because I wasn’t used to him, because I was trying to be conscious about him not disturbing my mom and sister (which I didn’t realize wasn’t actually a bother at all). I felt overwhelmed with the difference in routine and nap length not being predictable.
What I’ve learned is: JUST GO WITH IT. Travel. Skip the nap. Make the memories. Stay up late. Eat the food. But also – respect your baby.
What do I mean by respect your baby?
I mean – respect your child’s sleep needs. For newborns it is so easy to have them nap on the go. I’d brought Drake to over 10 movies in theatre by the time he was 2 months old. I would let him cuddle into my chest and I would sit so still with a blanket over him, trying to avoid the judgemental stares from others in the theatre (sorry). Clearly not a great idea because both arms were busy and I couldn’t eat my popcorn…but priorities.
For a baby who is over 3 months, they start having more “awake” time and they really start liking having a schedule. Schedules are nice because they’re predictable. If your child knows you have a bath every night, then once bath time rolls around, it acts as a cueing mechanism to signal their brain that sleep is near.
For a toddler – they ABSOLUTELY need structure. Can we skip a nap here a there? Of course. Does that mean early bedtime? Totally. If you are vacationing in Disney and you don’t want to leave midway through the day just to put your 2 year old down for a nap – you’ve got options. Either let them have a nap in the stroller, or keep them awake and move bedtime up by an hour.
That being said – we’ve done a lot of travel with Drake. We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I have a solid list of concrete items I ALWAYS bring with me now to make the days and nights breezy.
Sleep Related Travel Tips:
Play Pen – check with your hotel or wherever you’re staying and make sure they have either a crib or a playpen. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with clients who used to have great sleepers, but since they co-slept on vacation, they can’t get their child back into their crib at home. If your hotel doesn’t have one – bring your own.
Sound Machine – this is a MUST. Those hotel doors slam SO LOUD when trying to even shut them quietly. Also, who wants to be confined to a still, quiet room for 12 hours? Not me. Crank that sound machine and turn the TV on. Order room service. Enjoy your evening! The sound machine isn’t considered a sleep prop because it is portable and it doesn’t lull your baby into sleep. It IS a familiar sound, but its purpose is to eliminate any external environmental noises from waking up your child.
Routine – Don’t break your bedtime or nap time routine just because you’re on vacay. Bring the favourite book, bring the lovie, sing your regular song, do a sink bath if a regular bath isn’t available. DO your routine. This is SO essential.
Lovie – If your child has a comfort item in their crib that they sleep with, you must bring it. They associate this item with sleep and it will be much easier for them to transition to a new environment if their lovie is there with them. Another thing that is helpful to bring along is a familiar bed sheet. Babies love smell and familiarity.
Darkness – make that room dark. Bring garbage bags and duct tape if you must. Another super cool that is available now is either the Slumberpod (discount code: midnightmama)or the Snoozeshade (discount code: midnightmama10). Both items fit perfectly over a pack n play and provide a perfectly dark space for your child to sleep. Honestly, the Slumberpod has changed my life. (Read my real time review here). Another option is to tuck their playpen into a closet or even a windowless bathroom so that they get that optimal darkness. Darkness is the main factor in melatonin production. It is essential.
Travel Days – travel days are a total write off. I just want to let you know that even MY child sleeps on me when we’re flying. There’s no nap room hidden on the airplane for our sleep trained babies (I mean, I wish). I do suggest trying to schedule daytime flights, only because red eye flights are SO hard for your littles, but once you reach your destination, if it’s bedtime, do your routine and off to sleep like they would at home.
So, that’s it!
Most of all, I want you to remember to have fun. These items I’ve listed are definitely not necessary, but they would make your trip way easier. If you have fallen back into some old habits when you went on vacation and you’re wondering how to fix that – let’s set up a call and I can evaluate your situation and give advice as needed.