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.
Author Satchin Panda wrote a book called: The Circadian Code, which outlines the biological necessity that sleep plays in our bodies. As adults, we should be getting at least 7 hours of consolidated sleep every night. Any less than 7 hours, and we are starting to rack up our sleep debt. Babies and children have higher sleep needs, therefore children under the age of 5 require a full 12 hours at night, and even some naps throughout the day too. School aged children should be getting 8-11 hours of sleep a night.
Is this happening in your home?
So we know sleep is important, but how do we do it? How do we just fall asleep and get those 7 hours?
Well – I wish it was a simple “how-to” answer.
When working with clients, I have them start by filling out a questionnaire. This helps me really evaluate the current sleep situation they are in, and if there are any tips/pointers I can give right away. Most commonly, I see the use of Melatonin in both children and adults. I have actually seen people give their children under 2 a dose of melatonin.
This feels scary and alarming to me.
Why are we supplementing a child with a hormone their body naturally produces?
Let’s dive right in to WHAT melatonin really is and what does it do for our bodies?
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland. This hormone helps regulate the sleep – wake cycle in our bodies. As a supplement, it can be used to treat jet lag or help shift workers adjust to their schedules. It should not be taken as a daily supplement to your routine. In Canada and the US, Melatonin can be purchased over the counter, but in Australia and Europe, you must be over the age of 54 and have a history of sleeping problems in order to purchase.
Human melatonin production decreases as we age, but having a complete melatonin deficiency is very rare.
Melatonin is not categorized as a drug, it is in the same category as vitamins and minerals. It does not require the same FDA approval as other medication. Synthetic melatonin can be produced in factories that are not regulated by the FDA. This means that although the dose on the bottle reads anywhere from 1-5mg of melatonin, each capsule could contain a varying amount of the intended dosage.
There has not be adequate research data proving the effectiveness of melatonin. When compared with a placebo, most studies show no benefit of melatonin. The National Sleep Foundation said: “Large studies are needed to demonstrate if melatonin is effective and safe for some forms of insomnia, particularly for long-term use. It may be true that melatonin is effective and safe for some types of insomnia and for children but not for other types of sleep problems. How much to take, when to take it and its effectiveness, if any, for particular disorders is only beginning to be understood.”
On the bottle of melatonin, it says “discontinue use after 4 weeks.”
So why are we using melatonin as a way to get to sleep?
Did you KNOW that the number 1 prescribed medication in America is SLEEPING PILLS?
Did you KNOW that exposure to sunlight can be WAY more effective in regulating our circadian rhythm than taking a melatonin supplement? Regular physical activity can also have huge impact on our ability to fall asleep at night as well.
How often are you looking at a screen? Are you watching TV while in bed? What about checking Facebook while under the covers? How about checking one last Instagram story or reading one last email before finally closing your eyes.
These are all MAJOR factors in balancing our sleep.
Instead of popping a melatonin and then watching a movie, how about you dedicate 1 hour to a bedtime routine that is “screen-free” and relaxing. I bet you’d find there are huge benefits to doing this simple act of self-care.
As for your children – do you think that melatonin should be a daily supplement and that the reason your child doesn’t sleep well is actually because they’re deficient in melatonin production? NO. There are SO many varying methods on how to get children to fall asleep and stay asleep that require no supplements or medication.
Teaching your child healthy sleep habits isn’t selfish – it is a gift that keeps on giving. A baby who sleeps well will become a toddler who sleeps well….a child…then a teenager….and finally an adult who sleeps well.
It isn’t too late to teach you or your child these healthy habits. I provide a completely holistic approach to sleep. One that relies heavily on routine and consistency.
Reach out & I can absolutely get you on track to be a great, healthy sleeper.
One of the most common questions I get asked as a Paediatric sleep consultant is, “When should we move him into a big kid bed?”
Uhmmmm…..NEVER lol. Here’s a few reasons why I want to prolong this transition and keep that babe in a crib as long as possible.
Number 1 reason is – there are so many other priorities when it comes to your baby’s sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine, teaching independent sleep skills, getting your baby accustomed to a schedule, etc. These are all things that should take place before you worry about moving them out of the crib. Sometimes parents think that by moving their child into a “big kid bed” this instills some maturity and they’ll automatically start sleeping better. Let me tell you, this is not the case.
Believe me, it’s going to be a
lot easier to make the transition once you’ve got a good, skilled sleeper on
The other reason I tell parents
to wait as long as they can is because, unless you’ve got a new baby on the way
and need to make some space in that crib, there’s just no reason to push it.
Toddlers will inevitably notice
that they sleep in a different bed than their parents, or their older siblings,
and will ask why.
Once they’ve shown some
interest, and feel like they want to make the switch, I’m all for it. But don’t
look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at
a predetermined age.
They’ll get there when they get
there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.
I should actually throw in a
little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist”
routine, and is climbing out of their crib in a dangerous way, there’s
potentially some harm if they fall on their way out.
However, if they’ve got the
skills to get out of the crib safely, (and some kids I know are exceptional at climbing out of their
cribs) then, again, I once again recommend sticking with the crib.
One of the biggest reasons I
see for parents moving their kids to a big kid bed, is because they’re hoping
it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe baby’s gotten into a habit of
wanting to climb into bed with Mom and Dad, or they’re suddenly waking up and
demanding a glass of milk in the middle of the night.
So maybe a big kid bed would
help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security
It will not. Full stop.
In all my time as a consultant, and with all of the other consultants I network with, to my knowledge, none of us have ever seen bad sleep behaviour solved by moving baby to a new bed.
I would recommend waiting until your child is close to 3 before making that transition into a bigger bed. But again, this is just a guideline. You can ultimately make whatever choice is best for your family.
So, now that I’ve told you to
wait as long as possible, how about those of you who have done that already,
and are now making the switch?
The first thing you might
notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your
little one climbs into the new bed, loves the cool print on the new sheets, and
sleeps happily straight through the night.
So maybe you’re in the clear….or maybe you’re not.
There’s typically a honeymoon
period with the big kid bed. Kids initially think they’re great, but then,
after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the
middle of the night, asking to get into bed with mom and dad.
You may be tempted to comply with this request, but I strongly suggest you put an early and absolute boundary on bed sharing at this point. If your child starts leaving their room in the night, walk them back, tell them it’s not allowed, and let them know what the consequence will be if they do it again.
Again, regardless of how sweet the request is, or how easy it might be to just flip back your comforter and let your little one climb aboard, don’t give in. You really need to make it clear that it’s not allowed, or you’ll be dealing with nighttime roaming for months.
If you’re thinking this transition feels all too scary and your child sleep wonderfully in a crib – keep them there.
I’ve never seen a 13 year old still in a crib, so they’ll easily transition one day 😉
Have questions? Comment below and I’ll be sure to answer them!
Want to book a free 15-minute consult? Check here for my booking availability.
I just want to start off by saying…whatever happened with routines and bedtime this summer, I hope you at least had a great time 😉
During our too-short summer months, we have a way of letting our routines become flexible and for bedtime to become later and later. “But mom, it’s not even dark outside!” – every child ever Our daylight hours have a LOT to do with our body’s natural production of melatonin. Here in Northern Alberta, we have daylight from 5am-11:30pm all summer long. 6.5 hours is not enough rest for our little kiddies, and especially not enough rest for us. Believe me, I GET IT. I want to be out enjoying the warmth and sunshine just as much as you. And I did. And now I have some sleep stuff to fix within my own household lol.
So as the summer comes to an end (sadly) and you look back on the fun & sunny memories made, the barbecues, the camping, all of that ice cream – so much ice cream….it also means that with this sunny finale, you need to get your children back into some sort of routine so that the night before their first day back to school isn’t a nightmare.
So what should you do? How do you get back on track?
You don’t. You’re hooped. Kidding <3
Don’t wait until the night before school starts to try to implement your old routine. the excitement of the new year and the anticipation of seeing their friends will make things too difficult to have everyone in bed and sleeping by 8pm. SO START NOW with early bedtime.
Give yourself 2 weeks to slowly move bedtime back to the usual time. If your kids have been going to bed around 9:30pm every night this summer, then start by moving bedtime up by 15-20 minutes for 3 days, etc. This way, by the time school starts, your child’s internal body clock will be adjusted to the school time.
Bedtime should be anywhere between 7-8pm. This is true for pre-school, school aged, and adolescents. If YOU need to be your child’s alarm clock in the morning, then that means they are going to bed too late. If your child is going to bed early enough, there will eventually be no need for an alarm clock as their internal body clock will be set to wake. Putting your child to bed at the same time every night helps teach their bodies the appropriate amount of sleep needed during those night-time hours, so they can wake feeling refreshed and energized.
Let them help! Let’s get those kids involved. You could even make a bedtime routine chart that includes the steps to their routine, so they feel in charge of it. Some good routine activities can include (but are not limited to): a bath, getting pjs on, reading a story, singing a favourite song, a light snack (nothing sugary or caffeinated), 3 good things about their day, a warm glass of milk, etc. The reason routines are SO IMPORTANT is because they act as a cueing mechanism for your child’s body and brain. It lets them know that sleep is near. Once you do decide on an appropriate routine, it should be in the same order every night, as to not confused your child. A good routine length is between 30-45 minutes. Setting a timer can be helpful to ensure you don’t get distracted.
NO screen time within an hour of sleep. Playing video games, or watching Youtube on the iPad/TV right before bed has been linked to an increase in the amount of time it takes a child to wind down and fall asleep. These activities should be stopped at least an hour before bed, ideally 2 hours.
Make sure their room is dark enough. The level of darkness really plays a role in the amount of melatonin produced. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you), your child’s room should be anywhere from an 8-10. The darkness will help with the transition back to school, with both the morning and the night. The early rising sun plays a huge role in waking us up too early, so the use of blackout blinds are very helpful.
If you would like some printable bedtime routine charts or other “kid friendly” facts about sleep, check out www.sleepforkids.org
If you have any other questions about getting back into routine, or have any sleep-related concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to getting babies to sleep through the night. Mixing baby cereal with breastmilk or formula and giving it to your child in the bottle as a means for them to become more full.
It has been recommended by doctors and used by parents for generations. I have a close friend who was given cereal at the ripe age of 4 WEEKS OLD. Not only is cereal not suitable for babies so young, their stomach is not prepared for anything other than milk at that age. (Read more about this here)
As adults, we know that sleeping on an empty stomach is challenging, but we also know that staying awake after a big, hearty meal is also next to impossible. Thinking this doesn’t apply to you…where were you after Thanksgiving Dinner? Christmas Dinner? I know where I was…rubbing my eyes and yawning on the couch. Overstuffed and very satisfied.
So, the notion that a little cereal in a baby’s bottle should take longer to digest than breastmilk or formula, which will keep them feeling full for longer periods, and therefore help them sleep through the night, seems reasonable at face value.
Any parent (myself included) who has experienced a baby who isn’t sleeping well is probably anxious to find the reason why, and is likely to try anything they deem as safe and potentially effective in order to remedy the situation. Even sometimes when we look back into the “newborn stages” of our child’s life, we realize that sometimes what we thought was safe, really wasn’t.
(Side note – I recently saw a picture of a baby sleeping in a vibrating chair on top of a stove…*shudder*. That’s called desperation)
Unfortunately, the vast
majority of parents who use this trick find that, even if it’s successful at
first, the results are only temporary, and here’s the reason why…
Once your baby reaches a certain age and weight, (I’ll just use the 6 month mark here as a happy medium) waking in the night isn’t about food, it’s about sleep! I’ve heard from parents who were getting up with their little ones 5-10 times a night, claiming that their baby was waking that often to eat.
Sure, baby might have nursed a little every time they were offered the breast, but that doesn’t mean that they were hungry. One sleep cue that newborns show, is often mistaken for “rooting” even after a full feed. This is simply because your newborn baby is rooting their head into your chest to find a dark place to rest. The darkness of their eyes on your chest is exactly what they are looking for. This means – time for bed!
I have also had worried moms come to me saying that their baby must not be getting any milk as she feels like her breasts are empty after feeding on demand all day and all night. This makes sense! If you aren’t giving your own body the proper rest it deserves, it can’t produce effectively and efficiently!
So this being said, what is much more likely is that babies become dependant on nursing as a method to get to sleep.
After all, if they’ve nursed to
sleep every time they’ve woken up for the first six months of their lives, it
only makes sense that they won’t be able to get to sleep without that familiar
The cereal in the bottle works
on the idea that babies fall asleep at bedtime and don’t wake up until morning,
assuming there’s nothing bothering them, but that’s not how sleep works. Not
for babies, and not for adults. We all cycle in and out of deep sleep, and at
the end of every cycle, we tend to wake up. Maybe not fully, but we do attain a
certain level of consciousness.
In babies, that cycle is
usually about 45 minutes, so even on a good night, they’re going to wake up a
lot. And if the only way they know how to get to sleep is by nursing, they’re
going to cry to get your attention, and wait for you to come in and help them
So if it’s got nothing to do
with hunger, how can you help them sleep through the night?
The solution to the issue, not
the “hack” or quick fix, but the actual remedy, is teaching your baby to fall
That might seem like a tall order for a 6 month old, but I assure you, they’re fully capable of learning this invaluable skill, even at an earlier age. It’s natural, and they typically take to it faster than you would expect.
Lots of babies will babble to themselves for a bit, or rub their feet together, or suck on their fingers, or some combination of all three. Almost every client I’ve worked with has had some new (and often amusing) trick that their baby has adopted as a sleep strategy. Let them discover these strategies on their own, and then let them practice them a little. It’s a skill, and skills take time to master. My own son loves to suck his thumb and snuggle into his bunny, to fall asleep.
Now, I’m not saying that you should leave a crying baby to sort themselves out without any comfort or attention. You should feel free to attend to them, let them know you’re nearby and available, but don’t rock, nurse, or cuddle them until they fall asleep. Let them find a way to do it on their own. That way, when they wake in the night, they’ll have the skills they need to settle back down on their own.
These skills will help them throughout their entire life! A baby who sleeps well becomes a child who sleeps well, who becomes a teenager, and then an adult who sleeps well. It is the gift that keeps on giving!
While either at an in-person consultation, or doing a virtual call, I most-often get a stunned look when I tell parents that their child’s routine has to be the same (if not – SO SIMILAR) every night.
I also hear “my toddler hates routines. They thrive off of spontaneity.”
FIRSTLY – I love to travel. Except, I felt physically sick when I thought about travelling with Drake. He is so wonderful, but tiny and SO BUSY. I worried about him sleeping and had literal nightmares of him crying for hours and hours and hours and no one would sleep the entire vacation. Fast forward to landing in Hawaii at 4am our time….Drake was falling asleep in his carseat and I was panicking. OH NO, he will not sleep tonight if he has a quick nap in there, my nightmare has begun.
We arrive at our location and he is now awake…panic is setting in. I looked over at Nathan and said “I’ll get his sleep stuff ready – you start the bath.”
His response, “do you think the bath is necessary? He’s probably so tired.”
Fast forward again – routine complete, sound machine on, lovie in crib, voila, goodnight, adios, au revoire. He was asleep, little angel.
Toddlers are testy little creatures. They are little masterminds and are always trying to push the limits and extend the boundaries. They are manipulative (in a good way) because they know exactly how to get what they want. If we were all like feisty toddlers, there would be WAY too many CEO’s, Salespeople, etc.
That being said, even if you think you know your child doesn’t need routine….THEY. NEED. ROUTINE.
What is the purpose? A routine’s purpose is to act as a cueing mechanism in our brain to signify that something is coming. In our case, sleep.
I recommend a bedtime routine to be around 30 minutes long. This is the perfect length of time to prepare for bed. Too short, and the child won’t be stimulated by the routine enough for the cues to work. Too long, and the child will be confused as to when the routine is over and when is the next step happening.
So when do you even get started? TODAY.
Even if your child is 5 and you’re thinking they’re too far gone, they’re not. Start a routine tonight.
An example of a bedtime routine could be: Bath, Pj’s/Sleep Sack, Milk, Story, Bed.
*It is IMPORTANT that your child does not fall asleep while the routine is happening. That means they were too tired when it started, or you’ve carried it on for too long.*
Think about your personal routine. You’ve got one. Mine goes something like this: Brush teeth, floss, wash face, lotion, pj’s, set alarm, bed. Subconsciously we are always seeking for routine and familiarity. That’s why you can fall asleep so much better in your own bed vs a hotel or a friend’s house.
It’s our job to teach our children how important routines are by implementing them into their lives.
If this feels too hard and maybe a little impossible to get your child to listen to you (toddlers, AMIRIGHT?) reach out to me. I guarantee I can help.
So now tell me, what’s your child’s current routine?
I’ve been ranting and raving over this new baby item called the Slumberpod. It’s this small, portable, blacked out tent that fits perfectly over a playpen. I had set it up twice in my house before actually using it, just to test out the level of darkness inside, and also to see if it fit over a Joovy playpen (which is a larger playpen for bigger children).
ANYWAY, I have compiled a list of pros and cons, and then a final “would I buy this again?”
This pod is COMPLETELY dark. The level of darkness inside this pod is a 10/10. I literally just snuck my face in there to peek on my sweet, sleeping boy, and I couldn’t see a thing. I then proceeded to try and take a picture of him, but I didn’t know where his head was…so safe to say, it is dark enough to be asleep even if you’re in a brightly-lit room.
Light-weight & portable. This Slumberpod is basically a small, floor-less “tent.” That being said, the fabric of the actual pod is very different than that of an actual tent. Considering the fabric feels like thick jersey knit cotton, it is very light. The bag the Slumberpod comes in can actually fit into a carry-on or definitely a luggage if you were to fly with it. It folds up to be small and compact, which I LOVE and need more of in my life. Baby stuff is always so massive.
Quick set-up/take-down. Setting up the pod is relatively quick. It is easier if you have 2 people, but I’ve set it up alone every time and that works too. When you have a busy baby, “quick” anything is a yes in my books. I don’t have more than 5 minutes to set something up before D is elbow deep in toilet water, or at the bottom of a Kleenex box with tissue paper scattered over the carpet.
Breathable Fabric. I have never been more concerned about someone’s well-being until my son was born. Is he too hot? Too cold? When did he last eat? Did he poop today? Is he dehydrated? Is he sweaty? Like literally everything I think about. SO, I felt very happy knowing how breathable this pod really is. Drake was not at all sweaty when I got him up in the morning, and he is generally a warm sleeper.
Room-Sharing WIN. This is for the mamas who love to room-share, but are worried about baby waking in the night and making eye contact. This Slumberpod IS FOR YOU. I don’t room share unless on holiday, but this pod has made a world of difference in the 2 short nights I have used it so far. I am now looking forward to our longer vacation this summer, when normally I dread sleeping in the same room as Drake.
Hard putting baby in. I am a taller (5’8) girl, so I found bending over and putting Drake down in his playpen through the window opening was quite difficult. It would have been easy if I slipped him in while he was standing, but that’s not what we normally do. He’s always awake when I put him to bed, but generally I lay him down. This was hard because the zipper doesn’t come up super high, so my face was going into the fabric when I bent over to place him in the crib.
Tent Poles. This isn’t a deal breaker, but when I had assembled the poles and started to set everything up, I realized HOW LONG they were lol. I was hitting the walls and the roof because of the length. That being said, I do like that this has height rather than being flush with the top of the crib. There is room for baby to stand.
Finally, after having used the Slumberpod for 2 nights in a hotel room, I would HIGHLY recommend you get one.
Honestly, I used to love travelling as a childless young adult (selfish, I know), but once we had a baby, I realized how hard travelling really was and it made me dread vacation. Drake has been sleep trained for a long time now, but I always felt like travelling messed him up. I can truthfully say that this has been our most successful travel experience yet. He is used to sleeping in a dark space at home, and this provided him with exactly that. Let alone having it be so compact and portable, it’s definitely a win in my books.
Although this pod is expensive…$198 CAD or $150 USD, it’s definitely something worth investing in. If taken care of properly, it will last many babies and many trips.
I had contacted the owners of Slumberpod saying how I loved their product, and they set me up with a “discount” code for any of my friends/clients who wanted to buy one.
You can visit theirwebsiteand enter in the code: midnightmama at checkout to get a rebate off your order.
Anyway, if you do end up buying one, let me know how it works out for you & if you love it just as much as I did!!
That right there might be the single
most common question new parents ask.
Is it a developmental
milestone? A regression? Are they getting too much sleep during the day, or not
enough? Maybe they’re just hungry. Maybe they’re too hot, or too cold.
Well, the truth is that it
could be any of those things, and it could be a combination of several of them.
What that means, and what
you’re probably already aware of, is that baby’s sleep is tremendously
Their bodies and brains are
rapidly going through significant changes, and by the time they’ve got one
issue under control, a new one pops up to take its place.
There are factors you can
control, obviously. If baby’s too hot, you can turn up the AC or put a fan in
the room. If they’re teething, a little Children’s Tylenol can often solve the
problem, at least temporarily.
But those are the simple fixes. The reason most people have such a challenging time with their babies’ sleep is because of problems that aren’t so simple, and don’t have obvious solutions.
Imagine this scenario: An
18 month old child gets plenty of fresh air and sunlight during the day, goes
down easily for long, restful naps, but when bedtime rolls around, suddenly
they’re full of energy and want to play. When they’re told it’s time for bed,
they get upset and bedtime becomes a battle. Once they do finally get to sleep,
they wake up several times at night and never sleep past 5:30 in the morning.
So what’s going on? Is baby getting
too much sleep during the day?
That would be the
reasonable assumption, for sure. After all, if us grown-ups were to take a 3
hour nap in the afternoon, there’s a good chance we’d have a hard time falling
and staying asleep that night.
But the opposite is almost
always the case. What baby’s demonstrating in this scenario is actually a need
for more sleep, not less.
In order to understand this
counterintuitive reasoning, first a little background on how this whole system
of sleep works.
About three hours prior to
when we’re naturally prone to waking up, our bodies start secreting a hormone
called cortisol, and if you’ve done some reading on your baby’s sleep prior to
this, the sight of that word probably causes you to flinch a little.
Cortisol is a stimulating hormone, and is also produced in times of stress in order to elevate the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system (in case, y’know, bears) but in the morning, it’s just trying to get us started. Think of it as mother nature’s caffeine.
And if cortisol is our
morning cup of coffee, melatonin is our evening glass of wine. Once the sun
starts to go down, our bodies recognize the onset of night and begin to produce
this lovely sleep- inducing hormone, which helps us get to sleep and stay
asleep until morning, when the whole process starts over again. Melatonin
production is increased and starts earlier in the evening when we awaken to
some nice, bright sunlight.
But as beautifully crafted
as this system is, it’s not perfect and it’s easily confused. So in the
situation we examined above, here’s what’s happening…
Baby’s taking great naps
during the day, which is obviously wonderful, and she’s getting lots of time
outdoors, so her body’s ready to crank out some melatonin when nighttime rolls
around. So what’s with that burst of energy right before bedtime?
So when baby’s body has
begun producing melatonin, there’s a narrow window of time when the body
expects baby to be going to sleep. After all, she’s a baby. What’s she got to
stay awake for? She doesn’t watch The Bachelor and she hasn’t discovered the
The brain instinctively decides that something isn’t right; that for whatever reason, baby can’t sleep, (probably because, y’know, bears.) And if baby’s got a bear to run from, adding a shot of cortisol should help increase her chances for survival.
So that’s exactly what it does.
Baby’s system starts
secreting cortisol and, before you know it, she’s a little bit cranked. This
often shows up in the form of playfulness and an abundance of energy. In short,
baby missed the window and now she’s going to have a hard time getting to
sleep, but her behavior indicates anything but sleepiness.
So what does all of this have to do
with the dreaded 3 A.M. wake ups?
Here’s what happens…
Assuming your baby’s circadian rhythm is scheduling a 6 A.M. wake up, then her
body starts to secrete cortisol three hours prior to that. and at this point,
the melatonin production has ceased for the night. So baby hits the end of a
sleep cycle around 3:00. She gets to that “slightly awake” state, and now
there’s a little bit of stimulant and no natural sedative. This, combined with
a lack of independent sleep skills, means that baby’s probably going to wake up
fully, and have a really hard time gettting back to sleep.
So now for the big question
you’ve probably been hoping I might have an answer for. How do I fix it?
While there’s no quick fix
for adjusting baby’s hormone production schedule, you can definitely help her
out by getting her outdoors during the day as much as possible. As I mentioned
before, natural light during the day is the big cheerleader for melatonin
production at night.
It also helps to ensure that baby’s room is as dark as you can get it at night, and start turning down the lights in the house at least an
hour before you put her to bed. Simulating the sunset will help to cue that
melatonin production so that it’s in full swing when she goes into her crib.
Avoid any TV, iPhone,
tablet, or screen time of any kind for that same hour before bedtime.
(Preferably even longer) as these devices emit a geyser of blue light, which will stimulate cortisol production right at the
time when you’re trying to avoid it.
But above all, the number
one way to help your baby sleep through the night is to get her on a
predictable, consistent sleep schedule and teach her the skills she needs to
fall asleep independently.
Because the truth is that
you’re never going to prevent nighttime
wake ups. We all wake up in the night, regardless of our age. As adults, we
just have the ability to calmly assess the situation when we wake up in the
dark, realize where we are, see that it’s still nighttime, and go right back to
sleep. Most of the time we don’t even remember it the next morning.
So although we can’t
prevent baby from waking up at night, we can safely and
effectively help her
learn to recognize that she’s safe, in familiar territory, still tired, and
capable of getting back to sleep on her own.
And although I know I made light of it earlier, you should always check and make sure that baby’s room is absolutely, positively, 100% free of bears. Waking up to a snarling grizzly will set your baby’s sleep habits back immeasurably 😉
As always, please reach out to me if you need further assistance with getting your baby to sleep through the night.