Holiday Sleep Tips

Easter-Bunny-01[1]With Easter long weekend starting tomorrow most of us are gearing up for a busy few days. Whether it’s traveling to visit family or just simply having lots on the go locally, it’s a good idea to stop and prepare for your little ones schedules to make sure that they are still able to get the rest that they need to enjoy all the festivities. Here are my recommendations on how to handle busy holiday weekends.

Prepare:

In the couple of days leading up to what is sure to be a busy weekend, it’s a good idea not to plan too much for your little ones. Make sure they aren’t missing their naps and are getting to bed on time for the few nights beforehand.  Entertaining family and friends at your house can be exciting yet exhausting for little ones, as is traveling to other people’s home for a visit. This will ensure that your child is well rested and prepared for all the extra stimulation. This also goes for the couple of days following Thanksgiving weekend: again, don’t plan too much so if your child did miss out on some sleep, they are given the opportunity to make it up.

Stick to Your Routine:

Do your best to keep your child’s schedule on track by planning visits around it. Allow them to nap at the same times whenever possible as well as not letting their bedtime get so late that they have a hard time settling down and falling asleep. Once your child reaches an overtired state, it can be very difficult for them to fall asleep and can take all the fun out of your post turkey dinner fun. If travel is necessary, plan to hit the road during naptime and bring a shade for their window and even a sound machine to block out traffic noise. This will help them get the most sleep possible on the way to your destination.

Keep Their Sleep Environment Familiar:

If you are going to be putting your child down for a nap or bedtime at someone else’s home, it’s a good idea to try to make it as familiar as possible for them. Bring your pack and play, a crib sheet from home, their “lovey” or special blanket and sound machine if they use one. Even having a “go to” dark sheet to bring along with you while traveling is a great idea to ensure your child’s sleep space is just as dark as at home. It will help them with falling asleep and staying asleep for longer periods.

We all recognize that during these busy weekends, even despite our best efforts, sleep can slip down the totem pole of priorities. If you aren’t able to stick to routines and you find your little one is fighting the norm come Monday night and Tuesday morning, stick to your guns and know that it will most likely only take a couple of days to get things back on track. Most importantly though: have a safe and happy holiday weekend with your loved ones!

Suggestions for Early Risers

 

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Early rising is one of the most common problems that parents have when it comes to their little one’s sleep. The child may fall asleep with no problems, sleep through the night without a peep and then cock-a-doodle-do at 5 a.m.! They’re up and ready to start the day, whether you like it or not. Between 5am and 7am is a tricky time for babies as they are in the lightest stage of their sleep and most likely already have 10 hours under their belt so if they are woken, it is very tough to get them to go back to sleep. The reality is, early mornings are probably going to be part of our lives for a while (a side effect of being a parent unfortunately), but here are a few suggestions that I recommend you try to see if you can make that early morning not quite so early.

 

  • Is your child’s room as dark as possible? Even the slightest bit of light can encourage your baby to wake before an appropriate time, especially during these summer months. Humans sleep best in complete darkness so investing in good blackout blinds for you and your family will help encourage restful sleep.
  • Is there any environmental noise happening? Somebody getting up for work, neighbourhood/building noise, a garbage truck rolling by? Using a sound machine set to white noise can help eliminate the chance that something is waking your child. Make sure if introducing white noise that it is on when baby goes to bed and stays on all night long so their sleep environment is consistent.
  • Stick to your guns on wake-up time! I never suggest getting your baby out of bed prior to 6 a.m. If you start bringing them out earlier than this it will only persuade them to call for you at this time. Decide on a minimum wake-up time (within reason) for your family and make it a rule. If you have a toddler who is in a bed, introducing a night light that changes colour when it is morning can be very useful. I recommend the Gro Clock or the Good Nite Lite.
  • What time is your baby’s first nap? If you’re putting your little one down too early after rising then they will start to use this as an extension of their nighttime sleep.
  • What is happening when your baby is waking early? Could they be waking up early looking for something? Make sure to delay your baby’s first feed by about 10 minutes. If you rush to them and feed them right away when they wake at this time, you’re only supporting their decision that it’s time to get up.
  • What time is baby’s bedtime? It could be that your baby is overtired, which can lead to early wake ups. Ensuring that your child gets to bed somewhere between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. is ideal, depending on when their last nap ended. Keep in mind that when changing bedtime you often need to stick to the new time for a week or two to see any results, so be patient.
  • If after trying an earlier bedtime for a week to two weeks you don’t see any change in wake-up time it may be time to look at slowly moving bedtime later by 10 minutes every three days until it is 30 minutes later than normal. Again, you cannot expect to see results for at least a week, if not two; just be consistent and patient.

“Wake to Sleep:”

  • This is usually the last thing that I suggest to parents when nothing else has worked and you have looked at all other possible causes for the early rising. This can only be done if the wake-up time is fairly consistent.
  • Set your alarm for 10 minutes before the time your baby is currently waking.
  • Go into the room and lightly rouse baby, but not fully awake (this is the tricky part), then quietly leave the room.
  • If your baby still wakes at the same time then leave them until your decided minimum wake-up time. I suggest 6 a.m. at the earliest.
  • If your baby manages to sleep longer but still not until your minimum wake-up time, still leave them until that time.
  • This will have to be done for a full seven days until you will start to see any success, so be patient.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would be interested in a FREE 15-minute consultation to discuss your child’s sleep. I can be reached at 778.881.4345!

Sleep well,

Kathryn

May 13, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Rylee - Thanks. My baby is 7 months old and she’s been waking up early despite blackout blinds and white noise. She will sometimes fall back asleep after I nurse her and sometimes not. But I will try your suggestions 🙂

May 13, 2014 - 7:23 am

kathrynwood - If you’re still nursing during the night, and do a feed at 5 I would always put them back down to sleep. I never suggest getting a baby out of bed and starting the day earlier than 6am so if they are upset I would use some soothing techniques to try to help them fall back to sleep. These would vary depending on your child’s age. If they are younger than 3 months I would use a pick-up/put-down method, older than that try gentle touch and talk to soothe them back to sleep. If they are still awake at 6am then get them up, make a big deal about it being morning, open the blinds and take them out of their room to start the day.

May 12, 2014 - 6:16 pm

Rylee - For the early morning wake up do you leave them to cry if they wake at 5, you nurse and then they don’t go back to sleep?

Newborns ~ Establishing Good Sleep from Day 1!

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Well I think the time has come that I let you in on a little secret…my husband, daughter and I will be welcoming a new little star into our family this coming July. While I know this will be a joyous, life-changing experience that I am SO looking forward to, with all the good comes the sleepless nights full of what feels like endless feedings. This time will be different of course too because I will also have a 2.5 year old to deal with during the days. Am I ready to go through this all again?

When I had my daughter I honestly knew nothing when it came to child sleep. Looking back and knowing what I do now, I can see exactly where I went wrong and why I ended up needing to make drastic changes to help shape her into the Sleep Star that she is today and has been for over a year and a half. So today’s focus is going to be on newborns and the several steps that I plan on taking to start instilling healthy sleep habits with my new little one right from day one!

Step #1: Beware of Sleep Props

A “sleep prop” is anything external that your baby relies on every time that they fall asleep. The most common sleep prop is nursing/bottle feeding to sleep closely followed by soothers and motion (exp. swings, vibrating chairs). If you start to notice that your baby is never falling asleep without their chosen prop, they have most likely formed a reliance on it and it will become increasingly more difficult to break as they get older.

It’s best to encourage your child to develop self soothing skills so that they can fall asleep on their own. The best way to achieve this is to put your child into their crib when they are sleepy but still awake. This will allow them to develop the necessary skills to fall asleep independently without a prop and will help with the reduction of night wakings when the time is right to start to eliminate some feedings.

Step #2: Create a Clear Separation Between “Day” & “Night”

The sooner that you help your baby understand that daytime is for active play and socializing and that night time is for sleeping the better. This can be a bit challenging at the begin when it seems that all your newborn does is sleep, however there are some things that you can do right now to help establish the two different periods to your child.

Adopt a WAKE>EAT>PLAY>SLEEP schedule during the daytime hours. This will help deter any development of a sleep/feed association which is often one of the biggest culprits when it comes to infant sleep struggles. By feeding your baby upon waking they are more alert, take better feeds and are less inclined to fall asleep.

Take your baby outside during the day as much as possible to get fresh air. This helps to set your newborns Circadian Rhythm and encourages good night time sleep.

When your baby wakes at night for a feeding keep them in their room, the lights dim and conversation to a minimum. They will learn quite quickly this way that night time is not play time.

Step #3: Establish a Bedtime Routine

Establishing a good predictable bedtime routine right from day one is a great way to help your baby organize their days and nights. This will also help consolidate their night time sleep more quickly. I always suggest starting the bedtime routine off with bath time. It’s such a significantly different activity then anything else your baby will be doing during the day that it is easy for them to learn quickly that bedtime is near.

Here are a few examples of activities that you can incorporate into your bedtime routine:

  • Bath time
  • Baby Massage
  • Brushing Gums/Teeth
  • PJ’s
  • Short Story or Lullaby
  • Feeding
  • Kisses Goodnight 🙂

By following a consistent routine every night you will teach your baby to look forward to their bedtime, anticipate what will happen next and help them learn what is expected of them when they are laid down in their bassinet or crib.

Do you know someone with a newborn or who will be expecting a baby soon? Please pass this newsletter on to them or a link to this blog post to ensure that they have the keys to raising an independent little Sleep Star!

Crib to Toddler Bed Transition

Toddler Bed2It might feel like it happened overnight but the time has come to transition your once cuddly little baby who used to sleep in your arms into a big kid toddler bed, or is it?

Many parents tend to make this big transition too early and sometimes for the wrong reasons. Are you experiencing bedtime battles with your toddler? Multiple night wakings? Do you hope that by transitioning them into a toddler bed it will magically take away all your problems? If this is what you’re thinking then I urge you to pause for a moment and make sure that the time is right before taking on this big step. In most cases making this move too soon can land you with a new problem, a toddler that thinks it’s a fun game to come out of their bedroom to find Mom and Dad only adding to your previous issues.

So when should you move your toddler to a big kid bed?

1. How old are they? If they are less than three years old and especially if you aren’t having any issues with their sleep, I would highly recommend waiting until their third birthday. At three years of age toddlers have the mental maturity to understand the consequences of getting out of their bed and roaming around the house. They are also better at understanding expectations and can follow clear instructions much better than say a two year old.

2. If you have a baby on the way and you need the crib for their arrival, don’t rush in taking their crib away. If it’s an option, buy or borrow a crib from a friend or family member. It will only be a short time that you will need both but it could help in making the transition much smoother for you. If this is not an option, then try to start the transition process a few months before the new baby arrives or when the new baby will start to use the crib. You want to remove the association of losing the crib to the new baby making its arrival in the household. You also want to make sure that you can dedicate enough time to have a smooth transition. The crib should ideally go unused for a couple of months, before the baby arrives and starts sleeping in it.

3. If you have a crib jumper, their safety is a concern and you’ve tried all options to stop this behaviour, then I would agree that it is best to move them into a bed for their own safety. 

So how do I transition them?

1. Make a big deal about them getting a new bed, new sheets and the fact that they are growing up into a big boy/girl. Get them involved in the process of setting up their new sleeping area. Let them pick out their bedding. TIP: Give them 2 choices that you can live with, that way you will be happy with whatever they pick.

2. If possible, throw them a little party celebrating this big change in their life. I know this may sound over the top to us as adults, but it can really help to get them excited and proud of themselves. Have a couple friends/family over, have a special little cake and sing a silly song.

3. Follow the exact same bedtime routine as you were doing when they were sleeping in the crib. Nothing should be changed so that it sets the expectations of them that sleep is to follow the end of the routine, not new fun bedtime shenanigans!

4. When you say your final goodnight, turn off the light and leave like you always do. Don’t say “don’t jump out of bed” or “stay in your room”. This thought may not have even crossed their mind before you pointed it out to them!

5. Don’t lay on the floor until they fall asleep. If you have never done this before, don’t start now unless you want this to become the norm. Toddlers catch onto things very quickly and will start to insist on this every night at bedtime.

6. Make sure that all of their bedtime needs have been met before tucking them in; visit the potty, have a sip of water, last hugs and kisses. This will help you if they decide they want to start using these as stall tactics for going to bed. You know that their needs have been met if they decide to come find you after you’ve said goodnight. The only one I might let them do one more time is a visit to the potty, but that is it!

7. If they start to test the waters and leave their room, quietly take their hand and walk them right back to their room. Don’t say anything or even make any eye contact, just simply tuck them back into bed and leave the room. They may try this a few times but if you don’t give any reaction to it other than putting them back to bed they will soon realize that it isn’t getting them anywhere and that it is a boring game not worth playing.

8. In the mornings if they are having a hard time staying in their room until their normal wake-up time, buy a toddler clock which teaches them to stay in their bed until the appropriate time. You set the time to when you would like them up, at which point the clock changes colour from blue (night time) to yellow (morning) often accompanied by a picture of a moon and a sunshine letting them know that it is now okay to leave their room for the morning. TIP: Let them have a few successes in the morning before moving the time. For example if they are waking up at 6am and you want them sleeping until 7am, start with a wake-up time of 6am and celebrate their success for a few days. Then move to 6:15am for a few days etc. Sharing the success will motivate them to stay in bed until it is time. Some great toddler clocks are the Gro Clock and the Zazoo Photo Clock although there are many other options out there that can work just as well. A less expensive option is to simply put tape over the minutes of a digital clock and teach your toddler about “Magic 7”. “Magic 7” is when we go to bed, and “Magic 7” is when we get up in the morning.

9. If they have slept without any wake-ups during the night and without leaving their room, reward them in the morning immediately for their job well done. Create a small treasure chest of objects from the dollar store that they can choose from. Instant gratification works best for 3 and under rather than collecting points every day for a larger item.

At the end of the day it can be a process making this change but if you are consistent with your encouragement and routines, your toddler will soon grow to love their new bed and sleep! Congratulations on this big change to you and your child, they are growing up and it’s a new phase of their independence.

I hope that you found this helpful, please feel free to comment below with questions. Do you know someone else that could use this information? Pass along this newsletter to share the information 🙂

Sleep well,

Kathryn

Ryan

Ryan webage: 10 months

night time sleep: 11 hours per night

naps: 2 naps a day

time spent on program: 5 months

home: Fort Langley, BC

Could Ryan be any cuter? I love his bow tie! When mom came to me about Ryan’s sleep he was on a good schedule timing wise but his naps were short, he needed to be nursed to sleep and he was was still waking during the night to nurse. Mom was eager to get things on track and knew that he could be sleeping better. She was worried about crying but after meeting felt that she could follow the plan and was comfortable with the gentle techniques that we would be using. Here is what she had to say about her experience:

“I want to thank you for everything. You have been such a wonderful support through this process, I don’t think I could have done it on my own! I had a slight idea of what sleep training might entail, but you made it not nearly as overwhelming. The process was nowhere near what I expected; Ryan really responded well right away. We were both obviously ready for proper sleep. It’s so nice to know Ryan is getting all of the sleep he needs and my life has regained some much needed order. His schedule is so predictable now, I can plan things again!

Thank you a million times. I will absolutely recommend you to everyone. I already have quite a few times!”

~ Ashlie (and Dave and Ryan too of course!)