As a pediatric sleep consultant, there are a few questions I’ve grown accustomed to hearing. Two questions ALWAYS come up and understandably so!
Will my baby cry? If so, how long?
When will my baby sleep through the night?
What most parents are actually hoping I’ll tell them (and it would certainly be nice!) is that there is a magical wand that would immediately help their child sleep, putting an end to the third and fourth pots of coffee that are becoming the norm.
Once they realize that the magic wand doesn’t exist, they ask about a product a friend uses. You know, a magic swaddle blanket, sleep suit, or essential oil that has put an end to sleepless nights for good?
While there are definitely products that are helpful, especially during infancy and the swaddling period, the fact is that products do not teach a baby how to sleep, so they won’t work forever.
When you consider how many products out there say they’ll get your baby to sleep, it’s not surprising that parents think that maybe one of them might be the solution. Surely ONE of them will work! Maybe the self-rocking crib? The vibrating mattress pad? The weighted blanket? The motion-detecting auto-shusher? The hypnotizing bedtime book?
I’m not making this stuff up, by the way. All of those are actual products available for purchase, and that’s not even close to a complete list.
What’s the biggest problem with these? It’s not that they don’t work, but that some of them DO!
Let’s look at the Amazon bestseller, a baby hypnotizing book (yep, it’s a thing!). I highly suggest reading a book as part of your nightly routine, but this is different. This book is designed to put your baby to sleep through boring repetitive phrases said by the reader.
While I certainly don’t promote a tickle session before bed, reading a baby to sleep isn’t exactly pure gold. Why? You probably know by now that neither young or old sleep all night. We sleep and wake multiple times during the night. Adults generally don’t remember it, but a baby who can only fall asleep during “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep” just might need some help during those wake ups.
So, if you don’t really enjoy a painfully boring book at bedtime, you certainly won’t enjoy it DURING the night. There’s also an elephant version, so I guess you could rotate for the third wake up.
Sleep is a skill, and while there are babies who sleep well from day one, it is most certainly not the norm. For nearly all babies, sleep must be learned and takes practice. It’s no different than swimming, riding a bike, driving a stick shift, or playing the piano. When you lull your little one to sleep with motion, shushing, vibration, or feeding, you’re doing all of the practice for them. You’re constantly holding the seat of their bike while they’re trying to learn to ride it.
That’s what sets a sleep consultant apart from all of the “stuff” out there.
Together, we take the training wheels off and watch them ride.
Little steps at a time, we watch them develop strategies for self-soothing and falling asleep then are amazed at how they love their own space.
As an expert sleeper, they are comfortable in their bed no matter who’s watching. There are no more concerns about whether the battery of the singing ceiling stars or vibrating rocker dies. Once asleep, they’ll stay asleep all night.
Too often we overlook the true value of a baby sleeping.
A well-rested baby is better able to learn and adapt, relax, and simply enjoy taking in the world around them. Much like a soaked sponge cannot hold more water, a baby’s brain without rest hasn’t had a chance to process what was learned the day before and cannot comfortably take more in. No wonder a tired baby is cranky!
Learning to sleep can be hard! But isn’t it great once we do? We want our babies to feel the same relaxing deep breath we do when we finally get to lay our heads down, don’t we? And what if, before that, we enjoyed a little quality down time with a book and snuggles instead of anxiety and battles? Wouldn’t that be great?!
It’s not so hard to drop the first pennies on swaddling blankets. But another $30 here for a swaddling sack, $200 there for the Doc-A-Tot, and then another sleep sack that has a weighted animal on it, because none of that has worked? Is your baby even sleeping in that beautifully designed nursery? I know that wasn’t cheap!
Teaching your baby the skills needed to fall asleep on their own really is the cure-all for their nighttime woes. But, most importantly, and the reason that I am passionate about baby sleep is that our babies NEED QUALITY SLEEP. And equally important, so do their parents.
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Start sleeping now 7 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep.
The winter months are now gone.
Maybe you watched Marie Kondo and simplified and organized everything. Maybe just the thought of it exhausted you. Or maybe, you’re like me, and did your own version here and there and your New Year’s resolution has been modified a teeny tiny bit.
Motherhood brings so many different seasons. Often, those seasons aren’t correlated with Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall and they most definitely do not always align with the seasons of the people who surround you.
This time last year, I had a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old. I remember hearing Papa Smurf on the television mentioning in a sigh that he had no idea what he was doing. If ever I could relate to someone on T.V., that was THE moment.
Christmas had come and gone, preschool had started again, and I had in my mind that my days would be organized in a perfect order with a certain time for X, Y, and Z. Boy was I wrong!
My mornings were often filled with overwhelm and not knowing what to focus on. I’m a person who likes to be able to check a box and feel like I’ve accomplished something tangible in a day. There were so many boxes left unchecked. My husband would respond to my frustration with “Is everyone alive?” and sincerely offer encouragement. I’d have a little cry and move on.
But, deep down, it wasn’t enough for me to just keep my head above water.
One morning while all was quiet, one at preschool and another napping, I was hurriedly cleaning the kitchen and listening to a podcast for some company older than two years.
Thankfully my duties didn’t have me too distracted and I heard exactly what I needed as if September McCarthy, the God Centered Mom’s guest speaker, was speaking directly to me. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was essentially something along the lines of letting things go during certain seasons.
For me, it was a season I then described as a beautiful, but chaotic circus. The wheels started turning, but I was still stubborn. That message wasn’t for me! I had things to do!
The next podcast, which I now can’t find for the life of me, went on to mention Psalm 46:10 and encouraged moms to simply “be still” in the moments. I immediately teared up, which led to an awfully ugly cry. You know the type that will keep you out of the public for at least an hour?
Yeah, it was bad.
Why did I need someone who didn’t even know me to tell me that it was okay if all the “things” didn’t get done? Why did it take TWO total strangers? Because I needed more than family to tell me it was okay. Because I wanted to say I accomplished something during the day.
Because I’m a box checker and often let society define success for me.
Why do I share this with you?
Because it changed me, and it taught me that to BE STILL wasn’t the same thing as being lazy! I didn’t have to stand out, be the perfect Pinterest mom, or have a Martha Stewart worthy kitchen. My kids need the best version of ME, and sometimes, that involves sitting down for a while.
There are many days that I still need a reminder. I try to slow down and be even more mindful to sit in the floor and play. I let the laundry wait a little too long.
I absolutely delight in the smiles on my babies’ faces! I’m 100% positive that if someone I didn’t even know hadn’t told me to simply let things go, be still, and that “busy” doesn’t equal success, I would have missed many a smile.
Hearing that podcast gave me permission to let caring for my kids be enough. It reminded me that truly caring for your kids involves being very, very present in their lives.
Over the last year I’ve accepted the fact that our home won’t be a showcase of perfection, but more importantly, I’ve learned to see it as a place with life, laughter, experiences, and love.
The best part? I’m a better mama because of it!
The toys, the messes, the plates from breakfast that are still there hours later…it’s okay now. Well, if I’m being honest, it still bugs me to no end, but I’ve come a LONNNNG way.
I know that the tiny little dings in our coffee table came from a little fella loving a new hammer and a mama who didn’t see it coming. A year ago, I would see those as imperfections and a table that is messed up. Thankfully, so thankfully, my perspective has changed.
Now, if you read this and think “Boy doesn’t she think she has it all together,” that couldn’t be further from the truth. I snap at times I shouldn’t. I was the mama with the kid having a public meltdown over not getting a new toy TWICE in the last month. My kids know Mickey and Minnie much better than I’d like. My daughter is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. I question myself ALL. THE. TIME.
But I have a suspicion that I’m not the only mama that could benefit from slowing down and letting a few things go. “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Well said, John Trainer, well said.
The Lord does take care of us when we are trusting enough to do what he calls us to do.
And, mama, if it’s your season to focus on taking care of your baby, you do it and don’t look back. Sit down, hug, play, chase, dance, tickle and giggle.
And equally important, love yourself. Take care of yourself. You’ve got one heck of an amazing job to do.
Let YOUR heart define the check boxes, not society.
If you long to be more present with your child, but lack of sleep is taking its toll on you, let’s talk. There’s no shame in getting help for your child. Sleep is important for everyone and it certainly helps us enjoy the greatest moments and have more patience in the more trying ones.
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The Middle-of-the-Night Cry Every Mama Needs to Know.
You’ve finally put your head down on your pillow and no sooner than you start to drift off to sleep, your baby starts to cry. Sigh….
Whether your baby has been in bed for one hour or four hours, your first thought is “Why is my baby crying?”.
Whether it happens before or after midnight, or many times throughout the night, you do the same thing. You start going through your mental list of questions:
Or, knowing that babies LOVE their mama, maybe she just wants to be held by you. The thought of this tugs at your heart!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we knew what those cries meant? Unfortunately, your baby’s one form of communication keeps you confused. You think:
Your list of VERY valid questions could continue!
But there are two definite truths:
After all, you’re a mom because you want to love on your baby. You live for the nurturing moments where nothing else matters but rocking, nursing or simply holding him or her. I’ve said it before and will say it again Always love on your baby! LOVE. ON. YOUR. BABY.
But, the reality is it’s impossible to love on your baby all night long. Not only are you beyond exhausted, your baby isn’t getting quality sleep if she’s crying out for you multiple times a night.
To make matters more complicated, have we even determined why she’s crying yet?
So, what on earth is a parent to do?! Should you feel guilty for silently praying they’ll go back to sleep on their own if you wait a few minutes and let them cry it out? The answer to that is NO and every parent has been there!
You know your baby better than anyone and with time, you’ll definitely know when something is wrong based on your child’s cry just as you learn your child’s cry within a day of being born. It’s your mama instinct.
So, in the meantime, let’s figure out the middle-of-the-night cry every mama needs to know!
Here are a few tips for out the “why the cry?” riddle:
IS BABY UNDER SIX MONTHS OLD?
Babies typically need at least one nighttime feed until around six months. With small tummies, no solid foods, and milk that digests quickly, we can expect them to be hungry during the night.
TIP: Some babies can sleep all night, but in general, we should expect one waking for feeding during the night.
IS BABY EATING ENOUGH DURING THE DAY?
Once a baby can sleep through the night, it is imperative that we make sure their calories during the day are increased.
Around six months is a great time to begin offering solid foods. Again, do not force foods. Your baby may show no interest and that’s 100% okay! Six months is not a line in the sand of a time to cut night feeds, so don’t feel as though you’re doing something wrong if a night feed is needed beyond six months. Make SURE you talk to your pediatrician to confirm that your baby’s health and weight are appropriate for considering removing night feeds.
TIP: Throw in an extra feed or add an ounce or two to each bottle throughout the day. Be careful to not force milk but know that a baby will compensate for night nutrition during the day and need extra calories.
HOW MUCH IS YOUR BABY EATING?
I’m sure you know this scenario. Less than an hour of being put down, your baby starts crying. You offer food, but she takes a small amount and quickly drifts back off to sleep.
This is a good sign that a baby is feeding for comfort instead of hunger. The calming effect of that small amount of eating was enough to help them relax and get to sleep. A baby who wakes of true hunger will take a reasonable amount of milk, even if not quite as large of an amount as during the day.
IS BABY SLEEPING AT LEAST THREE HOURS AFTER EATING?
A baby who does have a full feed before bed or during the night should be able to sleep 3-4 hours after eating. An average sleep cycle lasts around 45 minutes to an hour (for a six month-old), if you notice your baby waking after that length of time, it’s most likely that food is not the reason. Instead, your baby has most likely become dependent on the soothing and sucking actions of the feed to go to sleep.
TIP: To help rule out hunger even more, try moving the last feeding before bed to the beginning of your bedtime routine. Then, offer an extra top-off feed before bed. This often results in baby taking in extra calories before going to sleep.
DO THEY GO BACK TO SLEEP WITHOUT A FEED?
It’s hard to go to sleep if you’re hungry, even as an adult. Our brains know our bodies need nutrition and will stay alert until that need is met. Only when overly exhausted, will our bodies recognize sleep as a greater need.
With that said, a baby who is truly hungry will not go back to sleep very easily until having that need met. A baby who falls asleep after five or ten minutes, even if crying, most likely wasn’t hungry, but instead looking for help falling back to sleep.
HOW DOES BABY FALL ASLEEP?
Perhaps the most important question, and one that you can easily answer is whether your baby falls asleep on her own? In other words, is your baby rocked, nursed, bounced, held, etc. to fall asleep? OR, can you place your baby in the crib while awake, walk away and have her fall asleep without assistance? If the answer to that last question is a solid “YES,” then your baby most likely needs your help, probably in the form of food.
Why your baby is crying and whether they are hungry isn’t a very easy question to answer. Babies are complicated little creatures. We absolutely have to ensure they are fed and have proper rest. Once your baby has independent sleep skills, determining what a cry means is certainly much easier.
Breaking the habit of feeding to sleep isn’t always easy, but it certainly allows you to feel much more confident that the middle of the night requests are out of genuine need and not just for another minute with mama.
I help parents like you who are 100% committed to the health of their baby and want to meet the needs of both sleep and nutrition in the most gentle, nurturing manner possible.
If you have questions about how to help your child have the quality sleep he or she deserves without sacrificing their nutritional health (or your mental health), let’s talk.
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I am passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep well. If you are reading this because you are a tired, worn down parent, I can relate. I was EXACTLY where you are! Nothing I was trying worked and I had nothing left to give. Then I tried the Sleep Sense Program. Now, our nights are different. My little daughter sleeps all night, or in her words, until “Mr. Sun comes up." Read more about my journey. As your Montgomery Baby Sleep Expert, I can help you have the same success that I experienced.
If you are wondering if you can take another night of little to no sleep, reach out! Contact me and I can help! In fact, I would LOVE to help. I am committed to helping families sleep, not only to educating, but relentlessly supporting you and encouraging you every step of the way. You are NOT alone!
Still on the fence? It costs nothing to share your current situation with me. I’ll gladly give my time and let you know what options we have. On a budget? We can find a solution that will work. BUT, if you decide that you’re not quite ready, I will support your decision wholeheartedly and still cheer you on!
Sleep training with me is about YOUR family. Only you know your family inside and out. No two families are alike, so each step I take with a family is unique. Daycare, workouts, Church, colic, reflux, Autism, and other siblings’ schedules are just a FEW of the things that can shape your plan.
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If you are reading this in the wee hours of the morning and feeling like you are on your last leg, I know how you feel! We love our children, but so desperately need rest, too. I can truly say that I know what it’s like to have tried everything possible and still be up at night... Learn more about how I can help.