Yes, you read it correctly. Not only will your baby never sleep through the night, but neither will you.
All humans, from their first night on earth to their last, actually wake up multiple times a night! These wakings are part of our natural human sleep cycle and happen even when there's no caffeine or stress.
I'm sure you've noticed times when you've been in a "deep sleep" and times when you felt like you were mildly awake already when you heard your baby or the garbage truck. Not all sleep is the same.
Sleep is Cyclical
When we fall asleep, we begin in a stage of light sleep, move into a deeper sleep and then slowly re-emerge into the lighter stage again. Each time we move back into that lighter stage, there's a chance we'll wake up.
What might surprise you is that this process happens several times during the night. Each cycle can take as little as 90-110 minutes.i We don't spend most of our night in a long stretch of deep sleep.
Luckily, this process is pretty seamless. While we may wake for a moment or two, we normally fall right back to sleep. This is when you might cover up or move your pillow. Many times, we never really break the surface and don't remember waking at all.
When all goes well, we cruise through these sleep cycles five or six times, wake refreshed and ready for the day.
So now that we know about grown-ups, let's talk about the little people in our lives.
Infants, despite their increased need for sleep, have a much shorter sleep cycle than adults. On average, an infant goes from light sleep to deep sleep and back again in an astounding 50 minutes. ii
Depending on your child's age, you might have noticed the plague of waking every hour or maybe every 45 minutes. If this is happening in your home, your baby is simply waking after each sleep cycle.
So, What’s The Answer?
There's no magic wand to help your child lengthen their sleep cycle. In fact, we don't aim to lengthen it at all! A child who "sleeps well" doesn't have longer sleep cycles, but instead has developed healthy sleep strategies. Teaching children to fall sleep independently actually teaches them how to fall back to sleep with ease. That's where the magic happens!
You see, when a baby is held to sleep and then wakes in a crib, it can be alarming for them. Where am I? Where is mom? What's going on? For some babies, there’s a fight or flight reaction.
On the other hand, if a baby falls asleep independently, over time, their brains simply signal them to go back to sleep. There's no middle of the night upset.
There are a few reasons why I feel it's so important for parents to understand this. First of all, I want you to know that teaching independent sleep does nothing that actually influences or alters your baby's natural sleep. You're just giving them the skills to fall asleep independently after they wake up, which, as you probably know by now, they're going to do multiple times a night.
Second, one of the biggest arguments you might hear from critics of sleep training is, "Babies are supposed to wake up at night!"
And that's absolutely, 100 percent correct. Babies, just like adults, are supposed to wake up at night. In fact, it would take some powerful sedatives to prevent it.
My methods help little ones stay calm and content when they do wake up, and giving them the ability to get back to sleep without any help from mom, a pacifier, or any other exterior source that might not be readily available in the middle of the night.
So if you're wondering whether or not sleep training is going to put your child at an increased risk for SIDS, or if it will somehow alter their natural sleep patterns, or make them nocturnal, or damage them in any way, I can assure you with the full support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that it will not. iii
What it will do is keep them calm and assured when they wake up in the night, and help to ensure that they get the sleep they need to be happy and healthy.
So, although your little one is going to wake up numerous times a night, every night, they can quickly and easily learn the skills to get back to sleep on their own. It will only seem as though they're sleeping straight through the night.
That, I would imagine, is something we can all get behind.
i US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072506/
ii US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439810/
iii American Academy of Pediatrics - https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Infant-Sleep-Training-is-Effective-and-Safe-Study-Finds.aspx
Suddenly awake multiple times at night? Finally understand what the word "regression" means as it relates to sleep?
You hoped it wouldn't hit your house.
As a sleep consultant, I have found that the word regression pops up in nearly every imaginable circumstance. If a baby has been sleeping well for a week or months and suddenly hits a hiccup, it receives the "R" label. Some believe there's a regression at eight months or a year.
I have some news for you: the dreaded four-month regression is absolutely REAL, and it's PERMANENT.
But why? And what exactly is going on? I know you're probably sleep deprived right now, so I'll try to keep this simple.
Sleep isn't exactly on or off, but instead has many stages that we call the "sleep cycle." We move through this cycle several times a night.
Stage 1: You can feel yourself drifting off, but do not feel like you're asleep. You may look asleep to others but may quickly respond with "I wasn't asleep" when someone wakes you.
Stage 2: Considered "true sleep," this stage is where people will agree that they were asleep. This is also the "power nap" stage that gives energy without the groggy feeling of a long nap.
Stage 3: This stage is deep and regenerative and known as "slow wave" sleep. The body repairs and rejuvenates the immune system, muscles tissue, energy stores, and begins growth and development.
Stage 4: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Our brains begin to consolidate information and memories during this stage. It's also when we dream.
After Stage 4, we wake or come close to waking. We then cycle back through the stages again. The process of waking at the end is where the issues arise and begin the "regression."
Newborns vs. 3 and 4-month olds
Newborn babies only have two stages of sleep; stage 3 and stage 4 (REM), and they spend about half their sleep in each stage. At around the third or fourth month, babies add in the first two sleep stages, both of which are lighter sleep. They'll follow this cycle of including all four stages for the rest of their lives.
More Light Sleep
When Stages 1 and 2 are added into a sleep cycle, the total amount of light sleep is increased. REM, which is light sleep is reduced by half to make room for the even lighter Stages 1 and 2. Now, with even more time spent in light sleep, there's more of a chance that baby's going to wake up.
Now, waking is not the issue. It's natural to wake up and we do it even as adults.
Why Adults Handle it Better
As an adult, we are aware of more truths than our child. We know our surroundings, that it's nighttime, that we don't have to wake up yet, and that we can go back to sleep. This happens so quickly that we often don't even remember waking during the night.
Why a 4-Month Old Struggles
A four-month old baby, of course, lacks these critical thinking skills. To a four-month-old baby who fell asleep in her mother's arms, the reasoning could go much more to the tune of, "OK, what's going on? Where's that familiar face, my pacifier or food, and mommy's voice singing to me? Where's Mommy?!"
I can completely understand why a baby would begin to freak out, which stimulates the fight-or-flight response. At this point, there's not chance a baby isn't going back to sleep without assurance that everything is just fine and probably a little snuggling.
Why Rocking to Sleep Suddenly Rocks the Peace
Another factor in this four month fiasco, I find, is that up until this point, parents have helped their baby fall asleep. Whether a parent has used a pacifier, simply rocked or breastfed, or used some similar technique, the baby has been distracted and relaxed to go to sleep. By the four month mark, a parent is tired and their arms may need a small break. Not happening.
A baby is now spending more time in light sleep, and therefore has a higher probability of waking up. For an already tired parent, there is now an even bigger issue. What was once helping your baby fall asleep has now created a sleep association that upon waking, causes crying and an adrenaline rush. When this starts happening every hour, it seems like more than a nightmare. Night after night of constant waking now means parents are in a near-zombie state, even during the daytime.
It is NOT a Regression.
You may be surprised to find that all of these sleepless nights are actually caused by a "progression." A regression is defined as a "reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level," and that's certainly not what's happening here! We want our children to acquire this new level of sleep.
But What Can I Do? I'm Desperate!
So, onto the big question. What can a parent do to help a little one adjust?
Are there true regressions?
Yes! There are definitely times that your child will have poor sleep phases. Illness, travel, and cutting teeth are just a few reasons to have several bad nights in a row. When babies begin to crawl, walk, or even have a major jump in talking, they may have more night wake-ups as they are eager to practice these fun skills. But, the most difficult change, at four months, is a one-time deal.
Parents who take the opportunity to teach their baby the skill to string sleep cycles together with independence certainly to not rob themselves or their child of snuggles and emotional attachment. A refreshed parent and child both have more to give! By giving them a gift they'll enjoy for the rest of their lives, they are also giving quality rest so that their time awake is more enjoyable.
Of course, some children will adjust like a fish to water. Others will be more resistant. Significant changes are hard on adults, so we should expect it to be at least a little challenging for a tiny baby. Whether you are approaching the four month mark, are in the middle of it, or are way past it and STILL struggling, I can assure you that your child CAN learn to sleep through cycles with ease. Like anything in life, we must be given the proper tools and the opportunity to learn.
If you are ready to help your child sleep his or her best at night, but just aren’t sure how, I’m here for you!
Initial consultations are always free. That may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. I’ve been in your shoes! Let’s chat. You and your baby need 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.
Schedule a FREE 15-minute call with me today!
The #1 Tip for an Extra Hour of Sleep
It’s that time again! Our clocks spring forward on March 9th.
What does this mean for our children?
Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to help transition a little more smoothly!
TIP #1: Wait until Sunday morning to change your clocks
Don’t lose an hour of your sleep! “Lose” a little of your day instead. It’s easier on everyone if you wake up, have some coffee and breakfast, then change the clocks and get moving. Did I mention coffee? Yes, Sundays are especially busy for many families, but a little planning ahead can relieve some stress from that lost hour.
Tip #2: Split the difference with the old and new time
Essentially, take the time change slowly in your house. It can take our bodies a week or two to truly adjust. So based on the age of your children, follow the suggestion below that matches your kid(s) age:
Children with No Nap
For an older child who does not nap, you would put them to bed half an hour later than normal. This means If bedtime is 7:00PM, they’ll go to bed at 7:30PM on Sunday night.
After three nights have passed, you will move bedtime back to the original time. Your child will now be back to the normal 7:00 bedtime by Wednesday night!
If you have a toddler or child on one nap, you will put them down for their nap 30 minutes later than normal. So, if nap is normally at 12:00PM, you would put them down at 12:30PM for three days starting on Sunday.
The same is true for bedtime. If bedtime is normally 7:00PM, you will put them to bed at 7:30PM for three days. By Wednesday, naps and bedtime will be back to normal at 12:00PM and 7:00PM, or whatever your normal routine times may be.
If your baby’s naps and bedtimes are more predictable and established (usually six months and older), you will move bedtimes and naps in 15 minute increments. If your child naps at 9:00AM, Day 1 naptime (Sunday) would be at 9:45AM, Day 2 would be at 9:30AM, Day 3 would be at 9:15AM, and Day 4 would be back to 9:00AM.
Bedtimes would change in the same way. A normal bedtime of 7:00PM would change to 7:45PM, 7:30PM, 7:15PM and then back to 7:00PM on Day 4.
If naps and bedtimes are NOT predictable (0-6 months old), go ahead and adjust immediately. Use appropriate awake times as your guide for nap and nights. If you need help determining an appropriate wake time for your baby, you can access my 3-6 Months Sleep Guide.
Note for Toddlers/School-Aged Children
If your child relies on a clock to know when morning has arrived, adjust half an hour for a couple of nights. They will be waking later than normal, but your child will adjust with time (generally around a week or two).
Most children adjust within the first week; however, it is not abnormal for some to take up to a month. Being as consistent as possible with bedtimes and naps helps.
Is your little one having trouble sleeping and it has nothing to do with the time change? Nothing adds more spring into your step like a little (or a lot!) of extra sleep!
I’d love to help your family have the rest your deserve.
Book a FREE 15-minute consultation with me today.
Download the FREE Sleep Guide
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.
Schedule your totally FREE 15 minute call today
My Favorite White Noise Machines
The recommended safety level for any sound machine is 50 dB. As a rule of thumb, if you walk out of the room and close the door, you should barely hear the machine. There is a fantastic all called Decibel X that can help you determine an appropriate level. Simply place your phone in the crib and adjust the noise or sound machine accordingly.
The Marpac Dohm is a white noise machine that generates the noise with a motor. There is only one sound choice, which is a soothing sound of rushing air, or “shhhhhh” sound. The two motor speeds along with the ability to rotate openings in two spots allow you to adjust the tone and volume. The Dohm is the simplest, most easily adjusted white noise machine on the market. If you are hoping to block out a very loud, barking dog right outside the window, it simply won’t, unless it is above a safe volume. It does a fantastic job of safely masking distracting noises and providing a comforting environment.
The MyBaby SoundSpa is an excellent choice for a budget sound machine. The sounds are definitely different from the Dohm, but most babies don’t care. The MyBaby has a white noise option along with summer night, ocean, heartbeat, brook, and cradle; however, I will always encourage using the traditional white noise. These sounds are prerecorded. There is an option of a 15, 30, or 60 minute timer, but I recommend using the machine during naps and all night. At $25, it is a great value and small enough for travel.
The LectroFan is slightly smaller that the Dohm. It boasts 10 white noise sounds and 10 fan sounds. Unlike The controls are very easy to operate, and the volume can be adjusted far higher than any nursery would ever want. Again, 50 dB is our limit. The LectroFan has an optional sleep timer, but for our purposes, that’s not necessary. This is another fantastic choice and has a range of noises in case you prefer sound options.
If you feel like you’ve tried it all and are still at a loss, let’s set up a free 15-minute consultation. No question is too big or small and there may be a simple solution!
There’s something about Halloween that brings out the kid in us. It’s simply a fun time of dressing up and being playful. Plus, there’s candy involved!
I’m sure our dentists cringe at the thought of candy lying around and being constantly snacked on for days or weeks. We know the sugar isn’t good for our teeth, our kids’ teeth, or any of our bodies, but boy does it taste so good! Plus, there is some serious bribery power in all of that candy.
In the midst of enjoying the candy corn, Blow Pops, Tootsie Rolls and such, we often overlook the effect it can have on sleep. Don’t worry. I’m not going to suggest that you put down your favorite candy or ask you to deprive your child of the trick or treating awesomeness! What I would ask you to keep in mind is that the sugar does inhibit quality sleep. Here are three reasons why:
Now, am I saying that Halloween candy will ruin your child’s sleep forever? Absolutely not. I would just suggest that you be mindful of this when your child asks repeatedly for candy, a sugary drink, or snack over the course of the holidays. The effect of sugar adds up over time, to the detriment of our health, our teeth and our sleep..
I suggest choosing a time (not too close to bedtime) that they can enjoy a treat or two, depending on its size and nutrition quality. And while you’re at it, consider checking the labels on foods your children eat on a day to day basis, too! One Pop-Tarts pastry packs a lot of sugar at 16.5 grams and only one gram of fiber. That’s the same amount of sugar as 21 pieces of candy corn, so keep an eye on the pantry products year round and save sugar treats for exactly that - a special treat that’s occasionally enjoyed.
If you and your child are already getting quality sleep, you’ll be happy to know that it actually helps you choose healthier, less sugary foods so a good and healthy cycle can continue! Aren’t our bodies amazing? With the holiday season just about to start up, consider the impact of keeping sleep a priority for your entire home. Everyone will feel better and you can enjoy the holidays even more!
As always, if your home is NOT getting the quality rest you deserve, I’d love to help.
Schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation now.
As the parent of a new baby, the number of questions you’re going to find yourself asking are, to put it mildly, astronomical.
The old saying about babies not coming with instructions has cemented itself in parental lore for a good reason. Even after spending nine months doing endless research on what to expect when baby arrives, as soon as we’re sent home from the hospital with our little ones, there’s an unavoidable feeling of unpreparedness.
Every baby is different, after all, so no manual, no set of instructions, no amount of coaching from friends and family, is going to prepare you for your child in particular.
And since this is just about the biggest responsibility that a human being can have, to raise another living person, we feel an incredible obligation to get it right.
Unfortunately, we don’t get any practice swings or dress rehearsals. Your first run-through is the final performance, so to speak, which only increases our dedication to solving problems before they spring up.
And since babies basically eat, poop, cry and sleep, we’re naturally very focused on those four things.
What to feed baby, that’s often a contentious subject on its own, and we often find ourselves with a sudden fascination in poop that we didn’t realize we had.
Which leaves us with sleeping and crying, and as a baby sleep consultant, I assure you, I’ve done a lot of research on both.
Because the biggest question that parents have when they start sleep training is, “Will my baby cry?”
This really isn’t the question they want the answer to, of course, because babies cry all the time. In fact, if a baby didn’t cry, it would be cause for concern.
What they’re really asking when they pose this question is, “How much will my baby cry, and will I be able to provide comfort when they do?”
Why is this the major concern with new parents? Well, naturally nobody likes to hear their baby cry, but parents nowadays are able to access a wealth of misinformation that claims if you don’t respond immediately when your baby cries, you could actually be harming them.
This wasn’t always such a contentious issue. Up until Dr. William Sears came out with his Attachment Parenting theory in 1993, parents were reasonably comfortable with the idea that leaving a child to cry for a period of time when they woke in the night was safe, if maybe a little unpleasant.
But once The Baby Book was published, a generation of new parents began to cling to the idea that it was not just ineffective, but was causing brain damage. Sears cited studies to back up his claim, but those studies looked at babies who were suffering from colic and a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.
And so the argument has raged on for nearly 25 years now, with attachment parenting advocates accusing sleep training advocates of willfully neglecting their babies for their own convenience.
It’s surprising that the pediatric and scientific community haven’t done more to prove or disprove this assertion, given the magnitude of the consequences. After all, if we’re causing our babies brain damage by allowing them to cry, even for a short period, wouldn’t almost every parent in the world alter their approach to prevent it?
One reason Dr. Sears’ claims didn’t provoke an immediate and widespread investigation was because they were hugely misleading. The Yale researchers who conducted one of the studies his research pulled from responded to his use of their work by saying, “Our paper is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect. It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”
Another went so far as to actually note in the study’s own conclusion that , “Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behavior appears to be unrelated to this effect.” So the mother’s response or lack of it to the condition of persistent crying was inconsequential.
So that’s the argument against the original suggestion that started this whole movement, but its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”
Well, back in 2012, Dr. Anna Price, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Children's Hospital's Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an extensive study that followed a group of two hundred and twenty six children, measuring mental health, sleep, stress regulation, child-parent relationship, maternal health and parenting styles.
Five years later, she followed up with the families to see the if the one third of the children whose parents had employed some method of sleep training had experienced any of the terrifying side effects that Dr. Sears had warned of.
The result… they had not. In fact, to quote the study, “There was no evidence of differences between intervention and control families for any outcome. Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects.”
But critics continue to try to shoot holes in the evidence. “The sample size was too small,” is a common complaint, no matter what the size of the study might be. “We need further study,” is another, assuming that further study supports their position, which, as of yet, it hasn’t.
So in March of last year, when Pediatrics published another peer-reviewed study that showed sleep training to be both effective and safe, it didn’t change the mind of Dr. Sears or his followers.
But for those new parents who have been bombarded with misinformation and hearsay regarding the safety and efficacy of sleep training, it’s yet another assurance that you can feel confident in the fact that getting your child to sleep through the night is important, safe, and beneficial to your entire family.
Because there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s the fact that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for mother and baby alike.
So the answer is yes, sleep training is safe. Sleep itself is glorious, rejuvenating, and beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire family. Focusing on your child’s sleep habits is something you can feel good about, and a commitment that will pay off exponentially.
In short, your baby and yourself can both sleep soundly, knowing you’ve made the right choice.
It’s time to spring your clocks forward this Sunday, but let's not lose any sleep over it! Time changes aren’t exactly a parent’s best friend. I have some tips that I’d like to share that can help make your child’s adjustment to the new time easier on your family!
Step 1 - Do nothing. I recommend not changing your clocks Saturday night. That's right-get that hour of sleep! Instead of waking an hour early, wake-up, drink your coffee, eat breakfast and then adjust the clocks. That way your family will gradually adjust to the new time throughout the day as opposed to being smacked in the face by it on Sunday morning. Do yourself a favor and get your full hour of sleep and then adjust your clock after you get your start. Another option is to simply go to bed a little early on Saturday if you can. Everyone benefits when we get our sleep!
Step 2 - Use the “half” approach. Gradually adjust the time and your child will have the best chance at successfully falling asleep earlier. For several days, try to split the difference. How exactly? You will put your child to bed a half hour later for three nights in a row and then on the fourth night you will put your child to bed at the normal time. For example, if your child goes to bed at 7:00 PM you will put your child to bed at 7:30 PM on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and then on Wednesday you’ll put them to bed at 7:00 PM. Coping with a half hour time difference initially will be easier for their body clock to handle than jumping right into the hour difference.
Step 3 - What about naps? Don’t worry, I would never forget about naps. Any parent knows that naps are important for ALL involved, right?! You will use the same “half” approach. Put your child down for their first (or only) nap a half hour later starting on Sunday. The only difference is that you will do this for four days in a row and then change back to the normal time on the fifth day. For example, if your child’s first nap is at 10:00 AM, you will put your child down at 10:30 AM on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then on Thursday move it back to 10:00 AM. You will handle any additional naps in the same manner. NOTE: If your child is in daycare, I would strongly suggest beginning to work on naps on Saturday, which will allow an extra day to adjust before the full change on Monday.
I know how difficult it can be to adjust with changes to routine and time. I hope that these tips will help your family adjust with ease. It may take a week or two for your child to fully adjust. In the meantime, be extra patient with your little one.
If you are struggling to get your little one to sleep well, I can help! I offer a free consultation and would love to talk with you about any night and nap challenges. I can help you and your family get the rest you all deserve and offer services for babies and children up to age eight.
From my sweet home to yours,
Sweet Home Sleep Solutions
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.