When we use a key phrase to identify that it is time to sleep, it can help with our little ones settling down and preparing for sleep. This settling down period can cause their bodies to start to produce melatonin.
Once a child is over 4.5 months of age they will begin the process of producing melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that allows our little ones to go to sleep and stay asleep for long periods of time.
I have had the opportunity to hear many different key phrases that people use for sleep. The following are some of the most common:
“Time for Sleep”
This key phrase comes in really handy in the middle of the night or early morning when your child requires a reminder that it is still time for sleep. When you use your key phrase it is often enough to help your little one attempt to go back to sleep. It basically does 2 things. It reminds them that it is still time for sleep and it allows them to hear your voice which can be very calming.
A key phrase may seem like a very simple tool; however, sometimes it is the small things that make a huge impact!!
As Always, Be the Parent You Want to Be!
PS. If you would like more help with help to improve your child’s sleep click here to book a free 15-minute consultation with me (Brenda McSween) or click on the Work with me Tab above to book a service.
It is times like this that I want to go back to my past self and give myself a high five!! The routines we put in place when our son was 3 years old or younger are still in place with some minor changes through the years and they are still working well!! Bliss I tell you!
A routine is a series of things we do before or after an event. A schedule is based on set times certain events occur.
Schedules and Routines both have their place.
I find that set schedules do not work as well with infants but having a variety of routines in place does work really well.
We have a screen time schedule here which works like a charm! Our son watches a show about 8 am, 11 am (when he is home), and 4 pm. We do have to be a bit flexible but we put in this place we would focus hugely on watching his programs. Once the set times were in place the constant asking for a show came to a complete stop. My response is “yes you can at __ time” After staying consistent with this for a while he really took to it.
I often have parents ask why their child is so well-behaved at daycare or school and not as much at home. The first thing is that children will unload their feelings at home where they feel safe. The second thing is that there is a great deal of structure with routines and schedules so the children know what to expect.
I often recommend that parents maintain similar schedules and routines at home.
You may find that you continue certain routines from your childhood. It is really cool how routines and schedules can really help children feel safe, secure, and be willing to do the steps without even realizing it.
I have to admit that our morning routine is my favorite.
Come in and give mom a hug
Snuggles with Mom and/or Dad
Start watching You-Tube (Pause when breakfast is ready)
Put on socks
Finishing watching You-Tube while getting the outdoor gear on
Out the Door
It typically is very smooth and we have been doing a routine similar to this since he was 3!
There are a few things that you can do to help your child get familiar with a routine.
Use visuals (written list for older children and list using pictures for younger children)
Use verbal reminders
Use a timer to remind your child when they have to move to the next step
You can use routines throughout your day! Have fun fitting in the routines and do not forget to make them a little fun for your child as well!!
If you would like some help figuring out how routines and schedules can help your family, please feel free to book a free 15 minute consult to ask how I can help. You can book the free call by clicking on the following link https://calendly.com/brenda-mcsween/15min.
Below is the video I did and based this blog post on. Feel free to listen…
Play promotes sleep in young children and is an important part of a child’s daily routine.
Play starts at a young age. The play looks so different depending on the age of your child. The more they play the better they sleep! Bring on the play!!
With a newborn, you will hear a great routine is EAT PLAY SLEEP. This routine will help to prevent your child from developing an eat to sleep dependency. How do you play with a newborn?? You change their diaper, sing, look out the window, play with a rattle, look at pictures or just hold them and talk. Since newborns sleep a great deal (15 to 18 hours) there is a limited time that there are awake to play.
As infants age, they will require more and more stimulation. As your child grows, they will start to take an interest in different objects. You might go out and buy the most elaborate toy; but, it is the box that it comes in that is the best for infants and toddlers (just watch closely – chewing hazard!). Then they start to get mobile and find their own objects to like and dislike. A few loud toys got thrown across the room in our house and it was not by me!
I quickly discovered the more fresh air I put into our day, the more sleep my little man was getting. When possible, we went out. This started when he was quite young. In the beginning, it was a stroller ride. Then it evolved into playing at the park, going for a walk around the block, playing in the backyard, going to the zoo, and so on. It does not have to be an elaborately planned activity.
For my sanity, I enjoyed meeting up with other people so I have some grown up conversation. Meeting up with others gave my little man a chance to have a change in his scenery (a change from looking at me) and play with other children. He fed off their energy!! It is great. He would go home and nap like a trooper!!!
We enrolled in some community activities as well. Parent and Child programs for the win!! We were in gymnastics, a pre-preschool program for 2.5 hours 1 day a week, and dance class. Considering my son is just 2.5 this is a great deal of activity. I strongly encourage not to program children too much. Still, leave time for spontaneous activity.
There are so many options available for children that it can be overwhelming! There are gym programs, art programs, music programs, sports, library programs, and dance programs. A great deal of the programs run for 6 to 12 weeks at a time. There are some programs that are consistent Monday to Friday from early morning until the late afternoon like child care settings and day homes. Even in these confusing Covid-19 times, you can find small programs that are following proper safety precautions or an online component that even the youngest of children enjoy.
I loved to find drop-in programs that did not require pre-registration and free activities. These programs were excellent on the days that my brain was fried and I just need instant entertainment for my son. Great examples of these activities are: drop-in storytime at your local library, coffee shop, and zoo; drop-in playgroups at your local gym, community center, bookstore, and churches; and our favorite was the walk around the mall (some malls have a great drop-in play area).
All the activities I previously discussed are great options; however, some days you just cannot leave the home, especially during isolation or quarantine. On the days that we could not get out, I notice an increase in his temper tantrums and his naps seem to be shorter. To prevent tantrums in the house I brought out activities that are not done daily. A favorite of mine is building forts (aka throwing a blanket over something and hiding in there!!). My little man enjoys playing music, so out come the pots, pans, and plastic containers. I call this our instant band.
Now, not all children are like mine. Not all children love to be out and about. If your child is a person that likes to stay close to home; honor that when you can. You can have so much fun playing at home. If your child likes to stay home and naps well then do that.
Child-directed play is a great way to enhance your child’s independence. This is when you let your child take the lead in the activity. You let them choose what the activity is going to be. You also let them be in control. If they want to change the activity and do it in a different way I challenge you to let them. For example, my 2.5-year-old will ask to play cards (yes we started him early)! To him, playing cards is putting the cards on the table and he grabs some and gives you some. Then he starts placing them down on the table. I have no idea what I am doing but I just follow his lead. He is one proud little boy when someone will play cards his way!
Please enjoy the time you can play with your little ones.
Now excuse me while I go through some pictures of him while he was younger while he is playing online with his friends!
What is a night time party? This is when your child is waking up throughout the night or waking and staying awake for a long period of time at night.
There are many reasons for these parties that parents can be forced to partake in. If your child is waking several times a night or staying awake for long, know that you are not alone but you can reduce these parties in several ways.
An important note to make is that all humans will wake several times a night. We all wake slightly at the end of our sleep cycles. Typically, we simply go into the next cycle of sleep with very little time in between cycles. Night wakings are only an issue if your child is waking up and requiring assistance for more than 4 days in a row.
Before we can talk about ways to reduce night wakings we need to discuss the reasons these wakings often happen.
2. Not Awake Enough During the Day: If our children are not staying awake enough during the day they often do not feel the need to sleep through the night.
3. Developmental Milestones: Each time a child learns a child is learning a new skill or reaching a developmental milestone it can often affect their sleep. Some of the most common developmental milestones that affect are as follows: rolling over, crawling, sitting up, crawling, separation anxiety, increased vocabulary, and vivid imaginations.
4. Not Enough Calories in the Daytime: If a child is not getting enough calories during the day they may be genuinely hungry at night.
5. Teething: Pain from teething can impact a child’s ability to stay asleep at night.
6. Illness: When are littles are not feeling well they may wake several times a night. It is important to help our littles when they are not feeling well.
7. Sleep Association: A sleep association is a person, place, thing, or action that helps a child go to sleep. There are several very common sleep associations. The most common sleep associations are as follows: feed (breast or bottle) to sleep, rocking, bouncing on a yoga ball, and/or a pacifier; If your child has a sleep association but they stay asleep all night, there is no problem. It becomes a problem when you are having to go in to assist your child in inserting the pacifier, giving a feed, rocking, bouncing, or just being there.
8. Wake to Feed Association: This is when our little ones expect a feed as soon as they wake.
Now that you know the common reasons for Night Wakings you can make changes that will result in more sleep.
Things to do about Night Wakings:
1. Watch the hours your child is awake through the day. If your child is not awake enough or is awake too much they will have interrupted nights. Often adding or reducing your child’s awake window by 15 minutes will reduce the night wakings.
2. Reduce the length of total daytime sleep. This may mean that you have to drop a nap or reduce the one nap.
2. Increase the calories your child receives through feeds (breast or bottle) and/or food depending on their age.
3. You can fade out or quickly remove your child’s association with going to sleep.
4. Change your child’s diaper or have a quick little “chat” before you feed when they wake up. This can be 30 seconds to 1 minute long. This will reduce the wake to feed association that can creep in.
Below is a video I did in the Supportive Sleep Learning and Parenting Group all about “Middle of the Night Parties”. Enjoy! If you would like some additional support to work out why your child is having middle of the night wakings. Feel free to book a free 15-minute call with me to discuss things further
I commonly get asked how many naps a child should be taking in a day. In this post, I will give a summary of the recommendations. Please note that some children may take more or fewer naps than the same aged peer.
The number of naps that your child takes during the day will depend on the following:
How long your child can tolerate being awake from sleep to sleep (wake times).
How long your child is napping.
How much sleep your child is getting overnight.
Recommendations for the Number of Naps:
(These recommendations are based on a child’s age)
Birth to 4 months: 4 to 5 naps a day
4 to 6 months: 3 to 4 naps a day
6 to 8 months: 2 to 3 naps a day
8 months to 18 months: 1 to 2 naps a day
18 months to 36 months (3 years of age): 1 nap
Recommendations for the Optimal Length of Nap:
Birth and 8 months of age: 45 to 90 minutes per nap****
8 months to 18 months: 60 minutes to 90 minutes per nap
18 months to 3 years: 90 minutes to 2.5 hours*****
****It is not uncommon for a child to nap for 30 to 45 minutes. This just means they will need more naps during the day. I firmly believe a nap is a nap and in time things will get better. See more about this in the post called Crap Naps.
*****If a child takes a nap longer than 2.5 hours but it does not affect night sleep then all is good.
The video below summarizes the information above and gives a few more details. This was a video I did for the free Facebook Group Supportive Sleep Learning and Parenting that I am the main moderator of.
Feel free to reach out if you require additional support. You book a free 15-minute call with me to discuss your situation and I will let you know how I can help.
The first time our son said “Mommy can you help me turn off my brain” my heart felt like it weighed 1000lbs. I scooped him up and gave him a huge hug. We chatted for a bit and I introduced a few techniques to teach him how to stop the racing thoughts he was experiencing (more on this later).
Our son has always been a young one that thought things through or over thinks. I have had to have many conversations with him that his friends have just not asked. Saying things like “that will not happen” or “do not worry about that” just does not work.
Here is an example of something he has said:
I am giving him his snuggle before bed and he was about 5 years old. I was going out with a friend that evening. He says “what happens if you do not come home?” and I reply “I will”. Then he says “what if you do not?”. Knowing him I then said, “Your Daddy will take care of you”. You can imagine the next question, “what if something happens to Daddy?”.
Okay, time to pick up my heart off the floor and cancel my night out.
That would have been one solution. Instead, we talked about the plan of who would care for him if something happened to one or both of us. This helped him and he was able to go to sleep. Taking the time to process and not get frustrated was key in this situation.
It does seem like a number of these conversations come up at bedtime. I could be extremely frustrated by bedtime stalling but instead, I choose to see that bedtime is when he lays there and thinks. (This could be a family trait 🙂 )
So what do I do to help him??
Well, I have taught him some strategies to change his thought patterns. How do you do this with a child?
1. Hear what he has to say.
2. Be Empathetic: “that sounds scary”, “wow that is hard”, “that is a yucky thought”.
3. Offer comfort: “would you like a hug”.
4. Get him to think about something funny or guide him to happier thoughts.
5. Turn on a guided meditative story so he has something else to focus on.
6. Check in after a few minutes to let him know I am there
7. Move on
Some additional strategies:
1. Talk Time: Have a time you set aside each day for your child to discuss anything that is bothering them. We do this at supper.
2. Worry Box: your child can write down or draw (or have you write down) their worries and put the papers in a box.
3. Worry Dolls or Rocks: Give your child a small rock or doll to tell their worries too. Then the item gets placed in a safe place (under their pillow or and the dresser). The item takes the worries from the child.
4. Deep Breathing: “smell the flower and blow out the candle”.
5. Guided meditation: There are a number of good apps that can help you teach your child how to meditate or you can lead by example.