I will often get asked if a child’s sleep is now ruined because a parent had to sleep with the child or had to offer more support.
There are times when my little man puts things into a perspective way better than I can. Last night he was struggling with going to sleep, Thank You Day Light Savings! When he really struggles my husband or I will lay with him.
As we were laying there I was holding him (a great big snuggle and a hug). We were listening to a guided meditation about a Koala Bear that was not able to go to sleep (here is a link to it). The meditation was talking about how the bear was not able to lay still in his bed. My little man said to me “someone needs to hold that bear down”. I laughed to myself.
Then I realized that my little man understood what I was doing. I was holding him down to help him sleep. After he made that comment I was even happier about the fact that I was able to assist him and he knew exactly what I was there for.
A short time after our snuggle our little man was able to go to sleep. Does this mean I will have to do this every night? No, it does not. After children have mastered the skill of falling to sleep with minimal assistance they often do not want you there.
There will be a time, or two thousand, that they require extra support. There is no harm to offer the support. Some children may need you to slowly remove the support and others will adapt quickly without issue.
The point of this post is to remind you to do what you feel is right for your child. Slowly but surely you will get them to be doing exactly what is best for them.
Take care and as always, Be the Parent you want to Be!!
Sleep Regressions are talked about a great deal when talking about infant or child sleep. If you speak to a parent with a young child and you mention the word regression you will most likely see a look of fear in their eyes.
Honestly, I feel that these regressions are actually overrated! The fact is that there are many reasons for a change in a child’s sleep and stating if a child is (insert age) they will have a regression in sleep is not necessarily the case. I believe that a number of sleep-related issues get blamed on a specific age when in fact the change in sleep can usually be tied to a developmental milestone or change in sleep needs.
What is a Sleep Regression?
A sleep regression is when your child’s sleep takes a turn to the difficult side. You had a few weeks or days of great sleep and then wham, you are up several times or fighting with your child to get them the sleep they require.
When is it a True Regression?
Changes in a child’s sleep will happen several times. If the change in your child’s sleep has lasted for more than 4 days and cannot be blamed on an illness or growth spurt then you are in the midst of a regression.
The Most Talked about Regressions Demystified!
This is when our little ones are moving from the newborn sleep cycle to the sleep cycle that is similar to yours and mine. They are moving from 2 stages of sleep to 4 to 5 stages of sleep per sleep cycle.
8 to 9-month Regression:
This is typically related to a developmental milestone. At this age, there is so much growth going on that is does play havoc with our child’s sleep.
Typically, the developmental milestones that are occurring at this age are as follows: learning to crawl, standing, walking and babbling.
This can usually be related to increased separation anxiety. This age is famous for this! It does make putting your little one down for sleep a bit more difficult.
This is usually when our little ones have a verbal explosion! Has your child started to talk a great deal more? This is usually the culprit to sleep-related issues at this age.
Thanks for the Explanation, Now what?
The best thing you can do if you suspect that your child is dealing with a sleep regression is to be patient. If your child had a good sleeping pattern before and you do not introduce any new sleep props your child should be back on track in 4 to 7 days.
If a week has passed and you are still dealing with the sleep regression then I would recommend that you look at your child’s wake time. Your child will most likely benefit from a 15 minute increased wake time.
You adjusted the wake time and are still having issues then I would look for a hidden sleep prop or a prop that your child wakes up requesting.
If you are a Parenting Foundations Member, please feel free to send me a message so I can help you further. If you are not a member yet you can click here to learn more about becoming a member which gives you direct access to me, Brenda from Parenting Foundations.
I often get asked by families when is it appropriate to have a set schedule (also referred to “By the clock” or BTC). There are so many factors to consider. It is very hard to state “by age ___ you should have a set schedule”.
What are the factors to consider when deciding if a set schedule is for your family?
How flexible are you?
How much sleep does your child require?
Your child’s temperament.
Is a set schedule what you really need?
Before I answer this question let’s discuss the difference between a set schedule (“by the clock”) and a routine. A schedule incorporates specific activities set at a reoccurring time. A routine is a set of activities that occur in the same order.
Once you have a routine in place you will figure out roughly when sleep times happen and you can plan accordingly. Some days you may have to reschedule events or plan to have a nap on the go. A nap on the go on occasion is not the end of the world. It may feel like the end of the world if you are very “Type A”.
Now to answer the question, “Is a set schedule what you really need?”. Usually, the answer to this question is “No”. You need to have a routine in place so you know what to expect during the day. Your child will thank you! When your child has a routine in place they figure out at an early age what happens next and they will start to prepare for it. When your child moves to 2 naps you will start to feel like your day is getting more predictable. When your child moves to one nap you will feel a bit like you have achieved a set schedule. It is important to be a bit flexible even at this age.
Is there ever a time that a set schedule works best?
The short answer is yes but I personally believe it is rare. I feel that wake times are more beneficial. A set schedule is best when your child is not responding well to wake times. It may feel like you are constantly misreading your child’s sleep cues. I would then try a set schedule.
Pros and Cons of a Set Schedule
Not very flexible
Can easily plan activities around sleep times
Child gets overtired or is not ready for sleep at set time
Pros and Cons of Using Wake Times
Difficult to make plans
Child is well rested
You can feel like your life revolves around your child’s sleep
My preference is to use wake times. As our son has aged, I still look at what time he woke up and how much time he can tolerate being awake. He will be 6 years old in September. Just because I prefer using wake time does not mean it is not best for you. I would recommend starting with wakes times and then switch to set times if it is not going well. I would wait until your child has dropped down to at least 2 naps if possible. Whatever you choose, do so wisely and stay consistent.
Please feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions.
Bedtime can be a long drawn out process for older children. In my opinion, there is no harm in having a longer bedtime routine as long as the end result is that your child is tucked into bed happy and drifting off to sleep. This is why I often call bedtime “a marathon and not a race”. When you are rushing your children up the stairs to get a bath, brush their teeth and put on pajamas it can be stressful. Stressed out children or parents are reactive and noncompliant. This results in upset people when it should be a relaxing fun time. Children will be able to rest a bit easier when they have had some fun and were able to have some good connection time with an adult prior to going to sleep.
You may be asking…
“How do you reduce the stress at bedtime?”
The following are some tips that may help:
Take it one step at a time.
Allow enough time to get all the steps done.
Account for time for your child to complete tasks. As adults, this can sometimes be painful for us as we just want to get it done.
Offer choices when possible. Examples: “Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want my help?”; “Which toothpaste do you want? Pink or blue?”
Play and laugh as much as you can.
Remember going late to bed by 5 to 10 minutes is not the end of the world.
We live this marathon every night. Our 5 (almost 6)-year-old is my real life example that this can work. Previously, I wrote a blog post about Bringing the Fun Back to Bedtime. I wrote this blog post shortly after I recovered from the lovely transition from crib to big boy bed. I really struggled with trying to keep the bedtime under the recommended 30 to 45 minutes. This all changed when I realized that it was all about the journey to sleep. If we got there stressed and frustrated, sleep took forever! When we got there over time and while having fun, sleep happened quickly for our son.
Here is a quick rundown of our evening routine:
We head upstairs around 6:30 to 6:45 pm. He plays while the bath is filling up. He usually likes to play with one parent. This can be an interactive play (he likes to pretend that he is a Pokemon character and one parent is the Pokemon Master), a game (he likes to play fish or Tic Tac Toe) or independent play where his imagination goes wild.
He uses the bathroom.
He gets a bath and plays in the water for 15 to 20 minutes (sometimes less depending on the shape his skin is in).
He gets dressed.
He gets a snack picnic style on the floor in the master bedroom.
He flosses and brushes his teeth with help from an adult.
He then goes to his room and picks out 2 stories to read. He reads 3 books altogether (Home reading book from school and 2 more).
While reading stories the other parent applies 2 washable tattoos on his feet or legs (Yes you are reading this correctly!)
After stories, he snuggles with one adult (usually Daddy) for 3 minutes.
When the timer goes off the adult leaves the room and he “reads” quietly in his bed.
After 10 to 15 minutes (sometimes sooner) he will call out and ask that he gets his light turned off. He could do it himself but it is our last chance to tuck him in and give him a final piece of connection before he goes to sleep. He is asleep between 8 to 8:15 pm.
Keep in mind our routine may be a bit long for you or your family. As with all things parenting, do what works for you and your child!! Enjoy your child as much as possible!
If you have additional questions about your child’s bedtime routine or behavior become a Parenting Foundations Member by clicking on this link.
Have you been dreaming of sleeping until at least 7:00 AM? Would you like to teach your child to sleep in a bit later? I am hearing you yell, “YES!”
Using the Toddler Clock can Improve your sleep. I kid you not. A Toddler Clock can become your best friend.
I never thought I would love a gadget as much as I love our son’s clock. There are times I would love to be able to give that clock a hug or a high five.
A good example would be this morning: I woke up at 6:40 AM and just wanted a few extra minutes of sleep. I was drifting off when I heard our young man singing in his room. I was able to rest as our son will stay in his bed until the “sun comes up.” Bliss I tell you!
The bad news: It does not work for all children but it is worth a try. I suggest introducing the clock around the age of 2 to 2.5. Also, just because it was not successful at one time it does not mean it will not be successful now.
Tips to increase success with the use of a clock
Find a clock that will not be too bright. Too much light can interrupt your child’s ability to produce the melatonin needed to have a good sleep. Most clocks will have a setting where you can turn the brightness of the clock down. Our son’s clock has the brightness turned down to zero so he cannot see the clock at night; however, the “sun” is bright in the morning.
Set the clock at their regular wake up time. This sounds a bit crazy but when you set the clock to their current natural wake up they will experience the success of waiting until the sun comes up.
Increase the time in 5 to 15-minute increments. Once your child has had a few successful days then change the time by 5 to 15 minutes. Then follow this process until you get to your desired time.
Immediate reward. Toddlers/Preschool-aged children do well with a reward they do not have to wait for. If you do not believe in reward systems, then stick with the verbal praise or gestures. The reward can simply be praise, high fives, “happy dance”, stickers, or a tv show they like to watch.
The previous steps are the ones we used when we introduced the clock to our little man. He was just about 2. It took a few weeks of patience. There have been times that we have not turned the clock on properly and he stayed in his bed for 30 minutes more than normal. I was amazed. Here is hoping you have great luck with a toddler clock as well. Happy sleeping, everyone!
The topic of Sleep Training gets lots of people pretty riled up. I am a firm believer in you do what works for you. If you want to help your child learn how to sleep better, then find the best method for you and your family. If you are fine with the way things are, then that is okay too.
I believe that lots of people are afraid to talk about the fact their child does not sleep and they are just plain exhausted. Who wants to admit they feel like a failure? Babies are supposed to sleep wonderfully. I can say from personal experience that I did not talk about the struggles we had with getting our young man the sleep he required. I did not want others to think I was incompetent.
I would have stood on my head if that would have worked. I tried many different sleep environments. I always thought I would not want to co-sleep, but I tried. I would have done it if it worked for us.
We had 2 bassinets and a crib. I tried the swing and many other gadgets. Eventually, with practice and our assistance, he was able to sleep. This was a long process for us. We were able to teach him the skills to sleep with very minimal crying. I could not and still do not do well with him crying. That said, I clearly understood that when he cried, it was his way of expressing himself. He was very clear that he was not happy with any change. Once we had a consistent routine in place his sleep improved immensely.
It was my own personal experience that gave me the desire to become a Child Sleep Consultant. I had over 20 years of experience working with children and a Bachelor of Child Studies. My own child had me stumped! There I was pulling out all the tips I had given to others or used in the past and they were not working. What worked for me was finding a method that I was comfortable with and our son did well with. The method we used was to stay in the room with our son. We worked our way out of the room slowly.
After we had worked out our sleep issues, I was introduced to the Sleep Sense Program. This program was very similar to the strategies we used to teach our how to sleep. I decided to become a consultant so I could teach other parents this method.
To this day, there are times that I hear other Mom’s talking about sleep and I want to scream it does not have to be that way! What really gets me fired up is when I hear or read things like this:
You should just enjoy getting up to nurse/feed all night, someday he’ll be all grown up and you’ll miss it.
You were the one who decided to have children.
Well, you’d better learn to live with it!
Being overtired is not fun for anyone involved. When people state things like I previously mentioned, it makes the reality of being a parent that much harder to take. Then throw in the many myths about sleep training and sleep-deprived parents have nowhere to turn. Let’s debunk the myths:
Myth #1: Your baby will not love you in the morning.
Really? Do you think that after just one night of changing your baby’s sleep habits she won’t love you anymore? Is that all it would take?
Would all the cuddles you give her, all the food you provide, all the diapers and clean clothes she wears, all the playtimes and bath times, all the kisses and laughter be for nothing because of a few nights of protest?
The truth is that making changes to anyone’s sleep habits will always be met with some resistance. So yes, it is safe to assume that your baby is not going to happily accept the fact that you are no longer going to rock her on the exercise ball for an hour each and every night, but as long as you are a loving and attentive parent in the first place, the love will endure.
In fact, most people find that once their baby is sleeping well, she’s even happier and healthier than before.
Myth #2: Sleep training means leaving your baby to cry it out.
It does not have to be that way. I am not comfortable with babies crying. I do my best to teach families how to reduce the amount of crying. In fact, I usually recommend staying in the room. Sometimes your presence is enough to reduce your child’s resistance with sleep.
Children adapt SO quickly that she’ll soon figure out how to calmly get herself to sleep and then everyone is happier.
Myth #3: Sleep training is too stressful for babies.
Sleep training does not have to be stressful. There will be crying out of protest. It does get easier with consistency and persistence. The first few nights are usually the most difficult.
As for those who say that a few nights of crying are too stressful? You’ve really got two choices:
Make some changes. This usually involves a few nights of your child crying for 10 to 40 minutes at bedtime. After a few nights, most children start to learn how to fall asleep independently and the crying stops completely shortly thereafter. In this scenario, the total amount of stress felt by your child amounts to a few minutes of crying for a few nights.
Do nothing. In this scenario, the parent continues to nurse/rock/bounce their child to sleep every night. The child wakes up 1 to 10 times per night and needs to be nursed/rocked/bounced back to sleep each time. In this scenario, both parent and child are subjected to months (or even years) of systematic sleep deprivation where neither ever gets enough consolidated sleep to wake up and feel rested or refreshed.
So what sounds more harmful: A few night’s of crying or months/years of depriving your child of a good nights sleep?
If one or more of these three myths have been holding you back from taking the simple steps needed to create long-term, positive change for your child’s sleep, I really hope I’ve been able to change your mind.