7 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Tonight

7 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Tonight

#Repost

During my practice as a sleep professional, I’ve gotten used to people asking me what the secret is to getting a baby to sleep through the night.

Of course, there is no ONE secret. Teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things.

But that doesn’t mean that there are not some shortcuts!  Today I’d like to share with you 7 different shortcuts you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better.

Here we go:

Sleep Shortcut #1: Watch the waking hours

One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep is overtiredness. Many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their children get overtired. Here’s a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:

  • Newborn to 3 months: 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes of awake time
  • 3-5 months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
  • 6-8 months: 2-3 hours of awake time
  • 9-12 months: 3-4 hours of awake time13 months to 2.5 years: 5-6 hours of awake time

If you make sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you will find that they fall asleep more easily at naptime AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too.

Sleep Shortcut #2: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

We humans (babies and toddlers included) sleep better in the dark. Try making your child’s room as dark as possible. I recommend using blackout blinds, taping cardboard over the windows, or whatever it takes. In many cases, even the glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle.

BONUS TIP: Try to keep your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too. This can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day.

Sleep Shortcut #3: Be Predictable (And A Little Boring)

Babies and toddlers love predictable routines. And a predictable bedtime routine, lasting no longer than 45 minutes, is a great way to let your child know when the time for sleep is coming. Make sure that this routine is the same every single time. Remember, you want bedtime to be as predictable as possible for your child.

After your bedtime routine is complete, be boring. Lots of children will try to drag out bedtime by playing games, throwing toys out of the crib, standing up, etc. Don’t participate. If your child has thrown their blanket or favorite stuffed toy out of the crib, calmly return the item without saying a word.

Sleep Shortcut #4: Feed AFTER Naps, Not Before

The most common reason they infants and toddlers struggle to sleep has to do with a feeding-sleep association. They think that they need a bottle or nursing BEFORE they can fall asleep. By feeding right after nap-time instead of before you can help your child break this feeding-sleep association.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This strategy should only be used before naps, not before putting your child to bed for the night. A full tummy is needed to make sure your child does not wake up hungry during the night.

Sleep Shortcut #5: Same Place, Same Time

Remembering that our children love predictability, so it is a good idea to have your child sleep in the same place every day. For many parents, simply changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of nighttime sleep.

BONUS TIP: When you are putting your child to sleep for the night, it is a good idea to make sure that they fall asleep where you want them to stay asleep.

Sleep Shortcut #6: Try The 1, 2, 3 System

When your child wakes up during the night or during a nap and starts crying or fussing, try to wait a specific length of time before going in to check on them. The first day you try this, I recommend waiting exactly one minute before going in to check on your child. On the second day, wait two minutes. Three minutes on the third day, and so on. Why?

Why? Everyone, babies and toddlers included, will wake up briefly at the end of each 45-minute sleep cycle. Most adults wake so briefly that we do not even remember it in the morning. But children who have not learned to fall asleep independently need a little longer.

This 1, 2, 3 System gives your child the opportunity to get themselves back to sleep without your help.

Sleep Shortcut #7: Take Five

Before you put your child to bed, for naps or at nighttime, make sure the five-minute period before they are put to bed is very calm and relaxing.

The Next Step?

As I said, these are shortcuts and quick tricks that may help some parents get their children sleeping through the night.  I do hope that you will be one of the lucky parents who are able to solve their children’s sleep problems using one of these tricks. If not I am also here for you if you need a little more guidance. Feel free to book a 15-minute free call to discuss your child’s sleep issues and how I can help.

The More They Play, The Better They Sleep

The More They Play, The Better They Sleep

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!

2012-10-01 11.40.54I 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, 2012-09-15 19.04.57and 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!

 

“Turn off my brain”

“Turn off my brain”

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.

 

If you have a little thinker and would like more support feel free to join Parenting Foundations Membership or book a free 15-minute call to learn how you can work with Brenda from Parenting Foundations.

The Colour of Noise

The Colour of Noise

We often hear of the effect white noise can have on you or your child’s sleep. Who knew there are other colours of noise?? Not me. My guest blog post today is from the amazing Jerylin Gan, Ph.D. about the colours of noise.


Have trouble sleeping?  A toddler who wakes whenever you accidentally step on that creaky floorboard?  Just hate the sound of those damn chipper little birds at 5 am?  Then someone’s probably recommended playing white noise in the background.  Maybe in the form of a fan, a mp3 of a waterfall, or one of those sleep sheep stuffed animals that play a heartbeat as well.  

From my experience, white noise is wonderful.  Both my kiddos and husband will wake at the drop of a hat.  But you know what I’ve found works better for me?  Pink noise.  That’s right.  There’s more than one colour of noise!

There’s white, pink, brown, gray, and violet noise (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise).  The difference between the colours is how loud certain frequencies are.  Low frequencies sound low to human ears; high frequencies are higher pitched.  “Noise” is when you play a lot of frequencies at the same time.  White noise is when all frequencies are played at the same volume.  Pink noise is when lower frequencies are played slightly louder than the higher frequencies.  Brown noise is when lower frequencies are played a lot louder than higher frequencies.  

And though it’s hard for most people to tell the difference between the different colours of noise, they’ve been shown to have different effects on people. What might be soothing for one (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to my friend’s baby) might sound awful to another individual (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to me).  So experiment!  Try to see if you like white, pink or brown noise.  See which noise might help you sleep better.  See which noise will help you concentrate on a task!  

Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.

You may wonder who is Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.? Well, let me fill you in. Jerylin is currently an amazing stay at home mom with a passion to ensure her children are getting the much-needed rest they require. Jerylin has a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley, PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington, Seattle and she did further training at Cornell Medical School. She is my go-to person when looking at the science behind a number of studies we see popping up on social media.

Originally posted June 21, 2016 

Updated and re-posted Nov 23, 1018

Dream Feed: To Recommend or Not?

Dream Feed: To Recommend or Not?

As with all things related to babies, there are many opinions about a dream feed. This post is based on my experience; however, I realize it may not be the same experience for you.

Lets first start with the basics…

 

What exactly is a dream feed?

A dream feed is when your baby is asleep and you pick the baby up while they are sleeping and feed the baby. You can do this both by bottle and breast.

How can a baby eat while sleeping?

The best way to explain this is that it just happens! When the nipple is placed in babies mouth they will suck.

When should I offer a dream feed?

If you choose to do dream feed, I would recommend that you do it about an hour before your child’s typical wake up for a feed or as close that as possible. Hopefully, this is close to when you would typically go to bed. If not, I would do it just before going to bed.

What is the goal of a dream feed?

The goal of a dream feed is to extend your child’s ability to stay asleep for a longer period of time. Children that are waking due to hunger at an earlier time can benefit from a dream feed.

What is your opinion of a dream feed?

I find that dream feeds are an absolute crap shoot! They can work for some babies and be a fail for others.

Personally, I recommend that dream feeds are used with caution. I find babies that are offered the dream feed for a long time, come to depend on that feed and have a difficult time extending their ability to stay asleep without the feed.

For us, our little man would wake up during the feed so it did not work.

I have had many clients that were doing a dream feed. Most of the time their child started waking up slightly before the feed was offered.

The clients that did have success with the feed used it for a short period of time to help their little ones extend their sleep and then I encouraged more calories during the day to reduce the need for a night feed.

Should you try offering a dream feed?

If your little one is not able to sleep for more than 3 to 4 hours after 4 months of age you could try a dream feed to see if it will help. If your child is sleeping for 5 to 6 hours I would not recommend a dream feed.

I do find that it is best if you wait until your child naturally wakes up. When you wait until your child naturally wakes up you are going by your child’s needs versus what you believe your child needs. Do not underestimate these wonderful little humans!