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Confessions of a Sleep Consultant (hint: I did it too!)

I work with hundreds of families each year teaching them how to help their baby or young child sleep more independently and restfully. One of the most common questions I get near the end of our time together is, ” What do we do when our baby/child gets sick? Do we stick to the plan or do something else?

Typically my response goes something like this…

When your child is sick it is natural to want to give them more comfort, attention, and assistance. As a mother myself, I would never expect you to do anything less. The key, though, is to do your best not to fall back on the old “sleep props” we’ve worked so hard to remove from the way your child goes to sleep. And if you need to fall back on those, just set a plan in motion to jump right back on track as soon as your child is on the mend.

I would never want to be a hypocrite…

5-ways-to-prepare-your-child-for-surgeryRewind to last Thursday night. My almost 7-year old (the one who is the whole reason I became a sleep consultant) came down with a double-whammy: Strep Throat and Influenza A. Yowsa! His fever was higher than ever before and because he has asthma, we were on super high alert to watch for any sudden signs of difficult breathing. Now, when we had our babies, we were never a family who considered bed sharing. I was just too scared about the risk factors (although we had plenty other sleep props in place). But last Thursday night, neither my husband nor I hesitated at the thought of letting G sleep with me in our bed so I could listen to his breathing and check his fever throughout the night. I knew in my head this was dangerous! G is the kind of kid that if you give him an inch, he will take a mile and this is especially true when it comes to sleep. When he was just over 3 years old, we had a sleep prop in place that was waking him (and us) up 3-5 times a night because we couldn’t muster up the nerve to set some strong boundaries in place.

So for two nights last week he slept in my bed and I listened to his breathing and I didn’t sleep a whole lot. At one point I had to wake my husband up (who was now in the guest room) because I thought maybe it was time to take him into the ER instead of waiting until the morning. He was so snug as a bug in our bed and I knew he thought it was a special “treat” and would expect it night after night going forward. Sure enough, on night 3 when his fever was way down and no signs of difficult breathing in sight, my little G says, “Mom, I want to sleep in your bed tonight.” Ugh… here we go… pull out the toughness!

I respectfully “declined” his request, just like I always coach my parents to do with young children’s bedtime requests. He asked again and again and I stuck to my guns. Luckily it wasn’t too hard and didn’t last too long and he got into his own bed. Whew! He woke a bit early in the morning and wanted to come into our bed.  Again, I had to decline, knowing he was going to possibly put up a fight at 5am and wake his brother. But I also knew I had to stick it out. A rule is a rule is a rule. And I reminded him several times that now he is feeling better, back in his bed he stays! The next night we were back on track!

With the crazy early start to flu season and everything else flying around, this may be helpful if you find yourself in a similar situation. Always, always, treat your child’s illnesses with comfort, attention, and assistance to help them through any discomfort until they are on the mend. But once that is over, help them understand that the family is back to following the sleep rules of the house.

And if you need help setting these boundaries or rules in place for your young children, I can help! Just set up a complimentary Let’s Get Acquainted phone call for me to learn a little more about your child’s sleep habits and we’ll take it from there.

The Most-Asked Questions from Parents of Newborns

I had the honor just last weekend to partner with Twin Cities Midwifery to speak with new parents about understanding sleep for newborns. Between my sleep consulting and my postpartum doula work, I spend a lot of time with brand new parents answering questions about sleep. And the ironic thing is, I get a lot of the same questions! Today I’m going to address some of these common questions about newborn sleep. Pass along to any of your friends who have just had a baby; or are expecting soon.

 

How much sleep should my newborn get?

Newborns pretty much spend their days and nights sleeping, eating, and pooping! The trouble is, the sleeping typically comes in small spurts because newborns need to eat frequently – typically every 2-3 hours. So as new parents, it is your job in these first weeks to focus on these three very important tasks with your baby. Newborn babies should get somewhere between 16-20 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period and its common for newborns to sleep about 2-3 hours at a time; which coincides with their feeding needs.

How long should my newborn stay awake during the day?

One of the biggest pieces of information I think many parents are missing is the importance of the “wake time” for a newborn. But if there is one thing you should remember as a parent of a newborn is that newborns can’t typically handle being awake longer than 60 minutes. Yep… only 60 minutes; and some babies can only handle about 45-50 minutes. This gives you just enough time to feed your baby, burp your baby, change their diaper, and maybe get 5-10 minutes of “play” time. Then its time to sleep again!  If you can honor this one simple rule, your newborn will go to sleep so much easier!

Other than looking at the clock, how do I know when my baby is tired?

Every baby gives us cues that they are getting sleepy. The early cues are things like yawning, rubbing their eyes with their hands or rubbing their face into your shoulder, and staring off and/or no longer making eye contact with you. Later sleepy cues are things like an increase in fussiness, crying, and seeming a little more agitated or active. Your job as the parent is to start your baby’s sleep routine when you see the early cues.

Should I swaddle my newborn?

Swaddling is a fantastic tool for newborns because it helps them better control their reflexes. I’ve seen many babies, including my own, sleep longer stretches once they are swaddled. Most babies do well in a swaddle and if they don’t appear to like it immediately, give it a couple tries! And don’t be afraid to make it a little snug. If its too loose all it will do is create frustration for your baby because there is just enough looseness for them to wiggle their arms; but not get them out. Because many babies are learning to roll between 4-6 months of age, I do recommend weaning your baby from their swaddle at this time as well.

There is so much to learn and explore with your newborn. So above all else, enjoy this sweet, precious time! And even though there are many questions that come up, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes. Follow your intuition and you will be great!

In Tender Care,

Leann

Is it time for a big kid bed?

I’ve been teaching my toddler workshop, Tacking Toddler Sleep, several times in the past few weeks and I get so many questions about knowing when and how to transition a toddler to a big kid bed. Its a BIG transition! Not only is it a new bed, but all this new freedom that a child needs to get used to can be fun — but also intimidating!

I’ll tell you right off the bat… many parents make the mistake of moving to a big kid bed too soon. Either because they fear their toddler climbing out of their crib, a new baby is on the way and they need the crib, or they just think it will be fun and exciting for their little one. Your first tip is:

leann-4Keep your toddler in their crib as close to 3 years of age as possible! 

For many children, it isn’t until this age that they are able to understand the responsibility that comes along with being in a bed. If they’ve been sleeping in a crib, portable sleeper, or something similar, moving to a big bed that has no side rails and is bigger in size, canactually be overwhelming for a child. Even at age 3, this can be a really major transition.

Avoid making the move during other major toddler life changes.

Starting potty training? Moving to a new house? Starting a new daycare? New baby in the house? If any of these fit your situation, its probably a good time to wait it out. Asking your toddler to make several major changes all at once is a lot to expect. Focus on the first major change, and then get them into their big kid bed.

Keep your bedtime routine consistent.

Assuming you already have a set bedtime routine in place, try not to make any changes to it while your toddler is making the move. The more you can keep the rest of the process familiar, expected, and comfortable, the better you’ll have a toddler who is feeling confident and ready to sleep in a bigger bed.

Consider the location of the new bed.

Similar to keeping the bedtime routine consistent, it also may help to keep the room layout the same. Consider putting the new bed in the same place where the crib, portable sleep, etc. currently is in their room.

Another approach you can consider is to put the bed in the place of the crib, etc. but move the crib to the other side of the room temporarily. Then each night you can give your toddler the choice of which place they want to sleep. For toddlers who are really testing their independence, this is a great way to give them yet another choice that they get to control. Once they’ve begun to select the big bed consistently, make a celebration of moving the crib out of the room for good.

Don’t let the arrival of a new baby be your reason for the big move.

If your child isn’t ready to move to a big kid bed, the upcoming arrival of a new baby is not a good enough reason for the big move! Consider where your new baby will be sleeping the first few months. Chances are you won’t need that crib for the baby right away, anyway. Or, if you need two cribs for a short time see if you have a friend who isn’t using theirs anymore and borrow it for a few months.

There you have it! Moving to a big kid bed is truly exciting. But just remember that its a big world out there for your toddler and moving to a big bed with all that newfound freedom can come with a new set of sleep challenges. If you’ve already made the move and things aren’t going so well, it might be time to purchase your own toddler sleep package and I can help you keep your growing toddler in bed all night!

Share in the comments below what you have found to be helpful during this big transition for your toddler!

In Tender Care,

Leann

Is White Noise OK for my Baby?

There has been a lot of talk this week about the potential harm white  noise, or sound machines, can do to your baby. As with everything we do for our children, all that’s needed a bit of common sense and to continue to educate yourself. Below is an excerpt from sleep expert, Dana Obleman.

1. White noise can be comforting to babies who have colic or extreme fussiness. It makes sense, as it is a familiar sound heard in the womb.

2. White noise can be very helpful when used correctly to block out environmental noise for naps and night time sleep.

3. Use common sense and don’t turn up to full volume and do not ever put it right beside a baby’s head.

nn_08bwi_news_140303.nbcnews-video-reststate-720

 

And if you are a fan of Dr. Harvey Karp he even shared his thoughts on the matter. You can read his full public stance on the use of white noise here.

Help Me Survive Daylight Savings Time! Coming up this Saturday!

I very clearly recall the days when just the thought of Daylight Savings sent me into a huge panic. “How is my baby going to handle the time change?” “How long will it take for him to sleep until 6:30am again?””How can I make this easier on all of us this time?” Luckily in our house it never seemed to be as tough as I thought it would be; however Daylight Savings Time is definitely a transition for most little ones.

Now if you are one of those really proactive parents (I swear I used to be!) then you’ve probably done your reading about what you can ahead of time. Things like putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier every few nights leading up to Daylight Savings Time. If you’ve already done that, HOORAY!!! But if you are like the rest of us, keep reading for some simple tips to make this transition just a bit easier.

spring-forward-daylight-savings-time-tips-for-parentsFirst…

1. Why torture yourself with changing the clocks before you go to bed? Simply keep your clocks the same until the next morning and let everyone get their sleep (unless of course you need to be somewhere early). Then once you’ve woken up, shared your good morning hugs, and had your coffee, go around the house and move your clocks forward one hour.

2. If your child is still napping, continue to follow nap times either based on appropriate wake times for younger babies or set nap times for older toddlers. Be prepared that the older toddler naps may come with a bit more effort as your child may not quite be ready for their nap.

3. Set your expectations that Daylight Savings Time kind of messes things up for just about everybody for a few days. We are all in the same boat and things will fall back into place within a week or so.

OK so now what about bedtime…

1. Understand that your child’s standard bedtime is going to feel a lot earlier both in their body and with the increased daylight outside. It will be helpful to set the stage in their bedroom for night time sleep. Before your bedtime routine begins, go in and close the curtains, blinds, or shades and make the room as dark as possible with no daylight peeking in. If you don’t have blackout window treatments a set of dark sheets can do the trick.

2. If your child is still napping, do what you can to get good solid naps in the first few days of the time change so you can avoid an overtired child.

3. Plan for how you will shift their bed time. You can do this one of two ways…

  • Stick to your normal schedule. That’s right. Don’t change a thing. Just act like its a normal day and know that everything will be pushed ahead by one hour. If you follow this method you may actually want to set your clocks before you go to bed.  Put your child to bed at their “regular time”. So if you child goes to bed at 7pm, continue to put them to bed at 7pm (which will feel like 6pm). Because your child’s body will most likely not feel tired yet, be prepared that bedtime may take a bit longer. But as their internal clock adjusts, this will get easier and easier.
  • Split the difference. If your child’s bedtime is 7pm, put her to bed at the new 7:30pm for a few days and then shift back to 7pm. For many children this can help to minimize any bedtime struggles or stalls in those first few nights. This method requires 100% consistency throughout the day with naps as well as bedtime. You will need to shift her naps and meals by half an hour ahead as well.

4. Go easy on yourself and your child. It is normal for this shift to take upwards of one week until everyone is back to their normal sleep schedule. And you may even be surprised that your child’s sleep times actually improve when the time changes! Wouldn’t that be nice?

Good luck and if you have more helpful tips please share them in the comments below.

In Tender Care,

Leann

 

The Art of the Poker Face

The other day I was driving in the car with my two young sons. I was listening to one of my favorite pop culture talk radio stations and somewhere in their crazy conversation the word, “erotic” came up. Uh-huh, the word “erotic” while my young boys are in the car. I swear this was a mainstream radio station! First, I quickly turned the station. Second, I nonchalantly glanced in my rear-view mirror to look at their faces for any sort of reaction.

Nothing. Whew! That was close…

rearview-mirror-sm250

This is the art of the “poker face” when it comes parenting! I was panicking inside wondering

how in the world I was going to define the word, “erotic”; but on the outside I was cool as a cucumber!

How many times have you had to put on your Poker Face?

OK, all of a sudden I’m singing Lada Gaga in my head…

Utilizing your poker face as a parent will come in handy often; and especially at bedtime when your 3 year old is trying his best to be silly, get one more book, or throw a tantrum just to see if he can stay up 10 minutes longer.

REMEMBER: POKER FACE.

When your toddler or preschooler starts to play these bedtime games, the best thing you can do is keep a straight face, stay focused on the task at hand, and guide them gently into bed. No laughing at their silliness, respectfully decline their book request, and don’t react to their kicking feet or screaming face. Move it right along into bed!

I would love to hear a time when you’ve had to use your poker face! Share below!

In Tender Care,

Leann

Taming the Chronic Catnapper

No matter the age of your baby you have probably encountered a short nap or two in your day. How many times have you laid your baby down hoping for a nice long nap so you can get something done or God forbid, take a nap yourself… only to find her waking up 30-45 minutes later just as you were drifting off into your own dreamland?

Actually, a 30-45 minute nap makes a lot of sense when you learn that the typical sleep cycle for a baby is 30-45 minutes; compared to about 90 minutes for adults. If you baby has not yet learned how to put themselves to sleep without any help from you, when they wake up after their first sleep cycle ends, they don’t quite know what to do to get back to sleep.

baby with lovey

Here are some tried and true tips for helping your baby stretch their naps longer:

  • Help your baby fall asleep in the same location where they will wake up. Can you imagine falling asleep on the couch only to find yourself in your bed when you wake up? If it were me, I can easily imagine feeling a tad confused as to how I got there. Oh and also imagine that you were snuggled up in a nice warm blanket on the couch only to find nothing covering you in your bed! So now you are confused AND mad that your original comfort was taken away without you knowing! This is how your baby feels if they fall asleep in your arms or on your chest and then you pull the switcharoo and sneak them into their crib after they are asleep. So how do you do this?
    • Go through a short nap routine to help your baby get into the “zone” for a restful nap
    • Place them where you want them to sleep (crib, etc.) while they are still awake
  • Help your baby figure out their own way to go to sleep so they can do it again when you aren’t there.
    • If you do most of the work for them they will have no choice but to call for you when they wake because they need that help again to get back to sleep.
    • If your baby is younger, go ahead and give them some comfort but let them do most of the work themselves.
  • Help them over the “hump”.
    • If they do wake around 30-45 minutes and are calling for you, know in your mind that they are probably not ready to be awake yet as this is not a restorative nap.
    • You can go to them and gently try to coax them back to sleep to help them get over that “hump” from one sleep cycle to the next. Eventually they will be able to do this on their own.

For any age baby, a nap that lasts less than 60 minutes is not enough to help them restore their energy for the next wake time so make it your goal to get at least one hour for each nap of the day.

Happy Napping! If you have specific tips that have helped your baby nap better and longer, please share them below! And if you need help with improving naps (or any sleep for your baby), set up a Let’s Get Acquainted session with me and let’s chat!

In Tender Care,

Leann

Our family was fortunate enough to visit New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit my brother-n-law who has lived there for more than 30 years and works in the theatre community.We knew it would be a whirlwind mini-vacation and when going to NYC its most people’s goal to see as much as they possibly can while they are there. Well we attempted to do that too! We ran around Times Square, fought our way to the barricades at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and even watched them blow up the hot air balloons the night before), enjoyed a never-ending Thanksgiving Feast, and saw the hit Broadway show, The Lion King, AND went backstage after the show! Whew! Even though we only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in the Big Apple, even I was surprised at the impact on my kids who are ages 8 and 5 1/2.

Outsize the Lion King!

Outside the Lion King!

Between the fresh air, all that walking that us Minnesotans aren’t used to doing, the late evenings (shame on me, Ms. Sleep Consultant!), and all the stimulation and excitement — our boys were EXHAUSTED! And talk about messed up sleep schedules! Yep, I am guilty! We were an hour off because of the time zone change, early mornings and late nights and this made for crabby-pants kids! So yes, even I take a chance now and then and mess with my kids’ sleep. But… I had a recovery plan the very moment we got back home. Some of which I will share below. I will also include some other tips that you might want to consider while you are away. During your travels:

  • Protect your children’s bed time and nap times. It’s easy while traveling to loosen the reigns on sleep times so that you can visit longer, see and do more, and have more fun. But the risk you run is having a child who is fussy, crabby, sleeping restless at night, and waking too early in the morning. As best you can, get your child to bed at the normal time and don’t skip the naps! And don’t let your family members or friends make you feel bad for protecting your child’s sleep. They aren’t the ones who will have to deal with tired, fussy baby or child the rest of the trip!
  • Don’t over-schedule your children. Now I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite with this one since I did exactly this on our NYC trip! However, once I realized how they were reacting to a busy schedule, we quickly backed off and made sure the boys got a nap in and we had some down time in our hotel room. Block time each day for down time; whether its a nap or just some snuggle time reading or watching a movie. Give yourself some padding around each activity also so you aren’t having to rush from one place to another.
  • Create a similar sleep environment to what your children are used to at home. Bring their favorite sleep item whether its a lovey blanket, animal etc. If you use a white noise at home bring that too. This will help block out extra noises they aren’t used to. Make the room they are sleeping in as dark as possible. When we used to travel to a cabin every summer we would bring black sheets to hang over the windows because the bedrooms would get so bright way too early in the morning! Read familiar books, sing familiar songs.
  • Avoid the old sleep props your child relied on. When traveling it is really tempting to fall back on old sleep props used to help your baby or child go to sleep. The most common ones? Cosleeping and rushing to them in the night so they don’t wake anyone else up. If you are staying in a hotel, try to get a room with a separate bedroom where your baby can sleep separate from you or your older child can sleep in a separate bed. And try to arrange your sleeping location so that you don’t have to worry about your baby’s partial wakening whimpers waking up anyone else.

When you get back home:

  • Expect a recovery period. Give yourself 3-5 days/nights for your child to return to his/her normal sleep habits; especially if there has been a time change involved.
  • Get back on track ASAP. The first night home get back to your normal routines, sleep locations, and how you respond to night wakings, etc. Talk to your child if they are older about how nice it will feel to be back in their own comfy bed (yes, this is suggestive messaging but it works!).
  • Keep middle-of-the-night interactions to a minimum. When you were traveling you may have experienced an increase in night wakings or a child who needed just a bit more comforting being in a new place. When you get back home and your child wakes you up, keep your interaction to a minimum and as boring as possible. Your child will quickly realize there is no reason to wake you up in the night this way!

My last piece of advice? Try not to sweat it too much. Its important to protect your child’s sleep but its also important to enjoy these precious moments around the holidays with family and friends that you don’t get to see very often. Enjoy your holiday and just commit to getting right back on track when you get home! Happy Holidays!   In Tender Care, Leann

Scream ZAZOO! and get 10% off!

If you have a toddler or preschooler who has graduated to a bed and has freedom to roam, you have probably experienced early mornings like this…

Sweet Child: “Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY!!!”

Tired Mommy: [Tired Mommy calling from her bedroom] “Yes Honey, go back to sleep. It isn’t time to get up yet.”

Sweet Child: [sounds of feet pitter-pattering down the hallway] “Hi Mommy! Can I lay with you? I’m done sleeping now.”

Tired Mommy: “Honey, its not time to get up yet. Let’s walk back to your room and get back in bed for just a while longer.” [Tired Mommy and Sweet Child walk back to Sweet Child’s room]

5 minutes later…

Sweet Child: “Mommy, can I get up now? I’m done sleeping and I want to play!”

Tired Mommy: “No, not yet Sweetie. Go back to sleep.”

5 minutes later…

Sweet Child: “MOM!!!! I WANT TO GET UP NOW!”

Tired Mommy: [nudging Dear Loving Partner next to her] “Dear Loving Partner, its your turn.”

Does this sound familiar? Just because you decided to bring these beautiful children into your life does NOT mean you are sentenced to a life of early morning wake-ups.

ENTER: The Behavioral Modification Night Light!

HALLELUJAH!

You may ask, “What in the world is a behavioral modification night light?” Don’t be scared by the name. Another way to describe this life-saving device is that it is a night light that helps your child learn when it’s OK to get out of bed in the morning and start their day. Just search Amazon and you’ll see that there are a number of these on the market to choose from. In our house we have built a very special bond with the Good Nite Lite – a night light that turns to a dim blue moon when it’s bedtime and a bright yellow sun when it’s time to wake up. Easy Peasy – all your child needs to learn is to look at the night light in the morning and if its a bright yellow sun, SCORE! It’s time to get up and play! If it’s still a blue moon, roll over and go right back to sleep.

Zazoo Photo Clock

Zazoo Photo Clock

But what I’m really excited about today is a new product called the ZAZOO Photo Clock. Essentially it teaches the same concept. But with this cool new techy device you can customize it for your little one with photos of themselves, your family, your pets… you get the picture. Set the clock to show a photo of your child sleeping in his bed when

it’s time to go to sleep. Then, load a photo of him playing, eating breakfast, snuggling with mom and dad, or whatever he likes to do upon waking. This photo will show up right when its time to wake up! It’s a beautiful thing — and you get to sleep in!

If this sounds like something you might like to check out, be sure to enter my private promo code TT2013 for an extra 10% off this amazing and fun clock!

Does your child visit you too early in the morning? I’d love to hear your stories and how you handle these situations! Add your comment below!

 

Heartland Parenting

Heartland Parenting