Many families who begin Sleep Training with me struggle with a common problem: Their munchkin has become accustomed to using a sleep prop in order to fall asleep. Night after night, they’re up and down with their little one. No one in the family is able to sleep for a decent stretch of time. Bedtime is exhausting. And night’s away from home, leaving your little one with the babysitter? Forget about it.
All of these struggles boil down to one thing…Your little one needs to learn how to fall asleep independently, without relying on a sleep prop.
So what exactly is a sleep prop?
Well, a sleep prop is anything that a child has learned or that he needs or believes he needs in order to fall asleep.
Let’s take a second and talk about how you and I get to sleep. Most of us have a nightly routine. We have a side of the bed we always sleep on. We have a certain pillow, we need the fan on or off. We have a certain sleeping position, et cetera. We have strategies that help us get to sleep every night. This is our journey to sleep.
Babies and children also have a journey to sleep.
And all of us wake in the middle of the night for one reason or another. This is completely normal for children and adults. As adults, when we roll over, maybe to adjust our blanket or flip our pillow over, we probably don’t even remember waking.
The problem for babies comes when they rely on a sleep prop. When they wake in the middle of the night, they’re going to need to call out to you to recreate whatever situation got them to sleep in the first place.
So when I say sleep prop, here are a few specific examples… A sleep prop could be a pacifier, rocking, patting, shushing, bouncing, feeding, holding mommy’s finger, etc.
I even had a family where the child had to put his finger in daddy’s ear to fall asleep.
Anything could really be a sleep prop. It’s whatever your child depends on in order to fall asleep. So the problem usually isn’t that you’re breastfeeding your child before bed or you rock them to sleep each night. The heart of the problem is the association between the prop and sleep. It’s because the child thinks he needs this prop for sleep.
Why are sleep props problematic?
Sleep props cause problems with sleep because most of these props are external. This means your child needs you to provide them. When he wakes in the middle of the night and realizes that he can’t fall asleep on his own without the breast or being rocked to sleep, guess who has to go in the room and provide that sleep prop?
So how do you support healthy sleep and help your little one move away from using sleep props to fall asleep?
Your child needs to learn to soothe herself to sleep, so that when she wakes in the middle of the night, she can effectively and immediately put herself to sleep without the use of an external prop or you. I’ve never met a child who sleeps well and has an external sleep prop.
How can I remove sleep props from my child’s routine?
The process of removing a sleep prop from your child’s routine can be tricky. It can lead to a lot of fussy nights and frustration.
For families with children who are heavily reliant on sleep props, so much so that it’s disrupting their ability to sleep night after night, I suggest bringing in a Sleep Consultant. Because this transition can be hard, having an individualized sleep plan and professional support can help your family remove the sleep prop without too many sleepless nights.
Of course, if you want to try the DIY method first, my biggest tip is…to make sure that you have a plan, and you are ready to be consistent. There is a ton of information available. Find a plan that you feel comfortable with, and make sure you are ready to implement it consistently. It is not fair to your child if you are not going to be consistent.
While this works for some families, others see the best results when they have a sleep consultant at their side, on call to provide accountability, a clear plan, and support as your child learns independent sleep skills. Ready to take the first step? Learn more about how a professional Sleep Consultant can help you help your family by booking a quick Sleep Evaluation with me!
One of the biggest pain points of almost every single family I work with is short naps. Naps are troublesome for some babies for tons of different reasons, and there are usually 10-15 reasons why your child might be having short naps. Today I’m going to focus on the THREE top tips that are the most common solutions.
What is a short nap?
Well, most babies sleep for 30-45 minutes per sleep cycle. So a short nap is defined as a nap that is one sleep cycle of less. And biologically speaking, some babies actually have consistently short naps until they are about 6 months of age. Some babies just need a little time more time to develop, so their bodies are capable of consolidating sleep cycles and lengthening their naps.
Naps are just as important as nighttime sleep. I would rather see a baby take 5 30-minute naps to get the sleep they need during the day. And maybe one of those naps is an assisted nap. Because if your child isn’t getting the sleep they need during the day, they’re going to be overtired. If you aren’t sure how much daytime sleep your child should be getting, let’s talk. I can help you understand your child’s sleep needs, individual to their stage of development, so you can help your child get the right amount of sleep to be at their best.
So, what can you do today that will help your child take longer naps? Here are a Sleep Consultant’s Top Three Tips for debunking short naps.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
Creating a sleep environment that sets your child up for success is the easiest tip I can give to parents who are trying to solve short naps. If your child wakes up between sleep cycles and there is an element of their sleep environment that makes it harder for them to go back to sleep, then they are going to have short naps. You want to make sure that you do everything possible to create an environment that promotes sleep and makes it easy for your child to take longer naps.
Keep It Dark
You want your baby to sleep in a dark room. Your child’s room should be pitch black, even at noon, the brightest part of the day. An easy way to assess this is to walk into your child’s room in the middle of the day, turn off all the lights, draw the curtains, close the blinds, and get it as dark as possible. Then hold your hand in front of your face. Can you still see your hand? If so, your child’s room is not dark enough. Darkness gives your child’s body the cue to produce melatonin, the sleep preparation hormone. If your child’s body is sensing too much light, their body could not be producing enough melatonin.
Keep It Quiet
Is there external noise happening while your child is trying to nap? Some noises (like construction next door, the garbage truck passing, etc.) you may not be able to control. But you can try to control the noise that happens inside your home. If you have older kids, you can place your younger child in a room away from the center of the home (like a walk-in bedroom closet) to keep them as far away from unavoidable noise as possible. Also, be conscious of the noise you’re making. Naptime might not be the best time to ask your husband to unload the dishwasher or start another noisy activity. You can also use a white noise machine to drown out any unpreventable noise. When using a white noise machine, place it at least 5 feet away from your baby’s head and where it can act as a buffer for the most common noise. If there is outside noise, place the white noise machine in the window. If there is noise coming from inside your home, place the white noise machine next to your child’s door.
Keep It Cool
Most humans, babies included, sleep best in a room where the temperature is between 68-72 degrees. Keep that in mind when you are putting your child down for their nap. Is the sun heating up their room in the middle of the day? Turn on a fan or drop the house temperature a degree or two to make things cooler and more comfortable.
Keep It Comfy
Would you sleep in a pair of jeans? Probably not. Your child should be put to sleep in comfortable sleep attire. Make sure they are in soft, breathable clothes that are cozy and cool.
Find the Right Sleep Schedule
Your baby should be on an age-appropriate sleep schedule. Not sure what an age-appropriate schedule looks like for your baby? As I mentioned above, I can help you determine an age-appropriate schedule with your child’s needs in mind. If you do have an idea of what that schedule should look like, then you’re already on your way to implementing this tip.
Most babies are not on a fixed schedule until they are older or napping two naps per day. Awake windows play a huge part in the quantity and quality of your child’s sleep. When your baby stays awake longer than recommended between naps, they can become overtired and have trouble settling down to fall asleep due to stimulating hormones that are being produced. Their brain is telling them that they don’t need to sleep, and developmentally they don’t understand the importance of a nap. So they’re going to fight going to sleep. And, when they do fall asleep, their body is still producing those stimulating hormones, so they may wake up ready to go after one sleep cycle. If your child is showing signs of being overtired, try scaling back their awake window, meaning shorten the time between your child’s naps.
Don’t Nap Too Soon
The flip side of being overtired is when your child is undertired. Meaning, their naps are too close together, so they are not feeling the sleep pressure their bodies need to produce melatonin and other chemicals that help them fall asleep. Or when your baby is undertired, they may go down for a nap, but they wake up ready to go after one sleep cycle because their body just doesn’t need any more sleep. Staying aware of your child’s ideal sleep schedule and awake windows based on their age can help you determine if your child needs more time between naps, so you can schedule naps appropriately and prevent undertiredness.
Build Solid Sleep Skills
Helping your child build independent sleep skills at an early age can set them up for success in nighttime sleep as well at naptime during the day. If your child is relying on a sleep prop (like rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, etc.) to fall asleep, when they wake between sleep cycles, they aren’t going to be able to fall back asleep on their own. They are going to look for that sleep prop to soothe them to sleep.
Truthfully, healthy sleep habits are where it all begins. Building healthy independent sleep skills will help solve almost all of the sleep struggles I see in families that Sleep Train with me. It’s very rare that I work with a family where the child is taking great daytime naps, but nights are a struggle. Usually, the issue at hand is larger than just a quick fix, because your child needs help building those sleep skills that will help them in every area of their sleep.
If your child is consistently struggling to sleep at night, has trouble with naptime during the day, or a combination of the two, know that this won’t last forever. There are solutions to your sleep struggles, and it is perfectly okay to reach out and bring in a professional. If that is the case for your family, my team offers a FREE Sleep Evaluation Call that will help you learn more about Sleep Training and determine whether Sleep Training is a good fit for your family.
In the meantime, you can learn more about Debunking Short Naps in my Masterclass. This online, DIY Sleep Training course is a great solution for families who aren’t ready to pull the trigger on one-on-one Sleep Training but still want the expertise of a trained Sleep Consultant. Check out this go-at-your-own-pace Sleep Training solution here!
When was the last time you and your husband had a night to yourselves? Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, a special anniversary, a birthday celebration, or just a random Tuesday night – date nights are important! Every couple deserves (and needs!) time together without little ones in tow.
A lot of families who start Sleep Training wonder, once we solve our sleep struggles and get into a good groove, does that mean I have to be there every night? If I leave my kiddos with a babysitter, is all of our hard work going to immediately go down the drain?
I want you to know that this doesn’t have to be the case! When I work with families, my goal is to find a plan that works for everyone. That includes you – the parents! I want you to be able to spend time together. Not only will you have time at night after your little one goes to sleep, but you’ll also feel more confident leaving them with your favorite babysitter.
If you’re ready to schedule that date night, here are a few tips to help the night go smoothly for everyone!
1. Set the Stage for Success
Before you head out for date night, you have to lay the groundwork. That means creating a bedtime routine that you can, and will, stick to night after night. Consistency will train your little one’s bodies and brains to recognize the predictable signals of their bedtime routine. So, when it comes time to have someone else sub in during their bedtime routine, they know the drill. Your babysitter will probably tell you that your kiddos told them exactly how bedtime should go, instead of it being the other way around!
2. Put Your Kiddos to Sleep, Then Head Out
Depending on what time your little ones go to bed, you could time your date night so that you put your kiddos to bed before the babysitter even arrives. Or you can assist the babysitter with bedtime, then head out. If you have a new babysitter, recently made any changes to bedtime, or you’re just nervous about putting that much pressure on the babysitter, this is a great solution for everyone. Your little ones will be sleeping soundly when you leave, which will help you enjoy your time away from the house without stressing about what is happening at home.
3. Make a Cheat Sheet
Help your babysitter out by giving them everything they need to know, all in one place. Give them a “Babysitter Cheat Sheet” that tells them exactly what time bedtime should be, what bedtime routine looks like, and any other important information that will help them get your kids to bed without trouble. Your cheat sheet should also include your contact info and all of the information about where you’ll be, so if anything does go sideways, she knows where to find you.
4. Don’t Stress
Kids pick up on much more than we give them credit for. If you’re visibly anxious about leaving your child for the night, and make a big deal about it, chances are they will too. And that could lead to your child hanging onto your leg and screaming when it’s time to walk out the door. To avoid this kind of situation, stay calm, cool, and collected, and communicate to your little one that having a babysitter is something fun and exciting. If you can tell your little one is feeling nervous, remind them that you’ll be home soon and that they are going to have a great time without you.
5. Have Fun!
Picture it: You finally made it to that fancy new restaurant, you’ve been seated at your table, and you’re having a great time. Is this a dream? You think, “Maybe I should check-in. Just to make sure everything is alright.” Resist the urge! Your babysitter knows where to find you. There’s a reason you hired her! Now I’m not saying turn off your phone and throw it across the room. You still need to be available in case your babysitter needs you. But, try not to spend the entire night focusing on what is going on at home. This is your time to connect with your partner, so stay in the moment. Enjoy the kid-free time guilt-free!
I hope these tips help you and your spouse have a great night out on the town! If you haven’t had a date night in a while because your little ones are struggling with bedtime or just not sleeping well, Sleep Training might be the answer. Did you know I recently launched a FREE Sleep Community on Facebook? Join my Formerly Tired Moms Club to get all of the incredible FREE training I’ll be offering, exclusive to the group!
As your baby grows, it’s so exciting to see them learn new skills! At around 4-6 months, your baby will begin to learn a very important mobility skill: rolling over. Your baby will usually master rolling from tummy to back first, then around 6-7 months will learn how to roll from back to belly.
This adorable new skill can also cause a temporary disruption in your little one’s sleep. However, developmental milestones, like rolling, aren’t true sleep regressions, meaning they aren’t a permanent change in your child’s sleep.
Sleep disruptions from rolling should only last 1-2 weeks. But if you’re in the middle of this developmental milestone, you’re probably thinking: “Well, no matter what you want to call it, my baby isn’t sleeping. So how do we get through this without losing our minds?”
Why does rolling interrupt your child’s sleep?
Before I give you some of my tips & tricks for getting through this stage in your little one’s life, first let’s talk about why rolling (or any new skill) can interrupt sleep. Well, first of all, it’s exciting! Your little one has discovered something new that they’ve never experienced before. So can you blame them for trying it out all the time? Even when they’re supposed to be sleeping!
How many times have you stayed up past your bedtime to work on a hobby project or watch one more episode of Grey’s Anatomy? It’s the same for your little one. They’re having fun, and they’re too young to rationalize the importance of sleep versus. staying up to practice the new fun thing they learned.
If your little one is just learning how to roll, rolling can interrupt sleep because the change in position can be uncomfortable or unexpected. Your little one might roll when they are deep asleep, but wake up because of the sudden change in position. If they haven’t quite developed the skills to roll back in the other direction, it may take them a minute to figure things out, which keeps them awake. It will take time for them to master rolling or feel comfortable sleeping on their stomach.
How do you make sure your child stays safe during this phase?
Your baby is now more mobile at night than ever before, so it is especially important to follow Safe Sleep Guidelines as recommended by the American Acedemy of Pediatrics*. If you have been swaddling your baby, once they begin showing signs of rolling, you should stop swaddling so they have freedom of movement and won’t become tangled, which can pose a strangulation risk. If you feel comfortable putting your baby in a sleep sack, this can be a safer alternative to swaddling.
Your baby should sleep on a firm sleep surface such as a crib, play yard, or bassinet, that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission with a fitted sheet only. Your baby’s crib should be free of any loose items, including blankets, toys, loveys, etc. You want to keep the crib clear so that when your child rolls, they don’t become stuck or tangled in anything.
Should I reposition my baby when they become stuck?
The first rule of thumb for this is: Are they unsafe? If their sleeping environment already complies with safe sleep guidelines, then it should be rare that your child finds themselves in an unsafe position. But you should always use your parental instinct and judgment, and reposition your child if necessary.
In general, don’t be so quick to jump in. We want to build healthy sleep habits, so practice makes perfect. You want to give your child the space to figure things out on their own, which promotes self-soothing techniques. Let them discover sleeping on their stomach and see how they feel about it. It may take time for them to adjust to this new position, but once they do, they might love it.
Am I telling you that you should never intervene? Absolutely not. If your child is just beginning to roll and is waking repeatedly throughout the night or is having trouble falling back asleep, you may need to help them reposition in the short term for everyone’s sanity. If you do need to reposition your baby, be quick and quiet. Don’t linger any longer than absolutely necessary.
How can you help your family get the sleep you need during this milestone?
- Safety First. Practice the safe sleep tips mentioned above and be sure to keep up to date with the AAP Safe Sleep Guidelines so you can continue to help your baby sleep safe throughout their lives. If you are still swaddling, now is the time to stop or consider a sleep sack instead. Keep your child’s crib free of any loose items (like blankets or toys), and make sure their mattress is a firm, flat surface.
- Practice Makes Perfect. Give your little one plenty of time to practice this new skill throughout the day. Not only will they be less inclined to practice all night, but this will also help them solidify this new skill and build muscle memory. The more confident they are in their ability to roll, the easier it will be for them to reposition and fall asleep on their own. Here is a link to a helpful video for rolling practice.
- Tummy Time. Your little one may not have spent a lot of time on their stomach before. Give them time and space to get used to this new position, both during the day and at night. You will still want to put your baby to sleep on their back, but when they roll over on their stomach, don’t be too quick to intervene. Let them feel it out, and step in only when you feel it’s necessary.
- Be Consistent. Don’t let all of your hard-earned work go out the window when your little one begins struggling to sleep. If your family has an established bedtime routine, your little one is going down on their own without sleep props, and you have a general healthy sleeper…don’t mix it up! You may need to bend the rules slightly (exception, not the rule) to help everyone get the sleep they need, but this should be a very short-term fix. Remember, this phase will only last 1-2 weeks, so if you can stick to your guns, your little one will be a better sleeper long-term.
Is your little one rockin’ and rolling? If so, congratulations on making it to this big milestone! I hope these tips help your family navigate this exciting time in your little one’s life. However, if you need a little more help during this phase, or your family has been struggling to get a good night’s sleep for a while, there may be more going on. I offer a FREE Sleep Evaluation Call to help you learn more about Sleep Training and see if it could work for your family. This no-obligation call is a great place to start if your family is ready to stop struggling and finally get the sleep you desperately need!
*Please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website for the most up-to-date information on Safe Sleep Guidelines.
It’s the beginning of a brand new year. And I’m sure there are plenty of goals you want to achieve in 2023. Maybe you’re planning to head to the gym more often. Maybe you’re thinking about making a few changes to your diet. Maybe you’d like to spend more quality time as a family. And these are all great goals to have!
But I’m going to put my Sleep Consultant hat on for a second and argue that getting more sleep in 2023 should be at the top of your list when you’re making your New Year’s Resolutions. For parents, this means you need to work to help your little ones build healthy sleep habits so you can finally kick the bedtime battles, early morning wakings, nonexistent nap times, and all of the other sleep struggles that can cause your family to get less sleep than they need.
And I know that that is all easier said than done…so if you need a little help you know who to call! (Hint: It’s me. Your favorite Sleep Consultant!)
But if like a lot of other moms you’re thinking, “Sure more sleep would be great, but I have a lot of other things going on and a lot of other goals I’d like to set in 2023.” Believe me, I know how it goes. But today I want to argue in favor of sleep by showing you just a few of the scientifically proven benefits that come with you and your little ones getting a healthy amount of sleep.*
- Sleep promotes growth, since growth hormones are secreted during sleep.
- Children who get an adequate amount of sleep have stronger immune systems
- Studies show that children who get enough sleep perform better in school, have a higher vocabulary, and are better problem solvers.
- Sleep is linked to faster motor skill and cognitive development
- Children who get enough sleep are less likely to develop mental health issues like anxiety and depression
- Lack of sleep is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and risk of stroke.
- People who continually do not get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, as sleep affects our metabolism and how our body handles fats.
- When we sleep, our brains process long-term memories, which means the better we sleep the better our memories are.
I could go on and on about sleep…but I’m sure you get the point. Sleep really affects almost every aspect of our health, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Helping your family develop healthy sleep habits and sticking to a sleep schedule that allows for adequate sleep can be a serious game changer.
So I’ll say it again, make sure you make sleep a priority in 2023. And of course, if your family is facing sleep struggles, you don’t have to go it alone. Schedule a free no-obligation Sleep Evaluation to learn more about Sleep Training and what it looks like to work with a Sleep Consultant like me. Let’s make 2023 the year you finally get the sleep you’ve been dreaming of.
If you have school-age little ones, then you know that the Christmas/New Years break always seems to fly by. Before you know it, it’s that time again…back to school. The holidays are full of fun and festive reasons to veer away from your usual routine, so heading back to school after a short break can sometimes be a rough transition.
Before you know it, the sleeping-ins and staying up lates are gone. And you have to now get back into a predictable schedule. Or so we hope…
The first few days can be challenging to get back in the swing of things because most of us allow our children to stay up later during the holidays. Those early mornings are dreaded and can be rough, for both kiddos and parents.
Returning your children to a proper schedule can be quite an ordeal without a game plan. I’ve got you covered with my essential tips for heading back to school after the holidays!
1. Turn off those screens
TV, phone screens, and computers all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking it’s still daytime, inhibiting our natural melatonin production. I recommend turning off electronics after dinnertime and keeping them off until the next day. But if that’s too much to ask, at least an hour before bedtime. (This goes for you too, Mom and Dad!)
2. Routine, routine, routine
I preach this one ALL.THE.TIME. I don’t care if your child is going to kindergarten or 12th grade! A consistent sleep routine is essential. A routine is not just about physically getting ready for bed. A routine signals our brain that we are transitioning out of day and into night and sleep is to follow. A routine cues the brain that bedtime is near, as the brain begins shutting down in preparation for sleep. A proper routine is about 30-45 minutes in length, does not include screen time, and is consistent night after night.
You may also want to establish a morning routine to help your little ones know what to expect each morning before school. This will help your morning go much smoother, ensuring everyone gets to school and work on time with their teeth brushed and clothes on the right side out.
3. Schedule an appropriate bedtime
Every child is different, so you probably have an idea of when they should go to bed. That being said, I hope your idea is 8:00pm! I can hear some of you now, “My child doesn’t even get tired until 10:00 or 10:30, so I figure…” And I’m going to stop you right there. 8:00pm. Every. Night. No later. Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep per night, so until you can wake them up and get them ready for school at lightning speed, 8:00pm it is.
Start with the needed wake up time for school and count backwards
- 3-5 year olds (preschool): 10 – 13 hours, start with 12
- 5-7 year olds: 10 – 11 hours, start with 11
- 7-9 year olds: 9 – 11 hours, start with 10
Bonus tip: Maintain that schedule even on the weekends (and during school breaks as much as possible) to make it easier on their body clocks, especially when Monday rolls around.
4. Wind down before bed
Try not to over-schedule activities in the evening, or at least keep it to a minimum number of days per week. No screen time ideally 2 hours prior to bedtime. Include reading time, whether your child is an independent reader or you’re reading to them. A half-hour of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. And of course, a consistent bedtime routine should also be a part of the wind-down process.
5. Create the ideal sleep environment
Your child’s bed is for sleep. Their bed should not be used for other activities like homework or video games. If they need a place to study or do homework that isn’t the good old-fashioned kitchen table, create a separate space in their room or another room, if possible.
At night, make sure the room is dark and cool. During the winter months, this is easier than the beginning of the school year because the sun goes down so early. (Too early in my opinion…) Ideal sleeping temperature is between 68-72 degrees, which again is much easier to maintain in the winter.
Use a sound machine or fan to drown out environmental noises that can prevent your child from falling asleep or wake them during lighter stages of sleep.
6. Remove temptations
Older kiddos with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of texting, scrolling through social media or the web if they have their phones in their rooms at night. Change the rules around phones in the bedroom. Keep the charger in the kitchen, and have them plug it in at night before bedtime, and they can hae their precious phone back in the morning.
The quality and quantity of sleep children get has a profound impact on how they learn and retain information, interact with others, and cope with day to day life. Creating healthy sleep habits will not only ensure your home is peaceful at bedtime and in the morning but will also set your child up for lifelong learning (and life) success.
7. Communicate expectations
Don’t assume that your child(ren) knows what you want them to do. Use a chart with pictures if need be. Children are visual learners so this is a great tool that you can use to help your child have a sense of control over bedtime and learn the expectations around bedtime.
Of course, if your family has gone weeks or months without a good night’s sleep, all the tips & tricks in the world may not help you get to the bottom of your sleep struggles. We know that when we aren’t sleeping, we aren’t performing at our best. So if your child is struggling to sleep, they may be struggling in school as well.
I offer a FREE no-obligation Sleep Evaluation for families like yours, so you can see what Sleep Training is all about and how it could help your family finally get the sleep you need to ace this new school year!