Back to School Sleep Tips: Easing Your Way Back to the New Normal

first-day-of-school.jpgIt’s mid-August and “back to school” is in full swing.  The relaxed days of summer are over. Alarm clocks are set and parents have to once again juggle morning drop off with getting to work on time.  School-age children have to remember how to get dressed before 10 am and come to the sad realization that brushing their hair is no longer optional.  The struggle is real.  What can we do to keep a happy and rested household during the transition and throughout the school year?

  1. Dive right back into your routine. Perhaps dinners have been later and not around the table together? Children thrive on a predictable and consistent schedule so getting back to basics now will help them be their best version of themselves at school and at home.
  2. Turn off electronics (yep, iPads count!) one hour before bedtime.
  3. Move bedtime earlier. Children ages six to 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep each night. Keeping a child rested is one of the most important pieces of a child’s success in school. Sleep affects a child’s ability to retain information, engage in activities, and maintain emotional and behavioral stability.  The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study today that shows a link between sleep and the risk of diabetes.   Just try starting bedtime 30 minutes early!  A bedtime of 8-8:30 pm seems to work best!
  4. Have a wind down routine in the evenings. As with infants and toddlers, having a bedtime routine is important for all of us. An hour leading up to bedtime:
  • Turn off the TV, computer, and other electronics
  • Calm the activities  (think coloring vs. wrestling) and close the curtains throughout the house
  • Bathe (this is great for getting the body physically ready for sleep) and get into PJs
  • In your child’s room, read a book and cuddle up.  Talk about your highs and lows of the day to check in with them.
  • Make sure you’ve anticipated their needs/potential stalling tactics (gone potty, has water, stuffed animal, the pillow “just right”).  As you offer up your goodnight hug and kiss, you might say, “Okay, you just went potty, you’ve got your water, and the grey blanket is on top.  Goodnight love bug.”
  • Lights out.  Make sure you are leaving the room a few minutes before bedtime to allow the child to fall asleep at their bedtime.

This “back to school” thing is a big one! Be patient. Transitions take time.  For your sanity, if possible, try and get up before the kids just to have 15-30 minutes of quiet to yourself before the chaos begins. You’ve got this.

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Daylight Savings and Sleep: How to Keep Your Child Rested While Springing Forward

Baby in springtime

Daylight Savings begins THIS SUNDAY, March 13.  Lucky for most of us, this time change is the easy one.  Woohoo! Falling back is a beast.  Although springing forward wreaks less havoc on our days, it can still affect our sleep.  Here are a few tips for managing your child’s sleep during the Daylight Savings transition:

  1. Beginning Sunday the 13th, immediately set your daily schedule to the new time (don’t forget to set your clocks an hour ahead before you go to bed on Saturday night). Wake your child up at their normal time, put them down for nap(s) at their regular time, and eat meals at their regular time. A child will adjust more quickly if you dive right in and set their day to the new time.
  2. If your child is sensitive to change, you can start today to move things forward by 15-minute increments each day until Sunday (i.e., lunch at 12:15 pm from 12 noon; nap at 12:45 pm from 12:30 pm; dinner at 5:45 pm from 5:30 pm; bedtime at 7 pm from 6:45 pm).  That way, when Sunday arrives, their body will be already adjusted to the change.
  3. Get outside and move your body as much as possible every day. The sun’s natural light resets our internal clocks and the fresh air and exercise prepares our bodies for deep, restorative sleep.
  4. For our early risers, this time change feels like a gift for parents, as children will begin sleeping in later, according to the clock.   Avoid the temptation to keep your child up later in the evening to hold onto the later morning wake up.  A bedtime between 6 pm and 8 pm is ideal for infants through school-aged children.  A bedtime that is too late causes nightwakings and early rising.
  5. Don’t be afraid to put your child to bed when it is still light outside. To help signal to your child that bedtime is approaching,  in the hour leading up to bedtime, close the curtains throughout the house to block out evening light, dim the lights, and transition into wind-down mode.  Make sure your child’s black out curtains are drawn before you enter their room for their bedtime routine.

 

 

Photo credit: Google Public Domain

5 Sleep Tips to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving_girl_boy_at_dinner_table

Holidays can be stressful enough as it is.  With a hope that you’ll be able to enjoy your Thanksgiving a bit more, here are 5 tips to help keep your child and you from becoming a hot mess during the holiday:

  1. If you are staying overnight: Try to recreate your child’s sleep environment as much possible.  For safety reasons, for children under a year old use a pack ‘n play or other portable crib.  For that “home” scent, pack and use the sheet straight off their crib or bed and having their lovey/favorite stuffy at the ready.  Use a continuous white noise app on your phone or iPad to block out any regular household noise.  Pack and use black garbage bags with painter’s tape over bare windows to block out early morning sun or daylight for naps.  Go through your bedtime routine as much as you can before naps and at bedtime. If you’re room sharing, tack up a sheet to the ceiling as a barrier between you and your child to create two “rooms.”  If you’re bedsharing with your toddler or older child (it’s just not safe with our babies under a year), try to get some sleep and remember that this is only temporary.  Soon you’ll be longing for the days they wanted to cuddle so tightly with you!
  2. If you’re doing a day trip: If you still have a napper on your hands, either leave right after the morning or afternoon nap to ensure they get a solid nap or try to time your car travels to one of their naps and know that a little sleep on the go is better than no sleep at all.  If you have an infant, it may be worth setting up a portable crib in the guest room so they can nap and get to bed early while you visit.  Once you’re ready to head home, transfer the baby to their car seat and drive home.  They’ll likely snooze through.  If not, do a mini bedtime routine when you get home and call it a night.  Whatever the age of your child, pack their PJs so you can put them in their jammies for the ride home.
  3. Roll with it.  We work really hard to keep our children rested so a couple days of skipped naps or staying up later to play with their cousins they never see isn’t going to throw a wrench in all of your hard work.  Try not to skip all naps AND keep them up late, but try to enjoy yourself too.  Expect a rough next day if they’re up too late.  Be patient with them.  They’re tuckered out!
  4. Enjoy yourself and surrender control.  Use this opportunity to let friends and family take your child off your hands.  We’re moms, I get it.  We like to have control.  But we need to let go and be gracious receivers of an offering to help out. Every Thanksgiving I cook at my aunt’s house while the cousins, aunts, and uncles watch the kiddos.  It’s glorious.  Those 3-4 hours of just focusing on cooking and planning the meal without worrying about my little ones is amazing.  My kids have a blast, the family loves it, and I get a boost of energy and uninterrupted time (priceless!).
  5. Dive back into your routine once you return home.  The biggest mistake parents make is not going back to their consistent routine once they’ve arrived back home.  It may take a few days for your child to get back into the swing of things, but as long as you’re consistent they’ll remember that they know how to fall asleep without mom next to them and how to snooze through until morning.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May you all have a safe and wonderful holiday!

 

Photo credit: Google Public Domain

3 Tips For Your Child’s Sleep During the End of Daylight Savings

Fall back

Daylight savings ends this Sunday, November 1 at 2 am. Darker evenings will definitely help set the mood for bedtime, but setting the clocks back an hour can cause wreak havoc on your child’s sleep. Here are three tips to help the time change go smoothly:

  1. Start preparing your infant, toddler, or preschooler for the time change by gradually adjusting their daily schedules. Beginning Thursday, if your schedule allows, shift your child’s wake-up time, naps, meals, and bedtime later by 15 minutes increments each day so when Sunday morning arrives, their internal clocks are already set to the current time.   If this seems too daunting, just focus on the couple of nights leading up to the time change – you can stretch their bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes to help with the transition. That way, when we fall back, your child is already used to the new bedtime.
  1. Make sure your child’s sleep environment is dark, cool, and quiet. Put up blackout curtains to stop early morning sun from entering the room and ensure the room isn’t too cold or too hot: 68 degrees is perfect for great sleep. Use a humidifier, air purifier, fan, or white noise app to block out regular household and neighborhood noise.
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the sun. On Sunday and the days after the time change, get outside as much as possible. The exposure to the natural light helps adjust our internal clocks and gets us on the current time more quickly.

Do your best to enjoy Halloween and not stress about the time change. Kids are resilient. The first few days after Daylight Savings ends may be a bit off, but as long as you keep to your routines and schedule your day to the new time, things will fall into place.

Photo credit: Public Domain

October Children’s Book Recommendations

Pumpkin spice is in the air!  Fall is here!  What better way to spend the cool (and much darker) evenings than to curl up with your little ones and read a good book?  The following are my book recommendations for October – these can be folded nicely into your regular bedtime routine!

How many seeds in a pumpkinHow Many Seeds in a Pumpkinwritten by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is not only a great lesson for children that people come in all different shapes and sizes and being small is not a bad thing, it’s also very educational.  Who knew that the outside of a pumpkin reveals so much about the seeds inside?  It’s a great seasonal read!

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers is a silly tale of a boy who discovers that not only does he find books tasty, but with eat one he eats he becomes smarter.  He is literally hungry for knowledge!  The illustrations and story are equally entertaining.  Don’t worry…the end will encourage your little ones to read books, not snack on them.

The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (I’m a fan of Jeffers!) is quickly becoming a contemporary classic.  It’s clever and entertaining.  Devour the entire book in one sitting or break it up over a few nights.  It’s perfect either way.  You may find that after reading the book, your child starts to reach for a crayon color that perhaps they had once overlooked.  Enjoy!

Photo credits: Books, Inc

September is Baby Safety Month

Pink Love sack

September is Baby Safety Month!  

So much of an infant’s time is spent sleeping – they should be safe while they snooze away!  As easy as it is to become complacent when it comes to your child’s sleep environment, whether out of desperation from the sleep-deprived new parent or out of an “I’ve got this” attitude from the seasoned parent, any person placing an infant to sleep for naps and at bedtime simply must follow safe sleep practices to ensure their safety.  Even a thin blanket, as cute and cuddly as it may be, is a suffocation risk for babies.  Those wonderfully colorful crib bumpers that tie everything in the nursery together?  They’ve got to go.  It’s just not worth the risk.

This is what a safe sleep environment looks like.

Pretty bare bones!  Additionally, keep the room cool – between 68 and 72 degrees F – to prevent the child from overheating and use a sleep sack rather than a blanket to ensure they are warm enough at night and during the cooler months.  We love Bitta Kidda’s LovieSack, as it is a wearable lovie!  Your baby will be snug as a bug and have access to a safe lovie that stays put so there is no safety risk.

We also recommend bookmarking or signing up for updates from the super sexy Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for the most recent product recalls.  You’d be amazed and terrified what comes up!

Lastly, please review safe sleep practices with anyone who is watching your baby even if it’s uncomfortable doing so (many grandma’s give push back to placing their grandchild to sleep on their back).  If it’s been a while since you’ve had a new baby in your home, it’s worth a quick review to see if anything has changed.  Let’s keep our babies safe!

Photo credit: Bitta Kidda

4 Sleep Tips for Weathering the 4th of July With Children

flag and fireworksOh the long 4th of July weekend!  The traveling, the pool parties, staying up late to watch the fireworks – all wonderful things that should not be skipped just because you have young kids to tend to.  Here are 4 sleep tips for weathering the 4th of July weekend with kids in tow:

1. Remember that we work hard to create routines and consistency most of the time so when special occasions arrive, we can actually enjoy them!  While traveling, be mindful of your child’s sleep schedule, but try not to let it suck all of the fun out of the vacation.  A nap on-the-go in the stroller or in the car or a skipped nap will not destroy all of your hard work.   If a nap is short or missed, aim for a bedtime that’s not too late that day.  On the 4th, when they will want to stay up later to see the fireworks, make it a priority to get them a solid nap before heading out to watch the show.

2. While away from home, do you your best to recreate your child’s sleep environment.  Pack their lovey, blanket, used crib sheet, white noise machine, and favorite bedtime story.  Don’t forget to pack black garbage bags and painter’s tape to cover windows without blackout curtains to help block out early morning sun and daylight for naps.  If you opt out of watching the fireworks, definitely don’t forget the white noise to help block out the loud booms.  Use the same bedtime routine for naps and at bedtime.  There’s comfort for our children in familiar.  The wind-down routine will serve everyone well.

3. Be patient and allow for flexibility in the schedule.  There is always a lot of activity during the holidays and you don’t want to miss out on the fun.  It’s okay if things get pushed back a bit and naps are at an off time because your child was running around like crazy with her cousins.  If your little sun-soaked toddler passes out on the couch at 4 pm, snap a picture and allow them to rest.  But, try to wake them by 5 pm so bedtime isn’t a nightmare!

4.  The most important thing to remember is to dive right back into your routine once you return home or when the festivities come to an end.  The problems start when we take our lax routine home with us and suddenly we have a cranky child who is now fighting bedtime, waking during the night, or waking up REALLY early in the morning.  If you jump back into “normal” they’ll recognize it straight away and they will be sleeping well within a couple of days.

Be safe and enjoy the holiday!

-Becky

 

Photo credit: Public Domain

Sleep Training: One Size Does NOT Fit All

baby-crying-2-mdWhen people picture “sleep training” it’s often images of a crying baby and frustrated parents that comes to mind.  I recently caught a story posted on the Philly.com blog with the headline, “Zoe Saldana abandons ‘archaic’ sleep training method.”   Known best for her role in Avatar, Saldana’s terrible experience of trying to sleep train her twins so they would sleep through the night is not unique to her.  Many parents feel pressured to try a certain sleep training method because it “worked for their friends” or they were advised by their pediatrician to “just put the baby in the crib and leave them until morning.”  The problem is, they usually throw in the towel on Day One because the method doesn’t feel right.

So what…we are destined to be sleep deprived parents for the unforeseeable future because we don’t want to use the Cry it Out method?   No.  Extinction (aka Cry it Out) is one of many different methods of teaching our children to sleep well and through the night.  It’s effective, quick, and works well for many children, but again, this is one method that may work for one family but not for the other.  Parents need to pick a sleep training method based on their parenting style and the needs of their child.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation here, folks.  In order to successfully teach your child healthy sleep habits, parents have to be on board with the sleep training method.  It doesn’t work otherwise, as seen in the Saldana case.

It’s important to not that all sleep training methods involve some level of crying (even the so-called ‘no cry solutions’) because we are introducing a change to the way of doing things and as human beings (yes, baby are just cute little chubby human beings) we resist change.  We fight it.  We cry in protest.  This is no different.  But, there are methods that are more gradual and can involve less tears (from baby and parents alike).  All sleep training methods work as long as the parents are consistent AND – now here’s the biggy – in conjunction with choosing a method, parents also establish a healthy sleep foundation.  Sleep training is SO MUCH MORE THAN THE METHOD.  It’s about creating a sleep environment conducive to sleep, timing sleep to the child’s natural rhythms, creating routines to cue children in that sleep happens next, creating expectations that at naps and bedtime it is time to sleep, and it’s about consistency on the parent’s part.

I encourage parents to do their homework on sleep training before they dive in so they are able to make an educated decision about which method would work best for their family.  There is a lot of information out there – often contradictory – so enlist the help of a child sleep consultant if you want guidance, support, and a customized plan based on your family’s needs and dynamics.  It can make all the difference. I really feel that Saldana and her husband would have been more successful with sleep training if they chose a method they felt more comfortable with.

Sleeping well is a learned skill for most of us.  We all learn in different ways and we should customize how we teach our babies to sleep accordingly.

Photo credit: Google Public Domain Images

Is your 4 or 5 year old ready to drop their nap?

night owlIf your four or five year old is having a tough time falling asleep at bedtime, it may be time to drop their nap (if you’ve been lucky enough to have them still take one!).  A new study has found that mandatory naps at ages four and five may be affecting a child’s ability to fall asleep at night and thus decrease the overall amount of consolidated nighttime sleep they are getting.  Getting long stretches of this restorative sleep is imperative to their overall growth and development.

Now, when I say “having a tough time falling asleep at bedtime,” I’m not talking about them being a hot mess at bedtime or fighting you on bedtime being the reason they don’t go to sleep, just a tough time actually relaxing into sleep because they are not tired.  Hot mess and/or bedtime battles usually equals TIRED in most cases.  These are the kiddos that should probably hold onto their nap for a bit longer and likely need an earlier bedtime.  For those who are simply restless and cannot settle into sleep, an hour of quiet time during the day is often all they need.   And some days they may still need a nap.  It can be tricky if they are in a preschool setting that makes nap mandatory; however, if they have the option of simply lying quietly on their mat for an hour, this can be a good recharge of their batteries.

If your child still naps and falls asleep beautifully at night…hold onto to the nap until it starts posing a challenge.  If you decide to transition out of the nap, make sure to use an earlier bedtime than usual to help make the transition go more smoothly (see above regarding hot mess and bedtime battles).  Roughly 12 hours from when they wake up in the morning is a good bedtime for four and five year-olds who no longer nap.

 

Photo credit: Google Public Domain

Toddlers’ Sleep Problems Found to Affect Behavioral and Emotional Health in the Future

A child sleepingNew research is out that finds toddlers with sleep problems will likely have more emotional and behavioral issues by kindergarten as compared to toddlers who sleep well at night.  The long-term study found, “that those who slept less than ten hours per night and those who woke three or more times per night at 18 months were more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems at age five.”

Anyone who has a child should not be surprised by this news. We’ve all experienced the aftermath of keeping a child up too late the night before and how it unfolds the next day (meltdown anyone?).  When we don’t get enough sleep we’re cranky, less focused, and less patient.  More so, when children don’t get enough sleep it not only affects their behavior, but chronic sleep deprivation can also affect their growth, development, and ability to retain new information and skills.  Earlier this year the National Sleep Foundation released their recommendations for the amount of sleep we should all be getting.

Just like healthy food plays an important role in how we perform during the day, so does the amount of sleep we get.  And now, as the toddler sleep study finds, the amount of sleep our toddlers get can affect their emotional and behavioral health at age 5.  As if life isn’t challenging enough.  Let’s get our kiddos the sleep that they need, eh?

 

Photo credit: Google public domain