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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

one of those nights ... surviving an epic fail

It's been one of those nights.
"Those nights." You know the ones.
The ones where you are left with sleeping kids, tucked into their beds, and your heavy heart keeping you company. Your guilt sitting beside you to the right, and your "what ifs" and "I should'ves" to the left.

It's an epic failure type of night in this Parenthood type fiasco of a house.

It's one of those nights where there was too much yelling, crying, impatience, and frustration on everyone's part.

Where nobody ate the home cooked meal I attempted to make, despite that I was feeling sick and wanting to just make grilled cheese sandwiches or pasta again. Where I felt guilty that they ate nothing but the apple sauce, milk and bread on their plate, and turned up their noses at my hot dish. Yet knowing I refuse to make more than one meal, knowing this is the right thing to do, yet then feeling bad about it.

Where he pushed her and she yelled at him. Where she took his toy and he hid her book.

Where she screeched "STOP IT NOW, GO AWAY!" and stomped her foot, all with a strong reminder that she's turning the terrible 2 soon. And he hissed back like only 4 year olds can do and did some ridiculous spit noise out of his lips, as if to say, "SHUT UP, SISTA!"

It was one of those nights.
Where I feel like they hate each other, these siblings.
Where they want more attention from me than I can give right now because well, there are two of them.

Where I wonder why the hell almost two years into this "two kids thing" I still have these nights on occasion, out of no where, after GREAT nights, like THIS, where I go back to that first night I was left alone with them and the baby was screaming in a bouncy chair and the toddler was yelling "mommy, look at ME! hold ME!"

It's frustrating, disappointing, sad.
There are tears forming in my eyes, as I fight them back, because it's not their fault, I know this, I shouldn't let them see that it's upsetting me. 
That I feel defeated. 

So I carry on. Realizing it's only 5:30 p.m. and we have a ways to go before bed.
It's a bath night. And not just because that's how we roll every other night in this house, but also because I know a bath will help them "cool their bodies," as we say a lot, and make their noses open up a bit and help them sleep better.

So I know it's a bath night. I give in to this, even though I know bath will mean someone will end up SOAKED (insert annoyed mother in her pajamas and not wanting to change clothes again today here) . And there will be screeching "PUSH OVER I SAID! LET ME CLOSER TO THE WATER RUNNING! THAT'S MY SPOT!"

I know there will be fusses about me getting water on their eyes, despite that I try a zillion different methods to NOT get water on their eyes, yet everything I try they work against me.

The house is a mess. Toys, dirty clothes, dishes, they're everywhere.
And I do not care.
I'm sick. My head hurts.
I know they are sick and can't help being a little wild tonight.
And it's frustrating to be here alone with a husband working. And that's not his fault.
None of this epic failure of a night is anyone's fault.
It just is what it is.
It's parenting.
It's life.
It's chaos and everyday whirlwind.

It's something we adjust to, get used to, and accept... and even come to rely on.
Yet this fact doesn't make it easy to survive some nights.
Moms don't get to call in sick when they need a time out from a busy night.

So, we give in and yet never give up.
We keep trudging through the day, night, sleepless week, difficult teething month, terrible two years, etc. We keep moving forward because, well that's what we're here for, we mothers, it's what we DO.

In the middle of this ridiculous night I texted my sister-in-law, the one with two kids, who has more times than I can count said in so many words, "I've been there, I totally get it, it's hard, you'll get through this, I'm here." She said she totally knows how this feels, and that "it just means we're doing our job." 

I love that. 
The chaos, the busy, the frustrating, the almost brought to tears moments... they mean we're doing our job. Fulfilling our role as MOM. It's not supposed to be easy every day. Those who pretend it is are on some Disney magic carpet ride or something.

It's OK to admit defeat sometimes. It's OK to open up and say, "Wow, this is hard right now. I need a break, this is not going how I thought it would."

Because here's the end result of an epic failure type of night, one of THOSE nights...
They typically end in hugs, "I love yous", snuggles with stories, and bed time kisses.
They end in gratitude that despite the ups and downs, you get to be the one going through this, not someone else, YOU are their momma.

And even though it is ridiculously hard sometimes, you wouldn't trade it for a second of peace by a beach in the Caribbean. OK, well, maybe that sounds nice... but you get what I mean.

In the midst of this chaos, I did a few things that helped... just in case you find yourself in "one of those nights" soon:

  • Breathe, deep breaths, look at the ceiling, count to 10 if you have to, but look away from what is frustrating to you (you know, when your daughter just colored on the wall or your son threw all of his cars onto the floor you JUST cleaned up!). 
  • Talk quieter. Yelling never works. Ever. Speak softly, they'll quiet down to talk to you. This is an old teacher's wise trick, works every time. Just be patient, it'll work. 
  • Check the vitals. Are they hungry? Tired? Thirsty? Need to go to the bathroom? Cold? Too hot? Check these things out. Perhaps fixing one of those will help things go smoother.
  • Distract them. Even if you think "they don't deserve something fun right now, they've been misbehaving so badly!" just do it. Do something fun. Have dinner on a blanket in the living room floor for a picnic to spice things up, or read a funny book acting out all the characters. I know they "don't deserve it for misbehaving," but I SWEAR it works every single time. Put music on, dance around. Lighten up. It's OK to change the mood this way. 
  • Remember and repeat to yourself: they're only kids. They are just little humans with big emotions, big ideas, big thoughts, and little bodies. They may be pushing every button you have, but they don't have a magic wand at their disposal to be doing that. They're just kids. 
  • Give what you want to be getting. Infuse what you want into this situation. If you want them to be cuddly, loving, quiet, listening... then YOU do those things. Even if it's hard, ESPECIALLY if it's a tough moment. Getting all frantic, loud, and consistently going to time out for the 5th time in a half hour is not going to do the trick. So, stop, take a time out in the middle of this chaotic night, and give what you want to be getting. For me, tonight that was putting one child in his bed with music on, saying I'd be right back, while I read two stories, sang two songs and rocked my daughter to sleep, hearing her say "love you mama" before I lay her down. Then heading back in to sit in the rocking chair we've had in my son's room since he was born, and read a long story, not those short ones you try to "cheat" with on regular bed time nights. And have him snuggle up to me like he was a little guy again, not the one who was saying I was a "meanie head" earlier tonight. We ended with big hugs, him saying "I just miss Daddy and don't want to go to school, I want to be on vacation with you again, Mommy," the root of the issues... and BIG "I love you" tickles and smiles. THAT's how I wanted my night to go. 
  • Let things go. If my kids were not sick tonight, even if it had been bath night, I would have foregone the baths. Let it go. Perhaps they already watched a half hour of TV today but now they're having a rough night and you know it would help you all if you snuggled up on the couch to watch another show. So what? Do it! Maybe they hate your dinner you worked on and it's your rule to never make something else. Oh well, on rough nights, get out bowls of cereal or make some pancakes. It's ALL good. 
  • Talk to a mommy buddy. I suggest having at least three moms on speed dial who you can contact in the middle of a meltdown. I would not call them though, text them instead, because you don't want your kids getting upset even more by hearing your conversation. Choose people who you know will respond within a timely fashion, and with whom you NEVER feel judged. You can't hold back how you feel on "nights like this." You need people who will say "Oh yeah, totally been there before, it sucks, doesn't it?!" not people who will automatically say something like "oh well when I went through that I did THIS and it worked like a charm, I'm so perfect I fix everything every single time," or "Huh, that's so strange, never had a moment like that before in my mommyhood, like ever." Find a mom who you can vent to, and let it out. She'll at least say she knows what it's like, which will help you feel less crazy in that moment. Or she could say something to make you laugh like, "That sounds awful, but at least you didn't have to clean up real poop across your entire kitchen floor 30 minutes after you washed it!" 
  • Pamper yourself. You deserve it. After "one of those nights" you fully deserve to drink wine, eat chocolate, skip the previously planned workout, watch stupid TV or scroll Facebook, and do NOTHING, not one single chore. You need to recharge after a night like that. Just relax. It'll be better in the morning. 
  • Don't dwell on it. Move on. Tomorrow, your kids won't even remember last night. They won't even see the messes everywhere and they won't hold you accountable for not cleaning up the kitchen table after dinner this one time. So, you should let it go, too. Don't hold a grudge. Don't be stern in the morning or remind them "we don't act like that again, OK, or else you're losing xyz today." Just move on. They're kids. Rebound quickly like they do. You'll all have a better tonight if you do! Also, move on from holding onto guilt. Yes, we ALL have bad nights, bad moments. We all make mistakes and wish we had do-overs. It's normal. So, don't feel like the world's worst mom for more than a second. Let it go.
Hang in there, moms. I know it's rough sometimes. 
We're all in this together. 

A defeated, yet happy to go eat some chocolate, momma

Sunday, February 23, 2014

sleepy heads: part 7 - introducing the Sleep Geek

As the final part in our Sleepy Heads series this past week, I am so beyond excited to feature this awesomely talented and sleep savvy mama, Jessica Begley, better known as the Sleep Geek! She is a professional sleep consultant. She works with many moms just like you who may be struggling to catch some shuteye at night with a sleepy baby. She has great tricks up her sleeve and tons of advice to offer. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook (link below) for frequent tips and ideas about sleepy children. I love everything she posts!

Thanks, Jessica, for such great info! 

All images from Jessica Begley

1.     Tell us about yourself, if you have children, ages, and any sleep issues you had with them when they were young.
I live in Gray with my husband Brendan and my two children, Nathaniel who is almost 6 years old and Ana Mindelle, who is 15 months old. 

I have been that tired mom before which is why I am so passionate about helping other families get the sleep they need and deserve. 

My son has always had trouble sleeping. I call him my “spirited sleeper”. Bedtime has never been a battle, but he would wake frequently during the night and very early in the morning from toddlerhood on. He tests my patience and expertise often and is proof that some kids really do need absolute consistency in order to maintain healthy sleep habits. My daughter has been an incredibly good sleeper from early on and I continue to be amazed at the difference between the two of them. I credit her ability to sleep independently and her love of sleeping to implementing healthy sleep habits with her from the start.

2. When did you start this business? Why did you want to start this business? Where did you receive training?
When my daughter was born I decided that in order to keep my sanity, I needed to do things right from the start this time around. After spending many hours researching online forums, reading numerous books by sleep experts, and even seeing sleep specialists, I came to the conclusion that while there is a vast amount of information available, it’s not easy to interpret, often conflicting, and difficult to implement when you are insanely sleep-deprived. I knew there had to be a better way and was excited to learn about the growing field of sleep consulting.

In addition to my certification as a Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute which I received in February 2014, I have a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in maternal and child health, am a Certified Lactation Counselor, a Certified Childbirth Educator, and have been trained in health literacy and health behavior. I have been working with new and expecting families for over 10 years. This diverse training and background provides a comprehensive approach which goes beyond just sleep, taking into consideration breastfeeding, nutrition, and other children’s health issues.

3. What are some of the most common sleep issues parents report to you?
Simply stated, most parents come to me when whatever they were doing to get their baby or young child to sleep is no longer working. They just cannot sustain the rocking, bouncing or nursing to sleep at bedtime or very frequently throughout the night that was once not a problem and maybe even enjoyable, but is now keeping their child from sleeping well independently and causing the stress.

I also have clients reach out to me while their babies are still newborns. In this case, it is often their second baby and they, like me, want to implement healthy sleep from the start. I have a comprehensive newborn package which covers sleep expectations by age, creating an appropriate schedule and sleep environment, and other tools for helping to shape sleep in babies under 4 months old. I have also provided tips to parents on maintaining the breastfeeding relationship when returning to work.  

But the truth is sleep problems can pop up at any age, even in once great sleepers. I work with a lot of toddlers and young children who now are resisting bedtime or waking at night. This is very common as they gain independence and begin to test boundaries.

Other sleep issues I see frequently include:
Short or nonexistent naps
 Inappropriate sleep schedules
Bedtime battles and “curtain calls”
Unwanted sleep associations
Big transitions like dropping naps, moving baby from parents’ bed to the crib or crib to a big kid’s bed, preparing for a new baby, traveling, and more.

4. Why is sleep with babies so challenging?

I think you hit the nail on the head in your earlier post. Sleeping independently is a learned skill. Some babies come into it easily, just like some kids learn to ride a bike in just one day. Other babies are more “spirited” like my son and need more coaching and consistency.

Helping your baby learn to sleep is just as challenging as any other aspect of parenting. It takes consistency, the support of your partner and other caregivers, patience, and understanding…. all while you are chronically sleep deprived! 

Like other aspects of parenting, there are many heated debates about what the “right” way to go about it is and the process tugs at our heart strings. And everyone--your mother, your sister, your best friend, the books, the blogs, the websites, even the random person at the grocery store, all have an opinion and are more than happy to share with you! 

The benefit of working with a sleep consultant is that we are familiar with all of the very different methods that have been proven successful and can work with you to create a unique approach that is in line with your parenting philosophy. No two plans are identical, because no two families are identical. 

5. Why is sleep important for babies? For parents?
Once breastfeeding is established and going well, sleep is often the #1 concern of new parents. Sleep problems often persist for 5 years or more (take my son for example!) when not addressed effectively. And the research connecting sleep to health and learning in children is continuing to grow. Young children who do not get adequate sleep are at greater risk of obesity later in life and mental health problems, have difficulty performing well at school, and may exhibit behavioral problems.

While sleep deprivation is common with a newborn, it can be dangerous for parents. Driving while drowsy leads to over 100,000 car crashes per year and restricting sleep by even 1 to 2 hours a night over time can cause chronic fatigue. That trip to the pediatricians or grandma’s after a night of broken sleep can put you and your baby in danger. There is also a link between sleep deprivation and postpartum mood disorders, which can make it difficult to bond with your baby, maintain a healthy relationship with your partner, and perform well at work.

And the problem isn’t confined to childhood. Adults who sleep poorly in childhood often go on to have sleep problems later in life which puts them at risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and mood problems and even a shorter life expectancy.

How we mold our baby’s sleep from the beginning plays a huge role in how they sleep for life. While 20% of sleep habit is determined by genes, 80% is determined by the environment. This means that we have control over 80% of how well our child sleeps. That is HUGE! 

Even a child who got stuck with a genetic tendency to be a poor sleeper (like my son) can sleep well with the right environment, including an age appropriate schedule, an environment conducive to sleep, sleep hygiene, and positive reinforcement.

6. What are 3 tips parents can use to have great sleeping babies?
#1 Provide a safe environment that is also conducive to sleep.
#2 Implement an age-appropriate schedule. Keeping your child awake during the day does not result in more sleep at night!
#3 Use a consistent and soothing pre-bedtime and naptime routine that includes reading and ends in your child’s sleeping space.
#4 After 2 months of age, or earlier in easy babies, practice putting your baby down drowsy but awake. But don’t become frustrated. This is practice and it takes time.

7. What advice would you give to the parent who is at her wits end and has tried everything she can think of to get her child to sleep through the night?
Sleeping through the night isn’t always the goal, depending on the age of the baby. But if the baby is physically and developmentally able to sleep through the night and the parents have consulted with the baby’s doctor to ensure there are no medical issues causing the frequently wakings, there are other options besides “waiting it out” or “crying it out”.  

If parents are feeling overwhelmed, they should think about working with a sleep consultant.  Often we can make some adjustments to the baby’s schedule or environment that significantly improves sleep. If sleep training is needed, we can find an approach that feels right for the family. And most of the time it leads to less stress and crying than the parents are currently experiencing with all that night waking. 

8.What do you think babies need to be able to sleep through the night? When is it common for babies to sleep through the night?
This is really a loaded question! Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone but parents can help their baby achieve this by providing an age appropriate schedule, conducive sleep environment, and helping them to learn self-soothing skills.  

But the most important factor in helping your baby sleep better is keeping them well-rested from the beginning. The bottom line is, a well-rested baby falls asleep easier, wakes less often, and sleeps longer. Sleep begets sleep.

Parents must also have realistic expectations of what “sleeping through the night” looks like depending on their baby’s age.   Most babies need 2-4 night feedings from newborn through 4 months old, drop to 2 night feedings by 6 months old, and 1 night feeding by 9 months old. I define sleeping through the night as 11-12 hours of sleep without needing a feeding or the help of a parent to return to sleep. I believe that in babies who are gaining weight appropriately, this can be achieved by 9 to 12 months of age. Anything earlier than 9 months is a wonderful bonus!

But healthy, restorative sleep can be obtained even if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and in most cases I fully support continuing with night feedings under one year of age, especially if a mother is breastfeeding. 

Healthy sleep shouldn’t include nursing (or bouncing, rocking, wearing, driving) your baby back to sleep every two hours after the newborn period. This is exhausting for parents and doesn’t give your baby the consolidated restorative sleep he needs to thrive.  

9. What is something about you that readers may be surprised to know?
I once tried to snuggle in the crib with my daughter. She gave me a dirty look, waved bye-bye to me, and pointed outside of her crib. Now that is a girl who loves her sleep!
10. What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Like most full-time working parents, I have limited spare time! But I enjoy hiking, snow shoeing, or beachcombing with my family. I also love cooking and coming up with creative ways to be more efficient during the work week.    
11. What is your goal for your career as a sleep consultant?
My goal as a sleep consultant is to continue to not only help families get the sleep they need to be healthy, but to educate others on the public health implications of inadequate sleep in children. 
In addition to providing consultations and follow-up support, I also teach seminars and write guest blog posts. 
To learn more about how you help your baby sleep smart from the start, follow me at 
If you are interested in a consult, attending or holding a seminar for your organization or group, or in featuring The Baby Sleep Geek in a guest blog post, feel free to contact me at or 207-650-9688.

sleepy heads: part 6 - getting 2 to sleep at the same time

Part 6 of our Sleepy Heads series... onto the tough stuff like getting TWO kids to sleep at the same time! Oh my! Can it ever happen? YES, I think it can :)

Getting one child to sleep soundly is a big enough challenge. Having a second child throws that all out the window sometimes... and other times, miraculously, you are able to get them both to sleep at the same time! It's definitely a miracle, but one that DOES happen.

Why it's harder to get two to sleep:

  • There are TWO of them. Well, duh! There is only one of you and two of them. You're outnumbered most of the time. Even with a partner around to help, those babies have a mind of their own. They like each other, too, which means they play off each there and take the other's lead. It's just more challenging with two people to get them to settle down. Accept this... but it's not the end point!
  • Fear of bothering the other one. You're worried that second will wake the first, so you pick her up more than you typically would or put her in your bed sooner than you would other times. This happened to us a lot in the first year especially with our second child. Our first NEEDS his sleep... he's not a pleasant camper if he is not well rested, which makes us less patient, and so on. So, we do everything in our power to get him to sleep well. Well, that works until the newbie in the house screams so loudly you are afraid she'll wake up the first one. So we rushed to her quicker than we'd rush to the second one. We'd go upstairs to get her half an hour earlier from her nap time just because we didn't want her to jump so loudly she wakes her brother. Whereas, with our first, we'd let him sit there in his crib that half hour, talking quietly and playing, he was totally fine, and even sometimes he'd go back to sleep on his own just by being left alone. 
  • You're exhausted. You're more tired now with two than you were the first time around. So perhaps the first time you were all into teaching your child to self-soothe and not jumping to feed them every time they woke... but now, having two kids running you ragged all day, you're more apt to just do what you know works - offer the breast or bottle, put them in your bed, etc. It's a normal thing. And it's not the end of the world if you do these things. But... if you want to sleep well and have your children rested and able to self-soothe wherever they are, working on this sooner rather than later is important. 

Tips that will help you get two sleeping soundly:

  • NOISEMAKERS are a must. You need white noise, fans, music, etc. to drown out the other child's noises. Then, you tip toe... everywhere in the house. I'm oftentimes tiptoeing up the stairs to get one of them to come down and telling them to be quiet because the other is sleeping... then it's back up 20 minutes later to get the other one. Oy... 
  • One at a time. This is difficult, but focusing on putting one to bed at a time, then go back to the other one. For us, our older one was so easy to put to bed all along we just had him go down earlier when his sister came. For nap time, my son went down at 12, then I'd nurse my daughter, she'd go down at 12:30. I actually enjoyed that time with #2 for a while. This is often called "staggered bed times." If it works for you, try this first. We did this for a while during the day for nap and at night for bed time, until they were older and able to be on the same routine.
  • Don't make bad habits to avoid difficult situations. My friend recently asked me what to do with her baby who she was sleep teaching when her older one shared a wall along the little one's room... so they'd possibly hear one another. I suggested not putting baby in the pack n' play in another room first, then moving to crib, because that is re-teaching twice. It's a natural idea to consider, thinking well this will work for all... but it's only short-term. Think long-term. What would work forever? It may take a bit longer to work out the kinks, but in the long run it's worth it to have a solution, not a temporary fix. So when thinking of helping your kids to sleep, think of something that will last and something you can continue regardless of situations or phases, location, etc. 
  • Same routine. Once you are past the first year or getting closer to normal around your house, you can work toward getting the two on the same routine. This starts with waking at the same time in the morning, feeding them at the same time for breakfast and lunch. And then when it's afternoon nap time around noon, you just do everything twice, within a minute of each other. Not easy, but eventually becomes easier and more routine and expected. After lunch we read stories together to settle them both down, or do light playing, quietly. Then it's upstairs, both of them at the same time. We go to my son's room first, because he's older and easier to get down quickly in his bed. My younger one plays in the room with me while I'm putting her big brother to bed. She says goodnight to him and gives him a kiss, then we're off to her room. I change her diaper and put her in bed, it's 5 minutes after her brother. He typically wakes a few minutes earlier than she does, so I do the same in reverse, get him up, then get her up when she wakes. 
  • Keep the nap routine a priority. For #1 it was do or die, you lived by the nap time, nothing came between you and that mid-day slumber period for your little one. Well, that changes for many families with #2. You have #1 to consider, a toddler perhaps, who's on the go, invited to parties, into swim lessons, etc. So you have to keep on moving with your kids, you don't stop. I agree with this way of living to an extent... but not when it interferes with good nap schedules. So, for us, what worked was keeping to our nap routines. That meant we had to go somewhere mid-morning and make it back for afternoon nap, but it was OK. During morning nap (8-9ish) for our second, my older one and I had one-on-one play time. He loved that undivided attention, and our little one got her sleep that she needed to regulate the rest of her day and moods. This, in turn, aided in great sleeping later on in the night and a same routine nap time schedule for the two. 

Some articles that may help:

Two kids = twice as much work AND twice as much FUN! 
You can do it!

Friday, February 21, 2014

sleepy heads: part 5 - getting baby on a nap routine

Part 5 of our Sleepy Heads series!

Now it's focusing on day time sleep. I believe day and night time sleep go hand in hand. Once you've got a routine established on either end you can work on getting the other side working. To me, it starts during the day actually. From day one in the hospital we attempted to help our child be consistently happy, well-fed, changed, etc. by feeding on demand, but at least every 1-2 hours like clockwork from the start. That established some sleeping patterns... not necessarily a schedule, as infants like to sleep when they want to and I agree with allowing them that flexibility. But we started every 2 hours diaper change, feeding, diaper, sleep, etc.

A few tips for helping your baby to sleep during the day time hours:

*Use the swing. Love love love swings. Babies like motion and movement. They moved all the time in your belly, of course they like to move on the outside. But not too much... my son hated the swing before 2 months old because it was too fast. Try and see if it works for your baby. I see nothing wrong with using the swing in the night also to get some ZZZs if it works those first few weeks. Do what works! My babies napped in the swing for the first few months during the day.

*Don't rock them to sleep every time. Of course this is a wonderful feeling for both of you so don't never do it... but don't always do it either. Help your baby learn to sleep on her own by laying her down sleepy, not wide awake, not totally asleep either.

*Watch sleep cues... and intervene early. Don't wait until your baby is soooo tired she can't console herself and settle down. Overstimulated babies have a difficult time relaxing. Help them keep regular by feeding normally and putting her down before she's sleepy.

Some babies and older children will ramp up and look more energetic and busy as the night goes on, signaling to you that perhaps they are not yet tired... but in fact they ARE tired. Don't wait for them to tell you, especially as babies, because they'll only tell you when it's too late, past their peak time for restful sleep.

*Spend time in the crib awake playing so he's used to it. Before you transition your baby from bassinet to the crib, spend time in that room. Put her on the floor and let her just look around. Put her in the crib and put the mobile on, let her kick her legs a while. Stay in there with her, leave the room for a minute, but do this when wide awake, not sleeping so she's getting adjusted to this new space.

*Let's get musical! We always had a CD of soothing songs, no words, just music, to help our son fall asleep. You could use a mobile, too, or a music toy.

*White noise. Noise makers are a must in my opinion! This drowns out noise from outside the room, so you can carry on out there like the house it not shut down, and it also helps baby feel more at home. White noise = how it sounded in the womb, they love it!

*Sleep sacks are awesome! I lOVE these things. We used them well past the first year with our kids. Blankets are not recommended for a long period of time, but babies get cold. So keep them snuggled up in a safe sleep sack. Halo makes great ones. These are also nice when you want to be done with the Swaddle.

*Don't rush it.  A baby's sleep routine doesn't typically happen till closer to 6 months, but you can initiate the routine at about 3 months old and be consistent... Babies will not sleep that wonderful two hour long nap that you hear your friends rave about until they are at least a year old, typically. Most babies nap shorter increments... 30-45 minutes is VERY common for infants to nap. I know that's barely enough time for you to pour a cup of coffee and write one email, but it's how these young ones roll... Here's the thing, if they are awake and happy in their crib, let them be. It's OK to leave them there a bit.

A typical nap routine could be like this for 6-9 months old/ish:
5/6 a.m. wake for the day and eat, fall back asleep until 7/7:30 or so
Nap about 8-9 or so, typically 30-45 minutes long
eat again
eat 11ish
nap around 11:30/12:30 for a longer period, 1-1 1/2 hours
eat afternoon
nap in mid-afternoon/early evening
bed about 7 p.m.

Again this is average, and depends on your child.

Here are some helpful articles with nap info:

Here's the thing about naps......
You should be consistent, too. It's not going to work for some kids to nap at 12 one day and then 1 the next and 12:30 the next. They'll need you to keep it up.

Also, just like we don't sleep the same amount every day, sometimes your children are going to wake earlier during their naps. If they wake an hour earlier (like my son did today writing this!) go up and make it known they are not coming downstairs yet, it's still rest time. Put the music on again if you ned to. Help them realize nothing is happening in the house, everyone's resting, it's time for sleep. More times than not they will lay there and go back to sleep... but this only works if YOU keep it consistent. If you give in today and tomorrow but not the next day, it's not going to take.

Many babies give up their second nap around a year old... but many other babies go well into their second year with two naps.

Signs your baby is ready to give up or decrease a nap:

  • waking earlier, standing up in the crib, talking
  • not being tired for the second nap, wide awake, not acting like they want that sleep
You could try decreasing the first nap in the morning to make the afternoon one longer. If baby typically slept for 45 minutes, at 30 minutes go in and wake her up gently, quietly. This will make her afternoon nap longer, which is the optimal sleep time for her in general. 

When you give up the morning nap altogether, the afternoon nap should start about a half hour earlier than it used to... so if your afternoon nap used to be starting at 12:30, when you get rid of the morning nap, start afternoon nap at 12 or so. 

Good luck napping!

sleepy heads: part 4 - steps to teach your baby to sleep

Part 4 in the Sleepy Heads series! More specific tips on helping your baby sleep better.

SO tired
So your baby won't sleep through the night. He's healthy, gaining weight steadily, older than 3 months old, and overall a great kid. You just can't do it. You're exhausted. You want sleep.

You deserve sleep. So does he. You should know that.

I believe you CAN sleep through the night.
I don't know how people do it waking all hours of the night for more than a year. To me, it's not the norm. It happens, and for those it happens to, they are not abnormal. It's just that I believe you can choose to have it differently IF your child is healthy and happy in general. Teething, growth spurts, etc throw this out the window!

When you aren't sleeping, you are typically easily frustrated, impatient, not focused at work or even when talking to your partner. To me, you can change these things and be happier while enjoying that little adorable baby!

I don't see a need for crying it out (CIO). I know many people have found success in this, and that's great for them. I just don't see a need for it when you can try these things that work well. To me, CIO is a last ditch effort, after many other things were tried. No judgment of those doing CIO. Just not for me.

In saying that, these tricks below are things to attempt that do NOT include strong fears, emotions or screaming babies. These are not meant to be fast either. I do believe within 3 days to a week your baby will be sleeping better if you try these things consistently and don't give up. But it takes time and effort. It's not overnight. It's not simple or easy, in fact it's much easier to

Here are a few things to try to teach your baby to sleep :

*Start early. Don't wait until there is a problem to fix before you get some ZZZs. Every baby is different, for some it'll be 6 months old, others 4 or 2 months old. It depends on your child and your family situation. But don't wait 9 months before you realize you should have tried to help your child to sleep. If you waited that long, it's not too late, but it's easier if you start it before they are old enough to know and do what they want.

Starting early for us was at least by 8 weeks old being conscious of not jumping to feed them. Just be conscious of it. It doesn't mean you won't feed your 8 week old. That's crazy! It just means you're focusing, watching for cues, observing and trying things, not operating like a robot.

*Don't automatically offer feeding. Instead, try shushing, rocking, changing diaper, burping, snuggling up in blanket or swaddle, etc. There will be times when you just know she's hungry, so by all means feed her. But there will be other times where she's awaking an hour after you already fed her... and you know she's just awaken because there was a noise or she got out of her swaddle... so don't automatically offer your breast or bottle at this point, try something else first.

*When you do feed, you can shorten the feeding times. So if you typically give 4 ounces in a bottle, give 3 ounces tonight and 2 tomorrow night. Or if you nurse 15 minutes typically then decrease to 10 minutes one night, or if you offer both breasts only offer one.

*Try a bottle. Nursing babies don't often take in as much a bottle-fed babies due to easily falling asleep while nursing. So try a pumped bottle of milk or formula at least during those middle of the night feedings from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. After that nursing is fine if easier for you, but at least try a bottle in between.

*Wait a minute. If you usually hear the baby sniffle from three rooms away, you are probably getting up at night when you don't need to. It's VERY common for babies to wake in the night. It's natural for all of us in fact. It doesn't always mean they are troubled or need you to go to them. So, instead of jumping out of bed each time you hear them move, wait a minute. One minute. Just attempt it. And many times you'll see they roll over or find their thumb and are fine. They don't need you to go in. Wait one minute... then the next time wait 2 and so on.

*Get a video monitor. This will help you to accomplish the waiting it out a minute longer piece of advice, if you can SEE that they are fine on the monitor, you'll know that it's OK to wait. Being assured your child is fine will help you to relax. I don't know how many times I think they are awake only to see on the monitor that they are fine, or vice versa... I think they are sound asleep and really they are throwing everything out of their crib... Video monitors are life savers!

*Get partner involved. Don't put this all on you. You are probably the one who's been doing it for a while... you are exhausted. You can't stay focused on your own. You need dad involved. So get him in there! Have him do the bottle feeding. Have him stand over your shoulder telling you it's fine, you can do this.

*Check her diaper. Sometimes that's all it is. Again, don't rush to feeding her. Try a few other things first. Checking the diaper for a dream feed before you head to bed also works. Sometimes just changing helps.

*Dream Feed. I kinda hate that term, but it's one I've heard so I'll use it. Our son would fall asleep around 7 or so at night, so we'd wake him at 9/10/11 at night sometimes midnight before we went to bed to offer food. We'd change his diaper to wake him (and because it needed to be done) and offer food. If he didn't wake enough to eat, that was fine, but most times he did. This gave us a solid chunk of time sleeping.

*Get day time on a routine. Keep day regular with feeding every 2 hours or so and napping within a timeframe after eating. Babies can sleep when they want during the day. I never ever woke my infants during the day to make them sleep at night. In fact, I think it does the opposite effect... Let them sleep in the day time (first 3-6 months). Just keep their feeding on routine as best you can, every 2 hours or so. This will mean they are well-fed and not starving at night when they should have eaten during the day. Make sure the day routine includes putting him to sleep groggy, not asleep, slightly awake so he learns to soothe himself in the night.

*Use pacifiers. Sucking is a very real and normal thing to help babies soothe themselves. Either a thumb or pacifier helps them in the night when they wake randomly. Try one of these instead of offering your breast or bottle when you know he's not hungry.

*Keep the sleep atmosphere in tact. Don't turn lights on. Use night light only. Don't talk to your baby in the middle of the night. I know that's challenging... you love this little creature even at 3 a.m. but try to avoid talking, that only stimulates her to wake more. Whisper or don't talk at all. Don't leave the baby's room. Stay in there. Bringing her into bed with you only signals another sign to her that she cannot sleep on her own.

OK so those things didn't work. Now it's time to make this sleep thing HAPPEN. Here are a few gentle things to try to really teach your baby to sleep longer.

A few notes about this gentle sleep teaching method:
*Be consistent. You have to follow through. It won't work if you do it twice in the night and give up the third and fourth times.

*Stick with it! It won't happen the first time... you may need a few days to a week of really focusing on this. Think long-term of the goal of better sleep.. it may be tough for a week to do this but then it'll be wonderful when you're sleeping next week!

*Gradual, slow, patient changes. If you want to do it overnight, you should try the CIO method. I've heard that works quickly. However that only works if you can tolerate hearing your child screaming unhappily. Going cold turkey may work for you, you could try that. I find it would not work for me nor is it necessary. Teaching our kids to walk and eat did not happen overnight, so why should sleeping? I think it's best with a little effort and planned support. This method I suggest is easier on everyone involved, but it takes time to get there. Be patient.

*It's OK to halt the process and pick up your baby when you know she's in distress. If you see real tears or major fussing, go ahead and pick her up. You won't ruin anything. Listen to your gut, your heart, your partner. Don't listen to me and my ideas if they are not working in the moment. Of course... within reason. You may be sensitive to your child's cries... some people are more so than others. If that's the case, you'll need a partner to help you on this to keep you going through the fusses. Again, fussing and whining are VERY different from screaming and real tears.

TRY THESE THINGS: (These may happen over the course of one night or a few days, to a week, depends on your baby and what you are able to manage)
1. First time he wakes up, decrease feeding, change diaper, make sure warm enough, etc. Make sure feedings occur in the baby's room, not back in your room where you're more likely to fall asleep again or stay longer.

2. Second time he wakes up, don't offer feeding. Instead, pick up and rock him. You can put music on if that's part of your sleep routine, or just sing a song. Rock for a few minutes, put him down. Stand over him singing, rubbing his back, until he lays down.

If still in a bassinet, you could get really close to her face, while she's laying in the bassinet, and sing or shush from there, letting her know you're still there, it's OK.

3. Next time he wakes, go in but don't pick him up. Hug him from the crib. Lay him down, rub his back, shush him, sing to him, rub his hair, etc.

4. Next, sit next to the crib or lay on the floor next to the crib, holding his hand through the crib slats if you are able to. Sing from there, talk calmly from there.

5. Next time stand at the door, sing from there, shush her from there. You can go in and lay her back down, don't pick her up, go back to the door each time.... until you are outside the door singing a song or two.

6. You put her down, she doesn't get up, all is well and you are all sleeping again :)

Try this. One step at a time. Again, each step could take you through the night or over several nights. It depends on what works for you or your child. Point: be consistent! Just keep following through.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

tidbits from Parents - March

A little bit of fun that I found from the recent Parents magazine for March 2014.

This was a great issue! Definitely read it if you have it sitting on a shelf, or pick it up at the store. Loved it!

Vacation time!
They listed several pages of awesome kid-friendly WARM Carribean vacation spots. Great ideas! If you're planning a trip, you'll want to pick up this issue of Parents. Top family-friendly vacation spots included:
1. Turks and Caicos
2. Jamaica
3. Saint Lucia
4. Dominican Republic
5. Puerto Rico
6. Cayman Islands
7. Bahamas
8. Barbados
9. Mexico
10. U.S. Virgin Islands

NAP = Necessary
A study at UMass Amherst found that "kids ages 3 to 5 who took 60 to 90 minute naps had better memory function after they woke and even the next morning than those who did not get the extra sleep." They also said that even kids who stop napping can return to the habit again with consistency.

Another article in this issue of Parents stated that kids can begin to drop their once a day nap as early as age 2 and as late as age 5, but that almost ALL kids will look like they are dropping the nap... when it's too early to do so. In these cases, if your child is not napping as well, be consistent, keep laying him down to nap, eventually most kids give in.


Did you know this? I'd never heard of this. Apparently a version of strep throat can cause children to be Obsessive Compulsive. The disorder is PANDAS - pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with strep. The child's "immune response against the bacteria affects the part of the brain that controls emotions, behavior and physical movements."

It's rare, but happens.
The article stated that 1 to 2 percent of kids have OCD in general.
Of those, 10 to 30 % of them got it possibly due to strep.

If your child has strep throat and then develops tics or strange behaviors, call her doctor.

1 in 9 babies sleep with their parents in their parents' bed, according to Yale School of Medicine study, despite that it puts them at risk for suffocation, the article stated.

Apparently the average amount kids in America receive per tooth is $3.70. Kids in the Northeast earned the most, midwest earned the least. 36% of parents still only give $1 per tooth.

How much do YOU offer your child for his teeth?

This was pretty interesting and not something I do... wondering what others do here?
Instead of making your child share a toy with another child, you allow the child to make the choice himself. They found in a study that when you allowed your child to make the choice himself, he thought about it and realized he liked the feeling of being nice and sharing, so he made the choice. Versus when you force the situation, the kid gets upset with you and starts to think he doesn't like sharing. Interesting.

GREAT article about school discipline. 
If you work in a school like I do or even have elementary level kids possibly getting into trouble for doing simple things you'll love this article by Jenny Deam.

Overall, an awesome issue of Parents!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

sleepy heads: part 3 - preparing to help baby find ZZZs

Part 3 of our Sleepy Heads series about helping your baby sleep through the night!

Before you find out some specifics on how to help your baby get some ZZZs, here is a checkpoint for you, an assessment, a place to start. You need to prepare yourself for this, just like you do with any other baby process... potty training, immunizations, finding childcare, walking, feeding solids, etc. You can do this! Just check where you're at first.

1. Acknowledge that "sleeping through the night" won't be 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for awhile... typically that type of sleeping happens later in the first year to second year. Sleeping through the night for us at first was 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Love that. You'll hear moms calling it a "longer sleep stretch."

2. Figure out why she's not sleeping in the first place. Take an inventory before you start any type of plan of helping your child sleep longer. Is she hungry? Is she wet? Are her diapers too small so she's soaking through them onto her clothes? Is the room too cold? Are there weird signs or shadows on the wall? Is it too dark, too light? Is she too swaddled, not swaddled enough? Is she hearing you make noises in the night?

Of course figuring out the real answers with a baby who cannot speak is difficult... but try some things out, attempt to brainstorm what may be causing her to wake.

3. Acknowledge sometimes it's you....This is a tough one... sometimes the reason a baby stays awake in the night is partly due to mom's needs or mom's choices. This is not to place blame, not at all. But when you really want to get your child to sleep through the night, you must assess all aspects of why he's not doing it in the first place.

I don't believe *most* babies just sleep through the night at some point. I think they have learned behaviors, habits that parents influence, and needs based on those patterns not necessarily developmental or physical needs. I believe it takes leading them in a direction, teaching them, guiding them toward sleeping on their own. It takes effort.

I've talked with many moms who are so frustrated by lack of sleep, super exhausted they'd do anything to make their child sleep... yet when we talk about it, there are things they could be doing or trying but they are not invested in doing so. That doesn't make them bad moms. It just means they have limits and boundaries around what they are willing or able to do at that point to help their child sleep.  There is NOTHING wrong with that. It just means they are making a choice to be up at night.

Which means you can make the choice to have more sleep.
Again, this applies to healthy babies, not those in the deep throes of sickness, teething, growth spurts, or coughing spells.

So assess if there is some reason you are not working on the sleep thing. If you recognize one of these things on the list below that applies to you, just stop, breathe, accept it to be true, and realize it's nothing more than a fact. It means nothing about what type of mother you are or that you are doing something wrong. It means you are making choices for good reasons, and that because it's a choice you could choose something else if it's important to you. And it does not have to be important, you could choose that you are OK with waking in the night.

Reasons could be...
  • Your need for closeness - this could be because you actually enjoy your 2 a.m. snuggle, it's nice, comforting, reassuring you the baby is healthy and happy. You may want this closeness because it's your last baby.
  • Your mama guilt/pressure kicking in, making you feel like you're bad if you don't do this or that with sleep. I hear this so much in the echoes of what people are really saying... They can't imagine saying no to nursing or bottles in the night because if they do it means they are starving their kid. If they don't offer the breast at 3 a.m. every night until the child is over a year old it means the child won't successfully latch on for that entire year or that their child won't be bonded to them.
  • Your full breasts, needing to empty in the night. It's easier to just nurse than to get up and pump. But this sometimes means you feed your baby when she doesn't need to be fed, when you could try other methods to get her to sleep a little longer instead of just feeding her.
  • It's too hard. Yes, it IS harder to work at this sleep teaching in the night. It's more effort, patience than most of us can stomach in the middle of the night. I totally get that. I'm not suggesting this is easy. But nothing in parenting is easy... 
  • You are uncomfortable with crying. You imagine if you refused to feed your child would scream so loudly you'd start crying. You hate even a little bit of wincing, whining either. 
  • You worry a lot. You wonder "If I don't do this, then what will happen?" or "Will I scar her for life if I don't rush to her every need?" You pay attention to all the details and worry that you are messing up.
  • Habit. You are just used to feeding her, it's all you know, because in those first 3 months that IS what you're supposed to do... feed when they wake, or even wake them to feed them. So you're just in pattern now that you aren't sure how to break or if you're supposed to.
  • You have strong beliefs. You believe in co-sleeping and being there every step of the way for your child until they are big enough to help themselves. Putting them outside your reach is against what you believe at such a young age.
  • It's only a short time that they are little and needing me. You could believe that you know, a year of sleepless nights is nothing, I can survive this no problem.
  • You may be so sleepy in the night you aren't awake enough to tackle this, you are going through the motions. Almost like sleep walking... you just routinely get up. You don't even remember doing it really.
  • You are on autopilot, in tune with every move or noise, and moving too quickly. You wake instantly when you hear him stir. You go right to him and offer to feed.
  • You didn't know it could be any different. You were told that babies don't sleep through the night, so just deal with it. You had no idea it could be better. 
  • You can't think straight enough to figure this out. You're exhausted from lack of sleep, two kids with you all day, you don't have time to figure this out. 

4. Check if you are ready and willing to put the energy into this process right now. Just like with potty training, it won't work if the parents are not interested, not able, or not patient enough at the time the process is happening, same with sleep teaching. I believe parents need to be fully on board and focused, determined, and extremely patient for a few nights to a week to get things moving in a sleepy positive direction... or it just won't work well for any of you.

Maybe you aren't ready emotionally. That's OK! You are hanging on to these last baby moments in the night because this is your last baby... that's OK and so normal! Just recognize your reasons for whatever they are, and wait until you feel ready.

So if you are sick, baby is sick so you've been up a lot extra in the night, you had a rough day or family change recently, etc. then no, today is not the day to start the sleep teaching. Wait until you are physically better and more able to focus on this process. It will go smoother for you in the end if you wait until the time is right.

5. Form a sleep team. You will definitely want your partner's help with this process. It's easier when it's both of you doing the sleep teaching than just one of you. It's easier to go back to old habits or fall asleep mid-diaper change when it's just you at 2 a.m. If there is another person there, even quietly cheerleading you on toward full night's sleep, you're more likely to get the job done.

So talk to your partner about your ideas, thoughts, plan for the night. Tell them specifically what help you want from them. Talk to your pediatrician for reassurance. Most moms who talks to her baby's doctor about sleeping through the night will hear yes, he's ready, he's physically growing and does not need to eat in the night any longer, go forth!

6. Figure out your non-negotiables. There are SO many sleep methods out there. Some you will agree with, others will appall you. Do whatever you're comfortable with. Read up, talk to friends, ask your own mother. Then figure out what you will and won't be willing to do. Thinking about this and having an idea before you go into this process will aid you in sticking to what will work for you.

7. Keep on movin'. It's not going to happen overnight. But I swear to you it can happen in 3-7 days, where you are all sleeping significantly more, if you are determined, putting in effort, working at this. So, stay focused, keep moving toward your goal of sleeping more. Yes, you'll be tired during this week. Yes, it's easier to just give in to nursing quickly, 5 minutes later baby's asleep. BUT that's short-term success. You are working toward long-term success with sleep teaching. You want to sleep 5 hours a night before they turn a year old. That IS possible.


Check in with yourself through this process.
Do only what feels comfortable, what will work.
Ask for help.
SO many moms have been where you are. You aren't alone.

More SPECIFICS in the next part of this series, real HOW-TOs on helping your baby learn to sleep.