Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

Sleep Help for the Weary

Monday, November 7th, 2016

importance-of-early-bedtimeNews report that you probably already knew: Your kids need sleep. On the off chance that this idea of an early, consistent bedtime is news to you, let me quickly fill you in. Consistent bedtimes that allow enough sleep for children can contribute to fewer behavioral issues and even physical attributes like obesity later in life. While many often emphasize “early” bedtime, it’s possible one’s particular situation (e.g., wake up at 5 am versus 8 am) could alter what exactly “early” means for each individual family.

This study hits home especially for parents whose work schedule or family particulars don’t fit the classic kids-in-bed-by-8 routine. Early bedtime routines can also be a challenge for some families with multiple children, especially when one child is in the midst of newborn age, experiencing regression, or any number of other challenges come dusk. For some families, irregular or later bedtime routines are a necessity so evidence that early bedtime routines have a positive effect later in life can make them feel a whole bunch of negative.

Still, the most recent research says early bedtime (8 PM or earlier for preschoolers) lessens the likelihood of obesity in teenage years, even when other factors were controlled and accounted for. Researchers point out children who go to bed earlier are less likely to snack late into the night and are more likely to get a full night’s rest, allowing for more restorative sleep. Ultimately getting enough sleep, not the exact time one goes to sleep, is shown in research to be overall most critical for the mind and body.

In case your family struggles, it turns out we’ve got you covered! If you wonder still about how a routine might look, you can read from perspectives of a mom of one or another; mom of two; mom of four or another.

In trying to get that routine, you may consider want to know the ins and outs, dos and don’ts of sleep training. Perhaps you are troubleshooting challenges like crib climbing; whether or not to give up naps for the sake of bedtime routine; or sleep regression.

If you’re at your wits’ end with a sleepless or otherwise challenging night experience, perhaps my ah-ha moment on the great expectations of sleep will give you the feeling of comradery. There was also the time I spoke fondly—yes, fondly—of sleepless nights. Others also offer solidarity on the subject of children and sleep. And last, but possibly most important, two more offer the reality and encouragement to get through the sleepless periods of all mommy lives.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Do We Need a Daily Routine?

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

During my baby’s first year, one of the most common topics of conversation was about how she was sleeping.  Friends/family/moms in mom groups/strangers in the grocery line all seemed really interested in how she was sleeping.  Once we had established a daily routine, my response was much more positive to the dreaded sleep question. Routines are needed because they let your baby what to expect next, according to Babycenter.  When babies can anticipate what happens next, it provides comfort to them and helps them sleep better. Experts say that routines can be established as early as 2 months or as old as 6 months old, depending on your (and your baby’s) personality.

My first daughter was a snacker. She liked to nurse for short amounts of time every hour or two all day, every day up until she was about six months old. At about 6 months, we started to establish a routine with her, encouraging her to eat more during the day and sleep for longer stretches at night. My younger daughter was content to nurse for long amounts of time, less frequently. We worked out our routine around 4 months. Establishing a routine earlier with my second daughter also benefited my first because we returned to many of our activities that we did before the baby was born.

There is a wide range of philosophies about establishing routines, ranging from the parents setting the routines to basing the daily routine on the baby’s natural schedule and everything in between. For me, and my children, building a routine around their natural schedules worked best.  However, I am a stay-at-home mom, so I have flexibility with our days.

I found that using time intervals–instead of basing the routine off the clock–created a routine that was flexible but still offered my babies the comfort about what was coming up next.  Juniper was the most happy with about 3-3.5 hoursbetween waking and going back to sleep.  When she was about 6 months old, Juniper’s routine would begin with her waking up for the day.  I would feed her breakfast, play with her and do tummy time while her big sister was eating breakfast, get the three of us dressed, then about 2.5 hours after she initially woke up, I would nurse her for about a half an hour to forty-five minutes until she fell asleep for nap.  During her naptime, Lily and I would do one of her classes or another activity (like going for a walk or to the playground).  I would let Juniper sleep as long as she wanted, and then we would start the routine over (meal of solids, play/activity, nurse, nap) again, this would fit into about 3/3.5 hours.  At this point, Juniper was taking two naps a day and going to bed around 6/6:30 at night.  Because we were not tied to the clock, if Juniper wanted to nurse an extra time or take an extra nap, our entire day was not thrown off.

Setting a routine doesn’t have to be a struggle to have your baby follow a schedule based on the clock.  Setting a routine based on a pattern during a rough time interval offers your baby predictability and meets her needs based on her natural schedule with the flexibility that she needs day to day.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to two girls, a three year old and a one year old, in Denver, CO who enjoys cooking for her family, running, and hiking.

Graduating from the Swaddle

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

img_1699My oldest loved to be swaddled. He didn’t sleep a wink if just one limb was free. My middle son liked being swaddled for a while, but was able to sleep without it not particularly long after he was born. My youngest was adopted at three months old, so I don’t know what he preferred as a newborn, but as a three-month old he was perfectly fine sleeping muscle man/starfish style.

How do you know when you don’t need to swaddle your baby anymore? Well, it depends on the kid. You can get some clues though from your child by observing how she responds to coming out of a swaddle during a sleep period. If she startles and wakes up when an arm or leg gets free more often than not, chances are she’s not ready for life outside of the swaddle blanket.

Likewise, if he busts out and doesn’t bat an eyelash, it may be time to try putting your baby down without a swaddle. You can try and ease him in by just swaddling his arms first and leaving his legs free, or you can go cold turkey, whichever suits your situation.

So what do you do when your child seems like she is never going to grow out of the need for swaddling? With my oldest son, we were in this boat for a while. He was at the top of his growth curve and quickly grew out of every swaddling blanket we had, and then regular blankets too. With him, we finally had to cut the cord and force the issue, cold turkey. His personality is quite stubborn on most things, and swaddling was no exception. We had a rough couple naps, but he quickly got used to sleeping sans swaddle. I think between being extra tired from not sleeping well for those naps and getting a crash course in self-soothing, he became a free-sleeping champ in no time.

How old was your child when he was done with swaddling?

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to three boys (and desperately hoping that they don’t burn the house down someday). She and her family are enjoying living an ex-pat life overseas.



Is Sleep Training Safe?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

_DSC2002-2As a first-time mom, figuring out how to get my baby to sleep was a mind-boggling task. Advice from my mom and mother-in-law was confusing. They never had issues with their babies sleeping, they just slept. Maybe they no longer remembered their struggles, or maybe times have changed so much that we parent in a completely different way today.

Today, we debate, question and over search everything with raising children. Sleep training, or teaching a baby older than 6 months how to self soothe to sleep, is a highly debated and theorized topic. In a new study from American Academy of Pediatrics in which 43 babies were tested to see how different sleep training techniques affected their stress levels, the babies were separated into three groups: graduated extinction, where babies are allowed to cry for short periods of time over several nights; delayed bedtimes where bedtime is moved by 15 minutes later every night thus making the baby more tired; and a control group. The babies were tested for a full year by checking the cortisol levels in their saliva both in the morning and at night. At the end of the study, they were checked for parent-child attachment and checked over behavioral and emotional problems.

The study showed that none of the babies had any emotional or behavioral issues. The graduated extinction and delayed bedtimes groups showed lower levels of cortisol later in the day, where the group who received no training had higher levels.

(Editor’s Note: It is important to point out the difference between graduated extinction, which is bouts of crying punctuated by bouts of comforting by a parent, and total extinction, which is what most parents associate with cry-it-out. Total extinction is no contact with baby until he or she stops crying. This is not what the study covered and is unequivocally harmful to an infant’s normal development. The sleep training method covered in this study was graduated extinction.)

Sleep is such an important thing for both babies and parents–both for development and growth but also for an emotional and coping time for parents especially. While the babies in the study showed normal levels of cortisol, the mothers in the studies showed lower levels of stress when their babies slept consistently. Having been an extremely sleep-deprived mama, I remember the stress from exhaustion in those early months and how it affected my family. Sleep benefits everyone.

The learning curve as new parents is as steep as it gets, yet it is reassuring for parents who wish to sleep train to learn that it is safe to do so. In our family, sleep training is a way of life–in fact I revel in the fact that my boys are all decent sleepers. Trusting our gut instinct as a parent is key, and having the knowledge and ability to choose our family’s well-being and mental health is so important.

Pia Watzig is a mom of three boys who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. 

Crib Climbers

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

IMG_0593The first time my son lifted a leg over the rail of his crib, my heart panicked.  I was hoping that the day would never come and that he would want to sleep in a crib forever.  I just wasn’t ready, but is anyone ever ready?

I tried not to react, but was nervous none the less. Nervous that he would fall out in the middle of the night or even scarier, never nap again.  It was an exciting challenge to him. He couldn’t wait to get to the other side and worked so hard to find out what it would be like to get there all by himself. The first time he fell out, I’m not sure who it scared more, me or him.  I heard a loud thud and then a cry. Luckily, the only thing that got hurt was his ego. That first fall took the mystery out of the adventure for him and bought me some time before his next attempt.

Putting a sleep sack on him in bed is the other thing that prevented him from making a climb again for a few months. I often wondered if it was because he couldn’t see his feet or legs that he may have forgotten that climbing was an option. Whatever it was, that sleep sack did the trick. When he figured out how to unzip and take off the sleep sack, I took the next step and put it on him backwards before putting him in his crib. That worked for a while, too, until I couldn’t find a sleep sack large enough for my growing toddler.

The reality is that many toddlers are curious and take on the challenge of the climb, while some never take the plunge.  Some people lower the crib mattress to the floor,  some people add extra padding to the floor outside of the crib, and some people jump to transition to a toddler bed.

My son transitioned to a toddler bed very well. My 17-month-old daughter keeps us on our toes all day long, but has yet made the move to climb. I’m hoping that her short little legs will buy us time.

Sarah Cole is a writer and a stay-at-home mom of two busy toddlers who keeps her on her toes all day long.