Anyone who's had a new baby knows there are days when your baby doesn't want to be put down even for a second, and it's hard to get anything done. And when I had new babies, I remember those sweet, cuddly moments with my newborn napping in my arms or on my chest were some of my FAVORITE moments that I still cherish. I loved those precious times. But every parent knows you can't survive that way 24 hours a day for months.
It is dangerous for parents to fall asleep with their babies in their arms, and it's also dangerous for parents to try and stay awake constantly and not get any sleep at all. So while those snuggly naps are sweet, you also need to be able to help your new baby sleep on their own as well. For some babies, it's easy, but for others, it can seem almost impossible.
WHY DO NEWBORNS LOVE BEING HELD?
It has been referred to as The Fourth Trimester, and it's the time right after a baby is born when they're adjusting to being outside the womb, and the baby craves the closeness and coziness of the womb. It's very natural for new babies to want to be held while sleeping.
Here are some ways you can help your baby feel cozy and get good naps, while also keeping your baby safe:
1. Use a baby carrier. A good baby carrier can be a lifesaver for days when your baby doesn't want to be put down, but you have things to do (or other kids to take care of). A comfy, stretchy carrier, such as a K'Tan is good, and I loved using my LilleBaby carrier. If the baby is properly secured in the carrier and the person wearing it is safe, it's safe for babies to nap in baby carriers.
2. A stroller or car seat nap. It is safe for your baby to sleep in the car seat ONLY if properly installed in a car or stroller using the base, and if the baby is properly strapped in. It is not safe to bring the infant carrier out of the car and allow your baby to sleep in it while it's sitting on the ground (this is a suffocation risk). But sometimes when your baby won't let you set them down and they need a nap and you need a break, a safe car seat nap or stroller nap can help!
3. Call a friend. Let someone come get their baby fix and hold your baby for a nap so you can go take a nap (or a shower!).
SAFE SLEEP FOR NEWBORNS
Keep in mind, the safest place for a newborn to sleep is ALONE, on their BACK, and in a CRIB (or safe sleeping surface such as a basinet). Swings, or any inclined sleeping surface are not safe for sleep, and baby sleep positioners, such as Dock-a-Tot or SnuggleMe's are also not safe for sleep. Keeping your baby safe is the top priority.
Here are 6 tips to help your newborn sleep independently.
1. Start as you mean to go on. If you always feed to sleep, hold to sleep, or rock to sleep, that's the only way your baby will know how to get to sleep. I started with both of my babies from literally day one, allowing them to go to sleep on their own, in their own crib, in their own room (my second had to share a room with me in the beginning, due to space restrictions, but I moved her basinet as far away from my bed as I could). They didn't get used to being nursed or rocked to sleep for every single sleep. Start from the beginning with the sleep habits you want your baby to have in the future.
2. Practice independent sleep every day. Even if you DO hold your newborn baby for a few naps a day, and I encourage you to do it - soak up those snuggles! - I also encourage new parents to attempt independent sleep at nighttime and for at LEAST one nap a day. There are lots of opportunities to practice, because newborns sleep often! So if you attempt it for one nap, and it doesn't happen, it's ok! Try it again for the next nap.
3. Lay your baby down drowsy and awake. Instead of rocking your baby to sleep and then placing them down in their bed asleep, which will often lead to wake-ups, lay them down awake and allow them to go to sleep on their own. If they cry, try to offer comfort without picking your baby up first, and if needed, pick up and comfort and then lay your baby down again. It's ok to allow your baby to wiggle and grunt or even fuss a bit if you're comfortable with it. You don't have to let your newborn cry though. You can offer help and give comfort without actually rocking your baby completely to sleep.
4. Pay close attention to wake windows. A common reason babies have a hard time getting themselves to sleep is when they are put down either overtired or under-tired. Pay close attention to your baby's wake windows and lay the baby down in their "sweet spot" which will give them the most chance of successfully going to sleep independently without crying. If your baby is already yawning and fussing from being tired, the baby is overtired. Lay your baby down before the baby starts showing those late sleepy cues.
5. Keep your baby swaddled for sleep. Babies sleep best when they are swaddled in a good, tight, cozy swaddle. If you're not gifted at the skill of swaddling using a blanket, there are great options for velcro swaddles or zip-up swaddles. Also, a white noise machine with constant white noise will help your baby sleep.
6. A consistent routine. Babies LOVE routines. Even if you're not on a strict by-the-clock schedule, you can keep your baby on a solid eat/wake/sleep routine to make sure they get full feedings and adequate awake time during the day (you don't need to have awake time after feedings at night). You can start a simple pre-nap and pre-bed routine even for newborns, which will signal to their bodies that it's time for sleep. The routine could be as simple as a quick song or a cuddle, diaper change, swaddle on, lights off, sound machine on, and laying the baby down to go to bed.
When you lay your baby down for sleep, make sure your baby:
If you do all of these things, and your baby is just not having it, try the
Pick Up/Put Down technique:
Or try the Shush/Pat technique:
Soak up those newborn baby snuggles, because the newborn days go by so quickly, and once your baby can run around, you will miss the sweet cuddly naps in your arms. It's ok to be exhausted and need a break. It's ok to help your baby learn to sleep independently so you can get enough sleep to safely function and care for them. As difficult as the newborn days can be, remember, they won't last forever.
If your baby is already in the habit of being held for sleep and you are ready to sleep train, you can reach out to me and I would love to help walk you through the process of teaching your baby independent sleep! This post just an excerpt of my comprehensive NEWBORN GUIDE, which is a must-have for new parents and teaches all the secrets of how I got both of my babies to sleep 12 hours straight all on their own before 12 weeks old.
Share this post with a new or expectant mom, and share in the comments if your babies loved being held for naps when they were newborns.
Do I look exhausted and stressed in those pics?! That's because I decided it would be fun to travel with a 2 year old and a 6 month old via airplane, by myself, with a layover. Maybe I'm just unlucky, but 50% of the time when I have layovers, I end up missing them or stuck at them for some reason out of my control. And it happened, we were stuck on the tarmac for hours INSIDE the plane, hungry, cranky, past nap time, trying to juggle both kids by myself... But one thing I will say is this: I haven't let two kids stop me from going places. In the last 4 years of having kids, I've taken airplanes, 10 hour road trips, 6 hour road trips, 4 hour road trips, all by myself, and with two little ones. And I've learned a lot. Now, I want to share some of my biggest mistakes so YOU can learn from them and hopefully not make the same mistakes.
Here are my 6 biggest travel mistakes with toddlers and babies:
Mistake #1. I went on a 10 hour road trip and FORGOT MY PURSE AT HOME. Yes, this was my biggest mistakes. I was driving alone with a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a 100 pound dog. I had a list for packing, and had everything checked off the list. Had the car pre-loaded with suitcases, made sure to pack extra diapers and change of clothes and snacks, and charged up the tables. I got 5 hours into the drive and was ready for our first stop, at the halfway point, and realized I HAD LEFT MY PURSE AND WALLET. I was almost out of gas, had no cash, and was too far from home and my parents' house to get to either without more gas. I used my Starbucks app on my phone to get food for our lunch, and luckily was close enough to make it to a branch of my bank. Even though I had a picture of my driver's license and I verified my account number and address... they wouldn't let me withdraw cash at first. Until I started sobbing and told them I couldn't make it home without money for gas. They finally let me withdraw just enough for gas to make it to my destination. Which was awesome. But also meant I had to lug my two toddlers into the gas station to pay at the counter with cash and then run back out and pump my gas. So please learn from my mistake and NEVER LEAVE YOUR PURSE AT HOME on a road trip.
Mistake #2. Not having proof of birth date for an infant on a flight.
I had flown several times with babies and toddlers, and Delta had never required proof of birthdate. So when I flew Southwest with my 6 month old, I didn't have anything and they almost wouldn't let us board (we were out of state, so I didn't have anywhere else to go or any way to get access to her birth certificate). I ended up crying (again!) and begging a manager to let me fly with my 6 month old after I showed her a picture on my phone- when my baby was QUITE OBVIOUSLY under age 2. I learned to always check the specific airline for their policies, and don't assume anything.
Mistake #3. Getting on the plane first when they called for family boarding.
Unless you're on an airline that allows you to choose your own seats, and you're trying to get specific seats, do not board the plane first with babies and toddlers when they call for family boarding. It's just a smaller place for toddlers to sit cooped up for a long time. At least they can run around in the terminal. I always boarded last so we didn't have to sit in the tiny airplane seats as long. Also, I recommend straight flights whenever you can, because I have had terrible experience with layovers. The amount of times I've missed layovers for various reasons or I've even been stuck overnight at a layover location due to weather issues... would be extremely stressful with babies and toddlers. I've also had luggage not make it through the layover. Direct flights are a good idea when flying with babies and toddlers.
Mistake #4. Driving in a hurricane or tropical storm. I have driven on road trips by myself with two toddlers through BOTH a tropical storm AND a hurricane, with rain so hard I couldn't see an inch in front of me. It was terrifying, and when you're on the interstate with nowhere to pull off, it's even scarier. Now, I always check the weather ahead of time and plan my road trips according to the weather.
Mistake #5. Being too rigid with schedule and letting it stress me out. I remember a family beach trip with our 15 month old, and I was SO rigid with his schedule, that I stressed out when we were out late one night at dinner after his bedtime. He was completely fine, and we made up for the lost sleep the next day and he got right back on track. It's important to stick to the schedule as much as you can, but also, sometimes it's ok to loosen up and be flexible every now and then, and let your kids stay up a little late or have a late or early nap, when you're on vacation. Some kids handle it just fine. If your child doesn't handle it well, you can always get them back on track the next day.
Mistake $6. Starting new sleep habits that you don't want to continue. I let my 3 year old son sleep in bed with me every night for a week when I was staying at my parents' house for a visit, and when we got home, it took weeks to break that habit. In the future, I always recommend trying as much as possible to keep the sleep environment as close to your home sleep environment as possible and try not to start new sleep habits that you don't want to continue at home.
Those are just SIX of my travel mistakes with my kids. But I can say that I'm proud I at least venture out with my kids and I'm not afraid to fly with them or take long road trips with them, even by myself. We learn from our mistakes, and we have fun! Thankfully, my kids are great travelers. So don't be afraid to venture out with your little ones. Chances are, it will go better than you think, and it will create wonderful memories.
If your child does get off track with their sleep after a trip, it should only take a couple of days to get them back on track once you get home, so don't stress about it. If you want help, I have a Sleep and Travel Guide that gives tips for traveling and getting good sleep for airplane rides, road trips, beach trips, and a list of my top 10 products for baby and toddler travel. And I also offer a 30 minute consultation before your trip to help you talk through and schedule or sleep challenges you might face on your trip, or tips for getting back on track after the trip!
Do you have any travel stories or mistakes to share? If so, drop them in the comments.
All parents have been there- the dreaded car nap. You're on your way home, and it's not quite nap time yet, and you notice your little one is snoozing away. While some babies hate being in their car seats, for many babies and toddlers, the motion, vibration, and sounds of being in the car will lull them to sleep easily. Unfortunately, even if that car seat nap was only 5 minutes long, it can relieve your child's sleep pressure and make their real nap or bedtime more difficult. Here's how to handle car seat naps:
1. Let your child sleep for as long as you can. The goal is to get as close to a full nap as possible. If you can drive around, or even swing by a Starbucks and grab a treat for yourself, go for it. I have literally driven around my neighborhood over and over for an hour, just to extend my child's car seat nap. While a moving car seat nap isn't ideal, and isn't as restorative as a nap in your child's crib, it's better than nothing. If you know you'll be traveling during a nap time, plan to leave a little early if you can and drive around longer to give your child as close to a full nap as possible.
2. Attempt a transfer. Some babies will transfer from the car seat to their bed seamlessly (especially younger babies). And if the transfer is unsuccessful and they fully wake up when you get in the house, some babies will be fine with a condensed version of their bedtime/naptime routine and put them back down and go right back to sleep.
3. Extend their wake time when you get home. If you can't prolong the car nap or make a successful transfer at home, you will likely need to do a full wake window (or close to it, depending on the length of the nap) before putting your child down again.
4. Wake your baby up in the car. If you notice your child starting to drift off in the car and can catch it before they've been asleep for a few minutes, you may be able to keep them awake by rolling down the windows, playing high energy music, and singing or talking to them. Just make sure you stay focused on driving.
5. Plan ahead. Plan travel for right after naps, instead of before naps, if possible. If you know you'll be driving home late at night or close to bedtime, you can even put your child in a new diaper and their pajamas before your drive home, so the transfer to the bed is easier.
SAFE CAR SEAT SLEEPING
I'll admit that I didn't know this when my first was a baby, until someone pointed it out to me - It is not safe to allow a baby to sleep in the car seat unless the car seat is properly installed in a vehicle and the baby is properly strapped in. It's common to want to pull the infant carrier car seats out of the base and bring them inside to allow them to finish a nap. If you see a friend or family member allowing their baby to sleep in the car seat outside of the car, tell them it's not safe. They may not know.
Sleeping in a car seat while not installed in a moving vehicle is dangerous and can put a baby at risk for positional asphyxiation.
It is not safe to add anything to the car seat with the baby, such as positioners, unless it came with the car seat. It is not safe to add blankets or coats under the straps of the car seat.
If you have a travel system with a stroller attachment, it is safe to allow the baby to sleep in the infant car seat while properly strapped in and properly installed into the stroller that came with the car seat.
CLICK HERE to read more and take an online course called Safe in the Seat that teaches parents car seat safety.
Another danger of car seat sleeping is forgetting a child in the car. Hot car deaths are tragic and too common, especially when parents are sleep deprived. Set your phone in the back of the car so you will have to go open the back door to get it when you get to your destination. This article provides more tips for helping prevent hot car deaths with babies and toddlers.
When I was expecting my second baby, I spent a lot of time worrying . . . Would my firs child feel jealous, left out, less special? Would he act out or have a regression? Would he love the baby? Would I have enough time for him? What would he do when I was stuck nursing on the couch for 40 minutes? Would the baby's naps interfere with our life? How would I handle juggling two kids? Would I be able to love them both the same and give them enough attention? What if I didn't love the new baby as much as I already knew I already loved my toddler? And how would I cope when I couldn't just "sleep when the baby sleeps" when there's also a toddler at home? Would the new baby sleep well, or be fussy and difficult? All these worries crept into my head frequently.
I honestly think the worry of it all stole a lot of the joy from the last few months I had with just my toddler. If I could go back to that time, I would have soaked up those moments even more and pushed those worries out every time they popped into my head. Because the truth? The transition went great. It wasn't perfect, it went much more smoothly than I feared.
It's common for parents to have worries making a transition from one to two kids. It's also common for toddlers to experience regressions when a new sibling comes, but the good news is - it will be ok, and it won't last forever! If your toddler does experience a sleep regression when a new sibling comes into the home, you can be intentional and the regression should only last a few weeks. Here are some tips:
1. Sleep train before new sibling comes, and don't make any big changes right when a new sibling comes.
One of my friends moved her 16 month old, who already wasn't a great sleeper, from his crib, to a toddler bed right when his baby sister arrived, and gave the crib to the new baby, then older brother had a major regression and meltdown, and it lasted for weeks (maybe even months). His sleep got worse and worse. My friend told me she regretted making that change right then, and wished she would have kept him in the crib longer. Don't rush to move your toddler out of their crib too early or drop a nap too early. Many toddlers aren't ready for a big kid bed until at least 3 years old. The good thing about newborns is, even if you want them to eventually have their older sibling's crib, a newborn can sleep in a basinet or a pack n play for months, so you don't have to rush to make the change right away.
If your toddler is not sleep trained and is struggling with sleep, always sleep train and take care of any issues or transitions before the new baby comes.
2. Keep your toddler's schedule and bedtime routine as consistent as possible. Consistency is key for toddlers and sleep. Wake them up at the same time every day, put them down for a nap at the same time every day. Start your bedtime routine and bedtime at the same time every day. Keep the routine consistent.
It can be tempting to just let them sit and play on a phone or watch a show at night before bed while you're dealing with the baby, and I TOTALLY get it if you need something to keep them occupied and you're by yourself at bedtime, but resist the urge to sit them in front of a screen before bed. The blue light from the screen can disrupt sleep, and it also disconnects you from their bedtime routine. Babywearing can save the day when you're by yourself with a new baby and a toddler, especially during the bedtime routine. Try to stay engaged with your toddler and keep that time before bed special for them.
3. Let other people help. I was so grateful for family and friends who helped with my toddler after the new baby was born. They took him for play dates, and entertained him and helped him still feel special so I could focus on the new baby. I remember someone asking how they could help me the first week, and I asked them to come at 7:30AM and get up for the day with my toddler so I could spend the morning with my new baby.
4. Spend special time with your toddler. Put your toddler to bed at least one night a week. Even though it's amazing for people to help with your older child, try to get in at least once a week for bedtime and make it a special time with just you and your toddler, even the first week home with the new baby. Find special time to spend every day with just your toddler, even if it's just a few minutes of play time each day.
5. Don't give in or start any new habit during sleep regressions (or revert back to any old habits). Don't start allowing your toddler back into your bed again in the middle of the night or start laying with them or patting them to sleep. Don't start giving snacks or bottles in the middle of the night again or sleeping on their floor. If you need to, go back to your sleep training technique. It's tempting to feel bad for them for the big changes they're going through and want to give in during bedtime battles or middle of the night wake-ups, but this will only lead to more sleep problems. Sleep is one area it's important to stay strong and consistent.
6. Don't put pressure on your toddler or yourself. I remember the first day we came home from the hospital, one of my friends came over and her toddler was the same age as my son, and her toddler was very interested in my new baby- singing to her and just in awe of her, wanting to "hold" her and was so sweet to her. My son, who was 19 months old, literally didn't care. At first, I felt bad and wanted him to care more. But keep in mind that it's ok for your toddler to not be interested.
Now, my kids are 2 and 4 years old and are literally best friends. They are SO sweet to each other. They never fight. They play together so well. I was worried my son wouldn't like his sister because he didn't care much about her when she was a baby, but that's ok! Don't put pressure on your toddler to respond a certain way.
7. Let your toddler help. If your toddler wants to, give them a special job to help with, such as getting you a burp cloth or clean diaper or singing to the baby. At 19 months, my son was just starting to understand following my directions about getting things for me. He was so proud when he was a big helper.
8. Give your toddler grace, and give yourself grace. If your toddler does start to act out or have a regression in any way, remember that it's normal. It could be a way of seeking attention or acting out their feelings of jealousy or frustration with not having as much of your time. Be patient with them, give them lots of love and grace, and lots of praise for good things. Give yourself grace when you're exhausted and your toddler is melting down and your new baby won't let you set them down, or when your toddler is bored during your 40 minute nursing or bottle feeding session with the sibling. Don't let mom-guilt (or guilt) set in or make you feel like a failure.
9. Give a special new comfort item.
Some people give their toddlers a new gift "from" the new sibling. You could give your toddler a special comfort item for bedtime, such as a stuffed animal or special pillow or blanket or some fun pajamas with their favorite character on them.
10. Don't drop the nap too soon. Even if your toddler starts protesting naps or bedtime, don't make the mistake of dropping it before your toddler is really ready. Most toddlers still need to nap until at least 3 years old (some even longer!). Your toddler needs between 10.5-12 hours of sleep at night and 1-3 hours of sleep during the day. If your child isn't getting enough sleep and becomes overtired, they could end up in an overtired cycle- sleeping worse because of being overtired continuously. Break the cycle and get them back on track by keeping the nap and moving bedtime up earlier.
Give yourself grace with your schedule and going out, your meals, your housework. And remind yourself the season of having a newborn and an older child won't last forever. Eventually, your newborn will be old enough to walk and talk and play and your kids will be playmates and have fun together.
I wish I wouldn't have worried so much during my pregnancy. My son didn't have a major regression, act out, or become jealous. My new baby was very flexible and took some naps at home in her crib, some in the baby carrier or stroller while we went to a park or on a walk or a play date, and some naps in my arms. The love I felt for my son multiplied and I had more than enough love for both of the kids.
Don't stress about your newborn's schedule too much. Teaching good sleep habits from the beginning is important, but newborns are very flexible in many ways. Most can sleep just about anywhere, and they aren't old enough to have a tantrum if you gave them the wrong color of sippy cup or put the show on the TV. Your newborn can sleep in the crib or basinet for some naps, the baby carrier or wrap for others, the stroller or car seat (while properly strapped in and properly installed into the car), or in your arms.
You'll figure it out, I promise! And if your kids do get off track and you need help with their sleep - that's what I'm here for! Reach out, and I'd love to help you get your baby and toddler sleeping great!
You know the feeling . . . you hear a cry at 4:45am and you know it's not going to stop. You groggily roll out of bed and get your child, who is wide awake and ready to start the day, when you're still hours away from when you wanted to start the day, and you feel in a daze from not getting enough sleep, again. If this sounds like your life, I feel your pain! I love my mornings, but only on MY time, not in response to a crying child.
Now imagine this scene: your child goes to bed at 7:30pm and you have the evening to yourself to get anything done you want to get done. You sleep all night and wake up feeling well-rested at 6:45am to get 45 minutes completely to yourself to have your coffee in peace and start your day before your kids ever wake up. At 7:30am, just like you hoped, your toddlers wake up happy and you're ready to greet them.
Those early morning wake-ups can start your day off on the wrong foot and leave you AND your child feeling grumpy and groggy for the rest of the day.
Early morning wake-ups are a common issue for babies and toddlers, because the drive to sleep is the lowest and lightest in the morning, but there are several things you can do to help tackle early morning wake-ups.
1. Control the room environment - Make sure your child's room is as dark as possible, using black-out shades or curtains, so no sunlight can sneak in. Use a white noise machine to block out early morning sounds and help lull your child back to sleep.
2. Teach independent sleep - Use a sleep training method at bedtime and for all nighttime and early morning wake-ups so your child is going to sleep independently, without sleep props.
3. Move bedtime up earlier - It seems counter-intuitive. As adults, the later we go to bed, the later (typically) our bodies want to sleep in, in the morning. For babies and toddlers, their bodies don't begin to work like that until later on in childhood. The later you keep them up and the more overtired they become, the earlier they tend to wake up. If your child's bedtime is too late and you're facing consistent early-wake-ups, it may be time to move bedtime up earlier.
4. Make sure your child gets adequate sleep each day - If your child is getting too little or too much daytime sleep, or if wake windows aren't age appropriate, you could face early wake-ups. If naps are not going well and your child is overtired, work on nap training. If your child is getting TOO MUCH daytime sleep, that can also lead to early morning wake ups.
5. For toddlers, use a toddler alarm clock - My kids are 2 and 4 years old, and they go to bed around 7pm and wake up around 7am, but I set their toddler alarm clock for 7:34am and they play happily together in my son's room until the clock changes, which lets them know it's ok to come downstairs. This gives me enough alone time for myself in the mornings. Toddlers alarm clocks aren't typically effective for kids under age 2.5 years.
6. Keep an appropriate daytime schedule - If you let your child start the nap SUPER early based on that early morning wake up, you're only reinforcing the early wake up. Start your nap at the correct time for your desired wakeup time. You may be dealing with a grump for the first few days as your baby adjusts, but it will get better. Early morning wake ups could also mean it's time for a nap transition. Evaluate naps and wake windows to see if it's time to make a schedule change.
7. Have appropriate expectations - Keep in mind that babies and toddlers need between 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep. So if you put your child to bed at 7pm, any wakeup time between 6am-7am is appropriate. Your child doesn't need MORE than 12 hours of nighttime sleep, because awake time is important for growth, feeding, and development. A normal circadian rhythm for a baby and toddler is a bedtime between 6-8pm and a morning wakeup time between 6-8am. If your baby continually wakes up at 6am, even though it may not be as late as you WISH, it's still an appropriate wakeup time (and once they're old enough for a toddler clock, you can set it for later and let them play quietly in their room until you want to get up!).
8. It may just be a temporary regression - Babies and toddlers go through sleep regressions regularly. It could be a time when they're learning a new skill or going through a developmental milestone. It often can lead to disrupted nights and early morning wake ups. If you stay consistent and don't revert back to any old habits, or start new ones (resist the urge to bring them to your bed to cuddle/sleep for another few hours during an early morning wake up!), your child should get back on track within 1-2 weeks.
If your child does not have skills for independent sleep or you're trying these tips and it's still not working, I would love to help you get your child sleeping all night. Reach out to find out how I can help you get your baby or toddler sleeping 11-12 hours straight at night, and beat those early morning wake ups and enjoy sleeping in (or enjoy your coffee in peace by yourself in the mornings!).
Does every parent need a sleep consultant to sleep train their baby? No. Some parents do fine, and some babies pick it up great without a sleep consultant! And also, sleep training isn't for everybody. Some babies sleep well on their own without sleep training, and some parents may be ok with helping their baby to sleep for every nighttime wakeup. So why would someone want to hire a sleep consultant, and what difference does a sleep consultant make? Great questions!
Why should someone hire a sleep consultant?
1. Hiring a sleep consultant means you have a baby and toddler sleep expert at your fingertips. This is especially important if you're tired and don't have the mental or physical energy to research sleep training methods, schedules, nap training, night weaning, best products, regressions, and more. A sleep consultant has gone through a training and certification process to learn the science behind baby sleep, understands all of the methods and how they fit with each baby's personality and sleep challenges, and have a big-picture understanding of sleep at different ages and stages. The sleep consultant can help you choose the technique that would be the best fit for your baby and your needs.
2. Support is key. You can read a book or an article about sleep training, or listen to what worked for a friend, or find info online about sleep training. For some people, that's enough. But others may need help figuring out how to troubleshoot when something isn't working, or how to apply the technique in your situation, or how to fix something that didn't work well. That's what a sleep consultant can do that your book or online article can't do. A sleep consultant can give tips and advice, problem solving and troubleshooting, advice, answers, and support throughout the process. When I work with clients, I am with them every day for two weeks, available to answer any question they may have or help fix any issue that comes up. In my opinion, the support is the key factor in success in sleep training.
3. Accountability and encouragement. Having a sleep consultant means you have someone there to make sure you're executing the sleep training technique and schedule correctly and cheer you on with every success. I do daily evaluations of sleep logs with my clients and celebrate wins with them every step of the way.
4. You can save time, money, and frustration. I've actually talked with parents who have spent over $1,000 on products to help their babies sleep: special basinets, swaddles, sound machines, pacifiers, swaddle transitions, sleep positioners, light projectors, swings, medications or supplements - these are all things parents buy out of desperation and frustration, with hopes of magically getting their baby to sleep. Many parents I've worked with have spent months trying different methods. Instead of trying 30 different things and wasting time and money, a sleep consultant can come in and do an assessment of your baby and your sleep challenges, write a personalized sleep plan, and have your baby sleeping all night in two weeks without the months of frustration and stress.
What does a sleep consultant do?
Assessment and Sleep Plan - I gather information from families in an in-depth intake form, then do an assessment of the baby, the baby's personality and sleep challenges, the parents, and their goals and needs. I collect sleep logs to evaluate and look for patterns and challenges in the baby's schedule. Then I put that information together to form a personalized sleep plan that includes a custom daily schedule, nap information and training methods, wake windows, a sleep training method, a FAQ sheet, a regression guide, a bedtime routine, and an easy step-by-step guide that tells parents what to do in every situation that may come up. I also include a section on the sleep environment and conduct a nursery tour and evaluation. I go over the sleep plan with parents and answer any questions they may have. I
Implementation - On the night of the implementation of sleep training, I offer bedtime support for all parents, giving in-the-moment virtual support as they execute the sleep training method.
Support - For the next two weeks, I collect daily sleep logs for evaluation and provide daily support as needed.
Is there crying involved?
My methods aren't cookie cutter, so it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. I choose the sleep training method I think would be the best fit for each baby or toddler. There will almost always be some crying involved in sleep training, because that's how babies protest change, but my goal as a sleep consultant is to help minimize the crying by putting all of the pieces together to help the baby succeed in learning independent sleep with the least amount of frustration. I help minimize crying by making sure each family has the right wake windows and daytime schedule, the right amount of naps, the right time for bedtime, the right bedtime routine, the right sleep environment, the right sleep training method, and I help make sure it's executed properly. So while yes, there is usually some crying involved, and I understand how hard it is to hear (I'm a mama too!!), many of my clients would say it went much better than they expected, and that it was all worth it!
I like to compare hiring a sleep consultant to hiring a personal trainer. Does everyone need a workout program or a personal trainer to get in shape? No! Some people can read a book about exercise, or an article online, and can choose the right workout to do for their body and their challenges and goals all on their own without personal help. Some people can troubleshoot when something isn't working or when they aren't doing an exercise correctly, and can correct themselves all on their own without an expert's advice. But other people benefit from a personal trainer to choose the right workout for their body and their goals, to hold them accountable and provide follow-up support and advice. I hired a personal trainer last summer and was in the best shape of my life! I couldn't have done it without the personal trainer. She helped ensure my success.
And as a sleep consultant, I'm here to help ensure the success of my clients, and help make the process enjoyable. My goal is to support and empower parents to get their kids sleeping all night, because I know getting enough sleep is life changing, and not just for the child, but for the whole family! When parents have an expert giving instructions, they can be confident they're doing the right thing during sleep training, and know that as long as they follow the sleep plan, their child will be sleeping all night in two weeks!
If you aren't sure if a sleep consultant is for you, or which package you should choose, I would love to talk with you and answer any questions you may have. All of my services are virtual and can be done from anywhere, and I offer free 15 minute phone consultations if you want more information. I would love to help you reach your sleep goals for your child!
The transition from crib to toddler bed is one many toddlers make due to either necessity (parents need the crib from a new baby), hope for better sleep (child who is bed-sharing with parents or struggling to sleep in the crib), climbing out of the crib, or because they have simply outgrown their pack n play or sleeping space. While the transition goes smoothly for some toddlers, it's a huge adjustment for others.
After moving to a toddler bed, one of my kids never tried to get out of bed or thought to leave his room, and the other needed to be secured in her room with a lock because she always tried to escape. One night, when I forgot to secure her door, an hour after I put her to bed, she raided my nail polish and painted her nails, and proudly came to the living room to show me!
These eight tips will help you make the toddler bed transition smoothly.
1. Get the timing right. This is the first and most important point. If a child transitions to a toddler bed too early, they will likely not have the capability to understand staying put and staying safe. Many kids aren't ready until at least 3 years old (or older!), although some may be fine before 3. Also, try not to make the transition at the same time as other big changes in your toddler's life, such as a new sibling being born or starting at a new school.
2. If possible, sleep train before moving to the toddler bed. Sleep issues aren't likely to just go away once a child moves to a toddler bed. They may even get worse. If your child is not sleep trained yet, and is still in a crib, it is recommended to make sure your child can get to sleep independently and sleep all night before you transition to a toddler bed. While it is possible to sleep train in a toddler bed, it's more challenging, and sleep issues can become worse with the freedom of a toddler bed. Once your toddler is at the right age and is sleeping 10.5 - 12 hours a night and going to sleep independently, they will likely continue to sleep well after transitioning to a toddler bed.
3. Make it special. Choose special blankets and sheets for your child, to help build excitement about the toddler bed. You can let your child help pick out their new bedding. A new comfort item, such as a blankie or stuffed animal. Spend time playing in their room during the day, so they have positive associations with their bedroom.
4. Keep your schedule and bedtime routine the same. Don't make any big changes in the schedule (such as dropping a nap) when you transition to a toddler bed. Keep bedtime the same time each night, and keep your bedtime routine consistent.
5. Make sure the room is safe. You can use toddler safety rails on the sides of their bed to keep them from falling out of bed. Put straps or anchors on heavy furniture so it can't fall on them. Use outlet covers and safety locks on dresser drawers. These can be used on bi-fold closet doors, and these can be used on pull-down door handles. For regular door knobs, you can use a child safety lock such as this, or a Door Monkey to keep your child safely inside the room. You can use a light switch cover like as this to cover the light switch. Make sure cords, baby monitors, cords for the blinds or curtains, sound machines are out of reach.
6. Talk to them about it. Before the transition, tell them they're going to sleep in a big bed. Be very positive, but be careful not to be too dramatic about it, or it could actually cause more anxiety than they would have had otherwise. When I moved both of mine to their toddler beds, I told them what was going to happen, but didn't make it too big of an ordeal, and they both transitioned easily.
7. Start in the new bed at bedtime (not nap time). Do your regular bedtime routine, lay them down in their bed awake, tell them you love them, and tell them it's time to go to sleep and you'll see them in the morning. Then walk out of the room and secure the room so they can't get out. You can use a video baby monitor to make sure they're safe. Don't linger in their room, lay in bed with them, or stay until they are completely asleep. Your child may stay in the bed and go right to sleep, or may get curious with the newfound freedom and experiment with walking around the room. Don't go back in or engage with them too much unless they're unsafe.
8. Don't start any new habits or make too many changes. I don't recommend making too many changes to your child's room (other than extreme baby proofing). Some sources on the internet recommend adding new nightlights to the room when you switch to a toddler bed, but that can be too stimulating for your child. If your child is already sleeping well in their room, no need to add anything different, like new lights. If toys are too stimulating and your child wants to stay up and play with toys, you can remove the toys or hide them in the closet at night.
Your child may need a few days to adjust to the new bed, and may struggle with bedtime or nighttime wakes in the first few days. Be patient and stay consistent. Resist the urge to lay down with them or start new habits. It will get better!
I don't recommend attempting to do a very gradual transition, which is what some sources online recommend: where the parent lays with the child in bed, or pats their back to get them to sleep, or lets the child sleep in the toddler bed part of the night and the parent's bed the other part. Those things can be confusing for your child, and you'd just be setting them up for new habits you would have to break later. I would recommend starting the way you want them to go on. It's ok to do naps in the toddler bed right after they make the transition. It could be even more confusing if you try to do nighttime sleep in the toddler bed and naps still in the crib or a parent's bed. Toddlers need consistency, clear boundaries, and strong limits.
If your child has trouble staying in bed in the mornings, you can use a toddler alarm clock that is set to go off at a certain time each morning.
If your child goes through a major sleep regression or has a lot of trouble with getting to sleep at night, nighttime wake-ups, or early morning wake-ups after you make the transition to a toddler bed, I would love to talk with you and help you work through those issues.
Parents all want that magic pill to get our kids to instantly go to bed without whining or stalling, sleep 12 hours straight, and wake up happy in the morning. Or maybe a magic pill to make them eat all their food without complaining too . . . right? If you find one like that, tell me about it!
I've been the mom who has fought with her toddlers for hours to get them to go to bed, all while going over a list in my head of things I needed to get done as soon as they were asleep. I've been the mom, dreading bedtime because I knew it was going to be a battle. And I've also been the mom who gave her toddlers melatonin every night for months. And while it may have put a bandaid on the problem and solved it in the short-term, it didn't solve the root of their sleep issues. That's what sleep training does.
What is melatonin? Melatonin is a natural hormone our bodies make that tells us we're getting sleepy. It helps regulate our circadian clocks and our wake/sleep cycles. The over-the-counter form of melatonin you can buy in gummy or liquid form for your kids is a synthetic form of the hormone that mimics our natural melatonin.
Is it safe?
If you've already given your toddler or child melatonin or if you're considering it, here are a few things to consider about melatonin:
Is it necessary and beneficial?
Melatonin supplements (with you doctor's consent) can help kids fall asleep quickly, but the good news is - kids don't need melatonin supplements, because their bodies already make it naturally. You can help encourage their bodies to produce melatonin naturally and end their bedtime battles, so they can go to sleep easily and quickly, and stay asleep all night long, all without giving them supplements!
How to Get Your Kids to Sleep Without Melatonin
After the 2 year sleep regression, when my kids were struggling at bedtime and taking a long time to fall asleep, I did give them melatonin every night. But once I discovered the natural ways to help them get to sleep easily, I cut the melatonin cold turkey one night and applied bedtime sleep training methods (they were both already sleeping through the night). After a few nights of consistency and patience, they caught on quickly and began to go to sleep on their own, within minutes of being laid down, without a bedtime battle and stay asleep for 11-12 hours. It is possible! It just takes consistency and intentionality.
We do still have melatonin gummies for kids on hand, for situations where they may need extra help (such as traveling, days when their schedule is off track, etc.), but we honestly haven't used it in many months. They don't need it. They never did need it; I just didn't know how to help them get to sleep easily without it.
Things that will help your kids get to sleep without melatonin:
Many bedtime battles take place because a child relies on a parent to get to sleep. The child doesn't know how to get to sleep on their own, or may have regressed into an old habit of needing to be rocked to sleep, patted to sleep, or have a parent's presence to get to sleep. They may have gotten into the habit of asking for water five times before bed, needing more and more engagement from the parent, asking for snacks, or doing anything they can to manipulate or drag out the bedtime process. It's not only exhausting for parents, but it interferes with the child's sleep and can have many negative effects on them. I've worked with families who have kids who went from hours of bedtime battles and frustration every night, to falling asleep on their own, without crying, within minutes of being laid down. When you start sleep training, prepare to be consistent, committed, and intentional. Don't just wing it; go in with a plan. If you need help, I would love to help walk you through this process. Reach out if you want to know more about my services.
Unfortunately, I don't have a magic pill for getting kids to go to sleep quickly, quietly, and easily, all on their own, and stay asleep all night. But sleep training is the next best thing! It's almost like magic.
*NOTE: This is not medical advice; seek your doctor's recommendation before you give anything to your child.
Both of my babies loved being swaddled as newborns, and both of them transitioned out of the swaddle around 2-3 months old. My first was sleeping 11 hours straight at night around 10 weeks old, and my second was sleeping 11-12 hours straight before 10 weeks old. The transition out of the swaddle went great for both of them, because they already had good sleep habits and knew how to get themselves to sleep.
Starting your baby in a tight and cozy swaddle as a newborn will help them feel secure and will reduce their startle reflex, which will help them sleep better. When your baby is a newborn, work on independent sleep skills.
While many parents get nervous about this transition, it almost always goes more smoothly than imagined. Here are some tips about when and how to transition out of the swaddle.
If your baby has a hard time during the transition out of the swaddle, give them a night or two to adjust, and they'll usually get back on track quickly on their own. If you haven't sleep trained yet, this is a great time to start sleep training! If you need help, reach out, and I would love to help you!
Below are some of the swaddles, sleep sacks, and transitional swaddles I recommend.
Leave a comment and share below - when did you stop swaddling, and how did your baby do with the transition?
The first thing I want to say is this: if you enjoy nursing your baby to sleep, and are fine with doing it for bedtime and all wake-ups in the night and naps, and it's working for you - that is fine! There's no need to change anything.
I breastfed both of my babies for over a year, and both of my babies were sleeping completely through the night (11-12 hours straight) without night feedings before 12 weeks old. They did this all on their own- no crying or forced night weaning. This post is not about night weaning or completely weaning from breastfeeding. It's not about your decision to breastfeed, exclusively pump, formula feed, or a mixture or combo of any of those. Those are personal decisions, and the right choice for you is the one that works for you! I'm not advocating breastfeeding over any other type of feeding. I'm a fan of feeding babies, however you want to feed them.
This post is for those mamas who enjoy feeding their baby, but want to help their babies learn independent sleep skills.
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding babies to sleep is common, and it is also natural. Breastfeeding (especially at night) releases sleepy hormones to moms and babies, and it's a natural way to cuddle and comfort your baby. I've done it with my own babies! And I've used it as a "secret weapon" to get them back to sleep when nothing else worked or when my son had ear infections as an infant and couldn't be calmed any other way. I enjoyed the sleepy milk comas and cuddles with my babies as they nursed to sleep cuddled in my arms. It's sweet, I get it. But I also knew that for me, it was important for others (daycare workers, husband, babysitters) to be able to put my babies to sleep, and I didn't want nursing to sleep to be the only way they could get to sleep.
If you're ok with nursing to sleep and it's working for you - YOU GO! That's awesome. If it's NOT working for you, here are some tips to help:
Feeding to sleep can cause babies to not get full feedings, and wake up sooner because they're hungry. When they get full feedings, they're likely to sleep better and longer because they're full. It can cause them to wake up more in the night because when they transition from one sleep cycle to another, feeding to sleep is the only way they know how to get back to sleep, so instead of putting themselves back to sleep and connecting sleep cycles, they are crying until they get fed to sleep again.
I've worked with moms who nursed or bottle fed to sleep and thought their babies would grow out of it, and still at age 2-3 years old, the child needed the mom to nurse them to sleep for every nap and bedtime, and all throughout the night. Once a baby has developed a feed-to-sleep association, it's not likely the baby will give it up and learn independent sleep all on their own without being taught, which is what sleep training does.
To break your child's feed-to-sleep association, be intentional and consistent with sleep training, and your child can learn to go to sleep completely on their own. If you want to continue to breastfeed during the day (or even keep night feedings if your baby needs them), you can do that as long as you want to!
I've helped many moms who had been feeding their babies to sleep, and during our time together, we were able to teach their babies to go to sleep on their own. Imagine being able to cuddle your baby and then lay them down in their crib wide awake, walk out of the room, and watch on the monitor as your baby smiles and coos and falls asleep all on their own within a few minutes. The easiest way to not nurse to sleep is to not ever start that habit - to start from day one allowing your newborn to fall asleep without feeding (which is what I did). But if you missed that window and it's already become a habit, there's never a time when it's TOO LATE to break that habit. You can start today. As long as you have a plan and stay consistent, your child can learn independent sleep! And if you want help, I would love to help you with this! Click HERE to read about my sleep training packages.