What are sleep props, and how can we avoid them? Sleep props are anything that helps your child (and YOU!) get to sleep. They can both helpful OR detrimental to good sleep.
If the sleep prop isn't available, and your child has a dependence on it to get to sleep, your child can have a difficult time getting to sleep.
Some common sleep props are:
Not all of these are bad—some are very helpful and recommended! The best sleep props are the ones that don't involve you. Your child can learn to get to sleep independently without you doing anything to get the child to sleep; that's sleep training—breaking the sleep associations that involve you so your child gets to sleep independently and can therefore get back to sleep connecting sleep cycles all night long.
The sleep props that are good are: swaddling (only for 8 weeks and under), sound machine, pacifier (as long as the parent doesn't replace it), blackout curtains, and comfort items (only for age 12 months and older).
Here are tips for avoiding sleep associations that do involve you getting your child to sleep:
If you need help with sleep training, reach out, and I will be glad to help you break sleep associations so your child can sleep great!
The term "cry it out" has gotten a lot of attention, and even some backlash, as people debate over whether or not to use a technique known as "Extinction" when sleep training. All parents are nervous about hearing their child cry, and as a mother of two, I understand that! But sleep training does not always mean "Cry it Out" and it doesn't always mean your child will be alone, or will be crying for hours.
A few months ago, I talked with a young mom and self-employed business owner with a 7 month old baby boy. She had been feeding him to sleep and he was waking every 1-2 hours every night, and not napping well. She was terrified of hearing her baby cry, and after listening to my plan on day one of working with me, she seemed skeptical that it would work the way I said. The first night, as she executed the sleep training method with confidence, after the bedtime routine and a day of good naps, her baby cried on and off for 25 minutes, and woke only once in the night for a few minutes, then put himself to sleep. The next night, her baby fell asleep within minutes all on his own, with only a few minutes of light fussing, and he slept through the night and woke up happy at 7am the next morning. The next night, and from that night on, he went to sleep without any crying, and slept through the night. He started napping great and thrived on the new schedule, and it was life changing for this family! She had tried sleep training on her own before working with me, and didn't know which method to use or whether or not she was doing it right, and gave up after a few days with no success. She assumed sleep training meant "CIO" and she was afraid to leave her baby alone in a room to cry for hours. But with the right puzzle pieces fit together in the right way, sleep training was smooth and easy, and both baby and mother are happy and well-rested!
If you're considering sleep training, and you're nervous about your child crying and you're wondering what method is right for you, here are some things to consider:
1. There is only one true "NO CRY SLEEP TRAINING" method and that is starting from the beginning, as you want to go on. I did this with both of my babies, starting from day one, and they did not need to "cry it out" later on. The reason babies or toddlers cry during sleep training is because they are protesting the change from breaking sleep associations (aka: sleep props) of things they have become dependent upon to get to sleep, such as rocking, feeding or nursing, being held, stroking a parent's arm, a parent's presence, etc. If you start out from day one laying your baby down awake and allowing them to go to sleep on their own without your help, they won't develop sleep associations that are dependent upon the parent.
2. There will be tears involved in any sleep training method. If you didn't start from the beginning with independent sleep, that''s ok! You can sleep train any time you're ready. Your baby or toddler is always ready for good sleep. Be prepared for the fact that there will be tears involved in any sleep training method you choose. Some methods that may be labeled as "gentle" can even lead to MORE crying and dragging the whole process out for days, weeks, or even months. Each sleep training method involves a child learning independent sleep skills and self soothing. As you remove parental assistance and sleep props, and as they learn skills for independent sleep, they will protest and there will likely be at least some amount of crying, but it will be worth it and will lead to better sleep for your child and for you.
3. The right method. Choosing the RIGHT sleep training method for your child will minimize the crying. There are several different sleep training methods you can use, and choosing the right method to fit your child's personality and needs will lead to the least amount of overall crying, and will be most effective and successful.
4. Consistency. Once you are sure you have chosen the right method for your child, being 100% consistent and committed to it will lead to the least amount of crying. When parents start sleep training, then "give in" and bring their child back to their bed or ditch the sleep training method during some of the nighttime wakings, this is confusing for the child, and can lead to more stress and more crying during sleep training. Babies thrive on consistency. A consistent schedule, a consistent and predictable bedtime routine, and a consistent sleep training method will make the whole process easier on your child.
5. The right schedule. Choosing the right daytime schedule can make a big impact on the amount of crying during sleep training. If your child's wake windows are too long or too short, or they are getting too much or too little daytime sleep, or if bedtime is too late or too early, it can lead to more crying at bedtime. You can minimize the crying during sleep training by making sure you're using a consistent, age appropriate schedule with proper wake windows and an adequate amount of daytime sleep.
6. The right bedtime routine and the right room environment. If your bedtime routine is too long or too short, too stimulating, or causing too much drowsiness, or includes snacks too close to bedtime, or too much screen time, these can all lead to more crying. If the bedroom environment is too stimulating or too light, or unsafe, it can lead to more crying.
Some people think of sleep training as only shutting a baby alone in a dark room all night and not opening the door at all until morning while they cry for hours and hours. This is not the only way to sleep train! There are other methods you can use, and there are ways to minimize the amount of crying.
Crying is a natural protest response to change, and it's normal and expected for babies and toddlers to cry during sleep training. Crying doesn't hurt babies and doesn't cause any damage, but it is hard for parents to hear, and there are ways to minimize the crying during sleep training as much as possible. That's my goal as a sleep consultant!
If you want help putting together the perfect plan with every piece to the puzzle in place in a way that fits for your child and your family, I would love to help you! My services include developing a personalized plan based on each child, including a daytime schedule, a bedtime routine, a guide for night weaning, a sleep training method and accountability and feedback as you execute the method. Most of the clients I work with are nervous about the crying part of sleep training, and most of them are pleasantly surprised at how little their child ended up crying overall and how smoothly the process goes when working with me. If you're not sure if it's for you and want to talk, I offer free 15 minute phone consultations!
I remember being a new mom and crying in the evening with my sweet baby, who was crying and inconsolable. I had tried feeding, changing, rocking, and wasn't sure what was wrong with my young baby. I remember sitting on the couch just crying and feeling horrible because I couldn't help him and make him stop crying. My twin sister (whose kids were a few years older than mine) told me it was the "witching hour" and it would go away soon . . . and she was right! The fussy, inconsolable evenings didn't last forever, and I learned some tips and tricks that made the evenings a bit more bearable.
What is the witching hour?
The "witching hour" is a time period usually between 5-6pm until 11pm where young babies are extra fussy, even inconsolable. It normally starts around 3 weeks old and peaks at 6 weeks old, and tends to taper off around 12 weeks old.
What causes it?
There isn't an exact known cause, but these are five are reasons newborn babies are typically fussy. The baby may be . . .
1. Gassy - I've heard many breastfeeding new moms say they feel guilty when their new babies are gassy because it must be something they've eaten, and while in some rare cases, a mother's food may affect the baby through the breastmilk if the baby has a true food allergy or sensitivity, in the majority of cases, new babies are gassy simply because their digestive tracts are new and still working out the kinks and crying can also lead to sucking in more air, which causes more gas. It's very normal for new babies to be gassy, whether they are breastfed or formula fed.
2. Overtired - Newborn babies have very short wake windows. If they end up staying awake too long or not getting enough sleep, they can easily become overtired, which in turn, causes them to become more fussy and makes it even harder for them to get to sleep.
3. Hungry - Especially for breastfed babies, the prolactin levels in breastmilk are at the lowest in the early evening so babies may cry or cluster feed to get more milk. It doesn't always mean they need supplementation, but cluster feeding itself can do the job of building a stronger supply.
4. Overstimulated - It's easy for newborns to become overstimulated.
5. Experiencing a Growth Spurt - Babies go through a major growth spurt at 6 weeks old, and may become extra tired, extra hungry, or extra fussy (or all three), and sleep is often at its worst at 6 weeks.
Here are 10 tips to survive the witching hour:
The Five S's - Use the technique to help calm fussy babies. Do these steps in this order, all at once.
Change of Scenery - Go outside or to another room, or even to a friend or relative's house. Standing out on the back porch was a common occurrence during the evening hours when my babies were newborns.
Use a Baby Carrier - When my baby was very fussy, I knew I could usually calm her down with a ride in a cozy baby carrier (like this one) and a walk around the house or the neighborhood.
A Dark, Quiet Room - Babies who are overstimulated may need to go somewhere dark and boring, with white noise (or background noise, such as a TV show). My newborn baby spent many evenings cuddled in my arms in my bedroom at night, watching re-runs of The Office, which seemed to calm her.
Cluster Feed - Let the baby nurse or feed as much as they need during this time. It can help calm them and help build a strong breastmilk supply for nursing mamas.
Sleep - Help an overtired baby get to sleep and prevent over tiredness by watching daytime wake windows and making sure they aren't awake longer than an hour at the most.
Bath - Some newborns hate the bath, but if you can master the newborn bath, many babies love them and are relaxed by them. You can even get in a bath with your baby. A key I learned is keeping a warm and wet washcloth over the parts of their body that are exposed to the cold air helps them stay warmer and enjoy the bath.
Lotion and Massage - Many babies love massages, and scents can be relaxing and calming for babies.
Ask for Help - It's ok to call a friend or family member to come help while you go rest or take a break. Dealing with a crying baby can be emotionally taxing, and getting help is important.
Use a swing - Swings with rhythmic motions and different sounds (or moving mobiles) can hep distract fussy babies. Try different sounds, such as shushing sounds, ocean, music, or white/pink noise. *Note: only use a swing when your baby is awake and supervised, as these are not safe for sleep.
If all else fails, grab a glass of wine and tell yourself it won't last forever! I know it seems like forever when you're holding an inconsolable baby, but those newborn days will fly by, and before you know it, your child will be a 2 year old, running around playing and laughing. So tell yourself it's just a season and you will get through it.
Did your baby experience the witching hour? What did you do to get through it? Leave a comment and share!
Growing up with a twin sister, my sister and I always shared a room, and we always loved it. I can remember many nights of staying up late talking... and talking... and talking! I can remember jumping from bed to bed when as kids when we were supposed to be sleeping, waking each other up to tell each other about our dreams, rearranging our room and coming up with fun ways to decorate it. We never wished for our own rooms. Many siblings do enjoy room sharing, even if they don't physically have to. My kids are 2 and 4 years old and they love sharing a bedroom, even though they each have their own rooms. They are best friends, and will beg for me to put my daughter's mattress on her brother's floor sometimes.
Room sharing can be great for sibling bonding, and can help babies and toddlers feel comforted by each other's presence, and it can also be a space-saver if needed! Here are five tips for getting great sleep when siblings are room sharing:
1. Sleep train first. If one of your kids is not sleeping well, sleep train before moving them into the same room (if possible). It can be helpful to move the sibling who does sleep well to another space temporarily during the initial days of sleep training, when sleep will likely be the most disrupted. If both kids need to be sleep trained, and you're planning to use the same method for both kids, it's fine to keep them both together in the room for sleep training.
2. Use a sound machine. A white noise machine between the two beds can help mask the sounds. Don't rush in or worry that a little fussing from one in the night will wake up the other. They can learn to sleep through it and ignore it. My older child can sleep through his little sister crying loudly, even when she's right next to him. The white noise helps, but they can also learn to sleep through each other.
3. Aim for their morning wake-up time to be the same. If their sleep needs differ, it's fine to stagger bedtime and put one of them to bed earlier than the other. Aim for them to wake up at close to the same time, and if they're old enough, you can use a toddler alarm clock and allow them to play together until it turns green. My kids are 2 and 4, and they both go to bed around 7pm and wake up just before 7am (or a little after 7am), and they play together in my son's bedroom until his toddler clock flashes at 7:35am.
4. Calming, consistent bedtime routine. Make sure the room is dark, safe, and not too stimulating at bedtime. Do a calming and consistent bedtime routine so they are both ready for sleep when you lay them, down, rather than walking out while they are still energized and in "play mode."
5. Clear expectations and boundaries. The first time my kids shared a room, my daughter was a year old and in a pack-n-play, and her brother was 2.5 years old and in a toddler bed, and he helped her climb out of the crib and they started playing. I came in and was very firm and clear that this was not acceptable, and after that, I staggered their bedtime, so the baby went to bed first and then older brother went to bed. Now that they're older, they both understand boundaries and expectations and when they do have a sleepover in the same room, they know they aren't allowed to get out of their beds. Let your kids know ahead of time what the expectations are, and stay firm with sticking to them. Naptime may be more challenging for room-sharing siblings since their drive to sleep isn't as strong as nighttime, and may go better if you separate them during nap time or "quiet time" if they aren't napping.
Although some people may have negative associations associated with siblings sharing a bedroom these days, keep in mind that siblings have been sharing bedrooms for centuries. Kids having their own private bedrooms is relatively new, and is Western norm. Across the globe, sibling room-sharing is very common. Kids can bond, thrive, and learn relational skills while room-sharing with siblings. It can be a very positive experience.
What about you? Did you share a room with a sibling growing up? Did you enjoy it? Do your kids share a room? Leave a comment and share!
Being a mom these days means being subjected to a hundred opinions and options about every aspect of parenting. Especially with social media, we may experience judgement, criticism, comparison, unsolicited advice, or "mom shaming" on how we raise our kids, how we deliver our babies, how we feed our babies, the things we do or don't do with our babies, and for sleep training. I've seen other moms go as far as accusing moms of child abuse for sleep training. Not only is this completely ridiculous and untrue, but it is a very harmful mentality and accusation. So you're exhausted. You're desperate. You decide to sleep train your baby. What do you do when you hear negativity and judgement from family, friends, neighbors, or strangers on social media?
1. You do what works for you. The amazing thing about being a parent is -- we can all choose how we want to raise our own kids! You are the parent of your child, and you have the freedom to parent and raise them how you feel is best. If what you're doing is working for you, GO FOR IT! No one HAS to sleep train their child. As long as kids are safe, there are a lot of different ways of parenting, and that doesn't make one person's ways RIGHT and another person's WRONG. They are just different. And that's ok! Embrace it. Remind others that they are free to parent their kids however they want, and you'll do the same. It's ok to say "If you don't want to sleep train your baby, you don't have to."
2. Stand your ground with confidence. You do what's right for you and your family. If sleep deprivation (which can be a major health risk and mental health risk for parents) isn't working for you, and if your baby is fussy and not content because they aren't getting enough sleep, and you choose to sleep train - be confident in your decision. Let the haters' comments roll off. Don't let the comments of others make you feel guilty or shameful for doing what's right for you and your family. If someone mom-shames you for sleep training your baby, it's ok to ignore them or even tell them "I'm doing what's best for my family."
3. Lift up other moms. We are all trying our best. We're all doing what we feel is right. We are all struggling and tired. We're in this together. Let's lift each other up, encourage each other, and embrace the fact that we're all different, and that's ok. Be an advocate for supporting and cheering each other on.
4. Don't engage in debates, but do provide facts and truth. Sleep training is not abuse. It is not harmful in any way for babies. Despite what some people think, there are actually no studies or research that proves sleep training harms babies (emotionally OR physically) in any way. In fact, the only studies that have been done on it have shown no negative affects in the short term OR long term. I've seen articles shared on social media that claim to provide "facts" and evidence that support the notion that sleep training harms babies. I've read them. They are filled with opinions. Don't confuse opinions with actual science and facts. There aren't any studies that prove sleep training hurts babies.
Sleep training was the best decision I made when my babies were infants. They were both happy, content, and well-rested, and I was happy and well-rested too. Long-term sleep deprivation can suck the life out of a parent, and getting enough sleep can literally be life-changing. If you are sleep training and someone tries to make you feel bad about it or throw shade, let it roll off. Don't throw stones back; throw kindness back at them -- they may be speaking out of their own insecurities. Don't let anyone make you feel bad for doing what's right for your family.
Just when you think your little one is sleeping great, and has their scheduled nailed . . . BAM. A sleep regression can hit and mess it all up! Sleep regressions, or temporary disruptions in a baby or toddler's sleep, are very normal. The good news is - in most cases, they are temporary!
What are the signs of a sleep regression?
A child who has been sleeping well, who normally starts waking up more in the nighttime, taking longer to fall asleep at night, fighting or refusing naps, or waking up early in the morning. They can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks.
What causes a sleep regression?
They are typically caused by developmental milestones and new skills (such as sitting, rolling, crawling, walking, talking). They can also be caused by growth spurts or changes in their routine, such as starting daycare, potty training, a crib to bed transition, or a new sibling. They can be caused by illness or teething, or travel. Basically, almost anything can cause a temporary regression, or sleep disruption. But don't fear! I'm sharing tips about how to handle them.
When do regressions happen?
There are typical ages for sleep regressions:
The Dreaded 4 Month Regression
This is the only sleep regression that isn't temporary. It's a permanent change in how your baby sleeps. It's when their sleep cycles become more like an adult's, and all babies go through this change. If they already have good skills for independent sleep, they may not be as affected as other babies, but if they have been used to being fed to sleep or rocked to sleep, or helped to sleep, even if they were sleeping well before this regression, they typically experience a lot of nighttime wake-ups during this time. This is a perfect time to sleep train! If you don't sleep train after this regression, the baby's sleep may not ever magically improve on its own.
6, 8, 10, 12 Months
During these times, babies begin teething and learning new skills, such as crawling, sitting, and pulling up. They also go through growth spurts, and their wake windows lengthen. Any of these can lead to a temporary regression.
18 Months & 2 Years
During this time, toddlers may experience teething (the 2 year molars... OUCH), separation anxiety peaking, newfound independence, or changes such as potty training, crib-to-bed transitions, or schedule adjustments. For some people, the two year sleep regression can be the worst, as they begin to resist naps and fight bedtime.
12 TIPS FOR HANDLING SLEEP REGRESSIONS
Don't worry or stress about all of the sleep regressions that may or may not come up in the future! I know it looks daunting, but if your child has good skills for independent sleep, and you stay consistent and stay aware of nap transitions, your child will more than likely do very well and get back on track. Most sleep regressions last anywhere from one week to six weeks (which sounds like a lot, I know!). Staying consistent even during a sleep regression will be the key to helping your child get back on track quickly.
My first son experienced a major sleep regression after he had chronic ear infections for months as an infant and couldn't sleep without being held upright. He finally got tubes at 9 months old, and we had to "re-train" him for sleep after that, but after 2 nights, he was back on track, and he didn't experience any other regressions after that! He's 4 years old now, and still is on the same sleep schedule he did as an infant - he goes to sleep around 7-7:30pm and wakes up around 7am.
Did your child go through a sleep regression? Leave a comment to share!
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!