Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Night waking is natural.  How often do you sleep through the night without rousing a bit to move a pillow or roll over?  Kids do the same thing.  The goal is to help them feel secure enough that this mild arousal doesn't fully wake them as they get older.  Younger infants need to be fed or may need their diaper changed.  Until your child is fully potty learned, you may be called for diaper duty.  Once your child is over 19 months, you might consider adding a nutritious snack to your bedtime routine.  This will help them sleep more soundly until morning.  Try an apple and yogurt or toast with peanut butter.


What leads you to this conclusion?  Is your child tired and not thriving?  It may be time to readjust your bedtime routine to help your child get to bed earlier.

Are you getting frustrated and need downtime?  That's understandable.  As an at-home, bedtime is my break time!  Consider creating cues to help your child sleep, a gentle routine, and try the gentle techniques to help your child sleep linked below.

Or is someone else telling you your child is staying up too late?  Well-meaning people often offer advice based on their own child's needs.  Someone recently told me her pediatrician insisted her daughter be in bed at 8:30.  Her daughter was happy, thriving, and well-rested despite staying up a bit later.  Her mom got off work late and they spent time playing and eating together.  Bed at 8:30 would remove that valuable reconnection time!  Don't get caught up in expert opinions if your child is happy and you are comfortable, there's no magic time to children must be in bed.


Looking for the root of your child's fear is key.  Have they watched something on television that scared them?  Have you moved into a new house or transitioned into a new room?  It's important that you listen to your child's fears.  It helps them to validate their feelings instead of trying to suppress them.  When they feel they are being taken seriously, they are able to take your guidance and support.

If your child expresses fears of the dark or bedtime:

1.  Listen without judgment.
2.  Work through solutions with them.  Agree to try a nightlight or leaving the door open.  Assure your child that you will respond if he needs you or still feels afraid.
3.  Respond if your child calls out to you.  Listen and reassure.  Your child needs to know you are going to come to them.  They may do this for a few nights to reassure themselves you will come or that you will hear.  As they establish more security in your presence, they will begin to feel safer and fear night less.


There are many reasons your child may want to play instead of going to sleep.  Instead of demanding a behavior, consider why they want to play.


Is your child truly tired?

Does your child need to reconnect?

Do you need ideas on how to get your child to sleep?

Ok, so here's the question: is your child tired?  As a parent, you know when your child is tired and trying to stay awake.  If this is the case, please take a look at our page on getting your child to relax and sleep gently.  However, please entertain the possibility that your child isn't tired.

But, Jenn!  They need their sleep.  I agree, they do, but remember kids are people too.  How would you feel if someone came in and forced you to lie down when you were wide awake?  You probably wouldn't like it.  You might get frustrated or angry.  You might feel like people weren't listening to you.  Kids are no different.  If they aren't tired and we try to force it, it becomes a frustrating experience for both parties.

So what do you do?  First, try to consider why your child isn't tired.  Are you trying to put them to bed too early based on pressure from outside sources like your pediatrician.  Did your child have too long of a nap or sleep too late?  Recognizing the root of the issue will help you avoid it in the future.

For now, here are some ideas.

 Don't force them to bed.  You'll spend a long time fighting and getting frustrated.  If you need them to go to bed, try one of these methods to get them to sleep more gently.  If you are flexible, consider letting them come back into the family room or guiding them to play quietly in their room or read books while they unwind.


Sometimes children show their need for reconnection at nighttime.  Perhaps because they are busy playing throughout the day or you are a working parent.  If it seems like the root of your child's sleep problem is wanting you or needing security, here are a few ideas of ways you can reconnect.

1.  Make special time for your child with both parents before bedtime.  Split up the bedtime routine and have one parent do bath and the other read stories if possible.  Giving your child one on one time with each parent in two parent households can help him feel like he is connected with both, thus reestablishing or strengthening his bond with each.

2.  Have playtime with your child.  Before you begin your bedtime routine, get on the floor and lay with your child for at least half an hour.  Let them direct your play.  Lawrence J. Cohen calls this playful parenting and believes it helps a child work through tough emotion or stresses they are facing.  This also helps you to reconnect with your child in a healthy way before bedtime and may reduce nighttime sleep problems.

3.  Consider the family bed.  There is no parenting rule that says toddlers and preschoolers can't stay in the family bed if you are comfortable with it.  Many gentle parents encourage children under 5 to continue sleeping with parents.  If you are open to it, you might consider reading The Family Bed, which is an excellent resource on the topic.


Here!  Don't eat your hair.  You aren't alone.  Nighttime parenting can be frustrating especially if you are tired or feel like you've tried everything.  Connect with other moms for support and advice.

Here are some ideas to help you get your child to sleep more peacefully

1.  End bedtime with a back rub.  Invest in a quality lotion with a calming scent (I use vedaBaby Calm: Moisturizing Cream), rub and sing soft songs.  You'll soon discover a particular spot that relaxes your child.  My son loves having his wrist rubbed.  Why not invest 20 minutes to help your child clam down and relax at bedtime instead of yelling or threatening at bedtime?

2.  Create a routine for bedtime.  While you don't need a rigid schedule at bedtime, routinely doing certain things before bed can help signal your child it is time to sleep.  For some parents, bathtime is the first step to going to bed.  In our house, brushing teeth, getting a water cup, and reading 3 books are our routine.  We start bedtime at different times every night, but these staples in the day cue my son it's time to start relaxing to sleep.

3.  Don't rush it!  It's impractical to think bedtime is a 10 minute production for young children.  Carve out 30 minutes to an hour and enjoy bedtime together.  Your children won't be little for long, so savor baths, bedtime stories, and lullabies.

4.  Process their day.  As you tuck in ask your child about his favorite part of the day, even if you were with him!  Listen as he recounts things he enjoyed and moments he remembered.  Talk about what you will do in the morning.  Show you are interested and be available.  A lot of us filter through our thoughts from the day and our plans for the next one when we go to bed, and sometimes it makes it hard to go to sleep.  Kids are no different!  Helping them work through these thoughts, puts their mind at rest.

Want more advice check out these books:
Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to SleepThe No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night


I want to discuss these ideas and ask for more

Wow!  That really worked.

None of these are working and I've started to eat my hair.

Back to sleep issues for 19 months +
There's an unfortunate tendency in modern society to look for a fix without finding the root of the problem.  If you are having issues with your child not staying in bed, try talking with them about it.  Also pay close attention to their sleep patterns.  If they go down very easily one night, did you do anything differently?  Has there been a major change at home?  Sometimes something as simple as mom or dad starting a new job can affect a child's sleep.  Other times the reason is more obvious.  For instance, moving to a new home is almost certain to bring on some sleep issues.  Be gentle during these transitions and try to remember children are people too and are affected by stress, change, and atmosphere.

Your child may be needing additional reconnection time and seeking it out in the middle of the night.  There a re a number of gentle ways to handle this situation.  Bringing the child back to bed, offering a glass of water, and rubbing her back is generally more effective than engaging in a power struggle.

Need more ideas?


Help me gently put my child to sleep

I think my child needs more connection, what can I do?

I think I need more support

Go back to sleep issues

Yay!  So glad to help!  Be sure to check back if you need more support or join us on Facebook.

My child is 19 months or older

If your child is over 19 months old, you might be considering putting him in his room for the first time.  Whether you are transitioning from co-sleeping, dealing with toddler sleep refusal or struggling with other sleep related problem for older infants-preschoolers, I hope you can find some ideas and food for thought here!


There are lots of reasons you may choose to move your child out of bed with you.  Maybe the bed is getting overcrowded or your toddler has become a kicker.  Doing this gently is possible.  Keep in mind that you won't move your child out of your bed, or room, overnight.  The transition should be gentle and gradual.  Here's a few ideas to get you started:

1.  If your child has slept in bed with you, consider placing a cot or small portable crib next to your bed.  For the first few nights lay down with him while he goes to sleep.  Respond if he wakes up and remember he will likely test your responsiveness.  This is new to him!  Showing that you are there and will respond if he needs you will help establish peace of mind and he will gradually begin sleeping more peacefully, and with less need of your reassurance.
2.  Move the cot to the end of your bed.  Respond to child is she wakes up.  Expect to see some wakefulness and your child establishes you are still coming to her.
3.  Move the cot/crib out of the room.  Some parents move it to the hall.  Others make the leap to the child's new room.  Again your child will likely wake more often the first few nights and once it's established you will come for him/her, fall into more regular and peaceful sleep.
4.  Decide if your child can crawl into bed with you during the night.  We welcome our son into our bed if he wakes in the night.  If you prefer to maintain separate beds, gently take him or her back to bed, soothe them, and tuck them in.

Want more info:
Dr Sears on transitioning from co-sleeping


I need more help or support!

Great! anything else?

Take me back to the other issues

My child is 19 months or older

If your child is over 19 months old, you might be considering putting him in his room for the first time.  Whether you are transitioning from co-sleeping, dealing with toddler sleep refusal or struggling with other sleep related problem for older infants-preschoolers, I hope you can find some ideas and food for thought here!


We want to transition out of co-sleeping

My child won't stay in his/her bed

My toddler keeps telling me she "isn't tired!"

All my child wants to do is play

My child seems afraid of the dark

My child is staying up too late

My child is waking up in the night

Co-sleeping is a great option for working moms!  Fact is that babies aren't meant to sleep 8 hours stretches without feeding, especially if you are breastfeeding.  By not getting up to respond to baby in another room, you'll be getting more rest!

Check out these great pieces on how co-sleeping helps working moms connect at night:

Dr. Sears: 7 Benefits of Co-Sleeping

Dr. McKenna: Maternal-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab


I'm not sold on co-sleeping

Great!  Any other suggestions?
Sorry I couldn't help!  I won't lie I am a huge advocate of the family bed and can't offer much other advice for babies under 18 months of age.  If you want more insight or other ideas, ask on our Facebook page.  

Don't be!  Babies are biologically programmed to be near their mothers from birth through those first important years, and you are biologically programmed to be near baby.  You belong together.  One of the important things Dr. Sears, a world-famous AP pediatrician, reminds new parents is to be wary of baby trainers or getting to caught up in training or teaching or scheduling baby.

Your baby will develop a routine that allows him or her to sleep anywhere you are.  Your scent, your warmth and your touch will help your baby get the rest he or she needs to focus on development.  There are outstanding resources for helping you transition older children out of your bed as they get older and develop object permanence.

So if that's what is holding you back, don't worry about it.  Don't trust me?  That's cool.  Check out Dr. James McKenna's research on the subject.

I'm still not sure/I don't think it's for us

Great!  Any other ideas?

YAY!  I'm so happy to help.  Let's have a cupcake.

If you're in the market for a co-sleeper, I've used both of these:
Arm's Reach Natural Original Co-SleeperHumanity Family Bed Co Sleeping Pad

Under 18 months

I recommend co-sleeping.  If you breastfeed it is safe to bedshare.  If you don't consider a co-sleeper or other in room arrangement.


But I'm worried about teaching my child to sleep.

But I'm a working mom.

But my husband is worried it know...

Co-sleeping is not an option.

Great idea, anything else?