13Mar

Simple Tips for Family Travels

For parents of young children the mere thought of a vacation can bring on anxiety.  From what to pack to where to stay to how to adjust their schedules – vacation takes on a whole new meaning once you have little ones.  Vacation essentials like staying out late and sleeping in are replaced by early dinners and even earlier mornings.   Most parents will find that even the best sleepers will experience some minor disruptions and schedules can easily go by the wayside.  While some of this is just a normal and inevitable part of having small children there are a few things you can do to make travel more manageable.

  • Start with a well rested child. A child who has healthy sleep to start will be able to adapt much more easily to changes in schedule or routine.
  • Stick to your routine as much as possible. This can be challenging but it will help ease the transition for your child and let him know what to expect.  Try to especially follow your bedtime routine which will help signal it is time for sleep.  You may need to soothe your child a bit longer than usual as they get used to their new sleeping environment.
  • But be flexible too! Don’t forget you are on vacation and things likely won’t be perfect so just do the best you can do with what you have.  Remember you are making memories!
  • Bring along the comforts of home- be sure to pack your child’s lovey, noise machine, bedtime story, special blanket, favorite pj’s, etc. This will help nap time and bedtime go more smoothly. You may even bring along a used crib sheet so that it also smells like home.  Also, you may want to stop at Target or Walmart and spend a few bucks on 2 pieces of poster board and duct tape- sounds totally crazy, I know, but often times you find yourself needing to darken a room and they come in handy and pack easily! Large black trash bags work great too!
  • Choose their sleeping space wisely- babies and younger children can often sleep in their crib in a closet or bathroom to ensure a dark, quiet space- be sure it is properly ventilated. Older children may be a bit more difficult to accommodate but do your best to recreate the environment they have at home.
  • Traveling first thing in the morning tends to be easier with small children for various reasons- lighter traffic, fewer delays, they are rested and in a good mood. Be sure to take breaks to allow them to get some fresh air and/or exercise.  Road trips especially offer lots of opportunity to have picnics and play time.  Additionally, try to avoid travel during nap time if possible.  Getting a good nap will not only keep your child in a good mood but it will also help with nighttime sleep.
  • Be prepared for early risings the first few days- just like you, it may take your child a few days to adapt to the new surroundings.
  • If crossing several time zones begin to adapt your child’s schedule before your leave- slowly move them closer to what their new schedule will look like while on vacation over the course of the week leading up to your departure.
  • If crossing ocean, allow everyone to sleep as much as they want and whenever the first day and then get working towards your routine. Get plenty of fluids and get outdoors during daylight as much as possible.
  • The more you travel, the more used to it your child will get and the easier it will become.
  • For the older child prepare them ahead of time for what will happen and what to expect.
  • Upon arriving home jump right back into your routine without hesitation- it may take a few days to get back on track so be prepared and be patient.
  • HAVE FUN!!!!
06Mar

Spring Forward!

With the warm temps lately in St. Louis it certainly feels like Spring is in the air!   That means it is time to turn our clocks forward in preparation for the longer days to come as Daylight Savings officially begins on Sunday, March 12th at 2 AM.  If you are a parent you may be worried that the beginning of Daylight Savings will wreak havoc on your child’s sleep. Chances are it will come and go without much disruption.  In case you need a little reassurance here are some tips to help you through the transition:

*Know your child- if your child adapts easily to change and is not sensitive to fluctuations in her sleep consider yourself lucky, do nothing and simply hope spring arrives a little early (PLEASE!).   If you are a parent of a child who has a little more difficulty with such changes plan ahead and dig deep for a little extra patience next week knowing most kiddos get back on track quickly with this time change.

*For those children who need assistance adapting you may consider giving your family a head start by switching your household to the new time on Saturday instead of Sunday.  This gives you an extra buffer before the school and work week starts.

*Stay with your routine and tighten it up if necessary in the week before the time change.  This is a great time to check in with your family’s sleep hygiene to ensure you haven’t gotten so off track that sleep is suffering.  Now is not the time for changes to your schedule or transitions, hold off until after your child has adjusted to the new time.

*Stick to your child’s normal sleep times for both naps and bedtime according to the clock as if nothing has changed.  If you child is a more sensitive sleeper you may need to put her down up to 30 minutes early (according to the new clock time) on Sunday.

*Get outside in the morning to get some fresh air and sunlight, getting plenty of bright daylight will help your child’s body adapt to the change more quickly.

*Take this opportunity to check in on your child’s sleep environment.  Before we know it it will start to get lighter earlier and stay light out longer;  you may want to consider room darkening shades and white noise now to prevent any disruption in your little one’s sleep down the road.  

*Good news for early risers!  This may be the push you needed to get that little one sleeping later in the morning.  3 cheers for spring!  Be sure you shift their entire schedule forward to ensure the change sticks- this means meals, activities and sleep.  For those kiddos who have a tendency to want to sleep in consider waking them at their normal time to help them stay on schedule the rest of the day rather than letting them sleep in. 

Good luck and sweet dreams…

27Oct

Fall Back- Tips to help you Survive the End of Daylight Savings Time

 

shutterstock_325277609-2

 

On Sunday, November 6th at 2 a.m. we will turn our clocks back once again as Daylight Savings Time (DST) comes to an end.  If you are like so many parents of young children out there the anticipation of the time change brings with it fear and confusion.   So many of us are unsure how to handle the change and worry that it will wreak havoc on our little one’s sleep schedules.  While Daylight Savings is inevitable there are some things you can do to minimize the impact on your family:

 

  • Know your child(ren). If you have a child with an easy going temperament who adapts easily to change you can simply do nothing.  On Sunday you will go about your normal routine according to the clock and not change a thing.  You can expect a very mild disruption in routine for these children consisting of an early wake time for a day or two if any at all.  If you have a child who is more sensitive to changes in schedule or routine you may want to take action to avoid any major issues.
  • For those of you in the second camp, plan to shift your child’s schedule back the week leading up to the change. Beginning on Sunday, October 30th shift everything in your day back by 15 minutes- wake time, breakfast, snack, nap times, bedtimes etc.  On that Wednesday, shift it another 15 minutes and on Friday another 15 minutes.  Finally, when you wake on Sunday follow the clock and stick to your routine.  This gradual approach will help you ease into your new schedule and hopefully make any disruptions short lived.
  • Sleep is largely governed by our circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin which is strongly influenced by light and darkness. Because of this you may find it helpful to keep your home darker longer in the morning to help counteract that early waking that often comes as a result of DST and retrain the brain to the new wake time.  In turn, it also helps to keep your home lighter later in the evening to help stave off sleep inducing melatonin for that extra hour even though it is dark outside.  Finally, getting outdoors in the sunlight during the day and late afternoon will help the brain regulate its melatonin production and adapt accordingly to the new time.
  • Use DST as a reminder to consider your child’s sleep environment- it should be dark, cool, quiet and free of distractions. I recommend the use of room darkening shades and white noise especially for those little ones still learning healthy sleep habits.
  • Be consistent and be patient! Try to stick with your routine and new schedule closely in the week or 2 following DST and your little one should fall right back in line.  This is also a great time to evaluate your sleep hygiene as a family and make sure you are all getting the sleep you need.

 

 

Happy Fall and sweet dreams…

29Aug

Double Trouble or Twice as Nice? Twins and Sleep

twins

 

Is parenthood double the fun at your house? Parenting twins means two sets of first smiles, twice the love and joy, and lifelong built in playmates, but it also can mean twice the work and a level of sleep deprivation you never thought possible.  Getting your duo the rest they need doesn’t have to be twice the work.  Here are some tips to get your twins sleeping well:

  • Keep them on the same sleeping and eating schedule- same wake time, same feeding times, same nap times and same bedtime. This does not mean you need to be rigid but do your best to keep them doing the same thing at the same time eventually it will fall into place.
  • Don’t be afraid to wake one to stay on track. It actually is ok to wake a sleeping baby-in the morning, at nap and even in the middle of the night for a feeding.  Allow them to wake and feed on their own, and chaos will soon ensue ;) It helps to feed both when the first twin wants to be fed rather than make one wait for the other.
  • Just like singlets make sure to have a strong, soothing, brief bedtime routine and stick with it.
  • Be flexible- structure, schedule and routine are so important for young children but they are still young so you have to be flexible sometimes. Perfection is not the goal here.
  • Remember your safe sleep rules. Visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/Pages/default.aspx for a quick review.
  • Do as little as possible to get them to sleep. Rocking, bouncing and nursing to sleep work great in the short term but a little bit of work up front pays off big in the end.  My “into the crib drowsy but awake” tool applies to multiples as well.  It is a process and practice makes perfect so keep at it.
  • If you are someone who likes to do their research I suggest Dr. Weissbluth’s book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins”.

 

Finally, try to embrace the chaos whenever possible and remember you get twice the love!

02Aug

7 Back to School Sleep Tips for a Well-Rested Family

Can you believe it is already that time of year? Summer in our house has flown by and soon the long, leisurely summer days will be replaced by the structure of the new school year.   It is so easy for our kid’s routines to get off track in the summer with the seemingly endless opportunities for fun and family time.  Making memories becomes more important than bedtimes and schedules- my house is no different.  However, it is time to look ahead and prepare our children for the upcoming academic year.  Whether your child attends pre-school a few hours a day or you have older children heading off to a full day of elementary or middle school, being well rested will help ease the transition.  Here are 7 tips to help your family get school ready:

1)  Start early- begin by easing your child back into his or her normal routine a week or 2 before school starts so their bodies have time to adjust and alleviate any sleep debt accumulated over the summer months.

2)  Know how much sleep your child needs according to their age. Here is a link to a good chart:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sleep/conditioninfo/Pages/homuch.aspx

3) Tighten up your schedule- over the summer bedtimes and wake times are a bit looser, now is the time to get back to those early bedtimes and consistent wake times. Weekends are no exception; consistency makes all the difference here.  If you have a child who is still napping it helps to get them down at the same time each day.

4)  Get back to your bedtime routine- even in our house our tried and true bedtime routine is often a bit more lax in the summer. All you need is a predictable, soothing 15-minute routine to help your child get to sleep more easily- include things like reading, dimming the lights, a quiet song, and white noise.  It is important to turn those screens off one hour before bedtime to get a quality night’s sleep. Getting back to the structure of your routine helps little ones feel safe and secure making any new situations on the horizon (Kindergarten- gulp!) easier to handle.

5)  Check in on your child’s sleep environment- his or her room should be cool, dark, cozy and free from stimulating toys or clutter. The days are still long and the sun comes up early so be sure you have adequately darkened the room to allow for earlier bedtimes.

6)  Create a set of sleep manners (aka rules) for your family and review them often- these are general guidelines to remind everyone of healthy sleep hygiene. Include things like – everyone sleeps in their own space, everyone is quiet in their beds, everyone goes to bed on time and wakes up on time.

7)  Practice what you preach! Be a good role model for the kids. As parents our job is demanding and non-stop; our bodies and brains are working overtime caring for our children, make sure you are getting the sleep you need to be your healthiest. Our little people need us to be at our best and quality sleep is essential to our well-being.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2016-2017 school year!!!!

07Mar

Daylight Savings Begins March 13th at 2 am – Spring Forward!

spring dls

 

With the warm temps and rain here in St. Louis it certainly feels like Spring is in the air!   That means it is time to turn our clocks forward in preparation for the longer days to come.  If you are a parent you may be worried that the beginning of Daylight Savings will wreak havoc on your child’s sleep. Chances are it will come and go without much disruption.  In case you need a little reassurance here are some tips to help you through the transition:

*Know your child- if your child adapts easily to change and is not sensitive to fluctuations in her sleep consider yourself lucky, do nothing and simply hope spring arrives a little early (PLEASE!).   If you are a parent of a child who has a little more difficulty with such changes plan ahead and dig deep for a little extra patience next week knowing most kiddos get back on track quickly with this time change.

*For those children who need assistance adapting you may consider giving your family a head start by switching your household to the new time on Saturday instead of Sunday.  This gives you an extra buffer before the school and work week starts.

*Stay with your routine and tighten it up if necessary in the week before the time change.  This is a great time to check in with your family’s sleep hygiene to ensure you haven’t gotten so off track that sleep is suffering.  Now is not the time for changes to your schedule or transitions, hold off until after your child has adjusted to the new time.

*Stick to your child’s normal sleep times for both naps and bedtime according to the clock as if nothing has changed.  If you child is a more sensitive sleeper you may need to put her down up to 30 minutes early (according to the new clock time) on Sunday.

*Get outside in the morning to get some fresh air and sunlight, getting plenty of bright daylight will help your child’s body adapt to the change more quickly.

*Take this opportunity to check in on your child’s sleep environment.  Before we know it it will start to get lighter earlier and stay light out longer;  you may want to consider room darkening shades and white noise now to prevent any disruption in your little one’s sleep down the road.

*Good news for early risers!  This may be the push you needed to get that little one sleeping later in the morning.  3 cheers for spring!  Be sure you shift their entire schedule forward to ensure the change sticks- this means meals, activities and sleep.  For those kiddos who have a tendency to want to sleep in consider waking them at their normal time to help them stay on schedule the rest of the day rather than letting them sleep in.

Good luck and sweet dreams…

15Dec

Holiday Travel Tips

The holiday season is filled with small wonders, big joys and lots of festivities.  All of this often adds up to missed naps, late bedtimes and early mornings.  How can you help your little one survive the holidays without constant meltdowns and keep your own sanity?  Here a some tips…

1)      Start with a well rested child.  A child who has healthy sleep to start will be able to adapt much more easily to changes in schedule or routine. If you know you have an action packed couple of days ahead focus on your schedule pre-game to ensure your child gets lots of sleep in the days leading up to your festivities.

2)      Stick to your routine as much as possible.  This can be challenging but it will help ease the transition for your child and let him know what to expect.  Shoot to have at least 2 meals at their normal time and maybe one nap for those kiddos still napping twice a day. Try to especially stick with your bedtime routine to ensure a restful night sleep.  You may need to soothe your child a bit longer than usual as they get used to their new sleeping environment or an off schedule.

3)      But be flexible too!  Don’t forget the holidays are a special time and things likely won’t be perfect so just do the best you can do with what you have.  Remember you are making memories!

4)      Bring along the comforts of home- be sure to pack your child’s lovey, noise machine, bedtime story, special blanket, favorite pj’s, etc. This will help nap time and bedtime go more smoothly.  You may even bring along a used crib sheet so that it also smells like home.

5)      Choose their sleeping space wisely- babies and younger children can often sleep in their crib in a closet or bathroom to ensure a dark, quiet space.  Older children may be a bit more difficult to accommodate but do your best to recreate the environment they have at home.

6)      Traveling first thing in the morning tends to be easier with small children for various reasons- lighter traffic, fewer delays, they are rested and in a good mood.  Be sure to take breaks to allow them to get some fresh air and/or exercise.  Road trips especially offer lots of opportunity to have picnics and play time.  Additionally, try to avoid travel during nap time if possible.  Getting a good nap will not only keep your child in a good mood but it will also help with nighttime sleep.

7)      Be prepared for early risings the first few days- just like you, it may take your child a few days to adapt to the new surroundings.  It helps to get some time outside in the mornings to support their internal clocks.

8)      The more you travel, the more used to it your child will get and the easier it will become.

9)      For the older child prepare them ahead of time for what will happen and what to expect, this will ease any anxiety they may have once you get to where you are going.

10)   Upon arriving home jump right back into your routine without hesitation it may take a few days to get back on track so be prepared and be patient.

11)  Manage your expectations as the saying goes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Your child may experience more tantrums than usual or have other difficulties.  Try to keep your sense of humor and know it is not forever.

12)  HAVE FUN!!!! and take lots of photos :) 

18Oct

Fall Back- Daylight Saving Time and Your Child’s Sleep

It is that time of year again that strikes fear in the heart of parents with small children- the end of Daylight Saving.  And yes we have the added bonus of it happening the morning after Halloween- Hooray!  At 2 a.m. on November 1st we turn our clocks back one hour throwing off our children’s schedules and our own.  While it can be frustrating it does not have to wreak havoc on your family’s sleep.  Here are some tips to keep you sane:

  • Don’t freak out- just like many other moments in parenthood this too will pass
  • Know your child- do you have an easy going child? One who is slower to adapt? Or one who is challenging?
  • Shift your schedule according to your child’s personality. An easy going child will likely need no intervention- simply change the clocks and move forward at the new time.  If your child is a bit slower to warm up to change consider starting on the Friday before by pushing your whole routine- meals, naps, etc. – back one hour giving everyone an extra couple of days to get in sync.  You may find it necessary to begin more slowly with your challenging child beginning the weekend before and adjusting the schedule back in 15 minute increments every few days finally getting to the one hour mark on the 1st.
  • Sleep is largely governed by our circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin which is strongly influenced by light and darkness. Because of this you may find it helpful to keep your home darker longer in the morning to help counteract that early waking that often comes as a result of DST and retrain the brain to the new wake time.  In turn, it also helps to keep your home lighter later in the evening to help stave off sleep inducing melatonin for that extra hour even though it is dark outside.  Finally, getting outdoors in the sunlight during the day and late afternoon will help the brain regulate its melatonin production and adapt accordingly to the new time.
  • Use this as an opportunity to check in with your sleep hygiene- tighten your schedule up, don’t skimp on your bedtime routine, ensure the sleep environment is dark, cool and quiet.
  • Be consistent and be patient. Stick closely with your schedule and routine for the 2 weeks following the change to give you little one the best chance at adapting.
  • Finally…  don’t freak out- it bears repeating :)

Sweet dreams!

 

11Aug

Back to School Sleep Tips

School supplies… check.  New backpack… check.  Sleep hygiene tune-up… check? 

Yep.  It’s that time of year!  As you rush around trying to get our kids ready for the upcoming school year don’t forget to do a quick check of your sleep hygiene.  That is, take inventory of all of the pieces of the puzzle that come together to create healthy sleep, known as sleep hygiene.  First, has your routine gotten lax over the summer?  For most of us the answer here is a resounding YES!  Of course!  The lazy days of summer give us a much needed break from the structure and scheduling we all face during the other seasons.    Time to tighten it back up to give your little one the best chance at quality sleep- remember the best bedtime routines are short (15 minutes or less), sweet, predictable and non-negotiable.  Children crave and thrive on routine and it can help ease the transition back to school.  Second, have you lost all remnants of a schedule?  If the answer is yes, consider starting early, say a week before school starts, to ease back into your normal schedule.  Often bedtimes inch later and later during the summer as the days lengthen and our calendars fill with fun.  Gradually begin to push that bedtime earlier and focus on waking your child at the same time every day to help them be ready for that first day of school.  A developmentally appropriate schedule will also ensure that your child is getting enough sleep to help them grow and learn. Third, do a quick scan of your child’s sleep environment.  The ideal sleep environment is cool, dark, quiet, and comfy.  Is there sun creeping in at bedtime? Maybe you need to darken the room a bit.  White noise is a great for tuning out the bustling world outside as you try to get your little one to sleep earlier.  Also be aware of screen time- turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime and no screens in the bedroom. Healthy sleep habits give your child the best chance for a healthy, happy and successful school year!  Sweet dreams…

27Jul

Is all crying bad in childhood?

Hearing your own child cry may be one of the hardest things about this whole parenting gig. I will admit it still raises my heart rate and blood pressure every time I hear one of my children cry even if it is just over the proverbial spilled milk (or more likely in my house “the dog ate my cookie”).  But sometimes I wonder if all the shushing, soothing and reassuring is getting in the way of the larger picture of creating an emotionally healthy child.  Crying, after all, is often the only means of communication for babies and young children and therefore is necessary to their survival.  Is it important to try to avoid all tears or is it possible that some crying can be good?  I know I feel better after being allowed to let my emotions out and yes, sometimes that is in the form of a good cry.  I certainly do not have the answers but I am just posing the question for myself-  Is it ok to allow our children to feel their emotions even though it may result in some crying? Did it somehow become the norm to attempt to shield our kids from any discomfort during childhood?  The respectful parenting movement would argue that it is important to honor your child’s feelings by simply allowing them to have them in a supportive environment.  That is, if we interfere and shush them or attempt to stop their cries are we undermining the validity of their feelings?   Can allowing them room to feel while still being physically and emotionally present actually foster independence and emotional intelligence?  Can we help them learn to deal with their own emotions, both positive and negative, by giving them the space to do so?  Acknowledging feelings and trying to understand them without stopping them may actually help us be able to find patience in the moment where we might otherwise rush to find a way to stop the outburst. I see this fear of crying pop up with my clients whose children are having difficulty sleeping.  While I typically do not advise leaving a young child alone to just “cry it out” I almost always notice a big sigh of relief from babies who are given a bit of space to work through their emotions without interference.  And not surprisingly this often leads to a better night’s sleep for everyone.  It seems to me that crying can potentially be beneficial for our kids rather than the long held ideology by some that we must always rush soothe a crying child.  I have personally begun to view my own kids’ tears in a different way and have noticed that I feel much calmer when an episode arises in my home knowing that it is ok for them to have feelings other than joy and happiness…