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 :) 


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!



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…


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…


Daylight Saving Begins March 8th at 2 am – Spring Forward!


Spring is in the air!  Ok well maybe not quite yet, but it is around the corner (I hope).  It is however 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 Saving 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.  Although it may not feel like spring outside your door just yet, 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…


All Nightlights are not the same: What you need to Know to Protect Your Child’s Sleep



Nightlights can be a useful tool for both young children and parents alike.  Certainly they make it easier for parents to navigate a dark room when feeding or changing a young baby.  They also help older children get to the bathroom safely in the middle of the night when necessary.  Parents of preschoolers may add a nightlight to help their little one cope with nighttime fears.   Nightlights serve an undeniable purpose but if you are not careful they could do more harm to your child’s sleep than good.  Here are some tips to help you avoid any trouble:

*Be sure your nightlight is very dim and preferably below eye level and behind a piece of furniture (or better yet in the hallway) so the light is only indirect.  Too much light can disrupt important hormone production and interfere with your child’s circadian rhythms.

*Pay attention to the color of your nightlight, while many companies make nightlights that are blue or white studies show these lights are most problematic.

*Do not use a nightlight that projects images, has lights that move, plays music or has other  “fun” features as these will only stimulate your child more- not the goal at bedtime.

*Do a night time check- lay in your child’s bed or get down to crib level at night and notice what light your child might be getting from other sources – i.e., outside lights, ambient household lights (for example from the bathroom, hall or closet light left on), an alarm clock etc. and work to decreases this light by putting up room darkening shades, turning off troublesome household lights, switching to a non-digital alarm clock.

*If your child is fearful of the dark, shadows, monsters or is experiencing other nighttime fears read my tips on dealing with their anxiety at  http://claytonbabies.com/mommy-there-is-a-monster-under-my-bed-tips-on-dealing-with-your-toddlers-nighttime-fears/

*Remember the best environment for healthy sleep is cool and dark.

Sweet dreams…


Do you have a crib climber? Don’t give up on that crib just yet…

Has your toddler decided to climb out of her crib? If so, before you decide to switch her to a big girl bed read these simple tips:

1)      Be sure the crib mattress is at its lowest setting and the crib is free of any pillows, bumpers or toys she may be using to hoist herself up and over.

2)      Use a sleep sack- this will impede her ability in most cases to get her legs over the side and buy you some time.

3)      Anticipate her antics and catch her in the act when she is not expecting it.  You can then firmly and assertively tell her “we do not climb out of our crib”.

4)      Create a bedtime story with her help about a little girl who sleeps in her crib all night long complete with pictures and read it together and then talk about how everyone stays in their own beds at night.

5)      Place pillows and blankets on the ground outside the crib in case she climbs out without you seeing it so that she is less likely to get hurt.

6)      For 2 year olds and up consider a sleep/wake clock that tells her when it is time to get up.  Using a clock in combination with rules about staying in her crib all night can be a good tool.

7)      Childproof her room – AGAIN.  Look around and see what might cause a problem if she were to climb out of her crib in the night and be unsupervised in her room.

8)      Finally, if she is 3 years old or you have found none of these tips to help you may want to consider moving her to a bed so that she stays safe and injury free.

Sweet dreams…


Never wake a sleeping baby?

If you have young children chances are you have heard the old adage “never wake a sleeping baby”.  While this advice may be well intended you may want to modify it a bit.  There are, in fact, times when it is not only ok, but actually beneficial to wake your sleeping baby. ..

When is a good idea to wake your baby?

#1 Newborns may need to be awakened to feed if they sleep too long.  Each baby is different but until baby gets back to her original birth weight and continues to gain normally many pediatricians will ask you to wake your baby every 4 hours to feed even at night.

#2  In the mornings- once baby is about 6-8 weeks old you can set your intention for her wake time.  Decide what time you want to start your day and begin waking your baby at this time (anytime between 6-7a is appropriate).  This allows both you and baby to organize and structure your day and helps baby begin to internalize her daily routine.

#3  To protect the next sleep- if your baby takes such long naps (lucky you!) that she has difficulty falling asleep for the next sleep period you may want to limit nap times.  For example if she goes down for her afternoon nap at 1pm and sleeps past 4 but then lies awake in her crib for an extended period of time before falling asleep at bedtime you may want to limit that nap to 3 or 3:30.  The large majority of consolidated sleep should be happening at night but some babies, if allowed, will make up for poor night time sleep during the day.  Limiting naps will help correct this.

There are times when it is ok to let baby sleep….

When should you not wake a sleeping baby?

#1  Diaper changes- after baby is about 6 or 8 weeks she no longer needs her wet diaper changed unless she has a severe case of diaper rash or other skin breakdown.  Dirty diapers should be changed but do so with as little light, stimulation and interaction as possible.

#2  To give fever reducing medication- fever itself is typically not dangerous so waking a sick child who is sleeping restfully to give them a fever reducer is usually not necessary unless she has a history of febrile seizures or otherwise indicated by your pediatrician.

#3  To protect bedtime in a sick child-  children who are ill need extra rest and care so allow your little one to nap as long as they want when sick and return to your routine and schedule as soon as they are well to avoid any sleep issues.

Sweet dreams..


The Best Time to Begin Sleep Training is NOW


                Are you struggling to get your family the sleep they need but are wondering if your little one is too old or too young to begin sleep training?  The answer is simple; no child is too young or too old to benefit from sleep training.  Of course, a newborn baby is not supposed to sleep perfectly but they can still benefit from gentle sleep shaping.  Sleep training is not just about sleeping through the night but rather it is more about teaching your child healthy sleep habits that they can take with them for life.  Beginning now means you and your family have the best chance of being well rested for years down the road.  In fact, leading sleep researchers believe that infants who do not sleep are likely to become toddlers who do not sleep, who may become children who do not sleep.  If left untreated sleep problems can result in teens and even adults who have chronic sleep deficits.  According to Jodi Mindell, psychologist and researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping through the Night, more than two thirds of small children who have sleep issues still have them several years later if no plan of action has been implemented.  Start making sleep a priority today!  Here are easy some tips to get started for children of all ages:

 *Practice putting your child to bed drowsy but awake

*Know how much sleep your child needs in a 24 hour period

*Get on a schedule- your child’s sleep schedule should look the same each day

*Focus on your routine- bedtime routines should be short, sweet, predictable and non-negotiable to be effective

*Set the stage for sleep- evaluate your child’s sleeping environment, it should be cool, dark and quiet

*Avoid negative sleep associations like rocking, feeding or driving your child to sleep

*Avoid an overtired state- sleep begets sleep so keep your child well rested to ensure they sleep well

*Commitment, consistency and confidence are the key to successful sleep training- commit to a method that works best for you and see it through knowing you are making the right choice for your family!

Sweet Dreams…



Fall Back- Tips to help you and Your Little Ones Survive the End of Daylight Savings Time

Next Sunday, November 2nd 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:


1)        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.

2)        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 Monday the 27th shift everything in your day back by 15 minutes- wake time, breakfast, snack, nap times, bedtimes etc.  On 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.

3)        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.

4)       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.

5)       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…