03Mar

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…

09Feb

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

nightlight

 

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…

12Jan

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…

30Dec

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..

10Nov

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…

 

27Oct

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…

14Oct

Sleep Requirements in Young Children

Sleep Needs by Age

 

Age of Child

Night time Sleep (hours)

Day time Sleep (hours)

Total Sleep (hours)

0-2 months

8-9

7-9 (3-5 naps)

17-20

2-6 months

9-10

4-5 (3-4 naps)

14-16

6-12 months

10-12

3-4 (2 naps)

14

12-24 months

11-12

2-3 (1 -2 naps)

13-14

2-3 years

11-13

1-2 (1 nap)

12-14

3-5 years

11-13

0-1

11-13

 

 

Signs that your child may not be getting enough sleep:

  • Behavior- irritable, fussy, wound up, poor attention, needy
  • Awakens in morning or from naps tired or cranky
  • Falls asleep in car, stroller, highchair etc, when not naptime or bedtime
  • Trouble falling asleep at bedtime and/or  trouble with nighttime wakings

Simple steps to take to improve sleep:

  • Make sleep a priority
  • Create a regular schedule and stick with it as much as possible
  • Establish a routine for bedtime and naptime.  The child will become conditioned to this routine which will serve as a cue to the child that it is time to sleep. 
  • Put child to bed or down for naps at appropriate time for their age to sync with their circadian rhythms
  • Teach children how to put themselves back to sleep if they awaken in the middle of the night or early from naps
  • Be consistent on your expectations and how you handle disruptions, stalling tactics and developmental milestones
  • Be consistent with sleep environment

 

 

 

 

Questions? Concerns? Comments?  Please contact me!

 

 

05Aug

“Mommy, there is a monster under my bed!” Tips on dealing with your toddler’s nighttime fears

Fear of shadows, monsters and the dark are a common occurrence among toddlers and most often pass with a little time and patience. For some kiddos however, these fears can be very disruptive to their sleep routine resulting in an overtired toddler- something no one wants to deal with! While such fears are a normal part of development for many children, how you handle them could mean the difference between a short phase and a serious sleep issue. Here are some tips to help you avoid making the problem worse:

1) Honor their feelings without feeding into their fear. That is, tell them everyone feels scared sometimes and empathize with their feelings. And then be sure to let them know that monsters are not real, shadows are just made from light (helps to turn on the light and watch the shadows disappear), and that darkness is part of nature just like light. Remind them of the good things about the night- the stars, the fireflies, the moon, etc.

2) Enlist the help of a good book- if you check your local bookstore you will find countless titles addressing the issue- allow your child to help you pick one out. You can discuss the characters fear and how they handled it and then offer ways for your child to handle their fear. Come up with a plan together.

3) Encourage your child to develop their own coping skills by relying on a beloved stuffed animal for comfort, singing a favorite song to themselves, thinking of their favorite part of their day or something else positive.

4) Give your child some power over bedtime by asking them what would make them feel better during this phase (within reason). Do they want you to come back and give them a quick hug in 10 minutes? Or would it help to tell them you will peek in on them before you go to bed? Empowering them a bit will ease their sense of vulnerability that naturally worsens at night. Avoid lying with them until they are asleep however, as this typically causes more night wakings rather than solving the problem.

5) Arm them with a nightlight and/or a small flashlight to make them feel less afraid. Just be sure this doesn’t become a distraction.

6) If fears are causing sleeplessness be sure to put your little one to bed a bit early to compensate for the loss. An overtired child has a much harder time handling stress than a well- rested one. In addition, children who have developed a sleep debt tend to wake up more often at night inviting those fears to creep back in.

7) Be conscious of what your child watches on television, often fears start because of something they saw on television. Remember that images that might not seem scary to you but may be really frightening to your child.

8) Be careful to distinguish a true fear from a stalling mechanism- toddlers are smart creatures, smart enough to know that if they tell you they are scared you will come back in and give them attention. Of course, if your child has a true fear you should comfort them but if you sense it is becoming something different be sure to revert right back to your bedtime routine. Remember that young children are comforted by routine and structure.

9) Don’t underestimate the value of your calming bedtime routine. Much like when they were babies a soothing routine can help ease your toddler into sleep. It is so easy to start treating our toddlers like little adults and skimping on their bedtime routine. Don’t forget that they are still tiny little people and be sure not to rush through the process. Focus on being present physically AND emotionally for optimal results.

10) Seek help from your pediatrician if you feel your child’s anxiety is extreme or doesn’t get better with time.

Sweet dreams…

09Jul

To Lovey or Not to Lovey: Thoughts on Introducing a Transitional Object

Parents, are you wondering when, if, or how to introduce a lovey, blankie, teddy, or as we sleep specialists call it- a transitional object- to your child’s crib? If so, here are some tips that may help your decision:

1) A lovey can help make your baby feel safe and secure in their crib or bed and even ease the separation anxiety that is often associated with bedtime. In fact, sleep specialists believe a lovey can help a child learn to soothe themselves to sleep and back to sleep during the night thus helping them get the rest necessary for proper development. Children who can soothe themselves have an easier time developing lifelong healthy sleep habits than those who cannot.

2) Consider whether your child is old enough to have a stuffed animal or blanket in their sleeping environment. The current American Academy of Pediatric recommendation is to have a completely empty crib until one year of age in an effort to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep related deaths in infants. This does not mean however, your child cannot safely have a transitional object to help soothe them. The Bitta Blankie (www.bittakidda.com) is a great example of how to introduce a soothing blankie in a safe way. The Bitta sleeper comes with small bits of blanket attached to the front of the sleeper that your little one can hold and rub but since they are attached they cannot cover their face or get wrapped around their necks. Ideal because it cannot fall out of the crib or get lost! If you are unsure about the safety of giving your child a lovey please contact your pediatrician for individual advice.

3) Think about whether your child will use it only for sleep or if you will allow them to carry it out into the world? This is an important question to consider before you introduce the lovey. Limiting the object to sleep and to the crib can decrease the likelihood of the object getting lost or damaged during your trip to the store or to grandmas. Keeping their beloved bear or bunny in the crib also teaches your child to associate that object with sleep which may help with bedtime battles. Whether or not you will allow the lovey out of the bedroom you should buy more than one of the same object in case one is in the wash, gets damaged, the dog eats it or some other mishap comes your way. Rotate them so that they are equally loved and broken in ensuring seamless transition between the two.

27May

Summer vs the Early Bedtime

Summer is finally here. Longer days and relaxed schedules are a welcome change… but with these perks comes the seasonal struggle that effects parents and children alike- how to enjoy all the summer fun while still sticking with your routine. Of course, as a sleep consultant I believe an early bedtime is your best friend but it is not always realistic. It is tempting to keep your kids up to enjoy the festivities but is that always the best choice? Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your summer without wreaking havoc on your little ones sleep.
#1 Know your child- some kiddos are more sensitive than others to changes in routine and schedule, if your child is one of them aim to stay on track 90% of the time to maintain balance and harmony.
#2 Give and take- if you are going to allow your child some leeway in the evening be sure to stick to your nap schedule to ensure they get the right amount of rest they need in a 24 hour period, and vice versa, if you are going to shorten or skip a nap be sure to get them to bed early.
#3 Watch their behavior and adjust accordingly, if you notice changes in behavior or you see sleep struggles arise this is a good indicator that your child may be overtired so be sure to get them the rest they need in order to avoid a sleep debt that may be difficult to reverse.
#4 Prioritize. While your summer invitations may be pouring in it doesn’t mean you have to accept all of them. Hit the ones that coincide with your child’s schedule for sure, and then pick and choose the others. If you are lucky enough to have family or trusted babysitters to watch your kiddos you can enlist their help so you can attend a few fetes sans children- who doesn’t need a date night after all?
#5 Reframe it. Parents of young children often feel constrained by their little ones schedules- this is a normal part of life. Try to remember it doesn’t last forever and a well-rested child is much easier going than a sleep deprived one. Think of your child’s need for an early bedtime as an opportunity for you and your spouse to have some quality time together. Sit out on the deck and enjoy each other’s company- create your own couple time right in your back yard.
#6 Be flexible. While keeping your child well rested is a priority for many reasons don’t forget that making memories is important too. They are only young once so embrace the moment and enjoy!
Find the balance that works for you and your family… Happy Summer!