blog - well rested baby

UnknownYesterday, fellow founder Heather Hartzell sent me this NY TIMES Mother Load Opinion Piece – Sleep Training at 8 Weeks: ‘Do You Have the Guts?’.  Sleep training at 8 weeks?  With such a sensational headline, I had to read it right away.  My immediate reaction as a mom and a pediatric sleep consultant was “hell no, I do not have the guts to advise the parent’s of an 8 week old client to leave their child for 12 hours straight.”  I wouldn’t have done it with my own children and I would feel irresponsible advising another family to do so.  My issue with the methodology described in this piece has nothing to do with the end result – yes, an 8 week old can absolutely learn self soothing skills!  I have done this using gentle methods with my own child and with many clients and have seen amazing results, but again I do it in a gentle manner which respects all of the baby’s biological needs.  For example: I am currently working with a 10 week old.  I wrote him a custom sleep plan – one which ensures that he is taking restorative naps all day, going to bed for the night before he becomes overtired and gently allowing him to practice his self soothing skills.  As he is just 10 weeks old, we scheduled in two feedings over night.  And guess what happened?  Just three days in this baby who had been cat napping all day (on the go or in a swing) and waking a few times a night, is now falling asleep on his own for naps in his crib, dozing off on his own for bedtime with no tears and…drum roll…two out of the last three nights has slept 11 hours straight.  When we take the time to thoughtfully tend to each of the baby’s sleep needs, good sleep can’t help but ensue.

So my issue here is three fold:

1.  Teaching a child (of any age) self soothing skills is not as simple as shutting the door and coming back 12 hours later.  In order for a baby to learn to be a healthy sleep loving child, they must have a routine and schedule in place that respects the 5 foundations of healthy sleep (click here for more).  This must include putting your child down in a rested state so that they can easily drift off on their own and not scream for hours because they haven’t napped that day and are hopped up on cortisol.  I would hope that pediatricians, in advising their patients to impart self soothing skills to their children also touching on all of the other pieces of the puzzle that go along with sleep success.

2.  By directing parents to simply put their child down at 7pm and not return until 7am, where does that leave them in terms of daytime sleep?  Is daytime sleep inconsequential if these babies are sleeping 12 hours a night?  If you have your baby sleeping through the night can you simply say – screw a daytime schedule or a having to enforce a nap routine?  Nope.  Sleep is cyclical.  Without good daytime sleep, the quality of nighttime sleep can not be restorative as a baby who is not napping is going to bed in a chronic state of sleep debt.  Simply stated, sleep debt is the accumulation of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in our systems.  If a child is not napping (or not getting in good restorative naps) during the day they are entering bedtime flooded with these hormones.  Even if they are not calling out for help – they are for sure experiencing nighttime wakings as these hormones are present during shifts in sleep cycles, stimulating the child into a wakeful state.  While 12 hours a night is great, it is not enough for a baby who is in need of at least 14-16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

3.  Can every 8 week old go 12 hours without a feeding….especially one who is being breast fed?  For sure some can, but can all?  I have found time and time again that if a baby has self soothing skills and is on the correct schedule, they will sleep through when their belly is ready (click here for more on night feeds).  That is why for young babies, I schedule night feedings into their night – because I am not going to be the one to let someone else’s baby go hungry!  Am I a wimp?  Maybe, but I am a realist.  And I know from experience that my sleep loving, well rested babies, usually sleep right through those scheduled feedings.

Want to learn more about gently teaching your baby to be a great sleeper from the start (we can begin as early as 6-8 weeks)?  Email me: amy@wellrestedbaby.com

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I am so excited to share my first article as a contributing writer for Boston Mamas: 6 Ways to End Bedtime Battles With your Toddler or Preschooler!  Click here for link to original article.

Does your toddler or preschooler stall bedtime with “just one more [glass of water, book, kiss, etc.]” requests? Once you have entered the land of “just one more” it can be hard to leave, as you tend to get in deeper and deeper each time you give in. The result is later bedtimes, overtired kids, and frustrated parents. Today I want to share 6 tips for getting bedtime back on track.
1. Start your bedtime routine a bit earlier
While 2-4 year olds can be difficult to reason with, an overtired kid is likely beyond negotiation. Start the bedtime process early enough so your child can be asleep before overtiredness (and a bigger struggle) can set in. Many parents define their child’s bedtime as the time they get into bed, but bedtime actually is the time they fall asleep. So if you know your child needs to be asleep by 7pm, start your routine so that you can tuck them into bed by 6:45pm. The earlier you start, the less of a production bedtime will be.
2. Ensure that day time sleep is conducive to your child’s sleep needs
A daily nap serves an important role in your child’s nighttime sleep as it allows them to fall asleep in a rested state – the state that is necessary for a good night’s sleep. While toddlers and preschoolers need a daily nap, if your child is fighting bedtime, evaluate their daytime sleep. To be most restorative, naptime should begin at about 1pm every day, as this is the timing that corresponds with their circadian rhythm (internal body clock). As a child nears age 3, I sometimes see that it is necessary to cap their nap and wake them by 3-3:30pm to preserve an easy bedtime.
3. Explain why sleep is important
Kids this age love to ask “WHY?” Use that curiosity as an opportunity to explain why sleep is so important! For example, explain that sleep allows our body to stay healthy. Compare sleep to food (our body needs healthy food to run and it also needs healthy sleep to learn and grow). Explain that sleep gives us the energy to do fun things (park, soccer, swimming, dance, gymnastics, etc.). After a few improved days of bedtime routine, plan a fun outing and explain that you are doing it because everyone is well rested. If your child likes reading, read books about sleep. Some of my favorites include, Things I Love About BedtimeWhy I Love Bedtime, and When It’s Time for Bed, I Have a Plan.
4. Set rules and boundaries clearlyRules make kids feel safe. Kids will challenge rules, but they count on us to tell them right from wrong, safe from unsafe, etc., and push rule boundaries to ensure that you are there to reassure and correct them. Set rules and boundaries around sleep. For example, create a poster that lays out bedtime routine expectations (e.g., bath, pajamas, 2 books, a sip of water, 1 song, 1 big hug, 2 kisses, sleep until morning). Have your child decorate the poster, and read the sign together each night to solidify the routine. Note that this is a rules, NOT rewards, chart. Kids shouldn’t be rewarded with prizes for following everyday rules; the reward will be feeling great the next morning!5. Give them a say

A big part of “just one more” behavior stems from your toddler or preschooler wanting to exert their independence. Give them a say in the process to help them feel involved and empowered. Let them choose their jammies and which stuffed animals to sleep with. Allow them to make decisions when it comes to their own behavior. As odd as this sounds, giving them permission to exhibit behaviors that you actually don’t want (such as crying), will help these behaviors go away, simply because they have a choice in the matter. If you say, “It’s bedtime, please don’t cry,” they may cry only because you told him not to and it’s their job at this age to be contrary. Instead, say “It’s bedtime. You can choose to cry or not cry but either way it is time for you to go to sleep.” Sounds odd, I know, but it works!

6. Be consistent

This final step is key! You must consistently enforce whatever rules you create, so your kids know exactly what is expected. If you allow your kids to break the rules, even once, they will know now that if they push and push they may get their way. So BE CONSISTENT. Remember that they are in place for a reason – to make sure everyone is easily drifting off to sleep on time and getting the sleep they need!

Amy Lage is a contributing writer at Boston Mamas, a certified pediatric sleep consultant, and founder of Well Rested Baby.

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Want your child to sleep through the night, but can’t stand the thought of letting him cry it out?  I have good news: you can teach your child healthy sleep habits and self soothing skills without compromising your parenting beliefs and morals.  

As a mom of two young children, I am part of a few online ‘mom’s support groups.’ They were a priceless support system in those early days, when everything about having a baby was Greek to me. Nowadays, I still peruse them from time to time to offer advice and occasionally reach out for assistance with my child rearing questions. If you are part of these groups you know that the topic of sleep comes up A LOT. Sometimes it stays civil and the inquiry receives well-balanced, supportive advice, but often the conversation gets heated and inevitably leads to the hot topics of sleeping through the night and letting one’s baby cry. Mud is slung as everyone voices their robust opinions.

This pains me for two reasons: First, if a fellow Mom (who is likely exhausted and sleep deprived) is asking for support on something that is already very hard to do, she should not be judged or made to feel like a bad parent because of her decision. We join these groups to help one another and not to play mommy wars. If you have something helpful to add – by all means join in, but if it is a topic that you don’t care for – simply stay out of it. As we learned when we were young, if you do not have anything nice to say – don’t say anything at all. Second, I have a public service message: Sleep training and/or teaching your child to sleep through the night, does not equal “Crying it Out.” Yes, you read that correctly. I am very tired of this misconception. Sleep training is simply the process of teaching your child healthy sleep hygiene. In short, it is making sure that your child is sleeping at the correct times, in the appropriate environment, and has the ability to put himself to sleep. That last part is what most people hang on to – TEACHING MY CHILD TO PUT HIMSELF TO SLEEP! While this is one of the most important skills you can teach a child for his health and well-being, most people cringe at the thought. Why? Because as a society we equate teaching babies to sleep with hours of letting them cry. This misconception is not true. If the CIO method does not work for you – then don’t do it! But do not use it as a reason to not teach your child self soothing skills which are vital to him (and you) getting the sleep he needs.

This article is not about whether or not it is ok to allow your child to “Cry it Out.” Instead, my goal is to explain that no matter what your parenting philosophy may be – you can and should teach your child to be a healthy independent sleeper who is able to himself to sleep at bedtime and naptime, who sleeps through the night (when his belly is ready), and who gets in all of the sleep he needs.

Why is it so important that you teach your child this skill?

Your Child’s Health & Well Being
Gazing at your beautiful baby or toddler as he sleeps, you wouldn’t guess that internally his body is anything but at rest. However while your baby sleeps, his reduced physical activity enables his brain to carry out vital jobs that cannot be as efficiently accomplished during wakefulness. Sleep gives his brain a chance to turn its attention to the important job of consolidating memory and learning. Making sure your child gets good, sound sleep ensures he or she will have a sound foundation for proper mind and body development. The American Academy of Pediatrics has linked babies’ insufficient sleep to everything from future obesity and behavior problems in kids. As Marc Weissbluth, MD, the author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” explains, children who don’t get enough consolidated REM sleep have shorter attention spans, so they don’t learn as well. These babies also release more of the stress hormone cortisol, setting them up for frequent night wakings and stunted naps. In short, sleep = brain power and nourishment for the body.

Additionally, children who get the sleep they need, behave better and are generally more enjoyable. A baby who has skipped a nap is usually quite fussy and unpleasant. And imagine the toddler who has not gotten in his needed sleep for the day – phew tantrums ensue, watch out! This is because when we don’t get the sleep we need, our body and brain are stressed and for a child it is easy to see how that can lead to poor behavior. While this relationship between lack of sleep and crankiness is generally accepted as true, there have recently been many studies on the topic that offer further proof. For example, this study from the University of Colorado Boulder measured the sleep patterns of toddlers aged two to three and a half and found that for toddlers “missing even a single nap causes them to be less positive, more negative and have decreased cognitive engagement.” I think this quote from the study’s author Professor Monique LeBourgeois sums it all up: “Just like good nutrition, adequate sleep is a basic need that gives children the best chance of getting what is most important from the people and things they experience each day.”

Your Health
To be a healthy well functioning adult, you need to get enough consolidated sleep. And chances are, if your kids aren’t sleeping then neither are you! Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing. Sleep deprivation can cause fatigue, clumsiness, decreased cognitive function, impaired motor skills and weight loss or weight gain. Additionally, sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression. Lastly, several studies have shown that moms with infants who do not sleep are at a higher risk of postpartum depression. The good news is that when baby’s sleep improves – so do mom’s symptoms of depression. I know that many parents suck it up and endure their loss of sleep because they think they are doing the best thing for their kids, but in reality you are not doing yourself or your little one any favors. To be the best parent you can be, you need your sleep.

All right, so back to this Sleep Training thing. As I mentioned above, the process of “sleep training” your child is all about instilling healthy sleep hygiene. Here it is broken down WRB Style:

Sleeping At the Right Times – Why is a schedule so important? For a few reasons: First, it is important to have your child on a sleep schedule that is in sync with their inner biological clock or circadian rhythm, because this ensures that they will have the easiest time falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleeping at these correct times will also allow your child to get the best quality and most restorative sleep possible. Second, having a schedule and a consistent routine allows your child to understand what to expect. Children truly thrive on routine and this is no different when it comes to their sleep. Lastly, sleeping on the correct schedule for your little one’s age will allow them to remain well rested and not to become dreadfully overtired.  A child who is overtired has a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. This is because when we become overtired we release the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. This is a primitive fight or flight response, which is intended to keep us going. While this was probably helpful to cavemen, it is not when it kicks in for your baby and he gets a “second wind.” When this response occurs on a regular basis these hormones actually build up in your baby’s system and are present when his sleep cycles shift during the night.  Their presence does not allow a child to easily roll right into his next sleep cycle and actually stimulates him to an awake state.  In fact, the build up of these hormones are the cause of most middle of the night and early morning wakings.  Therefore it is our goal to get your baby to sleep before he has the chance to become overtired and these hormones are released.

In the Correct Environment – Life would be much easier if we could tote our kids anywhere, at anytime and expect that they will get the sleep they need, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Babies and toddlers will achieve their very best sleep in their bassinet, crib, or bed, and it should be your goal for them to do the majority of their sleeping in this consistent location. This is especially important when they are overtired or learning to self soothe, but is a good practice whenever possible. As your child is becoming a more social being, he will have a harder time sleeping out and about and on the go. Sleeping at home in his own cool and darkened room will make sure there are no distractions. Also, babies and toddlers have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary location like their own bed. Vibrations or motion during sleep (think strollers and car seats) force the brain into a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap. It’s similar in comparison to the sleep that you get on an airplane: ok, but not really restful. A nap on-the-go here and there is fine, but most naps and all night time sleep should occur in your child’s bed. This does make you a bit of a slave to your house but ask anyone who has kids – that first year flies by. Before you know it you will be out and about and personally, I would rather stay in and have a well-rested child than be out with a cranky, overtired baby.

Additionally the proper sleep environment for your baby or toddler is critical – a dark room (black out blinds and no sources of light) free from distractions (mobiles, toys, music), with white noise and a temperature between 65-70 degrees.

Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep On His Own – As is one of the main points of this article, CIO isn’t the only way to teach a child self soothing skills. You can gently teach your child this skill while staying with him and reassuring and guiding him along the way. It does require the above items to also be in place and it will require time, patience and absolute consistency, but in a short time it will all come together. Do an Internet search for the terms Camping Out method, Pick Up/Put Down Method, or Fading. Decide which one is for you and then come up with a solid plan that you feel comfortable implementing. These are all gentle methods where you can be with your child all the steps of the way. I suggest writing out your plan of action, so you always have it in writing and are able to stick with it to a T. If you feel like you cannot go at it alone, enlist a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant to support you through the process. Remember that this is simply the final piece of the puzzle – in order for your child to achieve healthy sleep they must also be sleeping at the correct times in a consistent environment that is conducive to healthy sleep.

The Tip Take Away: No one likes to hear their baby cry. I do not think that is up for debate. And no one takes the decision to do so lightly. The bottom line is: if allowing your baby to cry alone in his bed does not work for you and your personal beliefs and parenting philosophies – then don’t do it. BUT you can and should teach your baby this extremely important skill as there are several gentle and effective ways to achieve the same goal.

IMG_0375I got 9 hours of sleep last night. Nine. Glorious. Hours.  I tucked myself in just before 10pm and woke to my 2 year old talking to herself at 7:03am.  It was the most I’ve gotten in several months and it felt amazing.  Sadly, I have only myself to blame for my sleep shortage as my two girls consistently sleep 11-12 hours each night (with the rare exception being when they are sick or have some other developmental issue going on). Being a work at home mom, I do the vast majority of my work in the evening and often find myself on my computer until at least 10pm and then spend another hour unwinding with a glass of wine or a cup of tea before finally climbing into bed at 11:15pm or so. On week days, my husband’s alarm goes off at 6:15am so this allows me to get in 6.5 hours at best.  Then there is our one date night a week when we are never in bed before midnight.  Do the math and you will see that this has me running on a constant sleep deficit.  And I am not alone.  With a simple search of the web, you will find article after article showing that americans are not getting the sleep we need.  Most of us prioritize our children’s sleep, yet put very little importance on our own.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults are in need of 7-9 hours of sleep per night yet most of us fall short of the 7 hour mark most nights.  Sleep is a biological need and is just as important to our well being as food and water.  We would never forget to eat or drink – so why are so many of us neglecting our sleep needs?  According to a Gallup report conducted in December 2013, 40% of Americans are getting 6 hours or less of sleep a night.  We all know not getting our sleep can affect our mood, our productivity, and our focus, but did you know that not getting enough zzz’s has been linked with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.  In addition, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related crashes and drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.  So while our new years resolutions have past and our lenten sacrifices are nearly over – I am going to choose today, March 22nd as the day to make some positive health changes in my life and choose to prioritize my sleep needs.  If one good night of sleep can feels this great, I can only imagine (since I truly don’t remember!) what several will feel like.  Whose with me?  My alarm will be going off at 6:15am tomorrow morning – so in order to get in my 8 hours, I will be in bed by 10pm tonight.  And most nights from now on….I hope!


Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 4 year old Stella, their 22 month old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at amy@wellrestedbaby.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook too more great sleep tips!

 

 

IMG_0277Think it takes the luck of the Irish to have a great sleeper? Think again. Having a child who loves to sleep is not a game of chance; it simply takes providing them a with a healthy foundation so they can learn this skill. Sure, some children are just easier going in general and are able to simply go with the flow. For these kids, sleep can come more easily than for others, but all children can 100% be taught to be great sleepers. Most adults do not know that sleep is a learned skill; we all learned to sleep so long ago that we assume for our kids it should be second nature. However, one of our most important jobs as parents is to provide a foundation for a lifetime of good sleeping. It sounds like a daunting task, but if the following five key components are applied consistently any child be a sleeper of gold (even without a rainbow!):

1. A Consistent Place to Sleep
Babies and toddlers will achieve their very best sleep in their bassinet, crib, or bed, and it should be our goal for them to do the majority of their sleeping in this consistent location. This is especially important when they are overtired or learning to self soothe, but is a good practice whenever possible. As your baby is becoming a more social being, he will have a harder time sleeping out and about and on the go. Sleeping at home will make sure there are no distractions. Also, we all have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary location. Vibrations or motion during sleep (like that which occurs in a car seat or stroller) appears to force the brain to a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap.

2. Respect of your child’s Biological Sleep Rhythms
Make sure your child naps at the times that are biologically appropriate for a child his age. We all have internal clocks (called circadian rhythms) that make us feel drowsy at certain times. It is easiest at these times to fall asleep and to get our lengthiest and most restorative sleep. These times change as your child grows older. If you can base your child’s nap times around these rhythms they will be able to achieve their best sleep. While it is sometimes daunting to follow a schedule, it will allow you the freedom to know exactly when your child will need to sleep and also provide your child with the sleep that he needs. If you stick closely to the schedule while building the foundations of your child’s sleep and getting them well rested, you will be able to be a bit more flexible with timing once their sleep is on track.

3. An early bedtime that is flexible according to the quality of day sleep
Bedtime times should not be a set time on the clock (for example 7pm every night) and will instead shift from day to day based on how naps went that particular day. The key to an appropriate bed “time” is making sure your child is fast asleep prior to becoming overtired (click here for more on bed timing). When we become overtired our bodies release stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline) in an effort to keep us going and creating a second wind. Once releases, these hormones it makes it very hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Therefore to ensure sleeping success, your baby needs to be asleep before this can occur.

4. Implement a Consistent Soothing Routine
Babies and toddlers actually crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know what to expect. They follow patterns and cues, so if you create a consistent soothing routine before sleep times then they will know to expect sleep to come next. Your soothing routine does not need to be anything complicated – maybe a book, and then a nice soothing song, and into bed, sleepy, but awake.

5. The ability to self soothe
Self-soothing is a skill that every child has to learn. Once your child is on the correct schedule and is falling asleep before he becomes overtired, self-soothing will come much more easily. If taught early enough it is very easy to get your baby to learn to put himself to sleep with minimal effort and little or no tears. As a child becomes older and has not learned to self soothe, it is a bit more difficult as they have come to rely on you to do this process for them. There are lots of methods for teaching your child to self soothe – some methods involve more tears but work very quickly and some are more gentle and have fewer tears but take a bit longer. They all accomplish the same end goal – teaching your child to fall asleep on their own. This is one of the best skills you can teach a child as it enables them to become well rested, independent and better able to handle the opportunities and challenges each day presents.

That Pot of Gold at The End of The Rainbow?
Every parent wants to know one additional thing: When will my child sleep through the night? All babies are different – some start sleeping through the night at 12 weeks of age and others still need a nighttime feeding until they are nine months old. Consult your pediatrician if you are unsure if your little one is ready to stop eating during the night. However, when babies are able to sleep through the night and when they actually do are often very different things. This depends mostly on you as the parent and the sleep habits you have instilled in your child. If you have consistently implemented the 5 components listed above, your child will have a strong sleep foundation in place and is likely to drop night feedings all on his own when he is biologically ready with little or no night weaning.

Don’t want to go at this at alone? We are happy to help! Email me at amy@wellrestedbaby.com to get on the road to great sleep today!


Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 4 year old Stella, their 22 month old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at amy@wellrestedbaby.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook too more great sleep tips!

Have you held off from teaching your child to become an independent sleeper because getting started just seems too daunting or stressful for you? We now offer the “WRB Sleepover,” a full service consultation which includes an overnight visit from one of our consultants the first night you execute your custom sleep plan. This package is geared towards the family who wants extra support when it comes time to implementing the plan or wants some hand holding through the first night of the process. This choice may be helpful for clients with baby blues, postpartum depression or who are perpetually sleep deprived. Here’s what’s included:
– Our WRB New Client Information Form
– A 90 minutes initial consult via Skype, FaceTime, or phone in which we review your new client form and review the science of sleep and best practices as they pertain to your child’s needs
– A custom WRB Sleep Plan based on your child’s needs and your family’s philosophies and beliefs, which clearly lays out the steps needed to reach your goals
– A “sleep over” the night you implement your plan, where we are on hand to guide you and provide overnight sleep suppor through the sometimes stressful first night of the new routine. If your child is awake, we are awake guiding them towards becoming an independent sleeper
– A “team meeting” prior to us leaving your home, recapping the prior night and reviewing the plan for that day’s naps
– Two weeks of follow-up email support in where we touch base daily to answer questions, review the plan, and provide reassurance and support (up to 3 emails per day)
– Two follow-up 15 minute phone calls
– A healthy and independent sleeper who is prepared for a life time of good sleep!

Now that’s my kind of sleepover!

Interested in this or other WRB services? Check out our services page – http://wellrestedbaby.com/services/

IMG_0205This week is truly all about sleep! Today (March 13th, 2015) is Word Sleep Day and National Napping Day was on Monday. Two sleep holidays in one week – for us sleep junkies it doesn’t get any better! This year’s slogan for World Sleep Day is “when sleep is sound, health and happiness abound” and I could not agree more. Baby, toddler, preschooler, 3rd grader, highschooler, adult. No matter your age, sleep is one of our most important biological needs. As my favorite sleep guru Dr. Marc Weissbluth has said “Sleep is to the brain as food is to the body”. Our bodies regulate sleep in much the same way that they regulate eating, drinking, and breathing. This suggests that sleep serves a similar critical role in our health and well-being. On this World Health Day, I want to share 3 easy steps to ensure your entire family is getting the sleep that they need so “health and happiness abound.”

1. Know How Much Sleep is Needed And Insist On it
The amount of sleep our bodies require changes as we age. Very young babies sleep a lot – 16-20 hours a day (which makes perfect sense as their main objective is growing their brain and body). Many parents are surprised that at 12-18 months, their kids still need about 14 hours of sleep per day. Toddlers and preschoolers require 12-13 hours of sleep per day and school age kids still need 10-12 hours. There is a whole lot of growing going on, and remember – sleep is required for brain growth and development. And if you can believe it, highschoolers still need 9 hours of sleep per night! Knowing how much sleep your child needs to be happy and healthy will allow you to insure they are getting that sleep. For children who are still napping, ensure that naps are happening in sync with their circadian rhythms and that bedtime is occurring before overtiredness can set in. Children who are no longer napping, will need to achieve all of their sleep at night. As we can not count on our kids to sleep-in in the morning (don’t we wish!!), we need to make sure bedtime is early enough to achieve their total needed hours of sleep at night. For example: if your child needs 11 hours of sleep at night and they wake at 6:30am – they need to be fast asleep by 7:30pm. That is asleep, not just getting into bed. This goes for parents as well. To be healthy, well functioning adults we need quality sleep too!

2. Make Sure Bedrooms are Conducive to Good Sleep
Most of us know the ABC’s of a proper sleep environment for our babies and toddlers – a dark room (black out blinds and no sources of light) free from distractions (mobiles, toys, music), with white noise and a temperature between 65-70 degrees. Once our kids get older, we often forget about creating a bedroom that promotes good sleep hygiene, but it is just as important. No matter our age, our bedrooms should be very similar to the environment that you created in your nursery. This means that TV’s, smart phones, computers, and tablets should be turned off and left in the livingroom!

3. Routines Really Are Important
Pre-sleep routines are a necessity whether you are 4 months or 40 years old. Routines help our bodies to unwind and train our body and brain that sleep is forthcoming. For young children, bedtimes should be a bit flexible based on the quality of naps each day (on a poor nap day bedtime should be earlier, and on a good nap day a bit later). For older children, teenagers and adults, bedtime should be at about the same time each day.


Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 4 year old Stella, their 2 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at amy@wellrestedbaby.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook and Twitter for more great sleep tips!

IMG_0198As a pediatric sleep consultant, I have heard it all when it comes to myths and misconceptions about sleep. The cool thing about sleep is that you just can’t make it up when it comes to it’s truths. As it is one of our most important biological needs, there is a copious amount of research out there about it especially when it comes to children. As my favorite sleep guru Dr. Marc Weissbluth says – “it’s not logical it’s biological.” In that light, check out these sleep myths from Cathryn Tobin, MD.

Top 10 Baby Sleep Myths
By Cathryn Tobin, MD

Do you recognize yourself in any of these statements? Here’s the truth about the most common misconceptions.

Myth #1: My baby wakes up because of gas. The most common reason older babies wake up and stay up is that they lack the self-calming tools necessary to manage night awakenings.

Myth #2: My baby wakes up because he’s hungry. Like adults, babies eat for reasons other than hunger. A baby will nurse because it’s the only way he knows how to get back to sleep.

Myth #3: My baby is a poor sleeper. We inadvertently train our babies to be poor sleepers by not equipping them with the skills they need to fall asleep.

Myth #4: Rice cereal before bedtime will help my baby sleep longer. Hunger is typically not the cause of sleep problems after 3 to 4 months of age.

Myth #5: Crying damages a baby’s psyche. I’ve known babies who were raised on attachment parenting principles and those allowed to cry it out. Can I tell them apart by their intellectual, psychological, or emotional states? Absolutely not!

Myth #6: It’s easier to sleep-train an older baby. The longer a habit is reinforced, the harder it is to break.

Myth #7: Teething disrupts sleep. This may be true at times, but teething is blamed for way too many sleep problems.

Myth #8: Poor sleep habits improve eventually. Without their parents’ help, the vast majority of babies will sleep worse, not better, over time. Sleep problems don’t magically disappear. Consider the 2004 Sleep in America Poll, which found that two-thirds of children from infancy to age 10 experience frequent sleep problems.

Myth #9: Babies will get the sleep they need. If only! Babies resist sleep like similarly charged magnets resist each other. Parents need to insure a baby gets enough sleep.

Myth #10: There’s no harm in getting up with my baby as long as I’m willing to do it. If you enable unhealthy sleep habits, you run the risk of your child developing long-standing sleep problems that will persist into the preschool years.

Cathryn Tobin, MD, is a pediatrician, a trained midwife, and a member of the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. She has been speaking on parenting issues for more than twenty years.

npr-homeWe have always said, that a baby who knows how to self soothe will always choose their most important biological need – be it food or sleep. This article supports this advice and even shows that by continuing night feedings for babies who are not in need of night time calories, we may be resetting their clocks. An interesting read. ow.ly/K9BOt

IMG_0116As it’s National Napping Day, I think its appropriate to discuss the how and why of your child’s naps. Starting at around 4 months, your baby’s biological rhythms kick in and suddenly it becomes very important WHEN you child sleeps. We all have biological clocks called circadian rhythms, which are controlled by the rotation of the earth on its axis. These clocks create an internal timing mechanism for sleep based on dark (night)/light (day) cues. Sleeping in sync with these rhythms provides the best quality and most restorative sleep your body can achieve. It is also easiest to fall asleep and stay asleep at these times. Therefore it is important to be aware of your child’s circadian rhythms and schedule their naps accordingly, as this is the best way to insure they get the sleep they need. A one-hour nap at the correct biological time is actually more restful than a two-hour nap outside of this window. The timing of these “sleep waves” changes as we age, but they are a constant for all children of the same age varying only slightly from person to person.

An easy way for adults to relate to the power of these rhythms is to think about something like jet lag. While traveling outside of your time zone, most of us have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep and even if you do manage to get your usual amount of sleep you still wake not feeling as rested. That is what it is like for a baby who is not napping in sync with their circadian rhythms.

The take away – all children can take good, restorative naps if given the opportunity. The key to helping your baby achieve their best nap is having them nap at the correct time of day.