blog - well rested baby

IMG_9965In honor of IBCLC Day (3/4/15), I thought I would discuss two topics near and dear to me: Sleep and Breast Feeding

With my occupation, it is a no brainer that I love all things sleep. However, it may surprise you that breast feeding is also way up there in my priority list. Why these two passions? Making sure that my family is getting the sleep that we each need, ensures that we are all happy, patient (that one is for me ;)) and ready to face the challenges of each day. Breast feeding has personally given me more joy than I can express while creating an amazing bond with my daughters and giving them best nutrition possible. But can the two (sleep & breast feeding) co-exist or is does one need to suffer for the other to flourish? This is a common misconception and it is 100% not true. Sleep and adequate nutrition are two of our most important biological needs. Any pediatrician will tell you that a healthy baby will not allow himself to go hungry. As a certified child sleep consultant, it is my belief that many babies are in fact in need of a night feeding through 9 months of age. With this knowledge, I often schedule night feedings into many of my client’s schedules to ensure that the baby is getting in all of the feedings he needs. And guess what? Once a baby is going to sleep before becoming overtired and knows how to put himself to sleep without assistance, he often (drumroll) sleeps right through the night and through that scheduled feed. Why? Because once a baby has mastered the art of sleep, he will choose whichever need is biologically most important. (For more on night feeds please read this article – http://poughkeepsie.macaronikid.com/article/544329/sleep-tip-tuesday-the-night-feed-blues)

But don’t just take my word for it:
Check out this great article by Lorna C. Aliperti, APRN, IBCLC.: Can Sleep Training and Lactation Consultants Coexist?

The Take-Away:

Breastfeeding should not be sacrificed in efforts to sleep train your baby nor does it need to be. Simply provide your baby with healthy sleep hygiene and a strong foundation for sleep and when he is ready to sleep through the night without night feedings, he will do so all on his own.

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Day light savings time starts this coming Sunday, March 8th. I look forward to this day each year as it means spring is not far behind. The buds will soon be appearing on the arms of the tree branches and flower bulbs will soon be poking their way out of the cold soil. I know, I know….with all of this we turn our clocks forward and miss out on an hour of precious sleep. Fear not, while we do actually lose an hour of sleep that first night – this change is nothing to lose sleep over. It tends to be less problematic for most little ones than the end of Daylight Savings in the fall (and may even help parents of early risers finally establish a later wake time). Here are some tips to get through the time change with minimal sleep loss:

Tick Tock, Tick Tock – Here’s How to Reset Your Child’s Clock
If your child is generally adaptable to schedule changes or is taking only one nap or no naps a day, your best bet is to switch everything (wake-time, nap, bedtime, meals, etc.) to the new clock “cold turkey.” Note that you may have to rouse your child at his/her normal wake-time for a few days because of the loss of one hour of sleep. Exposing your child to light in the morning and continuing with all of your normal activities will help reinforce the new wake time.

If your child is napping multiple times during the day (or you are concerned that moving to the new time “cold turkey” will be too stressful for both of you), you can make the switch gradually over a few days by only making each nap and bedtime a half hour later. For example: if your normal schedule is Nap 1: 9am, Nap 2: 12pm, Nap 3: 3pm, bedtime 7pm, it will change to Nap 1: 9:30, Nap 2: 12:30, Nap 3: 3:30pm and bedtime 7:30pm. After a day or two you can add the additional 30 minutes to bring your child all the way to he new clock time. This will help your child ease into the time change more smoothly.

Whichever way you choose to handle adjusting your child’s schedule, it is very important to stay consistent in your regular daily routine. For example, if you always have breakfast before Nap 1, lunch before Nap 2, snack before Nap 3, and dinner, bath and a book before Bedtime – make sure this is still your routine. These regular parts of your child’s day actually act as “cues” telling their brain that sleep is coming next. Keeping them consistent will help their bodies adjust even more quickly.

Assist Your Child by Controlling Their Environment
As we are shifting our internal clocks to wake an hour earlier in the morning, exposing your child to natural light in the morning hours is key. Throw open all blinds upon waking and make sure to get out for some fresh air and natural light in the first half of the day. Still too cold to play outside, spending time in a sun drenched room will work too.

In the evening, we need to adjust our bodies to be ready for bed an hour. Keep your house dim in the hour or so leading up to bedtime – closing the blinds, shutting off any unnecessary lights and keeping the activity level in your home as calm as possible will ease your child into a sleepy frame of mind even if there is still daylight outside.

As the days grow longer and it stays brighter out well into the evening, it is crucial to ensure that your child’s room is as dark as possible so that it is conducive to sleep. One suggestion is to invest in room darkening or “blackout” curtains, which are readily available at many stores and online, and do a great job of keeping light out of little ones’ rooms. My favorite are from Redi Shade, they are quick, easy, economical and block out light better than most pricey shades.

No matter how you choose to handle DST, your well-rested child will easily adjust in a just a few days. Enjoy the extra hour of sunlight and have a happy spring!

nappingNew findings were released this week in the Archives of Disease in Childhood which state that napping at age two and beyond, may interfere with the quality and duration of your child’s night time sleep. Different links to the news are splashed all over Facebook and Twitter, sending many parents into a tizzy questioning if their child is still in need of a nap. My response is YES your two year old absolutely is still in need of a nap.

The Stats
First, lets look at some statistics thanks to our favorite sleep guy Dr. Marc Weissbluth:
• At 24 months, 95% of children are taking 1 nap/day and 5% are taking 2 naps/day. 
 The average total duration of naps is 2.3 hours and the range is 1-4 hours. 99% of children nap between 1.5-3.5 hours. Nap duration is largely under genetic control.
• At 36 months of age, 92% of children are napping one nap/day. 80% of children who nap are napping between 1.5-2.5 hours.
• Dr. Weissbluth further explains that napping is less influenced by genetics than parenting practices.
So what does that mean? It means that those children who are napping may be kids who need more sleep, but they definitely have parents who have decided that napping is still important and have made it a part of the everyday routine.

Does Napping Sacrifice the Quality of Night Time Sleep?
This quote appeared in a today.com article about these findings – “The evidence suggests that beyond the age of 2 years, when cessation of napping becomes more common, daytime sleep is associated with shorter and more disrupted night sleep,” says Karen Thorpe, a professor in development science at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

The problem I have with this statement is that we do not know when these children were napping, when their parents were putting them to bed, and what their sleep environment resembled. These are all important factors to consider before making such a bold statement. Both naptime and bedtime need to occur at the correct biological time for a child’s age in order for a child to get their optimal sleep. At age 2, a mid-day nap should occur around 12:30-1pm as this is the timing that corresponds to their circadian rhythm when their sleep drive is at it’s peak during daytime hours. At this age, I find it is common for a child to nap from about 1-3pm and then fall fast asleep by 7-7:30pm in sync with their natural melatonin onset. I do sometimes see that 2-4 year olds who take very long naps (say from 1-4pm) have a tough time falling asleep at their bedtime and therefore have a harder night. However, if these long nappers have their nap capped (are awoken) at 3-3:30pm, all is well with bedtime again and they are still able to get in quality daytime sleep. But if your child is not on the correct schedule, and is not starting their nap till say 2-3pm, and is then sleeping till 4-5pm, of course they are going to be heading off to bed too late. They will then be falling asleep at an hour that is too late for their biological clock and then yes, there will nighttime woes. So back to Dr. Weissbluth’s point above, it would seem that any night time issues that may arise at age two that occur “because a child napped,” are likely due to parenting practices rather than the child’s sleep needs as the parent likely has the child on an incorrect schedule for their age. Further supporting my disbelief in these findings, in this same today.com article above, it states “the articles analyzed in the new report were not top-of-the-line studies, meaning that children weren’t randomly assigned to take naps and often the children weren’t observed firsthand.” Hmmm.

Karen Thorpe then goes on to say, “Daytime sleep is not a response to poor night sleep, but rather precedes poor night sleep.” Whoa, hold on their Karen. It is a well-documented fact, that a child who goes to bed in a well-rested state has an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. Conversely, a child who goes to bed in an overtired state (think with no nap) has a very hard time settling at bedtime and has frequent night wakings. Why? Because when we become overtired our bodies release the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to keep us going. This has the immediate impact of creating a second wind and reeking havoc on a child’s bedtime, but if it happens regularly these hormones build up in their body and cause the nighttime wakings. So if anything, poor daytime sleep precedes poor nighttime sleep.

The Studies
Recent research shows that naps provide toddlers and preschoolers with powerful ammunition to be at their best both emotionally and intellectually.
• For example, this study from the University of Colorado Boulder measured the sleep patterns of children 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.” The studies author, Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, further explains “This study shows insufficient sleep in the form of missing a nap taxes the way toddlers express different feelings, and, over time, may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems.”
• Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that naptime for preschoolers allows them to better process and remember the information they learn in school. One group of students napped after a memory game while the other group was kept awake following the game. The children who slept approximately 77 minutes were able to remember 75% of what they learned – a full 10% more than the children who did not nap.
Before you decide that your two year old no longer needs a mid-day snooze, think about all it does to help them be their best.

In Closing
If your two year old is going through sleep woes, it is NOT because he is ready to drop his nap. He is either going through a behavioral or developmental period or his schedule has slipped too late. The best thing you can do is to make sure naptime and bedtime are happening at the correct time and then stick with your usual routine and do not change anything.

IMG_8440WRB Milestones: Rolling Over

Chances are that your baby will start to roll from his back to his belly around 4 months of age. As rolling over is your baby’s first move towards becoming mobile it is a very exciting milestone. You will likely catch one of those first rolls on video and dutifully ooh and ahh over this first big physical leap. Then one night you check your monitor and……uhhhh your baby who was sleeping soundly on his back is now on his belly!

Red rover, red rover…turn your baby right over? We all know the safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back. While you should ALWAYS leave your baby on his back when you place him in his crib, what should you do when he starts to roll onto his belly during sleep? The initial reaction is to run in and flip him over, but you should actually resist the urge or it WILL become a game of red rover as your baby won’t have the chance to learn what to do and will instead expect your assistance each time. This is one of those times in parenting where you just have to let them be to figure it out for themselves. You can watch on a video monitor for piece of mind and within a night or two max they will figure it out. One of three things will happen:
1. They will learn to sleep comfortably on their stomach.
2. They will learn to roll back over.
3. They will learn not to roll over in the first place.
If your rolling dervish is still making you a bit concerned, talk to your pediatrician or read this FAQ sheet from the Safe To Sleep Campaign – it’s the 7th question down. Then try to relax and be thankful that they are just rolling and not trying to climb out of their crib….for now!

*Please note, if your little roller is still swaddled, it is time to take it away for safety sake. In a matter of a day or two, they will learn to sleep without it cold turkey. If you have an early roller or your child still has their startle reflex, consider a transitional wearable sleep sack which is safe for rolling. Our favorite is from Zipadee-Zip.

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WRB Sleep Tip: Sleep Training ≠ “Cry it Out”

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 topic of 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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 their 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 his or her 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 their crib does not work for you and your personal beliefs and parenting philosophies – then don’t do it. BUT that doesn’t mean not teaching your baby this extremely important skill as there are several gentle and effective ways to achieve the same goal.

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You have reached 4 months and your tiny, sleepy newborn is finally a sturdy, alert infant. He is now interested in his surroundings and smiling and socializing – it is such a fun time period, but it can also be a bit challenging because for many infants 4 months also represents their first major sleep milestone. While many refer to it as the “4 month sleep regression”, it is actually a sign that your child is growing and maturing and making an exciting leap forward. A sleep regression is defined as a cognitive, physical and/or emotional development that disrupts a child’s normal sleep pattern. A child younger than 4 months actually has not developed any sleep patterns – so it is not possible for a regression to have taken place! Up until now your baby’s daily needs have been random: he has slept when he wanted to sleep and eaten when he wanted to eat. Now suddenly his body is developing biological rhythms that tell him when he should be sleeping. Couple that with his new keen eye for observing his surroundings and his new social skills and you have a recipe for disaster….unless you understand his new needs and follow suit. So what does 4 month old need now to achieve sleeping success?

Your Baby’s Emerging Biological Clock
We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that are genetically controlled. These biological clocks have evolved from daytime (light) and nighttime (dark) cues. These biological rhythms make us feel drowsy at certain times and sleeping in sync with them will produce the most restorative and best quality sleep possible. As we age these times shift. Up until this point, the baby’s brain was too immature to sync with this internal clock. For this reason, his body had an easy time sleeping anywhere and at anytime. Now that his brain has started to mature, he is in need of a schedule that works with this rhythm – including a bedtime that fits in and allows him to sleep before he is overtired.

When Can Your Baby Catch This Sleep Wave?
I recommend a schedule where the first nap is starting between 8-9am, the second nap is starting between 11:30-12:30pm and the third nap starts about 90 minutes after he wakes up from his second nap. As his naps are just starting to develop, you will need to watch your baby for his sleepy cues and then get him down within these windows. Remember, at 4 months old your baby’s circadian rhythm is just starting to develop and will continue to evolve over the next few weeks; therefore you will see some inconsistency with napping. Some days will be great and others will be all over the place. You will need to be consistent with your approach and put your baby down for his naps in these biologically age appropriate windows – while not allowing him to become overtired. Having him on a schedule where he is sleeping during his biological sleep waves will allow him to achieve his best quality sleep, however he will still need to learn some self soothing skills. If you have not started already, this is a good time to allow him to learn to put himself to sleep.

Bedtime Needs To Occur Before He Becomes Overtired
Just as your baby could only tolerate being awake a short period between naps, bedtime is no different. If you baby can fall asleep for the night prior to becoming overtired, he will have the easiest time falling asleep on his own and staying asleep. To achieve this goal, bedtime should roll right into his daytime schedule and be about 90-120 minutes after he wakes up from his third nap. So if he napped from 3-4pm, bedtime would need be at 5:30-6pm. It is a common misconception that putting your child to bed this early will cause them to wake early. This is not true. An early bedtime that occurs before a baby can become overtired, actually allows them to sleep longer and later into the morning. It is very common for babies this age to start sleeping 12-13 hours a night at this point if they go to bed early enough.

Location, Location, Location
Remember that baby that could sleep anywhere and through anything? For most 4 month olds this is a thing of the past. Again, this is due to them reaching several social and cognitive milestones that make them extremely distracted by their environment. At this age it is critical to make sure that your baby is taking the majority of his naps in a stationary crib in dark, cool, and quiet room. This will ensure that he has he will be able to fall asleep without succumbing to all of the new and excited things around him. A nap on the go every once in a while is ok, but we want to make sure the majority are happening at home. Babies have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary crib, bed, or bassinet. Vibrations or motion during sleep (like that which happens in a stroller or car seat) appear to force the brain to a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap.

A Consistent Routine
Babies actually crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know what to expect. They follow patterns and cues, so if we create a consistent soothing routine before sleep times then he will know to expect sleep to come next. Your pre-sleep soothing routine doesn’t need to be anything complicated and shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. For naptime it can include a diaper change, a book, a song, and then into your baby’s crib. For bedtime maybe a bath, a message, a book and then again into the crib sleepy, but awake. Nursing or a bottle can be included in this routine as long as your baby does not fall asleep – I usually recommend them being the first step of the routine if you want them included. These simple steps will help your baby shift from awake mode to sleep mode with ease.

The Tip Take Away: This change can be frustrating as it has caused your baby’s sleep to seemingly take a step back, but I can assure you that this is a necessary step to getting him on a consistent schedule and allowing him to learn to be a great independent sleeper. If you adhere to the suggestions above, your baby will make this transition with ease.

New-Year’s-BabyWell Rested Sleep Tip: 4 Reasons to Resolve to Make Your Child’s Sleep a Priority in 2015

Eat better, exercise more, curse less – these are all great resolutions and ones that most of us have made in the past. But have you ever resolved to get more sleep? If not, that should be your goal for 2015. Sleep is a biological need that is as important as eating, but many of us do not make it a priority for our children and ourselves. Here are 4 concrete reasons why your New Years’ resolution should be improving your child’s sleep, which will in turn improve yours!

1. Babies and Toddlers Need Quality Sleep for Healthy Body and Brain Growth and Development
Gazing at your beautiful baby as he sleeps you wouldn’t guess that internally his body is anything but at rest. 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 to 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.

2. Children Who Get the Sleep they Need, Behave Better and are Generally More Enjoyable
This statement is true for children of all ages and is one that most of us have observed. 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 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.” Another recent study published in the journal of Pediatrics (authored by Reut Gruber, director of the attention behavior and sleep lab at the Douglas Institute at McGill University, in Quebec) looked at children ages 7-11. One group of children went to bed earlier and got about 27 extra minutes of sleep a night while the other group stayed up later than their bedtime and lost about 54 minutes of sleep each night. “Students who were sleep-deprived not only seemed overly tired, but were more impulsive and irritable than their well-rested classmates. They were quick to cry, lose their tempers or get frustrated.” Yet another study, (this one from researchers in the United Kingdom) discusses the importance of regular bedtimes in ensuring our kids are emotionally at their best. “While all of us are crankier and less pleasant when we don’t get enough sleep, this has a particular importance for children, because experts believe that sleep is important for the development of parts of the brain that regulate behavior” explains Dr. Claire McCarthy. But the really exciting part of this study: this is reversible! Children who started having set bedtime routines caught up and behavioral issues improved.

3. Sleep = Brain Power
Did you know that the higher ones IQ is the more they sleep? Definitely an interesting fact, and one that points out the importance of sleep in intelligence and academic achievement. While the amount of sleep your child gets does not automatically predict their IQ, it is certainly important for them to preform at their best. Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, conducted a study where at random a group of 4th-6th graders were instructed to sleep either more or less. The results were astonishing. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains. This is like a 6th grader performing at a 4th graders level after just three nights of poor sleep! Further, studies have shown that lack of sleep cannot allow a child to concentrate in class and therefore they often miss out on new material. If this happens day after day a child can certainly fall behind. Sleep has even been correlated to academic success for the littlest of students. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, found that naptime for preschoolers allows them to better process and remember the information they learn in school. One group of students napped after a memory game while the other group was kept awake following the game. The children who slept approximately 77 minutes were able to remember 75% of what they learned – a full 10% more than the children who did not nap. So it appears, sleep is critical to learning no matter your age.

4. YOU!
If the information above isn’t enough to convince you to make your child’s sleep a priority, then what about your well being! To be a healthy well functioning adult, you need to get plenty of consolidated sleep. Remember that plan to exercise more this year to improve your health? Well adults who are not getting enough sleep have a much harder time motivating themselves to stick with a regular exercise regimen. Recent studies have linked poor quality sleep in older adults to a faster decline in the size of the frontal, temporal and parietal areas of the brain – the areas of the brain that are used in decision making and learning. What’s scarier? Too little sleep can lead to and speed up dementia in adult men. Wow, a good night sleep is more important that one may think! If your child is sleeping well, then chances are you will be too!

The Tip Take-Away: Make sleep a top priority and you will likely have a happier, self-assured, less demanding, and more sociable child. In turn, you will likely get some more sleep yourself enabling you to be a healthier adult and a better parent. It’s a win, win for all!

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_4809On average, a baby will start to pull up to stand on his own at around 8 month as this is about when his torso and leg muscles are strong enough for this new task. As every child is different, some will do this a bit sooner and some a bit later – and both are completely ok. Guess when they like to practice this skill? At nap time! This is because a baby’s naps serve differing biological purposes. The afternoon nap is physically restorative for your baby and is often when they decide to practice their new found gross motor skills. Once this skill is on the rise, many babies go through a bit of a nap regression and skip or postpone their afternoon nap while perfecting their “stand.” If your little one has been a rockstar napper and is suddenly standing for an hour rather than sleeping, it can be very frustrating. Can he lay down on his own? Does he know how to do this safely? While the urge to go in and lay your child down (or at least attempt to reason with him to do so on his own) is huge, do not do it! If you intervene, this “stand off” will last days and days. If you leave him be to figure this out on his own, one of two things will happen: 1. he will learn to lay himself down and go to sleep or 2. he will learn not stand up in the first place. Going in to assist him will not allow him to experience how to handle the conflict of getting back down on his own and will also give him reason to stand for even longer the next day as he will have high hopes of your return. What to do?
-If you see your child is trying to master this skill and it is taking a very long time to fall asleep for his afternoon nap or boycotting the nap all together, get him down a bit earlier than normal in hopes that he will get it out of his system and still fall asleep before be becomes overtired.
-If that doesn’t work and he still decides to stand up through his entire nap or take a very late catnap, an early bedtime will save the day and will help him from becoming woefully overtired. At this age, that means 5pm with no second nap!
-Stay consistent and offer the nap at the correct time (or a few minutes early) everyday and within a few days, this new skill will be out of his system and his nap will come back.
-Do not go in and lay your child down as this will just prolong the return to his norm and usually becomes a game as at this time, he does in fact understand cause and effect.

Follow these simple rules and your child’s “great stand” will be over as quickly as it began.