Consistent bedtime

By Bethany Lynch, TheGracefulMom.com

Bedtime is one of the main sleep issues that parents struggle with in children. The problems range from developmental disturbances and nap-related disturbances to summer activities. Occasionally, it is also a temptation to relax the bedtime routine out of guilt.

Source: Nerissa's Ring

As a working mom, having a consistent bedtime has been a lifesaver…one of my top tips. However, it is often tempting to be much more permissive about bedtime and blame it on not getting enough quality time with our kids.

Permissiveness leads to inconsistency.

Letting my kids stay up late out of guilt is not quality time for me or for them. I am a much better mom by having well-rested children, and they love having a well-rested mom. We also make few exceptions.
Some, yes, but not many. We have left parties early, sent strict notes to the grandparents, and put a lot of effort into establishing an efficient routine.

Here is how we did it:

  • Stick to the plan. Once bedtime routine starts, there is hardly any variation. Ours is brush teeth, pajamas, pick/read a book, say prayers, sing a song, tuck in, lights out, door closed.
  • Establish consequences for purposely not obeying the bedtime routine. The first consequence is losing the privilege of picking the book. The
    second consequence is losing the privilege of reading a book. Last would be going straight to bed the second pjs are on, but rarely, if ever, have we gotten to that point.
  • Make bedtime a priority. I usually start picking or guiding activities about 15-30 minutes before our bedtime routine starts. For
    example, if bathtime runs long, then any TV time before bed is either eliminated or cut short. We also aim to be home before bedtime and
    carefully choose activities that will not compete with getting home close to bedtime.
  • Do not over-analyze bedtime difficulties. It is very common for toddlers to have bedtime disruptions around 2 years old and again when
    naptime needs to be shortened. I have been there, and I tried everything. It almost always comes back to staying consistent. See #1!
  • Cherish the routine and make it work. If bathtime takes too long every night, try every other night or 3 nights a week. If you have a
    special family event, do not be a slave to the routine. That is the beauty of the -wise series…flexibility when you need it. I have also
    had some of the best conversations ever with my children during bedtime. Some nights I stay for extra kisses, cuddles, and questions. My son also knows that once the door is closed, it stays closed. My daughter with SPD sometimes gets a 2nd check if she has an extremely hard time soothing herself.

Start as you mean to go on and know that bedtime can be enjoyable for everyone!

What I’m Reading: “Bringing Up Bebe,” The Pause

Technically, I’m done reading Bringing Up Bebe, but there’s so much to discuss! Today, I’ll talk about “la pause” or “the pause.” Essentially, it’s the idea of allowing a baby to self-soothe, pausing before intervening. Now, this blog isn’t really intended for parents of babies, but this idea applies across the board. It’s all about giving children the freedom to gain independence.

For babies, this means not intervening the minute they cry. For starters, by rushing in and picking up the baby every time he makes a peep, the parent could unintentionally wake the baby. But there’s more:

“Another reason for pausing is that baies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. [I’ve noticed sleep cycles can be as short as 35 minutes, particularly at nap time.] It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect these cycles. If a parent automatically interprets this cry as a demand for food or a sign of distress and rushes in to soothe the baby, the baby will have a hard time learning to connect the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 45).

By not pausing when a baby wakes up, we end up teaching them to wake up at every sleep cycle and depend on mom and dad for middle-of-the-night soothing.

“It’s suddenly clear to me that Alison, the marketing expert whose son fed every two hours for six months, wasn’t handed a baby with weird sleep needs. She unwittingly taught him to need a feed at the end of every two-hour sleep cycle. Alison wasn’t just catering to her son’s demands. Despite her best intentions, she was creating those demands,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 47).

Does this relate to older children? Absolutely! It’s all about using your power as a parent, through whatever technique, to teach our children to become independent. Whether you learn to pause when your little one is a baby or don’t learn to do so until he’s 5, it’s serves as an important philosophical parenting decision. Understand that coddling a child doesn’t do him any good. He will need to assert independence at some point in life, and the earlier he does so, the more capable he’ll be.

“Behind this is an important philosophical difference. French parents believe it’s their job to gently teach babies how to sleep well, the same way they’ll later teach them to have good hygiene, eat balanced meals, and ride a bike. They don’t view being up half the night with an eight-month-old as a sign of parental commitment. They view it as a sign that the child has a sleep problem and that his family is wildly out of balance. When I describe Alison’s case to Frenchwomen, they say it’s ‘impossible’–both for the child and his mother,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 48).

And don’t discount the importance of sleep in older children. Good sleep habits begin in infancy.

“There’s growing evidence that young children who don’t sleep enough, or who have disturbed sleep, can suffer from irritability, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control, and can have trouble learning and remembering things. They are more prone to accidents, their metabolic and immune functions are weakened, and their overall quality of life diminishes. And sleep problems that begin in infancy can persist for many years,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 50).

So whether your ultimate goal is establishing good sleep habits or teaching independence, be sure to wait–to pause–before intervening.

Babywise tips for working parents

Source: Photo Credit van city 197

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, 
Childwise Chat 
· Wednesday: Hank Osborne, 
Daddy Life
· Thursday: Rachel Rowell, 
My Baby Sleep Guide
· Friday: Bethany Lynch, 
The Graceful Mom

Help us promote solidarity within the Babywise/Ezzo community by subscribing to these blogs.
___________________________________

by Bethany Lynch from The Graceful Mom

I read Babywise while pregnant with my first child. It just jived with our natural parenting philosophy and gave us structure for how to start. I think that is what I love most about Babywise…the ”start as you mean to go on” mentality. We parent very similarly to this day as we did over 4 years ago. We do not change our tactics after they sleep through the night, or walk, or start preschool.

What I was unprepared for was losing much of the structure when I returned to work. I was heartbroken at the thought of daycare changing everything I had worked on the previous 3 months. It took a lot of trial and error and a few tears to figure out how to keep our parenting goals and philosophies when we were not always physically there.

While our goals may not match everyone’s goals, I think there are quite a few things that are applicable to many working moms and dads. Here are my favorite aspects of Babywise that make a huge difference in our satisfaction and ability to be very involved while we are at work:

  • Find a mutual caregiver. If daycare is not working, find something else. If your family member refuses to work with you, consider daycare. For us, a nanny was the best solution. We still evaluate it every 6 months or so. Being happy with our caregiver was probably one of the biggest factors in my peace and happiness while away at work.
  • Use a log just like daycare even if your mom or best friend is watching your children. Sometimes just knowing if they ate or slept is extremely helpful. Down the road, you can use it to look for structure, potty training, time outs, funny stories.
  • Don’t be afraid of structure when you are home. For awhile, I thought that I needed to be fun and carefree on my days off or the weekends. My kids really do like predictability, and they need to know the rules and reasons are still the same.
  • Don’t be afraid of flexibility. Yes, I know I just mentioned structure. I also tend to be overbearing or overstructured as a working mom at times. Recently I decided to start waking my son up 40 min early when my work schedule changed. It was much more important to cuddle with him and start his day early than to deal with the attitude from missing me.
  • Take your children on dates. I think this is important if you stay at home or work outside the home, but I think it is crucial for working parents to provide that extra special attention. I have even taken personal days specifically for taking a child on a special date. My kids need one-on-one time on a regular basis. We often run errands with one child, and not for ease but for special time. Make sure that dates are dates, and not errands, though.
  • Aim to stay on the same page as your spouse, especially with obedience and discipline. My husband backs me up 100% as a mother and validates almost all of my parenting decisions. We regularly take time to discuss discipline strategy, sleep needs, education, childcare. While this tip is not unique to being a working mom, I am absolutely certain that I would not be the mother that I am without the support of my husband.
  • Find unique ways to implement structured activities like room time and couch time. We still make a point for our children to observe us in conversation without interruption each evening. It may be while we fix supper, while we sit in the backyard, or while the kids finish eating those last 3 bites. Roomtime comes and goes. I wish I could do it every day but it depends on our nanny and how often I have errands on my days off. As they get older, it gets easier, and I try to do it even for 15-30 minutes most days. Some of my favorite moments have been listening to them play together nicely and use their imagination by themselves.
  • Give your children (and yourself) the gift of sleep. I work with so many parents that feel guilty about missed time and let their kids stay up late every single night. We have certainly made exceptions, but consistently teaching our children to sleep well has been one of the best things we did. Bedtime is usually without exception. We also started sleep training from birth. Our kids slept through the night around 4 months of age, for the most part, and I could not imagine working full-time more than a couple of weeks without a full night’s sleep.
  • Don’t over-commit your family time. As a working mom, I feel like I need to have the same attention to detail and opportunities as moms that work in the home. Soccer, classroom volunteer, playgroups. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, and the most important thing is that our family gets enough time together even if that means cutting out other obligations.
  • Don’t wish for what isn’t. I love the structure and parent-directed emphasis of Babywise. I love the results of sleep training. I hate that I am not here all day to implement my dream routine. I hate that I feel like I have to compromise with caregivers. I hate that I often wonder “what if.” The best tip I could ever give another working mom (or dad) is to value what you have. Value what you can do, the values you can instill, the time you can structure…and those sweet grubby hands.

Bethany Lynch is a full-time mother of two young children, a son and daughter. She also works as a full-time NICU pharmacist. Frustrated with the lack of resources for Christian working moms, she decided to start her own inspirational blog. She is very passionate about encouraging other mothers balancing work and family. 

It’s time to take the guilt out of sleep training


It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is
 as follows:

·     Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
·     Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, 
Childwise Chat 
·     Wednesday: Hank Osborne, 
Daddy Life
·     Thursday: Rachel Rowell, 
My Baby Sleep Guide
·     Friday: Bethany Lynch, 
The Graceful Mom 

Help us promote solidarity within the Babywise/Ezzo community by subscribing to these blogs.
______________________________________
By Rachel Rowell from mybabysleepguide.com

Sleep training gets a bad rap. You don’t have to talk to too many moms or look on the internet for too long to get this message. If you want your child to sleep well (especially for reasons that don’t involve your child’s welfare), people start to point fingers and call names.

“What a bad, selfish person!”

“What an uncaring parent!”

“How dare they not put everything, their health, marriage and well-being included, before their child’s every need and happiness.”

“What a bad, selfish parent!”

Maybe you don’t even need someone to tell you this before the guilt sets in. As parents, we give physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to our children all day, every day. We sacrifice like crazy. But what about us? What about our marriage? What about our family as a whole?

Can nurturing ever be taken to the extreme?

I think it can. There is a balance in all things. And we have our own personal limits to consider. There is a time when we turn from a great mommy to a mommy martyr. And it seems the subject of sleep is often one of these times.

We need sleep to survive, and most of us need a fair amount of it to take us from a mindless zombie to a functioning human. We shouldn’t feel guilty because we want some of it. We need it just like our children need it. It isn’t a desire, it is a need. Sleep is food for the brain and body.

Inadequate sleep has many costs to us, our family and others. If you aren’t getting enough sleep you’re more vulnerable to depression, your marriage can suffer, your temper and emotional stability suffer, your health suffers and your children suffer. “A sleep-deprived family is an unhappy, unhealthy one.” (Bedtiming 4) For more on this see adults and sleep and children and sleep.

We need to balance our needs with the needs of our family. We are no use to anyone when we are too tired to think or control our emotions or function in any ability beyond eat, step, sit. If you don’t nurture yourself, you won’t have any energy left to nurture your family.

A baby’s sleep must work for the entire family. Everyone’s needs should be considered. You are a family, after all.

Maybe this will mean you will continue doing what you are doing. Everything is peachy. Maybe this will mean your sleep training will only involve the encouragement of good sleep habits. Maybe this will mean you will do some kind of further sleep training (my thoughts on some of that). Personal capabilities and limits vary just as situations vary. We need to do what is best for us, our baby and our family.

So drop the guilt and get some sleep!

Some like it hot (sleep, that is)

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

·     Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
·     Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, 
Childwise Chat 
·     Wednesday: Hank Osborne, 
Daddy Life
·     Thursday: Rachel Rowell, 
My Baby Sleep Guide
·     Friday: Bethany Lynch, 
The Graceful Mom 

Help us promote solidarity within the Babywise/Ezzo community by subscribing to these blogs.
___________________________________

by Valerie Plowman, www.babywisemom.com.

My children amuse me. I know everyone is amused by their own children. Children are like most people–incredibly quirky. My children are no different, and I find quirks both fascinating and amusing.

Brayden does not mind being cold. He is bewildered when his friends want to go inside after playing in the snow for two hours. Even as a pre-toddler, he did not want to wear a coat out in the brisk fall weather. He just doesn’t mind it.

Kaitlyn does not like to be cold. Unless incredible fun is happening, she is done in the snow after 30 minutes. She especially does not like to have wind blowing on her. Spring is not a fun time due to the wind issues.

McKenna is like Brayden–she does not mind the cold. She will play outside in the snow forever. Brayden is lucky to have her.

That isn’t the quirky part. Here comes the quirky part.

Brayden (6 years old) does not like to be cold when he sleeps. He currently sleeps in a sweatshirt, flannel pajama bottoms, and socks. He wears a child-sized snuggie that his grandmother gave him for Christmas. Then he has his sheet, a comforter, a heavy afaghan, his baby quilt I made him, two fleece blankets, and a couple small cotton blankets thrown on top. His room is kept at 70 degrees. Not kidding.

Kaitlyn (4 years old) loves to be cold when she sleeps. She has the coldest bedroom in the house. She currently sleeps in a flimsy nightgown meant for warm summer nights and hates to sleep in socks. She sleeps with a sheet, comforter, and a couple of fleece blankets because I think she must be freezing, not because she wants them.

McKenna (2 years old) also does not like to be cold when she sleeps. She sleeps in warm pajamas and socks. She has the warmest bedroom in the house. She has more blankets than I can count and she knows if I try to remove some. And she knows which ones I have removed. If she wakes from a nap and had bare arms (because she took off her cardigan because she was “too hot” during playtime), she wakes up crying.

See? They are quirky.

I share these quirks to illustrate that some children like to be warm when they sleep and others like to be on the cooler side. ALSO, it takes some observation to know what they each like–it isn’t always what you might assume.

How do you know?
I know this is an annoying answer for some people, but for me, I just knew. I could tell Brayden liked to sleep warmer as a baby. When Kaitlyn came along, I quickly figured out she liked to be cooler (and I got many lectures from certain relatives about her lack of socks–she hated socks as a four week old and still hates socks as a four year old and I feel so vindicated as a mother!).

The best advice I can give you is to pay attention. You need to notice patterns. You might need to take notes to see these patterns, or you might be able to track it in your head. What did your child wear to sleep in? What blankets, if any, were involved? What was the temperature in the room?

And with that information, how did your child sleep that night?

What temperature is best?
It seems most sleep experts agree somewhere between 65-70 degrees is best (though some go as low as 60 and high as 75). That really is a wide range, though. 60 feels very differently than 75. How do you tell what is best for your individual child? Once again, this is where the power of observation comes into play. You have your range to work with, now experiment and see what works best.

Why is temperature so important?

“Experts agree the temperature of your sleeping area and how comfortable you feel in it affect how well and how long you snooze. Why? ‘When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down,’ says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, who wrote a chapter on temperature and sleep for a medical textbook. ‘Think of it as the internal thermostat.’ If it’s too cold, as in Roy’s case, or too hot, the body struggles to achieve this set point.

That mild drop in body temperature induces sleep. Generally, Heller says, ‘if you are in a cooler [rather than too-warm] room, it is easier for that to happen.’ But if the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up, says Ralph Downey III, PhD, chief of sleep medicine at Loma Linda University…” (source)

Finding the perfect temperature gets tricky with the more people you add to the family.

I recommend you figure out what the lowest temperature needs to be. So in our family, my husband and Kaitlyn like to sleep in a cooler environment. So the thermostat is set to a cooler temperature for those two. Even in the winter, my husband sleeps with only a sheet and a light blanket. No socks.

Then the rest of us warm sleepers adjust our environment as needed. We all wear warmer PJs and all wear socks in the winter. We all have our layers of blankets. The children have space heaters in their rooms that have a thermostat.

So in your quest for good sleep in your family, do not underestimate the importance of temperature, pajamas, and blankets. It is a vital element in getting peaceful, continuous sleep. What is perfect for you will not automatically be perfect for anyone else in the home. Work to figure out the ideal for each person and figure out how to achieve that in your home. You will all be sleeping better if you do!

Top sleep tips for children

by Rachel Rowell from My Baby Sleep Guide

This list is for any age child, but it is especially made for younger children and newborns. I hope it helps!

Avoid overtiredness. I can’t mention this enough. Pay attention to your baby’s waketime, pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues and consider keeping a sleep log. Keep in mind that newborns are often up only to eat and have their diaper changed and then it is time to go back to sleep. If you keep a newborn up too long, helping her go to sleep is going to be really hard–for the both of you! Find that optimal waketime and try hard to keep with it. And keep in mind that it changes and you need to change with it or you’ll have a whole new set of problems!

Swaddle your baby. A newborn that is swaddled is more likely to sleep for longer stretches of time–for naps and during the night. She will also probably settle more easily to sleep. Now who wouldn’t want that? I really like specially made swaddle blankets. I have found that they keep most babies swaddled better and they also make sure baby is swaddled the correct way (see hip dysplasia and swaddling). There are some great ones out there that even help keep those houdinies swaddled!

Help baby distinguish night from day. Some people go all out on trying to help baby distinguish night from day. They keep things crazy loud and bright during the day–even during naps. I haven’t found it necessary to do this to such an extent. Simply keeping things light and somewhat active during baby’s waketimes during the day and quiet and dark at night is usually enough to let baby know the difference between these two times. And only change a diaper at night if you need to (they will end up sleeping in their own pee until they are potty trained so don’t worry about it–you can’t help it!). By need to I mean they won’t leak their diapers. Try night time diapers, a bigger size up diaper, cloth inserts or even a soaker cover to prevent night time leaks. In older children, don’t give them much to drink before bed.

And of course, the eat/wake/sleep cycle does wonders at helping baby distinguish day from night.

Avoid overstimulation. Newborns get overstimulated very easily. Even staring at your face can be pretty intense for them. I know they are cute, but try to contain yourself :) If you (or grandma) overdo it, you very likely will have a baby that has a hard time settling down for sleep. Older children get overstimulated too, so try to turn off the tv and stop the roughhousing at least 30 minutes before bed (how long before depends upon your child).

Avoid sleep props. Sleep props, like consistently nursing or rocking to sleep, don’t always cause problems with sleep, but more likely than not they will. So try to “start as you mean to go on” as the Baby Whisperer says. Sometimes we have to do sleep props to survive or to ensure our child gets some sleep or to extend naps and that is okay. You do what works for you and your baby and your particular situation. Starting as you mean to go on is good, but sometimes it doesn’t work out out perfectly.

Try to put your child to sleep drowsy but awake. As your child gets older you will probably be putting her to sleep more and more awake. If she starts to resist you when you try to get her drowsy before sleep, it is probably time to put her to sleep more awake.

Follow a routine/schedule. Children thrive on routines and consistency as you all know. Keep a consistent morning wake time. Follow the pdf method and the eat/wake/sleep cycle. Encourage full feedings. Try to avoid sleeping during feeds. Be consistent, but flexible.

Start a pre-sleep routine. Make the sleep routine soothing, consistent, predictable and something to look forward to. Avoid things, like the TV, that may be stimulating. Dim the lights. Read a book. Sing a special song. Give lots of snuggles. Enjoy your special time together :)

Be consistent. I have mentioned consistency more than once during this post, but it is important enough that I want to mention it again. If you want good results, you need to be (mostly) consistent. Also give things long enough time to work before you decide what does and doesn’t work. It is fine to change things up, but don’t throw ten different things at your child at once without ever giving them a good try. You’ll send her for a tail spin and you’ll have no idea what caused what and what helped or hurt.

Create a good sleep environment. Keep the temperature around 65-70 degrees Farenheit. Make sure the room is dark at night and in the early morning hours. Try to have your child sleep in his actual bed if at all possible. Avoid itchy clothing and use footed sleepers and sleeper blankets instead of blankets for young children. You might want to consider using white noise if you have a really noisy house or if your child seems to benefit from this.

Stick to an early bedtime. This one thing alone fixes so many problems! Most children do best with a bedtime around 6-8 (depending on naps, morning wake time, age and total sleep required at night). Bedtime may be earlier than usual for a while if you are adjusting to a dropped nap or other changes. It may also be super early for a while if you are trying to combat a cycle of overtiredness. Also, many babies do a bit better with a slightly later bedtime during the newborn period. This usually naturally moves earlier as they get older.

Consider tanking up with cluster feeding and the dreamfeedTanking up helps to (hopefully) extend night sleep and the dreamfeed helps to put the longest stretch of sleep right when you go to bed. And when baby starts sleeping longer, the dreamfeed will be the one and only night feed, instead of one in the middle of the night. NICE.

Feel comfortable with whatever you are doing. Don’t do something unless you are comfortable doing it, especially when it comes to sleep training. If you do, you will feel crummy doing it and you will likely not stick with it. But remember, just because something is hard to do, it doesn’t mean it is the wrong thing to do.

Watch your baby’s cues closely and expect change. The one consistency with babies is their ability to keep changing! Change with them or sleep problems will pop up.

Trial and error is the only way to figure out if something actually works! You won’t know until you try it! Waiting until you know exactly what will work (which is impossible to know) will just lead to a lot of waiting!

Realize that many newborns do not sleep well in the evening during their “witching hour”. Instead of feeling frustrated about this, use this time to get out and do something with your baby (who won’t sleep at home anyway). Use the swing or a baby carrier. Do what works to get you through this time. My youngest spent most evenings in a wrap the first few months of his life. It kept him content during this fussy time and he even fell asleep sometimes.

Learn about developmental periods that make sleep training or sleep in general tough. One of these is the Wonder Weeks. During this time your child’s mental (and often accompanying physical) changes that cause him to see the world in a whole new light–and sleep often suffers. If you know about this, you’ll have a heads up about what is going on and won’t be so flustered. There are also developmental periods mentioned in the book Bedtiming that may not work well for initiating sleep training.

Relax! Don’t obsess! Relax! Enjoy your baby. There will be sleep regressions and hiccups along the way. Remember, all babies have their off days just like we do. Don’t worry about it.

Keep the end goal in mind when things are tough and you feel like giving up. Try working on one thing at a time. Find some support (like this site!). Have some (more) patience. (Remember, your baby is only X weeks old.) Relax and don’t let that bad nap ruin your day!

What I wish I’d known with baby #1

by Rachel Rowell, My Baby Sleep Guide

The first few months after my first child, Joshua, was born were rough. Okay, I’m under-exaggerating that. He cried endlessly, didn’t sleep, and I was a basket case. Maybe you’ve been there. It’s not a pretty sight.

The second time around went much more smoothly. I knew what to expect, I thought a lot about how I wanted to do things, and I learned piles of stuff through experiences, my own and others’. Maybe this is your first child or maybe it’s your fifth. Either way, sometimes we all need a moment to take a look at the bigger picture, remember what to expect and maybe even get a few pointers.

Here’s my list of what I wish I’d known with Joshua, or baby #1. Much is related to sleep, but not all.

  • Remember, life with a baby is a journey, not a destination. Keep the end goal of great sleep in mind, but don’t get so distracted trying to reach it that you forget to live and enjoy the journey.
  • Make sure to let baby fall asleep on you every once in a while. It is one of those precious moments that will stay with you forever.
  • We all have our bad days, babies included. So don’t freak out and jump to every possible conclusion when they happen! You will stress yourself out for no reason at all. If things last for more than a day or two, then it is time to start the investigation.
  • Consistency pays off. It really does.
  • An overtired child, particularly a baby, is your worst nightmare. Mess up all over the place, but do not even go there! See waketimes and sleep cues for some pointers.
  • It’s okay to not be supermom every second of every day. Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes. Consider it practice at being humble.
  • Someone, somewhere out there will always be critical about how you raise your child, especially how you sleep train and discipline him. Forget about it. As long as you are keeping your child safe, happy, healthy and loved, then you are doing the right thing.
  • Children are hard. They take a lot of work. They stress you out. At the same time, raising them will likely the best thing you ever do.
  • Babies have different personalities. Some are easier than others. It is a fact of life (albeit an unfair one!). Some sleep great no matter what. Some have quite a few sleep problems even if things are done perfectly. That is how it goes. If you fall into the “doesn’t sleep great” party, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your child. Sleep just isn’t one of his strengths. I’m sure he has many others.
  • Motherhood is full of small, but great moments. Focus on those.
  • Be patient with sleep. It takes some babies a while to get it. If it takes them a month longer than their older sister or cousin it doesn’t matter. They have their own timetable. Their uniqueness makes them special.
  • Tomorrow is a new day. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or the day before. Time to start afresh.
  • If you think your baby has colic, rule out overtiredness first. Because that is very possibly the problem.
  • Everyone needs support sometimes. Someone to talk to. Someone to give you a hug. Knowing you are not the only one going through something does wonders.
  • Comparing your child’s sleep to others is only sometimes useful as a reference point, not a copy point. Your child is not their child. Your child has his own needs and his own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sometimes there is no reason for what is going on. No reason at all. Sorry, but it’s true.
  • Babies have different personalities and will respond to your routine in different ways. Work with your baby, not against him when making your routine.
  • Be flexible. Don’t be so ruled by your routine you are unable to enjoy life, unable to enjoy your baby and unable to follow your mommy instinct. Adjust your routine to fit you and baby.
  • Life with a young baby is full of phases. Much of what happens is just a phase. That’s it. Some have names and causes (teething, learning a new skill) and some appear nameless and causeless. But guess what, each of these phases does pass! Keep that in mind when you feel at your wit’s end.
  • Relax. Enjoy life. Enjoy your baby. He will not be little forever. You won’t do everything perfectly and that is okay! If you’re perfect, how will your child learn what he doesn’t want to do as a parent when he grows up. :)
  • A sleep association is not the end of the world. In fact, it is much preferable to a mom pulling out all her hair, going half insane and a baby getting no sleep at all. Yes, start as you mean to go on, but only if the end result will be a pleasing one. There are many things worse than a prop-dependent baby.
  • Your baby is not a machine. The same thing goes for you. Do not expect perfection on either front. Do not expect things to go exactly by the book. They won’t. Thinking so will result in piles of stress and, sometimes, a feeling of failure.
  • You are doing better than you think you are. You are really are!

And finally, remember to take time out for yourself sometimes. You need it and most importantly, you deserve it!

Rachel blogs at My Baby Sleep Guide.

Moving to one nap a day

I don’t usually use this blog as a forum to give advice on naps and specific schedule items, but I see this one come up so often, I thought I would address it here. When our children drop the morning nap, it marks a shift in the child’s development. Dropping the morning nap is a big milestone in the lives of many parents of toddlers. Yet it’s almost one of the most frustrating. Many Babywise parents don’t know how to drop the nap without affecting baby’s sleep too terribly.

Here’s how the situation typically plays out. Baby is napping well and is able to overcome teething and various disruptions without too much trouble. For the most part, things have been going well for quite some time. Then suddenly, baby stops falling asleep for his afternoon nap. He’ll play in his crib for the whole nap, or he’ll go down fine but wake up after just 45 minutes. Mom gives it a day or two before deciding that something is going wrong. She knows that baby needs his afternoon nap and he seems to nap so well in the morning that she’s a little dumbfounded.

It’s true, these babies would nap a couple hours every morning if left to their own devices. But mom knows that there’s no way baby can go from late morning until bedtime without turning into a monster. The afternoon nap must be saved!

Before I give you my advice on dropping a nap, let me explain how I would not do it.

Don’t #1: Get out in the morning

Some say that the best way to preserve the afternoon nap is to cut out the morning nap entirely, cold turkey. To avoid a cranky baby in the morning, you should go out. Run errands. Take baby to story time at the library. Whatever. Just get out. It’s true, that getting out will help keep baby alert enough that he won’t get as cranky as he would at home. But still, it deprives the child of sleep.

Don’t #2: Every other day

Another approach is to allow baby to have a morning nap every other day. It’s true that this could help baby drop the morning nap, but the problem is it still deprives the child of sleep. By allowing him the nap every other day, you are depriving him of sleep and then letting him catch up on sleep on the days you allow it. His sleep is not on an even keel. The other problem with this approach is that it’s still likely that baby will not nap well in the afternoon on the days he takes a morning nap.

Don’t #3: Early bedtime

One idea to drop the nap is to let baby nap in the mornings and then do an earlier bedtime to compensate for the lack of sleep in the afternoon. Mom gradually moves the morning nap later and later while doing an early bedtime. Eventually, the morning nap becomes an afternoon nap. There are two problems with this approach. First, mom is messing with both naps and bedtime. There’s no need to mess with bedtime (if you’ll finish reading this post). Second, baby is still cranky and overtired until the transition process is complete.

My advice: Shorten the morning nap

When you’re sure that baby is ready to drop the morning nap and that the afternoon nap disruptions aren’t due to anything else (noise, teething, etc.), start shortening the morning nap. For this approach to work, it’s important to know your baby’s optimal wake time. When I did this with Lucas, his wake time was 2 hours. I realize that not all babies can go to sleep after just 2 hours, which is fine. The key is knowing what your baby’s optimal wake time is. It’s different for every child.

Before his afternoon nap disruptions, Lucas would usually nap for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. When I knew that nothing else was causing the problem, I started waking him up after one hour of sleep in the morning. I would allow him his usual wake time of 2 hours and then put him down for his afternoon nap. This meant that his afternoon nap started 30 minutes earlier, but it worked because he was still getting used to a shorter morning nap.

I continued allowing him a one-hour morning nap until his afternoon nap was again being disrupted in some way. I let him tell me when he was ready to shorten the nap even more. So then I started waking him up after 45 minutes. Again, I would put him down after 2 hours of wake time. Throughout the transition, I would let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the afternoon and I never messed with his bedtime.

After a few months of a 45-minute morning nap, we reduced it to 30 minutes. After a few months of that, we ended up going on vacation and it was the perfect time to drop the morning nap altogether. If we were home, I might have allowed a 20-minute catnap, but it also became apparent to me that he would have done fine without the morning nap entirely.

Bear in mind, this is not the fastest way to drop the morning nap. We started shortening the morning nap when Lucas was about 14 months old. He didn’t drop it entirely until he was almost 23 months old. Did I mind? Not in the least. Would I have minded a cranky baby all morning or afternoon? For sure. Would I have minded difficult bedtimes due to an overtired baby? Of course.

This gradual approach ensures that baby still gets the sleep he needs while allowing for an easy transition to drop the nap.

Schedule examples

To spell it out more clearly, here’s how our schedule looked during the transition.

Transition months 1-3

Morning nap: 10:00-11:00

Afternoon nap: 1:00-3:00-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 4-6

Morning nap: 10:00-10:45

Afternoon nap: 12:45-2:45-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 7-9

Morning nap: 10:00-10:30

Afternoon nap: 12:30-2:30-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

You’ll recognize that the time between Lucas’ afternoon nap and bedtime got longer and longer. He handled this well. I realize, however, that some might not. The alternative is to keep the afternoon nap at the same time regardless of the child’s optimal wake time. There is something to be said for babies who are used to falling asleep at the same time every afternoon no matter how the long the morning nap was.

Finally, be sure baby is waking up at the same time every morning. No matter the method, the nap transition will not go well at all if you allow baby to sleep in every morning to compensate for a lack of sleep. The afternoon nap is where you will allow him to sleep as long as he needs.

Questions?