People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.

Leo J. Burke

You’re tired. Your child is tired. Nobody is happy. You have decided that it’s time to hunker down and commit to sleep training/sleep coaching/sleep shaping (it goes by many names) to help your child sleep through the night and take restorative naps.

But where to start? You’ve read a thousand books and each one contradicts the other. It’s enough to make anyone frustrated.

Folks who don’t face sleep issues may scoff at the idea of ‘teaching’ a child to fall asleep, but what many people fail to realize is that falling asleep unassisted is a learnt skill. And just like anything in parenting, if you want to teach your child a new skill, it is going to require time, patience and a ton of consistency. Every sleep training method can work, but only if you are 100% committed to it. How can you commit to something you know nothing about? Well you’re in luck! This article will be the first in a series of posts examining the most common sleep training techniques from gradual to the most accelerated, along with the pros and cons with each method.

Let’s start at the beginning….

The first place to begin before any sleep training begins is with a solid pre-sleep routine. I often refer to this as a wind down routine. A wind down routine is a short series of steps that go through with your child right before their nap and/or bedtime. It is fairly consistent from day to day and between naps and bedtime. This vital step helps to cue your child’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep. In fact, a wind down routine is so important for great sleep that it’s even recommend for adults.

A wind down routine might include one or more of the following, depending on your child’s age and if it’s before a nap or before bedtime;

  • diaper change or potty time,
  • nursing/bottle,
  • pajamas,
  • brushing teeth,
  • reading a book together,
  • prayers/quiet song,
  • rocking/ cuddling
  • bed

The Next Critical Step…

So now you have the perfect wind down routine and are using it consistently. Excellent! The next important step is focus on your child’s daytime routine.  Ensure that your child is on a solid routine or about to begin one. That means he or she is taking restorative naps (most children 3 and under still need to nap) and has a relatively early bedtime. If the child’s routine isn’t on track, then you are not going to have success sleep training. Why? Because you can’t sleep train a chronically overtired child. You may be teaching them to fall asleep independently, but they will still continue to wake up at night, take short naps and be miserable because their routine is off and bedtime is too late.

This is a really important point, so it’s worth repeating : 

If you want to solve all sleep issues, then your child’s daytime routine needs to be addressed too.

So therefore make sure you child is napping well during the day and going to bed on time each night. Sleep begets sleep and what happens during the day, has a direct effect on the quality of your child’s night sleep.

Know Thyself

Once you have a wind down routine in place and a great daytime routine, you will want to begin thinking about what your parenting philosophy is and what kind of person you are. What does this have to do with helping your child learn great sleep skills?


In order for sleep training to be effective, you have to be extremely consistent day in and day out-for several weeks.  In order to teach a child a skill, they need to practice it over and over again in the same manner every time. I really can’t emphasize how important the consistency factor is. Please don’t skim over that part and think it won’t apply to your child.

It will.

This means you have think about your personality and your parenting philosophy.  Understanding your feelings in regards to parenting, will help you to follow a method you really and truly believe in and feel comfortable with. It’s great that your cousin’s-best friend’s-brother’s -sister-in-law had success with crying-it-out after 4 nights. But if you find it difficult to listen to your child cry for two minutes alone, then it’s that method isn’t right for you because it’s unlikely you won’t be able to follow through for one night, let alone four. Choosing a method that fits with your comfort level and personality is the first step to seeing success.

Know Thy Child

The same holds true for your child as well. What is your child’s temperament and personality? Can your child easily adapt to new situations or are they more stubborn strong-willed and persistent? Not only should you pick a method that you can stick to, but you need to also pick something what is best for your child. Unfortunately, sometimes the two are not the same.  If you have a strong-willed child, then it’s even more important that you pick a suitable method that you can sustain for the long haul.

So there you have the beginnings steps that are vital for successful sleep training. It’s important to begin with these steps first so that you can choose which method you need. Sometimes though, just establishing a great wind down routine, a  consistent and well-timed daytime routine and an age appropriate bedtime is all you need to solve your sleep issues.  If it isn’t, then stay tuned. In the upcoming articles, I will explore the most common sleep training methods.


Guest blog post by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

Lately I have been blessed with opportunities to connect with mothers adjusting to life with a new baby. They have shared their experiences and struggles with me and what strikes me the most is just how much mothers take upon their shoulders, often without complaint, sometimes with a very small support network. Mothers; what cannot be stressed enough is to practice daily self-care and to acknowledge that time for yourself is much deserved!

One recurring theme that comes up among mother’s stories is how hard it is to function after a night with very little sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause poor decision-making, increase the likelihood of depression and affect the quality of relationships.

A few things for new parents to keep in mind are to:

1. Discuss how the childcare and household duties will be managed before the baby is born. Will parents take turns getting up at night? If the mother is the one to handle night feedings, will the father handle all the laundry? Remember, what works for one family may not work for another.

2. Say no to added responsibility. You may feel obligated to join the board of your older child’s school, but doing so with a newborn at home will be too overwhelming.

3. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Ignore the household chores, emails and phone calls.

4. Say yes to help. If family and friends offer to drop off meals, tidy up the living room, or watch the baby while you take a nap, take them up on it.

5. Know that sleep loss can lead to mood changes. Some mothers are susceptible to symptoms of the baby blues and postpartum depression.
Some signs of postnatal depression are:
• inability to laugh and find enjoyment in things
• blaming oneself unnecessarily when things go wrong
• feeling anxious or worried for no good reason
• feeling scared or panicky for no good reason
• difficulty sleeping because of unhappiness
• feeling sad or miserable and excessive crying
• thoughts of harming oneself
• fear of being alone with baby
• difficulty making decisions

Be open with others you trust about how you are coping. Keeping connected with others can alleviate feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, and being overwhelmed

Remember that lack of sleep will not last forever. Most children eventually sleep through the night which means that parents will be able to have a restful night’s sleep again.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is the founder of Nexus Counselling and a licensed counsellor with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. She provides counselling services at the Nest Family Centre on Stafford St. and is a proud member of the Manitoba Filipino Business Council. Cheryl has experience helping clients with issues such as grief, depression, relationship difficulties, parenting, aging and illness. She can be reached at (204) 297-6744 or .

Every year around this time, parents of young children begin to worry. The first Sunday in November brings about the end of Daylight Savings Time when we turn the clocks back one hour. For most people this is an enjoyable time and one to look forward to, as the prospect of having an ‘extra’ hour to sleep is a welcomed thought.
However, if you have a child who is waking early, the approaching return to Standard Time can strike fear in the hearts of even the calmest parent. Suddenly a child, who is waking at the somewhat still manageable hour of 5am, will now be starting the day at the unholy hour of 4am. Other than taking advantage of the new waking and becoming a baker-what’s a parent to do?

Determining A Cause For The Early Wakings
The first step is to figure out why your child is waking up early. So how early is too early? It’s biologically appropriate for most children to wake naturally between 5:30am (don’t worry, this is actually quite rare) and 7:00am. Anything earlier than that usually indicates that there is an issue causing the waking.

  • Over-tiredness-The number one reason why children wake before 6:00am is that they are overtired at bedtime. If this is the case in your child, then you need to look at their overall routine and ensure that they’re getting the right amount of naps in the day and that bedtime is early. If you get them on a good routine ahead of the time change, then it will make the transition much easier to deal with.
  • Hunger-If you have a baby under 9 months, it may be possible that they are hungry and need a feed. If you feed them and they don’t go back to sleep, then see reason one.
  • Discomfort-If your child is sick or experiencing physical discomfort such as teething, wet diaper, too hot or cold, then this can also trigger a wake up at this time.
  • Outside noise-In the early morning hours, we all are in the lightest stages of sleep and can be disturbed by outside noise more easily than during the earlier part of the evening. Anything that you can hear-garbage trucks, birds, street traffic may also be triggering a wake up.

My Child Isn’t Overtired, Hungry, Uncomfortable and We Have A Sound-Proofed House.
We Have Good Thing Going And I Want It To Stay That Way!

If this is you, then first, congratulations! You can pick from the following three options to ease the transition.

1. Do nothing!
Yay! This is obviously the easiest option. You just let nature and biology take over by following the new time right away. Our internal clocks or circadian rhythms are dictated by the amount and timing that our brains perceive light and your little one will adjust in a few days. This is why adults eventually adjust to Daylight Savings and time zone changes as well.
If you have a child who is very sensitive to getting overtired, then they may need an earlier bedtime for several nights after to help compensate for the time difference. For instance if your child was going to bed at 7 previous, their body will be ready for bed at 6pm. On the Sunday you may need to have them in bed at 6:00pm, but you can move that ahead by 15 minutes every night after that.

2. Do Something! Shift Forward to Fall Back
Option One
This works well for children who are able to go with the flow, but a word of warning that it may make things worse for others. Start 4 days before the time change occurs and move your child’s entire routine ahead 15 minutes every day. Not just sleep periods but meals, wake up and playtime as well. Our bodies respond to cues (remember Pavlov’s Dog?) so everything must move 15 minutes ahead each day in order to help the body shift. This also means that you need to leave your child in their bed after they wake up from naps and in the morning because it’s unlikely that they will automatically sleep in longer immediately.

Shift Forward to Fall Back
Option Two
This route takes a bit more time, but can help those children who get overtired easily. For this option you would begin about a full week before the time change and allow for some days of no shifting at all. This gives the child’s body a chance to catch up before being moved forward again. The downside is that you can’t control the wake up and they will likely continue to wake at the same time for a while. To increase the chances of success, it’s important that you leave your child in their bed longer, even if they continue to wake at the regular time. But if you want to try it, here’s an example;

Let’s say your 18 month old currently has this routine:

Wake up 6 am, Nap -12:30pm-2:30pm, Bed 7:00pm

Day 1-move 15 minutes ahead,
Wake up at 6am, nap 12:45pm-2:45pm (if they wake earlier, leave them until this time), Bed 7:15pm
Day 2-Repeat Day 1
Day 3-Move another 15 minutes ahead
Wake up 6 am (most likely still 6am, but leave until 6:30am), nap 1:00pm and leave in bed until 3:00pm, Bed 7:30pm
Day 4-Repeat Day 3
Day 5-Move Ahead
Wake Up-6:15am (but again leave them until 6:45am) Nap at 1:15pm-3:15pm, Bed 7:45pm
Day 6- Repeat Day 5
Day 7-Move Ahead
Wake up 6:30am (but leave until 7:00am), Nap 1:30pm-3:30pm, Bed 8:00pm
Day 8 Time Change and you’re now following the new time

If you’re trying this option, just like in option one, it’s important to move the whole day forward-including meal times and activity times.

3. Somewhere in Between
This option is a middle of the road approach between not doing anything at all and trying to shift each day incrementally.
For this choice, you would follow the clock time but once the time change occurs you would be flexible with their whole routine for the following week. So in essence, instead of moving the routine forward before the change, you are doing it after the change, but watching your child for cues. For the first few days you may only be able to move the nap forward but bedtime needs to stays early because your child is showing tired cues. Or it may be the other way around. Either way, you would move only as much as your child can handle. Once again, it will take about a week for them to adjust.

These are a few options you have to help with the time change. If you find that after a week, your child’s routine hasn’t settled, then Baby Sleep 101 is always here to help you with a customized sleep plan to tackle those persistent sleep problems.

It’s easy as, 1 2 3
As simple as, do re mi
A B C, 1 2 3
Baby, you and me

Jackson 5

It’s that time of year again, when children everywhere will be heading back to class to learn their A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s. If you have a preschooler or school aged child, this can be an exciting month, but also can be a time of big adjustment for their bodies.

If you don’t want to be dragging them out of bed and dealing with grumpy children everyday, here are some tips to help ease your child back into a healthy sleep routine.

1. Start Early

Most people don’t like change and your child is no different. Instead of forcing them into a brand new routine on the first day of school,  it’s a good idea to begin making small changes 1-2 weeks before your child returns to class.

2. Implement a Daily Routine

Summertime usually means our children have less structure during the day, but as we approach the Fall, it will help everyone get back into the swing of things by implementing a more formal daytime routine. This not only includes a consistent wake up time, but having regular meal times and designated play times each day will be beneficial as well. By bringing some structure back into your child’s day, you help gear their bodies towards a more set routine. In addition, this also allows children practice with how to transition between different activities quickly and efficiently.

3. Gradually Move Bedtime Earlier

You know the saying ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise” ? Well, it’s hard to buy into that philosophy as a kid if you’re used to 9pm bedtimes and then the next day your bedtime is 7:00pm. Your child will have less resistance to bedtime, if you gradually move it earlier by 15 minutes every few nights. Shifting in increments allows the body’s natural body clock to readjust gradually as well, making for a seamless transition.

4. Institute a Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine practiced each night before sleep helps to cue the body that it’s time to rest. This routine is beneficial for both parent and child as it creates a calming transition from the day’s activities to bedtime. This evening routine can include any soothing activities such as a bath, saying prayers, singing quiet songs, cuddling and discussing the day and/or reading books.

5.  Create a Soothing Sleep Environment

To help ensure the most restorative sleep possible, your child’s room needs to be conducive for a good night’s sleep. Children, like adults sleep best in a cool, dark room and in a comfortable bed. All electronic devices should be hidden from sight or placed in another area of the house as to not provide distraction or temptation to stay up past bedtime.

By making these small changes well in advance of the first day of class, your little one will be happy, healthy and well-rested come September, enthusiastic to go to school and ready to learn.

Need more help with your child’s sleep? Please visit Baby Sleep 101’s Services page to select your consultation package and begin on the road to better sleep. If you’re not sure which package is right for you, please contact us at

Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy…

This may be true if you’re on holidays, lying in the sun with your feet in the pool, but it may not be quite as accurate if you’re planning to travel with young kids. 😉

Many a vacation has been marred by babies crying, toddlers missing naps and preschoolers having tantrums, leading to a grumpy mom and dad. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Yes, there will always be some unwelcomed surprises on family vacations, but if you implement some of the following guidelines, you will increase your chances of a having a well rested (and happy!) tot along for the ride.

1. Plan Ahead

If you’re going to be staying in a hotel on your vacation, call them ahead of time to see if you can book a room located in a quiet section of the building. Generally, rooms close to the pool, restaurant, stairs or elevator have more foot traffic and are nosier. This can be quite frustrating when you’re trying to get your child to go to sleep.

2. Have a Well Rested Child Before You Leave

It’s important to have your child on a good routine before you even set out on your travels. This means an established nap routine, a consistent and familiar wind down and an age appropriate bedtime. If your child is well rested and caught up on their sleep before you go, then they will be more likely to fall asleep quicker in a new environment, able to deal with any missed sleep better and be just a happier travel companion overall. Win-win!

3. Practice Makes Perfect

If your child will be sleeping in a Pack and Play while you’re on the road, then it’s wise to do some trial runs with it at home. Sometimes children have a hard time settling down in a new bed, so it’s best to let them get used to it, in the comfort and security of their room. You can try one nap a day to see how they respond and troubleshoot accordingly.

4. Recreate The Sleep Environment

Take everything you can to help replicate your child’s regular sleep environment in the hotel. This may include white noise, dark sheets to imitate their blackout blinds, loveys or special blankets. They say that our sense of smell is the most powerful sense, so you may even want to take the same sheets from their bed without washing them. The familiar scents can help to relax your child when they are trying to fall asleep in a new location.

5. Stick to A Regular Routine

I know, I know, who wants same old, same old when you’re on vacation, right? But I tell you the truth-everyone will be happier if you can stick to a child’s regular routine while you’re traveling. Of course, this can’t always be done, but when it can, I would highly suggest it. By maintaining regular nap and bedtimes (when you can),  you will help prevent them from getting overtired.

Although naps in the car are not recommended as part of a healthy sleep routine, when on the road, it sometimes can’t be helped. It’s better for your child to take a nap in the car, than to miss the nap entirely.

Some kids nap well in the car, and if yours does, then plan on doing long stretches on the road during their regular nap time. Remember to leave a little earlier to compensate for falling asleep time. Some parents also have success with hitting the road at a child’s bedtime and letting them sleep for a few hours while mom and dad drive to the next location. Have your children in their PJs already so that once you arrive at the hotel, you can quickly transfer them to their bed.

If you have a tot that doesn’t like to sleep in the car, then try to be at your destination in time for their next nap. If it can’t be helped, one nap will be missed, but you have the option of picking which one it will be, choose to skip the afternoon nap. The morning nap is the most restorative and sets the mood for the rest of the day.  Either way, if a nap is skipped, then put them to bed early that night to help ward off overtiredness.

Once you are back from your trip, get right back into your old routine. Expect that your child’s sleep will be a little disturbed for about a week, but with time, consistency and early bedtimes, things will be back to normal quickly.

Overtired:extremely tired, but not able to sleep.

As a certified sleep consultant, I work with a lot of tired families. Although each family is unique, there are often elements that are common between them. One prevailing issue with parents, is the misunderstanding of how being overtired effects their child. When parents come to me, they often say that they’ve tried a certain sleep training method and it didn’t work. But if their child is constantly being kept up too late or skipping naps, then the child never gets caught up on sleep. Sleep training doesn’t work on chronically overtired children. It doesn’t matter how great the child is at self-soothing. If they’re always overtired, they are going to continually have sleep problems.

When a child is overtired, they enter into a state of sleep deprivation and although that may sound extreme, it really is the truth. The words ‘sleep deprived’ conjures up images of someone barely able to function, zombie-like and listless, but this usually doesn’t match up with the parent’s reality so they have a hard time believing that their child is very tired.

Often overtired children can behave just the opposite;  instead of being sleepy, they’re overactive, hyper or slaphappy- because their bodies are running on adrenaline. Parents will try to put their children down for naps or bedtime and the child will often have a hard time settling, leading parents to believe that he or she really isn’t tired, when nothing could be further from the truth.

We live in a society where our culture encourages people to go with little sleep and it is very challenging for parents to fully appreciate the truly detrimental side effects that chronic sleep deprivation can have on babies and children. Adults can get by on little sleep, but our children are much more sensitive to being tired and it always manifests itself in other areas.

So let me break it down for you…

When I say overtiredness is the root of all evil, I really mean it. Overtiredness causes the following disturbances in children:

  • frequent night wakings
  • early wake ups
  • short or broken naps
  • resisting naps (excessive crying or extreme giddiness)
  • night terrors
  • bedtime battles

behavioural issues such as

  • meltdowns
  • clingy and/or unable to play independently
  • defiant
  • temper tantrums
  • crankiness
  • refusal to eat
  • hyperactivity

In addition to not understanding the effects of sleep deprivation, most parents also have a very tough time understanding how long it takes to undo those effects. (hint-a long time! 😉 )

When a child has been missing his or her required amount of sleep for several days, weeks or months, this missing sleep takes its toll on their body and produces a ‘sleep debt’. This is similar to what we experience when we are financially in debt. A healthy bank account is similar to a healthy body-you want to have a surplus.

When a child is sleep deprived, you can imagine that their body is like us being $10,000 in debt. You need to work at depositing at least $10,000 back into the account just to break even. For most of us, this takes some time and doesn’t happen overnight. The time it takes you to work and put that money in, is similar to the time you must invest in getting your child caught up on sleep. This is why sleep training, or getting a child on a healthy sleep routine, takes so long and why people often give up. We have all seen the books that promise miracles with our children’s sleep in only a few days and when it doesn’t happen, we get disillusioned.  However, if you understand the process and know that each day you get your child to bed a bit earlier, or have better naps, you are slowly chipping away at that sleep debt, then you will be more likely to stick it out and see success .

Once you have caught your child up on sleep, keep in mind that you are only “breaking even”. That child, much like your bank account, is only at zero. You must then continue to work at getting extra money or sleep to be in a healthy state or surplus. Depending on how long your child has been overtired, will determine how long it will take to get them caught up and then become well rested (their body’s version of having a financial surplus). The good news is, is that if you are consistent, then you will start to see some changes quickly.

When you really focus on fixing your child’s sleep issues, you might feel like you’re stuck at home for several weeks. And you’re right-you are. But, like anything in life-nothing worth having, comes easy. Keep focused on the big payoff at the end-sleep! All the hard work will be well worth it when you have a well rested, happy, compliant child who sleeps through the night. Life becomes so much easier, calmer and more stress free when everyone is getting the sleep they need. If you want more help getting on the right track, please visit and check out our services.

I have to confess-I’m not crazy about the newborn stage. I would almost go so far as to say that I hate it. While family members “ooh” and “ahh” over my new son, I get stressed out about everything. I can’t relax as I constantly worry that he isn’t eating/sleeping/pooping/enough and I have a hard time with the things that I can’t control (short naps, anyone???).  I actually look forward to the 4 month “sleep regression” because it means that a consistent routine is around the corner. While I *know* that newborn sleep is very unpredictable, it is still hard for me to accept.

So of course I was obsessing wondering why my newborn was screaming at me frequently throughout the day-reflux? milk allergy? colic? Although all of those were legit concerns, once I started looking at my son’s routine it became apparent that he was staying up much too long. I was missing his sleep window and he was catching his second wind and then finally crashing out of exhaustion. It was right there, right on my own website; “babies will have very short wake times during these early weeks”. It was right there and yet even I forgot about it.

Now in my defense, I am adjusting to life with a 2 year old and a newborn, but somehow I forgot all about keeping wake times super short.

My son is now 10 weeks old and things are slowly starting to stabilize, but life with a newborn is still a challenge for me and I’m sure for some of you out there. Here are a few additional tips to help all of us survive this phase.

Keep Wake Times Short

When I say short, I mean short. A newborn (0-6 weeks or so) will only be able to handle staying up for about 45 minutes to one hour (regardless of how long of a nap they previously took), and some only 30 minutes. This is from eyes open to eyes closed. Do not make the same mistake I did and start winding your baby down at the hour mark. If your little one wakes up at 9:00am, eats, poops, changes and needs 15 minutes to fall back asleep, you really only have until 9:30 am to get everything done before you need to have them back in their room for the wind down. If you wait too long, then your tired  baby becomes overtired extremely quickly. Once overtired, your baby will fight going to sleep (probably with lots of crying), will likely not nap very well and then wake up cranky and greet you with more crying. Good times!

Sometimes parents think that their hard-to-get-to-nap baby might not need the same amount of sleep as other babies. Not true. I know sleep deprivation makes us do some crazy things, but do not kid yourself into believing that your baby doesn’t need to sleep as much as other babies. They do-get them back to bed very shortly after waking up and you will have an easier nap time. This may mean, that like me, the theme from Mission Impossible plays in your head the moment your little one wakes up, but it’s better to be aware of the time crunch, then to leisurely go about his or her next wake period, completely oblivious that there is a disaster waiting to happen in the next 45-60 minutes.

Use White Noise

Babies were surrounded by a lot of noise for the first 9 months of their lives inside the womb. Once out, they do much better if you help to replicate those surroundings while they’re sleeping. There is a plethora of devices to choose from, but you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy white noise machines. Take any old radio that you have kicking around and turn it to static. Your baby was used to it being quite loud in the womb so the white noise should be loud enough to block outside sounds reasonably well, but still be comfortable to your ears.


This age-old tradition is a fantastic way to help your baby sleep better. Swaddling makes a baby feel secure (just like he was in the womb) and keeps them from startling themselves awake from flailing little arms. There are many different products on the market to swaddle your little one in-whether it be blankets to do it the old-fashioned way or velcro wraps that are idiot proof. Pick one that works for you and your baby. A tight swaddle is best, but make sure that it isn’t too tight across the chest and that your baby’s legs can bend. Do not swaddle if your baby can roll over and NEVER place a swaddled baby on his tummy.

Use Every Tool You Have

In the early weeks (0-8), your main goal is to just survive. You can not create any bad habits in this time. While sleep props (swings, holding/feeding/rocking to sleep, etc) aren’t recommended for use on a daily basis later on, at this stage they are what can help you get some much-needed sleep. Use every available resource you have as you adjust to having a new baby.

Go To Bed Early

Many of us have heard the advice to “nap when the baby naps”, but if you have

a) other children,

b) a short napper or

c) both

this is not helpful, so I won’t even suggest it. What I will suggest is to go to bed for the night when your baby does. Most babies will have their longest stretch of night sleep in the earlier part of the evening. Usually this is when we are still awake and functioning. But it’s in your best interest to hit the hay at this time too so that you can have a few hours of consolidated sleep. Even if it means that you are closing your eyes at 7pm, you will thank me when you have to wake up at 1, 3 and 5am the rest of the night.

Get Help

Years ago raising a child wasn’t a job that solely fell on a parent’s back. There were brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbours, that all helped out. There literally were villages that raised a child, not the islands that we see today. Parenting is always tough, but it’s so much tougher when you don’t have support or help.

I really believe us experienced moms need to start purchasing cleaning services, grocery gift cards and babysitting/mother’s helpers services for our soon-to-be-mom friends. Forget buying things off  their baby registry that they “think” they need. Us veterans know you really don’t need the matching lamp, diaper holder or wall decals for your baby’s bedroom suite.

What new moms need most? Their sanity.

That comes in two forms-sleep and help. If you are a new mom who just registered for all 85 pieces of a baby bedding set, go back to the store, delete the list and go register at Sobeys for groceries. Or better yet, make a list of whatever you really need and whenever someone asks ” what would you like as a baby gift?” or “how can I help?”, give them something off your list. If you need your floor vacuumed, a nap and/or your feet massaged, ask for it! Caring for a baby is hard work, and there should be no shame  in asking for whatever makes it easier for you.

Treat Yourself Every Day

Wouldn’t it be great if a massage therapist could stop by your house every afternoon? Or a gourmet meal suddenly land on your doorstep? Great yes, but likely not going to happen. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself everyday with something small. I would love to go to the spa, but for now, every morning in the shower, I make the water as hot as I can stand it and for 20 glorious seconds (or until I hear my son on the monitor) I pretend I’m here again. Maybe you love ice cream or want to watch one TV show in peace-whatever it is, reward yourself everyday for being the awesome parent you are.

If you’ve been an exceptionally fabulous parent this week/month/year, then perhaps you should take a cue from this clip from Parks and Recreation.

Living with a newborn certainly has its challenges, but this phase doesn’t last forever. Someday soon we will be packing up the tiny little onesies with tears in our eyes remembering how cute and squishy they were. We will completely forget the fragmented sleep, the many feedings, constant burpings and diaper changes. Until that point happens though, follow the above suggestions to help you make it through.

In last month’s blog post, (Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 1), we explored a common sleep issue that arises in toddlerhood; making the transition from a crib to a bed. In this month’s post, we explore another big milestone; dropping the final nap.

For better or worse, you have probably had a long history with your baby’s naps. In the beginning you and naps were in the initial stages of your relationship. It was all new and exciting. You loved your baby’s naps! They were so pleasant and low maintenance; they appeared whenever and wherever and often lasted for hours. It was wonderful and you barely had to do anything!

Then came the 4 month sleep regression and you started to see a new side to naps. They started to become resistant and stubborn and often only stuck around for 45 minutes at a time. Your baby would wake up, still tired but wouldn’t go back to sleep and the novelty wore off quick. You started to become resentful of how much time you and naps spent fighting.

But, if you were lucky, those naps started to listen to your concerns and decided to really try to change. With some time and patience, they learned to  lengthen back out again sometime around month 6. Somewhere between months 6-9 your baby dropped their 3rd catnap, leaving you with 2 solid naps and life was good. You could depend on naps again to always be there for you-in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Hopefully, the love affair continued until you hit the 2-1 nap transition somewhere between months 14-18. This is where you and naps hit the lowest point in your relationship. It was a really rocky patch and you didn’t think you two would make it. But surprisingly you did!  You persevered and found your way back to each other for another few years.

But now the time has come to finally say good-bye to your child’s afternoon nap. Like any breakup; it’s bittersweet. You know it’s for the best, but you will be sad to see it go. So, how does one survive the emotional toll that loosing a nap takes on a parent?

Of course, the above is all tounge-in-cheek, but anytime a child goes through a nap transition, there are certain steps you can take to help make the switch as painless as possible. Often, by the time a toddler or preschooler is ready to drop his nap, many parents make the mistake of thinking that the child is old enough to handle the change without any problems. But this is usually not the case and our little ones will often be very tired by the late afternoon. Much like the 2-1 nap transition,  this may not happen right away, but problems may start to show up a few weeks later. So here’s what you can do:

1. Be 110% Sure That They’re Ready

This is by far the most common mistake parents make. They’ve heard from their friends or well-meaning relatives that “so and so never napped after the age of 2” and take the first instance of nap resistance as a sign that their child doesn’t need to nap. The vast majority of children don’t drop their nap until somewhere between the ages of 3.5-4 years old and even then will still require naps every few days to help their bodies adjust. What is more common though, is periods of time when your toddler will not nap. If your child is under the age of 3, then this is likely just a phase and will return to napping in a few weeks. In the meantime keep offering nap time every day.

2. Keep ‘No Nap’ Days Dull and Boring

When your child skips a nap, it takes a toll on their bodies and although they may not show it, they get tired quicker. Try to keep the afternoons on these days low-keyed and uneventful. Obviously you won’t always be able to do this, but try as best as you can. Those days are not the days to decide to go to a restaurant for dinner or to a sporting event. You don’t want to over exert or over stimulate your little one who is already going to be tired.

3. Put Your Child To Bed Early

On the days that jr. misses a nap or is actually starting to transition from 1-0 naps, then it’s imperative that you put them down to bed super early. Not just early, but super early! SEBT (super early bedtime) will be your best friend through this, just like it was through all nap transitions. Your child is missing anywhere from 1-3 hours of sleep and their bodies still need to get it somewhere as they adjust to going a full day without any rest. Remember, this isn’t a permanent change of bedtime, just long enough to help them through the transition. If you don’t do SEBTs, then expect your child to grow fangs and a tail around 5pm. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

4. Instill “Quiet Time”

Just because your child is no longer napping, doesn’t mean that they can’t still go to their room for some down time. This allows their body to rest and gives everyone in the house a break. Depending on the child, you may need to set a timer and/or go over expectations first. Purchase some “quiet time” toys or books and only let your child use them during this hour. They may or may not nap during this time, but at least you have provided them the opportunity to do so.

Going through a nap transition can be challenging at any age, but it can be quite difficult when you’re dealing with a toddler. However, if you follow the above advice, maintain the consistency and have some patience, it will help you make it through relatively unscathed. 🙂

Having a toddler is fun, crazy, and challenging all at the same time. I know, I have one. 😉 No longer are conversations one sided-we can chat about the weather, the birds, shapes, colours, what Elmo said or did that day. The baby is gone and the little person is starting to emerge.

But with this little developing person comes a new side with some tantrums and limit testing. Unfortunately this is part of their development and although it can be trying and tiring for us parents, we must seize this opportunity to begin to instill rules and structure now. If not, then you make it that much harder on yourself later on.

So how does this pertain to sleep? Well, somewhere in the toddler years, usually between 2-4 years of age, two big changes happen that can affect sleep. The first is that the toddler is moved from a crib to a bed. That’s where we’ll focus our attention on for this article. In part two we’ll take a look at the second big change and that is when they drop their last nap. Both of these changes can be fantastic or disastrous, depending on your child’s personality and how you approach it.

Let’s start off with big-kid beds. Some children have no troubles making the switch and stay in their bed all night, right from day one. You’ve never heard of those children, you say? Yeah, me either. Just kidding. 😉 It does happen. More popular though, are the stories of children who keep popping out of their beds at night to explore their new-found freedom. Usually the first few weeks are pretty good and then the child starts to either resist bedtime or get up through the night and walk around. It may be cute at first, but over time if they are putting up a fight every night, not falling asleep until hours later and/or getting up through the night, they will become overtired and Cr-Anky. And so will you.

The first recommendation is to not move to a bed too early. A 17 month old is going to have a much harder time understanding that they’re not suppose to wander around their room than a 3-year-old is. If the reason for the change is to use the crib for a new sibling, consider purchasing a 2nd hand one, borrowing one, or using a bassinet for baby to give your toddler more time in the crib. If your toddler is starting to climb out, before running out and buying a bed, use this time to start enforcing some rules. Repeatedly tell them to not climb out. Be firm, serious and consistent. If you can catch them in the act-even better. It will take some committment on your part to do this every time they try it. If you think this is tedious now though, imagine what it will be like if they are in a bed and have the ease of just rolling out for a jaunt down the hall at 3 am. 😉

The second recommendation is that once you know they’re ready to handle the switch-talk about it in advance. Depending on your child’s personality, they may need quite a bit of discussion to get used to the idea and expectations. The more we can prepare them and reinforce the expectations in advance, the greater the chances of success will be. Keep it fun, positive and upbeat so that they are excited about the switch.

But maybe you’re at the point that your child made the switch a year ago and has yet to sleep through the night without ending up in your room. How do you navigate this one? Well, here is your time to shine parents! You need to come up with a plan and stick with it. Way easier said than done, I know. But, consistency is the key to solving most sleep problems. Decide in advance what you want to change. Do you want less resistance at bedtime? Do you want your child to stay in their bed all night? If they need to go potty, do you want them to call you first? Once you know what your goal is, it is easier to create a plan to get there.

When you have developed a plan of action, talk with your toddler about it in an age appropriate and positive way. You may want to use simple rules and a reward chart to help your child stay on track. Make the chart colourful, fun and positive. Review the expectations everyday in a casual way and again before bedtime. If you choose to do rewards or stickers, make sure your toddler receives them immediately in the morning and not halfway through the day. If they don’t have a successful night, don’t make them feel bad about it. Instead praise their efforts and tell them that they have another chance the next night to try again.

Lastly; keep your expectations realistic. If you have a four-year old that has rarely made it through the night in their own bed, then you can’t expect them to start doing it immediately. You need to be committed to your plan long-term so that you can help change your child’s behaviour. If you aren’t consistent in reinforcing the new plan, then your child can’t be expected to follow it either. Toddlers love to test us, and it’s by sticking to the rules that let’s them know where the boundaries are. But if you are consistent now, it will help for years to come with every new behaviour and emotional challenge that comes your way. 🙂

Naps are great, right? Even better when our children take them willingly and easily. But I know there are a lot of you out there that struggle to get your baby or child to take one. And then after the battle of getting them to nap, they wake up shortly after and you may wonder why you even bothered. Do you sometimes think that perhaps your baby or toddler really doesn’t need that much daytime sleep? You aren’t alone in your thinking.

Here are some common assumptions many parents make:

* My child puts up such a fuss at nap time, they obviously aren’t tired.

* My child sleeps through the night, so they don’t really need any naps.

* My child hates their crib/bed and doesn’t like to nap in it. I know this because they fall asleep instantly in the car.

*My child has a ton of energy at bedtime, especially on the days that they’ve missed a nap, so they clearly don’t need it.

All the above statements are warning flags that a child is actually overtired. We know from pediatric sleep research, that babies, toddlers and even a good chunk of preschoolers, need to nap during the day. And the amount of daytime sleep they require for optimal health might actually surprise you. It’s easy to try to convince ourselves that we have a low sleep needs child (I know, I was one of those people ;)), but those children are actually quite rare. The vast majority of children need and WANT quite a bit of sleep-in day and night form. Here are the numbers from two sources. An apples to apples comparison is difficult because they group their data differently, but it gives you an overall idea of how much sleep your child needs at each stage. When you look at the numbers, remember that the younger the child is in a particular category, the higher the amount of sleep they need.

How Much Sleep Your Child Needs

Canadian Paediatric Society: Newborns-6 months need about 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 6 months to 1 year- 14 hours, toddlers (1-3 yrs)-10-13 hours, and preschoolers (3-5 yrs)  need about 10-12 hours.

Dr. Sears : Newborns-16-17 hours  in 24 hours with 6 hours in naps, 1-3 months 15-16 hours with 4-5 hours in naps, 3-6 month olds need  14-15 hours in 24 hours, 3-4 hours in naps, 6-9 months 14-14.5 hours, 3-4 hours in naps, 9-12 months, 13-14 hours,3 hours in naps, 12-24 months,12-13 hours, 2 hours in naps,2-3 years,11-13 hours, 1-1.5 hours in naps, 3-4 years, 11-12 hours, 1/2-1 hour in naps.

The Benefits of Napping

Other than providing mom and dad with some much-needed downtime, naps actually provide a biological function too. When a child naps, cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) lower in their body. If a child takes a short nap or misses one altogether, the levels don’t lower and the child is not as refreshed. This then effects the quality of the next sleep period and can make it harder for the child to transition through sleep cycles during the next nap, thus resulting in a short nap. Over time, poor naps lead to increased night wakings and fragmented sleep, early risings, and difficulties falling asleep. It’s easy to see how a vicious cycle can evolve quite quickly. When a baby or child takes restorative naps, this cycle is broken which leaves the child more refreshed, happy and alert. And, in turn has positive consequences for the next sleep period. To quote Dr. Weissbluth, another pediatric sleep researcher; “sleep begets sleep”.

In addition to that, research has also suggested that morning naps which have more REM sleep than afternoon naps, help the brain mature. Afternoon naps help to restore the body physically. So napping at different times serve different biological needs. Naps can also improve a child’s adaptability, concentration and attention span. A well rested child will be able to play independently for longer amounts of time than one who is overtired.

How To Fix Short Naps

So now you know that your baby wants and needs naps. But you’re having a very difficult time actually getting them to nap? I completely understand! I used to be right there with you. I often tell my clients that stressing out about my daughter’s sleep and in particular, her short naps, was one of the reasons that I lost my baby weight. It’s good for a chuckle now, but I can tell you, back then it was an incredibly stressful time. It’s one thing to know that your new baby is going to be up at night, but it’s quite another to also not have any downtime during the day, even well past the newborn stage. Some parents have really great nappers right from the start, and some us, well-don’t. But we can fix that, so let’s go!

First-Determine how much day sleep your child *should* be getting in a 24 hour period, according to their age. Use the above guidelines to help you.

Second-Track your child’s sleep for 3 days to see where the short falls are happening. While you’re tracking his or her sleep, also start watching for their sleepy cues. For many parents this can be really tough, as a just-beginning-to-get-sleepy baby often gives off very, very subtle cues. Look for a less attentive, zoning out, turning away from toys, less active cues in infant or baby. Sometimes we wait for eye rubbing and yawns, but for many children this is a sign that they are already starting to slip past the opportune time to be put down for sleep. It may help to keep one eye on the clock to help you approximate when these cues are going to start showing themselves.

Third-Create a wind down routine that you and your child do every sleep period. A wind down routine should be about 5-15 minutes long, the majority of it done in the child’s room and in low light to help serve as a cue that it’s almost time to sleep. It can include a diaper change or using the potty, reading a book or two, singing a soft lullaby or even just cuddling in a chair.

Fourth-keep your child’s wake times short, especially under 6 months. A newborn can not sustain being up for 2 hours, nor can an 18 month old sustain 6 hours. A lot of parents say that they try to put their child down for a nap, but the child fights/cries/screams, etc., leaving them thinking that they are not tired yet. What is more likely, is that the child is already overtired. In the first 6 months or so, it may seem like all you are ever doing is putting your child down for a nap, but consider the benefits of having a well rested child and know that this time stage will soon change. Watch your child for those subtle sleepy cues and respect your child’s need to sleep.

Once a baby is around 6 months, a morning nap will develop at around the same time everyday, and it usually is around 2 hours from the morning wakeup. This doesn’t seem like a very long time to be awake, but most babies prefer a shorter wake time in the morning and tolerate a slightly longer wake time in the afternoon. If you try to keep them up longer than this, they will go from drowsy to overtired and it will be become much more difficult to get them to sleep.

When we get overtired, our bodies produce more stimulant hormones to help keep us awake and this is what gives the parent the impression that jr isn’t tired. “But”, you’re thinking. “how can my child be overtired when they just woke up *insert amount of hours* ago?”. If your child has continually missed their sleep window for several days, weeks or months, it has a cumulative effect on their bodies and it will take quite a bit of time to recover. Please don’t be discouraged after one or two unsuccessful tries. Getting rid of accumulated overtiredness is a process.

Once your child is only taking one nap a day (the average age is 15-18 months), nap time stays consistent but keep bedtime flexible to accommodate the quality of the nap taken.

Fifth-Keep your child’s sleeping location consistent. The most restorative sleep is stationary and flat, so try to avoid car/swing/vibrating chair naps as much as possible after 3 months of age. For parents of older toddlers whose afternoon nap is hit and miss, still maintain that children go to their room for “quiet time”. They may or may not fall asleep, but at least it gives everyone in the house some time to themselves.

Sixth, and my favourite. Keep bedtime early! Those of you who have worked with me, know that I preach this often. 😉 Yes, if 10pm used to be your child’s bedtime and now you’ve moved it to 9pm, then that may SEEM early, but it really isn’t, especially if they are in a sleep debt and/or are skipping or shortening naps. Aim for your child to be asleep for the night within 3-4 hours after they wake up from their last restorative (anything over an hour) nap. Older toddlers and preschoolers can handle a bit longer, but not much. Always use your child’s mood in the late afternoon and early evening as your guide.

Use these guidelines to help your baby or toddler nap, but remember to give your child time to adjust to them. Poor napping habits don’t develop overnight, so it’s not fair to expect that they will resolve themselves any quicker. But, the more consistent you are about using them everyday, every nap period, the sooner you will see results.