Postpartum Anxiety and Parenting

Many new moms suffer from postpartum mood disorders: depression (PPD), anxiety/obsession compulsive disorder (PPA/OCD), or psychosis (PPP). While many of us have heard of PPD, sadly many will not hear about PPA, OCD, or PPP. PPA (and OCD) is one of those things that can “fly under the radar” a bit. Because you may not be sad or outwardly struggling like with PPD or PPP, it can be easy to miss; however, anxiety can be all-consuming! As a society, people tend to make light of the fact that a new mom who is worried often is just that…a new mom. We have probably all made a comment to someone or in our heads about how another mom is over reacting or worrying needlessly about small things (I know I have). We think, “she’s just that way because it’s her first child”. While that is often true, what if it was more? What if the tiny bit that mom shows us is just the tip of the iceberg? What if behind closed doors, she’s frantic about being able to produce enough breast milk so she’s pumping non-stop, is constantly moving her baby so they don’t get a flat spot, or is up most of the night watching her baby sleep because she’s deathly afraid that if she goes to sleep her baby may stop breathing?

Sadly, PPA is very common, yet usually undiagnosed. Looking back I know I had it with my first child. I was secretly paranoid about everything, especially with her sleep. Wrong as it was, I had her sleep in my bed at the hospital with me (this was 17 years ago so they allowed it then). I laid her next to me with the rails up and basically laid awake all night to make sure she was alright and breathing. She came home having jaundice, and therefore needed to be on a special machine. Needing to be hooked up like that added to my anxiety and caused me to be more aware of her during the night. I started with her in a bassinet across the room, then moved it right next to my bed because I had to keep getting up to check her breathing after I would hear a small sound or whimper. After a week of complete sleep deprivation, I knew I needed to do something. I had to sleep or else I was going to die (or at least that’s what it felt like).

I moved her to her own room after that, but with the monitor turned as high as it would go so I didn’t miss anything. It took me another few days to realize that wasn’t really working either. I finally turned down the monitor and we both did great. Thank goodness that I was blessed to have a very easy-going baby who would later start sleeping through the night by 3 months old! After I nearly died of a heart attack one morning when I woke up on my own instead of being woken up by a crying, hungry baby, I was ecstatic to realize that she had simply slept through the night without any wakings or feeds. Yes, I was one of those lucky mamas – you know, the ones you secretly hate – the first time around (don’t worry because I became unlucky years later when my twins were born).

But at the time it was a good thing she had such a great temperament, as I clearly had a lot of anxiety around her sleep! I was embarrassed to be like that, so I never told anyone what I was feeling or thinking. I was the kind of mom who wanted the world to think I knew it all already at the ripe old age of 24. Admitting I was having some difficulty would be like admitting defeat, so I chose to hide it all. I was lucky to get through those few months pretty unscathed, other than some sleep deprivation early on, but not everyone is so lucky. Many mamas will continue on like that for months, years, or indefinitely. Feeling and living like that can be very difficult for the entire family. Not only is mom usually physically and mentally exhausted, sleep deprived, and hyper-vigilant about everything her baby does, she’s often shutting out those closest to her. Her partner may be feeling left out, other family may be shut out, and even baby suffers as they are feeling the effects of a mom who’s not enjoying parenting as much as she would like to.

Things like postpartum mood disorders can alter us as parents, whether it’s just for a few weeks or months or even years. We may start out with intentions of being a certain type of parent, but then reality hits and quickly realize that we either can’t or no longer want to do those things. How many times have you said, “I’ll never be like that with my kids”, only to find yourself doing exactly that? Maybe you thought you would be a more strict parent, but then change your mind as soon as that precious baby is placed in your arms. Or maybe you thought you would be a bed-sharing family, only to realize that you, your partner, or your baby just don’t want to or can’t do it anymore? Don’t misunderstand, it’s completely normal to change your mind about things as time goes on. It only becomes a problem when you’re changing things because you feel like you don’t have a choice.

Whether it’s PPA, PPD, or OCD, these mood disorders can disrupt your life, but it doesn’t have to. I encourage you to seek help if you need it. Don’t be embarrassed, ashamed, or suffer in silence. There are many other mamas out there just like you! With a little help and guidance, you can still be the mama you want to be. In fact the vast majority of families I work with have at least one parent (usually the mom) suffering from anxiety, as well as the majority of adult clients I see. Of course, sleep deprivation will intensify your anxious feelings, so if you’re not sleeping well because of your child’s poor sleep, then please consider helping your child learn how to sleep independently (provided they’re at least past the newborn stage). Almost all of the parents I work with report feeling and sleeping much better after their little ones are sleeping through the night! If you’re a do-it-yourself type of mama, then you can check out my book All Things Sleep: Kids! and accompanying program levels. Or, if you are beyond wanting to read and just want help right now, then one of my one-on-one packages would work best. If you’re not sure what to do, the best thing to do is to set up a free 15min phone assessment, so we can chat about your unique situation! And if you’ve suffered from PPA, I’d love to hear from you – just post below!

Ending Toddler/Preschooler Battles in 3 Easy Steps

Anyone with a child one year and up knows what it means to have bedtime battles…and daytime battles too! They call it the “terrible twos” but if you ask me it starts at a year old when they can walk and talk and doesn’t end until they’re 4, 5 or sometimes never! As parents, we wish so hard for our babies to start walking and talking, and then when they do we wish they would sit and be quiet. We’re just never happy, are we?!

Our jobs as parents is to teach our kids how to be independent. Almost everything we teach them has to do with independence! Think about it. We teach them to hold their own toys, hold their bottle/cup, hold their own forks and spoons, feed themselves, roll, sit up, crawl, walk, climb, talk, get dressed, use the potty, write/draw, and of course sleep. We are supposed to teach our kids how to do things and think for themselves, yet as soon as they do those things we are often shocked and annoyed. “Tommy, why won’t you just listen to me and put that shirt on?!” Well, that’s because you taught him how to have an opinion and how to get dressed himself. Congrats, mom, because that’s what you were supposed to do!

That being said, I know it’s frustrating though to have these little independent thinkers when we need to hurry up and leave in the mornings. Believe me, with four kids, I REALLY understand! So what do we do with these newfound independence seekers? I have 3 tips that will help you better manage your day and night battles.

1) Provide 2-3 choices. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Would you appreciate being told what to do, how to act, and what to wear every second of the day? Of course not, and neither do our children. We all prefer choices and options where we can make up our own minds. Whenever you can, find two or three acceptable choices that you can give your child so you can avoid a battle.

* Instead of saying, “Abby, put this purple shirt on”, try saying “Abby, would you like to wear your purple shirt or your pink one?” Now instead of Abby wanting to scream no and run off, she’s more willing to stay and listen, because you’re offering her a choice.

2) Give 5 minute warnings. Giving a 5 minute warning that a change is coming is helpful for kids in this age group. If they’re in the middle of doing something, it gives them an opportunity to finish up what they’re doing, as well as giving them a warning of what’s to come (ie they have to leave somewhere, get a bath, go eat dinner, go to bed, etc). Again, it’s no different for us as adults. I don’t know about you, but I like to finish things I’m in the middle of before moving onto something different.

You might thinking that playing blocks or dolls is not as important as your finishing your work, food, cup of coffee or wine, cooking, cleaning, or using the bathroom, but I assure you it is to your toddler or preschooler! Now I’m not saying that your child will easily and quickly get up and do what you want them to do when that 5 minutes is up, but at least you gave them a warning beforehand which really does help. Make sure though that it’s just one warning and that’s it. Any more than that and you’ll never get any cooperation, as your kid will assume one warning means they’ll always get at least two or three.

3) Set enforceable rules and then follow-through. I saved the best for last. This one is trickiest for you as a parent to do, but it works quite well. We’re often demanding and threatening to do things when our kids won’t listen, yet those things rarely work. Why is that? Why won’t they just listen to us? Well, it’s usually because we’re not consistent with our follow-through. If you say it’s bedtime, but then give in to multiple demands like giving extra water or just one more hug, then you’re doing a disservice to both you and your child. Without follow-through, our requests mean nothing. What motivation does your child have to do as you’ve asked, when they can ignore the first request and get you to keep giving in?

* Instead of saying “Please lie down in your bed so I can turn off the light”, try saying “I’m leaving the room in 5 seconds. Would you like to be in bed already before I shut the light off or will you get in bed after I’ve left?” See the difference here? The first one is nice sounding but it’s still a demand that kids like to disagree with. When you turn the statement around to say exactly what’s going to happen (ie setting the expectation and scene), followed by giving a choice (both which are acceptable), you’ve closed the door for too much push back or resistance.

Now when 5 seconds are up, you would be turning off the light and leaving the room, regardless of whether or not they’re in their bed. You will follow-through on the things that you have control over (ie the enforceable rules), and they will do what they have control over. It’s up to your child to decide if your tucking them in first is important enough to them. For most kids, the answer is definitely yes, though it might take them a time or two of tucking themselves into bed after you’ve gone for them to realize it!

As you can see, these things are not rocket science but they do take time and consistency – on YOUR part! We’re always looking to change our kids. What do I need to do in order to make my kid listen? But really we should be asking, what do I need to do in order to stop battling my kid? It really starts and ends with us as a parent. We set the rules and the expectations but then we do a poor job at following-through with rewards and/or consequences. So we’re sending a pretty unclear message to our kids as to what we really want and when. If we clean up our message, presentation, and delivery system, we will find happier (yes, they actually prefer to know what we want vs having to try to read our minds) children who are listening to us without us having to threaten, nag, or even raise our voices. So go ahead and it give it a try today, because it really works well! And then come back and post here and let me know if it worked for you and your child!

~

*If you liked what you read, and are located in the Bethlehem, PA (USA) area, you should definitely check out my new parenting class starting this May! It’s the “Love & Logic Early Childhood Parenting Made Fun™” curriculum, and it’s for parents of children aged 6 months to 6 years old. Love & Logic has been around for more than 40 years, so they know what works and what doesn’t. I can tell you that I’ve been using this with my own children recently, and it works great (as long as I do my part)! If you want to learn more about what will be covered in the class, you can check out the Parenting Page. At the bottom of that page you can click on Register or you can click HERE to register now. Hurry though because class size is limited!

**As always, I offer free 15min phone assessments if you’d like to talk about your child, teen, or adult sleep issues. I’d love to better understand your unique sleep situation! Not sure why it is I do and what services I offer? No problem, have a peek over on the Services page to find out!

Daylight Savings Time – “Springing Forward”

As I’m sure you know, Daylight Savings Time (DST) is coming up this weekend.  Let me just start by saying that if I had my way, there would be no DST! It affects not only children’s sleep patterns but adults, too. In fact, statistically, there is an 8% increase in traffic accidents the Monday after DST kicks in. It can also increase our sleep debt – especially in children, who tend to be much more structured with going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. So what is the best way to handle the loss of this precious hour of sleep?  Well, there are a few options.

 

1)   JUMP RIGHT TO THE NEW TIME

For young babies, you sometimes don’t have to do anything at all. Thanks to a day full of napping already, and non-consistent bedtimes (because it should be based on the last nap of the day), you can easily adjust the day’s naps if need be to adjust bedtime to accommodate the new bedtime hour. But again, a newborn’s bedtime might sometimes be at 7pm and sometimes at 8pm, depending on how the day’s nap schedule went, so the time could have little to no effect on these little ones.

 

2)    SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE IN HALF

If you want to split the hour time difference in half so it’s less of a struggle for your child to adjust, then your day might look like this. Say you have a 10mo old that usually wakes up at 7am, then they will now be getting up at 8am (at least for the first day). If she usually takes a morning nap around 10:00am, you will want to adjust this to 10:30 for the first three days after the time change. It will be a bit earlier than your child’s normal nap time, but not so much that it will cause much damage to her schedule. Do the same for all other naps, and don’t worry about it at all if you have a child who no longer naps.

Let’s say your child usually goes to bed at 7pm (which is the new 8pm). I recommend putting him to bed at 7:30pm for the first three days following the time change. On the fourth night, just get in line with the new time so your child is back to going to bed when the clock says 7pm. Adjust naps to the correct time on day 4, as well. It will take about a week for your child’s body to get used to this. It takes all of our bodies roughly one week to adjust to any kind of change in sleeping habits.

 

3)    SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE INTO QUARTERS

For some children, going to bed 30mins later than normal can be too much, and then you could get bedtime battles, crying, possible night wakings, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking, or early morning wakings. But for other children, the 30min difference is no big deal, and they might actually make up for it by sleeping in later in the morning. You know your child best, so you’ll just have to make that judgment call.

For children who are more sensitive to time changes, then I suggest moving in 15min increments instead of 30mins. So if your child normally goes to bed at 7pm, and the new time would be 8pm, you’re going to opt for a 7:45pm bedtime the first night after the change. Then continue to move the bedtime back 15mins each night over the next 3 days until you’re back to your 7pm bedtime.

If your child happens to wake up at the same time as usual that first day (ie they’ve woken up at 7am like normal, even though the clocks changed and it should have been 8am), don’t panic! It’s normal for children to want to wake up at their normal time, as their biological clock is already set. Babies and younger toddlers have an easier time with actually “springing ahead” and waking up later in the morning because they need “x” amount of sleep no matter what the time; whereas, older toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children can have a harder time with that.

 

4)    DO NOTHING

The best part of the spring DST is that if you normally have an early riser you will now gain an hour in the morning! So if your child normally sleeps 6pm – 6am and you would much rather prefer they sleep 7pm – 7am, then do absolutely nothing with the time change. On Sunday morning when you wake up, your child will have just went from a 6am waking to a 7am one thanks to DST. Awesome, right?!

Throughout the day, be sure to adjust your child’s nap schedule to mirror the new schedule, based on their awake times and not by the “old schedule”. By this I mean, that if you have a 7mo old who’s taking two naps a day, you’ll adjust naps based on the child’s awake time and not a set time. That means first nap would be around 10am (again they woke at 7am not instead of 6am), which is a 3hr awake gap. Then, after that first nap, they would be awake for another 3hrs or so before the second nap, and the same would be true then after that second nap to get them to their new bedtime of 7pm.

Early morning wakings should no longer be an issue, but if they are for some reason just make sure they are still sleeping the same amount of hours overnight as they were before the change. That might mean that you need to adjust bedtime for a while until your child’s morning wake time goes back to normal. Give it time and know that your child should get back on schedule within a week, possibly two. I should mention here that sometimes kids do fluctuate back to their old habits after that week or two are up. Some children’s circadian rhythms are just really established at their preferred times, and therefore they will eventually find their way back to those times. If that happens there’s not too much you can do, so just enjoy it while it lasts!

 

When you start to make these changes this is up to you. I prefer to start on Sunday after the time change has already happened, but you can start a few days or a week earlier so that your child is already on the new schedule by the time the change happens. It’s completely up to you and really doesn’t matter, as in the end we’ll all be losing an hour sleep!

What Every Mom Needs To Know About Fainting

**This is a special blog post, not about sleep, breastfeeding, or infant massage, but about being a parent. I want to share a very personal, and very raw, story of mine that just happened a few days ago. I hope that it brings awareness to a common, yet rarely discussed topic.**

 

It was a Friday morning like any other. My teen was already at school, my husband was away for work, my three youngest children were getting ready for school, and I was just out of the shower. After getting dressed, I came back into the bathroom, which is always our busy hub in the mornings. One of my 8 year old twin daughters came barreling into the room, twirled around, slipped on the floor, and fell hard on her bottom, right at the corner of our “corner shower”. I immediately thought she hit her back or tailbone on this rounded corner (I would later find out she narrowly missed it). She popped right up, crying, and very upset. I knelt down beside her, checking her back for what was sure to have bruises, scrapes, a cut, or blood. I saw nothing, but continued to hug and comfort her for surely it had to hurt to land like that. Within a second or two I felt her push on my arm like she was wanting me to let to go, so I did.

 

Only, she wasn’t actually pushing me, she had fainted and fell to the floor (thankfully she only fell an inch or two). I couldn’t see her face, so I didn’t know it was happening. I didn’t know it had happened until I moved her hair and rolled her from her side to her back. There she laid, eyes wide open and dilated, yet her body was lifeless. I called her name and gently shook her. Nothing. Her breathing almost immediately sounded gurgly. I didn’t want to move her in case she had a spine injury (again I thought she hit her spine on the shower), but I couldn’t leave her go breathing like that. I lifted her head and body closer to me, which immediately quieted her breathing. I kept talking to her and holding her while screaming for her sister to run downstairs, get the phone, and call 911. She was gone for mere seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime. I kept talking to her, not having any idea what was happening to my little girl. When her sister brought me the phone, she had dialed the number but not pressed “talk” on the phone to connect the call. As soon as I pressed it and it rang once, she blinked, opened her eyes really wide, and sat up saying “I’m okay”.

 

I hung up on the ringing phone, because she was trying to sit up and then stand up, continuing to repeat “I’m okay”. While trying to get her to take it easy and sit down, the 911 dispatcher called me back to check to see if everything was okay. I was thankful she did so I could calm down a bit. She asked me a bunch of questions, like did she hit her head, how was she now, etc. She felt like a call to her pediatrician would be alright since she was acting normally. I immediately called them, and after another series of phone calls, I set up an appointment for later that morning. In the meantime, my daughter finished getting ready for school and was already getting out a bowl for cereal like nothing had just happened.

 

The pediatrician later explained that what my daughter had experienced was called a “vasovagal syncope”, which is a fancy word for “the common faint”. I had never before heard of such a thing (fainting for no reason), yet she would tell me (and I would later research) how very common it is. According to the Mayo Clinic, this happens to more than 3 million people each year in the US alone! Vasovagal syncope happens when there’s a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure leading to fainting, often in reaction to a stressful trigger. Common triggers include pain, a strong emotional event, having blood drawn, the sight of blood, painful urination or defecation, severe coughing, painful swallowing, sudden fright, and standing for long periods of time.

 

Our pediatrician said that she sees many young teenage girls with this, and it often happens in the shower (scary)! One of the reasons is that in the morning, we tend to be dehydrated from a long night’s sleep, as well as having low blood sugar from not eating for many hours. Then, many teenagers will get into a super hot shower immediately, which causes the blood to flow to the skin’s surface and away from the heart and brain. And what makes this more apt to happen to teenage girls is that they also have their menstruation. According to Dr. Andrea Chisholm, changes happening in the body at that time of month can increase a person’s chance of fainting. For instance, some normal triggers are painful periods, heavy periods (chronic blood loss can also lead to anemia), and hormonal changes.

 

So what should you do if your child or someone you see faints? According to Dr. Richard Fogoros, you should lay them down flat so their head is at or below chest level and raise their legs. Raising their legs gets the pooled blood in the leg vessels moving in the right direction again.  This pooling happens when the vasovagal reflex suddenly dilates, causing this massive pool of blood in the leg vessels. At the same time, the heart rate slows and the blood pressure drops, which is where the fainting comes in. Thankfully, fainting spells are usually over within one minute, though you want to watch the person for a bit to make sure they’re okay, especially if they hit their head on their fall. Sometimes there are lingering effects, such as extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness and loss of appetite, so it’s important to wait until these lingering symptoms disappear before continuing on your day, as they could faint again. Sometimes fainting is more than just a “fainting spell”, so you certainly want to follow up with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to make sure there’s nothing more going on.

 

I am sharing my story because I am amazed that in all my years, I have never heard of this, nor did I realize how very common it is. I have 4 children, help parents with their children every day, and am on a ton of parenting Facebook groups, yet again I have never once read anything on this! My hope is that a parent will read this and remember it so that one day, if it ever happens to their child, they will know what to do and not fear the worst like I did. This experience was by far the most frightening one I’ve ever had with my children. I pride myself on being a calm, cool, and collected mama, but those 20 seconds rocked me to my core. I didn’t even realize how much so until my 5 year old son asked me why I was shaking after I got off the phone with the 911 dispatcher. Needless to say I hugged and kissed my kids like crazy that day!

 

Again, I think this is an important topic that all parents should be familiar with, so please feel free to share with your friends and family! And if you yourself have ever experienced this, or you have a child who has, please comment below, or send me a private message, as I’d love to hear more!

 

*Feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter so you don’t ever have to worry about missing a blog or other useful tips and info! As always, for help with child sleep or adult sleep, you can set up a free 15min phone assessment so we can talk about your unique situation!

Tired of Those Early Morning Wake Ups?

Early morning wake ups can be the worst! When we’re sleeping our best at 4 or 5am, our kids are secretly plotting their revenge for that lollipop we wouldn’t let him have yesterday. Ok, well maybe they’re not actually plotting, but it sure does feel like it! Why else would they insist on waking up at that ridiculous hour every day?

For many parents of little ones, this time of night is when a final feeding is happening. We feed them, and they will usually go back to sleep for another few hours, which means YOU get to go back to sleep too! However, for other parents, this means that while baby gets to go back to sleep, YOU do not because you have to get up for work, get your other children up and ready for school, or you just can’t fall back asleep. And some kids just decide that 5am is the new 7am and they’re ready to be up for the day. It stinks. So how can you get your child to stop waking up then?

First, you want to take a good look at when your child is going to bed. If they’re going to bed too late, then they’re likely going to be up nice and early the next morning. I know it makes zero sense, but it’s true! Earlier bedtimes are always best, but they’re especially great when you’re talking about getting your child to sleep longer in the morning. Of course, you’ll still need to take into account how much sleep your child is getting in a 24hr period. They’re only going to sleep so much in a day/night, so you can’t put them to bed at 5pm and expect them to get up at 7am. Nope, not going to happen. But, depending on their age, you could put them to bed at 7pm and expect them to sleep close to 7am. And you can’t let them nap the day away and expect them to sleep 12hrs at night too. There’s got to be balance! You can check out my blog “How Much Sleep Do We Need” to see what the norm is for your child.

Secondly, make sure that your child’s room is super dark. Most parents will say, “yes, it’s dark enough”, only to find out later no, it’s not. Next time your child is up at 4:30am, go into his room and look around to see what he sees. Does he see a fully blacked out room or is there some brightness or light coming in through the window or around the windowsill? It might be dark out now at that hour because it’s winter, but soon it will be spring which means it will be brighter earlier. Your child doesn’t need to be old enough to tell time, in order for him to know what time it is. That light coming through the window says it all. Sun? Ok, time to get up!

Remember, an early morning wake up is really just a night waking. You’ve got to get your child to go back to sleep at 5am if you ever want him to sleep until at least 6am. Night wakings are tough, I know. And even if you have just this one night waking, it might still be super tough to sleep train through it (yes, it’s sleep training if you’re trying to break this habit). There is a lot more I have to say about this topic, so if you’re struggling with early morning wake ups and would like to learn more, I encourage you to check out my VIP Gold or Platinum membership packages.

You’ll not only get my new book, “All Things Sleep: Kids!”, but you’ll get lots of audio and document files to help you with topics such as this. I have an in-depth report about early morning wake ups that you’ll definitely want to check out! And with the Platinum group, you’ll get all this and access to me via a private forum so that you can ask me any follow up questions you might have in getting your kiddo skipping that early morning wake up and sleeping straight through the night!

If you’re dealing with early morning wake ups right now, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to resolve them and what the hardest part is. Just comment below or you can join me over in the Sleeptastic Solutions – Children Facebook page and/or the Gentle Parenting Solutions Facebook group! And of course you can always set up a free 15min call with me if you’d like some extra one-on-one help getting this done! Sleep well!

When illnesses, teething, injuries, or milestones affect your child’s sleep

With all the happy memories and busy times this time of year brings, it also brings illnesses and sometimes injuries. There are colds, stomach bugs, bacterial infections, viruses, the flu, etc. And depending on the age of your child, you might have teething and/or developmental milestones (ie learning how to roll, sit up, crawl, walk, jump, talk, etc) to deal with too. All of these things can cause your child’s sleep to become disturbed or be completely changed by the time they’re feeling better. This is when parents become distressed and they either start looking to sleep train (or re-sleep train) on their own, or they call a sleep consultant like me to get things back on track. It’s super frustrating as a parent to comfort and support your sick, injured, or otherwise miserable kid, only to be repaid with sleep deprivation when they now won’t sleep well. So what’s a parent to do? Here are some things to keep in mind during these trying times…

 

Illness & Teething:

If your child is sick or teething, they’re likely cranky, tired, and miserable. It wouldn’t be so bad if that only happened during the day, but unfortunately it usually spills over into the nights. When it’s 2am and your baby is teething or your 4 year old is sick, it can be difficult to “stick to the plan”.  Before this illness, your child may have rarely or never woken up at night so of course you’re going to rush right in and see what’s wrong. Many parents make the mistake though of not only treating the symptoms, but throwing everything they usually do out the window.

As you stumble down the hall and into your child’s room, the only thing you’re thinking about is comforting them and putting them back to sleep as quickly as possible. For many parents that means that they’re feeding, patting, rocking, or otherwise putting their baby to sleep or laying with or bringing their preschooler to bed with them. It might not be what you intended to do, but it’s the path of least resistance in the middle of the night. Several nights might go by and your child is thankfully feeling better, yet they’re still waking in the night. Why? Well, unfortunately your good deeds of giving extra love and snuggles in the middle of the night have now given you a child who doesn’t want to do things the “old way”. Nope, they’re liking this new routine and are likely to fight you going back to their old routine where they were a good sleeper.

In order to avoid this scenario from happening to you (or again), next time they’re sick or teething try this: treat the symptoms and keep the expectations. That means that you would still check on your child, give them some medicine for pain or fever (if need be), wipe their nose, change their sheets if they vomited, and give some cuddles. The difference is that you give the cuddles, treat the symptoms, and then return the child back to their crib or bed so that they can go back to sleep on their own. Oftentimes, children aren’t fully awake when they’re crying or calling for you; they just know they’re not comfortable or are in pain. We assume they need us to do more than what I mentioned, but usually a good sleeper will take the medicine, the snuggles, the acknowledgment, and then turn over and go right back to sleep. That’s the goal! If they’re still upset, then give snuggles until the medicine starts to work or until they’ve calmed down, and then return them to their crib/bed. Take away here is to try not to create new habits you don’t want to continue moving forward. It can just take a day or two for your child to decide they like “option B” better!

 

Developmental Milestones:

If your child has learned a new skill (like rolling, walking, talking), they might want to try out those new skills during the time they spend in their crib. Oftentimes, the first time parents notice these nighttime disruptions is when their child has learned to roll. They will usually roll one way only, get stuck, and cry because they don’t like it. It can be a very long night of turning your child back over time and time again! Next you might notice they’ve discovered how to sit up in their crib, then pull themselves up at the bars, and finally maybe some jumping, walking, and talking. While we celebrate all of these things during the day, most of us don’t appreciate their practicing all night long!

The best way to handle these nighttime disturbances is to deal with them during the day. Let baby practice those new skills all day long! For instance, your baby might have recently figured out how to roll to her belly, so practice rolling her from her belly to her back during the day. If baby learned how to pull himself up but cannot get back down, then practice that during the day. The more practice they have during daytime hours, the quicker they will figure out how to do these things on their own at night. It might be a week or so though until things are back to normal, so in the meantime try to stay the course and not to change your nighttime expectations.

 

Injuries:

Injuries can quickly turn a good sleeper into a not-so-good sleeper! It could be a fall, bump, bruise, or even a splinter that can have your child filled with angst and anxiety about the whole incident. Of course, you’re going to comfort and take care of your child during their time of need. They might be fine throughout the day, only to realize come bedtime that now they’re upset or scared about it. Some kids will want to talk about these things when they happen or soon afterwards, and others will hold it in until bedtime approaches. It can seem like a stall tactic, but some children are honestly just “nighttime worriers”, as I call them. I have one of those kids myself! You never want to dismiss their feelings or fears, but you do want to be careful to not be too overindulgent in your support. While the concern might start out to be a legitimate one, a smart older child will quickly figure out that it’s working in their favor!

I was recently reminded last week how injuries can disrupt sleep for one or more family members, when one of my 7 year old twins fell at school during recess and broke her arm. She ended up needing to spend a night in the hospital and have surgery early Thanksgiving morning. It was a difficult time for her, her twin sister who was with us, and me, as she was in pain, her sister seemed to be in just as much pain as she was (through empathy), and I felt helpless. When it came to sleeping the night she would need to stay over at the hospital, we made the decision to have my husband spend the night with her so that I could finally go home after a long day at the hospital and get the other kids settled. I also needed to start Thanksgiving dinner early the next morning so that we could still have it later that day (crazy, I know)!

This sleepover meant that my little girl would have to sleep in a strange place with funny sounds, flashes of light, a splinted left arm, an IV in her right arm, and constant interruptions.  She didn’t have her sister in her room like she was used, but she did have her favorite stuffed animals. Things were clearly different for her, and also for her twin sister who was heartbroken to not have her roommate back at home. I ended up having to leave the door all the way open for her that night, something that I don’t normally do. This injury had our family scrambling, visiting the hospital, and adjusting to the crazy schedule for a long 24hr period that was supposed to be a joyous holiday time. It was certainly stressful on everyone, and because of that I needed to be flexible for all of my kids’ sakes. As parents, we do what we need to do when something goes wrong. You want your child or children to feel comfortable and soothed, so we make changes as needed.

That being said, I tried not to change too much for my other kids. My injured little one was more than happy to be home in her own bed after a terrible, scary experience. She was exhausted, emotional, and a little drugged up yet on Thanksgiving, which helped her get right back to her normal routine that night. When she cried in her sleep 2 hours later, I knew it was a mix of night terrors (from the sleep deprivation) and pain. I treated her symptoms with Motrin, repositioned her, and left. She never even remembered it the next morning (neither of them did)!  She didn’t need for me to do anything more than I did. Again, be flexible with an injury but not so much so that you’re creating a new set of habits that span over several days or more. It can be very difficult to go back to normal after all that extra comforting!

 

I wrote this blog because I can’t tell you how many times I have parents call me saying that they don’t know what happened. They’ll say, “Everything was great up until a few weeks ago. Now my child is waking up 2-4 times a night!” Then I’ll ask them what happened around that time (ie were they sick, teething, on vacation, new daycare, etc) and 90% of the time they’ll say that the child was sick or teething. Now, I’m not saying that it was the illness or teething that was the problem. Nope, it was what the parents did in response to that illness or teething wake up that was the beginning of the sleep issue. Sorry but yes it’s usually our fault as parents! I don’t tell you that to make you feel bad, but to make you recognize how quickly our positive reactions can yield negative results. But no need to worry about the roads we inadvertently travel down, because we can always make a few turns and get back to heading in the right direction!

 

*If you have dealt with any of this yourself, I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below about your situation and how you handled it!

 

**If you need help getting your child back on track, I can help! Contact me today to set up your free 15min phone call! Also, feel free to join my Facebook group, Gentle Parenting Solutions, where we talk about all kind of parenting related topics!

History and Benefits of Infant Massage

The history of massage goes back thousands of years ago to China at about 2700 BC. Egyptian tomb drawings in 2500 BC showed massage therapy and were the pioneers for reflexology. India had the first known written massage therapy traditions around 1500 BC, though the practice may have actually originated around 3000 BC or earlier. In the early 1800s Swedish doctor Per Henril Ling developed the “Swedish Movement System”, which is regarded as the foundation to Swedish massage. Today the Swedish massage is one of most common types of massage practiced in the western hemisphere, as well as the Japanese massage practice of Shiatsu.

In the early 1970s, Vimala McClure (author of Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents) brought the art of infant massage to the United States after working in an orphanage in India.  There she observed a 12 year old girl at the orphanage go around and massage all the babies. Even though these children suffered from improper nutrition they were thriving, and Vimala attributed that to the massage they received every day.

She brought these methods back home with her and later massaged her own children when she had them. She would document the experience and do much research on the effects of touch on newborns. Not only did she write the book aforementioned, using Indian and Swedish massage strokes along with the principles of reflexology and yoga, but she is the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), with headquarters in Sweden. The program expanded internationally in 1992 and there are currently over 30 chapters in over 70 countries!

So why massage your child? The list of physical, emotional, and mental benefits for you and your child are many, but here are some of the top benefits of infant massage:

  • Helps with infant and parent bonding/attachment (especially helpful for new fathers or mothers who’ve had a traumatic or unexpected birth experience)
  • Relief for gas and colic symptoms
  • Relief for teething pains
  • Helps mothers deal with post partum depression and anxiety
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Helps parents learn about their baby’s needs and desires
  • Parents feel a connection with other parents going through the same things as they are
  • Facilitates body awareness
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves skin condition
  • Helps baby to feel loved and nurtured
  • Helps digestion
  • Relaxation for parents and baby
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Balances respiration
  • Helps with waste elimination
  • Helps to build parents’ and baby’s self-esteem
  • Pleasurable experience
  • Stimulates production of Oxytocin (hormone produced during massage that be useful as a pain reliever, has a calming effect, reduce stress, and enhances the bonding process)

These benefits can be continued for many years to come, as you can (and should) continue to massage your child as they grow. It can be just as enjoyable (and even easier) as your child grows, and they can tell you which strokes they like and don’t like. And of course they will lie still unlike babies who are on the move and toddlers who don’t like sitting still longer than 2.3 seconds!

Infant massage as I was trained is to be taught on infants under 1 year old, or under 7 years old for children with any type of special needs (including children on the autism spectrum or suffering from sensory processing disorder). But I promise you that children of all ages love to be massaged! In fact during my certification process to be able to bring this wonderful service to parents like yourself, I often practiced on my own children. There was a line up of my children waiting with open arms (literally) for their turn! They gave me the specifics of which areas they wanted massaged if I told them there wasn’t time to do it all. It was also interesting to note that it differed for each of them, showing me that each area had a purpose and that some areas would be more appealing than others depending on the child.

For those living locally in the Lehigh Valley, I offer an awesome 5 week course where each week I teach a classroom full of no more than 8 families (I want to keep the teacher/family ration low). I will introduce new massage strokes each week, as well as additional information such as how to ask your child for permission, how to align yourself and breathe before and during the process, how to read your baby’s behavioral cues, oils to use and not use, how to continue massaging your child as they grow, and songs and touch games to use. We will also have a new discussion topic each week, including things such as sleep, breast/bottle feeding, introducing solids, developmental milestones, and anything else parents want to discuss. Massage oil and handouts are given each week, and there’s a graduation celebration at the end of the 5 weeks!

If you’re not in the Lehigh Valley, or prefer a more private setting, I also offer one-on-one sessions over a 3 week period. I will either conduct a video consultation with you or in-home sessions for those that are local. In these we cover the same information as in the 5 week course, but we’re able to speed things up a bit since it’s one-on-one. It’s a great way for parents to reap the benefits without a group setting!

While I’d love for you to attend a class or purchase a private session, what’s important is that you massage your child. It’s such a rewarding activity to do with your child or children! After my last class ended, one mom commented this, “I loved this class! First, it’s the only class I had seen where I could take my child under 6 months. For me I am away from all family. It was so nice to be able to ask questions and get answers from moms in a group. But the best part was massaging my baby! I have to bottle feed, and although for us that is a time for bonding, to be able to touch him and bond this way with him is truly special. I get to look into his eyes and comfort him in a new way. It also has taught me to calm down, relax and breathe during this time too.”  ~Mary H.

To learn more about or register for my Mommy/Daddy & Me Infant Massage classes or private sessions, please go to the Infant Massage Sessions page. From there you can sign up for a 5 week course that best fits your needs or Contact Me about a private session.

Back to School Sleep Tips

I don’t know about you, but back-to-school time is my favorite time of the year! After a summer of running kids to camps, parks, play dates, amusement parks, vacations, sporting practices, and trying to keep them entertained 24/7, I am beyond done. At this point, I don’t even mind the pile of paperwork I’ll be getting, or the homework I’ll be checking, when the kids do return to school. I just want to get back to my “normal” and be back on schedule! And do you know who else is looking forward to having a schedule again? My kids! They wake up every morning and ask me what’s on the schedule for today. They are used to having their lives be very consistent, and it works well for them too.

Kids of all ages love schedules and routines! Never shy away from creating one for them because you don’t want to be “that mom”. Believe me, they want you to be “that mom”! That Mom knows the exact time they need to be out of the house to catch the bus on time, That Mom knows where their favorite shirt is, That Mom knows what time they need to be at soccer or dance practice, That Mom knows what’s for dinner tonight, That Mom will help them with their homework, and That Mom will make sure they’re in bed on time so they can do it all over again tomorrow! Routines help with their daytime schedule, and they certainly help with their nighttime one. Predictability works well for children and adults of all ages!

But after more than 2 months of chaos, life on the go, and late nights, your normal school year schedule may seem like a distant memory. Now that we’re just weeks away (or even days for some of you) from the start of school, it’s a good time to begin making some changes to your summer schedule in preparation for what’s ahead.

Here are 4 things you can do to ensure your child’s sleep isn’t affected when heading back to school:

  1. Have a good bedtime routine – If your child likes to watch TV, play on your phone or on a tablet, or play video games before bed, you need to curb when that viewing/playing happens. All electronic devices should be turned off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. A good routine might include pajamas, brushing teeth, using the potty, and reading some stories before turning in for the night.
  2. Get them to bed early – An earlier bedtime is often the answer to many bedtime questions. Many parents believe that if they keep their child up later than usual, then they’ll wake up later in the morning but this isn’t the case! Keeping them up later can cause night terrors, night wakings, restlessness, and then they’ll usually wake up at the same time or earlier the next morning. Stick to a bedtime somewhere between 7-8pm and you should be good. Your child might even need an earlier than normal bedtime once school resumes, thanks to earlier wake-up times and long days of physical and mental activities. And if your child is currently going to bed later than 8pm, then you should think about slowly moving this time up to a more reasonable hour now, so they’re ready when school starts.
  3. Get them up earlier – On the flipside, if you have a child who’s been enjoying sleeping in late (ie tweens and teens), it’s time to start moving that awake time earlier every few days. Let’s say your child is currently waking up at 9 or 10am. Well, needing to suddenly be up at 6:30 or 7am is going to be quite the culture shock! A week or two before school starts it’s helpful to gradually begin moving bedtime earlier and waking them up earlier in the morning. Yes, they’ll likely grumble, but they will get used to it over that week or two, and it will make the first day back to school more bearable on everyone.
  4. Allowing a short nap – If you have a younger child going to preschool, kindergarten, or first grade, they are likely to be more tired than usual. They might not be napping anymore normally, but going to school part of or the whole day can be exhausting for them. If they come home and fall asleep on the couch after school, it might be tempting to leave them be. Well, if your child is in preschool or half-day kindergarten, where they’re home by lunch each day, then allowing a small nap would probably be helpful for them to make it through the remainder. It can keep them from going to bed too tired, which can cause night terrors and restlessness. However, if you have an older child who is attending school all day and not getting home until 3 or 4pm, then that’s a different story. A late day nap like that could really throw off your child’s bedtime. You might get a bedtime battle or even a middle of the night wake up where your child is just wide awake. So instead of allowing the late day nap, try to encourage your child to stay up after school, but then put them to bed earlier. In fact, they may need an earlier-than-usual bedtime for a while until their little body adjusts to the long school days.

So go ahead and get in those last few play dates, swim lessons, and let’s not forget about back-to-school shopping, because before long it will all be over. Then we’ll be complaining about the mounds of homework, projects, sports, and other things they’ve got going on during the school year, and we’ll be counting down the days until their first holiday break!

Contact me for more information on all of my services, including my brand new Infant Massage sessions. And of course you can always set up a free 15min phone call to discuss your unique situation!

6 Things You Can Do To Have Your Kids Sleep Well on Vacation

Vacation…it’s filled with excitement, sprinkled with some anxiety, and topped with a little fear. Of course we all are happy and excited at the thought of spending quality time with our families, getting away, seeing the sights, and relaxing (I threw this in for fun because we all know moms don’t relax on vacations). For many of us there are some other emotions that go along with going on vacation, namely, anxiety and fear. Anxiety about keeping our kids occupied, happy, fed, and well-rested. The fear part comes in when we start thinking that we’ll never be able to make all those things happen, and then we’ll have massive meltdowns to deal with. And anyone who’s ever sleep trained their child, or is lucky enough to have a normally good sleeper, will have an extra fear – messing with nights and naps!

No one wants to mess up a good thing, so going on vacation can be very scary to parents. Many vacations or holiday visits include small hotel rooms, shared bedrooms, or co-sleeping in the bed, which for some kids has never happened before. Introducing a young child to sleeping with you when they never have before is like asking him if he’d like ice cream every night for dinner…um, yeah!!! Of course he would! Well, sleeping with parents or siblings is often a huge reward to most kids, and is one that can be hard to break once you go back home. So I’ve put together some helpful tips and tricks to make your vacation and transition back home as seamless as possible.

  1. Recreate their bedroom while on vacation – Whenever possible try to recreate the child’s bedroom environment in your new location. That might mean you’re bringing along a white noise machine, favorite lovey/pillow/sheets, black out shades, books, or even a nightlight for an older child. You want your child to feel comfortable in their new sleeping space.
  2. Keep their routine the same – If you’re able to have some downtime before bed, it’s a good idea to stick to their same routine. If you normally have a bath, book, bottle/nursing/drink, snack, or any other routine items you’re doing before bed, then you want to try and keep that same routine while away. Remember, those things you’re doing provide cues to your child that it’s time for bed. It can be hard for them to recognize when bedtime is when they’re away from home, so their normal routine can really help. Certainly older kids will know the drill by looking at the clock and hearing you say it’s time for bed, but it’s the little ones that this can really help.
  3. Provide individual sleeping space – If at all possible, providing your child with a sleeping space of their own would be ideal as they’re already used to that. For little ones still in cribs, having a portable pack-n-play or rented crib can often work out really nice, as it’s not much different than what they’re used to at home. For older kids, having a pull out couch, spare mattress, or sleeping bag can be great. You may still have to room share, but at least they have their own space just like at home, making it much easier to transition once back home.
  4. Sleep separately even if in the same bed – While I know how tempting and lovely it is to snuggle all night with your child, try to limit the snuggling to just during the bedtime routine. When it’s time to sleep, try to stay on your own side of the bed where you’re not helping your child fall asleep with touching, rubbing, patting, etc. The less you do while on vacation, the less you’ll be expected to do once you’re back home.
  5. Take naps when possible – Even if your child doesn’t usually nap anymore, you might find that they are in need of one while away. Vacations are exhausting for everyone, so don’t be shocked if you child needs an afternoon power nap. Let her take it (and you can take one with her)! She’s likely waking up earlier than usual during your time away, so this will help her to catch up on her sleep debt. Remember, an overly tired child can have a harder time falling asleep, can have night terrors, more night wakings in general, and can wake up even earlier than usual.
  6. Get right back to normal once home – One of the biggest reasons parents have a hard time once they’re back home is that they allow what they did on vacation to come home with them. If you have a child 3 years and up, you want to very clearly explain to them BEFORE the trip what will be happening during the vacation and once you’re back. Let them know that this is a special occasion, and again let them know your expectations both away and home. Then once you’re back you have got to follow what you said! If you’re fickle about things you say, your child will know that and push you even harder. If there’s even the slightest chance that you might lay with them again until they fall asleep, they are going to really push for it. You have to remain strong, confident, and consistent and things should go back to normal within a night or two.

I can tell you all of these things not only as a sleep consultant, but because I have used these tricks and methods myself over the years with my own kids. With 4 children I’ve seen and heard it all! Having just returned from vacation recently (those are my loves in the photo), and having yet another client ask about this, I thought it was the perfect topic for this month’s blog! I quickly remembered this past week what it felt like to be at the mercy of my children. I am not anti-co-sleeping by any means. Hey, if it works for everyone involved, then that’s great! But it does not work for me. I sleep terribly with my kids, and judging by those tired little faces each morning, I’m pretty sure they do too (though they would never admit it).

I had the lovely opportunity to sleep with 3 of my 4 kids over the week (the teenager was living it up in a single bed in her own room), and I was reminded why I need my own space. I had a forearm across my forehead, someone snorted loudly in my face, I was eye to eye with many-a-stuffed animal/dolly, I was pushed, I was hit, I was fighting for blankets constantly, and I was pushed so far over that I was nearly falling off the bed. And then in between all that I was woken up by moving and turning over noises, a kid who fell out of bed, a lovey that was lost, a kid who needed to pee, and a kid who was thought 3am meant it was time to get up since it was so dang bright in our room thanks to only having blinds on double patio doors (I put up two thick blankets after that first night).

Needless to say I don’t think I ever went into my deep, REM sleep the entire week. I felt like I never slept most nights, which made it difficult to function some mornings. After a rough Thursday  night, I decided I’d had enough. We actually packed up and left on Friday afternoon even though we didn’t have to be out until Saturday. Between having many nights of terrible sleep and having sand everywhere, I’d had enough of our wonderful beach trip.

In order to be transparent, I should mention that my 4 year old had a complete and utter meltdown when we got home at nearly 9pm. I naively thought they’d all fall asleep on the way home after waking up at the crack of dawn that morning, but I was wrong. My son must have been nearly asleep though when we got home because he went into a night terror-ish state, where he just cried and cried and wouldn’t really talk to me. Those were desperate times, so I laid down with him until he stopped crying, at which point he fell right to sleep (again night terror symptoms). So when I told you to get right back to normal, I mean to do that when you’re child is not exhausted beyond words. He needs to be able to be awake enough to understand you. If you get home late at night, then do what you have to do to get him to sleep that first night, but if you get home during the day, then put him to bed early (because he’ll be very tired from the trip) and get right back to business. Happy vacationing!

~Ronee

NOTE: If you are struggling with your child’s sleep and need some help, please click HERE to set up your free 15min phone assessment today!