15 Reasons to Massage Your Child

There aren’t many people who don’t like to be massaged, whether it’s their feet, back, shoulders, head, hands, or whole body. Well, kids are no different! In fact, the sense of touch is the first sense developed in the womb. Babies love to be touched, held, and snuggled with. While the look of the touch might change over the years, most children still enjoy it as they grow. Toddlers and preschoolers are more “on the move”, so they may visit your lap less during these years but most still like to be snuggled at least a couple of times a day. As your child grows, how you touch them differs a bit, but it’s still very much needed.

When I was preparing for my Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM) certification a few years back, I asked my youngest 3 kids to help me to practice. You better believe they jumped at the chance! At that time they were 4, 7, and 7. They would line up, waiting for me massage some area of them, even requesting their favorite areas whenever possible. If you have a school aged child, who is not fond of being hugged or touched (you know, the odd tween years), this can be a good way to connect. While they might not want a hug, offering massage can be a nice way to connect with them with something they do find enjoyable.

Below are 15 reasons why you should be massaging your child, no matter how old they are (yes, you can massage your teen too – a neck/shoulder/back rub is usually much appreciated).

  1. When they’re infants, it helps with infant and parent bonding/attachment (especially helpful for new fathers or mothers who’ve had a traumatic or unexpected birth experience)
  2. Relief for digestion, waste elimination, gas, and colic symptoms (the special stomach strokes can help kids of all ages with bellyaches)
  3. Relief for teething pains
  4. Helps mothers deal with postpartum depression and anxiety (this can be anytime PP, not just in the infant months)
  5. Promotes better sleep (this is true for children of any age, as well as adults)
  6. Helps parents learn about their baby’s needs and desires during those first few months
  7. Facilitates body awareness for babies
  8. Sensory stimulation for kids of all ages
  9. Boosts immune system (we could all use this!)
  10. Improves skin condition (the oil you use matters!)
  11. Helps the child to feel loved and nurtured (again, good for all ages)
  12. Relaxation for parents and child (can really help to mellow out your child for a few minutes)
  13. Improves blood circulation
  14. Balances respiration
  15. 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)

As you can see, there are SO many reasons why massaging your child is awesome! I wish I had done more of it when my kids were babies, but I did at least always do it after baths. Finding the time can be as easy as doing it a few minutes after bath or before bed/nap. You can also choose to massage just one section a day, such as arms today and legs tomorrow.

As my children have gotten older, they will now ask for certain things, like belly rubs. Sometimes it’s a simple bellyache, but sometimes they’re having constipation issues that need my helping hands. I can’t tell you how many times that they have easily gone potty just a few minutes after I’ve given them a 5-10 minute belly massage. It’s really a wonderful tool to have as a parent!

Another great use of massage would be for headaches, colds, and sinus pressure. There are facial strokes that you can use on children of any age that can be super helpful to release pressure, help with pain, or keep the mucous flowing (sounds gross, but important so they don’t get a sinus infection). In fact, you can use those same techniques on yourself (though it’s not as much fun as having someone else do it for you)!

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Sleeptastic blog without the mention of sleep! Children are known to sleep deeper and longer after having a nice massage. Many parents who take my classes mention how well their babies sleep after the class – win, win! On a side note, those same babies often have bowel movements either during or after class because of the belly strokes. They’re clearly feeling good inside and out after their massages!

As you can see, there are a ton of benefits and reasons why you should take the time to learn about massaging your child and then do it! This is a skill that will benefit you and your child for many, many years!


If you would like to learn more about the massage services I provide, you can visit my Infant Massage Sessions page. I have private, in-home sessions, where I will come to you for the 2hr session. Or I occasionally hold local classes, where we’ll have several families come together to learn. In fact, I have a 2hr class coming up on Sunday, August 5th at 10am, where I will teach you all that you need to know about massaging your child. You can find out more about this local event by clicking here!

7 Ways to Survive The Summer With Your Kids

As a kid, I always looked forward to summer break. Not getting dressed all day. Swimming for hours. Playing with my Barbies whenever I wanted. Eating what I wanted, when I wanted. Yup, life was pretty good. Fast forward a couple of decades, and now I’m the parent of 4 kids who are also looking forward to summer break. Three of those kids are heavily relying on me to provide them entertainment, because times have changed. While I don’t recall asking my parents where we could go each day, my kids will.

With the Internet and Facebook “mom groups” making us feeling guilty about all the things we’re not doing, we now feel the need to keep our children busy most of the summer. But should we? Should we really be scheduling every minute of our children’s days? What about downtime? What about creative and imaginative play? How do you know when and where to draw the line?

I believe that the answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word… balance. Yes, vacations are nice, afternoons at the pool are wonderful, indoor, rainy days can be fun, hours at the park are great, weeks at camp are exciting, playing sports is fabulous, and days at amusement parks are awesome, but you can’t do that stuff every day. And you really shouldn’t! Again, balance is the key! It’s about what your children want to do and what you think is best to do. So what CAN you do to survive those short few summer months that can feel like it never ends? Here are 7 things you can do!

1) Ask your kiddos what it is that they would like to do. Depending on how large your family is, you might ask them to each pick 1, 2, or 3 things. Older kids are going to “think big”, so you’ll likely need to set some ground rules, like cost, keeping it to a one-day trip, etc. These shouldn’t be big trips that they’re picking, as those would be up to you as a parent. You can give them some ideas of approved, fun items, like I mentioned above. If you can incorporate at least one thing per child, then they’re going to love that they got to have input!

2) Build in some “down time” in the schedule each week. We all need some time to relax and get out of the hot sun. If you see a rainy day coming up in the forecast, then use that day as your “indoor” day. I like to use my indoor days for not only relaxing, but also for picking up, cleaning, and de-cluttering. I also make sure my children are heavily involved in this process! We will usually work hard for a couple of hours and then we’ll relax, play a game, watch a movie, do some coloring, or they’ll just go off and play.

3) Going to the grocery store or other stores can actually be fun when you’re a kid. In the summer, I take either all or at least one kiddo with me to the grocery store each week. It’s a great way to have one-on-one time with each child (if you have a sitter for the other children)! We also do something fun, where someone gets to pick a new fruit, veggie, or other food that we’ve never tried before. It’s a great way to get your kiddos to try new things and get them involved in the process! Depending on the age of the child, I also let them help me with the checkout process, which can be fun for them. So try and make ordinary trips to the supermarket feel like more than just a boring trip to the store. You’ll get to make your kids happy you’re doing something different that day, AND you’ll be getting some much-needed shopping done. Win-win!

4) Plan a few bigger day (or half-day) trips and sprinkle them throughout the summer. There’s nothing worse than having a jam-packed few weeks and then nothing to do after that. If you can spread things out, you’ll find that the kids are complaining less and you’ll all have a few things to look forward to throughout the summer. Some of our favorites are amusement/water parks, zoos, aquariums, science centers/museums, “hands on” centers for smaller kids, beach (if you live close to one), or a lake.

5) Smaller activities are fun, and sometimes even free! These can include going to the local parks (these are great for meet ups with friends), getting a pool pass, and having play dates. If you have a few friends, you can each take turns hosting a play date at each of your houses, which can alleviate boredom without a cost. We also love to go see some not-so-new movies. Our local theaters will offer movie days for kids over the summer, where you can get admission, small popcorn, and a drink all for just $4! The kids love it and it doesn’t break the bank!

6) Camps, camps, and more camps! These are going to cost you a good chunk of change, but they can be worth it to have happy kids and happy parents! These days there are all sorts of camps available, from week long overnight ones, to full day ones, or half day ones. We’ve personally done them all over the years. Some were more popular than others, but they’re always fun. This year, we thought “outside of the box”, and my youngest kids are all taking a cooking camp this summer. I’m hoping they come home super energized to make me some yummy treats! And there are also theater, dance, and other creative camps, as well as sports camps.

7) Besides camps, many organizations are now offering their classes during the summer so that kids can stay on top of their game (so to speak). For example, I have my daughters signed up for a 5 week summer cheer program, as well as a 5 week gymnastics class. There are other summer sports like beach volleyball, swimming, and kickball going on throughout the summer, too. And a lot of Fall sports start in the summer, like football and cheerleading. Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean your kiddos need to stop all of their fun sports or creative classes. It can be a nice way to throw something fun and exciting into the mix!

 

So as you can see, there are tons of things you can do this summer to keep your children happy and entertained. When it comes to their routines, I would still try to keep their bedtimes and nap times (if applicable) on schedule whenever you can. Sleep must always be a priority, even in the summer. We wouldn’t skimp on feeding our kids some days, so we shouldn’t skimp on their getting good sleep either. They need an appropriate amount of sleep each night to stay healthy, think clearly, and play hard during the day. They’re also much more cranky if they don’t get the amount of sleep they need, so it’s in everyone’s best interests that they sleep well!


If your child is having trouble falling asleep, sleeping through the night, or taking good naps, I can help! Check out my Services page to see how! I can also help YOU sleep and feel better, too. With my adult packages, I work with adults to help them find the root cause of their sleep issues (provided it’s not because of your child), and give provide solutions they can use immediately. I am happy to offer free 15min phone assessments to talk about your family’s sleep issues. And I also have some wonderful courses over on my Learn site that can help with children’s sleep and also a parenting course to help you with your child’s behavior!

How To Successfully Drop The Last Nap

Many parents worry about what life “post-nap” will look like. What parent ever says, “Hey, I’d like to have no break all day and to continually chase my toddler around from the moment they wake up until they go to bed”? If you said none, you would be right! Toddlers and preschoolers are exhausting! And they can be pretty cranky by midday without a nap! That being said, there will come a day where they will need to give them up.

So how do you know if your kiddo is ready to give up the nap? Here are 6 questions you need to ask yourself…

1) Can they make it all day without a nap (11-13hrs straight)? If not, then you know it’s not likely time.

2) Is your child fighting the nap? If so, they may be ready to give it up. But before you do that, try moving nap time later. The older the child, the longer the awake time that is needed. That normal 12:30pm nap may need to move to 1 or even 1:30pm. After that time frame, it might get a little tricky to fit in a nap at all. If the nap is too late, then bedtime might end up being too late.

3) Are the naps shorter than an hour? If so, then you might be able to just ditch them altogether.

4) Is your child waking up from nap crying and miserable? If so, you can try waking your kiddo up a few minutes earlier than they would normally wake up on their own to disrupt their light sleep. My twins would both wake up crying from their nap and have what I call “nap terrors”. This is when they are disoriented, not really awake, crying, and inconsolable for 5-30mins or so. If you’re familiar with night terrors, this is exactly the same, only they’re happening at nap time instead of night. It can be a distressing way to end naps each day. Therefore, some parents will decide to pull naps altogether to avoid this from happening (as long as the child is old enough).

5) Should you pull the nap because of bedtime? There are some instances where you might decide to pull the nap, even though your child is still taking them without issue. Why would a normal parent do such a crazy thing? I’ll tell you in two words…BEDTIME BATTLES! Again, the older the child, the more time they will need to be awake between nap and bedtime. 

For instance, if you have a child who is 3.5 years old and napping from 2-3:30pm each day, they’re not going to be ready for bed at 7:30pm anymore. At that age, many children need about 6 hours of awake time between nap and bed. So in this case, the child wouldn’t be ready for bed until 9:30pm (6hrs past 3:30pm), which is way later than any parent wants. Oftentimes, parents will continue to shoot for a 7:30 or 8pm bedtime, when the child isn’t anywhere near ready. When you do this, you will likely have many bedtime battles.

Your child is going to put up a fight, stall, be hyper, be cranky, or ask you for a final hug, extra water, one more book, etc. This is when things can start to go awry, and parents will start going down roads they never had to take before. They’ll start to give in to those requests, laying or staying with the child until they fall asleep, bringing the child to their bed, etc. All of this is occurring because the bedtime isn’t correct. So your choice is to either keep the nap and move bedtime much later or drop the nap and keep the earlier bedtime. In any case, it’s a personal choice as to which you want to do and when you want to do it.

As you can see, there are a lot of variables when deciding about when to pull or drop that final nap! Once it’s done though, you want to make sure that you’re still giving your child some downtime each day. If they drop naps on their own, they’ll likely be less tired in the afternoons but will still be at least a little bit sleepy. But if you pull the nap before they’re ready (ex: because of bedtime battles), then you can expect that they will be very tired in the afternoons for quite awhile. Here are some things to consider/try once the naps are gone…

  • Provide quiet time each afternoon, either in their room or on the couch. Many kids won’t stay in their bedroom quietly, so if that’s the case with your little one then let them rest on the couch. I used to have my kids next to me, where they would watch a show and drink a cup of milk, and I could actually catch a 10 minute power nap! It was lovely! But honestly, any time your kiddo sits still and you get some sort of a break it’s a good thing!
  • After quiet time, offer a snack to give them an energy boost and get them over the “midday hump”. Fruit is a great snack, since it has natural sugars and can give them energy again.
  • Move bedtime up! Once the nap is gone, you want to have bedtime earlier. Usually preschoolers are still sleeping about 11-12 hours total in a 24hr period once the nap is gone. That will start to decrease the older they get though, so that they’re at about 10-11hrs by the time they are in grade school.

Remember, it can take a while for your child to adjust to no longer having a midday fiesta (pretty sure the same can be said for the parents too). It might be weeks or even months, so be patient! And embrace the rare times they fall asleep on the way home from an activity. Occasional naps are perfectly fine! Just realize that they might need a later bedtime those nights.

*Feel free to comment below with your questions or stories! You can also join me over in the Gentle Parenting Solutions Facebook goup! You can also learn more about my Services or Courses should you need them.

 

3 Reasons Why Naps Are Important

Back when I had one small child, I loved nap time. It meant that I got to nap right along with her! “Nap when your baby naps” is what everyone tells you when you have a baby. Yes, that works during two times of your life… 1) when you’re actually at home all day with your baby, and 2) when you only have one child. This advice doesn’t work when you have more than one child though. When your new baby comes along and naps, you still have another child that’s likely still awake and needs attention. So enjoy your naps now if you’re still on your first child!

Unlike adults, children need naps. They’re not a luxury, like they are for us. Let’s talk about 3 reasons why they’re so important…

1) Daytime sleep is part of your child’s overall sleep needs. When we think about how much sleep your child needs each day, it’s based on the total hours in a 24hr period, not just at night. If you don’t think they’re important, just try skipping one, and you’ll see just how much those naps are needed!

2) There’s an old saying of “sleep begets sleep”. That basically means that when your child sleeps well for nights, then they will usually do better doing the day. And when they nap well, they will usually sleep better over night. Why? Well, because sleep deprivation makes it harder for kids to go to sleep and stay asleep.

For example, if your 9mo child only takes 2 short 30min naps in 12hrs throughout the day, they are going to be very overly tired come bedtime. When kids are too tired at bedtime, they will fight harder to go to sleep. And then once you get them to sleep, they will usually be restless throughout the night, waking more often. AND, if that’s not enough, they almost always wake up even earlier than normal the next morning. Of course, that then sets the whole next day off with a bad start, which will compound your sleep deprivation issue.

With slightly older kids (say 1 and up), you might also have night terrors happen. If they’re going to happen, they typically do so in the first few hours after falling asleep. These are different from regular night wakings in that the children aren’t truly awake. They appear to be awake, since they can sit up, they can move around, their eyes are open, and they may even talk a bit to you, but they’re actually in a light phase of sleep, stuck between sleep cycles. It’s not super fun, since they’re harder to calm down, often don’t want touch, and you have to wait for them to fully wake up so they can “snap out of it” and actually go back to sleep. So it’s best to avoid night terrors at all costs! The way to do that is to make sure you’re child isn’t overly exhausted at bedtime, by preserving the daytime naps.

3) No naps makes for really cranky kiddos. Whether your child has skipped one of 3 naps they have in a day, or their only nap they have in a day, the results are the same. When they need the sleep and don’t get it, it leads to some unhappy children. Imagine that you only got 5hrs of sleep, when you clearly need at least 8hrs. How do you feel? Do you feel like working out? Do you feel like making dinner? Do you feel like playing with your kids or talking to your spouse? Nope, pretty sure you don’t.

If I were to guess, I’d say you would feel cranky, emotional (can laugh, cry, or scream at any given moment), unmotivated, weak, and super tired all day long. This is exactly how your child feels when they don’t get their naps. There is so much learning that happens during those first few years that it’s imperative that children are awake and ready/able to learn. They’re ability to learn and retain information goes way down when they’re tired. And, what they are learning throughout the day will be lost without sleep. Information and short-term memories are transferred to our long-term memory when we are sleeping! So remember, naps aren’t luxuries, they’re necessities!

So there you have it…3 reasons why naps are important. I know it can be a pain sometimes to be home when your kids need their naps, but it’s worth it. Naps on-the-go are okay once in awhile, but you really want to try to be home for at least one nap a day. Imagine you fell asleep on the couch for a nap. Now imagine you fell asleep in your bed with your nice dark shades/curtains. Which one do you think is going to be easier for you to get the best quality and length of sleep? Your bed, of course!

This is the same as your baby taking a 20min car ride nap vs a 1hr 20min crib nap. That 20min nap will be enough to give them a little boost of energy, but not enough to keep them happily going for another few hours until next nap or bedtime. They’re either going to need more naps that day or they will just be tired, cranky, and clingy until they can sleep again. So my advice is to do what you can to let naps happen at home in their cribs.

And I don’t know about you, but I LOVED it when my kids napped! What parent do you know that couldn’t use a break or two during the day to nap, get things done, or just sit down and sneak a piece of chocolate?! So don’t push your child to give up their naps before they’re ready. But, when they are ready, take a good look at their schedule, which will need to be adjusted to make up for the lost nap. Schedules change often when they’re little, and dropping naps is definitely one of the times that this will happen.

 

*If you need help with schedule changes or nap issues, I can help! You can schedule a free 15min phone call, so I can access your sleep needs. You can always check out my full package sleep services or sleep courses as well, if naps aren’t your only issue!

Getting Rid of Sleep Props

Getting rid of sleep props can be tough! If you don’t know what the term “sleep prop” is, let me explain. A sleep prop is anything your child uses in order to go to sleep. For instance, parents are often the biggest sleep prop there is! Many kiddos rely on their parent’s touch in some form or fashion in order to go to sleep. But the #1 sleep prop there is feeding-to-sleep. Almost all babies start out feeding-to-sleep at birth, as it’s quite natural. All is usually fine until the baby hits 4 months old and goes through what many refer to as the dreaded “4 month regression”. For other babies, it becomes an issue sometime in that first year, when parents realize that their baby should be able to sleep through the night yet they aren’t. That’s when they call me!

There are very few parents who don’t have sleep prop issues when we talk. Usually, if there are sleep props involved, there are sleep issues in general. Here are some more common sleep props…

  • feeding
  • holding
  • rocking
  • bouncing (either in arms or on an exercise ball)
  • pacifier (when used in order to get to the child to sleep or back to sleep)
  • co-sleeping (when you are only doing it out of necessity and not by desire)
  • using apparatuses such as a stroller, car seat, baby wrap/carrier, Rock-N-Play, Dock-A-Tot, swing

You’re probably looking at this list thinking about how you are currently using one or more of these things and wondering how the heck you’ll ever get your child to sleep if you stop. First of all, just know that it absolutely can be done! It can take a bit of time, persistence, and consistency, but it is well worth it in the end! Think about how nice it would be to have your evenings back to yourself to spend binge watching your favorite show, scrolling through social media, catching up with an old friend, having quality time with your spouse/partner, taking a bath, or even folding laundry (I know that’s not exciting, but it still needs to be done)! And then think about how you wouldn’t have to go to bed early because you’re afraid your child will be up multiple times that night. Or worse yet, you don’t go to bed early, your child does wake up several times, and now you’re a walking zombie the next day. Ugh!

But you can have those wonderful things I just talked about if you can manage to take away the “bad sleep props” and teach your child some new, independent sleep skills. You can also replace a few bad props for a couple good ones, if you aren’t already using them. Let me share examples of “good sleep props”…

  • lovey (any comfort item your child uses, such as a stuffed animal, doll, blanket, etc)
  • a worn shirt of the parent (can help older kids who might miss you)
  • white noise machine (I like these for all aged children, as it lessens background noise and adds a consistent soothing sound)
  • night light (only for older kids who have expressed being afraid of the dark)

While these things still help your child get to sleep, they don’t involve you! Adding these things are the easy part though. You still need to teach your child how to fall asleep without you or an apparatus, such as the Rock-N-Play. They should be falling asleep in their crib or bed for all sleep, as that’s the safest place to be. You also don’t want to have to transition them there later, since that can easily wake them up on the transfer or startle them later when they wake up and realize they’ve been moved. How shocking would it be to you to be moved after you fell asleep?!

How you actually get rid of those props is up to you. You can always choose to go “cold turkey” and just get rid of the prop (ex: pacifier, apparatus, holding, etc). Or you might decide to slowly wean the prop first, like with feeding-to-sleep or bouncing. You can also replace the prop of you with just your shirt or a new lovey. Of course, I realize that it’s all easier said than done. Your child’s not likely going to thank you for changing up their sleep routine and expecting new things from them. Nope, they’re more likely to protest these new changes, even if just a little bit. No one likes change, including children, so try to be understanding and supportive during the process.

And just so we’re clear, when you take away or change a sleep prop, you’re going to be doing sleep training (or sleep teaching). This is exactly what sleep training is… creating a new, sleep-prop-free world for your child! With that will come some resistance, so be ready for it! You need a good plan (and Plan B), a few nights to make these changes, patience, and consistency. If there’s one thing I know about kids, is that they’re often a step a head of us with this sort of stuff, which means you need to be 2 steps quicker!


*If you need help in developing that plan of action, you should check out my online courses for Newborns, Babies, and Toddlers/Preschoolers. These 2 week video courses can help you understand sleep, how to choose the sleep training method that’s best for your family, and then tell you exactly how to implement it! Or, if you’re too tired, overwhelmed, or lacking time to do a 2 week course, then check out my one-on-one sleep services for children. I will do all of the planning for you by developing a customized sleep plan, and then I will support you throughout the 2-3 week process while you get it done. If you have any questions about working together, feel free to set up a free 15min phone assessment.

Sleep Teaching vs Sleep Training

Every day I am in Facebook “mom groups”, where tired, exhausted mamas often talk about their new baby’s sleep. Some of these poor mamas are really struggling and it’s causing overwhelm, anxiety, and sometimes depression symptoms. Any woman who’s had any number of children will tell you that the “4th trimester” (ie 3 months post birth) was a blur of sleeplessness, not eating well, not feeling well physically and mentally, not showering as often as we’d like to, and just feeling pretty crappy overall. This isn’t to say that we don’t love our new babies, because oh do we love those little bundles of joy! But, that doesn’t negate the fact that the first few months postpartum is tough.

Most new moms know that the first few months will be semi-sleepless, and most know think that they will need to wait until the 6 month mark to do some sort of sleep training to fix everything that went wrong up until that point. For some reason, parents are made to think that nothing can be done about their child’s poor sleep habits until at least 6 months and that is SO wrong! Here’s a concept for you…what if you worked on creating good sleep habits early on so that you didn’t have to change them at 6 months or after? Sounds awesome, right?!

When people see that I have a Newborn Package on my website, I know they are cringing because they think that I’m going to tell them that they need to let their 2, 3, or 4 month old “cry it out” (CIO). But that couldn’t be farthest from the truth! While we’re on the topic, there is plenty you can do before you would get to a true CIO scenario. I would never recommend that anyone puts their baby in their crib for the night and doesn’t come back until the morning!

So what can you do with a baby who’s up every hour at night and will only sleep on you for all of their naps? A lot more than you think! In my Newborn Package (and now course), I show you how to do “sleep teaching” with your baby vs sleep training. This method is all about developing good sleep skills early on so that you don’t have to do sleep training to correct things later on. It’s really pretty awesome!

There are so many factors that can affect sleep, like room environment, daytime schedule, bed/nap routines, timing of feeds, how baby goes to sleep, etc. This means that there are lots of things that a new parent can do to create the best scenario possible to help their baby sleep. When baby sleeps well, so do you! And if you’re one of those parents who thinks (or has been told) that not sleeping is just “what you signed up to do when you decided to have a baby”, please stop! Yes, we know we will be getting up a few times a night to feed our new babies, but that doesn’t mean that we should be up every hour or staying up for hours on end throughout the night. Our bodies are not meant to do that for long periods of time!

It’s so important for both you and your baby that you’re getting good, quality sleep. The majority of physical growth happens when you’re baby is sleeping, so it’s vital that they get all the sleep they need. And let’s face it, you’re not the best possible person/parent you can be when you’re constantly sleep deprived either. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing postpartum depression, as well as affecting your immune system, large/small motor skills, concentration, hand/eye coordination, emotions, and more!

Not convinced yet? Well, let’s say you’re okay with the amount of sleep you’re currently getting (even though it could be better), and that you don’t mind having to feed baby to sleep for every nap, bedtime, and night waking. As long as you can transfer them to their crib afterwards, all is good, right? What if I told you that it can all change for the worse once the 4th month hits? A lot of new moms have heard of the dreaded “4 month sleep regression“. If you haven’t, then you should click the link to learn more about it. But the short version is that this is a sleep milestone for your baby, which can very much feel like a sleep regression for you. Your baby will likely start to revolt at being transferred to the crib after you help them fall asleep. Now, once you move your sleeping baby into their crib, they will wake up and cry. You either need to re-feed or try something new, like bouncing, rocking, patting, etc. Sleep will now become a bit of a nightmare, because of this. But rest assured (pun intended) that there is a solution though!

If you teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own before you reach the 4th month, you will likely move right through the 4mo regression period unscathed! All you have to do is sleep teach your baby beforehand and they will be sleeping like rock stars in no time! And because I know some of you are wondering, no, sleep teaching does NOT involve cutting any night feeds. Sleeping is (and should be) completely independent of feeding your baby. That being said, making some daytime schedule changes, as well as changing how you’re putting your baby to sleep, can not only keep you from sleep training later, but you may also see your baby decide to drop some of their night feeds on their own. Of course, this will depend on your baby’s age and their physical feeding needs, but if they’re waking at non-feed times, or they no longer need a particular feed, you would see those disappear all on their own – bonus!

So, to recap, sleep teaching is when you actively and slowly teach your newborn how to sleep independently (at least some of the time). This is not an aggressive approach by any means! It should be slow and steady and without many or even any tears. You’re teaching your baby “something” every day when it comes to sleep (ie you need a bottle, patting, rocking, a swing, car seat, etc in order to go to sleep), so why not teach them things that you actually want them to continue on with as they get older??

*If you’re interested in learning more, I have a great new course called Sleep School for Newborns that you should check out! It’s a 14 day online video course that will walk you through all the things I mentioned above, as well as learning how to teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own at just the right times. It’s packed full of tons of great info that you can do at your own pace. If, however, you feel like you would rather have me give you the plan and info directly, I still have my Newborn Package, as well. This is a 3 week program, where I will give you a plan of action and guide you along the way. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

 

Why You Should Avoid Giving Your Child Melatonin

Let me start by saying that I do not recommend giving children any type of melatonin or other sleep products; however, I do recognize that for some children (ie those with special needs or have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder) it might be medically necessary. If you’re currently giving (or have ever given) your child melatonin products to get them to sleep faster or longer, you definitely want to read this!

Firstly, melatonin is not FDA approved, and therefore it is not regulated. This means that manufacturers don’t have to list the overdose warnings like they do for prescription drugs. Companies in the US are allowed to market to parents with kid-friendly labels and say it’s “all natural”, but that’s very misleading to parents. Believe it or not, in almost all other first-world countries, you can only get melatonin if prescribed by a doctor! Just because the US has chosen to put this product in the vitamin supplement department of stores, it does not make it safe. And yes, it’s natural when it’s produced by our bodies, but it is not natural when it’s manufactured in a lab.

There are very few studies that have been done on melatonin (again, it’s not FDA approved), and those that have been done show that long-term use can affect the body’s natural production of it. Taking too much of it can sabotage sleep and actually cause insomnia! For children specifically, it can affect puberty, disrupt menstrual cycles, and impede normal hormone development. It’s also important to note that it does not keep your child asleep throughout the night! It’s used to help bring on sleep, but again it will not keep them asleep all night. So if you’re using it because of night wakings, you can stop or wean now.

Now, all this being said, I think there could be cases where melatonin use is needed at least on occasion (again, special needs, sleep disorders, flying across time zones, etc). Before even considering it though, you really want to make sure that you’ve taken care of all of the possible behavioral and sleep hygiene issues, and ensure that your child’s routine is solid. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Turn off all electronics 30-60mins before bedtime. The blue light coming from TVs, tablets, laptops, phones, gaming systems, etc can suppress the body’s natural release of melatonin. You can have quiet, relaxing play the hour or two before bed so that your child isn’t “worked up” right before you start your routine.
  • Having a consistent nightly routine is a great way to cue your child’s mind and body that sleep is near.
  • You should also take a close look at your child’s diet. You might be giving sugary snacks before bed that can affect how hyper your child is before bed. Sugary snacks include fresh fruit too, as it has natural sugar it. Also, keep in mind that milk has sugar in it and can give your child a boost of energy when you need for them to calm down. Crackers, grains, raw veggies, and cheese are good bedtime snacks.
  • Ensure that the bedtime is correct, as well as the daytime schedule. I would hate to see you feel the need to give your child melatonin, only to find out that they just weren’t tired enough or they were overly tired.
  • Many children with autism and ADHD also have sleep issues, which can leave parents desperate for sleep relief for both their children and themselves. Because of this, some parents will turn to giving their child melatonin supplements. I started this document by saying I don’t believe parents should give this to their children, except when medically necessary. Having a child diagnosed with autism or ADHD is one of those medical exceptions. But even though you feel that it might be necessary, I would ask you to consider doing 4 things first before ever giving your child melatonin:
    1. Look at possible vitamin deficiencies, as many of these children are lacking Vitamin D and magnesium, both of which can affect sleep. Your child’s pediatrician can order a vitamin deficiency blood test to determine what your child might need more of. Then they will be able to tell you what dosage to give your child of the deficient vitamin (if there is one), based on the results.
    2. Recognize that even with all of the behavioral, routine, environmental, and dietary changes that your child may just need a little less sleep than the typical child. You might find that your 4yr old only needs 9hrs of sleep overnight to feel well-rested, and that’s ok. The key is that they are well-rested. If they wake up on their own, are energized, and they can easily make it through the day without a nap or major meltdowns, then your child is likely getting enough sleep. Remember, everyone’s sleep needs are different.
    3. Are you sure the bedtime shenanigans aren’t just because your child wants to push the boundaries? Are they truly not tired, or are they fooling around because they know that it gets your attention? Oftentimes, it’s a behavioral issue that needs to be dealt with (like through gentle sleep training) and not that the child actually needs less sleep. And again, if they’re waking at night, melatonin is not going to help unless you re-dose them. So be sure to rule out behavioral factors that a sleep training consult/course/book and a parenting book/course couldn’t fix.
    4. Lastly, please check with your doctor before giving your child melatonin. I realize it’s an over-the-counter drug, but you already read what my thoughts are on the possible issues and side effects of giving it. And even if your doctor approves it for your child, I highly suggest you both start out at a super low dosage (ex: 1mg) and only give it for the shortest amount of time as possible.

I know it’s hard to deal with a child who is constantly battling you at bedtime and possibly waking throughout the night, but giving this medication is not the way to deal with it. It is beyond rewarding when you can work with your child and get them to willingly go to bed and stay there until morning because they want to. It is possible! If you need with the behavioral end of things, you can check out my one-on-one child sleep packages or my online sleep courses. You can always Contact me if you’re unsure what you need or have any questions. And don’t forget, I also teach parenting courses, so we can get your child following directions both at bedtime and throughout the day!

*Article Resources with study links: Health Ambition, Baby Sleep Science, Van Winkle’s, Baby Sleep Study, Find a Top Doc

Daylight Savings Time – “Falling Back”

As I’m sure you know, Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends on November 5th at 2am, with our having to move our clocks back an hour.  I don’t know about you, but I hate it when people say silly things like “awesome, we’ll get an extra hour of sleep!” For those of you who are single or are teenagers, then yes, you get to gain an extra hour; however, for all of us parents of small children, the only thing “extra” we get is an extra hour with our kids! Ugh! Whiny, tired kids for a whole extra hour…yay! Seriously, it’s not fun to deal with Daylight Savings Time, whether we’re “falling back” or “springing forward”, but we have to somehow manage it.  I’ve got a few options for how best to do this.

 

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 and not a set time), you can easily adjust the day’s naps if need be to move bedtime to accommodate the new bedtime hour. Again, a 4 month old’s bedtime might sometimes be at 7pm and sometimes be at 8pm, depending on how the day’s nap schedule went, so the time could have little to no effect on these little ones. If that’s the case, just jump right to the new time either on Saturday or Sunday night, and you should be fine.

 

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. Let’s say you have a 10mo old that usually wakes up at 7am, then they will now be getting up at 6am (at least for the first day). If she usually takes a morning nap around 10:00am, you will want to adjust this to 9:30 for the first three days after the time change. It will be a bit later than your child’s normal nap time (it will feel like 10:30am), 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 6pm). I recommend putting him to bed at 6:30pm for the first three days following the time change. Again, he’ll feel pretty tired, since it will be 7:30pm to his body. 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.

If you have older kiddos, you can choose to split the difference for just one night and get to the new time by night two. Whether or not that’s a good idea has everything to do with how well your child does to bedtime shifts. If you know that your child is a mess when he goes to bed too late, then I would try to do either the 30min adjustment over 4 days or do #3 below.

 

3)    SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE INTO QUARTERS

For some children, going to bed 30mins later than normal can simply 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, 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 6pm, you’re going to opt for a 6:15pm bedtime the first night after the change (remember, that’s like 7:15pm for her). Then continue to move the bedtime forward 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’s technically 6am), 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 time changes 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 adjustment. Again, it might take about a week to see your child fully and happily make the adjustment!

 

4)    DO NOTHING

If your child normally sleeps 8pm – 8am 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 an 8am waking to a 7am one thanks to DST. Awesome, right?! I know what you’re thinking… “who would ever want that?!” But there are some kids who have to get up early for daycare or school, and the parents are always having to wake the child up. Now they may not have to do that…problem solved!

 

Final Thoughts on Naps and Mornings: So 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 8am), 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.

If you find that your child is now experiencing early morning wakings, don’t panic yet. 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 embrace it!

Finally, when you start to make these changes 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. Good luck!

 

*If after a week, you’re still having issues, remember I am here to help! You can check out my one-on-one sleep packages, online courses, or book membership! And of course, you can always take advantage of my free 15min phone consultations if you’re not sure which option is best for you.

Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep

As parents, when we think about stress and anxiety, we often think about ourselves or other adults having it. But what if I told you that your kids can have just as much or even more stress than you?! It’s true! Kids experience stress every day… moving to a new grade/school, making friends, worrying about tests/projects/grades, playing sports well, potty training, eating healthy, doing chores, having new siblings, experiencing a death in the family, witnessing thunderstorms/hurricanes/tornadoes, sleeping well, and the list goes on and on. My point is that our kids are stressed out and feeling anxious, and it’s time we helped them deal with those feelings.

If you’re both stressed about sleep, then I highly encourage you to work on fixing that first (for both of your sakes). In fact, whenever you have the ability to resolve the issue that’s giving your child stress, then that’s the way to go. You always want to get to the root causes of a person’s stress and anxiety, whenever possible. However, you’re not always going to be able to resolve the stress at the source. So how can you help your child feel calm, cool, and collected?

There are several things you can do to help them (and you) learn how to deal with their stress or fears as they come up. Let’s take a look at each of these…

1. Deep Breathing – Taking several slow, deep breaths can be very relaxing! It provides oxygen to all the major organs in our children’s bodies, stimulates the lymphatic system, increases their cardiovascular capacity, helps to detoxify the body, and relieve pain. It can make them feel calmer, happier, and improve their posture. This is good for ages 3 on up.

~When my twins were about 6 years old, I started doing deep breathing. My one twin would often have anxious feelings right before bed. Things didn’t seem to bother her all day, but they would at bedtime. For a long time I thought she was just trying to stall, but I eventually realized that it wasn’t intentional. After that we started doing deep breathing and guided imagery (#5 below). To explain deep breathing to them, I would have them envision that they had a yummy birthday cake in front of them. I would ask them to take a deep breath in so that they could smell the cake. Then I would ask them to hold their breath until I couldn’t to 3, and then I wanted them to blow out all of the candles. It was a great way for them to understand how to do what I was asking!

2. Quiet Meditation – Listening to soft music or environmental sounds (ex: rain, crashing waves, birds tweeting) can relax their mind and body, as well as calm down nervous, angry, or sad feelings. Relaxing music or sounds can be played for newborns on up!

3. Guided Meditation – Someone talks to your child over soft music, asking them to “feel” or recognize different parts of their body. This allows them to focus their mind on what’s being talked about and not what happened earlier that day or what’s happening tomorrow. It should allow them to fall asleep before it’s over! This is likely going to be more helpful for teens.

4. Guided Imagery (electronic) – Instead of having a person talking to them about “feeling” individual parts of their body, there’s a person telling them a story (each one has a theme or story line). The idea is for them to either fall asleep listening or get very sleepy, calm, and relaxed. This is good for preschoolers on up.

5. Guided Imagery (storytelling) – Instead of using an app or web to provide the story, you can give them some things to think about before bed by telling your own story.

~For my twin daughters, I will often say things like “Pretend you’re fairies in Fairytopia and it’s the night of the ball. You still have to design your gown. What will it look like? Will it be long or short? What color will be it? Think about all of these things as you go to sleep tonight.” The idea is NOT for them to tell you the answers to your questions, but for you to be able to leave them with some nice thoughts instead of the not-so-good ones that might be floating around in their little minds. Of course you would adapt this for boys. This can be especially useful with school-aged children.

6. Yoga – Stretching and holding poses in a classroom or home setting. Your child can do traditional yoga or you can allow them to be creative with it. Not only is yoga calming but it is also exercising. Exercise at any time in the day can help kids sleep better at night. This is something that you can do right along with them, too! There are mommy and me and kids’ yoga classes, so this one is good for ages baby and up.

You can find examples of these methods for free on YouTube, some websites, or apps (and yes, there are paid-for versions too). I encourage you to try one or two with your child. You may find that one thing works better than the others, or that one method works better for one of your children than the others. While deep breathing and guided imagery works wonderful for my 8 year old girls, my 5 year old son can only tolerate my storytelling, and my 17 year old daughter chooses to listen to storytelling on her phone. I will often come in her room, hear a man telling a story, and see that she’s passed out, so it clearly works for her!

My point is that you might have to experiment a bit to find out what works best for your child. While they’re younger the best thing you can do to help calm down your child is to be there for them. Having parents close by during stressful times can turn a toxic stress situation into a tolerable one, so don’t underestimate your power! Just  snuggle, hug, kiss, listen to, and love your child each day!

 

**For more information on helping your child, teen, or yourself with sleep issues, please visit my Services Page. I also offer free 15min phone assessments, if you’d like to learn more.

What’s My Kid Eating Now?

As a parent of 4 kids, I often find myself saying, “What’s my kid eating now?” I mean I usually know what they’re eating, but sometimes they sneak food. And sometimes I give them things that aren’t the best, because we’re on the run to school, sport, or other activity. Life is busy and kids are hungry like…all.the.time! So I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with sleep, right? Well, it has a ton to do with it!

The foods our children eat and drinks they consume can affect their sleep, digestion, clarity, mood, energy level, and more. The time of the day the food/drink is consumed can also have an impact on sleep, too. So if you’re a parent who’s not always sure what their kiddo is eating and when, then you’ll want to keep reading and you might want to reconsider your parenting style a bit. Let me explain…

Let’s say that your child’s evening snack consists of a slice of watermelon, chocolate teddy graham crackers, and a small glass of milk. Sounds reasonable, and even pretty healthy, right? Well, it sort of is and sort of isn’t. A slice of juicy watermelon is certainly healthy, but not the best choice before bed. Watermelon is water-based and can cause a potty-trained child to possibly wake up in the middle of the night to go potty, or can cause a diapered child to leak through their diaper. All that extra liquid has to go somewhere! Also, all fresh fruit has natural sugars in it, which means that it can give your child a boost of energy right when you need them to get sleepy. How about the chocolate teddy grahams crackers? Crackers aren’t bad, right? These kind are! Anything made with chocolate means that there’s a good amount of sugar in it, which again gives your kiddo a jolt of energy. And the darker the chocolate, the higher the content of caffeine, so that can also add to the issue.

Finally, there’s that small cup or bottle of milk.  Most parents add in some sort of milk product after their child is 1 year old; and oftentimes it’s a replacement from formula to cow’s milk. Because babies are usually drinking a bottle of formula or nursing before bed, parents will usually keep the routine in place and replace the formula for milk (nursing moms may continue this past 1 year old). But formula is not the same as pasteurized cow’s milk. Having a bottle or cup of milk before bed can also affect bedtime with the sugar found in it, as well as the fact that it’s a liquid, which can again cause urination issues. For potty trained kids, you want to watch how much they’re drinking after dinner, so they’re not up during the night to go to the potty. It can also increase the risk of bedwetting for some children.

So what can they eat, you ask? Well, there are foods that are considered to be helpful for sleep. Some examples are:

  • tart cherry juice/cherries
  • nuts
  • whole grain crackers/bread
  • whole grain cereals
  • cheese, frozen Greek yogurt, low-fat milk (some parts of it can make you sleepy, but other parts have sugar so it’s kind of a wash in my book but I wanted to mention it), and other dairy products
  • pretzels
  • corn chips
  • tuna
  • white rice
  • green leafy vegetables
  • hummus

Many of these products either have or help tryptophan reach the brain (that’s the hormone that helps us to feel sleepy, like when we eat a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving). We want our kids to be eating foods like this that can help them to feel tired when it’s close to bedtime.

Besides what they’re eating, you also want to be aware of when they’re eating. Remember, this is a snack, not a meal. Full meals should be eaten about 3 hours prior to bedtime, as overstuffed bellies can make sleep more restless and cause digestion issues (and more night wakings). And of course you want to make sure that your kids are brushing their teeth after their tasty snacks or any drinks other than water, so they don’t get tooth decay.

To summarize, bedtime snacks are great and can be very effective, as long as they’re the right kind of snacks offered at the right time. You want to choose your child’s snacks so that they work in your favor to make bedtime an easy process. And if your kiddo is a “food-sneaker” like my son (he loves candy), keep it all locked up or hidden so they can’t sneak it in when you’re not looking. Then you’ll never have to ask yourself “what’s my kid eating now?”

~

*If you need help with your child’s sleep, let’s chat! I offer free 15min phone calls, so that we can discuss your child’s unique situation. What kids eat is just one small reason why their sleep can be off! Oftentimes, there’s a behavioral component that we’ll also work on. Together, we can work on getting your child’s sleep back on track for both bed and naps, if applicable. You can check out all my other services here (from parenting, infant massage, lactation, and more)!