Things That Go Bump (or Boom) In the Night!

In light of this weekend’s 4th of July celebrations happening around the US, I am dedicating this month’s newsletter to all things that go bump (or boom) in the night. Even the best sleepers are sometimes startled awake by things that sound off in the middle of the night. So what do you do when your child wakes because of some loud noise? How do you get them quickly back to sleep?

The first thing you want to ask yourself is “how did my child go to sleep initially?” Did you have to help him get to sleep by feeding, snuggling, patting, rocking, etc? If so, then chances are that you’re going to need to do those same things again (see bottom for a special offer to change this). If, however, you have an independent sleeper who went to bed on his own after going through his bedtime routine and kissing you goodnight, then your answer is a bit different. Let’s assume that you have a good sleeper, since that is the goal after all!

Fireworks, Thunderstorms, Cars, Airplanes, Trains, or Other Loud Outside Interferences:

You want to remember that just because you’ve woken up due to these noises does not mean that your child will. Children have an awesome ability to sleep through many of the things that we can not as adults. They’ve not had to worry yet about listening for a crying baby, a child escaping their bedroom, a spouse coming in late, or strange noises that could be burglars. Over the years, those things change us from deep sleepers to light sleepers, which means that we tend to hear every little noise (especially mothers – sorry dads).

Don’t panic if YOU hear a noise and then assume your child must be in his room upset and scared. The younger the child, the less likely it is that he’ll wake up scared from any noises. If you have a child who’s 2 years or older, you might notice that things not only wake him up now but that he’s scared because of them. So what can you do when it happens?

BE CALM:

Start by going into his room calmly. Do not go rushing in there saying things like “oh, my poor baby, you must be so scared” and acting like you’re scared too. Children feed off of their parent’s emotions (good or bad), so be very aware of how you respond initially.

Next, calmly talk to your child at his developmental level about the noise and downplay it as much as possible. If it’s a thunderstorm, you might want to make up a non-scary reason why we hear those noises. Personally, I tell my children that there are angels and loved ones that have passed that are bowling up in Heaven. Some people may not agree with this, but it works great for my kids. Calms them instantly!

But if you’re not religious, don’t want to tell them lies, or you have an older child, then you can respond with a science-y answer. Explain what really happens up in those clouds that makes it thunder and lightning. I would suggest going over these things during the daytime hours first so that you can just remind your child about what you’ve already discussed, when it’s now 2 AM and you’re not really in the mood to chit-chat about thunderstorms. Whatever it is you tell him, just be consistent with your answers (at least until he’s old enough for the science version) so that he can remember it when the next storm hits.

If it’s fireworks keeping him up this weekend, and you already know that your neighborhood is an active community for them, then you can prep him early that he might hear some loud noises at night, but that they’re nothing to be scared of. I wouldn’t make it a big deal, but just prepare him that he might hear something loud or new. Don’t worry about pre-warning him though if he’s younger than 2yrs old, as he’s not going to be able to comprehend any of what you’re trying to say and you might actually scare him more by talking about it ahead of time.

OFFER COMFORT AND LEAVE:

If he’s visibly upset by the noise, then you’ll want to offer some comfort and reassurance that he’s ok and that you’re there for him. If the noise was over with quickly (ex: car backfiring), then you’ll want to calm him, lay him back down, re-tuck him in, say good night and leave the room. You do NOT want to change your normal routine by taking him to your bed, getting into his bed, patting his back, re-feeding, or sitting there with him until he falls asleep (again we’re assuming you don’t currently do any of those things).

Older children have the ability to very quickly make mom and dad feel guilty for wanting to leave by asking for more snuggles, to come to your room, for you to stay, etc. I know it’s really hard to turn down those kinds of requests when you know he’s scared, so I suggest telling him you’ll give him just one set of snuggles before doing so and then leaving.  Don’t be talked into something that you wouldn’t normally allow at bedtime, or else you might find your child waking up more often in the middle of the night looking for more snuggling either that night or the nights that follow.

If the noise is a recurring thing, such as fireworks or a thunderstorm, then you might need to camp out with him for a bit until the noises end. It’s going to be very hard to convince him to return to a peaceful sleep when noises are happening left and right or a storm is right above your house. That’s when you will want to calmly and quietly talk through it, maybe sitting together in a chair next to the crib or laying with him for a few minutes in his big boy bed. It’s a good time to talk about nice, happy things in his life, like what he did that day or will do the next day that will be fun. Then, once the fireworks end or the storm passes, you will re-tuck him in, say good night, and leave.

SUMMARY:

If you only remember one thing, remember this: It only takes 1-3 days to completely undo your child’s good sleep habits! While you of course want to comfort your child through something loud and frightening, you don’t want to give him a reason to stay up the rest of the night, keep calling for you, or fight you the next night for bed. With anything that ever comes up that causes your child to wake in the night (ie fireworks, storms, loud noises, illnesses, teething, developmental milestones, etc), it’s never the event itself that causes things to spiral out of control, but it’s how we parents respond to those things. So don’t let tomorrow night’s fireworks celebration ruin your child’s good sleeping habits! Be calm. Be comforting. Be consistent. Happy 4th of July!

Let’s Talk Toddlers…

Toddlers can be very challenging, yet very rewarding if you know what you’re doing! First of all, a child becomes a toddler around 1yr of age and it lasts until about 3yrs old, when he moves up to the classification of “preschooler”. While that time frame is often filled with temper tantrums, screaming, and flat-out not listening, it is also a time of great learning! Every day your child is working on learning more words, colors, shapes, ABCs, counting, walking, running, skipping, climbing, and much more! In order to do all of those things each and every day, your child needs the proper amount of sleep each night and a good nap each day (if they’re still napping).

Bedtime Routine:

It all starts with a great, predictable bedtime routine every night. We know that babies like schedules, but we often forget that toddlers like and NEED those schedules just as much! A great sample routine might look like this:

7:00pm      Pajamas on, brush teeth, change diaper/go potty

7:15pm      Read books/quiet play in room

7:30pm      Bedtime

Bedtime Battles:

A common complaint about toddlers is that bedtime is a battle. If your child is pushing the boundaries with you all day long, you can assume she’s going to do the same at bedtime. The best thing you can do is be consistent. Set your bedtime expectations, then follow through with either a reward, a consequence, or both. Examples of stall tactics that toddlers will commonly use:

-Hopping back out of bed (if in a bed)

-Asking for another kiss or hug

-Asking for a drink

-Asking to go to the potty

-Throwing her favorite lovey or blanket out of the crib so you get it

When those things happen, you’ll want to give a warning about what will happen if she doesn’t stop the unwanted behavior. Then, if it continues, you will need to follow through with the consequence you just threatened her with. For example, if she threw her lovey out of the crib to keep you in the room or have you come back in, then you warn her that if she throws it out again you’ll not be giving it back to her.

Initially, she will purposely throw that lovey back out just to see what you will do, but that will change once she knows you mean business. After she throws it that second time, you will leave it where it lands for as many minutes as she is old (i.e. if she’s 2 years old, then you would leave it out for 2 minutes). Same rules apply for each and every time she throws it out. You want to let her know that bedtime is non-negotiable and that you’re not fooling around.

Once she sees that it isn’t a game, she will probably not throw it again. If, however, you have a really stubborn toddler, she might need to actually go to bed without it and not be given it back again until morning to know you’re serious (though most times that’s unnecessary).

Summary:

Anyone with a toddler (or two) will tell you that you need to pick and choose your battles. Sleep is one of those battles you need to choose to fight! You will have less bedtime battles with a child who is not overly tired. A consistent nap time and bed time will greatly improve the amount of battles you’ll have throughout the day, so make sleep a top priority in your house!

Sleep Well,

Ronee Welch

Sleeptastic Solutions

*Click HERE to set up your free 15min phone assessment!

Bedtime Routines

Bedtimes routines are an essential cue to a child’s mind and body that sleep is drawing near. They can be implemented as early as day one, though most parents find it easier to begin them after things have calmed down a bit. Whether you already have a bedtime routine, or are looking to start one, it’s doesn’t hurt to see what is suggested and what you should know about creating one!

Duration:  Routines should be anywhere between 20-30 minutes, though no longer than 45 minutes.  Anything longer than 30 minutes and your child will begin to lose interest, get cranky, and start to give you a hard time.  The only time when 45 minutes is acceptable is when a bath is included as part of the bedtime routine.

Where:  At least some of the routine should take place where the child sleeps, whether that be their own bedroom, a shared room with a sibling, or mom and dad’s room for those that co-sleep.  This lets them know that bedtime is near and that their room is a comfortable and nice place to be and spend time in.  Remember to keep stimulation to a minimum by keeping the lights and voices low during this relaxing time!

Consistency:  It is important to keep the routine consistent night after night so that your child feels secure in knowing what activity is next.  Toddlers and preschoolers especially take great comfort in predictability.  Like babies, they thrive on consistency and do much better with going to sleep when they know what is expected.   Now that’s not to say that if you forget to read a story or sing a particular song one night that your child won’t go to sleep for you, but the more consistent you are with your routine, the more consistent your child will be with going to sleep for you without much of a fuss.

Creating a key phrase:  Most parents have a short phrase that they already say every night to let the child know that it’s time for bed.  Maybe you say “it’s sleepy time”, “it’s bedtime”, or “it’s nighty-night time”.  Whatever your phrase, be consistent with it and continue to say each and every night, and also for naps, no matter what age your child is. While young children may not understand what you’re saying, they can begin to learn the sounds and tone of your voice when you say it and will come to realize that it’s associated with going to sleep. So if you don’t have one currently, then now’s a great time to introduce one!

What should be included in your routine?  You should only include enjoyable activities in your bedtime and nap routines that will be performed every night and day, like feeding and reading stories.  Do not include baths unless they’re given nightly and your child enjoys them.

Example bedtime routine:

6:45 pm     Bath time
7:00 pm     Pajamas
7:05 pm     Story or two, songs
7:20 pm     Nursing, bottle, or sippy cup/snack
7:30 pm     In crib/bed, sleepy but awake!
Naptime routine:  You’re probably thinking, “What?  I’m supposed to do a naptime routine, too?” YES!  A shortened version of the bedtime routine (say feeding, book, bed), along with saying your key phrase, helps to give your child those same essential cues that it’s time for sleep.
As you can see, creating a bedtime (and naptime) routine is easy to do, and it should be pleasant for both children and parents!  This is meant to be a quiet time where you can peacefully enjoy your child’s company, and it’s certainly a great way to end your day with him/her!
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to help your child sleep fantastically through the night, please register for my FREE “Sleeping Through the Night” webinar next Thursday, July 24th at 9pm.  You will learn about the importance of sleep and the 7 important things you can do right now to get your child sleeping independently!  Go to http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EA58DF88814A31 to register for this free, informational webinar!

Or if you need more help with your little one’s sleep issues, contact me through my website at www.sleeptasticsolutions.com for a free 15-min phone evaluation where you can tell me more about your child’s sleep issues!

Sleep well,

Ronee Welch

Sleeptastic Solutions

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