What Are Microbes?

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Many of us know that outside factors such as stress, diet, and exercise can affect sleep, but did you know that microbiomes can also affect it? Microbiomes are ecosystems of ever-changing micro-organisms. The human body contains trillions of micro-organisms, outnumbering human cells 10 to 1. Because of their size though, they only account for 1-3% of body mass. The microbiome is often referred to as our “second brain”, because it has a nervous system and about 100 million neurons. It helps to regulate hormone production, immune system function, appetite, digestion and metabolism, mood, and stress responses. It also produces many of the same neurotransmitters that are needed for sleep, such as dopamine, seratonin, and GABA. Melatonin is also produced in both the brain and the gut. 

Some of the more popular microbes found in the body are in the gut, mouth, and for women in the vagina and through lactation. In fact, when a woman gives birth vaginally, and goes on to exclusively breastfeed her baby, she’s passing on her microbes. It almost becomes like DNA, as every person’s microbes are different and unique. These microbes give baby the good bacteria they need to form a healthy immune system. When the mother is in active labor, and once her waters break, she is passing on the vaginal microbes to baby through the skin and mouth. Then baby passes through the birth canal, again getting more of these good germs. When baby passes by the anus, they are getting mom’s gut microbes (a gross thought, I know, but an important step). Later, when mom breastfeeds her baby, both the skin contact and milk itself passes yet another set of good bacteria to baby. If this isn’t impressive enough, there are sugars in the breast milk that actually seed the infant gut microbe, getting it ready to start the immune system! That means that these sugars don’t have a nutritional value for the baby, other than to feed these good bacteria.

Going back to the topic of sleep, research has recently shown that when we sleep poorly or have fragmented sleep, it starts to affect our gut microbiome. When that happens, there is a significant decrease to the good bacteria, while there are changes to the  micro-organisms which have been linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. Along with this, an unhealthy gut can lead to poor sleep and cognitive decline. Some research points to poor sleep possibly leading to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.  Research is also indicating that sleep apnea may have a detrimental effect on the gut microbe that might not be as easy to fix. Research is also showing that depression can also be linked to a lack of certain bacteria in the gut.

We know that stress can affect sleep, but it appears that stress can also affect our gut health. Some research is showing that taking a probiotic containing the bacteria Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (the one found in fermented foods such as yogurt) can help with both sleep and stress. Prebiotics can also be helpful, as these are bacteria strains that are an energy source for those trillion micro-organisms. Because everyone’s microbiomes are different, it’s important to do your research and try things slowly to see how your body reacts. On a personal note, I had to stop giving my 7yr old son probiotics recently because I found that it was the cause of his periodic stomachaches. Again, just be aware that everyone’s body and reactions will be different. 

Diet also plays a role in not only our sleep, but in our microbes. It’s important that you focus on a diet rich in whole, organic foods and avoid fatty, fried foods whenever possible. It can help your gut keep the good bacteria, while reducing the bad ones that can make you sick or cause disease. It can help with things like inflammation, obesity, skin diseases such as psorasis, autoimmune arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and more. Just one more reason why eating healthy is so important! 

If you are interested in learning more about how you can live your best life, then let’s chat! As a Holistic Health & Lifestyle Practitioner, I help people figure things like this out! I can help you create good, healthy eating habits, learn how to meal plan/prep, improve your sleep, increase your activity levels, discuss your relationships that might not be benefiting you, talk about your career choice, or anything else that is currently going on in your life! You’ve got nothing to lose by setting up a free initial phone call with me, but you have a lot to gain!

Are You an Emotional Eater?

For many people, food can be a comforting friend when they’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, anxious, angry, etc. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if they ever craved healthy foods, like fruits or veggies. Nope, people more likely to crave foods that are sweet, salty, high in fat, or high in calories. Why is that?

What we crave often depends on what our needs are in that moment. Maybe you’re hungry because it’s been several hours since your last meal. As long as you don’t wait too long (this is why you want to eat 5-6 smaller meals vs 3 big ones), you should be able to control yourself and eat a more well-balanced meal. However, if you’ve gone 6hrs since your last meal, you’re going to be famished, wanting to eat anything and everything in sight. Let’s face it, the processed, junky foods are usually the easiest to grab, which is when you’ll find yourself demolishing a pack of cupcakes or a bag of chips.

Emotional cravings are a bit different. These happen not because we’re truly hungry, but because we like the way that eating these favorite foods makes us feel. You might find that pizza is your go-to food when you’re stressed or anxious. Or maybe you love chocolate when you’re feeling sad. What if what you’re craving is actually saying something about your feelings or specific emotions?

University Health News has this to say about the 5 top foods craved and what it might mean:

  1. Cheese or a milkshake:  You’re emotional or feeling tense. High-fat dairy products are high in protein and contain the amino acid tryptophan, which aids in the production of melatonin and  serotonin to help us feel more relaxed and sleepy. A 2016 study linked low amounts of tryptophan to a depressed state.
  2. Candy: You’re hungry, tired, stressed, or addicted. If you’re reaching for sweets, it’s really sugar you crave. You could need an energy boost due to lack of food (maybe you’re dieting or skipped breakfast this morning) and your blood sugar is fluctuating. Or, you’re not getting enough sleep. Another possible culprit is stress. Brazilian researchers found that stressed women were more likely to crave sweets. If neither of these are the cause of your craving, you may be a sugar addict. In a study of rats, researchers from Princeton University found that sugar is as addictive as drugs.
  3. Salty chips: You’re stressed. Crunching on something helps relieve stress while you chew. You could also be anemic, which explains your quest for extra salt.
  4. Carbs: You’re depressed or dieting. A study published in the journal Obesity Research found that eating carbohydrates boosts our levels of serotonin (the feel-good hormone), which is why we want them when we’re feeling down. Another reason for carb-loading could be due to dieting. If you’re restricting your carbohydrate intake, it’s not surprising that your body is craving more.
  5. Chocolate: You’re sad, lonely, or stressed. Consuming 500 mg of chocolate a day for 30 days improved feelings of calmness and contentment, according to an Australian study. So, we could be craving it to boost our moods. Others say we crave chocolate as a result of a magnesium deficiency, but this is up for debate.

After reading this, what do you think? Is it true for you? I know for me, I just love chips. Period. End of story. No, I’m not depressed, I just enjoy salt! It’s a bad habit, and one that I would argue is just as addictive as sugar! I’ve had to work hard to find chip substitutes, but you can do it if you’re motivated enough!

I also don’t find myself craving anything if I’m stressed or upset. I actually lose my appetite when I’m feeling blue. I only eat when I’m happy, which is thankfully most of the time! Of course that has its downfalls too. It’s important not to use your happiness as an excuse to eat everything you want either.

Years ago I had to get blood work done quite often during a rough time tied around getting and staying pregnant. I hated doing that blood work (who doesn’t?), so I treated myself to Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, curly fries, and really unhealthy milkshakes after every appointment. Not the best idea! Thank goodness I didn’t have THAT many appointments! You definitely don’t want to do what I did.

Instead, you should look at finding other ways to reward yourself that aren’t food-based. You might buy yourself something new (could be small things like a book, new shirt, etc). It may not feel as good initially, but you’ll feel better about it later when you’re not disgusted about how you would have felt after slamming down a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese.

So what else can you do to limit how much and what you might be eating when you’re feeling emotional?

  • Be aware of why you’re choosing to eat those foods. Are you eating them for the wrong reasons? It’s okay to want a milkshake every now and again. You just don’t want to drink one because you’re upset and that’s the only thing you think will make you feel better. Instead, try working on sorting out your feelings without food. Deal with the anger, sadness, anxiousness, extreme happiness, etc for the emotions they are without bringing food come into the equation.
  • Get plenty of sleep! You will make better food decisions when you’re well-rested. When people have a tough night of sleep, they often find themselves grabbing the first foods they can find (ie processed, pre-packaged, high calorie/fat). Not only do they tend to crave those types of food, but they’re often too tired to think about cooking more nutritious meals.
    • Researchers at Columbia University used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which tracks blood flow in the brain, to compare brain activity in 25 volunteers following a normal night’s sleep (about eight hours) and a night in which they were limited to just four hours.
    • In each case, the researchers performed the scans while showing the volunteers images of unhealthy foods interspersed with healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and oatmeal. Brain networks associated with craving and reward were more active when the participants were sleep-deprived than when they were well-rested—especially when the participants viewed the images of unhealthy foods.
  • Exercise more often! You will find that you’re craving HEALTHY foods after a good workout, walk/run, or just increased activities. Research shows that the highest increase in fruit/vegetable intake occurred for participants who transitioned from inadequate to adequate exercise. An added benefit for sure! 

As you can see, emotional eating can look differently for different people. Some people have never even experienced it! While you can now understand that there is some science behind what you’re craving and why, you don’t want to use this as an excuse to eat an entire bag of chips or a whole tub of ice cream. There are plenty of things you can do to create new, healthy habits!

If you need help getting this done, let’s chat! As a Holistic Health & Lifestyle Practitioner, I help people figure things like this out! I can help you create good, healthy food habits, learn how to meal plan, understand how to read food labels, change your emotional eating habits, improve your sleep, increase your activity levels, discuss your relationships that might not be benefiting you, talk about your career choice, or anything else that is currently going on in your life! You’ve got nothing to lose by setting up a free initial phone call with me, but you have a lot to gain!

Preserving Sleep When Your Child Is Sick

Whether you’re lucky enough to have always had a good sleeper, or you recently worked hard to get your child to be a good sleeper, every parent worries what will happen when that child gets sick. We all know that things could go horribly wrong during the illness and afterwards, so we tend to have some anxious feelings appear with that first sniffle.

You’re absolutely right to be be worried, because YES illnesses can definitely affect sleep! We know what it’s like when we have a runny nose, are stuffed up, have a sore throat, feel feverish, get the chills, have a headache, or worse yet have a stomach bug. It’s downright unpleasant, and often keeps us up at night or popping cold tablets every 4 hours like clockwork. The same is true for our little ones, though sometimes they’re too young for cold medications so they’re just super miserable (and so are we)!

Parents always want to know what they can do to help their child, and more importantly, what they can do to keep their child sleeping well during and after the sickness has gone. Certainly, you’ll want to take your child in to see the doctor if they’re really sick, have a high fever, or have other concerning symptoms. But if they have the common cold, are “sick” from teething (ie low grade fever, runny nose/congestion), or you’ve been to the doctor and they’ve told you it was just a virus that needed to run its course, then there are a few things that you can do at home.

  1. Propping one end of the crib mattress can help to elevate your child’s head and keep their airways open for better breathing.
  2. Running a humidifier at night can help to open the child’s nasal passages so they can breath easier. Running a hot shower/bath can also work before bed.
  3. Using saline nasal spray (over-the-counter) can help to thin the mucous and clear out their nose. Even if they have a runny nose, you should still use it. Seems counter-intuitive, but it really does work to thin it and get rid of it faster!
  4. Some people enjoy using essential oils and will swear by them (Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils are great ones)! I don’t recommend diffusing all night in an enclosed bedroom space though. You should turn it off about an hour before bed. Also, be careful in what you use, because not all oils are safe for young children. Do your homework first!
  5. Keep your child hydrated! Your child will lose more water than normal when fighting a fever. It will also help to thin and flush out the extra mucous.
  6. Elderberry can be a great way to give your child’s immune system a boost. You can make your own syrup or buy/make gummies. Double check the product’s age minimum though, because again it might not be a good idea for young children.
  7. Give your child some extra Vitamin C! If they like oranges or orange juice, that can be a great way to not only give them more Vitamin C to help fight off their germs, but you’ll be keeping them hydrated as well.
  8. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest! Seriously, sleep/rest is one of the best things you can do. When your child is resting, it allows the body to work on getting rid of those nasty germs!

Again, for all of the above, you always want to talk to your child’s pediatrician to ensure you’re doing the right things. When it comes to ensuring your child continues to be a good sleeper, the answer is simple… Keep the same expectations and do what you normally do!

I realize that’s not always possible, but it’s where you want to start out. Don’t assume your child needs anything more from you than usual, other than more cold medicine (if they’re over 6yrs old and need it), some pain and fever-reducing medicine, help wiping a runny nose, or help with a stomach bug issue.

Try to treat the symptoms without undoing everything that’s working well for your family. For instance, don’t just bring them to your bed, lay in their bed, or hold them all night if you can help it. If you do that, you’ll possibly looking at new sleep issues once they’re feeling better. Instead, treat the symptoms and then re-tuck them back into their crib or bed. If they need more help than that, they’ll let you know.

If you need to do more, then of course you should do it. If you need to stay in the same room to catch vomit (been there), then you do that! If they need some extra comforting for a few minutes until the pain medications kick in, then do that! Preferably, you would not need to do much other than be in the same room and give a few extra snuggles (while they’re still awake), so things can go back to normal after the illness has passed. But if you need to hold your coughing baby most of the night because it’s the only way they (and you) can sleep, then you do it that night and get back on track the next night.

Parents often “fall of track” and then think that it’s all over. But you can always get back to where you were before the illness! Sure, your kiddo may not be to happy about it, but you should be able to get back there in a couple of days at most. Of course, if things are a total mess afterwards and you can’t figure out how to fix things, you can always reach out to me!

You are welcome to set up a free consult, if you need me. Don’t forget about liking/following my Facebook page, as well as joining my Gentle Parenting Solutions Facebook group! Plenty of parents are in the same boat as you, so come join us!

Parenting Through the Holidays

Having children at home around the holidays can be so much fun! It’s great to see their little faces light up on Christmas morning or to receive their Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gifts! They remind us about the joys of the holidays – gifts, visits to see Santa, looking for their favorite family elf friend (ie Elf on the Shelf), baking cookies, decorating a tree/house, wrapping gifts, singing holiday songs, watching holiday movies together, etc. Yes, holidays can be so awesome when you have children!

So what’s the catch, you’re wondering? I’ll tell you…behavior. Not just any old behavior but poor behavior, and often poor sleep too! What do you do with a child who isn’t just counting down the days to their favorite holiday (this applies for all of holidays that involve gifts, like Halloween and Easter/Passover too), but they are OBSESSED with it?! Sometimes that means they’re not sleeping well, as they wait in anticipation for receiving their gifts. Sometimes it means they’ve had one too many Christmas cookies and candies and they’re attitude isn’t the best. Maybe they’re feeling entitled with the holidays, and really aren’t understanding the true meaning. How do you make it through the weeks leading up to your child’s favorite holidays?

SLEEP

When it comes to sleep, you want to keep things as consistent as possible. If you start letting the excited early mornings happen, then they will start to become the new “norm”. The day needs to continue to start at the same time as it always does, and this includes the “big day” itself. I know some of you are thinking, “What?! How cruel to make your kids wait to open presents!” But hey, it’s a busy day for all of us! I will have a long day of cooking ahead of me once I’m up, so there’s no way I’m waking up at 5am! I also don’t want children awake for the day at 5am…talk about a long day for them too! So we keep things consistent here at the Welch household, with a 7am wake up time!

If your child is still napping, you want to keep their nap schedule as usual too (including the holidays themselves). Skipping a nap on a holiday will just punish you and your child. Your child will be miserable on a day that should be fun! Of all days, they may have woken up early with excitement and truly need that nap. We all know what a miserable child looks like normally. Couple that with the fact that it’s a very stimulating, interactive day for them and it’s a recipe for disaster! And if you’re like me and need to cook on the holidays, then you know how much time you have set aside for tantrums and meltdowns…yup, zero. So do yourself the favor and let your child nap! Go to your family’s houses before or after nap, or plan the car trip around your child’s nap so they can catch some zzz’s on the way. A short nap is better than nothing!

BEHAVIOR

Now what about the child who’s beyond hyper for weeks before the holidays? Well, it’s business-as-usual here too. While you know why they might be acting up, it’s not a free pass for them. They still need to be respectful to you and others, and they still need to follow the household/school rules.

While I don’t believe in threatening to take toys away from kids who aren’t listening well or are on “Santa’s Naughty List”, I do think that you can use the spirit of the holiday a bit in your favor. For instance, we have Lizzie the Elf visit our house every year. Anyone familiar with the Elf on the Shelf story knows that the elf’s job is to watch the children’s behavior throughout the day and report it back to Santa each night. Since my children are well aware of the story and Lizzie’s job while here, I simply remind them on occasion that she’s watching and will be making a report for Santa. My kids definitely change their behavior after I remind them of this! Well, at least for 10 minutes anyway! Again, it’s not something I’m threatening them with at all. It’s just a gentle reminder that she’s watching.

For children who don’t have an elf, are too old for it, or simply don’t care, you need another approach. In fact, you can use the elf AND this approach together. Throughout the entire year, I encourage you to use a behavior clip chart with your children. Most classrooms use these, which means school-aged kids (even prek) are used to how they work. The basis is this…good behavior moves your clip up and poor choices move your clip down. The goal is to be at the top each day. You can tie rewards with this if you’d like. Use a chart that has 5-9 behavioral levels on it. I use a colored chart, with different colors and emoji smiley faces in each row to indicate the happiness level. Kids start off in the middle of the chart each day, with the ability to go up or down as needed. While rewards are a nice bonus, also be sure to think of a consequence if they get to the bottom! In our house, they owe me a chore of my choice if they get to red (ie the bottom).

No matter what you do, the main point is this…holidays or not, sleep and behavior are non-negotiable! Our expectations of our children shouldn’t change just because it’s a holiday season. Trust me when I tell you that you’ll be happier the day AFTER the holiday, if you didn’t change things beforehand. Because the children who were allowed to stay up late, get up early, eat all the cookies they wanted, etc are going to expect those same things to be allowed to happen the following days too. And if you’re thinking I’m a Grinch, I swear I’m not! My kids know nothing different than this, so to them this is the way it is every day of the year. I still get all the love Christmas morning when they come flying down the stairs to see all that we and Santa got for them!


If you liked the idea about the behavioral clip chart, I have tons of other helpful parenting tools like this in my Parenting Course! I go through how to use this chart (and give you one to print) and many others, because kids love charts! This course is packed full of things every parent should know! Click HERE to learn more about the course, see the topics, and sign up (note: if you’re on mailing list or follow my Facebook page, you’ll get a special holiday coupon code)!

And if you’re having trouble after the holidays with sleep, you can always check out the courses for sleep or book a call with me to talk about working one-on-one together. You don’t want to start out the New Year (or any other time of year) with a kiddo who no longer wants to sleep well, so let me help! You can click HERE to set up your free 15 minute phone consult.

4 Tips To Get Your Baby To Sleep In Their Crib

When we think about transitioning our children, we’re usually thinking of transitioning them to a big kid bed from a crib. But for a lot of parents, transitioning starts sooner than that with when they need their babies to actually transition TO the crib. Oftentimes, new parents are desperate to get any sleep they can, which means that they’re going to do whatever it takes to get that baby to sleep! This means that babies are often co-sleeping, sleeping on mom/dad, sleeping in a Rock-N-Play, or sleeping in a swing or other apparatus. While I totally understand the desire to get some sleep, you do need to be sure baby is as safe as possible and nothing beats the crib when it comes to safety.

I get that it’s tough to get your baby sleeping peacefully in their crib. Let’s weigh this out as if you were the baby…nice, snugly, warm, soft arms of mom/dad OR  a cold, hard, flat crib mattress. Yup, it’s a no-brainer that babies would much prefer sleeping anywhere else than their crib. But again, it goes back to be a safety issue. Sleeping on or with parents can be dangerous if not done properly, since you’ll both be sleeping and accidents can happen to the best of us.

Rock-N-Plays and other equipment are super popular for getting some shut eye, but if you look at the fine print you’ll find that none of these things is manufactured or approved for sleep. They will show you pictures of babies peacefully sleeping in them, however, the fine print will tell you that it’s not made for unsupervised sleep (a little hard to do at night when you’re sleeping too). The same is true for swings, car seats, bouncy chairs, etc.

So what can you do to get your baby sleeping in their crib?

  1. Start baby off in their crib or bassinet from day one. I’m not saying that you have to be 100% consistent with this, but I would be making sure they are very familiar with and sleeping in their crib at least 50-75% of the time for both nights and naps.
  2. If you need to, use equipment like the Rock-N-Play sparingly (like for the final – sometimes tough – nap of the day). This way you will be awake to monitor baby and they won’t get too used to it. You also want to be careful that they don’t develop a flat head and have limited mobility because of prolonged, daily use.
  3. If you want to co-sleep, invest in a side car sleeper or portable bassinet that you can keep right next to your bed. Then everyone can have that closeness, yet still have the peace of mind knowing that no accidents will happen. This will also help baby easily adjust to their crib, when you’re ready to move them out of your room.
  4. If your baby has no idea what the crib looks like yet, no worries! It’s never too late to introduce the crib to them. Start off slowly with hanging out in their room, laying them in the crib to play a bit or do diaper changes in it. Be there with them, keep the lights on, and make it a joyful experience. After a few days to a week of that, it’s time to introduce it for sleep. I would start with bedtime, because children are more tired then and less likely to fight you. Now, here’s where it might get tricky. If they’re still a newborn, then they may not notice much of a change; however, if they’re a bit older, it will be a different story.

Many parents don’t think of “transitioning to the crib” as sleep training, but it can definitely be that way especially for older babies and children. If you’re going to be taking your 8 month old from the Rock-N-Play, or taking your 13 month old from your bed, and asking them to sleep on their own in their crib, you better believe there’s going to be some push-back! Sleep training is not just about stopping night feeds, it’s about making changes to your current schedule that your child may not like. So you need to be prepared with what this might mean for you.

I wouldn’t attempt to make the change until you’re ready to finish what you start; otherwise, you’ll be giving in very quickly or your baby will just get angry. Whenever you try something new (like getting them to sleep in their crib), and you don’t succeed or finish the job, it just leads to a pretty annoyed baby. I would rather see you hold off on making changes until you’re fully ready. Do your research, have the room/space set up and ready to go, be mentally prepared for this move, get some back-up reinforcements if need be, and set a date!


If you’re not sure what type of sleep training you need, or have no idea where to start to make this transition, my DIY Newborn, Babies, and Toddlers/Preschoolers courses can definitely help! Or, if you prefer some more personalized help, I can help with that too! You can see all that I offer over in my Services section. You can click here to set up a free 15min phone call, so you can tell me what’s been going on.

Back-To-School Stress & Anxiety

With the back-to-school season upon us, it’s important to remember something about our kids: they get stressed out and anxious too! Every year we send our kids to school, where they’ll be in a new classroom, with a new teacher, seeing new faces, and having a new curriculum. It would be a lot for an adult, let alone a 5 or 10 year old! In the early years, the stress and anxiety may be more about having to leave home and you, but it’s still there as they hit their tween and teen years. This age group puts a ton of pressure on themselves with needing to look a certain way, being aware of their body and others, having crushes, developing good friendships, all while keeping up their grades.

My point is that school is tough for every aged child going back to school. Our jobs as parents is to understand this and support our child, no matter the challenge. It can be easy to say to yourself, “What?! You’re worried about THAT little thing? That’s just silly!” But you never want to say that to your child. One comment like that can keep your child quiet for months to come. They may never open up to you again, if that’s the reaction they get. So it’s very important that they know that they come to you with any and all problems and that there will be no judgements from you.

Having 4 children of my own, being a parenting coach, and a sleep coach, I have had the privilege of seeing these things first hand. Because of this, I want to help you navigate this very important back-to-school time! Here are 5 tips to help:

1 – Have a snack ready – If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that kids are STARVING when they get home from school! My kids come in the door, throw their backpacks down, take off their shoes, put on some hand sanitizer, and head right to the pantry. They have very little to say, and could really care less that I’m there. So do yourself a favor and have a healthy snack ready for your kiddo, before inundating them with the “how was your day” questions.

2 – Check in with your child daily – While they might not be in the mood to talk much when they first come home, you can always chat later in the evening or before bed. In fact, you can make this a part of the bedtime routine, though be sure to start the routine a few minutes earlier so bedtime isn’t pushed back too late. For younger children, you’ll want to ask very specific questions, like “what did you have for lunch today?” or “who did you sit next to on the bus today?” For older children, you can ask open-ended questions, like “anything good happen at school?” or “what did you learn about in math class today?”

Keep your eyes and ears open for subtle issues, like the tone of their voice, their mannerisms, or their body language. Even though they may say their day was good, does their body and tone of voice say something different to you? You might need to push through and ask some more questions. If they really don’t want to talk, it’s best to stop pushing. You might ask your spouse/partner to talk to them later or you can try talking to them about it at another time, especially if it seems like something is really bothering them. And when you finally do get them to open up, try not to judge and comment too much. Just listen, and show them empathy. Sometimes a problem doesn’t really need a solution, but more of just a listening ear and moral support.

3 – Have an earlier bedtime – Your child will be exhausted that first week or two of school. Now is not the time to let them stay up later. In fact, if you can get them into bed a few minutes earlier than usual that would likely help. We can’t do much about the time they wake up in the morning, but we can control what time they go to bed. A well-rested child is going to be able to handle their days better, as well as handling their evenings at home with you better.

4 – Try not to overload the evenings – I realize that we’re heading into the fall season with tons of sports, dance, and other evening activities going on, but be careful you don’t overdo it. Like I said, getting back to school is exhausting. If your child doesn’t have time to wind down from their day, they’re more likely to throw some pretty awesome fits and meltdowns at their practices and in their classes. Couple that with possibly getting to bed later than usual, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. If your child can forego any strenuous evening activities at least in the first week, you’ll both be happier!

5 – Teach your child to breathe – I know that sounds silly, but I’m talking about deep breathing. It’s important to give your child an outlet for their stress, anxiety, and overall frustration to help avoid public meltdowns. Show them how to take deep breaths. A good way to teach it is this… Have your child imagine that it’s their birthday and you just made them their favorite flavor cake. Ask them to use their nose and smell that yummy chocolate (for example) cake. Then have them hold their breath for a count of 3, before blowing out their birthday candles. It’s a great visual to get them to learn how to do it!

Explain to them that they can take 2 or 3 of these deep breaths any time they feel stressed or feel like crying. I also like to include it as part of their bedtime routine. Deep breathing is a very stress-relieving type of activity that can help the child to become relaxed and sleepy. Personally, I do 3 deep breaths with my 9 year old daughters every night before bed. We’ve actually been doing it for a few years now and they look forward to it. If I’m not going to be home at night to tuck them in, they’ll have me do it with them before I leave! Just beware that if you get into this nightly routine, it can make you sleepy too. I always yawn when doing it with them!

If you can follow the above tips, then you will hopefully have an awesome first week or two back to school! However, if you’ve followed these things and your child is still having a tough time adjusting, it might be a good idea to talk to your child’s teacher and/or guidance counselor. As much as I would love to say that we are always enough for our kids, that’s just how it works. There will be times throughout their life that they will prefer talking to other adults, like a counselor. Don’t let that get you down though! If you can keep the lines of communication open, then they will eventually come back to find you!


*Need some parenting help? Check out my Parenting Solutions online course or one-on-one Parenting Solutions package! Or, if your child is struggling with their sleep (including stay up too late, waking at night, waking too early, needing your help to fall asleep, etc), I can help! Remember, I help children of all ages. Besides the packages for young children, I also have a School-Aged package (ages 5-12yrs) and a Teen package(ages 13-19). As always, I’m happy to talk to you on a free 15min assessment call. And feel free to share this blog and comment below with what helps your little one adjust to school!

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!

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!

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!