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!

 

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)!

Breastfeeding & Sleep: Yes, You Can Have Both!

Many expectant moms fear that if they choose to breastfeed their baby, then that means they won’t see a decent night’s sleep for a few years. This is simply not true! Yes, it’s true that babies enjoy eating and sleeping, and that they often go hand-in-hand: baby nurses, then baby sleeps. Feeding your baby is relaxing, and it definitely makes them sleepy, especially at night. Breast milk contains melatonin at night, so your body is actually helping to make your newborn sleepy during the night, so everyone can get back to sleep quickly!

Almost all babies will fall asleep during a feed, so it’s completely normal. And when you’ve just given birth, you’re beyond happy to have a peaceful, sleeping baby, so you’re definitely not going to “rock that boat”! While babies are very good at nursing-to-sleep, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way they can get to sleep. When babies are born, they pretty much have a “clean slate” when it comes to learning. Every hour and minute that goes by, you are teaching your baby. You teach her how to latch properly if she can’t figure it out, you teach him the difference between night and day, you teach her about her new bedtime routine, and you teach him how to fall asleep (either with or without help).

If you only ever feed baby to sleep, then that’s all they will ever know. You can’t expect baby to just know how to do it without any props (ie feeding, patting, rocking, bouncing, baby equipment, etc), if you’ve never given them the chance to try it. If you can allow your newborn to fall asleep in their crib or without being held (even just once in a while), then you will easily teach your baby how to do this moving forward. Too often parents wait until their babies are over 6 months old before they even begin to think about this possibility. Believe me, it’s much harder to teach this once the baby is older and used to their current routine. However, if you can teach this to your baby early on (before the 4th month), then you have a much better chance of avoiding the dreaded “4 month regression” and having a baby sleeping through the night on their own by 4 months (you can check out “The Truth About Age Regressions” blog if you’re not familiar with this time frame).

I know this is possible, because it’s exactly what I did with my exclusively breastfed son. It took me until my 4th child to finally be successful at breastfeeding. I gave up too quickly with my first baby who had latch issues, and I had more latch and prematurity issues with my twins (though I did pump for a few months with them). It would appear that the 4th time was the charm for me! I admit I fed him to sleep for the first 3 months (this was before my sleep and breastfeeding trainings), and everything was great. I would nurse him, he would fall asleep, and I would transfer him to his crib. But then in the 4th month, I saw it happening again. I could no longer put him down in his crib already asleep, because he would wake up on the transfer and I had to start over nursing or pat his bottom to sleep. I vividly and quickly remembered the struggled of sleep training my twins at almost 7 months, and I really didn’t want to repeat that. I decided then and there that I would make a few changes and no longer feed him until he was fully asleep. Thankfully, I caught him in enough time, because he didn’t fight me much and did great very quickly. Of course our breastfeeding journey continued for many months after that, and now he was also sleeping through the night. A win-win for both of us!

I now have the awesome job of helping other moms achieve this same success. Many new moms are worried that they could lose their milk supply or dry up altogether. It’s certainly a very real and valid concern! If you simply cut night feeds without doing anything else differently, then yes, your supply is going to take a dip. The trick is that you want to make sure that you’re not just cutting those nighttime calories, but that you’re transferring those calories to the daytime. Your body is going to produce milk based on supply and demand. If you cut the demand out overnight, then there will be less supply overall. However, if you cut it out overnight, but add in another session or two during the day, then you’ve just moved them and your body will continue producing as usual. Your body will adjust from being so full at night though, so don’t panic if you notice that change. Know that your supply is still there, but it’s just there during the day! And if you’re concerned about it, you can always pump before you go to bed for a little extra. Also, keep an eye on your little one to ensure you’re seeing swallowing while nursing and that they seem satisfied when they are done.*

Another bonus of not feeding your baby to sleep is that you’ll be keeping baby awake during the feed. If baby’s awake, then baby will eat more. Oftentimes, babies will “snack and snooze”, meaning they will nurse a little, then sleep a little. When you allow this, you can be feeding many times a day and still be concerned that your little one isn’t eating enough. You’ll notice this type of “snacking and snoozing” if you’re feeding before naps or sleep times; however, if you feed baby after a nap, they will stay awake and be ready to eat a full meal. They will also be upright for a while, which is much better for their digestion, and of course they’ll be falling asleep on their own too!

So yes, you can breastfeed your baby until whatever age you’re comfortable with and still have a child who sleeps independently through the night too! The vast majority of my clients are moms who are breastfeeding and wish to continue on that journey, while also being able to get better sleep for their entire family. I’m happy to report that they are all still happily nursing their children once we’ve finished working together! For families with older breastfeeding children (ie over 1 year old), many moms are frustrated with the lack of sleep and are wanting to give up breastfeeding altogether when we first start. I always encourage these moms to hold off on making that decision until after we’ve night weaned and mom can think more clearly about her choice. In the majority of these cases, the moms decide to continue their breastfeeding journey after all. The lack of sleep they experienced is what drove them to want to be done, but once they began sleeping well again, they would see that they really did enjoy that bonding time with their toddlers and most would end up continuing with daytime nursing only. So be sure you’re making this big decision once you’re feeling better and are well-rested!

FINAL NOTE: August 1-7, 2017 is World Breastfeeding Week! Congratulations to all the breastfeeding mamas out there for providing your child with the best thing ever! Thanks to all the partners that support these mamas, too! Feel free to check out a previous blog of mine called “Breastfeeding Do’s and Don’ts“, for more information! And if you’re interested in getting some help with sleep training your child, I offer free 15min phone calls. As a certified sleep consultant and lactation counselor, I can help your entire family sleep well while maintaining your milk supply.

*If you have any concerns about your milk supply or whether or not your child is getting enough breast milk, please contact your local lactation consultant/counselor or your child’s pediatrician. You should also check with the pediatrician before starting any sleep training program, especially if there is a weight or medical concern.

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Is Stress Ruining Your Sleep?

If you’re like most folks, the summer means more than just picnics, sitting by the pool, and vacations. It can also mean stress. Stress of hosting picnics, keeping your pool or outdoor areas looking nice, and planning those wonderful vacations. And if you’re a parent, then you can add a gazillion other things onto your summer to-do list! How on Earth are you going to keep your children entertained all summer long? If they go to daycare or camp in the summer that’s about half the battle. And if not, you can double your load then! Regardless, all kids want to know (and expect) that you’ll be doing a few fun things throughout the summer.

With all that stress, it’s no wonder that the quality and/or quantity of your sleep might take a backseat to all these festivities. When we’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, it definitely affects how quickly we fall asleep and whether or not we stay asleep all night. For some people, it means that you will have a terrible time “shutting your brain off” so you can get some sleep. As soon as you close your eyes, your mind seems to turn on and start running in a hundred different directions. Pretty hard to sleep when you’re planning your entire vacation in your head! For other people, you’re so exhausted that you fall right to sleep without any issues…well, not initially anyway. But come 4am, your eyes just pop right open, or a trip to the bathroom turns into a bout of insomnia for the remainder of the night. Either way the result is the same…your brain is back in full gear and your done sleeping for the night. It’s super frustrating, when all you really want to do is get some shut eye! So what can you do about this? Here are 3 things that you can do to help…

1) Take 10 minutes during the day: Stress doesn’t just happen before or during sleep. It is there all day long, manifesting itself in everything you do. It’s there when there’s no more coffee (ahhhhh!); it’s there when you can’t find your favorite pair of shoes (gasp!); it’s there when you can’t find your keys and you’re going to be late for work or an appointment (w&t!@#); and it’s there when you discover the dog ate your toast when your back was turned (grrrrr!). Yes, we have stress all day long, though it tends to build up throughout the day and settle in for the night when we’re trying to do the same. One way to combat these stressful situations is to take some time each day for yourself…to take a pause, breathe, calm down, and “reset” yourself. It’s super simple to do, and it can make a big difference in how you feel!

2) Using relaxation techniques: During those 10 minutes, find ways to decompress or “let go”. For instance, you might take a walk or a jog to clear your head. Or you might try deep breathing through your nose, letting that crisp (preferably outdoor) oxygen fill your nose, brain, and body. Or you can listen to a short guided meditation or guided imagery piece. We all have 10 minutes in our day to spare (or even 5 minutes if you can’t do 10 right away), so make this a priority in your day and see if it helps you to feel better by bedtime.

Use these same techniques should you have trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep in the middle of the night. Clearing your mind will help you find the peace and sleep you’re looking for. Using these simple techniques can help you clear your mind and turn your brain off!

3) Keep a positive journal/to-do list: For some reason, men typically have a hard time with this one. I’m not saying you need to keep a diary like a teenage girl might do. I’m saying that writing down positive things that occurred throughout your day can be a very nice way to end your evening. You know that old saying, “don’t go to bed mad”? Well, I’m pretty sure they said that because it’s nearly impossible to do so! Did you ever try to fall asleep with a frown on your face? It doesn’t work! We can’t sleep like that! So even if your day was miserable…you were late to work because of traffic, your son spilled milk all over the freshly washed kitchen floor, your daughter got pen on your brand new shirt, your spouse accidentally deleted your favorite TV show from your DVR lineup, and the cat knocked over your glass of wine…you have to let it all go before bed! Find something positive to say about the day and write it down. For instance, you got complimented by your boss or by your spouse, the kids played together nicely for a whole hour, you finally got to sit down and watch a TV show that wasn’t animated, your mom complimented your parenting methods, you finally got to have that long-awaited get-together with your old high school friend, or your child told you he loved you for no reason other than he really does love you. Whatever it is, we can all find something positive about our days, so again take the opportunity to focus on the good, happy, positive things before bed and you’ll have a much easier time drifting off to sleep with a smile on your face instead of a frown.

The second part of this is keeping a to-do list. Men and women alike keep to-do lists. Some of us have a list on the fridge, some of us have them in our phone or computers, and some of us have them somewhere in our head. Having them written or typed up somewhere is the best way to go, though a lot of us fall into the last category of having things in our heads only. The problem with this is that overnight while our bodies are asleep, our brains are hard at work. They are “cleaning up” in there, where they’re transferring some thoughts to long-term memory and discarding other short-term memories. If you didn’t think enough about taking out the trash throughout the day, there’s a good chance that thought will disappear by morning. You have two choices here:

1) think about taking out the trash all day long

2) write it down on your to-do list so you can stop thinking about it all day

Clearly, writing it down would be the best solution. By the time we go to bed, we tend to have tons of small, trivial things like this on our mind, which clouds our brain and makes it hard to fall asleep. Or worse yet, just as you’re ready to actually fall asleep, your eyes pop back open thinking about something you need to get done tomorrow. Then you try to keep thinking about it to ingrain it in your brain so that it will be there in the morning. Instead of doing all of that, just write it down before bed. You can make it part of your bedtime routine each night, so it’s the last you do before bed and the first thing you see in the morning, if you want to look at it immediately. The point is that it’s off of your mind once it’s written down, then the stress you have about those things is gone, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.

 

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*Note: If you need further help with your sleep, click here to set up your free 15min phone assessment. Then, you can fill me in about your sleep issues, and I can tell you if/how I think I can help you. You can also check out my Adult Sleep Services page for more information!

Why Can’t I Just Feed My Child To Sleep?

Feeding-to-sleep is hands-down the #1 sleep prop there is (a sleep prop is anything a child uses to get to sleep, including you). Why? Well, let’s face it, when a baby is born we will feed our child and then they will almost always immediately fall asleep. Who’s going to complain about that?! The process works really well for our newborns…feed, then sleep. Now, you’re likely wondering why you wouldn’t want to always feed your child until they fall asleep when it works so well. Let me explain.

Let’s imagine you just had a precious baby girl. You’re happily nursing your new baby and things are going great. Because you’re recovering and working on your bond with your daughter, you’re happy to devote every second of your day nursing and caring for your new baby. Your baby’s sleep at this age of life is pretty simple. One minute she’s awake, then she’s drowsy while she’s feeding, then BAM! she’s out like a light! Not only is she out cold, but’s she’s quickly in a deep sleep. This is when she’ll make all of those adorable little faces, smiling, pouting, startling, laughing, etc. This is also when you can do things like make noises, talk loudly, and transition her somewhere else (ie her crib, pack-n-play, bouncer, etc). It can be a beautiful thing! So why am I telling you not to do this?!

Again, this process works great for newborns, or the first 3 months of age. The problem comes around the 4th month. At this point, your daughter’s sleep stops having quite so much deep sleep and it starts to now have more light sleep (about 50% in fact). The light sleep appears right after that drowsy stage, so now when she first falls asleep she stays in a light sleep for a bit. If you go to transfer her over to the crib now, you’ll likely wake her back up and need to start all over again. Many moms are often shocked to find out one day that transferring to the crib no longer works – I know I was! When that happens, you do one of three things: 1) pick your child back up and re-feed, 2) pick your child back up and rock/pat/bounce/walk, or 3) try to pat them back to sleep while they’re still in the crib (that was me – the patter).

This newfound “sleep milestone” (having sleep cycles that now mirror those of adults) often feels pretty terrible to the parents who have likely been seeing nice, long sleep stretches up until this point. To most parents, this feels like a step backwards, or a regression (hence the term 4 month regression), rather than a milestone! Now, this wouldn’t feel like that if your child knew how to put themselves to sleep. If you either taught your child independent sleep skills before this, or you got lucky and just have a child who is already good at doing this, then you wouldn’t ever see this “regression”. Unfortunately though, unless you’ve been through this before or are a sleep consultant and know what you’re doing, you’re not likely going to try super hard to create this scenario from early on because again life is good those first few months!

You’re not likely going to want to “rock the boat” of feeding-to- sleep. Nope, most don’t. Most parents are willing to take a gamble to see if they’re going to be one of the lucky ones who have a child who just sleeps like a champ without having to put any work into it. And when I say lucky that’s exactly what I mean. You know all those moms who like to tell you that their little Joey sleeps like a champ since he was 8 weeks old, or their little Mary has always been an awesome sleeper? Well, they’re either lucky or they’re lying! I was one of the lucky ones – once. I fed my first daughter to sleep every single night and she still started sleeping through the night at 3 months old. I’d like to say that I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t. I was young, naive, and lucky! I was not so lucky with the next 3 though, so I quickly learned that not all kids are created equally when it comes to sleep!

So what if you don’t want to gamble with your luck? What if you’d like to help ensure that you get a child who doesn’t go through any “regressions” at 4 months old? Well, today’s your lucky day, because I can tell you the secret to success! Ready? Well, it’s pretty simple. Stop transferring your child to their crib AFTER they’ve fallen asleep! The whole trick is that they have to already be in their crib BEFORE they’re asleep. Then you’re no longer trying to do a slow and steady transfer and ninja crawl out of the room when they’ve just fallen asleep. Now they will already be in their crib and can fall asleep without being moved or disturbed. They can also fall asleep seeing where you are or aren’t and where they are. As you might imagine, it can be a little disheartening to fall asleep safe and snug in your mama’s arms, only to wake up to a cold, hard reality that is your crib! And they will wake up eventually, because we all do.

Every time we transition sleep cycles (about 1.5hrs for preschoolers and up; about 45mins for babies and toddlers; about 20mins for newborns), we come to a light phase of sleep and take note of our surroundings. If everything is the same as it was when we fell asleep, then we will slip right into the next sleep cycle. However, if something has changed (like you were there and now you’re not), then it gives us a reason to fully wake up. And once they’re fully awake, how are they going to be able to get back to sleep? You guessed, they will need YOU once again to do what you did before (ie feed, pat, rock, bounce, lay with them, etc). It can be quite a vicious cycle all night long! Just another reason why our babies need to learn how to fall asleep on their own.

See, I told you it was simple! Simply said, at least. Putting this into action is another story! I know it’s easier said than done, but if you can pull it off, you can save yourself and your child a lot of long, sleepless nights and a lot of crying. For those of you thinking that I’m talking about sleep training a newborn, I’m not. I wouldn’t advise actual sleep training for a child less than 4 months old, however, I fully believe in “sleep teaching”.

Look, when our babies are born, they come out with a pretty clean slate. We help them create their normal, their routine. What if you took some time to work on things from early on? What if you didn’t allow your child to fall asleep feeding each and every time? Making some small, simple changes to what you teach your newborn early on can be the difference between you being a lucky mama or one that’s calling me in a few months or years to help you fix your child’s sleep issues. You don’t have to wait to see if you’re going to be one of the lucky ones. You can create your own luck with a little time and minimal effort.

*For more information about my Prenatal Sleep Package (includes pregnant couples and parents of babies aged 0-7 weeks), you can click here. It includes babies already born up through 7 weeks of age, because I don’t believe you need to start from day 1 in order to get good results. You can still work on your healing, bonding, and nursing your babies in the first 6 weeks or so, and then make some changes. Don’t worry, if you “missed the mark” on sleep teaching, you can still sleep train your child now. I have packages for newborns (8wks -4mos), babies (5mos-2.5yrs in a crib), toddlers/preschoolers (2.5-5yrs old in a bed), school aged children (6-12yrs old), and teens (13 and up). It’s never too late to teach good sleep skills! Feel free to set up your free 15min call today to see how I could help you and your family.

Visit our friends over at Positive Health Wellness for more great blogs and tips!