Sleep Training and where Happy Sleepers fits in

Sleep training is a very personal and sensitive topic. It also has become a very hot topic over the years on blogs, websites and even on my Facebook page.

I am very happy that mums start to realise how important healthy sleep habits are for their babies but also for them as parents. Sound sleep for everyone is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As always, interest breeds information and it seems like there’s a new sleep training book coming out every other month these days with the hope of clarifying the issue for everyone who’s finding the information a little overwhelming. I thought I’d offer a quick overview of the different methods of sleep training, and where Happy Sleepers falls into the mix.

1.  The extinction method is the one that has created so much controversy. Also known as “Cry-it-out”, this involves putting your baby to bed, closing the door, and not opening it again until the next morning. This method is very difficult, for obvious reasons, and it doesn’t address the fact that the baby might be crying for legitimate reasons like :

  • Needing a nappy change
  • Having a foot caught between the cot railings
  • Vomited all over the cot

2.   Another popular approach is the “No cry sleep solution”. It’s been a big seller for many years  and must have helped a lot of parents, given its popularity. It’s a very gradual approach, which is good for parents who want to take things slow. I have no objections to this approach, but it can take a few months, literally months to get results. All the while, Mom, Dad and Baby aren’t getting the sleep they need and the drawn-out process can lead to parents giving up.

3.   Then we have the “Dr Sears approach”. I really wish he would rename this “31 ways to get your  baby to sleep for 20 min”, because that is what he is doing :

  • Nursing to sleep
  • Rocking to sleep
  • Driving to sleep

All great approaches if you don’t mind getting up to nurse, rock or drive six times a night.

4.   The “Ferber method” involves putting your baby to bed, leaving the room, and go back in after progressively longer intervals. This involves some crying. It’s a very popular method and it works for a lot of babies. It’s not very versatile though, and many parents find it too difficult to leave the room while their baby is crying.

5.   Finally, we have the Happy Sleepers approach. We follow Dana Obleman’s Sleep Sense approach, which is, hands down, my favourite technique and I’ve done it with my own twins. The Happy Sleepers Program actually has a number of different approaches, which allows you to customise the program to your baby, as well as your level of comfort with leaving her alone.

If you prefer to stay in the room with her the entire night, that’s covered in detail, including what to do when she cries and when to start easing your way out if the room. If you want to leave the room and check periodically, I’ve got a step-by-step guide to that approach as well.

What all the approaches in the Happy Sleepers Program have in common is that they teach your child how to fall asleep independently and stay asleep independently. Once your baby has learned how to fall asleep independently, it doesn’t matter how often she wakes at night, she will be able to put herself back to sleep.

I often hear people say: “The right approach is the one that works for your baby” and I totally agree. Just make sure it’s actually working; it’s actually teaching your baby to sleep on her own and not fitting the criteria in which she’ll agree to go to sleep.

If she’s got to have her dummy, her stuffed animal and a ride in the car to fall asleep, she’s not learning anything and she’ll be demanding all that at two in the morning when she wakes up.

Now there you have it in a nutshell.  Contact me if you want more information the Happy Sleepers Program.

Sleep well

Christine

Why is my baby resisting bedtime?

You’ve had a long day with your baby/toddler. You’re tired and all you need is a break. You want to put your baby /toddler in bed and walk out but now he/she is resisting bedtime. Very frustrating!

There can be a few reasons why your baby/toddler is resisting bedtime:

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated
2. A nap happened too close to bedtime
3. Sleep associations
4. No bedtime routine
5. Toddler (Time to skip day time naps)

1. Overtiredness / Overstimulated

When a baby/toddler is overtired, they work themselves UP instead of down. When your baby is so worked up due to overtiredness, it can be very difficult to get your baby down at bedtime. It’s very important to look at your baby’s maximum awake time between naps to prevent overtiredness. Here is a bit of a guide:

  • 0 – 1 month : up to 40 min
  • 1 – 2 months : 40 min – 60 min
  • 2 – 3 months : 60 min – 80 min
  • 3 – 4 months : 60 min – 90 min
  • 4 – 6 months  : 1 hour 15 min – 1 hour 45 min
  • 6 – 8 months : 2 hours – 2.5 hours
  • 8 – 10 months : 2.5 hours – 3.5 hours
  • 10 months & up : 3.5 hours
  • From 13 months : Only 1 nap at midday

Be careful for over stimulation, especially if your baby is still very little. Don’t plan too many activities on one day for your baby. Over stimulation causes overtiredness which means a very difficult bedtime.

2. A nap happened too close to bedtime

When this happens your baby is not tired enough and will resist the bedtime. It’s always good to have a specific bedtime because then it’s easier to plan from what time my baby should be awake for.

For example: if my 4 month old usually goes to bed at 19:00 pm, her maximum awake time is 60 min – 90 min. We usually work on the maximum time at night to make sure your baby is tired enough, which means your 4 month old should be awake from 17:30 pm onwards.

My 10 month old should be awake at 15:30 pm. If your 10 month old wakes 15:00 pm from his last nap, start your bedtime routine 30 min earlier (18:00 pm) and in bed 30 min earlier (18:30 pm).

3. Sleep associations

Usually a baby is able to fall asleep with the sleep association (dummy/feeding to sleep/rocking to sleep), but is unable to stay asleep throughout the night (resettle himself back to sleep) without the association. When a baby struggles to fall asleep at bedtime, it’s because the sleep association that always worked for him, doesn’t work anymore. If this is your scenario, then it’s a good time to start teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently (without any sleep association) before he gets a new association. By teaching your baby to fall asleep independently will also teach him how to resettle himself back to sleep independently which will give him the Gift of Sleep for the rest of his life!

4. No bedtime routine

All of us prepare ourselves for sleep at night for example:

  • You put your PJ’s on
  • Brush your teeth
  • Get a glass of water
  • Get in bed
  • Read a few pages from your book & now you are ready for bed…

A baby/toddler also needs to psychologically prepare themselves for sleep. You can’t just “dump” them in the bed and expect from him to sleep now. That’s where a bedtime routine comes in handy. If you do the same routine every night at approximate the same time, your baby will start to recognise the routine and know that we’re getting close to bedtime and sleep time. A baby only needs 15 min – 45 min to prepare himself for bed. A 30 min bedtime routine is ideal.

A bedtime routine can look like this:

18:30     – Bath
-PJ’s
-Bottle/Breastfeeding
-Story
19:00     -Cot/Bed

5. Toddler (Time to skip day time naps)

Between the age of 2.5 years & 4 years toddlers are big enough to start skipping their day time nap. If a toddler is only having an hour during the day from 12 pm – 1 pm and he is not tired at 7 pm to go to bed, he is ready to skip his day naps. Initially it can be very difficult to start skipping the nap. They are usually good during the day without the nap, but start getting very cranky around 5 pm. If you’ve decided to start skipping your toddlers nap, it’s a good idea to have an earlier bedtime at night (6 pm) for about 4 – 6 weeks until their bodies got used to the new routine of no day naps. NO, the earlier bedtime will not lead to earlier wake ups.

Hope this helps to get your baby/toddler easier into bed at night.

Good luck and sleep well!

Christine

Baby wakes as soon as I put her down in her cot

This is one of the many frustrations when your baby is not a good sleeper.

Finally your baby has fallen asleep in your arms and you want to put her down in her cot. You quietly tiptoe towards your baby’s cot and slowly lower her into her cot…
Yet the minute she hits the mattress, she opens her eyes and starts crying!

NO!! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING??

Well there is a very good reason for it…

When your baby falls asleep in your arms, her body and brains goes into “sleep mode”. The brain relaxes the body and gets ready to sleep. When you move your baby to her cot, your baby’s body is moving (It sounds a bit silly, but the brain communicates with the body all the time. The brain determines what the body is doing). Her brain thinks “why is my body moving?”. “I’m supposed to sleep. I’m in “sleep mode”. The brain thinks the body is in danger so he brings the body “out of sleep” instead of “deeper into sleep”.

It is very important for the baby to “fall asleep” where she is going to “wake up” and that is in her cot. She needs to be wide awake, not drowsy, when you transfer her to her cot for a sleep (Day & Night).

You will see, her sleep will improve within a day or two.
Good luck
Sleep well

Christine

Happy Sleeping while on Holiday

When you’re planning a family holiday with a baby, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one’s sleep schedule.
This will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip—which is bound to make your holiday more enjoyable for everyone!
Here are some tips to help ensure sure your baby gets the sleep he needs during your travels:

Tip 1: Don’t over-schedule

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back in their “child-free” days. The fact is, when you travel with a baby you can’t plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and go on a dinner cruise in the evening.
It’s better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home.

Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime

An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby’s naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable

Tip 3: Be patient as your baby acclimatizes to the new environment

Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you’re in a strange environment things might be very different. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re someone new.
Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket

If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it at your peril!

Tip 5. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start now

Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home and put her back in her cot.
The good news is, most hotels have a cot you can use or rent. You could also take your portable playpen along and use that as a cot.