Mom guilt can be such a burden, am I right?? Pretty much any decision you need to make as a mom (or dad!) is a decision someone can shame or judge you for. As a mom, a sleep professional and Certified Lactation Counselor, I am a big advocate for doing what is right for your own family and situation. A hot topic in the world of parenting (and especially in sleep training) is breastfeeding. Should you do it? Can you do it? How can you do it successfully? And on and on…
To be completely up front…YES YOU CAN!
I’ve seen many people tout that breastfed babies are doomed to have terrible sleep due to the on-demand schedule many nursing mamas/babies follow. As you may have gathered about me, the biggest thing I focus on when it comes to getting your baby to sleep is their habits. Recognizing what baby relies on to help them fall asleep gives us a clue as to how their little bodies and brains perceive the process of falling asleep and staying asleep. My biggest advice I give when it comes to breastfeeding is this: Breastfeeding, even if you're an exclusive pumper, is a way to feed your baby. It shouldn't be the way that you use to get your baby or toddler to fall asleep. This, I might add, is the same advice I give to bottle/formula-fed babies.
Hear me out here. While nursing can comfort a baby to the point of sleeping, it quickly becomes a crutch for the baby to rely on whenever he/she wakes in the middle of the night. A baby who constantly nurses to sleep will expect to be able to nurse at any hour, forcing you to get up and have a feeding session when you’d rather be asleep. Our goal with sleep training is to teach baby how to fall asleep without props and fall back asleep when the inevitable nighttime waking occurs.
So what to do? It’s obviously important to make sure baby goes to bed with a full tummy. No one likes to wake from a peaceful sleep with a growling tummy! When you nurse baby in the evening, keep the lights on, and continue to gently shake or tickle baby’s feet or arms to keep them awake. Ideally, baby will feel full and drowsy after nursing, but still awake. This would be the ideal time to give them a kiss, place them in the crib, and shut the light off to signal bedtime. Simulating this routine allows baby to fall asleep on their own in the same way you do when you turn in for the night.
As always, it’s important to do what you think is best for your family. Don’t let the shame or opinions you receive from others guilt you into unhealthy habits!
I want you to have the breastfeeding journey that you want and to meet your goals. Sleep shouldn’t have to take a backseat either.
Bringing a new baby into the house is very likely to impact your older child’s sleep habits in one way or another, and there are two big reasons why;
1. Your toddler will likely hear the newborn’s cries and think they should help.
2. Your toddler’s wondering why he or she is no longer the center of your world and may be a bit jealous to share your attention.
The confusion of the upheaval of a once only kid household and jealousy will likely cause sort of a regression, prompting your toddler to want the ‘only kid’ attention they enjoyed previously, such as…
● Lots of requests for snuggles
● They may want to ‘act like a baby’ again
● Requesting to sleep in your bed or in your room
● Additional stalling, antics and tantrums during the bedtime routine
The biggest reason this can affect sleep is that parents start feeling guilty about the fact that they don’t have enough hands or time to be in two places at once, so they try to compensate by giving in to all those requests, and those requests frequently show up right at bedtime. You’ll likely hear everything from requests for extra stories, staying up later, laying with them, holding hands, etc.
Parents… I totally understand. Guilt sucks. And when we feel guilty about spending so much extra effort on a new baby, we start to do anything to make sure our kiddos know they haven’t been forgotten, get extra time with us and feel all the love.
So what’s the harm in a few more books and laying in bed with our kid to give some extra love and attention?
“Children are as independent as you expect them to be.” ~Maria Montessori
It’s likely this situation will happen at some point, so here’s what you do:
Keep everything around bedtime exactly as it was before the new sibling arrived; the same bedtime routine with the same limits you had before (ex: reading 2 books), sleeping in their own bed and sleeping there all night.
Comfort and support, but don’t change the how, where and when.
If you start changing what’s allowed around bedtime, such as adding a dance party and saying goodnight to every stuffed animal in your child’s room, it’s only going to tell your toddler that boundaries mean nothing and trust me, they’ll take 10 miles if you give an inch.
Second, try to focus 15-20 minutes during the day where it’s just you and your toddler, one-on-one to do something together. Your kiddo will love the extra time and snuggles.
Never apologize to yourself or your kid for setting boundaries. If the feeling of “oh no, I have to give everything” guilt starts to set in, remember that your toddler is simply working through some big emotions, which toddlers don’t know how to navigate. You are doing the best you can and holding to your boundaries to have a happy, attached and supported kiddo. You’re an awesome parent…don’t forget that.
Within a few weeks, your whole family will have had time to adjust to the newest member of the family and you’ll find that new groove. You’ve got this!
Thoughts you might be having before bed
You’re going back to work. You're not sure how baby will adjust once you go back to work. How do I ensure I can still breastfeed? How do you get baby on a schedule? You're doing everything you can to get your baby to sleep but you don't want to have to bounce, rock, wear, feed or drive baby around to get him or her to fall asleep. You want a solid plan to help your child start sleeping through the night and be on a good nap schedule. When your baby sleeps at night, you sleep too!
My six-year-old son won’t sleep in his own bed, so we have been letting him sleep with us. How can we work on moving him back to his own room? He has sensory issues and always wants to be near me.
This issue of children with sensory issues not being able to sleep on their own is a common one among children who have sensory differences. Sleeping is one of the physical tasks of self-regulation and when any one or combination of a child’s sensory systems is not working efficiently or effectively, then sleep is likely to be disrupted.
One of the most common ways that sensory differences impact sleep is from what we call tactile/touch processing differences. Some children need more touch input so they can feel where they are in space (their own body awareness is poor) and other children have touch sensitivities (their sense of touch is over-responding). In both cases, having a parent close to them offers the warm, firm, pressure that helps to calm touch sensitivities OR it gives them the added feedback about their own position so they can rest and relax into sleep.
I received so many questions last week about naps and daycare that it inspired me to do a blog post about it. I got questions such as “How do I talk with my provider?” and “Do I just give them a schedule?” so I wanted to address the most common ones I hear.
Whether it’s with a family member, a daycare class with multiple children, a homebased daycare with different age ranges or with a nanny, ensuring your child’s caregivers provide the same consistency that you give at home will keep your little one sleeping well while you’re away. Besides, you shouldn’t lose all of the great work you’ve done with your child’s sleep as soon as they leave your arms!
Sleep begets sleep… crappy naps = crappy night sleep, plain and simple. If your child gets good naps during the day, then they’ll sleep better at night.
Let me know if this has ever happened to you…you leave your baby or toddler in the care of someone else while you’re at work, that you absolutely trust, but you spend at least some of your day worrying that your little one is taking good nap(s). Sound familiar?
So what’s the best way to start the conversation about your child’s naps with your daycare provider?
Read on to check out my favorite tips for creating a great sleep relationship with your daycare provider.
Tip #1: What is your provider’s policy on naps?
Do all of the children in the class nap at the same time or do the provider(s) put them to bed when they’re tired? If your provider has a set nap time for all children, such as 12:30pm for children over 12 months of age, then try to stick with the same schedule at home. If your child sleeps well at daycare but not at home, stick with the same naptime schedule and allow your child some quiet time to rest and play quietly with a stuffed animal or book.
If your child is under 12 months of age, talk with your provider about your baby’s current schedule to make sure your baby isn’t awake too long in between naps, naps are evenly spaced throughout the day and is being put to sleep in a similar fashion like you’re doing at home. Talk with your provider about your nap schedule at home and ask them to put baby down around the same time.
If your provider has a differing opinion about your baby’s nap schedule, see how you can come to a compromise. When all else fails, call me and I’ll mediate!
Tip #2: Where does your child sleep?
Movies or music playing, bright rooms, other kids running around…what’s a baby to do when it’s time to get to sleep?
Take a look at the area where your child will sleep. If baby is under 12 months of age, they should certainly be sleeping in a crib or pack ‘n play, never in a swing, car seat or bouncy seat. Ask them to put your child to sleep in the darkest part of the room as possible. If your baby uses a sleep sack or other wearable blanket, have a second just for daycare. Talk with your provider to find out the process they use to put children down for a nap and see how close you can get it to your way of doing things. And if your child isn’t used to being held and rocked to sleep, suggest that your provider doesn’t either.
Tip #3: Keep track of naps
When you pick up your child at the end of the day, ask your about how the day went…how were naps, how long did they last and when did they occur? Bonus points if your provider provides emails or text messages with a log of this information! If your child’s nap was a shorter than normal or skipped a nap, consider putting them to bed a little early (about 30 minutes) that night to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Not sure if your baby has the right nap schedule? Send me a note at christine@sleepsolutionsbychristine and we’ll schedule a time to chat through it and find the right nap schedule for your baby or child.