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!
Now that you’re home…
The chaos of traveling is over. (Sigh) Time to reset! If you traveled over the weekend, I hope you made it back safely and without too much stress.
In the third part of my series on Traveling With Kids, this week is all about resetting and recovering from your travels. While you may see a minimal sleep regression when your child returns home, things should get back to normal within a week. If the trip is longer than 1 week, it may take extra time for your child to readjust to being home.
I, for one, love getting home from a trip to sleep in my own bed and aim to be back on our normal routine as quickly as possible.
To make the transition easier, here are a few tips to handle those first few days after you return from travel:
Tip #1: Assume your child, and you, will probably need a little extra sleep for a few days. Travel is hard on all of us and most of the time we’re not getting to bed at our regular bedtime, we’re not always eating the healthiest of foods and we usually have more activity than our normal day. If your child seems extra tired before bedtime, it’s ok to put them to bed a little earlier rather than pushing through to their normal bed time and trying to get an overtired child to sleep.
Tip #2: Don’t wait! It’s best to get back to your regular routine as soon as you return. There’s no need to wait a few days to start, because if your child’s sleep is a bit disrupted, waiting more time won’t make it any easier.
Tip #3: Expect that your child may have some extra wakeups at night for the first few days. This is normal and your child is just getting used to being home again. When your child wakes in the night, follow your normal pattern to get your child back to sleep. Offer comfort as your child to reassure them to their crib or bed is a great place to sleep.
Tip #4: If you bent your child’s sleep rules while you were away, such as co-sleeping or rocking to sleep, don’t worry too much. Here’s the trick: stop as soon as you get home. Yes, it’s that simple. If you co-slept while you were away, your child gets put back into their crib or bed at bedtime the first day you are back home. This works best for toddlers and older children who can tell the difference between sleeping at home and at Grandma’s house. For the first few nights back at home, you may need to provide a little extra support and comfort as your child is falling asleep to re-establish boundaries around sleep.
And if all of this seems like a blur and your child wasn’t sleeping well before your trip and things seem even worse now, then I have the plan for you.
Contact me today and let's get your child sleeping all night!
Time to Fall Back and Say Goodbye to Daylight Savings Time
According to the calendar, this weekend we’re supposed to get an extra hour of sleep as daylight savings time ends…tell that to our kids!
Walking through a large store last weekend with my daughter, she asked to go through the Halloween section. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised but also excited that she’s starting to enjoy one of my favorite holidays! We turned down the aisle and she ran right past the candy, the girly costumes, the silly masks… then stopped cold in her tracks in the face of a creepy looking clown thing that you hang up on your front porch to greet trick or treaters. The look on her face said it all… Yikes!