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How night weaning my toddler HELPED my business…

Night Weaning my toddler was pretty hard, but it helped me in my business today… 

If you’ve taken the night weaning course, you’ve heard me tell this story. So, I apologize for re-telling it here today. 

One of the things I love about parenting is how much I have learned from my kiddos. I know that might sound a bit overly cheesy. But I really truly believe our children are sent to GROW US UP into the people we are most meant to be. 

My business has been a pretty successful entity for me. I am grateful for it every day, and especially in covid times.. I am so grateful for the flexibility it has offered me. 

But my kids are the real unsung heroes of this business. Yes, I learned a lot from reading. I learned a lot from mentors in the baby sleep industry. I learned a lot from reading developmental journals, books, and blog posts. But, my children are the ones who have taught me the most essential lessons I needed to learn to do this job, and do it well. 

Night weaning my youngest son was a trip. I did it 100% on my own. My partner is a loving awesome human being, but in the middle of the night he seems to turn into some kind of banshee.. That coupled with my “control freak by nature” status meant that I would be handling the night weaning 100% solo. 

I waited ‘til I was BEYOND ready to go through the big emotions that I knew this experience would present me with. And at almost 14 months, I finally ripped the band-aid off. It was HARD and my littlest cherub was MAD. ha! He wanted boob, and he wanted it bad. 

But I was ready. I got his water bottle ready. I had my empathic responses prepared. Sports bra on. Turtleneck on. (So that he wouldn’t be able to get his feisty little hands down my shirt. ha!). And we rode the wave of big feelings together. 

Really, I can’t describe in a few words what this experience was like for me as a breastfeeding parent, and for him as a breastfeeding baby. But, what I do know is that going through this experience in saying no and holding space for him as he expressed tears of futility actually strengthened our bond. 

Do I always recommend a breast/chestfeeding parent night wean baby? No. No I don’t. But for some families, this is really the only way to go and it is what works best. I am grateful to have had this experience because it really shaped how I prepare families for the night weaning experience, and helped me write my course Night Weaning for Toddlers

If night weaning is on the horizon for you; I highly recommend you check the course out! There are so many awesome features that can help you with this experience and now you know, I really truly know how emotional this experience might be for you. 

XO

Lara 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Responding to Your Child with Empathy

I work with a lot of parents who are trying to shift the cycle of parenting. Many of today’s parents grew up with authoritarian style parenting because it was popular in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was a time where children were to be seen and not heard, where parent’s “ruled the roost!” and where children were a bit afraid of stepping out of line. 

We now know that this type of parenting does not help increase our children’s emotional intelligence. But, responding with empathy and striving to be an authoritative parent can help. So; how do we start with this if it is something that is totally foreign? 

On my fridge, I have this little reminder… and I thought I would share it with you today in case it helps you too! 

1. Offer acceptance 

What this might sound like: 

“You’re having some big feelings about not getting the snack you want.”

“You seem really upset we can’t watch another show right now.” 

2. Get curious 

What this might sound like:

“I wonder if you’re really upset because we ran out of cheerios?” 

“Are you mad because the next episode looked really good?”

3. Empathize  

What this might sound like: 

“It can feel frustrating when you can’t get what you want when you want it.” 

“It makes sense that you would be upset about the TV going off.” 

When you look at the scenarios above; can you imagine what your parents would have said in response to your big feelings? A response like STOP CRYING, or I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT stops the social emotional learning from taking place. 

When we see our children’s big feelings as an opportunity to connect and teach empathy, as well as, social and emotional intelligence, we shift the narrative. 

XO

Lara 

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3 Things I Learned From My Baby’s Sleep

I always say that our children can be our BEST teachers if we are open to seeing all of the gifts of introspection and reflection they carry with them. Here are a few of the learnings I had as a result of living with two challenging sleepers. I hope you can enjoy, or at the least, relate.

1. Baby sleep is not linear

While it is true that baby sleep does improve in a linear trend over the first 5 years of a child’s life, that first 18 months is incredibly variable. I remember thinking.. Okay! I will work on my baby’s sleep when they are 6 months old, and then I will have a good sleeper for LIFE! This is not true. Our babies are firing more neurons per second in their brains at any given moment than there exists websites on the internet. We are talking millions of neurons per second. That is a lot of tabs to have open at once! As a result, their sleep is disrupted. Developmental changes present our babies with advanced gross motor skills, advanced cognitive skills. They have to work through this stuff! 

How this knowledge can help you: Know that your baby’s sleep pattern worsening is likely not a reflection you have done anything wrong. If your child was previously sleeping pretty well, in a developmentally appropriate way for their age, then their most recent sleep slide likely means something is happening for them. We can greet this sleep regression with patience and empathy, knowing seeing them is normal.  

2. Sleep time is not the only place parenting happens 

When my children were not sleeping well, I was 100% lazer focused on their sleep. I became so obsessed with tracking night wakings, and analyzing nap timing that I sort of lost sight of the big picture. We are in a relationship with our children for a lifetime. There is so much parenting that happens outside of those hours at night. I remember beating myself up over whether or not my nighttime responses were empathic enough, loving enough, engaged enough…. But what I forgot about was all the loving, empathic, engaged, awesome stuff that was happening during the day. That stuff counts too! The time where your child does not sleep well will be but a tiny blip on the timeline that is their life. We are talking about these kiddos growing to be 80 – 100 years old! You’ve got a lifetime to imprint what you’re hoping to. It’s not all about the sleep. 

How this knowledge can help: My hope is that you will give yourself some grace in knowing that you are showing your kiddo BIG love around the clock, and this counts for something! 

3. Learning to validate big feelings at sleep times has helped my parenting 

I used to be scared of my children’s cries… I’m not going to lie. I used to want to quite literally be as far away as possible from them! It made me feel so uncomfortable to hear them upset, and if I couldn’t “fix it” right away, I felt like a totally incapable caregiver. Shouldn’t I know what my baby needs? But the truth is; we cannot possibly know what our kids need 100% of the time and sleep times can be met with big feelings and unpredictability. But being there as their rock, being a reliable and predictable caregiver, that is super important! Responsive and respectful caregiving means that we accept our children’s emotions (no matter how ugly), we get curious about what is going on for them, and then we offer them empathy. The more that I learned to sit with my kiddo’s big emotions, the better I got at it! The more I offered myself empathy in knowing it was okay to just BE with them rather than FIX it for them, the more comfortable and confident I became as a mother. 

How this knowledge can help: Being with our kids through their big emotions is something that is likely to happen all of their lives! When you can be with your child through their feelings, you will increase your threshold for it. 

XO 

Lara 

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Should you sing your baby to sleep?

Should you sing your baby to sleep? 

Over the past few years my practice in sleep coaching has evolved. I ask parents to respond to their babies. This means validating a baby’s cry, using touch while the little one learns to settle in a different way, and responding with voice, eye contact, and constant reassurance if the changes we are making are met with tears. 

Babies are sensory creatures. We know this. And when you add in many layers of comfort and connection, sometimes you end up with an overstimulated babe who won’t be soothed by anyone! 

This is a place of frustration I really try to help families avoid. 

One of the “things” I have found myself telling parents to do while settling their babies is sing. 

At the time I started to offer this advice, I really didn’t know why I kept suggesting it. It had worked well for me personally, but I really hadn’t stopped to think too much about why this was a success, and if there was any science behind it. 

When my son T was 6 weeks old I picked his “bedtime song”. This was a lullaby I heard at the library. One I loved.. And knew I wouldn’t bore of if I was still singing it 3 years later. When I put him to sleep in his crib through patting, and affirming touch, I sang or hummed this song on repeat. Like I mean, on repeat. Sometimes probably over 100 times. 

The song itself is only 6 lines. It is an african lullaby from what I know. It addresses each person in the family. The mama, the papa, the brother, sister, and baby. Each is loved. Each is treasured and honoured in the song. And I love that about it. Every time I sing or hum this song, even if I am doing it for hours.. Or at 3 in the morning, I think about that interconnection. How the 4 of us are family, and how we will forever be connected at the heart. 

There are nights where I probably hummed this little song for an hour straight. Patting Theo’s back, waiting for him to make the vulnerable transition from awake to asleep. Something I wanted to be with him to experience when he was just a little guy. 

I was a tired mama, but somehow I never tired of this tune. I knew it so well, and I just kept humming. 

It became a source of comfort for me as well. The thing that I began to know as the last step that would eventually soothe Theo to sleep. Yes it took some time.. And my mind would wander. But the constant humming of the tune over and over on repeat became meditative for me. 

Rather than worry about how long I’d been in the room, or how long this particular bedtime or middle of the night soothing session was taking me – I had my plan. I had my constant reassurance I wanted to offer, and it allowed me to remain calm. To have a focal point. To be in control of my actions when in the room with my son. And this allowed me to keep my anxiety very low as I responded to his needs. 

I say often that we are connected to our babies on a cellular level. We grew them inside us for many months, and I believe they feel our feelings on the outside, just as they did when they were safe inside. Keeping sleeptime anxieties low while a parent attends to their child, just makes good sense to me. And if singing the same tune lets you do this, then great! 

What I started to notice with T, was that humming this tune was all he needed for middle of the night reassurance. We got to a point together where I could enter the room, hum my tune once, and leave. This really affirmed my belief in this technique. It was pretty amazing to see him soothe with my voice alone (sleep wizardry – I know). 

What I was actually experiencing was a term researchers have called, “synchronicity”. One study I found observed a mom and baby’s body heat, respiration, and heartbeat. The wavy lines she observed would begin to move together when mom began to sing a well-known lullaby to her baby. It was as if they became one!**

I knew for months that T had been listening to my voice, getting to know it. But what I didn’t know was that this actually has a scientific definition in the form of vocal timbre. This is, “the resonance by which the ear recognizes and identifies a voiced speech sound, or connects with the distinctive tone of a particular singing voice.” 

As I sang to T, he got to know me. He got to listen to my voice, and know me as the one who makes him safe, warm, and comfortable. He began to recognize my singing as part of the safety in transitioning from awake to asleep. He got to know me as his “person”. 

Every night we were communicating. Differently than if I was talking to him – I believe. He was able to pick up on the emotions that come in the form of sound. And I can tell you, if I was not singing… my emotions would have been all kinds of crazy in the times where I was unsure if he was EVER going to fall asleep. Although I may have been all kinds of worried, the emotion I was able to project was one of calmness, stillness, and love. 

The speed at which he fell asleep got faster with almost every passing night (there were exceptions of course). But having read what I have read now, there is real science behind babies soothing more quickly with familiar sounds. 

Now I know some of you are probably reading this thinking.. Lara.. this is not exactly profound information! People have been singing lullabies all over the world, every night, for many many years! 

And yes. This is true, friends. We sing our children to sleep for many different reasons. Some people sing because this is what their parents did before they fell asleep as children, and they want to recreate that love and comfort for their own babies. Some people sing to connect to different aspects of their culture through song, or to share a message or story passed down through many generations. 

For me – it began as a way to keep my sanity while I ventured in the realm of responsive parenting.. But it appears, it was likely much more for my son. 

XO

Lara

** More info on Dr. Anita Collins research can be found here https://www.thelullabyeffect.com/podcast

 

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Do solids affect sleep?

You’ve probably heard the myth that introducing solids will help your young baby sleep better. The lie detector test has discovered that this is a lie my friends… rarely have I seen a baby begin to sleep better with the introduction of solids, but I have seen many babies begin to sleep worse when solids are introduced at the 6 month mark. 

Why is this? 

There is loads of evidence to suggest that our babies are born prematurely compared to other mammals. Their digestive systems are premature as well. It is advised to introduce solids slowly and keep record of what you are introducing as you introduce it every few days so that you can look for potential allergens, and intolerances. This is also a chance for your baby’s digestive tract to familiarize itself with these new substances and catch up.

When you switch from a milk-based diet to solids your baby’s poop will change (you probably already know this), and this does change how often they go, and what their body does to prepare for their bowel movements.  

Some babies IMMEDIATELY take to solids, while others much prefer their parents milk until closer to the 1 year mark. It is the babies who are really excited about solids and seem to want to eat everything in sight that risk the chance of having their sleep disrupted, compared to their peers who are a bit more hesitant. 

Why is this? 

When our kids are excited about something, we as parents also become excited about that something!

With Baby Led Weaning (BLW) increasing in popularity, many families are feeding their babies exactly what they are having at meal times. I think this is great! But sometimes things can get out of hand quickly. Too many foods are introduced at once, and the child’s digestive tract has not had a chance to align with all of these foreign substances. At the same time, they are eating many different things, at many different times, and it is hard to tell what has possibly caused their tummy upset. 

How do you know something your child is eating might be upsetting their sleep patterns?

  • Baby is extra gassy, especially in the middle of the night 
  • You see your child bring their legs up to their chest, and they seem like they are in pain
  • You notice an increase in eczema or skin irritation in correspondence with sleep interruption 
  • Your baby refuses to be laid down, in a crib or flat on their back → they want to sleep upright all of the time. This might be a sign of silent reflux, or a food upsetting their tummy and wanting to stay upright for increased comfort.

Is there a way to introduce solids that is likely to impact sleep the least? 

  • Go slow – there is really no rush here friends! By the time your kiddo is 18 months they will probably be eating everything in sight. 
  • The recommendation is to introduce iron rich foods first, as iron stores from utero begin to deplete around the 9 month mark in infants. 
  • We hear, “food before 1 is just for fun”. I like this sentiment, but food before 1 does have some level of importance (see the point above), at the same time.. Don’t have too much fun with it! Keep your excitement at bay, and introduce one food at a time as much as you can every few days. 
  • Begin introducing your first solid meal at breakfast, rather than lunch or dinner. This will give your child a chance to digest their meal before nighttime sleep takes place. 

There are foods that have been shown to be more conducive to sleep overall. In Sleep from the Heart this is discussed in more detail, in addition to so many other things of course. 

I hope you find this helpful, and if you do.. Share it with a friend! 

XO

Lara 

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Last minute thoughts to “Spring Ahead”

Alright people – it is coming in hot, but we’ve still got a bit of time to get this right.

Daylight savings time is coming for us. Again. I know. Doesn’t it feel like this just happened?! No. Just me. I must be getting older.

Transitioning sleep times can be fairly straightforward, or, it can be a little bit tricky. It really depends on your specific child, how sensitive they are to change, and how sensitive YOU are to change. We know our children feel our feelings as we are connected on a cellular level. So, if changes to your child’s sleep routine cause you a little bit of worry, it might be time to start preparing for the hour where we “spring forward”, so you can take this change in stride.

The clocks will go forward one hour on Sunday, March 8th at 3:00 am in Vancouver, BC where I live. For frame of reference, 7:00 pm will become 8:00 pm, and 6:00 am will become 7:00 am.

Just like any sleep change, there are a few different techniques you can use to begin to help your child with this transition. I will outline a few below, and those that I feel are easiest for most families to follow.

For all children:

Once Sunday March 8th rolls around, treat the clocks as the true time. You may need to “push” your child ever so gently onto their new schedule, and I would advise waking your babe up at normal time to start the day. If they need to be up at 7:00 am on Monday morning to get to daycare on time, don’t let them sleep til 8:30 am on Sunday.

For infants and toddlers with a set bedtime:

You can begin making this transition as early as 4 weeks prior to the change, but we don’t exactly have that much time now do we! So we are going to do the 4 day shift method here. If your child goes to bed most evenings at 7:00 pm, begin moving their bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. Wake them up 15 mins earlier the next day, and put them down for their naps 15 minutes earlier as well. For example;

  • Night 1: 6:45 pm fast asleep
  • Night 2: 6:30 pm fast asleep
  • Night 3: 6:15 pm fast asleep
  • Night 4: 6:00 pm (which will become the new 7:00 pm on March 8th)

As you can probably see – this is NOT going to work out, if you have been letting your child sleep til their normal start time in the morning, and napping them at their regular nap times as well. They won’t be tired when that slightly earlier bedtime rolls around, and they are going to fall asleep right at their usual time.

When we schedule shift, we really move the whole schedule. Not just bits and pieces of it.

Work on slowly moving the time up with each passing night until you arrive at a bedtime one hour earlier than your usual bedtime, prior to the change. Approach naps a little earlier, and wake your child to start the day at an ideal time if necessary.

For infants and toddlers with a somewhat flexible bedtime:

My advice on this one is to also be somewhat flexible. The few days before the time change, begin moving their daily naps slightly earlier.

This really depends again on how time sensitive your child is. Some babies will respond super well to having their naps moved up by 15 mins every few days, and an older toddler might not notice this change in the slightest.

Move bedtime up by the same amount of time that day, and you should be able to adjust to the new time within 2 – 4 days.

If your child typically goes to bed between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm each night, aim for the earlier time over the course of a few days leading up to the change, and then somewhere in the middle of that hour for the few days following the change.

For example; the week before the time change bedtime is closer to 6:15, or 6:30 pm, and the week after the change bedtime is closer to 7:15 or 7:30 pm. You can then begin moving this time up if it still is not suitable to your schedule.

Yeah. So. I didn’t plan and now my kid is going to bed at 10:00 pm. Now what?!

If you’re reading this March 9th after your child was up til 10:00 pm the night before, my best advice is to relax. Do get your child up at the wake-up time you expect tomorrow morning, and they should make the transition on their own within 3 – 4 days. But remember this – the best place to counter a later than preferred bedtime is in the MORNING!! Not, at night. 

Older children tend to make this transition quite seamlessly by going by what the clock says. But all children WILL find their groove within 7 – 10 days for sure.

Lastly, get your child outside first thing in the morning for a few days after the change for some fresh air and natural light. This will also help re-set their biological clock and the fresh air will help achieve good naps, and easier sleep that day. Not to mention, the whole point here is that we get to enjoy a little more light later into the evening!

Thank you to Stacie-Lynn for the beautiful photo featured here.

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Difficult Separations at Bedtime

Why can’t my child go to sleep without me? 

A common question I hear often. In our North American culture the desire is certainly to have independent children, and we see kiddos who can go to sleep on their own as more “independent” than their peers. 

But, what you must know is that forced independence actually does not breed independence in our children. It can actually make them more needy for relationships, as they seek you as their best bet to keep them safe. 

Dependence breeds independence. 

When we invite children to rest in the comfort of our love, and show them that they can relationship is the bottom line in all transitional times, this is where their independence begins to grow and develop. 

Separating from parents at bedtime is difficult for most infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Our children are hardwired for connection – for their safety, for their survival, for relationship. They are NOT hardwired for separation. They need to know that the relationship endures times away from one another, and that it can be relied upon in those future hours. 

When we ask our children to go to sleep at bedtime, they are entering a vulnerable, semi-permanent separation. This is hard for them. They know they go into sleep, you go into sleep often in another space, and they aren’t quite sure when and where they will see you again. 

It is important to first understand that this is difficult for them. They are not trying to give you a hard time. Their little brains are dysregulated and they are having a hard time. 

Secondly, we can help bridge the separation. We want our children to look into the future and focus on the time where we are going to be together again. This might be the next morning, but I often find it is helpful to communicate that you do check on your child while they are sleeping before you go to bed. 

A few suggestions that have worked for my own family, and other families I have worked with through this bedtime separation anxiety that exists… 

  • Cut out some paper hearts, or kisses. When you check on your child at the beginning of the night, leave a paper kiss on their nightstand or next to them on their pillow to show you have been there while they are sleeping. When you go to bed, leave a big stack showing just how many times you checked on them while they were sleeping overnight.
  • Place a special stuffy in their bed. A different one each night as a surprise visitor, so that they can see in the morning who joined them for bed.
  • Give their favourite stuffy MANY hugs and kisses from you during your bedtime routine. Tell your child that if they miss you at night, they can hug or kiss their stuffy and have a hug or kiss from you.
  • Place a think book under your child’s pillow while they are sleeping that you will read the next morning. This is something to look forward to when you reconnect the next day.

Any other ideas that have helped you bridge this physical and emotional separation between parent and child? I love when families share their ideas, so I can add to my list! 

Working on all the parenting things is a passion of mine, and I hope one day to add a toddler specific sleep course alongside Sleep from the Heart and my Night Weaning course. 

Thanks for being here, and for the support. 

XO

Lara 

 

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Is the course for me? Or, do I need one-on-one support?

Hello friends, 

The course launched on January 12th and it has been exciting and educational to watch people move through the Sleep from the Heart offering, and see it create huge waves of change in their family! 

But, it has given me some food for thought. Hopping on the phone with these families is starting to show me a bit more in terms of who this baby sleep course is for, and who would benefit from more 1:1 support. 

I plan to create an assessment tool… that will help you if you are humming and hawing about investing in the course element, or one-on-one support with another consultant. But in the meantime, I thought I would offer you a few thoughts on this subject.. 

Benefits of the course OVER 1:1 support: 

  • You live with the material. You can access the modules when you want in your own time, and have access to them for 3 months. 
  • Both you and your partner can watch those modules at a time that works for you. 
  • You can re-watch things to digest info that was really important to you. 
  • You can move at a pace that feels right. Most one-on-one consultants are trying to move you through their program in a span of 2 – 4 weeks. This pace can feel too fast for many families who are wanting gentle changes. 
  • You have access to 1:1 support if you need it. You can schedule phone calls, ask questions, and email me all from inside the course. 
  • You will gain information that might be helpful in use with future babies. 
  • Because the course is a solution for many different types of babies, and many different types of families, you are likely to learn new skills to handle developmental leaps, or help your friends whose kiddos are different from yours. 
  • When you set goals – you achieve 
  • You have support, and are good at holding yourself accountable once you’ve made up your mind about something. 
  • Content is created by a HIGH quality individual with YEARS of experience. With a one-on-one consultant, you may be getting someone who is brand new, and actually has only practiced on a small number of clients. Ask them!

People I think should purchase at least the CLASSIC package (3 calls): 

  • Everyone. I’m joking, but I am also not joking! Have you ever wished you had less support through a life transition? I am guessing the answer is no. 
  • You feel your baby is unique, spirited, or appears to have more energy than other babies you have observed at play groups 
  • You like to check in with someone and make sure you are on the right track. It makes you feel at ease to have someone else’s feedback. 
  • You like having lots of different options available to you, but when it comes to narrowing the course you find an expert’s advice helpful. 

People who should consider ONE-ON-ONE support with ANOTHER consultant instead: 

  • You are experiencing mental health challenges at this time including (but not limited to); postpartum depression, and/or generalized anxiety. 
  • Perhaps your anxiety is not diagnosed, but you feel like it is getting the best of you at sleep times. 
  • You want an exact step-by-step plan for your baby, at this very moment in time. 
  • Financially, this is possible for you to invest in (services ranging from $450 – $1150 CAD). 
  • You have trouble holding yourself accountable. You know your baby should nap at noon, but you end up putting them to sleep at 2:30 pm instead. A course will be very hard for you. 
  • You have little outside support from friends, and/or family. 

With all that said; I have seen this course help many people. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave and your baby would be sleeping through the night. I really do! But I don’t. I really don’t. You are going to have to put the pieces together, put in the work, and hold out hope that this CAN help you if you follow through. 

While I hope the course will have lots of brand new information for you. Honestly, most of the tweaks in the video library I have totally made up myself and have never found on google! Ha. But, if it is all information you have heard before, that is okay too. It is the way I suggest you put all of the pieces together, and how you can mark your success and ride the waves of change, that really make this a worthwhile offering. 

This baby sleep course is new, and I am sure I will probably add to this list over time! Ha. If you have taken the course and have insight to share with me.. I would be all ears. Send me an email at lara@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com and I will check out your feedback! 

In the meantime, if the course IS for you I hope you will support the venture, and love it. 

XO 

Lara 

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Why I don’t practice controlled crying…

This blog was previously written and shared in February of 2017. But it is important, and central to the decisions we have made, and what we chose to do as a company. For that reason, we are re-sharing with a few updates. Enjoy.

I want to start this article off by saying both of my children have been “sleep trained”. Both of my children have experienced “controlled crying” to some degree. And really. They both seem relatively normal. Ish. 😉

It is not my mission in writing this blog to guilt anyone for the choices they have made in how they have gotten their children to sleep. Because I believe every parent is inherently good. We’re all trying our best. We make choices every day for our children and hope in our heart of hearts we are making the right ones.

But sometimes to know more is to do better. Right now I know more, and I am choosing to do better. In my own parenting at home, and with every client who trusts me to guide them in my sleep work.

I did not get to where I am today holding back. If you know me, you know I’m an open book. As honest as they come. I’ve made decisions I’m proud of, and some that bring me guilt, shame, and yes, even regret. And while this writing may make you feel a lot of “feels”, this was a story I felt I needed to tell to continue on in my business and propel it forward in a direction I feel most proud of, and confident in.

I remember the first time I questioned controlled crying. Like really questioned it. I believed it to be a good method to use to get a child to sleep when I had an infant. That’s because I REALLY needed to sleep. It worked. And I was grateful. I got my life back. A little piece of me I was really longing for.. lost in the abyss that is postpartum life. I began to feel like me again. I was also convinced that I had given myself and my child the “gift of sleep”, and that I had done a good thing by teaching my baby to “self-soothe”.

But then that little baby became a toddler. More advanced than their peers in the language department, they would love to talk your ear off. And when he turned two, he decided bedtime was the place to share all of his wildest dreams and deepest secrets.

My usual methods in getting him to sleep weren’t working. I could close the door, but immediately he screamed. And not just a little cry or whimper. A bloody murder scream. The kind I remembered from when he was a baby and we sleep trained him using the Ferber approach. But this time, he didn’t quiet down. She added another element to his plea. A “mama mama mama mama please don’t go!”.

That night I laid on his floor. Closed my eyes. And sang until he was asleep. I wondered what I had done wrong. What had happened. And why our sleep strategy was no longer working. The Ferber approach is supposed to be a 3 – 5 nights and you’re “done forever and for always” approach. What was happening?

And in true Lara form, this brought me to the library. Where I then checked out every toddler sleep book that exists, and began to dive a little deeper.

Had I been prepared for what to expect, I would have been ready. There is a sleep “regression” at age two with the burst of language development, the evolution of true fears, and some residual separation anxiety. A normal, healthy, and natural part of my toddler’s childhood that I was trying to close the door, separate myself from, and ignore. And this strong-willed (and highly sensitive) kid was having none of it.

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. And it made me question everything. Why was it appropriate for me to walk out of the room on my crying baby when he was but 7 months of age and barely had object permanence? But, as soon as he had words it felt wrong? Had he not always been trying to communicate something to me?

Of course he had. That’s biology. Human infants communicate to their caregivers through tears. This is the only way they can get their needs met. Sometimes this is a cry for a diaper change, a tummy to be filled, or pain from an ear infection. And at other times a cry may mean; please stay with me, I need you near. Our children communicate both physical and emotional needs.

Now I am not an advocate for NOT allowing our children to cry. In fact, I encourage quite the opposite. I believe that we should meet all of our children’s needs, and then if there are some tears to be had – fine. They should have them. This is part of a normal, healthy emotional release, and you can read more of my thoughts on crying here. But, I believe tears can be in the arms of a loving caregiver, or the presence of a parent sitting beside, hand on chest, telling their child they are there for them. Or in my case that night, singing “on top of spaghetti” at the top of my lungs because I really had no other way to get that child to sleep.

I’ve learned a lot in my work with families. I’ve always attracted a “gentler” crowd, and through families asking for something totally different, I learned a lot. People wanted to move slower. They wanted to connect more deeply with their child. And they wanted options. Caring as much as I do about the clients I serve, I tried to find these for everyone who asked. And in doing so, I found myself a whole new repertoire of skills.

But still, I offered controlled crying as an option. Since no concrete research based articles on sleep training proved it was bad, or harmful to infants (or so I thought), I carried on.. business as usual. Doing what 90% of other child sleep consultants do. Convincing families that their children NEED to sleep. And that I would be the one to get them some.

But then came along baby #2. And damnit. He was more difficult than the first in the sleep department.

I promised myself I wouldn’t worry. I wouldn’t stress. “You’ve got all the tools to fix this Lara” were words I repeated often, and as a result I relaxed.

I relaxed a lot. I gave myself a chance to just “be” with my youngest. To listen to him. To feed him more than I thought I should in the middle of the night. To respond to him with pick ups, cuddles, love and contact at any hour of the day – with far less restrictions than Ferber would ever allow. And dog gone it, the child began to sleep. In his own time. In the comfort of my presence. Without “negative sleep props or associations”, with room for “healthy tears and emotional release” in the presence of his loving caregivers – he began to sleep.

Now to say I got to this place on my own would be a complete lie. I confided in the sleep coaches I was most curious about.. and they taught me a lot. One of my good friends suggested I take Bebo.Mia’s Infant sleep Educator course and I signed up almost instantly. I felt drawn to the promise of seeing sleep through a lens different than the one I was used to viewing it from. And I was excited to see what this new education would do to my practice.

Some of the learning was hard for me. These people actually had the science. The science the greater half of the sleep training community chooses to ignore. And the science I needed to give me my “why”. The reasons why I personally no longer practice controlled crying forms of sleep training in my home, or with my client’s babies.

This isn’t to say I won’t get you more sleep. I absolutely will do that. But I hope you will find a pace that feels right. A pace that feels more natural. Good, and supportive for everyone involved. With permission to touch, stroke, make eye contact, and feed at times where these things are necessary.

I learned that year that a lot of what we hear about infant sleep is a lie.

Firstly, babies cannot “self-soothe”. Babies cannot regulate their emotions. They are born with a seriously underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that does regulate our emotions (Cozalino, 2010). And to be honest, most of us have not fully developed the neuro pathways for self regulation until age 24. Therefore asking a baby to “soothe itself” is really quite a preposterous ask.

Babies are born wired to survive. They are designed to survive the first year at all costs. And their biology ensures that this is so. For this reason, they are hardwired to their parents as well. Parents are physiologically wired to respond to an infant’s cries (Narvaez, 2011), and to be honest, we don’t yet know enough about the longterm effects of ignoring an infant’s cries in order for me to comfortably ask a family in my care to do this. We do know enough about forming secure attachments for me to err on the side of caution on this one.

Considering that sleep is also where we are most vulnerable (Aldort, 2011), it only really makes sense that a child might need the support and loving presence of their caregiver to trust the transition to the sleep state, and go to this state peacefully. We know that teaching babies and young children is done through example (Cozalino, 2010, p.70). And teaching a child to sleep is surely no exception.

When we look back on the Behaviourist Theory that dominated psychology in the 1950s, it is easy to see why we developed infant sleep practices that ignored a child’s primal needs. The North American view at this time was that infants should be seen, and not heard, and that parents should not be inconvenienced by the demands of their children. And sadly, we see this having residual lasting effects in today’s parenting practices, and many of the sleep training approaches offered as a “quick fix”.

But since the 1950s we have learned a lot about infants. We have learned a TON about the brain. And we know that although children cannot remember specific memories before the age of 3 (Mate, 2002), these memories are stored implicitly in the brain and will re-surface when similar experiences take place as those that did in the child’s earliest of days.

Thanks to Developmental Psychology and Attachment Theorists such as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, we know that babies are born social creatures. We know that positive early experiences in a child’s life help to hardwire the messages “I am understood” “I am worthy” and “The world is safe” (Cozalino, 2010). And I believe we are on the edge of a paradigm-shift in the world of sleep consulting.

All of the sleep training studies that exist are inconclusive. They do not account for all of the variables we would need to see to know if it is truly safe to sleep train a child using a controlled crying approach. Bebo.Mia asked us to look at these studies, and look at how someone supportive of sleep training took the information and blogged about it in a positive light. While someone who was against sleep training took that same study, and blogged about it negatively. Inconclusive at its best, I believe.

Lastly, ask anyone who sleep trained their child this way if the process felt good. I know that many people choose cry-it-out as an absolute last resort. I also did this. But had I known there were other ways to achieve more sleep, I certainly would have chosen them. Had I known that picking up my baby would not “undo all of the crying to this point” I would have picked them up.

I also know that new pathways in the brain are formed every day, and that the brain is incredibly plastic. For this reason, I know I can go ahead with my own children each day and form healthy, happy attachments, and awesome early memories for them, despite their prior sleep training experiences.

What I have learned about being a mama is there is always something to feel guilty over. But, the very fact that you are worried about being a good parent is usually enough to prove you are in fact one, and your children are going to turn out just fine. Or at the very least.. Just messed up enough that they are interesting at a dinner party.

I choose everyday to lead my business with the heart of a parent. I know the visceral response you feel when your baby cries. And I want you to act on this instinct. This instinct. This intuition. It is there for a reason. And I believe it should not be ignored.

I want you to look back on the experience of getting your child more sleep with a smile on your face, resting assured that it was the absolute best thing you could have done for your family in that moment in time. And that you took the most caring, most thoughtful, and most supportive road you could have taken to get there.

So yes. My approach will be this way moving forward, and my courses do not consider controlled crying as an option. I can get your child and your family more sleep. This is true. But you’ve got to be on board with doing things a little bit differently. With sometimes having to completely reshape everything you think you know and believe about infant sleep. With getting creative. With exploring the relationship you have with your child now, and for a lifetime.

And if you are open to this – then yes, I’d be honoured to be your guide.

XO

Lara

Aldort, N. (2011). Naomi Aldort on sleep: YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oelT2QM5Tk

Bebo.Mia. (2017). Infant Sleep Educator Module. Toronto, ON. Retrieved from www.bebomia.com.

Cozolino, L. (2010). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company

Narvaez, D. (2011). The Dangers of “Crying it Out”. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/morallandscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out

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Why did you go to a course model? Are you still available for 1:1 support?

Recently I made the decision to turn my business on its head, retire my old business model, and enter the world of online courses in a serious way. 

Why make such an abrupt decision, some might ask? You have a model. It works. Thousands of happy clients, rave reviews. Why would you mess with a good thing? 

Good questions. All things I have asked myself a lot over the last year. 

When I started Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts in 2014 I never imagined it would become the business it is today. I remember literally sitting beside the phone waiting for it to ring. It wouldn’t. No one knew my name, no one knew what I was about, and over the years this changed. The company was never an overnight success, but a slow burn that kindled over time until it was a raging fire in the winter of 2019. 

In November of that year I made the decision to take my phone number OFF my website because I actually couldn’t stop the phone from ringing. My ears were ringing, and the relationship with my family and myself was suffering. I went back to school to pursue my master’s in counselling psychology, and decided to shorten my work day so that I could pick my eldest up from school each day. My already limited hours became more limited, and I was feeling the pinch. 

This business was built with the heart of a mother. My own kids needs have always come first, but the needs of my clients have come a close second. I worked tirelessly, and around the clock in the early years to get families sleeping, and I did a dang good job of that!  

Word of mouth is a powerful thing. And Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts is a mouthful. People told their friends and family about the down-to-earth, non-judgmental, attachment-informed sleep support they received. And people came for it. I am so grateful to have had your support. 

But every month I would turn away most of the traffic that lands on my site, and this made me sad. 

I would honestly lay awake at night thinking about the service I offer, how much it helps families, and how little time I have. The ripple effect my support has had on families has been tremendous. And I want to see more people go from surviving to thriving when it comes to infant sleep. 

I became passionate about child sleep because I saw the transition a family could make when they were sleeping. Seeing families go from exhausted and hopeless to rested and hopeful was really exciting. 

It saddened me to think that families were landing here looking for attachment-friendly sleep support, and they couldn’t access it when they needed to. If they were lucky to get into the discovery call cue, they were waiting weeks and months to speak to me. By the time I got down the line, some had moved on. Many families to traditional forms of sleep training such as cry-it-out or extinction because they hadn’t found an alternative approach that would work for their family. 

Then there were the families who made it down the pipe, and became my 1:1 clients. Many of them waiting for weeks to work 1:1 with me. I gave them all I had, and I know they would attest to this. But, still I thought about the families whose problems I could likely solve, but didn’t have the time for. In the meantime my school became more intense, my children invited to more and more social gatherings, and I realized this 1:1 model was no longer the right fit. 

Sleep from the Heart is an attachment-focused sleep course that does not outline the steps for controlled crying, cry-it-out, or extinction.

We believe that you should be able to get your baby to sleep from a place of closeness, connection and comfort. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any tears. Tears are an infant’s first and best form of communication, and they can tell us a lot about a child’s temperament, what is soothing for them, and how they exist in this world. But, there is value in those tears, and Sleep from the Heart will give you the physical and emotional tools to respond to your child in a way that feels comfortable for you so that they are never left alone to cry. Touch and eye contact are welcomed. 

You might be thinking – well that sounds great. But, how does connecting with my child ultimately get my family more sleep? 

I’ve always said our children will sleep the best when we as parents make sleep decisions that we are calm and confident about.

Sleep from the Heart is not a one stop shop, follow these directions and you will have a sleeping baby, type of program. It is a – here are 5 different ways you might approach making sleep changes with your kiddo – choose your own adventure, hold on for the ride, and see the progress start to unfold, kind of program. Built on five years of experience, thousands of families serviced, and knowledge and experience that will guide you to more sleep. 

I truly want you to love it. 

I truly hope you find it if you are looking for attachment-focused sleep support. 

I hope you will tell your friends who are looking for a gentler approach to sleep training. 

And I hope it serves you well. 

Some people might be asking… can we still work with you 1:1? What about with our toddler, or preschooler, or newborn infant? For families I have worked with previously, you may have hoped to reconnect for your second, third or fourth little bubba. 

Sleep from the Heart has 3 different support options, two of which includes calls, and one package that includes email and phone support. I will facilitate those calls and emails personally until the demand is larger than I can manage on my own. 

If your child is outside the 6 – 18 month range, I absolutely would welcome your inquiry. I will work with families on an hourly basis 1:1 when my schedule allows. But, being a graduate level student with 2 kiddos, this is likely to happen on rare occasions throughout the year. I do plan to host live Q & A’s, and do have a toddler behaviour course in the works (it will be a while yet so don’t hold your breath!). 

Thank you for five (almost six) years of support and love. I look forward to serving you all in this new and different chapter, and continuing to bring you new knowledge and peaceful parenting practices as I work towards the completion of my degree. 

XO

Lara