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Why doesn’t my older child fall asleep independently? And how can I help them?

Recently I did a call out on my instagram stories asking what you’d like to learn from me, there was an overwhelming response that said my kid can’t fall asleep alone, and I am unsure how to help them.

So, firstly I want to preface this with… your kid wanting to fall asleep next to you, regardless of their age, is a natural normal thing. Sleep is a vulnerable change of state for all humans. Not just babies. Lots of us struggle to transition from awake to asleep.

Our children are not hardwired for separation. They are actually hardwired for connection. They know that when they go to sleep they separate from you, albeit temporarily, but it is still a physical and emotional separation from the one they hold most dear. You are their safe person, their safe place, and they like to keep you close.

When I get this request I hear from parents on both sides of the coin. I hear things like…

I should have tackled this when she was a baby, I should have worked harder to get her to fall asleep on her own back then so she wouldn’t still need it at 5. 

To which I say – trust me.. This is no guarantee! Falling asleep independently in infancy in no way guarantees that your child won’t need some help in the toddler or preschool years. 

I’ve never thought of falling asleep with my child as a “bad” thing. But, I feel ashamed whenever I tell someone my child needs this in order to fall asleep. It seems natural and normal that they would need me to be there. 

To which I say – scroll on! All good. Ha! How your family and your child sleeps is up to you, and you shouldn’t feel shame if someone wants to tell you otherwise. 

I don’t mind laying with my kiddo for a bit, but I wish they didn’t need me to be there every single night. It can take hours to put them to bed. 

To which I say – let’s work on it then friend! They are probably ready to do some of this work too. 

I’ve always said a sleep issue is not a sleep issue until it is a sleep issue for you!

We all have different tolerance levels for what we can facilitate with our children at the end of the day. Some parents welcome this close one-to-one time at the beginning of the night where their child tells them about school, and all the little details of their day. Others loathe it and can’t wait to skip out for a little netflix and chill. However you feel about this is normal, and valid, and personal to you! You and your child both deserve to feel GOOD about the bedtime routine.

SO if you’re tired of lying in the dark for hours counting sheep with your toddler, preschooler or school aged child.. What can you do? 

  1. Make sure their bedtime is timed well. For starters. This routine should not take more than 20 – 30 minutes, and if it does.. My guess is there is too much back and forth conversation happening and focusing on more relaxing mindfulness exercises and imagery might speed up the process. Bedtime could also be poorly timed. Sometimes we are still trying to hold on to that 7:30 pm bedtime when our kids are really ready to move this to 8:30 pm.

  2. Talk to your child about it. What do you like about having mommy or daddy lay with you at bedtime? How does it help you? Remember, language is our best tool with the older kiddos. Talk to them about this outside of sleep so that the pressure to fall asleep isn’t looming overhead. No sense in worrying the child before sleep time comes.

  3. Create a new ritual. Think about what you would like bedtime to look like and help your kiddo create some structure around this. Does it look like reading two stories, kissing goodnight, and coming back to check on your child? Or, does it look like laying with each other while you listen to two piano melodies, then you leave them to listen to quiet music while you check on them from the hall? Come up with a new ritual together, and create a plan for the separation that will take place.

  4. For the younger kiddos – communicate the changes in a toddler-friendly way. Create a social story or picture book of their new bedtime routine, and where parents are if they are needed. In my experience it is more helpful to say you will continue to check on your child every 2 – 3 mins, rather than have them call out for you when they need you. This creates trust, rather than a desperate plea to close the separation gap.

  5. There are fun transitions you can build in to your routine to help you with this. You might lay together and tell each other 2 stars and a wish (2 great things about your day, and 1 thing you would have liked differently). Maybe you tell a shadow puppet story with your hands and a flashlight, then leave them with a flashlight to make up a story to tell YOU the next night. Maybe you listen to an audio book together, and then leave them to listen. Dinosnores is a favourite at our house, but my kids also like listening to classical music to fall asleep.

The golden thing to remember is that checking on your child while they are learning to fall asleep without you is ESSENTIAL to building trust! Prepare them for what to expect, and then carry out the plan as you said you would.

When you follow through and show a child they can predict their parent’s behaviour, you build trust. This is why it is important you don’t flip flop night to night when you are establishing a new routine.

And because I know people are going to ask. What if my child will not stay in bed, even after establishing all of these fun new routines and setting expectations? 

They might not be ready. In my experience 3 – 6 year olds will do GREAT with the suggestions above with a caring adult leading them. But younger kiddos may still struggle. With the younger ones I would take slower baby steps.. Like moving yourself further and further away from them at bedtime. Or, instead of holding their hand until they are all the way asleep, you intermittently rub their back instead.

And remember… sometimes what our children are “ready for” changes greatly from week to week, and month to month. So, just because one of these suggestions didn’t work in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t work now.. Or in the future. 🙂

Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts is not currently accepting new clients as we are on a break for the holidays. In the new year we are going to have a fun new offering for you all! So, stay tuned for that. Thank you for your love and support, and wishing you a joyous holiday season.

XO

Lara

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Why I do what I do…

Over the last 4 (almost 5!) years since I begun sleep coaching I have worked with hundreds of families. People usually contact me when they are at their wits end. They are so very tired it is hard to think straight, and they have heard that I might be able to help them.

Working with tired people every day… can be.. Tiring.

I’m not going to lie.

When people are tired, they are emotional. They are depleted. They have little left to give to their spouse, their partner, and their other kiddos. So, what do you think they have left to give to their sleep coach?

You guessed it – nada. Ha!

They are just so tired, I become the catcher of all the feels. The person they can tell their worries to. The beacon of light shining on them letting them know day after day that it is going to be okay, and they are going to move on from this struggle in their life in some way, shape or form.

It is an honour to be this person. For an empath such as myself I have to remind myself daily that their stress or pain is not my stress or pain, and that their tired is not my tired. Helping people through a critical time in their lives is an honour, and I feel privileged that people let me in at a time that is so difficult for them.

Yesterday I hopped on the phone with a father I have been working with on and off since January of this year. Now you might ask yourself why someone would need to still be talking to their sleep coach 5 months later.. “Aren’t you just supposed to ‘fix it’ so that people can move on in a few weeks time?” Maybe you’re not thinking that.. Maybe you’re not… but let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with this family and how it has evolved over time.

When this mama first contacted me through my website, she was exhausted. Her baby was waking hourly overnight and having very small feeds due to the reflux she was diagnosed with. The family was cosleeping out of sheer necessity, not by choice. And the parents were beginning to wonder if their daughter would ever be able to sleep by herself.

When we did our consultation it was clear they were nervous, and excited. Apprehensive too! Sometimes when things have been so bad, and someone tells you it is going to get better soon, it is pretty hard to believe them. I remember thinking these two are scared to trust me, but somehow they convinced themselves to let me in.

We walked hand in hand, day by day. We made the most gradual changes imaginable… first attaching their crib to their bed as a sidecar, and then having dad also learn how to put their baby to sleep. He had never done it. Not for months anyway… it was a brand new experience for him to rock his baby to sleep, and it was very hard for everyone at first. But I knew it would be okay, I knew their baby would be okay.

We transitioned from co-sleeping all night, to partial crib sleep in the side car. From feeding at every night wake, to feeding at every other night waking.. We added in dreamfeeds, and encouraged baby girl to fall asleep with patting instead of rocking. Everything happened one step at a time as led by baby, and as parents adapted to their new normal. Every day they saw just enough change to keep going.

Now, baby sleep is not linear. Far from it! We had our hiccups along the way. Baby got sick. She went through a weird week of pooping every night and no one could figure out why! Parents had work responsibilities that caused us to pivot and delay, and then baby got sick again. We paused. We regrouped. We relaxed. We picked up where we left off, and we started again.

Yesterday I was catching up with dad (who is now the primary bedtime guy and overnight caregiver for this baby), and it just became so clear to me why this work still has meaning for me nearly 4 years later.

It is because the shift a family can make through a transition from sleepless nights, to sleepier ones is pretty damn amazing to watch!

Dad said, “She is actually sleeping really well… on a good night, she goes to sleep easily.. And then I don’t hear from her again until like 5 am, and then we cosleep from there til morning. It is the best of both worlds, and something that mama was really comfortable with too.”

I asked him if he felt his bond with his daughter had increased as a result of our work together to which he answered, yes.

Sleep work when you are not relying on formal sleep training methods is dynamic. It is interesting. It can be fun and exciting.. And it can be hard. But, I always see people walk out of our time together with a better understanding and appreciation of their partner, and an increased bond with their baby. And that my friends, is the reason why I do what I do.

XO

Lara

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Play for Sleep Success

Play is a vital part of your child’s development: It is not only fun, but it encourages gross and fine motor skills, communication, and sensory development among other things. Play is also directly related to our quality of sleep believe it or not!

“Playing just helps burn energy and make them tired.”

Anyone heard that before?!

It is TRUE that play helps children expend the excessive amount of energy that they seem to have, but it does so much more than that in terms of sleep.

Being active (inside and outside) prompts our bodies to release endorphins which in turn helps produce melatonin – that wonderful, natural hormone that makes us sleepy. Daytime activity can also encourage longer periods of deep sleep, which is most restorative, and it encourages us as parents to get down at our child’s level, be hands-on with them, and make lots of eye contact right before that separation to sleep.

So how can we PLAY for SLEEP?

Try to incorporate a variety of activities into your day that encourage movement; climb up and down the stairs, make an obstacle course, play ball, provide push toys or help your child to walk, play music, clap your hands and dance or move your feet. There are so many ways to get moving.

The benefits of playing and developing gross motor skills will have a long-lasting effect on your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Being outside in fresh air and natural light to play, even if it is just for a short time, is tremendously beneficial for your child’s sleep as well.

  • Children are able to make bigger and faster movements outside. This not only uses more energy, but helps to build muscle and endurance.

  • Being outside signals the body to release even more endorphins than playing inside.

  • Light stimulus affects our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock, and helps us differentiate between daytime playtime and nighttime sleep time.

So get outside when the weather is nice – go for a walk, play in the yard, or sit on a park bench. And if the weather is truly Vancouver in Spring (aka.. Rainy af), make an obstacle course in the living room! Any playtime activity will contribute to better sleep and overall better health for your kiddo, and your family.

XO

Lara

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Can you give me an example, Lara?

Tonight I got asked a question.. And it really sparked a little something in me.

I’m not sure why.

Maybe because this is my passion. Maybe because this is my life’s work.

Maybe it is because every day I seek to refine my skills to ensure every family who comes under my wing has a slightly easier transition from “no sleep” to “sleep” than those who walked before them. (I literally try to get better at my job every.single.day because.. This is me. I like my work. I’m a self proclaimed “people pleaser”, a “perfectionist”, and all around “sleep wizard”). And I don’t want to just walk around calling myself a sleep wizard. I literally want to BE ONE.  

But I keep getting asked for free advice. I know. You’re not shocked. And neither am I.. but here is the thing. I can’t give it to you.. I really wish I could.. But I just can’t. And here’s why..

I don’t know you yet.

^^ Yup. That is pretty much the only reason why.

I’m not trying to be greedy. I’m not trying to hold every ounce of sleep knowledge inside my brain only to be shared with the parents who can afford to hire me.

It is literally because I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t know what good advice is for your family. What advice will help you, and not send your anxiety spiralling, and what advice is healthy for you or your child.

People often ask me.. Can you give me an example of something we might do if we worked together? Sure.. I can give you an example. That is no problem. How about I put them all here for you in a blog post? Which.. I am about to do a few minutes from now.

But funny story.. There are literally 924 combinations of things I “might” tell you to do to get your child sleeping. Want to know how I know this? Let me explain.. It is a bit of a story. Probably not highest on my priority management list this week, but one I feel like telling tonight after a long day with my children, and a couple of glasses of wine.

So here is the confession.

I hate writing sleep plans.

I know, probably not what you really want to hear from a business owner who gets babies to sleep for a living. But, I just can’t sit down, know exactly what it is I want to say for that particular family, and hammer it out with great ambition. And trust me – you other sleep coaches out there.. I know a lot of ya’ll are hitting copy paste like nobody’s business when you write your sleep plans.. And you are probably wondering how on earth I get babies sleeping without them (the answer – technology.. But I will save that for another blog post.. Or.. my future training program.. Wink wink.. Nudge nudge).

But for me, until I see a baby in action. Until I really know the family from the inside out. I can’t really write a sleep plan.

And even then, I find myself reorganizing and rejigging the plan leftways, backward, and sideways.. And before you know it, we are on a completely different plan than we started with because I now know YOUR baby. I now know the strategies that are going to work BEST for your family.

Earlier this year I set out to try and solve this problem of not really loving writing sleep plans. I poured over my options..

Maybe someone could write these for me? Maybe a robot could do it? Is there an app I could plug the information into and bada bing bada boom, a new sleep plan would be created? And in anticipation of finding just that.. I started to write.

Off the top of my head one night I wrote out all of the different approaches I *might* tell a family to use at bedtime. Everything from nursing their baby to sleep, to sitting beside the crib holding their baby’s hand, and everything in-between.

And guess what – there were 12 different ways I might suggest a family helps their baby go to bed at bedtime. This didn’t include the videos I send showing you how to actually succeed at rocking a 6 month old to sleep in your arms, or the one that shows how I would pat and shush a 10 month old on the bum to go to sleep. Those also all exist, and they are sent to my clients’ inboxes every day as they are needed. So yeah – if you consider the weird way I might tell you to blink your eyes, or hold your elbow.. There are probably more than 12 combinations here.  

Then I started to write out the middle of the night responses.. To which there were 11. Sure I might say, dreamfeed your baby at such and such a time, and then 4 hours later we are going to feed them again.. At every night waking in between you are going to do x, y, z in the soothing department.. But the thing is, until I have really worked with your baby – I don’t know where the best time in the night is for them to be fed. I don’t know if “dreamfeeding” your baby is the best option, or if the latching struggles you have experienced in breastfeeding might actually be aggravated by such a sleepy feed.

We have to talk it out. You tell me what you are comfortable with – what you think you can be successful with – and then I go in my brain and open the tab that I think might work and say, “how about tonight you try this…”. There are a lot of tabs in my brain, and it is likely that I have one I can open that will help you feel successful.

I believe when it comes to families and sleep, that they will be the MOST successful in making sleep changes, when they use the strategies that they feel calm, cool, and collected in. Which is why I create our action steps DURING our consultation, and every day thereafter in custom emails to your inbox.

Okay Lara so… 12 x 11.. That is 132 different combinations. We get it. But where do the other 792 different combinations come from?

Well friends.. That is timing. Scheduling. Based on your baby’s developmental age and stage, their unique sleep totals day-to-day, and what I have observed of them in the app you are using to track their sleep.. there are 7 different timelines I am most likely to use for the babies in my care.

These are starting off points, and they tend to change and shift ever so slightly after..

You guessed it..

Me getting to know your baby! Ha.

So the next time you ask me… is there any advice you can share with us right now? Or, do you know the reason why my 15 month old is waking up so much in the night? Or, can you give me an example of some of the methods we might use in working together?

You now know why these are hard questions for me to answer.

I know you probably think I am holding back advice because I want you to hire me.

I do want you to hire me. That is kind of not a secret..

But, when you do hire me I want to assure you I am giving you the best of the best of me. The solutions that are TRULY customized to you, and more than you can google. I want them to be safe for you, and your baby. I want them to honour your breastfeeding relationship, your attachment, your fears and anxiety, your unique experiences with parenting, postpartum depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, or other traumas.

I am not giving you Sleep Plan A or Sleep Plan B.

And now you know why they cost an additional $125. (I actually suggest they are a worthy purchase AFTER we are done.. To collect everything we did in one, easy to read place, so that you have it as a future reference point and guide, and therefore, never find yourself in an argument with your spouse at 3:30 am trying to remember what Lara said).

Examples of things we might do if we worked together include:

  • Nursing your baby to sleep

  • Rocking your baby to sleep

  • Holding your baby to sleep

  • Patting your baby to sleep

  • Bouncing your baby to sleep

  • Wearing your baby to sleep

  • Side jiggling your baby to sleep

  • Holding your baby’s hand until they fall asleep

  • Laying beside your baby until they fall asleep

  • Holding your hand across their belly like a seat belt until they fall asleep

  • Shushing loudly in your baby’s ear

  • Singing to your baby

  • Humming to your baby

  • Sitting silently with your baby

  • Talking to your baby

  • Playing with your toddler for 3 – 7 days in play therapy before starting any kind of sleep work

  • Setting up new expectations for your toddler through family meetings, social stories, and role playing

  • Moving yourself further away from your child at bedtime

  • Moving yourself closer to your child at bedtime

  • Responding to all night wakings with feeding

  • Responding to no night wakings with feeding

  • Responding to some night wakings with rocking back to sleep, while holding back to sleep at others

  • Co-sleeping all night, and weaning of nighttime feeding

  • Co-sleeping for half the night, and crib sleep for the other

^^ I think you get the point here.

There are literally so many different things I do in my work with families… which makes this work immensely satisfying, so interesting, and incredibly gratifying for me.

I will support you with all of the above. As parents you are going to know you have been seen, and heard.. And that your child has been very much seen and heard as well, and that we are a TEAM in this. There is no “I” in team. I just felt like saying that.

Thanks for listening.

XO

Lara

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Why is my child waking up at night?

Why is my child waking up at night?

How come my baby can sleep 2 hours uninterrupted some nights? And 5 hours the next?

I have seen her sleep better than she is!!! Why isn’t she doing this every night?

Pretty much the million dollar questions, I know! And ones I am still answering daily, even after I have started working with a family, and we are problem solving to find out what exactly makes their baby “tick”.

The truth of the matter is, babies do not sleep like adults.

As adults we sleep in 3 – 4 hour stretches at nighttime. Typically we connect two sleep cycles such as these and form our 6 – 8 hour night. Sometimes this is with little to no disruption. Other nights, we are wide awake middle of the night and wondering if we should get up and be productive! 

All of us wake up at night. Me. You. The nextdoor neighbour. The guy who walks the dog. Yes! We all wake up at night. We might nudge our spouse over. We might wake up to pee (one can only hope..).  Or we might get a glass of water.

Babies also wake up at night. However, their sleep cycles are much shorter than adults. These range from 30 – 45 minutes during the day, and are more like 90 minutes to 4 hours at night.

Since we know that the transition from “awake to asleep” is a vulnerable change of state for most humans, with infants being no exception – it is natural and normal that a baby might need some assistance to connect from one sleep cycle to the next.

Inconvenient for us. Yes.

Inconvenient for baby. Probably much less so.

Of course there are other factors at play beyond a baby’s sleep cycle being shorter on average than an adults, that can contribute to night wakings.

What time you are putting your child to bed, and what their daily rhythm looks like will play a part in this process.

I certainly do see children have more trouble sleeping when they are put to bed for the night overtired. I also see them struggle to sleep when their day has been super busy, or full of events that are out of the norm. 

When we get behind the child’s eye, and think through what a busy day might mean for that child.. some of their night waking behaviour sometimes becomes more clear.

For example; baby is taken to a large family dinner.

These are all hypothetical, and by no means am I saying you shouldn’t take your baby out to a family dinner once in a while. Your baby will certainly benefit from going out to a large family dinner once in a while!

But, I am using this as an example of how the repercussions of this might actually present themselves in your child’s sleep.

  • Baby’s nap is cut short so that the family can ensure they are on time for the start of supper.
  • Baby’s post-nap snack of fruit, veggie, and dairy is cut, and a granola bar is offered in the car instead.
  • Baby spends time in arms at the gathering; going from person to person who oodles at their cuteness.
  • Baby does not spend any time on the ground crawling around, because the family has a large dog, and parents are nervous about this.
  • Baby spends very little time crawling, furniture cruising, and maximising energy output.  
  • Baby is fed a food item for dinner that they have never had before.
  • Mom is nervous about breastfeeding babe in front of her cousin, and therefore skips a regular feeding time without even noticing this.
  • Baby falls asleep for a minute or two in the car seat on the way home, and then has difficulty transferring to the crib.
  • Baby wakes frequently overnight as a result of x, y, z.

When our days follow a regular rhythm and predictability, baby does get used to this. And it also makes it easier to troubleshoot on those difficult nights what exactly might have gone wrong, if anything.

Night wakings are for many reasons. We know this.

Thirst. Hunger. Milk. Extra touch-time. Cuddles. Comfort. Checking you are still there.. just to name a few!

Now what I will say is this;

Many babies do seek to recreate the way they fell asleep at bedtime, to transition from one sleep cycle to the next.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is natural. It is normal.

But, if the “thing” you are finding your child “needs” in the middle of the night is the same thing they required to fall asleep at bedtime, you may want to help them learn to fall asleep in a few different ways, and see what comes of this exploration?!

And as always, I am here if you prefer to make the line a little straighter, and journey to sleep in a way that is a little more concrete. 

XO

Lara

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Should you sing your baby to sleep?

Over the past year my practice in sleep coaching has evolved. I am asking parents to respond to their babies. This means validating their 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 my families avoid.

One of the “things” I kept telling parents to do while settling their babies, was 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 Theodore 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. Low and steady. It seemed to flow from me almost effortlessly.

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 sleep-time 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 I think that is something to honour!

What I started to notice with Theo, 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 researches 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 if they became one! The same effect was not necessarily present just from baby being picked up! But their brain and body seemed to join together over this familiar tune.**

I knew for months that Theo 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 Theo, he got to know me. He got to listen to my voice, and know me as the one who keeps 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. This was largely led by the melodic tune.

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 sounds that are familiar to them.

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 nighttime 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.

Beautiful baby photos with thanks to Stacie-Lynn photography.

 

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Sleep Associations – the good. the bad. the ugly?

You’ve surely heard about them by now..

Sleep associations. The things your baby associates with falling asleep.

Are they negative? Are they positive? Are they causing you to wake up MORE at night than you would be without them?

Good questions, really.

In the world of baby sleep there is a lot of emphasis on sleep associations. There is a lot of emphasis on the way your baby makes the vulnerable transition from awake to asleep. We do know that this transition IS a vulnerable one for a baby to make, and so it is only natural and normal that they would need some help in doing so.

Sleep associations that you hear of often include; pacifier use, or sucking on a bottle to fall asleep, being nursed to sleep, or rocking in the arms of a loved one. Sometimes a baby requires the swing, car, carrier, or stroller, to be able to fall asleep.

I would argue that some of the above can be used in a very positive way to help your baby go to sleep, and this is where I will remind you as I always do.. That if what you are currently doing is working for you, there is absolutely NO REASON to make a change!

Unfortunately, many of the same associations above can become an unsustainable sleep need that families are unable to uphold at every sleep time.

For example; if your baby can only sleep in a car (true of a couple of families I have worked with), this is usually not going to be a sleep association you can sustain for months. If one person always has to drive overnight so a baby can sleep; when will that parent get the sleep that they need to be happy, healthy, and attentive?

In my experience, there are some sleep associations that will ALWAYS be helpful for a family. If your baby learns that these items are associated with preparing for sleep, it is likely going to help you in the long run.

  1. A predictable and loving bedtime routine – we know that babies become great predictors of events. They come to associate their actual routine with going to bed at 9 or 10 months of age after going through the leap of programs. But this is not to say a loving bedtime routine is not a helpful sleep association sooner than this. It is an increased opportunity for connection with babe, and this is always a positive thing!
  2. Bath before bed – a warm bath at the start of your little one’s bedtime routine can be helpful. The bath raises your body’s temperature, and then the almost immediate decrease in temperature after the bath is done helps signal to the body that it is time for sleep. The steeper drop in temperature is more likely to put your little one into a deeper sleep, with the onset of melatonin production.
  3. Massage before bed – Deep pressure calms the nervous system, and babe will love the skin-to-skin, and eye-to-eye, connection time here.
  4. Dark sleep space – we know that our bodies will secrete melatonin in the dark, which is why those blackout blinds are truly important!  
  5. White or pink noise playing consistently – when babies transition through their sleep cycles, we know the first sense to “turn on” is a baby’s auditory sense. If they hear white noise in the background when they fall asleep, as well as, at partial arousals.. There is a small chance they will put themselves back to sleep. It also helps drown out toddler siblings, and neighbourhood noises.
  6. Swaddle or sleeping bag – depending on the age of your babe; these are great signals that sleep is coming. Many babies form a positive association with what they wear to bed, and I have seen my own children rub their cheeks fondly on the shoulder of their sleep sack. Bonus – you’re not second guessing their temperatures in the middle of the night where our body temperature naturally drops.
  7. Reading a book, or singing a song – another beautiful cue that bedtime is coming. When a parent sings or hums the same song on repeat, this often becomes a nice focal point for babe as they transition to sleep.
  8. Mutually beneficial cuddling, rocking, or snuggles – I say “mutually beneficial” because there is usually a time limit here for a parent before they become frustrated that the child is not going to sleep. I usually ask the families that I am working with to snuggle their babies for 5 minutes closely before putting them down for bed. There is a bit of an art to this, but not really one I can write out in full detail in a blog post! You will have to hire me for the elaborate shush pat. Haha.

I often say to the families I am working with this…

If you resent something your child associates with going to sleep, then let’s change it?

For some this means removing one thing the child associates with falling asleep, and offering another connection point instead.

For example; for a family who is having to replug their child’s pacifier multiple times per night, can we introduce a back rub that baby associates with falling asleep instead? Work on adding that in for a few nights, and then sub out the pacifier for a hold and back rub in the middle of the night? Allow baby to express their frustrations in arms with you, but don’t offer false hope if the pacifier is not coming back.  

Or, if baby is used to being bounced back to sleep at every night wake; is there another repetitive motion we can replicate in the crib that is less “hands-on” or labour intensive?

Not all sleep associations are bad. Not in the slightest. Depending how you look at it, maybe none are bad! It is all perspective, and education.

Breastmilk makes babies sleepy. That was designed by nature, and nature makes no mistake. Unfortunately nursing a baby to sleep at bedtime, does not always equal long stretches of sleep through the middle of the night. But it is also not wrong to do in the slightest, and some families are lucky enough to see their babes link up sleep cycles doing this as well.

Try out some other associations with your babe, and see what they think? You might be very surprised to see that they associate something else positively with going to sleep, and it may be something that is more mutually agreeable for the both of you.

Hope that helps give you some ideas, and food for thought.

XO

Lara

Thank you to Stacie-Lynn for the beautiful “feetie” photo shared here. 

 

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Is it time to stop nursing at bedtime?

Nursing your baby to sleep can be a beautiful, joyous time. You know your baby is going down in a peaceful comforted state. Everything is right in the world. And with their warm-cuddly body snuggled in, it can feel like a dream.

But not every family experiences the same relationship with nursing to sleep. Some women feel a bit claustrophobic – knowing they are the only one who is able to put baby to sleep.  Other times it is not going as planned. What used to take 10 minutes is now taking an hour or two, and mom and dad are considering that it might be time for a change. And some babies outright refuse – showing another preferred way of going to sleep after their tummies are full!

Ending the nursing to sleep relationship is a HUGE decision to make. It is really not black and white, as so many people might make it out to be. When a family works with me and they are considering ending this way of putting their child to sleep, these are some of the questions I ask them to reflect on.

Through reflection, conversation with friends, family, and especially your partner, my hope is that you will decide if it is the right time to make a change or not.

1.     What do you love about nursing to sleep?

2.     How do you feel majority of the time you are nursing your baby at night?

3.     Are you the only one who can put your child to sleep at night? How does that make you feel?

4.     Are you getting the rest you need to be the type of parent you wish to be?

5.     Is there a part of nursing your child to sleep that you don’t enjoy?

6.     Are there people in your life who are supportive of nursing your child to sleep? Of your breastfeeding journey?

7.     Is there pressure from your partner, friends, or family, to stop nursing your baby at night?

8.     What is your number one reason, or motivation, for no longer nursing your baby to sleep at night, or in the middle of the night?

9.     Are there parts of nursing in the middle of the night that you sincerely enjoy?

10. What do you wish your nighttime sleep looked like?

11. What is the feeling that would come up for you if you woke up tomorrow and could no longer nurse your baby to sleep?

12. If your baby rejected nursing at bedtime, or in the middle of the night as a result of changes you initiated – how would this make you feel?

Just because you’re weaning nursing to sleep at bedtime does not mean you need to end nursing in the middle of the night, wean daytime nursing sessions, or even stop nursing to sleep at nap time. There are many different ways that you can go about this transition, in order to make it a success for both you, and your entire family. And honestly, if you need more support on weaning breastfeeding a great person to reach out to is a board certified lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding educator. If you’d like a referral, I know a couple of great ones worth talking to.

XO

Lara

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