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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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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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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 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 

 

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Going, Going, Almost Gone! Transitioning from 2 Naps to 1

Many people say that the first year is the hardest, but does it ever get ‘easier’?!

Spoiler alert. NOPE! ha.

Just when you think you’ve got it all down pat, your kiddo is going to throw another transition in and send you through a loop. Your children will continue to change in all kinds of ways because they are simply not done growing. It is hard but.. at least it is interesting?! ha.

Getting down to 1 nap tends to be a bit of a difficult transition. For most children, this could happen anytime between 12 and 18 months, and it may take upwards of a month to get this new routine into place. The average age most children transition is 15 months from my experience.

As with all changes, your child must be ready for this one too. You may notice a period where you are stuck in limbo as 2 naps feels like too much but 1 is not quite enough. You will have to be patient and flexible as your well-loved super routine nap schedule, starts to look like the hot mess express!

What are some signs your child may be ready?

  • They are getting 10.5 to 12 hours of consolidated sleep each night

  • Your child is playing through their nap time or is taking a very long time to fall asleep

  • Their morning nap is getting longer, and they are resistant to a second nap

  • They are taking a shorter morning nap and seem very content until a later afternoon nap.

Any or all of these things should be happening majority of the time (i.e. more than 4 days in a week) before you try to make the switch. One-offs happen, so don’t jump too quickly into this transition. Moving too quickly to one nap can add more challenges to your overnight sleep. Super long awake windows during the day.. an unbalanced day essentially.. tends to lead to long wide awake periods overnight as well, and it is something to move into with cautious optimism.

For those with their little ones in daycare, talk with your provider about their nap schedule; make sure you work with them to determine a routine that works for YOUR child, not just one of convenience.

If your child is ready to transition down to 1 nap, here are some steps to follow:

  • You can begin by capping your child’s morning nap to protect two naps as long as possible. Some of my clients will have their baby nap for 1 hour, 45 mins, or even just 30 mins in the morning to ensure their child still takes a decent nap in the afternoon. This can help prolong the transition until your child is a little older; which usually makes this transition a bit easier to make.

If it is clear the nap needs to go, even after some careful capping experimentations..

  • For the first 2 days, start with a morning nap around 11 a.m. If this nap is short, try to encourage them back to sleep or offer a second short nap later in the afternoon (an emergency plan-B nap in the carseat for example).

  • On days 3 and 4, push the morning nap a little later, maybe 11:15-ish.

  • On days 5 and 6, push the morning nap a little later again, maybe 11:30-ish.

  • Continue gradually moving the nap later each day until you reach an early afternoon time between 12 – 12:30 p.m.

Most children will continue to take 1 nap per day until they are well into their preschool years. This nap tends to stay around 12:30 – 2:30/3:00 pm for quite a long time, with 5 – 6 hour awake windows on either side of this nap each day.

Many kiddos reject their nap around age 2 for a little while.. this is totally normal, and a few skipped naps does not necessarily mean your child is done napping! Continue to offer quiet time, rest time, and honour your child’s need for mid-day sleep most days of the week, and you are likely to see the nap return sooner than later.

I hope this helps! And as always, if you do need more focused or 1:1 support as you make your way through this transition, I would be happy to help you. Reach out to lara@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com.

XO

Lara

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Surviving Sleep Over the Holidays

I just got off the phone with my accountant. We were planning our next meeting, and she informed me that Christmas is just over 2 weeks away! Umm… excuse me?! How did this happen?

I felt my heart pound a little harder. The air got a little foggy.. And my throat started to tighten up ever so slightly.

I can’t be the only one who suffers from holiday related anxiety? So much to do. So little time.

Don’t forget to move the elf! Stocking stuffers.. Haven’t even started on those! Where are Grandma and Grandpa going to sleep?! The turkey takes how long in the microwave?

(kidding)

This could arguably be the busiest time of the year. It seems like we are trying to plan a year’s worth of get togethers into the month of December. There are many dinners, way too many desserts, hot chocolates aplenty, light displays, and the like. It is hectic, and if you are a parent to a sensitive child, all of these extra events can increase everyone’s stress levels.

Accommodating your child’s sleep needs over the holidays can be a real challenge. And not every family member will understand your “type A ways” and join you on your suggestion to swap Christmas eve cocktails, for a Christmas eve brunch that better suits everyone’s sleep needs.

So what can we do to survive the next few weeks?

Step 1: Try to get everyone to change their plans to suit you!

I know.. You thought I was joking above about the Christmas Eve brunch thing, but if your family is flexible maybe this is the year to swap a dinner for a breakfast instead. We all get to enjoy each other’s company while we are well rested, and everyone likes a mimosa… am I right?

Step 2: Relax and try to go with the flow..

Okay, so they are not quite as open minded as you had hoped. Well, you are going to have to just relax a bit. If your child goes to bed late just one night out of 7, all hell is not going to break loose for the most part. If they have two car-seat naps on the way to and from visiting family, it is also not the end of the world. Try to live like the other half do for a few days and resist the urge to schedule your child’s every move. I know.. Easier said than done for some of us. But, remind yourself that your track record for getting through really difficult days is 100% so far!

Step 3: Resist the urge to be at EVERYthing..

Are there some events that you might want to pass on to save your child from being crazy over-stimulated, and you needing 10 or more rum and egg nogs just to have a good time? It is okay to say no, sometimes. You know your child best and if they are truly very time-sensitive, you might have to skip a few get togethers this year. Remind yourselves (and your friends), that it won’t always be this way. Children tend to be more adaptable to changes in their sleep schedules the older they become, and this is a year you just have to sit one or two events out.

Step 4: Try to set your child up for sleep success in a different space..

For many families, this can be done. If your child has some pretty solid sleep skills already, they may very well be able to go down to sleep in their pack and play at Aunt Louise’s house while everyone else eats an 8:00 pm Christmas dinner. You know your child best, and whether or not this might be a possibility for you. 

Step 5: Embrace the chaos, and try to find your calm.

Remember, this too shall pass. In a few weeks everything is going to be back to normal-ish. Well, despite the fact that there will be 50% more people at the gym, and a line-up at the bottle return depot.

And a special reminder for the friends and family who don’t remember, don’t know what it is like to have small children, or just want to be super supportive. 

Try to empathize with us right now. We really wish we could be at your “thing”. We really wish we didn’t have to leave earlier than everyone else. We really wish a babysitter was a possibility right now, or that our child didn’t need to hold our hand every single time they fell asleep. But this is the reality of where we are at. So please, offer us your patience, kindness, and support as we navigate the highs and lows of this holiday season with little ones in tow. And share with us that you are here to help however you are needed, and only offer “what worked for you” if you are asked.

Merry Christmas all, and happy holidays to you and yours!

XO

Lara

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Supporting Baby Through Separation Anxiety

Recently my two year old has been making requests for mom and dad to stay with him at bedtime. I am not surprised! We’ve been through the “peak in separation anxiety” thing a few times already.. and at age 2, this tends to come back one more time. Aren’t sleep regressions fun?! ha.

The first time we see this in babies is typically at 9 months, and I think it is the most surprising because it is new, and different. By the time we experience a second peak in separation anxiety around 18 months, we are usually able to communicate more with baby, and work through it together. And at age 2, my son has many words he can use to tell me more about what he needs to feel safe and secure for sleep. Words are the best!

Remember the concept of object permanence? This is learning that objects exist even when we can’t see them? While this new intellectual skill is a vital part of your child’s development, it is also one of the root causes of separation anxiety.

But if my child knows I exist even when they can’t see me, what’s the big deal?

Your child now has a mental picture of you forever in their mind and, unfortunately, babies learn about people leaving before they learn about people returning, and it is between the ages of 9 and 18 months that separation anxiety will typically peak.

Dealing with separation anxiety can be a challenge for both parents and children, but there are a few things you can do to help you through:

  • Create a secure relationship with your child. Focus on active play, building trust, and responding to their cries.

  • Allow your child time to play independently (although be within sight to ensure safety, and practice distancing yourself for short periods of time).

  • Communicate with your child: Tell them you are leaving but assure them that you will be back. Come back when you say you will. This also builds trust.

  • Read books about characters and animals who leave the home, and return again.

  • Introduce new people and places gradually; it takes time to build relationships.

  • Introduce a transitional object such as a blanket or special toy that can be comforting when you are away from one another.

  • Keep goodbyes brief.

For bedtime troubles, comfort and reassure your child that you are there for them. When they are ready for sleep, some gentle back rubs or hand holding can help to soothe your child and bring back those easy bedtimes.

I know we are often worried about creating a, “bad habit”, in place of a habit that we have worked hard to create such as; going to sleep independently. But remember, one of the first stages of developing secure attachments is proximity. Children will return to this phase, and not graduate to the next stage of attachment until their needs have been met in the stage that they are in, and they feel safe and secure. It is normal for our children to need more support through these times in development.

As our children develop, they will eventually learn that separations from their parents (whether they be daycare or bedtime) are not permanent. This too is another stage that can be incredibly difficult and pull on your parental heart strings, but remember that it is a normal stage of development in building healthy, secure children, and one that does show your child’s development is right on track.

I encourage you to chat with me more if there is anything I can do to help you through bedtime challenges you are experiencing in your home. I would be more than happy to help.

XO

Lara

And as always, thank you to @stacielynnphotography for the beautiful image you see here.

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Medical Issues Related to Sleep

Is your child having difficulty sleeping night after night? Have you tried different methods of coaching your child to a good nights sleep and nothing seems to be working?

If your child is PERSISTENTLY struggling with sleep, there may be something larger at play for them. The key word though is “persistent”.

There are a number of reasons why your little one may experience a sudden change in their sleep habits – a growth spurt, illness, behavioural/emotional changes (ie. anxiety, changes in family dynamics) etc. Typically though, sleep disturbances such as these are temporary, and they can be remedied with different strategies to reduce the behaviour. If you are experiencing persistent troubles though, a checkup with your family physician is a really good idea.

Sleep disorders in children and adolescents, even infants, are more common than you may think. They can also be caused by underlying medical issues that are not likely to respond to behavioural techniques and may require some sort of additional treatment. Some examples include:

  • Sleep apnea

  • Insomnia

  • Restless Leg Syndrome

  • Nightmares and/or Night Terrors

  • Narcolepsy

  • Delayed Sleep Phase

  • Sleep Walking

  • Teeth Grinding

  • Iron deficiency

Anytime your child struggles with sleep, it will have a profound effect on their behaviour and will undoubtedly affect everyone else in the family too. Before assuming the worst, try out some of the best sleep tricks out there:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine, and try not to vary from it.

  • Incorporate relaxing elements such as a warm bath, songs, or story time.

  • For separation issues, try an extra-long cuddle before bedtime or a security like a blanket or favourite stuffed animal.

 For toddlers and/or older children:

  • Eliminate caffeine or sugary foods close to bedtime.

  • Limit screen time in the 90 minutes before bed.

When in doubt, definitely consult your family doctor or pediatrician. You may find their first suggestion is to “sleep train”, or let your baby “cry-it-out”. But, if these sleep challenges have been incredibly persistent for your family, you may also need to be persistent with your medical professional and press for answers.

And if your family doctor seems wary to offer sleep advice, do consider seeking out a naturopathic doctor who specializes in pediatrics, and/or sleep disturbances. I can think of a few good ones to recommend.

XO

Lara

And as always, a huge thank you to my friend www.stacielynnphotography.ca for sharing this image you see here, and many others on my website.