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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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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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The Baby Sleep Dictionary A to Z

If you are thinking about hiring a sleep coach of any kind… you have probably spent some time perusing websites. In the Vancouver area, you have a lot of different options for sleep consultants, and I know at first glance.. We may all seem the same.

Recently, I joined a family in their home at bedtime. Prior to working with me, they worked with another consultant. It turned out that it was not a great fit on both sides, but what I learned when I was with them was that it was the keywords used on this person’s website that swayed them. Holistic, gentle, guided, etc etc.. But, the approach they received was quite different than what they expected.

Lucky for me, they watched a ton of my videos, read all of my blogs, and decided they would take a chance on me! And so far, I think… so good. 😉

What I thought might have helped these new parents, was having the words that commonly appear on infant sleep coaches sites, defined. So.. voila! A new BLOG is born.

Attachment friendly – the sleep coach is claiming to have an understanding of attachment theory, infant mental health, and emotional wellness. This consultant should be familiar with the stages of healthy attachment, attachment theory, theorists, and developmental psychology. They will likely be familiar with attachment parenting as well, and what is important to attachment parents.

Behavioural Modifications – essentially anything that is done to change a child’s natural sleep behaviours. This may include sleep training, or sleep learning, or sleep shaping. But may also not involve all 3. You’ll read more about these methodologies below.

Breastfeeding friendly – this consultant will respect your wishes to continue breastfeeding during the day, as well as, at night. They will ask you about your breastfeeding experience and wishes for extended breastfeeding or feeding to natural term. You may be lucky enough to find a consultant who is also IBCLC certified, or next best, a lactation educator.

Certified Sleep Consultant – this person has completed some kind of sleep certification process. These vary widely in nature. A franchise may “certify” all of their consultants so that they appear to be more professional. All the consultants whom have the same certification as myself, have come at sleep consulting with a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. Just because someone is “certified” in the same certification as another consultant, does not mean they practice sleep coaching in the same way. 

Controlled Crying – leaving a baby alone to cry, in intervals of 5, 10 or 15 mins, most commonly. Touch, eye contact, and connection are extremely limited on checks. May also be referred to as the “Ferber” method, or “The Sleep Wave”.

Cry-it-out – crying until sleep ensues, alone, or with checks at timed intervals.

Developmentally Appropriate – will choose methodologies that are “age appropriate”. Different consultants have different views on what is developmentally appropriate. Some believe feeding at night can end at 4 months of age, others believe that all infants can sleep thru the night by 6 months, and will encourage your baby to do the same. What is deemed “developmentally appropriate” may differ from the family’s wishes, but also may be supportive of a family’s wishes.

Extinction – crying alone, until sleep ensues, no exceptions. Often this requires closing the door at 7 pm and not entering a child’s room again for 12 hours.

Ferber – Used as an adjective to describe controlled crying approaches. This behavioural modification process was popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber. The method is most similar to controlled crying as defined above. Baby cries with check ins from their caregiver, at timed intervals, which lengthen.

Gentle – a buzzword at best. What you see as gentle, may be very different from your consultant’s viewpoint.

Gradual Retreat – This is the act of sitting beside your baby while they learn to fall asleep independently. They will cry. You comfort them with key phrases, and some occasional touch. Baby is not left alone to cry, but may also not be responded to physically or emotionally depending on where you are in your plan, and who created it for you! The place you sit moves further and further from your child’s crib with every few passing nights.

Holistic – This is the belief sleep does not exist in and of itself, and that lack of sleep is a family issue, rather than a child issue. A holistic infant sleep coach will look at all aspects of nutrition, timing, family relationship, etc., in determining best solutions to help your family sleep more.

Infant Sleep Educator – A person who works solely as an ISE will not do any behavioural modification. Rather than seeing your child’s sleep as a “problem” to solve, they will look for solutions to help you as a family function better. They will help you find the goal that exists behind the goal.

Parenting to sleep – helping your baby ALL the way to sleep in some way, shape or form. Rocking to sleep, holding to sleep, dancing them down, cuddling, or patting. 

Respectful – This consultant is claiming to respect you, your child, and your wishes for your relationship with your child.

Responsive – This consultant is expecting you to respond to your child at night. To respond to their physical needs, and their emotional needs, no matter the hour of the day. You will get to go into your child if you feel it is necessary.

Self Soothing – A popular claim that is made is that babies must learn to “self soothe” in order to sleep through the night. Depending on your definition of the term, this may or may not be possible. I think of self soothing as defined as; being able to calm the self, or regulate emotion – two things infants are not capable of doing. See this blog, here. 

Sleep Learning – fancy word for sleep training 😉

Sleep Shaping – May also be another fancy word for sleep training, but also may be the idea of modifying your child’s sleep, nudging them along, rather than making abrupt changes. This is most commonly what I do. I will nudge a child towards more sleep, when they appear ready to make some changes, and parents feel calm, and collected about what they are doing.

Sleeping thru the night – the idea that your child will sleep all night, with little to no interference needed by you. Sleeping thru the night may be defined by some consultants as 5 hours of consecutive sleep, while others may claim to help you achieve 11 – 12 hours of consolidated nighttime sleep. 

Sleep Training – Most commonly this is referred to as modifying the way your child sleeps using behavioural changes. The most common sleep training techniques are controlled crying, or gradual retreat.

Sleep Wave – This is another sleep training technique that has gained more popularity in the last year. This is similar to controlled crying, or the Ferber approach, except the timed intervals never exceed 5 mins.

SLS (Sleep Lady Shuffle) – a term coined by Kim West, the certified “gentle sleep coach” herself. The technique in her book is a gradual retreat form of behaviour modification. Moving further and further away from your child, as they are able to fall asleep more independently essentially.

Timed checks – Once again, another way to say controlled crying, ferber, sleep wave, etc.. etc.. 😉

… and I am sure there are more! If you want to comment with one you have heard, and I can update the post.. I would be happy to. But these are the ones that I see most commonly. 
 

And as always, thank you to @stacielynnphotography for supplying me with oodles of cute baby photos to support my blogs. <3 

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Consulting on middle ground…

If you’re feeling lost when it comes to your next move in the sleep department. Just know, you are not alone. Well.. clearly you’re not alone. Everywhere you look you’ve got advice on how or what to do to change your baby’s sleep patterns.

It is no secret. I help families get their babies to sleep MORE for a living. Yes, this means more than might be “biologically normal”. Yes, this might mean more than perhaps a baby should sleep.. depending on who you talk to. But the truth of the matter is..

Someone has got to do it.

And yes. That someone, is me.

When I see baby sleep advice on the internet – I cringe. Probably not for the reasons you might think, but because of how polarizing people can be on this topic.

You’re damned if you sleep train, and you’re damned if you don’t.

This is the message I see repeating time and time again.

The competitions as well. OH EM GEE. Just stop!

We’ve got the sleep trainers.. Or sleep shapers.. Or sleep learners.. Or sleep nudgers.. Whatever you want to call them!

“Well I never had to do ANY kind of sleep training and my baby slept perfectly from 10 weeks on. We just never fed to sleep.”

“We started with strict scheduling from birth and it worked PERFECTLY for us, and we had 3 sleeping babies by 12 weeks because of it.”

“I let him cry. It was awful. He vomited. We all cried. But it worked, and it was the BEST thing we ever did for us and our son!”

And then the other side…

“We would NEVER ever sleep train our baby. Our hearts could never take it! We don’t want him to feel abandoned.”

“It would break me into a million pieces to hear him cry for even 5 seconds. We breastfeed and co-sleep all night long. It’s what works for us.”

About 9 months ago I made a firm decision that I would no longer support families using any form of “cry-it-out” sleep training.

Since many people define “cry-it-out” differently, I will offer you my cole’s notes definition.

To me this method is defined as – any period of leaving your baby alone to cry. I’ve got my reasons why I practice in this way, and if you’re curious.. You can read more about how I came to this decision here.

But since I officially came out about my stance, people have been REALLY curious about what I do. Like. Really curious.

A “sleep trainer” who doesn’t do CIO? Is she the answer to our prayers?! (haha.. I put that in there for me. But yes, I might just be).

But seriously, every day I get questions about what I do and how EXACTLY I do it.

Because you know what, what I do.. Is really freaking hard to do! And it DOES not exist in a book. It really does not. I can tell you. I’ve read 29 different sleep books and have yet to see my methodologies anywhere (yes – enter writing a book into 2018’s to-do list).

And I understand the curiosity.

When I was a sleep deprived mom, I think I was THE hungriest mom for sleep information. Seriously. I digested every single thing I could get my hands-on, by anyone who seemed to know what they were talking about on this subject.

^^ and that, my friends.. Is how I learned to do what I am doing now. By reading ALL OF IT. And then actually being so lucky as to have people actually trust me to try it with their babies (thank you guys!!).  

Today a mom in a facebook group asked me a question after I made this statement…

There are ways we can help our babies learn to sleep in different ways, while still being physically and emotionally available to them.

And her question to follow was this…

“But how can you be emotionally and physically supportive without having the baby cry?”

Fair question – right?

And here is where I realized we as a society have a problem.

I feel sometimes like I am the ONLY person who is trying to merge the gap between the sleep trainers, and those who support natural, biological, parenting choices.

It is a big hole to fill some days. And no, I’m not prepared to give the secrets that I have spent the last 3 years learning, away for free.

But the question above.. I would like to answer.

How can we be emotionally and physically supportive of our babies while they are learning to sleep in a different way?

That is how I would reframe the question.

Tears are not necessarily the enemy, my friends. Baby’s cry. They do.

But I would argue that tears in the arms of a loving and supportive caregiver can be healing.

Think about when you have a GOOD cry. Like a disgusting, ugly, snot flying out of your nose, cry. And your partner puts their arms around you and says, “I don’t know exactly why you are feeling the way you are feeling right now, but I want to be here to support you.”

^^ that my friends, is being physically and emotionally supportive. That is healing. 

As a society we see good babies as the ones who are not crying. We see good parents as the ones who can stop their babies from crying the fastest.

But I would love if we could shift our thinking to this….

GOOD babies are ALL of the babies. Because. #babiesareawesome

GOOD parents are the ones who are TRYING to support their babies in whatever way they feel THEY should at that particular moment based on their intuition and instinct.

And really, it is OKAY for people to want to change a pattern of behaviour that is not serving them, and is not allowing them to be the parent they hoped they would be.

If what you are doing now in the sleep department is not physically and emotionally sustainable for YOU, then we have some work we could do together.

Because ultimately, you do have to put the oxygen mask on yourself FIRST, if you are going to wake up and love on that GOOD baby as much as you want to love on them.

When we support our friends we could be saying, “Is there something about what you are doing now that is just not sustainable for you? Something that HAS to change?”

What if we focused on THAT little piece of information, rather than the cry-it-out, don’t cry-it-out, debate.. And saw what we came up with as a result.

You might just find an “in the middle” starting off point for you and your baby. 

And if you’d prefer to save yourself the trial and error of what Suzie, and Sally did first, then please holler at me. I’d like to help make the line from sleepless nights, to more-sleep nights, a lot clearer for you. 

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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Just a thank you.. I think.

This year was a game changer for me.

It would appear that each of my children has been a catalyst in my understanding of baby sleep. Moving and shifting everything I thought I knew about it.

This year with Theo was no exception.

I truly hoped that this baby would be my, “sleeper”. It turns out – I don’t make those kind.. And reading 29 different infant sleep books is in NO WAY a guarantee that you will produce a sleeping baby! So no, I’m not going for the 3rd in hopes of seeing what it is like to have a magic unicorn who sleeps 12 hours by 12 weeks. I’ve seen them in my practice. They exist. Ha. They just don’t exist in the Rabb household.

I think it was a good exercise for me to relive the same level of sleep deprivation I suffered with my first. To be honest, I think I slept less with Theo than I did with Halle, but I worried about it less! And that helped A LOT! I had lots of people rooting for me.. And I believed his sleep was absolutely normal – just infant like – and not as a result of me being a f*ck up of a mom. That was a nice place to be.

There were nights where I felt like I was playing whack-a-mole. Walking the halls, diving into my bed, just to be woken the moment my head hit the pillow to attend to one of the two. With my husband travelling the world doing exploration geology, I truly felt there were nights I maybe slept 2 minutes, only to wake up and repeat it all the next day.

Nighttime parenting is never easy. Of course I would rather be in my bed, asleep. I love sleep. I value sleep. I feel like I cannot function without it. Probably what led me to this little “side gig” in the first place.

There were times where I was tempted to turn off the monitor and just let my baby cry. Times where I thought – “you’re just crying in my arms again.. What is the point?!” But somehow, I persevered.

Well – there was that one night I forgot to turn the monitor on. It also happened to be the first time he slept 7 hours.. I think?! Oops!

But really, I pushed on. I knew that when the time was right for him (and me), we would work together and he would become a beautiful sleeper.

But really, true sleep deprivation is no joke.

Okay, I don’t know what the point of this blog post is. I am down a rabbit hole I think. Will I be able to get myself out?

What was starting off as a “thank you” of sorts, is now taking a turn in typical Lara fashion.

But really. Thank you to every family who followed along with me this year. Who watched me navigate sleep deprivation for the second time. Who watched me wake with my son, attend to my daughter, and cheered me on through the highs and lows of raw motherhood.

Thank you for reading my blogs, sharing them, watching my stupid stories on instagram, and liking my posts.

This was a year where I felt a true connection with the community I am serving, and that I started to just be regular, old, me.. In all aspects of the sleep work I do, and in my personal life as well.

Maybe I’m just getting older.

Maybe I’m just more comfortable as a mom.

Maybe I’m just getting more comfortable with the uncomfortableness that is baby sleep, when you’re not trying to control every aspect of it.

Maybe it is having a strong village, even if they mostly exist on the internet.

But I loved 2017. I am proud of everything Heavy Eyes Happy Hearts has become this year, and I have YOU to thank for being alongside me.

So thank you for being with me, trusting me, and watching me sort this all out.

This little business is starting to feel bigger than me. And that is a pretty exciting place to be.

XO

Lara

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STOP Shaming Tired Moms

If you’ve been following me a while you probably know that I am not your average baby “sleep trainer”. I actually try to achieve as much sleep as possible without initiating any formal sleep training.

Ultimately, I work with families and we shift behavior, yes. I have been known to nudge a baby or two to a better night’s sleep. But I want the process to feel more natural, more normal, and in-line with a baby’s unique temperament, a family’s unique needs, and their desire for a strong attachment with their infants.

Every time I do a consultation I ask families a variety of questions. One I ask the most often is..

Why does this have to change? Why is your current scenario one that is not sustainable? Why do we have to make some changes here today?

I let parents blurt out whatever is in their heart at that given moment.. and I hear a lot of different things.

“We are not sleeping. We are not functioning. We are not able to be the parents we hoped we would be because of this lack of sleep.”

“If something doesn’t change soon we are going to lose our patience and we are just going to let her cry-it-out, which is something we don’t want to do.”

Most often, it is the parents wanting to make a change so that they can parent the way they had imagined. So that they can move on from sleep being the ONLY focus of every day, so that they can begin to lift above the cloud of sleep deprivation and enjoy their baby more.

But sometimes, they are worried about their baby too.

“I’m worried she is not getting enough sleep for her physical and emotional development.”

“I know he is supposed to be getting more sleep than this, and I feel like we are doing him a disservice because we can’t get him to sleep more than he does.”

“We are worried that his body is not getting the rest it needs in order to thrive.”

“We are worried that she will be behind her peers if she doesn’t begin to sleep well.”

Now.. I am not here to say that sleep is not important.

Sleep we know is very important.

Without sleep, our bodies do not restore and recover. Our cells regenerate in our sleep, and we rid our bodies of toxins to make space for new connections in our brains.

But here is the thing… almost every single baby I have worked with is thriving. THRIVING. They may wake up 5 – 7 times per night. They may take 2 x 20 minute naps in a day. But you know what, these babies are THRIVING.

They are weighing in at amazing weights. They are healthy. They are whole. They are reaching all of their developmental milestones right on cue! They are reaching new heights, babbling new words, and creating connections each and every day before their parents’ eyes. And they are securely attached to their caregivers, and loved beyond measure.

Yet somehow these parents have been made to believe that their children are inadequate? That their child is not thriving because they are up more than 1 or 2 times a night to tend to their needs? And that they are failing because they are not getting them the calculated number of hours of sleep as recommended by some book, or some blog somewhere that may or may not know the first thing about their infant.

So. Can we stop?!

Can we just stop this mom guilt, motha f*ckin shame?! PLEASE!

I’m on a rant. It is true.

But I want the world of “baby sleep professionals”, wherever you may be, to stop selling your packages by guilting parents into believing they are screwing up their children.

Yes. I am probably going to get some backlash on this one.. but I really can’t take it a minute longer.

I tell every parent I meet this – Yes I want your baby to sleep more.. but that is because I want YOU to get more sleep. YOU are the one who is not thriving here. YOU are the one who is tired beyond what you can take. YOU are the one who feels like you are barely making it through the day.

But LOOK at your baby!!!!!!!

Are we looking at the same baby?! Because the baby I see here right before my eyes is a happy, healthy, beautiful, interesting, dynamic, chubby, cute, and securely attached little infant. Your baby is perfectly fine – and somehow she is getting the sleep she needs.

Yes, she may be on your boob all night. But – that girl right there.. she is looking pretty damn rested. Ha! It is YOU who has the bags under your eyes. (Okay.. so.. I don’t say the last part, but.. you know what I mean!)

I come at this honestly, friends.

As some of you may know if you’ve been following my stories on instagram, my son has a slight developmental delay in gross motor development. It is very small – and I won’t begin to pretend for a second that I know about the struggles other moms face as they work through their children’s physical and emotional delays.

I look at my son, and I also see a beautiful, thriving, 14 month old, baby boy. He may just be learning to crawl. His legs give out beneath him every time he tries to stand, and his core strength needs a little work. We are hoping he will have a 6 pack by next Christmas if we keep up with his regular physio schedule. 😉

But here is the thing. My baby. He sleeps.

He lives with me. He never had a choice! Ha.

The kid sleeps 11 straight hours at night, and takes 2 x 1.5 hour naps each day. That is MORE than the average 14 month old.

Could I get him more sleep if I tried?

No. I really do not think I could possibly get him any more sleep than he gets currently.

If I did get him more sleep, would he have been more likely to meet his previous gross motor developmental skills on time?!

No. I really don’t think that has had anything to do with it. The kid has slept very well most of his life.

He is who he is, and I love him dearly for that.

But he is going to do things when his body is ready and prepared to do so. I will be right there cheering and nudging him along as best I can, but ultimately, it is his body’s choice when he will walk.

And to me. Sleep has very little to do with the equation.

So celebrate your babies for all they are my friends. The sleepy ones, and the sleepless wonders. They are perfectly designed for you. And they are thriving.

XO

Lara

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Transitioning Your Child to their Own Sleep Space

Where should your baby sleep? Crib, co-sleeper, bed, bassinet, DockAtot?! The possibilities are endless. And although you swore up and down while expecting that you would NEVER end up with a baby in your bed, we all know how that sometimes plays out!

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that a baby sleep in a crib in their parent’s room for the first 6 months of their life. They define this as “co-sleeping”, I however, define this as “room-sharing”, and tend to think of co-sleeping as truly having your baby share the bed with one or more parent through some part of the day or night.

Now before you think I am going to write a blog shaming you for co-sleeping, continue reading. Ha! That would never be my intention because really, I don’t give a f*ck where your family sleeps. I don’t sleep in your bed, so.. why would I care? I trust that you have made a decision that fits your family’s lifestyle, and that if you have decided to co-sleep; you are of course following all precautions to do so safely such as those listed here.

What this article is about is HOW to prepare your child to sleep in their own room, and in their own crib, when that time comes. Do you just decide one night that this is how it will be? Rip off the band-aid and let er fly?!

I am going to go with… No… I always think, what would the baby prefer? How can we adjust baby to a new scenario in a way that is most natural, and more likely to invoke a positive response?

Step 1: Begin Building a Positive Room Association

Essentially this means playing with your child in their new sleep space. Make a focused effort to go to this room a few times per day. Bring some of your baby or toddler’s favourite toys, and enjoy the space together. Play on the floor. Offer them your focused attention. Read some stories, and sing some songs in their new room. Do this for at least a couple of days, before moving on to the next step. 10 or 15 minutes twice per day tends to be a good guideline in terms of spending focused time.

Step 2: Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Crib or Bed

If this is a place your baby has never slept before, it may be completely foreign to them. If you have seen your baby go into their crib and immediately burst into tears upon hitting the mattress, it is pretty safe to say they have no clue what this space is for, and whether or not they should trust it! Let’s get them comfortable here.

We want our babies to see their crib as a safe haven. Therefore, when they do wake up through the middle of the night they know where they are. They trust that this is a place they like and enjoy, and can spend a few minutes looking around and relaxing in before they fall asleep, as well as, return to sleep through partial arousals in the night.

Follow the same ritual as you did in preparing your child for their new room. Allow your child to PLAY in their crib. I know I know… some of you are saying, but I want her to SLEEP in her crib, why on earth would I let her play in it?! Isn’t that just going to teach her that this space is for playing in? No. No it is not. For the reasons listed above! We want this to become one of your child’s favourite, most comfortable places, and one way to achieve this is through play.

At first, stay with your child and truly entertain them. Bring them toys, read them books while they are in their crib, sing songs etc. Then begin to build up your time away. Begin to do something in your child’s room. For example; fold laundry, or begin going through their closet and sort the clothes that no longer fit! When your baby babbles, go over to the crib and babble back. Show your love and support and that you will always be there to check on them. They can feel safe knowing you are always going to respond to their needs while they are in their crib.

Next, move on to the step of leaving your child to play in their crib for a few minutes at a time. Say, “mommy is just going to go get a glass of water, or check on brother, etc,” you get the idea. Leave the room but stay within earshot. Do return as you promised you would, and babble back at baby. At first you may just leave the room for 30 – 45 seconds, but see if you can grow this to 2 or 3 minutes, and even up to 5. Every return to your baby shows them that they can in fact trust you, and you mean what you say in terms of offering them support.

If you are planning to do any “sleep shaping” with your little one, I see the above as an essential step in preparing them for this; especially for a child who has never slept in their crib. Wait until you are in a place of putting your baby down in their crib and they immediately smile and coo, etc., before you begin your sleep coaching regime. You will probably save you and your baby A LOT of tears!

Step 3: Baby Already Knows their Bed

If your baby has already been sleeping in their crib in your room, and has a positive relationship with this space your job is much easier. After spending some time on step 1, I would suggest moving your baby’s crib to their room for at least one nap, before expecting them to sleep all night in this space. There is really no need to juggle back and forth between having naps in their new room, and then nighttime back in your room. Just aim to have afternoon nap here, followed by bedtime the same day. Pick a day and time when you feel you and baby are ready, and commit 100% to your baby’s new sleep space. You have spent some time allowing your baby the chance to become accustomed to their new space, and you can support them here. But, it would be unfair to juggle back and forth between rooms, or even bring your child back into your bed at this particular time.

Step 4: Don’t Hesitate to Stay Nearby

Even if your child is accustomed to falling asleep without your presence, don’t hesitate to stay nearby on the first few nights baby is sleeping in their new room. Some parents decide to offer support by sitting on a chair in their child’s room until baby falls asleep, or even sleeping on an air-mattress on the floor for the first couple of nights. It is really up to you.

After all, this is all about YOU, your baby, and YOUR family. Of course I am happy to offer suggestions as to how we might help this all go more smoothly, but at the end of the day all that matters is that your family is happy with your sleep situation.

If you’re not… perhaps then it is time to see if I can help find a customized solution for you.

XO

Lara

Thank you to Stacie-Lynn Photography for the beautiful photo I used to showcase this blog. <3

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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.