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Why is my toddler doing this?! The beginning of boundary setting.

The transition from babyhood to toddlerhood happens seemingly overnight. Your child becomes more capable, curious, and communicative. They are ready and (almost) able to tackle things they previously could not do (choose their clothing, pick their own breakfast, select their shoes, decide on the route to the car, etc.) and are willing to go to great lengths to coerce (force) you into letting them show you.

Toddlers crave autonomy – they want to be an active participant in their life. Gone are the days where you can grab the first thing your hand reaches in the closet, pop them into that, put shoes and a coat on, grab the diaper bag and head out the door. Now you are entering negotiating territory – you finally get her dressed with cajoling, bribery, and maybe even a threat or two about taking away a coveted toy but then there are the shoes. She flat out refuses the shoes and the coat for that matter. You start to see red and wonder how your sweet cooperative little tyke has become so defiant?!

Take a deep breath.

Everything described above is completely NORMAL toddler behaviour.

Toddlers want to feel like they have a sense of control over their lives. They want to know that they have a say in things. The terrible twos are simply toddlers who are becoming more independent and parents who aren’t ready (or haven’t realized the need) to provide a little more freedom. So where do we go from here?

Boundaries. Boundaries with a (BIG) dollop of consistency are what will help you maintain your sanity while parenting your toddler. And the amazing part is, the more time and work you put into it now, the more benefits you reap when they are older.

Boundaries are an integral component of raising a happy, healthy, and emotionally well-adjusted child. These secure boundaries help create predictability to everyday routines and reduce child anxiety and uncertainty. These limits support children in discovering what is acceptable and what is not so that they can develop self-regulation, self-discipline and self-control skills.

A child’s brain is not fully developed; therefore they should not be given the responsibility of making big decisions. It is important to consider each child’s unique stage of development when determining where to set that limit. What is an appropriate level of choice for them?

So what is the first step that you can take to try and find harmony in your home again? Think about the limits that you set, and then challenge them! Why is this a rule? What happens if we didn’t have this limit? What is my child learning from me preventing this activity? How will my child benefit if I were to let her do it?

Some boundaries that you have in place will be there for a reason; these are primarily safety boundaries. These are not the limits we want you to re-evaluate. But consider picking your battles – does it REALLY matter if he wears two different socks to daycare? Is it the end of the world if she wears princess sandals to school on a rainy day? Pack her rain boots and socks – she will figure out pretty quickly that it’s not comfortable or pleasant and will know for next time.

Give your toddler the opportunity to learn from THEIR choices.

Natural and logical consequences allow children to further investigate the concept of cause and effect. It helps them learn about the world around them, how their family works, and how far they can push you. Toddlers constantly test those boundaries to find out which are rock solid, and which are written in the sand.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog where we go a little deeper on the “establishing” of said boundaries!

Comment below on your favourite toddler COMPROMISE. I once let a toddler wear one rain boot and one running shoe to school because.. COMPROMISE. When I picked up? “This boot stinky. My feet be wet.” He definitely didn’t choose that combo again! What have you done to keep a little bit of peace?

If we can support you with your child’s more challenging toddler behaviours, please send us a note to amy@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com.

XO

Amy

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Is sleep training the magic ticket for mom’s anxiety?

I’ve been wanting to blog about this for a while. But it is such a sensitive subject, I have struggled to figure out how!

I would say I was inspired by my friend and colleague Lauren Alysha Heffernan of Isla-Grace, and her post on “Wake Windows and Sleep Schedules”. She addresses an issue, that many of us in the sleep coaching industry have been somewhat ignoring. And one that is so important for us to bring attention to.

The “too lazy did not read” of this post is… Sleep training will not eliminate your postpartum depression or anxiety. 😉

Now, it may give you a focal point. A place to put your attention. A subject to think about and busy your mind with. All of those things happened for me when I was experiencing postpartum anxiety with my daughter. And it may decrease your depression and anxiety for a little while. But, it also may not. And in fact, it also might make it worse. Something very few people talk about. 

I remember telling my sleep consultant at the time, “If I could just get this baby sleeping… I am sure my anxiety would be so much lower.”

Now, if I had a dollar for every time I have heard that line since… I would probably have $50 or so. 😉

I ask every family that I work with, “is anyone in the family experiencing anxiety or depression?”. 90% of the families I work with reply. “Yes”. I then ask, “has it been diagnosed by a medical professional?” And 75% then answer, “No”.

In our consultation I always ask why this is… and many parents say that they are certain once their baby starts sleeping better, they will no longer experience these levels of depression or anxiety.  

Now, there might be some truth to this.

We know that lack of sleep is certainly related to a decrease in overall mood, and mental wellness. Experiencing regular, repetitive sleep deprivation is certainly met with increased levels of clinical depression and anxiety. We know that babies and toddlers deprive us of sleep! So making the correlation that regular sleep disruption, night wakings, and insomnia, rob us of our mental health… is a fair one to make! And one that can be statistically proven as well.

But the relationship between sleep, and postpartum mood, is a very complex one. Add in the hormonal changes, and HUGE mental shift in becoming a new mother, or mother for the second or third time, and you’ve got a bit of a crazy cocktail.

Now in Lauren’s piece, she draws attention to a new mom’s obsession with awake times, scheduling, and finding the best possible sleep schedule for their baby. She asks mothers to consider what type of person they were prior to having a baby, and how this might be presenting itself in their parenting. Were you someone who was high achieving, who set goals and could easily achieve them with the right methodologies and practice? If yes, you will likely find a lot of comfort and solace in a baby sleep schedule. *Hint – this was me at 5 months postpartum with my daughter*.

But, what about when your baby does not follow that regular predictable schedule that all other babies seem to be able to follow? It can make you feel like a total failure. *Hint – this was also me at 7.5 months postpartum*. And I have actually had moms tell me they cannot work with me because they were unable to follow the awake times I was asking of them in our consultation without feeling defeat. (Of course, I can almost always tweak things to help them feel some level of success). But, this is anxiety at work my friends! And it is a scary hairy beast! Not one to be ignored. And bringing attention to it BEFORE sleep work, can actually improve your baby’s sleep, while improving your mental health! More on that to come.

Did you know, a recently published study in The Journal of Early Child Development and Care found a positive correlation between the use of infant books that promote strict routines and increased levels of maternal depression, and decreased levels of self efficacy? (Please don’t hand your new mom friends Babywise… yes I might get some backlash for that). But it can feel like you are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. And often new moms can’t handle this level of pressure! Heck… many experienced mamas can’t handle it either.

Now some level of sleep training, or sleep coaching, or sleep shaping, or whatever route you so choose, may help your family get more sleep. And as a result, you might start sleeping more.. And you might find you are better mentally fit to work through any remaining feelings of depression or anxiety you are experiencing. Or, you might find that yes… poof.. They are gone with the wind!

But I can tell you – for many, sleep coaching is not a magic ticket out of anxiety.  

I have worked with MANY families, and with every family I have worked with.. I have been able to increase the amount their child does sleep. But I can tell you, this doesn’t always mean that mom and dad begin sleeping well. For some, the anxiety and depression remains just as high as before we started. And for many, this is a defeating moment as well.

Now I have a sleeping baby, and I can’t sleep?! What the f*ck is wrong with me now?

Or their baby starts to sleep, but they are still analyzing every movement their baby makes in the night. Obsessing over every little detail, because it brings some level of comfort and confidence to analyze and problem solve. Two habits leftover from a successful pre-child adult life, and leftover from having a baby who DOES NOT SLEEP.

Now what I will tell you, is working on getting your anxiety or depression medically diagnosed and supported, can actually help your baby start to sleep better.

Hey now, what now?! Working on my own mental health might actually help my baby sleep better? Even without any form of sleep coaching or behavioural intervention?!

Yes.

Yes, it may!

You grew that baby for 10 months. It is connected to you on a cellular level, and it feels every feel in which you feel. Now, I am not trying to say you are projecting your anxiety on your baby (although a few of you might be nodding along now going.. Um… yup.. I’m totally doing that..), but what I am trying to say is.. If you are anxious about your baby going to sleep, they know that. If you are holding and rocking your baby in arms, riddled with anxiety about it going to sleep, it will feel that anxiety, and then also become anxious about transitioning from awake to asleep, and then not sleep, and the negative feedback loop continues!

But the good news here… making small changes to your own mental health and well-being, may help baby go to sleep more easily. It may help your expectations become a bit more realistic, and as a result, you might even enjoy that little 14 pound cutie a little bit more than you already do. You are feeling the love, baby is feeling the love, and bada bing bada boom.. Baby’s sleep improves.

Now, the intention of this blog is NOT to guilt anyone who did sleep train their baby in direct response to the anxiety they were experiencing. (I’m raising my hand here guys.. I was that girl!). And if sleep training did help alleviate all of your postpartum stress or woes – good for you, more power to you!

But, the purpose and outcome I am hoping to achieve here is that no new mother will put all of their “eggs” into the “sleep training” basket. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Take care of YOU first, and baby will follow. 

If you do need some postpartum support, and you are in the Vancouver area, I recommend the Pacific Postpartum Support Society as your first touch point.

Thank you to my girl @stacielynnphotography for the beautiful photos you see here. 

XO

Lara

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

You’ve surely heard about them by now..

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

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

Good questions, really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO

Lara

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