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Should you sing your baby to sleep?

Should you sing your baby to sleep? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO

Lara

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

 

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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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Helping Sick Kiddos Sleep

Tis the season for bugs and germs… and I am truly touching wood knowing that my children have been back to school and childcare for over a month now, and they have yet to be sick. Fingers crossed!

Sunny days, cooler temperatures, leaves falling off trees, and the return of our “wet” coast rain. The fall season can be an amazing one, but it quite often signals the beginning of cold and flu season. Getting your kiddos to sleep on a regular day can be challenging for some, but throw in some aches and pains, fevers, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose, and you’ve got a whole other ball game going on. To make matters worse, I’d bet money that if they’re not sleeping, you’re not sleeping either (usually the two go hand-in-hand! ha!).

Even though the sleep routine that you have spent countless hours building has probably been thrown out the window, the good news is that this cold/flu/bug will pass, and your child’s good sleep habits will return. Think of this as just a little hiccup or bump in the road. And, as with all other bumps in the world of sleep, there are many tips and tricks (homeopathic and medicinal) that you can use to help you and your little one through.  

  • A Warm Bath Before Bedtime: A warm bath will not only help maintain an element of your child’s bedtime routine, but the warmth and steam should also help loosen any congestion.

  • Applying ‘Vicks’ to Their Feet and Back: Put a little on their back, or rub some on the bottoms of their feet then cover with socks; it is supposed to help ease any coughing troubles.

  • Use a Humidifier: Another great trick to help with nasal congestion – the moist air they create can help breakup mucus and sooth the airways.

  • Cuddle Time: Sometimes the best cure is a good snuggle with mom or dad. Camp out on the floor of their room so you are near buy or set up a play pen near your own bed.

  • Massage: A good massage can help smooth any aches they may have.

  • Bedtime Stories and Lullabies: Another element of your bedtime routine that’s easy to maintain. A good cuddle with a song or story can do wonders.

  • Homeopathic or Over-the-Counter Medicines: Advil and Tylenol are tried and true when it comes to fevers and aches (make sure you use the age appropriate formula and dosage), but nowadays there are also homeopathic versions you can pick up at your local pharmacy to help with a variety of symptoms (check in with the pharmacist to see if this might be a good fit).

  • Essential Oils: Like medicines, essential oils are available to assist with a variety of woes including cold and flu symptoms and sleep. Lavender is often thought to encourage sleep and eucalyptus to ease congestions. Make sure you buy from reputable source and follow usage directions appropriately.

  • Elevate the Head of the Bed: This age old trick may also help with nasal congestion. Check with your doctor first though! For safety reasons, it is not recommended for young children to sleep with pillows. A good trick though: Insert a thin pillow or blanket UNDER the mattress for a slight elevation.

  • Fluids and Rest: Like adults, keeping hydrated and resting lots will help their little body get better.

For high fevers or any more serious/prolonged symptoms, a trip to your family doctor is always a good idea on the off chance that some antibiotics may be needed. And as with all other sleep struggles, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help; it’s important that you keep rested and stay healthy – there’s no sick days for Moms and Dads!

XO

Lara

And as always, a huge thank you to www.stacielynnphotography.ca for allowing me to share the photos you see here.

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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