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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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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 from 3 Naps to 2

The first year of life is an important one for all children. But just when you think you have things figured out, something is bound to change. While change can be difficult to navigate, it is a good sign that your child’s development is right on track.

Somewhere between 6 and 8 months your child will likely drop to just 2 naps. However, some babies will keep that 3rd nap as long as 9 or 10 months! It is rare, but does happen.

As a child ages, their sleep matures. They also have an increased tolerance for being awake! When baby can stay awake a naturally longer interval without being overtired, this leads to 2 naps rather than 3. Your child may transition themselves naturally, or they may exhibit some key signs which indicate it may be time to lose the extra nap and start to make a plan around transition. 

  • Are they resisting nap time?
  • Are they sleeping? Or, are they crying or playing through nap time?

If the answer to these questions is “yes” majority of the time, it’s likely time to transition to 2 naps.

Work to increase their time awake between naps: Find the balance between them being awake longer but not getting over tired. The average awake window for a child who is newly on 2 naps is between 2.5 – 3.5 hours. With the shortest awake window happening in the morning before nap #1, and the longest awake window between nap #2 and bedtime. 

Consider an earlier bedtime throughout the transition. An early bedtime does not mean they will wake earlier, it simply provides an opportunity for your child to catch up on any lost sleep.

And if your child is still taking naps in the 30 – 45 minute range like many 3 – 5 month olds do, you might need to hold onto that 3rd nap a little longer than your baby’s peers. They just might need a little bit more time for their sleep needs to mature. And really, that is okay too! 

Still confused? This might be a good point of a discussion for a mini-consult. I would be happy to help you navigate this one. 

XO 

Lara 

PS – beautiful family photos courtesy of Stacie Lynn Photography

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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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Prepping for Daylight Savings Time

Here it comes my friends… sneaking around the corner like that creepy clown at the Hallowe’en haunted house. Yup. DUN DUN DUN…

Daylight savings time is coming for us.

Transitioning sleep times can be fairly straightforward, or, it can be a little bit tricky. It really depends on your specific child, how sensitive they are to change, and how sensitive YOU are to change. We know our children feel our feelings as we are connected on a cellular level. So, if changes to your child’s sleep routine cause you a little bit of worry, it might be time to start preparing for the hour where we “fall back”, so you can take this change in stride.

The clocks will go back one hour on Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 am. For frame of reference, 8:00 pm will become 7:00 pm, and 7:00 am will become 6:00 am.

Just like any sleep change, there are a few different techniques you can use to begin to help your child with this transition. I will outline a few below, and those that I feel are easiest for most families to follow.

For all children:

Once Sunday Nov. 4th rolls around, treat the clocks as the true time. You may need to “push” your child ever so gently onto their new schedule, or offer an extra nap or quiet time in the afternoon if they were up unusually early that morning.

For infants and toddlers with a set bedtime:

You can begin making this transition as early as 4 weeks prior to the change. If you are someone who likes to plan ahead, this can suit you quite nicely! If your child goes to bed most evenings at 7:00 pm, begin moving their bedtime 15 minutes later each week. Hold them to a 15 minute later wake-up time the next day, and put them down for their naps 15 minutes later as well. For example;

  • Week 1: 7:15 pm fast asleep

  • Week 2: 7:30 pm fast asleep

  • Week 3: 7:45 pm fast asleep

  • Week 4: 8:00 pm (which will become the new 7:00 pm on November 5th)

For those who have not prepared quite as far ahead, this is still a nice transition to use over the course of 4 days, or a week or two. Work on slowly pushing the time back with each passing night until you arrive at a bedtime one hour later than your usual bedtime, prior to the change. Push naps the next day, and wake-up time as well.

For infants and toddlers with a somewhat flexible bedtime:

My advice on this one is to also be somewhat flexible. A few days before the time change, begin pushing their daily naps slightly later depending on age, and what your child can tolerate without becoming too overtired.

A younger baby will likely respond well to having their naps pushed back by approximately 15 minutes without becoming overtired, whereas an older toddler may be able to manage going for their nap 30 minutes later than they normally do. Push their bedtime back by the same amount of time that day, and you should be able to adjust to the new time within 2 – 4 days.

If your child typically goes to bed between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm each night, aim for the later time over the course of a few days leading up to the change, and then somewhere in the middle of that hour for the few days following the change.

For example; the week before the time change bedtime is closer to 7:15, or 7:30 pm, and the week after the change bedtime is closer to 6:30 or 6:45 pm. You can then begin pushing this time back if it still is not suitable to your schedule.

Yeah. So. I didn’t plan and we were up at the crack of dawn. Now what?!

If you’re reading this November 4th after your child was up at 5:00 am the morning, my best advice is to relax. Hold your child to the wake-up time you expect the next day, and they should make the transition on their own within 3 – 4 days. Older children tend to make this transition quite seamlessly by going by what the clock says on November 4th.

Lastly, get your child outside first thing in the morning for a few days after the change for some fresh air and natural light. This will also help re-set their biological clock and the fresh air will help achieve good naps, and easier sleep that day.

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

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Is now the time to make sleep changes?

Every family that I have worked with has asked themselves this question.

I know there is a lot of hesitancy around hiring a baby sleep coach. It is usually the non-nursing partner who is the most skeptical. “Do you really think this baby lady is going to solve our sleep problem? What does she know that google doesn’t?”

Quite possibly nothing would be my answer. Google knows A LOT these days. I know Google could probably teach me how to change a flat tire, but I am still calling my husband to do it for me! And I know Google could probably teach me how to bake a lemon meringue pie… but I’m still picking one up from Save-On on my way home.

I know. I’m being silly again. I tend to be that way. One cannot take all the sleep stuff too serious, or one will never get the babies sleeping. My recipe for getting babies to sleep includes; every sleep book under the sun, all of the googling, as well as, years of experience in putting babies to bed and getting those babies sleeping. It is the experience part that I rely on every day to get me through the difficult nights, and expectedly early mornings.

I always ask the families who have decided to work with me, why NOW is the time. These are some of the responses I have heard.

“We have talked about hiring a sleep consultant many times. I’ve been at my wits end before, but I keep waiting for some improvement to take place. And then it never does. It never seems like the perfect time (i.e. travelling, teething, etc)., but we realize there will never be a perfect time and something has got to give!” ~ Kristen, mom of 15 month old Logan, Delta, BC.

“We just want dad to be able to put her to bed! We have worries, stresses, and thoughts about this not going well. We want to talk with someone who has experienced all of this before us, and can offer us some advice as we make this big transition.” ~ Sarah, mom of 10 month old Abigail, Toronto, ON.

“Because I am literally exhausted. We have been trying to make changes on our own for over a month now, and nothing seems to be working. We are hoping for longer stretches at night, and seeing our baby learn to fall asleep more independently. I can’t imagine how I could possibly go on at this pace.” ~ Amelia, mom of 5 month old Connor, Coquitlam, BC.

The thing is. I get it. I have literally been in the shoes of every one of these parents who is finally reaching out for help. I have felt the effects of true sleep deprivation.

I remember driving a car thinking – I should not be driving this car right now because I didn’t sleep at all last night. I’ve cancelled play dates because the thought of getting out of my pajamas was just too much to bear. I’ve hid from friends and family with their well-meaning advice, and “good” sleeping babies.

 

 

Although my approach is slow and steady, progress is made every single day. I love checking in with families, and hearing about the night before. The ups, the downs, the highs and lows. I am here to weather the storm. I can help prepare a new plan as needed, or assure a family to hold steady as we wait for this moment in time to pass.

Most often, families comment about how they wish they had of started sooner. After one week together, babies are usually falling asleep peacefully in their beds. After two weeks together, the middle of the night stretches are starting to consolidate, and at the end of three weeks nap sleep is becoming reliable and consistent.

Here are some of what a few of our happy families have had to say.

“Things are going well! We’re not ready to shout it from the rooftops, but things are happening. We had two long stretches of consolidated sleep last night and only 2 night wakings! We need some encouragement, but we feel like we are on the right track!” – Ted, Dad to 9 month old William, after Night 4.

“We are feeling great! She had some good stretches of sleep last night. Bedtime was easy. She was awake when I put her down in her crib tonight, and she went down easily without a fuss. We heard her wake once around 12:30 am, but she went right back to sleep. Celebrate with us today. We are feeling good! – Alanna, Mom to 10 month old Harlow, after night 15.

“We are tired today, but we are feeling hopeful. Miles slept in his crib for the first time ever! And this is the first time that Ryan has ever been able to successfully put him down to sleep in his crib! Things are looking great. I am feeling so much better, and I am just so proud of how well Miles and Ryan did together! – Carly, Mom to 5 month old Miles, after night 8.

When it comes to making sleep changes, there are certainly some times that are better than others. If you’re having a hard time deciding if that time is now, please reach out. We can hop on the phone, dive deeper in email, and decide together if now is the right time to make a change, and if I am the right person to help get your baby sleeping.

XO

Lara

Thank you to Astrid Miller Photography and Stacie-Lynn Photography, for the beautiful images featured here.