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Do solids affect sleep?

You’ve probably heard the myth that introducing solids will help your young baby sleep better. The lie detector test has discovered that this is a lie my friends… rarely have I seen a baby begin to sleep better with the introduction of solids, but I have seen many babies begin to sleep worse when solids are introduced at the 6 month mark. 

Why is this? 

There is loads of evidence to suggest that our babies are born prematurely compared to other mammals. Their digestive systems are premature as well. It is advised to introduce solids slowly and keep record of what you are introducing as you introduce it every few days so that you can look for potential allergens, and intolerances. This is also a chance for your baby’s digestive tract to familiarize itself with these new substances and catch up.

When you switch from a milk-based diet to solids your baby’s poop will change (you probably already know this), and this does change how often they go, and what their body does to prepare for their bowel movements.  

Some babies IMMEDIATELY take to solids, while others much prefer their parents milk until closer to the 1 year mark. It is the babies who are really excited about solids and seem to want to eat everything in sight that risk the chance of having their sleep disrupted, compared to their peers who are a bit more hesitant. 

Why is this? 

When our kids are excited about something, we as parents also become excited about that something!

With Baby Led Weaning (BLW) increasing in popularity, many families are feeding their babies exactly what they are having at meal times. I think this is great! But sometimes things can get out of hand quickly. Too many foods are introduced at once, and the child’s digestive tract has not had a chance to align with all of these foreign substances. At the same time, they are eating many different things, at many different times, and it is hard to tell what has possibly caused their tummy upset. 

How do you know something your child is eating might be upsetting their sleep patterns?

  • Baby is extra gassy, especially in the middle of the night 
  • You see your child bring their legs up to their chest, and they seem like they are in pain
  • You notice an increase in eczema or skin irritation in correspondence with sleep interruption 
  • Your baby refuses to be laid down, in a crib or flat on their back → they want to sleep upright all of the time. This might be a sign of silent reflux, or a food upsetting their tummy and wanting to stay upright for increased comfort.

Is there a way to introduce solids that is likely to impact sleep the least? 

  • Go slow – there is really no rush here friends! By the time your kiddo is 18 months they will probably be eating everything in sight. 
  • The recommendation is to introduce iron rich foods first, as iron stores from utero begin to deplete around the 9 month mark in infants. 
  • We hear, “food before 1 is just for fun”. I like this sentiment, but food before 1 does have some level of importance (see the point above), at the same time.. Don’t have too much fun with it! Keep your excitement at bay, and introduce one food at a time as much as you can every few days. 
  • Begin introducing your first solid meal at breakfast, rather than lunch or dinner. This will give your child a chance to digest their meal before nighttime sleep takes place. 

There are foods that have been shown to be more conducive to sleep overall. In Sleep from the Heart this is discussed in more detail, in addition to so many other things of course. 

I hope you find this helpful, and if you do.. Share it with a friend! 

XO

Lara 

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Why I do what I do…

Over the last 4 (almost 5!) years since I begun sleep coaching I have worked with hundreds of families. People usually contact me when they are at their wits end. They are so very tired it is hard to think straight, and they have heard that I might be able to help them.

Working with tired people every day… can be.. Tiring.

I’m not going to lie.

When people are tired, they are emotional. They are depleted. They have little left to give to their spouse, their partner, and their other kiddos. So, what do you think they have left to give to their sleep coach?

You guessed it – nada. Ha!

They are just so tired, I become the catcher of all the feels. The person they can tell their worries to. The beacon of light shining on them letting them know day after day that it is going to be okay, and they are going to move on from this struggle in their life in some way, shape or form.

It is an honour to be this person. For an empath such as myself I have to remind myself daily that their stress or pain is not my stress or pain, and that their tired is not my tired. Helping people through a critical time in their lives is an honour, and I feel privileged that people let me in at a time that is so difficult for them.

Yesterday I hopped on the phone with a father I have been working with on and off since January of this year. Now you might ask yourself why someone would need to still be talking to their sleep coach 5 months later.. “Aren’t you just supposed to ‘fix it’ so that people can move on in a few weeks time?” Maybe you’re not thinking that.. Maybe you’re not… but let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with this family and how it has evolved over time.

When this mama first contacted me through my website, she was exhausted. Her baby was waking hourly overnight and having very small feeds due to the reflux she was diagnosed with. The family was cosleeping out of sheer necessity, not by choice. And the parents were beginning to wonder if their daughter would ever be able to sleep by herself.

When we did our consultation it was clear they were nervous, and excited. Apprehensive too! Sometimes when things have been so bad, and someone tells you it is going to get better soon, it is pretty hard to believe them. I remember thinking these two are scared to trust me, but somehow they convinced themselves to let me in.

We walked hand in hand, day by day. We made the most gradual changes imaginable… first attaching their crib to their bed as a sidecar, and then having dad also learn how to put their baby to sleep. He had never done it. Not for months anyway… it was a brand new experience for him to rock his baby to sleep, and it was very hard for everyone at first. But I knew it would be okay, I knew their baby would be okay.

We transitioned from co-sleeping all night, to partial crib sleep in the side car. From feeding at every night wake, to feeding at every other night waking.. We added in dreamfeeds, and encouraged baby girl to fall asleep with patting instead of rocking. Everything happened one step at a time as led by baby, and as parents adapted to their new normal. Every day they saw just enough change to keep going.

Now, baby sleep is not linear. Far from it! We had our hiccups along the way. Baby got sick. She went through a weird week of pooping every night and no one could figure out why! Parents had work responsibilities that caused us to pivot and delay, and then baby got sick again. We paused. We regrouped. We relaxed. We picked up where we left off, and we started again.

Yesterday I was catching up with dad (who is now the primary bedtime guy and overnight caregiver for this baby), and it just became so clear to me why this work still has meaning for me nearly 4 years later.

It is because the shift a family can make through a transition from sleepless nights, to sleepier ones is pretty damn amazing to watch!

Dad said, “She is actually sleeping really well… on a good night, she goes to sleep easily.. And then I don’t hear from her again until like 5 am, and then we cosleep from there til morning. It is the best of both worlds, and something that mama was really comfortable with too.”

I asked him if he felt his bond with his daughter had increased as a result of our work together to which he answered, yes.

Sleep work when you are not relying on formal sleep training methods is dynamic. It is interesting. It can be fun and exciting.. And it can be hard. But, I always see people walk out of our time together with a better understanding and appreciation of their partner, and an increased bond with their baby. And that my friends, is the reason why I do what I do.

XO

Lara

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Play for Sleep Success

Play is a vital part of your child’s development: It is not only fun, but it encourages gross and fine motor skills, communication, and sensory development among other things. Play is also directly related to our quality of sleep believe it or not!

“Playing just helps burn energy and make them tired.”

Anyone heard that before?!

It is TRUE that play helps children expend the excessive amount of energy that they seem to have, but it does so much more than that in terms of sleep.

Being active (inside and outside) prompts our bodies to release endorphins which in turn helps produce melatonin – that wonderful, natural hormone that makes us sleepy. Daytime activity can also encourage longer periods of deep sleep, which is most restorative, and it encourages us as parents to get down at our child’s level, be hands-on with them, and make lots of eye contact right before that separation to sleep.

So how can we PLAY for SLEEP?

Try to incorporate a variety of activities into your day that encourage movement; climb up and down the stairs, make an obstacle course, play ball, provide push toys or help your child to walk, play music, clap your hands and dance or move your feet. There are so many ways to get moving.

The benefits of playing and developing gross motor skills will have a long-lasting effect on your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Being outside in fresh air and natural light to play, even if it is just for a short time, is tremendously beneficial for your child’s sleep as well.

  • Children are able to make bigger and faster movements outside. This not only uses more energy, but helps to build muscle and endurance.

  • Being outside signals the body to release even more endorphins than playing inside.

  • Light stimulus affects our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock, and helps us differentiate between daytime playtime and nighttime sleep time.

So get outside when the weather is nice – go for a walk, play in the yard, or sit on a park bench. And if the weather is truly Vancouver in Spring (aka.. Rainy af), make an obstacle course in the living room! Any playtime activity will contribute to better sleep and overall better health for your kiddo, and your family.

XO

Lara

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

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

Spoiler alert. NOPE! ha.

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

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

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

What are some signs your child may be ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XO

Lara

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Supporting Baby Through Separation Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Keep goodbyes brief.

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

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

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

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

XO

Lara

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

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Medical Issues Related to Sleep

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

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

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

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

  • Sleep apnea

  • Insomnia

  • Restless Leg Syndrome

  • Nightmares and/or Night Terrors

  • Narcolepsy

  • Delayed Sleep Phase

  • Sleep Walking

  • Teeth Grinding

  • Iron deficiency

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

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

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

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

 For toddlers and/or older children:

  • Eliminate caffeine or sugary foods close to bedtime.

  • Limit screen time in the 90 minutes before bed.

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

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

XO

Lara

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

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I’m a Big Kid! Time for a Big Bed?

I’m a Big Kid Now!

A popular question I have been asked a lot recently has been about transitioning your little one from their crib to a toddler bed (a.k.a. the big kid bed). It may seem like something small and simple but truthfully, IT’S A BIG DEAL!

There are any number of reasons a parent may consider making the jump to a toddler bed – another baby on the way or potty training being two of the more common ones I hear. But, there’s also an equal number of reasons to hold off on making the switch – increased chance of night wandering, increased anxiety, etc. Everyone you ask will give you a different reason one way or the other and that’s totally alright.

For most developmental milestones (when to start solids, crawling, walking, etc), there are some agreed upon guidelines, cues, and/or age indicators that help you gauge your child’s level of readiness. When it comes to graduating from crib to bed though, this may be the most individualized milestone for your little one.

Ok, so you may be thinking, “that doesn’t answer my question” or “there has to be some advice you can give me.” Don’t worry, there is!

Always consider safety!

If your child has learned and is engaging in the sport of crib jumping, it’s time to make the switch. The last thing you want is your child falling or getting hurt if they are PERSISTENTLY trying to climb out of their crib (I say persistently because there are always one-offs; just because they successfully climb out once doesn’t mean they will again). That said, for most kids, this new trick comes when they are about 35 inches tall or somewhere between 18 and 24 months of age.

For me personally, my first transitioned to a toddler bed around 2-1/2 years old as it made it easier for night time toileting which he was asking to do. My youngest on the other hand, is just 2 and is happy as can be in the crib and will likely remain camped out there for a good while yet – quick, touch wood for me so I don’t jinx it 😉

When the time is right, there are definitely things you can do do to help ease the transition:

Preparation: Make sure your child is on board or gauge their interest. Talk to them about the change that is coming. Find a book to read together; give them a glimpse of what it means to be in a big kid bed. Talk about when you will make the switch, and countdown together towards it in a toddler friendly way (eg., sticky note countdown on the wall of 3-2-1). 

The Bed: If your crib converts to a toddler bed, go with that! Even though it is different, there will still be a sense of familiarity for your child. If you need to purchase something new, allow your toddler to participate in the selection. Try to place the new bed in the same place, but do not keep crib and toddler bed in the same room together. If you are moving to a new bed, make the move a sure thing. 

Bedtime Buddy: Continue to use their favorite blanket or stuffed animal for comfort.

Safety First: Invest in side rails for safety (they will also mimic the comfort of their crib). Consider a baby gate at the door to prevent night wandering. Make sure the bed is low to the ground so if they were to fall or climb out it’s not too far a drop.  

Timing is Everything: Try to avoid taking on too many milestones at once. If you have another little one on the way (congratulations!), try to transition your older child well in advance of their arrival so you have time to iron out any kinks (ideally 4 – 6 months!). If you’re moving, potty training, or have other big changes happening, try to space things out so it’s not so overwhelming.

Perhaps the two most important piece of advice I can give though:

Try to keep all other elements of your bedtime routine the same. There is such a thing as too much change, especially for little ones.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! If your child is still content in their crib and there is no need to transition them to a toddler bed, consider holding off a while longer.

And as always, if there is more I can do to help – please reach out. 

XO

Lara

Cute pic of one of my former clients here! Made the transition this week like a CHAMP! Thank you, K + D for the pic! <3

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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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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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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