Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on 1 Comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Why is my child waking up at night?

Why is my child waking up at night?

How come my baby can sleep 2 hours uninterrupted some nights? And 5 hours the next?

I have seen her sleep better than she is!!! Why isn’t she doing this every night?

Pretty much the million dollar questions, I know! And ones I am still answering daily, even after I have started working with a family, and we are problem solving to find out what exactly makes their baby “tick”.

The truth of the matter is, babies do not sleep like adults.

As adults we sleep in 3 – 4 hour stretches at nighttime. Typically we connect two sleep cycles such as these and form our 6 – 8 hour night. Sometimes this is with little to no disruption. Other nights, we are wide awake middle of the night and wondering if we should get up and be productive! 

All of us wake up at night. Me. You. The nextdoor neighbour. The guy who walks the dog. Yes! We all wake up at night. We might nudge our spouse over. We might wake up to pee (one can only hope..).  Or we might get a glass of water.

Babies also wake up at night. However, their sleep cycles are much shorter than adults. These range from 30 – 45 minutes during the day, and are more like 90 minutes to 4 hours at night.

Since we know that the transition from “awake to asleep” is a vulnerable change of state for most humans, with infants being no exception – it is natural and normal that a baby might need some assistance to connect from one sleep cycle to the next.

Inconvenient for us. Yes.

Inconvenient for baby. Probably much less so.

Of course there are other factors at play beyond a baby’s sleep cycle being shorter on average than an adults, that can contribute to night wakings.

What time you are putting your child to bed, and what their daily rhythm looks like will play a part in this process.

I certainly do see children have more trouble sleeping when they are put to bed for the night overtired. I also see them struggle to sleep when their day has been super busy, or full of events that are out of the norm. 

When we get behind the child’s eye, and think through what a busy day might mean for that child.. some of their night waking behaviour sometimes becomes more clear.

For example; baby is taken to a large family dinner.

These are all hypothetical, and by no means am I saying you shouldn’t take your baby out to a family dinner once in a while. Your baby will certainly benefit from going out to a large family dinner once in a while!

But, I am using this as an example of how the repercussions of this might actually present themselves in your child’s sleep.

  • Baby’s nap is cut short so that the family can ensure they are on time for the start of supper.
  • Baby’s post-nap snack of fruit, veggie, and dairy is cut, and a granola bar is offered in the car instead.
  • Baby spends time in arms at the gathering; going from person to person who oodles at their cuteness.
  • Baby does not spend any time on the ground crawling around, because the family has a large dog, and parents are nervous about this.
  • Baby spends very little time crawling, furniture cruising, and maximising energy output.  
  • Baby is fed a food item for dinner that they have never had before.
  • Mom is nervous about breastfeeding babe in front of her cousin, and therefore skips a regular feeding time without even noticing this.
  • Baby falls asleep for a minute or two in the car seat on the way home, and then has difficulty transferring to the crib.
  • Baby wakes frequently overnight as a result of x, y, z.

When our days follow a regular rhythm and predictability, baby does get used to this. And it also makes it easier to troubleshoot on those difficult nights what exactly might have gone wrong, if anything.

Night wakings are for many reasons. We know this.

Thirst. Hunger. Milk. Extra touch-time. Cuddles. Comfort. Checking you are still there.. just to name a few!

Now what I will say is this;

Many babies do seek to recreate the way they fell asleep at bedtime, to transition from one sleep cycle to the next.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is natural. It is normal.

But, if the “thing” you are finding your child “needs” in the middle of the night is the same thing they required to fall asleep at bedtime, you may want to help them learn to fall asleep in a few different ways, and see what comes of this exploration?!

And as always, I am here if you prefer to make the line a little straighter, and journey to sleep in a way that is a little more concrete. 

XO

Lara

Posted on

Newborn Sleep: Expectations vs Reality

When I began my parenting journey 4 years ago, I really could not have prepared myself for all of the changes I was set to experience.

I thought I was ready.. I really thought I was. I had always LOVED working with children, and I really thought I was ready for my own. Although my experience at the time with babies was slim to none, I still felt confident that I would be able to crush this mom thing just as I had crushed many of my other goals in my (then) 28 years of life.

When July 2013 came along and I felt like I wasn’t exactly “crushing it”.. I started to spiral down a little hole. Lucky for me I found lots of people who pulled me out.. but the negative self talk is something I still remember to this day.

I really thought I would have it all together, and everywhere I looked it appeared that everyone else certainly did. Why was I such a fail?! Hint – I wasn’t a fail. I was just a new mom, and my expectations were different than the reality of life at home with a new infant. Had I actually known what to expect, I probably could have let a lot of those ridiculous expectations go, and just enjoyed my baby more.

I had certain expectations when it came to preparing for my new baby. I would need a nursery, yes. Of course. Because she was DEFINITELY going to be sleeping there from (almost) day 1. I would need a beautiful crib, with a safe non-toxic mattress, and some sleepers of course. Little shoes. Cuz.. baby shoes are adorable.

Swaddle. What.. what is a swaddle? Maybe I will get one of those swaddle-type blanket things but.. I probably won’t be needing that… that just seems like another “bad habit” I am going to have to undo at some point. And a soother – pacifier – whatever you call it.. I DEFINITELY won’t be needing that! Have you seen a toddler with a soother?! How silly does that look?

I prepared myself for the birth of course. People told me it would be painful. I read some books on French parenting, because supposedly they are doing it better than us over there.. and I read, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” because well.. everyone else was reading it. But I am pretty sure I skipped the chapters on baby sleep, not because they weren’t important, but I just figured.. my baby will sleep. I see babies sleeping everywhere all over town. Obviously babies just sleep when they are tired and we will go about our day in the way we always have.

I certainly won’t be one of those parents who change their whole lifestyle for their offspring! Those people are LAME.

Right?!

Wrong. Haha.

One of the things that I think nearly killed me as a new mom was how different my expectation of parenting was from my reality. I literally expected that babies just sleep when they are tired. And while this is true for some… I had a crash course in infant sleep when I found myself with THE world’s crankiest (I still believe), most over-tired, highly sensitive, colicky, newborn, on my hands.

I was introduced to Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s pretty darn quick. Swaddling, shushing, side-lying nursing, and holding, the shuggling, and sucking were all so helpful in calming the little fusspot that was my new baby.

I learned about swaddle blankets, pacifiers, baby wearing, and awake windows. I learned about white noise, dark rooms, miracle sleep suits, and safe co-sleeping. I learned about late nights, early mornings, room sharing, husband sleeping on the couch, mom sleeping wherever she can get a few minutes in, and baby wearing. I learned to trust my gut. 

And then because I had a new baby who DID not sleep well, you can probably guess what I was bombarded with next, right?

Yup. Sleep training.

Controlled crying. Cry-it-out. Extinction. Gradual Retreat. Camping out. Sleep training in all its glory was every place I looked. I started to take books out of the library that promised 12 hour nights by 12 weeks, and felt like a total loser when I could not stick to the strict schedules they recommended. 

And my goodness I was desperate for sleep, but I just couldn’t seem to get my daughter the sleep she needed. How come so and so can get her baby to sleep at a restaurant, and I can’t even get this baby to sleep in my arms?! Hint – babies have different sleep personalities. What?! They do?

And I felt crushed.

I think most people reading this today know how all of this turned out for me. It led me into a place I never imagined I would be – coaching families every day through their children’s sleepless nights in a way that feels good. No controlled crying. No cry-it-out. No extinction. Love, understanding, and nurturing around infant sleep. Trying to line the stars up so our babies sleep well, but never forcing a round peg into a square hole.  And this led to the birth of my workshop as well..

I want new moms to know what they are up against. I want you to go in feeling like you have given all of this some thought before people start shoving the – YOU NEED SLEEP pamphlets into your diaper bag. Let’s connect around the topic of infant sleep and get you thinking about it with a level head, an open heart, and a clear mind.

Don’t get caught up in the expectation versus reality downward spiral. Let’s level the two out, and have you feeling empowered, ready, and supported in your baby’s sleep journey.

Join my workshop and learn about all of this and SO much more in the comfort of your own home. It is going to be such a rewarding experience – I know that.

You can get your seat to the workshop, and read more about it, here.

I look forward to being your host.

XO

Lara

Thank you Stacie-Lynn for the beautiful baby mama photos as always.