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3 Things I Learned From My Baby’s Sleep

I always say that our children can be our BEST teachers if we are open to seeing all of the gifts of introspection and reflection they carry with them. Here are a few of the learnings I had as a result of living with two challenging sleepers. I hope you can enjoy, or at the least, relate.

1. Baby sleep is not linear

While it is true that baby sleep does improve in a linear trend over the first 5 years of a child’s life, that first 18 months is incredibly variable. I remember thinking.. Okay! I will work on my baby’s sleep when they are 6 months old, and then I will have a good sleeper for LIFE! This is not true. Our babies are firing more neurons per second in their brains at any given moment than there exists websites on the internet. We are talking millions of neurons per second. That is a lot of tabs to have open at once! As a result, their sleep is disrupted. Developmental changes present our babies with advanced gross motor skills, advanced cognitive skills. They have to work through this stuff! 

How this knowledge can help you: Know that your baby’s sleep pattern worsening is likely not a reflection you have done anything wrong. If your child was previously sleeping pretty well, in a developmentally appropriate way for their age, then their most recent sleep slide likely means something is happening for them. We can greet this sleep regression with patience and empathy, knowing seeing them is normal.  

2. Sleep time is not the only place parenting happens 

When my children were not sleeping well, I was 100% lazer focused on their sleep. I became so obsessed with tracking night wakings, and analyzing nap timing that I sort of lost sight of the big picture. We are in a relationship with our children for a lifetime. There is so much parenting that happens outside of those hours at night. I remember beating myself up over whether or not my nighttime responses were empathic enough, loving enough, engaged enough…. But what I forgot about was all the loving, empathic, engaged, awesome stuff that was happening during the day. That stuff counts too! The time where your child does not sleep well will be but a tiny blip on the timeline that is their life. We are talking about these kiddos growing to be 80 – 100 years old! You’ve got a lifetime to imprint what you’re hoping to. It’s not all about the sleep. 

How this knowledge can help: My hope is that you will give yourself some grace in knowing that you are showing your kiddo BIG love around the clock, and this counts for something! 

3. Learning to validate big feelings at sleep times has helped my parenting 

I used to be scared of my children’s cries… I’m not going to lie. I used to want to quite literally be as far away as possible from them! It made me feel so uncomfortable to hear them upset, and if I couldn’t “fix it” right away, I felt like a totally incapable caregiver. Shouldn’t I know what my baby needs? But the truth is; we cannot possibly know what our kids need 100% of the time and sleep times can be met with big feelings and unpredictability. But being there as their rock, being a reliable and predictable caregiver, that is super important! Responsive and respectful caregiving means that we accept our children’s emotions (no matter how ugly), we get curious about what is going on for them, and then we offer them empathy. The more that I learned to sit with my kiddo’s big emotions, the better I got at it! The more I offered myself empathy in knowing it was okay to just BE with them rather than FIX it for them, the more comfortable and confident I became as a mother. 

How this knowledge can help: Being with our kids through their big emotions is something that is likely to happen all of their lives! When you can be with your child through their feelings, you will increase your threshold for it. 

XO 

Lara 

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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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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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Last minute thoughts to “Spring Ahead”

Alright people – it is coming in hot, but we’ve still got a bit of time to get this right.

Daylight savings time is coming for us. Again. I know. Doesn’t it feel like this just happened?! No. Just me. I must be getting older.

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 “spring forward”, so you can take this change in stride.

The clocks will go forward one hour on Sunday, March 8th at 3:00 am in Vancouver, BC where I live. For frame of reference, 7:00 pm will become 8:00 pm, and 6:00 am will become 7:00 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 March 8th rolls around, treat the clocks as the true time. You may need to “push” your child ever so gently onto their new schedule, and I would advise waking your babe up at normal time to start the day. If they need to be up at 7:00 am on Monday morning to get to daycare on time, don’t let them sleep til 8:30 am on Sunday.

For infants and toddlers with a set bedtime:

You can begin making this transition as early as 4 weeks prior to the change, but we don’t exactly have that much time now do we! So we are going to do the 4 day shift method here. If your child goes to bed most evenings at 7:00 pm, begin moving their bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. Wake them up 15 mins earlier the next day, and put them down for their naps 15 minutes earlier as well. For example;

  • Night 1: 6:45 pm fast asleep
  • Night 2: 6:30 pm fast asleep
  • Night 3: 6:15 pm fast asleep
  • Night 4: 6:00 pm (which will become the new 7:00 pm on March 8th)

As you can probably see – this is NOT going to work out, if you have been letting your child sleep til their normal start time in the morning, and napping them at their regular nap times as well. They won’t be tired when that slightly earlier bedtime rolls around, and they are going to fall asleep right at their usual time.

When we schedule shift, we really move the whole schedule. Not just bits and pieces of it.

Work on slowly moving the time up with each passing night until you arrive at a bedtime one hour earlier than your usual bedtime, prior to the change. Approach naps a little earlier, and wake your child to start the day at an ideal time if necessary.

For infants and toddlers with a somewhat flexible bedtime:

My advice on this one is to also be somewhat flexible. The few days before the time change, begin moving their daily naps slightly earlier.

This really depends again on how time sensitive your child is. Some babies will respond super well to having their naps moved up by 15 mins every few days, and an older toddler might not notice this change in the slightest.

Move bedtime up 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 earlier 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 6:15, or 6:30 pm, and the week after the change bedtime is closer to 7:15 or 7:30 pm. You can then begin moving this time up if it still is not suitable to your schedule.

Yeah. So. I didn’t plan and now my kid is going to bed at 10:00 pm. Now what?!

If you’re reading this March 9th after your child was up til 10:00 pm the night before, my best advice is to relax. Do get your child up at the wake-up time you expect tomorrow morning, and they should make the transition on their own within 3 – 4 days. But remember this – the best place to counter a later than preferred bedtime is in the MORNING!! Not, at night. 

Older children tend to make this transition quite seamlessly by going by what the clock says. But all children WILL find their groove within 7 – 10 days for sure.

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. Not to mention, the whole point here is that we get to enjoy a little more light later into the evening!

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

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Is the course for me? Or, do I need one-on-one support?

Hello friends, 

The course launched on January 12th and it has been exciting and educational to watch people move through the Sleep from the Heart offering, and see it create huge waves of change in their family! 

But, it has given me some food for thought. Hopping on the phone with these families is starting to show me a bit more in terms of who this baby sleep course is for, and who would benefit from more 1:1 support. 

I plan to create an assessment tool… that will help you if you are humming and hawing about investing in the course element, or one-on-one support with another consultant. But in the meantime, I thought I would offer you a few thoughts on this subject.. 

Benefits of the course OVER 1:1 support: 

  • You live with the material. You can access the modules when you want in your own time, and have access to them for 3 months. 
  • Both you and your partner can watch those modules at a time that works for you. 
  • You can re-watch things to digest info that was really important to you. 
  • You can move at a pace that feels right. Most one-on-one consultants are trying to move you through their program in a span of 2 – 4 weeks. This pace can feel too fast for many families who are wanting gentle changes. 
  • You have access to 1:1 support if you need it. You can schedule phone calls, ask questions, and email me all from inside the course. 
  • You will gain information that might be helpful in use with future babies. 
  • Because the course is a solution for many different types of babies, and many different types of families, you are likely to learn new skills to handle developmental leaps, or help your friends whose kiddos are different from yours. 
  • When you set goals – you achieve 
  • You have support, and are good at holding yourself accountable once you’ve made up your mind about something. 
  • Content is created by a HIGH quality individual with YEARS of experience. With a one-on-one consultant, you may be getting someone who is brand new, and actually has only practiced on a small number of clients. Ask them!

People I think should purchase at least the CLASSIC package (3 calls): 

  • Everyone. I’m joking, but I am also not joking! Have you ever wished you had less support through a life transition? I am guessing the answer is no. 
  • You feel your baby is unique, spirited, or appears to have more energy than other babies you have observed at play groups 
  • You like to check in with someone and make sure you are on the right track. It makes you feel at ease to have someone else’s feedback. 
  • You like having lots of different options available to you, but when it comes to narrowing the course you find an expert’s advice helpful. 

People who should consider ONE-ON-ONE support with ANOTHER consultant instead: 

  • You are experiencing mental health challenges at this time including (but not limited to); postpartum depression, and/or generalized anxiety. 
  • Perhaps your anxiety is not diagnosed, but you feel like it is getting the best of you at sleep times. 
  • You want an exact step-by-step plan for your baby, at this very moment in time. 
  • Financially, this is possible for you to invest in (services ranging from $450 – $1150 CAD). 
  • You have trouble holding yourself accountable. You know your baby should nap at noon, but you end up putting them to sleep at 2:30 pm instead. A course will be very hard for you. 
  • You have little outside support from friends, and/or family. 

With all that said; I have seen this course help many people. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave and your baby would be sleeping through the night. I really do! But I don’t. I really don’t. You are going to have to put the pieces together, put in the work, and hold out hope that this CAN help you if you follow through. 

While I hope the course will have lots of brand new information for you. Honestly, most of the tweaks in the video library I have totally made up myself and have never found on google! Ha. But, if it is all information you have heard before, that is okay too. It is the way I suggest you put all of the pieces together, and how you can mark your success and ride the waves of change, that really make this a worthwhile offering. 

This baby sleep course is new, and I am sure I will probably add to this list over time! Ha. If you have taken the course and have insight to share with me.. I would be all ears. Send me an email at lara@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com and I will check out your feedback! 

In the meantime, if the course IS for you I hope you will support the venture, and love it. 

XO 

Lara