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Surviving Sleep Over the Holidays

I just got off the phone with my accountant. We were planning our next meeting, and she informed me that Christmas is just over 2 weeks away! Umm… excuse me?! How did this happen?

I felt my heart pound a little harder. The air got a little foggy.. And my throat started to tighten up ever so slightly.

I can’t be the only one who suffers from holiday related anxiety? So much to do. So little time.

Don’t forget to move the elf! Stocking stuffers.. Haven’t even started on those! Where are Grandma and Grandpa going to sleep?! The turkey takes how long in the microwave?

(kidding)

This could arguably be the busiest time of the year. It seems like we are trying to plan a year’s worth of get togethers into the month of December. There are many dinners, way too many desserts, hot chocolates aplenty, light displays, and the like. It is hectic, and if you are a parent to a sensitive child, all of these extra events can increase everyone’s stress levels.

Accommodating your child’s sleep needs over the holidays can be a real challenge. And not every family member will understand your “type A ways” and join you on your suggestion to swap Christmas eve cocktails, for a Christmas eve brunch that better suits everyone’s sleep needs.

So what can we do to survive the next few weeks?

Step 1: Try to get everyone to change their plans to suit you!

I know.. You thought I was joking above about the Christmas Eve brunch thing, but if your family is flexible maybe this is the year to swap a dinner for a breakfast instead. We all get to enjoy each other’s company while we are well rested, and everyone likes a mimosa… am I right?

Step 2: Relax and try to go with the flow..

Okay, so they are not quite as open minded as you had hoped. Well, you are going to have to just relax a bit. If your child goes to bed late just one night out of 7, all hell is not going to break loose for the most part. If they have two car-seat naps on the way to and from visiting family, it is also not the end of the world. Try to live like the other half do for a few days and resist the urge to schedule your child’s every move. I know.. Easier said than done for some of us. But, remind yourself that your track record for getting through really difficult days is 100% so far!

Step 3: Resist the urge to be at EVERYthing..

Are there some events that you might want to pass on to save your child from being crazy over-stimulated, and you needing 10 or more rum and egg nogs just to have a good time? It is okay to say no, sometimes. You know your child best and if they are truly very time-sensitive, you might have to skip a few get togethers this year. Remind yourselves (and your friends), that it won’t always be this way. Children tend to be more adaptable to changes in their sleep schedules the older they become, and this is a year you just have to sit one or two events out.

Step 4: Try to set your child up for sleep success in a different space..

For many families, this can be done. If your child has some pretty solid sleep skills already, they may very well be able to go down to sleep in their pack and play at Aunt Louise’s house while everyone else eats an 8:00 pm Christmas dinner. You know your child best, and whether or not this might be a possibility for you. 

Step 5: Embrace the chaos, and try to find your calm.

Remember, this too shall pass. In a few weeks everything is going to be back to normal-ish. Well, despite the fact that there will be 50% more people at the gym, and a line-up at the bottle return depot.

And a special reminder for the friends and family who don’t remember, don’t know what it is like to have small children, or just want to be super supportive. 

Try to empathize with us right now. We really wish we could be at your “thing”. We really wish we didn’t have to leave earlier than everyone else. We really wish a babysitter was a possibility right now, or that our child didn’t need to hold our hand every single time they fell asleep. But this is the reality of where we are at. So please, offer us your patience, kindness, and support as we navigate the highs and lows of this holiday season with little ones in tow. And share with us that you are here to help however you are needed, and only offer “what worked for you” if you are asked.

Merry Christmas all, and happy holidays to you and yours!

XO

Lara

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Should you sing your baby to sleep?

Over the past year my practice in sleep coaching has evolved. I am asking parents to respond to their babies. This means validating their 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 my families avoid.

One of the “things” I kept telling parents to do while settling their babies, was 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 Theodore 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. Low and steady. It seemed to flow from me almost effortlessly.

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 sleep-time 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 I think that is something to honour!

What I started to notice with Theo, 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 researches 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 if they became one! The same effect was not necessarily present just from baby being picked up! But their brain and body seemed to join together over this familiar tune.**

I knew for months that Theo 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 Theo, he got to know me. He got to listen to my voice, and know me as the one who keeps 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. This was largely led by the melodic tune.

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 sounds that are familiar to them.

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 nighttime 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.

Beautiful baby photos with thanks to Stacie-Lynn photography.

 

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Surviving Sleep Over the Holidays

I just got off the phone with my accountant. We were planning our next meeting, and she informed me that Christmas is just over 2 weeks away! Umm… excuse me?! How did this happen?

I felt my heart pound a little harder. The air got a little foggy.. And my throat started to tighten up ever so slightly.

I can’t be the only one who suffers from holiday related anxiety? So much to do. So little time.

Don’t forget to move the elf! Stocking stuffers.. Haven’t even started on those! Where are Grandma and Grandpa going to sleep?! The turkey takes how long in the microwave?

(kidding)

This could arguably be the busiest time of the year. It seems like we are trying to plan a year’s worth of get togethers into the month of December. There are many dinners, way too many desserts, hot chocolates aplenty, light displays, and the like. It is hectic, and if you are a parent to a sensitive child, all of these extra events can increase everyone’s stress levels.

Accommodating your child’s sleep needs over the holidays can be a real challenge. And not every family member will understand your “type A ways” and join you on your suggestion to swap Christmas eve cocktails, for a Christmas eve brunch that better suits everyone’s sleep needs.

So what can we do to survive the next few weeks?

Step 1: Try to get everyone to change their plans to suit you!

I know.. You thought I was joking above about the Christmas Eve brunch thing, but if your family is flexible maybe this is the year to swap a dinner for a breakfast instead. We all get to enjoy each other’s company while we are well rested, and everyone likes a mimosa… am I right?

Step 2: Relax and try to go with the flow..

Okay, so they are not quite as open minded as you had hoped. Well, you are going to have to just relax a bit. If your child goes to bed late just one night out of 7, all hell is not going to break loose for the most part. If they have two car-seat naps on the way to and from visiting family, it is also not the end of the world. Try to live like the other half do for a few days and resist the urge to schedule your child’s every move. I know.. Easier said than done for some of us. But, remind yourself that your track record for getting through really difficult days is 100% so far!

Step 3: Resist the urge to be at EVERYthing..

Are there some events that you might want to pass on to save your child from being crazy over-stimulated, and you needing 10 or more rum and egg nogs just to have a good time? It is okay to say no, sometimes. You know your child best and if they are truly very time-sensitive, you might have to skip a few get togethers this year. Remind yourselves (and your friends), that it won’t always be this way. Children tend to be more adaptable to changes in their sleep schedules the older they become, and this is a year you just have to sit one or two events out.

Step 4: Try to set your child up for sleep success in a different space..

For many families, this can be done. If your child has some pretty solid sleep skills already, they may very well be able to go down to sleep in their pack and play at Aunt Louise’s house while everyone else eats an 8:00 pm Christmas dinner. You know your child best, and whether or not this might be a possibility for you. 

Step 5: Embrace the chaos, and try to find your calm.

Remember, this too shall pass. In a few weeks everything is going to be back to normal-ish. Well, despite the fact that there will be 50% more people at the gym, and a line-up at the bottle return depot.

And a special reminder for the friends and family who don’t remember, don’t know what it is like to have small children, or just want to be super supportive. 

Try to empathize with us right now. We really wish we could be at your “thing”. We really wish we didn’t have to leave earlier than everyone else. We really wish a babysitter was a possibility right now, or that our child didn’t need to hold our hand every single time they fell asleep. But this is the reality of where we are at. So please, offer us your patience, kindness, and support as we navigate the highs and lows of this holiday season with little ones in tow. And share with us that you are here to help however you are needed, and only offer “what worked for you” if you are asked.

Merry Christmas all, and happy holidays to you and yours!

XO

Lara