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A Beginner’s Guide to Responding to Your Child with Empathy

I work with a lot of parents who are trying to shift the cycle of parenting. Many of today’s parents grew up with authoritarian style parenting because it was popular in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was a time where children were to be seen and not heard, where parent’s “ruled the roost!” and where children were a bit afraid of stepping out of line. 

We now know that this type of parenting does not help increase our children’s emotional intelligence. But, responding with empathy and striving to be an authoritative parent can help. So; how do we start with this if it is something that is totally foreign? 

On my fridge, I have this little reminder… and I thought I would share it with you today in case it helps you too! 

1. Offer acceptance 

What this might sound like: 

“You’re having some big feelings about not getting the snack you want.”

“You seem really upset we can’t watch another show right now.” 

2. Get curious 

What this might sound like:

“I wonder if you’re really upset because we ran out of cheerios?” 

“Are you mad because the next episode looked really good?”

3. Empathize  

What this might sound like: 

“It can feel frustrating when you can’t get what you want when you want it.” 

“It makes sense that you would be upset about the TV going off.” 

When you look at the scenarios above; can you imagine what your parents would have said in response to your big feelings? A response like STOP CRYING, or I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT stops the social emotional learning from taking place. 

When we see our children’s big feelings as an opportunity to connect and teach empathy, as well as, social and emotional intelligence, we shift the narrative. 

XO

Lara 

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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 

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Why I don’t practice controlled crying…

This blog was previously written and shared in February of 2017. But it is important, and central to the decisions we have made, and what we chose to do as a company. For that reason, we are re-sharing with a few updates. Enjoy.

I want to start this article off by saying both of my children have been “sleep trained”. Both of my children have experienced “controlled crying” to some degree. And really. They both seem relatively normal. Ish. 😉

It is not my mission in writing this blog to guilt anyone for the choices they have made in how they have gotten their children to sleep. Because I believe every parent is inherently good. We’re all trying our best. We make choices every day for our children and hope in our heart of hearts we are making the right ones.

But sometimes to know more is to do better. Right now I know more, and I am choosing to do better. In my own parenting at home, and with every client who trusts me to guide them in my sleep work.

I did not get to where I am today holding back. If you know me, you know I’m an open book. As honest as they come. I’ve made decisions I’m proud of, and some that bring me guilt, shame, and yes, even regret. And while this writing may make you feel a lot of “feels”, this was a story I felt I needed to tell to continue on in my business and propel it forward in a direction I feel most proud of, and confident in.

I remember the first time I questioned controlled crying. Like really questioned it. I believed it to be a good method to use to get a child to sleep when I had an infant. That’s because I REALLY needed to sleep. It worked. And I was grateful. I got my life back. A little piece of me I was really longing for.. lost in the abyss that is postpartum life. I began to feel like me again. I was also convinced that I had given myself and my child the “gift of sleep”, and that I had done a good thing by teaching my baby to “self-soothe”.

But then that little baby became a toddler. More advanced than their peers in the language department, they would love to talk your ear off. And when he turned two, he decided bedtime was the place to share all of his wildest dreams and deepest secrets.

My usual methods in getting him to sleep weren’t working. I could close the door, but immediately he screamed. And not just a little cry or whimper. A bloody murder scream. The kind I remembered from when he was a baby and we sleep trained him using the Ferber approach. But this time, he didn’t quiet down. She added another element to his plea. A “mama mama mama mama please don’t go!”.

That night I laid on his floor. Closed my eyes. And sang until he was asleep. I wondered what I had done wrong. What had happened. And why our sleep strategy was no longer working. The Ferber approach is supposed to be a 3 – 5 nights and you’re “done forever and for always” approach. What was happening?

And in true Lara form, this brought me to the library. Where I then checked out every toddler sleep book that exists, and began to dive a little deeper.

Had I been prepared for what to expect, I would have been ready. There is a sleep “regression” at age two with the burst of language development, the evolution of true fears, and some residual separation anxiety. A normal, healthy, and natural part of my toddler’s childhood that I was trying to close the door, separate myself from, and ignore. And this strong-willed (and highly sensitive) kid was having none of it.

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. And it made me question everything. Why was it appropriate for me to walk out of the room on my crying baby when he was but 7 months of age and barely had object permanence? But, as soon as he had words it felt wrong? Had he not always been trying to communicate something to me?

Of course he had. That’s biology. Human infants communicate to their caregivers through tears. This is the only way they can get their needs met. Sometimes this is a cry for a diaper change, a tummy to be filled, or pain from an ear infection. And at other times a cry may mean; please stay with me, I need you near. Our children communicate both physical and emotional needs.

Now I am not an advocate for NOT allowing our children to cry. In fact, I encourage quite the opposite. I believe that we should meet all of our children’s needs, and then if there are some tears to be had – fine. They should have them. This is part of a normal, healthy emotional release, and you can read more of my thoughts on crying here. But, I believe tears can be in the arms of a loving caregiver, or the presence of a parent sitting beside, hand on chest, telling their child they are there for them. Or in my case that night, singing “on top of spaghetti” at the top of my lungs because I really had no other way to get that child to sleep.

I’ve learned a lot in my work with families. I’ve always attracted a “gentler” crowd, and through families asking for something totally different, I learned a lot. People wanted to move slower. They wanted to connect more deeply with their child. And they wanted options. Caring as much as I do about the clients I serve, I tried to find these for everyone who asked. And in doing so, I found myself a whole new repertoire of skills.

But still, I offered controlled crying as an option. Since no concrete research based articles on sleep training proved it was bad, or harmful to infants (or so I thought), I carried on.. business as usual. Doing what 90% of other child sleep consultants do. Convincing families that their children NEED to sleep. And that I would be the one to get them some.

But then came along baby #2. And damnit. He was more difficult than the first in the sleep department.

I promised myself I wouldn’t worry. I wouldn’t stress. “You’ve got all the tools to fix this Lara” were words I repeated often, and as a result I relaxed.

I relaxed a lot. I gave myself a chance to just “be” with my youngest. To listen to him. To feed him more than I thought I should in the middle of the night. To respond to him with pick ups, cuddles, love and contact at any hour of the day – with far less restrictions than Ferber would ever allow. And dog gone it, the child began to sleep. In his own time. In the comfort of my presence. Without “negative sleep props or associations”, with room for “healthy tears and emotional release” in the presence of his loving caregivers – he began to sleep.

Now to say I got to this place on my own would be a complete lie. I confided in the sleep coaches I was most curious about.. and they taught me a lot. One of my good friends suggested I take Bebo.Mia’s Infant sleep Educator course and I signed up almost instantly. I felt drawn to the promise of seeing sleep through a lens different than the one I was used to viewing it from. And I was excited to see what this new education would do to my practice.

Some of the learning was hard for me. These people actually had the science. The science the greater half of the sleep training community chooses to ignore. And the science I needed to give me my “why”. The reasons why I personally no longer practice controlled crying forms of sleep training in my home, or with my client’s babies.

This isn’t to say I won’t get you more sleep. I absolutely will do that. But I hope you will find a pace that feels right. A pace that feels more natural. Good, and supportive for everyone involved. With permission to touch, stroke, make eye contact, and feed at times where these things are necessary.

I learned that year that a lot of what we hear about infant sleep is a lie.

Firstly, babies cannot “self-soothe”. Babies cannot regulate their emotions. They are born with a seriously underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that does regulate our emotions (Cozalino, 2010). And to be honest, most of us have not fully developed the neuro pathways for self regulation until age 24. Therefore asking a baby to “soothe itself” is really quite a preposterous ask.

Babies are born wired to survive. They are designed to survive the first year at all costs. And their biology ensures that this is so. For this reason, they are hardwired to their parents as well. Parents are physiologically wired to respond to an infant’s cries (Narvaez, 2011), and to be honest, we don’t yet know enough about the longterm effects of ignoring an infant’s cries in order for me to comfortably ask a family in my care to do this. We do know enough about forming secure attachments for me to err on the side of caution on this one.

Considering that sleep is also where we are most vulnerable (Aldort, 2011), it only really makes sense that a child might need the support and loving presence of their caregiver to trust the transition to the sleep state, and go to this state peacefully. We know that teaching babies and young children is done through example (Cozalino, 2010, p.70). And teaching a child to sleep is surely no exception.

When we look back on the Behaviourist Theory that dominated psychology in the 1950s, it is easy to see why we developed infant sleep practices that ignored a child’s primal needs. The North American view at this time was that infants should be seen, and not heard, and that parents should not be inconvenienced by the demands of their children. And sadly, we see this having residual lasting effects in today’s parenting practices, and many of the sleep training approaches offered as a “quick fix”.

But since the 1950s we have learned a lot about infants. We have learned a TON about the brain. And we know that although children cannot remember specific memories before the age of 3 (Mate, 2002), these memories are stored implicitly in the brain and will re-surface when similar experiences take place as those that did in the child’s earliest of days.

Thanks to Developmental Psychology and Attachment Theorists such as John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, we know that babies are born social creatures. We know that positive early experiences in a child’s life help to hardwire the messages “I am understood” “I am worthy” and “The world is safe” (Cozalino, 2010). And I believe we are on the edge of a paradigm-shift in the world of sleep consulting.

All of the sleep training studies that exist are inconclusive. They do not account for all of the variables we would need to see to know if it is truly safe to sleep train a child using a controlled crying approach. Bebo.Mia asked us to look at these studies, and look at how someone supportive of sleep training took the information and blogged about it in a positive light. While someone who was against sleep training took that same study, and blogged about it negatively. Inconclusive at its best, I believe.

Lastly, ask anyone who sleep trained their child this way if the process felt good. I know that many people choose cry-it-out as an absolute last resort. I also did this. But had I known there were other ways to achieve more sleep, I certainly would have chosen them. Had I known that picking up my baby would not “undo all of the crying to this point” I would have picked them up.

I also know that new pathways in the brain are formed every day, and that the brain is incredibly plastic. For this reason, I know I can go ahead with my own children each day and form healthy, happy attachments, and awesome early memories for them, despite their prior sleep training experiences.

What I have learned about being a mama is there is always something to feel guilty over. But, the very fact that you are worried about being a good parent is usually enough to prove you are in fact one, and your children are going to turn out just fine. Or at the very least.. Just messed up enough that they are interesting at a dinner party.

I choose everyday to lead my business with the heart of a parent. I know the visceral response you feel when your baby cries. And I want you to act on this instinct. This instinct. This intuition. It is there for a reason. And I believe it should not be ignored.

I want you to look back on the experience of getting your child more sleep with a smile on your face, resting assured that it was the absolute best thing you could have done for your family in that moment in time. And that you took the most caring, most thoughtful, and most supportive road you could have taken to get there.

So yes. My approach will be this way moving forward, and my courses do not consider controlled crying as an option. I can get your child and your family more sleep. This is true. But you’ve got to be on board with doing things a little bit differently. With sometimes having to completely reshape everything you think you know and believe about infant sleep. With getting creative. With exploring the relationship you have with your child now, and for a lifetime.

And if you are open to this – then yes, I’d be honoured to be your guide.

XO

Lara

Aldort, N. (2011). Naomi Aldort on sleep: YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oelT2QM5Tk

Bebo.Mia. (2017). Infant Sleep Educator Module. Toronto, ON. Retrieved from www.bebomia.com.

Cozolino, L. (2010). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Healing the social brain. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company

Narvaez, D. (2011). The Dangers of “Crying it Out”. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/morallandscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out

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Why does self care HELP your toddler?

When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, they need for us to share our calm, not join their chaos.”~ L.R Knost

This is one of our favourite quotes and it is often used in our consultations. It can be really difficult when you’re tired, frustrated, have an endless list of things you need to do, and your child just WONT cooperate.

Your child is not out to wind you up intentionally (despite the way it might feel sometimes!) – they aren’t born with the ability to regulate or manage their emotions.  Right from birth, we are our children’s first teachers. Their emotions will mirror ours; so if you are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated or another myriad of emotions, those are the feelings your child is taking on as well. 

Have you ever noticed that if you are in a good place emotionally that your child also seems to have less meltdowns or challenges? But when things start getting tough that’s when your child’s behaviour deteriorates as well which increases your stress level?

This is why self-care is so important.

If you aren’t able to take care of your own physical and emotional needs, then you aren’t equipped to take care of your child’s. Self-care is the least selfish thing that you can do. It will make you a better parent, partner, friend, son or daughter, aunt or uncle. Your child deserves to have you at your best, so make the time to get yourself there. 

We find the majority of parents are terrible for actually following through with self-care because they always put others first. Find someone to help keep you accountable! Whether its your partner, a friend, your mum, anyone who can check in on you to make sure you are taking time for yourself. There is no right or wrong way to engage in self-care – many people assume that you should be doing some sort of exercise or personal development (and if that’s something you like to do then yes!) but taking time out for self-care means doing something for yourself that you previously really enjoyed and makes you FEEL good and rejuvenated. 

I am someone who tends to be paralyzed into inaction by having to come up with things to do for myself. To help others who may fall into that category, here is a list of ideas that may or may not interest you:

  • Nap

  • Read a book

  • Have a cup of tea and stare out of the window

  • Go for a walk / run

  • Take a zumba class (if nothing else, you will get a good sweat on and learn to laugh at yourself!)

  • As a friend to meet you for coffee

  • Take a bath

  • Yoga class

  • Explore essential oils and make yourself a roller for stressful times

  • Make jewellery (youtube has lots of videos and you can get supplies off etsy and amazon)

  • Make bath bombs (amazon has 

  • Organize (This might sound strange, but if it makes you feel good then go with it! I get a lot of pleasure out of organizing and having things sorted into containers etc. When I feel anxious, I organize.)

  • Knitting (Again, youtube has tons of videos, your local yarn store would help you get started and often have knitting groups once a week) 

  • Go to the gym

  • Go to bed early

  • Cook or bake 

I could go on for ages, so if none of these appeal to you keep on digging! You are sure to find something soon enough.

So you have someone to keep you accountable, you have an activity that you are planning on doing (napping count’s as an activity) what is going to make it happen? The number one reason I hear for why self-care didn’t happen is because they didn’t have childcare or something happened and you didn’t get the time. So here is another list of strategies for making sure you are taking time to be the best version of you: 

  • Make a plan and schedule it into your calendar 

  • Make sure you have someone to take over your childcare responsibilities 

    • Self-care isn’t as restorative if you have to be “on” in case your child wakes up, etc.

    • Ask Grandma to come over during nap time

    • Put it in your partners schedule that they are on bedtime duty

    • Hire a babysitter to come over

      • If funds are tight and you are planning on being in the home, ask a teenage neighbour to come round and play with your toddler while you take time for yourself

    • Do a childcare switch with a friend – look after her tot while she takes care of herself and vice versa (this also works well for date nights!)

What are some of your favourite self-care activities? Comment below to help a fellow parent out! 

XO

Amy

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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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Making the Most of Your Own Sleep Space

Let’s face it. We focus a lot here on getting the babies and the toddlers sleeping. But, sometimes after we’ve worked together, baby is sleeping and parents still are not! Why is this? Well.. many different reasons, to be exact. One of the main ones being – they haven’t slept in 5, 6, 24, 36 months, and their body has forgotten how. If your child has just begun sleeping through the night, give yourself some grace and know that it will take time for everyone to adjust to the new sleep routine, and begin sleeping well.

But, let’s also take a look at our own bedrooms and see if there are any improvements that could be made.

I, for one.. Am a “terrible” sleeper. Which is one of the BIG reasons why I got into this field in the first place. So keeping my bedroom a “sleep sanctuary” is definitely at the top of my list. Here are a few things that I have considered in creating my sleep space. And, I do feel many of them have helped.

  • Make the Bedroom DARK. AS. NIGHT.

Light is the single most important environmental factor impacting your sleep. This can be from any source of light – computer, phone ding, but also the biggest one often ignored is our bedroom windows. Light streaming in from the street through your crappy bedroom blinds is going to keep you up people! When your environment is bright, your melatonin levels remain low. Darkness helps your body secrete this sleep hormone. In my opinion, great blackout curtains are a worthwhile investment for every room in your home. But, if this is not possible because you have just spent every last dollar on your nursery.. A good sleep mask will definitely also help in a pinch.

  • Your room is for sleep (and maybe sex.. But.. you are parents so.. you might be too tired for that.. :D)

Don’t make your bedroom an entertainment space. If you are using your room to watch TV right before bed, or play video games – this is going to impact your sleep. If your body and mind equate your bedroom with excitement, it will be really hard for your body to settle down and prepare to transition to sleep.

  • Calm, neutral wall colours make a difference.

Now, most grown adults don’t have their room painted bright red, pink or orange. But, if you do – this could be affecting your sleep as well. These colours are associated with anger, and panic. Not exactly how you want to be feeling when you enter your sleep space. Cooler calmer colours on the walls. Think light greys and pastels, really do help transform your space into one of calm solitude and rest.

  • Clear Out the Clutter

Your room furniture should definitely take “feng shui” into consideration. Creating a good flow in the bedroom is really important. And if your bedroom is cluttered, you are going to find yourself distracted before drifting off to sleep. Thinking about piles that need to be moved, or laundry that needs to be folded, will distract the mind and cause a bit of unnecessary stress right before sleep. Definitely take some time and clear the clutter out of your bedroom. Your body and mind will thank you. Channel your inner “Marie Kondo” who is all the rage right now! ha.

  • Remove Some of the Noise

Did you know that your brain actually processes noises in your sleep? This is the exact reason your baby crying in the night jolts you out of bed like nobodies business. Try to reduce the noises in your bedroom.

Personally, we sleep with a white noise machine. I know people think these are just for kiddos. But, if you live in a busy metropolitan area or tight community like we do.. A good white noise machine that produces relaxing sounds can help create great ambiance and encourage you to fall asleep faster. Another suggestion is just to use ear plugs. I have not found too many that are optimal in comfort for me.. But everyone’s ears are different!

Don’t worry that you won’t hear the baby. Trust me – you will. And if you’re really nervous just make sure that the ear plugs you are using have a noise reduction rating of 32 decibels or less.

  • Invest in the Bed

You know you spend ⅓ of your life in that thing right? Make sure you’ve got a comfortable cozy mattress, and great bedding too. Sliding into nice clean sheets is an amazing feeling! Find sheets that are natural, breathable, and of a decent thread count. Your pillow will make a difference too! We so rarely try out our bed or bedding for longer than 30 seconds before purchasing. (Mattress stores are kind of an embarrassing place to hang out for prolonged periods of time). But, make choosing your bed and bedding a high priority. You really do spend a great amount of time here.

Of course I could go on and on and on. But, I hope this helps you look for a few simple and easy changes you might be able to make to begin getting a better night’s sleep in the very near future.

XO

Lara

Thank you to the amazing Stacie-Lynn Photography for the use of this beautiful photo seen here of this adorable family. She really is the best!