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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!

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Toddler Waking More Than the Newborn

Is this your life? Get new baby to sleep. Fight the toddler to bed. Baby wakes up to feed. Toddler wakes up for water. Baby wakes up to feed. Toddler wakes up to tell you about Star Wars. Baby wakes to feed. Toddler wakes and insists she needs to pee. Baby wakes to feed. Toddler wakes and needs a cuddle. Everyone is up for the day! And everyone is seemingly well rested.. well.. except mama!

Honestly. I can remember this time in my life like it was yesterday. It wasn’t yesterday… it was almost a year ago now, but I do recall the sheer sleep deprivation that is having a toddler and a newborn baby.

The birth of a sibling really shakes things up! This is a huge transformative time in a family. Everything you once thought you knew is no more. Everyone is just adjusting to their new roles. And since we know sleep does not exist in and of itself, there are going to be some repercussions to welcoming this beautiful little creature earth side. Your toddler has been sleeping through the night for weeks, months, years, maybe even… and now you are suddenly engaged in a game of “whack a mole” every night bringing them back to their bed.

Just going to take this opportunity to tell you all that after I had Theo I did not sleep for 36 hours. This is the longest I have ever not slept in my life. And I am alive to tell the tale. Haha! But, I will save that for another blog post at another time and stick to the task at hand which is, explaining what is happening when your toddler is sleeping worse than your newborn.

If your toddler was sleeping well before baby was born, I know this is a difficult transition to make. Your go-to strategy may be to draw a hard line in the sand, fire all systems up, and nip this in the bud before it becomes anything worse.

But, you have been following me a while so you probably know this won’t be my recommendation! Hehe.

Our children wake in the night for a number of different reasons.

First of all, they don’t sleep like adults. Their sleep cycles are not comparable to adult sleep cycles, and they spend more of their time in lighter sleep than we do, even at 3 and 4 years old.

Toddlers are also beginning to decipher the difference between real and make believe, which makes some of their nightmare experiences downright terrifying.

And another reason that our toddlers wake is for attention. They used to be the baby. They were the ONLY apple of your eye, and now they have to share you. Wah wah wahhhhhhh… not exactly what they signed up for. The amount of attention they previously received has likely been cut by more than half and so they begin to seek this attention wherever they can get it. Often this means more prolonged requests at bedtime, and various visits in the middle of the night. When you are their captive audience, they absolutely will seek you out. The baby is sleeping mom…. I can have you ALL to myself – and I will!

Now the other struggle you may find yourself in come middle of the night is the “power struggle”. Your toddler has essentially just lost a lot of power with the introduction of the new baby. He used to get what he wanted when he asked. Now he is being told to, “wait until the baby is done nursing,” or, “share your toys with your sister,” or, “don’t hit the baby!”. He used to rule the roost! Wait for a snack he did not. Share his toys he did not. He could play with what he wanted, when he wanted, and all the time he had a captive audience. Now suddenly you may see some powerful requests come middle of the night. “I NEED my Star Wars pajamas!!!” “I NEED my RED water bottle not the BLUE water bottle, and I don’t care if it is 2am! Find the bottle MOM!”.

Yeah.. you get the idea. Have kids they said. It will be fun they said.

And while you’re trying your best to be empathetic, I also know you just can’t deal with the fact that you are up more at night with your toddler than you are with your newborn. The new baby just wants to feed. She’s not making demands about pajamas, night-lights, or the like!

So what can we do to help our toddlers in this transition?

1. Don’t expect them to make big changes before baby arrives.

  • If you’re one of the smart ones and you are reading this BEFORE the birth of your second baby – here is my advice. If it is less than 6 months before baby’s arrival let them keep their comforting items. Keep them in the crib and order a second one for babe if necessary, let them keep their pacifier, and their bottle of milk before bed. Otherwise you are likely setting yourself up for a power struggle, followed by a sleep regression. And as you probably know – once you’re in a power struggle with a toddler, you’ve already lost. Your dignity. Your sanity. You know the drill.

2. Increase opportunities for attention.

  • Really hard to do at first. I know that. But it gets easier, and you will become a pro at this before you know it! Give your oldest child as much focused one-on-one time throughout the day as you can. Play at their level. Let them lead you through play, and engage you how they see fit without the distractions of phone, TV, cleaning, or the like.
  • Think about how much time they are spending with you in the middle of the night, and try to match that in the daytime. Ensure they are getting lots of positive attention in helping to do things for baby as well. “Thank you for getting brother’s blanket, you’re such a helpful big bro!” All these little thank you’s will add up to a big confidence boost, and a love bucket that is just a little more full.

3. Increase opportunities for power.

  • If power struggles at bedtime or middle of the night are part of your equation, increase your toddler’s ability to call the shots.
  • In their bedtime routine; do you want the red toothbrush, or the blue one? Purple pajamas or pink? Straw cup or sippy cup?
  • You can also give them a few cards to use at bedtime to make requests. A card they trade for one more hug, an extra sip of water, milk, or a cuddle. But once you have fulfilled the request, take the card away and return it the next morning. Show that the boundaries you do set are meant to be respected, but allow your toddler to know where these boundaries lie before insisting that they fulfill an expectation they know nothing about.

4. Ensure your toddler is not waking because of an environmental factor.

  • Do they know how to find their soother in the middle of the night? Can they pull their blankets back on when they are cold? Or, should they be in a sleep sack with foot holes like this one made by Halo. Are they falling asleep with a nightlight on, and when they wake in the night it is turned off? Can they turn it back on themselves?
  • Look at the things you do for your child at bedtime, and ask yourself if your toddler can be asked to re-create this come middle of the night. If the answer is no.. you may need to make some changes, or teach your toddler the skills to fulfill these requests and guide them in the middle of the night to do these things for themselves. I know it would be easier for you to just switch on the nightlight tonight – but then this becomes the expectation for tomorrow night too. Guide your child to do this in the night, and they will learn this is something they should start to do for themselves as well.

When it comes to making sleep changes everyone is usually playing the “short game”. The game that is going to get you back into bed as fast as possible on any given night. But I assure you, with a quick fix, a problem persists. I would encourage you to look for the root of your child’s behavior, and begin to work around resolving that need in particular. Lead with your heart. Treat your little one like the human being they are, and surely you will be able to troubleshoot this one in a way that works for both of you.

And a couple of last minute suggestions if it’s still not working out for you…

Repeat the mantra “this too shall pass”, and maybe tattoo it on your forearm so you see it at every turn. 😉

Or consider booking a toddler consultation with me. This is probably my favourite age group to work with and I would love to help you out.

XO

Lara

Thank you to this beautiful family, and feature photography by www.stacielynnphotography.ca.