Attachment Parenting & Sleep Training?

I’m hoping that I might be able to change some minds here today.

It won’t be easy, obviously, because when is it ever? But on parenting issues, there are so many emotional ties and hardened beliefs that enter into the equation that make swaying someone’s nearly impossible.

As parents, we bear an enormous responsibility. It’s not just about keeping our little ones alive, warm, fed and happy. We’re all looking to raise exceptional human beings. We’re responsible for the quality of our kids’ lives long after they’ve left the nest, and many of the decisions we make today are going to determine who they are 2030, even 50 years from now. No surprise than that we take these decisions very, very seriously. I’ll admit that I find the idea of attachment parenting more than a little interesting, and I can definitely see why it appeals to a lot of parents. After all, most of us want to love our kids unreservedly, especially in those first few years. Our instincts are all about holding baby close, meeting their every need the moment it arises, and protecting them with the strength and determination of a Titan. (Although if I remember my mythology correctly, those Greek gods made some pretty questionable parenting choices, so maybe that’s a bad example.) For anyone who’s not familiar, attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy that was popularized by Drs. William and Martha Sears in their 1993 publication, “The Baby Book.” The idea, in a nutshell, is maximum closeness and responsiveness. You wear your baby, you share a bed with your baby, you breastfeed on demand, and you answer their cries immediately. In theory, this creates a strong attachment between mother and baby, which results in well-adjusted children who grow up to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society. Now, all of these theories have been debated endlessly and passionately, but there’s no strong evidence to show that attachment parenting is better or worse than other parenting styles. If you want more information on attachment parenting, a quick Google search will provide you with more material than you could possibly take in over a dozen lifetimes. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. This is about whether attachment parenting and sleep training are mutually exclusive. I have worked with more than a few clients who subscribe to the attachment parenting ideology and they usually feel like they’re “cheating” a little. You see, an important thing to note here is that Dr. Sears included a catchy bullet point list of the principles of attachment parenting that he refers to as “The Seven B’s.” They are, in no particular order...
  • Birth Bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Baby Wearing
  • Bedding Close to Baby
  • Belief in the Language Value of Your Baby’s Cry
  • Beware of Baby Trainers
  • Balance
As you can see, he had to stretch a little to get these to all fit into a “B’ category, but I think he did alright. I mean hey, there are seven of them and the guy is a pediatrician, not a poet. So the first three have nothing to do with sleep training. You can bond with your baby as much as you want, breastfeed until you’re blue in the face, and wear your baby in a sling everywhere you go, and as a pediatric sleep coach, I would tell you that’s all fine and dandy. The three that follow are the ones that tend to give attachment parenting advocates pause when they think about sleep training. Sleeping close to baby is another term for bed sharing, which Dr. Sears is a big fan of. It’s a common myth about pediatric sleep coaches that we’re firmly against bed sharing, and I won’t act like I don’t know where that came from. The consensus from most of my colleagues is that babies sleep better, and so do their parents, when they aren’t in the same bed as you. More people in bed means more movement, more movement means more wake ups, and more wake ups means less of that rich, delicious, deep sleep that we love to see everybody getting. So is it a deal breaker when it comes to sleep training? Well, yeah. Pretty much. Teaching babies to fall asleep independently isn’t really feasible when Mom is in arms’ reach at all times. Now, I have heard a lot of parents say they get better sleep when they bed share with their little ones, and that’s 100% wonderful in my book. If your family is all sleeping in the same bed and you’re all sleeping well, I say keep doing what you’re doing. However, if your definition of bed sharing is that one parent is sleeping on the couch and one of you is sleeping in bed with baby, waking every 45 minutes to breastfeed back to sleep, that’s not what would be commonly described as “quality sleep.” For anyone who wants to keep their little one close but would rather not wake up to baby’s toes in their nostrils ten times a night, I suggest sharing a room instead of a bed. As long as baby has a separate space to sleep, like a crib or a play pen, then sleep training is once again a viable option.

SO WHAT ABOUT CRYING?

Crying is how babies express discontentment, no question about it. Whether it’s a wet diaper, general discomfort, or just wanting something that they don’t have at that particular moment, babies cry to express that they want something. You may have noticed that I specifically avoided saying that they cry to express a “need,” because let’s face it, not everything a baby cries over is a requirement. If you disagree, I urge you to take a look at these hilarious examples of kids crying for nonsensical reasons. “He met Bill Murray.” is my personal favorite, but they’re all pretty great. So again, a lot of my clients are surprised when I tell them that sleep training does NOT require them to leave their babies to cry until they fall asleep. In fact, I typically don’t recommend waiting longer than about 10 minutes before responding to a crying baby. I do suggest giving your baby a few minutes to see if they can fall back to sleep on their own, but the idea that sleep training requires parents to close the door at bedtime and leave their little ones until the next morning, regardless of the intensity or duration of their crying, is, in scientific terms, bogus. So we’ve managed to get to the last two of the seven Bs without any real conflict, but this next one is going to be tough to navigate.

"BEWARE OF BABY TRAINERS?

So let me just level with you here, okay? I can’t speak for everyone in my profession, but as a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant, I am part of the largest collaborative network of pediatric sleep coaches in the world, and we all have one thing in common. We’re passionate about helping families. We’ve been through this issue ourselves, we’ve found a solution, and we’re devoted to helping others the same way we helped our own babies because we know, first hand, the difference it makes in people’s lives. And for anyone who might be thinking, “They’re just in it for the money,” I implore you to try working with exhausted parents and overtired babies for a few nights and tell me about how easy the money is. If this job were just about turning a profit, we would all find something else to do, believe me. We work with people in their most frazzled, desperate moments, and it is challenging work. The reward is in the results; the smiles of those happy babies and the relief in the eyes of the parents who are feeling reinvigorated and re-energized about raising kids now that they’re getting enough sleep. My only other issue with the attachment parenting style outlined by Dr. Sears lies in the last of his seven rules. Balance. “Wear your baby everywhere, breastfeed on demand, respond immediately to every whimper, sleep next to them, and hey, remember to take some time for yourself, because it’s all about balance.” But on the fundamental principle of balancing your parenting responsibilities with your self- care, I totally agree. Being a mother is a priority. It can easily be argued that it should be your main priority. Many would tell you that it’s your only priority, which I would disagree with, but let’s say for a minute that it’s true. If you’re going to be the best mom you can be, you absolutely, inarguably, need to get regular, sufficient rest. Motherhood is incredibly demanding and requires a finely-tuned well-oiled machine to do it right. You have to be patient, understanding, energized, empathetic, entertaining, and focused to be a good parent. Ask yourself, how many of those qualities would you say you possess on three hours of sleep?         One of my favorite quotes on parenthood is Jill Churchill’s heartwarming reminder that none of us bat 1.000 in this sport. “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” It reminds me that we, like our babies, are unique, and all of these parenting recipes need to be tweaked and adjusted to suit our individual familiar needs. So if attachment parenting is your thing, more power to you. The best parenting strategy is the one that works for you and your family. But if your little one isn’t sleeping and bed-sharing doesn’t seem to be rectifying the problem, I urge you to consider bending Dr. Sears’ rules a little and getting some help. I won’t tell him if you don’t.

Why Does My Baby Wake at 3AM?

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That right there might be the single most common question new parents ask.

Is it a developmental milestone? A regression? Are they getting too much sleep during the day, or not enough? Maybe they’re just hungry. Maybe they’re too hot, or too cold. But one of the most common questions parents ask me is, "why does my baby wake around 3AM?" Well, the truth is that it could be any of those things, and it could be a combination of several of them. What that means, and what you’re probably already aware of, is that baby’s sleep is tremendously complicated.   Their bodies and brains are rapidly going through significant changes, and by the time they’ve got one issue under control, a new one pops up to take its place. There are factors you can control, obviously. If baby’s too hot, you can turn up the AC or put a fan in the room. If they’re teething, a little Children’s Tylenol can often solve the problem, at least temporarily. But those are the simple fixes. The reason most people have such a challenging time with their babies’ sleep is because of problems that aren’t so simple, and don’t have obvious solutions.

Imagine this scenario:

An 18 month old child gets plenty of fresh air and sunlight during the day, goes down easily for long, restful naps, but when bedtime rolls around, suddenly they’re full of energy and want to play. When they’re told it’s time for bed, they get upset and bedtime becomes a battle. Once they do finally get to sleep, they wake up several times at night and never sleep past 5:30 in the morning.

So what’s going on? Is baby getting too much sleep during the day?

That would be the reasonable assumption, for sure. After all, if us grown-ups were to take a 3 hour nap in the afternoon, there’s a good chance we’d have a hard time falling and staying asleep that night. But the opposite is almost always the case. What baby’s demonstrating in this scenario is actually a need for more sleep, not less.

In order to understand this counterintuitive reasoning, first a little background on how this whole system of sleep works:

Crying at 3AM   About three hours prior to when we’re naturally prone to waking up, our bodies start secreting a hormone called cortisol, and if you’ve done some reading on your baby’s sleep prior to this, the sight of that word probably causes you to flinch a little. Cortisol is a stimulating hormone, and is also produced in times of stress in order to elevate the heart rate and stimulate the nervous system (in case, y’know, bears) but in the morning, it’s just trying to get us started. Think of it as mother nature’s caffeine. And if cortisol is our morning cup of coffee, melatonin is our evening glass of wine. Once the sun starts to go down, our bodies recognize the onset of night and begin to produce this lovely sleep- inducing hormone, which helps us get to sleep and stay asleep until morning, when the whole process starts over again. Melatonin production is increased and starts earlier in the evening when we awaken to some nice, bright sunlight.  

But as beautifully crafted as this system is, it’s not perfect and it’s easily confused. So in the situation we examined above, here’s what’s happening...

Baby’s taking great naps during the day, which is obviously wonderful, and she’s getting lots of time outdoors, so her body’s ready to crank out some melatonin when nighttime rolls around. So what’s with that burst of energy right before bedtime?   sleeping baby So when baby’s body has begun producing melatonin, there’s a narrow window of time when the body expects baby to be going to sleep. After all, she’s a baby. What’s she got to stay awake for? She doesn’t watch The Bachelor and she hasn’t discovered the Internet yet.  

The brain instinctively decides that something isn’t right;

and that for whatever reason, baby can’t sleep, (probably because, y’know, bears.) And if baby’s got a bear to run from, adding a shot of cortisol should help increase her chances for survival. So that’s exactly what it does. Baby’s system starts secreting cortisol and, before you know it, she’s a little bit cranked. This often shows up in the form of playfulness and an abundance of energy. In short, baby missed the window and now she’s going to have a hard time getting to sleep, but her behavior indicates anything but sleepiness.  

So what does all of this have to do with the dreaded 3 A.M. wake up?

Here’s what happens... Assuming your baby’s circadian rhythm is scheduling a 6 A.M. wake up, then her body starts to secrete cortisol three hours prior to that. and at this point, the melatonin production has ceased for the night. So baby hits the end of a sleep cycle around 3:00. She gets to that “slightly awake” state, and now there’s a little bit of stimulant and no natural sedative. This, combined with a lack of independent sleep skills, means that baby’s probably going to wake up fully, and have a really hard time gettting back to sleep.

So now for the big question you’ve probably been hoping I might have an answer for. How do I fix it?

While there’s no quick fix for adjusting baby’s hormone production schedule, you can definitely help her out by getting her outdoors during the day as much as possible. As I mentioned before, natural light during the day is the big cheerleader for melatonin production at night. It also helps to ensure that baby’s room is as dark as you can get it at night, and start turning down the lights in the house at least an hour before you put her to bed. Simulating the sunset will help to cue that melatonin production so that it’s in full swing when she goes into her crib. Avoid any TV, iPhone, tablet, or screen time of any kind for that same hour before bedtime. (Preferably even longer) as these devices emit a geyser of blue light, which will stimulate cortisol production right at the time when you’re trying to avoid it.

But above all, the number one way to help your baby sleep through the night is to get her on a predictable, consistent sleep schedule and teach her the skills she needs to fall asleep independently.

Because the truth is that you’re never going to prevent nighttime wake ups. We all wake up in the night, regardless of our age. As adults, we just have the ability to calmly assess the situation when we wake up in the dark, realize where we are, see that it’s still nighttime, and go right back to sleep. Most of the time we don’t even remember it the next morning. So although we can’t prevent baby from waking up at night, we can safely and effectively help her learn to recognize that she’s safe, in familiar territory, still tired, and capable of getting back to sleep on her own. You can find more information about how to do this by downloading my “5 Tips to Get Your Baby Sleeping Through the Night” guide.  

Spring Ahead & Solve Early Waking

  Well, it’s “spring ahead” time again, which means you’ve set the clocks ahead and probably aren't looking forward to losing that extra hour of sleep.  I don't love daylight savings in general, I think it can wreak havoc on sleep schedules for both children and adults. In fact, there is actually an 8% increase in traffic accidents the day after daylight savings, which just goes to show that it’s hard on people. We are already a sleep-deprived nation, so losing that extra hour only makes it worse (and more dangerous). HOWEVER, I do get that it’s a fact of life, at least for now, so we just need to be creative with how we handle it. Well, I'm taking a different approach this year.  I tried this with my Early Riser last year and it worked like a charm! So, what is this magic I speak of?  What do you need to do?  NOT MUCH!  That's right, if you have an early riser, this will often do the trick... at least until "fall back" comes around again.  For example, if you child normally goes to bed at 7pm and wakes around 6am, check this out! daylight savings, spring ahead, spring forward When you’re sleep training a child, this disruption to schedule can be especially frustrating. When this time of year comes around, many parents fine themselves wondering how to deal with the time change when they’ve finally got their baby used to going down at 7:00 pm every night and waking up at the same time in the morning, even it if is too early...     They’re confused, and rightly so: In the spring, does this mean putting baby down at 8:00 because it was 7:00 the day before? Or do they just put their child to bed an hour later, at the NEW 7:00? Sigh. No need to despair. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this (irritating) time of year, and I have developed a method that will help you get through it all and get your child’s sleep back to normal (and even sleep later) within a week or two. toddler sleep training, sleep consultant toddler

Here’s the Top Tip: Split the difference 

Basically, I don’t think it works to either ignore the time difference completely at bedtime OR to change the bedtime by a full hour. This is too hard on your child’s internal clock and can make for cranky babies who are either being put to bed way earlier than normal or way later. But I’ve come to believe that a half-hour is manageable. So, after you’ve set your clocks forward, move all nap times and bedtimes forward 30 minutes. This means that if your baby went down for a nap at 12:30 p.m. BEFORE the time change, today’s nap time should be 1:o0pm (which will feel like noon). Same thing for any other naps & bedtime. If your child usually goes to bed for the night at 7:00 p.m., tonight’s bedtime should be 7:30 (which will feel like 6:30). This should only take a few days to adjust. Try this until Wednesday, and by Thursday you should be able to move all nap times and bedtimes to their regularly scheduled times. Yes, the kids might fuss a bit because they are going to bed a little earlier than they are used to. It’s not ideal, I know, but your child will be back on track before you know it.

4-Month Sleep Regression: Myth or Monster?

As a professional sleep consultant, I hear the term “regression” used in regards to just about every imaginable circumstance. Essentially, if baby doesn’t sleep well for a couple of nights, parents start dropping the ‘R’ word. Some people subscribe to the idea that there’s an eight month regression, a 9 month regression, a 1 year regression, as well as teething regressions, growth spurt regressions, and so on. Others see these as simple hiccups caused by extenuating circumstances. But the four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, and it’s permanent. So in order to understand what’s happening to your baby during this stage, first you need to know a few things about sleep in general. So here’s the science-y part, told in plain English. Many of us just think of sleep as an on-or-off situation. You’re either asleep or you’re not. But sleep actually has a number of different stages, and they make up the “sleep cycle,” which we go through several times a night. Stage 1 is that initial stage we’re all familiar with where you can just feel yourself drifting off, but don’t really feel like you’ve fallen asleep. Anyone who has ever seen their partner nodding off in front of the TV, told them to go to bed, and gotten the canned response of, “I wasn’t sleeping!” knows exactly what this looks like. Stage 2, which is considered the first “true sleep” stage. This is where people tend to realize, once woken up, that they actually were sleeping. For anyone taking a “power nap,” this is as deep as you want to go, or else you’re going to wake up groggy. Stage 3 is deep and regenerative. Also known as “slow wave” sleep, this is where the body starts repairing and rejuvenating the immune system, muscles tissue, energy stores, and sparks growth and development. Stage 4 is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is where the brain starts to kick in and consolidates information and memories from the day before. It’s also the stage where we do most of our dreaming. Once we’ve gone through all of the stages, we either wake up or come close to waking up, and then start over again until the alarm goes off. So what does this have to do with the dreaded regression we were talking about originally?
Well, newborn babies only have 2 stages of sleep; stage 3 and REM, and they spend about half their sleep in each stage. But at around the third or fourth month, there is a reorganization of sleep, as they embrace the 4-stage method of sleep that they’ll continue to follow for the rest of their lives. When this change takes place, baby moves from 50% REM sleep to 25% in order to make room for those first two stages. So although REM sleep is light, it’s not as light as these 2 new stages that they’re getting used to, and with more time spent in lighter sleep, there’s more of a chance that baby’s going to wake up. That’s not to say that we want to prevent or avoid baby waking up. Waking up is absolutely natural, and we continue to wake up three, four, five times a night into adulthood and even more in old age. As adults, however, we’re able to identify certain comforting truths that baby might not be privy to. When we wake in the night, we’re able to recognize that, “Hey, I’m here in my bed, it’s still nighttime, my alarm isn’t going to go off for another three hours, and I’m reasonably certain that there are no monsters lurking under my bed. I can go back to sleep” And we do. Usually so quickly that, the next morning, we don’t even remember the brief encounter with consciousness. A four month old baby, of course, lacks these critical thinking skills. To a four month old baby who fell asleep at her mother’s breast, the reasoning could go much more to the tune of, “OK, last thing I remember, there was a familiar, beloved face, I was having dinner, and someone was singing me a soothing song about the Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Now I’m alone in this dark room, there’s no food, and there’s probably at least three, possibly four, scary monsters in the immediate vicinity.”
That’s probably an exaggeration, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a four month-old baby? Anyways, now that baby’s suddenly realized that Momma’s not around, and they’re not entirely sure where they’ve gone, the natural response is to do a little freaking out. That stimulates the fight-or-flight response and, next thing you know, baby’s not going back to sleep without a significant amount of reassurance that everything is OK. The other major contributor to this 4 month fiasco, I find, is that up until this point, parents have either been putting their baby to sleep with a pacifier, or by rocking them, or by breastfeeding them, or some similar technique where baby is helped along on the road to falling asleep. Now that baby’s spending more time in light sleep, and therefore has a higher probability of waking up, this suddenly becomes a much bigger issue. These sleep props or sleep associations can be very sneaky indeed, because although they may be helpful in getting your little one to that initial nodding off stage, the lack of them when they wake up means that baby’s not able to get back to sleep again without some outside help. Cue the fight-or-flight, the crying, and the adrenaline. When this starts happening every half an hour, parents can find themselves in a nightmarish situation. So, the good news for anyone experiencing the dreaded Four Month Sleep Regression is that it’s not, in fact, a regression at all. A regression is defined as “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,” and that’s actually the opposite of what your baby is experiencing. This would be much more aptly titled the “Four Month Sleep Progression” So, onto the big question. What can you do to help your little one adjust? First off, get all of that light out of baby’s room. I’m not kidding around here. You might think that baby’s room is dark enough, or that baby might not like the dark, and that it’s comforting to have a little bit of light coming through the windows or seeping in from the hallway. Nope. Baby’s room should be dark. I mean coal mine on a moonless night kind of dark. Tape garbage bags over the windows if you have to, or cover them with tinfoil. (Just be prepared to explain it to the police when the neighbors accuse you of running a grow-op.) Newborns and infants are not afraid of the dark. They are, however, responsive to light. Light tells their brains that it’s time for activity and alertness, and the brain secretes hormones accordingly, so we want to keep that nursery absolutely pitch black during naps and bedtime. The other nemesis of daytime sleep, (and nighttime for that matter, although not nearly as often) is noise. Whether its UPS ringing the doorbell, the dog warning you that the squirrels are back and for sure going to attack the house this time, or something falling on the floor three rooms away. With baby spending more time in lighter sleep, noises will startle them easily and wake them up, so a white noise machine is a great addition to your nursery. “Wait, isn’t that a prop,” you’re asking. Well, in a way, it is, but it doesn’t require any winding, resetting, reinserting, or parental presence. It’s just there and it can be on as long as baby’s sleeping, so it’s not a prop we need to avoid. Bedtime routines are also an essential component to getting your baby sleeping well. Try to keep the routine to about 4 or 5 steps, and don’t end it with a feed. Otherwise, you risk baby nodding off at the breast or the bottle, and that will create the dreaded “association” that we talked about earlier. So try to keep the feed near the beginning of the routine and plan the songs, stories, and getting into PJs towards the end.  The whole process should be about 20 - 30 minutes long, and baby should go into their crib while they’re still awake. If you’re noticing baby getting fussy before bedtime, you’ve probably waited too long. Four month old babies should really only be going about two hours between snoozes, and bedtime should be between 7 and 8 at night. Now, there are going to be regressions, actual regressions, later on in your little one’s youth. Traveling, illness,  cutting teeth, all of these things can cause your little one to have a few bad nights in a row. But when it comes to the four month “progression,” I’m happy to report that this is a one-time thing. Once you’re through this, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they’ll essentially be following for the rest of their life. Four glorious stages repeated multiple times a night. And by taking this opportunity to teach them the skills they need to string those sleep cycles together, independently, prop-free, without any need for nursing, rocking, or pacifiers, you’ll have given them a gift that they’ll enjoy for the rest of their young lives. Of course, some kids are going to take to this process like a fish to water, and some are going to be a little more resistant. If yours falls into the former category, count yourself as lucky, take delight in your success, and go ahead and gloat about it on Facebook. For those of you in the latter camp, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Just visit my website or give me a call and we can work on a more personalized program for your little one. The most common thing I hear after working with clients is, “I can’t believe I waited so long to get some help!” So if you’re considering hiring a consultant, now is absolutely the time. I offer a free 15 minute evaluation so I can get to know the specifics about your little one’s situation, so book a call now and we can move forward as soon as you’re ready to get your little one sleeping through the night!

8 Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

  My youngest daughter, Georgia just turned 2 and separation anxiety has really set in and it's HEARTBREAKING.  It got me thinking, what can I do to ease the stress for both of us?
Here are my Eight Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety:
Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well. One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around. The thought process, it would appear, is one of...
  • Mommy’s not in the room.
  • Therefore, Mommy is somewhere else.
  • I would prefer to be there with her.
  • Make that happen, or mark my words, I shall raise the most unimaginable of ruckuses. And those ruckuses leave us, as parents, to wonder, “Am I doing something wrong?After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Sally from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her nanny, even overnight.  And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”Two things to keep in mind.First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always conveyed through the rosiest of lenses. And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child. So what is it, exactly? Separation anxiety typically starts to occur around 6-8 months of age, when your little one starts to realize that things continue to exist, even when they’re not in sight. It’s a cognitive milestone known as “object permanence” which is defined as, “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.” In other words, out of sight no longer means out of mind. So as your baby begins to grasp this concept, they realize that if you, their favorite person in the whole world, are not there, you’re elsewhere. And, hey, wait a minute. If that’s the case, then you might not be coming back. It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it, but it’s also a little heartbreaking. This realization, for a baby, is obviously cause for full-blown panic. The thought of a parent leaving and not returning causes anxiety in most grown-ups I know, so you can hardly expect an infant to take it with great decorum. Anyways, that’s what happens in your little one’s brain when they suddenly start having a fit every time you leave the room. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s a sign that your little one is learning, and that they have a secure attachment to their parent. Awesome. But, as many of us know, it also means that leaving them with a sitter or dropping them off at day care can be an absolute horror show. But what we really want to know, or at least what I really wanted to know when it happened with my children, isn’t “What’s causing this?” What I wanted to know was, “How do I prevent it?” Well, the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to if you could. I mean, really, wouldn’t you be just a little devastated if you left your child with a stranger and they were just completely OK with it? “Bye Mom! See you at dinner! Don’t worry about me. You guys have fun!”
 
I’m guessing that would actually be significantly more troubling than some tears and howling. But we obviously want to keep things at a happy medium, and if you’re struggling with a child who’s pitching an absolute fit every time you try to run an errand or head out for date night, I’ve got some suggestions to take the edge off until this phase runs its course.
  1. Lead by ExampleYour little one follows your cues, so if you’re not willing to let her out of your sight, they probably, albeit unconsciously, feel like they’re not safe if you’re not in the room. So designate a room where they can explore a little and play without your direct supervision. It’s a small adjustment, but it has a tremendous effect.
  2. Don’t Avoid ItLearning about separation and reunion is an important milestone, so don’t just take the path of least resistance and stay with your child 24/7 until they’re seven years old. (It happens. Believe me.) Let them know that it’s okay for them to get upset when you leave and reassure them that you’ll always come back when you do. If there are some tears around it, that’s alright. This is an important concept that they need to get on board with.
  3. Start Slow Once your little one has started to demonstrate the understanding that they’ll be spending some time with someone besides a parent, make it a short outing. Don’t plan on dinner and a movie or an overnighter for the first few attempts.
  4. Start With Someone Familiar Kids typically do a little better being left with a grandparent or family friend who they’ve already spent some time with, and who they’ve grown to trust a little, so call in a favor, put some wine in the fridge, and plan to spend at least an hour away from the house for the first few attempts.
  5. Stick Around for a While After your sitter, parent, friend, or whoever is watching your little one arrives, plan to hang around for a half hour or so. Seeing that this is someone you’re familiar with will go a long way in reassuring your child that they’re “good people” and worthy of their trust.
  6. Face the Music Many of us have, at least once, attempted to distract our toddlers and then sneak out the door without saying goodbye. After all, it’s the goodbye that provokes the reaction, right? But even if it provokes some tears, it’s important for your child to understand that you’re going to leave sometimes, and that you’ll be back when you say you will.
  7. Establish a Routine Much like bedtime, a solid, predictable goodbye routine helps your little one recognize and accept the situation. A set number of kisses and hugs, a memorable key phrase, and a clear indication of when you’ll be back should be just the right balance of short and reassuring.
  8. Speak in Terms They’ll Understand Instead of telling them how long you’ll be gone, tell them when you’ll be back in regards to their schedule. After nap time, before bed, after dinner, before bath time, and so on.
Nothing is going to prevent your child from getting a little bit upset when you leave, (And as I said before, thank the stars for that, because if they didn’t, oh your poor heart,) but you can definitely keep the fuss to a minimum. Now, I should add here that these techniques are suggested for kids who are dealing with ordinary, everyday separation anxiety. There is also a condition called Separation Anxiety Disorder which is obviously more serious and warrants a trip to your Family Doctor if you suspect your little one might be afflicted with it. But for run-of-the-mill fit-pitching when you try to leave the house for an hour or two, these tips should go a
long way towards remedying the problem. Be consistent, supportive, assertive, and calm. Before long, your child will understand the concept of you leaving and coming back. In fact, this concept that will also come in handy when you start to leave them alone in high school. “I’m leaving for the night, but rest assured, I’m coming back. So you just remember that before you invite your rowdy friends over.”

Survive Holiday Travel and Keep Baby Sleeping

With the holidays approaching, many new parents who have recently gotten their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a little over the holidays. And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded. Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper and turkey bones. But I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning and an iron will, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home. There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays. One is travel and the other is family and friends, so I just want to tackle both of those topics individually. First off, travel. If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to take a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. (Although if you’re looking for an excuse to cancel your trip, not wanting to throw your baby’s sleep schedule out of whack is a pretty good one. Just sayin’!) If you’ve already started, not to worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to business as soon as you get home. If you’re driving to your destination, a clever trick is to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. So if at all possible, get on the road right around the time that baby would normally be taking their first nap. If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when baby gets up. It’s a great chance to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make that next nap that much easier. If you’re flying, well, my heart goes out to you. It’s no secret that planes and babies just don’t seem to like each other, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll hear me say this) that you do whatever gets you through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do. The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.) Alright! So you’ve arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, comes the hard part. Because in the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for. But now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s place, it’s just the opposite. Everyone wants baby awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously overstimulated. And it’s exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to get to sleep. So if you need permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right here and now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the “I’ll just sneak in a take a quick peek,” routine that baby’s in the middle of sleep training and you’re not taking any chances of them waking up. Let them know when baby will be getting up and tell them to hang around, come back, or catch you the next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some baby time based on baby’s schedule. I know it sounds harsh, but the alternative is an almost immediate backslide right back into day one. Baby misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then overtiredness kicks in, cortisol production goes up, and the next nap is ruined, which results in more overtiredness which derails nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re headed home and it seems like baby did nothing but cry the entire trip. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly. So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you’re not budging on baby’s schedule. She took her naps at the right times, and now it’s time for bed. The only catch is that, with all of the company staying at the house, there’s only one room for you and baby. No problem, right? Bed sharing for a few nights isn’t the end of the world, after all. I wish I could make it that easy for you, but again, you want to make this as little of a deviation from the normal routine as possible, and babies can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night. So this may sound a little unorthodox, but if you’re sharing a room, what I suggest is simple. Make it into two rooms. I’m not saying you need to bust out the lumber and drywall, but I do suggest hanging a blanket, setting up a dressing screen, or, yes, I’m going to go ahead and say it, put baby in the closet. That sounds crazy, I know, but really, a decent sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, she won’t be distracted by being able to see you, and people accidentally walking in and out of the room are much less likely to distract her. And while we’re on the subject of “no exceptions,” that rule extends to all other sleep props. You might be tempted to slip baby a pacifier or rock her to sleep if she’s disturbing the rest of the house, but baby is going to latch on to that really, really quickly, and chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking baby back to sleep or putting her pacifier back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot worse than a half hour of crying at 7:00 at night. Now, on a serious note, I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed. There’s a house full of eyes and they’re all focused on the new baby, and by association, the new parent. The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these family gatherings, but in those moments, remember what’s really important here. Your baby, your family, and their health and well-being. There may well be a few people who feel a bit jaded because you put baby to bed just when they got in the door, and your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is ridiculous, but remember you’re doing this for a very noble cause. Perhaps the most noble cause there is. So stand tall and remember that you’re a superhero, defending sleep for those who are too small to defend it for themselves. If you want to wear a cape and give yourself a cool superhero name, you go right ahead. WonderMom, UberMama.  Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by the masses. Ignore them. You’re on a mission. Happy Holidays from The Parkers,

Who is Courtney?

Hi! I'm Courtney Parker, Certified Sleep Sense Consultant, mom of 2 awesome little girls and wife of an airline pilot! I also have a science degree in biology (why must they call it zoology when it's mostly about the human body?) and I looove my sleep! I also love all kinds of food (especially Thai and Italian) and have played softball all my life. I've spent the first 15 years of my career working for commercial airlines, so I guess you could say I'm also a travel junkie. Some of my favourite spots are Nusa Lembongan (Bali), Nice (France), Koh Samui (Thailand) and good old Phoenix, Arizona where my parents spend 6 months of the year. My story began when my first daughter was 6 months old and we were living in Dublin, Ireland. I was on maternity leave and my husband took an overseas deployment to work with a U.K airline for 6 months. Although pretty much everyone thought I was crazy to head off to Ireland with a 9 week old baby (and no family support), we had a wonderful adventure! That is, until sleep deprivation brought us to our rock bottom. We're talking five feedings a night, , placing the sleeping baby in her crib only to wake 2 seconds later, and only napping on the go for maybe 30 minutes at a time. Since my husband needed a good night's sleep to safely operate an airplane, I was often handling this on my own and spiralling into a dark place. We are SO tired, but trying not to look tired (note the monster energy drink in the stroller) I began desperately searching every mommy site and reading every book and article I could get my hands on. Eventually, I found Sleep Sense by Dana Obleman and it literally changed our lives! Within 3 nights, our daughter was sleeping 7pm-7am and after a full 4 weeks she was taking reliable 2 hour naps twice a day. WOW! What to do with all the free time? Just kidding, I had no problem catching up on netflix and binging on snacks! After having another daughter almost 2 years later and seeing the same success with her sleep, I felt the calling to help other families. Looking around, I was seeing so many moms (and dads) that needed help and even some that had accepted that this is what life was supposed to be like! I know families with older children that still won't sleep through the night in their own beds. Did you know that 80% of babies that don't learn healthy sleep habits will still have sleep issues 3 years later? I researched all of the best Certification programs and signed on to train with Dana Obleman, creator of the Sleep Sense Program in Sarasota, Florida. After intensive training and ongoing mentorship, I am a fully Certified Sleep Sense Consultant! There I am! Front row, third from the left in the stripy skirt! Be sure to sign up for more great sleep tips at www.guidingnight.com. Thanks for reading!
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Get Your Baby Sleeping on Vacation

Family running on beach at sunset, rear view

I admit it, I was pretty nervous about packing up the kids and trekking around B.C. for our two-week summer vacation last month. Even though I knew what to do to ensure my daughters had consistent naps and overnight sleep, I had a major case of the "what-ifs". And if you know us, we’re no stranger to traveling with kids. Our oldest daughter had 13 stamps in her passport by the time she was 9 months old! So I should have this down pat, right? But, since it had been about a year since we've traveled with the kids, I was worried. We booked 3 short stays in 3 different locations. That also meant 3 different rooms for the girls to get used to and a lot of driving. So, how'd it all turn out? AMAZING!!! I trusted my gut, followed my travel best practices and both girls slept just as well as they do at home! Our summer is saved! Here’s how you can get your kids sleeping on vacation too! When you’re planning a family holiday with a baby, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one is sleep schedule. This will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip, which is bound to make your holiday more enjoyable for everyone! Here are some tips to help ensure sure your baby gets the sleep he needs during your travels:

Tip 1: Don’t over-schedule

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back in their child-free days. The fact is, when you travel with a baby you can’t plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and go on a dinner cruise in the evening. It is better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home.

Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime

An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby’s naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable.

Tip 3: Be patient as your baby acclimatizes to the new environment

Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you’re in a strange environment things might be very different. It is normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re somewhere new. Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket

If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it at your peril!

Tip 5. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start now

Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it is only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home and put her back in her crib. The good news is, most hotels have a crib you can use or rent. You could also take your portable playpen along and use that as a crib. I L O V E the idea of putting the crib in a large closet or bathroom. It helps creates a dark, quiet sleeping environment for baby and you don't have to worry about tip-toeing around all night. For more sleep tips, visit www.guidingnight.com