Knowing when it’s a wake-up call

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It’s the middle of the night. Your newborn baby had a good feeding and fell peacefully to sleep. Then, only 35 minutes later, she’s squirming and fidgeting; her eyes are opening and closing; she even lets out a cry, which confirms to you that she’s waking up.

Don’t be fooled. She’s still asleep, but in active sleep.

Babies, like adults, have two kinds of sleep – still, deep sleep and active, REM sleep. In still sleep your baby looks really asleep. Her body is still; her eyes stay shut. She breathes deeply and is quiet. Active sleep, however, looks like your baby is waking up. She wiggles, startles, pants, vocalizes and even cries out.

It’s easy to understand how an exhausted new mother can misread her infant’s behavior and, rather than allowing the baby to fall back into deep sleep, end up feeding again, and may even assume she’s not producing enough milk for her baby.

Or, in an almost opposite scenario, a mother tries over and over to get her sleepy baby to nurse as it’s been almost three hours since the last feeding. However, she initiates the feed while her baby is in deep sleep, so the effort proves to be futile, as well as frustrating, for the new mother.

Recognizing the difference between active sleep, deep sleep and a baby’s readiness to eat will help a new parent establish healthy sleep and feeding habits from the start. Allowing baby to resettle — maybe with some subtle help like pressure on the torso or shushing — after moving through the active sleep phase helps babies establish healthy sleep associations instead of becoming dependent on sleep crutches to get back to sleep.

For more information on establishing healthy sleep habits after you have your baby, check out http://firstdaze.com or contact us directly at pdiamond@firstdaze.com.

Making nap time a positive event

Ready for nap with lovey in hand!

Ready for nap with lovey in hand!

While hiking in Black Mountain, North Carolina last summer, my friend of 25+ years and great aunt to the (overtired) little ones with us asked, "Do any children want to take a nap?” She assumed all children resisted nap time. I assured her, many children do enjoy their naps and will ask for one when they are sleepy.

My experience of working with families shows that a positive attitude toward sleep starts with putting healthy and appropriate routines in place, as well as making sleep a restorative — not punitive — experience. A client with two young children who love their naps said she is careful to present sleep in a positive light and never uses it as a negative consequence. Normalizing times for sleep and helping little ones see the benefits can create a different perspective on taking time out for rest.

First Daze & Nightzzz sleep consultant Kara Curtis recalls when she was a child her mother would tell her, “those sheets are going to feel so yummy” and she’d sign off with “I love you. Happy Nappy.” Kara says, “There is something so comforting about that little special family phrase. She definitely cultivated the idea of sleep as a wonderful luxury that was going to feel so fantastic. And I still feel that exact same way every time I get into my bed as an adult — so delighted to be crawling into my yummy sheets!”

Janet Lansbury, the author of Elevating Childcare, says there are three essential elements to a baby’s or young child’s sleep routine. She calls them the three Ps — peaceful, participatory and predictable. The environment should be peaceful without stimulation from toys, screens, light, and exterior noise. The parent should be relaxed and focused on the matter at hand, giving undivided attention to the sleepy child. Allow the baby or child to participate in preparations which can be as simple as pulling down shades, choosing a book or turning on a white noise machine. All of these steps should be predictable, “so that our children can anticipate the ritual and even lead when we invite them to make choices. Predictability breeds security, which leads to calm, which is the gateway to relaxation and sleep,” Lansbury says. 

Did you read that? Predictability breeds security. Our children feel more secure (hence, less anxious) when they know what comes next. Less anxiety equals calmer child which means easier to fall asleep.

Understandably, young children may feel like they’re going to miss out on something if they stop to sleep. While winding down for nap time, talk about what you will do after their body and brain rests. Let them know they have something to look forward to and with renewed energy to do it. 

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A former client relayed a story about her then 3-year-old daughter. She napped a bit later at home on the weekends than she did at daycare during the week. One Saturday while Mom was busy with household chores, her daughter came to her and said, “I’m ready for my nap.” This was music to the mom’s ears. “She loves sleep and told us so herself. If we don't remind her it's nap time she usually reminds us,” the mom said. 

Another former client emailed to tell us how, after using our services when her little one was an infant, the now 4 year old comes to get them when she’s ready for her nap if they get busy and miss it. “She still loves an early bedtime and gets about 11-12 hours of good sleep each night,” the proud (and well-rested) mom said. 

We love working with families early on whenever possible to establish good sleep from the start. If you need help establishing healthy sleep habits, and perhaps revamping attitudes toward sleep, get in touch. And if you already have good sleepers, tell us what worked in your home to create happy and healthy sleep habits.

Plan now to "fall back" next weekend

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We will be “falling back” on Sunday, Nov. 4, this year when Daylight Saving Time comes to an end so set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed Saturday night. Many parents worry about the fall time change, especially those with early risers. It’s not too soon to start planning for the change now and taking some gentle steps to prepare.

Our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is set primarily by exposure to light and social cues, as well as other factors such as changes in body temperature. Plan to get fresh air and sunshine every day to help regulate circadian rhythms. 

Parents have a couple of options for helping their children make the transition off Daylight Saving, one of which is to do nothing. This is great for babies with easygoing temperaments and for parents who don’t realize it’s time to set the clocks back until that very night! Basically, you put baby to bed at the usual time and stick to your schedule. On Sunday you put baby to bed when it says 7 p.m. on the clock (if that’s bedtime) even though it’s really 8 p.m.

Some people will choose to put their baby to bed on Saturday a wee bit later than usual in hopes of moving through the change easier. It may or may not make a difference.

Another option is to slowly change your baby’s schedule in small increments four days ahead of the time change. Put baby to bed later in 15-minute increments until Sunday, Nov. 4. This includes starting naps 15 minutes later than usual, also. By the time Sunday rolls around, you should have adjusted sleep time by a full hour.



Plan ahead for smooth summer travel with children

Plan ahead for smooth summer travel with children

Summertime is almost here and that means many of you will be traveling with your little ones. Some of my clients get nervous about traveling with their babies and toddlers for fear of upsetting well-established eating and sleeping routines, which is certainly understandable. My phone tends to ring a bit more than usual after holiday or summer travel with families at their wit’s end from lack of sleep. However, with a little forethought and planning, and some extra attention paid to your child’s needs, summer travels will yield treasured times with family and friends. …


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Adventures of a one armed baby (or one way to wean from a swaddle)

A while back I collaborated with Heidi Holvoet on a “why and how to” swaddle article. Heidi is a sleep consultant, author and owner of Baby Sleep Advice. In the article, I wrote that swaddling is one of the best tools new parents have for calming newborns and helping them to sleep better. I explained how swaddling prevents the startle reflex from waking newborns and creates a comforting, womb-like sensation.

Eventually though, even the best tools get thrown out of the toolbox. ...

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Are your sleep habits healthy ones?

Are your sleep habits healthy ones?

Q: There is so much talk about the importance of sleep and healthy sleep habits for our babies and children. How do I know if we have healthy sleep habits in our home?

A: It’s true: We know so much about the importance of sleep nowadays, maybe because so many of us are sleep-deprived. But we can’t deny the science that shows us how important healthy sleep is for our children’s growth and development.

Growth requires several hormones to stimulate various biological events in the blood, organs, muscles and bones. The production of human growth hormone (HGH) is affected by nutrition, stress and exercise. But in young children, the most important factor affecting its production is sleep. The most intense period of HGH release in children is shortly after the beginning of deep sleep. Without adequate sleep, growth problems can result. A lack of sleep at night can also...

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Is it time for a big boy or big girl bed?

Is it time for a big boy or big girl bed?

One critical factor used to consider whether your child is ready for a “big girl” or “big boy” bed is if they are saying they want one. Often it seems it’s the parents driving the readiness train and not necessarily the children. It’s better to be a little late in the game than too early when it comes to sleeping in a bed. Why? Because if they are too young, they won’t have the cognitive ability to understand staying in their bed all night or all nap, which means Mom or Dad are now dealing with that issue.

I often hear from parents who moved their little ones into a bed hoping it would promote better sleep. ...

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Planning ahead makes for smoother summer travel

Planning ahead makes for smoother summer travel

Summer is almost here and that means many of you will be traveling with your little ones. Many parents find the idea of traveling with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers anxiety producing out of fear of upsetting well-established sleeping routines. This is understandable since children tend to do better with consistent routines. However, with a little forethought and planning, and some extra attention paid to your child’s needs, summer travels will yield treasured times with family and friends. 

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