7 05, 2020

How To Stop Your Toddler From Climbing Out Of The Crib

May 7th, 2020|Categories: Toddler Sleep, Uncategorized|Tags: |

Are you trying to stop your toddler from climbing out of the crib? I have good news for you! Read on!

The newborn fog had lifted, you made it through the baby phase, but then you entered…the toddler years. :O Although the stretch that lays before you can be an exciting time, it is not without its challenges. 

Sleep challenges, that is.

And one of the most common ones is kiddos that won’t stay in their crib.

Even Sleep Consultants Have Sleep-Houdinis

I remember when my first toddler began to climb out of her crib. 

Like most of the families that I help at this age, my husband and I panicked. We had no plan in how to respond.
Which lead us down a road of  failed negotiations and sleeplessness. 

Sleeplessness is an understatement.

In reality, it was like having a newborn again. 

The good news is that there were very specific reasons why it happened and why it went on so long. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we weren’t helpless to changing this limit-testing behaviour.

The even better news is that I’m here to share what I’ve learned with you! So, consider these tips when your little one is showing signs of  joining the circus.

Why Is My Toddler Climbing Out Of  The Crib?

Many parents mistakenly believe that there is nothing that can be done, however that is not always the case.  First, consider the true reason as to why your child is starting to venture out.

Frequently, it is rooted in the need to explore, test boundaries, and/or for a schedule tweak.

My child decided to sharpen her ninja skills after we moved the crib into a different location.

I did not realize that the southeast corner of her room was so evil, but apparently it was.
It was the catalyst to everything going downhill.

To Nap or Not To Nap

Just sometimes though,  redecorating isn’t to blame. 😉  Instead, their routine is in need of an overhaul. Often at this age, it’s the nap.

It can be too long, too short, too close or, confusingly enough, too far away from bedtime

While I’m an advocate for keeping one nap in some form until the child is close to starting school, it doesn’t always work for every situation.
If you feel the nap may be inspiring your child’s new exercise routine every night, then it may need to be tweaked, capped or removed altogether.

Need more help with your toddler or preschooler’s routine?
Download your FREE copy of the Sleep Solutions for Toddler + Preschooler Sleep 

(Side note; I always recommend capping a nap for a while first before eliminating it altogether. And after that, I’m still a proponent of instilling “Quiet Time” in their rooms.

Big Kid Bed; An Answer For Crib Climbers?

Some parents may have been told that when a child can climb out, that it’s time to ditch the crib and move to a bed.

But contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a good benchmark on which to base that decision upon.

Just because they have the physical prowess to hoist themselves up and over the rails, doesn’t mean that toddlers are cognitively or emotionally ready for big-kid beds.

Especially under the age of three. 

Many kids feel very exposed and insecure without the confines of the crib around them. They will leave their bed and come looking for yours.

Yes-even the ones that are climbing out. 

What To Do If  Your Toddler Is Climbing Out Of The Crib?

So let’s say you have a budding acrobat on your hands-what’s a parent to do?

Make It More Difficult; Focus first on making it more difficult for your child to climb out of their crib, while keeping them safe.

  • If you haven’t already, lower the crib mattress to the lowest possible setting.
  • Empty the crib of all bumpers and blankets.
  • Also remove stuffed animals. Children are full of ingenuity and will pile these items up and use them like a ladder. 
  • Some cribs have one side higher than the other. Turn the crib so that the higher side facing out and the shorter side is along a wall.
  • Invest in a large sleep sack. This helps by restricting your child from being able to lift their leg up and over the side of the crib.
  • If your child is on the more adventurous side, you may have to stitch the sleep sack in a little tighter in the lower half
  • If your child thinks they can outwit you and removes the sleep sack altogether, placing the sleep sack on backwards, can help thwart those efforts.

Safety Check: If they do happen to get out of their crib, we still want to make sure they are safe.

  • Make sure to childproof the room. You won’t always get to them in time, or even know they are out, so safety is paramount. 
  • Cover all electrical outlets
  • Tape cords to the wall
  • Remove or secure and anchor heavy furniture to the wall.
  • Think of the making the room like a giant crib.


Reinforce The Rules: We wouldn’t allow our children to run out into the street no matter how much they protested. We need to face our children climbing out of the crib with the same with the same amount of determination.

  • When you know they are climbing out, open their bedroom door and give them a firm “no”.
  • This works best if you have a video monitor, but you can also wait by their door and listen, if you don’t.
  • If they have already climbed out of their crib, lead them gently (or pick them out without anger or frustration if they aren’t walking with you) and gently place them back into the crib, again saying “no”.
  • Leave the room each time. Staying will only invite them to engage with you.
  • If available, switch off with another caregiver. This will help maintain consistency, provide a united front, and give each of you a break.
  • Maintain consistency. Toddlers need on average, three days of a consistent message, before beginning to change a behaviour.


Logical Consequences For Climbing; Stopping your child from climbing out of their crib is a learning process, consequences help.

  • For children that are two years or older, I recommend following up with logical consequences (not punishments) in the daytime.
  • The consequence must be directly related to the mistake.
  • For example, if your child crawled out of their crib, taking away their favourite stuffed animal would be considered a punishment, not a consequence. This is because it has nothing to do with the event.
  • However, if your child was using their stuffed animal as a step to be able to climb out, then it would make sense to remove it as a consequence.
  • Or, another consequence could be that you decide to not go to the park the next day because they’re too tired from being up late during the night.
  • Logical consequences are respectful in nature and help to teach, rather than shame or punish.
  • This is the best way for a child to learn as it makes sense to the mistake or wrong choice that they have made.


It Takes Patience, But You CAN Stop Your Toddler From Climbing Out Of  The Crib

When your child starts to climb out of their crib, don’t be like me and don’t panic!
Children like to explore and push boundaries. This is how they learn what is and isn’t permissible.

By having a plan in place and knowing what steps to take, they CAN learn to stay in their crib.

Take a look at their routine, their environment and make the necessary adjustments.

These methods will need to be repeated several times consistently, but they can absolutely learn to stop climbing out of their crib and stay safely in their crib.

Need more help figuring out a plan for your crib climber?

Book a consultation and we will go over sleep logs, routines, schedules and come up with an easy-to-follow plan to keep your little one safe and secure!

15 05, 2019

Baby Sleep and Teething

May 15th, 2019|Categories: Baby Sleep|

We’re frequently told that teething and poor baby sleep go hand-in-hand. But is that always the case?

Teething and Baby Sleep 

When I had my first baby, and she wouldn’t sleep, teething was the frequent go-to reason.

Not napping at 4 months? Teething

Not sleeping well at 6 months? Teething

Waking up screaming at 4am at 13 months? Teething.

And of course, I did what every other parent does in these situations.  I tried all the homeopathic and medical solutions out there.

From cold facecloths to camellia capsules; we did it all.

I even remember getting my husband to go to someone’s house at night to get an “authentic” amber teething necklace.

(Please note: I do not advocate using these. When placed around the neck, they are an extreme choking hazard, even the “quick release” ones. You can read more on why they are not recommended here,  here, and here, )

But not surprisingly, none of these seemed to work.

I wish I had known then what I know now.

Which is what, you ask?

Teething Isn’t Always to Blame for Poor Baby Sleep

I have been a pediatric sleep consultant for many years and have helped hundreds of families. I’ve seen kids pop teeth out in the beginning, middle and end of sleep coaching and it not impact their sleep at all.

Now, I understand that this isn’t going to be everyone’s experience. But the truth is; teething isn’t always to blame for baby sleep problems. In fact, most of the time it isn’t to blame at all.

If you find this suggestion unbelievable, I would like to offer this;

Teething not being the cause of all baby sleep problems is great news!

The idea that teething may not cause as many baby sleep issues as we think, means that we aren’t at the mercy of the teething gods for 2-3 YEARS while all 20 teeth pop out.


So what could be real issue?

Sleep deprivation.

Sleep Debts

Now, I know it’s not as sexy to talk about.  In fact, it’s something that is rarely talked about.

At all.

It’s not discussed in mommy groups or on Facebook.

And I have rarely had my clients tell me that their pediatrician even asked about how much sleep their child is or isn’t getting.

But if your child is having issues sleeping, it is more likely that they are overtired and sleep deprived.

 This is also referred to as having a sleep debt.

Your Child’s Sleep Bank

So, what is a sleep debt, exactly?

We can think about it like this; say you’re financially in the clear and you have $500 in the bank. That’s a surplus. That is like a child who is well rested.

Now, imagine that child misses a nap or goes to bed too late. They will start to lose the sleep that’s in their sleep bank.

The part many parents don’t realize is; it doesn’t take a lot for children to get overtired.

That one missed nap or late bedtime can start the spiral. If it happens a few times in a row or throughout a week, the child quickly becomes sleep deprived.

When these overtired children fall asleep, their brain spends more time in a shallow sleep state, rather than a deep one.

And this shallow state allows for more wakings due to any disruption; wet diaper, cold room, dog barking or teething pressure.

Chicken and Egg: What Comes First?

Now, you may be saying to yourself; “but my child is overtired because they are waking due to teething.”

This may be true, but from my experience, it doesn’t happen as everyone tells us it does.

What is much more common is this…

Usually a sleep debt started to form before the teething occurred, however we didn’t notice it. The child slowly starting to lose more sleep in the weeks prior from whatever reason, and that in turn, left them more prone to shallow sleep.

Then, once any teething pressure started to emerge, because they were already having lighter sleep, they started to wake up more frequently. 

This made transitioning from sleep cycle to sleep cycle difficult, resulting in extra wakings.

Why does this happen?

It’s because when children are overtired, their bodies go into overdrive and extra stimulating hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) are released to try and fight the fatigue. This then suppresses deep sleep states from occurring.

If you want to imagine what it feels like, think of their lighter, more shallow sleep state as being similar to us when we watch a show on TV at night and begin to drift off.

Any sudden noise or disturbance will wake us up because we are only in the lighter stages of the sleep process. Usually, it feels uncomfortable to be jolted awake and not fully refreshed. 

Similarly, when an overtired child tries to transition through to another sleep cycle and is woken up fully, they usually cry because they feel uncomfortable and still tired. 

How To Help Reduce a Sleep Debt

Perhaps after reading the above, you start to suspect that your little one’s wakings are indeed primarily due to being overtired.

If that is the case, then the best way to help them feel better, is to work on putting more sleep into their sleep bank.

We do this by:

  • creating a relaxing wind down routine before each sleep period. This helps to cue the brain to release sleep hormones and set the stage for sleep.
  • Next, we ensure that the child is having age-appropriate length of naps each day.
  • And finally, we keep their wake windows age appropriate.  You can find a reference chart here.

I’m Sure Teething Is Causing My Baby’s Sleep Problems!

To help determine if teething is the issue, check what applies to your child;

  • The sleep issues are very recent; only in the last week
  • My child is not suffering from any illness, allergy or intolerance
  • My child has been on a solid nap routine for many weeks before the wakings started
  • Naps were over an hour on a consistent basis
  • My child could both fall asleep and transition through sleep cycles, independently
  • My child was recently sleeping through the night and just waking for 1-3 night feeds (age-dependent).

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then teething may actually be the cause of your baby sleep issues. (Woohoo?)

But, if you answered “no” to several statements, your child is likely waking due to another reason.

How To Help A Teething Baby Sleep Solidly

What can we do if our little ones are waking up due to teething? Here are a few suggestions;

  • Keep a regular nap routine 
  • Ensure consistent nap times each day. Sleep begets sleep.
  • If naps were shorter that day, move bedtime up earlier to help make up for the lost sleep.
  • If your parenting philosophy embraces the use of medications or homeopathic remedies, then with your healthcare practitioner’s advice, you may proceed as you feel is necessary. (Please note; if you are using medication and your little one is still waking well within the dose being in their bodies, then the wakings are not related to teething discomfort.)
  • If wakings occur, always give them a few minutes to see if they can return to sleep unassisted. Many children take about 20 minutes on average. However if this doesn’t feel comfortable for you, try 10.
  • Offer some reassurance and soothing after giving them time to return to sleep.

Baby Sleep After Teething; Back on Track

It generally takes less than a week for a previously well-rested baby to get back on track after a few bumpy nights.
However, if they were already overtired, then it may take closer to a week to fully recover.
We want to remember their sleep bank levels and if it has a large deficit, then it will take more time to replenish that lost sleep.
The best way to reestablish healthy sleep routines is to still follow the basics of healthy sleep;
  • Soothing wind down routine before all sleep periods
  • Placing baby down relaxed, fed, clean, but awake
  • Consistent nap times
  • Adjusting bedtime to quality of naps each day

Baby And Sleep And Teething; Oh My!

Whether your baby’s sleep is being disrupted by teething pressure, or a previous sleep debt, the good news is that no matter what; there is hope.

Either way, by focusing on your child’s overall sleep routine, nap quality and bedtimes will help both issues and get everyone back track as quickly as possible.

Want more tips to get back on track after a sleep debt or teething disruption?
A Mini-Consult is a great way for us to talk through the issue and get your family sleeping well again. You can book one here



19 03, 2019

Baby & Toddler Sleep On Vacation; 8 Tips for Success

March 19th, 2019|Categories: Travel Tips|

How to Vacation with Your Baby or Toddler, Without Messing Up Their Sleep

Winter is almost over which means that summer vacation season will be here before you know it!

If you’re thinking about booking a trip away (or getting ready to take one final winter one), you’ve probably also been wondering how to take a successful family vacation without messing up your young child’s sleep pattern.

This is a common question I get this time of year, so here are some tips to consider when you plan your vacation with babies and toddlers joining you.

Vacation With A Baby and Toddler Go Better With Sleep

This seems like an obvious statement, right? But, many times in their haste to pack #allthethings, arrange accommodations and map out routes, parents miss this important detail.

If your baby or toddler is caught up on their sleep before you even leave, it makes travelling, and the vacation in general, much smoother. 

This means in the two to three weeks leading up to the trip, be strict about your baby or toddler’s sleep routine.

Need some help getting your child on a good sleep routine before you head out?

Grab your free Baby Sleep Basics Guide here.

Get your free Toddler and Preschooler Sleep Solutions Guide here.

Keep bedtime on the early side, especially if they have a sleep debt, and have very regularly scheduled naps that don’t widely fluctuate in starting time, each day.

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule in the weeks leading up to the trip will not only make the travel day easier, but help your little one adjust to the inevitable routine changes while on the trip.

Travel Mode

By air or by land? That is the question.

Vacation travel with a baby or toddler presents different sleep challenges, depending on the mode of transportation.

Which is going to be easier for you and your child and what do you need to plan on doing for travel option?

How will you factor their sleep needs into the travel day?

Obviously, the distance to your vacation will play a big part in this decision. Just make sure you’re prepared for the demands of each travel option.

Travel By Air

If you’re planning to get to your vacation spot via air, then getting a baby to sleep on the way there usually helps the rest of the day go smoother.

For those little ones that will easily nap on the go, try to pick a flight that departs in the morning. This way, by the time you board, your baby will have accrued enough wake time, to nap during the flight.

The morning nap is also the easiest nap for a child to achieve on the go, so consider this when booking. And at this age, we use whatever works the best to achieve the nap. Whether that be in a car seat, holding in your arms or a sling. A well-rested baby is the priority.

Extra Tip: If your little one is breastfeeding, nursing them during take off and landing can help their ears quickly adjust to the pressure changes.

For toddlers and preschoolers on one nap, you have more options as there are larger chunks in the day without rest periods. However, usually, we have more time in the morning before the mid-day nap.

Keep in mind that there is a higher chance that your toddler may not sleep on the plane. Therefore, bring a lot of back up activities to keep them occupied if you will be flying over their regular nap time.

If you have options with flight times, also consider other factors;  travel time to the airport, the wait time before the flight, the flight time itself and then the time to get to your vacation accommodation.

Will there be enough time for your child to get some good rest between all the commotion?

No matter what time you are departing, there will always be pros and cons. Do the best you can with the options available. It will be ok!

Travel By Car

But what about car travel? Let’s look at babies under 12 months first.

How do we manage our baby sleep schedule while traveling to our vacation destination in a vehicle?

If you choose to travel by car and your baby tends to take short naps on the go, I would recommend leaving after they’ve had their morning nap. This should help you get off on your travels with a good start to the day.

If the car ride is only a couple of hours, baby should be able to nap well, when they need to in keeping with their usual routine. Driving gives you a lot more control compared to flying. You can stop when you need to, and you don’t have to worry about the noise and distractions from busy airports and flights.

For toddlers, they may still easily fall asleep in the car around their regular nap time. However, it is likely the nap will be shorter than usual. If this happens, don’t panic. Move bedtime up earlier that day if you can.

Depending on your car or van, sometimes parents can use portable blackout blinds on the side windows to block the mid-day sun. It won’t be perfect (after all, as the driver you still need to see!), but it may help cut down a little on the light.

Extra Tip: If your child sleeps with white noise at home, bringing a portable sound machine or downloading white noise tracks on your phone, can be a great soothing aid for naps on the go.

Whether by plane or car, with a little extra planning, your baby or toddler will still be able to get some sleep.

Vacation and Baby Sleep and Time Zones, Oh My!

One of the most asked questions I get when clients are looking at traveling with their kids is; “how do I adjust their sleep schedule to the new time zone?”

My tip for the travel day and day after arrival is to just survive.

Don’t book any outings, or schedule any events. Everyone will be tired, and if there is a large time change, the whole family will need some time to reset their internal clocks.

Although a vacation is great, the reality is that a baby or toddler will need time to adjust to a new sleep schedule.

Use this day to unpack, explore the new accommodations and allow your child to nap as needed.

Depending on how far you’ve had to travel and how long the journey took you, it might be easier to simply stay on your regular time zone and schedule for the first day, if not the entire vacation. Sometimes, an hour or two isn’t worth fighting over.

If staying on your old time zone and schedule isn’t an option, adapt to the new local time as quickly as possible. I recommend getting out in the morning sun as this resets the internal circadian rhythms.

If you know that there will be a significant change in time zones, you can start to adjust your child’s schedule 15 minutes at a time, 1-2 weeks in advance. However this isn’t strictly necessary.

Usually you can get away with just jumping into the new local time. I would say that this is the best, and easiest, option. The sunlight and darkness will help your child to adjust naturally and prolonging the adjustment is no fun for anyone.

Location, Location, Location

The next most asked question?

“Where should my baby or toddler sleep while on vacation?”

Luckily, there are a variety of options for sleeping arrangements when you travel. My vote will be to always have little ones in their own separate space. In this instances, renting houses, condos, or cabins are great options for a ton of space and large families.

If staying in a hotel room, one option is to select suites that have separate kids spaces. Often these are billed as Kids’ Theme Rooms and provide a somewhat, if not completely separate, sleeping area.

Another option for larger families is to book adjoining rooms. Each parent can sleep in one room and depending on the age of the children, the youngest can be still be in a Pack and Play beside mom if nursing.

But what about those families that aren’t large, and/or don’t want to spend the extra money for separate sleeping areas?  Never fear, there are a variety of choices as well.

Rooms that come with a king-sized bed and pull out couches are good options for a variety of situations; especially toddlers and preschoolers who are too big for Pack N Plays.

If you are renting the average two queen bed hotel room, it can still be configured for families with little ones needing a separate space.

Pack and Plays can often be situated next to the entrance closet or bathroom and sometimes, if it’s big enough-in the bathroom itself!

If your toddler or preschooler is too big for Pack and Plays, and you decide to use the other queen bed, you do have to take safety into account.

Make sure that you build up the sides to prevent them from accidentally falling in the middle of a nap or night sleep. This can be accomplished with sticking foam pool noodles, extra pillows or a rolled up top sheet, under the fitted sheet.

If a parent will also be sharing the bed, sometimes you can also do this with a pillow in the middle of the bed to prevent little feet from kicking you in the back at night. 😉

So, as you see, regardless of your vacation space, your baby or toddler has a variety of sleep options!

Baby and Toddler Vacation Packing List

There are plenty of things you can bring on the vacation to help your child find the travelling, new place and slightly different routines, a little easier. 

For anyone past the exclusively breastfeeding/bottle feeding stage, I absolutely recommend a variety of snacks. Seriously, for the love of all things holy, don’t forget the snacks.

Other items to pack…

  • Car seat
  • Favourite baby carrier
  • Pacifier
  • Favourite stuffie
  • A few small toys that have never been played with
  • Pack and play
  • Unwashed sheets or pjs that have the scent of home on them
  • Noise machine
  • One or two favourite story books
  • Travel black out blinds

Extra Tip: When bringing new toys, I find it even better if you can wrap the small toys in wrapping paper like they’re presents. It adds an extra layer of fun and distraction that will make the stress of travel and change easier to cope with.

Tips For the Travel Day

When traveling with a young child, first and foremost, travel as light as you can. If you’re flying with your children, make the most of the curbside check in! And if they’re old enough, you can get them to help by carrying their own bag.

Individual snack bags and electronics (used sparingly) can be absolute life savers when traveling with young children too. 

For toddlers, make sure that you set boundaries and expectations ahead of time. However, keep in mind, they are little humans who will get tired and bored easily. 

While I am usually not a proponent of rewards and bribes, when travelling, sometimes we need to pull out all the stops. If it helps, reinforce good decent behaviour with praise, and then snacks and electronics.

But before you set off, accept that the travel day will be a challenge and keep your expectations low. Just know that you WILL survive!

Once Arrive at Your Vacation Destination

Once you arrive, set up the room like home as best you can. Bring all things (within reason) from home to recreate your baby or toddler’s sleep environment on vacation.

Bonus points if you can bring black out blinds and the same sheets from the crib without washing them! This will help to maintain smells of home, which can be a powerful trigger.

If you have changed time zones, the family will need a day to adjust, but after that, get onto the local time and enjoy the trip!

To the best of your ability, keep the same routine you had at home. Children on 1, 2 or 3 nap routines at home, still have those same sleep requirements on vacations.

Not only will this keep your child well-rested and prevent crankiness and overtired night wakings, but it will also make returning back home much easier.

How Do We Get Baby’s Sleep Back on Track After Vacation?

So now the trip is done, you’ve survived the travel and have a lifetime of memories-well done!

But perhaps your baby or toddler’s sleep got a bit off track though while on vacation. Don’t worry-it happens and it can be fixed!

For a start, adopt back to your local time after a day. Get back into a regular routine as soon as possible and let the natural sunlight help you with that.

Second; know what to expect.

It can take about a full week for your child to fully adjust, especially if there was a large time zone change. But they’ll be back to a normal routine before you know it.

Third, move bedtime up a bit earlier if some sleep debt accumulated. (Hint, it usually does.) You may need to do for 3-7 days.

Yes, Your Baby or Toddler Can Vacation and Sleep!

Remember, just because you have a child, doesn’t mean that you have to give up your yearly winter get-away or summer vacation! 

Just know what to expect and be prepared.

The travel days will be the hardest, but it’s all worth it for the fun and memories you’ll make together.


Back from your trip and need some help getting back on track? Book a mini-consultation that will help you devise a plan of action that you can use immediately!


8 03, 2019

Sleep Training Myths

March 8th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Sleep Training Myths

In my job as a child sleep consultant, I have come across every sleep training myth in the book. Unfortunately, as new parents, nobody teaches us about our child’s biological sleep needs and as such, myths, rumors and inaccuracies abound.

Sleep, which is the FOUNDATION for life, is never discussed once parents have a baby. Instead, we are left on our own to try and figure out how to establish healthy sleep habits.

In fact, in a recent, quick poll I did on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page the other day, out of the close to 100 parents that responded, only one of them were given any instructions about their baby’s sleep needs before being discharged from the hospital with their newborn! And that parent, had a midwife for her delivery.

So we can’t be faulted for believing some of the following myths.  I used to believe many of these when my own daughter wouldn’t sleep.

But, having the wrong information creates issues for parents and children as they lead you to believe things that are inaccurate. This ultimately ends with children developing unhealthy sleep habits and parents becoming frustrated.

So, let’s correct some of the most common sleep and sleep training myths once and for all.

1. Late Bedtimes Results In Better Night Sleep or Later Wake Ups

This is by far one of the most common sleep training myths that I hear. Most of the time it has come from a well-meaning older relative who has no understanding of the science of sleep.

Again, we can’t fault anyone for this. There have been incredible discoveries about how we sleep in the last 50 years. #Funfact; REM sleep was only discovered in the 1950s and it wasn’t until the late ’60s that scientists started classifying the different stages of NREM sleep.

This means these discoveries were only being made by scientists during the previous generation’s time. And even with the quick dissemination of information in the internet age, most people don’t know how sleep works or is categorized. 

So this brings me back to disputing the first myth; keeping children up later does not make them sleep better at night or wake later in the morning.

It actually causes the opposite to happen!

Children can only comfortably stay awake for a certain amount of time, depending on their age. By keeping a child up later, they will become over tired. This then triggers a biochemical response to release stimulating hormones to try and fight the fatigue.

Once these hormones are in their body, it causes them to sleep less and wake up earlier compared to a well rested child who has a bedtime that is in keeping with their wake times and sleep requirements.  

2. Skipping Naps Means Better Sleep At Night

Similar to the first myth, skipping naps does not make your child sleep better at night. Instead, it builds up the sleep debt during the day.

This increases the release of cortisol and adrenaline; two hormones associated with daytime and stress, and makes them more prone to night wakings.

Just like keeping your child up later, this will cause them to be overtired. Overtired children do not sleep deeply or restoratively. Their sleep will be shallow, hence the increase in night wakings. Therefore, children have sleep requirements that need to be met through naps in order to be healthy.

3. Sleep Training Can Cause Damage

The myths that sleep training breaks the bonds of attachment, causes ADHD, insecurities and creates toxic stress are not true. There is no peer-reviewed, research that indicates, reports or even hints at any harm from sleep training.
See: here, here, and here.

What research does show is that NOT having healthy sleep habits has been associated or linked to a whole host of problems such as (but not limited to): 

 negative impacts on the ability to regulate mood and emotion,

may be an early indicator for anxiety disorders in adulthood,

increased cortisol levels ,

lowered neurobehavioral function, 

and impact to school performance,

There is even more research when it comes to adults and how sleep loss impacts them; diabetes, heart disease, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive function-all have links to poor sleep quality or quantity.

4. Sleep Training Fixes All Problems

Nope, sorry. Sleep training is not the be-all, end-all to every sleep issue.
This is why some people will say; “I tried sleep training and my child is still taking short naps, waking up crying and waking multiple times a night.”

Very often parents misunderstand what the true purpose of sleep training is. Using a method of sleep training should only be used to wean sleep associations.

It can’t and won’t fix other issues such as night wakings which are due hunger.
Many babies will still need a few feeds a night up to 6-8 months (always check with your healthcare and breastfeeding professionals). This isn’t anything wrong or in need of correction in these situations. And sleep training certainly will not “fix” hunger.

Sleep training also won’t help solve sleep problems that are due to a lack of sleep hygiene, poor quantity or quality of sleep, short naps or overtiredness.

In these cases, creating healthy sleep habits, timing sleep correctly with circadian rhythms, and reducing the child’s sleep debt, is the cure. 

5. Sleep Training Means Night Weaning

Let’s put a stop to this one-right here, right now.
You absolutely can sleep train and continue to feed at night. The two are not mutually exclusive.

However, there is a difference between feeding a need and feeding a habit. 
If you feel some of the night wakings are habit (and your healthcare provider has no concerns), you don’t have to wait until your child no longer needs feeds during the night to begin sleep training once your baby is ready.

6. Formula, Solids or Thickening Feeds, Improves Nights

Adding formula, solids or thickening a bottle will not help your baby sleep through the night sooner. Instead, doing this can be harmful to your baby’s health, can be a choking hazard and/or create gut issues.

It also does not address the specific sleep issue that may be causing the problem with how a child is falling asleep or with their routine. 

Instead, follow a well-timed daytime nap routine, follow good sleep hygine and employ an age appropriate bedtime. This will create a healthy and restful sleep routine for your child overall.

7. CIO is a method

CIO stands for Cry-It-Out. This is not an actual sleep training method, but rather a general term that is used to group together a variety of methods and techniques. CIO can mean many things to different people and unfortunately that can cause a lot of confusion when the term is used.

What it commonly gets mistaken for is either Extinction, Graduated Extinction, Timed Intervals or a combination of all three.

8. It’s Normal For Children to Snore

Snoring in an otherwise healthy child, is not normal. It can indicate a variety of problems that need to be addressed such as:

    • An airway issue
    • Low resting tongue posture
    • High or narrow palate
    • Allergies
    • Tethered oral tissues
    • Enlarged adenoids or tonsils

If your baby or child is snoring, it should not be ignored. This is an indicator of an underlying issue. Please bring the issue to your child’s doctor.

9. Children Who Resist Sleep Are “Low Sleep Needs”

The vast majority of children require a significant amount of sleep that average around the same amount of hours per age.

When parents say to me that they believe their child has lower-than-average sleep needs, very often the exact opposite is true.

Depending on their age, most babies and children need an average of 11-12 hours of sleep each night, plus several hours of naps during the day.

But when children are overtired, they resist sleep more, cry longer and harder and can really fight the soothing process due to an increased cortisol levels.

Although it may feel like it, these cues are not indications your child doesn’t want to sleep, but rather they are overtired and have caught their “second wind.”

10. This Too Shall Pass

This is a common phrase that many well-meaning relatives, friends and internet groups say. But the truth is that many children don’t outgrow their sleep issues by themselves.

Especially sleep debts and sleep associations;  they don’t fix themselves. They just get transferred from one issue to another and the problems escalate and snowball.

While sleep is a biological need, falling asleep independently is a learnt skill and healthy sleep hygiene is fostered by parents.

Another factor to consider is how long some issues take to change. In the meantime both you and your child are not getting the proper amounts of rest needed to be at optimal health.

Even if children could work out their sleep issues over time, they cannot recoup the sleep that they have lost. Your child looks to you to set the tone and routine so that sleep needs are being met.

The Truth About Sleep Training Myths

In the age of the internet, sleep myths abound. Although many are well-meaning, they are often not based on the science of sleep or healthy sleep hygiene.
And as we’ve seen, frequently the exact opposite is actually the truth. Carefully consider the information and the source when being told sleep advice so that your child is getting the best rest possible.

Sleep is complex but vital to your child’s development. Helping them to achieve healthy and restful sleep will benefit them in all areas of their life.


14 02, 2019

Sleep Training and Sickness; What To Do When Baby Becomes Ill

February 14th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Sleep training and sickness; how do we manage both?

It’s that time of year! I’m sick, my kids were sick, and my clients’ kids are getting sick. It’s by far my least favorite time of year.

Being ill yourself is one thing, but there is nothing worse than having a sick child. All you want to do is take it away and make them comfortable.

If only it were that easy!

One of the most common questions I get from my clients this time of year is “What do I do when I’ve started to sleep train and my child becomes sick?”.

Attempting to do anything with an ill child is not easy, let alone something like sleep training which can be a huge undertaking at the best of times!

A Common Sleep Training Scenario

Here’s a situation I see happen frequently;

For argument’s sake, let’s say you started to sleep train your 7 month old. After a week into shaping the routine, getting naps on track and having more consolidated night sleep, they became sick.

They suddenly struggled to sleep at night because of their high temperature, runny nose and cough. As a parent, all you wanted to do was help them to feel better and ease their discomfort. 

But after being up all night with them trying to get them to sleep, you of course, became exhausted too.

You decided that because you both needed to get some rest, you would nurse them every time they woke the next night.

This way, they would be soothed and you would both quickly get back to sleep.

It was a win-win situation.

Or so you thought.

After 4-5 days, you may have noticed that your child was starting to get better. The flu like symptoms were going away, they were more comfortable and able to sleep much easier.

But just to be on the safe side, you continued to offer extra feeds for a few more nights and held them until they were asleep in your arms.

By the end of the week, your child was 100% back to being their normal, healthy self again.

Deciding to get back on track to sleeping through the night, you decided that the next night would be back to the regular routine.

But when you went to place them into their crib at night, they cried and protested at being put down awake, rather than being nursed to sleep.

What happened?

Your child had formed a sleep association with feeding back to sleep while they were sick. 

Sleep Training and Illness

When your child becomes sick, you need to take care of them first and foremost. Their health and well being comes above all else.

But when tending to them and helping them sleep, sometimes we can inadvertently do a little too much in certain situations.

In the example above, the baby was probably fine to start being placed down awake by the fourth or fifth night. They were already enough into the sleep training process at that point (naps were starting to lengthen as was night sleep. This would indicate that the child was beginning to transition through sleep cycles on their own), that they had developed some independent sleep skills.

But by continuing to feed ‘just in case’ baby needed to be soothed, a sleep association around feeding to sleep, developed.

Now please note, this is neither right or wrong.

It’s just how the brain and sleep work.

Whatever state or environment is present when a child enters the first stages of sleep (stage one in the diagram below), is what they come to expect in order to re-enter another cycle later on.

What To Do When Your Child Becomes Sick

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I strongly encourage you to do what feels right for you, your family and your ill child.

I would also encourage you to give assistance according to the intensity of their illness.

Some tips to consider:

  • If the child has a slight cold, some parents feel comfortable still maintaining a regular routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean formal sleep training where we are actively weaning sleep associations, but it does mean keeping the timing of naps and bedtime on track.
  • If the child’s cold is more severe, we may want to use a humidifier in their room (or steam up a bathroom and sit with them in there for a few minutes), help clear their nose, and move bedtime up slightly earlier. Sleep training is paused, but sometimes the routine is maintained.
  • However, if your baby has a bad flu or stomach bug, sometimes we need to pull out alllllll the stops. This might mean that you sleep in their room on the floor to quickly help them in the night as needed. Or, you may want to offer extra milk feeds, holding them for naps and offering more naps through out the day.

Should You Do Formal Sleep Training?

No one likes being ill so it’s important to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible when they are unwell. Unless it is a very minor cold, most of the time I recommend that parents pause sleep training.

As mentioned previously, you may still be able to keep a some-what consistent nap routine, as well as semi regular nap and bedtimes as well.

After all, sleep is one of nature’s best medicines. 

But for doing the actual weaning of sleep associations (which is what sleep training is *only* to be used for ), then most of the time we need to pause.
I know the concern is that we may undo all of the progress that has already happened, but you don’t need to worry about this.

First,  when it comes to actually helping them fall asleep, we want to only do as much as needed. And this will vary according to the severity of the illness.

Second, if they were already partly on track with sleep skills, then these skills don’t dissappear. You can get back on track when they are feeling better.

When To Get Back On Track

If your child becomes accustomed to a certain situation when they are unwell, they can form sleep associations or learned habits. And sometimes we need to take an active approach to changing the habits.

If this is the case, when you feel that your child is ready, you need to be confident in allowing them to sleep alone, as they normally would.  

In general, I like to wait until the child has been feeling 100% better for several days before resuming formal sleep training.

In the days leading up to this however, you can always start to get back to a more scheduled day if you weren’t before.

Maintaining a well-timed sleep schedule can greatly assist with the sleep training later because we start to eliminate the sleep debt before starting sleep training.

To Summarize

Do whatever you need to do to help your child feel comfortable while they’re ill.

When it comes to sleep; try to soothe them as much as is necessary, without doing more than is needed. This way you lessen the chance of  habits forming during the time that they are sick.

Should bad sleep habits form after you had already started sleep training, remember that your child still has sleep skills. They have not vanished all together, they simply need to be refreshed. Children are very capable of learning and relearning, it just takes time and persistence.

Worst-case scenario; for severe cold and flus; don’t worry about creating bad sleep habits because you can always re-teach and undo any associations, once they are back to full health.

Need further sleep tips? Download your free sleep guide.

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Babies: Baby Sleep Basics 

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