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24 06, 2021

Wind Down Routine ; Easy Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Better

June 24th, 2021|Categories: Baby Sleep|

Parenting is tough. Getting your baby to sleep-even tougher. Want to make the sleep process a little easier? Try using a wind down routine before each sleep period!

Children are always on the go-moving, exploring, learning. This can make getting ready to sleep, a challenge.

But a wind down routine can help your child switch from the intensity of daytime, to the relaxing period of sleep time.

Ultimately, this means  your job, as the parent becomes easier! Why is this? Let’s take a quick look deeper…

The Science of The Wind Down:

There are two biological factors at play that influence sleep; circadian rhythms and the homeostatic sleep drive (also called sleep pressure).

Circadian rhythms can be thought of as internal clocks that run throughout a 24 hour period and the sleep/wake cycle in particular. Sleep pressure, on the other hand, starts to build from the moment your child wakes up and is relieved after a restorative sleep period.

When your child is getting close to nap time, a wind down routine can work with both the circadian rhythm and the sleep pressure.

This happens due to the repetition and your child’s ability to recognize patterns. Since the routine is repeated, over time, it begins to trigger a biological response in your little one.

Melatonin, the natural sleep hormone is released, core body temperature is lowered to help start the sleep process.

With a long, deep sleep, the sleep pressure is then relieved and the process begins again.

When To Start a Wind Down Routine:

You can begin implementing a pre-sleep routine anytime around 6-8 weeks of age. This is often around the same time when your baby is beginning to smile at you.

Smiles, especially in response to when you smile at them, signals that your baby is beginning to recognize cues and patterns.

It’s a perfect time to begin implementing a wind down routine before all naps and bedtime.

But don’t worry if your baby is older and you haven’t started one yet-it’s never too late, whether they are  6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years!

Want more tips to help your baby sleep better?

Download your free Baby Basics Guide here.

Four Key Elements of a Perfect Wind Down Routine:

The perfect pre-sleep routine is  short, simple and consistent.

We don’t want a routine that has so many steps, that it’s difficult or confusing for an alternate caregiver to do.

Or, even worse, a routine that is too long and your child becomes overtired during the process.

Short and simple is best!

Here are the 4 key components to include…

Feed Separate from Sleep:

Aim to keep the time from the end of the feed and placing your child into their crib by 10-15 minutes. If you are offering a bottle or nursing before a nap or bedtime, do this at the beginning of the routine.

If your child is prone to falling asleep during this feed, then you will want to consider doing this feed in another room other than their bedroom.

This alternative space should be bright, well-lit, but have no distractions such as a TV on, or other people around.

Darken Room:

If you are not offering a feed, or it’s complete, go into your child’s bedroom and darken it.

You can say “goodnight” to the sun, street, trees, the window, etc., while you do this.

Any light that you do have on in the room, should be very low wattage. Avoid LED lights if possible as these have a blue-based light that can interfere with your baby trying to settle.

Soothing Activities:

You can do a few short and simple relaxing activities here. Diaper change, massage, into pjs/sleep sack, read a book, sing a song.
Any of these are great options, but you don’t need to do all of them.

Pick a few so that the wind down is kept under 15 minutes.

Consistent: 

Repeat this wind down routine before every nap and bedtime. Generally the one at night may be slightly longer if it includes a bath.

Overall, your child will pick up on the repetitive nature of this pre-sleep routine over time. This is why you want it to be short and simple; any caregiver can do it.

BONUS:

If you are wanting to lengthen naps and night sleep, then the goal of the wind down routine is that it ends with your child still completely awake.

This allows them to practice transitioning between eyes open to eyes closed without extra help. Overtime, when repeated, your child then learns the skill of falling asleep with greater independence.

That skill will translate to night sleep and naps as well.

Please note, your baby should be at least 4 months and a few night feeds may still be needed.

If you are working towards having your child learn to fall asleep more independently, then you can choose to shorten or reduce the amount of help you are offering during the wind down each day, or every second day.

You can go as fast or slow as you would like with this step! Tailor it to your comfort level.

Time Together

A wind down routine is a simple and easy way to help your little one to get ready to sleep. It allows them some one-on-one quiet time with their caregiver, while also acting a biological cue to initiate the sleep process.

With time and repetition, this pre-sleep routine can be a special time everyone looks forward to while also helping to foster great sleep habits.

If you need more help with your child’s sleep, book a private consultation here. 

14 10, 2020

Sleep Debt & Sleep Training; What The Doctor Didn’t Tell You

October 14th, 2020|Categories: Baby Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Getting enough sleep. Sleeping through the night. Avoiding a sleep debt.

As much as we try to not focus on it, having consolidated night sleep is for both parent and child, feels like winning some sort of prize.

But it can be hard to come by.

And getting sound advice, even from medical professionals, can sometimes be misguided.

For instance, when parents visit their child’s pediatrician and are asked about how sleep is going, and they say “not great”, my clients tell me often the response will be;  “you just have to let them cry”.

Without context, a proper sleep schedule in place, or without sleep hygiene habits being practiced, this is a recipe for disaster.

Want to get your baby or toddler on a better sleeping routine?

Download your free copy of

Baby Sleep Guides or Toddler and Preschooler Sleep Guides

Sleep Training Doesn’t Always Work

The problem lies in the fact that helping a child to sleep through the night is not limited to just one factor. And by extension, it’s not caused by one single issue.

This is why the idea of sleep training can and often does fail when parents try it.

It’s not that they picked the wrong method, it’s that they didn’t understand why the child was waking to begin with.

And that’s no ones’ fault. As parents, we aren’t taught much about our kiddo’s sleep!

In fact, even pediatricians have limited hours of training in regards to pediatric sleep. And my guess is, the focus is not about schedules and sleep windows. 😉

Having three kids myself, (currently, my youngest is 11 months old) and helping hundreds of families achieve better sleep, I’ve seen this time and time again.

Let’s clear up any misunderstanding so our families can become well-rested and healthy.

So what IS a sleep debt?

Sleep debt, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, over tiredness.

They are all basically the same thing.

A sleep debt is the difference between how much sleep a child should be getting and how much they are actually receiving.

A (sleep needs) minus B (actual sleep quantity) = Sleep Debt

The sleep debt can be acute/recently acquired, or long term, chronic-lasting weeks or years.

If we think of sleep health similar to having money in the bank, then when our children (or ourselves) miss out on the required amount of sleep that their body needs, it’s like taking money out of the bank.

They now have a sleep deficit, or a sleep debt.

Side Effects of Sleep Debts

One of the MOST important factors, but yet the least known fact, is that sleep debts cause MORE sleep problems.

Mistakenly, I’ve heard my clients be advise (even from their pediatricians) to keep a child awake LONGER, in order to help them sleep better at night.

If you want your kiddo to sleep better, then please don’t follow this advice.

In general, to quote the famous pediatric sleep researcher, Dr. Mark Weissbluth; “sleep begets sleep”.

That is, the more a child sleeps, the better they will sleep.

Yes, there are limits to this, but when we are dealing with overtired babies, toddlers and preschoolers (which, if you’re reading this blog, you probably are), then we really want to work at filling up their sleep bank.

To summarize, here is what can occur with sleep debts

  • Frequent night wakings (not related to hunger)
  • Increased crying (during day, before and after sleep periods)
  • Short naps
  • Waking after 20-30 minutes of sleep
  • Resistance/protesting to going to sleep
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Early morning wake ups
  • Bedtime battles (toddlers and preschoolers)
  • Crankiness
  • Clingy
  • Unable to play independently
  • Refusal to eat
  • Easily falling asleep in highchair, car seat-anywhere other than in crib or bed
  • Risk of impaired health, immune function and memory

Fixing a Sleep Debt

In order to feel well and to maintain a strong immune system and overall health, this must be payed back.

Generally the thought is that you can never fully repay the sleep debt. Once that sleep is lost, it’s gone forever. But, it is possible to reverse the effects.

We start by getting our children to bed at the perfect time. Not too early and not too late.

How do we accomplish this? By following their *initial* sleep cues.

The trick here is to know what to look for.

If I asked you what does your child do to indicate when they’re ready for a nap or bedtime, you may say yawning, eye rubbing, or getting fussy.

But for the vast majority of children, these are their secondary tired cues. They are signals that indicate that your child is already approaching a state of overtiredness.

Instead,  what we should look for is much subtler, much less obvious.

Initial Tired Cues; “I’m Getting Sleepy”

For babies, watch for the following signs…

  • Zoning out
  • Turning away from caregiver
  • Loosing interest in toys
  • Quieting down
  • Eyes looking glassy
  • Looking relaxed and calm

For toddlers, watch for the following signs…

  • Wanting to cuddle
  • Sucking fingers/thumb/pacifier
  • Lying down or wanting to have a “rest” during playtime
  • Finding favourite blanket or stuffed animal
  • Getting quiet
  • Starting to whine/get fussy

When you see these indicators, you need to immediately respond and start their wind down process for sleep. This will give you the best chance of having minimal fussing and long, deep sleep.

Secondary Sleep Cues; “I’m Getting Overtired”

If you miss the initial sleep window, you will likely start to see overtired cues.

Since a sleep debt is building, you will likely have to work harder at helping your child settle down. That’s ok! Do what you need to do to help them.

For babies, watch for the following signs of overtiredness…

  • Yawning
  • Red under or around the eyes
  • Skin around eyebrows turning pink/red
  • Fussing
  • Crying
  • Jerky or erratic limb movements
  • Arching when being held
  • Fighting/resisting going to sleep

For toddlers, you will notice these cues when they are becoming overtired…

  • Defiant
  • Grumpy
  • Meltdowns
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Increased silliness or clumsiness
  • A burst of energy
  • Hyper
  • Demands for attention

Moving Forward And Avoiding The Sleep Debt

To avoid the same problem at the next sleep period, make a note of how long they were awake for prior to seeing the overtired cues.

Start documenting or sleep logging with little notes for yourself on their temperament and mood before sleep.

This will help you to start seeing patterns and anticipating in advance when they will be ready for nap or bedtime.

How Do I Know When My Child No Longer Has A Sleep Debt?

Once you have been able to identify your child’s initial sleep cues and are able to get them onto an age-appropriate schedule, the next question is when are they all caught up?

We often look to the child’s mood, temperament and patterns in sleep, as indicators of sleep health.

A few questions to ask;

  • Is my child waking less at night?
  • Is my child waking up in the morning happy and refreshed?
  • Is the morning wake up time after 6:00 am?
  • Are naps roughly two sleep cycles long? (One cycle is roughly 45 mins, age-dependent)
  • Is the nap consolidated, with no significant wake ups in between cycle transition?
  • Is my baby (over 4 months) sleeping a long stretch in the evening before their first feed?
  • Is my toddler or preschooler sleeping through the night?

If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, then it’s likely that your child is getting back on track.

It does take awhile to undo the effects of sleep deprivation, so please be patient with them and stick to your routine.

If you need more help or guidance, I can help you! I offer mini-consults (30 or 60 minute one-time calls), or full packages.

Remember your child WANTS to sleep as much as you want them to. They will feel better when their sleep debt is erased and everyone is getting the sleep they need.

 

23 09, 2020

Safe Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers

September 23rd, 2020|Categories: Baby Sleep, Toddler Sleep|

Safe Sleep Isn’t Always As It Seems

A sweetly sleeping newborn baby is one of life’s most precious gems. And it’s an image we often see in magazines, ads and in the movies.

Frequently, the baby is wrapped in a blanket, surrounded by stuffed animals, maybe on their tummy or side.

As serene as this image is for a stock photo, it sends a dangerous message; that this is a safe and protective sleep environment.

It’s not.

September is Infant Safety Awareness month which means it’s a good time to write a blog about something that should be practiced everyday of the year;

Safe Sleep.

Let’s start with the basics of safe sleep

Many people have heard of the ABCs of safe sleep. It’s a great and easy way to remember the fundamentals.

A-Alone

B-Back

C-Crib

A- Alone in a Crib

This first one sometimes confuses parents a bit since the recommendation for both Canada and the United States is to room share for the first 6 months of a baby’s life.

But the A for Alone, doesn’t mean that the child is alone in the room, rather they are alone in their sleep area.

Only a firm mattress and a fitted mattress sheet, over that mattress, should be in the crib or bassinet.

This means no;

  • Blankets
  • Stuffed animals
  • Toys
  • Pillows
  • Bumpers (Breathable or otherwise)
  • Mattress wedges
  • Baby positioners
  • Baby Nests
  • Loose bedding
  • Other people

We want the crib or bassinet boring and bare. That is beautiful for safe sleep!

B-On their Back

Always place a newborn down to sleep on their back.

This keeps their airway clear (newborns don’t possess the ability to move themselves away from dangers) and helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

There will be many people (perhaps from an older generation) that tell you that they use to lay babies prone (on their tummies) and never had an issue.

You may also be one of the many parents that have a baby that hates sleeping on their back.

I fully recognize that this may be the case as plenty of babies do enjoy tummy sleeping once they are older. But, the data tells us that there is a much lower rate of SIDs when babies are placed on their backs to sleep.

I go into more details on my TV interview with CTV Morning Live Winnipeg.

You can check it out here.

 

C- Certified Crib or Bassinet

Technically, the C stands for *crib*, but I always like to mentioned that it needs to be a certified one. Unfortunately there are many products on the market that subtly or even blatantly  mislead consumers into thinking that their product has been tested and given the “all clear” for babies to sleep in.

This is not the case.

Unless the crib or bassinet has met the standards to be labeled a crib, bassinet or play yard (in the U.S.), then an infant should not sleep in it.

If it is called a napper, changing station, bassinet “level”, or floor “level”, nest, baby nest bed, lounger, etc., it is NOT safe for sleep and has NOT undergone any testing.

Only the terms crib, cradle, bassinet and play yard (in the US only) have been tested and certified for safe sleep.

If you are not sure, look for the manufacture, model number and date of manufacture on the product.

Canadian regulations for cribs, cradles and bassinets from the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act Click here.

United States crib regulations can be found here.

United States bassinet and cradle regulations can be found here.

United States play yard regulations can be found here.

Mobiles, Toys, Wedges and Incliners

What about these common products? How many parents have purchased fancy gadgets and gizmos to help their little one catch a few more ZZZs?

The great news is that you can save yourself money by not purchasing them!

Any crib modifications that stay attached or remain in the crib during sleep time, are not needed and not safe for sleep.

Remember, bare is beautiful and safe.

Incliners/wedges are also not recommended, because a baby will slowly slide down.

This places their neck at an unsafe position, increasing the risk of positional asphyxiation which occurs when a baby can not get enough oxygen due to an abnormal position of their body.

(This is one of the reasons the Fisher Price Rock N Play was recalled. You can read how even this popular products was sold without clinical research and despite infants dying,  here.)

What About Safe Sleep For Toddlers?

This group sometimes gets forgotten about, but it’s still just as important!

The safest place for a toddler is still a certified crib until they are 35 inches or taller.

No pillows should be introduced until two years of age. When you do offer a pillow, it should be firm and flat.

A toddler is a curious being and they may attempt to explore their climbing skills. Prevent them from trying to climb out by lowering the mattress to the lowest setting and taking out any stuffed animals or blankets, that can be used to gain leverage.

Sleep sacks are recommend instead of blankets. Not only does this limit the ones that try to climb, but it is also safer than loose bedding in the crib.

Think your toddler is too big for a sleep sack? Guess what?

There are companies that make sleep sacks all the way up to 5T.

For the toddlers that are in a bed, if you are choosing to use guard rails, they should be used only with a bed that has a mattress and box spring, not on a toddler bed or bunk bed.

There have been incidents of toddlers becoming trapped between their rails and the bed, so you will want to preform regular safety checks to make sure they are attached as per the manufacture’s instructions.

Safe Spaces For Bigger Kids

Although we don’t have to worry about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death) for toddlers, there are still risks for suffocation and entrapment that we can watch out for.

Those growing bodies mean that they can reach and grab for items that previously were out of their reach.

So be sure to not place the crib near

  • any windows,
  • drapes and their pull cords,
  • electrical outlets
  • shelves
  • picture frames
  • anything that can be pulled into their crib

You never know what your toddler is going to try to investigate, so the safest approach is to remove all hazards ahead of time.

I Bought Bumpers (or any other product) That Says It’s Breathable! That’s Safe, Right?

Unfortunately, no.

I was surprised to learn that bumpers, even “breathable” are not safe for sleep.

I was even more surprised to learn that the term “breathable” doesn’t mean anything. It is a marketing term only.

There are no tests or standards that an infant sleep product goes through, to have that term applied to it’s label or advertising.

Anything can be called “breathable” without breaking any laws.

Safe Sleep is Easy Sleep

As much as we may be tempted to decorate our children’s room with fancy bedding, deluxe mobiles, and large stuffed animals, when it comes to sleep, these items aren’t needed-or safe.

In fact, the less you do, the easier it becomes to have a safe sleep environment.

Stick to the basics and save all the “extras” for playtime.

Have a safe sleep environment, but your little one won’t sleep in it? Book a mini-consult and let’s get your family sleeping!

 

 

 

 

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.

Yay!

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