30 10, 2012

Taming Your Toddler’s Sleep Part 1; The Big Kid Bed Transition

October 30th, 2012|Categories: Preschooler Sleep, Toddler Sleep, Transition Tips|Tags: , , , , |

The Big Kid Bed Transition

Having a toddler is fun, crazy, and challenging all at the same time. I know, I have one. ūüėČ No longer are conversations one sided-we can chat about the weather, the birds, shapes, colours, what Elmo said or did that day. The baby is gone and the little person is starting to emerge.

But with this little developing person comes a new side with some tantrums and limit testing. Unfortunately this is part of their development and although it can be trying and tiring for us parents, we must seize this opportunity to begin to instill rules and structure now.

If not, then you make it that much harder on yourself later on.

So how does this pertain to your toddler’s sleep? Well, somewhere in the toddler years, usually between 2-4 years of age, two big changes happen that can affect¬†sleep.

The first is that the¬†toddler is moved¬†from a crib to¬†a bed. That’s where we’ll focus our attention on for this article. In part two we’ll take a look at the second big change and that is when they drop their last nap. Both of these changes can be fantastic or disastrous, depending on your child’s personality and how you approach it.

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Let’s start off with the big kid bed transition.¬†Some¬†children¬†have no troubles making the switch and stay in their bed all night, right from day one.

You’ve never heard of those children,¬†you say? Yeah, me either.

Just kidding. ūüėČ It does happen.

More popular though, are the stories of children who keep popping out of their beds at night to explore their new-found freedom. Usually the first few weeks are pretty good and then the child starts to either resist bedtime or get up through the night and walk around. It may be cute at first, but over time if they are putting up a fight every night, not falling asleep until hours later and/or getting up through the night, they will become overtired and Cr-Anky. And so will you.

Big Kid Bed Transition Recommendations:

Are they actually ready? Are you sure?

A 17 month old is going to have a much harder time understanding that¬†they’re not suppose to wander around¬†their room, than a 3-year-old¬†will. If the reason for the change is to use the crib for a new sibling,¬†consider purchasing a 2nd hand one, borrowing one, or¬†using a bassinet¬†for baby¬†to give your toddler more time in the crib.

Climbing out of the crib = time for rules

Has your toddler suddenly turned into a monkey? Just because they are getting out, doesn’t mean you have to move to a bed! What it does mean is that it’s time for you to set some clear rules for them.

Repeatedly tell them to not climb out.¬†Be firm, serious and consistent. If you can catch them in the act-even better. It will take some commitment on your part to do this every time they try it.¬†If you think this is tedious now though, imagine what it will be like if they are in a bed and have the ease of just rolling out for a jaunt down the hall at 3 am.¬†ūüėČ

Big Kid Bed Transition Talk

Depending on your child’s personality, they may need quite a¬†bit of discussion to get used to the idea and expectations. The more we can prepare them and reinforce the expectations in advance,¬†the greater the chances of success will be.

Don’t let them smell fear. Keep it fun, positive and upbeat so that they are excited about the switch.

Read books about big kid beds, consider taking them shopping to look at different sheet patterns or pillows or even shopping for a new mattress if they won’t be going to a toddler bed.

When you have developed a plan of action, talk with your toddler about it in an age appropriate and positive way. You may want to use simple rules chart to help your child stay on track.

Make the chart colourful, fun and positive. Review the expectations everyday in a casual way and again before bedtime.

If you choose to do some method of positive reinforcement, make sure your toddler receives it immediately in the morning and not halfway through the day. If they don’t have a successful night, don’t make them feel bad about it. Instead praise their efforts and tell them that they have another chance the next night to try again.

The final big kid bed transition tip; keep your expectations realistic.

If you have a three-year¬†old that has rarely slept through the night, then you can’t expect them to start doing it immediately once in a bed. You need to be committed to your plan long-term so that you can help change your child’s behaviour. If you aren’t consistent in reinforcing the new plan, then your child can’t be expected to follow it¬†either.

Kids¬†love to test us, and it’s by sticking to the¬†rules that let’s them know where the boundaries are. But if you are consistent now, it will help for years to come with every new behaviour and emotional challenge that comes your way. ūüôā

How did your big kid bed transition go? Need some tips now that you’ve started? Join me on my weekly¬†Facebook Q and A sessions¬†and¬†chat with other tired parents!

If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, consider purchasing a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!


30 09, 2012

How To Get Your Child To Nap Better

September 30th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Naps are¬†great, right? Even better when our children take them willingly and easily. But I know there are a lot of you out there that struggle to get your baby or child to take one. And then after the battle of getting them to nap, they wake up shortly after and you may wonder why you even bothered. Do you sometimes think that perhaps your baby or toddler¬†really doesn’t need that much daytime sleep? You aren’t alone in your thinking.

Here are some common assumptions many parents make:

* My child puts up such a fuss at nap time, they obviously aren’t tired.

* My child sleeps through the night, so¬†they don’t¬†really need any naps.

* My child hates their crib/bed and doesn’t like to nap in it.¬†I know this because they fall asleep instantly in the car.

*My child has a ton of energy at bedtime, especially on the days that they’ve missed a nap, so they clearly don’t need it.

All the above statements are warning¬†flags that a child is actually overtired. We know from pediatric sleep research, that babies, toddlers and even a good chunk of¬†preschoolers, need to nap during the day. And the amount of daytime sleep they require for optimal health might actually surprise you. It’s easy to try to convince ourselves that we have a low sleep needs child (I know, I was one of those people ;)), but those children are actually quite rare. The vast majority of children need and WANT quite a bit of sleep-in day and night form. Here are the numbers from two sources. An apples¬†to apples comparison is difficult¬†because they group their data differently, but it gives you an overall idea of how much sleep your child needs at each stage. When you look at the numbers, remember that the younger the child is in a particular category, the higher the amount of sleep they need.

How Much Sleep Your Child Needs

Canadian Paediatric Society: Newborns-6 months need about 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 6 months to 1 year- 14 hours, toddlers (1-3 yrs)-10-13 hours, and preschoolers (3-5 yrs)  need about 10-12 hours.

Dr. Sears : Newborns-16-17 hours  in 24 hours with 6 hours in naps, 1-3 months 15-16 hours with 4-5 hours in naps, 3-6 month olds need  14-15 hours in 24 hours, 3-4 hours in naps, 6-9 months 14-14.5 hours, 3-4 hours in naps, 9-12 months, 13-14 hours,3 hours in naps, 12-24 months,12-13 hours, 2 hours in naps,2-3 years,11-13 hours, 1-1.5 hours in naps, 3-4 years, 11-12 hours, 1/2-1 hour in naps.

The Benefits of Napping

Other than providing mom and dad with some much-needed¬†downtime, naps actually¬†provide a biological¬†function¬†too. When a child naps, cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) lower in their body. If a child takes a short nap or misses one altogether, the levels don’t lower and the child is not as refreshed. This then effects the quality of the next sleep period and can make it harder for the child to transition through sleep cycles¬†during the next nap, thus resulting in a short nap.¬†Over time, poor naps lead to increased night wakings¬†and fragmented sleep, early risings, and difficulties falling asleep. It’s easy to see how a vicious cycle can evolve quite¬†quickly.¬†When a baby or child takes restorative naps, this cycle is broken which leaves the child more refreshed, happy and alert. And, in turn has positive consequences for the next sleep period. To quote Dr. Weissbluth, another pediatric sleep researcher;¬†“sleep begets sleep”.

In addition¬†to that, research has also suggested that morning naps which have more REM sleep than afternoon naps, help the brain mature. Afternoon naps help to restore the body physically. So napping at different times serve different biological needs. Naps can also improve a child’s adaptability, concentration and attention span. A well rested child will be able to play independently for longer amounts of time than one who is overtired.

How To Fix Short Naps

So now you know that your baby wants and needs naps. But you’re having a very difficult time actually getting them to nap? I completely understand! I used to be right there with you. I often tell my clients that stressing out about my daughter’s sleep and in particular, her short naps, was one of the reasons that I lost my baby weight. It’s good for a chuckle now, but I can tell you, back then it was an incredibly stressful time. It’s one thing to know that your new baby is going to be up at night, but it’s quite another to also not have any downtime during the day, even well past the newborn stage. Some parents have really great nappers¬†right from the start, and some us, well-don’t. But we can fix that, so let’s go!

First-Determine how much day sleep your child *should* be getting in a 24 hour period, according to their age. Use the above guidelines to help you.

Second-Track your child’s sleep for 3 days to see where the short falls are happening. While you’re tracking his or her sleep, also start watching for their sleepy cues. For many parents this can be really tough, as a just-beginning-to-get-sleepy baby often gives off very, very subtle cues. Look for a less attentive, zoning out, turning away from toys, less active cues in infant or baby. Sometimes we wait for eye rubbing and yawns, but for many children this is a sign that they are already starting to slip past the opportune time to be put down for sleep. It¬†may help to keep one eye on the clock to help you approximate when these cues are going to start showing themselves.

Third-Create a wind down routine that you and your child do every sleep period. A wind down routine should be about 5-15 minutes long, the majority of it done in the child’s room and in low light to help serve as a cue that it’s almost time to sleep. It can include a diaper change or using the potty, reading a book or two, singing a soft lullaby or even just cuddling in a chair.

Fourth-keep your child’s wake times short, especially under 6 months. A newborn can not¬†sustain being up for 2 hours,¬†nor can an¬†18 month old sustain¬†6 hours. A lot of parents¬†say that they try to put their child down for a nap, but the child fights/cries/screams, etc., leaving them thinking that they are not tired yet. What is more likely, is that the child is already¬†overtired. In the first 6 months or so, it may seem like all you are ever doing is putting your child down for a nap, but consider the benefits of having a well rested child and know that this time¬†stage will soon change.¬†Watch your child for those subtle sleepy cues and respect your child’s need to sleep.

Once a baby is around 6 months, a morning nap will develop at around the same time everyday, and it usually is around 2 hours from the morning wakeup. This doesn’t seem like a very long time to be awake, but most babies prefer a shorter wake time in the morning and tolerate a slightly longer wake time in the afternoon. If you try to keep them up longer than this, they will go from drowsy to overtired and it will be become much more difficult to get them to sleep.

When we get overtired, our bodies produce more stimulant hormones to help keep us awake and this is what gives the parent the impression that jr isn’t tired. “But”, you’re thinking. “how can my¬†child be overtired¬†when they just woke up¬†*insert amount of hours*¬†ago?”. If your child has continually missed their sleep window for several days, weeks or months, it has a cumulative effect on their bodies and it will take quite a bit of time to recover. Please don’t be discouraged after one or two unsuccessful¬†tries. Getting rid of accumulated overtiredness is a process.

Once your child is only taking one nap a day (the average age is 15-18 months), nap time stays consistent but keep bedtime flexible to accommodate the quality of the nap taken.

Fifth-Keep your child’s sleeping location consistent. The most restorative sleep is stationary and flat, so try to avoid car/swing/vibrating chair¬†naps as much as possible after 3 months of age. For parents of older toddlers whose afternoon nap is hit and miss, still maintain that children go to their room for “quiet time”. They may or may not¬†fall asleep, but at least it gives everyone in the house some time to themselves.

Sixth, and my favourite. Keep bedtime¬†early! Those of you who have worked with me, know that I preach this often. ūüėČ Yes, if 10pm used to be your child’s bedtime and now you’ve moved it to 9pm, then that may SEEM early, but it really isn’t, especially if they are in a sleep debt and/or are skipping or shortening naps. Aim for your child to be asleep for the night within 3-4 hours after they wake up from their last restorative (anything over an hour) nap. Older toddlers and preschoolers can handle a bit longer, but not much. Always use your child’s mood in the late afternoon and early evening as your guide.

Use these guidelines to help your baby or toddler¬†nap, but remember to¬†give your child time to adjust to them.¬†Poor napping habits don’t develop overnight, so it’s not fair to expect that they will resolve themselves any quicker. But, the more consistent you are about using them everyday, every nap period, the sooner you will see results.