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sleep regressions Baby Sleep

Sleep Regression or a Developmental Leap?

Sleep Regression and the tools to help you survive it!

When I set about writing this blog on the so called infamous infant sleep regression, my primary goal was to bring reassurance and hope that it is not all as bad as it is made out to be.

While it is not uncommon to see changes to your baby’s sleep patterns at various times during the first three years of their lives, it is worth noting that these periods almost always coincide with major milestones that are key to your baby’s developmental progress.

It would therefore be fitting to describe these so called periods as “sleep progressions” as opposed to ” sleep regressions”. But of course progression is far too positive and unlike regression it doesn’t really sell sleep books and miracle sleep products which claim to be the answer to something that is infact so normal and important for your baby’s development.

Interestingly, if you run a Google search on sleep regression it comes up with over 200 million hits but if you delve in to the evidence based literature on infant sleep, there is very little to suggest that sleep regressions actually exists.

Developmental milestones that can affect sleep

Yes it goes without saying that developmental milestones and leaps are a constant in the first three years of a baby’s life and even the slightest change in development such as learning to roll over between the ages of 4-6 months can cause sleep to become disturbed a lot or a little.  We can also see disturbances to sleep between the ages of 8-10 months when your baby is learning to crawl and stand and then again at 12 months when they begin to walk.  This is followed by yet another potential hiccup between 18-24 months as they grapple with their ever expanding vocabularly.

For a full list of the developmental milestones your baby goes through click here.

The main reason why you may see a so-called regression to your child’s sleep during these times, is because your baby, like adults, processes lots of new skills in their sleep. Their little brains are so busy working overtime perceiving, exploring and experimenting during waking hours they often have difficulty switching off when it is time to sleep. What’s more it is not uncommon for a baby who has gone without night feeds for several weeks to suddenly wake in the night in the need of a feed as the sugars in the form of oggliosaccarides found in milk provide vital food to fuel the developing brain.

During times of developmental changes it is also common for children to become progressively overstimulated and overtired throughout the day and at these times it is not uncommon for babies to wake more frequently at night sometimes for between one to three hours at a time. Neither is it uncommon for them to resist bedtime or naptime due to an overwhelming desire to practice their new skills (e.g rolling, rocking on all fours, standing babbling or talking)

This is widely prevalent and although not all babies will be affected by each developmental leap when their nights are disrupted it can some times last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

I would be lying if I said that these periods of developmental change are easy and why they might not last for ever when you are in the midst of a particularly challenging leap it can often seem like there is no end in sight to the continual broken nights.

6 proven ways to minimise the impact of developmental change:

ONE: Be mindful that periods of change are synonymous with an increase in fear and anxiety and your child might feel the need to release their upset and frustration more than normal. During these emotional outbursts it is really important that you are able to support your baby to release their tensions and their fears.  While it might be tempting to continually distract them with the breast or dummy, or by bouncing or rocking them, you are going to do them more of a service by listening to them and validating their upset. After all  baby who is able to release their emotions during the day is less likely to need to do so at night.

“Crying not only removes toxins from the body but it also reduces tension”

TWO: If you can see that your child is desperately trying to learn new skills such as going from standing to lying or rolling from their front to their back try and help them as much as possible to practice these skills during the day so they able to transition by themselves at night and are not so reliant on you to help them when they wake.

THREE: Awake windows are crucial when it comes to developing healthy sleep but even more so during periods of developmental change.  You may even find that your baby has been so busy during the day learning their new skills, that they need slightly shorter than usual awake windows by 10-15 minutes to prevent them from getting overtired and struggling to fall and stay asleep. For an idea of age appropriate awake windows you might like to check out my blog on the ideal conditions for naps or alternatively my blog on building healthy sleep foundations.

FOUR: Incorporating quality one to one time in to your child’s day, in particular anything that promotes laughter, is a brilliant antidote to the fear and anxiety that goes hand in hand with periods of rapid change and unfamiliarity.

FIVE: Optimise your child’s sleep environment to promote a calm and secure space. Ideally the room should be cool and dark with a temperature of between 18-20 degrees. You might also like to use pink noise to block out any external or household noises that could wake your baby.

Lastly, when your child is going through these major developmental milestones and you find that your intervention to help them fall back to sleep is required more than usual, remember that how you respond to their upset during the day will help set the tone in regards to how you respond to them at night. Rather than always going to them  and picking them as your first port of call try responding to them in a variety of other ways first such as speaking to them in soft reassuring tones or using gently touch and movement to help soothe them while you stay at their level.

Bearing in mind that every child is different and will react differently to developmental milestones, you may feel that you would like more support to help your baby sleep better.  If you would like more personalised holistic sleep suggestions, please do check out my individual sleep consultation packages.

holiday sleep tips blog Baby Sleep

Sleep tips for your little ones on holiday

Holiday Sleep Tips

Holidays are an exciting and momentous time for everybody.  As with anything that involves changes and transitions, sleep can often be affected a little bit or a lot.

We are off to Italy at the end of this month.  Even though I may know a lot about sleep, I can assure you it doesn’t always mean I am immune to the  sleep hiccups that come with travelling!

Here are my TOP FIVE TRAVEL TIPS I will be using when I go away later this month to make every ones life that bit easier.

Comfort – Pack all your essential creature comforts that remind your child of their sleep space at home so you can recreate it when you arrive.

Familiarity – Put up photos next to your child’s bed so they feel safe even in a new space.

Block out that light! – Maintain a dark sleep environment and aim to cover up any chinks of light coming in through the windows, otherwise those cheeky holiday lie-ins might be a 5AM wakeup instead. I love and use regularly these brilliant travel blackout blinds by EASYBLINDS – they have two ways of attaching to your window which means the light has no chance of coming in.

Respect the routine – Stick to your sleep routines as much as possible.  Remember transitions and change are synonymous with anxiety.  Sleep routines are great, as they provide your child with predictability enabling them to feel safe and secure.

Practice using the travel cot at home: If you are going to be using a travel cot when you are away set it up at least five days before you go away. Have your child take naps in it so they get used to it in a familiar environment.

If you have found these tips useful and are soon to be taking off on your own personal vacation kids style,  perhaps you would like a personalised sleep plan for while you are away?  Book one of my 30 or 60 minute sleep SOS Troubleshooting calls and I can help put the ease back into travel for you.

 

 

 

adorable baby on bed who has benefited from holistic sleep coach Baby Sleep

Holistic Sleep Coaching – What does it mean?

Holistic sleep coaching for babies

Any sleep-deprived parent will tell you that there is a wealth of information on the internet.  You can find all sorts of tips and tricks when you feel that your baby should be sleeping better.   It could be a myriad of articles, parent forums, sleep nanny’s or sleep coaches.  Here at Help Baby Sleep I talk about being a holistic sleep coach but what does that mean and what is holistic sleep coaching?

Put simply, a holistic sleep coach like me will look at the whole picture when it comes to helping you lay the foundations for improved sleep for both your baby and the rest of the family.  I use scientific evidence based research to build a bespoke plan.  The plan will be tailored for your baby and be appropriate for their age and stage.  We will then work together to implement it so that the outcome is a calmer and contented whole family unit.  You will have a sleep routine that is achievable and meeting  your needs.  I don’t advocate a “cry it out” or “controlled crying” method and I don’t promise super quick fixes but instead concentrate on putting a plan in place that leads to positive and sustainable improvements.

I wanted to share this testimonial which I received recently as I feel that it really brings to life the way that some new parents can be feeling at the start of working with me and how the holistic sleep coaching approach can help the whole family feel more confident and contented as a result of helping their child to have an improved sleep pattern.

Feedback on Emma from a Help Baby Sleep client

“I would consider the support Emma has given invaluable! We were heavily sleep deprived and it was affecting all areas and quality of life when we first started working with her. It feels like a lifetime ago, and a completely different me, now to look back on it.

Being a first time mum brings a lot of confusion I think anyway but I had reached a point where I felt the anxiety I was experiencing and chronic lack of sleep was darkening my experience of motherhood. I desperately wanted to feel like I could do the best for my baby and enjoy all of his magical moments!

How holistic sleep coaching helped

Emma helped me to believe in myself and my abilities. She helped me find my own confidence in supporting our baby and his sleep. Emma did this through her massive knowledge across so many areas of sleep and her calm understanding.  As she uses the holistic sleep coaching method, she didn’t promise miracles, and I didn’t need that! But she gave us a sleep plan that worked for OUR baby, constant advice and reading material along the way to support us. She would always offer more support on the phone if and when needed. She was flexible and we would tweak areas such as awake times if we thought it necessary.

Not once have I felt uncomfortable with any suggestions and I’ve never felt our long term or short term goals wouldn’t be achieved. Our baby now has two parents that have a confidence and consistent approach to night times and day sleep. I feel confident in approaching changes in sleep that lie ahead.

Now that we have finished, what has been the impact on our family?

It’s affected our whole family- we can take days out knowing they aren’t dictated by anxiety or nap worries. Night times we’re all getting the sleep we now need. Our baby is thriving and I have been able to go back to work feeling refreshed. I cannot recommend her enough.

My worries before were would she be able to make a difference knowing that I have read every book and article I could find and felt like I’d tried every approach I had come across, and would she be worth the money my maternity pay was going to struggle to afford! And our answer to both has been YES! Thank you for everything.”

Book your holistic sleep consultation today

It was wonderful to receive this testimonial and hear how much our service has helped the family.  I have worked with many families now with their own unique challenges.  I love working to support my clients to make more positive sleep outcomes.  This could support them with things such as night wakings, unsettled naps or early rising.

If you feel that you can recognise some similar patterns in this testimonial, please do get in touch.  I offer a free 15 minute call to discuss your needs.  I will then assess which would be the most appropriate support package for you.

Father and son reading a book - blog post on Healthy Sleep Foundations Baby Sleep

How to build healthy sleep foundations for your baby

Sleep is critical for our survival and mental wellbeing. As a parent we dream of being the best Mum or Dad that we can possibly can be, but unfortunately when we are not getting the sleep that we so desperately need, it becomes difficult to function at our best.

As a holistic sleep coach, I often meet parents at their wits end who are struggling due to lack of sleep. In this article, I am delighted to share some areas that you might like to look at before going down the route of age appropriate and gentle sleep training. It may be that some simple changes can be made which will help put the right sleep foundations in place for your baby which will have a positive impact on the whole family.

Healthy Sleep Foundations – What are they?

It is never too early to put healthy sleep foundations into place allowing your baby and yourselves to benefit from more restful sleep. Often by getting the foundations in place it helps to address not only your child’s physical needs but also their physiological, emotional and relational needs.

As well as helping babies to consolidate newly learned skills and experiences, sleep gives them the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. Human growth hormone is also in released in the 4th stage of NREM sleep which ensures that babies are able to develop both physically and mentally.

When we focus on a baby’s sleep it is really important to be aware of what is developmentally normal for their age and also to develop an environment and bedtime routine that creates positive sleep associations as well as focusing on their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Create a Sleep Sanctuary

Ensuring that the space where your baby sleeps is peaceful and serene is really important when it comes to promoting better sleep. Ideally it should be calming free of clutter and lots of unnecessary toys and objects.

A couple of points whose roots are based in Feng Shui are the following:

Place your baby’s cot at the far end of the room away from the door but not in line with the door – it is also does not want to be next to the wall allowing for space either side and for the flow of positive Qi energy

Avoid any stimulating and aggressive images such as fast cars and wild animals as these will not enable your baby to calm – instead use photos of you and your family

For the walls decorate with pale pastel colours as opposed to bright primary colours.

Physical Wellbeing

It is really important when addressing your baby’s sleep to ensure that they do not have any health issues that may be preventing them from falling asleep and staying asleep.

It is key to make sure that they are not suffering from reflux, silent reflux, allergies or intolerances. If they are it is helpful to find a professional who can help you identify the cause of the symptoms.

If your baby is suffering from an inflammatory skin condition such as eczema it is worth remembering this often worsens at night when your baby’s cortisol levels drop. Keeping your baby at the right temperature and not allowing them to overheat is one way of dealing with this uncomfortable and painful condition.

Emotional Wellbeing

Optimal sleep is as much about your baby’s physical wellbeing as it is about their emotional wellbeing.  If your baby is fearful it goes without saying that they will struggle to fall asleep peacefully and then to be able to stay asleep.

As your baby grows, their emotional needs change and develop, the more opportunity you have to connect and reconnect with your baby during the day, the better they will feel from an emotional perspective.  If your baby for whatever reason is not able to communicate with you on an emotional level during the day, then it is likely they will wake more at night in search of reassurance and comfort.

Don’t forget the night time is a long time to be apart from your baby and therefore it is absolutely key that we take the time to emotionally communicate and connect with them during the waking hours of day as well as in the run up to bedtime.

Light and Dark Cycles

Use light to help set your baby’s biological body clock. Light helps the brain to communicate with your baby’s pineal gland.  It tells it to stop producing melatonin, which as a result let’s your baby know it is time to wake up.

Getting your baby up within the same half an hour window every day and exposing them to natural light in the morning can do wanders in helping to reset your baby’s body clock. In the same way, I recommend turning down lights and creating a dusk like setting in your home.  This can help send messages to the brain to begin the production of melatonin – the hormone needed to help your baby to fall and stay asleep.

Block out Light and Noise during the night

Just like adults when baby’s cycle through lighter stages of sleep particularly in the early hours of the morning external factors such as light and domestic noise can disturb your little one’s sleep.

Try using black out blinds and roll up towels to block out light from the doorway. You may also like to invest in a pink noise machine that will help mask external noise. Pink noise that is played continuously is great because it is soothing and can help mimic the sounds of the womb which in turn can help your baby fall asleep more easily and then stay asleep.

Watch the Awake Windows

Keeping an eye on your babies awake windows is critical for preventing them from becoming overtired. When your baby becomes overtired, their body goes into a state of hyper vigilance and starts producing adrenaline and cortisol. Although these hormones are critical for our survival, they do not aid sleep. In fact, cortisol is more powerful than caffeine when it comes to sleep making it harder for our little ones to calm and fall asleep and then to subsequently stay asleep. As a result, it often leads to frequent night waking’s and early morning risings.

Equally if you put your baby down to sleep soon after waking, they may not have sufficient sleep pressure to stay asleep and then fall asleep.

Examples of age appropriate awake windows may be:

0-12 weeks – 45 mins – 1-hour max

12-16 weeks – 1.15 mins – 1.30 mins max

17 – 25 weeks – 1.30 mins – 2 hours max

6-7 months – 2 hours max

7-8 months – 2-3 hours max

9-12 months – 3-4 hours max

Tired Signs

Watching for your baby’s-tired signs although not always easy is really important to prevent your baby from becoming overtired and then struggling to fall asleep.

Each baby is different in what they do when they become tired and also how quickly they go from being ok to overtired.  A few useful signs to look out for are the following:

Early Tired Signs: Yawning, rubbing eyes, fussing, glazed expression, waving arms and legs, quietening, going pale, red eyebrows, loss of coordination, loss of interest in what they are doing.

Late Tired Signs: Grimacing, back arching or stiffening of body when you pick them up, constant crying or screaming.

Ideally when your spot these early tired signs, you should try to reduce stimulation and start putting them down for a nap. If  they become overtired it often means that it could take  another 30 to 90 minutes before they are able to fall asleep again.

For those babies who do not display definitive tired cues, it can help to follow the age appropriate awake windows as detailed above.

It is also worth pointing out that often babies who are diagnosed with colic are often overtired and over stimulated as the symptoms are very similar.

Nutrition

Hunger and sleep don’t always go hand but particularly in the first three months if your baby is having trouble feeding it will inevitably affect their sleep. If you feel that your baby is feeding a lot or struggles to feed every time you put them to the breast then it is really important to seek the advice of a qualified IBCLC. They will be able to asses in detail what is going on and help with you your babies feeding technique which more than often will improve sleep at the same time.

Helping your baby to go to sleep with a full tummy might mean that they are able to sleep for longer. During the day it can often help to feed your baby after they wake from their naps as they will be more alert and able to feed better but at night it is perfectly normal and biologically appropriate to feed your baby close to putting them down to sleep.

If you are breastfeeding, evening breastmilk is high in tryptophan, an amino acid which is the pre-cursor to melatonin which will inevitably help your baby to feel sleepy and then to stay asleep.

Studies show that human breastmilk is a powerful form of “chrono nutrition” formulated to communicate the time of day information to babies which is why breastmilk plays a valuable role in the development of your baby’s biological body clock which does not fully develop until they are around 6 months old.

Dress Appropriately

Ensure your baby is comfortable for sleep times and it is important to dress them appropriately for the temperature of their sleep space remembering that the ideal temperature for sleep is 18-20 degrees. If your baby is too hot it can prohibit the production of melatonin causing them to wake more easily. On the other hand, being too cold especially in the early hours of the morning can also cause your baby to wake more often.

Sleep Associations

Ensuring you introduce your baby to positive sleep associations which are used at the same time as your baby’s primary sleep cue feeling sleepy are also helpful at helping your baby to build an association between a particular song or action and the feeling of feeling drowsy and falling asleep. It is amazing how over time if you use a particular song of lullaby at the same time your baby normally feels sleepy then your baby will come to associate the song with feeling calm.

As well as having a number of sleep associations you use in the lead up to bedtime it is also helpful to have a few that you can use before naptime too to help sign post the way to sleep. These will also help your baby to transition from the activities of day to be able to wind down and fall asleep.

Developmental Milestones

Sleep is not linear and even with the best will in the world there will be times when even the most relaxed and chilled out of babies struggles with sleep as a result of a development leap forward. During the first years of their life, babies go through numerous developmental changes all of which are positive as far as their progression is concerned but sometimes the collateral damage can be sleep. This is due to the fact that your baby’s brain is working overtime which often means they wake up more easily during the night and also because they are very keen to practice their newly learned skills as opposed to going to sleep.

Focus on your own wellbeing

How we are and how we feel when helping our little one to relax and be able to fall and stay asleep is also really important.  Imagine how your baby feels when you are holding her and she can feel tension and stress in your body.  Essentially, we are like a mirror for our children and our feelings and tension become their feelings and anxieties as well.

To help yourself relax try a couple of the following ideas:

Watch a film that evokes laugher – laughter is the best antidote to fear.

Run yourself a bath and allow someone else to look after your baby even if only for 30 minutes – otherwise if there is no one else around taking a warm shower with your baby can do wanders for helping you to calm.

Forego having to cook for the night and why not treat yourself to the detox kitchen or better still you might have friends who can organise a meal train for you allowing you to focus on getting rest.

Try journaling in the evening just before going to bed.  Often the very notion of writing down your worries and fears can help remove them from our minds.

Good luck laying those all-important sleep foundations

As you can see there are many different elements to consider when you want to help your baby to sleep better. Often it can be a case of making a few tweaks for a positive impact, but it can be overwhelming. I hope that this article has given you some manageable steps that you can implement at home.  If you would like to find about more about how I can help you and your family then please contact me here to book one of my sleep packages tailored to meet the needs of your whole family

 

 

 

 

 

picture of a little baby wearing a waist coat saying tick tock - spring clocks change Baby Sleep

Springing forward. Help your children cope with the clocks…

Would you believe it?  Despite the chill in the air and the brash winter wind, “Spring Time” is nearly here and with it, the clocks change!

Love it or hate this time of year can yet again play havoc with your little ones’ sleep schedules! Not to mention that this year some bright spark has decided to mess around with the clocks the same day as Mothers Day!

When the clocks change on the 31st March it means having to put your child to bed one hour earlier than they would normally go.

Falling asleep one hour earlier is an impossible task, as you are essentially asking them to go to sleep in the forbidden sleep zone. It’s like asking them to apply your makeup – it’s guaranteed to go badly!

Luckily here are 4 options you can take to avoid problems when the clocks change.

4 approaches to help reduce the impact of the clocks change

1. Do Nothing

Doing nothing essentially means you will have a winter and a summer schedule – this is principle is great if you don’t have any commitments to get out early in the morning but it might be a tad tricky if you have a job/school that starts at the same time every day and staying in bed one extra hour is just impossible!

2. Start Preparing in Advance

Four days before the clocks go back, start by moving your children’s schedule earlier by 15 minutes each day. This will mean if your current sleep schedule is 7.30-7.00,  start by putting your little one to bed at 7.15  PM and waking them up at 6.45 AM.  I know this might sound a little crazy as it will mean waking your child up in the morning, but trust me come Mother’s Day when you want them to wake up at your new target time and not the old time, this gradual approach works perfectly.

3.The Quick Approach

If you are after a quick approach then on Sunday 28th March you will want to wake them up 30 minutes earlier than you would normally get up, and then on Monday wake them up another 30 minutes earlier . It will also help to move your meals and bedtime earlier by 30 minutes each day too.

4.Harness the Power of Light

This approach involves dimming the lights in the hour prior to bedtime. This means no outdoor playtime and no exposure to bright screens or bright lights in the home.  Dim lights in your home will help your child’s hormonal regulatory system to produce more melatonin making them more sleepy.

Welcome Relief When the Clocks Change

For those of you whose children are currently waking at an uncivilised hour e.g. 4.00-5.00, spring daylight savings might be a welcome relief.  Essentially you will change the clocks but keep their schedule where it was.  Instead of sleeping from 7.00 PM to 5.00 AM they will now be sleeping from 8.00 PM to 6.00 AM.  This will not only mean longer in bed in the morning, but it will also give you an extra hour of cuddle time in the evening should you have been out at work all day long.

The key to this strategy will be ensuring your child’s room is dark in the morning. If you go into their room and can still see your hand in front of you with the door closed and the lights off then chances are the room is too light. Don’t forget light is a very powerful wakeup cue and even the smallest amount of sunlight will wake your child up.

So there you have, it a selection of approaches, all tried and tested to help you beat the clocks change in a couple of weeks time.

Do let me know how you get on and what works best for you? Most importantly, have the most wonderful Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

separation anxiety in infants blog post, teddy in basket Baby Sleep

Could separation anxiety be harming your baby’s sleep?

My challenge this month what with it being February the shortest month of the year was to bring you a blog that was essentially short and sweet but with advice that could really make a difference to you and your little one.

I decided that for inspiration I would look to my clients and identify a common theme that seems to appear time and time again!

And no, it isn’t negative sleep associations because firstly for those of you who know me and have spoken to me, I don’t believe that there is such a thing but secondly because there is something far more common than sleep associations and the impact they have on sleep and this is “Separation Anxiety!

Separation anxiety can be one of the biggest causes of night wakings

Yes, believe it or not, separation anxiety is one of the biggest causes of night waking’s in the first two years of your little one’s life and guess what, it is a completely natural part of infant development.

It occurs initially somewhere between 6-9 months once your little one becomes aware of object permanence and the idea that once you go you are gone. The problem is unlike older infants they are unable to picture you in the room next door or downstairs having supper and when you leave at night, they understandably get very upset because they think you have gone for ever!

From an anthropological perspective this is totally to be expected because in the wild the moment a baby was to become more mobile around 6 months, the need to keep their primary caregiver close would have increased as otherwise they may have run the risk of death.

So, what can you do to help with this common sleep issue?

1. Use bedtime and naptime to check in and out of their bedroom

Use bedtime and naptime to check in and out of their room whilst getting them ready for bed. This way they get used to being on their own while you quickly pop out to grab a glass of water or another bag of nappies. It is really important that when you leave the room you let them know where you are going and assure them that you will be back and equally it can really help to talk to them while you are out the room as it helps them to understand that that although they cant see you, you are still close by.

2. Make sure you have quality playtime during the day

Have a period of quality play time during the day during which you play games of peek a boo, which again emphasise the fact that when you go you will always return – make sure that when you do return you always have a big smile on your face so they associate positive feelings with your disappearances. You might also like to take one of their toys and hide it under a blanket only to have it then reappear.

3. Create a bedtime book using pictures of your toddler’s bedtime routine

As they get older and separation anxiety reappears between 12 and 18 months of age use the development in your baby’s cognitive ability to your advantage. A great way to help with anxious toddlers is to create a bedtime book – this way they will be able to see themselves at various stages of their bedtime routine, the penultimate picture is taken when they are in their bed at night and the final one when they wake up in the morning. It can also help to add in an extra picture of where you are when they go to sleep. Again, helping to cement the fact that when you leave their room at night you are still very close by.

As you know I love more than anything to help families with their individuals sleep problems so please do get in touch if you think a personalised sleep plan would help you and your little one to get a better night sleep.

Remember to follow me on Instagram @helpbabysleep where I provide regular sleep tips and updates.

There is no doubt that your baby’s sleep is highly individualised.  This is why sometimes it can be helpful to have a personalised sleep consultation.  I also offer a trouble-shooting call service. 

Find out more about my packages here.