A while ago I recorded three videos about electromagnetic emissions and creating a sleep sanctuary for your child. You can find all three on our YouTube channel. I spoke with Lisa Tiedt, a Building Biologist at Well Abode. She used science to physically demonstrate to us how baby monitors, sound machines, and wifi modems emit frequencies that are unhealthy for our bodies, but especially for our children who are at critical stages of growth and development.
I was recently introduced to Bebcare. Their baby monitors are the lowest emitting monitors on the market. Most wireless monitors emit pretty strong doses of radiation, the same as a microwave, all day long even when the monitor isn’t in use. You can probably find the health hazards in very fine print at the bottom of the manuals from other brands.
What Bebcare has done is create a monitor with 91% less emissions when in use, and when it’s idle there are zero emissions. Zero! It only turns on when your baby cries.
They have a few different monitor options: Bebcare iQ, Bebcare Motion, and Bebcare Hear.
Bebcare iQ is their most sophisticated model with infrared night vision, 360 degree pan and tilt capabilities, lullabies, room temp, breathing sensor (mat sold separately), and white noise silencer. It also has a two-way talking capability so you can reassure your child from afar and minimize unnecessary trips back and forth to the nursery. All this is tracked on an app you check from your phone.
Bebcare Motion is their traditional baby monitor with camera and wireless monitor that works over 900 feet away. It still has a lot of the great features the iQ does including two-way talk, night vision, lullabies, zoom, pan and tilt.
Bebcare Hear is (you guessed it!) an audio monitor. With no video, this monitor keeps it simple and focuses on crystal clear audio over 2,000 feet away. That means you can safely listen to your baby while you’re on the other end of the house. There is a night light, lullabies, and two-way talk on this model as well.
Stay tuned for an upcoming podcast with Lisa from Well Abode and someone from Bebcare. We will actually be testing one of their monitors and talking about our results, asking questions to the Bebcare team, and talking about practical uses for the different monitors. Let’s find out how Bebcare stands up to the competition!
If you’d like to purchase one of Bebcare’s monitors, use discount code goldcoastdoulas at check out or just follow this link to receive 10% off!
Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our homes. You can watch this video on YouTube.
Alyssa: Hi. It’s Alyssa and Lisa here again. This is Part 3 of our series on how to create a low EMF sleep space, and we’ve kind of narrowed it down to three main culprits, which are sound machines, monitors, and then routers?
Lisa: Yeah. The router that you have in your house.
Alyssa: Even though routers aren’t usually in bedrooms, we’re still going to talk about them today. We put one across the hall, so it might be very close to a bedroom, and we can kind of see how that affects the sleep space. So do you want to tell everyone again just briefly what a Building Biologist is in case they didn’t watch the other two videos?
Lisa: Yes. A Building Biologist is a person that assesses any built environment. It could be a home or an office or a school for anything that directly impacts the health of the people that work, sleep, or live within those spaces. And we look at air quality — that’s a very broad topic, but air quality, creating a low EMF environment, as well as water quality, too. Of all the homes that I have assessed, the three top culprits are just the ones that we’ve talked about today: the sound machines, the baby monitors, and the routers that are typically in a room that shares a wall or is in close proximity to a sleep space.
Alyssa: So do we want to measure this room with no router and then kind of see how things change as we get close to the router?
Lisa: Yes. So we’re in Alyssa’s daughter’s room.
Alyssa: This is my daughter’s room, and there’s no router in here and we actually don’t have one in this part of the house, but we plugged one in across the hall just for this video. But a lot of people will have an office maybe across the hall or maybe the bedroom is near the living room where it’s plugged in.
Lisa: Or it could the bedroom’s on the second floor, and the router could be in the basement right underneath.
Alyssa: So it could be going up and down this way?
Lisa: Yep. The three materials that actually stop radiofrequency radiation are metal, steel, and brick. But it passes directly through building materials such as windows, drywall, plywood, wood, things of that nature. So even having a router in close proximity spills over into all those other spaces. And, again, the sleep space is the most important, and we’re here today to create a sleep sanctuary.
Alyssa: All right. Should we look at the numbers?
Lisa: Again, we’re looking at radiofrequency radiation. We are looking primarily at the middle number here, and it says 3,680 microwatts per meter squared.
Alyssa: What’s our ideal?
Lisa: An ideal for RF is 10µw.m², so you want to be in the double digits. So we’re at 3,810µw.m², and we want to get to 10. So we’re going to go across the hall where the router is on. You can see that the numbers, as we get closer to the router, are beginning to increase. And so obviously, distance to source matters, but as we get close to —
Alyssa: Oh, so now we’re up to 188,000µw.m²?
Lisa: So we’re now up to 188,000µw.m². We get closer and closer. We’re at —
Alyssa: Over a million µw.m²!
Lisa: Over a million! And if you look at the router here, there are two numbers. There’s 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) and then there’s 5 gigahertz (GHz). So both of these frequencies are active in a router that you get, just any router. It’s automatically turned on by the manufacturer.
Alyssa: And that’s the 5G that is faster?
Lisa: Yep. And so now, you know, we’re up to 1.5 millionµw.m² of radiation. So one thing that you can do — obviously, distance from source matters, so in your daughter’s bedroom, we started at 3,600µw.m². We’re now at 1.5 millionµw.m². So it’s really good that your daughter doesn’t have any router in her bedroom. There are different shielding options. This happens to be a fabric one. You can get a metal one like we showed you with the baby monitors that’s just in the shape of a rectangle instead of a cylinder. And so you can see now that this has taken it down to around 10,000µw.m² — A router shield will reduce EMF’s from WiFi by ~85% to 90% 24/7.
Alyssa: So it went from 1.5 million µw.m², almost, to about 10,000 µw.m².
Lisa: So that’s exponential reduction. We still — again, we want to be in single digits. We want to get to 10 so even this is kind of too high for a safe sleep space. And so one of the really cool things that you can do is get this particular router which has a manual on/off button bur turning off at night.
Alyssa: So most routers don’t have an on/off button? You would have to completely unplug it?
Lisa: Most routers, you’d have to pull the cord out of the wall. The other kind of ingenious thing that you get is — this company actually sells remote outlet switches. They come in sets of one, three, and five. And what this allows you to do is plug this switch into a wall and then you plug the router into the switch, and with the remote outlet switch at your bedside table — and you can see here. You can actually turn the router off and on. So now — and this is kind of still shutting down, but now it went from 1.4 million µw.m² to around 10,000 to 1 million µw.m². Now, this is still picking up — I think probably your smart watch, but essentially, it’s going down and down. And then the other thing even better that you can get so that you don’t have radiation coming from your router all the time is to actually hardwire. The best option is to manually turn off WiFi and Bluetooth on every device and use hardwired grounded & shielded Ethernet cables to get Internet connectivity. This eliminates EMF’s from WiFi with your devices.
Alyssa: Okay. So keep your router as far away from your bedroom as possible?
Lisa: Yes, and turn it off when you sleep.
Alyssa: And turn it off when you’re not using it, especially during sleep.
Alyssa: All right. Thanks!
Lisa: Thank you!
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), check out the BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.
Alyssa Veneklase talks with Lisa Tiedt, Building Biologist and owner of Well Abode, about creating health sanctuaries in our own homes. You can watch this video on YouTube.
Alyssa: Hi, again. We are in our series of how to create a safe sleep space, and I am Alyssa, talking to Lisa Tiedt again. She is a Building Biologist, and I’m a sleep consultant. So we’re talking about — we’re in my daughter’s bedroom. She’s seven and a half now, but this was her nursery, and it’s a small space, as you can see. So a lot of the sleep clients I work with have small or smaller nurseries, and when you have things like sound machines and monitors and maybe even a router in the room, how do you position things to make it the safest possible? So first why don’t you tell us again what a Building Biologist is, and then today we’re going to be talking about monitors.
Lisa: Yep. So a Building Biologist looks at any built space, whether it’s a home or a school or an office building, and looks at it for anything that directly impacts the health of the people who live, work, or sleep within those spaces. A Building Biologist assesses air quality, indoor air quality, electromagnetic fields, as well as water quality.
Alyssa: Okay. So today with monitors, is it electromagnetic fields, EMFs?
Lisa: Today, we’re focused on how to create a low EMF space for your child’s bedroom. Safe sleep or healthy sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your child’s health because sleep is the time where the body is naturally rejuvenating and renewing itself every day.
Alyssa: So I know that when — so when this was a nursery, the crib was there, and I think had the monitor probably as close to this bed as it was — I mean, it was very close to the crib, which I think most parents with a video monitor think we have to do to see them better. So let’s talk about what that little guy is doing to us right now.
Lisa: Yes. So how to create a low EMF space for your child, there — we’re looking at the radio frequency category of manmade EMFs, and baby monitors project or emit radiation. And so I’m going to turn the RF meter on right now. We are paying attention to — mostly to that middle line that says max, in a safe sleep space, the number that you want to get to is 10. If I am Finnley and my head is right by this video baby monitor, it is at around, you know, a half a million microwatts per meter squared. And so this is —
Alyssa: So 445,000 and you want to have 10? Not 10,000. One zero, 10.
Lisa: Ten, like double digits, 10. And we’re at about a half a million here. And if you’re paying attention to nothing other than even just to numbers, you can see that, you know, one baby monitor can put the entire bedroom —
Alyssa: In the extreme zone.
Lisa: In the blinking red extreme, extreme zone. So one of the very — in terms of steps that you can take, distance from source always matters because the radiation drops off with distance. So if you absolutely have to have a video baby monitor, move this as far away from the bed space as you possibly can. Secondarily, what you can do is actually shield the baby monitor. This is just a case that I bought at the Ace store in my neighborhood. This is all metal. They sell plastic ones. Plastic ones don’t reflect the radiation, so you’ll have to get a metal one. This was about five dollars.
Alyssa: And it’s just a little pencil case, right?
Lisa: And it’s just a little — yeah. It’s just a little pencil case.
Alyssa: It looks like an Ikea thing that I have to put utensils in.
Lisa: Yep. So what you can see now is this reduced the radiation from the video baby monitor from —
Alyssa: So are we looking at the top number now? So it’s holding — the middle number is what it was before?
Lisa: Exactly. So the middle number is the peak hold number, and then the top number is the real time number.
Alyssa: So we went from 500,000 to about 8,000 to 9,000 — it’s going down to 7,000 µw/m².
Lisa: Around 5,000 to — 5,000 to 10,000. That’s a 70% decrease! And then even — and then another step down would be instead of getting a video monitor, you would actually just get a baby monitor that has audio only and not video. So you can see here that the video monitor — now we’re paying attention to the middle number again — was at 500,000 µw/m². An audio monitor only is about 125,000 µw/m². So it’s several — you know, four times magnitude less than what the video monitor is. Because this particular unit would be plugged into a wall, there’s also just RF shielding fabric that you can get. This is a bag kind of made for the size of a router, but you can get teeny tiny ones, and you can see it goes from 123,000 µw/m² to about 5,000 µw/m².
Alyssa: 5,000 to 10,000.
Lisa: Yep. 5,000 to 10,000 µw/m². Now, the absolute best thing that you can do — there’s a D-Link baby monitor with video that you can actually have a hardwired ethernet connection, so you can still have a video baby monitor, but it doesn’t produce any RF because it’s not wireless at all. (The D-Link DCS-5222L video monitor has zero EMFs when hardwired.) Or, if your house is well-suited for this, just don’t have a baby monitor at all.
Alyssa: If you’re right next door and can hear your child…
Lisa: Exactly. And, you know, if you use one —
Alyssa: I should say not next door — in the next room.
Lisa: Right. In the next room. You know, just use is sparingly. Don’t use it frequently. And then also remember to never leave it on during naptimes and nighttime sleeping because for a growing child, the sleep time is all the same. And just remember that this is the base station for the video unit. Just remember that this base station is emitting all the time, as well, and so this is getting up to 1,000,000µw/m². So if this was in your kitchen, for example, this would be radiating while you guys are eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So you can shut that off and then see — this remaining is still coming from the station at the bed, but you can just see that either completely unplug these or turn these off. Don’t leave these on in the kitchen —
Alyssa: All the time when you’re not using it.
Lisa: — or your master bedroom when you’re not using it.
Alyssa: Right. Great. Thanks!
To learn more about the health impacts of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), check out The BioInitiative Report. It has a 19 page Summary for the Public & Charts which is the preeminent summary of known EMF health impacts on the human body. The full 1,500-page report authored by an international panel of M.D. and Ph. D. scientists and physicians, analyzes +3,800 scientific, peer reviewed studies showing adverse health hazards of electromagnetic radiation, especially with children. Diseases and disorders include cancer, neurological diseases, respiratory diseases, behavioral disorders i.e. ADD and autism, immune dysfunction, Blood-Brain Barrier permeability, reproductive failure & birth defects, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, muscle/joint pain, chronic inflammation and many more.
Additional info: We found a new baby monitor after this video recording that is the lowest emitting monitor on the market! Check them out at Bebcare!
During sleep consultations I am often asked what my favorite products are. While I have many, parents must realize that my favorite sleep sack or swaddle may not be their child’s favorite!
I will list several products in this blog and tell you why I like them, but you know your baby or child best. Use your judgment to decide which might work best for them, but unfortunately it sometimes means buying a few products to find the right one.
Most parents choose to use a baby monitor, but there are so many options! Function is definitely a factor, but what about safety? Did you know wireless monitors emit radiation? Some of them emit as much as a microwave! There is one monitor brand that stands out above the rest, Bebcare. They have three great options. Check them out and do some comparison shopping of your own!
White noise is important for sleep. In utero, it’s actually pretty noisy! Think back to the sound you heard during your ultrasound. All that loud swishing is what your baby heard 24/7; the sound of your blood flowing and your heart beating. Recreate that level of white noise for your baby when you put them to sleep. Keep it fairly loud so they don’t hear a door slam, a dog bark, or the doorbell ring.
My favorite is the Homedics sound machine. It’s inexpensive, has a couple great sounds (rain and ocean…stay away from the jungle sounds!), and can be used with batteries.
Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Love to dream
This sleep sack is great for babies who love to suck on their hands. It’s snug enough to help with the Moro Reflex but allows baby’s arms to move so they reach their hands to their mouths.
This soft and stretchy swaddle is made locally here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has great compression around the chest to make baby feel snug and safe, while allowing the legs room for movement and the arm tubes hold baby’s arms down by their side. Here is a tutorial on how the Swaddelini works!
Muslin wraps for swaddling are the most common way to swaddle a newborn. They are inexpensive and effective. For some tutorials on different swaddling methods with a muslin wrap, check out a basic swaddle and a houdini swaddle.
The Miracle Blanket is a great option for babies that can bust out of a normal swaddle. I reference this swaddle above in my houdini swaddle method.
Wake up clock
The LittleHippo Mella clock is great for older kids who tend to get out of bed too early. It uses gentle colors to let kids know when it’s time to wake and a different color when they can get out of bed. There is a face on the front of the clock that tells them if it’s time to sleep (eyes closed). You can choose to use the alarm clock or not, and it has a couple sounds to choose from for a sound machine.
My friend Mitch Shooks, Owner of GRIP Center, recommends magnesium lotion as part of your bedtime routine. Here’s what he has to say:
“One of my favorite tricks to help parents get better sleep is to help them get their kids to sleep better. Magnesium supplementation is one of my favorites to help children fall and stay asleep. When my children were very small, finding a supplement to boost their magnesium intake was impossible until I came across a topical magnesium lotion. It’s the same form of magnesium we get from epsom salts but with much better absorption through the skin. While epsom salts were practical to put in baths for the babies, as they got older it got more difficult to keep up a daily dose.
I have used topical magnesium lotion for years with our kids and almost every client with small children. We make it part of our nightly bedtime routine. When we would change the last diaper and put on PJs we would use half a pump for our littles under 6 months and massage it into their legs and feet. As they got older we would use 1-2 pumps and give them a little back massage with the lotion right before bed. For kids that have a hard time staying asleep and often get out of bed, we found that after a few weeks of regular use they could sleep through the night. It’s completely safe, has zero downsides, and is often the most deficient mineral in our diets. If your littles have a hard time staying asleep, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend using the topical magnesium cream as part of a healthy bedtime regime.”
You can contact Mitch directly to inquire about the lotion.
I get asked alot about the SNOO. I think about half of the clients I work with have used or are using the SNOO for their baby. In theory, it’s amazing! It does all the things a baby needs to fall back to sleep. It gently rocks them and uses sound to soothe. It’s usually the best thing a parent has ever purchased for the first 4-6 weeks. After that, parents say that “it just stopped working for my baby!”. Well…yes and no. At that age a baby is beginning to produce their own melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy). When a baby begins to produce their own melatonin, they begin to show us some signs of early sleep patterns. This means they are in the beginning stages of setting their circadian rhythm – knowing when it’s time to eat and sleep and be awake.
The biggest downfall with using the SNOO (which isn’t a problem with the SNOO itself) is that parents think because they are using it, their baby is just going to magically sleep all night. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. A baby still needs to have a feeding and sleeping routine or the SNOO does you no good after a while. If a baby’s circadian rhythm isn’t set, no amount of rocking and shushing will get them to sleep. Healthy sleep habits in addition to the SNOO can be a winning combo to help your baby achieve great sleep for several months instead of weeks!
My recommendation for a crib or basinet would be to find one that makes the most sense for your family. If you only have one bedroom and you will be room sharing, a small basinet that can go near your bed would probably work best. (FYI: Most parents tend to do this for the first several weeks or months regardless of how many bedrooms they have.) Whether your baby is in a crib or basinet, in your room or in the nursery, my one and only concern is your baby’s safety. They must sleep on their back on a flat surface with no blankets, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers (unless mesh). Do not let your baby sleep in a swing or bouncy seat that is inclined.
Although a baby isn’t ready to sleep long stretches yet by 6 weeks, there are some really simple things parents can do at this age when they notice sleep going awry.
Some very basic sleep hygiene rules for a newborn can be extremely helpful in setting yourself up for sleep success down the road.
Follow your baby’s cues for sleep. Don’t try to keep them awake for too long. A newborn might only be able to stay awake for 1 hour at a time. Don’t listen to those who tell you that you need to keep a newborn awake for long periods of time during the day so they sleep at night. Sleep does not work that way for a newborn! Let them sleep when they are tired and don’t try to keep them awake for longer than they are able. This causes overtiredness.
Focus on full feeds. The first few weeks with a newborn will be all about establishing feeding habits and bonding. Don’t even think about a schedule at this point. Once you start to notice healthy feeding habits are formed, you can begin to focus on full feeds vs. all day snacking. If your baby can only go 1 hour between feeds, it’s usually a good indication that they are not filling their tummy during a feed. What does this have to do with sleep? Everything! If your baby needs to eat every hour, they will never get more than a 30-45 minute stretch of sleep at a time. If you can make sure every feed is a full feed, your baby will be full and that allows them to sleep longer without a wake up.
Try not to feed to sleep. If you can separate feeding from sleeping and make them two completely separate activities, you won’t ever get to the point where your baby requires a feed to fall asleep. Please note that the first few weeks, there will be no stopping your baby from falling asleep while feeding. This is normal and completely fine! But as your baby can eat more efficiently and stay awake a bit longer, feed in a well lit room to make sure they get a full feed while awake. Then move them to their dimly lit sleeping area to start the bedtime routine. Put them into the crib or basinet drowsy but awake.
Most babies who are around 12-16 weeks and/or 12 pounds are ready for a sleep consultation. Please reach out if you’re struggling to get your baby on a good nap routine or struggling with overnight sleep.
Keep in mind that a sleep consultation does not mean your baby will sleep 12 hours through the night! Some 5 month old babies are able to while some 9 month old babies still need a feed in the night. Our consultations are customized to your baby; there is never one right answer for all.
Together, as a team, we work to find the best solution for your baby and your family as a whole. We work based on your sleep goals and follow your baby’s cues to determine what they need.
To learn more about our sleep consultations, contact us for a free phone call to see if our plans are right for you. We work with clients locally and nationally as our sleep plans are done via phone, email, and text. Once stay at home restrictions are lifted, we will be offering in-person consultations again locally which can also be combined with overnight doula support to allow parents optimal sleep.
Our custom plans give you my full support for up to 2 weeks! I believe this is the only way for parents to be successful. We are there the entire way to offer guidance, assurance, answer questions, and tweak plans when needed based on how your baby is responding. We are a team!
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and scary milestones of a person’s life. It’s likely your emotions will run the gamut from excited anticipation and joy, to fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what’s ahead and how you’re coping with parenthood. Managing night time feeds, tending to your baby throughout the day, and trying to keep up with your other responsibilities as you acclimatize to parenthood can make sleep difficult. While this is somewhat expected, sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on the health of new mothers and their babies, so it is important to get as much rest as possible.
The importance of sleep for new parents
The diminished quality and quantity of sleep that new parents often experience can result in physical and mental fatigue and an increased risk of postpartum depression. Prolonged lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can also increase the risk of diabetes, weaken your immune system, reduce attention and focus, and impair hormone production, causing weight gain, loss of libido, and moodiness.
Because our bodies require sleep to function correctly – and a specific amount of sleep that allows us to cycle through the various sleep stages several times throughout the night – a dip in the standard or quantity of hours we accumulate asleep in bed can have a far-reaching impact on our health and quality of life. One recent study found an association between poor sleep quality and postpartum depression.
There are two main phases of sleep – NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement, when dreams occur). Throughout these stages, specific changes and functions are carried out in our bodies and brains. NREM phases are when most of the physically restorative processes of sleep are performed. Our muscles and cells are repaired, our immune system is boosted, and the deep sleep of stage three NREM is what’s needed to wake feeling refreshed in the morning.
REM sleep occurs around 90 minutes after we first fall asleep and NREM phases are complete. This is the dreaming phase and the time that our brains process the salient and emotional experiences from waking life. When our body doesn’t get the required amount of sleep, it is unable to consolidate all the emotional and experiential data we have collected while awake, neither is it able to complete the physically restorative processes we need to feel refreshed and energized. That’s why we feel fatigued, forget things easily, and may find it difficult to manage our emotions.
Tips for getting the right amount of sleep While some disruption to your sleep is to be expected as you adjust to the new normal; the good news is that there are a range of tactics and strategies you can employ to still get the amount of sleep your body needs.
Create the right environment for sleep:
When you do head to bed, it is important that you are able to drift off to sleep as quickly as possible so you can maximize your sleep time. To create the right environment for good sleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. Light affects our melatonin production and signals to our brain that it’s time to get up. Turn the baby monitor down too so their snuffles and murmurs don’t disturb you, but you’ll still wake if they cry out for comfort. If you do have trouble falling asleep, try a wind-down relaxation or mindfulness meditation that will help calm your mind and body.
Share the responsibility:
Taking care of a baby is a 24/7 job that requires constant activity and emotional resilience. No one should expect that they can do this on their own.
Negotiate a schedule with your partner that lets you share nighttime feeds, diaper changes, and those evenings when baby just doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s necessary to ensure you have the right support so the sleep and health of you, your partner, and baby don’t suffer.
Have you ever heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”? This isn’t just about the direct interactions; it’s all the support functions that are needed to raise a happy healthy child too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the cooking, cleaning, endless laundry, groceries, or just holding your baby for a while so you can have a shower and dress! The everyday, mundane tasks that were so simple pre-baby can take monumental effort to complete once there’s a baby in the house. Most people know this and will be happy to lend a hand.
Embrace the nap:
Babies rarely sleep for more than four hours at a time. While this is a major contributing factor to those interrupted nights, the multiple two to three-hour naps your baby takes through the day provides ample opportunity for you to rest too – if you let yourself. Resist the urge to catch up on chores and instead take a half hour nap that will help manage your fatigue. Avoid sleeping longer than 45 minutes though as this will adversely impact your night’s sleep.
Christine Huegel is on the Editorial Team of Mattress Advisor, covering a variety of topics pertaining to sleep health in order to help people get their best night’s sleep.
Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa. She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help. In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today. Hello, Chris!
Alyssa: You were a client of ours. You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me. So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.
Chris: Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!
Alyssa: So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep? How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep? Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?
Chris: Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.” It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period. I kind of don’t remember what happened. I know I wasn’t sleeping. I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7. But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything. So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things! So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid. And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information. My baby’s not sleeping. I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Like, I just need to talk to a person! And that was when I reached out to you.
Alyssa: And how old was she? Six months?
Chris: I think she might have been six months, yeah.
Alyssa: That’s what comes to my mind.
Chris: I think so.
Alyssa: So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation? You were just gone?
Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. There was no day and no night. And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him. And sometimes coughing loudly. “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning. But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well. She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time. She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level. We’ve got to do something here.
Alyssa: Right. I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.” I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out. But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.” So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training. I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep. We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help! What’s going on?”
Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa! So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day. Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go. And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there. And it ended up working super well. I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word. We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that! You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred. But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it. Like, significantly less. I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep. Like, what??
Alyssa: I remember you saying, “How is this possible? What did you do to my child? Whose baby is this?”
Chris: Yeah, what’s happening? Did you possess my child? So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever. What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day! So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.
Alyssa: I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps. It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap. We’re going to hit the hot tub. And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes! We did it!
Chris: That’s one of my favorite parenting memories! It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.
Alyssa: I think it is!
Chris: Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad. My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived. I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat. It really affects you.
Alyssa: On so many levels. Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying? I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car. You just kind of get into survival mode.
Chris: Yeah. And I would just nurse her to sleep. I think I spent – oh, my God. I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake! So yeah, that was the beginning.
Alyssa: And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?
Chris: Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling. I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib. She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore. She hates that!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.
Chris: Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again! I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.
Alyssa: She’s, like, get away from me, lady!
Chris: She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop! So at that point – what did we do at that point? We stopped shush-pat. Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.
Alyssa: Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals. Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.
Chris: The first day, yeah. I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell! But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time. Like, I’ve done this a million times. I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep! It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately. So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore. But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.
Alyssa: So where is she at now?
Chris: Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!
Chris: I’m so happy!
Alyssa: And how many months is she?
Chris: She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.
Chris: Yeah, it’s amazing. And she goes down super easy for her morning nap. It’s not even an issue anymore. I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15. I can do this! And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.
Alyssa: Yeah, her body just knows it’s time. She doesn’t fight it. Incredible! Yay!
Chris: I know, it’s a game changer!
Alyssa: And you’re feeling good?
Chris: I’m feeling good!
Alyssa: Your husband’s feeling good?
Chris: Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.
Alyssa: Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?
Chris: I was just watching him. But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?
Alyssa: That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep? And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up. I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something. So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months. It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove. So you just need to figure out your groove again. So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.
Chris: I don’t know. I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor. I’m like, oh, is she okay?
Alyssa: So turn the monitor off.
Chris: What? You can do that?
Alyssa: Yeah! As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off. Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in. She’s just down the hall. If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup. I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that. Earplugs in.
Chris: Oh, my God. That’s genius. Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.
Alyssa: You’re going to hear her, absolutely.
Chris: But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay? And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.
Alyssa: No, she’s good. She’s good. Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.
Chris: Yeah. Okay!
Alyssa: They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed. You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep. And you didn’t have to get out of bed. But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.
Chris: You’re going to change my world!
Alyssa: Go buy some earplugs when we leave!
Alyssa: Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep. And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now. Every single little noise: oh, are they okay? Are they okay? They’re okay.
Chris: I love that.
Alyssa: And my daughter is six now. I always check in on her. I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind. I’m going to sleep now. I’m putting my earplugs in. I want to get a good night’s rest. She’s okay.
Chris: Wow. When do you think they started making video baby monitors?
Alyssa: I don’t know. Good question!
Chris: Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?
Alyssa: Not that long ago.
Chris: Not that long ago?
Alyssa: I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade. Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.
Chris: We survived!
Alyssa: Yeah! So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?
Chris: Oh, my God. Get a plan ASAP!
Alyssa: Don’t wait?
Chris: Don’t wait! I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep. First of all, I would have gotten out of her room. We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st. She was born in June!
Alyssa: That’s eight months!
Chris: We slept in the same room as her for eight months! Is that crazy?
Alyssa: Yeah. Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months. That’s their safe sleep guideline. For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle. You have to get up early for work; you have older kids. But some people do room share for six to twelve months. It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you. So it’s really up to the parent. It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.
Chris: Right. Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that. We were both keeping each other up all night. So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing. You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap. It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.
Alyssa: Well, and crying just to cry does you no good. I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours. I’m like, that was for nothing. That’s absolutely for nothing. And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress. You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan. Here’s how it’s going to work. Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing. And it’s so hard because people give up. Parents just want to give up. “I tried it; didn’t work. I give up. I throw in the towel. I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard. Or people will say, oh, I did this online course. I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you. They don’t know your baby. They don’t know your parenting style. They don’t know what you’ve tried. They don’t know what works and what didn’t work. So it’s really hard.
Chris: I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything. And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby. I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that. So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.
Alyssa: Right. “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?” Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.
Chris: Yes, or how to troubleshoot. Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next? And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her. Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!
Alyssa: Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no! This is not supposed to happen; what do I do? And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do. Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.
Chris: Yep. The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?
Chris: That was the 1000% game changer. Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know? You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there! Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this! One more minute! Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her. And I’d be like, okay.
Alyssa: Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.
Chris: Yeah. The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –
Alyssa: Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night? How did it go?
Chris: Exactly, yeah.
Alyssa: Did you move out of that room?
Chris: Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!
Alyssa: Right. I’ll know! I’ll be checking your Instagram feed! Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!
Chris: But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.
Alyssa: It’s huge. That’s why I love it so much. I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep. Anything else you want to say?
Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say! Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!
Alyssa: There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning! It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.
Chris: Yep. Because we had no clue. I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep? Just go to sleep!
Alyssa: And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep? Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.
Chris: Exactly, yeah. So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain! Rely on someone else’s brain!
Alyssa: Right. “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.” It’s not! Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.
Chris: Is that for real? One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?
Alyssa: Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this. Yeah.
Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?
Alyssa: Probably eight hours. I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven. But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…
Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.
Chris: Scary. I believe it, though!
Alyssa: I feel it. Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space. That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve missed my own road! Seriously, multiple times! Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?
Alyssa: Yeah, you’re in a fog!
Chris: Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me today! We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening. Remember, these moments are golden!