gentle sleep

Sleep Consultant

Megan’s Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #80

Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months.  She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically.  Everyone was happier and healthier!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz.  You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.

Megan:  Yeah, thanks for having me on!

Alyssa:  Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today.  So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.

Megan:  So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well.  A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.

Alyssa:  Unknowingly.

Megan:  Yes, unknowingly.

Alyssa:  I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it.  You’re in survival mode.

Megan:  Right.  Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain.  She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable.  So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits.  Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest.  Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old.  Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep.  We couldn’t go on date nights.  Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad.  We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were.  And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations.  I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…

Alyssa:  Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?

Megan:  Oh, yeah!  The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.

Alyssa:  No, you weren’t at all!

Megan:  Texting you all the time!  The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done.  She was like, I got this, Mom!  I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!

Alyssa:  And kids always surprise parents.  They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.

Megan:  A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing.  I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule.  She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night.  And in the end, we sorted out some schedules.  We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I remember that.  You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.

Megan:  No, you can’t!

Alyssa:  To have your baby sleep.  That’s not feasible.  But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?

Megan:  Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.

Alyssa:  Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?

Megan:  No.  Well, you…

Alyssa:  Must have been another client.  Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.

Megan:  I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –

Alyssa:  Until it becomes a habit.

Megan:  Yeah, until it becomes normal for them.  So we just had to get through that, and we did.

Alyssa:  Well, and especially because she was going to daycare.  Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.

Megan:  Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together.  And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies.  It was all downhill from there.

Alyssa:  So they just say, all right, nap’s done.

Megan:  Yep.

Alyssa:  But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.

Megan:  And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat.  They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.

Alyssa:  Oh, so she was in her own room?

Megan:  She wasn’t.  She was blocked off from the other kids.  So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping.  But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well.  So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.

Alyssa:  So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled.  You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.

Megan:  Yeah, I remember that!

Alyssa:  It was like, we have to find a balance here.  It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.

Megan:  And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.

Megan:  And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply.  That was a big thing, as well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, breastfeeding changes.  Your body eventually fixes itself…

Megan:  But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere.  I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!

Megan:  Oh, yeah, been there, done that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.

Megan:  It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older.  She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation.  So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle.  Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together.  So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes.  And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready.  Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.

Alyssa: That’s really smart.  I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them?  When do I get to cuddle them?  So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away.  Don’t make the TV part of this process.  Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss.  Read the book, whatever.  Just get all the snuggles in you can.  They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Megan:  I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there.  But the quality increased.  Her behavior got a lot better.  And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well.  So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.

Alyssa:  That’s the key, yeah.

Megan:  And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment.  She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos.  She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do.  So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.

Alyssa:  They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends.  Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do?  We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that.  They’re not going to sleep in the next day.  More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning.  It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking.  But yeah, that’s the key.  You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed.  She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.

Megan:  It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine.  The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule.  So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30.  You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.

Alyssa:  Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.

Megan:  Which we’ve done.  When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine.  We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play.  We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead.  Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it.  You’re doing this because it’s worth it.

Megan:  Yep, it is.

Alyssa:  So then you called me again recently…

Megan:  I did!

Alyssa:  She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition.  Tell me about that.

Megan:  Yeah.  She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries.  Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there.  My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this.  So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months.  And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler.  And it wasn’t working.  And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old.  So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.

Alyssa:  It makes no sense.  She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.

Megan:  No.  And she can get in and out of the toddler bed.  Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep.  So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep.  Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours.  And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours.  We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months.  And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them!  Just kind of a funny fact.  But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do?  A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help!  Is there anything that you can help us with?  And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers.  It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!

Alyssa:  I always wonder if it’s too much.

Megan:  No!

Alyssa:  I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information.  I think it’s imperative!

Megan:  My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep.  Oh, it was snacking!  You had said — and it’s so true.  A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily.  Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns.  We had no idea.  I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?

Alyssa:  That’s great!  That’s what it’s there for!

Megan:  Yeah, it was a lot of great information.  And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated.  You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us.  You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine.  Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.

Alyssa:  And be confident.

Megan:  Yes, we got the confidence.

Alyssa:  Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever.  So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now.  Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months.  Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months.  You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do?  Help!

Megan:  And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like?  So we definitely referenced it.  But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.

Alyssa:  Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.

Megan:  Yeah.  But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib.  It was like she never forgot it.  She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.

Alyssa:  So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined.  We’re going to have to start all over.

Megan:  Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back.  We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions.  We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.

Alyssa:  And for date nights, babysitters are easy?

Megan:  Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again.  I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.

Alyssa:  “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”

Megan:  And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!

Alyssa:  It’s like the ninja role.  Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.

Megan:  Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up!  Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door!  Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head.  I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on.  Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.

Alyssa:  Well, you are a bit crazy.  I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!

Megan:  And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us.  Maybe my experience can help other people.  I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.

Alyssa:  Thank you!

Megan:  I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.

Alyssa:  it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.

Megan:  Yes!  I would call it that, as well!  In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!

Alyssa:  Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?

Megan:  It’s worth it.  It is what’s best for baby.  It’s what best for you and your family unit.

Alyssa:  And what if they’re scared?  Sleep training just causes anxiety.  Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience.  My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.

Megan:  But she wasn’t left alone.  The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you.  And I was totally okay with the plan.  And what’s the worst that could happen?  She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11?  No, that’s not even going to be a possibility.  We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper.  We were hitting bedrock.  So it could only get better at this point, and it did.  It was a complete 180.

Alyssa:  Well, I loved working with your family both times.  You probably won’t need me again because she’s great.  Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.

Megan:  We won’t!

Alyssa:  You’ll know when she’s ready!

Megan:  We will definitely wait.  Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed

Alyssa:  Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?

Megan:  You did, yeah!

Alyssa:  Oh, good.  I figured I did, but…

Megan:  But this isn’t the end, Alyssa!  I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!

Alyssa:  Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?

Megan:  Yeah.

Alyssa:  So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared.  SO we’ll talk about that next time.

Megan:  I’d love to help you with some insight on there.

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us!

Megan:  Yeah, thank you for having me!

Alyssa:  If you have any questions for us, you can email as at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.

 

Sleep tips

Expert Sleep Tips For Your Child (And You)!

Many of the tips I give parents during a sleep consult for their child apply to them as well. Although a baby’s sleep cycle is different from a toddler’s, and both are different than an adult’s, let’s talk about a few tips that apply to everyone and some that definitely do not!

Sleep tips for babies that transfer to adults:

A consistent schedule. This is #1 for ensuring proper rest at any age. If you have a job that you wake up for every week day at a specific time, you may notice that on the weekends you wake up at that time anyway, without an alarm. Some people may be able to fall back asleep, but if your body is used to a very structured schedule, more than likely you’re up for the day. This can be frustrating when you’ve stayed up late on a weekend and really want to sleep in, but your circadian rhythm is at work here! No matter what age, try to keep a consistent bed time and wake time.

Your sleep environment is important. With children we look at darkness, temperature, sound, and safety. Your room should be dark and cool. Crack a window or turn on a fan to circulate the air and cool you down. It’s better to have a cool room and get cozy in bed with the covers; if your room is too hot you are more likely to wake up. If you are a light sleeper, think about having a sound machine on or wearing ear plugs at night. A sound machine is also great for babies! Crank it up! We don’t want to put covers on a baby though (keep that crib safe!) so think about a sleep sack, or if your baby is small enough to be swaddled, use one!

A good bedtime routine is critical. With children we want this to be calm and soothing. We do things like read a book or sing a lullaby. We do not jump on the bed, wrestle, or play video games. This would stimulate the brain and make it harder for the child to fall asleep. As adults, we need to think about turning off electronics 30-60 minutes before we want to fall asleep. Stop working, put your phone away, and do something that calms you. Read a book, listen to a podcast or meditation, or watch some Netflix (as long as that isn’t too stimulating).

Be active and get sunshine during the day. This helps set our natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies need light and darkness to produce serotonin and melatonin. No matter what age, getting enough activity, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air during the day will improve night time sleep.

Sleep tips that don’t transfer:

Many parents think that if they keep their baby awake all day, they will sleep better at night. This is not true! This works for us as adults, but a baby’s body and brain cannot cope with this. They actually become overly tired which makes them fight sleep more!

Parents also tend to think that keeping a baby up later will help them sleep in later. This is also not true! Remember what I just said about being overly tired? If you let your baby stay up later, they will definitely become overly tired. This means they wake more in the night and it usually makes their morning wake up time even earlier. Eek!

Night time cravings can wreak havoc on adult sleep. If you need a snack after dinner, try to do it 1-2 hours before your bedtime, no later. For babies though, they do need to eat right before bed. We want them to go to sleep with a fully tummy so they can maximize the amount of time they can sleep at night before another feeding.

Some people can do all the “right” things and still not sleep well. There could be a number of factors, including physical and mental health, that play a part in how well you sleep. Reach out to your health care provider if you are struggling with chronic sleep problems.

You can find more tips for healthier adult sleep habits on the Pine Rest blog.

If you’re seeking help for your child’s sleep, you can find more info on the Gold Coast Doulas website. No matter where you live, our Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant can help you with phone and text consultations. If you live in West Michigan, we can also combine a customized sleep plan with overnight postpartum doula support to help parents get the rest they need while the doula sleep trains overnight.

 

sleep coach

Podcast Episode #67: Dominique’s Sleep Story

One of Alyssa’s past sleep clients tells us her story about hiring an expert to solve her daughter’s sleep issues.  She is honest about the fears she had going into it, the misconceptions and myths about sleep training that were dispelled while working with Alyssa, and how on the first day they saw improvement!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, and today, I’m super excited to be meeting for the first time and talking with Dominique.  She was one of my past sleep clients.  Welcome!

Dominique:  Thank you for the welcome!  I’m excited to be here!

Alyssa:  Yeah!  So I want to hear a little bit about what was happening at home and with sleep before you reached out to me.

Dominique:  Yeah.  So she is 11 months now, and before we reached out, it was getting to a point where she wasn’t taking naps, and if she was taking naps, it was, like, 15 minutes at a time.  She was fussy all day.  We were having to rock her to sleep for every single nap and bedtime, and that took 20 minutes.

Alyssa:  So you would spend 20 minutes to get a 15-minute nap?

Dominique:  Yes.  Yes!  So it was getting to a point where she didn’t seem like she was getting good sleep, and then we were just getting so frustrated.  And I know you can’t expect a brand-new baby to sleep amazingly and to sleep through the night all the time, but she was not getting enough sleep, so it was just…

Alyssa:  And she was nine months when you reach out?  Does that sound about right?

Dominique:  I think she was seven months when we reached out, yeah, just because I had read that if you were doing some sleep training, to kind of wait until about six months, so we decided to reach out around seven months, yeah.

Alyssa:  I have different opinions about when to reach out!

Dominique:  We may have waited a little too long!

Alyssa:  Well, even by six months, that’s six months of forming some really bad sleep habits.  And so before then, it’s really more of healthy sleep habits.  You can’t really train a nine-week old baby.  They’re not ready to sleep through the night, but there are some really healthy things that you can start incorporating during the day and at night to set yourself up for success at six months.  So, yeah, it would have been a lot easier if you’d reached out earlier, but I’m glad you didn’t wait until 18 months!

Dominique:  Yeah, I’m glad too, and I think if we have more kids in the future, we probably will incorporate some of the stuff that we learned, yeah.

Alyssa:  Start a little earlier, yeah.  So were you hesitant to start?  What kind of fears or maybe even misconceptions did you have about sleep training before I worked with you?

Dominique:  So I guess the biggest thing was that doing research and reading, I read a lot about crying it out and how it increases cortisol levels in babies, so they’re stressed out, and then they are learning how to cope on their own and they stay elevated, so they’re not learning how to be comforted, and instead they’re just crying themselves to sleep.  So I was like, well, I don’t want to do that!  I don’t want to set her up for not wanting to reach out to us for comfort, but then it also seemed like she was not happy because she was fussy and irritable all the time because she wasn’t sleeping.

Alyssa:  So she was still crying all day, anyway.

Dominique:  Yeah!  So I was like, okay, there’s got to be some other ways to do this.

Alyssa:  It blows my mind that people can still find information about cry-it-out online because I don’t know any sleep consultant who — I mean, letting a baby cry themselves to sleep just doesn’t even make sense to me.  They don’t cry themselves to sleep.  They might fuss themselves to sleep because they’re hearing themselves chatter, but yeah, those elevated cortisol levels for crying for two hours?  No baby should sit in the crib alone and cry for two hours.  I can’t stress that enough.  I don’t even know who recommends that.

Dominique:  And people say, well, oh, so you just let her cry in her crib?  Well, no, we don’t just let her cry in her crib, but she had no self-soothing methods.  She wasn’t self-soothing at all, so it was just like she doesn’t know how to go to bed unless we rock her.

Alyssa:  So from what you remember, how long — well, I’ll go back.  When you got my plan, was there anything that you were like, oooh, I don’t know about this?  Or did it make sense?

Dominique:  I think it made sense, all the different methods that you had mentioned to us.  They all seemed pretty reasonable.  The method where you sit in the room and kind of back out —

Alyssa:  Oh, a gradual withdrawal?

Dominique:  Yeah, gradual withdrawal, yeah.  It seemed worse.  When we were in the room, it was like she — it wasn’t — she wanted to lay down and know that we were right there.  It was like, why are you in the room and you’re not picking me up?  So that did not work for her.

Alyssa:  Yep, you have to figure out and know your baby’s temperament.  It’s first and foremost what drives the sleep method you use, because oftentimes these ones where the parents are in the room with the child, it’s way too stimulating.  Baby is either like, you’re here; why aren’t you touching me?  Why aren’t you holding me?  Or, hey, it’s party time.  I’m going to get up and I’m going to sing and dance in the crib because you’re here.  So I’m glad you noticed that.

Dominique:  Yeah, we kind of figured out that it was better for her that we didn’t sit in the room, but it did help for us to go back in periodically and soothe her.

Alyssa:  So how long, do you remember, until you started to see results?

Dominique:  Oh, man.  The first night!  So I think we started with bedtime, not her naps, because we got your plan, and I was going to be off work for a few days, so that first night, instead of rocking her for 20 minutes, we did her bedtime routine, which was another thing that we incorporated.  Instead of nursing her to sleep, I was nursing her and then we would change into pajamas, wash her face, read her a book, and then put her to bed.  And so that very first night, we laid her down, and she cried.  We did three minutes, and then went in for 30 seconds, and then three minutes.  And I think it was two rounds.  So she cried for three minutes; I went in; she cried for another three minutes; I went in; and then it was quiet in her room.

Alyssa:  You’re like, oh, my gosh; what’s going on?  What’s happening?

Dominique:  And I looked over at my husband, and I was like, this can’t be real!

Alyssa:  Are you kidding me, right?!

Dominique:  So it was amazing.  She went to sleep, and I think that first night, she slept for about six hours, and then she got up to nurse, and then she went back to sleep fine.  So yeah, the first night!

Alyssa:  Yeah, so a lot of times, it’s just allowing them the opportunity to fall asleep on their own.  I can’t tell you how many parents are like, oh, my baby has to be nursed; my baby has to be rocked; I don’t let my baby cry.  Well, three minutes of crying — it’s not a lot, right?

Dominique:  No, no.

Alyssa:  If you consider all the crying she’s done because of lack of sleep and overtiredness, three minutes is nothing.

Dominique:  Nothing!

Alyssa:  And that’s all she needed to literally soothe herself to sleep.  That’s what she did!

Dominique:  Yeah, and we felt good about it.  It wasn’t like we felt like we were neglecting her by letting her cry in her crib.  It was just like she put herself to sleep, and now she’s getting a good chunk of sleep.  So we were really happy with it!

Alyssa:  Yeah, sometimes it’s just kind of looking at sleep a different way and realizing that cry-it-out means you put your crying baby in a crib; you shut the door; you walk away, and you don’t go back in.  And nobody wants to do that!  I don’t want to do that!  But, you know, talking about cortisol levels, it’s a natural response to anything.  You know, your baby goes to the doctor; you go to the dentist.  Our cortisol — it’s a flight or fight thing.  The thing with a baby that helps bring that back down is a loving caregiver, so she has you and Dad right there.  You’re the buffer in this situation, so even crying for three minutes, her cortisol levels might rise a little bit, but then you came in after three minutes, and she saw you were there.  And I talk about sleep cues sometimes, like saying goodnight, I love you.  You know, you have these sleep cues that you repeat, and then their cortisol levels go back down.  And then they might fuss for a few more minutes, and then they’re out.  It just happens!

Dominique:  It was amazing!

Alyssa:  Is there anything else that you had maybe thought that I would have told you — I guess were there any other surprises from those misconceptions?  Anything that you felt like, oh, I can’t believe she’s telling me to do this, or I can’t believe she’s not telling me to do that?

Dominique:  I guess in the first email we got with the plan, I think you had said her first nap should be 60 to 90 minutes, and then her second nap should be 90 to 120 minutes, and I was, like, there’s no way she’s going to sleep!  Up until that point, her naps had been maybe a half an hour during the day, and she was getting maybe two naps a day.  So then we tried it with her naps, and she did sleep an hour that first nap, and then we got a couple of longer hour and a half naps.  We’ve only gotten a few two-hour naps out of her, but that was a big shock because I was, like, man, she really hasn’t been getting as much sleep as she should have been getting.

Alyssa:  Well, and it’s funny because we think she’s so tired during the day; she’s not napping; she just has to be tired enough to sleep all night.  And it’s counterintuitive.  They need sleep during the day so they don’t get overly tired, and then they don’t fight sleep at night.  So right now, at 11 months, though, that morning nap should only be 30 minutes, FYI.  I don’t know what you’re doing right now.

Dominique:  So her naps have still been a little bit of a battle, and we’ve kind of gotten to a point where we’re letting her sleep for that first nap because that seems to be her best nap of the day, and if we cut it short, sometimes she doesn’t take a good nap the rest of the day.  So we’re still kind of tweaking that a little bit because —

Alyssa:  Is she sleeping through the night with one feed, then?

Dominique:  Yes, and we’ve cut out her nighttime feed now.

Alyssa:  So she can go all night, like a full twelve hours?

Dominique:  Not a full twelve.  She will sleep from about 6:30 and then she’s still waking up around 4:30, 5:00, so then we put her back to sleep.  So it’s not perfect, but we haven’t quite figured out how to make those little switches.  So shortening her first nap, lengthening her second nap, and then putting her to bed closer to 7:00.

Alyssa:  Yeah, so having a really long morning nap encourages that early morning wakeup.  So I would try for a later bedtime; 7:00, 7:30.  And don’t let her sleep longer than a half an hour in the morning.

Dominique:  Okay!  All right!

Alyssa:  A little added tip there!

Dominique:  I trust you!  I’ll try it!

Alyssa:  Yeah, we want her to sleep from — I mean, not every baby will sleep the full twelve hours, but if she’s going to bed at 7:30, I would think no earlier than 6:30.  That’s eleven-ish hours depending on when she falls asleep.

Dominique:  And that would be nice because getting up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning is not ideal.

Alyssa:  And then remember that 2-3-4 rule.  So after she wakes up, she’ll be tired after about two hours, and then three hours after that wakeup.  So let’s say you have an ideal — let’s say she wakes up at 7:00 in the morning.  She should go down for that first nap at 9:00 and sleep from 9:00 to 9:30, and then three hours after that, which would be 12:30, she should have a two-hour nap.  An hour and a half is fine; not all babies sleep two hours.  But at her age, she should want to sleep about an hour and a half.

Dominique:  Okay, and we have been doing that, the 2-3-4.  It’s just she’s been getting up so early, so if she gets up at 6:00, we’re putting her down for her first nap at 8:00 in the morning, which does seem really early to us.

Alyssa:  But she’s also going to bed really early.  6:30 is pretty early.

Dominique:  Yeah, and sometimes by 6:00.

Alyssa:  And you can’t just put her to bed at 7:00 tonight if she’s been up since 5:30. It’s a slow, 15 to 30-minute increments.  But you have the added fun of daylight savings time, which messes everybody up.  And probably by the time this episode airs, it will be past daylight savings, but we can still talk about it.  And it might actually help you.  So let’s see: spring forward.  7:00 is really going to 8:00, so her 6:00, 6:30 bedtime is going to be 7:30.  So you might not want to push it too far.

Dominique:  Yeeha, I think our situation is a little unique for that because we need to adjust her bedtime, whereas some people, they want to keep their kid on their 7:00 schedule, so they have to adjust backwards.

Alyssa:  Yeah, you have to do it slowly.  Like, with my daughter, I’ve been putting her to bed early; every night, a little bit earlier, to get her to that point.  But yeah, I would try for a later bedtime, and that morning nap is what’s screwing up your morning wakeup.  It’s just too long.

Dominique:  Yeah, unfortunately!  I’m like, okay, her morning nap — I’ve got to get stuff done!

Alyssa:  Well, make it in the afternoons, instead, because that’s the nap she’s going to have until she’s two, three, maybe even four, that afternoon nap.  And think about when you go to childcare; you know, naps at 12:30 or 1:00.

Dominique:  All right, we’ll make some adjustments!

Alyssa:  Anything else?  What would you tell people about sleep consults that you think people need to know?

Dominique:  I would say it’s worth it, and I’ve had a lot of people say, you know, what did you do for sleep, and then I explain what we did, and I say, “But we needed some help.”  Like, it was just getting too frustrating, and I would just say it’s not cry-it-out like you think it is, just shutting the door and letting them cry, because I do think that’s a big misconception.  So I would just say, look in to a sleep consultant, or just don’t take everything you read on the internet and apply it!

Alyssa:  Well, and there’s so much information, but again, adjusting it to your specific family and your specific child, because I could have just given you, hey, my method is gradual withdrawal, and there you go.  And then you’re doing this with your child and she’s like, this is not working.  Yeah, it’s way too stimulating for her.  So you can’t just give an end-all, one-fix method for every family.  So that’s the hard part.  You could read a hundred books, but you would need to have the ability to discern which method works for your family, and then have somebody there coaching you and holding your hand.  And a big part of what I do is holding you accountable.  Did you do this?  How is it going?  So that nap… We’re not working together anymore, but I can’t help myself; I have to tell you that nap is too long in the morning!

Dominique:  Yes, I figured you might say that!

Alyssa:  You’re like, don’t ask; don’t ask; please don’t ask!

Dominique:  But no, it was definitely worth it, and it was nice that you kind of explained the different methods and we could figure out which one would work best.

Alyssa:  Sometimes, I know that there’s one that’s going to work, and that’s the one I suggest.  Sometimes, I’m like, okay, based on your personality and your parenting style, I’m going to give you a few options.  Here’s what I would recommend, but I want the parents to feel comfortable moving forward, and oftentimes, I still know which one I would recommend.  Like you, you need to go through and say, oh, well, gradual withdrawal seems really more my parenting style, and I understand that it’s going to be a slower process.  But you’re like, nope, didn’t work.  So let’s move on to this one; let’s try that.  Nope, didn’t work.  But oftentimes what happens is a parent tries that one; it fails, and they give up and they’re done.  They think sleep training didn’t work and it’s junk.  So I get it.

Dominique:  No!  Keep going!

Alyssa:  I get why parents feel frustrated.  And how is she doing now?

Dominique:  She’s doing really well.  She’s starting to walk.  Well, she is walking, so she’s very busy, so we’re keeping up with her now.  But yeah, she’s doing really good!

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thank you so much.  I love hearing stories from clients!  Did I ever get a picture of her?  I love getting pictures of babies.  You’ll have to show me before you go.

Dominique:  I’ll do that!

Alyssa:  Well, thanks again for joining me!

 

sleep coach

Sleeping Through the Holidays

Right when you get your child on a good schedule something inevitably comes up that makes it difficult to stay on track. We just went through the dreaded daylight savings (the worst for adults too!). Right now we are in the midst of the holidays. Here are some sleep tips for keeping your children’s sleep schedules on track.

If you’re traveling and driving, try to time the car rides over nap times. For instance, if you have a three hour drive and you know little Johnny takes his afternoon nap from 12:30 – 2:30, hit the road at noon and do some singing or stimulate him for a while until he gets drowsy and falls asleep. Then when you are almost there, he should wake up!

If you are flying, naps can be tricky. If you have a baby, holding the baby to sleep usually works. But if you have an 18 month old, you might have to prepare yourself for a no nap situation that day. In this instance, be sure to get them down to bed a bit early that night.

What if you’re traveling somewhere with a time change? Ugh..every parent dreads this no matter the age of your child. If you’re only going for a couple days, keep the child on their normal schedule. That means if they go to bed at 7pm and there’s a 2 hour difference, you put them to bed at 5pm. I know this messes up party plans but you’ll have to think ahead. Bring a pack and play for your baby or a blow up mattress for your older child and put them to bed in a dark room with a sound machine at their normal bed time.

If you’re traveling and staying for an extended period of time, slowly move their bedtime back in 30 minute increments until they’re at a more reasonable bedtime. Then before you leave to go back home, move that bedtime back to the normal time slowly. If you wait to move the bedtime back until you’re home, just know that you’ll have 2-3 days of adjusting to deal with.

If you’re hosting a party in the afternoon during a normal nap time, let everyone know that your child will be sleeping. Don’t let them stay up just because Grandma wants to cuddle. They will have to wait until your child wakes up. During a party, that sound machine may need to be turned up a bit louder than normal.

Remember that sleep is a priority and stand firm when a friend or relative says, “Oh, just let him stay up.” Easy for them to say!

Happy Holidays and Happy Napping!

For a customized sleep plan for your family’s travel plans, contact me today!

Alyssa is a Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Gentle Sleep Consultant.

 

newborn sleep tips

Newborn Sleep Tips

As a sleep consultant, I get asked often how early you can sleep train a baby. My answer is this – Most babies are ready around 12 weeks, but it’s never too early to start introducing heathy habits to make the sleep training go smoothy when baby is ready.

Why 12 weeks? Most babies are developmentally ready around this time. They’ve also established a healthy eating routine (whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding), and they’ve gained substantial weight.

At 12 weeks most babies are ready to sleep through the night. Many breastfeeding mothers will actually wake their babies to nurse them, even though the baby would sleep through on their own. Some mothers pump once in the night and let baby sleep. Other mothers can make it through the night just fine sleeping 8 hours straight, but they will more than likely need to nurse or pump right when they wake up!

Please note that at 12 weeks sleeping through the night does not mean a 12 hour stretch. Very few babies at this age are ready for that. But some babies may be ready for a 6 or 8 hour stretch. If you’ve only been getting sleep in 2 hour chunks, this sounds fantastic!

When I put a plan together with a family, I first talk with them to find out what their values and goals are. If nursing in the night is a priority, we create a plan around that. If their main objective is for baby to get a full nights rest, uninterrupted, then we create a plan around that. There’s no one right answer to sleep training; it has to fit each individual family.

So what kinds of things can you do with your newborn before that 12 week mark? You need to realize that babies thrive on routine. A chaotic schedule is not the ideal environment for a newborn. From day one, you can start to create a sense of consistency.

Wake up around the same time in the morning and go to bed around the same time at night. Do this for you and your baby.

Talk to your baby. Narrate life to them. Tell them what you’re doing (changing their diaper, feeding, nap time, wake time, play time, etc). They are listening!

Have all sleep happen in a dark room with white noise. A good, arms-down swaddle is great for newborns! There are several types of swaddles (muslin wraps, Miracle Blanket, Love to Dream), find what works best for you and your baby.

As your baby establishes feeding patterns, try to stick to a schedule for feedings. Remember you must always be flexible. Babies are not always hungry every three hours on the dot. If your baby typically eats every three hours, be aware that sometimes it will be 2 hours, sometimes 2 1/2, but usually 3. Don’t ever let your baby cry for food just to wait until the right time on the clock. Always watch for their cues and respond accordingly before letting them get too upset.

Speaking of cues, watch for them! Your baby is constantly communicating with you. From day one, they are communicating. As they grow, if you’re paying attention, you will begin to distinguish what different cries mean. This is important to create a relationship of trust between you and your baby. You cannot assume every cry means food. Just as if you stubbed your toe, it would not help if someone offered you a hamburger. You would want to sit down and maybe have someone give you some ice or even a band aid.

By assuming all of your babies cries mean hunger, you are telling them you’re not listening to what they are saying. Pay attention to what was happening to and around the baby when they started crying. Some babies are more introverted and like staring peacefully at a wall. They may begin to cry if there is a loud noise, a bright flash of light, or someone gets in their personal space too quickly. Others want to be in the room with all the action. Those babies may cry when you leave the room, or if they can’t see out the window. They do not want to stare at a blank wall, they want colors, noise, and lights.

Your baby might cry because they are too hot, too cold, sitting in an uncomfortable position, have a dirty diaper, are tired, are hungry, have an upset stomach. By paying attention to how they react to what you offer, you start to establish that trust relationship that says,”I’m paying attention to you. I’m listening to what you’re telling me, and I will react accordingly.” Your baby will know that when something is too stimulating, you will pick them up and put them somewhere they feel more comfortable. Your baby will know that when they are tired, you will put them to bed.

A good example of this the well meaning visitor – or the “Space Invader” as I like to call them. They rush over to the baby and get right in their face. When the baby starts to cry, the visitor thinks the baby does not like them, when in fact they just invaded their personal space too abruptly. If a baby is content and then suddenly starts crying, it usually isn’t too hard to figure out why if you’re paying attention.

What does this have to do with sleep training? Everything! By establishing routines and a trust relationship from the beginning, you are eliminating unknowns for your baby. They trust you to do what’s best for them. When you talk them through what’s happening, they know what to expect. They know when it’s time to change a diaper, put on clothes, or take a nap because you’ve been narrating their story to them and you’ve created consistency. This level of routine, consistency, and trust is your foundation to healthy sleep habits.

Then, when you call me around 12 weeks to start gently guiding your child through a full night’s sleep, the ground work is already laid. A child that gets enough sleep is a healthier and happier child, and so are their parents.

For more information on sleep training, contact us by phone (616) 294-0207, email, or fill out our contact form. You can also learn more about Alyssa’s methods on our blog.

 

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.

 

sleep training

Sleep Training is a Four Letter Word

Sleep Training. Those two words can stir up some pretty aggressive emotions for some parents. I guess it’s because there are so many methodologies, many of which are controversial, and there are so many different thoughts on parenting and what is right and wrong.

My answer is there’s no one way to do this! If there was, it would be simple.

Whether a family wants to co-sleep or have baby in his own crib, it’s not my job to judge their decisions. My job is to figure out a solution that works well for them.

Sleep training shouldn’t be a controversial topic. Everyone needs and wants a full night’s rest. I don’t know many (actually any) people who would argue with that, but how you get there is where it becomes tricky. We don’t want to let our child cry for hours or make them feel neglected, which many methodologies tend to do.

Sleep training, at it’s most basic level, is a plan to help the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of both parents and baby. Without sleep, parents are exhausted, mentally drained, and overly-emotional. A sleep-deprived baby can find it hard to nap during the day, be too exhausted to nurse, cry all the time, or just zone out because daily activities are too stimulating.

A good sleep consultant will take all factors into account. They will listen to your story, your history, your values, and your end goal. They will come up with a solution that works for everyone, not a method that works for “most”.

As parents, I think we need to give up on this idea that there is only one certain way to do things. It’s great to have a plan, but they must always be flexible. I see parents beat themselves up over plans that aren’t working, especially feeding and sleeping patterns. They see their friend’s baby sleeping through the night or their niece on a perfect feeding and nap schedule. They’re given all sorts of advice that doesn’t work for them, they read all the books and each one gives them conflicting ideas, so they end up more confused.

I had one client tell me this, “I read all the books but none of them ever told me what to do in the night when my baby wouldn’t stop crying. We did the consistent night time routine, we did the ‘shuffle’ slowly out of the room, we tried to soothe him back to sleep, but nothing ever worked. We felt defeated.”

Books and articles on sleep can only help to a certain extent. You need a physical presence that can ask questions, assess your individual situation, and come up with an individualized plan. Most of the time there are other factors at play that the books aren’t going to mention.

As a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, Certified Postpartum Doula, and Newborn Care Specialist, I love helping families set goals and figure out realistic ways to reach them. There’s nothing more satisfying than happy parents and a happy baby.

Contact me to talk about a customized sleep plan for your family.