New parents often have unrealistic expectations about sleep when they bring a baby home. Some parents think they will get to sleep a lot because a newborn sleeps a lot. I’ve heard other parents say they don’t think they will get any sleep for weeks or months. I’m here to tell you that neither of those are true.
Yes, a newborn does sleep a lot. Yay! But they also need to feed often. Like every hour or two in the beginning. All day and all night! So while your newborn may sleep 19 hours in a day, that sleep is happening in several short chunks of time throughout a 24 hour period.
For a breastfeeding mother this is especially hard. She will be feeding her newborn every couple hours and that feeding could take 45 minutes. Let’s put that into perspective. Your newborn wakes to eat at 2:00am. You are done feeding at 2:45am, burp and change baby’s diaper, get baby back to sleep, and now it’s 3:00am. Your newborn feeds every 2 hours so that means you have one more hour to sleep until you start this whole process over again. Yikes!
Once a newborn becomes more efficient at feeding (or is bottle fed), they can often go three hours between feedings. This allows you more time to sleep between feeds.
Fathers/partners often wonder what they can do to help an exclusively breastfeeding mother. If/when a mother decides to start pumping, someone else can take over some of the feedings with a bottle. This can be a huge relief to mothers in the night and allows for one longer stretch of sleep. Partners can also help with diaper changes after a feed so Mom can get back to sleep sooner. They can also make sure mom is well fed and hydrated.
For bottle fed babies, fathers/partners/doulas/caregivers can help with feeds in the night while mom sleeps. For instance, mom feeds baby at 9:00pm then goes to sleep. Someone else does the 11:00pm feed, and mom wakes at 1:00 for the next feed. That allowed mom to sleep for four hours. It doesn’t seem like much now, but when you’re sleep deprived, a four hour stretch of sleep is the best gift anyone could give you!
For the first several weeks, there really is no predictability to a newborn. They will sleep a lot and eat a lot, period. If your newborn sleeps for hours at a time without waking to eat though, this is not a bragging right. This is something to call your pediatrician about. Babies need to eat frequently! On the other hand, if your baby doesn’t want to sleep and cries a lot, you should also call your pediatrician.
You get through the first 4-6 weeks or so, you’re sleep deprived and feel a bit hazy, but you start to notice that there are some predictable patterns happening with your baby. For instance, they are feeding approximately every three hours and can stay awake a little bit longer after feeds. What does this mean? They are slowly adjusting to a natural circadian rhythm. Every living thing has a rhythm. Our bodies naturally wake when the temperature warms and the sun rises (we produce serotonin to make us feel awake). When it’s dark and cool, our bodies are ready for sleep (we produce melatonin to make us feel sleepy).
Follow your baby’s cues during this time. When you notice signs of tiredness, get them into the basinet for a nap. Try to keep them awake for a bit after feeds. Think of this pattern – eat, awake, sleep, eat, awake, sleep. This will do two things for parents:
1- Separate feeds from sleep. This is the number one reason parents call me for help. Their baby is used to only falling asleep while feeding or being held and they can’t sustain that long-term.
2- Awake time after feeds allows for lots of stimulation which makes baby tired for a nap. As a baby gets older, they are more alert and interested in their surroundings. All this mental and physical stimulation helps tire them out for naps.
So what does this mean for parents? Now you know in the initial weeks home with a newborn, don’t expect much sleep. Sleep when you can, limit visitors, and accept help! But after a couple months, you should see some predictability. This is when a baby becomes more efficient at feeding. More calories in during the day means longer stretches of sleep at night. Read that sentence again… I’ll wait. Focus on good feeds during the day and fewer at night as your baby gets older. A hungry baby doesn’t sleep, so good feeds are extremely important.
Your baby will slowly be able to stay awake for longer stretches during the day, creating a predictable nap routine. This allows parents to plan their days knowing when their baby needs to sleep.
Every family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep. If one parent stays home and does not need a predictable schedule, they may feed on demand and take naps during the day when the baby takes naps. If this works for that family, great! If both parents work, they usually need more structure, so having a predictable feeding and nap schedule, along with a set bedtime and wake time for the baby, is usually necessary. And some families will fall somewhere in between, where they want some structure, but the ability to be flexible. No matter what your parenting style is, don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help. If you need someone to come during the day to watch your baby so you can nap or shower, who do you have that you can ask? A friend or family member? Do you have postpartum doulas in your area? How about overnight sleep? Do you have someone that could stay overnight and help you with feeds so you can get extra rest?
Bottom line, it will be okay! You have resources that can help along the way, use them if you can. There are tons of free feeding support groups. Find other mothers or parents who you can talk to. Hire a sleep consultant if needed (a good one isn’t scary, I promise!). Check with your insurance plan to see what’s covered. You may be able to hire a doula or a lactation consultant. You may be able to take some newborn, breastfeeding, or sleep classes. Knowledge is power, so take the time to find resources that fit your budget and personal needs.
You’ve got this!
For additional information about pregnancy, birth, parenting, and sleep, check out Ask The Doulas Podcast on whatever podcast platform you listen to.
This is probably the most commonly asked sleep question for parents, and unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer!
There are many factors involved when attempting to answer this question. It can depend on things like:
How old is your baby?
How much do they eat?
How often do they eat?
Were they premature?
Do they have any health concerns?
But first, it’s important to understand how much newborns are supposed to sleep, and how that changes across the first few months of life.
How much do newborns sleep?
If you have a newborn, the answer is you cannot get them to sleep through the night. If your newborn does sleep through the night, this is not a good thing! You need to talk to your child’s pediatrician immediately. If you are struggling with feeds, reach out to a Certified Lactation Consultant. A newborn needs to eat every 2-3 hours, so sleeping through the night is not conducive to your baby’s growth or your breastmilk production if breastfeeding. A typical newborn is not going to be awake very often, only to feed and then cuddle for a few minutes before falling asleep again. So this means, yes, a typical newborn sleeps most of the day and night, but not several hours in a row. Like I mentioned, they need to be eating frequently, so after they feed (typically every 2-3 hours), they will sleep until they wake up hungry again. This means they may sleep for 1-2 hours at a time, then wake to feed.
How much does a 3 – 4 month old sleep? If your baby is 3-4 months old, it’s possible they may sleep through the night, but most do not quite yet. A 3-4 month old baby that is at least 12 pounds and eating well throughout the day, could give parents a 6-8 hour stretch at night. A baby’s ability to sleep this long at night is also dependent on their daytime feeding, activity, and nap schedule. At this age a baby’s circadian rhythm is ready to be set and they will thrive on a routine. This is the perfect time to reach out to a sleep consultant. Sleep training at this age involves very little crying and most babies are ready and willing to jump right into a sleep routine without much fuss! How much do older babies sleep? Some babies, even at 9 months, may not sleep a full 12 hours overnight without a feed. This is normal. Babies come in all shapes and sizes so we cannot expect them all to have the same needs or patterns. A smaller baby that eats less during the day is going to need more feeds in the night for a longer period of time. A larger baby that has big feeds during the day may start sleeping through the night much sooner than most.
Do I have to use Cry It Out?
Many parents, exhausted after months of sleepless nights, will resort to cry it out at this point. Please note, this is not necessary! No amount of crying will help a baby fall asleep if they are hungry and/or do not have a good daytime nap routine. Small amounts of crying are normal and necessary, but attempting CIO on your own with no other change to feeds or naps usually ends in frustration.
The problem with a question like this (How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?) is parents are often searching for a one-size-fits-all answer and there just isn’t one. That’s why a sleep consultant is so beneficial. They can assess your individual baby’s needs and your sleep goals to create the perfect sleep plan for your family. A sleep consultant that does not ask questions about your baby, your goals, or your parenting style and then doesn’t offer different methods to try based on your answers, is not going to be the most successful option.
As a sleep consultant, you can see why it’s so hard for me to answer this question with a blanket statement. I don’t know you or your baby to give you the best answer for your family. But I know you clicked on this link looking for help, so I’ll give you some very basic tips by age that will hopefully get you on the right path. You can also check out this blog post that lists my favorite sleep products!
Newborn Sleep Tips From day 1 there are some things you can do to get into some healthy sleep habits early. That way, when your baby’s rhythm is ready to be set, it will happen easily because you’ve already been working on these habits.
Put your baby to bed on a hard, flat surface (a crib or basinet). This is not only the safest place for them to sleep, but it gets them used to sleeping in the space where you ultimately want them sleeping later. They can sleep in your room near your bed for as long as you like, but this creates an easy transition when they are ready to be moved to a nursery. They just move along with the crib they are already familiar with.
When you put your newborn down for a nap, make sure the room is dark, cool, and use a sound machine.
When you wake your baby up, make sure to give them light. You’re unknowingly helping to set their natural circadian rhythm. High five!
With newborns, focus on feeds. Don’t worry too much about how much sleep they’re getting and when, just make sure they are getting enough to eat and growing well!
As your baby gets more efficient with feeds and can stay awake longer, see if you can separate feeding from sleeping. Make them two separate activities instead of always happing together. Eat, awake, sleep, repeat!
One way to help soothe your baby to sleep without feeding is Shush Pat.
In these critical newborn weeks, the support of an overnight postpartum doula can be so beneficial for parents. Mothers can heal, bond with baby, rest, and focus on feeding. Fathers or partners can get extra rest, learn newborn care tips, and ways to be supportive and helpful to a new mother. Postpartum doulas are there to offer judgment-free support to every family, day and night.
3-6 Month Sleep Tips Like I mentioned above, around 3-4 months, your baby is ready for a more structured routine. Babies thrive on routine and even if you’re not a schedule-oriented person, you can figure out ways to have a routine instead of a schedule. The easiest way to do this is have a set wake time every morning, a set bed time every night, and try to get 3 naps in per day at around the same time.
You still want to have your baby sleep in the dark and wake up to light.
Feeds are still very important. A hungry baby doesn’t sleep for long.
At this age your baby’s cries should be sounding different to you. Learning to listen to your child and understand what they are communicating to you is key to building a trusting relationship and is critical for sleep success.
6-12 Month Sleep Tips If you’re still struggling with sleep at this point, don’t wait any longer to seek help from a professional and experienced sleep consultant. I promise you, the right sleep consultant will offer your family life-changing results and it won’t be scary! Find someone that listens to you!
This is often when solids are introduced. As your baby eats more solids, milk feeds will decrease. This is normal.
Don’t offer food at dinner first as this disrupts night time sleep while food digests.
Routines are especially important at this age. Babies are really observant and knowing what to expect and when will help with nap time and bedtime.
12 months + Sleep Tips For toddlers, sleep can become even more difficult if they never slept well as a baby. They are now walking and talking and can put up a fight for naps and night time.
Routines are still crucial, if not more so now than ever! A toddler expects things to be the same each night.
Set boundaries and stick to them. It’s important that all caregivers are on the same page.
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.
Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance. Hi, Dr. Nave.
Dr. Nave: Hi, Alyssa. Thanks for having me.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week. So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression. So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place. So tell us what you’re doing now.
Dr. Nave: Okay. Awesome. So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said. The name of it is Hormonal Balance. And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns. And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it. And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.
Alyssa: Yes. Awesome. I love it. And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?
Dr. Nave: Yep, yep, yep.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month. And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients. So how do you help your patients?
Dr. Nave: I call them clients.
Alyssa: Clients? Oh, you do?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license. I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.” And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum. And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you. So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available. There’s salivary. There’s urine. There’s blood. And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about. It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Right. So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form. Right? There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog. I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay. So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs. Blood work might not be the right lab for them?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example. So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex. You have ovaries — versus the gender identify. I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive. So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women. They also occur in men. So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen. Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby. Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved. These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time. The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test. I really enjoy that one. I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it. So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down. Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways. So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.
Alyssa: Right. So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression? Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”? Or do you do both?
Dr. Nave: So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum. So you have mild, moderate, and severe. Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things. Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks. If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth. And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.
Alyssa: Go for it.
Dr. Nave: Just for a frame of reference. So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone. Please don’t suffer alone. If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out. If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time. Please, reach out to people. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.
Alyssa: Right. I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having. You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help. And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night. When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.
Dr. Nave: I totally agree with you. I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up. Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down. Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes. I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…
Alyssa: Do it! Teach us!
Dr. Nave: As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression. Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression. So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.
Alyssa: Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?
Dr. Nave: No.
Alyssa: Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy? What am I thinking? It’s in turkey and stuff?
Dr. Nave: Tryptophan is in turkey. Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Kind of, I guess. In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression. I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right? Am I going down the right path here? Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions. Sorry!
Dr. Nave: No, no, no. I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process. If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep. Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down. You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down. And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true. So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things. So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby. Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.
Alyssa: Oh, absolutely. It’s all about the baby.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood. Does that make sense? Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones. And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms. If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms. During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it. Are you tracking?
Dr. Nave: Yeah. So that’s the estrogen portion. So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain. Now, we have progesterone. So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone. And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep. It helps you remain calm. But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy. And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression. For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth. There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside. The baby is now outside of you. And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues. Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression. In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you. Do you have physical and emotional support? Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant? Have you had postpartum depression before? How is your sleep? You know, sleep is really important. If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way. Good quality sleep.
Alyssa: You’re preaching to the choir here. I think it’s one of the most important things!
Dr. Nave: The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.
Alyssa: So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?
Dr. Nave: Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know? Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time. So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant. And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state. For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that. But it’s not the only thing that’s available. There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly. There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more. Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support. Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported. Does that make sense? Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge. You know what you need! And here are all these different options to provide that.
Alyssa: So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place. How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant? Is there any risk to Baby? You know, risk of miscarriage? What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?
Dr. Nave: So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time. I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself. As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place? Who do I reach out to? Who do I talk to? What supplemental intervention needs to happen? Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication? There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure. We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like? What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently? And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy. Like, does she feel more supported now? What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently? You know? And basically coming up with a plan.
Alyssa: Yeah, I like that. So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth. It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen. And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that. They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot. What do I do now? So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum. And then we’ll talk about what we can do then. I like that.
Dr. Nave: Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options. For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need. Let’s talk to your doc. Hey, Doc. This is the plan. If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer. You know? Or maybe it’s something else. Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about. In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know? People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive. But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth. If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again. And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.
Alyssa: Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it. So it probably takes it to a whole new level. Well, thank you for all of your expertise. I always love talking to you. I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave. I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049. If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!
Alyssa: Thank you! During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?
Dr. Nave: I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point. I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.
Alyssa: So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?
Dr. Nave: In person, yes. But for now, we will see each other virtually!
Alyssa: Thanks for your time! Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!
Liz Hilton, founder of Swaddelini, tells us about the unique process she uses to create her amazing swaddle and why her swaddle is different. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I am Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with Liz Hilton, who happens to be a birth and postpartum client of ours. She has an amazing product to talk about. Tell us about your swaddles and where you came up with the idea and more about how we can put it into action!
Liz: Well, first, thank you so much for having me on your talk. My product in Swaddelini. It’s inspired by my firstborn son, Thomas, who was a little Houdini. Veritable little Houdini; got out of all his swaddles and would constantly wake up from the Moro reflex. I’m really excited about my next baby that I’m going to be having a couple weeks here because now I’m equipped with a swaddle that is easy to use and protects against the Moro reflex and is completely kick-proof and escape-proof.
Kristin: You’ll have your own baby model!
Liz: I know! I’ll have my own little cute baby model! My Instagram Swaddelini is going to blow up with pictures of my new baby. But yeah, what’s different about it is that typically swaddles involves a lot of wrapping or cumbersome closure systems like zippers, Velcro, or God forbid, snaps. So mine just goes on and off like a sock, and I’ve incorporated some light compression therapy into the chest area to give the sensation of a hug all night long. So I’ve actually trademarked that as Hug Technology.
Kristin: Love it!
Liz: And the individual tubes help keep the arms down for the Moro reflex. It encourages that sleep safe position of being on the back and arms at the sides. And then when you need to change the diaper, there’s an easy access diaper flap so you can change the diaper without having to take the swaddle on and off.
Kristin: That’s such a pain to remove the swaddle and wake the baby!
Liz: Yeah! And it’s also adaptable, so with any baby product, you want it to adapt because all babies are different. Every baby is different. Every mom is different. So some babies like their arms out. Now, part of the thinking behind that is so they can self-soothe when they do wake up from the Moro reflex. The idea with the Swaddelini is that that won’t happen as often because their arms are encouraged to be down. But if your baby insists on having their arms out, you can just leave their arms out. You’re still going to get that Hug Technology benefit. Probably my favorite thing is that this swaddle is easy to put on, but also doesn’t restrict motion. That’s one thing that doctors have been telling moms is, you know, don’t swaddle your baby. It will cause hip dysplasia. And that’s just because some swaddles, there’s no stopping point when you’re wrapping them or pulling the Velcro. It’s very easy to do it too tight. Whereas with this, it’s a four-way stretch knit. It’s soft. It’s stretchy. And there’s no risk in that. And even though the baby feels hugged all over, they have freedom of movement. So if, for example, you’re breastfeeding, the baby can, while wearing the swaddle, can kneed your breast but can’t scratch. Same when they’re sleeping; they can touch their face, but not scratch it. So that’s another benefit.
Kristin: And you have different sizes, so as they grow bigger, their swaddle size is based on how many pounds the baby is?
Liz: I’ve done it that way. I’ve said the small is good for 6-12 pounds and the large is 12-18 pounds. The reason I did the larger one is just because there’s that transition where your baby’s kind of rolling over their side, and you’re, like oh, my God. Is it going to happen? Are they going to roll over? Am I going to wake up and my baby’s on their front? You have all these fears. What I say is with the larger one — or even with the smaller one, if your baby is toying with rolling over sooner before they’re out of the smaller size, just take one arm and leave it out. And then one they’re rolling over a lot during the day, you can take both arms out. If your baby likes to sleep with their feet out, leave the feet out. My niece slept in her large swaddle between month 8 and 11 until she was ready to get out. She was smaller, though. She was a smaller baby, so that’s why she went so long. But she just didn’t want to leave it, but it was a nice transition.
Alyssa: And they’re made out of different things. I’m very curious what the process is and how you make them, too. We talked a little bit about it on the phone, but I thought it was very cool how you make these.
Liz: Yeah. I have two very distinct designs. The first one I did, I made out of just a bunch of synthetic fibers that I’ve used for compression garments that I’ve made for kids with, like, CP or lymphedema. And so that helps with the light compression at the chest. So that part is the same. For the rest of it, it’s a moisture-wicking nylon-polyester blend. It feels very lightweight, but it’s actually very cozy and very soft. You can feel that.
Alyssa: So soft!
Liz: Yes! But at the end of the day, it is a synthetic fiber, right? I learned very quickly that some moms like natural fibers. So after much research, I found a supplier of bamboo, and they make this bamboo in a mechanical process versus chemical. You’ve seen a lot of maybe bamboo-rayon products. This is not that. This is just a natural bamboo made in a nonchemical process, and I pair it with a really exciting new fiber. I’m actually the first in the industry to license this. It’s called 37.5 because what it does is it regulates your body temperature to put it at a perfect 37.5 degrees Celsius. So that is why the bamboo swaddles are a little cooler to the touch.
Alyssa: So adult swaddles will be next.
Liz: Actually, if you go on my website to the About section and watch my videos, I have my husband in an adult swaddle. Yeah! I just made one for a marketing thing, and then I told my husband, hey, will you get in this so I can do a video on YouTube? And he was, like, you’re going to put it on YouTube? No, I’m not doing this! And I’m like, um, I had your baby.
Alyssa: I’m asking this one thing!
Liz: Yeah. So there’s now a video of him in an adult swaddle!
Alyssa: It sounds really cozy, actually. I think I would wear one. I love that it’s easy. Can you explain putting it on and how it goes on?
Liz: You basically just scrunch it up like a sock, and then you go in feet first and you get the Hug Technology over the butt area, and then you have it over the chest. And then you go through the easy access diaper flap. So stick your arm through that opening at the bottom, and then go through one of the arm tubes and then grab the hand. Put that hand in yours, and just slide it down so that the arm is in the tube. And so now their arm can move around, but it just encourages the arm to stay down at the side. And then you just do that on the other side. So these arm tubes are very, very stretchy, and their hands are absolutely free to move around. And then the top naturally curls the opposite direction from their face. But I also had this product tested at world-class third-party laboratories, where they do a suffocation hazard test. They literally roll my product up in a ball, put it over a fake infant face, and they measure the CO2, and mine has passed every time.
Alyssa: That was my question. You know, you walk in, and it’s like this.
Liz: That is absolutely fine, and if you wanted to do a suffocation hazard test on any product that you buy, what you do is roll it up and put it against your face and breathe. With the design, though, it does naturally curl away from the face. So if you put your baby to sleep like this, they wake up like this.
Alyssa: And then demonstrate poopy diaper time when you don’t want to wake the baby.
Liz: We’ve got this flap here, and again, it’s very, very stretchy.
Kristin: As a doula, I love that. It’s so easy.
Alyssa: And do you recommend just like this doll has, like a onesie underneath this? That’s all you need?
Alyssa: The right temperature?
Liz: Even just a diaper and socks is fine. I get that question a lot. It’s really what you’re comfortable with, what your baby’s comfortable with. If they’re really tiny and maybe they’re sliding, if their arms are so small they’re sliding out, you can put a onesie, like the sleeves on it, and that friction between the fabric will keep it on. So then you get access to the diaper. You do the diaper. And then you can put it right back on, and you don’t have to take it off. And then taking it off also is very easy because you just pull it down. It’s actually easier with a real baby. You can do it all in one motion. I’ve gotten that a lot where moms say, oh, I didn’t know it was going to be this easy. That’s always good!
Kristin: And you have different designs. You brought some samples with you. There’s a fun funky orange and pink and…
Liz: It’s interesting you say that because the design is pretty much the same. The only difference is the colors and the fibers. The blue, pink, orange, and gray here are all in the moisture-wicking synthetic fibers, and these more neutral colors, this neural white-pearl and this cloud-gray are the bamboo. The best-selling ones are the grays, the grays in both the synthetic and the bamboo, and then orange. Everyone loves neutrals. The way this is made is a really interesting process. One of the benefits of the Swaddelini is that it’s seamless, and it’s seamless because it’s actually manufactured in one piece, in one process, using 3D knitting. Kind of like the Nike Flyknit shoes. It’s the same technology, and I have a machine that knits all of these in my garage. I make them all myself. I don’t have some manufacturer in China that I outsource this too. So it’s very, very local. And it’s actually my life’s work. I’ve been a 3D knit programmer for over ten years now and working primarily in technical knitting, knitting solutions for office furniture and automotive and aerospace and stuff like that. But when I had my first baby two and a half years ago, I had an idea to use that same process to solve my swaddling problem. That became Swaddelini.
Alyssa: That’s amazing! You said there’s a couple tiny stitches you have to do yourself at the very end?
Liz: At the very top because it’s all made with this one end of yard. At the very top, you have to pull it through a loop and then that’s the final thing that I do. And I sew on these cute little tags with washing information and stuff like that.
Alyssa: Yeah, what is the washing information?
Liz: For the synthetic fiber, I recommend cold. It will shrink up a bit, but honestly, if that happens to you, let me know. I can work something out with you because I don’t want someone to get it and have it shrink. I recommend that, and then air drying it is fine. But for the bamboo ones, I actually prewash them in a natural, unscented detergent, so they’re already preshrunk. They won’t shrink anymore. You can wash and dry them in heat, but I still recommend cold just for longevity.
Alyssa: Things look better. I wash all my stuff in cold. They just last so much longer.
Kristin: Thanks, Liz! We appreciate you coming in! How do people order or find you?
Alyssa: Well, if you’re a Gold Coast client, you can get a discount. But for everyone else, what’s the best way to order these?
Liz: On my website, but if you want to learn more about my product before you buy it, I highly recommend going on my Instagram, @swaddelini, because I have a lot moms on there that have shared their videos of how they use it because every mom might use my product differently.
Kristin: It’s great for the visual learners.
Alyssa: I’m going to add this to my newborn class repertoire because I think some people get overwhelmed with the old-fashioned swaddle, and like you said, if you have a really strong baby, they’re popping out of this thing. So this is a great option, and they’re super cute!
Kristin: We will definitely check in with you after, since you’re a client of ours, and we can see how it’s working with your own baby and also hear your birth story. We love hearing personal stories!
Liz: Well, I’m really excited to have doula support this time because I didn’t last time, and I definitely regret it.
Alyssa: Yeah, we can have you back in to talk about that and how it was with doulas.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.
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!
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, and I’m here with Courtney again. She is a speech and language pathologist with Building Blocks Therapy Services. Hello!
Alyssa: Today I want to talk to you about sleep because I think communication is huge, and when kids can’t communicate, they throw tantrums, and tantrums don’t only happen during the day, right?
Alyssa: So it can really affect how a kid can fall asleep and how they get themselves back to sleep or their ability to get back to sleep.
Alyssa: So what would you say to parents who are struggling with maybe a speech-delayed child who’s having tantrums during the day and problems or issues at night with sleep?
Courtney: I would say that routine is one of the biggest things to stick to, because that is really going to help the kid understand expectations. A child who has a language delay might have difficulty understanding everything that’s happening around them, because not only are they trying to take in visually what’s happening, but there’s also so much that we provide to children auditorily, and if they’re not able to understand what we’re saying to them, then they tend to get heightened anxiety; they tend to get more tense. As we all know, as we get worked up, it’s harder to fall asleep. And so if routines are established, then a child is able to know what to expect. They start to pick up on these routines, and then they might start to build that confidence and the ability that they want to help complete these routines.
Alyssa: Yeah, kids really thrive on routine, and I always tell parents to start really early, talking to your child. I remember talking to my daughter — like, I would narrate everything to her, everything I was seeing, everything I was doing, and she always knew where we were going. She knew that it was time to change her diaper or time to put PJs on. I guess it’s setting an expectation from the beginning of what to expect, which leads to a level of trust because they know that you are saying what we’re going to do; I’m already telling you. There won’t be any surprises, and I’m going to react accordingly. I don’t know; I just think it’s the basis of this foundation of trust between parent and child.
Courtney: Absolutely, and that follow-through because it pulls at that trust that the child has. We are going to sleep; it’s time for sleep. I also think that children who do have a language delay or disorder tend to take in things more if you support them visually. That helps them build on auditorily what they’re hearing, so even pictures of brushing our teeth; reading —
Alyssa: You’ve sent me those before, and I love that. Explain that a little more. So maybe a 12- or 18-month-old that is speech delayed and isn’t really talking, but wants this routine, and maybe the parents are trying to set this routine. But they can understand pictures?
Courtney: Yes, they can! You know, as we help children develop, we give them picture books and we talk about those books, and as you can probably see, you know, a 12-month-old can open a book and pretend they’re reading the book and point to different things, and so they take those things in visually. They tend to learn better visually, and that’s not going to hinder them learning auditorily in any way; it’s going to help support that. They’ll start to associate, “Time to brush your teeth!” if you show the picture of brushing your teeth. They’re going to go right to the bathroom and know what to do. If they’re thirsty, to get that drink, or oh, now it’s time for bed. They start walking into the bedroom. And they will typically start to complete that routine without you having to say it, and their body will be at a calmer state. In essence, that’s going to help a child be able to fall asleep a little bit easier.
Alyssa: Yeah, having anxiety around the bedtime routine and then waking up — like, then the parents have anxiety because they’re dreading putting this child to bed, and they’re dreading when are they going to wake up? Are they going to wake up at midnight? Are they going to wake up at 3:00 AM? How long will they be awake? And then both child and parents have anxiety, which they feed off each other. It’s a vicious cycle.
Courtney: Exactly, and I’ve brought up before that when you go to a different country and you don’t know the language and you’re trying to communicate, you get so dense and anxiety-ridden, and you just kind of wonder, well, something doesn’t feel right, especially for a 12-month-old. They’re not going to know exactly what doesn’t feel right, and so they tend to act out because that’s how they’re going to release that energy.
Alyssa: Well, for the clients who are working with me on sleep, I’ve recommended some of them to you, so I will continue to do in the future! If anyone has specific questions for you, where do they find 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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
Most parents probably don’t think about hiring a doula if they aren’t pregnant. They think of a birth doula only supporting a laboring mother, but that couldn’t be farther from reality. Birth doulas can support any parent. Postpartum doulas can support adoptive families by helping them to prepare for baby’s arrival and in-home after baby arrives. There are so many ways doulas can support families that are adopting!
At Gold Coast we are focused on educating parents. We offer several prenatal and postnatal classes to help new parents navigate this new territory. We offer a Newborn Survival class that goes over essentials of surviving those first few weeks and months home with your baby. Real life scenarios and raw topics are discussed to help parents feel confident in their roles.
We also offer a Prenatal Stress class. This is designed for any parent, pregnant or adopting, to understand the affects that stress has on a developing child’s brain, not just throughout pregnancy but through their growing years as well.
Infant Massage is a great way for adoptive parents to bond with a new baby. Our instructor offers classes as well as private in-home instruction. Another great way to bond is babywearing. We have a certified babywearing expert that does in-home instruction and can show you how to safely use your carrier(s).
For parents that might be bringing multiples home (twins or even triplets) we offer a Preparing for Multiples class, and we have a postpartum doula that is a mother of twins herself. Her in-home support, expertise, tips, and tricks are invaluable!
If grandparents will be primary care givers, we offer a class called The Modern Grandparent that updates them on the latest safety information as well as informs them about today’s parent and how parenting styles differ from generations past.
Our lactation consultant can help adoptive mothers induce lactation and can also offer advice about chest feeding.
At Gold Coast, our postpartum doulas are available day and night. Daytime support includes help with baby bonding, newborn care, help with older siblings, meal prep, and evidence based resources. Your postpartum doula is your trusted guide for anything baby related. Overnight support allows parents to get a full nights rest while the doula takes care of the baby through the night. The doula will feed the baby, burp, change diapers, etc allowing the parent(s) to get as much rest as possible knowing there is an experienced professional caring for their child.
A postpartum doula is an amazing gift idea for baby showers! We can create a custom insert for your shower invitations and you can also register online for any of our services at EcoBuns Baby + Co online.
We also offer Gentle Sleep Consultations. Sleep is critical for adults and babies. Babies needs proper sleep for brain development and physiological growth. Parents need sleep to help manage the day to day obstacles of parenthood as well as for basic health and wellness.
We also have doulas specially trained in grief that can help you through loss.
Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:
At Gold Coast Doulas, we pride ourselves on being the premier doula agency in West Michigan. We offer judgment-free support to all families regardless of their parenting styles. We are here for your family, wherever you are in your journey.
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!