co sleep

I just read another article discussing co-sleeping versus sleep training and after reading the scathing comments afterwards it really feels like parenting is becoming as polarizing as politics.

There are families where co-sleeping is definitely the right decisions  and there are families where sleep training is definitely the right decision and there are even many families who have done both depending on the child or the situation.

There is only one thing that all of these families need to be thinking about with their children and that is one things is sleep associations.

So it doesn’t really matter which style you choose, just make sure that you think about what sleep associations your child is making and just be aware of how they are falling asleep.

What is a sleep association?  A sleep association is something outside of the child that helps the child fall asleep.

Common sleep associations are:

Darkened space

Rocking motion

Snuggling

Sucking

White noise

Lovey

Routine

Music

These are all things that help a child fall asleep no matter whether you are co-sleeping or sleep training.

So as your child gets older, you will want to look at what sleep associations your child relies most heavily on.

  • If your child will only fall asleep while rocking and with white noise (i.e. in the car), and you know that your child won’t be able to rock if they are in a bed or a crib, then know what white noise is a must and that you will need to add in another sleep association once you take away the rocking.
  • If your child will only fall asleep while sucking (bottle or breast) and you know that they will need to wean from the bottle or the breast soon, then you can look at other associations to replace the sucking.  Or just can introduce the pacifier or thumb-sucking to replace the other sucking.

When we talk about sleep associations, someone might interpret that having sleep associations is a negative thing.  But it isn’t.  They are essential.  They are how we learn to sleep.  So this doesn’t mean that you never nurse your child to sleep as an infant because they will always associate nursing with sleeping because that isn’t true.   Infants nurse to sleep.  And as they grow, they learn new associations.  All of these are positive things and all are used to fit the child, the family and the situation.

Speaking of situations, they change.  You may have a child who co-sleeps wonderfully with you in the family bed.  You are happy, your husband is happy and your child is happy.  However, you soon find out that you are pregnant and you realize that you will need to move your child to their own bed.   This is a common scenario and a very stress-inducing one at that.  Your child knows that snuggling with you and either breast-feeding or drinking a bottle in your bed means that it is time to sleep.  So those two sleep associations (sucking and cuddling) mean sleep.

But now you need to move your toddler into their own room.  Set up the room with new sleep associations.  Maybe get a noise machine and black out curtains.  If you have a rocker, use that in the new room.  See if your child attaches to a lovey.  All of these are possible new sleep associations that will replace the cuddling and sucking associations.  If you have the time, only remove one sleep association at a time.  So if you are breast-feeding, you can continue to do that while moving your child into their new room.  It will mean that you will need to come to the room to feed which initially be less sleep (stick to it; you can do it!!) but more sleep in the long run.  Once your little one is settled in the new room, then you will remove breastfeeding as a sleep association.  You will need to keep your little one awake and make sure they go down drowsy but awake.  Then you can be there to shush, sing, pat their tummy, etc., until they fall asleep.  Sounds easier on paper than in real life but again, this isn’t forever.

Your goal: remove sleep associations that are more work with sleep associations that are less work as the child gets older.  This is a process that you may have to do over and over.  Change is inevitable.

With each change, your child may protest and they may be tears.  But don’t fear change. It’s ok if they cry.  You will be there to support them through the change.

 

better

I’m going to cut to the chase and give you the three steps to better behavior right now.  Before you do any thing (go to the grocery store, get ready for bed, go to a friend’s house, etc) tell your kids:

  1. What it is going to look like
  2. What are the expectations
  3. What will happen if they don’t do what they are supposed to do

 

Ok, now that you know the 3 magic steps, let me walk you through some situations and why these 3 steps are so important!

Kids thrive on routine because they know what is coming next.  If you always get dressed right after breakfast, then kids often run to the clothes dresser right after breakfast because they know what is coming.  They know what to expect.  So just take this same idea out into the world.

Are you going to the library?  Tell your kids.  Are you going to let them check out 55 books.  Tell them that they get 55 books.  Do they get to play on the computer for 20 minutes.  Let them know.  Do you only have space in your bag for 6 books?  Then tell them they only get 6 books.  Do you have time to play at the park afterwards or will your parking limit run out of time and you’ll have to head home?  Let them know ahead of time.

Where else could you use this technique?  The store, the doctor, grandma’s house, running errands, a playdate, going out to dinner, flying on a plane, road trip up to the mountains, getting ready in the morning.  The possibilities are endless.

A lot of parents don’t tell children what is going to happen ahead of time with things that are unpleasant like going to the doctor or dropping them off somewhere.  But we need to build trust with children and we do that by preparing them for the good and the bad.   Before we go to the doctor, I tell them whether they are getting shots or not and then we talk about what we’ll do after the shot (go get ice cream or go to the park).   This way they know what to expect and they are actually less nervous than they would be if they were guessing the whole time (Is this the place that hurts?  What’s going to happen? Am I going to be safe?!?)

The second part is to let them know what the expectations are.  This is true for adults as well. I mean, we all like surprises now and then, but what if you signed up for a hiking trip and then found out that it was a hard-core rock-climbing trip or maybe the hiking trip was actually walking a 1/4 mile.  Both of those would be difficult to deal with because your expectations were totally different than what was presented.  So if you are going to a friend’s house and they don’t mind if the kids jump on the couch, let your kids know.  But if there are going to be fancy tables and maybe even a glass vase somewhere in the living room, tell your kids ahead of time, “no running around AT All at our friends house. We can run outside afterwards, but no running while we are there.”   

I once met up with some college friends and their toddlers at a fancy hotel room that an out-of-town friend had booked.  One of the friends walked it and said, “oh jeez, this place is nice, too bad my kid is totally going to tear it apart.”  So the kid looked up at his mom right after she said that and subsequently began to tear the room apart.  That was her expectation for what he was going to do and so he fulfilled that expectation like any kid would.

This works for bedtime too.  If bedtime isn’t what you were hoping it would be and it is a mess of emotions, push-back, fussing and headache, then make a plan of what bedtime should be.  Find a picture schedule online and use the parts that work for you.  Add in other parts and take out what won’t work.  Then let your kids know.  Talk to them about what they need to do.  Do you help them with their pajamas but they need to brush their own teeth?  Let them know what the expectations are.

Finally, let kids know what will happen if they do or don’t do what is expected of them.

On long days with lots of errands or chores, I list the things that need to be done and then the last thing is something enjoyable, something outside, something relaxing or energy releasing.  This way, kids have something to look forward to and know that they need to hold it together for such and such amount of time before they can release it all.  And if there are issues, problems, etc, then the errands stop and everyone heads home.  Now they can still run around at home, you can still take some space in your room if it was really bad, but the last stop at the park didn’t get added into the mix if the kids just couldn’t handle everything.  And it’s ok.  Your kids won’t always be able to run 3 errands in a row.  They won’t always be able to sit while they eat at a restaurant.  And if they can’t sit, then it means it is time to go home, maybe time to go to bed.

Time to start again new tomorrow.

And the next time, let them know ahead of time and chances are, they’ll be able to do it.

 

cio

This was the exact question that I got asked yesterday and I love this question!  Unfortunately it isn’t a short yes or no answer, but there is some concrete information out there that can really help parents.  But there are also a lot of emotions out there that can really complicate this topic.

So the shortest answer?

There are two extremes:

  • Cry-it-out extinction where the parent leaves the child alone in the room for the night is on one end
  • Attending to every single whimper so that the child never cries is on the other hand.

Neither of these is recommended by a single expert.

 

So now for the longer answer:

Your child is going to cry at some point.  That is OK and is normal, expected, not going to cause any harm and is actually recommended with you there to support your kiddo.

You and your child are going to go through transitions as they grow.  You will eventually stop night feedings, your child may develop fears, you might return to work, your child will develop separation anxiety, your child will drop naps, your child will develop independence, and with each of these transitions, there will be some adjustment to the change.

There will be tears.

You can be there to support those tears.

You can also give some space.

So on one end of the spectrum cry-it-out might look like this:

Your 6 month old baby sleeps in a crib in another room.  You have your baby on a pretty good schedule but she is still waking every two hours at night.   You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may lie by the crib or you may rub her back for 2 minutes and then leave for 5 minutes until she stops crying.  After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice a night. 

And on the other end of the spectrum, cry-it-out might look like this:

You share a bed with your 13 month old.  You feed her when she asks but it is getting to be too much because it is every one to two hours at night.  You would like to bring the feedings down to one or two feedings per night.  You make a plan with her and your husband that you are only going to feed her two times at night.  You tell her that she can do it and that you will be there for her.   Then when she wakes when it isn’t time to feed, you or your husband are there to comfort her.  You may sleep in another room while your husband comforts her so that she doesn’t try to get milk.  Or you may just remind her while rubbing her back or cradling her that there isn’t any food until a certain time.  There will be crying and you will be there for her and comfort her while you cut back on night feedings.   After a couple of nights, she gets used to the new schedule and only wakes to feed twice at night. 

 

What does the research say about cry it out?

You have probably heard that there are studies that say that cry-it-out will cause long-term damage to your child.  You may also have heard that cry-it-out is just fine for your baby.  There are actually only two heavily referenced studies on cry-it-out and both of them only give limited info on the subject.  The only thing experts truly know about this is that we don’t know enough and we could do a plethora of studies to learn more.

The cry-it-out is bad for babies study

This study was done with a group of babies in a lab and it was testing the synchronicity of the mother’s and baby’s cortisol levels when they were crying-it-out.  We don’t know much about how the babies were supported but what we do know is that after 3 nights, the mothers’ cortisol levels went down and the babies’ cortisol levels remained high.  We do know what cortisol levels are an indicator of stress and we do know what certain amounts of stress are bad.  We also know that it good when mothers are in tune with their babies.  So yes, there will be a certain amount of stress with crying-it-out.  Does it cause long-term damage?  This study doesn’t show that it does.

The cry-it-out is fine for babies study

This study was done over five years with a group of families and one group of families was given sleep training information and the other group got no additional information.  After 5 years, they couldn’t tell much of a difference in either behavior or sleep habits.  So what does this show?  Nothing really. It just says that the babies who may have been sleep trained turned out fine and that the parents who didn’t sleep train have children that sleep just fine. 

Summary:

Your babies are going to cry and that’s OK.  All babies will cry.  

You choose the level of support and when you want to make transitions.  

It isn’t recommended by anyone to leave your baby to cry for hours by yourself.  You baby may cry for hours, but you will be there so support them. 

 

 

 

sleep 2

If you have a child, or even just know a child, you have probably heard all of the advice for helping your child sleep.  From Ferber to bed-sharing, there is a wide spectrum of philosophies.  Your head is probably spinning from all of the information, so I’m going to break it down for you.

 

the-sleep-spectrum

The crazy thing is, that contrary to the comment sections on blog posts, your children will be just fine no matter which of these methods you choose.  It really comes down to your family and how everyone will get the best sleep.

You may have heard that having your child cry-it-out could be traumatizing for your children, but the reality is that all children cry and get upset. And as you can see in the info-graphic above, if you stop your child from nursing or sleeping with you (no matter where you fall on the spectrum), then you will illicit some tears.   It should also be known that the statement about traumatizing children is based one study that was done with a small sample and in a sleep laboratory.  There is another study that looks at children 5 years later whose parents used different cry-it-out techniques and who show “no lasting harm”.  Until many, many studies that are longitudinal and have a large sample size have been done, you can rest assured that your child will be fine if you allow them to cry it out.

That doesn’t mean that you should, though.  If if doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it.

You may have also heard that if you allow your children to nurse on demand and share a bed, then they might be smothered or they may continue nursing and bed-sharing until they are eleven years old.  The SIDS fear has been blown out of proportion because many people mistake co-sleeping for bed-sharing and they are not the same.  Very young infants are safer if they are in a bassinet or co-sleeper and not in the same bed. However, there are many studies that show the benefits of co-sleeping and bed-sharing as the infant gets older and as long as the parents follow safe guidelines.   So if you are not drinking alcohol or smoking and you are enjoying the night nursing and toddler bed-sharing, then you by all means, co-sleep and breastfeed for as long as you want.

That doesn’t mean that you should, though.  If it doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it.

The one thing that we know for sure is that sleep deprivation is a real thing and it isn’t OK.  It can cause depression, memory loss, grumpiness, the breakdown of marriage, not taking care of your self or your children among other things.  So if you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation then you should do something!  

Here are some tips that help no matter where you find yourself on the spectrum:

1. Mom needs at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep

This is where dad or another care giver comes in.  If you are exclusively nursing, start introducing a bottle once nursing is established so that you can pump and dad can take care of feedings during those five hours.  This means that mom goes to bed when baby goes to bed and for the next 5 hours, mom sleeps in another room and has earplugs in while dad feeds, rocks, carries, soothes baby.  Once the 5 hours are up, dad has the rest of the night and mom takes over with the feedings.   

2. Routine

Once the baby is 3-4 months old, a routine can start to take shape.  Routines are really the cornerstone for good sleep habits.  With a routine, many children don’t need any sleep help, they simply fall asleep on their own due to the consistency and comfort of knowing what’s going to happen next.  Of course, many more infants, babies and toddlers need more help than just a routine.

3. The “French Pause”

This was made famous by Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing Up Bebe, where she talks about how the french culture always waits a minute or two before they rush to the baby’s side.   This allows the parent to determine what kind of fuss they are experiencing and often allows the child to settle themselves.  

4. Sleep associations

Newborns are always going to fall asleep nursing or drinking from the bottle so that is always everyone’s first sleep association.  But you can start to build in other sleep associations that go alongside nursing if you eventually want more independent sleeping.  White noise, music, essential oils, a special toy or lovey, or a certain kind of light are all good things to do while your child falls asleep so that you can remove one association and keep another to help them achieve independent sleep. 

5. Make sure your child doesn’t get overtired

An overtired child is a child who will never go to sleep.  They become hyperactive to keep themselves awake.  They go and go and go until they crash.  This is not a healthy situation for anyone.  Keep a lookout for signs of tiredness and use them to your advantage.  When you see yawns, droopy eyelids, decreased activity, or even some crankiness, it is time to put your child to sleep.  If you can, start the process before this happens so that once they are showing signs, you are right on schedule.

6. Have an active day and get outside

Be sure to get your children outside at least once per day.  It helps regulate their bodies and helps with night sleep.  The more active children are during the day, the better they will sleep at night.  This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping them from napping since sleep begets sleep, but it does mean to have a fun and active day!

 

 

 

outside

The days are getting longer and all I can think about is getting outside with the family.

Here in Colorado we have 13 National Parks and they are a great place to start your spring and summertime adventures.  On May 21, the National Park Trust is hosting a Kids to Parks Day to get your kids excited about what theses parks have to offer. Why do we want to get kids into our National Parks?  They are some of the most amazing parts of Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park, Sand Dunes National Park), they have interesting history (Bent’s Old Fort, Mesa Verde) and they are great for everyone in the family.

At the end of the post, I have information about a National Parks Giveaway!

Here’s 5 reasons why it is so important to do that:

1. The outdoors are screen free!

Are you attempting to keep your child screen-free or limit the amount of screen time?  Well, the easiest way to do that is to get outside!  Every day and every weekend that you plan to be outside, you can also plan to never hear, “Can we watch that video?” or “Mama, phone!”

2. Good exercise and better mental health

Getting outside pretty much guarantees exercise and good exercise guarantees fewer tantrums, better mental health and happier families. If you head to Mesa Verde National Park, you will be climbing ladders, and if your choice is Sand Dunes National Park, you might be sand boarding or just a simple trek to Colorado National Monument and you could be hiking or biking.  Live longer and happier by just getting outside.

3. Awareness of our world

It is crazy that most people can name TV characters, sports team stats, and the names of famous people’s babies and yet they don’t know any names of birds, trees or flowers.  Getting your children outside will balance that out.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be aware of social media or what is happening in our government, it just means also being able to recognize the song of a robin.  Just being outside a couple days a week will give your children an awareness that can be invaluable to their life.

4. Learn new skills

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can learn lots of new skills in the outdoors from map reading, to fishing, to climbing, to learning about different plants and animals.   Our boys each have an animal tracks book and a flower book to bring along on our hikes.  The National Parks Trust also has a great booklet you can print before heading out with lots of activities.

5. Nature

This one parallels #2 and includes one of my favorite quotes: “Nature; cheaper than therapy”.  Being in nature is good for mental health and when children learn to appreciate nature at a young age, lots of great things happen.  They will be healthier adults, they will be more likely to advocate for conservation, and they will have more awareness of their environment.

So start planning on which National Park you will visit this May 21 and join the almost 73,000 other people who are pledging to take their kid to a National Park!

Leave a comment below about your plans to visit a National Park and you could win a Buddy Bison stuffed animal and two books (Kid’s National Parks Guide and Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure) to accompany you and your children on your trip!   This set of books values at $25 and is a great way to make life-literacy connections. Winners will be chosen at random by May 21, 2016.  This giveaway is sponsored by The National Parks Trust and Kids to Parks Day.

routines

One of the most important tools that you can use to help your children with sleeping, eating, behavior, etc. is setting up a routine.  I know that schedules aren’t for everyone and if it doesn’t work for your family then it just doesn’t work.  But if you are on the fence about making a routine and schedule for your children, but are afraid that the schedules will soon rule you, then hear this:

 
Schedules give you freedom.
 
Picture this:  your family wakes up whenever and sometimes you have breakfast before you leave for the day, but sometimes you don’t.  Dinner could be anywhere from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and bedtime is never the same.   

Because of this, you can be out late with your kids one night and then plop them into bed early another night.  This sounds great and like I said, and for some people it works.  But a lot of those late nights end up with the children screaming and fighting.  Then the nights that you try to get them to bed early (because they are exhausted) end up as power struggles (please one more show, just another book, I’m not tired yet, pleeeeaaase)
 
Then your whole family goes on vacation and it is in a different time zone and neither you nor your children have any idea when you should eat or sleep.  And your week long vacation turns into the week long tantrum fest.
 
But…

If you have a schedule and a routine for your children, then neither you nor your children are guessing what is next, and you don’t have to struggle with difficult behavior or tantrums which often makes it difficult to go out or to travel.   

If dinner is always around 6 pm and bedtime is always around 7:30, (or whatever time works for you) then you can have many nights out and come home and your child goes straight to bed.  If you want to go out later, then one of the spouses can leave without having to worry about power struggles at home, or you can bring the children out every once in a while and it won’t affect their routine at all.  A good rule of thumb is stick to the routine about 90% of the time and you can totally throw the routine out the window 10% of the time without any ill effects. 
 
Then when your whole family goes on vacation on the other side of the world, you can easily move your route back or forwards a couple of hours and BAM, right back on schedule with no problems at all.  It makes traveling a dream, and something that you’ll want to do and be able to do all the time.  
 
When children have a routine and know what to expect, they don’t need to lash out and misbehave in order to make sense of their world.   So setting up a routine will actually allow you to do more things and give more freedom to your life.

Don’t be afraid that setting up a steady routine will be the end of your social life and having fun, in fact, it is exactly the opposite.  So if you are thinking about how you can get out more, or how you can do that trip that you have been thinking about for the last year; start today with a good schedule and before you know it, your life with kids will be more exciting and fun than before kids!!
 
If you have more questions and are wondering what kind of schedule might work for you, contact us today!
This article is © Copyright – All rights reserved http://boulderchildwhisperer.com

order

If you have children, you have chaos in your life.  They turn our whole lives upside down even if (especially if) we prefer order in our lives.  

But here’s the thing: Children want and need order in their lives too.

They need the same thing over and over and over in their lives.

They need the same bedtime (ish) every night.  

They need the same story read a zillion times.

They need the same food in front of them about 15-20 times before they feel comfortable with it.


They need the same people in their lives as much as possible.

They need the same song over and over a trillion times.

They need to know where the toys belong (box for cars, shelf for books, basket for food, etc)

They need the same consequence that they are done eating every time they throw their food.

They need to have the same holiday traditions every year until they are doing it for their kids as well.




They need toys that have all their pieces, aren’t broken and are organized. 

They need the same calm reaction to their tantrums that lets them know they are safe.

When children have order in their lives, they feel more secure.  When children feel more secure in their lives, they have fewer behavior issues. 

This article is © Copyright – All rights reserved http://boulderchildwhisperer.com

second guessing

There are so many ways to parent out there- attachment parenting, cry-it-out, organic versus non-organic, that it can make your head spin.  Not one of these ways is the absolute best or worst way to parent (although you may hear differently from fanatics).   

But one thing that any parent can avoid is second guessing their decision.  It is not good for children to have their parents backtrack after a decision is made.

I often hear, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works!”  Those words themselves tell me exactly what the problem is.  If you are trying everything, then you aren’t sticking with one thing until you see a change in behavior.  Consistency is what helps a child through a tough time because it builds stability.  

One issue that most parents deal with is helping their child sleep through the night.  Again, there are as many philosophies as there are book deals available, and no one philosophy is correct.  They all have good parts and bad parts.  But once you choose the philosophy, stick with it.  When your child is crying at 3 am, remember the words of your chosen philosopher and don’t go back on your decision.  It will be hard because if you chose a form of cry-it-out and you start to doubt yourself in the middle of the night, then you are just prolonging the process and confusing your child.  If you choose a form of co-sleeping and after a week decide that you can’t have them in the bed any longer, then you are just dragging it out.  

Same thing with disciplining.  There are many ways to discipline.  Choose one with your husband, and then stick with it.  Your children will thank you. 

I’ve been in situations where either me or my husband makes a disciplining decision off the cuff and we both immediately regret it.  But we look at each other and with a split second decision of solidarity, and we carry on through the bad parenting decision.

Why? Because it is important for the children to see us working as team (even with questionable parenting decisions) and it is important to be consistent.  Children feel safer with consistency and you build trust by following through with what you say you are going to do.