2013-10-22 07.58.58

Problem solving skills are useful for a variety of reasons and can be brought out in any situation.  If bedtime isn’t working for you, your spouse, your children or your neighbor upstairs, then bring out your problem solving skills!

First: what are the steps to problem solving?

  1. Name the problem
  2. Come up with some solutions
  3. Try those solutions
  4. If they worked, you’re all good- if they didn’t work, go back to number 2

OK, so, what’s the problem?

The kids whine and keep asking for things and bedtime takes forever?  Or, they go to bed just fine but an hour or two later, they are up and in our bed and won’t fall asleep? Or, I have to lay with them for hours and hours thinking about all the work I need to do? Or just before bed they start jumping and yelling and playing and throwing things?

Let’s pick one:

The problem is that bedtime takes forever.

We start the bedtime routine at 7 and the kids are finally asleep at 9 or 10 at night.

So now let’s go to step 2: find some solutions.

First talk with your partner to see what ideas you each have and what each person is comfortable doing and then take the problem to the whole family.  If you have kids over a year or a year and a half, they can participate.  If they are younger than that, then they can’t give input but they can still hear the verdict.  An infant who is told what their bedtime routine is does better than one who has no idea.  True story.

So, the whole family is sitting around the dinner table, and you say, “We have a problem.  Bedtime isn’t working.  We need to come up with some ideas to make bedtime more enjoyable for everyone.”  Then start asking for some ideas.  No idea is a bad idea.  One idea is to move bedtime to 9 or 10 pm since I met with one sleep expert who gave out that idea and it works for some people.  Another idea is to move bedtime to 6:30 since many children get over-tired and become hyperactive just to stay awake and then they have difficultly falling asleep.  This also works well for many families.  Ask your children what they think.  Would a picture schedule help?  Would cutting out chocolate help?  Let’s try it.  What do you think about having a timer during bath time so it doesn’t go on forever?  Maybe we could all lay together in one bed and then one child switches to their own bed so that I don’t spend two hours laying in each bed every night.  Idea after idea after idea.

Then try the ideas. Not too many changes all at once.  Depending on the age of your children, you can choose one or two changes and try those for a couple weeks up to a month before revisiting and seeing if the new idea works.  

If it works, then great!  If it doesn’t work, that’s OK- back to the problem solving table!

You don’t have to be stuck in the spot that you are in.  Changes can happen and although there might be some tears with the changes, you can be there to support your children through the different routine.

Finally, set up a plan for when things don’t go the way they should.

Let’s say that you talk with your family and you make a picture schedule with dinner, bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story and bed.  Then make a plan for what happens when we get off-track.  Listen to ideas from your children.  Then add in your own idea of losing one of the stories.  “We don’t have enough time to read a book since we had a big problem when it was time to put on pajamas”.  Or maybe you have another idea when things aren’t going well.  At any rate, have a consequence for that boundary so that you can all stay on track for a reasonable bedtime.

It may take a couple of weeks for the changes to show up so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see anything right away but know that a more peaceful bedtime routine is just around the corner!



So hopefully, at some point you have built story time into your day or into your nighttime routine.  If not, you can start at anytime.  It felt really weird reading to my infants who couldn’t even keep their head up (why in the world would they have interest in a book that they can’t see, hear, understand?!?) But not long after that, they were looking at the pictures, and then right after that they were pointing and now they can talk for hours about each book that we read!

So- here are my top 5 tips for reading bedtime stories to toddlers:

1) Routine- Read in the same place whether it be a bed, chair, couch or book nook.  Also do the same thing before and after the book.  We would put on pajamas, brush teeth, read our book and then go to bed.  When we would be out traveling (or in our car, or on a plane) we would follow that same routine and the boys would go right to sleep no matter where we were since we had a nice routine.

2) Be OK with the same book every night for the next three years.  Not only do kids love repetition but it is imperative for their learning.   They build relationships with their books and reading through repetition.  They also learn about sounds, letters, reading, rhymes and rhythm when you read the same book over and over and over and over and over.

3) Snuggle – Be comfortable.  If your reading space isn’t comfortable and cozy then find some pillows or a place that you really look forward to every night.  If you are reading in bed and it causes you to strain your neck, then get more head support or move to a seated reading space.  If you really look forward to reading each night, then undoubtedly your kids will too.

4) Be silly– Have voices, read fast, then slow, loud then quiet.  Give the story life!

5) Extend the story – Maybe just read a couple of pages and then be open to talking about anything or everything. If they start talking, don’t shush them, follow their lead.  The goal of story time isn’t necessarily finishing the book, but it is connecting, talking, learning more about each other and the world.  The story might be about a fish going to bed and all they want to talk about are the colors of the fish, then talk about the colors.  There will be a million other nights to read about the fish’s story- let tonight be about the colors.

Enjoy reading with your kids- one of life’s simplest joys.



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. 


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 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!





I love reading about new studies and new ideas and this one is one of my favorites because it seems so obvious and yet I had never thought about it.  Last fall, the New York Times published an article that I have referred to many times about light and sleep.  

I read it the night that it came out and as we were falling asleep, my husband and I were talking about how light affects our sleep as well.  And then my husband said as he was drifting asleep, “Yep, that bright LED light in the boys room has always kept me up. I always thought it should be a more orange-ish light.”  Then he fell asleep. 

After he said that, I couldn’t sleep.  Was I unintentionally keeping my children from deep sleep by putting in a low energy LED night-light?  My mind raced forward 20 years where my children couldn’t get jobs because they didn’t do well in school because I’d put a bright night-light in their room when they were little.  So I got up and as my husband peacefully snoozed, I created an orange cover from construction paper and tape to put over the boy’s night-light.  I snuck in their room and changed their light from a bright blue light to a dimmed orange light.

The next morning and almost every morning since then, they have slept a half hour longer.  It may be in my head, but they seem better rested and happier children.

I would love to purchase the light bulb that is mentioned in the article, but since we aren’t about to buy every gadget that comes out to help kids, I have decided to try to make my own night light. 

In researching this, I read that having no night-light in the bedroom is actually the best for inducing sleep.  So if you have older children with no fears of the dark, you can slowly move the light out of the room by moving it to plugs that are further away and then covering the light with more and more paper until it is dark.  Then have a light in the hallway for night wakings.

But if you have a younger child or a child who is afraid of the dark, then try some different ways to make the light dimmer and more orange.  And if you have the extra cash and want to see how well the advertised bulb works, then I’d love to hear how it works! 



After the bath has been taken, the pajamas are on, the milk has been drunk, the book has been read, it is time to put dad in charge.  

It doesn’t matter who is in charge of the rest of the bedtime routine, just make sure that dad has the kiddos last.  Dad is the one who puts them in their crib.  Dad is the one who snuggles one last time.  Dad is the one who closes the door.

There isn’t an exact science behind this as far as I know, it just works.  There are a lot of sleep books that say that dads are the best for putting kids to bed.  Nobody knows why, but there are some good theories out there.

  • Dads are often better at just “getting things done.”  I don’t know if it goes back to caveman days when the men had one thing to do- hunt- and they did it well, while women are constantly multitasking.
  • Dads don’t have as much of the “emotional side” that moms tend to have which may keep moms from setting limits at bedtime.
  • Dads don’t smell like mom.  Seriously.  This is the number one reason why dads should put their kids to bed.  Moms smell like milk, snuggles, etc., which make children want “more, more, more”.  Dads don’t have that smell and therefore don’t have the association with wanting more milk, snuggles or whatever is keeping your kiddo awake.
  • Dads don’t often get this time with their kiddos so it is great for bonding.

Try it tonight.  For some reason, with mom, the goodnights drag on forever, or the little one won’t stop crying.  With mom you might hear,  “just one more, just one more…”  But with dad, it is much shorter and sweeter.

Try it.  You won’t believe it until you try it.  You don’t even have to coach him on what you do (because what he does is what works!)  Just let everyone know the new plan (kiddos too!  Keep them in the loop!) and put dad in charge of bedtime tonight.

Boulder Child Whisperer

Man oh man.  When was the last time you got a good foot rub?  Probably way too long ago.  Well, if you aren’t getting any good foot rubs, at least your little one should be.

When my boys were babies, I really really wanted to take a massage for babies class.  I thought that it would validate me as a “good mother”.  But, alas, the cost of the class and the fact that I had two babies got in the way and I never took the class.

So for a while, I felt like a bad mother and kept putting off giving my baby a massage since I didn’t know the “right” way to give one and then one day, I just started rubbing my baby’s foot and his whole body melted in my hands.

Then it started to become part of our bedtime routine.  We couldn’t do it every night due to timing, but most nights that we didn’t do a bath, we did foot rubs.  Then came a time where they didn’t want a foot rub.  They would laugh and kick my hands and said it tickled.  We stopped doing it.

Then I remembered the foot rubs again and it changed the whole energy of the bedtime routine.

  • Foot rubs calm the whole nervous system of the child
  • Foot rubs are a great way of connecting.  If you have had an especially trying or tiring day, it is so nice to end it with a foot rub
  • I don’t know much about reflexology, but I love to imagine all the ailments that I must be curing while I’m giving a foot rub. (“And while I’m rubbing here, the tummy ache is going away…”)
  • They feel so good

So if you are having a great day or if you are having a horrible day, tonight give your kiddo a foot rub!



Before I had kids I had heard of sleep cycles but until I was working with them to become better sleepers, I never really understood the concept.  

Now I do.

We have sleep cycles.  The shortest ones are 20 minutes, then 45 minutes and then 2 hour sleep cycles. These are dependent on what kind of sleep you are in, whether it is light and active sleep or deep and still sleep.

Whether you are co-sleeping or independent sleeping, you will need to help your children through these cycles in order for them to become better sleepers. 

After the first three months of life, you can start to watch your child for their sleep pattern.  Typically, an infant will only sleep about 20 minutes in their crib while they are napping.  They are just in a light active sleep for that time and they will need help transitioning into a deeper sleep.  If you know that your child wakes at the end of that cycle (which most children do) then be there at their side at that 20 minute interval and make sure that they don’t wake much and soothe them into their deeper sleep.  

This will take some time to regulate their bodies but is well worth it!  

Even older children can learn to help their bodies back to sleep if they wake during a sleep cycle.

As children become better and more consistent nappers, you’ll find them lengthening their naps to about 45 minutes.  But for young children, this still isn’t enough sleep for their growing brains and bodies.   This is just one full sleep cycle and they need two.  At this point, the children are a little bit older and can often soothe themselves back to sleep.  If you hear movement or sound, don’t react immediately.  Give them enough time to fall back asleep and if they are getting more agitated  then you can help soothe them back to sleep by either rubbing their tummies, rubbing their backs, finding a pacifier, or whatever works best for your child.   But naps should be at least and hour and a half– up to three hours if they are only taking one nap.

Again, this will take time and there might be some difficult days, but consistency works and once your child realizes that nap time isn’t over then they will learn to take longer naps.  

At night is when I often see the 2 hour sleep cycle take hold.  This starts because young infants need to feed that often and even when children no longer need feedings at night, they may wake at those times and will need help learning how to fall back asleep once they wake up.  

The concept of helping a child back to sleep during this nighttime cycle is exactly the same.    If your child wakes every single night at 10:45pm (and you are no longer feeding at night) then you can go into his room at 10:35/ 10:40 and help your child back to sleep before he really wakes up.  You can make shushing noises, rub his belly/ back.  You can talk sweet nothings into his ear.  Just make sure that they are able to get through their wake cycle without completely waking. 

If they do wake completely, do what you can before picking them up.  Try to soothe them back to sleep while they are still in their bed.  If all else fails, you can pick them up and hold them but the process of them learning to fall back asleep will take a little bit longer.  

Once you realize that children aren’t necessarily saying that they are done sleeping when they are just passing from one sleep cycle to the next, you will be better equipped to help them become better sleepers. 



So it turns out I need a cat whisperer.  

After months and months of our cat waking us up every night to be let out, my husband had had enough.  So I looked up online to see if there is anyway I can get the cat to stop waking us up.  I really had to laugh.  It is my job to help parents with the same thing and I never thought to transfer the same ideas over to the cat.

Consistency and Routine.


It is what I preach everyday and I even knew it, but I wasn’t doing it.  Which makes me think about how many parents are aware of what they are supposed to be doing, but aren’t doing it.

So with routine, the website says, “Be sure that you set up a routine for your cat.  Feed him at the same time every day, have play time about the same time everyday.”  So I was feeding my cat whenever I got around to it, and sometimes not at all if I forgot.  I have two little ones and sometimes they would want to feed the cat in the middle of the day and I thought, “Hey, why not?”  I know why not, it breeds insecurity, apparently with cats as well.  

With consistency, the website says, “If you consistently interact with your cat when they are meowing at night, then they will continue to meow.  But if you stop interacting with them, then they will stop meowing at night.”  It is hard to be consistent because I know that if I just let my cat outside, then I can go back to sleep.  But if I don’t, then he will continue to meow for the next hour or so.  But the website then says, “Inconsistency will lead to your cat continuing to wake you at night.  If you are consistent with not interacting, then your cat will no longer wake you after 10 days to 2 weeks.”

So we are on night three of my new plan.  I have been feeding my cat at 8 am and 5 pm for three days straight and he has meowed for about a half an hour for two nights and we didn’t interact with him.  It hasn’t been too bad because now we have a plan.  Before, it just drove my husband crazy because it felt like we didn’t have control, but now we have a plan and we are a united front!

Lessons learned:

1) You get into a rut and think that what you are experiencing is the only option.  But it’s not.

2) Inconsistency breeds insecurity and unwanted behavior.

3)  Making a plan is the first step to changing behavior

Turns out, all I needed was a cat whisperer!

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When you have one child, you do just about anything to not wake the baby.

But then you have another child.  And now you have extra work to not wake the baby.

Here’s the thing:

Children learn how to sleep.  

So a child who is born in a really hot humid climate, will know how to sleep in a hot humid climate. (My children cannot sleep if it is over 75º however…)

A child who is born into a noisy household, will know how to sleep though all the noise.

A child who is born with a barking dog, will know how to sleep even when the dog is barking all of the time.

A child who is born with a twin will be able to sleep though the other child’s wailing.

It is a common frustration for mothers with toddlers and babies to feel like they need to indulge the toddler’s every whim to keep them from waking the baby, but they aren’t doing anyone a favor.  The new baby will learn how to sleep with the other child crying/ screaming.  And when I say “learn” I am implying that there will be times that the baby does wake due to the noise.  These times will be super frustrating, but just like anything and everything with having children, “this too shall pass.”

When you are consistent with your older children, and don’t give in to their screaming and fussing, their behavior will improve.  

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