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Entries in crib (3)

Friday
Mar302012

Ask Malia: He Only Naps In My Arms

Hi Malia,

My 5-month-old son Brayden doesn’t nap much, and he refuses to nap in his crib. He’ll only sleep while I’m holding him and when I try to put him down, he screams. Right now he’s only napping for about 30 minutes at a time, and he’s exhausted by the end of the day. At night, he sleeps in his crib just fine. So it’s just the naps that are a struggle. I’d really like to change this pattern. He’s not getting enough napping in and I’m not getting a thing done during the day. Please help!

Kelly

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Hi Kelly,

Holding a baby while he sleeps can be wonderful. Until it isn't. The baby get heavier, naps get shorter, and pretty soon, you'd love to put your little bundle of love down for a few precious minutes so you can shower, load the dishwasher, or pay attention to your other kids.

You’re definitely not alone with this. In fact, it's probably the most common sleep question I get. So many parents end up with a young baby who prefers sleeping while being held (I mean, really...wouldn't you?). Many especially like to nap in someone's arms. Oddly, sleep associations can be different for naps and nighttime. So he might be totally OK with sleeping in his crib at night but give a big fat “no way!” to sleeping there at naptime.

For his naps, Brayden associates sleep with being held, and when you try and put him down, he startles and wakes up. What often happens is a parent will nurse/rock and child to sleep, hold him or her for 5-10 minutes (which tick by very slowly and seem like forever) and then place the child in the crib. The child promptly wakes up and screams. Then the parent repeats the process. This eats up a lot of time, and soon, the entire nap period is over without the child getting a real nap.

Unforuntately, even if he's sleeping in his preferred location (your arms) he's not getting a restful nap. The motion of your body will prevent him from cycling through the stages of sleep effectively, and his sleep won't be as restorative.

The good news is that you can break this pattern and help support his need for longer, more restorative naps. Here’s how:

1. First, make sure his sleeping space is completely black-out dark, as this will help keep him from stirring and awakening while you are working on this process. Also, put a digital clock in there that you can see while you are working on this. It's easy to lose all sense of time when you're in a completely dark room with an infant for what seems like forever.

2. When you put him down for a nap, nurse him to sleep and do whatever you do to get him to sleep. Be sure that you are in his room and that it's dark. You want him to associate his room with sleep.

3. Once he is alseep, hold him for a full 20-25 minutes. This gives him time to cycle through the first stages of sleep and reach the deepest stage of sleep. When he is absolutely deep asleep, his limbs will be slack, his breathing deep and even, and he will be motionless. If he is breathing shallow breaths or making small noises, he's still in a lighter stage of sleep. Wait for the deep sleep.

4. Once he is in the deepest stage of sleep, gently lay him down in his crib. When he is in the deepest stage of sleep, he won't be aware of this transfer, as he would be if you had put him down after only a few minutes. (Again, it's important that the room is dark and quiet, to make it less likely that he will fully awaken if he does stir.) Keep your hands on his back to assure him of your presence and to make the transition from your body to the crib as gradual as possible.

5. Stay with him in the room another 10 minutes to ensure that he will remain asleep. If he does wake at all, you want to be quick to respond by soothing him with patting, rubbing his back, and saying "shhhhhh" in a steady, soothing way before he wakes up fully. You want to avoid picking him up and restarting the process, so only do that if he is screaming and thrashing for more than a minute or two.

6. Stay with step 4 for all naps over a couple of days, until you are confident that you're able to transfer him to his crib after about 20 minutes of holding. Continue staying with him for another 10-15 minutes to ensure that he's asleep.

7. Once you've got the hang of this step, begin to shave minutes off the time you've been holding him before putting him down in his crib. So if you've been holding him 20 minutes before putting him down, try holding for just 18 minutes. Then 16. Then 14. Stay at each stage for a day or two before moving on. What you are doing is getting him used to being put down in progressively lighter and lighter stages of sleep. Soon you will be putting him down in a light stage of sleep, and soothing him with touch and your voice if he stirs. Then, as you move on, eventually you will be putting him down drowsy. Eventually you will be able to put him down drowsy and walk out, maybe with a bit of patting or reassurance, and then you're done.

This process seems cumbersome, but it is very effective if you stay the course. You may get "stuck" at certain stages, (like, you can't seem to put him down with any fewer than 15 minutes of holding) but just stay with it and you will progress. Just like with anything else, progress sometimes comes in fits and starts. I estimate the entire process will take you about 2-3 weeks if you stick with it! Good luck, and enjoy all the free time you'll have on your hands very soon.

I’m an award-winning parenting and health journalist, sleep coach, and mom of three. My articles about sleep, health, and parenting appear regularly in over 90 national and regional magazines and on television, and I've been featured by YAHOO Shine, MSN Health, the TODAY Show, and TODAY Moms. Can I help you? Subscribe to The Well Rested Family to have sleep news, tips, and tactics delivered to your inbox or feed reader by clicking here.

I offer sleep coaching on call for tired parents ready to make a change. Take the first step by booking your session here.

Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!

My newest e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!

Friday
Feb172012

Ask Malia: Big-Kid Milestones are Wrecking Sleep

Hi Malia,

We moved my 3-year-old to a big-girl-bed a couple months ago, around the time her baby sister was born. It went great. Then, last week when she turned 3, we took away pacifier. Though she knew this was coming and we talked about it for months, it hasn't gone well. She comes into our room 3-6 times per night wanting to be tucked in and get one more song. She willingly goes back to bed, but comes out again and again. Is this likely just a transition issue? When she adjusts to not having the pacifier, will it go away? How long do we keep forcing her to go back to her room?

Theresa

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Dear Theresa,

Congratulations on the new addition to your family—and congrats on your older daughter’s milestones! It sounds like there’s a lot to celebrate at your house. Now for the bad news: Too much change, all at once, can throw off a child’s sleep. As you probably know, your daughter’s world is kind of topsy-turvy right now. She’s only a few months into the big-kid-kid bed transition, recently paci-free, and just celebrated a birthday, all on top of becoming a big sister.

It's normal to deal with regression in these circumstances. And it’s normal for a child with a new sibling to want more attention from mom and dad. Unfortunately, sometimes this manifests in the middle of the night. So you are going to need to be patient with her. I always advise parents to deal with one issue at a time, but you have multiple things going on here. You can't go back and give her the pacifier or put her back into a crib (nor would you want to) so you're just going to have to deal with it all at once.

Here is my advice:

  1. With such broken nighttime sleep, she’s at risk for becoming severely overtired. To prevent this, maintain a consistent nap schedule (but don’t let her nap longer than 1.5 hours) and an age-appropriate bedtime.  Try to have her in bed by 8 pm.
  2. Remain very consistent in taking her back to her room each time she wakes up during the night.

When you take her back to her room, STAY WITH HER UNTIL SHE IS DEEP ASLEEP. I recognize that this is the last thing you want to do. But unless you do this, two things will happen. 1) She will pop out of her room again and again, becoming more awake and less likely to go back to sleep each time, and 2) You and your spouse will get zero sleep because she’ll be up and down for hours.

Stay in her room until she is deep asleep. If she protests and wants to get out of her room, tell her “It’s time for sleep.” Deal with any requests (glass of water, etc.) with minimal interaction and only in her room.

To answer your question of "how long do we keep forcing her to go back to her room"—as many times as you need to. Your willpower has got to be stronger than hers. Don’t allow her to get up and stay up. Being up at 4:30 am is not appropriate for a child. If she does wake up that early, stay in a darkened room to protect her circadian rhythms from disruption (too much light or stimulation early in the morning will program her brain to continue the early wakings—the last thing you want).

If you need to lie in her bed with her, rock her, or rub her back to get her to sleep, so be it. It is much easier to wean her off these behaviors later, than it is to deal with a circadian cycle that’s completely out of whack from being up all night.

I’m sure you’re ready for some good news now, so here it is: As the transitions in your home smooth out, her sleep will smooth out too. Keep being a fabulous mom to your two lucky kids, and good luck!

 

Image courtesy of zazzle.com

Tuesday
Jan242012

Crib Dos and Don'ts

At some point, most new parents realize that the assembly instructions that came with their newly-purchased crib are pretty much useless. Sure, the manual tells you how to get the crib upright and where to put the screws, but it doesn’t tell you what you really need to know: how to get your baby to sleep in the thing. When it comes to cribs, you’re bound to have a few questions, like how to get your baby to like the crib, the best time to move a toddler out of one, and whether it’s OK to use a crib for time-out. Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep your little one happy and safe in the crib.

DO give your child quiet playtime in her crib. Starting this habit in infancy gives your child the freedom to play in a safe, familiar environment and helps her to develop positive associations with her sleeping space. Infants shouldn’t be placed in a crib with soft toys, but can gaze at a mobile, pictures, or their hands. Toddlers can relax in the crib with books and a blanket.

DON’T use the crib as a place for time-out or punishment. According to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., this can lead your child to develop a negative association with his bed, setting the stage for sleep problems.

DO explore alternative to traditional crib bumpers. Last fall, I posted about Chicago’ controversial ban on crib bumpers, and I got some heated comments in response. Turns out, some parents are still pro-bumper, and are understandably grumpy about the government meddling with their baby’s bedding. If you just can’t picture a crib without a bumper, consider this breathable bumper from One Step Ahead. (And if you do buy a traditional bumper, don’t invest too heavily. If other cities and states follow Chicago’s lead, reselling the bumper later might prove difficult.)

DON’T resell or give away a hazardous drop-side crib. Instead, check out these nifty ways to reuse an old crib. (I love the creativity center idea!).

DO move your child from a crib to a toddler bed when he's ready. How do you know if he's ready? If the crib is no longer comfortable (because he’s too tall or heavy for it), safe (because he’s climbing out of it), or practical (because you need the crib for a new baby), it's time to make the switch.

DON’T move your child to a toddler bed too soon. Many parents rush the move to a toddler bed, thinking they need to make the transition during a certain “window” of time. In fact, if your child is experiencing sleep problems or resisting naps, moving to a toddler bed prematurely can make things worse. (My article “Tips For A Smooth Toddler Bed Transition” in this month's Montgomery Parents magazine covers this topic in more detail.)

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For more answers to toddler sleep questions, including a more detailed response to the toddler-bed question, check out my guest post at Abby Off The Record.