Bedtime For Baby

Today I want to talk about one of the aspects of my coaching: bedtime routines. This really is the lynchpin that can hold everything together.* 

As you already know, our bodies need adequate sleep for restoration purposes, memory organization, and our overall well being. Our immune system is greatly impacted by our sleep, or lack of it. When we are ill, we need more sleep in order to recover faster. For our babies and children, sleep is even more critical as they are growing at such rapid rates. Cognitive and physical development is constant. Physical restoration and memory organization happens during restful sleep.

However, nobody fully sleeps through the night. We all wake periodically, we just don’t always remember it. These brief awakenings are known as partial arousals. For children that are not able to fall asleep independently, these partial arousals can become an issue and turn into multiple full awakenings. Falling asleep, or back to sleep, is a learned skill. For some, it comes easily. For others, not so much.  

Children learn what they live. For example, if a child is fed, rocked, or held to sleep whenever they have partial arousal they will become accustomed to that action. The need for something to be done to/for them becomes an association of sleep, otherwise known as a crutch. The more a child is able to put themselves to sleep independently, the easier it is for them to have partial arousal and then return to sleep on their own. Sometimes we may hear them stir or whimper for a moment, but then they fall asleep again.  

We know that we get our best quality sleep when we are not digesting food and when our sleep is unfragmented and motionless.  Therefore, if the goal for a six-month-old child is to be an independent sleeper, then it is best that our babies learn to be down in their safe sleep space “sleepy but not sleeping”  We want them to feel full, sleepy, secure, and content when sleep time is coming. They will know that you are there for them both now and after their rest. Bedtime is the best time to start doing this as your baby will most likely be tired. Having a predictable routine for naps and bedtime is important for our children. They thrive on routines for security.  

A common sleep crutch is having a child fall asleep in our arms and then placing them into their cribs asleep. When they wake up, they are startled and confused by this transition.  

A better example of a bedtime routine: First, the parent feeds the baby, then snuggles/reads/sings. Next, the baby is laid down while awake but sleepy. The parent then sits beside the crib and offers physical and verbal reassurance in an intermittent fashion. If the baby does not need to eat during the night, this important, but detached, reassurance is repeated throughout the night as needed to soothe the baby’s awakenings. Over a few nights, as the baby does better, the interactions are reduced.

Learning, and then following, the child’s individual rhythm is crucial to understanding their need for sleep. Most babies will show us their sleepy cues, and if we are diligent,  we can catch them at that perfect sleepy moment. Of course, there are some babies that are more difficult to read because they become stimulated so easily. For those, we need to watch the clock. This is why we need to record when they feed, sleep, and are awake.  

Ideally, a family will want to set up good healthy habits right from the beginning so that there is actually no need for training! However, few things in life work out exactly the way we want them to. Thankfully, sleep coaches like me are ready and willing to help families who might have gotten off on the wrong foot.  

Undoing certain less than perfect habits is not impossible. For the average full-term baby, gentle sleep coaching can have great success between 6-8 months. When they are older, it can take a little longer. The longer a child has been exposed to any behavior, the longer they can take to unlearn it and learn something new. Some children may fight these new behaviors. Learning new ways of doing things can be hard on the parents as well, but with consistency, patience, and support, old habits can be adapted to new ones. 

Gentle Sleep Coaching is suited for all parents no matter their chosen parenting style as it is a fully customized approach. As a coach, I try to get to know your family dynamic as much as possible and then create a unique plan. Each child is unique and comes with their own individual temperament and personality which may not always mirror the temperaments or personalities of the parents. My goal for the sleep plan is to create an approach that is feasible for the family, otherwise, there is no point. It has to be doable and it has to be with the intention of getting the child into a better sleep pattern. I meet the family where they’re at and then help get them to a better place, whatever that may be for them. The long term goal may also be different from one child to another, even within the same family! 

My goal is to optimize sleep (as much as possible) and minimize crying (as much as possible). For younger babies that may be in the form of tweaking feedings, changing wakeful windows, and educating families on their baby’s sleep needs. 

As a coach, I remain in frequent contact with your family while you’re helping your child learn. Your child continues to feel safe, loved, and secure as the parent offers physical and verbal reassurance. 

Remember, sleep is a learned skill and for some children, it is easier. Also, not all families even feel the need to change the sleep situation in their home. However, if you feel that your child’s sleep struggle is having a negative impact on them and on your family, then I would be happy to be a resource for you. Sleep deprivation in babies can manifest as being extra clingy and fussy. Your baby may be labeled a bad sleeper or a difficult baby. In older kids, it can show up as misbehavior, hyperactivity, or difficulty learning.  

Don’t get discouraged.

Help is available. 

*Although it cannot work on its own. Other areas that I focus on with my clients include adequate food intake, stimulation, daytime routines, and more. All these things can work together to help everyone get the sleep they need. 

Sleepytime

So, what is the meaning behind “Sleepytime Support”?

Well, in my sector, using the word “sleep” is obvious. Obvious and common, very common. Perhaps a little too common.

“Sleepytime” just stands out to me. It rolls off the tongue. It’s not “bedtime”, not “naptime”… but “Sleepytime.”  

To me, there is a little sweetness and innocence to it, just how childhood should be.  

Although I really love the word “sleepytime”, my kiddos may not agree.  I’m sure my neighbors can attest that on occasion “noooooo sleepytime!!!” can be heard from my house! 

However, the word “Support,” is where my name, and my service, gets specific and unique. “Support” is key. That’s what I am here to do. If I had to describe my service with one word, this would be it:  Support.  

I learned about support from my time working as a nanny (approximately. 8 years). I worked for many families, all different dynamics, different sizes, and in different locations. They were all so different, but one thing that was the same was that there were either two siblings or twins. Families of twins were always especially appreciative of the help and support I could provide (now I can really see why!!)  

One thing that I quickly learned (and I learned it the hard way of course) was to start every job with a clean slate. If the family asked me for advice or ideas, I would, of course, be happy to share. Otherwise, I learned to follow their way, their rules, their parenting styles, etc. 

What works for one family just may not work for another. That was not something that I could really learn in my studies. This lesson served me well when I expanded my services and started working as a Postpartum Doula. 

Many moms felt a little intimidated that the stranger in their home knew a lot more about babies than they did. And while true to a certain extent… I do know a lot about babies, it wasn’t my book learning that mattered the most. What was most important was the baby that I was caring for at that time. Who was this baby? What were their likes and dislikes? What did they need?

Surprise surprise…it is the mom that knows this baby better than anyone. She just might not realize how much she knows!!

Likewise, each mom had different needs and it was my job to figure them out. What, exactly, did she need?  Advice, or to be heard? Someone to show her, or someone to talk with her? Reassurances, or a list of tips and pointers? A demonstration, or a nursery organized? That is where I found the real meaning of support. It is different for each family, but once I understood what they needed, I was able to provide it. The key was: different support for different families. 

Coming to the end of a contract with a family was always bittersweet. It’s sad to move on, but it was always so great to see the parents doing well and feeling like they can spread their wings. Knowing that I had provided them enough support that they could move forward on their parenting journey, is a wonderful feeling.

So, let’s break down what “support” really means to me in terms of how I help my clients.

S Solving current sleep issues

U Understanding

P Problem solving

P Practical plan

O Offer doable options

R Realistic goals and expectations

T Tips and tricks to help your child

My goal for clients is that they feel supported. (That’s the doula in me talking.)

I want them to feel like it is their plan that is put into action. I’m just here to help them iron out a few creases.  

Parenting is hard, and if sleep deprivation is an aspect, everything gets harder. Supporting families means listening to families. As we all know, talking about our problems can help us get clarification with things that may otherwise seem muddy, especially when we are sleep deprived. Having someone help us create our “to do’s” and get them down in black and white can be a huge help in actually getting things done. Parents need support, and that is what I do.

I may not be physically by your side when you’re helping your child learn their new skills, but I am only a phone call/text/email away! Just as the parent offers the child support and gradually tapers when the child is able to do the rest on their own, I do the very same with my clients. My goal is to provide support so that parents can feel empowered and competent in their parenting plans.

My goal is to support.

Are They Twins?

“Double trouble” 

“Well,” I say, “double the fun!”

 “You have your hands full!”

“My heart is full.” I smile in return.

 “I don’t know how you do it!”

“Sometimes,” I say, “ I don’t know either, but I do my best.”

Parents of twins hear these comments way more than you think.

Congratulations, you have twins! Sometimes it is 10 times the workload, especially at night. Ask any parent of twins, and they will tell you.  It’s a fact. You’ll have extra to juggle, but you’ll also have extra to snuggle with and thoroughly enjoy. I may be biased, but I happen to think that twins are the best thing ever! I knew what I was getting into, yet I still wanted to have them. Of course, nothing can fully prepare you for the workload, comments, and unwanted attention!  


My Tips for Parenting Twins:

Accept (and ask for) help! 

Please do yourself this favor. If somebody wants to help but doesn’t know how give them a rehearsed or written answer. I know it can be tough, especially if you’re someone -like me- that doesn’t like accepting help, let alone asking for it. But here’s the deal. You will regret it if you don’t. Believe me,  your time will come to help others, and you will when you can. So go ahead. Set up that meal train or, better yet,  ask a friend to do it for you. It’s an extremely useful way for people to help.  

If you can budget for extra hands/support/advice in the early days, then do it!  It’s also a great gift to receive from someone or a few people chipping in together!  Check out your local listings for postpartum doulas with twin experience, newer trained doulas looking to certify, certified sleep coaches, or mother’s helpers. 

Community!

Reach out to the local chapter of a multiples club. Hooray for the internet! With sites like Facebook, Meetup, and Moms Clubs, the ability to connect with other parents is at your fingertips. It really takes another parent of twins to understand the trials and tribulations of having multiples. Finding your community can be a lifesaver! Here is an example of a very friendly Facebook community group. 

Shop smart!

Take advantage of all the amazing products that are available today, especially products that are designed for twins. Amazon prime is now your friend! Remember you can create wish lists for specific items so that those well-meaning friends and family members can buy you exactly what you want and need. Also, pay extra attention to products that advertise as safe sleepers as they may seem like the answer to all of your worries, but might not be safe. (It’s recommended that babies should only sleep in a crib, bassinet, or play-yard/pack ‘n’ play.)  

Try a schedule, take advantage of breaks, and get prepared. 

The more predictable the routine becomes, the better you will get at reading their cues and following their lead.  Try the EASY Method from Tracy Hogg’s book The Baby Whisperer EAT ACTIVITY SLEEP YOU – Enjoy that downtime, for whatever you choose to do!  Sleep, social media, eat, shower, a chore. It’s your time! 

Right from the beginning, if you can get them feeding and sleeping within a similar time frame, it will make things easier for you. Typical beginning feedings (nurse or bottle) can last approximately one hour for both babies or 30 mins each. Then you will change diapers, burp, and help them settle. In the very beginning, they may need a diaper change before feeding in order to help them wake up. I recommend a little time for burping and holding them upright (approximately 20 minutes) whether they show discomfort or not. In my own experience, (both personal and professional) twin babies tend to have some extra digestive issues, especially if they were born a little early. 

When they’re done eating, hopefully, there is some time for you before the process starts up again. Example Twin A starts to feed at 1.00 pm and Twin B starts at 1:30 pm. After a feeding, burp, and diaper change they could be settled by 2:30 pm. The next feeding could be at 3.30/4.00 pm. This schedule will change (many times) but all of you will also become more efficient as time goes by. 

During your break, always set up everything that you need in advance for the next feed so that you can be prepared as much as possible. Don’t forget to pack a nutritious snack and drink for yourself! Fill a basket with all of your necessities: your devices, remote controls, burp cloths, blankets, bottles, pacis, shields, cream, etc. It can be overwhelming in the beginning when both babies are crying at the same time, so the more you have planned in advance, the better.  

Practice Practice

I understand that tandem (nurse or bottle) feeding can seem overwhelming in the beginning. If you are nursing for the first time, get professional help. When you feel confident that the feedings are going well for you and your babies, try a supervised tandem feed. It’s better to practice it with support.  Eventually, a time will come that you will need to feed them both at the same time. 

Proof

Keep a log of feedings, periods of sleep, and diapers. This shouldn’t feel like another chore. It is a tried and true method that will help you. Everything will be a blur, especially at night.  Your log will help you learn to decipher their cries. Are they hungry, gassy, tired? It can also be helpful when there are multiple caregivers.  

Guilt 

It’s there and it’s real. You are simply outnumbered. I mentioned it previously in my Mom Guilt post and it is simply the worst. I’m not going to try and talk you out of it. Just accept that you will feel it, recognize it, wallow in it (hopefully not for too long,) and then move on. Treat it as a passing feeling. They are going to change so much; their needs will flip flop. One may have bad days, the other may have more needs. If you can, hold them both. If not, hold one and make eye contact with the other. Sing, speak, and/or touch whenever possible.  

Individual Pairs

Fraternals or not.  We have to remember that even though you have two babies, hands, and breasts they are individual… even though we call them pairs. One baby will have more needs, another may have more catching up to do, one boob may be a better performer, while the other boob slacks. One hand may be better at burping and the other at holding.  

Survival 

Attachment and getting to know these little people is the name of the game in the early months. Their jobs are to grow, learn to trust, and form bonds with their primary caregivers. Following safe sleep guidelines is a must, especially during these exhausting days. Nursing, rocking, and snuggling to sleep is as important for them as it is for you. If your goal is to help them learn to sleep independently when they’re older (six months + adjusted age) there are some healthy sleep techniques that you can apply, right from the beginning.

(See my blog post about “bad sleepers”)

The million-dollar question “will they wake each other?”

The answer is yes, possibly. It’s going to seem like I’m contradicting myself a lot here but please hear me out. Twins (and siblings) have this amazing ability to sleep through each other’s cries and full force screams. How do they do it? I don’t know, but if I could bottle that power, I would. And I’d use it on myself first! I think it’s based on survival. They simply need sleep. It also has to do with what stage they’re at during the sleep cycle. If they are just falling asleep or just starting to wake up and the other is crying, it’s possible that it will be disturbing. If one is in a full deep sleep phase and the other starts crying, they can sleep through it.  

My biggest suggestion is to not run to your baby in fear that they will wake the other.  Sometimes, a few whimpers and cries here and there will do no harm and it is best to give your baby the option to settle back to sleep independently, rather than jumping to the rescue every single time.  

Here’s where I contradict myself. I do suggest that if logistics allow, to separate them for naps. Daytime sleep is different from night sleep. As your babies grow, they will also fight day sleep more as they simply would rather play and hang with each other. So if you can give them the opportunity to have good quality independent sleep, for a nap, then do it.  

When sleep coaching: If you have the option to separate them and have the help of a second person, that can be useful. However, separation is not necessary. You can keep them together and go back and forth. It will take a little longer, but they will get it. Right from the start, twins (whether they like it or not) start learning that they sometimes have to wait.

Last bit of advice. Enjoy the ride!

Twins, like all babies, are amazing and special. Getting to be a parent is also amazing and special. So, again… enjoy the ride! There is nothing else like it!

Pet Peeve Number One

For my first blog post, I’m going to get straight to the point with my Number One Pet Peeve. 

Please, oh please, stop telling mothers to “Enjoy every minute because it goes by so fast.” 

I know that when friends, family, or even random people on the internet say it to a mom, they are coming from a place of well-meaning and good intent. I get it. However, it can cause a mom to feel guilty and subsequently cause her to question her ability to be a good mom.  

We have all had those moments. You know what I’m talking about…  when we’ve said something to someone and moments later hoped that they didn’t hear it or hoped that they didn’t take it the way we said it. If only the ground would please open up and swallow us! Yes, those moments. I know I have.  

Even to… especially to… new moms.  

You see, I have a soft spot for new moms, I want to protect them. I’ve had the great honor of being around enough new moms to know that they can be incredibly vulnerable, sensitive, overwhelmed, emotional, and overjoyed all within 10 minutes. Those feelings are even more intense at 3am. I also have a soft spot for veteran moms, heck they can have all those feelings multiplied by the amount of children that they have. How can two siblings that came from the same DNA possibly be so different? How can one child be so easy going and the other, not so much?! 

I’ve had those moments of looking at my own child and wondering “Where is this child’s mother?” “Why won’t someone just take him for a moment so I can get a break?!”

This well meaning gesture can actually do more damage than good. I’ll come right out and say it. Some moments are simply awful. Some are scary, some are painful, some are never ending and some are really lonely. It’s okay to not enjoy every minute. It’s okay to just want a minute of alone time.  

A long time ago, I read a book where the author was discussing gas and digestive issues for babies. For the life of me, I can’t remember the book, but I do remember one thing that really resonated with me. She explained that the reason babies start to show signs of discomfort and their crying starts to increase at approximately three weeks, is basically a survival technique for the human race. By the third week of our baby’s life, we’re completely smitten and head over heels in love for this little bundle. We’d do anything for them. However, if we were given this screaming, purple and angry baby right away in the hospital, surely we’d question if we were given the right baby and consider giving them back, right?!

Each age and stage comes with new milestones, celebrations, and challenges. It is so satisfying to overcome a hurdle. Yet, it always seems as soon as we find ourselves getting into a groove and figuring these little people out, they go and change on us again! It’s okay to miss a stage that’s gone by just as much as it’s okay to look forward to an age/stage in the future. It’s ok to not like the current stage! 

It’s okay to wonder Why on earth is this little person still not sleeping? How can it be humanly possible for a little one to stay awake for such a long time? 

It’s okay for you to wish for them to just please settle down so you can exhale. 

And… It’s okay that after they finally settle, you miss them.  

-Joan

Not Another Mommy Blog

There are a lot of Mommy Blogs out there. A LOT.

So, what’s different about my blog? Why should you read it?

Well, my blog won’t be me gushing about my adorable children. I have toddler twins and a 4th grader who are, indeed, adorable. My life is full and sometimes crazy, so I won’t be gushing about DIY crafts or fancy recipes. And my blog won’t try to sell you anything.

My blog will be all about what I am all about: Being a mom and Gentle Sleep Coaching.

You will find tips, ideas, shared stories of tribulations and triumphs. You will find resources that you can bookmark and funny memes that will make you laugh. You will (hopefully) find a community of people just like you… parents with kids who need to sleep. Hey, that’s all of us! We all need to sleep, but sometimes getting the sleep we need doesn’t happen because our (adorable) babies aren’t getting the sleep they need. 

I hope you will join me on this blog journey! I won’t commit to having a blog post every week or every month because, let’s be honest, life is a tad crazy right now. But I will commit to posting and I hope you will follow, subscribe, and share. 

-Joan