5 ways to know when your toddler is telling you it’s time to give up that nap

Naps are an integral part of your child's day for the first few years of life. For many children, they physically cannot make it through the day without a nap. For others, going without a nap will affect their mood, behaviors and sleep habits at night.

So who says our kiddos should ever get rid of their nap? I mean, couldn't we all benefit from a little midday snooze?

And let's be honest—do we actually want our child to drop his nap? For many of us, this is the time of day we get stuff done, so it might actually be harder for parents to accept that it is time to move on without naptime.

The good news is—there is wiggle room throughout this process and you'll have plenty of time to make the adjustment.

While there are general recommendations around when your child should drop his nap, it does vary from child-to-child, and ultimately you will be the one who determines the appropriate time to make the transition.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there that instructs parents on when and how to drop the nap—leaving many parents feeling less than confident about how to take on this endeavor.

Truthfully, it is actually quite simple, your child will start to show a handful of shifts in his sleeping habits, along with changes in his schedule, that will be a sure indication it is time to start thinking about dropping his nap.

Here are five ways you will know your child is ready to graduate from nap-time:

1. He is able to make it through the day with minimal behavior changes or melt-downs.

This is usually a pretty easy one to read. Once your child seems generally happy throughout the day without a nap-this tells you that he doesn't necessarily need it for his emotional well-being. Sure-he still might throw a tantrum mid-day, but it may not be related to being over-tired. If there is a specific situation that contributes to a tantrum, chances are it isn't related to lack of sleep unless it is happening more often than normal.

2. Night-time sleep increases. For example: your child all-of-the-sudden goes from an average of 10 hours of sleep per night, to 12 hours consistently, this is a sign that he is relying on night-time sleep to fuel him throughout the day. If your child isn't getting enough sleep at night, he will most likely need that mid-day siesta. But if he is getting solid sleep at night (11-12 hours +) you can feel confident that he is ok without a nap.

3. He doesn't actually fall asleep during a nap attempt.

Quiet time is encouraged for any age at some point in the day. But if your child rarely sleeps when you put him down for a nap, it can be a sign his body no longer needs it.

4. He is in an all day school program that doesn't schedule nap-time.

Sometimes nap-time no longer becomes an option because of school or day-care schedules. While it is recommended that children still nap until the age of at least three-their bodies can often adjust to new schedules if nap-time is no longer an option. Be cautious though-if his behavior proves otherwise, you might need to consider an alternate school or program that allows for naps.

5. He keeps up energy throughout the day.

Energy levels are a pretty big indicator when it comes to your child's sleep. If your child is crashing (such as in the car), it is fairly obvious that he is not ready for no-nap days. If he is able to sustain adequate energy throughout the day, then that's a good sign! Something to keep in mind here is that you may have high activity days when your child may be worn out-thus a good idea to still have quiet time or a lay down in these situations.

Dropping the nap is meant to be a transition. There will be days that still call for a nap months or even years after making the transition. It is important to stay in-tune with your child's moods and behaviors and let that drive your decision to try for a nap or not.

Be prepared to adjust bedtime if needed to fit your child's new schedule. Even though your child might be ready to rid of naptime, he still might not be able to make it 12+ hours awake.

You know your child best, so follow your instincts on whether now is good time for your child to drop his nap or not.

How to establish a bedtime routine with your baby

 

As a new parent, it is probably true that bedtime feels a little less structured than you hoped it would be. The days tend to blur together into a series of feedings and unpredictable sleep times leaving bedtime to fluctuate each day and routine feeling near impossible.

Although your baby actually sleeps a lot in the first few months of life (17-20 hours per day) it is not the type of consolidated sleep that would allow for a full night's rest-for either of you. So you might be thinking-what is the point of going through a bedtime routine, if my baby will just be awake in an hour?

I hear you Mama and I want you to know one very important thing about establishing a bedtime with your baby-it will actually make your life so much easier.

Even at a young age, your baby is starting to form her own sleep habits. As time goes on she will learn to distinguish daytime and nighttime sleep and her body will start to operate on a 24 hour sleep cycle. Even though it might not feel like it now, starting to establish healthy sleep habits, like a bedtime routine, can make a good impact on her sleep overall.

When babies have consistancy and a sense of what is coming next, it can help them to feel secure and well taken care of. Forming a routine around bedtime also helps to prepare your baby for sleep and gives you the opportunity to bond with her.

Here are a few steps to take into consideration as you establish a bedtime routine for your baby...

Choose a time that seems natural to your baby's current sleep cycle. Your child will usually start to show you signs that she is feeling sleepy during a certain timeframe each night (rubbing eyes, fussing, yawning, etc). Catching her in that window or even before is important in order to avoid her becoming overtired. If you know your baby normally starts acting tired around 7pm you may want to consider starting to help her wind down around 630pm in order to help prepare her for rest.

Establish a routine that promotes a calm environment. Throughout the day your baby is likely exposed to a lot of stimulating activities. She is experiencing a lot of exciting firsts and learning so many new things. The best thing we can do for our bodies (even as adults) is to calm down and feel relaxed before sleep. Some examples of this are reading softly to your baby, singing, rocking her, and shooshing in her ear. Of course brushing teeth and bathtime are also things to include in your bedtime routine, but I reccomend starting off with these, rather than trying to transition straight from splashing around to laying in her crib.

Ease in. There is no need to try and implement everything at once and the best approach to take is a gradual one. You might find that your baby doesn't respond to each part of the routine the way you expect and that you find yourself two steps in and she is already asleep! Try to be patient with yourself and with your baby during this process.

Try to be as consistant as possible. Once bedtime starts to feel like a natural process your baby will actually want to go to sleep at this time-amazing right? Our biological clocks become used to falling asleep and waking at similar times each day and while I encourage practicing the 80/20 rule with sleep, it is important to try and stick to your child's bedtime most of the time. This might mean occassionally leaving a family dinner early to get home or saying no to a late night activity.

Establishing a bedtime isn't going to happen overnight (pun intended) and there will likely be adjustments made along the way. But once you start to incorporate the routine that works for you and your baby, you are already on your way to a happy and healthy sleeper!

It’s so much harder to parent when you’re exhausted—5 ways to get more sleep

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This won’t be news to other moms reading this: I'm basically tired most of the time. But the beautiful truth also exists that the undeniable joy of motherhood (sometimes) overrides the exhaustion somehow.

If I'm being honest, part of that exhaustion is completely self-induced. I go to bed too late. I take on too much, and worry unnecessarily about anything and everything—-especially at bedtime.

The other part is that being a mother means you are so many things to so many people and sleep always gets pushed further and further down on the priority list.

Plus, with each new stage of motherhood comes new opportunities for sleep deprivation.

Newborn mamas: you are likely in the thick of sleep deprivation, trying to remember what eight hours of sleep even is and why you can't stop crying.

Toddler moms: the process alone of figuring out pre-school registration is enough to put you into hibernation mode.

Moms with school-aged kiddos: There is not enough coffee in the world to keep up with the constant activities, school functions, sports schedules and did I mention activities?

And don't even get me started on teenagers—I'd rather take care of triplet infants and a brood of chicks.

That is a lot of years with no sleep, but here you are doing it all. And you’re doing a pretty fantastic job. Since you're doing it, it has likely become your new norm—you’re able to laugh at yourself for putting your keys in the microwave or when you forget where you're driving to exactly.

But laughter aside, the epidemic of exhaustion is on the rise and whether we want to admit it or not, it's affecting us.

According to the CDC, not getting enough sleep is linked to some serious health issues: diabetes, heart disease, depression, and much much more.

Lack of sleep can also slow down cognitive function, alertness, concentration, and reasoning. As if that isn't enough it is linked to weight gain and premature aging of your skin—there’s a reason it’s called beauty rest!

Like eating healthy and exercising regularly, getting enough sleep has to become a consistent and regular priority for mothers. Our jobs depend on it.

Here’s how to do just that:

Ask for help

I’m the first to admit that asking for help is challenging, but just like any other profession, parenting was not meant to be a one-person job.

We expect our children to ask when they need something, or our co-workers, so why wouldn’t we reach out when the need is there?

It can be as simple as asking a friend to grab you a coffee or a parent to watch the kids while you grocery shop. Your village is there for a reason and despite the guilt that you let creep in for whatever reason, asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a rockstar mom.

Take time to unwind—whether with a bubble bath or just 10 minutes of quiet time to yourself

There’s an understanding in our household that my husband and I set aside time to be alone each day. We’ve come to realize that, without this, we cannot be the best spouses or parents we are capable of being.

I know your to-do list is endless and you might be wondering how on earth you can squeeze in 10 minutes when you can barely go to the bathroom alone, but trust me, the time is there. It might mean literally blocking it off on your calendar, or getting up 10 minutes earlier than your household, but you can find the time, I promise.

Set a bedtime for yourself

I’m willing to bet you have bedtimes in place for your children to ensure they get enough rest—so why not implement this same rule for yourself? Without a bedtime in place, you are far more likely to push your body beyond its ideal sleep window, which can potentially lead to insomnia and exhaustion.

Cut out screen-time at least an hour before bed

Okay this one is so hard for me. Especially because I often find myself laying in bed unable to sleep and the first thing I want to do is grab my phone and catch up on Instagram. Don’t.do.that.

Light that is projected from screens suppresses melatonin and will only make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Giving yourself time to unwind is crucial right before bed, since most of us don’t fall asleep the moment our head hits the pillow. Reading, journaling, practicing deep breaths or deep stretches are all great ways to do that.

Slow down

We live in a culture where being busy is embraced. And as moms it seems like there is always so much to do with so little time to do it.

It’s why it can take days to get a text response from your mom friend and why it might take three days to mail that letter on your counter. We are all just so busy.

Don’t be afraid to say no.

No to the dishes when you got three hours of sleep last night.

No to the workout that you just “have” to get in.

No to the school project you think needs to be perfect.

Your body needs downtime to restore and feel less-stressed. Plus, there’s something amazing—and rejuvenating—about having days where you have nothing to do.

There will always be a zillion reasons why we let sleep take a backseat as moms— but no matter what your circumstance, remember that sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessary and vital part of your overall health.

I know your drive and determination to be a great mom is enough to convince yourself you can run on fumes, but when everything in your bones is telling you to sleep, put the dishes down and go to bed.

This expert wants you to know: there is no wrong way to sleep teach

Before I became a sleep consultant, I thought sleep training was some kind of secret club for moms. I could not understand why you would need to “train” your baby to get a full night of rest. Training was something I did before running a race or starting a job. Sleeping was something I did when I was just tired. Ah, pre-mom naivety.

Once I became a mother and started to read up on sleep, I became fascinated (but also confused) with all of the information out there on how to get your baby to sleep better.

Before my training, here’s what I thought sleep training meant:

If you don’t train your baby to sleep, he will never learn on his own.

Training your baby to sleep means teaching self-soothing, but self-soothing can't happen until a certain age.

Then, once he is ready, you have to un-train him on the habits he learned before he was ready to sleep train.

Sleep training basically means letting your baby cry, but that also does damage.

If you sleep train you are pretty much homebound for two weeks.

On top of all that, there were secret acronyms like CIO (cry-it-out) and LO (little one) that everyone used in baby forums.

But, the more I read, the more I became interested in the science of sleep and understanding why sleep deprivation is such a problem. As soon as I found out sleep consultants were a thing, I was convinced it was my calling.

Today, I have worked with hundreds of families in my seven years as a sleep coach (the term I prefer) and sleep training is no longer a foreign concept that makes my head spin. Unfortunately, though, it is for most mamas.

There is no shortage of information out there on sleep training. That is part of the problem. If you aren’t sure what to think, I wish I could give you a hug (or baby sleep dust). But I do have something else that will hopefully make this a little easier...

The ONE thing I want you to know about sleep "teaching" is that it isn’t one-size-fits-all.

I know this might not be earth-shattering news, but it does make all the difference to adopt this principle.

You see, in my profession I rarely have moms reaching out to me who just want to chat about sleep. They are usually desperate, have tried “everything” and I am their last hope.

And each time I hear a relatively similar story: They read somewhere to follow a specific method, which didn't end up working. Or they were told by their friend's sister's neighbor to let their baby cry it out. And now they are totally confused and still very tired.

Sleep training is designed to really be the stage of teaching opportunities. Sleeping is as natural to us as is eating or breathing—babies included. Our bodies know that it needs to happen and without it we wouldn't survive.

So, why does it seem so unnatural for babies to get the rest their bodies need?

Because every baby is unique, which means each child has her own set of unique sleeping patterns. Some babies will quickly adapt to sleeping alone or following a specific sleep schedule and some won't. Some will cry all night long if they are left alone in their crib and some will not. Some will feel soothed when given a paci or when offered a feed. Some will refuse all of the above.

“Sleep training” is an opportunity to work with your child in identifying her natural sleep cycle and to help her to develop healthy habits around that cycle. There are many ways you can do this, starting with one of the many sleep methods out there (Ferber, Sleep Lady Shuffle, No Cry Sleep Solution, etc.)

It is very common to try one method and realize it is not going to be effective for your child. While you do want to give it some time to stick, you may realize that your child responds very differently than anticipated or predicted by a book. Give yourself some credit and follow your instincts because you know your baby best—not your friend who is commenting on your social media on what to do with YOUR baby.

Sleep teaching is a process. It takes time. It takes patience. And it takes the (rightful) belief you will get there. You may even come to find that there is very little training that actually needs to happen.

Ease back into a bedtime routine with these 5 easy tips

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Ah, back to school.

It’s the time of year that beach days and late summer nights are replaced with school supply shopping and early bedtimes...or so you hope.

Every year, despite the multiple email reminders sent from the school and seeing store shelves stocked with the trendiest backpacks and pencil boxes in July, I always feel like back-to-school season creeps up on me.

Summer just never seems to last long enough.

But no matter how much I (or my kids) resist it—the first day of school always comes, and here we are just a week away (or for some of you, a week in).

Thankfully we have adopted a few practices over the years that have made the adjustment a bit easier for the whole family—especially when it comes to sleep.

Here’s how you can help your family get back on track with a back-to-school bedtime routine:

1. Set an earlier bedtime.

Children naturally stay up later during the summer for many reasons. So, making the switch from relaxing summer days and sleeping in to waking up earlier and being ready to head out the door can feel like a huge adjustment.

The best approach to take is a gradual one.

Even if your child has already started school, you can still slowly start to move up bedtime by 15 or 20 minutes each night until you reach an appropriate time. Recommended bedtimes vary by age, but generally speaking you should shoot for 12 hours of sleep a night for your child.

2. Plan activities and meal schedules ahead of time.

The beginning of the school year can also bring an assortment of after school activities. In our household, we have exactly 1.5 hours in between after school pickup and football practice so dinnertime is either 4:30 or 7:30 p.m.

We choose the earlier of the two 80% of the time.

Scheduling meals earlier in the day can help avoid food-related disturbances at night and help promote earlier bedtimes. Plus, it will give your child plenty of time to unwind before bed.

 

3. Make bedtime a habit for the whole family.

It is best to set bedtime as close as possible for all children in the household.

If one child feels left out because he has an earlier bedtime than his sister, it’ll probably be more difficult for him to adjust.

You can also have everyone in the family participate in the bedtime routine which help promotes healthy sleep habits in general.

4. Keep your bedtime routine consistent.

Children long for routine more than most of us realize.

When they know what to expect, it helps give them a sense of security and support—making bedtime a whole lot easier.

Your child might look forward to the time you spend each night putting her to sleep so try and take the same steps each night as you prepare for bed with your little one.

5. Limit screen time before bed.

Bright lights (especially those from TV and phone screens) can cause over-stimulation and reduce melatonin, making it difficult for your child to fall asleep.

It is best to reserve screen time for late afternoon or early evening—not right before bedtime.

Instead, opt for a book or a quiet activity that promotes a more calm environment prior to bedtime.

Overall, don’t forget that transitioning your children from one season to the next can certainly brings its own set of challenges. Patience and consistency are crucial during any transition. And while change can take some time, by emphasizing healthy sleep habits, your children will naturally fall back into a rhythm and all will be OK. Mama—you’ve got this!

I want to be taken care of too

I want to be taken care of, too. Here's how you can do that for me

As soon as I became a Mother I realized how capable I am of being self-less.

The 19 year old version of me would never believe it-but I am actually happier now that other's needs often come before mine.

Every morning I wake up to the sound of little voices.

"Mom, I'm hungry".

"Mom, play with me".

"Mom, get up now".

Before I've had the chance to open my eyes I am already needed. And even though I do love sleep-I wouldn't have it any other way.

I was meant to do this.

Sometimes I step back in awe as I think about the simple fact that there are little people who rely on ME to survive. God chose me-the once very self-centered individual, to be a Mother to my children and I am so thankful for that.

But as much joy as it brings me to take care of my family everyday (and I really mean that) I have to admit-I enjoy being taken care of too.

And I don't necessarily mean a foot rub everynight and a weekly trip to the spa-although I'll never say no to a manicure, but it is so much more simple than that.

To the people in my life-here's how you can help take care of me...

To my husband-I need to know that you see me doing all of the things. That each toy I pick up, each activity I schedule, and each meal I cook, is appreciated and noticed. Just a few simple words of affirmation can go so far.

And I need your love, all of it. The kind of love that shows me you've got my back even when I'm not at my best physically or emotionally. Those moments that you hold my hand in this crazy life, those are the moments I feel secure-that I feel taken care of.

To my parents-you understand more than anyone. You've never stopped being parents and now I need you more than ever. I need those days that you offer your help with the kids, and the phone calls that assure me I'm making the right choices.

But more than anything I still need your love and support as your daughter-even when you don't agree with everything I'm doing.

To my friends-your laughter and your time is priceless. You refresh me and give me energy to continue being the best Mom I can be. Even though you have your own families, careers, and to-do lists, I need to hear from you.

I need that time to connect, whether over coffee, a walk, or a girl's trip-I count on our friendship.

To my boss-maybe you have children of your own, maybe not-but either way I need you to undertsand that while I love my work, my kids will always come first. There are going to be days that I am completely burnt out because I am running on 4 hours of sleep, or days that I miss work because my child is sick. While I am already deeply dedicated to my job, I will be a much better employee if I feel supported and understood as a working Mother.

To society-embrace me, screaming children and all. It is easy to judge but try not to, because we all know Motherhood is hard. Let's not make it harder on one another. We don't have it all together, not even close-and let's be honest, we need all the help we can get. A smile, encouraging words, or an act of kindness means the world to this Mother.

And finally to my kids-it would be great if you could put your shoes on when I ask you-seriously, a girl can dream. But truthfully, there is nothing I love more than being your Mom. And even though my role is to be your care-taker, you take care of me everyday. You have given me a purpose, a reason to be my best self, and you have helped me discover love I never knew existed. Because of you I feel whole, I feel needed, and I feel like I'm right where I should be.