Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why did I become a Gentle Sleep Coach?

I didn't even know that sleep with young children was a possibility, but I have loved sharing sleep filled nights with parents everywhere! And I have taught not only my children, but countless families how to get sleep in place with gentle sleep solutions so they don't have to leave their child to cry it out.

My journey as a mother began in 2006 with the birth of our son Connor.  What a life altering experience childbirth can be!  It was filled with the roller coaster of emotions that all new mothers experience; moments of happiness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and many sleepless nights. Not to mention the confusion from an abundance of free advice found in so many places. I quickly began to wonder if in the sea of books, videos and websites, how my husband and I would ever know what advice to believe.  

I still remember thinking that the weeks of decorating and preparing Connor's room for the perfect sleep environment, seemed to be so easy.  We had every stuffed animal in the perfect position, curtains and sheets that matched the rugs and lamps, and the books far outnumbered the toys.   This was the kind of room that my husband and I wished we had for ourselves; Connor was going to love sleeping in his room.  However, as the months turned into a year, he ended up in our bed every night.  I can also remember saying "at least I can get a few hours of sleep here and there”.   We all know how that story ends up.

Months later, sleep deprived and begging for a full night’s sleep, I turned to that sea of books, videos and websites mentioned above.   I would hear things like: "oh, my child did that too" or "they’ll grow out of it". I started to come to the conclusion that this is what motherhood was about, and I needed to become better prepared for this sleepless journey.

The next chapter of that journey occurred in 2008, with the arrival of our second son Bailey.  Let me tell you, learning to juggle an infant and a toddler was quite a transition from the life I knew.  This time around, the one thing I was sure of, was that Bailey would have good sleep manners.  I mean how hard could it be for a baby to sleep?  And again, I think you can guess how that story ended up.  It was at this point that I think both boys held a meeting and decided to test my ability to never sleep again.  Connor began protesting his naps (unless I would lie down on the floor of the same room he was in) and Bailey refused to go to sleep unless he was held and rocked. Needless to say, I was beyond exhausted and losing more sleep than any person should.  Soon those nap time dilemmas carried over to night time troubles.  

Here I was, lying in the world’s most comfortable bed, wondering "why won't anyone sleep in this house?  What were we doing wrong?"  I tried everything I knew.  I let the boys cry it out, I held and rocked, I cried, I prayed, I watched videos, and I surfed the web for help.  

The only thing I didn’t have to wonder about, was the fact that what we were doing, wasn’t working for me, my husband, and most importantly the boys.  Something had to change.

Finally in January 2009, I was introduced to the book The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy
 by Kim West a.k.a. “The Sleep Lady”.  After I implemented Kim's strategies, our lives immediately began to change for the better.  My children were sleeping, my husband was sleeping, and I was finally sleeping.  I couldn’t believe it, our family was on the way to healthy and happy sleep behaviors.  Instantly, I felt like the haze had lifted, the dark clouds parted and my life was sunny again, not to mention how the other aspects of parenting became easier after a good night's sleep.Now as a caregiver of children, I realize the importance of healthy sleep habits.   

Therefore in creating Loving Lessons, I want all parents to remember are that:  

  • No one is perfect and we can all learn from our mistakes
  • Sleep is a skill that has to be taught
  • Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do
  • You have to be intentional in your actions
  • You have to reach out for support
  • You have to be patient
  • You have to always breathe! 

The purpose of my work is for parents to obtain knowledge and help, when needed, with a wide variety of sleep and educationally based problems children often face.  Through my years as a teacher, a mother and now a Gentle Sleep Coach; I desire to see all families grow and live as healthy as possible.  I truly believe that all children are capable of learning healthy habits for a healthy future.

Sweet Dreams,


Consistency is key to sleep coaching and parenting!

Are sleep crutches holding you back from a great night of sleep?

Teaching your child how to sleep on their own is a life long skill.   By creating positive sleep associations like a dark room, sound machine, and your child's lovey, ie..night night friend is a great way to help them learn to go to sleep and stay asleep all night long.   

Medical concerns that might be holding you back from a great night of sleep

The importance of early bedtimes

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are you ready to "fall back"?

It's that time of year again!  Daylight Savings is coming up on November 4th.    Although it sounds wonderful to get that extra hour of sleep, and as adults we appreciate that extra hour, it can be tough for younger children.  View the slides to see how you can help your children adjust to the time change.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#2 Sleep Secret- Make time for naps

  • Why does my child wake so many times at night?
  •  Why does my child wake at 5am and is ready to start their day?  
  • Why is bedtime such a battle? 
  • Why does my child only sleep for 10-20 minutes or sometimes 45 minutes?

If you are dealing with anyone of these situations chances are your child might be sleep deprived and lacking that important restorative day time sleep.  The secret is to make time for naps during the day to help your child rejuvenate!
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In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth, MD, shares "Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain's battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best."

Just like having an earlier bedtime helps children get in the quality sleep they need, a siesta during the day helps improve memory function, learning, development, alertness.  During the first year of life growth and development is so rapid.  Day to day you can see the changes.  Although after the first year, children are still developing and growing and achieving new milestones growth slows down just a bit.    That restorative naptime helps regulate our child continue that healthy growth! 

Day and night sleep serve different purposes.   

Without good day time naps you may find that your child has more meltdowns, becomes difficult to handle, will wake up earlier than 6am, and wake multiple times at night.  Why?  Well, little bodies and minds need time to process all that they are learning and taking in during the wakeful hours.  When they skip or fight naps they usually become overtired and over stimulated which causes a natural adrenaline rush caused by cortisol.  Most people have a hard time regulating themselves, but when you have a little one who doesn’t know how to regulate themselves, it can cause more crying and stress for the child and parents.  

Ending naptime battles

The key to your success will be to figure out the right timing for naps.  Of course the first few months babies have irregular sleep patterns which may start to take shape between 3-6 months.  However around 6 months of age is when sleep patterns mature.  Depending on your child’s age wakeful windows could be 2-3 hours.  Follow your child’s sleep cues to figure out that just right time for their sleep window.  You can figure this out by watching your child and the clock and keeping a log.  Following your child’s natural body clock can eliminate the guesswork. Once you get the patterns established, it’s key to keep naps in place during the first 2 years of your child’s life.  Make it the rule to keep naps sacred, not the exception. 

Create a naptime routine

Children are creatures of habit.  Put in place a mini- bedtime routine that signals “it’s time for nap.”  What does that look like?  Our naptime routine takes place after lunch.   We have our calm and classical music playing, while we do a diaper change and we read a book snuggled on the couch.  After our book we do big squeezes and hugs while we are going upstairs.   We turn the sound machine on and of course the room is nice and dark.  Then it’s just time for nap or for my boys that are now 4 and 6, rest time.  It’s a non negotiable part of our day! 

Nap coaching is hard- Stick with it!

It’s not a secret that this is a struggle for many families.  As parents we have to be SUPER consistent and persistent when it comes to nap coaching.   It’s our children’s responsibility to test the limits, but it’s our responsibility to set a firm and loving boundary.  If we give in, this is where many sleep challenges occur.  The key is to create a plan that you can follow through with no matter what age your child is.  

I came across this and there’s no other way to recreate it.  I see this with my children, the children I care for, my clients,  and look back at my experiences with children in the classroom.   I couldn’t agree more with the following observations that illustrate the difficulties faced and behavioral changes that children have when they have sleep problems: 

  • Children do not "outgrow" sleep problems; problems must be solved.
  • Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans.
  • Babies who sleep less in the daytime appear more fitful and socially demanding, and they are less able to entertain or amuse themselves.
  • Toddlers who sleep more are more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding. Children who sleep less can behave somewhat like hyperactive children.
  • Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.
  • Children with higher IQs -- in every age group studied -- slept longer.
  • For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.
  • Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.
    • from Wiessbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD

Make sleep a family priority and healthy habit for life!  Even during the day for naps or commit to a family rest time.  It’s good for everyone!

Sleep tight!