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2010 August | Sweet Dreams | giggle Blogs

Archive: August 2010

August 23, 2010

No Nap? Early to Bed!

My nearly four-year-old daughter is known to miss a nap here and there.  And on the nights following those napless days, I am often reminded of how important that nap is to her body chemistry.  She almost always has a night waking if we fail to put her to bed extra early to compensate for a lack of sleep. This scenario is by no means unique to her or our family, though it can be baffling.

The cause of this night waking is the hormone cortisol.  Our bodies naturally produce cortisol when we are under stress (bodies are stressed when they are overtired).  Cortisol’s role in sleep is to arouse the brain and body from slumber, so when there is more cortisol than normal, children typically have night wakings they wouldn’t otherwise have.  The other bad news – those children often wake up earlier in the morning to start the day.

Fortunately the solutions are easy and straightforward:

1. DON’T SKIP THE NAP!  At my daughter’s age this is a little tricky because even though we put her down, she doesn’t always take the nap.  This is normal for a pre-schooler who is slowly abandoning the nap.  However, if your child is under three years of age, it is almost a guarantee that they continue to need to nap.

2. PUT YOUR CHILD TO BED EARLIER.  Often this means a bedtime that is about an hour earlier than the usual bedtime.

August 12, 2010

Rules for Toddler Naps

Whether you are eager for your child to be nap-free, or holding on for dear life, knowing when your child is truly ready to drop his or her nap can be tricky.  Here are some guiding principles to help you determine whether or not the timing is right and how to manage the nap.

1. Keep the nap at least until your child’s third birthday. If your child is under three-years-old, it is highly unlikely that he is ready to abandon the afternoon nap altogether.  Often, when children are shedding a nap, they will alternate between napping and not napping for a while.  Many children do drop their nap at 3-to-4 years-old, however some will hang on until age 5 or 6.

2. Grumpy kids need sleep! If your child seems to be crankier than usual, consider whether he is getting enough sleep – especially if you are in a nap transition.  Remember that sleep plays a big role in our mood and aside from hunger, most cranky behavior is the outcome of insufficient sleep.

3. Let your child nap until 3:30 p.m. Ideally a child should nap 1.5 – 3 hours daily.  The start time of the nap will depend largely on your child’s wake up time and age.  The end time should be the same – 3:30.  This means you will always have a consistent bedtime.

4. Quiet time rules. Don’t be fooled – just because your toddler says he isn’t tired or doesn’t need a nap doesn’t mean this is true.  Give your child quiet time every day in his room and when he does fall asleep you’ll know that he really needed it.

August 2, 2010

Eight Ways to Minimize the Risk of SIDS

Having just celebrated the first birthday of my youngest daughter on Saturday, I am reminded of the one year risk window for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  Every parents worst fear – SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a child under the age of one.  Most common in winter months and in babies under six-months of age, SIDS occurs most frequently in babies 2-to-4 months of age.

While the nature of the syndrome is not fully understood, there have been a few key scientific breakthroughs since the early 90s that provide us with guidelines to minimize risk.

1. back to sleep: Always place your infant or child to sleep on their back for night sleep and naps. The Back to Sleep Campaign launched in 1994 has yielded a 50% reduction in the incidence of SIDS.

2. use a ceiling fan: In the fall of 2008 a study came out that shows a 72% reduction in the risk for SIDS in cases where a ceiling fan was used to circulate air around the room.  The Stale Air Theory suggests that circulating the air helps to dissipate carbon dioxide that may be building in the areas around the baby.

3. do not smoke: This is key.  Mothers should not smoking during pregnancy. Fetal exposure to smoking may contribute to impairment in breathing and heart rate. Parents should also have a no smoking policy in the home where the baby sleeps and lives.

4. avoid overheating: While it is our tendency to want to bundle little babies, it is important to realize that overheating is a leading risk factor for SIDS.  Babies need only one layer more than adults and should sleep in a room that is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. I often suggest to parents that they use a lightweight sleep sack (aka wearable blanket) in lieu of a blanket to keep a baby cozy and comfortable, but not too warm.

5. breastfeed if possible: A German study has found that babies who are breastfed for at least six months are at a lower risk than those who are formula fed.

6. use a pacifier: The British Medical Journal published a study in 2005 concluding, “Use of a dummy/pacifier seems to reduce the risk of SIDS and possibly reduces the influence of known risk factors in the sleep environment.”

7. keep the crib bare: Babies’ cribs/bassinets/co-sleepers should be free of toys, stuffed animals and blankets as these things pose a danger for suffocation and SIDS.

8. share a room with your baby: It is recommended that mothers and babies share a room (not a bed) during those first months.