Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/blogsgi/public_html/wp-includes/ms-load.php on line 138
Child Development | Sweet Dreams | giggle Blogs

Archive: Child Development

July 6, 2011

Travel Tips

As I prepare to head out west to Portland with my family tomorrow, I am reminded about the impact to their normal sleep routines this could have.  Given there is both a time change and my children will be sharing a bedroom (which they don’t normally do), I have been strategizing a plan to keep them well rested. I thought I would share some of my ideas with you since so many of you are also hitting the road this summer.

1. We have a special sleep bag that we pack whenever we go on a trip.  I ask my daughters to get the things they need to sleep well at our destination and off they go to get the lion pillow, “Yeow” the stuffed cat, and “Snuggle Bunny.” In addition to these lovies, we will also pack the crib sheet my youngest daughter has been sleeping on (unwashed = familiar smell from home) and a sound machine to help mask the unfamiliar sounds that come with a new environment.  My older daughter uses the Good Nite Lite to help her to know when it’s her wake up time.  This will come in really handy with the time change.

2. Once we arrive at our destination in Portland, I will make a point to take my daughters to the room where they will be sleeping to let them get acquainted and to help get the room set up and comfortable for sleep.  I think this quick little exercise makes it much easier for them to separate when we return later for naps/bedtime because the room won’t feel quite so new and foreign.

3. I also build in an extra 10-15 minutes into the bedtime routine for extra snuggles and the inevitable calls for check-ins as they let go in a new place and drift off to sleep. Of course, I will still make sure that their routine is the same as it is at home so they know what to expect.

Are there other things that you do to help prepare/keep your kids on track when you travel? I’d love to hear them!

April 6, 2011

Further Support for Back Sleepers

A study published on February 28th, 2011 in the online version of Pediatrics Journal adds weight to the recommendation that babies be laid to sleep on their backs.  The study looked at tissue oxygenation in babies who sleep on their backs, as compared to babies who sleep prone.

The study concluded, “In healthy infants cerebral oxygenation is reduced during sleep in the prone position. This reduction may underpin the reduced arousability from sleep exhibited by healthy infants who sleep prone, a finding that provides new insight into potential risks of prone sleeping and mechanisms of sudden infant death syndrome.”

In addition to reduced oxygenation, sleeping prone also increases a babies risk of suffocation, overheating and re-breathing in exhaled air, which is lower in oxygen.  Each of these is an important risk factor to weigh when laying your baby down to sleep.

I regularly consult with clients who claim that their babies sleep better in the prone position, which is often true, however the risks associated with sleeping in this position are significant and should outweigh the temporary benefits of longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep.  Most full-term babies are able to sleep soundly on their backs by 16 weeks of age and the earlier they learn to sleep on their backs, the better they sleep that way.  A quick tip for babies who awaken frequently on their backs is to swaddle them snugly to minimize the startle reflex that often awakens babies sleeping on their backs.

March 11, 2011

sleep tips for springing ahead

I’m already enjoying the longer stretches of daylight at the end of the day with my daughters. We are eager for this weekend when, despite losing an hour of sleep, we gain an hour of daylight. And after the loooong winter we’ve all endured, this is definitely good news!

Following are some tips on managing the time change with your wee ones. To some this is very welcome news as it will mean that your early riser will awaken an hour later. And for others, correcting for the time change is very simple, so negotiating this loss of an hour should be minimally disruptive.

Tips for Early Risers
1. Put your child to bed on Saturday night at the usual time.
2. Change the clocks ahead one hour when you go to bed.
3. Wake up with your child(ren) in the morning at the usual time (though the clock will read on hour later).
4. Proceed as usual but put your child(ren) down for naps and bedtime one hour later (per the clock). The timing will feel the same to their bodies. (i.e. 7 p.m. bedtime becomes 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. wake up time becomes 7 a.m.).

Since your child is sleeping at the same times they are used to sleeping, there should be no adjustment period.

Tips for Families Wanting to Keep the Same Schedule
1. Put your child(ren) to bed on Saturday night at the usual time.
2. Change the clocks ahead one hour when you go to bed.
3. Set your alarm for your usual wake up time
4. Wake your child(ren) up at the usual wake up time per the new clock (this will mean that s/he is getting one less hour of sleep overnight).
5. Proceed with your regular schedule using the new time.

It can take the body a few days to get into the groove with the new schedule. Be consistent and patient!

January 30, 2011

transitioning from a crib to a bed

Here is a pretty common scenario: your wee one arrives at the foot of your bed one night or yells out to you from the bedroom door to your total amazement and horror.  How did he get out of his crib? Is he ok? How should you handle this? Is he safe in the crib?  Unfortunately, like most sleep issues, the advice is mixed.

Here is my two cents…

Unless your child is knocking on the door of his third birthday, I can promise you that he most likely is NOT ready for a toddler/big bed.  Children under three-years-old generally lack the capacity to understand and abide by rules such as staying in their bed all night long.  They simply cannot resist the impulse to get up and explore.  And so, we should not expect them to and get frustrated when they cannot.  This of course, leads to a vicious cycle of sleepless, often frustrating nights and days.

The solution is simple.  Leave all four walls of your child’s crib in tact and run to the nearest baby supply store or website and order a crib tent suitable for your crib.  Contrary to many parents fears, crib tents often give children a feeling of cozy comfort.  (Just think about all the forts you are building with couch cushions and blankets!)  Most children react very positively to this new addition to their sleeping quarters.  And, of course, the manner in which you present it really sets the tone and level of acceptance.  This is NOT a punishment. This is a safe, smart solution to a problem that could otherwise lead to unsafe outcomes (falling out of the crib or getting into things in the room/home while wandering around at night).  Plus, everyone sleeps better again.

December 3, 2010

holiday travel with tots

Is anyone else in my boat — blindsided by the holidays and wondering where October and November went?!  Since we just had Thanksgiving and Hanukkah is here, it’s time to talk about travel, holidays and breaks in routines and sleep schedules. Here are a few of my tips for traveling with tots.

Prepare your child for the trip: It can be hard to know exactly how much our children understand at a young age because their receptive language skills (what they understand from us) develop in advance of their expressive language skills (what they communicate to us). As a general rule, I would argue that most children understand more than we give them credit for.

I raise this point because I find it very important to let children know that there is a change of routine coming. Invite their participation in preparing for the trip as much as you can, given their age. For tots 12-18 months this means just talking about going on a trip and saying bye-bye to the pets or house as you leave. With a slightly older child you can help to prepare them by letting them share the responsibility of packing their bag, specifically the things they need for sleep. This might include a cherished blanket, pacifier, tub toys, white noise machine and favorite bedtime books.

Bring the unwashed crib sheet: A familiar scent can be particularly comforting for children when they are away from home. As such, I often recommend bringing along the unwashed crib sheet from home for your baby to sleep on. For older toddlers, this is not nearly as important.  If you’re planning to use a pack n’ play, sleep with the fitted sheet that fits the pack ‘n play mattress.

Unpack together: When you arrive at your destination, spend a few minutes getting the room where your child(ren) will sleep ready. This means setting up the crib/pack ‘n play with the sheet you brought from home and any other sleep aids you may have brought with you. Have your child with you while you do this. Explain to them that this is where they are going to be sleeping.

Also, take a few minutes to unpack the toys and books you brought along. Play with your child in the room for at least 10-15 minutes so they develop a positive association with the space.

Leave extra time for your bedtime routine: Since most children are at least a little uneasy about falling asleep in a new environment, it is helpful to devote extra time at the end of the day winding your child down for sleep. Ten or fifteen extra minutes should suffice. While the order of the routine should remain the same, you might spend a little extra time reading and snuggling.

Stay on schedule: I know that one of the great things about being on vacation is being spontaneous and free from scheduling. Unfortunately, children really do much better when they have a schedule that is predictable every day. Therefore, it works best when you are able to keep the routine of your daily schedule when you’re away from home. Of course, you should be able to have a late night here and there, but to the extent that you can preserve your schedule, the better your child will sleep and behave.

October 7, 2010

separation anxiety and sleep

My eldest daughter started nursery school a couple weeks ago.  She simultaneously began to awaken at night. I also started receiving many calls from weary parents concerned about this new change in their preschooler’s sleep as well.

And when you think about it, it all makes sense.

Nighttime is the longest separation our children have from us.  And, it’s quite significant — 11 to 12 hours in many cases.  So, when children are doing the difficult work of separating during the day (even if they gleefully run from you shouting ‘see you later!’), they can have a much harder time doing so at night. It’s a lot like working a new muscle that is sore.  There needs to be some healing before further progress can be made.

So, if you find yourself in the same boat as me these days, rest assured that this is a very normal part of development.  The best thing you can do is continue to reassure your child and validate his/her feelings.  This is definitely not a time to push. Here are a few quick tips that can help:

1. Give your child a lovey to sleep with. This could be a t-shirt you wore to bed last night or a favorite teddy bear or blankie.  Something that smells like you will bring more comfort and ease the pain of the separation at bedtime.

2. Invite your child to bring a lovey to school. Having a connection such as this to their home life can help children with the transition.  (Check with your teachers first to ensure this is ok with them.)

3. Make a book about your child’s school day. Offer concrete examples of things children do at school (i.e. circle time, snack time, story time, etc).  Let your child fill in some of the blanks.  Having something like this will allow your child to process their feelings and gain a sense of mastery over this new adventure, which may ease their anxiety.

4. Give your child permission to have and talk about all of their feelings. Sometimes it can be so hard for us to tolerate feelings like sadness or loneliness so we try to tell children to feel another way (i.e. “How can you not like school?!  School is a fun place.  You have lots of friends there.”).  If this doesn’t match your child’s experience, then they learn not to trust their own feelings or your understanding of them.

Lastly, as my mother always reminds me, this too shall pass.  When things get hard, stick right there with your child and don’t worry that you’re creating any bad patterns.  Sometimes our kids just need more of us, and that’s perfectly ok!

September 10, 2010

eliminating night terrors and nightmares

Exactly when we begin to dream is debated in the scientific community, but it is believed that children begin to have nightmares (“bad dreams”) at a greater frequency from ages 3 to 5 years-old. This is likely due to their increasing exposure to scary themes in books, television, social interactions, etc.

We know that dreaming takes place during REM sleep and babies spend the most time in REM sleep as it required for their rapid brain development.  We progressively spend less time in REM sleep as we age (fetuses spend 100% of the time in REM sleep whereas the elderly spend 15%).

When I consult with families of preschoolers the topic of nightmares and night terrors often comes up.  The two are not the same and the response to each is nearly polar opposite.

Nightmares are another word for scary or bad dreams. Nightmares happen during REM sleep. When children are having a nightmare they can be awoken and will usually remember the nightmare the next day.  Often times nightmares are a reflection of a child’s feelings of anxiety or powerlessness in a situation.  They can happen when there is a new change in a child’s life or when they are exposed to scary situations from peers, books or television.

Solution: If you know that your child is experiencing a nightmare, try to gently awaken your child and offer reassurance and comfort.  Stay with your child until they are calm and relaxed.  Help your child imagine a happy ending to their nightmares and/or spend time during the day acting out the scenario with a positive ending.  Let your child be in the role of the scary character so s/he feels more power and control in the situation and will be able to overcome the underlying fear.  In some cases a very dim night light may also help.

Night terrors, on the other hand, tend to be genetic (includes sleep walking/talking, etc) and are often triggered by stress (including sleep-deprivation).  Night terrors occur within an hour or two of going to sleep during deep sleep and can last 5-20 minutes. Children who are experiencing a night terror may appear to be awake (eyes open), but in fact are in a very deep sleep.

Solution: Do not attempt to awaken your child.  It is natural to want to comfort or awaken your child, but this is not helpful.  Stay near your child to ensure that they stay safe.  In the bigger picture, it is imperative that you work to minimize your child’s stress and/or get your child more sleep if they are sleep deprived.  A good place to start is usually with an earlier bedtime.

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.