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Advice from a Pediatric Sleep Expert
One of the most frequently asked questions to new moms is 'How’s your baby sleeping?'. Sleep… or lack there of pretty much consumes your first year of life together with your baby. From getting them to nap, to sleeping through the night … it will always be on your mind. We sat down with Becca Campbell, a pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Little Z’s Sleep Consulting to share her tips for your most popular baby sleep questions:
When to start sleep training?
We can’t even mention 'sleep training' until 4 months old. Why? Because newborns 0-3 months need to be waking and eating throughout the night, and because their sleep cycles haven’t matured yet. By 4 months old they are having adult-like sleep cycles (hello, 4 month regression!) and we can sleep train baby! Now, please don’t be scared of that phrase. Unfortunately it’s getting a bad connection to the true 'Extinction Method'...which I don’t EVER suggest for babies. Sleep Training means you’re training baby how to sleep independently, and in my world, teaching baby that they can be in control of sleep- instead of depending on external props (rocking, patting, nursing, paci, etc).
The most important thing to know when you’re sleep training? Know if you’re ready! Seriously- it’s not a walk in the park. Don’t let your mom, friends or even Pediatrician twist your arm to sleep train. YOU need to be ready. Making change is hard, so if you’re feeling pressured to make change it just won’t work. You need to know when you’re ready to get baby sleep independently, in their own crib, falling asleep on their own and sleeping all night. For some this is at 4 months, and for others this is 11 months! When you’re ready, we can make sleep a thing! >>LISTEN TO MY PODCAST ON WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE READY
How can I transition baby away from feeding baby to sleep?
The foundation of good sleep? Teaching baby that food is for nourishment, not for sleep. I know, that’s easier said than done! But here’s what you need to know- when we make that shift from feeding baby to sleep, to feeding baby awake and alert…they will become better daytime eaters! Seriously! It happens all the time with my clients. You might be feeling like baby eats more at night, and is on hunger strike during the day. This is typically because we’ve conditioned baby to eat for sleep- so during the day (when they want to be active!) they will push bottle or refuse nursing because… 'Hey! I don’t want to sleep! I want to play!' So I want you to start at bedtime routine making sure the baby’s feed is 100% awake and alert. No sleepiness where baby might be thinking, 'Food is for sleep.' Nope! Food is for nourishment. It’s delicious! After bath, nurse baby in their room with lights on and engage by poking, ticking or even using big brother or sister to sing and talk! The more the merrier! Of course, if your little is more distracted- tone down the talking and focus on keeping their eyes open by poking and tickling them. Bedtime Routine is the key for a good night, so from then on really make sure baby knows food is for being awake on!
Help with napping at daycare
Oh daycare naps! They can be so frustrating, I know! But let me help you release the stress. They are going to be bad. Yep, don’t fight it. They simply aren’t going to be as good as they are at home. And that’s okay!! When we begin sleep training baby we want to ask the teachers to also abide by our plan as well: no pacifiers (I even encourage making a sign to put on baby’s crib!), no rocking, no swing or swaddle. Baby can put themselves to sleep! Of course, they won’t nap as long in a bright + loud room. To help with the environment, you might see if you can offer to bring my favorite portable white noise (Hushh by Marpac) and do a quick nap time routine with baby. This is a simple change diaper and put on sleep sack. Our whole point with a nap routine is to cue baby that it’s time for sleep! So they can do this at daycare, but we will just need to be prepared that naps will be half of what they are at home. To help with this, we can use the drive home as a quick power-nap. Or if you’re home early enough, put baby down for a fast nap (or baby wear for snuggles!). Let’s cut those Zzz’s off at 4 or 5 PM (depending on baby’s age) and have baby down for bed between 6-7 PM. Typically with my clients we are choosing an earlier bedtime M-F and 30 minutes later bedtime on the weekends. That’s okay! If your child is having short naps at daycare, we just need to roll with it. What I really want to focus on is giving them the gift of sleeping 11-12 (or even 13!) hours each night to have the rest they need. On weekends, let them play catch up!! Good news? Once baby moves to the toddler room with nap-mats and lights low…we typically have better naps!! YAY! >>LISTEN TO MY DAYCARE PODCAST HERE!
How to continue sleep expectations when my child is sick?
It’s the time for sniffles and coughs, but we can’t throw our sleep out the window! When minor issues arise like these let’s use some good tools to help baby feel better when sleeping:
Cool Mist Humidifier (my fav!), Baby Vapor Rub, Nose Frida and saline spray!
In the night when baby wakes up, I’d never want you to wait long if baby is coughing or having trouble. Go help!! Offer vapor rub or wipe their nose. You may even pick them up to get a sip of water. That’s okay! What I really want to make sure we do is get baby down to sleep independently again. We can’t go back to rocking and taking them to bed with us just because they have the sniffles…otherwise we’d never get sleep back!!
When they are having fevers, vomiting or have a much more difficult issue….we bend rules! I’ve totally had a baby throwing up in the night and whisked her to my bed to monitor her. Sweet girl needed my immediate attention, and we have to watch her. You’ll do the same! And that is all okay. Rock, hold, be with them. But when they are feeling better- fever has broken, vomiting subsided…let’s get back to our old habits. It starts at bedtime routine. Get back in the groove of laying them down awake and having them fall asleep on their own.
Remember- even if it’s sniffles or fever, your child may need a bit more sleep! So my favorite tool for combating sickness? EARLY BEDTIME! Even 30 minute early can help take the edge off not feeling well. (And you do the same, Mama!!)
My child is waking through the night because they are teething.
Not to put a blanket statement out there, but…NO. That’s not what’s happening. Unless your child is one of the rare who get terrible diaper rashes, high fevers or diarrhea they are fine. You see, we gaining and losing teeth until we are 12 years old. Therefore, we can’t put sleep on a shelf for that long! We need to stick to our expectations. Does little always go down awake and snuggle their teddy? Great! Let them do that. Don’t bend the rules because you thiiiiiiink you see a little tooth popping through. My favorite (natural) way to help with teething pain is offering a frozen washcloth at bedtime routine. During the book reading, allow your little one to chomp on a chilly cloth so it will relieve the pressure of the gums. Remember that the height of the pain is right before the tooth pops through. So if you see the tooth- all is fine! >>LISTEN TO MY PODCAST ON TEETHING HERE
Becca Campbell, Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant
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