Browsing Tag

Sleep

Babies + Kids

Swaddling: The Do’s and Don’ts

As if being a new parent isn’t hard enough without the constant controversy over a whole host of baby-related topics from breastfeeding to co-sleeping to babywearing!

It may take a bit of time, but I find most parents end up learning to trust their instincts and doing what is best for their babies and for their families.

Swaddling has been one of those hot “baby” topics recently and everyone and their mother has an opinion!

For newbie’s, swaddling is an age-old technique used for many moons in many cultures. It involves snugly wrapping baby to help him feel safe and secure. The idea is that being wrapped up snug can stop your baby from being disturbed or awakened from sleep by his own startle reflex.

The startle reflex (occurs in infants and disappears at 4-6 months old) causes babies to make sudden jerky movements in response to being startled – sometimes to loud noises and sometimes to nothing at all. It’s a protective mechanism but becomes super annoying when baby wakes herself up from deep sleep. Ugh!

Swaddling lessens and even prevents the effect of this reflex, essentially keeping baby cozy, secure and sleeping. Swaddling can also help settle babies down when they are over-stimulated.

Sounds like a dream, right? Although the benefits to swaddling are pretty amazing (I mean, why wouldn’t you swaddle?!? A sleeping baby rocks!), there is also some debate about the safety of a swaddle.

But from what I can gather (after reading a ton of articles), if you follow the infant safe sleeping guidelines, which includes safe swaddling technique, set out by Canadian Pediatric Society, you will provide a healthy, happy and safe sleep environment for your baby. Even if you choose to swaddle. The details can be found on the Canadian Pediatric Society website here.

Following the infant safe sleeping guidelines will provide a happy healthy and safe environment for your baby

I’ll simply say that if you choose to swaddle your little nugget, following these basic Do’s and Don’ts will help keep your babe safe and snug:

Do’s

Do use a light weight blanket to keep baby from overheating

Do always place swaddled baby on his/her back to sleep

Do leave two fingers space between chest and swaddle

Do provide baby enough room to move legs and bend at hips

Do have a trusted expert teach you how to swaddle properly

Do switch to a sleep sack when baby starts to show signs of rolling (see below for my sleep sack suggestions)

Do follow the safe sleeping practices outlined on the Canadian Pediatric Society website.

Don’ts

Don’t swaddle using a heavy thick blanket to swaddle

Don’t swaddle too tightly around chest, hips and legs

Don’t leave the swaddle too loose so blankets come undone and could potentially cover baby’s face

Don’t place swaddled baby on his side or tummy to sleep or nap

Don’t continue to swaddle when baby starts initiating rolling

swaddle will2

A few months ago, we were looking to transition our little babe Will from his swaddle to a sleep sack. I was on the hunt for a sleep sack that would be cozy but also light weight and would be a smooth transition for our little guy – who absolutely loved to be swaddled in snug. I came across the Nested Bean Zen Swaddle and Zen Sack!

Best. Thing. Ever.

swaddle will 5

Ok so here’s why I absolutely love this sleep sack.  Both the sack and swaddle come with this gently weighted center that’s like a super lightweight bean bag built right in. Basically, it simulates a mama’s soothing, comforting touch on the baby’s chest with a lightly weighted pad.

The Zen Sack had William sleeping longer!

The first time we used the sack, William napped like a star! He fell asleep super easy and stayed asleep for longer. Plus, they now ship to anywhere in Canada!

Um, can we say #MomWin?!

Follow my latest post on instagram for a code that gives you free shipping! Yay!

Happy Sleep Mamas!

Xo

Dr Aliya

 

Health + Wellness

Tips for getting a Good Nights Sleep

A good night’s sleep?

Feels like a distant memory for this mama — between the frequent midnight wake ups and the very often early wakings of our two year old – I really do miss sleeping through the night undisturbed and the feeling of awakening naturally in the morning.

When it comes to sleep – quality counts just as much as quantity. Although I’m not consistently sleeping 8 hours per night, I try to make sure my pre-sleep/bedtime routine is solid to optimize the quality of zzz’s I’m getting – keeping me productive and full of energy all day long.

How you feel during your waking hours depends on how well you sleep.

Here are a few tips that will help you sleep better so you can feel rested and refreshed.

Sleep better tip #1: Get in sync with your body’s natural rhythms

Supporting your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm) is important for achieving good sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule will set your body’s internal clock and optimize your sleep quality.

Sleep better tip #2: Create a bedtime routine

A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that its time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Avoid bright screens within 2 hours of bedtime. This includes the screen on your phone, tablet, computer or TV.

Many people use television to wind down at the end of the day, however many shows are more stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.

Sleep better tip #3: Get regular exercise

Studies show that regular exercisers sleep better and feel less sleepy during the day. Exercise improves the symptoms of insomnia and increases the time spent in deep, restorative stages of sleep.

Sleep better tip #4: Improve your sleep environment

Small changes to your sleep environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.

Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 18˚C). A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.

In addition, if you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from city traffic, loud neighbours or barking dogs try masking it with a fan or white noise. Earplugs may also help.

 

Sleep is something we all need and most of us fail to get on a regular basis. When we don’t sleep enough or sleep well, our productivity and behaviour are affected. In addition, lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and depression.1

Follow these easy tips and a better night’s sleep can be in your future soon!

 

1 Statistics Canada, 2005 General Social Survey

(Reference http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm)

 

Babies + Kids

Your infant sleep questions…ANSWERED!

As a new mom, I remember spending endless early morning hours searching the internet in the hopes of finding the miracle that would help my little girl sleep through the night! Or even sleep a 6 hour stretch!  I know I’m not alone!  On every new parents mind is – SLEEP! When will my baby sleep through the night? What do I do to help?  Countless articles and books have been written around the subject of Infant Sleep.

Last year, when I was awake at 4 am researching the matter on the internet I came across Catherine Wright – sleep consultant extraordinaire and owner of Motherhand, offering supportive sleep coaching. Her approach and philosophy surrounding sleep is integrative and intuitive allowing parents the space to use a variety of sleep solutions and embracing all parenting styles.

We asked Catherine some of our frequently asked sleep questions – here’s what she had to say.

Q: When is a good time to start sleep training?

A: There is a wonderful book called Bedtiming, by Marc Lewis and Isabela Granic, which gives parents an overview of optimum ‘windows’ for making modifications around an infant or child’s sleep, based on where they are at developmentally.

The 5.5 – 7.5 month window is considered a good time for sleep coaching. At this age, babies are naturally starting to consolidate overnight sleep (and so we’re simply finding ways to nudge the process along). Developmentally, they tend to be focused on tactility, and more interested in exploring the edges of a sleep sack, or grasping for comfort buddy, than tracking parents’ whereabouts.

Because separation anxiety and social referencing tends to peak around the 9-month mark, this is not an ideal time to make big changes around a baby’s sleep.

The 5.5-7.5 month window is considered a good time for sleep coaching

Q: When is it too early to sleep train?

A: Of course, there are differing opinions on this.

Internal, biological forces like melatonin production (a sleepy hormone) and the development of the circadian rhythm start kicking-in around the 4-month mark, totally transforming the sleep landscape for a baby. It’s helpful to wait until these processes are underway, before helping a baby learn to fall asleep and resettle more independently (introducing new sleep associations and moving away from bouncing, holding or feeding a baby to sleep).

Some pediatricians and sleep experts feel babies as young as 2-3 months are ready to ‘sleep train’. In my experience, this is not always the case. I prefer to wait until a baby is 5 months before starting sleep coaching – parents can see marked changes very quickly, and changes tend to ‘stick’ at this age, when parents are consistent.

Sleep foundations should be solidly rooted before parents start with any sleep coaching method. Without foundations in place, parents often get frustrated or stressed because they aren’t seeing results, tears are not easing off as they’d hoped, or, if they have initial success, it starts to unravel within a few weeks.

Q: What is sleep shaping?

A: I think of sleep shaping as the gentle steps parents can take, starting on day one, to set their baby up for long term, healthy sleep. Sleep shaping is mindful of a baby’s developmental age and stage, and how the sleep ‘puzzle’ comes together over time.   Sleep shaping is essentially laying down the ‘sleep foundations’:

  • Ensuring baby’s health, nutrition and emotional wellbeing is in check
  • Creating a healthy sleep environment for baby
  • Cultivating simple routines around baby’s naps and bedtime
  • Ensuring baby is getting enough daytime and nighttime sleep for his age (being mindful of not overstretching wakeful periods during the day)
  • Establishing (fairly) non-variable wake-up and bed times

Once foundations are in place and baby is old enough, parents can start to teach their baby how to fall asleep with less intervention by giving them new associations around sleep which support self-settling.

Sleep shaping are the gentle steps parents can take, starting on day one, to set their baby up for long term, healthy sleep

Q: Will my baby ever sleep through the night?

A: Yes! When sleep foundations are in place this often unfolds organically, when baby is ready. There is also a huge range within ‘normal’ when it comes to overnight waking patterns in the first year of life, but most healthy babies are quite capable of this by 6 months (many earlier).

Don’t forget that all babies and toddlers wake frequently at night! The difference between a baby who is ‘sleeping through’ and a baby who is still waking at night is that the baby who is ‘sleeping through’ has learned some sleep skills which allow him to resettle on his own when he wakes and doesn’t have an immediate need.

For parents who want to be more proactive around nudging their baby in this direction, they’d first want to ensure sleep foundations are in place, and then find a sleep coaching method that fits with their parenting style, household set up, and their baby’s temperament and age.

It possible to embark on sleep coaching while respecting that a baby still may need to feed overnight.

sleeping baby 1

Q: How about bedtime routines?

A: Sleep routines are possibly the most important sleep foundation for babies, toddlers and adults.

Wind-down routines offer babies a transition between ‘awake time’ and falling asleep – it is the predictability around routines that sets sleep in motion. Instilling routines early on makes it easier to help a baby learn to settle more independently, down the road.

Here are a few key ingredients for a bedtime wind-down routine:

  • Doing relatively the same low-key activities in the same order each evening before your child’s intended bedtime (bath, PJs, cuddles and books, lullaby, bed).
  • Turning off all screens in the home and dimming lights
  • Darkening baby’s sleep space (as dark as you can get it!)
  • Using a bedtime lullaby or ‘sleepy mantra’ around settling baby into sleep
  • Ending the routine ends in baby’s sleep space

Parents can start with a short, simple routine and build upon it as their baby gets older. Using continuous ‘white noise’ around wind-down routines and overnight can be incredibly helpful in the first year of baby’s life.

Wind-down routines offer babies a transition between ‘awake time’ and falling asleep

Q: What else can parents do to help with the sleep training process?

A: It’s essential to consider a baby’s health, nutrition and emotional wellbeing before starting on a sleep coaching plan. If a baby’s birth experience was traumatic in any way, if baby has had a history of reflux, colic, or difficulty latching or feeding – chiropractic care is tremendously beneficial and will support the changes parents are making towards improving their child’s sleep.

By optimizing baby’s nervous system (neural communication) and assisting any restrictions in his body, chiropractic treatments often make the sleep learning journey a much smoother process.

chiropractic treatments often make the sleep learning journey a much smoother process

Q: How would you know if your baby or toddler is a good candidate for sleep coaching?

A:

  • You have a 6-month baby (or older) who is waking frequently at night and having trouble resettling.
  • Bedtime is routinely a drawn out process, or fraught with tears or lots of protesting.
  • Your baby is 6 months or older and has very unpredictable routines around sleep.
  • You feel your baby or child is chronically not getting enough restorative sleep during the day or at night.
  • You’ve made sacrifices to accommodate your baby or child’s sleep but are now so exhausted your day-to-day life is affected and you’re not sure about the best way forward.
  • You have multiple children and are struggling to find peaceful routines around helping them to sleep in a way that works for your family.
  • Your baby is no longer a newborn but you are all sleeping like he is.
  • You simply want support around creating new routines for the way your family sleeps.

If you have any other questions or would like to speak with Catherine, visit her website at www.motherhand.com.  You won’t be sorry you did!

Pregnancy

Your baby bump – a new way of sleeping?

“Sleep now, because you won’t have a chance when the baby comes!”

Ever heard that line from a friend or relative? I know many soon to be mamas want those restful 8 or more hours of zzz’s but can’t seem to get comfortable! Who knew that your tiny baby could cause such big sleeping problems?

The general advice found on many pregnancy blogs and websites suggests that lying on your stomach or back is not recommended and that lying on your left side is an ideal sleep position. Armed with this information and the fear of harming baby, many women restrict their sleeping to their left side only. No wonder they are uncomfortable and struggle to find restful sleep!

After researching both the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – neither suggest any pattern or position for sleep. The general recommendation of many obstetricians is that sleep position in your first trimester has no impact on your health or your baby’s.

Later in pregnancy (2nd and 3rd trimesters), the cause for concern stems from the weight of the uterus and the size of the growing baby. This growth in the size and weight of the uterus can place pressure on the inferior vena cava (a large vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart) when lying on your back for an extended period of time. The pressure on the inferior vena cava could interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients going to the placenta and thus to the baby. Lying on your left side may optimize blood flow.

Start off lying on your left side going to sleep, but if you wake up and catch yourself on your back or your right side, don’t worry. You can and should switch positions from time to time for your own comfort! Your body has a way of telling you when things aren’t quite right and when it’s time to change position. If you are feeling faint or light headed sleeping on your back during pregnancy, consult with your family doctor, midwife or ob/gyn.

Of course, there may be other reasons why the sleep you crave is constantly out of reach. Things like frequent trips to the bathroom, weird vivid dreams or discomforts like heartburn.

Here are a few tips I give mama’s that may help:

  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Nap during the day if you have a moment
  • Avoid heavy meals and limit liquids before bed
  • Do something relaxing before lights out (warm baths, a good book)
  • Enjoy some light exercise (walk around the block, yoga, quiet meditation)
  • Use pillows (between your knees and/or under your belly)

If you are still not able to get comfortable, get up and do a quiet activity for awhile and try again. Almost there Mama!

References
Farine, D, Seaward G. When it comes to Pregnant Women Sleeping, Is Left Right?. JOGC October 2007.