Why Sleep Training Didn’t Work

Why Sleep Training Didn't Work

After weeks, nay MONTHS of struggle, you have finally mastered the challenge of putting baby down awake. Victory is yours! The gates of Valhalla are now open to you as you join your fellow Sleep Warriors! You have successfully gotten your baby to fall asleep without you! The battle cry of the Valkyrie pours forth from your lips! You pour a drink and begin the dance of victory!

VICTORY!!!!

But what’s this? Your baby is still waking up a lot. Maybe not like she was before, but it’s certainly not the fantastic transformative sleep experience that the “Sleep Training” brochures promised you. Maybe you’ve gone from nursing baby every hour to only nursing 4 times a night. But at 10 months you were hoping for better. Because it’s been 10 months since you slept for more than 3 consecutive hours and you’re starting to hallucinate and your partner, who had a lush head of hair a year ago, is now entirely bald. Is this the success you worked so hard to achieve? You did what you were supposed to do, so why are you still struggling with sleep?

Things are better but not great. And like a Baskins-Robins from hell “not great” comes in many different flavors but typically it looks something like this:

  • Bedtime is a relatively smooth affair where baby is falling asleep on their own.
  • There is a longer stretch of sleep in the beginning of the night but things get progressively worse as the night goes on.
  • There may be brief periods (10-20 minutes) of crying here and there.
  • While you may try to coax baby back to sleep with various techniques, generally there is only one thing that will work reliably.
  • It takes increasingly more involved intervention to get baby to fall back to sleep until you simply can’t, which often results in a “awake too early” issue.

Here’s a chart that depicts a common night sleep pattern. And while I’ve used “feeding” as the root issue in the example here, it’s certainly not the only issue that can trip you up.
sleep patterns before and after teaching baby to fall asleep

So what happened?

I have the answer. And I will tell you. For one MILLION dollars, MMWWWWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Or you could like my Facebook page. Although I would vastly prefer the million dollars.

In a nutshell, you managed to teach your baby to fall asleep but you still have a niggling sleep association that is tripping you up. There are a number of sleep associations that can result in this pattern but here are the most common ones:

  • You’re [insert: rocking, cuddling, nursing, feeding, etc.] baby until they’re MOSTLY asleep. People often ask me, “how awake is awake enough?” The answer is, if you’re still seeing the pattern in the chart above, it’s not awake enough.
  • You’re nursing/feeding AT bedtime. If the last step in your bedtime routine is a nice nursing session or a bottle you’re inadvertently reinforcing the eat=sleep association. Don’t feel bad, MANY smart & talented people get tripped up by this. Switch up your routine so that there is a ~20 minute gap between the last bottle/nursing session and bedtime.
  • You put baby down awake in their crib with a pacifier. I hate to be a buzzkill but if your baby is falling asleep with a pacifier they haven’t entirely learned how to fall asleep yet. Even if the pacifier falls out before they actually fall asleep it can result in the pattern of night waking outlined above.
  • You’re hanging around until baby falls alseep. Some folks have figured out that they can get their baby to fall asleep sans tears by standing quietly and putting a hand on baby’s belly, or singing softly from a nearby chair, or even hiding behind the chair so they can spy on baby while they fall asleep (I guess this is a nice alternative to $$$ night vision baby monitors?). Regardless your child has now developed a “you’re there”= sleep association and now is waking up throughout the night and is unable to fall back to sleep because you’re no longer there.
  • Sometimes a timed device (mobile, music, sleepy sheep, stars projected on the ceiling) that is on at bedtime and then auto-shuts off can cause problems. As a general rule, if it works on a timer you don’t want it. Unless it’s a coffee maker that automatically makes a fresh pot at 6:00 AM because those are awesome.

Hopefully the solution to this dilemma is pretty clear but as most of you are running on a scant 3 hours of sleep I’ll spell it out using small words and hand gestures.

You need to change what is happening AT bedtime. Because the activities (nursing, feeding, lurking, pacifier, etc.) AT bedtime are what is creating the waking, crying, feeding, nursing, early morning wake up issues. You should totally be proud of all the work you’ve done to help teach your baby to fall asleep. Your victory dance was well deserved! And you’re REALLY close, but there’s one more small thing you need to change up. Don’t be scared to change up bedtime. You’ve done the hard part, this last step is almost always far smoother and drama-free than people imagine it will be. And the results are often pretty dramatic and instantaneous.

Change what is happening at bedtime for 5 days. Then come back and tell me what happened. Unless it doesn’t work and you want to tell me I’m an idiot. Feel free to keep that to yourself.

Anybody else have any thoughts or experiences with sleep associations and putting baby down awake they care to share?

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I Dare You Not to Smile

I Dare You Not to Smile

Do you need something to make you smile today? Of COURSE you do. Well here you go. You’re welcome.

I’m working on giving my site a face-lift and I asked readers on Facebook if they might have any photos that were gorgeous and/or funny. I figured I would get 2. Maybe 3. Instead I got over 60 and they are FABULOUS. They had me smiling all day long.

So I’m sharing these smiles with you too. Seriously, aren’t they the best thing ever? Bookmark this page for when you’re “in a mood.” Because it’s impossible to look at these and stay grumpy. They’re just so great.

Thank you everybody for your generosity and willingness to share. It has totally filled my bucket. And a big shoutout to all of the generous professional photographers who were kind enough to share their work with me.

Seriously guys, you’re all the best.

Austin Photo Studio
Kristy Dooley Photography
Lindsay Muciy Photography
Lala Loveyou Studio
Shelby Resler Photography
Chassing Giggles
Sarah Costa Photography
Loving Lotus Photography
Photography by SSV
Erin Tole Photography
Dave Brosha
Brian Kilgore Photography
Beauhinze

8 Strategies to Improve Infant Sleep Naturally

infant sleepBabies are naturally terrible sleepers. As parents we often feel it is best to do what nature intended, but when it comes to sleep this can be challenging. It’s completely normal for babies to wake during the night when they need to be fed, comforted, or calmed. If you have an infant, night wakings are something that you need to accept, however some babies do wake up more than others, and some take longer to get back to sleep.

There are several gentle and natural strategies that can nurture good sleep habits in your baby. Using these simple strategies may improve the length and quality of your baby’s sleep, as well as reduce the amount of time it takes to settle your baby, resulting in better sleep for both you and your baby.

Keep Your Baby Close

Having your baby sleep in close proximity to you has several advantages. Not only will it give you peace of mind, keeping your baby close increases emotional bonds and reduces stress levels in both you and your baby.
Keeping your baby close while he sleeps enables you to respond quickly, which means that your baby can be calmed before he gets too upset, making it easier to calm him down. If your baby is stirring, a comforting touch may be all the reassurance he needs.
Research has shown that babies who sleep near their parents have improved sleep. Babies who slept in close proximity to mom were shown to cry less and sleep more. When those babies kept close to mom wake up, they may fall asleep faster and as a bonus, you can get more rest as it is easier to meet your baby’s needs without having to get out of bed. Keeping your baby close also provides peace of mind that your baby is well.

Responding to and comforting your baby will give him a solid foundation for good sleep habits later on. When your child is secure in his relationship with you, it also helps him to be more independent when he is older. Nursing, feeding, or comforting your infant to sleep (or back to sleep) is both normal and natural. So during these early months, there is no need to worry about spoiling or creating “bad habits.”

Be Aware of Your Infant’s Light Exposure

Our circadian rhythm (a fancy name for our body clocks) responds primarily to light and dark. Your baby’s circadian rhythm is still developing over these first few months, and exposure to natural light will help get things sorted out. To do this, make sure your curtains are open as you move about your regular activities during the day. Naps don’t always need to be in your baby’s crib. A bassinette in the living room will help him sense the daytime rhythm of your house, although as your baby gets older and has a good day and night rhythm you’ll find that he will nap best in a dark, quiet place.

Keep your baby’s room dark and quiet at night to help promote sleep. Use dim (or ambient) lighting when tending to your baby’s needs at night. Use only the minimum amount you need to see what you’re doing. A small flash light, night light, or the light from your phone would work great.

Get Outside

Fresh air is highly underrated. Exposure to fresh air during the day will not only improve your baby’s sleep, but it helps clean our lungs and increases oxygen intake. After your baby is a few weeks old, make outdoor walks a priority during your daily routine. Open the windows, relax on the patio, and enjoy the great outdoors. Of course, be mindful of the temperature and remember to dress your baby appropriately.

Most babies love to be held or carried, and there are many options that make this task easier. Babywearning can promote a calm and peacefulness in your baby and you that will often transfer to better nighttime sleep. Skin to skin contact can further increase this effect.
According to researchers Hunzike & Barr, “Carrying infants from 3-4 hours per day reduces the duration of infant crying/fussing behavior generally as much as 43% at six weeks of age.”

Make Daytime Infant Sleep a Priority

Sleep during the day will improve your baby’s night sleep. Many parents with sleep concerns will try to restrict naps in hopes that it will improve night sleep. This usually backfires, since when babies get overtired, it makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces the quality of sleep when your baby does fall asleep. Restricting daytime sleep can result in more sleep disturbances and your baby waking up very early in the morning.

For some, this can become a vicious cycle. For now, help your baby get daytime sleep anyway you can. Stationary sleep (quietly lying still in their crib) is the best option, but motion sleep (swings, carriers, rocking, holding, driving) is definitely better than no sleep.
Studies have shown that your baby is more likely to sleep well at night if he gets plenty of sleep during the day. Most babies can only be awake for a maximum of 1 to 2 hours before becoming overtired; in the early weeks of your baby’s life this wakefulness window will be even shorter. Try to watch for your baby’s sleepy signs and get him down to sleep before he is overtired.

Achieving adequate daytime sleep can be more difficult for some children. If you are having difficulty getting your baby to nap, try holding him, using a carrier, or motion sleep. Naps will get more organized as your baby gets closer to 6 months old. Before this age, you may need to take extra measures to help get your baby to sleep. If you find something that works, use it.

Try Infant Massage

Studies have shown that infant massage can improve sleep at night. Infant massage works best in a calm, warm, quiet room. There are a variety of techniques, so if you’re not sure how to get started, an on-line tutorial or instruction book can give you some ideas of where to begin. Make sure you calm yourself first, and pay attention to how your baby is responding to the massage. It may take a little patience and practice before it becomes a relaxing time to bond and wind down from the day.

Breastfeed in the Evening

Babies will often cluster feed in the evening, seemingly wanting to eat nonstop for a few hours. This is completely normal infant behaviour. Allow your baby to nurse for as long and as often as he wants. He may be hungry, or he may also just need this time to settle and have one-on-one time with you. Evening breast milk contains melatonin (a natural hormone your body produces to help you fall asleep), which can be passed to your baby and help him fall asleep. Not surprisingly, cluster feeding is often followed by a longer stretch of sleep.

Find the Ideal Temperature to Promote Infant Sleep

Interestingly, a lower body temperature promotes sleep, so cooler temperatures in the evening and through the night may aid in a good night’s sleep for both you and your baby. The current recommendation is to keep your baby’s room on the cooler side, about 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and avoid over-dressing your baby. As an adult, you may have noticed that it’s easier to sleep in a cool room with a blanket than a warm room without one. Not surprisingly, it’s the same for your baby.

These gentle strategies are natural ways to help improve sleep for your baby during these early months, however they can also improve sleep for older children as well as for you. Sleep research has come a long way in the last 10 years and it’s refreshing that many of the things that parents find intuitive to do, have also been proven to be healthy and beneficial for their children.

Andrea StrangAndrea Strang is an exceptional addition to the team. She’s been working with babies for over 13 years, and has compiled a nearly unmatched record of over 10,000 hours of hands-on experience working with babies right in the home. On top of that, Andrea’s a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach and a Birth and Postpartum Doula.

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us by commenting below! For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

photo credit: dontcallmeikke via photopin cc

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Baby Barbells Receives the Baby Planner Seal of Approval

Baby Barbells

Finally, a book written by a dad to truly help other dads become better dads and husbands! Thanks to Joshua Levitt, a naturopathic physician in Connecticut and father of three, dads everywhere will learn: how to get back in shape after baby’s arrival; become involved fathers; and “Man Up” (love that phrase!). Joshua authored Baby Barbells, The Dad’s Guide to Fitness and Fathering, an incredibly fun filled guide that talks dads through creative, all over, body exercises they can perform with their babies. The wonderful illustrations make you want to read this Guide from cover to cover and try out every exercise he suggests. I especially like the Sit Ups Not Spit Ups exercise!

I love how he also includes tips to become a better father through “Embrace the Pace”, and how to be a better husband through “Channel Your Inner Janitor.”  Additionally, he incorporates educational tidbits about the importance of bonding with your child, as well as baby wearing, schedules, baby gear and nutrition.

My husband and brother-in-law thought it was a great “man’s” baby book. Both were quite impressed by the creativity of the exercises. They also appreciated the helpful how to be a better daddy/husband tips Joshua includes.  Great tips to score points with mama!

I have to tell you, I was pretty jealous that it was written for dads and not for moms.  But, honestly, this book can be a great gift for a mom or a dad. Help spread the word so that we can get this book on everyone’s registry list! This book can be purchased at all of your favorite book stores and on the Baby Barbells website, www.babybarbells.com, for approximately $10.

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FUZZIBUNZ & ROCKinGREEN RECEIVE BABY PLANNER SEAL OF APPROVAL!

Are you thinking about clothing diapering your child? If you haven’t then you should! I, like many of you, rejected the idea of cloth diapering because I was under the impression that I just didn’t have time for it. Well, this experiance has changed my mind! Recently, I was introduced to the FuzziBunz One Size Pocket Diaper and the Rockin Green laundry detergent…the perfect combination. Though they are two products from different companies the combination makes for the perfect cloth diapering experience.

Want to find out more? Well, check out my video reviews!

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To find out more about FuzziBunz, please visit their website, www.fuzzibunz.com.

To find out more about RockinGreen, please visit their website, www.rockingreensoap.com

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Blissful Baby Sleep Coaching | Blog

Those early sleepy, dark nights of winter are already turning into the dusky purple of a fast-approaching Spring. This is the perfect time to get your “ducks” in a row to prepare for Daylight Saving Time. Not everyone in the world observes Daylight Saving Time, so these Daylight Saving tips may not be applicable to some.

Daylight Saving Time Starts this weekend. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10th, we will turn our clocks ahead one hour. If you are in Europe, Daylight Saving Time will begin on March 31st.

The time change can wreak havoc at bedtimes as children adjust to the new mood lighting caused by the loss of an hour (imagine being used to a 7pm bedtime and now it’s been moved to what your body feels is 6pm!). This change often will make your next few days feel a bit “off”, because our natural rhythms are being challenged. Don’t be surprised if you find that your days feel a bit disjointed until you adjust to the time change, I know I always have a few “off” days. To make the transition easier, I’ve detailed out a few simple things that you can do to help your baby or toddler make the change gently.

Guess what? March 10th (the very day we turn our clocks back) is my birthday! How serendipitous that my birthday coincides with a time change, and a need for some Sleep Lady tips!

Daylight Savings Sleep Tips

1. Ensure that your child is getting adequate naps in these few days before the time change so that they aren’t overtired.

2. Be prepared for your baby’s bedtime to feel earlier, since it actually is earlier. Remember, we’re jumping ahead a full hour, so what used to be 6:00 p.m. is now 7:00 p.m. (but it will still feel like 6:00 p.m. to your baby).

3. Take your baby outside first thing in the morning, or if it’s too cold, open the windows and let in some natural light. This will help your baby’s internal clock adjust to the time change. Try to get at least thirty minutes of sunlight first thing in the morning for that initial week to help your body tune into the time change.

With those suggestions in mind, you’ll need to decide how to help your baby transition to Daylight Savings Time. I recommend that you choose between two transition methods.

Transition Method 1: Pretend that Nothing Has Changed.

That’s right. Just act like it’s a normal day. In fact, if you have an early riser, the time change may resolve the issue for you. This first method is probably the easiest for most families, as you will follow your daily routine according to the clock, but everything will be pushed ahead one hour.

If you choose this method, simply move your clock ahead an hour after your little one is in bed on Saturday, and proceed with your normal day Sunday. Remember that doing this will cause your child to lose an hour, which has the potential to create a struggle at bedtime, which will in fact be a full hour earlier than it was last night.

Because your baby or toddler is not aware that the time has changed, they will wake up at their normal time (hopefully), but instead of 6:00 a.m., it will be 7:00 a.m. (see what I mean about solving that pesky early rising issue?). Proceed with your normal day, and be sure that your meals and naps, and bedtime are at the appropriate time (you may have to watch the clock).

Remember that your baby will be going to bed at their “regular time”. For example, if your baby is used to a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, put them to bed at the new 7:00 p.m. (which was previously 6:00 p.m.). It is very possible that meals and naps will fall into place naturally with this method, but be prepared that your child may not actually be tired at bedtime yet. Remember, they don’t understand why they’ve lost an hour, and it’s suddenly still light out at bedtime, so you may have to be a bit flexible, or utilize The Shuffle to help your baby fall asleep.

The good news about this transition method? This method of adjustment seldom takes more than a week!

Transition Method 2: Stick to Your Regularly Scheduled Program…Sort Of.

If you think the one-hour adjustment is too much for your child (maybe they have an earlier bedtime, or they haven’t been napping well), you can split the difference and put her to bed at the NEW 7:30 p.m. for a few days, then shift back to 7:00 p.m.

Here’s how it works: if you’re child’s bedtime is 7:00 p.m. now, and it feels like a huge leap to get to her “new” bedtime, which will feel like 6:00 p.m. to your child, consider making bedtime 7:30 p.m. (which was previously 6:30 p.m.) to bridge the gap, and help to minimize a struggle with bedtime.

This will help to ease your child into his new schedule and minimize the potential of your baby fighting bedtime. If you go this route, try to be as consistent as possible with your baby’s food and sleep schedule, meaning that you will need to shift their naps and meals later by half an hour as well (so if your baby normally naps at 1:00 p.m., then put them down for their nap at 1:30 p.m. after the time change while baby is transitioning).

Keep in mind that the goal is to be back to your baby’s normal bedtime (and routine) in just a few days (some children may take a bit longer, so don’t fret if your child takes a week or so).

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your baby’s internal clock is used to Standard Time. You may need to revert to The Shuffle for a few days to help ease her into the time change using these methods. “Springing forward” also means that nights are shorter, which may be an issue for some children who are used to dark winter nights. If this becomes a problem, consider investing in some room darkening shades to help your little one go to sleep easily. Remember, every baby is different, and your little one will adjust, but don’t fret if it’s not overnight (some toddlers can take a few weeks to adjust!). Prepare for the transition to take a few days, and watch for those sleep cues that will tell you she’s tired and ready to sleep!

Ease Your Baby Into Daylight Saving Time

1. Decide which Daylight Savings sleep transition method you want to use to help your child adjust.

2. Take your baby’s internal clock into account and watch for sleepy cues.

3. Check to see if light is an issue, and consider purchasing room-darkening shades.

4. Most importantly, be flexible. A time change always makes the days feel a little strange (even to an adult who can understand what’s going on), and your baby can’t quite grasp what’s going on.

5. If needed, use The Shuffle to help encourage sleep and help your baby get the rest he needs.

After all that, Daylight Saving time may be something you can actually

Eat Play Sleep Fail

Eat Play Sleep Fail

Eat Play Sleep is a popular baby management plan that shows up in a number of best-selling books (Baby Whisperer, BabyWise, etc.). I’ve steered clear of the Eat Play Sleep conundrum because I don’t like to poke at other baby sleep people. Mostly because I don’t want them to poke back at me. But today I’m going to put in MY big girl panties, because I think we need to talk about the E.A.S.Y. sleep plan. Because E.A.S.Y. is often not easy at all.

Eat Play sleep or E.A.S.Y. stands for Eat Activity Sleep Your time. In theory the Eat Play Sleep plan ensures your baby will take 2 hour naps so “Your Time” will enable you to prepare fancy Pinterest recipes or finally watch that Pilates video you bought but still haven’t taken the wrapper off yet (don’t lie to me, I know you have one).

Note: If Eat Play Sleep is working gangbusters for you – GREAT! I’m delighted to hear it. Stop reading here. Go read something fun instead. Like my favorite post ever (and sadly I didn’t even WRITE it). If however, you’re having a hard time of it, read on.

There are two key elements to the E.A.S.Y. or Eat Play Sleep method (these are effectively the same thing, so for simplicity I’m going to use E.A.S.Y.):

  • Nursing to sleep is taken off the table. Sure you still need to get your baby to fall asleep (using sushpat, pick up put down, etc.) But you are not going to have any nurse = sleep association problems because nursing to sleep is not allowed.
  • It solves(ish) the “what does my baby need?” conundrum because you are now following a scheduled plan. So there is a lot less noodling on things like, “Baby is crying. Is he hungry? Is he tired? Does he have gas? How should I handle this?” If he’s crying and it’s EAT time, you feed him. If he’s crying and it’s SLEEP time you put him to sleep.

eat play sleep and your babyBut between you and me I hate the whole EASY thing. I totally get the appeal. Lots of people really thrive on schedules and loathe the chaos that newborns bring to the picture. They want to be able to plan their day and have some degree of predictability. They also like to feel like they’re driving the bus vs. just desperately running on the baby hamster wheel. And at a certain point introducing a consistent rhythm is really helpful for everybody. Also new parents are often EXHAUSTED which means their brain is functioning on the same level as a squirrel. So trying to deduce hunger cues, sleepy cues, etc. is a struggle especially when more challenging babies don’t give good (or any) cues. And to be fair there are good elements to this approach, such as the emphasis on putting baby down awake and not keeping baby awake too long. But I see a lot of people getting stuck on the eat play sleep plan and the problem isn’t their implementation or their baby. It’s the plan.

Everybody has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
-Mike Tyson

Hopefully the problems with the E.A.S.Y. sleep plan are jumping out at you at this point but if not I’ll clarify.

  • You’re going to put your baby to sleep SOMEHOW. Taking “nurse to sleep” off the table doesn’t guarantee that you’ll successfully get baby to sleep some other way. Nursing/feeding a newborn to sleep is so very popular because it’s so very EFFECTIVE. Removing that from your naptime arsenal can make the first few months with a newborn REALLY STRESSFUL.
  • Sometimes babies have needs that don’t line up elegantly with the plan! Growth spurts, illness, the fact that it’s a Tuesday – these things can all throw you OFF the plan. If you’re confident working within a plan and maintaining a level of flexibility that’s not a problem. But I see many parents who are rigidly adhering to the plan and/or feeling like a failure because they can’t.
  • Trying to schedule and space out your baby’s feedings during the day can have the unintended consequence of having them shift their feedings into the night. Sure some babies can tank up on a big feed and thus successfully nurse every 3-4 hours during the day. Some will just make up for the lost daytime meals by filling in with extra nighttime meals. Which is related to…
  • By definition, the Eat Play Sleep sleep plan means that when you put your baby down for a nap, they haven’t eaten in a while. If your E.A.S.Y. napping baby takes short naps all day long, hunger may very well be a culprit. Even if you don’t want to nurse your baby TO sleep you can still feed your baby NEAR sleep to avoid this problem. Unless you’re militantly following the E.A.S.Y. plan in which case I hope you enjoy those 25 minute naps.

Does Eat Play Sleep work for lots of babies? Sure it does. The truth is that most babies are pretty flexible and you could pick any best-selling baby sleep book (hopefully this one) and if you’re consistent, it’s going to work for you. But if you’ve got a challenging baby, if things are not going so smoothly, if you’re using Eat Play Sleep and you’re struggling with short naps, struggling to get baby to take a nap at all, or have a baby who eats CONSTANTLY all night, I would suggest that Eat Play Sleep may not be as E.A.S.Y. as you hoped. And I’m not alone in this, check out with Dr. Karp has to say about it.

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If you had luck (good or bad) with Eat Play Sleep please share your story! Also is anybody else impressed that I managed to work a Mike Tyson quote into a baby sleep blog? I feel like I just won some writing prompt competition with that one. Like instead of quoting Plato or Mr. Rogers I’m going to find the most child-inappropriate people and shoehorn their words of wisdom in to posts from now on. Hmmm…I may actually do that.

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Everything You Ever Hoped to Know About Swaddle Blankets

Everything You Ever Hoped to Know About Swaddle Blankets

Talking about swaddling blankets is a lot like talking about cutting toenails. Neither is very likely to get you invited to the next cocktail party. But you can’t blog about how critical swaddling is without also talking about swaddling blankets. What are other people using? Which ones work best? Or don’t work at all?

So, I implemented a highly scientific study of the swaddling blanket market. This looked something like asking peeps on Facebook and on the Troublesome Tots G+ Community. Over 200 people chimed in. I’m pretty sure it qualifies as the most robust analysis of the swaddle blanket industry ever. Which makes me the world’s leading swaddle blanket analyst. Which is so stunningly uncool that we’ll simply agree never speak of it again. Moving on.

It seems that the type of attractive and smarter than average people who read my blog are using these products:
swaddle blanket market

By a large margin, the two most popular swaddling blankets are the SwaddleMe and Halo Sleepsack (with velcro). Both of these have a sleeping bag pouch to keep legs warm and a velcro wrap to keep the arms down and minimize the startle reflex. Both provide idiot-proof velcro which is helpful for those of us who are baby-wrapping-challenged. This means they also both have the DISadvantage which is that some babies are strong enough to break free of the velcro.

Please note that while the sleeping bag idea is a great way to keep baby toes warm, there is no soothing benefit from having their legs IN the pouch. Swaddling is all about the arms and upper body. Occasionally somebody will tell me they’re weaning baby off the swaddle by starting with the legs. This is a lot like cutting down on your coffee consumption by not eating coffee ice cream.

Personally I like both the SwaddleMe and the Halo Sleepsack. They meet my key criteria in that they’re inexpensive (~$20 each), do the job, and are easy to use. That being said, the SwaddleMe is my FAVORITE choice for one simple reason. You can use it with baby’s legs IN or OUT of the pouch. Why would you care about this?

Because if your baby is sleeping in a Rock n Play, swing, car seat, etc. you’ll need access to your baby’s legs to safely strap him INTO those things. So the ability to leave the lower half of his body out of the swaddle will be key for you. As an added bonus the unused “leg pouch” will be between baby and the seat which gives you an extra layer of poop/leak protection. Surprisingly the SwaddleMe doesn’t include this in their marketing messages. Perhaps they should hire me for help with this.

For “break out of the velcro” babies the Miracle Blanket is a popular option. I’m also a big fan of these.

PROS: While no product is 100% break-out-proof, the Miracle Blanket comes darn close.

CONS: At $30 they’re almost 50% more expensive then their velcro brethren. Also the Miracle Blanket is more challenging to get on. Wrapping the baby up in what is effectively straight jacket is no small task. Failure to get it right will lead to more “baby popping out” problems.

swaddle pod swaddle blanketsThe Woombie and SwaddlePod are both stretchy sleeping bags that make your baby look like a cute little sweet pea. I’ll be honest – the only difference between the Woombie and the SwaddlePod that I can discern is that the Woombie costs 2X as much.

PROS: There is no “strap” to break free of so babies are going to stay IN the stretchy sack…

CONS:
until they figure out how to work their hands up and out of the neck hole. Also they allow movement within the sack so the baby’s arms aren’t held down by the side which is generally the recommended position. Where most swaddle blankets listed here had a strong, consistent group of “fans”, feedback on the sleeping bag options (Woombie and SwaddlePod) was decidedly MIXED with 50% falling in the “love it!” camp and 50% suggesting that you should, “save your money for something more useful – which would be anything.”

Sidenote: be careful about Googling any phrase which includes the word “strap” in it. There are things you can never un-see. *shudder*

Only a few peeps are using these but those that are absolutely ADORE them. Aptly named, it’s a strap with velcro.

PROS: I like the concept. If you aren’t using the leg pouch in the SaddleMe or Sleepsack anyway, these might be a good option for you. They are small and come in fashionable colors. I mention this in case baby sleep fashion is a key concern for you. (Is it?)

CONS: They’re a bit expensive ($28) and they don’t sell them on Amazon (aka where I buy everything other than food).

Believe it or not some people use actual BLANKETS. If you’re looking for the best swaddle blanket you want an Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blanket (preferably the 47 X 47 inch jumbo size). A small but stalwart group of fans raved about these and I also can personally attest to their awesomeness. I wouldn’t normally go for a fancy swaddling blanket but these are well worth it. They’re giant and do a fantastic job of keeping baby from popping out. They’re durable, fold up small so that they can be easily carried in a diaper bag, and they look cool. Also they’re muslin which is amazing for it’s ability to keep baby warm in the winter and also cool in the summer.

Did I miss any swaddle blanket gems that I should know about? Good/bad swaddle blanket experiences you’ve had?

{Photo Credit: Aaronandstacia and Dizzylizzy}

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Is Your Crib as Safe as You Think?

Is Your Crib as Safe as You Think?

Most of you feel like you’re never going to get your baby to sleep in a crib. Which is probably OK as most cribs are all that aren’t safe anyway. That’s right, I said it. And while the recent kickup about how co-sleeping is a SIDS risk is putting all the emphasis on the hazards of adult beds, there’s plenty of safety hazards in cribs too.

As part of my 4 year old’s birthday shenanigans we moved him from his crib into a big boy bed. So I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of his crib before we dismantled it for good (*sniff*). And I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to take pictures of what a safe crib environment looks like. And I had to make my own since it’s all but impossible to find pictures of one elsewhere.

The world is full of smart caring parents putting unsafe things in their baby’s cribs or putting them down to sleep on their tummies. Most of them don’t even realize it’s a problem as the world is also full of pictures modeling an unsafe sleep environments. A Pediatrics study looked at magazine photos of sleeping babies finding that only 36% of them modeled safe sleep environments consistent with the AAP.

In the AAP study, 64% of photos of babies in a crib showed them sleeping face down.

And Pinterest is like the rogues gallery of unsafe crib environments. Even the baby cakes on Pinterest model unsafe sleep for babies. Also? Edible cake babies are creepy.

As somebody who blogs about kids and sleep I try to make sure I only use photos that model safe sleep habits. Sadly this makes getting cool pictures almost impossible. Because almost everything you find on stock photography sites features cribs with potential SIDS hazards in them.

To demonstrate I’ve pulled some pictures from popular stock photography sites. No I didn’t dig into the bowels of search results to find these. These are all from page #1 people.
no pillows in the baby crib
bumpers and loose blankets are a SIDS hazard
baby sleeping prone models unsafe crib sleep
photos modeling unsafe crib sleep for babies

So it’s hard to know that there is a problem with your crib setup when the world is full of pictures modeling unsafe sleep. According to the AAP Safe Sleep position your crib should be safe, dark, and dull. That’s it.

  • No blankets or pillows.
  • No bumpers unless they’re the thin “breathable” kind.
  • Nothing within in reach – no electrical outlets, cords, window blinds, mobiles, etc.
  • Baby on back
  • No sleep positioners.

It looks like this (baby not pictured).
safe baby crib

To be clear what it looked like when my 3 year old was sleeping in it was more like this. Which is totally fine when they’re 3. Not so much when they’re babies.
3 year old child sleep environment

Look, I get that decorating baby rooms is really fun. And honestly it’s the last decorating you’ll get to do until they’re 10 because it’s almost impossible to fix up your house when there are small children living in it. But let’s keep the emphasis on decorating around the crib, instead of in the crib.

In closing I wanted to share a few personal pet peeves when it comes to cribs, sleep, and safety.

  • Stop with the bumpers. Just stop it. Stop buying them. Stop using them. And for the love of everything holy, stop pinning pictures of them on Pinterest.
  • I don’t care how great your baby sleeps on his tummy. Never put your baby down to sleep on his tummy. Don’t write me asking if it’s OK. Because it’s not. Don’t put your newborn to sleep on their tummy. (Once they flip over on their own you can leave them in whatever position they have moved themselves into.)
  • Not a safety issue but if it lights up or makes music you probably don’t want it in the crib.
  • Also not a safety issue but you don’t need that $100 crib quilt. Sure it looks cool when you fold it over the crib in the months before you give birth. But after baby shows up it’s unsafe to leave it there. And if your baby can’t use the fancy quilt you bought for them, what’s the point?

Anybody else have any pet peeves they want to share? Examples of safety hazards you were given as shower gifts? Observations on my appalling lack of photographic skills?

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Who Else Wants to Know the Best Time for CIO?

Who Else Wants to Know the Best Time for CIO?

Nobody is driving down the baby sleep road, looking at their finely detailed baby sleep map, saying, “Well, it looks like we’ve missed the turn off into Putdownawake-port so in the next 4-6 weeks we’re going to have to exit into Cryitoutsville.” Instead you wake up one morning feeling nauseous with the realization that sleep has totally gone off the rails, things have gone from bad to horrendous, and the only way out of this dark pit of exhaustion is CIO. The decision THAT CIO is the answer is immediately followed by the question of WHEN it should happen. Because CIO is a scary prospect for most people, they want to find the optimal time for CIO.

I think the mental dialogue goes something like this, “If we can triangulate the best time for CIO we can minimize the crying, get things sorted out prior to starting daycare, and maybe get a night or two of sleep before the MIL shows up and starts critiquing the non-housecleaning.”

Based on the number of people asking me about when to do CIO it’s clear that there is a widely-held belief that:

  • There is indeed an “optimal” time for CIO.
  • That I hold the secret to it.
  • And I can possibly be convinced to relinquish the secret CIO scheduling decoder ring if asked nicely enough and/or with enough capitalization/exclamation points. (Ex. HELP we’re DESPERATE!!!!)

Which is totally understandable. CIO is HARD and SCARY. If you’ve taken my advice then you know that commitment is key. So you don’t want to dive in and then realize, “Woops! We picked the wrong day.” Because once you start, you are committed regardless of which day (right or wrong) it is.

Additionally there are a number of books that talk about wonder weeks and sleep training that suggest there is indeed an optimal time for CIO. Which is where emails like this one come from:

I always knew we needed to make some changes, but I just don’t know where the time went. Month 6, 7, and 8 went by and although not ideal for most, my catnapper, frequent waker still was rocked and nursed to sleep usually quickly and easily. I just began staying in the same room as our son while he napped, and if he woke up I was right there to shoosh or nurse him back to sleep instead of catching up on things, having time to myself, or with my husband. My son took two 1-2.5 hour naps instead of 40 min ones, we were in a rhythm that worked for us, and I was oblivious to the monster that I created.

All was fine and good until I emerged from my little bubble and realized what I had done. I have a child who cannot even begin to self soothe. He is to a T how you would describe a child with a sleep problem on your website. He frequently wakes and has never once in his life fallen asleep unassisted.

I found this book that discusses certain windows that are better to train your child to sleep. I explored this a bit more and discovered that months 9-12 are not only not optimum, but that they are really bad windows to try to train your child to sleep.

Seriously. Does that mean I have to deal with this until his first birthday? What happens if I forgo this advice? Is it really okay for my child to sleep train at almost ten months? What will happen during this cognitive leap if we barrel through? I know failure is not an option, so I don’t want to try and give up. Do I need this book? Or is this me finding one more reason to hold off on doing what my child really needs?

This is my response to her email:

You are going down the rabbit hole of doubt. Don’t do this. It’s dark in there. Probably lots of spiders too.

People love the idea that you can triangulate the “optimum” time to sleep train your baby. But it’s a myth. THERE IS NO OPTIMUM TIME. There is always, ALWAYS a wonder week, growth spurt, separation anxiety, travel, developmental milestone, starting daycare, teething, ear infection, cold, shots, etc.

There IS a kernel of truth in these books in that yes – growth spurts, developmental milestones, separation anxiety, etc. will all happen and that trying to sleep train or night wean while your child is in the throws of a vicious growth spurt and thus eating constantly is not ideal. And yes many of these things happen on somewhat predictable schedules so that in an ideal scenario you would avoid them. But there are two key words here that are easy to overlook, but you shouldn’t because they’re really critical.

Somewhat and ideal.

Babies are somewhat predictable. For example I talk a lot about the 4 month sleep regression/wonder week/growth spurt. Because for most people, it’s a doozie. But truthfully, do you want to know when the 4 month growth spurt will occur? Sometime between 3 and 5 months. Or not at all. The idea of an optimal time for sleep training assumes that these developmental milestones are known quantities. But they aren’t.

And most of the time there is no ideal scenario. Much like the search for the perfect haircut or a winter coat that is both warm and slimming, the search for the ideal time is futile.

Maybe it’s today. Nope! Raging ear infection. How about next week? Uh oh – baby has figured out how to stand up at the crib but can’t sit down and is getting stuck. That’s going to put us back another week or two while we practice sitting. How about now? Ugh…now we’ve got that wedding in the Hamptons. Then your Mom is visiting. Then you’re going back to work and can barely muster the fortitude to face dropping off at daycare much less sleep training.

Sometimes you just need to work with what you’ve got. Waiting just prolongs the anxiety and chronic sleep deprivation. There is no guarantee that waiting till next week or next month is going make things any easier than they would be today.

And sometimes now really feels like it’s not the right time. And who knows, maybe it’s not. But if you give yourself a little mental breathing room, I think you’ll find that most of the reasons you’re using to convince yourself that it’s NOT the best time for sleep training all boil down to one simple fact: you’re not ready.

And that’s OK. But let’s acknowledge what’s really going on. If you’re not ready, don’t do it. Figure out why you’re not ready. Maybe there are other alternatives you want to pursue first? Maybe you need some time to get comfortable with the idea? Maybe you need a little emotional support?

But in general, unless your child is a) seriously ill or b) you’re about to launch on some massive international travel, the ideal time is now.

Bedtiming is a book that tries to help you figure out the ideal window to sleep train based on the rough time frames of various developmental milestones. If you disagree with my assertion that there is no ideal time then I’ve shared their suggestions here, followed by my own 2 cents on the subject.

 Age  Bedtiming says…  I say…
 0-2 1/2 Months  BAD time  Agreed, they’re NEWBORNS. Please don’t try to sleep train your newborn baby.
 2 1/2-4 Months  GOOD time Nope. For a number of reasons: they’re still really young, you still have lots of tools at your disposal, and the dreaded 4 month sleep regression is likely to fall sometime within this window which I would argue is possibly the LEAST ideal time imaginable.
 4-5 1/2 Months  BAD time I would argue that they’re still on the young side. Also babies younger than 6 months generally haven’t developed object permanence which is cause of almost all of your “baby up all night” problems that result in sleep training in the first place. Also, unlike “older babies” you still have some soothing options at your disposal.
 5 1/2-7 1/2 Months  IDEAL time They say ideal, I say it’s the first age at which I would seriously consider sleep training. Most babies don’t generally have a highly developed sense of separation anxiety at this age (note: separation anxiety is not your friend when sleep training). Alternately many babies have a big growth spurt/sleep regression at 6 months which is best to be avoided. But as noted, trying to plan around these things is a fools errand.
 8-11 Months  WORST time  Really? It’s true that separation anxiety peaks at this time. However often separation anxiety causes sleep issues so severe that sleep training is the only practical solution. Also separation anxiety/object permanence are the developmental milestones that lead to the most severe sleep issues. So they’re effectively telling parents that sleep training is not possible at the exact time when it’s generally most needed.
 12-16 Months GOOD time and the last chance for an efficient and satisfactory sleep training experience  That’s right folks, if you don’t manage to get your kid sleeping by 16 months you are doomed DOOMED I tell you.
 17-21 Months  BAD time  At this point I’m starting to feel badly for people. If neither you nor your child has had any real sleep in almost 2 years, I don’t think you need some book telling you that you need to wait another 6 months. I think you need a drink and a warm hug.
22-27 Months GOOD time Yay! It’s been 3 years but the book says we can finally do something about this hot mess!
28 Months-3 Years Last window of opportunity to initiate or repair sleeping habits with ease. Wow. Better get on that because this is the last chance we’ll ever have to establish healthy sleep habits before our child becomes a chronically overtired person forever and turns into Ted Bundy.
3 1/2-4 Years BAD time I guess this means you have to wait until they’re 5. But why stop there? After 5 it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump until they’re in college.

Listen, I don’t mean to be glib. I know this is hard stuff. But if you’ve come to a place where CIO feels like the right answer for your family, then go with that. Don’t wait for ideal. Ideal never comes. There is only today.

And if I haven’t convinced you, maybe the final words from the Mom who sent me the email above will.

“If someone were to ask me what my number one priority in life is at the moment I would say my child’s sleep, If they were to ask what most of my time is spent doing, I would say putting my child to sleep. The reason I bite my husband’s head off with a mere glance of the wrong kind is because I have poured any and all patience, understanding, and love into putting my child to sleep. Sleep…

I have this beautiful, smart, healthy boy and all I can do is think about sleep instead of enjoying this small window of babyhood I have with him.”

Does anybody have any experience with this? Maybe you jumped in and wished you waited? Or you sleep trained and found yourself wondering, “Why didn’t we do this ages ago?”

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