"I fantasized about getting in a car accident just so I could go to the hospital to get some sleep."
Verena courageously shares her story here of how she was so miserable and exhausted because her baby didn't sleep. She was crying every night along with him. She even fantastized about getting in a car accident, just so she could get some sleep in the hospital.
She says, "Of course as a mother, I felt guilty. Why isn't he happy? What am I doing wrong?"
"I felt very alone. I felt like no one really understood what I was going through."
Worst of all, she felt guilty that she wasn't enjoying her baby.
Not knowing anything about sleep coaches but on the recommendation of a friend, she decided to sleep train with the help of Peaceful Parent Sleep Coaching.
"It completed changed my life. He's so happy now, always laughing. The times when he is awake are so magical. I'm so in love with him."
If you are ready to change your life, schedule a free consult and find out about the Better Sleep Guarantee.
We’ve been dealing with a lot of temper tantrums in my house. As my youngest gets older, she gets more skillful at being hurtful.
“You’re the WORST! I hate you! You’re not the best mommy in the history of mommies!”
Followed by a more pitiful, “Why does no one love me? Why do you hate me?”
It all feels really unfair. Obviously, I’ve never said that I hated her. I adore her… most of the time. Occasionally, I don’t like her behavior and I tell her so.
She can’t see the distinction.
And so I remind her that I love her, always, and that I also need her to clean up her mess.
I’m starting work this week with the family of a three-and-a-half year old boy. They successfully sleep trained him as a baby but now he won’t go to sleep unless his father lies down with him. The boy -- let’s call him Oliver -- is clearly exhausted. He tends to throw massive tantrums. His mother said to me, “clearly we can’t do Cry It Out with a three year old.”
Sometimes children need to cry. Sometimes we all need to cry.
Crying is not a problem. Screaming is not a problem. Having a tantrum is not a problem.
Oliver is crying because he’s exhausted and he doesn’t know how to get the sleep he needs. He’s rightfully frustrated. But he’ll tell his parents that he’s mad because Mommy wants to do the bedtime routine, or he’s hungry (after skipping dinner because he was too tired to eat) or he wants to play one more game.
Oliver doesn’t know that sleep is what he needs to feel better.
Maintain the limit -- that it’s time for bed and he can’t have one more game/a cookie/Daddy when it’s Mommy’s turn to do bedtime. Let him get upset.
He also doesn’t know that he needs to empty his emotional backpack. Both he and his parents are a little scared of it. He may be carrying big emotions about quarantine, or about Daddy working from home and not being available to him, or Big Sister taking his toy in the sandbox.
Whatever it is, welcome the tantrum. It’s not dangerous. Embrace the storm. Sit quietly and wait for it to pass. Don’t try to explain to him why his feelings are wrong -- that never feels good. Sit on the floor next to him and make comforting noises if he allows it. He may not. He might not want you to even look at him.
Just wait. When the storm has passed, he will crawl into your arms and feel so much better. He will know that his emotions aren’t a problem for you, that you can handle them, no matter how big. That you are still his fearless leader. No matter what. You are the adult and you’ve got him.
So if I'm being honest, no, I don't love tantrums. They are really unpleasant. But I am practicing embracing them and letting them wash over both of us. I can see that things in our house are getting easier, gradually, as a result.
Ready to embrace some tantrums and get your family the sleep you deserve? Set up a free consult and find out how you can all be sleeping peacefully in two weeks or less. Schedule a Free Consult
Here is a dad's perspective on the amazing changes he saw in his 4-month-old son. Lucas previously only took 15-minute naps and slept 1-2 hours at a stretch at night.
(Kent and Verena did not want to night wean yet so are thrilled with 3-4 hour stretches at night and 1-2 hour naps during the day. Other parents are ready to night wean and are looking for 12-hour stretches at night. The choice is up to the family.)
Life with my first newborn, almost nine years ago now, was often miserable.
She was generally pleasant during the day but by late afternoon, all hell broke loose. She cried for hours. I felt like the worst mother in the world. And I used to be a neonatal ICU nurse! How could it be this hard to comfort my own child?
I sat at my mother’s dining room table with a breastfeeding pillow around my waist and my shirt bunched above Calliope’s bald head, doing my best to wolf down food one-handed.
My mom would take Calliope from time to time and bounce her repeatedly, which calmed Calliope momentarily but then she would cry even harder a few minutes later.
About the time that I was nearing my breaking point with the crying, having not left the house all day, my mother would hand the baby over and chirp cheerfully, “well, I’m getting tired, I think I’m going to go get ready for bed now.”
I frantically swaddled and swayed and nursed and rocked Calliope in her little swing. Nothing seemed to help. I was exhausted. And as a single mother by choice, I didn’t have a partner to turn to. My mother changed diapers and burped Calliope after feedings when she could, but she was a full-time attorney and busy with her own life.
My blog from 2011 says,
Calliope doesn’t seem to have any comfort mechanisms besides nursing. I know they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby... but I don’t believe that. If she is eating for reasons other than hunger, to my mind, that’s not necessarily healthy, just like it wouldn’t be healthy at any other age.
However, I still let her nurse whenever she wants to... but when she cries and roots while the nipple is still in her mouth, I feel beyond frustrated and helpless. Clearly she isn’t hungry. But I just don’t know how to help her.
Finally she fell asleep and II left her swinging in the den. I gathered my strength to climb the stairs to my bathroom. And cried in the shower.
I don't know how I can keep going like this. I love her but I can't bear the exhaustion."
Then my friend Catherine, another Brooklyn single mom, told me about a book called The Sleep Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg. She said it helped with her newborn son, Jack, just a few weeks older than Calliope.
I was desperate. And so tired I couldn’t imagine staying awake long enough to read a book. Desperation won out. I didn’t love the author’s tone. It was a bit too colloquial for me -- she addresses her clients as “luv.” But I forgave her for that because the information she shared changed our lives.
I finally understood that I was keeping Calliope awake too long. At just a few weeks old, she should have been awake for only an hour at a time. She should go to bed before she even looked tired, at the first sign of a yawn. And those too-late naps were thus too-short naps... which were absolutely causing the late afternoon witching hour(s).
I promptly put Calliope on Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You.
Eat. Rather than letting her eat all the time, and especially before sleep, I only fed her when she first woke up from a nap. I aimed for feeding every three hours. I stopped feeding her to sleep.
Activity. For a newborn, activity was simple. Mostly it was a few minutes lying on her activity mat but other times, it was even less. It turns out that newborns don't need all that much in the way of stimulation. As she got older, this period gradually lengthened out.
Rest. I aimed to put her back to sleep after only an hour awake. If I saw a yawn after only forty-five minutes, I would put her down even sooner. I used four of Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s: swaddling, sucking (a pacifier), swinging and shushing (white noise). Back then, it was acceptable to let babies sleep inclined in swings. Now we know this is a risk factor for SIDS, unfortunately. All babies must be put down to sleep on their backs.
You. The part I lived for. This was time for me. To shower, exercise, call a friend, check email or (less fun) pursue the disability insurance folks. Getting a guaranteed break for myself made all the difference in the world to my emotional health. I never managed to nap but getting time off during the day meant I didn't stay up too late at night, trying to soak up some personal time.
Within a few days of putting Calliope on this schedule, she was a different child. She literally never cried. I could figure out her needs just by glancing at the clock.
It was hard, sometimes, to be so ruled by a schedule... but it was worlds better than hours of crying every afternoon. And I found I could compromise let her nap in the stroller occasionally without suffering the consequences at night.
And with just this routine, including the feeding schedule, Calliope was naturally sleeping 8 hours at a stretch at night without any formal sleep training by 6 weeks old. (The swing might have been an unfair advantage, though!)
I am not exagerating when I say that this schedule saved my sanity. I know I was lucky that she was a good sleeper... but I know it wasn't all luck, since she wasnt' a good sleeper before this schedule changed everything for us.
Moreover, it saved me from having to do any hard sleep training. This method didn't involve any crying at all. (In another post, I'll talk about the sleep training method that got me to 10 hours by 10 weeks. That was even better.)
It's never too soon to instill great sleep habits in your child. I started this schedule on our first day home from the hospital with my younger daughter. I never did any sleep training with her at all. She slept ten hours by ten weeks, too.
If you would like to get your little one on track and aren't sure where to start, schedule a free consult with me and get your life back on track.
Three beautiful, well-rested little ones.
I was privileged to work with C and her husband, parents of three children under three years of age (a two-year-old toddler and infant twins). They are total rock stars when it comes to sleep!
C & J changed their lives by making a few small changes in their daughters' sleep routines.
Watch C's story (it's less than 4 minutes, and is totally inspiring).
And if you are ready to change your life through better sleep, set up a free consult and get ready for stronger family bonds, better health, and a happier outlook.
I want to sleep train my two daughters, ages 5 months old and 2.5 years old, respectively, but I have a problem. I am scared that if I let either child cry, she will wake her sister. Two children awake at the same time, especially in the middle of the night, is my personal nightmare.
As a result, I am feeding the baby every 2-3 hours all night long, to keep her quiet, and I have to crawl into the crib with my older daughter several times each night to soothe her back to sleep. It can take up to an hour each time to get her sleeping again.
Also, my older daughter refuses to let my husband put her to bed -- she screams if he tries to help -- and I am exclusively breastfeeding the baby, so I have to do everything myself.
I am completely exhausted and I don’t know what to do. Please help!
Fear of waking a sibling is a common theme with the parents I work with. Many of my clients live in apartments or small houses. And many of my families with twins need or want to keep their children together in one room.
I get it. I've been there. I was in a one bedroom apartment until my older daughter was one. Then I had a two bedroom apartment until my younger daughter was two-and-a-half. And of course, my children still share a room whenever we travel.
So we have experienced a lot of room sharing in my life as a parent. It's challenging, no doubt about it.
Here's my advice: lean in. Embrace the pain. Don't try to keep one quiet to avoid waking the other.
Here's why: as long as you are desperate to keep one child quiet to avoid waking the other, your children are in control. And if they are a toddler or older, they undoubtedly know it. And will use it to their advantage.
Unlike new parents, children are designed to learn to sleep through their siblings' noises. There is no biological advantage to a sibling waking up to the sounds of another child, so with practice, they can learn to sleep through it.
This is especially true for twins but also holds true for siblings with an age difference.
Here's some more specific tips:
If you would like achieving this goal, or any other sleep goal, schedule a free chat and get your family the sleep you deserve.
During the haze of the newborn days, we all do what we have to do to survive. I remember standing in front of my stove, exhaust fan roaring, jiggling little Amelie in my arms for what felt like hours. I thought the exhaustion would never end.
Those habits that develop in the early days can sometimes go on far too long, though, and can end up costing our children and ourselves great sleep later on.
Typically what happens is parents feel like they’ve finally figured out a way to get a few solid hours of sleep with a small infant, perhaps nursing them to sleep. But then that little baby grows and those nighttime habits stop working as well. Often around four months old, your baby starts waking up more often instead of less. In a frantic attempt to get some desperately needed shut-eye, you up the ante. You find yourself nursing and rocking every two hours all night long, even as your baby shouldn’t need to eat so frequently (or at all) during the night. As your baby grows, you are both more and more tired.
This exhaustion has real consequences. Your baby is unable to focus on her play as well when she is overtired. She may be hyperactive, or cranky. Your ability to enjoy parenting is diminished Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for depression, obesity, hypertension, and heart disease. Your domestic partnership will suffer. And worst of all, as a sleepy driver, you are a mortal danger to yourself and others. Sleep deprivation is a very big deal.
We know that sleep training results in some short-term protesting, aka crying. No parent wants to hear her child cry. It’s hard for everyone. And some parents, who may identify with the “attachment parenting” philosophy, fear that allowing their children to cry can cause real psychological or physical damage. But studies have shown that the short-term crying associated with sleep training is not dangerous to health and does not prevent a strong, healthy attachment. Fostering a strong attachment is not the same as an attached-at-the-hip approach to parenting.
Imagine a parent swooping in to lift her child each time he attempts to pull to stand. We would call her a helicopter parent, and think that she is blocking her child’s biological drive to walk. In the same vein, rushing in to soothe children back to sleep at night is helicopter parenting, and is impeding their development. We can trust that children have the same biological drive to sleep as they do to walk. We need to get out of the way and let them practice and learn.
As good, non-helicoptering parents, we provide safe and supportive ways for our children to grow, even knowing it can hurt them or us. We let our children squirm and roll and eventually crawl, clearing the floor of dangerous objects, knowing a bumped head will still probably happen at some point. We let him practice climbing at the playground, even knowing he may fall someday. And far too soon, we will go on lots of practice drives before finally handing over the keys to the car, even while we fear for our children’s lives.
In the same vein, we must also provide safe opportunities for our children to learn to self-soothe. This ability allows our children to not only sleep independently but also to weather hardship when we are not there to comfort them. We can’t always be there to take away every hurt, much as we would like to. The path to self-soothing will look different for different families, but all children can to self-soothe learn in a safe and supportive environment.
A fascinating article on childhood anxiety in the Atlantic found that while parents don’t create childhood anxiety, when parents stop changing their own behavior to accommodate the anxiety -- be it lying down with the child at night or bringing the child into the parental bed -- the child’s anxiety improves. And the entire family’s well-being improves as a result. “It sets in motion a virtuous cycle: As parent behavior changes, kids will start coping for themselves. As they cope, they’ll come to feel more capable, and they will be treated as such by their parents, who will further reduce accommodation. In turn, the entire family’s well-being will improve.”
Childhood is an 18+ year journey to independence. Much as we might wish to, we can’t keep our children dependent. What we can do is provide them with a strong, nurturing connection that sends them confidently out into the world… and welcomes them back with loving arms when they need support and comfort again. It is not our job to prevent them from ever feeling pain, because that would be impossible. Instead, we teach them courage and resilience and a belief in themselves by providing them with ever-increasing, age-appropriate, challenges.
Many parents fear that sleep training can hurt their child’s attachment or psychological health but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sleep training and teaching self-soothing actually strengthen the entire family’s connection. As The Happy Sleeper says, “Warm, supportive parenting and a full night of independent sleep are not mutually exclusive… they work together naturally and seamlessly.”
If you are ready to create strong family bonds by guiding your child to stronger self-soothing skills but aren't sure where to start, set up a free chat with me and enjoy great sleep in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
"I Put a Night Light in My Baby´s Room So She Won´t Be Afraid of the Dark" and Other Well-Meant But Misguided Parenting Mistakes
As parents, we – with the best of intentions – tell ourselves a lot of stories about our children. And sometimes those stories can seriously undermine our families' needs. Putting a night light in a baby' s room is a perfect example of this.
Children don't develop a fear of the dark before age 2-3. Before that time, their brains simply don't have the developmental maturity to imagine scary monsters under the bed. And light in the bedroom is a bad idea. Light signals the brain that it´s time to be awake. We want to send the opposite message at bedtime and nap time, that it´s time to sleep. Darkness cues the body to release the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy.
For this reason, putting a night light in your baby's room is hurting her sleep without any benefit. If she cries at bedtime, it´ s because she doesn't want to separate from you, or because she is overtired, not because she's scared of the dark. Adding a night light will only make things worse in that she'll have an even harder time falling asleep. (And by the way, separation anxiety is perfectly normal and is not a reason to keep your tired child up, even if is what she thinks she wants. It´s only making things worse. When you get her caught up on her sleep debt, you will both see this.)
The best way to sleep, at all ages, is in total darkness. You should not be able to see your hand in front of your face.
You will likely need blackout shades to achieve this level of darkness. Your local hardware store can sell you inexpensive stick-on shades that you can try before you invest in a more permanent solution. You can also do what I did with my oldest, and tape up black garbage bags over the windows. Depressingly ugly but remarkably effective!
You may also need to add painter's tape around the edges of the blackout shades to prevent any light leakage. This may seem like overkill but it´s an easy step to try if your child is waking up too early. Even a tiny bit of morning light can wake a little one in the early morning.
At age 2-3, your child may develop a true fear of the dark. Only at this point should you consider introducing a night light. I use a portable Munchkin night light for my own kids. It turns off on its own after a few minutes, so it won't disturb their slumber once they drift off, plus the portability is great for those scary midnight trips to the bathroom.
If your child needs a light that stays on all night, pick something that has red light, not blue. Blue light is stimulating to the brain and tells us to wake up. Electronic screens contain blue light and for this reason, you should avoid exposure to screens in the hour before bedtime, too. I recommend turning down all the lights in the house in the hour before bedtime. This is one more cue to the brain to start winding down.
Keep night lights as far from the bed as possible. And keep the number to a mínimum. Your child should not sleep with more than one all-night night light. If your older child (preschool or older) child is sleeping with multiple night lights, you will need to wean him off them. When making big changes to your child's routine, I always suggest having a conversation with your child ahead of time (not at bedtime!), getting his buy-in, and rewarding his cooperation. After all, this is your idea, not his. I might say something like, ¨"I have learned that sleeping with too much light on makes it harder for our brains to relax. I want to work on having fewer night lights in your room. I know that might be hard for you. What prize would you like to earn for working on this?"
Some parents fear that creating a dark sleep environment will create dependence or worse, that their children will wake up cranky and miserable if they sleep in darkness in the middle of the day.
It´s true that if you put your child to sleep in the dark, he may require darkness to sleep. And that dependence on darkness can occasionally be inconvenient. But wouldn't you rather have a child that is (nearly) always well-rested and occasionally doesn't sleep well because you can't recreate his ideal sleep environment on the go? Versus a child that is so overtired that he will fall asleep wherever he is, but is never well-rested? (A child that always falls asleep in the car is an overtired child.)
As for your child waking up cranky after a nap in the dark? The problem is not the darkness. The problem is the timing of the nap. A correctly-timed nap will not result in crankiness. A correctly-timed nap in the dark will coincide with your child´s natural surge in melatonin, the sleepy hormone, so your child will nap well and wake up well-rested and happy. An incorrectly-timed nap results in that cranky, miserable feeling we adults feel, too, when we sleep at the wrong time. It´s called nap inertia, and my older daughter had it all the time because I didn't know better and put her down to nap too late. It was miserable for both of us. If you can't put her down on time, it's better to keep her up and implement a very early bedtime instead.
It can take courage to make big changes in your child's sleep routine, like eliminating night lights. Be patient and encouraging with both of you. If you would like some support along the way, schedule a free chat and get your family the sleep you deserve, guaranteed.
There are six essential elements for creating great sleep in young children. If you aren't optimizing each of them, your child is probably not getting all the high-quality sleep she needs. Inadequate hours of sleep, or sleep at the wrong time or in the wrong place or with too many wakings all lead to an overtired child.
Overtired children have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Their naps are too short and they wake up too early in the morning. It's a vicious cycle.
Overtired children also tend to be wound up and hyperactive. They usually are not sleepy. This is because their bodies produce a stress hormone, cortisol, when they don't get enough high-quality sleep. This stress hormone helps them stay awake but makes it hard for them to focus effectively on their play -- their work -- or to fall asleep when naptime rolls around.
If you optimize these six elements, you can guarantee better sleep for your child. They are as follows:
I know reading the suggestions here, or in a book, isn't the same as actually putting them into practice. Doing so can be intimidating, especially when your family is already exhausted. Let me help. Schedule a free call and change your family's life forever.
We all know the newborn period is rough. You do what you have to do to survive. Safely, I hope.
But sometimes the habits that begin in the newborn period stretch far beyond the early days without parents even realizing it. And suddenly those early habits can end up really hurting you.
Case in point: rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. In the early days, your baby may not be able to fall asleep without you. So you rock her or nurse her to sleep. Fine. With many newborns, you can hope for at least one longer stretch of sleep before the next feeding.
But now your baby is 8 months old, or 2 years old, and he can't fall asleep without you. Worse, he wakes up every two hours all night long and needs your help to fall back to sleep. You know a child his age doesn't physically need to feed every two hours. You know he's waking up to be with you.
Now, if this isn't a problem for you and your family, rock on. You do you.
But most families who reach out to me aren't doing so well with this. They are typically in a crisis of sleep deprivation where they aren't getting a whole lot of enjoyment out of parenting. Worse, they are putting themselves and the general public at risk because they are driving while sleepy. Their immune function is down from sleep deprivation, and their stress levels are up. Their romantic partnership, if they have one, is probably struggling. Worst of all, their children are exhausted. Tired children are often hyperactive, irritable, and unable to play independently for long.
This is not a win. For anyone.
In this case, it's time to change things up. And before we can change her behavior, we need to look at your thoughts.
Some of these struggling parents identify with the "attachment parenting" philosophy. But fostering a strong attachment with your child is not the same thing as helicopter parenting. Imagine your child was working on pulling to stand and you lifted her up every time she made an attempt. You would be blocking her growth and development. The same can be said of rushing in to soothe her every time she makes a peep during the night. With the best of intentions, you are actually preventing her from developing essential self-soothing skills. After all, you aren't always going to be there to right every wrong. You need her to develop resilience and perseverance and a belief that she solve problems on her own.
Many parents believe that their children simply can't fall asleep, or stay asleep, alone. And these thoughts are selling your child short. Don't underestimate his abilities. He can sleep independently as soon as you are ready to believe in him.
Childhood is an eighteen-year+ process of moving away from one's parents. It's our job to support our children in their drive towards independence, even when it hurts them, or us. It means allowing them to crawl on the floor, even when it's not ideally clean. It means letting them climb the playground climbing structure, even when we know it might result in a bumped head. And some day, it will mean handing over the keys to the car, even when we fear for their lives.
The key to all these scenarios is providing a strong base of connection, affection, and trust while allowing children space to test their new abilities. When your child is practicing crawling, you clear the floor of dangerous objects. When your child wants to climb, you stay close by, ready to catch her, until you are confident in her abilities. And when the driver's license is granted, you spend plenty of time on practice drives before you let him take the car out alone.
They key to all these examples is that you support a strong connection, show faith in their abilities, and stay close by to ensure their safety while not interfering in growth.
To foster a strong attachment, you play peekaboo or tag or go for a walk together. You offer plenty of hugs and kisses and verbal reassurances. You offer healthy food at regular intervals. You show delight in his achievements. And when nighttime falls, you don't interfere in the development of self-soothing abilities. You decide ahead of time on your response to nighttime wakings, and you stick to your plan. For some parents, this might be sitting quietly in a chair near the crib while the child settles. For others, it involves a quick check and then leaving again. You only offer nighttime feedings when they are physically needed (usually only in the first few months of life). And most importantly, you trust that your baby is capable of developing her hardwired ability to sleep well.
Please note, changing a child's nighttime habits typically involves some amount of "protesting," aka crying. This is not a problem. The short-term crying associated with sleep training is not dangerous to children. Elevated levels of stress hormone for a few days is not dangerous. In most cases, children are sleeping well after one or two weeks of sleep training, sometimes less.
But the long-term implications of high stress hormone associated with chronic sleep deprivation -- in children as well as in adults -- is dangerous and can cause serious health problems like obesity, hyperactivity, and high blood pressure. You owe it to yourself and to your child to get this situation resolved.
If this isn't evidence enough, check out this excellent article on childhood anxiety from The Atlantic. It found that 95% of anxious children have parents who change their own behavior in an attempt to diminish their children's anxiety. This can include lying down with a child at bedtime, or bringing the child into the parental bed. And treatment that teaches parents to stop accomdating the behavior results in children who are less, not more, anxious. By allowing our children to work through their discomfort, we actually make them stronger.
Healthy sleep habits are essential to good health. And so are strong, loving relationships. It's time we stop seeing them as an either or situation. As The Happy Sleeper says, "warm, supportive parenting and a full night of independent sleep are not mutually exclusive... they work together naturally and seamlessly."
If you want to shift your family to healthier habits while fostering a strong connection, but aren't sure where to start, set up a free consult and get your family on track in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.