March 2nd was America’s Read Across America Day.
If you aren’t already in the habit of reading to your child every day, it can feel like an awkward habit to start. I usually don't think to spontaneously offer to read to my children, so I’m guilty of the same struggle.
The thing that worked the best for my family was to establish reading as a pre-sleep routine. And I suggest the same to all my clients.
You can start reading to your child at any age from newborn on up. She may not seem to be paying attention, but even the rhythmic, soothing sound of your voice helps along her journey of language development and someday, reading.
If your older baby wants to eat the book, or grab at it and flip rapidly through the pages, or wanders away, that’s not a problem, either. Keep on offering once or twice a day. One of these days, he will surprise you and suddenly want to pay attention. Just keep the energy light and positive. What counts is that you make the effort, not that your baby focuses on reading. Keep it pleasant and non-stressful for both of you. Eventually your child will grow to love the routine of reading together.
If your preschooler prefers to watch a show over reading, change the order of things. Move TV before dinnertime, so that your child has an hour or more without exposure to blue light (the light from screens can make it harder for children to sleep, even though they seem relaxed while watching). Substitute pre-bed watching for pre-bed listening to a story.
If your older child no longer wants to be read to but doesn’t want to read independently before bed, try an audiobook. Any and all exposure to written language is helpful for your child’s growing brain, and also makes drifting off to sleep an easier process.
If you’d like to add to your child’s collection of diverse books, check out these suggestions from Read Across America that promote diversity and inclusion.
PS If you are struggling with the transition to Daylight Savings Time or other sleep transitions, schedule a free consult and get your family the sleep you deserve.
Five-year-old Amelie got into my makeup and thus, her "Doggy" got an unfortunate makeover. Luckily a trip through the washing machine returned "him" to normal.
If you are wondering why Doggy looks like a monkey and not at all like a dog... Well, Amelie named Doggy when she was a young toddler and ALL animals were “doggies.” Amelie is nearly six now but her monkey remains a “doggie.” Only “he” got named Jack a while back… but in moments of stress, he is called Doggy again.
Doggy has special significance for us because my mother gave him to me before Calliope was born. Calliope never needed a transitional object because she twiddled her ear for comfort (along with sucking her thumb). So when Amelie was born, Amelie inherited the love object, and unlike Calliope, Amelie quickly grew attached.
My mother died just before I successfully conceived Amelie. I had been trying to get pregnant with frozen embryos as my mother was dying of cancer and so I was able to tell my mother that her future grandchild, if a girl, would be named after her. (My mother's name was Amy, and she was named for her grandfather, Emil,)
Doggy is Amelie's one gift from her grandmother.
What are transitional objects and how do they help?
A “transitional object” is a physical item, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, that represents an extension of a young child’s primary caregiver. It reminds the child of the warmth, love, and security he or she feels in the presence of the primary caregiver. It allows the child to separate from a parent with less distress.
Transitional objects can be a huge help for children who resist separation, particularly at bedtime. It's normal for children to fear separation from their beloved grown ups, and it's also normal that their grown ups need that separation to function.
Particularly if your child is dependent on your physical touch to fall asleep, consider introducing a transition object. If your child is mobile, you can let them choose which they would like to sleep with. For a younger child, you may have to choose for them -- ask your pediatrician when it is safe to introduce one. The American Academy of Pediatrics says nothing in the crib before 12 months but your healthcare provider may say earlier is acceptable. It should be large enough to not be a choking risk and small enough to not be a smothering risk.
You may wish to slide the love object between you during bedtime snuggles, or even put it inside your shirt to acquire your scent. You can tell your child, "Lovey will keep you safe all night long." Don't be afraid to create a dependence on the love object. It's much healthier for a child to be dependent on a transitional object than on you for the small stresses of daily life. It's not a substitute for you, it's in addition to you. This is one sleep crutch that you actually want to have.
Most loveys are adopted during infancy but don't be afraid to try to create one into the preschool years.
Also, if you are afraid your child will never outgrow their dependency on the love object, don't be. Some children outgrow it gradually and others reject the love object seemingly overnight. All children outgrow their dependence sooner or later. One piece of advice though: acquire duplicates as soon as your child has identified a favorite love object! Rotate them regularly so the child doesn't have a preference. And keep the beloved love object safe at home and use a back-up for daycare and outings.
I actually threw away Doggy's duplicate before Amelie was born, since Calliope wasn't interested in it. And now I can't find an identical lovey. I live in fear of the day that Doggie gets lost -- he gets misplaced occasionally and we all feel terror as we search! Don't make my mistake.
Also, some children adopt "lovies" that are nontraditional. If your child loves bringing a favorite truck to bed, not a problem! Other children like carrying a cloth diaper around, or an item of a parent's clothing. Whatever creates a feeling of security in your child is perfect.
If your child is resisting separation at bedtime, set up a free chat to discuss how we can get your family the sleep you deserve.
Daylight savings time is coming to the United States and Canada in just TWO weeks, on March 14. (It's not until April in Mexico.)
Parents often ask if they can just keep their child’s schedule the same while the clock “springs” forward, to instantly create a later bedtime and later wake time.
The answer is that yes, you can… but it can be a little tricky to maintain. The main challenge is that in order to keep naps from shifting, you have to keep meal times the same as before, also. So if your child ate at 7, 12, and 5 before, you will now need them to eat at 8, 1, and 6.
Likewise, if your child woke at 6 am, napped at 1, and went to bed at 7 pm, your child will need a wake time of 7 am, a nap time of 2, and a bedtime of 8 pm.
The wake time and the bedtime should be pretty easy to maintain but if your child goes to daycare and preschool, you may not be able to control the nap time nor the lunch time. Just something to keep in mind.
Also, in the United States and Canada, the days are getting increasingly long. In order to prevent early wakings, you may need to up your game when it comes to keeping your child’s room dark. If you haven’t yet invested in blackout shades, do so. It’s seriously one of the best investments you can make in the health and happiness of your family.
Even if you do have blackout shades, you may need to address light coming in around the edges. If you haven’t bought them yet, consider buying extra-large ones that go around the window frame instead of inside the window frame. If you have already made the investment, consider painter’s tape around the edges. It may look ugly, but a few minutes of extra sleep in the morning is worth it, no?
At naptime, check if light is streaming under your child’s door. It may not keep her from falling asleep, but it may lead to a shorter-than-optimal nap time. If this is an issue, put a towel at the bottom of the door to block the light.
Don’t forget to keep white noise running during naps and all night long. It can be very hard to convince a child to go to sleep when it’s still light out! If he can hear the rest of the family having fun, that will only make things worse. White noise is your best friend in this situation.
If your family is struggling with early wake times, why not schedule a free consult to see if you can all get a little more shut-eye?
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.