Managing Toddler Sleep Problems

Judy Arnall discusses sleep guidelines

If you have a child between the ages of one and five years who won’t go to bed, won’t stay in bed and won’t stay asleep, or wakes up too early, you are in good company.  According to a National Survey in the US, 70% of parents with children under five years have the same problems.  When children are older than one year, there is very little risk of suffocation, so sleeping with parents are easier. Here is some possible sleep arrangements:

  • Toddler sleeps in his own bed – parent soothes and gradually leaves in baby steps.
  • Toddler sleeps with parents in their bed.
  • Toddler sleeps with siblings in their bed.
  • Toddler sleeps on living room sofa, while the parents are still up, and then the parents move him when they go to bed.
  • Toddler sleeps on the floor on a mattress or airbed next to the parent’s bed.
  • Toddler starts the night in his own bed and may climb into parent’s bed when he needs to, probably in the middle of the night.
  • Toddler starts in parent’s bed and gets moved to her own bed when asleep and when parents want to go to bed.
  • Parents take turns sleeping with the toddler in her own bed every third night so one parent gets a solid night of REM sleep.

Sleep is important. Seventy percent of growth hormone is secreted during sleep.

It’s still one of those things that is totally under the control of the child. Parents can facilitate sleep, but can’t force it.

Some toddlers still sleep with and nurse with Mom during the night. By about age three and a half years, most toddlers are okay with sleeping in their own bed, and their night nursing has become negotiable. They are able to talk with Mom about when and where to nurse. Many Moms want to night wean their toddlers by two years or sooner. Often, holding, cuddles, and a sippy cup of water is enough to help toddlers stop night nursing and go back to sleep. Other Moms have said, “Num-nums have gone to sleep and will wake in the morning to feed you!” Some Moms found it helpful to leave their toddler with Daddy at night to sleep and cuddle with and not feed for a few nights.

If parents understand the reasons why toddlers and preschoolers don’t want to go to bed, they can address those needs. Separation anxiety is a huge issue. A recent Today’s Parent Survey of 3000 parents revealed that at least 10 percent of families co-sleep. Sleeping with a child for a few years doesn’t mean they will never sleep in their own beds any more than using diapers for a few years will prevent a child forever from using the toilet.

There are no studies that show any negative effects from co-sleeping for children aged one and up. Most children sleep alone, in their own beds, in their own rooms, by age 12. By then, they will insist on it!

Wherever a toddler sleeps, be sure to have a bedtime routine: a snack, bath, then pajamas, teeth brushing, and finally a story. Have a brief talk, prayer or snuggle time and kiss them good-night. Children tend to open up and want to talk just before bed. That’s why it’s great for Dad and Mom to alternate putting children to bed. It’s a time for intimate conversations that really builds relationships. It may help to stay with your child while they “let go” and drift off.

Leave them in their own room with a white noise machine, fan, book, or quiet toys in bed. If they get up, attend to their needs. Usually, it’s not a drink of water or scary monsters under the bed. It’s their need for more parent cuddle time and attention. If they don’t settle, bring them downstairs to cuddle and lay on the couch while you watch your adult show or carry on with your adult activities. Keep the focus off them and on to what you want to do. It’s your time. They will fall asleep but secure in the fact that their parents are there.

Although there are recommendations for babies under one, there is no co-sleeping safety concerns for children over one.  Where your child sleeps is a matter of your family preference, culture, and values and the decision is up to you.  No professional should tell you how or where your family sleeps.

Whatever works so no one is crying and everyone is sleeping safely is the right option for your family.

Leaving Baby for the First Time

Leaving Baby for the First Time

The moment is here. Your partner has been not-so-gently hinting that you need a date night out. You agree but are reluctant to leave your new baby. Your couple relationship is important to you and you really would like a break too, so you decide to go for it. How can you make the separation easier?

 

Tips for Mom

Have a trial run with your caregiver

Ask someone you are super comfortable with leaving your baby, such as another Mom, or a relative that you trust.

Phone home as much as you need to in order to feel secure.

Say a quick good-bye, hug and leave fast.

Leave a shirt or receiving blanket that smells like you.

Go to something you can focus on such as a movie or show. Dinner is too unstructured and your thoughts may turn to worry.

Post a list on the fridge of what helps calm babies’ crying, positions she likes, food and bath preferences, sleep routine and individual quirks.

Make sure your caregiver and you share the same philosophy. Ask questions such as “How long do you think baby should cry before you pick her up?” to gauge suitability.

Don’t do it again unless you feel ready.

Don’t worry if you only last half the time you planned. It’s natural to feel that way.

 

Tips for Partner

Recognize this is huge for her

Allow her to do what she needs to do in order to feel comfortable.  If she needs to cling to her phone, don’t tease her!

Acknowledge her feelings of guilt, worry and anxiety; she is being pulled two ways between wanting to go out and wanting to stay with baby.

Let her phone home as much as she needs to.

Let her talk about the baby as much as she wants to.

Let her go home if she is overwhelmed. This is still a very natural and healthy attachment at this stage. If her baby is going to university and she still can’t bear to go home, then it might be a problem! She will love you all the more for your understanding to her needs.

As the famous quote by Elizabeth Stone says, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  Leaving your “heart” for the first time is a huge step of many toward interdependence for you and your child. Do it whenever you feel it is right.

 

 

The Last Day of Parenting (After 29 Busy Years)

Today, is the last day that I’m on active parenting duty.  It began on a sunny, hot, cloudless day on June 29, 1991 when my first son came into our lives. The other book-end, my baby, my youngest of 5 children, turns 18 tomorrow, the first day of his adulthood.  We often count the firsts in parenting – first smile, first step, first time they sleep through the night, but we often don’t celebrate the lasts – the last time we co-slept, the last time we cuddled up to read a bedtime story – the last time he held my hand while out walking – because we don’t know when they are. We have to cherish those moments as they come because they are so sweet and fleeting. Today, I celebrate a job, a passion, a career and a calling – parenthood – as well done. It was hands down the best experience of my life, and so worth the gray hair, empty bank account and wrecked furniture! I have 5 beautiful, caring adult children who I am so proud of and are my best friends. My heart is bursting with pride and happiness at the wonderful people you have become and your individual gifts and qualities. You will go forward and make this world a better place than it was before you came. Happy Birthday my dearest youngest child and welcome to adulthood! And happy Last Day of Parenting to me and my loving partner in this most wonderful adventure!

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The Power of Positive Reinforcement

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My comments in an article in Today’s Parent regarding positive reinforcement: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/positive-reinforcement-one-parenting-trick-everybody-needs/

Read the full article here

Baby Playtime: How Much is Enough?

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New moms often ask, “How much should I play with baby?”  The simple answer is, “As much as you wish to.”  Babies love faces and the best time to interact with those they love is face-to-face contact times such as bath times, diaper changes, and feeding times.

During those contact times, it helps to sing, talk, tickle, read, make facial expressions and use vocal variety to baby.  Don’t forget to smile.  Babies love facial interaction and they will naturally turn their head away when they have had enough.

Try to give baby some “tummy time” for several minute periods each day.  It helps baby to develop neck and upper arm muscles and it relieves pressure on the head so that the risk of plagiocephally (flat head) is reduced.  Many babies don’t like tummy time, on a hard floor, so it can be helpful to put baby on parent’s chest while parent is lying down on the sofa.  This counts as tummy time.  Also, keep in mind that tummy time can be several minutes, several times a day, instead of a twenty-minute marathon every day.

Baby carriers are a wonderful way for babies to be stimulated and entertained through the day.  Baby watching you make dinner from the elevated view of a backpack is fascinating for him and is just as stimulating for his brain development as watching “educational” videos.

In spite of our society’s intensive push to give early learning to young children, try to avoid worrying about how much stimulation and playtime she is supposed to be getting.  If you enjoy spending time with baby, interacting with your natural enthusiasm, rest assured she is getting enough stimulation!

http://www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 jarnall@shaw.ca

How to Handle a Bad Report Card

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The exam results are in!

Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace, that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children?  What can do you do to encourage him instead?  It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one “view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is.  Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool.  All three legs are required for the stool to function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.

One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts, science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.

The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities, health and wellbeing maintenance, and volunteer commitment.  In other words – all the skills that parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening, assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but because of lack of people and life skills.  These are the some of the most important skills to develop.  These skills can be learned and practiced by all children.  Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all children can learn to be polite and organized.

The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills.  This is the most important evaluation and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these areas.

Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.

Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or self- awareness.  In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn nothing.  We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?”  The ability to self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all those academic years at Harvard.

Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning can’t be denigrated to a number.  Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering, life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and appreciated.

No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward?

Judy Arnall is a non-punitive parenting and education expert.  jarnall@shaw.ca

http://www.professionalparenting.ca

Learn more about Multiple Intelligences – Every Child is Gifted!

 

Liberals favour appealing Section 43 – the spanking law

It’s about time!

Liberals in favour of repealing section 43