5 Tips To Help Baby Sleep
Join me and a Certified Holistic Sleep Consultant as we delve into the biggest steps you can take to improve baby sleep! As mamas, being tired is a constant hurdle we’re facing. EVERY mama will move mountains to get more sleep… and this is the episode where we tell you how to do it 😉
In This Episode
- Introduction (0:26)
- Why Babies Need Sleep (4:01)
- Bedtime Routines For Better Baby Sleep (6:32)
- Safe Skincare For Babies (10:49)
- Baby Sleep Regressions (12:17)
- How To Break Baby Sleep Habits (14:42)
- Working With A Baby Sleep Consultant (17:44)
- Why Are Babies Not Sleeping? (20:06)
- Symptoms Of Tired Kids (27:09)Your Link Text
- How Much Sleep Should Babies Be Getting (29:03)
- Wrap Up
- Mentioned In The Podcast
- Connect With Hali
Welcome to the Fitasamamabear Podcast. I’m Shelby, a certified strength coach, nutrition coach, mama to two, and all-around health nut. This show is about a little bit of everything healthy, fit and natural related. So, if you’re striving to smash goals, eat better, feel better, and enjoy the occasional mom rant. this is the place for you. You’re listening into episode 18 today where I’m chatting to a Certified Holistic Baby and Child Sleep Consultant, Hali Blake!
Hey everyone. So, thanks for catching today’s episode, for all the mamas listening it’ll be one you don’t want to forget about. Whenever people chat to new moms, one of the first questions we ask is how are they sleeping?
I do it myself and I always want to punch myself in the face. Baby sleep sucks. Not having any sleep sucks. My girls are two and four our sleep still sucks. And the solution, of course, is to change it.
This is why I brought Hali in today, to chat about the importance of a good night’s sleep for babies and kids as well as how to get a good night’s sleep WITH babies and kids. So, Hali, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got into studying sleep?
Thanks for having me, Shelby.
I’ve been working with babies and families for over 20 years, so I guess it started with, nannying and just being around babies at the time. I loved working with babies and then I became a doula.
I kind of jumped into the birth world and then I also worked at the health unit, so there was a lot about breastfeeding, vaccinations, things like that. And then after a stint working at a soul-sucking government job that wasn’t a good fit for me, I decided to train as a perinatal support practitioner and myself and another doula started a company called village motherhood.
So, we did prenatal classes, worked with pregnant moms, and my favorite part was working with postpartum moms and running mom and baby groups. And funnily enough, it was the sleep that everybody wanted to talk about!
Everybody’s tired and it’s something that we talk about a little bit when people are pregnant, but we focus a lot on birth. People will be told you’re going to be tired, but they don’t quite realize what that will look and feel like.
And it can be really overwhelming. So that was sort of my impetus. It was always in the back of my head. I wanted to do sleep work, but that was the push.
So, I did the training, it was about a year-long, really intensive screening through international parenting and international maternity and parenting Institute. And then I launched sound asleep consulting and here I am.
Wow. I love it. I completely forgot that you were a doula to be perfectly honest. I knew that way back when, but I completely forgot. Awesome. My RMT is a doula and I love hearing her stories.
Oh, it’s lovely. It’s such a, it’s such an amazing thing to be witnessed.
You’re lucky. So, as I mentioned, my girls are still really iffy on sleep. My four-year-old is pretty good, but my two-year-old has never loved sleep.
She’s a child that just thinks she’s missing out on life. She literally just does not think it is a requirement for anything. And if she does sleep, she insists that you hold her or snuggle her to sleep. Always.
As you’re leaving, she says “mama rub back, rub back”. So, then you get her down and you kind of have to like Ninja move out of the room, which ironically, I’m not great at to be perfectly honest.
But the thing is, I’ve been doing this for two years. So, Hali, I think I’m hoping to pick up some more tips today personally than anyone else!
So, why don’t we jump right into the importance of baby sleep? I’ve chatted about this before during my healthy habits podcast when it comes to weight loss and just improving your health overall.
But let’s narrow it down to babes. So, tell me why babies need sleep.
Really, a lot of the same reasons we need sleep. Babies need sleep. That’s when they do all their learning. That’s when they sort of solidify that learning that they’ve been doing during the day. It’s when they grow, right?
When growth hormone is released, it’s what keeps them healthy. So, it’s really important for baby’s immune systems. And the big one that, as parents, we all see when our child is not well-rested, they are fussy and whiny and clingy.
And them one that you definitely understand is that I also see babies that aren’t sleeping well generally aren’t eating that great either. So, it’s affecting every aspect of their wellness and including parents, right?
Yeah. I know both my girls used to do this when they were learning to crawl, they would I want to say sleep crawl at that time in the middle of the night. They would wake themselves up and be trying to learn something physically. Is that a thing?
More so than almost anything. Learning a new skill is the most disruptive to sleep. It’s like these little people are compelled to practice and they don’t care if it’s three am or 2:00 PM. They need to figure it out.
A good tip for that is really just tons and tons of practice during the day. If they’re learning to crawl give them lots of tummy time, move everything out of the way and just give them a lot of practice. And practice in their crib as well.
Babies that are learning to pull to stand and then can’t get back down, helping them to do that over and over creates muscle memory. Because sometimes you can master something during the day but at night when you’re half asleep you kind of forget how to do it.
That’s a good tip. I never thought about to actually have them practice in the crib.
Right? Realistic real-world experience.
I think my two-year-old still kind of stumbles. You can hear her like bump around. We just transitioned her to a big girl bed a few months ago, it does have the rail on it, and you can hear her like hit the rails or wait to try and find the spot. Funny listening to her.
But both of my girls just literally tried to learn everything in their sleep.
It’s so disruptive. It really is. And it’s a positive, right? We have to look at it like this is a normal part of growing up, but it can be exhausting for sure.
So, talk to me about bedtime routines, why are they important? What are some mistakes we could be making? I think everything is a little bit interchangeable depending on your own situation, but what the benefits of having a routine?
You said sort of a keyword there. So, calming.
I kind of look at the bedtime routine as starting at dinner or kind of the end of dinner. From dinner until bed, we want to focus on connecting with our children. Right?
Like you said with your daughter, she likes more back rubs. It’s the idea of, let’s fill that cup up with the things that are calming but also forming that connection. Because that stint overnight away from you is a long time for children.
Going into that disconnection overnight, you really want to have a lot of connection time before it. That’s the first thing.
So, whether that looks like for you. Quiet play on the floor, lots of cuddles getting out all the giggles. I really like saying follow the giggles but it’s also about following your child’s lead. There are often some children who have a big burst of energy in that time. After dinner, I say go with it. Do the things that make them giggle and just have some like really good bonding time
That’s interesting because after dinner we normally do a dog walk, or my husband will take them while I try and tidy up and catch up on things. And now I’m wondering maybe if I spent more time with my youngest during the after-dinner if she wouldn’t be as needy when it came to lay her in down.
It would probably work quite well to switch that. Get that time in and then do that dinner. I know she needs time with dad too, so both are important.
She’s a mama’s girl. See how it goes. It might just be, that she’s like “okay, I just need a little mom time before”.
That’s a great journey and off to sleep.
And then in terms of routines, they don’t always look the same for each family. But generally, my rules for good baby sleep is to do your routine consistently every single night. So, babies and children as young as two months are really good at putting together patterns.
If we can kind of layer on those cues that they know what to expect and that at the end of all that they’re expected to go to sleep. That consistency really makes them feel safe and secure.
They know what’s coming.
Our sleep is dictated by light and dark, right? That’s what our sleep hormones based on. I know the summer kills me in my head later. We get outside and all of a sudden, we look at the clock and go, Oh yeah, it’s getting pretty late.
I always say that after dinner is a good time to close blinds, dim the lights and start queuing the body. And then basically start each step of your routine. That might look like a bath. I always say do a quick bath, like 10 minutes.
Oftentimes children get a little bit amped up. So, a 10-minute bath is free and then into a dim room into PJ’s and then depending on your child, it’s going to look different. Whether you’re rocking or reading a story, you’re singing a song, but just keep it consistent and predictable.
It also needs to be easy enough that you don’t mind doing it every night and somebody else could easily replicate it as well.
We definitely go the book route. Both my girls are a little book fiend. We have our favorite books that they read. My youngest though is so particular that it’s crazy to be perfectly honest.
After you’re done reading her books, she has to turn the light switch out. If you do it, bedtime has gone off rails and it is the end of the world. Same with her stars and her music. She has to physically turn it on herself. She’s very, very particular.
Well, that’s not uncommon in two-year old’s. Right? So, they’re, they’re pushing boundaries, they’re looking for some autonomy.
Try focusing on that during the daytime or awake time would be helpful. Giving her lots of choices during the day and opportunities that she can sort of be in charge. You could even do that through play.
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So, doing so doing that through play, like having games where she can when she’s in charge and you’re sort of humbling parent, that can really help to sort of let, um, kind of balance the control a little bit.
Talk to me about sleep regression. So, when we’re thinking of that first year, which is where moms struggle the most, I feel like every other month there’s a sleep progression.
It does feel like that. The big, big one is four months. We call it the four months of sleep progression because it’s the only sleep progression where sleep fundamentally changes. It’s a big one.
Basically, newborns sleep in two phases and they, and they wake based on need. It’s usually based on hunger or they have a wet diaper. The four months of sleep progression sleep fundamentally changes, and they start sleeping like us.
They have distinct sleep cycles with four phases. They start off in light sleep, into a deep sleep, back into a light sleep. And then they have this little waking in between sleep cycles, about 45 minutes to an hour-long.
And at that waking, the subconscious turns on three senses, sight, touch and sound and scans the environment. And if anything is different from when they fell asleep to the now woken, it alerts the body to fully wake and then they need the same circumstance to fall asleep.
I remember you telling me about this with my oldest! The way you phrased it was the best. And I still remember it to this day is because we used to put on these lights and music that would turn off in the middle of the night and then she would wake up and freak out.
You explained it to me as: if I fell asleep in my bed and then I woke up on the front lawn, how would I feel? It’d be in a different setting entirely. I’d freak out. It’s the same thing. You need to keep it utterly consistent.
Yes! Using white noise. I love it. I also sometimes recommend rain sound. Sometimes white noise can feel a bit jarring to the system, but it has to stay on continuously. So, there’s a lot of products I see that are meant for baby’s sleep, but they’re actually really disruptive.
Like the sleep sheep times off after 45 minutes. So it’s almost timed with the sleep cycle, which really doesn’t make a lot of sense. You want to just keep it consistent through the night. So, whatever you’re doing just make sure that when they wake up, it hasn’t changed.
And this is where sleep associations really stick. Parents that we’re able to rock to sleep or feed to sleep and put their baby down and get a nice six-hour stretch, all of a sudden, they’re waking up every hour.
Yeah. So, talk to me about breaking the baby’s sleep habit then. Because if you’re feeding to sleep or rocking to sleep, then how do you get out of that and when?
That’s a big question.
That’s what sleep training really is, right? It’s about changing habits. There are lots of different ways to go about it. I take a gentler route. I don’t do cry it out which is generally where you put the baby in the crib and leave the room and they figure out eventually and go to sleep.
They don’t though because it rips your heart out and you really just sit outside the room crying yourself. Not actually effective.
Well, it goes against all mama’s natural instincts. Right? Ignore a baby’s cries? That’s just not what I do.
And you’re already postpartum. So emotional hormone wise and emotion wise, it is just, it’s true. That’s just too much for me.
It’s really full-on and I just think it’s really unnecessary.
I don’t actually start sleep training for six months. I know some people do, but I do not. I just think there’s so much going on prior to that that there are definitely gentle things you can do to encourage independent sleep.
I do a three to four-month plan with clients. But full sleep training I don’t do till six months.
Generally, the way I work is I just trade down sleep associations. Feeding to sleep is at the very top. It’s sort of the strongest sleep association. Below that is movement to sleep and below that is touch. And then you have a voice and then you have your presence.
It’s really about ways to sort of step it down. We’re not pulling the rug completely away. We’re not expecting, a baby who’s used to co-sleeping or being held to sleep or nurse to sleep, to all of a sudden just be plunked in this bed and just figure it out.
We help them as much as possible each step of the way. So, it really diminishes the crying and we’re supporting them all of it.
I love that to scale it down. We’re struggling with the soother right now too. But my whole thing with the soother is just ripping it out of her would be great, but that’s like her “safety”. And it just makes you cry because she doesn’t understand what’s happening or why.
And you just took like the biggest thing to her away. So, I think that sleep is kind of similar in the sense that you can’t just go from A To C, there has to be some sort of weaning in there somewhere, just like you would kind of wean off breast milk.
That makes so much sense. So, when a mom contacts you, what’s the first step for them or for you?
I always set up a 15-minute consult first and so I can understand what’s going on with the situation, what their goals are and see if we’re a good fit to work together.
And then from there, we book a full consultation, which is approximately an hour and a half to two hours long. We come up with a sleep plan and I do a baby-led approach.
I generally do it in little chunks like let’s work on this for the first X amount of days, see how baby responds, see how parents are doing with it. And then we go forward from there. So, it’s going to look different for each family depending on what situation they’re in and the way that they parent. Plus, their child’s personality and age and influence. I also do daily support with those clients.
Well, six days of the week. And then generally we do two phone calls a week. I work with families for a full month and we don’t always need a full month. Oftentimes we find we nailed a lot of our goals prior and they just keep me in their back pocket.
Some families want to go a bit slower when they’re working with me and they don’t want to do a three-day fried out approach. So, I do the full month and it’s wonderful. It changes people’s lives, right?
People call me when they hit rock bottom. They will usually wait till rock bottom to reach out and they’re kind of just surviving
It’s true. It does impact every aspect for mom and babies the next day, depending on sleep. And I know I, my husband’s really good about running on little sleep, but I am not. I need my sleep especially because I lift heavy. It just doesn’t work when I do not sleep.
I find with too, they interchange. We get one solid through the night for me a week and then three nights, one of them up and the other two another one’s up for no reason at all. It’s so sporadic.
And the reasons when they’re older are hilarious. But at the same time, you’re like, what is happening right now?
So, what are the biggest, the two biggest reasons that moms come to you struggling? Like why are their babies not sleeping?
For night-time sleep, they either have formed habits and they want them to change because baby’s waking six times a night. Or sometimes night’s sleep is going well, but they just can’t get those naps downs, like naps are nonexistent or really short.
That was my youngest babe again, naps were not a thing for her. And even now we’re lucky if we get a 45-minute nap. She’s just always been that way. Could give a couple of just top tips?
Find a solid routine.
Light and dark
Keeping the bedroom dark. I find that most families think that the bedroom’s dark and it’s not nearly dark enough. So, if level 10 is as a pitch-black as possible you want an eight minimum. You should not be able to read a book in that room, especially during like during the day.
How long do you think you need to do that? At what point do they need to learn to go to sleep in the summer?
I think that the room should be dark year around. If you have an older child who’s afraid of the dark, you can definitely use a nightlight. But you want to use the nightlife that is red or Amber.
There’s one that I really like: Aloka Sleepy light is one of my favorites. You can kind of put it on night mode and choose the color of light.
I look at sleepy lights but having it really dark for naps helps to extend those maps because our circadian rhythm isn’t pushing now. All we have is sleep pressure. It’s called homeopathic sleep drive.
Basically, the amount of awake time that’s creating this pressure of sleepiness in order to get a good nap, that’s the only thing. So, when a child’s had said a 30-minute nap, they’ve really dissipated a lot of that sleep pressure. They haven’t had a good nap necessarily. They’re going to wake out of a sleep cycle.
And they think; “I’m feeling pretty good. I’m just going to wake up”. Especially if they can look around the room and be distracted and see toys or whatnot. If you keep it really nice and dark, that can really help.
And we all know light at bedtime isn’t great. We told you to turn off your cell phone an hour before bed. Don’t watch TV. Most of us don’t really pay attention to it, but it’s true. That white light, especially the blue spectrum is really disruptive to melatonin.
Melatonin is the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. Babies are much more susceptible to that. So, the more light they’re exposed to the more it’s going to suppress that melatonin and we want the melatonin to skyrocket when they’re falling asleep at bedtime and during the night.
Any little bit of light entering their eyes is basically dropping melatonin and telling their body to wait. Light and dark is a really big one.
I mentioned it already, have it as loud as a shower and put it between baby and the loudest wall. Generally, that’s the hallway. Focus on detail.
If a baby is not on solids yet, just focus on having those really good feeds. Right after four months, he may be really distracted. They’re much more aware of their surroundings.
Make sure they’re full. You don’t want them waking up with a hungry tummy.
And that goes for all ages. I think kids should go to bed full too. I know my girls both have healthy fats certainly for their bedtime snack just because it gives them that fullness overnight. That way they’re not waking up sheer ravenous.
Absolutely. And I find it like a lot of parents, especially with younger babies, really focus on how much they’re eating right before bed. But you have to look at it as well in a 24-hour period. During the day, if the child’s on solids, I like to push the high fat, healthy foods. Avocados, full-fat dairy if you do well on dairy.
But the big one is getting that protein, which is satiating. Focusing on foods that have tryptophan is a big one. So, we need tryptophan to produce serotonin in which we then make melatonin from. And we only get that from foods. We don’t produce it in our body. Poultry is a good one. Peanut butter is good.
We are all about the almond butter or hazelnut butter. And that’s what we actually have as our bedtime snack. Normally I make the kind of like a sticky pudding. It’s an almond butter pudding basically. My girls love it and it’s awesome because it just kind of lures them into a little bit of night sleep.
They get that tryptophan and you want to actually pair it with a carbohydrate. So a banana is a really good choice. Bananas a pro-sleep food. Generally, I say to stay away from the sugary fruit at the end of the day, but even just smearing some nut butter on a banana or nut butter is helpful.
My kids always loved oatmeal smoothies and I would include almond milk, banana and oatmeal and then you could throw other stuff in there too. But oatmeal is also from the sleep foods list. So, there’s lots of different things you can do.
Focusing on daytime sleep.
So, children that are napping, we need to look at sleeping over a 24-hour period. So, having the right amount of deep sleep with the right wake windows so that we don’t have an overtired baby going into nighttime overtired. If the babe is overtired, cortisol is elevated, as is adrenaline and the babe does not fall asleep well and wakes during the night early.
Wakings affects naps. It’s sort of this endless cycle. So just getting that baby sleep and staying well-rested during the day. You’re going to have better sleep at night.
People think that if they don’t nap then they’ll go to sleep earlier, and they’ll have a better night’s sleep and it never works in favor. Said every damn mom of a thousand times. It’s serious about that. It never works.
My father in law always tried and it just never worked out.
Two more questions I had for you. The first is do you want to just run through some symptoms of tired kids? What does a kid or a baby look like during the day that has not gotten enough sleep the night before?
Well cranky number one, right? If they’re cranky and whiny there’s a good chance they’re tired. A big one is parents will come to me and say like my children were just like really excited and on the go all the time and just never likes to rest so they don’t like to sleep.
But that’s also a symptom of a child that’s really tired because they have that elevated cortisol and adrenaline in their system constantly. Now, children that are really calm and sleep well, I don’t see them so don’t doubt that that is part of their personality me.
But it becomes a little bit amplified when they’re overtired. I would say the other thing is like classic sleep cues; If your child is rubbing their eyes, yawning, kind of rubbing their head back and forth, zoning out, turning away from stimulation.
My four-year-old is like a space queen. You look at her sometimes and she’s literally just staring into just space. And now we use the acronym OT for overtired because we don’t want to say that she’s tired or she’ll freak out. But I know she is so overtired because she’s just completely zonks and looks like a zombie all of a sudden out of nowhere.
Absolutely. So that’s definitely the first thing to notice especially with a baby. If you can catch them zoning out and start your routine, then ideally, they’re going into their bed when there’s yawning and rubbing. Little babies also get the red eyebrows.
Once you’ve hit the fussy and cranky time it’s harder, a little tired. So, if you’re noticing that that’s when you’re getting your child down. Start paying attention to how long they’ve been awake and start noticing maybe half an hour prior to that. Now is when you should start the routine.
Do you just want to run us through how much sleep kids should be getting? If we look at what is a good average and when. I know my daughter’s four now, she’s not napping anymore. What should her sleep schedule be like? In an ideal world?
Genuinely for toddlers that aren’t napping, you’re looking over a 24-hour period, 11 to 12 hours. So, seven pm to six or seven is or in and around there.
Probably 11 hours. I find 11 is really average for a lot of kids or younger babies. There’s a huge variance though.
Babies seem to sleep constantly, but generally, you’re looking between 11 on the lower end to sort of 14 hours depending on the age.
That’s distributed in a certain way between nights and days Most night baby sleep is 10 to 12 hours is what you’re averaging.
I’d say we’re about that. My girls are early risers, but we do go to bed by about 8:00 PM at our latest. We start a bedtime routine at about seven and it normally takes a good hour to calm down and read books and get a million things.
All right, well I think we’ll have to wrap it up there. Otherwise, I’m probably going to bombard you with more questions for another hour as you solve my life problems.
Hali, thank you a million for jumping on today and sharing your expertise regarding everything to do with babu sleep. We really do appreciate the tips and I say that just with the utmost respect because seriously moms, sleep is like the best possible gift you can give anyone.
So for all of you looking to connect with Haley, she’s located in London, Ontario, but you can also find her online at our website, which is Sound Sleep Consulting and she’s also on Facebook and Instagram.
I will link to those in the show notes so that you can find her. But if you’re on your phone right now, hit her up, give her a follow, and remember, if you’re interested in or need a fitness tips, workouts, and amazingly healthy recipes, check out my website at Fitasmamabear.com
On that note, check back soon to catch the next episode of the Fitasamabear Podcast. And if you took one lesson from today’s podcast, I hope it’s that correcting baby sleep patterns, even though it can be tricky, is always worth it. Both mamas and babies and toddlers and kids benefit from good night sleep.
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