Takeaways from Dr. Weissbluth’s Talk

Tuesday, 05/25/2010, we had the opportunity to participate in a talk by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, MD. at 92Y on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  He’s the acclaimed author of ‘Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child’ (and ”Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins’).

There were many great takeaways from that session that are completely aligned with our philosophy that we would love to share with you. Some of them have already been mentioned in previous posts in our blog, so click on the links for further information.

We encourage you to follow these principles when implementing your baby’s sleep training plan.

Dr. Weissbluth is a big defensor of cry it out (CIO) or extinction on method for sleep training, that basically involves putting your baby down to sleep (drowsy but awake), and let him soothe himself to sleep. Parents do not go back to check on the baby even if he is crying. He does mention other sleep training methods, such as ‘check & console’ or ‘graduated extinction’; but he certainly believes that CIO is the only effective method of all.

We, Smooth Parenting, do not believe CIO is the way to go in most circumstances; so that’s where we part ways with Dr. Weissbluth. We do, though, value extremelly his insights and research on child development and his wonderful research on sleep, memory, child development, circadian rhythms and brain development; and for that, we will continue to consider him a reference.

Much love, Diana-

Announcing: Baby Sleep Webinars

Smooth Parenting team is thrilled to announce the launch of their new Sleep Webinar ‘Teach Your Baby to Sleep

Is your child keeping you up at night? Are you wondering when are you going to sleep again? Have you read all sleep training books and nothing is working? Are you expecting want to know how to teach healthy sleeping habits to your baby from the beginning?

Join us and you will learn how to help your child become an independent sleeper. The topics covered in the webinar are the following:

  1. • Sleep needs by age; setting the right expectations.
  2. • Sleep tips and techniques for your baby and toddler.
  3. • Step by Step sleep training guide by age.
  4. • Schedules.
  5. • Nursery set up.
  6. • Bedtime routines.

This webinar is perfect for parents with children between 0 and 3 years old, and for expecting parents. Webinars are live and highly interactive. You can attend from the comfort of your own home, with your computer. All the webinars include a ‘questions & answers’ section, in which you will be able to ask questions about what was discussed in the webinar, and about your baby’s particular sleep issues.

Sign up here: http://smoothparenting.com/Smooth_Parenting/Webinars.html

Much love, Diana-

Sleep and the Immune System

Lack of sleep makes ours and our children’s immune systems weaker, hence they makes us more prone to catching colds, viral infections and the flu. Our immune system is designed to protect us from colds, flu, and other ailments. Lack of sleep suppresses immune system functions.

A study published in the September 25, 2002 issue of theJournal of the American Medical Associationdemonstrated that a lack of sleep measurably adversely affects the body’s response to the flu vaccine. This study was done in healthy young adults and half of those included in the study slept only 4 hours per night for 6 nights. The comparison group, experienced a normal night’s sleep over the same period of time. Flu vaccines were administered on the 5th day.

Blood test results showed the sleep-deprived group had less than half the antibodies the comparison group did. Once the sleep deprived group resumed normal sleep habits, there was no difference found in levels of immunity between the two groups.

Want to be healthier and make sure your children don’t get as sick? Make sure you all get a good night sleep.

Much love, Diana-

When to Stop Swaddling?

The main purpose of swaddling your baby while she’s a newborn is to make her feel secure, warm and safe. After night months inside your womb, your baby will feel disoriented in the outside world, and the swaddling will help him remember her previous environment and rest.

After two months, many babies will start kicking and fighting the swaddle, while others are comfortable being ‘wrapped’ until about 4 months. Whenever you see your baby fighting the swaddling while he’s sleep or before falling asleep, it’s your cue to stop swaddling.

Swaddling a baby become a safety hazard once your baby is able to roll over, which usually occurs between 2 and 5 months. Once she has the ability to roll, you should stop the swaddling, as you don’t want her to be all tighly-swaddled and roll onto her tummy, since she could end up suffocating her, and certainly increases the risk of SIDS.

Swaddling also becomes a safety hazard when the temperature is high. Make sure you swaddle your baby on a breathable blanket, that is appropriate for the current weather conditions. As a rule of thumb, remember that babies should wear one more layer than adults, so do not overdress your baby as overheating is a major risk factor for SIDS.

Some babies don’t like being swaddled, though. If your baby doesn’t, you can try swaddling him a bit looser or leaving his arms out of the blanket altogether. To sum up, we recommend swaddling your baby during the first two months of life, if she looks comfortable like that; and read her cues after that as to when to stop swaddling.

Much love, Diana-

Should We Use White Noise Machines?

We get asked a lot from parents whether they should use white noise machines to help their babies fall asleep.

While white noise machines are great for many reasons:

  • They can help reduce the effects of a variety of disorders including Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, and Meniere’s Disease.
  • They help night workers sleep through the day.
  • They help people sleep alongside partners who snore or use apnea and breathing machines.
  • They cancel out most household noises.

However, we believe in teaching our children become independent sleepers. We want them to be able to fall asleep without our help and without the help of any external ‘aide’ that might no always be available.

White noise machines can help babies sleep better, since they cancel out household noises that might interfere with their sleep. However, after using them, babies might not be able to sleep without them.

Therefore, we wouldn’t suggest the introduction of white noise machines by default. In some specific circumstances we might recommend their use, but certainly not for every child.

Much love, Diana-

Signs of Sleep Deficiency in Children

Many parents wonder whether their children are getting enough sleep. The first thing to do when in doubt, is counting the amount of hours they are sleeping every day. Then refer to the general guidelines of how many hours children their age should sleep per day.

The second thing would be to watch them for signs of sleep deprivation, such as:

  • Constant sleepiness throughout the day, almost every day
  • Fatigue. It looks like your child is dragging herself from one place to the next one
  • Inattentiveness and hyperactivity
  • Crankiness and moodiness, especially at the end of the day
  • Difficult awakenings. It is difficult to get your child out of bed and active in the morning
  • Difficult betimes. Your child is so cranky that she can’t fall asleep
  • Frequent waking during the night
  • Trouble focusing on tasks
  • Impaired memory and cognitive ability, the ability to think and process information
  • Decreased daytime alertness
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Low threshold to express negative emotion (irritability and easy frustration)
  • Difficulty modulating impulses and emotions

If your child exhibits many of this symptoms, you should adjust her schedule so she gets more daytime sleep (naps), and night-time sleep.

Much love, Diana-

Effects of Lack of Sleep in Children

The less sleep children get, the more likely they are to perform poorly in school, to become depressed, and to have a poor sense of self-worth, according to a study of 2,259 Illinois middle school students published in the January-February 2004 issue of Child Development.

As these kids progressed through the middle school years, if the amount of sleep dropped (as it often does), there also tended to be a further drop in grades, and self-esteem and an increase in depression. As a general rule of thumb, most middle schoolers thrive best on an average of about 9 hours of sleep. Those in high school may do well with 8 hours; those in elementary school often do better with at least 10. Younger children need even more.

Sometimes lack of sleep is seen as a badge of honor. But at any age, getting optimum sleep improves health. It also helps people feel better about themselves and about the world. And it is a simple way to improve performance at almost anything people care about.

Recent research has verified that chronic poor sleep results in daytime tiredness, difficulties with focused attention, low threshold to express negative emotion (irritability and easy frustration), and difficulty modulating impulses and emotions (Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, Mar 1996). These are the same symptoms that can earn kids the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, ADD).

Research in sleep laboratories has shown that some kids are mislabeled with ADD when the real problem is chronic, partial sleep deprivation. When children are identified with symptoms of ADD, often no one thinks to explore the child’s sleeping habits, and whether they might be responsible for the symptoms.

When parents of children with ADD are interviewed, they usually identify their kids as poor or restless sleepers (Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Jun 1997), and wake up more often at night than their peers (Pediatrics, Dec 1987).

As parents, we all know what it feels like to be grumpy, contrary, and “not at our best” from lack of sleep. If our kids often feel this way, we owe it to them to find solutions to this problem.

“Sleep is a vital asset for a child’s health and overall development, learning and safety,” says Richard L. Gelula, National Sleep Foundation’s chief executive officer. “Many children are not sleeping enough and many experience sleep problems. What is troublesome is that the problems start in infancy.”

Healthy sleep habits from an early age are essential to Happiness, Self-Esteem, and Success.

Sources:
National Sleep Foundation
http://www.drgreene.com/article/sleep-deprivation-and-adhd#ixzz0n3e6UJK3
http://www.drgreene.com/blog/2004/02/17/getting-enough-sleep?tid=209#ixzz0n3dGfIB9

Risk of Too-Early Formal Sleep Training

Although parents can start teaching babies healthy sleep habits from the begining, it is not advisable to follow any kind of formal sleep training method when the baby is too young. What’s too young? It depends on the baby! Most babies are ready to start formal sleep training at 4 months, and others aren’t until they’re 6 months old. That’s the perfect window 4-6 months.

That doesn’t mean that up until they’re ready, parents can’t do anything. As we mentioned in our previous post, parents can start instilling good sleep habits and associations from day one.

What are the risk to start a formal sleep training plan too early?

  • You will be fighting against nature:
    • During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.
    • Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours — and sometimes more, since their tummies are very small and can’t hold food that last for longer.
    • Babies under 4 months don’t have the ability to sleep very long streches of time. Somewhere between 5 and 8 hours would be the maximum at that age.
  • Sleep training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky.
  • Sleep training done too soon might increase the risk of SIDS (While there is no scientific evidence that cry-it-out causes, many famous pediatricians -ie. Dr. Sears- believe there’s a correlation).

Even though our sleep training methods are very gentle and don’t involve cry it out, we would not advice you to follow them before your baby is ready (4-6 months). Parents can learn how to make sleep training not necessary or easier by following a very simple plan for those first four months. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about that plan.

Much love, Diana-