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:

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.

National Sleep Foundation

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-

Sleep Training & Parenting Coaching Philosophy

Many parents ask us about our beliefs and principles, which is an essential question to ask before you hire a sleep consultant or parenting expert or follow a book on the subject. You want to make sure before you start implementing any sleep strategy or parenting advice, that you share the principles with the experts giving you the advice.

In Smooth Parenting we believe:

  • Parents should promote and support the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of their children from babyhood to adulthood.
  • Children must know that they are unconditionally loved and that their parents will always be there for them.
  • Children must feel happy, respected, valued, loved, acknowledged, safe and protected in order to thrive and achieve their potential in life.
  • The dignity and rights of children must be respected.
  • Sleeping, eating and exercising are basic needs for babies and children.
  • Consistency and team work are key in order to be successful at parenting.
  • We believe that babies and children thrive when their lives are organized and when they know what’s expected of them.
  • An ‘structured routine’ adapted to each family’s individual circumstances is essential to create a chaos-free and stress free home.
  • Every child is unique, special and should be treated as such.
  • There’s always a reason/motivation/cause for children to cry, protest, misbehave, be aggressive… and that in order to solve that behavior, parents need to discover it and solve it.
  • It is important for parents to model appropriate behavior and to establish expectations as well as limits.
  • Physical punishment or disciplining techniques are never the right way to go.

Our parenting techniques promote independence, self-esteem, self-assurance, open communication, love, empowerment and self-improvement. We respect and follow the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

We know that our approach and methods are effective, and although not always easy to implement, we will be there with the parents every step of the way.

Much love, Diana-

Rule Out Medical Problems before Sleep Training

Before you start any sleep training program with your child, you should always rule out medical problems that might be causing your her sleep problems. Therefore, it is wise to discuss sleep issues with your child’s pediatrician.

These are some medical problems that might interfere with your child’s sleep quality:

  • Nasal Congestion – Newborn infants must breathe through the nose. Nasal congestion in an infant’s first few months of life can interfere with nursing, and in rare cases can cause serious breathing problems. Nasal congestion in older children and adolescents is usually just an annoyance, but it can cause other difficulties. Nasal congestion can interfere with the ears, hearing, and speech development. Significant congestion may interfere with sleep.
  • Teething – The discomfort that teething causes can start well in advance of any teeth actually appearing. Some babies are affected as early as four months of age. The main symptoms of teething are: fussiness, excessive drooling, runny nose, rash on the chin or near the mouth (caused by the excessive saliva), biting and chewing on anything that gets near the mouth, red cheeks, rejecting breast or bottle, more need to suck, swollen gums that may appear a purplish color, soft stools and/or diaper rash.
  • Ear Infections – An ear infection is usually caused by bacteria, but a virus can also be the culprit. It happens when fluid builds up in the area behind your baby’s eardrum and then becomes infected. Pacifier use may increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and young children. Ear infections cause mild to severe pain, which may disrupt your child’s sleep. The easiest ways to tell if your baby has an ear infection are: a change in his mood (more fussy, crying…), a fever, pulling/grabbing her ears, diarrhea, reduced appetite, a yellowish/whitish fluid draining from her ear, or a foul odor emanating from the ear.
  • Colic – Colicky infants appear to have a shorter duration of total sleep. Sleep problems may sometimes persist after the child has outgrown colic because the strategies that parents developed to decrease the crying spells (i.e., frequent holding, car rides) interfere with the adoption of normal sleep patterns. An infant older than four months who continues to wake during the night is considered a trained night crier. These infants calm quickly when picked up. Some people believe that this pattern develops because parents provide secondary gain for continued awakening.
  • Acid Reflux – gastroesophageal reflux disease (GER) can be painful and can cause colic and vomiting. It is also risk factor for pulmonary disease. GER causes resistance to feeding, blood in the vomit or stool, iron deficiency anemia, irritability (due to an inflamed esophagus), or failure to thrive. If your baby refuses feedings, takes very long to feed, arches her back while feeding or trying to sleep, makes ‘weird’ noises while sleeping, and/or spits ups or vomits often; you should consult with your pediatrician.
  • Yeast and urinary tract infections – Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)’s most common, and often unique sign is  an unexplained fever. In some cases, a baby may  also have other symptoms: crying/complaining when urination,  odd-smelling urine, cloudy or bloody urine, unexplained and persistent irritability, vomiting, and/ or refusal to eat.
  • Milk Allergy – the main symptoms among infants are: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, abdominal bloating, skin rashes and/or respiratory symptoms (cough and runny nose). Cow’s milk allergy may cause more awakenings, shorter sleep cycles, and dramatic reductions in total sleep time.
  • Sleep Apnea – a condition in which an infant awakens periodically because he stops breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea prevents kids from getting enough sleep, and deprives them of oxygen, which can cause a variety of more serious cognitive, health, and developmental problems. And if infants don’t awaken when they experience breathing difficulties, they are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Night Terrors – Pavor nocturnus (night terrors) occur approximately 90 minutes into sleep. The child suddenly sits bolt upright and screams, and is inconsolable for up to 30 minutes before relaxing and falling back to sleep. Tachycardia, tachypnea and other signs of full-fledged autonomic arousal are apparent. Night terrors usually occur in children 3 to 8 years of age. They need to be distinguished from nightmares. They are more likely to occur during times of stress or fatigue. As frightening as they are, parents and children usually only need to be reassured that they are generally self-limiting.


Best NURSERY to help your baby sleep

The goal is for your baby’s nursery to be a calm, soothing place.

The associations that your child has with the nursery, as mentioned in previous posts, should be positive.

Here are some things that you can do to make your baby’s nursery more conducive to sleep:

  • Dark: try to keep your baby’s nursery dark while she’s sleeping. It does not have to be pitch black though; in fact, some kids might need a night-light to sleep between 18 months and 2 years old, when they start having nightmares. If you decide to leave a night-light make sure it’s not too bright, but gives enough light for your toddler to see his surroundings.
  • Quiet: nursery should be away from the main activity area of your home. You don’t need to be whispering around while your baby naps or sleeps, but she shouldn’t be exposed to loud noise while sleeping.
  • Crib: your crib should be comfortable and free of toys and blankets. Make sure your crib is JPMA certified.
  • Temperature: Room temperature is vital in creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby and should be maintained at 68-72°F to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • No TV, radio, dvd, phone… or other electronic devices or toys accessible to your child.

Much love, Diana-