This weekend marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. You may be looking forward to longer nights filled with light, but to parents of young kids, time changes can be a bit of a nightmare. As can teething, growth spurts, traveling, the list goes on and on.
But there are people you can turn to for help. Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright are authors of the new book "The Happy Sleeper."
Turgeon and Wright joined Take Two to offer some tips for getting little ones to sleep.
To listen to the full interview, click the link above.
Do any of these “scenarios” sound familiar?
You feed or rock your baby until she’s fast asleep, lower her gently into her crib, and tiptoe out of the room. Two hours later, she’s awake and calling for you.
It’s past bedtime, but your toddler runs when you try to put pj’s on him, breaks down in tears over brushing teeth, and summons you back into the room repeatedly for more water, another song, and different stuffed animal configurations.
You have to lie down with your little one until he falls asleep, which can take up to forty-five minutes and, sometimes, you doze off, too.
Your baby will only nap in the stroller, car, or with you carrying her.
Your child stays up too late and you suspect he’s not getting enough sleep, but you can’t figure out how to get him into bed earlier.
Your child calls out to you at night and needs you to sleep with her, or to join you in your bed.
You and your partner are so exhausted you can barely function, much less be present or happy with your baby during waking hours.
Sleep is a basic building block of your family’s health and happiness— just like good food and regular exercise. Sleep is about as natural as it comes; in fact, kids are literally built to do it. Their brains are programmed to develop good sleep from the time they’re babies.
Your child wants to sleep; and with the right patterns in place, her natural abilities will surprise you. Naptime, bedtime, and sleeping through the night—they don’t have to be a big struggle or a source of anxiety. As easy as it is to disrupt sleep and create unhealthy sleep habits, it’s achievable and often quick to get back on the right track. Consider this scene:
You help your baby wind down after her last feeding. You give her a bath and put on her pj’s. After a few stories, a few cuddles, and a song, you kiss her good night, lower her into her crib, and leave the room. Your happy sleeper rolls over, grabs her lovey, moves into a comfortable sleep position, and drifts off until the next morning. You have time to yourself to eat dinner, read a book, or spend time with your partner before going to bed and getting a full night’s sleep.
Your baby already knows how to sleep.
Our clients are always shocked when they hear this. They’ve been breaking a sweat rocking their baby into a deep slumber, waking up every 2 hours to feed throughout the night, or wringing their hands in frustration with a wide-eyed, nap-resistant toddler.
But it’s true. Sleep is a basic action that babies are naturally born to do. Their bodies crave healthy sleep, and their brains are wired for it. By five or six months of age, almost all babies are capable of sleeping well without much assistance from Mom or Dad.
So why do so many families struggle at night? The answer is that most parents do what works today, don’t notice when it’s no longer needed tomorrow, and then keep pushing even harder when it’s become a hindrance the day after that. They work overtime with all kinds of fanfare and tricks to put their babies to bed. We’ve heard it all: parents feeding, rocking, and bouncing on a yoga ball for 45 minutes every night, lying down with kids, re-tucking and re filling water glasses endlessly—one couple even told us they found themselves putting on a full music show with guitars, singing, and lights every night before bedtime.
Over time, parents’ “helping ways” overshadow their baby’s natural sleep abilities. Children get confused as to whether they or their parents are doing the soothing, and parents aren’t sure when and how much to back off so their little ones can take over the job. The Happy Sleeper is the guide to doing just that. We will give you a clear, easy-to-follow system for transferring the role of independent sleep to your baby or child, as we’ve done for thousands of families in our practice. If you’re consistent in how you apply the methods in this book, your baby or child’s sleep will improve dramatically within one to two weeks.
Good Sleep Is in Their Genes
Kids don’t need to be trained to sleep; they’re built to sleep. Think about it: sleep is like other areas of development, and you know how quickly your baby learns. Within a year, a baby can sit, pull to stand, and maybe take her first steps. She understands language and soon she’ll speak in sentences. Almost overnight, she’s a master in all realms.
So why should sleep be any different?
But over and over in our practice, we see that it is. Children take off in their motor, social, cognitive, and language skills, while sleep skills stall and even decline as the months go on. It’s a common course for little kids—they show robust, thriving development in all other domains but actually regress in their ability to sleep.
In the early months, this happens when a soothing technique like nursing or rocking to sleep works and becomes your go-to habit (and we don’t blame you!). The problem is that while newborns often need these soothing devices, they outgrow this need quickly as their natural self-soothing abilities grow—sometimes within a matter of days or weeks. With toddlers and kids, the same idea applies. We know that they can sleep, but milestones and life transitions (learning to climb out of the crib, starting preschool, or having nightmares) rock the boat just enough to warrant a new trick (like lying down with the child until they doze off) that kids quickly become reliant on.
As parents get stuck in a habit of soothing their little one to sleep, it masks the child’s natural abilities and makes it look as if she can’t sleep on her own. Imagine your child was capable of walking, but you still carried her everywhere instead of letting her practice this new skill! This overhelping is the crux of family sleep problems. Eventually parents become exasperated, while baby’s sleep potential has actually been stifled.
Why We Wrote This Book
We wrote this book to help solve a dilemma. Over and over in our parenting groups, we’ve seen moms and dads work diligently to be responsive and nurturing around sleep, only to become frustrated, exhausted, and confused as their baby’s sleep gets worse instead of better. These parents feel stuck, and many reach the end of their rope and turn to a harsh, shut-the-door-and-don’t-go-in approach.
We know that sleep is a natural, hardwired function that shouldn’t be so difficult. As clinicians who follow science and new thinking on child development, we realized why sleep was stumping so many families—it’s the same overhelping or “helicopter parenting” dilemma that parents find themselves in elsewhere. Logic tells us (and research confirms) that overhelping doesn’t work: When we do things for our babies and kids that they are capable of doing for themselves, it keeps them from developing to their potential (in this case, their sleep potential). The problem is that, as parents, we don’t know how to stop overhelping, while still being warm and supportive to our kids.
The topic of baby sleep needs a fresh perspective. It’s been bogged down in old-school notions like “training” and misunderstandings of basic concepts like attachment. In this book, we take an integrated approach that is sensitive, simple, and truly effective. We don’t want anyone suffering sleep deprivation unnecessarily, nor do we ever want a baby to feel alone or fearful. Happily, neither of these ever needs to happen.