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Sleep & Naps

Getting your little one to sleep like a baby can be a lot easier said than done. Huggies has compiled articles, advice and answers on how to get both you and your newborn snoozing soundly.

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Night-night for toddlers: 8 helpful tips

  1. Maintain a consistent bedtime and waking time

    Your child's biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake-up time you "set" your child's clock so that it functions smoothly.

    Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.

  2. Encourage regular daily naps

    Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep — good naps equal better night sleep.

  3. Set your child's biological clock

    Take advantage of your child's biology so that he's actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body's sleep hormone — the biological "stop" button. You can align your child's sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime.

    Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the "go" button in her brain — one that says, "Time to wake up and be active." So keep your mornings bright!

  4. Develop a consistent bedtime routine

    Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.

    An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on autopilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative.

  5. Create a cozy sleep environment

    Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy and the bedroom is welcoming.

  6. Provide the right nutrition

    Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugar granola.

    Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child's sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods.

  7. Keep them moving

    Many children don't get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed.

    Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating they'll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!

  8. Teach your child how to relax

    Many children get in bed but aren't sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is storytime. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy.

    Work with these eight ideas and you'll see improvements in your child's sleep, and yours too.

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Your Top Baby Sleep Questions, Answered…Fast!

We know you’ve got a lot of questions about your baby’s sleep habits but not much time to read the answers. Voila! Los Angeles pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D., creator of the popular book and DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block, shares super-quick advice—we’re talking 25 words (or less).

Q. How much sleep do babies need in a day?

A. On average: Newborns, about 16 hours; 6 to 9 months, 14 hours; 9 to 12 months, 13 hours.

Q. What’s the fastest way to get a newborn to calm down for sleep?

A. Wrap your baby snuggly in a blanket—it mimics the close quarters of the womb.

Q. Do babies really need to sleep on their backs?

A. Yes, to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Once baby’s a year old and can roll over, he can sleep on his stomach or back.

Q. Will feeding baby more at night or putting cereal in her bottle help her sleep longer?

A. No. It can actually lead to indigestion, which makes it harder for baby to sleep.

Q. If you keep baby up late, will he fall asleep faster and sleep better?

A. Nope. Being overtired amps up baby’s stress hormones and leads to more night wakings.

Q. Should I be waking my baby up for feedings at night?

A. Possibly—it depends on how a baby is gaining weight. Discuss with your pediatrician.

Q. What’s the deal with crib bumpers—do or don’t?

A. A don’t for newborns, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. They increase the SIDS risk.

Q. Crib aquariums and white noise machines: good idea or not?

A. Good idea: They’re soothing. Also, your baby will associate whooshing sounds with sleep (and sleep)!

Q. When do babies start sleeping through the night?

A. More than half of babies sleep five to eight hours at a stretch anywhere from 2 to 6 months old.

Q. If baby sleeps well in a car seat, is it OK to have him sleep in it at night?

A. No—babies can’t breathe as well sitting up, another SIDS risk. Transfer him to a crib.

Q. How do I get my newborn to sleep nights instead of days?

A. Keep her awake more often during the day and do several feedings in the evening.

Q. How important is it to have a bedtime ritual for babies?

A. They’re key. Routines help even newborns know what’s coming, so they’re more ready to snooze.

Q. How do I discourage nighttime wakings, as baby gets older?

A. Don’t be fun or playful and keep the lights low. Baby will get the message.

Q. When is it time to "sleep train" my baby?

A. Wait until at least 6 months, when baby’s brain has matured enough to establish patterns.

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Tips for Coping With Long Term Sleep Deprivation

By: Mary McBride

While we were in Ethiopia with Elvie, my husband and I took turns taking the night shift, but once we got home, it became clear that it would be best if I would just do the night feedings every night. Not only did Jarod have to get out of bed at a reasonable hour and have his mind functioning clearly at work, but I tend to hear Elvie before Jarod wakes. As much as I’d love to still be taking turns, it simply makes more sense for me to take the night shift every night.

For awhile, Elvie was waking every hour, sometimes even after just 45 minutes, simply because she was hungry, and her teeny, tiny stomach couldn’t take in enough nutrition to hold her over for very long. Now that she has grown and gained plenty of weight, she doesn’t wake as often, but still needs to eat more frequently than most babies her age due to her birth defect and history of malnutrition. Teaching her to sleep through the night just isn’t an option right now, so I’ve figured out some ways to help make the days go more smoothly and ensure that I’m not a grump to my family 100% of the time. If you’re riding in the sleep deprivation wagon, I’m so sorry, but also: welcome! Feel free to try any of these tips to help you make it through.

Generous Amounts of Coffee

No one wants to get jittery, so I wouldn’t say more is always better, but starting the day with a gigantic cup of hot, delicious coffee not only gives me a little caffeine kick, but also provides a regular starting point for my day. Some days I need a second large cup, and that’s okay.

Make Time for Slow Mornings

If at all possible, I schedule appointments and activities for the afternoon so that we can just ease into our day. We usually just hang out on the big bed until Elvie is ready for her first nap. There’s plenty of space for all of us to read and/or play. I set my coffee on the nightstand, and it’s perfect.

Embrace Unconventional Breakfasts

Normally, I like to make something hot for breakfast, but right now I just need mornings to be simple. Most of the time I’ve got muffins or granola bars and fruit handy, but sometimes I break all the rules and we eat cookies. These pictured have oats and nut butter, so I figure they’re no worse than a chocolate dipped granola bar, and with much better ingredients.

Eliminate or Procrastinate Unnecessary Chores

The bed really doesn’t need to be made if you don’t have the time or energy, and sometimes the laundry can serve as a very comfortable cat bed for an extra day. While I don’t want to live in a trash heap, sometimes it’s worth it to conserve my energy for nurturing and teaching my children as opposed to using it up dusting.

"Make" an Easy Dinner

We can’t eat out every night, but there are a lot of affordable options for the days I am the most tired. I count ordering enchiladas and bringing them home as making dinner. If I didn’t order it, my family wouldn’t be able to eat it, right?

Have a Sleep In Morning Once a Week

If you’re the only one who gets up with the baby in the night, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the other half of your parenting team to wake early on his or her day off so that you can get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep. Getting a solid two or three hours of sleep on Saturdays does wonders for my energy level. When I’m getting discouraged during the week, I can always look forward to Saturday and know that I can make it until then.

Feel Free to Just Stay Home Sometimes

As a stay at home parent, I often feel guilty that we don’t get out and do more some days. But it is good for me to have a day that I don’t have to pack everyone up and get them out the door, and it is good for my kids to have a day to relax and just play at home. Committing to at least one play-at-home day per week has made a significant difference in how smoothly our week goes.

Remember That It Won't Be Like This Forever

Babies eventually learn how to sleep through the night, and while the length of time between now and then is uncertain, I know that it will happen. I also know that Elvie will only be little once. So as much as I don’t enjoy the frequent night wakings, I do enjoy have a tiny baby in my life, and I will take the difficult with the wonderful any and every day of the week.

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HUGGIES® mom question: "Why won't Jack nap?"

Your question:

Jack is 16 months old and a poor napper. I started putting him in the car to fall asleep. It worked great. I could take him out and put him right in the crib. Now I am trying to break his "car habit" and have quiet time (and sometimes he falls asleep in my arms) in his nursery...then in the crib he screams and cries. I have been trying to make the transition for seven days. He does not have a pacifier or bottle at naptime. He sleeps beautifully at night — drinks a bottle, goes in his crib awake and puts himself to sleep.

Ann Douglas answers:

You may be better off trying to convince Jack to enjoy some quiet time during the day — perhaps reading stories together or watching a video together after lunch. That may be all he needs to recharge his batteries — and it will give you a bit of a break, too.

As for the falling asleep in the car technique for lulling your toddler to sleep — most of us can be lulled to sleep in the car, adults included! So the fact that Jack can be convinced to take a nap if you take a drive around town doesn't necessarily indicate that he still needs that nap.

It's important to bear in mind that toddlers require less sleep as they grow older. As I note in The Mother of All Toddler Books, an average one-year-old requires 14 hours of sleep each day, while an average three-year-old requires just 12. Of course, there are toddlers who require less sleep than this, so don't worry that there's something wrong with your child if he's not sleeping as much as the "average" toddler. Toddlers — like the rest of us — can show considerable variation when it comes to sleep patterns.

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Bedtime Stories Are Still Key to Boosting Literacy Skills

 


  By Barbara Turnbull, The Toronto Star

And daily reading, in many forms, is essential to building a good foundation for literacy.

“Particularly at bedtime,” says Gillian Mason, president of ABC Life Literacy Canada , a non-profit organization that helps Canadians increase their literacy skills. “A child who’s read to everyday at that time develops literacy skills from the get-go that are life-changing.”

Common activities such as playing board games and cooking enhance those skills, Mason adds. Figuring out rules and following recipes helps kids practise reading, math and language, and teaches them how to follow directions.

Singing and rhyming boost literacy as well.

“We encourage 15 minutes of fun a day for families to learn together,” Mason says, whose group established Family Literacy Day in 1999. The national awareness initiative is held every year on Jan. 27.

The key is to make reading at home an enjoyable, distraction-free experience that’s part of the family culture, says Jo Altilia, executive director of Literature for Life , a charity that holds book circles for teen mothers.

Children become comfortable handling books if they have plenty in the house. Parents should let kids select what to read together and discuss the stories — ask them to predict what happens next and compare them to other books, she suggests.

If parents follow the words with a finger, the child can connect the sound of the letters with the word and its construction.

A critical element is to model good behaviour by reading yourself, Altilia says. “(The moms) say that because they are reading, their kids are more interested in reading,” Altilia says.

On its website, ABC Life Literacy Canada has a list of easy, inexpensive activities parents can do at home.

One popular project is constructing a family tree. “Kids are curious about their past and parents often haven’t thought through where they come from,” Mason says.

Creating a family comic strip or graphic novel is another fun endeavour, she suggests. Drawing and inserting speech through thought bubbles or captions can be deceptively stimulating.

“These are all things that don’t require a lot of resources and families can sit down and do together and keep everybody’s literacy skills sharp,” Mason says.

Image: Getty Images

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Bedtime tips for sleepy moms

The top tips for more restful zzzzzs.

Co-sleep: If you co-sleep you can breastfeed in bed. You can comfort your baby without getting up, and you'll get more sleep overall.

Create a bedtime routine: Even mamas need a routine. Take a warm bath, have some tea, read a book, or play nice music. Get relaxed and you'll have a better sleep.

Make a list: Don't lay in bed all night thinking about tomorrow. Instead make a list before bed. Now that you know you won't forget your tasks, you can sleep.

Exercise: Make sure to get in some exercise every day. You'll feel better overall and sleep much better.

Naps: If you can't get enough sleep at night, try a nap in addition to your nighttime sleep.

See a doctor: If you really are having sleep issues, see a health care provider. As a mama you need your rest, and if basic tips and solutions aren't cutting it, you may have a medical issue to deal with.

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Get The Baby To Fall Asleep

Bring on the white noise. “Conrad was quite fussy in the first few months, so my husband and I decided to try white noise. We downloaded all kinds of sounds—including jet engines, vacuum cleaners, and plain old static. We hooked up some mini speakers to our iPod, hit play, and he was out within five minutes. It worked so well that we always travel with those speakers. Now he sleeps as well at Grandma’s house as he does at ours.”

—Kristin Widing, mom of two, Aurora, Oregon

Give baby a rub-down. “The technique that works for me is to rub my daughter’s forehead gently with my thumb while holding her skin to skin.”

—Sunset Belinsky, mom of two, Kansas City, Missouri

Be a swinger. “We were very sleep deprived with my youngest, who’d wake up multiple times during the night. Finally, I moved the battery-operated swing to our bedroom, put him in it, and he’d doze off. That thing saved my sanity.”

—Len Saunders, father of two, Montville, New Jersey

Rap music? Yep. “Believe it or not, rap music of any kind was my go-to savior…played softly! The steady beat is soothing and our baby would fall asleep in a matter of minutes.”

—Shari Mezrah, mom of two, Tampa, Florida, and author of The Sleep Mom.

Try some good vibrations. “The one tip that always works is to put a baby blanket in the dryer to make it nice and toasty, then swaddle the baby in it. Place another blanket on the dryer, turn it on, and gently lay the baby on the blanket with one hand on her tummy. You’ll be amazed—the warmth and vibrations lull most babies to sleep. Then transfer her to the crib.”

—Blythe Lipman, mom of two, Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of Baby Instructions

Go for something scent-sational. “I sprayed a little lavender mist on my baby’s bedclothes to soothe her, then swaddled her.”

—Nicole Action, mom of three, Mount Airy, Maryland

Turn on the TV. For my son, The Wiggles always made him conk out in two minutes. The downside: I’d have ‘Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car’ in my head for the rest of the night!”

—Ron Motta, dad of two, Commack, New York

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Binkies, blankies and loveys: understanding security items

Many parents question their child's reliance on a particular item or find security items a nuisance. Forgetting to pack his stuffed lion for a sleepover at Grandma's or not having an extra pacifier for a long day of errands can be a recipe for disaster.

It can be difficult to understand why he needs a specific dog or pillow for every nap or at bedtime. In a room filled with toys and child-friendly objects, insisting on a certain blanket or toy can seem as though your child is trying to avoid going to sleep. In reality, young children are not exercising a hidden ability to manipulate the situation or cause an unnecessary scene in the mall. They are trying to quash rising feelings of stress, and crying for a pacifier is the only avenue his immature communication skills know to convey the message.

While not all children use pacifiers to soothe themselves or need a tattered receiving blanket in order to fall asleep, the fact is nearly all children depend on some type of comfort item. It may be a routine, smell or sound that he finds comforting. A child may equate the chimes of a grandfather clock he hears at a friend's house with the one at his home. He may use a stuffed animal as a symbol that ties him to his home and parents.

Children see security items as dual-functioning objects. A bottle not only provides sustenance for a tot, it quickly triggers his suckling instinct and calms his anxiety. A pillow offers more than comfort during sleep; it brings a piece of his bed to his aunt's house for an overnight visit.

Knowing why your child is drawn to security items, and how they help him build the ability to calm himself in the next stages of his life, give you insightful wisdom into your baby's life. Realizing the similarities in the actions of you and your baby provides clarity for parents confused by their child's dependency on a seemingly irrelevant item.

You have a lot in common with your baby

When adults feel emotionally wounded or taxed, they go in search of comfort. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you may go for a run, call a friend or sit down to gather your thoughts and regroup in a favorite quiet spot. You derive security from coming home after a long and trying day. Revisiting a favorite childhood haunt sends memories flooding back and creates a nostalgic and warming feeling.

The calmness or refuge you glean from the reassuring words of a good friend is similar to what your baby receives from cuddling up with his blanket. Wrapping comforting words around your stress mimics your baby's actions of wrapping his blanket around himself in order to feel comfortable in strange surroundings or to fall asleep.

Introducing security alternatives

Although it can be comforting as your baby grows, carrying around a blanket may be difficult or impede his social development. Preschool pals may not understand his use of a pacifier, or a hectic morning may result in forgetting to pack an emergency bottle for a child who otherwise no longer uses bottles. The risk of losing or leaving behind his security item increases as a child carries it from place to place. Forgetting to toss an extra pacifier in your bag or the absence of a diaper bag to stash his animal can cause the onset of an emotional outburst from your child.

Helping a baby transition from binkies and blankets to the ability to tap into an inner sense of calm is something that requires patience and stamina. Weaning him from a security item is similar to potty training. You have to be consistent while expecting setbacks.

Some children find that phasing out a stuffed animal is easier when done in baby steps, while others find a quick and complete removal best. You can test the waters if you're not sure which method you child is better suited for. If he's become accustomed to pacifiers or bottles, choose a day that you can be at home and devote attention to your baby. Remove the pacifiers from his sight and reach, and conduct your day as normal.

If out-of-sight, out-of-mind is working semi-smoothly, you're already on the way to helping him break the dependency. If he's excessively or unusually irritable or inconsolable, you're going to have to ease him at a slower pace. Offering alternatives to his habits such as only allowing a pacifier in bed, or insisting that his blanket stays in his room, helps him grow accustomed to calming himself while still preserving the sanctity of the item for "special occasions."

Even though you may not fully know if he understands, reiterating, "Your teddy bear will be waiting for you at home," or "Binkies are only for bedtime," will begin to become familiar. He'll realize that if he is upset at home, he can make the decision to seek comfort in his room. This is an important first step toward independent soothing.

Substituting a bottle and some cuddle time while reading a book with you can also help his mood and offer comfort. While your child once looked forward to a bottle at bed time, he will now anticipate the chance to spend soothing time with you. You can occupy your baby by singing songs in the car instead of using a pacifier to quiet him after a busy day.

Keep in mind that it is natural and normal for your little one to draw comfort from a variety of sources. In fact, introducing your baby to a number of different ways to self-soothe will teach him valuable lessons he'll be able to use for a lifetime.

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