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Podcast Episode Transcripts:
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the kids sleep show. It is great to have you here today, we are talking about probably the most commonly googled challenge for new parents, which is all about sleep regressions. So as a parent of two little ones, I have the pleasure of understanding the various leaps and bounds that children will make through their first several years of life. Right now, as a sleep consultant, I also see a lot of the common challenges when you hit what is referred to as a sleep regression. So if you went to Google and just typed in sleep regression, the auto populate er would basically have every single month of a baby’s life, coupled with the word sleep regression. And that is because basically, kids are changing a lot. And their sleep habits are still
So I wanted to spend some time today chatting about what causes sleep regressions, how you as a parent can do your best to avoid them. And if you’re in the middle of one, how you get out of it. So for starters, I want to explain what exactly a sleep regression is in the context of most of the clients that I see in my practice. So first and foremost, essentially, asleep regression is where sleep which was going well, to a degree for a family has all of a sudden turned the corner to negative town, right. So if it’s a baby, perhaps they’re all of a sudden waking 567 times a night when they were sleeping pretty close to through the night. If it’s a toddler, you know, perhaps there’s these new wakings, or they’re leaving their bedroom, right? The word regression, really just, frankly, means sleep has regressed it now all of a sudden, is in a place where it’s not sustainable for you, or for your little one. And the truth is, there’s a lot of different things that cause sleep regressions. Some of them are, frankly, habits that parents accidentally create. And some of them are situational around their cognitive development, right? Kids are changing a lot those first couple months in first couple years of life. And so there are going to be impacts that have different outcomes on the way in which they sleep. So we’re going to start with, you know, kind of that first sleep regression that many families See, which is the four month sleep regression. And I want to talk a little bit about why that typically happens, since it’s a very common one. And what you can do as parents with a little baby to ensure that that regression goes away, and that you can get back to and create and build sustainable sleep habits for life. So around four months of age, there are a few things that are changing from a biological standpoint with your newborn. Okay. So the first three months of life is what they call that fourth trimester, right? Babies are sleeping in what are known as stages of sleep. So they only have two different stages, they either spend 50% of their time in REM sleep, or 50% of their time in non REM sleep, okay, so those first three months of life, they are really in those two different stages, somewhere between three and four months is actually when their brain and their body is developing to a point where they move to cycles of sleep that they’re going to have with them the rest of their life. Okay, so that is typically the first thing that’s happening, which is the change in the sleep patterns, they go from stages to cycles. So they’re cycling through various stages. And what you notice is, when they’re leaving a deep state of sleep, and they are moving to the beginning of stage one, again, they’re waking, right? And that waking and the inability for them to go back to sleep or to consolidate the cycles we talked about is typically because they’ve gotten used to something that his parents were doing to support them going back down, frankly, right. So for a lot of families I work with it has to do with like nursing or feeding to sleep or rocking to sleep or bouncing to sleep, right. So you know what, four months I think parents in their mind think, alright, we finally gotten over the hump, and my little one should be sleeping, and now they’re not what’s going on. And it’s usually because there’s still something where the word to sleep is in there, you’re putting the Nook back into sleep, you’re feeding them to sleep, when they’re waking, you’re rocking them to sleep, you’re bringing them into your bed, you know, all of those different things are kind of happening with the word to sleep. So that is also part of it, right? So you’ve got those developmental milestones that are taking place at four months. And then you’ve also got kind of the habits that all of a sudden baby has realized they’re now dependent upon, right. One of the things I talk to clients about and something I really want you to think about with your little one, if you have a four month old that’s going through this right now is what they are looking for. Is that a want or a need. Okay when a four month old is hungry, They need to eat, we should feed them, right? So yes, a four month old could sleep through the night, but they also could be hungry, right. And so if a baby’s hungry, they need that intake they need to eat, right? If they’re eating great during the day, they’re getting 32 ounces of milk in a day, right? That’s kind of the end of the range, the range is 24 to 32 ounces in a day, right? So if they’re getting 32 ounces in a day, they’re napping, great, but they’re still waking four or five times a night, I will tell you they have a habit, right? There’s something going on there because they’re getting their intake of milk. There just seems to be something that they’re relying on, which is usually you or something you’re doing, right. So those are a four month old are kind of what I want you to look at and think around want versus need. Right? My husband always jokes with me when I go to marshals look at something and say, Do you want that Courtney? Or do you need it? And of course I need everything he’s like, you don’t need a four foot Buddha, you want the forfeit Buddha? And in which case I always leave Marshall’s with foreigner dollars with the crap I don’t actually need but I love it. So I buy it.
So for you, it’s kind of that same thing, right? Do they want this? Or do they need it if a child needs to be changed, needs to eat needs a cut? All right, as parents, they look to us to provide that for them. But if they just want something because it’s the mechanism that they’ve used to go to sleep, that’s a habit we need to break, right. So start your day with understanding,
is this a want versus a need. Now, as you start to grow up in months, right, the next kind of big regression that I hear a lot about in my business here is eight months, right? The eight month sleep regression.
kind of similar, it seems a lot, especially coming out of the winter, kids get sick over the course of the winter, maybe mom and dad had to spend a few nights holding them up, right because they were choking or RSV, which I know at my both kids have had is super scary, right? Or something has changed. Maybe they went to grandma’s through the weekend. And it was you know, a No Holds bar on what they were allowed to do. Or, you know, frankly, they’re overtired. There’s a lot of different things that can cause the quote, unquote, regressions from a behavioral standpoint at eight months, it usually has to do with leaps around learning, right? They’re now learning to sit up on their own. This is new, and it’s fun, and they do it in the crib. Right? They’re now learning to pull themselves up. So sometimes they start pulling themselves up on the crib. And then what do parents do, they go in and lay them back down, right? And then they start to stand up. And then they start to walk. And now they’re scooting all around. So they’re exerting extra energy, which could be making them tired quicker if they get overtired. That’s a stimulant, right? So around eight months, your challenges are a little different, cuz you’ve got that behavioral sort of developmental leaps, right? They’re standing there sitting there walking, you know, they’re kind of scooting, I should say, they’re not necessarily running across the living room in eight months, but you know, every baby’s different. So they’re starting to do these different things. And sometimes, you know, one of the things I mentioned was like, Hey, you go in and lay them back down every time they pull themselves up. They’re frankly, turning it into a game. Okay? So you’ve got those behavioral things where again, do they want me or do they need me now if they need help getting back down? The biggest thing I suggest is during the day, practice, right, have them pull up on the coffee table, and then start to show them how to get back down so that you don’t have to worry about them bonk in their head. I know that that can be super scary, obviously. You know, so you want to practice with them during the day some of these developmental things, okay. You’ve also got teething that starts to play a factor right? kids start popping in those first couple teeth around now. That can obviously be a bit uncomfortable. I can tell you something. That as a sleep consultant, I hear too much. Kids don’t teeth for two years straight. Okay. If you’re teething and your teething has been going on for two years straight, you have a whole bunch of habits that you know you need to break right. So the bad news is teething doesn’t last for two years consecutively. teething will take two years, three years, four years, right? Like kids are always going to be teething. It shouldn’t be something that impacts their sleep for more than a few days. Right a molar is pushing through the teething part that hurts is when it’s breaking through the gums. So a couple tricks that I always love to share with clients around teething if it is a challenge, and it is truly painful is first do some gum massage with like a washcloth right? You can help with that pressure to push that tooth through so that it stops hurting the little one as it’s trying to break through the gums. Okay, the next thing is to take either milk formula or breast milk, go to Michael’s or AC more whenever you have Amazon and get little gummy bear silicone molds. Fill the molds with milk, freeze them and create a whole little Tupperware thing of frozen gummy bear milk bears, right. And then when teething does become annoying, agitating kind of hurting. You noticed babies knowing a lot more. What you can do is you can actually pop a couple of those bears out of the mold, throw them into one of those mesh sucky things that you get at Target that it’s like the mesh net right? And then give it to your little one to suck on is kind of a popsicle. The cool part is one it’s refreshing to they’re chewing on it. So it helps to break the gum. Three, it numbs the gums, right. And as a bonus, they’re getting some additional milk intake by sucking on these sweet little gummy bears. Now I’ve had some clients actually add in a few drops of like juice to it, you know, depending on the age, they’ll take like raspberries, which are super potent. And you can literally put like one drop of a raspberry juice or what have you into it. And it really just makes it kind of taste a little bit different or better. And, you know, kids tend to like that they’re fun, they’re kind of my go to. And something you just keep in the freezer that you have around, you know, for example, something with the teething again, teething shouldn’t be something that lasts, you know, 20 years and kids. Now obviously from an overnight standpoint, I do recommend talking to your pediatrician about anything like Tylenol or Motrin to see if it can help. You know, sometimes teething can be painful, right? And there’s no harm in making sure that a child isn’t, you know, experiencing discomfort. It’s where I see that families say they haven’t slept in two years because they’re teething. It’s like, well, when you tell me that there’s generally something else going on, if you want me to be totally honest, right? So, you know, kind of you have to assess what else is happening. And is there something else that the little one is looking for as it relates to teething. So,
around eight months, those are kind of your common things, you’ve got teething, you got illness, you’ve got developmental things going on. And frankly, they’ve just gotten back into some things where they’re relying on you to go down for, you know, for sleep. Now, some external factors around the environment. And such are also things that could play into this, which I’m going to talk about in a few minutes. I just want to chat a little bit about toddlers. And when you have sleep regressions for older kids, right? So what is sleep progression looks like in a toddler, which I would characterize as a little one that’s kind of out of the crib, right? So they’re 18 months, 24 months, they’ve kind of gotten out of the crib, they’re in a baby toddler bed, they’re in a big kid bed, right? depending on the age and your situation, every family kind of does things a little bit differently. If they’ve been crawling out of the crib, you certainly have to move them right? When you have a child that gets out of the crib at a younger age, right? So I’ve worked with clients at, you know, 24 months where little one was climbing out, it was a hazard. So we had to move them to a big kid bed. And that’s when the parents reached out and we’re like, we can’t handle this. They’re coming into our room 75 times a night. And they used to sleep through the night, right? Why is this regression happening? Well, that age is a lot to do with the fact that they just got this whole new world opened up to them, right. And they don’t know what to do with it. They don’t quite understand the boundaries at the age of two. But at the same time, they also can’t handle the freedom, right. So with that, that’s where sleep regressions will start to happen around acceptable behavior. So as parents, you really need to set boundaries to say, hey, this behavior is acceptable this behavior is not and be consistent with it, you are not welcome to sleep in our bed, right. So don’t start that habit, because then the kids are going to come in every night expecting to sleep in your room. There are things like toddler alarms, like for the toddler door alarms, I mean, they’re a little pricey, like 60 or 70 bucks, but they keep your little one in the room or at least let you know that they’re out of the room. Right, the last thing you want is a two year old roaming around the house at 2am while you’re sleeping. Okay? The other thing is obviously, in this situation, you want to make sure that you’re securing things to the walls, always a safety conversation, I try to, you know, talk about in here to make sure that you know, you don’t have a little one climb in a dresser or anything because it can be dangerous. But for you know, kids that are in that sort of two to three year old range, there’s a little bit of just certain capacity of understanding what’s acceptable and what’s not. So it really takes repetition and consistency with kids to keep them understanding that the accepted behavior is that I stay in this bed until I call for my parents in the morning and they come get me right when you get to older kids it’s really a lot more around similar in nature of behavior, but consequently the choices right like you are not welcome in our bed you are not welcome to come out of your room, right? But there has to be consequences to those behaviors because otherwise they don’t understand that the behavior is not acceptable. If they cry because you don’t give them a brownie for breakfast. You’re not going to let them have a brownie just because they cried right. It’s the same with bedtime especially for like three four or five year olds where I see a lot around things like fear. Anxiety creeps in. Hello, my son saw Toy Story four and totally lost it with those Marionette dolls and he was like super scared. And that can have a trigger right so we were reading Toy Story The other night he’s now five and we were reading Toy Story The other night and he’s like I don’t like this page turn it and it was because those Marionette dolls were on it. So even like a couple months later, he still remembers that he doesn’t like them and they provided some aspect of fear to him. If I fit into that and was like it’s okay buddy. I’ll sleep with you tonight. Right all he’s gonna do that. Then say all the marionette dolls are scaring me. Can you sleep with me tonight? Right? Because I opened that boundary. So it’s definitely from a parenting standpoint, something that we have to be cognizant of around what we show is acceptable behavior. And what is something that we have to create that boundary around to say, Hey, this is the safe zone, and we’re going to stay in that right. The next thing around environmental that we want to look at is what’s happening in the room, right? We just had daylight savings time here in Philly, you know, so it’s bright light or at night.
That didn’t make sense. It is light longer at night. And then, you know, obviously in the morning, it’s gonna start to get light in the mornings. And so if you don’t have room darkening shades light is one of the things that helps your body to differentiate day and night. So room darkening shades can help to stabilize and regularize the circadian rhythm, right? darkness triggers melatonin light triggers adrenaline and cortisol. So those room darkening shades are super important. Avoiding overtired is the number one thing for the next five years of life from the time a baby’s born, the parents need to be concerned about because that will trigger overnight waking sleep regressions, challenges, fighting, taking naps, taking short naps, like overtired is kind of that. That thing I always ask clients first when we talk or they set up a preliminary evaluation to see if they’re interested in my services. And we always talk about overtired. Because this is one of those things that, you know, is a really big trigger for a lot of different things. Okay. So when you start getting into, you know, first and foremost, how do I assess what’s going on? What are some of those environmental factors, make sure that in your bedrooms, things like the lights are taped over, you know, don’t have the light with the smoking, elephant humidifier, the monitor light, the sound machine light, like all these different things are emitting light, that can actually be super bright in your room. Some kids are also super sensitive to sound. So you may have a sound machine on that’s actually kind of loud in their room, that could be disturbing them as they get into the early hours when they hear it right. So maybe something where it’s just a little tweak to that, that can help from an environmental standpoint. Okay. So there are a lot of things that can cause sleep disturbances and sleep challenges. You know, when it comes down to sleep regressions, there’s typically an underlying reason behind the regression that you need to look at to assess as a parent to say, okay, is this something that I’m doing where I can change the behavior, right? Or is this truly a developmental leap that I really just need to be supportive of and consistent through until they get past it? Okay, there’s no wrong answer. There’s no right answers. Really, just every child is different. Every family need and situation is different. So it’s really just starting to pay attention to what you’re doing, asking yourself, it’s as if it’s a want versus a need, and trying to be consistent in your response to say, okay, you don’t truly need this, you want it and it’s no longer an option and slowly working yourself away from whatever that habit was, you know, to get to the end success. Okay. So there’s a lot of things that you know, go into sleep. It’s a super complex issue. I always welcome everybody to, to jump out to my slumber Made Simple Facebook group. I do free every Friday live q&a is I pop in, I answer a million questions for folks. I do monthly trainings out there for newborns. I do monthly trainings for infants and toddlers school aged kids. I tried to give you a ton of information that hopefully helps you to get past some of these challenges. I am an open book, and I hope that you join us out there. Hopefully this one was good for you to talk a little bit more about sleep regressions, I know they can be a challenge. So assess what’s happening in your environment, see the things that you can change and always join us out in that slumber Made Simple group. Until next time, Sweet dreams and I look forward to seeing you here in the future.