Tag Archives: Schedule

Sleep and Baths

Having a bath is one of the things that I find most relaxing. It’s funny that I say that because I don’t think that I have taken the time to have a nice bath in over a couple of years. Particularly since I’ve had kids, there really doesn’t seem to be time for such things during my day, so it has been showers for me.

A bath, when done right, can almost be a mystical experience. Turn the lights down, light some candles, fill the tub with nice hot water, add some soap and slip into the bath. Nice deep breaths with your eyes closed, you can feel the tension from your day slipping away. Once you get out of the bath, you feel like rubber and could probably fall asleep within about a minute of your head hitting your pillow. All of this sounds like the perfect recipe for something that you would want to build into your child’s nighttime routine. Maybe throw in a story, a cuddle and a song or two and you might think that this is the golden recipe for getting your child to sleep, but you may want to reconsider.

Baby Bath Time Realities

bath-time
Would you go to sleep right after this?

There are significant differences between the type of bath time that your child experiences and the “adult” bath time that I described above. I think there are a range of reactions that children have to the mention of a bath. In our house, for example, it is usually like a party has been announced. Once they are in the bath, there is playing, laughing, fighting over toys and screaming from being splashed. Our kids are still not partial to having their hair washed, so there may be tears shed when it is time to wash their hair. Once they are out of the bath, they don’t look at all like I feel when I climb out of the bath. They seem fresh, awake, invigorated and entirely unlikely to go to sleep. Having considered the obvious differences between adult and baby bath times, you can see how it might not be the best part of a good bedtime routine.

Sleep and Sanity

The fact of the matter is that if your child is not getting the sleep they need, then neither are the parents. As parents become increasingly sleep deprived, they will also become much less able to deal effectively with their sleep deprived children. Avoiding bathing your child right before bed isn’t the sole answer to establishing a good bedtime routine, but it is a factor in the overall picture. I have written a couple of posts pertaining to sleep already:

Both of these posts are based on suggestions we received from a sleep expert who lives in our area, named Wendy Hall, PhD, RN, and I can’t recommend her advice enough. We have had our own troubles getting our kids to sleep at times too, but overall we have had a great deal of success using the methods that Wendy put forward. Building a good sleep routine for your kids takes time, and you may not get the results you want as quickly as you want, but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. If you have implemented a good sleep routine, but are still striking out with getting your child to sleep, then it may be time to consult an expert to help you consider other potential problems and solutions. Good luck!

What to Do: Kid Friendly Activities

So here is a quick and dirty post geared towards helping you help yourself and help others. My lovely wife made me aware of a website that helps you find kid friendly activities in your area on a map. It works a little like Padmapper, if you’re familiar with that site. The content of the site is user generated, so you can also add suggestions to the site. I happen to believe that parents are just the right group of people to make a site like this work because we are all looking for great ideas for things to do with our little ones, and in my experience, we are also a pretty helpful group of people who are willing to help other parents out. Help prove me right by giving this site a visit and possibly even contributing some ideas of activities in your area.

Here’s what the creator of the site has to say:

I have created a website for people to find, share, and comment on kid-friendly places and activities which can be found at http://kidfriendlyplaces.org. Its a work-in-progress  so I am trying to figure out if “real” people in the real world (ie, people other than my friends or coworkers) would use it and how. If any of you have a moment to spare, I’d love to know your thoughts.

For the record, I am not affiliated with this site at all, I just think it is a great idea and a potentially good resource.

Dealing With the Challenges That Twins Present

If I could sum up the most valuable bit of information that I could for parents who are expecting or have already had twins or multiples in a single sentence it would be this. Get your kids on the same sleeping and eating schedule! There we go, that’s easy enough right? A simple, grammatically correct, ten word sentence which contains a clear message. Looks like this parenting gig is going to be smooth sailing. Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not going to be easy at all. In fact, not only is parenting in general not that easy, but following my simple and grammatically correct nugget of wisdom is, itself, going to be harder than it sounds.

The Difficulties With Infants

I remember not really understanding why parenting was going to be so difficult before our twins came along. I heard that infants need about 15 to 16 hours of sleep a day. Before having kids, on a good night I usually slept 7 to 8 hours, so assuming I slept my maximum and my kids slept their minimum, that would leave me with a glorious 7 hours per day of “me” time. What I didn’t realize was that for infants to sleep and eat, it requires a lot of participation from the parents.

The Food Factor

Feeding
Tandem Feeding, Papa Style (my milk production was way down)

Assuming you are breast feeding, the amount of time that it can take to feed your infants can vary quite a bit based on milk production and how well your newborn has taken to feeding. For that reason it makes it difficult to talk specifics regarding the amount of time people spend feeding, but I have heard people talk about spending as little as about 3 hours per day to as many as 6 hours per day. The reason is that, initially, your infant will need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours (day and night) and each time it can take anywhere from about 20 to 45 minutes. In short, feeding your new bundle of sleep deprivation is going to be a very large time sink.

The point here, as it relates to twins, is pretty easy to glean. If you are feeding your twins one at a time, then you will end up spending roughly double the time doing so, and that could be anywhere from about 6 to 12 hours per day. This is a situation that will significantly eat into any “me” time that you thought you were going to get, and therefore, tandem feeding is really something that you should try to establish. It will also set the stage for meals as your twins get older, which will still be a time consuming and attention intensive task. So, anything you can do to coordinate feedings will help you to free up a little more of your precious time.

As I mentioned, my advice may be harder to implement than you realize and these are some of the reasons. It requires a fair bit of coordination and planning to tandem feed your twins. Breast feeding pillows and a helper are great tools to alleviate some of the awkwardness of getting your twins to successfully feed at the same time. The pillows help provide a platform to make it easier on mom’s arms, and the helper can bring the babies one at a time to allow mom to get comfortable and position them correctly one at a time. Getting a single baby to latch to it’s mother’s breast can be tricky enough, but with twins, you may only have one hand available to do any repositioning, but practice will help.

The Sleep Factor

Nap
Naptime

Surely, you may think to yourself, if I can’t catch a break while the little ones are eating, then at least I should be able to take some time for myself when they are napping or sleeping. Well, I can’t speak for every infant on the block, but for us that was patently false. When our kids were infants, initially they would generally fall asleep only if someone was holding them and bouncing, feeding them or if they were in a moving stroller. It would take about 45 minutes of lulling to get our kids to fall asleep, and there were 3 naps per day, plus bedtime, so there goes another 3 hours of your day and this doesn’t even count the two times in the middle of the night that you put them back to sleep after feeding. To be fair though, it didn’t take as much time to get them back to sleep during the night, but could still take 15 minutes each time.

Finally, the last major time sink relating to sleep has to do with their naps. As mentioned earlier, napping required pretty intensive parent participation. After having spent 45 minutes bouncing with them in our arms or walking them in the stroller it was really not worth the gamble of putting them down in their crib because that would likely result in them being roused from their sleep, so not only have you spent about 3 hours getting them to fall asleep during the day, but now you were also committed to walking them in the stroller, or holding them while they sleep which would take up 4.5 to 6 more hours of your day. On the plus side, when bouncing them to sleep and then letting them sleep on your chest, at least you can catch a nap yourself, of course the downside to this is that you are really only catching up on your sleep, and therefore this is not really that precious “me” time that you long for.

With twins, it should be fairly clear that if you don’t get your kids on the same food and sleep schedule, you are going to be run ragged and be out of time to do all of the other things that need to get done during your day. I give my wife, Jenn, full credit for really establishing the nap routine because she was the one that was almost always out with the stroller for long walks during nap time rain or shine. The great thing in our case was that we had met a really great group of new parents through a local parent group and the moms in that group organized a walking group that would meet up for stroller walks and this provided a bit of a social aspect to the napping process.

Sleep, The “Battle” Worth Winning

Early on during our pregnancy, my wife and I decided sleep was a “battle” that we really wanted to win. The fact that we were having twins made sleep quite important for us, and we knew there would be added challenges since we were having two kids at once. We joined a local twin group, and as a bonus there was a guest speaker giving a talk on children’s sleep. The speaker was Wendy Hall, PhD, RN who has done a great deal of research and work on sleep issues for infants and toddlers. We have seen her two times and have followed her suggestions and had a great deal of success in doing so.

I have found a YouTube video of Wendy giving a talk very similar to the ones that we sat in on and thought it was worth sharing. The problem is that the video is 1:10 minutes long and I know that finding that kind of time can be pretty tricky. In this post I have created a breakdown of the topics covered in the video with timestamped links to points in the video where she covers major topics, to try to make it easier to find information on the issues you are most concerned with. If you can find the time, I highly recommend watching the whole video. Let me know what you think of the points made by Wendy and if you have any ideas to contribute to the topic of sleep.

Entire Video

Why is Sleep Necessary?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 2:14 – 3:57)

  • Sleep is essential for developing brains and bodies
  • Increasing rates of children’s emotional and behavioural problems are linked to sleep problems
  • Children with ADHD have higher incidences of sleep problems and shorter sleep duration
  • Sleep loss is implicated in childhood accidents
  • Children have paradoxical reactions to inadequate sleep
  • Children who are over-tired will find it difficult to relax, struggle against going to sleep and have more disrupted sleep during the night

What is Sleep About?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 3:57 – 9:45)

  • Based on circadian and homeostatic (sleep pressure) processes
  • Circadian rhythm incorporates cues from the environment to regulate timing
  • Sleep pressure is relieved by daytime  naps and nighttime sleep
  • Sleep cycles (time 5:50 – 9:45) Important

What Does Sleep Look Like in Children?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 9:45 – 20:11)

What Are Sleep Promoting Strategies?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 20:11 – 24:36)

Sleep Problems and How They Can Be Managed?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 24:36 – 41:55)

What Are Some Effects of Sleep Problems?

Discussion

Sleep, the Topic That Keeps Giving

Sleep

Here we go, my first post and I chose a big topic because there are a lot of issues around sleep, so I am sure to have several posts relating to the topic. Since we had twins, my wife and I were definitely concerned with making sure we did our best to try to establish good sleeping habits early on. We were lucky enough to be able to sit in on a seminar with a sleep expert named Wendy Hall before our kids were born. She certainly gave us some fantastic information and in this post I’m just going to go over the very general points that were covered, and I’ll tackle more specific concerns regarding sleep in future posts.

Well Rested Parents Make Happy Babies

This sounds fairly obvious, but the importance of this point may escape the mind of the sleep deprived parent. In order to be a we’ll rested parent, baby also needs to be sleeping well. Without enough sleep, the parents will quite quickly start experiencing higher levels of stress, and potentially even depression, which then has an impact on the relationship between them and their children. Our goal is to maintain a good relationship between  parents and kids by promoting good sleep habits so that parents can get enough time to maintain the levels of sleep that they need to function in a healthy way.

Sleep Begets Sleep

This is a concept that I think many people may hear, but choose to ignore or discount when times are tough and they are desperate for sleep. The idea is pretty simple, the more sleep your child gets, the more sleep they will want. In some ways it sounds too good to be true, because the more sleep your child gets, the more time you also have to yourself to take care of everything that you don’t have time for when your child is awake.

The problem that I think most people have is that they reason to themselves that the reason their child is not sleeping is because they are not tired enough, and so they reduce the amount of sleep that their child is getting in the hopes that this will help them sleep longer. This, according to Wendy Hall, is the wrong approach, and will actually make it more difficult for them to sleep. Instead, you should work on allowing more opportunities for your child to sleep so that they are properly rested, which will have the effect of promoting even more sleep.

But I Can’t Get My Child To Go To Sleep

So here is the tricky part, how do you get your child to actually fall asleep? I certainly don’t have all of the answers here, but there are a few tricks that I think are quite useful helping your child to learn to sleep.

  • Establish a nap Schedule:

Stick to the nap schedule that your child requires and do whatever it takes to help your child nap during those times. Sometimes just putting your child down for a nap just isn’t enough for them to fall asleep because they haven’t yet learned how to actually let themselves fall asleep. I give my wife full credit for helping our kids to “learn” to fall asleep by taking them for walks in the stroller during nap time. It was a very long slog and demanded a lot of time and effort, but the payoff was very substantial. Our kids have developed a very good nap routine and, going back to “sleep begets sleep”, also sleep amazingly well overnight.

  • Build a bedtime/nap routine

Another “trick” we used was to make a whole routine out of nap time and bedtime. We started with putting sleepers on, then reading stories, saying goodnight to the pictures on the wall of family members and finally singing a couple of songs before going down into their cribs. This all sets the stage for them to help understand that it is time for sleep. Now even in the middle of the day, singing one of their sleepy time songs is likely to induce a yawn or a rub of the eyes.

  • You can’t spoil a baby who is under 6 months old

If your child is less than 6 months old, then don’t expect miracles. If you have a solid sleep routine and schedule, but your child just won’t fall asleep once you put them down, then do what you need to help them fall asleep before leaving the room. Before 6 months of age, our kids rarely fell asleep without either being rocked to sleep, or at least having someone in the room until they dozed off. If they need comforting, then give it to them and try to slip out once they are asleep. Once your child is a little older, you can try implementing other strategies to help them fall asleep, but just letting them “cry it out” when they are less than 6 months won’t teach them how to fall asleep, and will just eat into the time they have available to sleep.

  • Avoid putting children to sleep right after food

This applies more to infants more than anything, but in establishing good habits around sleep, you should try to avoid putting your child to bed right after they have had any food/bottle. Giving your infant food right before bed builds an association for them which can lead to them needing food to fall back asleep if they wake up in the night. The advice we were given was to try to provide a 20 to 30 minute break (which would be a perfect time to implement your bedtime routine) between feeding and going to bed. This way they will be less likely to demand food every time they wake up, and start figuring out how to fall back asleep which is the skill set we want to improve!

  • Baby monitors do more harm than good

Listening (or watching if you have a video monitor) to your child sleep can be a pretty fun thing to do when you have a young one, but this was definitely another pet peeve for Wendy Hall. Her issue was that using baby monitors almost always leads to over parenting, where you really just end up interrupting your child’s sleep by going in to their room at the first sign of trouble. There are times when your child will wake up crying, but you do not need to go running in every time this happens, and when people have monitors, they can hear everything, and are therefore more likely to go into their child’s room if they hear them.

Having said that, my wife and I slept far enough away from our kids room that we couldn’t really hear anything in the middle of the night, so we opted to use a monitor, but with the knowledge that we shouldn’t go in to “help” our kids whenever they cry in the night, we were able to develop an ear for different types of crying. There was one particular cry our kids would make (very loud and stressed sounding) that we came to understand meant “I’m freaking out in here for some reason, and I’m not going back to sleep any time within the next 2 hours unless someone comes to tell me that everything is okay”. Once we learned that cry, that was the only one we would respond to in the middle of the night, and it happened quite infrequently (maybe once every 3 or 4 nights for example).

These are some of the strategies that my wife and I used and the payoff for us has been pretty remarkable. Keep in mind that the first three months (give or take) are very difficult, and you will be running on very little sleep. I have really only grazed what is a very large and important topic for many parents and families, but hopefully some of these tips may be of some use to you and your family. If you have any ideas or questions to contribute to this post, then please comment below.