Author Archive

Why reading to your child changes their lives

Did you know that reading to your baby as little as 15 minutes a day can actually boost your child’s intelligence? This is exactly what the research reflects. Not only do daily bedtime stories help make our little ones smarter, but they are also an incredible opportunity to reconnect and build our relationship with our children.

Best-selling children’s author, Mem Fox, believes “the fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading…It is the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.” Such is the magic of reading fabulous books aloud. And let’s face it, what could be more magical, than snuggled up close, going on adventures to far away places, all tucked up and wide-eyed?

One of our highest priorities, as parents, is surely to instill a love of learning in our children. Skillful reading aloud does that. The more expressive we read, the more memorable and exciting the experience will be. The more our kids love books, the more they’ll be inclined to pick them up and explore them, pretend to read them even. The more they pretend, the quicker they learn to read. The moment they read, a world of learning is opened up to them.

In many ways, an expressive story time can seem very musical to a baby. The lilt of your voice, and the use of pauses for emphasis can almost sound like a song. It is quite memorable to young children when you read a book exactly the same way each time. Just like a simple tune can make things easier to remember, books with rhyme and metre will actually build the skill of memory and recognition, as young children pick up the ‘tune of the words’, to use a term coined by Mem Fox.

Of course animated reading aloud can be quite stimulating to a baby. You know the types of stories I mean – those that require lots of facial expressions, voices and crazy actions. These stories are best read during active wake time. However, there are many quiet, soothing books, some that even reference sleep and dreams, that are fantastic for adding to that special time right before bed.

As you pay attention to the magical details of each individual word, you create a world of enchantment. You reveal hidden meaning, characters come alive, words leap off the page, and your young one’s mind is growing and learning all the while. They are having fun and loving time with this expressive, amusing mummy. So let’s bring back the whimsical art of reading aloud to our children.

To learn more about reading aloud, check out Mem Fox’s book: “Reading Magic

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From Waking 5 Times per night to Sleeping Thru – Read Madeline’s story!

This month we’re highlighting a SleepLoveGrow family who were struggling through sleep deprivation and wishing for a change that would benefit their whole family. Meet Madeline:

My husband and I enlisted Sleep Love Grow’s help and expertise after reaching the end of our tether with our daughters sleep (or lack of!). When we met Jen, Chloe was not napping at all during the day unless in the car/pram, and was sleeping in our bed and waking up to 5 times per night to feed.

Together we agreed on a plan, and Jen gave us the confidence we needed to know we were doing the right thing for Chloe. We saw improvement after night one, and while it took a lot of persistence, she is consistently sleeping 7-7 and having long naps in her cot.

Four months on, we are still astounded at the turnaround! All of us are much happier for being well-rested. Jen, we can’t thank you enough for your support and guidance in improving Chloe’s sleep!!! I still rave about you to anyone who will listen!

Take the first step on your own journey to better sleep: contact Jen @ sleeplovegrow.com.au today

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realistic New Year’s resolutions for mums

Ok, so the countdown has come and gone, you went to bed embarrassingly early and the highlight of your day, possibly year, was the semblance of a tidy kitchen table. Relax, you’re in good company. Many new mums shudder to even think about goals, let alone New Year’s Resolutions. But what if there were some realistic, simple changes you could make now that may be helpful, invigorating even? Something to give you the momentum to face another year as a mum, something to help you say to your future self ‘you’re welcome!’ Here are some ideas to get you thinking.

Enjoy the moment.  It is so easy to be distracted in a world of touch screens and smart phones. Life goes by so fast that we can miss the precious little moments if we’re not careful. Sit for a few minutes every day just looking into your baby’s eyes. Sing to them, dance with them in your arms. You helped to create this new, tiny being. They came to you for a reason, you get to marvel at the magic of it and enjoy every moment!!

Expect the unexpected. Life with a baby will throw you some curve balls. The ability to go with the flow and bounce back is always a better way to handle stressful situations. Find the positive in every moment and remind yourself of that. You are resilient, find that strong self and stick to it, no matter what.

Laugh. A lot. Laughing can literally improve your health! It boosts your immune system, lifts the mood, diminishes pain, and shields you from the damaging effects of stress. Things won’t always go the way you wished. Be flexible and learn to laugh at everything, you’ll feel so much better.

Take a shower every day. There is almost miraculous power in a hot shower – that feeling of being clean and refreshed is pretty darn amazing!! If need be, make baby a part of the fun: bring in their bouncer or lay out a mat with toys and serenade them with your best karaoke go-to song.

Plan something to look forward to. You know that feeling when something you planned months ago…some get away, girl’s night out or special date night concert is getting closer and closer? Crazy as it sounds, but that excitement helps you enjoy your day to day even more, knowing you are special too and worthy of R&R.

Stop comparing yourself. We live in a photo-shopped, social media world. Not many people Instagram the moment when the poop hit the fan, it’s the huggies-ad-worthy shots that we see and compare ourselves to. You are your own unique and beautiful self. Worry less about what people think and more about what you think about yourself, this will impact you and your family so much more.

Work on positive self-talk. Studies show that daily negative self-talk forces the body to live in fight-or-flight mode, which hampers nearly every natural function. It is important to become aware of what you’re saying to yourself. Work on implementing positive and empowering thoughts. If you find yourself heading into negative thinking, say 5 things out loud that you’re grateful for in that moment.

Find a doable, fun form of exercise. The key word here is fun! Make it enjoyable and ensure it fits into your routine. A rigid weekly gym schedule may not suit your life right now. Make this realistic. You want it to become a habit, not something you dread doing. Going for long, quiet walks in the morning can be such a great way to start the day. Or perhaps a relaxing 30-minute yoga class at home while the baby sleeps, or a kickboxing class once a week with friends?

Investigate a creative pastime. What’s something you’ve been meaning to find time for? Is there something new and outside of the box that could stretch your brain or provide a creative outlet? Maybe it’s journaling, playing an instrument, learning to crochet or painting. Find a manageable project that invigorates or delights you.

Dream again. What has been a secret passion of yours? Something you’ve always wanted to do, but never told anyone. Perhaps it’s a small as learning how to cook a certain dish, or something as lofty as living by the sea. Write down your dreams: the big, the small, the crazy. Even better, start a dream board. Ask yourself, what’s one small thing I could do today to start working towards achieving this?

Raising babies isn’t for the faint-hearted, but you are a fierce mumma, there’s nothing you can’t do!

May 2018 be the best year of motherhood yet!

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Cot or Bassinet – and when to transition

 

There are so many decisions to be made when it comes to a new baby….how will we get him home from the hospital? Where will she sleep?

Perhaps you’re one of those people who has the nursery all painted and decked out and your idea of a perfect start is baby going straight into a cot in their own space close by. Perhaps you like the idea of having baby in the same room with you in the beginning or you live in a smaller space, therefore a bassinet may have more appeal.

A bassinet is definitely more compact than a cot and provides, some would argue, a cosier environment for baby to sleep in. There is also the mobility of a bassinet, since many come with wheels or handles, that add to their convenience. Whilst there are no current Australian standards for bassinets, some products do claim compliance with overseas standards or older Australian standards for rocking cradles.

Most bassinets will come with a recommendation for when it’s time to transition baby into a cot. Every baby is different and will grow at different rates. The Australian consumer advocacy group: Choice, recommends that once baby starts rolling over, or can pull themselves up via the sides it is time to transition them to a cot. Of course, many parents transition their babies long before this time, or begin baby sleeping in a cot straight away. Either of these approaches is perfectly fine.

Here at Sleep Love Grow, we are most interested in keeping baby’s ‘falling asleep environment’ simple and familiar, particularly from the three month mark and beyond. This is when, according to RedNose (formerly SIDS), a setting should be provided that isn’t dependent on another person. It may involve a snug wrap, a darkened room, the sound of a fan or other white noise and of course, the familiar smell/feel of their consistent sleeping space.

If you decide that a bassinet is for you, there are some things to watch out for as you are shopping around. Firstly, check the mattress. It should be firm and quite snug against the sides of the bassinet. There should be no gaps where baby’s arms or legs could become trapped. There should also be plenty of breathable area between baby and the sides to eliminate suffocation. If your bassinet comes with wheels, check there is a locking system for at least two wheels. The construction of the bassinet should feature permanently fixed parts that are difficult to budge when moved.

If you would like more information on what to look for in a bassinet, check out the Choice Bassinet Buying Guide or for safe sleep solutions see RedNose (SIDS).

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Tantrums – hold on for the ride!

Ok, tantrums. Let’s talk about THAT one. I’ve included here some things to remember and simple strategies to use when your child (who is most likely 3 -5 years old) decides to have a tantrum.

Our Top 10 Tantrum Tips:

1. He is a child. Remember how it was when you were a child? When something “bad” happened it usually had to do with waiting your turn behind two other people to use the swing or missing out on something like a lollipop because your mum had no cash on her. They were big things then. They’re not now. Hindsight is a very useful thing… and so is maturity. So use them, and don’t make a big deal of your child’s big deal because he can’t change the fact that it’s a big deal to him until he gets closer to where you are.

2. No matter what your child’s behavior, the situation will ALWAYS go better if your primary tools are UNCONDITIONAL LOVE (please, don’t make him feel that you love him less because of something he does or does not do), EMPATHY (try to put yourself in his shoes, like really put yourself in his shoes) and SAFETY (if he is raging and he is going to hurt himself, then protect him and others around him; never use him hurting himself as a punishment for his choice of behavior).

3. Some children will listen even when they are tantruming, others will not. If you know he’s likely taking in what you are saying then offer him unconditional love: “I’m disappointed you’re choosing this behavior but I will never stop loving you. I love you very much”, empathy: “sometimes Mummy/Daddy feels out of control and I don’t like feeling that way, I don’t like what it makes me do but I want you to know only you have a choice to stop your tantrum; no one can make you stop” and safety: “I won’t let you hurt your sister because you feel angry; that choice will never be ok. I also want to keep you safe.” Use an even voice. Shouting will only exacerbate his feelings. If you can’t give these reminders during the tantrum, talk to him once he is calm.

4. Give him strategies. Talk to him about what helps you when you feel angry. You can teach him that when he is feeling like he is going to get out of control, he can go out and jump on the trampoline or count backwards from 20 slowly. Explain that this will take time and practice, and it may not go so well the first few times but if he keeps trying it will get easier.

5. Don’t shun him for negative behaviors. Don’t stop being with him (even if all you want to do is be far, far away!). If he has a tantrum in the morning, deal with it and move on; don’t treat him for the rest of the day like he is in “the bad books”. He needs to feel accepted; feeling like a failure gives little drive to improve.

6. Be a good role model. If you are having Mummy/Daddy tantrums left, right and centre, then wake up and smell the coffee! Your child is learning from a never-ending source how to react when something doesn’t go his way. Remember that role models can also come from other places; daycare, preschool and other family members or friends.

7. If he is not getting the behavior from you, consider why he may be tantruming (if he is doing it a lot). I recommend you take an “overall view” of your parenting and think about the way he feels in relation to this. A child who is told “no” all the time or who is controlled instead of given choices and responsibilities of his own is likely to be living in a place of frustration. A child whose sibling is constantly being favored over him will be looking for attention, and a tantrum is a sure good way to get it. You can see where I’m going here.

8. Have an open communication line with him. Be interested in him and the things he has to say; don’t “fob him off”. Give him as much information as you can about what to expect and when; a “5 minutes to go” warning at the park is a great example.

9. Don’t expect too much of him. Little people under pressure crack so easily. If you’re going to be a soccer mum, then great. Just don’t expect him to bend it like Beckham when he’s barely out of nappies.

10. Tantrums are normal kiddy behavior. Do yourself a favor and remember this. Don’t beat yourself up because your child has tantrums, and don’t belittle him because he has them. You are both human. If you deal with them in a level-headed way, he will likely grow out of them by school age.

Of course, there are always other considerations when it comes to your child’s behavior. Consider sleep, nutrition and your child’s emotional well-being when thinking about what may be causing regular outbursts.

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Naps – the how, why and what of day sleeps!

When babies are born, they have a bit of “getting used to the world happening” to do. Sleep is erratic and comes in a combination of short and long stints day and night; my very short, swift advice for you with a newborn is to expect next to nothing for some sleeps and something more than that for others!

In my experience, babies tend to start looking like they have a pattern to their sleep around weeks 2-4. Generally, once you’ve picked up the pattern, they’ll b close to changing again because at 6 weeks they “wake up” a little more and become more aware of the world around them. This affects sleep. Mostly, it’ll change the baby’s ability to get off to sleep because, well, they’re often too “busy” to sleep!

Swiftly following this stage (don’t blink or you’ll miss it) seems to be the lengthening of naps stage. I tend to see babies who experience less intervention at the “getting-to-sleep” time having the ability to lengthen their naps to a good amount of say 1.5-2 hours, and have at least two of these with an extra catnap at the end of the day on most days.

Then the 4 month regression hits. And it’s not easy for a lot of parents (and babies!). All of a sudden, your baby may decide that 45 minutes (or less) is enough to recharge… the fact is that sometimes it’s not enough to recharge, so if your baby is taking catnaps and you are unable to extend the nap in any way then ensure he’s not awake too long afterwards before you go for his next nap. Some babies hop through the day doing these catnaps, and subsequently take 4 or 5 one-cycle sleeps. If this is where you’re at, don’t despair. Once the developmental swing slows, things should change.

Sometime in between 4 to 6 months, babies should begin extending their naps from one cycle to closer to at least two cycles (i.e. from 30-45 minutes to 90 + minutes). Typically, it’s the first nap that extends first. Then you’ll likely see his next nap lengthen and you’ll be left with him needing only a short nap (like 30 minutes or so) at the end of the day.

Babies usually drop down from three naps to two naps per day around 8-9 months. You will notice your baby refusing the end-of-day catnap when he begins the transition. If you allow him to “take the lead” on whether it is a 3 or 2 nap day, it’ll probably go smoother. When your baby is having a 2 nap day remember that he’ll need an earlier bedtime (e.g. 630pm) to prevent him from getting over-tired; if he takes the catnap in the late afternoon then you can go for the slightly later bedtime (e.g. 7/730pm).

Once your baby has done “2 nap days” for a good few weeks you can be assured he’s no longer in need of 3 naps. If the morning nap shortens to become a catnap (e.g. 30-45 mins) at around 10-12 months and stays at 930am, it will allow your child to “make it through” the morning to a longer afternoon nap at around 130pm. This will prevent him from taking too much nap sleep in the morning and subsequently refusing the afternoon nap when he still really needs two sleeps. I see this often; it tends to make for a very over-tired baby at bedtime when he has been awake from 11am until 630/7pm!

Babies usually need 2 naps until an average age of 14 months, but sometimes as late as 18 months (this is also dependent on how much night sleep they are getting). Around this age, you will begin to see signs of transition. This will look like him refusing the catnap in the morning. When this happens, move to a “1 nap day” and schedule the nap at 1130am/12pm, then an earlier night bedtime (e.g. 630pm) to help him not become too over-tired. As he transitions (typically over a few weeks) allow him to decide if it will be a 2 or 1 nap day by trying the catnap and going from there. Again, once a few weeks of “1 nap days” have occurred you’ll know he’s no longer in need of 2 naps.

From this point, the 1130am/12pm nap gets pushed back later and later in the day. You’ll see a readiness for this as sleep slides later even though baby is in bed. The nap ends up being at around 130pm, and once you get to a 1 nap schedule at this time you’ll know that he’s getting ready to drop the nap altogether.

Remember that when your child drops this one nap (usually between 2.5-3.5 yrs), it’s healthy for rest time to occur. Instead of expecting sleep, facilitate a “quiet time” every day during which he gets a container of books and quiet toys of his choice to take to bed. He then stays there for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour. If he falls asleep during this rest time, you may need to cap the nap at 230/3pm to protect going to bed in the evening at 7/730pm. At this stage, bedtime will need to be adjusted according to what has occurred after lunchtime.

Naps. They’re not easy! Do what you can and remember the purpose of a good nap: to restore, at regular intervals through the day to prevent over-tiredness and to help your child grow and develop well.

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When baby hates cot and how you can help

Have a bub who is 6 months or older who hates his sleep space? Cries when you’re walking toward his cot? Cries when you try putting him in the cot?

If you know your baby is tired but he is not fond of going into his bed, try some Positive Sleep Space Association.

During his wake time, ensure the room looks completely different than sleep time (i.e. lights on or curtains open, perhaps play some up-beat music that you know he will enjoy), and place him in his sleep space with some toys and/or books. Stay in the room with him while he plays and encourage him by turning his interest to different things and providing some interaction (like peek-a-boo around the cot bars with a teddy). If he is hesitant to go into his sleep space initially during this time, try some “aeroplanes” over the sleep space or playing next to the sleep space as an initial step towards eventually playing IN the sleep space.

Children, even babies, need to be in and around their sleep space regularly for reasons other than sleep.

Once you begin doing Positive Sleep Space Association several times a day (only 5-10 minutes is required), you should begin to see a shift in his feelings about his sleep space. This practice helps an older baby “normalize” being in the sleep space, which can help him feel more settled before going to sleep and when he wakes.

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Daylight savings and sleep – what’s the deal?

So, it’s that time of year again – yay! Soon enough we’ll have to change our clocks, and this is where some things can become a bit of a struggle with a little one’s sleep. So, what to do?

Here’s some ideas for you to think about:

– Spring FORWARD, Fall (or Autumn in Australia!) BACK; in other words, make sure you’re putting your clocks forward in Spring and back in Autumn

– in Spring, you lose an hour, which can be easier to make up for than the other way around in Autumn, when you gain an extra hour

– think about what the new times for your child’s sleep will be once the clocks change; you can begin to make a slow change before the clocks turn or you can change afterward

– changes can be made in smaller increments of 5-10 minutes (with a baby of 6 months and under this will most certainly need to be the case), longer increments of 15-30 minutes (with a baby who is 6 months or older) or “cold turkey” as the clock shows (with an older toddler or child)

As we all know, we cannot force sleep. So, when the clock turns that magic number (old time) in the morning, most little people will be awake, unless you’ve transitioned beforehand.

As the clocks change, the sun’s times will change, too. This means that the amount of light coming into your child’s bedroom could potentially disrupt their ability to go to sleep or wake them earlier than expected in the morning. To help remedy this, you may decide to add a block-out blind or curtain.

The good news in all of this is that most little ones, whether they are teeny tiny or bigger, will adapt to the time changes within about a week if you take steps towards helping them do that.

Spring has sprung! Enjoy this beautiful weather and the longer-lit warm days.

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sleep crutches

sleep crutches – feeding, rocking, patting, singing and hand-holding to sleep

I meet so many families who think the first thing I will tell them is that they’ve made a big mistake getting their baby or child off to sleep by doing something intensive. Well, no. In fact, the first thing I say is this:

“parent-intensive sleep methods in the early days of a child’s life help build a positive foundation of emotional wellness on which to make slow and transitional changes with sleep if and when the family is ready to make those changes”

Being a parent is all about doing what feels right for you and your child. Helping your child off to sleep may be something that comes completely natural to you, and that’s great!

There may come a time that the method you’ve chosen when your child was younger no longer seems right. The way we parent evolves and changes, and this is certainly true of the way we choose to help our children get good sleep. There is a way of transitioning from what you are currently doing to where you want your “to-sleep-scenarios” being. Think of changing the method slowly, be patient and you’ll probably be surprised that you CAN actually help your child makes those changes with a bit of determination.

Yes, I am a sleep consultant, BUT I’m also a mum of young kiddies, a midwife and doula — I don’t have “rose-coloured glasses” about how sleep should, could or would be. I realise that sleep looks different in every single home. So, do what you think is right for you and your child and when that changes, start thinking about ways to make it look different. And if the time never comes when you feel a change is needed, then great! Keep on doing what you’re doing. And don’t forget to enjoy. 🙂

Happy transitioning!

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early wake ups – are you up before the sun?

Early wake-ups… are they happening in your home?

Let’s face it, it’s not nice being up before the sun. Especially when it’s out of your control.

So, what do we mean by early wake-ups?

We would categorise an early wake-up as a child waking before 6am and being “ready for the day”. If it happens every now and then, not to worry (as long as it’s close to 6am!) BUT if it’s happening regularly in your home there is usually a reason why.

Here’s a quick list for you:

– make sure your child is not going down too early for their first nap; awake time will be taken in reverse if a child keeps getting put to bed at the same time every day even though they need more wake time (e.g. say your 6 month old goes down for her nap at 830am from a 630am wakeup, and as she gets older that time doesn’t change.. by 9 months she’s needing 2.5 hours of wake-time first thing in the morning so if you are continuing to put her to bed at 830am her morning wake-up will likely become 6am)
– make sure your child’s first nap is not too long; when a child drops to two naps they will likely be a similar length, but as she gets older and increases her ability to stay awake the job of the morning nap is to give her “a bit of sleep” to get her through to the afternoon sleep so she can have a big chunk of sleep then and go to bed at night time between 630-730pm and not over-tired (e.g. for a 9mth old might be something like: 630am wake-up, 9-10am nap, 1-3pm nap, 7pm bedtime)
– make sure your child is not going to bed too early at night time; think about the normal “night-time sleep” for your child’s age so that you’re not expecting too much sleep from them, and remember that there is a range of what’s normal for each age (e.g. at 9 mths, babies usually sleep for 11-11.5 hours so if you are putting your little one down to bed at 630pm and she’s waking at 530am then this would be within the expected range)
– make sure your child in not going to bed too late; an over-tired person of any age will not sleep as well and is much more likely to wake through the night and before it’s a suitable time to be awake in the morning. I suggest a bedtime of between 630-730pm; think about what time your child wakes from the last nap and try not to stretch out “too long” before bedtime for the night.
– make sure you’re not encouraging the habit; if you are “starting the day” before 6am over and over again, you’re helping drive your child’s biological clock and she will likely continue to wake. If she is at an age to need a feed then do this, and encourage her back to bed (even if she won’t sleep straight away).

Being up early is not nice. If it’s happening regularly, I would encourage you to try to remedy this as soon as possible. Sometimes it can take up to a month of consistent work to get the early wake up ironed out!

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