<![CDATA[MOMMY SOS - The Blog]]>Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:04:35 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[the 4 month sleep regression]]>Tue, 23 Apr 2019 16:48:47 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/the-4-month-sleep-regression
Picture
We’ve discussed sleep regressions a lot, both on the podcast and the blog, but I wanted to dig even deeper into sleep regressions in this post - specifically the 4 month sleep regression. Because this one affects nearly every baby - and often comes as a surprise to many parents since it is the first one to hit.  I've also found that many babies are sleeping fine during their newborn phase and so it can really wreak havoc on new parents - it’s the one I see coming up as a trouble spot over and over again!
The 4 month regression can be quite disruptive, and just like the others at 9/10 months, 12 months, 18 months and 2 years, it can lead to more frequent night waking, short - and sporadic - naps and trouble falling asleep during both day and night.  However, it is actually quite different than the other regressions your baby may experience - and that’s because it’s actually not really a regression at all. Before I talk about that, let’s take a minute to explore what 4 month old sleep looks like.

4 month old sleep
Around 4 months, your baby will graduate from newborn to true babyhood.  This means that you’ll likely notice your baby waking more and being more alert and interactive with the world around them. Your baby will start to be able to stay awake for longer periods (though still we want to aim for no more than 2 hours at a time, for now) - and their sleep will begin to organize a bit more as well.  Up until this point, I usually recommend trying to keep to a daily routine with evenly spaced naps (roughly 1-2 hours apart), but it’s typically around this age (somewhere between 4-5 months) when babies are ready for more of a schedule - with 4 (sometimes 5) naps and usually an earlier bedtime than before.

The 4 month regression
The 4 month “regression” is a time when your baby’s sleep patterns are going to change - permanently.  So, where they may have slept soundly all night before (if you’ve been one of the lucky ones), they now will begin cycling in and out of sleep just like adults do.  And because they are cycling through each of the various stages of sleep, they are also spending more time in the non-REM sleep - or the lighter sleep cycles. This means that they are much more likely to wake. And more importantly, if they don’t know how to get back to sleep on their own, then each time they cycle through they are going to wake up and want you to come calm them back down and help them get back to sleep.  

I think the best metaphor for this would be to imagine if you were watching tv and lulled to sleep at night while you were on the couch, but then sometime in the middle of the night you woke up in your bed, you would likely open your eyes, sit upright and be very confused about how you got there.  You might ask your partner if they moved you or wonder what happened for so long that you have trouble settling back into sleep. This is exactly what happens when a baby falls to sleep in your arms (or while sucking on a bottle or nipple) and then wakes up alone in their crib.

So, if your baby is jarred awake because they’re in a different atmosphere or situation than they were when they fell to sleep then you’re likely going to be experiencing very frequent wakings. In fact, some babies wake as frequently as at the end of every sleep cycle (so every 45 minutes or so) though most families will note waking every 2-3 hours.  And for most babies, the 4 month regression can last 2 to 6 weeks - which makes for very exhausted parents and babies!

Adding to the changes in sleep patterns and cycles, this is also a time when many babies will begin to roll and have to transition out of the swaddle.  Additionally, as I mentioned before, there are often a lot of schedule changes around this age as babies naps begin to consolidate and lengthen a bit - allowing them to drop down from 5 to 4 naps (though the regression is notorious for 30 minute naps all day long for awhile!)

So, what can you do?
Let’s take a closer look at this.  First, it’s important to note that we all cycle through sleep throughout the night.  For adults, older children and even babies who have learned to sleep on their own, we will wake up briefly and roll back over to sleep.  But, as I mentioned before, if you were to fall to sleep on the couch and then wake up at 1am and be in your bed, you are very likely to jolt awake a bit out of confusion, right?

Or if you fell asleep on your pillow and now it’s missing and you’re on the floor? So, the same principle applies to your baby - and it’s why we see so many wakings around this time.  If your baby fell asleep in your arms - or while sucking on a bottle or your breast - and then wakes up all alone in their crib then they are much more likely to jolt awake and to cry out than if they were to simply wake up in their crib just like they had been when they fell asleep. Make sense?


So the key is to help your baby learn to fall asleep on their own - and to drop the sleep props that they may be counting on.  If you’re unsure of what sleep props your baby may be dependent on, then I recommend checking out my free 5 day sleep challenge.  On Day 4, we discuss each of the independent and dependent sleep props in detail and you’ll walk away knowing which ones of these can likely stay and which ones likely need to be removed in order to improve your baby’s sleep.  

Now, once we’ve addressed the sleep props, we want to also look holistically at your baby’s needs.  Overtiredness is a huge contributor to short naps and trouble falling and staying asleep, so ensuring that your baby is on an age appropriate schedule and going to bed at the “right” time can be immensely helpful.  At 4 months, we’d expect that babies are taking 4-5 naps (for a total of roughly 3-4 hours) and can stay awake for no more than 2 hours before they become overtired. And to really head it off, try to aim for your baby to be asleep by that 2 hour mark, not just starting the bedtime routine.   

Finally, make sure that your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to their best sleep.  As babies begin to wake up to the world, it becomes even more important that you help them tune out disruptions like house noises and sunlight streaming through the windows.  So, if you haven’t already, ensure that your baby has white noise and black out blinds in their room - both for nights and naps.

Now, if you’re looking for even more support in finding the best schedule, creating the perfect environment and removing the dependent (and disruptive) sleep props - including sample day by day sleep coaching plans for each method that can be fully customized to your families needs (even if you want to move very slowly and gently) - then be sure to check out the Mommy SOS Sleep School.  I am so excited to share that it is finally ready for enrollment. You can receive the entire course - plus bonus modules on night weaning, short naps, early waking, toddler bed transitions, removing the pacifier and more - for just $29
Picture

Pin for later:

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[The Simple 5 step method to improve your baby's sleep]]>Mon, 08 Apr 2019 15:23:28 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/the-simple-5-step-method-to-improve-your-babys-sleep
In the Mommy SOS Sleep School, you'll learn the 5 Simple Steps you need to develop your own customized plan for improving your baby's sleep. From personalized schedules to day-by-day sleep coaching plans, it's all there and waiting for you! Plus, receive free bonus lessons on night weaning, short naps, toddler bed transitions, early waking and more! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
Parents today have access to more information than our mothers and grandmothers ever could have dreamed of. Enter a couple of words into a search engine (“sleep,” “baby,” “help,”) and in seconds you have thousands of pages to pore over. Of course, this can be a blessing and a curse. How do we separate good advice from bad advice? How do we know that something that worked for one family would work for ours? Who has the time to go through all that material?

It shouldn’t be this hard.

That’s why I’ve developed a simple, five-step program that has helped with families from around the world improve their babies’ and toddlers’ sleep. No matter what is going on in your family, these tips are designed to give you a better understanding of what is needed in order to help your baby (and you!) sleep through the night. And to make things even easier, most of these steps are done before you even get to “traditional” sleep coaching!
A more detailed version of all of this can be found in my free Five-Day Sleep Challenge, but let’s check out some of the basics below to get started.

STEP ONE: Get Your Mind Right
It can be difficult to get into the headspace to begin to tackle this parenting challenge. Remember all that information we have access to these days? There’s a lot of contradictions and misconceptions out there. So I like to start by tackling some common sleep training myths

  • Babies are supposed to sleep through the night!” (But do you sleep through the night? Like us, babies and kids wake up multiple times through the night--the real goal is to help them put themselves back to sleep after these wake-ups.)
  • The more tired a baby is the better they’ll sleep!” (Actually, being overtired can actually stimulate the release of adrenaline!)
  • Never wake a sleeping baby!” (For some families, this can be a winning strategy with the “wake to sleep” method.)
And, of course, the ever-pervasive and scary...
  • Sleep coaching will harm my baby!”  (A robust body of research shows otherwise!)

Equally important is to really think about your own ideas and fears about sleep coaching. Are you ready? Are you scared of hearing your baby cry? Are you going to be facing this challenge with a partner or other family member? Is everyone on the same page about the ultimate goal? How can everyone do their share? Frank and ongoing discussion will be important throughout this process and it’s the best place to start!

STEP TWO: The Schedule
Just like in adults, baby and toddler’s sleep is regulated by their circadian rhythm, or body clock.  Uncovering the patterns and trends in your baby’s sleep can give us so much information about their individual sleep needs and help you discover their best schedule. While you can log your baby’s sleep using an app, I generally recommend good old fashioned pen and paper. Start to keep track of...

  • Morning wake up time
  • What time you put down for naps
  • What time baby fell asleep and how long the nap lasted. Take note of whether baby was happy or crying
  • Bedtime put down/left the room
  • When they fell asleep
  • Be sure to make note of whether there was anything “off” in their schedule that day. Were they sick? Did they go to lunch at grandma’s when they would typically be napping? Tally how many wakings they had that night, if any. Once you have several days of information, then you can compare the notes from each of the days to try and uncover patterns and trends and start to build your better sleep plan.

My Five-Day Sleep Challenge, contains a lot of information about how to create an actionable (and achievable) schedule for your little one - and gives you access to sample schedules for each age from 0-2!  Learn more here

 STEP THREE: Set the Stage
The goal with this step is to set your baby up for success, and the best way to do that is to be aware of (and address or adjust) your baby’s

  • Physical environment--Is there a factor that’s been overlooked that might be keeping your child awake? Noise coming through the vents late at night? A street light that shines through the window? How hot or cold is the room? It should be between 68 and 72 degrees. (Pro-tip: get some black out curtains, stat!)
  • Temperament--Is your baby adaptable, difficult, or “slow to warm up?” How sensitive are they to external forces or changes in routine? Knowing how they can cope will be key in deciding the best way to approach sleep training.
  • Sleep Routines--the specifics of any bedtime routine are generally less important than the consistency of the routine--find your routine and recreate it over and over as precisely as you can!
  • Hunger--No one likes to go to bed on an empty stomach, and adding a couple ounces before bedtime can be a helpful in gradually night-weaning. (Keep in mind, however, that a nursing baby may still need one to two feedings up to 6-9 months and even one feeding up to 1 year.)
  • Medical needs--certain medical conditions, such as reflux or sleep apnea (even food allergies) can be standing in the way of your baby and their best sleep, so it’s always a good idea to check in with your pediatrician (sometimes more than once)!

STEP FOUR: Identify Sleep Props

A “sleep prop” can fall into two categories: independent and dependent. Independent sleep props are things you put in place, but don’t have to “re-place” throughout the night--think white noise machine or black out curtains. These can be helpful, even essential tools in helping your baby get a good night’s sleep.

Dependent sleep props, however, can be a bit trickier (though not always bad!), so I’ll take them item by item…

  • Sucking (Pacifier): Sucking is a soothing, natural reflex for babies. However, it can lead to an attachment to a pacifier. Whether or not you want to include them in your baby’s sleep plan is entirely up to you. (My affordable and comprehensive Mommy SOS Sleep School has ways to help you through either decision.)
  • Sucking (Nursing / A Bottle): I’ve found it to be really helpful for the partner who does not typically feed the baby to take over for a few nights until baby is used to falling to sleep without feeding... (for instance, if you are nursing, then the non-nursing partner would take over; or if Dad typically gives the bottle at bedtime at bedtime, then Mom may do it).
  • Swaddle: The swaddle can be a great comfort tool for newborns, but as soon as your baby starts to roll, the swaddle will have to go, as it become a huge safety issue. You can go cold turkey, “gradual fast” (transitioning with a sleep sack), or take it slow by unswaddling the baby bit by bit (one arm, then the next) over several nights.
  • Movement: From rocking to swinging to bouncing on a yoga ball to patting and rubbing, if your child needs any of these things to fall to sleep, then they are dependent on them, and if you're needing to repeat them throughout the night (or after a short nap) then you’re going to want to remove them in order to improve your baby's sleep. As with the other sleep props, movement can be faded over time or removed cold turkey and you’ll want to choose based on your baby’s temperament and response.
  • Stuffed Animal / A Doll / Lovey: Whether a traditional teddy bear or a pricey, top-of-the-line Robo-Cuddle-Bunny 2000 that simulates mom’s heartbeat, “loveys” can be a lifelong friend and comfort object for your child. However, I recommend against these until a baby is at least one year old since they can affect safe sleep practices.  
  • You: Let’s face it, you probably saw this coming, didn’t you? As parents our intentions are great--and I do truly believe you can’t spoil a baby by holding them too much--but I also know that there is a breaking point where they are old enough to learn to sleep on their own but they just prefer to have you there because that’s where you’ve always been.

Removing these dependent props--often gently and gradually--can help your baby fall asleep on their own, stay asleep longer, and enable them to put themselves back to sleep when they do wake up.

 STEP FIVE: Create your Customized Sleep Plan
You’re so close! Now that you’ve assessed and optimized your situation, you’re ready to start creating and implementing your sleep plan. How you approach this last bit is really up to you and your child’s specific needs: there is a coaching style for everyone. The most important thing (and you may recognize a theme here) is to pick a method and stay consistent! Some of the most common methods to help reach “peak sleep” include…

  • The Fading Method (FIO)
  • The Pick Up Put Down Method (PUPD)
  • The Chair Method
  • Controlled Crying/Interval Method
  • The Extinction Method or Cry It Out (CIO)

I explore the ins and outs of each of these in Day 5 of the Free Five-Day Sleep Challenge, but if you're looking for even more detail AND sample day-by-day plans for each method, then you'll want to check out the affordable and comprehensive Mommy SOS Sleep School.  

I do truly believe that there is no right or wrong method for sleep coaching and that each child’s temperament, family parenting style and goals must all be considered when developing a plan.  Remember that each baby (and family) is unique! What may work well for your best friend’s baby or your great aunt may not work well for your baby. So please make sure that the method you choose is one that you feel comfortable with - and can be consistent with.

This is truly the key to your success!
Picture

In the Mommy SOS Sleep School, you'll learn the 5 Simple Steps you need to develop your own customized plan for improving your baby's sleep. From personalized schedules to day-by-day sleep coaching plans, it's all there and waiting for you! Plus, receive free bonus lessons on night weaning, short naps, toddler bed transitions, early waking and more! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
**This outline is the backbone of my Mommy SOS Sleep School, but there’s so much more! With the full course, you can get more detailed help, sample day-by-day, customizable plans and schedules, and have access to me and a community of other parents who are helping each other find a good night’s sleep by sharing their own questions, successes, and helpful hints.
Click Here to Learn More

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Crying and sleep coaching - How to minimize your baby's tears and maximize your support]]>Sat, 23 Feb 2019 18:59:58 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/crying-and-sleep-coaching-how-to-minimize-your-babys-tears-and-maximize-your-support
How much will my baby cry during sleep coaching? As a licensed therapist and pediatric sleep expert, I know this is a big concern for families. Read here to learn about the different types and levels of crying you may experience while sleep coaching - and how to minimize your baby or toddler's tears! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
How much will my baby have to cry? Is there any way to avoid crying altogether?

These are the MOST common questions I am asked by families when we are beginning our work together - or when they are trying to decide whether sleep coaching is right for them.  And, if you’re here reading this, I know that one of your biggest worries about sleep coaching may be whether your baby will end up crying too much.

I completely understand.
Unfortunately, how much a baby cries during the sleep coaching process is SO dependent on SO many things that it can be quite challenging (if not downright impossible) to guarantee that your baby won’t cry or to say for sure how much your baby will cry.  

For instance, I’ve worked with babies who are very adaptable or who have pretty solid self soothing skills in place already and have literally watched as they roll over and fall to sleep on their own within just a few minutes of some light whimpering.  But I’ve also worked with babies who are very intense in nature and who had a very hard time self soothing (even during the day) and have seen them take 2-3 hours to finally fall to sleep on the first night (my own daughter included!) 

These instances are the outliers though.  Although there some babies who will barely make a peep and others who will strongly let you know how they feel for hours, MOST babies fall somewhere in the middle.  In fact, the average length is typically takes for a baby to fall to sleep on their own in those first few days of sleep coaching is around 45 minutes to an hour.

However, it's important to consider that a baby’s only way to communicate their negative feelings is through crying - and when a baby cries they are typically trying to tell you that they want or need something.  Research done by Australian mother Priscilla Dunston (also known as the Dunston Method), has shown us that babies cry in 5 different ways in order to communicate their needs of hunger, sleepiness, being uncomfortable, being in pain, and not feeling well.  So, we can expect your baby to cry in order to communicate any number of these feelings - including being upset with the changes you have made to how they fall to sleep.

Families often tell me that taking a step back and viewing their babies tears from this point of view helps them to feel more confident in their approach and more comfortable with the process. However, many parents will also tell me that they can’t handle the sound of their baby’s cries; that it makes them angry or upset themselves.  

I hear you!

For myself, my baby’s cries would cause a very deep feeling of anxiety where I would feel a primal urge to attend to them immediately.  I have been known to run up the stairs two at a time at the sound of a wail! So, I am in no way recommending that you leave your baby to cry while you’re helping them learn healthier sleep habits. But crying is a typical part of childhood - and something we parents do have to become somewhat comfortable with in order to set healthy boundaries for our kids.  Even my 5 and 7 year old will cry now in order to communicate their desire for a different situation (ie, wanting a toy, extra video time or a cookie) or their particular frustration with a change (my daughter is particularly unfond of changes to her routine).


And since the goal of sleep coaching is to make a change in your baby or toddler’s sleep habits, it is actually quite likely that there will be SOME crying involved.  But the range is so widespread - in the amount/length and in the type. With all of this in mind, I want to explore the different kinds of crying you can expect when it comes to sleep coaching - and then I’m going to walk you through the best ways to help minimize your baby’s crying throughout the process.  

So, what are the different kinds of crying you may hear during sleep coaching?

Whimper/Whining Cry
This is generally a low level fuss that is associated with a baby winding down and trying to get comfortable to fall to sleep.  For babies who are stronger in their self soothing skills - their ability to calm themselves back down when upset or to handle a change - this is the most likely response you’ll see with sleep coaching.  

Protesting (Loud) Cry
For most babies and toddlers, the first few nights of sleep coaching will involve some pretty loud protesting cries.  This type of cry sounds pretty strong and sticks around consistently - but it doesn’t sound desperate or painful - until it finally winds down into a whimper/whining cry.  For most babies and toddlers, this tends to last around 45 min to an hour for the first night or two.

Shrieking/Hysterical Cry
For babies who are more intense or persistent in nature, you are most likely to experience the shrieking/hysterical cry on the first few nights.  Because these babies are more likely to need some help in calming themselves back down, I do always recommend that you help them to calm back down periodically before stepping back and trying again.  

Rollercoaster Cry
This cry is a sign that your baby or toddler is starting to learn to self soothe.  It often starts on one end (whether whining or loud protesting), but then moves back and forth between the two while your little one really hones their skills and soothes themselves to sleep.

Now, I’m a proponent of beginning every baby with the most gentle low cry method possible and then expanding from there based on their response to the changes, the goals your family has, AND your personal comfort with crying. In fact, you do not need to allow your baby to experience any of these type of cries by themselves in order for you to make progress.  

But what you do need is a plan to help you manage the process.  

If you’re looking to help your baby or toddler to develop healthy sleep habits, but also want to minimize crying, consider my top tips for achieving success:

Wait until your baby is old enough for formal sleep coaching  
My absolute favorite time to sleep coach is around 6 months of age.  Babies at this age are firmly in between two regressions and developmental leaps (the 4 month regression and the 9/10 month regression).  This is also the age when most researchers agree that baby brains are most likely to have developed some ability to self soothe already. If your baby is younger than this, you can definitely still begin to help them slowly develop healthy sleep habits by slowly removing sleep props and trying to reinforce the “wake to sleep” method.  This works really well for younger babies as a way to set the stage for future self soothing.

Set your baby up for success BEFORE you begin to sleep coach  
Make sure that you’ve addressed their schedule, and thus can ensure that they are not over or under tired and are primed for sleep.  Ensure that you know that they aren’t hungry (because they’re eating enough during the day and they have a full tummy right before bed). And already address other outside factors for their troubled sleeping (like medical issues, sleeping environment and routine).  If you have checked off all of these boxes, then you’ve already ruled out multiple factors that could upset your baby during the process and make it harder for them to fall to sleep (thus, resulting in more crying).

I walk you through each of these step by step in my FREE 5 day sleep challenge so if you’d like to learn more about how to set your baby up for success, then I definitely encourage you to sign up.  

Plan to stay with your baby - at least at first.
One of the easiest way to minimize tears is to stay with your baby so that you can help them stay calm while they’re learning to fall to sleep without their sleep props.  Even though the end goal is for your baby to fall to sleep without you in the room (so that they wake up exactly the same situation as they would wake up during the night), this is a great starting point because it allows you to slowly remove other sleep props from your baby’s routine while also being present to support them through that process.  For instance, if your baby needs to be rocked to sleep you can work with them to fall to sleep while just being held or while laying down in the crib. In both instances, you are still there to soothe them, but are not offering them their preferred sleep prop anymore.
 
Develop a solid plan and be consistent 
Being consistent in your plan helps to limit tears all on it’s own.  If you’ve done sleep coaching with your baby in the past and have been inconsistent, then you may have noticed that they’ve cried even harder or for longer the next time you try.  This is because being inconsistent is confusing for your little one. For older babies/toddlers, inconsistency in approach also leads to more crying over time because they learn that if they cry hard or long enough, you will eventually give in and give them what they want.  So, staying consistent with your approach and the new sleep “rules” each night helps a baby or toddler adapt faster - and with less confusion/tears.

Line up support 
One of the best ways to ensure that you are able to stay consistent is to line up support.  If you have your plan in place, you’ve done all of the prep work and you know your baby is old enough for sleep coaching, then it is much much easier to trade off with your partner after a certain amount of time, than it is to give up and try again the next night!  Make sure that everyone is on the same page - and the same plan - before you begin sleep coaching so that you can maximize your support and your success!

Want to learn more about developing a solid plan and being consistent?  Make sure you join my FREE 5 Day Sleep Challenge! 

Pin this for later:

How much will my baby cry during sleep coaching? As a licensed therapist and pediatric sleep expert, I know this is a big concern for families. Read here to learn about the different types and levels of crying you may experience while sleep coaching - and how to minimize your baby or toddler's tears! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
Picture

Ready to Sleep Again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Unlocking the Secrets to early waking - everything you need to know to help your baby wake later]]>Sat, 16 Feb 2019 01:13:53 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/unlocking-the-secrets-to-early-waking-everything-you-need-to-know-to-help-your-baby-wake-later
Unlocking The Secrets To Your Baby's Waking - Everything You Need to Know to Ensure Later Mornings and Happier Families! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
Is there anything worse than your baby waking early in the morning?  Day after day can lead to some dreadful feelings of sleep deprivation and overwhelm - especially if you've also been awake throughout the night! 

It's an hour before your alarm is to go off, but you and your baby have been battling going back to sleep for what feels like eternity.  No matter what you try, they just won't settle back down into sleep.  And you're so exhausted you find yourself dozing while rocking or feeding.  Does this sound familiar?

If so, know that you are not alone.  In fact, early waking is something I hear about SO often.  And it can also be one of the most challenging baby sleep struggles to actually fix. That’s because there are many many things that go into an early waking - and they truly all need to be tackled at once in order to truly change your baby’s patterns.  Let's take a closer look:  
First, it's important to note that some babies are just early risers.  They may wake naturally around 6-6:30am and will go to bed early too.  For some families - especially parents who don’t mind waking early (or have to get up for work anyway) and prefer earlier bedtimes so they have more time to themselves - this actually works perfectly.  For those families, I say rock on! It truly is my belief that if it’s working for your family then it doesn’t need to be fixed.

But for other families, having their baby wake that early is unmanageable.  Maybe it affects everyone else’s morning routine because Mom or Dad haven’t showered yet, the noise wakes the toddler, or everyone else just prefers to sleep a bit later.  Or, it could be that your baby is waking extra early (what I would define as anything before 6am). If this is the case in your home, then stay with me. I’m going to tackle all of the reasons (big and small!) why your baby may be waking early - and more importantly, show you how to help your baby sleep later.

So, first things first.  As I said before, early wakings are one of the most challenging baby sleep struggles to tackle (right up there with short naps).  It may be challenging, but don't lose hope yet.  Having a clear understanding why this is can help you wrap your brain around how to fix it.

So why do so many families find early waking to be a stubborn bad habit?  The short answer is that your baby has already slept long enough and that they’re no longer tired.  Of course, it's much more complicated than that (which I will cover in detail below), but the period of sleep between 4-6am is the lightest sleep of the whole night. And this is true for everyone - babies and adults.  And so, if your baby does wake during this window, it can be downright impossible to get them back down (this is true even if they fall to sleep on their own at bedtime and sleep well the whole rest of the night). Again, this is also true for adults and is the biggest reason why parents suffer so much when their babies are waking early.  I know that if I wake anywhere in that 1-2 hour window before my normal wake time, it is SO much harder to roll back over and go back to sleep (and then when I do I am groggy and feel exhausted when my alarm actually goes off). This can be how your baby feels too, which is just one of the many reasons why helping them to sleep later can be helpful for everyone (not just you!)

So, what are the typical reasons why early wakings happen.  Let's take a closer look: 

Noise from the house
So, one of the more obvious reasons why your baby may be waking early is that noise from within the house is causing them to stir.  I mentioned this in one of my podcast episodes, but I worked with a family once who could not figure out why their baby kept waking early in the morning (truly everything else was “in place”).  That was, until Mom sat in her baby’s room and heard the garage door go up when Dad left for work.  Seems obvious, right? But this actually happens more often that you would think!

So, it could be that your baby is stirring and unable to go back to sleep if anyone gets up early for work in the house, if your pre-teen leaves for school at the crack of dawn, if your neighbor takes his trash cans out at 5am, whatever... Remember, the 4-6am window is the lightest sleep of the WHOLE night so even if there is a noise they can sleep through before, they may not be able to do so during these hours.  Is there a clinking noise in your bathroom pipes?  Traffic on the street?  For this possibility - and just because I think it helps so much - I recommend using white noise throughout the night.  This is my favorite (and very affordable) white noise machine - everyone in my house uses it! 

Too much light in their room - even just a sliver!
A similar type of disturbance, but also a very common one.  Many babies will wake early because they're being exposed to sunlight (or street lights).  This light actually has a direct effect on their sleep by changing their circadian rhythms.  Our circadian rhythms are designed to be set by the presence of light. So you’ll find this one to be particularly true in the summer months, when the sun begins to rise well before it’s time for everyone to wake up. 

In this case, it’s not necessarily even the light that is waking your baby up, but rather that they are in a lighter stage of sleep already and thus much more likely to be stirred in their sleep.  If they do wake when being exposed to light, then their bodies will automatically accept the presence of the light as being a sign that it’s time to get up - and to begin to adjust the circadian rhythms to the light (making it that much harder to fall back to sleep).

I find this to often be the case when parents say that their baby wakes early no matter what they do.  If your baby’s body has been exposed to light at that early stage of the morning, then their rhythms likely have re-set so that it feels like it’s their natural pattern. But, take note - it’s often adjustable (if you want it to be).

The best way to fix this particular trouble spot is to add black out blinds/curtains to your baby’s room - and to cover every possible sliver of light coming through (seriously, do it!). There are a lot of options when it comes to adding black outs to your room, you should be able to do this fairly easily, no matter what your budget or situation (even an apartment or temporary housing where adding blinds or holes in the wall are not an option).  These are my favorite black out curtains but you can also just buy cheap paper black out blinds from just about anywhere. 

But, just like with anything else, this addition takes time and consistency to see results.  You can’t just hang up black out blinds and expect your baby to sleep later the next morning. Our circadian rhythms are strong, so we also have to adjust other things throughout their day (like their schedule and exposing them to brighter light in the evening) to help their circadian rhythms begin to shift later over time. 

Your baby (or toddler) is hungry  
As with sounds and light, it’s harder to sleep through tummy rumbling when you’re in the lightest stage of sleep for the night. This one is a bit trickier because the approach to address the early waking due to hunger depends on where your baby is developmentally.  

If your baby is still at the age where night feedings are developmentally appropriate, then you can try to break this cycle by doing a feeding (or dream-feed) an hour or so earlier than they typically wake (for instance around 3am) or even trying a dream-feed right before you go to bed if that’s the only feeding they’re waking for.  The goal here is to simply keep your baby from being hungry during the 4-6am time range.

If your baby is older or a toddler, then it’s likely a habit to wake to feed during this hour. In this case, there are a few things you can do to address the habitual waking. First, would be to add a bedtime snack and ensure your toddler’s tummy is full before bed. Second would be to stop feeding at that early morning waking. You can do this by slowly pushing the feeding back or by cutting it out altogether.  
Unlocking The Secrets To Your Baby's Waking - Everything You Need to Know to Ensure Later Mornings and Happier Families! #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
It's schedule related
  1. The first schedule related reason that your baby/toddler may be waking early is that they may be nearing time to drop a nap.  This actually happens a lot! Babies and toddlers only need a certain amount of sleep throughout a 24 hour period and this sleep need drops as they get older.  So, if your baby or toddler has already gotten enough sleep for the day then they may just legitimately not be tired anymore. If your baby wakes up early and is ready to play - wide awake - then you’ll want to consider this as a real possibility.

  2. Next, your baby’s bedtime could be too early or too late.  Confusing I know.  Some babies go to sleep way too early for their sleep needs and so they have already met their "quota" for sleep by the time early morning rolls around.  For instance, if your kiddo needs 13-14 hours a day of sleep and they’re getting 3 hours of that in naps, then a 6pm bedtime would likely mean a 4 or 5am morning wake time. I see this happen SO often as babies become toddlers and older children - especially for parents who have enjoyed that early bedtime and extra alone time.  The best fix for this is to shorten their nap/naps or to slowly begin to shift bedtime later so that same amount of sleep shifts to a later morning wake time. 

  3. On that note, if a baby's morning nap is occurring too early (as happens when babies wake early, since their already exhausted), then this often leads to baby either napping too much or too often during the day OR being awake for too long and becoming overtired.  Both of these scenarios also often creates this never ending cycle of the early morning waking being treated as a nap instead of night sleep. In this case, the best way to address this is to use a set morning nap time no earlier than 8:00am and try to keep enough space between when you want your baby to wake in the morning and their first nap.

  4. Alternatively, over-tiredness is one of the most common reasons why I see babies wake early - and more frequently - overnight.  Over-tiredness typically develops because your baby is awake too long throughout the day or too late at night. If you suspect overtiredness, then pushing your baby’s bedtime earlier by 15-20 minutes can make a world of difference over a few nights time.


    It's just temporary
    Finally, it could be a temporary trouble spot.  This is typically due to teething (and it being harder to stay asleep when uncomfortable), developmental milestones (also harder to stay asleep when your baby's brain is so busy processing all of the information and new skills that they're learning), or illness (which often leads to schedule trouble and over-tiredness).  For any of these temporary reasons, my best advice is to try to intervene as little as possible so that it doesn’t become a habit. And if it does end up becoming a temporary habit because they're sick or need extra comfort temporarily, that's ok!  In this case, just try to get back to normal as soon as possible once they’re feeling better.

Ok, there you have it! These are the most common reasons why your baby may be waking early.  

One last thought to consider is that early wakings can be super stubborn. For this reason, it’s SO important that you don’t take one of the pieces of advice discussed in this article and then try it for a day or two before tossing it aside. It can often take a week or two to really see results from any changes you put into place - and this is especially true for something as challenging as early morning wakings. So, make the changes and then stick with it!

It will pay off, I promise!

Picture

Ready to Sleep Again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
This post contains some affiliate links.  If you purchase through the links, I may receive a small commission for the sale.  We make it a practice to only recommend products that we believe in or have used ourselves. And no matter what, your purchase price will not be affected! 
]]>
<![CDATA[Understanding Your Baby or toddler's short naps]]>Thu, 07 Feb 2019 12:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/understanding-your-baby-or-toddlers-short-naps
Picture
Short naps can be one of the most frustrating baby sleep troubles.  If you're a stay at home mom, it can leave you feeling unnerved and out of control of your day to day activities. If you're working outside of the home, it can make it challenging for you to know how to time bedtime - or how to approach weekends and days off.  No matter what, it's so tough to know what to do when naps are unpredictable and short.

​I know this challenge personally as well since I’ve been a work at home mom (trying to work during nap time) since my babies were very little.  But there are some very common reasons why your baby or toddler may be taking shorter naps.  And understanding these reasons - and what you can do about them - can make a world of difference.

Let’s take a look at the most common causes for your baby or toddler's short naps - and what you can do to help them lengthen:


Over-tiredness
As far as I’m concerned, over-tiredness is root of all evil.  Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it truly does cause so many sleep issues - including short naps. Have you ever been so tired that you get a second wind and then can’t seem to settle down for sleep at night? Babies and toddlers experience this too - except it can hit them much much harder because they haven’t quite mastered self soothing skills and don’t have the same practice adults do. But it’s very common for parents to think that the longer their child stays awake, the better they will sleep when it’s time to rest.  In fact, I see this little piece of advice come up often in the mom groups I’m in online. And unfortunately - for MOST babies and toddlers - nothing could be further from the truth!
To determine whether over-tiredness is at play with your baby or toddler, you want to first take a look at their sleep log and compare it to the recommended sleep schedules for their age (I walk you through this entire process in my free 5 Day Sleep Challenge).  For instance, for toddlers who have just transitioned to a 1 nap schedule, we’d expect them to only be awake for about 5 hours before they become overtired. But this transition can be tough on some children, especially those who need to transition early because of daycare, and so having that nap end up being much shorter than it should be is a very common consequence.  

If you think your baby or toddler is taking short naps due to over-tiredness, then there are several things you can try to improve this. First, if they’ve recently dropped a nap, it’s totally appropriate to offer an additional nap for a day or two (essentially going back to the old schedule). You can also try putting them down for the nap the minute you notice them showing sleepy signs. Sleep signs can include: eye rubbing, yawning, zoning out and/or whining and fussing, to name a few.  For some children, it’s already too late once they’ve shown these signs though. If your child is more sensitive, then I recommend trying to put your baby down 10-15 minutes earlier than you normally would instead of trying to follow their sleep cues. It might take a few days, but adjusting the nap-time could lengthen the naps naturally.

Room Environment
As I also discuss in quite a bit of detail in the FREE 5 Day Sleep Challenge, setting the stage for your baby/toddler’s best sleep includes ensuring that their room environment is primed.  So, if you haven’t already, then you want to add black out blinds and white noise to their room. Bright lights and house noises make it even more challenging to sleep, and adding white noise and black out blinds is truly an easy ‘fix’ since it’s totally hands off for you.  On that note, before nap time you also want to encourage some outdoor play or just some sunshine, since that can help regulate circadian rhythms necessary for sleep.

In addition to considering white noise and black out blinds, you also want to consider whether your baby’s room too hot or too cold. I recommend keeping the room between 68-72 degrees, if at all possible.  You'll also want to consider whether your child's room becomes warmer during the day because of sunshine, or if you typically turn your heat down during the day while you're away.  Even small changes like this can make a difference in how well more sensitive or perceptive babies sleep during the day.  

Hunger
It is very common for younger babies - especially those who are on the very popular "Eat Play Sleep" routine - to wake early from a nap due to hunger.  This is a large reason why I recommend against using this method, since it often means that several hours have passed between when your baby last ate and when they are laying down for sleep.  Toddlers also have a harder time sleeping if they are really active and burn off their morning nutrition and need to take a nap before lunch.  So, if you think this may be the case for your baby (or toddler) then I recommend that you offer a feeding or snack about 15-20 minutes before it’s time for nap. For toddlers, try to ensure that the foods are filling but not sugar heavy (since that can backfire).  Try for turkey slices and cheese, crackers and peanut butter, or a banana.

No Nap-time Routine
Another piece of “setting the stage” is creating a consistent and reliable nap time routine.  A solid routine is important because they can become soothing for babies and toddlers. It doesn’t have to be very long, but this routine can help their minds and bodies calm down enough to settle into deeper sleep.  If you haven’t already, create a nap time routine with your child and then try to be as consistent as possible (of course life happens!). Consider though, consistency is even more important when you’re sleep coaching or addressing a specific sleep trouble spot so try to carve out that extra time for a nap routine - and try to keep it consistent between each care provider.  

Dependent Sleep Props
This one is often the key. If you are holding or rocking your baby to sleep or sitting with your toddler until they fall to sleep - and then they’re waking up early from the nap, then it’s likely because they are transitioning from one sleep cycle to another and can’t get through because they realize you’re not there anymore.  In essence, they have come to think that they "need" you to sleep.  I discuss this concept in much more detail on day 4 of the 5 Day Sleep Challenge (where we explore Independent vs. Dependent Sleep Props) so if you want to learn more, then be sure to head over and sign up for the video lessons and cheat sheets. Regardless, just know that if you child is waking early because they’re getting help falling to sleep, then removing that sleep prop should be the first step!

Inconsistency With The Approach
On that same note, if you’re sleep coaching your baby or toddler for naps, be sure to use the same sleep coaching method/approach for at least a week. Naps are typically more challenging than bedtime or night wakings (it’s just not as easy to sleep during the day, especially when you’re learning a new skill or adjusting to a schedule change).  So definitely give yourself at least one week of working on each nap for 1 hour at a time.  Giving up or giving in half way through the process will only confuse your baby and often leads to more crying the next time you try.  So be sure that you pick your method based on your baby's temperament and your parenting style - and then work with your baby or toddler consistently.

So, just to recap since I’ve sprinkled the tips throughout each of the reasons.  The best tips for helping your baby/toddler extend their naps is:
  • Ensure Schedule is Age-Appropriate and Best Suited for Your Baby/Toddler
  • Ensure Feeding/Snack Before Nap Time to Rule Out Hunger
  • Ensure Room Environment is Optimal
  • Identify Potential Sleep Props
  • Address Naps Using Coaching
Picture

Ready to sleep again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Disclaimer: The information listed on this site is not a substitute for professional therapy or medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or seek assistance from your local emergency room. Additionally, Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.
]]>
<![CDATA[Is your Baby ready for sleep coaching? - Take the Free quiz]]>Thu, 24 Jan 2019 02:58:06 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/is-your-baby-ready-for-sleep-coaching-take-the-free-quiz
Is your baby ready for sleep coaching? #babysleep #babysleeptips #parentingadvice #babytechnology #baby #babytips
A very common question I receive from parents is, "How do I know when my baby is ready for sleep coaching?"  There are so many factors that go into a successful attempt at improving your baby or toddler's sleep, so I want to help you explore them in detail a bit. 

After working with thousands of families, I've found that the more comfortable families are with their decision and plan forward, the better the results.  Each and every time!
So, let’s talk about all of the things you want to consider when trying to choose the best time for sleep coaching with your little one:

Are they a newborn?
Newborns do two things that are distinctly related to being newborn and are signs that your baby is still too young to really to benefit from any formal sleep coaching.  First, they tend to feed frequently throughout the day and night - not really making a distinction between the two. Newborns will tend to feed every 2-3 hours around the clock.  Also, they tend to keep to "routines" rather than schedules with predictable and consistent naps. Now, some babies will always need help establishing a consistent schedule BUT if your baby is starting to spread out their night feedings (or even drop some on their own) and also beginning to develop a consistent nap schedule - with nap times you can count on or naps that are naturally setting and/or your baby is moving to an earlier bedtime, then these are all clear signs that your baby may be ready for coaching.

Next, has your baby lost their newborn reflexes yet? In particular the Moro reflex - the one that causes their arms and legs to flail seemingly out of nowhere - should be fading before you start to sleep coach. There are multiple reasons why waiting until the Moro reflex has faded helps to improve your sleep coaching plan. First, it means that your baby is nearing 4 months (the typical age when babies can begin to self soothe), but also without the moro reflex your baby is less likely to need to be swaddled. Swaddling while sleep coaching can be tough because many babies will cry more when their hands are bound in the swaddle and they aren’t able to learn to soothe with their hands.


Is your baby showing signs of self soothing during the day?
Most experts will agree that babies typically begin to self soothe between 4-6 months of age.  However, if they are more persistent or sensitive in nature then they may not be self soothing yet, but they are much more likely to be able to learn when they are between 4-6 months of age.  

Signs of self soothing would be if they use their fingers to suck or rub their face - or can calm themselves down in other ways that don't involve you. For instance, if they get upset on a car ride and you can't tend to them because you're driving or when you’re doing bath time with your toddler and can’t be close by to tend to them, are they are to calm down or soothe themselves, even for just a bit? If so, their self soothing skills are emerging and can likely be increasingly improved with practice.  

As a mini step, begin to wait a few minutes when your baby wakes in the middle of the night. The baby monitor is both a blessing and a curse, but I promise you not every little whimper needs to be addressed! Research shows that parents who give their babies even a minute of time alone when they wake, are significantly more likely to be sleeping through the night by 12 months. So, go ahead and give your baby a chance. Often, they will surprise you and fall back to sleep.


Is your baby near a regression?
My favorite time to sleep coach is around 6 months.  This is because they are firmly in between two very disruptive regressions. Babies will typically experience sleep regressions around 4 months, sometime between 7-9 months and again around 18 months (with other, less likely ones related to naps around 12 months and 2 years).  If your baby is near a regression, but you’re struggling and need to make a change quickly, it’s ok! I’m only speaking in terms of ideals here so you can consider all of the factors.


Have sleep props/associations become a crutch? 
When your baby is a newborn, sleep props like rocking/feeding/swaddling/etc are great ways to promote healthy sleep patterns.  But as your baby gets older, you will notice that they no longer NEED them like they used to, even if it’s definitely what they still WANT.  For instance, is your baby waking frequently to have the pacifier replaced or waking every 2-3 hours to be fed despite being older than 3-4 months and growing well?  Then, it’s likely that these are sleep props that are no longer needed and could be removed or improved through sleep coaching.


Is it a good time for your family? 

Consistency is THE biggest factor in creating a sleep coaching success so I always recommend families take a look at the bigger picture and see if that’s possible for them right now.  Will you be traveling in the next few weeks? Do you have visitors coming? Big work plans? There is typically no “perfect” time to coach, but there are definitely times that are better than others.

Are YOU ready?
Sleep coaching is a big undertaking - especially if your baby is more spirited in nature.  And you truly do have to be consistent to see real progress. So, are you really ready? No matter how “easy” or “challenging” your baby’s temperament, there are bound to be some rough nights before things improve.  Also, is your partner ready? Often, I see families fail (or fail to start) because both parents are not on the same page. If either of you have reservations about sleep coaching, then it’s important to address those up front.  If you haven’t already, listen to Episode 2 of the Mommy SOS Podcast where I discuss 10 different reasons why healthy sleep should be a priority (including the science behind whether sleep coaching will harm your baby)


Finally, have you checked in with your pediatrician?
Before beginning any sleep coaching, it's important that you've checked in with your pediatrician and ruled out any medical reasons why sleep coaching is not recommend. No matter what, it is always a smart idea to get the go-ahead from your pediatrician. They know your baby’s health up close and personal - AND they can help you rule out other factors that may be affecting your baby’s sleep like reflux, apnea, poor weight gain, allergies, and more.

So, there you have it.  I’ve listed for you all of the most important factors to consider when trying to decide if your baby is ready for sleep coaching.  If you want to continue to explore sleep coaching, you can join me for my FREE 5 Day Sleep Challenge.  Along with daily video lessons and cheat sheets, the challenge includes access to a free Facebook group where I pop in frequently to answer your questions and help you along your journey. You can join by going to mommy-sos.com/5daychallenge 
Picture

Ready to Sleep Again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Disclaimer: The information listed on this site is not a substitute for professional therapy or medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or seek assistance from your local emergency room. Additionally, Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.
]]>
<![CDATA[The top 5 pro tips for managing your baby's sleep over the holiday season]]>Thu, 01 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/holidaysleephelp
Top 5 Pro Tips for Managing Your Baby's Sleep during the Holiday Season - from Mommy-SOS
Photo credit to rawpixel.com from Pexels
The winter holiday season is nearly upon us!  It’s my most favorite time of year - the traditions, parties, family gatherings….the food!  Seriously, it’s just the best. But, even for the merriest and most festive of us, it can also be an exhausting and overwhelming time of year.  

Perhaps no one feels this more than our babies (no matter their age).  The traveling, visitors and all around joy can actually wreak quite a bit of havoc on their routines and sleep.  If you’re like me then you definitely don’t want to miss all of the fun.  But if you also don’t want to end up with the Grinch at your holiday gathering, then you’ll want to check out these 5 Pro Tips below! 
Be realistic 
If you’ve got an easy going baby who can typically go with the flow, then you may be able to get away with missing naps and having occasional later bedtimes.  They may temporarily have a bad night of sleep, but babies with more laid back temperaments typically will bounce back after a night or two. However, if your baby is more sensitive, has high sleep needs like my son or is a “by the clock” baby like my daughter was, then you’ll want to be really strategic in your plans in order to prevent overtiredness, early mornings and increased night wakings.  

If this sounds more like your family, then being realistic about your holiday plans can be really helpful.  For instance, try not to plan too much in one day, prioritize your RSVPs for family and close friends, and know your kiddos and their limitations.  If your baby has to miss her afternoon nap, then make plans for an earlier bedtime to happen. Or, if you know your kiddo gets overstimulated easily, then make sure you take breaks, take him for small walks away from the crowd and spend a bit longer on the bedtime routine that evening so that he has extra time to really wind down and relax his body again before sleep.


Be consistent, when you can 
Yes, it can be pretty tough to remain consistent with your baby’s schedule throughout the holiday season - especially if you’re traveling or have visitors in your home.  But there are definitely ways you can maintain some consistency that can help you preserve your baby’s sleep. For instance, try to maintain their bedtime routines - keeping to the same steps and sequence as every other night (even if it needs to be a bit shorter to get them in bed on time).

Additionally, for babies who do need more consistency or are more sensitive to schedule changes and overtiredness, it can be really helpful if you try to plan your outings or family meals around their nap times.  For instance, if you know your baby NEEDS to take her 1pm nap but you have to get to Grandma’s house in time for Thanksgiving dinner, then you really have several choices that can meet both her needs and your family's needs.  For instance, you can go early and plan for her to nap at Grandma's, stay at home for the nap but have her take a shorter or earlier one so you can still get there in time, or plan the car ride there so that you can time the nap while she’s riding in the car. 

Not sure what your baby's schedule should be right now or feel like they're already off track a bit? Download my FREE "Sample Schedules E-Book" and review sample schedules for every age from 0-2, along with helpful tips and tricks for each age.  


Create Familiarity
When traveling, it can be really helpful to recreate the home environment as much as possible.    Sleeping in an unfamiliar place is a very common trouble spot and can cause disruptions and night wakings in even the best sleeper.  But you can combat this by trying to re-create as much of their typical sleep environment as possible.  For instance, if your baby typically sleeps in a crib, then make sure you bring a travel crib or call ahead to the hotel to reserve one. If you're traveling with it, then it can also be really helpful to have your baby take a few naps in the travel crib while you’re still at home.  This gives your baby some extra exposure so that they have even more of an opportunity to get comfortable in it before the rest of their environment changes.  

If your baby or toddler typically bed shares with you, then it may be easier to have them transition into a new space. But make sure that you take precautions to ensure that it’s a safe environment just like the one at home - remove the extra bedding and move the bed against the wall. No matter what their typically sleeping arrangements, make sure that you bring their crib sheet or favorite blankets and pillow - along with their regular loveys/stuffed animals, pacifiers, white noise, travel black out blinds and night light.   


Leave room for downtime
The holidays are often so full of chances to become overstimulated and overtired.  Aside from an off schedule or missed nap, the twinkly lights and music, big crowds, new toys and extra sugary treats can make for one overstimulated and cranky kiddo.  The best way to combat this is to make sure you leave room in your schedule quiet time. Whether that’s snuggling on the couch together, going for a family walk outside or reserving quiet time in another room for the older kiddos - everyone needs a chance to recharge their batteries. 
 
Get back to normal as soon as possible
No matter how much merriment you and your family indulge in over the holiday season, if your baby is prone to being thrown off track - or is already having sleep troubles - then it’s important to get back on track as soon after the fun as possible.  For babies, getting them back on track with their schedule can help alleviate overtiredness and the associated early mornings or frequent night wakings. If they become really overtired, then having an earlier bedtime or an extra nap for a few days can also be really helpful to help them reset and catch up on the missed sleep.  For toddlers and school age kiddos, try to get them back to their school week bedtime at least a few days before it’s time to return to school. And finally, if you’ve been traveling time zones over the holidays, know that the typical rule of thumb is to give 1 day of transition time for every 1 hour of time difference. 

No matter what, the holidays should be a time to enjoy family and friends. I hope that these tips help you and your family combat the common holiday sleep troubles and create magical family memories instead! 
​​
Picture

The Mommy SOS Podcast is live!

Click the photo below and have more information, support and community
​- delivered directly to your ears!
Picture

And don't miss these popular articles on the blog: 

5 Relationship Survival Tips for New Parents
Common White Noise Mistakes - and How to Avoid Them
4 Most Common Baby Sleep Trouble Spots - and How to Avoid Them
Disclaimer: Although Jennifer Howard is a licensed therapist, this podcast/blog - or any information listed on this site - is not a substitute for therapy or professional medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or seek assistance from your local emergency room  
​Additionally, Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.

]]>
<![CDATA[10 Sanity Saving Tips to help the introvert thrive in motherhood]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 12:30:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/are-you-an-introvert-10-quick-tips-to-help-you-thrive-in-motherhood
10 Sanity Saving Tips for Introverted Mothers - from Mommy-SOS
Parenting as an introvert can feel a bit like a torture chamber.  Introverts typically re-charge their batteries with quiet, peaceful alone time and can be easily overwhelmed or exhausted by crowded or loud environments (ie any kid-friendly activity!)
 
As an introvert myself, I was unprepared for the challenges my innate personality would lend to parenting.  Being with my babies all day was exhausting.  I came home from play-dates wanting to pull my hair out from frustration and overwhelm.   I waited - not so patiently - for naptime so that I could be ALONE.  And then I realized why...  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being with my children, it was that their constant presence literally wore me out. 
 
Even though I’ve realized my limitations and try harder now to put better boundaries in place for myself, I am still learning how to keep up with the energetic (and constantly noisy!) household my kids create each day.  But here are a few strategies I’ve learned along the way: 
Accept who you are
This is the MOST important aspect of enjoying motherhood. It is far too easy to let the guilt consume you, but it’s far more important that you acknowledge and accept who YOU are in this whole puzzle.  If you feel at your best when you’re at work, you need to figure out how to be a working mom (I get it - this one was hard for me because the childcare costs just made it nearly prohibitive to keep working!).  If you feel at peace being at home with your children, be a stay at home mom.  If you need to work out to feel good about yourself, acknowledge it and make that space in your schedule or sign up for a gym with a childcare.  If you’re introverted and need to have time alone in order to be happy, then make time to be alone.  Acknowledging and embracing your needs will make your entire family happier in the long run.  
 
Make time to be alone
Which leads me to this one.  Ok, so it isn’t always that easy – especially if you have a new baby, spend long hours at work or commuting or have a partner who travels a lot.  But, try to take advantage of the early mornings or late evenings and just carve out space for yourself.  It can feel absolutely glorious to wake up 20 minutes earlier than everyone else and enjoy your coffee in peace.  Or, if you have an early riser, then try to carve out the time in the evening after everyone has gone to bed.  You don't need to stay up late - even 20-30 minutes of quiet is enough to reset the mind of an introvert. If you can't find time at the beginning or end of the day, then try to hire a babysitter, work together with your partner or family members, trade off shifts with your mom friends....anything.  Do something- anything -  so that you can be alone – even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day.
 
Schedule dates with friends and partners
Yes, introverts need to be alone to recharge and it’s likely you’re exhausted at even the thought of being social after being with your baby or kids all day.  As a fellow introvert, I know I sure am! But you also need time to socialize and be yourself – with adults.  It's hard for us introverts to make this effort when we'd rather just curl up and enjoy a book or the latest Netflix show.  I struggled with this a lot when my kiddos were younger.  I was lucky enough to have a small community of really amazing moms who lived close by - and we had a standing moms night out date each month.  But when I was stuck at home with a baby all day, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the house and be around more people.  Thankfully, my husband and girlfriends always encouraged me to JUST GO - and I'm so glad.  The laughter, community and connection that comes from spending time with your close friends - and your partner - fills a different bucket that is just as important as time alone.
 
Schedule quiet time
Ok, so trust me on this one.  No matter the age, your kids are never too old for quiet time.  When they're little and just transitioning out of nap time, it is absolutely crucial to hold onto the quiet time ritual.  My favorite phrase is "You don't have to nap, but you have to stay in your bed for 1 hour".  I learned that one from my mom - who told me I stopped napping way too early for her. :)  Now that mine are older and in school, I still take advantage of this down time.  In the summer, I institute quiet time every afternoon.  Typically, I am exhausted by 2pm - and the kids are too.  We’ve been at the pool or the kids have been running around the house for hours and I've been working - and I just can’t even think straight anymore.  Setting time aside for everyone to be quiet keeps my sanity in check and breaks up the day a bit for everyone.
 
Get outside
Something about the fresh air makes everything feel better.  If you have a small baby, put them in the stroller and go for a walk.  If your kids are older, take them on a hike or a bike ride.  You’re outside and having fun together so you can bond at the same time, but being outside changes the energy for everyone - breaks up the day - and gives your mind some clarity and peace.
 
Use technology
I know, it’s not ideal - and I'm sure I'll get some eye rolls here.  But I’ve given up feeling guilty about using technology for some down time.  Put on a movie, let them play video games or on their tablets for a little while…it will be ok!  Whatever it takes so that you can recharge and be more present for them will make a far bigger difference than an hour or two of screen time.
 
Use Bedtime Routines
Be strict about this.  If you’re already a fan of my blog, then you know I’m a huge proponent of bedtime routines.  They’re super helpful in keeping the kiddos from becoming overtired and melting down.  But they are even more important for an introverted parent.  The more regimented you are about a bedtime routine, the more comfortable the kids become with it over time.  This is important because it helps bedtime (the time of day when you’re already SO DONE) go more smoothly and protects that precious alone time before you go to bed yourself.
 
Ask for help
Do it!  Ask your partner to take over the bedtime routine on days when you’re spent.  Ask for your mom friends or family members to take the kids for a few hours.  Hire a housekeeper so you can spend the baby’s nap-time really recharging instead of on chore duty.  In whatever way you can, ask for help so that you get the chance to recharge.  Everyone will be better off for it!
 
Consider out of home childcare
In the same vein, if you stay at home or work from home (like me), hiring out of home childcare allows you to be at home, in your comfortable quiet place, without the children.  This can be a game changer for getting things done and feeling like YOU.  You can get your work done, clean in peace, sit down and catch up on Netflix, read a good book on your back porch....or gasp...take a nap!  There is something about being in your house alone that is extra special - and hard to achieve once you have a partner and kids! 
 
Recharge on the Go
Chances are, your kids are in some sort of activity.  Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media while you sit in Karate class for an hour, keep a book/magazine/podcast with you at all times.  This gives you “me time” and allows you to recharge while you’re out and about.  This one has really been a recent go-to for me as my kids get older and want to do more after school activities.  We're busy and having something with me helps me really maximize my time.  Trust me mama, take it where you can get it! 
 
These small shifts have helped me be a more present and involved parent and I hope that some of them resonate with you enough to give them a try.  Was this helpful? Leave me a comment below and let me know! 

​Take care mama! 
Picture
Jennifer Howard is a Licensed Therapist, Certified Life Coach and Infant Sleep Expert.  Having experienced sleep deprivation and postpartum depression herself, she became passionate about helping new moms and their partners find their footing and thrive in motherhood.  When not working with clients, blogging or chatting with moms in the Mommy-SOS Sisterhood, she can be found painting, doing yoga and chasing her two crazy kiddos around. 

Related Articles:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[The quick and easy 21 day Self-Care Challenge for new moms]]>Wed, 02 May 2018 12:30:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/the-quick-and-easy-21-day-self-care-challenge-for-new-moms
21 Day Self Care Challenge for New Moms - from Mommy-SOS
Do you forget to take care of yourself?

I know, it’s hard.  I’ve been there.  There are so many things going on in your life.  So many stressors, right?  For many of us, it’s REALLY hard to find the balance - and this is especially true if there is a new baby (or any children!) in the house. 
 
So often we going through the day just trying to survive - juggling multiple plates in the air.  Perhaps the deadlines and demanding boss keep you up at night.  Or you’re so tired and end up arguing with your partner so much that you can’t concentrate at work.  Or you’re exhausted by family drama – your parents, your siblings, your children?  Or maybe it’s a bit of everything and you just have NO time for anything else.  The plates are all in the air - they’re spinning, you’re spinning - and before you know it everything is crashing to the ground in pieces.
 
Life can be really amazing, but it can also really wear you down.  This is why setting time aside and taking care of you is so important. 
Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  It can be as simple (and cheap) as taking a bubble bath at night, putting down the laundry and reading a book instead, learning to say “no” on occasion, or starting a 5 minute mindfulness practice each night.  
 
With that in mind, I want to encourage – to challenge – you to join me in engaging in self-care. The challenge is completely self-driven.  Each day, you’ll use the guide to choose just 1 way to take care of yourself.  On the ideas list, you'll note there are lots of small changes you can make today - and some bigger ones to plan for the future.  Track your progress with the calendar pages and note how you feel at the end of each week.  It's that easy - and I promise you will feel better at the end of the challenge!
 
It’s designed to be a 21-day program, but it’s completely up to you how long you participate.  This shouldn’t be something else you “have” to do, but more something that makes you feel good – even better – about yourself.  If you fall off the wagon or miss a day, give yourself some grace and hop back on the next day.  I’ll be right there beside you!  

Download your FREE copy of the 21 Day Self Care Challenge
Click to Download Here!

Want to take a closer look first? 
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture

Take care of yourself Mama - you deserve it! 
Picture
Jennifer Howard is a Licensed Therapist, Certified Life Coach and Infant Sleep Expert.  Having experienced sleep deprivation and postpartum depression herself, she became passionate about helping new moms and their partners find their footing and thrive in motherhood.  When not working with clients, blogging or chatting with moms in the Mommy-SOS Sisterhood, she can be found painting, doing yoga and chasing her two crazy kiddos around. 

Related Posts: 

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[What is a postpartum Doula?]]>Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/what-is-a-postpartum-doula
What is a Postpartum Doula? By Kari from the Start and Mommy-SOS
Are you confused about your support options after your baby is born?  Many of my clients come to me exhausted, overwhelmed and utterly confused about how to get their needs met with their newborn baby.  So, I am super excited to share a new blog series with you from Kari at From the Start!  Kari is an experienced postpartum doula and Army Vet who is changing mamas lives with her personalized care.  To start, here is a short excerpt and brief description of what postpartum doulas may help with:

  • Feeding support (breastfeeding help, expressed milk feedings/pumping support, bottle)
  • Newborn care (diapering, bathing, umbilical cord, circumcision, special needs)
  • Maternal support (physical assistance, emotional support, incision/tear care, companionship)
  • Paternal support (ways to help, emotional support)
  • Newborn calming/soothing techniques, help with baby's sleep, bonding/attachment tips, babywearing support
  • Sibling support and integration
  • Meal preparation, household organization, light cleaning
  • Household task assistance - run errands, grocery shopping, walk dog
But she goes SO much deeper.  Over a 3 part series, Kari walks you through the many options for physical support with your new baby.  You don't have to wonder anymore!  Check out each post below: 

Help After Baby Series, Part 1 - Postpartum Doulas

Help After Baby Series, Part 2 -In Home, Hired Support 

Help After Baby Series, Part 3 - Your Village
Picture
Jennifer Howard is a Licensed Therapist, Certified Life Coach and Infant Sleep Expert.  Having experienced sleep deprivation and postpartum depression herself, she became passionate about helping new moms and their partners find their footing and thrive in motherhood.  When not working with clients, blogging or chatting with moms in the Mommy-SOS Sisterhood, she can be found painting, doing yoga and chasing her two crazy kiddos around. 

Don't forget to download my FREE Guides: 

Picture
Picture

Related Posts:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Do these 5 things before you even consider sleep coaching your baby]]>Mon, 19 Mar 2018 13:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/do-these-5-things-before-you-even-consider-sleep-coaching-your-baby
Do these 5 Things before you even consider Sleep Coaching - from Mommy-SOS
No Cry? Controlled Crying? CIO?

​There are SO many popular sleep-coaching methods to choose from. And, if you seek advice on your Facebook moms group, from your local friends or from sleep coaching books and blogs, you are likely to get very different – and very strongly held – points of view about which one is best. But, when you’re sleep deprived and foggy brained, it can all feel way too overwhelming…making it hard to choose an option or to even get started. 
 
But, there is hope! Depending on your baby’s temperament and adaptability, you may not even need to sleep coach in order to improve their sleep habits.  Before you decide to sleep coach your baby or consider which one method is right for your family (note: it’s likely a mixture of several methods!), taking these 5 easy steps will help to set your whole family up for success and put you on the path to better sleep:
Keep a sleep and feeding log
 Tracking your baby’s natural patterns - before you make any other changes - will help you get a better idea of their individual sleep needs and help you spot any potential red flags.  For instance, are they napping too much during the day?  Not eating often enough in the evening? Compare the log to the recommended sample schedules in my free “Baby Schedules” E-book to get a better idea of how your baby’s current schedule fits in and begin to make any necessary adjustments.  Ensuring that your baby is on an age appropriate and consistent schedule is often the first step toward better sleep!
 
Create a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine
All babies (and older children) benefit from having a soothing bedtime ritual with their favorite people (you!).  The actual steps can vary, based on what works best for your family, but should be calming in nature.  For instance, a baby’s routine may be: bath, feeding, swaddle, and rocking/snuggles. While a toddler’s routine may be: bedtime snack, using the potty, brushing teeth, reading books and snuggling. No matter what routine you settle on, it’s the predictable sequence of events that babies and toddlers come to count on as a signal that it’s time for sleep.
 
Add white noise and black out blinds
Creating a soothing sleep environment can also make a huge difference in how well (or how poorly) your baby sleeps.  Does your baby wake often, too early or have short naps? There are many common reasons for these trouble spots and making simple adjustments to your baby’s room can alleviate most of them. If your baby is sensitive to noise, then they are much more likely to wake if you or your partner wake early for work or if you’re sharing a room.  If your baby’s room gets too much light in the morning or from streetlights at night, then they’re also much more likely to wake. Adding white noise and black out blinds can help keep your baby in a deeper state of sleep and prevent waking from those common distractions.  Be sure to check out this article for common white noise mistakes - and how to avoid them! 
 
Identify your baby’s sleep props
Do you feed your baby to sleep and then have to feed them back to sleep each time they wake?  Do you need to replace the pacifier? Snuggle or rock?  While these things are totally ok (and encouraged) with your newborn baby, anything your baby “needs” to fall to sleep can become a sleep prop, as they get older.  But, you don’t need to do formal sleep coaching to begin to fade away your baby’s sleep props.  Simply by identifying what the potential props allows you to view them in a different way and to slowly offer them less and less.

Check in with your pediatrician
Typically sleep troubles are behavioral in nature, but sometimes babies wake frequently because of a medical reason.  For instance, reflux, food allergies, sleep apnea, teething pain and ear infections, and growth spurts can all lead to more frequent waking.  Seeking the guidance of your pediatrician is the best way to rule any of these out – and to get the OK for coaching, if needed.

Looking for  more free guidance and support from myself and other moms?  Be sure to get your copy of the "Baby Schedules" Ebook (free for a limited time!) and join us in the 5 Day Save Our Sleep Challenge on Facebook today! 
Picture

You may also enjoy: 

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Save your marriage - the ultimate step-by-step guide to conflict resolution with a new baby]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 15:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/save-your-marriage-the-ultimate-step-by-step-guide-to-conflict-resolution-with-a-new-baby
Save your Marriage - The Ultimate Conflict Resolution Guide with a New Baby - From Mommy-SOS
Does it feel like parenthood has stolen your marriage? Do you worry that you feel closer to your kids than your husband? Do you snap at your partner for no reason? Or fight over everything? Are you so exhausted from the daily grind that you Just. Can’t. Anymore.

You’re not alone.
 
It’s well known that marriage is full of ups and downs, but the intensity of the downs after a new baby arrives often comes as a surprise to new parents.  And the first few years of parenthood have shown to be some of the most challenging of those years.  Everyone is exhausted, stressed, and pulled way too thin. 
 
During this time, it is common – and completely natural - for couples to fight more frequently.  Starting a family or adding a new baby comes with new identities, new family roles, and shifting relationship responsibilities.  Each of these needs to be processed and adapted to - ideally together. Add in the sleep deprivation, and it can all feel overwhelming, desperate and so frustrating....almost as though you and your marriage are falling apart at the seams.
 
However, when approached in a healthy way, the ensuing conflict and disagreements can actually work in your favor.  Of course, all couples fight.  But happy couples have a way of embracing those disagreements instead of pushing them aside.  They often use fights as an opportunity to work together, to find a solution and to move forward - while also maintaining respect for each other.  They are a team.  An approach and pattern that leads to a major strengthening in their marriage over time.
 
This type of approach to disagreements is not out of your reach either - no matter how much it may feel that way.  It’s actually quite simple and a few easy steps can alter your marriage and the ability to resolve conflict peacefully with your partner - forever. Use this ultimate game plan to tackle the disagreements  - and to maximize your marriage’s potential:
 Set a time and place for discussion
With a baby or small children around, it can be hard to find time to talk things over, but whisper yelling over a sleeping baby after a long day isn’t going to benefit any of you.  When a conflict arises, hit pause and schedule a time and place when you can both be fully present.  When the time arrives, and if you’re not completely on edge, pour a glass of wine or hot tea and take a moment to reconnect before beginning the conversation.
 
Define the problem
What is going on?  Be as specific and concrete as possible.  Take a moment for both of you to share your opinion.  For instance, let’s say you are exhausted and feel like you’re taking the brunt of the overnight work with your new baby. Express this frustration by using concrete examples.  Did you ask for help one night and it wasn’t given?  Or, do you feel as though you can’t ask for help? Explore your thoughts in detail. Then, give your partner your full attention and listen as he/she talks through his side of the story. 
 
Discuss how each of you contribute to issue
Work together to determine how each of you may be contributing to the issue. Let’s take the example from above and assume that you’re frustrated with doing the night wakings on your own. Your role could be that you haven’t made your needs clear or aren’t asking for help. Or, it could be that you’ve been reluctant to let others care for the baby or to introduce a bottle, so you're left having to be the one who feeds the baby.  Brainstorm each of your roles and how you have contributed to the (current) issue together. Throughout this step, try your best to not get defensive.  It’s way too easy to do, but it will get you nowhere!  Remember that each partner has a role in every conflict. It’s important to reflect honestly about what yours is in order to find a solution that works best for you and your family.
 
Identify 5 possible solutions
Brainstorm together and identify several possible solutions for you to discuss further.  Again, following the example above, if you are nursing then you could start to introduce your baby to a bottle so your partner could take over one of the feedings.  Or, you could take turns with your partner so that you each get a full night of sleep a few times a week.  It’s important to be open and non-judgmental during this phase.  Identify as many solutions as possible so that you can discuss each one together.
 
Discuss each solution idea
Now that you’ve developed multiple possible solutions, review each one together.  Go down the list and take turns expressing your opinion about each solution.  It’s important to try to be objective so discuss how each one may or may not be effective in helping alleviate the identified problem.
 
Choose your solution together
Once you’ve taken the time to thoroughly discuss each possibility, it may be obvious which one will work best for you as a family.  If not, start by eliminating ones that you both agree will not work and then continue to discuss the remaining options until you’ve compromised and agreed on one solution to try.  If you are stuck, remember that it doesn’t have to be the only solution - and that there will be time to re-evaluate later. 

Set time and date for re-evaluation
Everything in marriage and parenthood (and life!) is fluid.  Acknowledging this upfront makes it easier to continue the conversation and prevent additional issues from arising down the line.  Just like with children, what works today may not work tomorrow.  So make sure that you set a time and place in the future to meet again and re-evaluate if the solution you have chosen is still working for your family.  Many couples will agree to bi-weekly or monthly “family meetings” in order to keep the lines of communication open.   

Using these simple steps will help set your marriage up to tackle anything - big or small - that comes your way.  Make sure you print out your own PDF version of the guide (linked below) so you can share easily with your partner and always have it ready when you need it.  If you're looking for more personalized help or find you need an impartial (and non-judgmental) party to help you define solutions, be sure to check out myservices page or schedule a complimentary 20 minute consultation today. 

Click Here to Download
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Survive the time change and daylight savings]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/survive-the-time-change-and-daylight-savings
Survive the Time Change and Daylight Savings with these 5 Pro Tips from Mommy-SOS
An effort to conserve energy during World War I is what led the US to adopt Daylight Savings.  Now, 100 years later, we continue to (unnecessarily, in my opinion!) wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms twice a year.  Although there have been movements and occasional uproars asking to eliminate this ritual, Daylight Savings remains a biannual obstacle for everyone -  at least for now. 
 
As adults, it creates a feeling of jet-lag. The loss of sleep resulting from the time change has been proven to be bad for our health (both physically and mentally) and has been linked to more frequent car accidents in the week following. But typically, we’re all exhausted and thrown off for a few days and adapt shortly after.
 
For a baby, the loss of that one hour can have a much more dramatic – and long lasting effect.  If they’re already struggling with sleeping well, it can make the nights that much worse.  If they wake early, it can make them wake even earlier (though, thankfully “springing forward” can actually help alleviate this one, if done correctly).  When babies become overtired, they are much more prone to waking frequently at night, having trouble settling to sleep, napping well and waking earlier in the morning.  In essence, what creates temporary grogginess in adults can completely throw a baby’s sleep into a downward spiral.  Clearly, whoever was in charge of the creation of this ritual was not a parent! 
 
So, what do you do? 

Well, you really have a choice to make here.  You can do nothing, and ride the wave.  This works well for some babies – typically those who are more adaptable in nature.  These babies will often have an off couple of days and then get right back on track.
 
Or, you can tackle it head on.  I strongly recommend this approach if your babies are like mine – persistent, spirited and/or sensitive in nature.  If this sounds like your kiddos, you can keep everyone on track and maintain your sanity all at the same time.  Here’s what to do:
 
Prepare Early
For “Springing Forward”: starting 5-7 days before the time change, begin to put your little one down 10 minutes earlier each night. For instance, if bedtime is usually at 7:00pm, then the week leading up to the time change would look like this:

Day 1: Bedtime at 7:00pm
Day 2: Bedtime at 6:50pm
Day 3: Bedtime at 6:40pm
Day 4: Bedtime at 6:30pm
Day 5: Bedtime at 6:20pm
Day 6: Bedtime at 6:10pm
Day 7: Bedtime at 6:00pm
Day 8 (Time Change +1): Bedtime at 7:00pm
 
For “Falling Back” you would use the same approach, but start to put your baby to bed 10 minutes later each night instead.
 
Day 1: Bedtime at 7:00pm
Day 2: Bedtime at 7:10pm
Day 3: Bedtime at 7:20pm
Day 4: Bedtime at 7:30pm
Day 5: Bedtime at 7:40pm
Day 6: Bedtime at 7:50pm
Day 7: Bedtime at 8:00pm
Day 8 (Time Change -1): Bedtime at 7:00pm
 
Shift Everything
In those days leading up to the time change, you’ll want to shift all aspects of your baby’s schedule.  This means that feeding times/meals, naps and beginning the bedtime routine should all shift as well.  If at all possible, try to get your baby up in the morning 10 minutes later/earlier as well.  This way, on the day of the shift change you have (ideally) moved your baby back to their original schedule. 
 
Maintain Routines
Make sure to keep your nap and bedtime routines strong throughout the transition.  Since it’s natural for babies to be a bit thrown off – even with preparation – keeping their normal sleep routines steady will help provide that same calming environment and cue them for sleep.  If necessary, start a bit earlier/later and be sure to incorporate additional calming activities (like baby massage and rocking or book reading and coloring for older children).
 
Use Props (that don’t involve you!)
Since the sunlight surrounding your baby’s sleep times will be changing, it can be really helpful to use black out blinds in their room.  This allows you to control how much light they do or don’t see – and when.  I also always recommend using white noise since it keeps your baby in a deeper realm of sleep for longer.  Be sure to check out my article here for tips on the most effective ways to use white noise.  If you have a toddler who is prone to waking earlier, using a training clock can help give them a visual cue for when it's time to wake up and get out of bed in the morning.  This one is my favorite because it also has the ability to connect to your phone! 

As with any schedule shift or setback, remember that it's all temporary.  Your consistency and follow through will help everyone get back on track - and back to sleeping better - quickly! 

For pro-style time change, join my FREE 5 Day Sleep Challenge!  Inside the Private Facebook group, I am hosting a FREE "Tackling Time Change like a Pro" Webinar on March 4th AND you'll receive a FREE Time Change Pro guide.  Print it out, fill it in with your child's data and stick it up on your fridge so you can gear up.  You got this!


Picture
Picture
 **This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  If you click the link and purchase the recommended item, I may receive a small commission.  Know that I only recommend products that I have used myself or have found my clients to benefit from.**

You may also be interested in: 

White noise and Baby Sleep
Baby Sleep and Colic
Baby Sleep
]]>
<![CDATA[4 tips for moms - parenting with chronic illness]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 22:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/4-tips-for-moms-parenting-with-chronic-illness
Picture
Parenting is tough.  Parenting with a chronic illness can feel downright impossible.   As a mom with a chronic illness, I know the struggles you face.  I know the feeling you get deep in the pit of your stomach when you have to say, “I’m sorry honey. Mommy isn’t feeling well today.” For the 6th day in a row. I know the guilt you feel when you try to weigh what you can and cannot handle each day or when you have to cancel plans last minute. I know the fear you feel at night when you lie awake worried that your illness is negatively affecting your children.  And when it’s all just too much.  I know.
 
But - as challenging as it can be - we know it isn’t all bad.  While there is likely more complexity in your motherhood journey, it can also be full of hope, happiness - and lots and lots of love.  There is certainly something to be said for having the ability to really take advantage and enjoy the good days....to no longer take it all for granted like you may have done before.  I didn't start motherhood with a chronic illness, but I've managed the last several years with one.  It's been through this journey - and that of working with other mothers like myself – that I’ve been able to develop several key strategies for maximizing your parenting journey.  I know it can be really tough to make it through the day sometimes, but I also know it can be done with as much grace for yourself as possible.  Read below for the lessons I've learned.
 
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate motherhood with a chronic illness:
Make Yourself a Priority 
As a mother, it’s in our nature to put our children’s needs before our own.  If you're like me, it’s not unusual to find yourself skipping breakfast while you pack lunches or rushing to your baby in the middle of the night without taking a second to pee first and then finding yourself immensely uncomfortable while trying to get your baby back to sleep...  No? Just me? :)
 
But, it’s impossible to maintain your health unless you do take time to put your needs first.  If your health declines or you have a flare, you cannot be present for your children in the ways that I know you really want to be able to do. So, take time now to prioritize your needs and try to engage in self-care weekly.  Even if it’s really small, it will make a difference.  Make room in your schedule for yoga, meditation, going to bed early, making healthy meals for yourself or reading a book/binging Netflix alone. 

Not sure how to make your needs a priority or even what would help you feel cared for? Don't worry! I wrote an entire post about self care AND created a free challenge guide to help you explore what really helps you feel recharged.  There is an entire page with self care ideas listed to get your mind churning. You can read more about it and download the free weekly planner here. Your body will thank you!
 
Accept your Limitations 
As a mom with a chronic illness, accepting that you cannot mother how you imagined can be the sharpest pill to swallow.  But acceptance is important - even if your acceptance feels more like it's own journey.  The truth is, we cannot begin to cope and thrive until we’ve acknowledged our realities.  And, when you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may need to revise what you thought motherhood would look like for you.
 
Personally, I had so many ideas about the mother I would be.  And I haven’t been able to fulfill many of them.  But I’ve created new ways to show my love and be present.  For instance, I often can’t run around the yard after my children, but I can be the best snuggler there is - and we make time for that every day.  It’s ok to mourn what you wanted motherhood to look like (I still do!), but then brainstorm new ways to fulfill those needs for yourself and your children. Your journey may be different, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be rewarding and special.
 
Embrace the Roller Coaster 
Chronic illness can make for a cruel nemesis.  Each morning when you wake up, you truly don’t know whether it will be a good day or a bad day.  The uncertainty of it all can be unnerving. You may go weeks in a flare and get a surprisingly good day.  Or you may be in remission for so long that you forgot how bad you felt before - and then wake up one day and be in the mix of it all over again.  It's a total mind f*ck, right?
 
But often we have no control over what leads to a flare or doesn't, so it’s even more important to accept the roller coaster ride will happen and to plan for it. Cancelling scheduled plans is disappointing.  And it's so very common to experience feelings of guilt and overwhelm when you can’t fulfill your children’s/husband's/friend's desires.  But you didn’t ask to have a chronic illness – and I am certain you would remove that obstacle if you could.  So, instead of letting that guilt eat you up, do what you can, when you can - and accept help or reschedule when you need it.
 
Seek Support 
It’s so important to find support for yourself – both physically and mentally.  That support can come from your significant other, family members and friends.  But, many individuals with a chronic illness also find it helpful to find a support group of other like-minded warriors.  There are some things that just can’t be understood without having been through them yourself, and a support group or friend with a chronic illness can provide that nurturing environment for you to just be real - and raw - for a bit. 
 
Additionally, seeking a therapist who has experience with chronic illness can be quite cathartic. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies and process your feelings about your illness and it’s impact on your family life.  Because depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness, having a care provider who understands can be immensely helpful in getting you the support you need.  When seeking support, be sure to check out the “Therapists + Coaches who Get It” directory.  It was created by the host of the “This is Not What I Ordered” Podcast, Lauren Selfridge and is full of care providers who get it!    

Take care mama - you deserve it! 
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Mom and anxiety
Moms
Postpartum Depression
]]>
<![CDATA[Do I have postpartum depression?]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 15:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/do-i-have-postpartum-depression
Do I have Postpartum Depression? - from Mommy-SOS
The first year of your baby's life can be full of joy and love. But when you have a newborn and are struggling with Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, things can feel like they are out of control. Many mamas often hear (or say to themselves), "It's just a phase... things are hard right now, but it will pass." But what about when it doesn't pass? Or when those word just aren't soothing.

Before we get into discussing the symptoms, I want to highlight something important. The thoughts and feelings associated with these mental disorders are normal feelings. Its normal to feel concerned about your baby getting enough sleep, enough to eat, feeling exhausted and even angry. Being a mother is hard, thankless work and we all reach our limits sometimes.

What's challenging is when they stick around to the point of becoming unmanageable (longer than 2 weeks is the DSM 5 criteria for a Postpartum Mood Disorder). None of this makes you a bad mom. I'm going to say that again; having any of the symptoms below does NOT mean you are a bad mom or that your child will be forever damaged by your actions or emotions. All mamas are doing their best. It's not hopeless or untreatable; and it is important to know when to ask for more support.

Below are common experiences and symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Hopefully they can help you gauge where you fall on the spectrum and help you know what the next step is for you. And if you're the partner of a new mom, these are very useful things to know too. It is often the partner who is first able to ask others for help.


Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
  • Sadness and crying, sometimes without a specific reason
  • Numbness
  • Hopelessness, you can't see how this situation will ever get better
  • Disconnection from the baby or from partner
  • Thinking there must be something wrong with you, that you don't have what it takes to be a mom or you should never have become a mom
  • Feelings of wanting to leave or wishing you could disappear, that your baby or your partner might be better off without you
  • You can't bring yourself to eat enough throughout the day, or the only thing that makes you feel better is eating
  • Loosing weight more rapidly than normal for the postpartum phase 
  • Anger or uncontrollable rage (at your baby or partner or friends who don't have kids)

Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety:
  • Racing thoughts
  • Constantly staying busy (cleaning, preparing food, household chores, taking the baby out of the house, etc)
  • Unending fear that there is something wrong with your child (they are sick, developmentally slow, allergic to something, something you are missing, etc) 
  • Having trouble sleeping, despite being exhausted
  • Worrying all the time about many different areas of your life: Am I doing ____ right? Is ____ bad for my baby? Will my partner come home from their business trip? Will we get in a car crash? 
  • Panic or anxiety attacks (including physical symptoms like heart palpitations, stomach pain, headaches, difficulty breathing, shakiness)
  • Overwhelming stress or obsessive thoughts about one (or more) areas of your baby's life: physical development, sleep schedule, feeding/nutrition, leaving baby with a caregiver, etc. 

Some of the symptoms of PPD and PPA overlap. So what's important here is not distinguishing between the two, but rather - if you read over those symptoms and are experiencing more than 3 items listed, you could use some extra support! I encourage you to be brave and be an example to your child of breaking through the taboo around asking for help. You are a strong mama who knows what she needs, even if what you need is help knowing what you need! 

The American Psychological Association estimates that 1 in 7 woman who give birth will experience Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. A smaller number of moms, 2 our of every 1,000 PPD cases, experience Postpartum Psychosis. All of these mental illnesses are serious and can be life threatening, but are treatable and manageable with help. If you are scared for your safety or the safety of your baby, please take action immediately. 

If you are in crisis, call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

If you are looking for more support, Postpartum Support International has a warm-line and can connect you to area coordinators : 1.800.944.4773

*This post was originally published by Mallika Bush, LMFT on March 18, 2017 on www.mallikabush.com.  Mallika is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with offices in Berkeley and San Fransisco, CA.  
Picture
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Yes, dads can get postpartum depression too]]>Thu, 01 Feb 2018 16:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/yes-dads-can-get-postpartum-depression-too
Dads can get Postpartum Depression Too! - from Mommy-SOS
Being a new parent is definitely rewarding – but it is also can be really hard.  It’s a big transition and one that many new parents struggle with.  Even if they’re very excited.  Even if they’re in love with their new baby. 

Even if it’s what they always wanted.
 
We now know that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, or other perinatal mood disorder. But studies show that, following the birth of their child, 1 in 10 men also experience postpartum depression.  Researchers and doctors are unclear about whether this is truly postpartum depression, or whether it is a depression that happens to occur in the postpartum period for men.  However, the result - a depressed Dad - is the same - and can have lasting effects on his partner and children. 

In order to separate the two disorders, some researchers (and myself) call it Paternal Postpartum Depression, or PPPD.  But just like with Moms, Dads can show symptoms as early as the first trimester of pregnancy and through one full year postpartum.  Unfortunately, our society follows the belief systems (myths!) that men aren’t entitled to these feelings and that they should be stoic and in control of their emotions.  In essence, that they don't get depressed.  But PPPD is very real.  And it can have lasting effects on a family, so it deserves attention too.
 
Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to a new Dad’s mental health:
The risk factors aren't clear
Because it's a relatively new field of research, the causes and risk factors are still unclear.  New research shows that males experience a dip in testosterone after the birth of their child.  Several studies have recently proven a long suspected role that hormones play for women as well, but we're beginning to understand that this is not the only factor.  Just like for moms, symptoms of postpartum depression can develop due to medical history and social factors.  Many Dads report experiencing a significant increase in stress and familial pressure after their baby is born.  They are often the sole breadwinner (if even for a short period), are more likely to be unsure of their ability to care for their baby, are adjusting to the sleep deprivation and adapting to the changing relationship roles between themselves and their partner.  This can leave them feeling very alone, overwhelmed and confused.  Each of these factors are important and likely play a role in the development of PPPD. 

Symptoms in men can look different
It can be challenging to spot symptoms of postpartum depression in Dads without knowing what to look for.  During pregnancy, most women are taught to look for signs of sadness/weepiness, anxiety and overwhelm in themselves but Dad’s postpartum depression often manifests in a different way.  Although some Dads will experience the classic symptoms of sadness, many will be irritable, angry or quick to lose their temper.  Like women, they may begin to experience symptoms of anxiety - like heart palpitations, worry, shortness of breath or even full blown panic attacks.  But their symptoms of depression and anxiety may also cause them to withdrawal from home.  They may start to stay at work longer, make more plans with their friends or co-workers, or even just “check out” when they are home (physically present but not otherwise). 
 
A partner’s involvement is often critical for help
Since women tend to have a bigger support system and are often more intuitive to shifts in their partner's behavior, it is often the new mother who will notice that her partner “isn’t acting like himself anymore.”  Because men may not be aware of why their feeling differently, they may not know to reach out for help.  Even more likely, because of societal pressures to "be a man", they may be even more reluctant to reach out for help.  But recognizing their symptoms and reaching out for help is key to improvement - and the overall wellbeing of both Dad and the rest of the family. Therefore, if you’re concerned about your partner, definitely try to bring it up with him and encourage him to speak to his doctor. 

Even mild depression can have serious repercussions
If fathers are experiencing symptoms of depression after their baby comes home, it's important that they seek both professional help and community.  Just like Moms, Dads need to be healthy in order to be able to properly care for their family.  But, it's more than that.  Studies have shown that PPPD changes the way Dads interact with their kids – more so than it does with Moms with PPD - and that this lack of interaction can have lasting effects on the child’s behavior as they grow.  One study showed that children from a family with a depressed Dad were more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems (and 1/4 of all children if both parents were depressed).  It sounds scary, right? But this is why getting help is so crucial.   
 
What to do if you need help
If you (or a loved one) are experiencing these symptoms, there are many positive steps you can take to make a difference.  Here are just a few:

 1. Create Special bonding time with just you and baby.  Set aside time where Dad and baby can be alone.  Even if it's tough at first, it can help a new Dad feel more secure in their parenting abilities and more bonded to their baby. 

2. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, meditate, get acupuncture, massage and time with friends.  Most importantly - get some sleep!  Many families I have worked with trade off weekend mornings for sleeping in and relaxing in bed.  

3. Talk about it.  Communicate your feelings with your partner.  Opening up can help to normalize your feelings and open the door for your partner to be supportive to your needs.

4. Connect with other PPPD Dads. Postpartum Support International has great resources for Dads - including a Facebook group just for Dads, a monthly chat with an expert and a Boot Camp to help support Dads and help them feel more comfortable in caring for their new baby.

5. Talk to a counselor.  Most therapists who specialize in perinatal mental health are well equipped to help support Dad throughout the transition to fatherhood.  Processing your feelings with a professional gives you a safe space to be open and honest with yourself and to learn how to cope with your symptoms better.  
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Positive Communication
Baby Sleep
Relationship Tips for Parents
]]>
<![CDATA[5 tips to help you identify and survive colic]]>Thu, 25 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/5-tips-to-help-you-identify-and-survive-colic
5 Tips to help you Identify and Survive Colic with your Newborn Baby - from Mommy-SOS
​When it comes to motherhood, there are many things that I hold onto tightly.  Some of my favorites are - baby snuggles after a long day, the calm and connection of middle of the night feedings, and the way your kiddo looks at you like you are their person.  But, motherhood has been full of challenges as well.  In our household, we’ve dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety, premature babies and the NICU, sleep apnea diagnosed after a “blue” episode (so scary!), colic, reflux, developmental delays and more.  It’s been a roller coaster - and I know that no matter what your journey has been like, you can relate to that. 
 
But today, I want to talk about colic.  Both of my children were quite grumpy babies, but my daughter was the one who screamed ALL day.  I was a brand new mom and had no idea what to do. Literally, none.  And I had to walk away - a lot.  I was desperate. But, I learned a lot from her (and continue to do so).  In fact, her birth and babyhood is what led me down this path of helping new moms - and what inspired me to create Mommy-SOS.  Now, I want to share it with you! 
So, first.  How do you know if it’s just normal crying or if it’s colic?  Well, Dr. Sears says in The Baby Book, “If you wonder whether or not you have a colicky baby – you don’t!” J But it’s my experience that it’s not quite so easy.  It’s very common for babies to be fussy for a few hours a day. However, normal fussiness can often be improved by holding/wearing your baby and offering the breast/bottle frequently (clusterfeeding).  Alternatively, colic is defined in the 3s - at least three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks straight.  It typically begins within the first few weeks after birth and lasts until ~3 months.  The biggest sign of colic is that it often takes a more than just holding or feeding your baby to calm them back down. 
 
Unfortunately, no one knows for sure exactly what causes colic.  So, there isn’t a clear cut way to “fix” it.  However, there are speculations that it is caused by overstimulation, tummy troubles - like reflux, food allergies or gas, or an immature digestive system.  With these concerns in mind, there are definitely steps you can take to help lessen the level of crying.  And perhaps more importantly, help you keep from losing your sanity.  Here are some tips:
 
Cut yourself some slack.
When you’re baby won’t stop crying, it is SO easy to assume that you are not a good mother or that you’re doing something wrong.  I have been there!  But, colic is real.  And you are still here, holding your screaming baby (or sitting in the next room – also totally ok!), and you are a good mom.

Try the 5Ss
  Dr. Karp suggests that babies struggle with adapting to the overstimulation of the outside world during what he calls the “4th trimester”.  By helping to recreate the environment of the womb, you can turn on your baby’s innate calming reflex and essentially turn off the crying.  Check out my article here for more about exactly what to do and in what order.  I wish I had these steps to help me when my daughter was born, but I hadn’t found it yet.  However, as a Certified Happiest Baby Educator working with families just like yours – I have seen it done successfully many times!
 
Take a break.
One of the most important things you can do for you AND your baby is to get out of the house.  Schedule time with your partner for you to be alone – or line up a babysitter, family member, or postpartum doula.  Ideally, this would be at least once a week – if not more.  As a new mom, it’s important that you have a chance to just be yourself and not a caretaker.  You don’t just deserve a break – you need one.
 
Consider Feeding Issues
Although doctors don’t really agree on what causes colic, some believe it has to do with feeding discomfort or tummy troubles.  There are a lot of products on the market geared toward this idea, but I never could get them to work for my daughter (though eliminating dairy did make a difference).  If you are breastfeeding, work with a lactation consultant to make sure that your baby’s latch is working.  They can also help you with tips for an overactive letdown and other breastfeeding issues that could lead to an upset baby.  Here is a great article that may also help.  If you are bottle feeding, then you may want to try switching to a dairy free formula.  Work with your pediatrician to explore your options and to learn more about what a dairy sensitivity can look like.
 
Find your tribe.
There are tons of moms out there who are struggling with a colicky baby too.  Joining an online or local mom’s group can help expose you to those moms and find support in your journey.  It was life changing for me to find my “mom friends”.  They validated just how bad it all was – and gave me hope that it would get better.  And it did!  It will for you too mama.  If you're still looking for your tribe, come join our Sisterhood on Facebook.  We'd love to have you! Hang in there <3
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[The CRYING Cure - easy tips to stop the tears, soothe your baby and sleep better right away]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 15:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/the-crying-cure-easy-tips-to-stop-the-tears-soothe-your-baby-and-sleep-better-right-away
Soothing Colic with Dr. Karp's 5 Ss - from Mommy-SOS
 When your newborn baby won’t stop crying, it can start to feel desperate.  You may be worried that there is something wrong with your baby, that you aren’t a good enough mother, that you don’t have the instincts or that you won’t ever be able to connect.  Yep, I understand.  I’ve had all of those feelings.  But the truth is that you can handle it.  And you are a good mother!  You just need to use a few simple tricks to soothe your baby's crying. 
 
All babies cry. It’s how they communicate their needs – and desires – with you.  But, depending on their personality and health, some babies cry way more than others.  And some newborn babies have colic – my daughter did and we always referred to that as “next level crying”.  Let’s look at some typical reasons why babies cry:
 
Sleepiness
Hunger
Wet/Dirty Diaper
Overstimulation
Acid reflux/Upset Tummy
Pain
Stranger Anxiety
Desire
 
But if you rule these out and your baby is still crying, there are definitely things you can do.  As a Certified Happiest Baby Educator, I can assure you that you can actually STOP the crying.  I’ve seen it done many times!  Read below to learn how: 
Using the 5 Ss to Cure Crying
 Have you heard of the 5s? Developed by Dr. Harvey Karp of “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, these magical steps can literally stop a baby’s cries - in it’s tracks.  It’s not magic – it’s based on the science of re-creating the feelings of the womb in what he calls the “4th trimester.”  The 5s are best done in order and they include: swaddle, side/stomach position, shush, swing, and suck.  Let’s take a closer look at each one:
 
Swaddle
When done correctly, the swaddle provides the same snugness of the womb and is the baseline of calming a baby’s cries.  Many parents assume their baby doesn’t like the swaddle because their baby struggles against it, cries harder or wiggles out.  Don’t fall for this! Swaddling might not immediately calm her but it will help to restrain her flailing movements and draw her concentration in so she can pay attention to what you do next.  This is the magic of the swaddle.  In the same way, using a swaddle while baby sleeps (on their back) can help to reduce the impact of the startle reflex and help a baby sleep for longer periods.  
 
Side/Stomach Position
If your baby is crying, leaving her on her back will make her even more unhappy.  Instead, picking her up and rolling her to her side or holding her on her tummy helps to switch on that calming reflex.  But note that the side/stomach position should be used for calming only – a baby should always be placed on their back to sleep.
 
Shush
White noise or the shhhh of a parent is magic.  To really make it work, elevate the level of the shhh to the level of your baby’s cries (or wails).  This means, if she is screaming then your shush should be up close to her ear and loud.  (Louder than you think) Once she calms, you can turn down the white noise or lower your shushing sound.   If used correctly, white noise is also an amazing tool for sleep.  For an up close look at the usefulness of white noise and typical mistakes to avoid when using white noise, be sure to read my article here.
 
Swing
The swing or holding your baby and softly jiggling (not shaking) her can also really help to reduce crying during a meltdown.  Once your baby is swaddled, and you’ve used the stomach/side position and shushing to calm her, then the swinging motion can help to keep her calm for longer periods.  You can also use a swing (fully reclined and securely fastened) to help keep your baby calmer while he naps - and you take a moment to yourself!  However, keep in mind that it's super important that your baby remains in your view and that you make sure the swing is fully reclined.  These are necessary steps to ensuring baby's safety - especially when baby is young and their necks are more likely to tip forward and close their airway. Be sure to check with your pediatrician for guidance.
 
Sucking
The final S – sucking – is what Dr. Karp calls the “icing on the cake” and it’s definitely my second favorite (after white noise, of course!).  For sucking, you can offer baby your breast, bottle, clean finger or pacifier.  The sucking motion is also great for helping a new baby fall and stay asleep (and the AAP recommends its use during naps and at bedtime to reduce the risk of SIDS).  Quick tip: to teach a baby to keep a pacifier in their mouth on their own, gently tug on it as soon as they start sucking.
 
Have you tried the 5s? What was your experience? Comment below and let me know! If you haven’t, given them a try the next time your baby is in meltdown mode and come let me know how it went.  And be sure to come back next week too and check out “5 common mistakes parents make with 5s and how to avoid them.”
 
If you’re having a hard time handling your colicky or crying baby, know that you aren’t alone.  Pay attention to your internal red flags and lay your baby down and walk away if you need to.  Remember, you don’t have to be perfect.  If you need to take a break, it's ok.  If you need someone to talk to or to help you develop a plan, be sure to check out my services page.  You can also download the free motherhood guide below!

You are a good mom!
Wellness Plan for Moms
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[The myth of the good mom]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:30:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/the-myth-of-the-good-mom
Myth of the Good Mom - from Mommy-SOS
​Surveys of new mothers have shown that between 50-70% felt guilt and shame related to the pressures of being the mother they were expected (or expected themselves) to be.  In fact, a quick Google search will show the multitude of opinions on the best way to give birth, to feed and to care for your baby.
 
The truth is, the answers to none of these questions should be viewed as absolutes.  But with the constant exposure to be what is expected of us as mothers, it’s very easy to start believing that there actually is a “right” way – and that you’re failing at it.  The overexposure to the myths and expectations can make a new mom spiral into feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and overwhelm.
 
Through Mommy-SOS, it is one of my goals to help bring light to the common myths of motherhood.  As you read the myths below, take a moment to review them yourself - and find what resonates for you.  Let’s challenge the myths of the good mom, remove the guilt and enjoy motherhood in our own unique ways.
A good mother feels an instant bond with her baby.
It’s an unspoken truth, but it often takes some time to feel connected to your baby.  It’s normal and it’s OK. This can be especially true for mothers who had a traumatic birth experience or for those whose baby went directly to the NICU after birth.  Research has shown that feeding, caring for and cuddling your baby (essentially, "fake it till you make it") can help that bond develop over time.  So, if you aren't feeling as bonded as you would like - or just having trouble bonding in general - know that all is not lost.  There is plenty of time to love of your child.  The important thing to remember is that you are not alone.  There is nothing to be ashamed of – the bonding will come in time.
 
A good mother instinctively knows how to care for her baby.
Everyone likes to say babies don’t come with a manual (though in France they actually do!), but then mothers feel expected to know exactly what to do all the time.  For most of us, that’s impossible.  The majority of mothers I know and have worked with are constantly doubting themselves (again, the myths!) and asking their friends, family and Google what to do.  The expectation that a mom will know what each of your baby’s cries means - or how to nurture your baby right from the start - is entirely misleading.  It often takes time for a mom and baby to get to know each other, but even as they grow it's likely you won't always know the "right" answer.  It happens to everyone - even maternal wellness specialists like myself! I consider myself an intuitive person and I recently completely missed the mark when my daughter was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.  I honestly thought it was just another cough and didn't take her in at first.  After she was diagnosed, the guilt ensued...until my support network reminded me of just how possible that mistake was.  There is a reason why there are SO many parenting books and experts out there - and this is exactly why finding your own motherhood support network is so important! (Join ours here) or at the link in the sidebar. 
 
A good mother puts the needs of her children before her own.  
You know how flight attendants tell us to put our own oxygen mask on first?  Motherhood is the same.  It’s nearly impossible to care for another when you’re not cared for yourself.  If you’re unhealthy, exhausted and overwhelmed then how will you have anything left to give? I can't tell you how often I've lost my temper because I was hungry or tired myself.  Also, moms often feel guilty about mourning their lost (pre-baby) identity, but it’s a completely realistic feeling. Your whole way of living has changed – your freedom, finances, body, social life (and often career).  Instead of feeling guilty about those feelings, take some time to develop your new identity, make room for your own free time and hobbies and get some sleep.  Your needs do matter - even once you're a mom.
 
A good mother enjoys every moment.
Unfortunately, I think this myth puts the biggest burden on us and can leave moms who are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety to feel intense and overwhelming emotions of guilt and shame.  But I have yet to actually meet a mother who enjoyed every moment - especially during those first few (very challenging) years.  Most of us lose our patience, yell and cry.  I know I’ve slammed my share of doors over the years and shed way too many tears in frustration.  Mothering is a hard job – and enjoying every moment would be it’s own form of insanity.
 
A good mother can do it all, all at once.
The feminist movement created a world in which we could “do it all” but that doesn’t mean we actually have to.  And I don’t think that was the intent anyway! Still, for many moms I know and those I work with, this pressure is something we continue to put on ourselves.  Whether we work outside or inside the home, it often continues to be our responsibility to do the majority of the childcare, cooking and cleaning.  As women, there is also something I call the “invisible burden” that leaves moms feeling overwhelmed and drained.  The invisible burden is the expectation that we will stay on top of all of the extras too – like planning your kid’s birthday party, buying your baby’s new clothes, sending thank you cards, calling the grandparents, booking the family vacation, etc.  All too often this is because we think we are the best – and only – way these jobs will get done.  But we can’t do it all.  Not well.  And the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to divvy up the tasks and ask for help.  Even with help, you are still a good mom!
Wellness Plan for Moms
Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[5 ways to manage your anxiety as a new mom]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/5-ways-to-manage-your-anxiety-as-a-new-mom
5 Ways to Manage your Anxiety as a New Mom - from Mommy-SOS
You find yourself awake in the middle of the night.  Your mind racing.  You’re unable to relax or take a break – even when the baby is sleeping.  You can’t eat  (or you eat mindlessly throughout the day).  You’re afraid to leave the baby with anyone else (or be alone with the baby yourself).   You worry constantly about something happening to your baby – or to you- or to your partner...
 
Does any of this sound familiar?  You are NOT alone.
 
As many as 1 in 10 new moms experience anxiety - whether alone or combined with feelings of depression.  With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about her baby's health and her ability to be a good mom.   She is likely to worry about something bad happening.  She may wonder how she's going to balance her work and home life, her relationship, or even caring for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, have disturbances with eating and sleeping, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia.
 
If this sounds like you, I encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment to see a counselor.  Postpartum anxiety is very treatable and can be managed well with help.  But, if left untreated, it can interfere with your ability to bond to your baby – and enjoy motherhood as a whole.  In the meantime, here are 5 ways you can begin to improve your mindset and manage your anxiety better:
Practice Self Care
As a new mom, it’s very easy to lose track of the ability to care for yourself (wait, I haven’t showered in 3 days??) but when you’re also struggling with anxiety, it becomes increasingly important to maintain that sense of “self”.  Work with your partner and/or family to preserve time for you to eat, sleep and bathe regularly.  Even if that’s as small as making meals ahead of time, buying extra snacks to keep in your diaper bag, trading off night shifts (or, if nursing, teaching baby to take a bottle so your partner can give a Dream Feed while you catch up on sleep).  Sleep deprivation is one of the leading contributors to PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders), so working with your support system to make sure you get that sleep is crucial to you and your baby's health. 
 
Get Moving
Any type of exercise – yoga, walking, pilates, stretching – can ease depression and anxiety by helping to release the feel-good hormones.  Of course, as a new mom it can often feel like you don’t have time to sit down or eat a meal – much less squeeze in a workout.  That’s ok!  Even a quick walk around the block while baby naps in the carrier or stroller, going up and down the stairs a few times or doing some quick stretches before bed is enough to make a difference.  Just try to do something - no matter how small - every day.  Once you're approved for exercise, and if you can find 10 minutes a day, I would highly recommend checking out Robin Long at The Balanced Life.  Her quick pilates workouts and embracing grace attitude is exactly what a new mom needs to feel good again.  (No affiliate sponsorship – I am just a big fan!).
 
Find Your Support System
When you’re struggling with anxiety and cooped up in the house with a small baby, it can feel like you’re in this all alone.  Or like you’re the only one who feels this way.  Trust me, you are not the only one who feels this way – and finding your support network can really help keep those feelings of isolation in check.  There are lots of ways to find your “tribe” – reconnect with old friends, seek the support of the women in your family, find a neighborhood mom’s group or an online support network.  
 
Learn Mindfulness Techniques
I’ve written on this before, but I truly believe that incorporating mindfulness into your day can help alleviate those feelings of anxiety and panic you may be feeling.  Mindfulness allows for the acknowledgment of the anxious feelings – but without judgment.  Even deep breathing for counts of 10 helps the body calm and relax away from the intense – often fast paced shallow chest breathing – of anxiety and panic.  These are some of my favorite quick meditations – and they are perfect for beginners to try!
  
   Learn your Triggers
Anxiety can occur for any reason – or no reason at all.  But, there are definitely things that can worsen your anxiety.  For new moms, it can be SO many things – as physiological as sleep deprivation, hunger or fear (fight/flight response) or as complex as family history or a traumatic birth experience. These “triggers” can be managed more effectively once they’re identified though.  One way to start to figure out what your triggers/causes are is to keep a journal.  By noting when you’re feeling more anxious or panicky and what happened around that time (or what you were thinking of), you can start to identify those things that may be making you feel worse – and then discuss/work through them with your birth worker, counselor or close family member.
Wellness Plan for Moms
Picture

You may also enjoy: 

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[Common white noise mistakes parents make - and how to avoid them]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/common-white-noise-mistakes-parents-make-and-how-to-avoid-them
Common White Noise Mistakes - and How to Avoid Them - from Mommy-SOS
As a mother of two troubled sleepers, a maternal mental health specialist and licensed therapist working with new moms and a pediatric sleep expert who has had the honor of helping thousands of families improve their babies, there is one thing I have seen make THE biggest difference in a baby's sleep.  And if you ask anyone who has worked with me, they’ll tell you exactly what that is - white noise!

I truly believe that white noise is the miracle worker of sleep.  Now, of course you're going to need to put other things in motion, but using white noise takes very little effort on your part and can give you BIG gains in the sleep department.  Everyone in my house – including the parents – still uses a white noise machine each and every night (despite my children now being 7 and 4).  And we all sleep better because of it! 
But, I hear from exhausted parents often that tell me they just aren't seeing the results they want with white noise, that they aren't sure of how loud it should be or even what kind of white noise is best.  It's confusing - especially when you're sleep deprived and just desperate for a good night's sleep. These are common complaints, so if you're thinking the same thing - I want you first to know that you aren't alone. 

But I need you to trust me here. :) White noise really can make the biggest difference in your baby's sleep - I've seen it happen over and over again!  In order for the white noise to be really effective, it needs to be done correctly.  And I'm going to walk you through exactly how to use white noise to help your baby or toddler sleep better.  Read on - you'll be so glad you did!

Here are some common mistakes parents make when it comes to white noise– and how to avoid making them.


Assuming baby won’t benefit from white noise
Even if you got lucky with an “easy” newborn baby or if it didn't work for your older kids, using white noise with your baby is a MUST in my book.  Babies who are great sleepers as newborns have been known to have their sleep completely fall apart around the 3-4 month mark.  First, there is the dreaded 4 month regression (where baby’s sleep patterns change forever and they often start to wake at the end of sleep cycles).  This is also the time when babies become more alert and aware, begin to wean from the swaddle or pacifier and when the calming reflexes of the 4th trimester disappear.  The loss of these sleep props - and the ongoing changes to a baby's brain - can send them into a tailspin of bad sleep.  However, using white noise throughout this time can really help provide consistency to your baby’s bedtime and nap time routine.  It's role is crucial in helping cue your baby that it’s now time to calm down and sleep - even with their developmental leaps and changes.  It's for this reason, I recommend using white noise at least through the first year (and longer, if you choose!).
 
Using the wrong white noise
Surprisingly, not all white noises are made equally. There are actually two distinct kinds of white noise – high pitch and low pitch – and they can be used for two very different reasons. High pitch white noise is more harsh – think sirens, alarms, beeps.   They’re great for getting a baby/child’s attention but terrible for sleep (obviously!).  Low-pitched white noise is repetitive, calm and rather trance-like…and perfect for lulling us to sleep. 

Reading this, you may think that it seems obvious that you would use a low pitched white noise for sleep, but often even that is not quite enough to make the biggest difference.  For instance, many families will try to recreate the womb by using the heartbeat sound but that is actually not what researchers think a baby hears in the womb.  Instead, it’s more like a constant deep whooshing noise (for reference, it's the level you would hear if you put your head under the water in a tub with the faucet running).  So, a continuous noise that sounds more like the deep continuous noise of the womb (like rain or a hairdryer) is much more effective than ocean waves or nature sounds (or other sounds that mimic patterns like a heartbeat).  And even then, you may still need to play around a bit in order to determine WHICH continuous noise YOUR baby prefers (rain, hairdryer, vacuum, etc).   
 
 
Using the wrong volume level
In order to be effective in soothing crying, white noise needs to mimic the sound level of the baby’s wails.  As we all know – that can be quite loud!  A baby’s cries have actually shown to be above 100dB (for reference, a loud hair dryer is around 90dB).  Thankfully for us parents, we will instinctively “shhh” a crying baby to match their level of crying and soothe. 

But when it comes to sleep and using white noise machines in our place, parents are often afraid to use a volume that is too high.  This is actually a valid concern – especially following a 2014 study that showed that white noise machines used for 8 continuous hours at a level of 85dB or higher may cause harm.  However, based on this research neither myself, not the AAP, recommend just forgoing it totally! It’s very easy to use a white noise machine for sleeping and NOT cause harm to your baby's hearing.  The most effective way to use white noise is to boost the volume levels based on your baby’s crying.  For instance, if your baby is upset or fussy because of teething, illness or sleep coaching, then you'll want to start at a higher volume at first. Then, once your baby is asleep, you can lower the volume to about 50dB (typically a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10) for the remainder of the night.  Placing the white noise machine about 6-7 feet away from your baby's ears is also recommended. 

 
Not using white noise often enough
Some parents are comfortable using the white noise overnight but don’t realize all of the other magical qualities it possesses.  For instance, for a colicky baby, using white noise during crying periods - like the dreaded witching hour - can actually help soothe and stop the crying (especially when coupled with swaddling, swinging and sucking).  This is also true for babies who can’t stand long car rides and cry the entire time (I used to play white noise in the car to get my babies to sleep on long car rides - and it still works for my 4 year old!).  And for curious babies who can’t get through a feeding without becoming distracted, white noise is the perfect calming device.  In each of these scenarios, white noise can help calm a baby.  

As you see, when it's used correctly, there are SO many ways that white noise can complement your calming techniques and lead to better sleep for your baby - and you!  And now that you have the knowledge to do just that, I hope you feel more empowered to go give it a try...starting tonight! :) 
.
Picture

Ready to Sleep Again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

Have you ever wanted to learn more about baby sleep, but been too busy to sit and read all of the books and blogs for hours?  Well, I've solved the issue for you! Everything that I teach to my clients is now being broken down into bite size pieces that you can take with you - in your car, while grocery shopping, sitting up with a cranky baby at night.  And, it's totally FREE! Click the links below or search "Mommy SOS Podcast" in iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or Spotify.  
Picture
Picture
Picture

Also, while you're here, don't miss your FREE copy of my newest guides:

Picture
Picture

On the blog:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[4 common PITFALLS parents make when it comes to Baby sleep - and how to fix them]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 22:30:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/4-common-mistakes-parents-make-when-it-comes-to-sleep-and-how-to-fix-them
4 Common Pitfalls of Baby Sleep - Mommy SOS
Having trouble getting your baby to sleep? Or to sleep well? Studies have shown that new moms lose a total of 44 days of sleep on average during the first year of their baby's life and are "dangerously exhausted".  Because sleep deprivation has been linked to parental postpartum depression - both in mothers and fathers - it's important for families to try to create healthier sleep habits from the very beginning. When it comes to changing sleep habits and improving your baby's sleep cycles though, it can feel overwhelming knowing where to begin.  But you don't have to make major changes to get a bit more sleep - or even to get your baby to sleep through the night.  These are the top 4 most common infant sleep pitfalls and how to fix them:
Not creating a routine
As time consuming or exhausting as it can be after a long day, having a consistent bedtime (and even nap time) routine can be really helpful in cueing your little one in that it’s time to sleep.  Research also shows that routines are an overall key factor in early childhood wellness. Routines don’t need to be elaborate, but the same sequence of events each time is ideal.  Your routine can include a bath and/or quick lotion massage, changing into a new diaper and pajamas, feeding (or bedtime snack, if age appropriate), reading a book or two, singing a short lullaby or two and then laying down to sleep.
 
Keeping baby awake too late or too long
Depending on their age, babies have a sweet spot for how long they can comfortably stay awake and when they should be headed for sleep.  This is true even for babies who don’t appear to have an “off” switch. If you wait too long, you miss the sleepy hormones and get the adrenaline ones instead.  Similar to how you get a second wind if you stay awake too long at night.  This can lead to an overtired baby who could wake more frequently or have more trouble settling to sleep on their own.
 
Hanging on to sleep crutches that are no longer working
As newborns, many babies can be soothed to sleep with rocking, feeding or rubbing their bellies - and then still sleep well after.  But for many babies, these sleep "crutches" become troublesome as they get older because they learn to rely only on their parent's help to get to – and back to – sleep each time.  Since babies wake multiple times each night as they transition from one sleep cycle to the next, this can lead to exhausted parents. It’s definitely ok to soothe as part of the bedtime routine but around 4-6 months it’s best to try to stop the soothing early enough that they're still awake and can begin to learn to settle on their own.  Remember, the path to self soothing starts with laying baby down while she is “sleepy, but not asleep”.
 
Giving up too soon
Once you identify and begin to address bad sleep habits, it’s important that you remain patient and consistent.  Many parents will try their hand at sleep coaching and then give in after some crying and put baby to sleep as usual.  This can create even MORE crying the next go around.  Additionally, although some – typically more adaptable – babies can make big progress in just a few days, it often takes 2-3 weeks to see consistent progress.  This is especially true for more spirited children, if you’re trying to limit crying as much as possible or if you're trying to change habits that have been in place for longer (ie, older babies).   
 
With that in mind, often the hardest part about getting your baby on a healthy schedule or changing bad sleep habits is staying consistent – even when it’s hard and you're exhausted.  If you’re looking for more support and nurturing guidance to develop a healthy sleep habits plan for your family and to help you stay the course when the going gets tough, be sure to check out my services page here.
Wellness Plan for Moms
Picture

Ready to Sleep Again? Enroll in Sleep School Today!

Picture

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
]]>
<![CDATA[9 ways to Begin to heal after a traumatic birth]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/9-ways-to-heal-from-a-traumatic-birth
9 Ways to Begin to Heal after Birth Trauma - from Mommy-SOS
Giving birth is a hugely transformational event in a woman’s life.  While most pregnant women take time to prepare themselves for the event of childbirth – creating birth plans, researching hospitals or birth centers, interventions and taking birthing classes - most moms don’t really expect that the actual birth itself could leave long lasting psychological and physical scars.  But studies show that between 25-34% of moms actually do have a traumatic birth experience - and that some of these new moms go on to develop PTSD from their experience.  I was one of those women and I want to share that you CAN begin to heal.  Here are 10 ways to start the process:
Be easy on yourself 
Know that even if the birthing event did not turn out how you pictured, or you experienced physical or psychological trauma, it is NOT your fault and has no reflection on the kind of parent you are.  Grieving is a very personal process and you must give yourself space to process and heal as you do.  In addition to feelings of sadness and grief, some moms have trouble connecting with their baby initially.  It’s important to accept that this is a very natural reaction to a traumatic event and to acknowledge it within yourself without judgement.
 
Give yourself time 
Don’t rush the process.  Giving yourself space to grieve and heal is important, but so is acknowledging that you’re not quite ready yet.  In the first few weeks or months after your baby comes home, you may be too exhausted – or busy – to appropriately process what happened.   That’s ok!
 
Admit that you need to heal 
Even if your birth looked ok on the outside, it may not have been what you desired or pictured.  Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you still likely need to heal.  To do so, it would still be beneficial for you to take the time to talk about the experience with your significant other, a close friend or a professional. 
 
Be Prepared for Flashbacks or Unwanted Thoughts
Although I have professional experience around this topic, this one caught me off guard personally.  The first time I returned to the hospital for my postpartum check up, I completely broke down.  Traveling the roads close to the hospital still bring back those memories, years later.  It’s very common for this to happen.  The anniversary of your baby’s birth can bring about these same feelings.  But know that it’s totally normal.  Just acknoledging that this can happen can help you be more prepared and forgiving of yourself.
 
Gather information 
If you’re trying to heal – or even trying to prepare yourself for another birth – it can be really helpful to try to gain an understanding of what happened (or what went wrong).  This can be as simple as requesting your medical records, talking to your partner or other family members, your doula or midwife - anyone who may have been with you during delivery.  Hearing other's accounts of the event can be challenging, but it also helps you gain perspective.  If you're having trouble remembering, you may need to work with a professional to uncover what you may have suppressed. 
 
Keep a Journal 
Many moms find it very helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings as the days go on.  In a way, writing it down helps you break away from yourself for just a bit.  It can also help you follow your recovery, since you’ll see improvements over time.  No matter if your birth professionals were kind and supportive or made you feel dismissed and helpless, writing them a letter (whether you send it or not) can be particularly healing.
 
Consider Joining a Support Group  
There are many groups available, online and locally.  Many moms (and their partners), find it to be very helpful to join a support group and get the reinforcement that you aren’t alone.  For some though, it can be overwhelming to experience others’ grief so similar to your own.  Try it out and see for yourself!
 
Try Meditation
If you’re feeling anxious, learning mindful meditation and breathing techniques can be really helpful.  Even taking a minute or two while you’re on the go will bring more peace to your everyday life.  To give it a try, find a comfortable seated position and focus on your breath – in and out – for 60 seconds.  You can set a timer on your phone or use an app.  I’m a big fan of HeadSpace and they even have a free trial/learning period.
  
Seek Professional Help
There is certainly a spectrum of traumatic birth experiences and if yours falls on the more intense side, then you may need to take an even closer look inside your heart and seek professional support.  Between 9-13% of moms do experience PTSD after a traumatic birth event.  Symptoms can include having intrusive thoughts and nightmares, avoiding stimuli that reminds you of the birth, having difficulty sleeping, experiencing anxiety or panic attacks or feelings of detachment.  For more information on symptoms and support, you check out this link.  If this feels like you, know that it happens to many moms and there is no reason to be ashamed.  Take care of yourself and be sure to reach out to a mental health professional in your area for help.   
Wellness Plan for Moms
Picture
Healing doesn't mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.” 
― Akshay Dubey

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Disclaimer: Although Jennifer Howard is a licensed therapist, this podcast/blog - or any information listed on this site - is not a substitute for therapy or professional medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or seek assistance from your local emergency room. Additionally, Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.
]]>
<![CDATA[5 ways to communicate better with your partner]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 22:00:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/5-ways-to-communicate-better-with-your-partner-start-today
5 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Partner
​What is the biggest indicator of happiness in a long-term relationship? Intimacy!  Intimacy can be physical, yes, but the intimacy that makes for a solid long lasting relationship is related to the feeling that your partner ‘knows’ you and that you have somewhere safe to seek support and comfort.  For many, relationship intimacy and connection declines during the first few years of parenthood.  Moms and Dads become entangled in the everyday woes of trying to keep the kids fed and well, alive.  They spend their spare moments together discussing daycare, carpool, grocery lists, and the like.  And because they are exhausted and spread way too thin, they often become short tempered with each other and have little left to give at the end of the day.  If this hits close to home, then know that just a few small steps can help you regain that intimacy and communicate better with your partner – starting right now.
Give your partner your full attention when talking. 
How often do you hear your partner talking and realize you haven’t heard a word they’ve said?  Just me?  It’s very easy to let this happen – especially when there is a baby to tend to, kids running around in the background, dinner to make…the list could go on and on.  But setting aside time for each other and trying to pay attention and make eye contact can make a world of difference in feeling connected to each other.  If there’s just too much going on, try to take 15 minutes in the evening - turn off the television, put down your phones and check in.

Be assertive.
Ask for what you need.  Share your thoughts and feelings.  You cannot expect another person to truly get you if you don’t ever tell them how you’re feeling. The best way to be assertive is to use “I” statements when talking.  When my daughter was first born, one of our biggest arguments was over freedom of time (or rather, the loss of freedom over our time).  After holding a colicky baby all day and waiting for the clock to hit 7pm (my husband was supposed to walk through the door), it would enrage me to receive a text saying “I’m running late.”  But using “I” statements can really help that message be heard.  Think, “I’m so exhausted and it makes me frustrated when I get a last minute notice that you’re going to be home late.” As opposed to “You’re always late.  You must not care that I’ve been here with a screaming baby all day.” ;)

Avoid criticism and blame. 
As tough as this one can be, communicating positively with your partner helps get your needs met way more effectively than criticizing and blaming them.  In fact, according to research done by the Gottman Institute, criticism is one of the four top predictors of divorce (in addition to contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling).  Instead, try to ease into your complaint by reframing it in a softer tone; making it about the issue and not the person.  For instance instead of “You’re so lazy.  You always leave your clothes in a pile on the floor” try “When the house is messy, it makes me feel so overwhelmed. I would feel so much better if you’d try to remember to put your clothes in the hamper.”

Listen to understand, not to judge.
When you’re discussing big issues with your partner, use your active listening skills.  Listen to your partner and then summarize what they’ve said before expressing your own thoughts and emotions.  By reflecting back to each other throughout the conversation, you can avoid getting into the blame game and listening with “back history” (where everything you hear is heard in the framework of all of your partner’s past mistakes).  Once you’ve both truly heard each other, you can work together to find a solution or compromise.  Remember that it’s ok to take a break and/or schedule a time to revisit the conversation if it becomes too heated!

Seek counseling. 
If your issues feel too much to resolve together, then know that it’s also ok to seek outside support.  Doing so before the issues become too big - or long standing - can help reinforce your commitment to each other.  
Picture
Marriage is a team sport. You either win together or lose together. 
5 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Partner - from Mommy-SOS

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Disclaimer: Although Jennifer Howard is a licensed therapist, this podcast/blog - or any information listed on this site - is not a substitute for therapy or professional medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please call 911 or seek assistance from your local emergency room.
​  

Additionally, Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.
]]>
<![CDATA[5 Relationship Survival Tips New Parents Need now]]>Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:30:00 GMThttp://mommy-sos.com/blog/5-relationship-survival-tips-for-new-parents
5 Relationship Survival Tips New Parents Need Right Now - from Mommy-SOS

While exciting, there is no doubt that bringing a baby home can also bring a serious strain to your relationship.  While it used to be just the two of you – sleeping, eating and playing whenever you wanted – now your time demands have increased exponentially.  New parents are so busy nurturing their new bundle of joy - and trying to find their footing through the sleep deprived haze - that they forget to set time aside for themselves and their relationship.  If you're in this phase on parenthood, don't lose hope!  Here is how to improve your relationship satisfaction throughout those early baby years.     
Identify and discuss your parenting style
According to research done by the Gottman Relationship Institute, couples who hone their parenting strategies and styles early on are happier together – and ultimately make better parents.  Their research has shown 4 different styles of parenting - Dismissing, Disapproving, Laissez-Faire, and Emotion Coach. With so many different ways to parent (and the overload of information online), it's common for parents to have differing views or even be confused about what their view is - especially in the beginning.  But knowing which category you and your partner fall under can help you know your individual/couple strengths and weaknesses, improve your parenting skills and make decisions as you move forward and grow as parents. If you’re interested in learning more about what parenting style you are, you can take this free assessment on the Gottman Institute's website.  
 
Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
It can be so easy to play the blame game when you’re exhausted and surviving on leftover take out and 2 hours of sleep.  I’ve been there, and it was not pretty!  Babies don’t come with an instruction manual so try to remember that you’re both in the thick of it and trying to figure things out as you go.  This may seem impossible at times.  But, if you can remind each other that you’re in this together, forgiving the little things will be much easier.
 
Prioritize Sleep
 In the newborn days, you will likely find yourself teetering on the edge of sleep deprived insanity.  But taking steps to make sleep a priority can help you both be more patient and communicate better with each other.  Even just one good night of sleep a week can be enough to make you feel like you can accomplish anything!  So, try to work out a schedule with each other so that you both get to catch up on rest.  For instance, each of you can claim a weekend day to sleep in.  While I don't recommend sleep coaching until 4-6 months of age, you can also create healthy sleep habits from the very beginning by employing the 5s, creating a routine, consistent schedule and trying to lay baby down while still sleepy, but not asleep.
 
Make time for reconnecting
While sex may be off the table at first, make sure you still get lots of physical touch and snuggling time for each other when you can.  All new moms know that it can be so easy to feel “touched out” after holding a colicky baby all day. So if that’s the case for you, then try to do something that makes you feel like it’s just the two of again.  For some, that may be binge watching a Netflix show in the evening or heading out for a walk around the neighborhood. Others may want to take up a new sport or hobby together.  What’s most important is that you both feel connected.
 
Talk – a lot!
Positive communication is an important aspect of all healthy relationships, but it becomes crucial when there is a new baby in the house.  Find time to sit down together and talk about the big and small things on your mind.  I tell my clients this all the time, but scheduling a weekly family meeting can be super helpful for setting this time aside.  Being able to freely discuss how you’re feeling can help alleviate the feelings of isolation and overwhelm that accompany new parenthood so try to remain empathetic, stay calm and edit criticism when discussing big issues with your partner.  For more positive communication strategies, check out this blog post as well.
Picture
Relationship Survival Tips for New Parents

You may also enjoy:

Picture
Picture
Picture
Disclaimer: Although Jennifer Howard is a licensed therapist, this podcast/blog - or any information listed on this site - is not a substitute for therapy or professional medical advice.  If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum or perinatal mental health disorders, please schedule an appointment with a therapist or doctor in your area. If you are in crisis, please seek assistance from your local emergency room  

​Additionally, 
Postpartum Support International has a wealth of online information and local support for new parents.  You can call their Helpline (1-800-944-4773) or text (503-894-9453) anytime for support.  You are not alone.
]]>