Top 3 Myths around On-Demand Feeding and Baby Sleep

I often come across moms and dads who think that choosing to feed their babies on-demand means that they won’t be able to have any kind of structure in their day, and that it is not possible for their babies to sleep through the night. I disagree with both ideas, and I would like to clarify some of the most common myths around on-demand breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) and baby sleep.

Myth #1 | Constant Feeding: Feeding on-demand means feeding every time my baby fusses or cries

Breastfeeding on demand—-also known as ‘feeding on cue’ and ‘baby-led feeding’ doesn’t mean that you have to feed your baby around the clock and every time he/she cries. Feeding on demand means responding with flexibility to your baby’s hunger cues. You feed your baby when he/she shows signs of hunger for as long as he/she desires to be fed.

Therefore, one of the first things you should do as a mom is to learn your baby’s cues. The only way your baby can communicate with you is crying, so you should listen to the different cries that your baby has and respond accordingly. Your baby will cry when he/she’s hungry, tired, overtired, bored, sad, gassy, uncomfortable, wet… and paying close attention you will learn the difference among those cries.

Common baby’s cues:
– Hunger: mouth movement, sucking, rooting, crying, fussing, and frantic head movements.
– Sleep: rubbing eyes, yawning, staring, crying, fussing, alertness, and whining.

My recommendation is to feed your baby on demand for the first weeks (1-6 weeks), while he/she is still a newborn; while you learn your baby’s cues. Once you know the difference, limit your feedings to when he/she is hungry and make sure you don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism. If your baby is crying, but not showing signs of hunger then it is likely that something else is the problem.


Follow your baby’s cues and respond accordingly and make sure that you do not nurse every time your baby fusses, and he/she will develop healthy eating habits on his/her own. The same applies to your baby’s sleep patterns.


Myth #2 | Unpredictable and Unstructured Day: Feeding on-demand means ‘waiting for my baby to demand food’

As I suggested above, you should be ‘learning your baby’, tracking his natural feeding and sleeping patterns, so you know when to offer food and when not to. After the first few weeks of life, it is perfectly realistic to establish a feeding routine based on your baby’s cues.

Note that I said ‘routine’ (a regular order to the day) not ‘schedule’ (set times for set activities). The secret is to have a routine (a regular order to the day). Feeding on demand does not mean that you wait for your baby to ‘demand’ food. Once you learn your baby’s natural cycles and his/her cues, you can predict a certain routine for you and your baby.

Myth #3 | No Sleep: On-demand fed babies cannot sleep through the night until much later and wake up constantly

This one is right up my alley! Generally speaking, breastfed babies need to feed more often than bottle-fed babies. Breast milk is very rich in enzymes that aid digestion, requiring little digestive effort on the part of the infant, and therefore it is digested faster than formula or cow milk.

However, this doesn’t mean that an on-demand breastfed baby can’t sleep through the night or take proper naps. If you learn and follow your baby’s cues as I suggested before, your baby will get the right sleep consolidation. You will notice that your baby will nurse more right before bedtime, and that he/she will naturally consolidate his nighttime sleep before his/her 6th month of age. During the day, you will notice that the shorter catnaps consolidate into two long naps.

The best way to help him/her do this is by not offering food when you know your baby is not hungry. Don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism, or your baby will learn exactly that and demand exactly that.

Believe that babies are made to sleep and eat naturally. We, as parents, only have to understand how they express their needs to avoid creating poor eating and sleep habits.

Advertisements

What’s an Independent Sleeper?

Baby Sleep Goals: Creating the right sleep associations

The image most parents have of sleep training is a baby crying until he succumbs to exhaustion and falls asleep. However, sleep training does not have to be like that.

The main goal of sleep training is to help our children become independent sleepers. An independent sleeper is that who falls asleep on his own and puts himself back to sleep when he wakes up.

I would also add that a ‘real’ independent sleeper is so ‘for life’. This means that real independent sleeper will not need to be ‘retrained’ to sleep when he is moved to a toddler bed, starts preschool, is potty training, etc. In order to create a ‘real independent sleepers’, we need to help them establish the right, positive sleep associations.

Our children shouldn’t associate sleep with feelings of abandonment, fear, desperation, anxiety, punishment, excitement, or stimulation. Sleep should be associated with feelings of tranquility, relaxation, love, trust, restfulness, empowerment and peace. Here are some simple tips to help our children create those positive associations:

  • Establish and maintain a soothing and calming bedtime routine
  • Use bedtime for bonding
  • Help your child feel safe, secure and comforted in his crib/bed
  • Make your child’s room a soothing and calming place: dark, quiet, organized and safe
  • Avoid active playing, television, videogames and other exciting activities before bedtime Do not use the crib/bed for time-outs or disciplining

Children model our behavior, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep!

By Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For more baby sleep and parenting tips, sign up for Smooth Parenting’s FREE newsletter at http://www.SmoothParenting.com; and follow them on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

Sleep Training Multiples

Tips to help multiples get a good night’s sleep

Healthy sleep habits are essential for our children’s development and for our own sanity! Here are some tips that parents of multiples can implement from day one:


  • Help them become independent sleepers. Allow them to experience the feeling of being drowsy but awake on their cribs; avoid creating negative sleep associations (rocking, feeding, patting, holding… them to sleep); and do not respond immediately to every single noise they make.

  • Follow a schedule. Your babies (and you!) will thrive on a schedule. Pay attention to your babies’ clues during the first weeks and pick a schedule that works for your multiples. An early bedtime (between 5 and 7pm) is an essential part of great schedule. If one of the parents (or both) get home late from work, do not keep your babies up to see them before bed, as you will all pay for it with a terrible night sleep. Instead, wake up early and play with them in the morning right after their first feeding.

  • Keep them synchronized. Once the right schedule is in place, synchronization is possible. Remember to wake them up for feedings when necessary; to put them down for naps and nights at the same time (one down, both down); and to be consistent. Synchronization usually comes easier with identical babies.

Sleep training multiples can be exhausting, but remember that you can do it, and that a good night’s sleep is as important for your babies as a proper meal.


Good luck!

By Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For more baby sleep and parenting tips, sign up for Smooth Parenting’s FREE newsletter at http://www.SmoothParenting.com; and follow them on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

Sleep and Travel

Baby sleep and travel is the number one question we received during holidays and vacations. Will travel ruin my baby’s sleep habits? Will he/she be able to maintain the schedule? Should we maintain the schedule or just let him/her ‘run wild’? How do we adjust the schedules when there’s a time difference? How do we handle his/her jet lag? Could you share some tips about baby and toddler sleep and travel?… These are only a few of the questions we received, so I’m going to try to answer all of them in this post.

  1. Try to book an overnight flight, as it will be easier to get your child to sleep on the plane.
  2. Definitely keep your schedule (at local time)! You can move it 1-2 hours up or down, but you should maintain your routines and structure while on vacation. For example, if you’re traveling to Southern Europe from the States, and your baby’s schedule in the States is 6am to 6pm; you might be able to move him to 7am-7pm or even 8am to 8pm.
  3. The first day at your destination, try to get as much sunlight as possible, as it will help your baby’s body set into the new time zone easier and faster.
  4. During the day, try to keep your child entertained and active. Exercise and play will wear him out and leave him ready for a good night sleep.
  5. Do the naps! Do not think that skipping the nap will help your baby sleep better and faster at night. That’s a common misconception, as they will get to their bedtime overtired and it will take them longer to fall asleep.
  6. During naps and night, make sure your baby’s room is dark; and continue doing your naptime and bedtime routines.
  7. Try to ‘recreate’ your child’s current enviroment as much as possible: blackout shades, favourite blanket, same pajamas, nightlight…
  8. Do not introduce bad habits or poor sleep associations. Do not rock your baby to sleep, let him play longer than normal, let him sleep on your bed, let him watch TV before bedtime… do not create bad habits that you do not allow at home, and that you will have to take away once your return.
  9. Feed your child at the usual mealtimes. Try to choose healthy, filling options, junk foods will only make the problem worse.
  10. Expect that it will take your baby between 2-5 days to adjust to the new time zone, especially if there’s more than 4 hours difference. Plan your stay and return accordingly.
  11. The adjustment on your return will be harder than on your way to your destination.
  12. Keep your calm, stay possitive and consistent and have plan beforehand. You should decide on your schedule (local time) and how you’re going to help your baby adjust to the new time zone, BEFORE leaving.

We hope this information was useful, and we wish you a great family vacation!

Healthy Sleep Habits for Children

There are many things that we, parents, can do to help our children fall asleep easier and sooner, stay asleep and have healthy sleep habits.

These are basic and simple things that will help with this:

  • Consistent daily routine – Keep to a regular daily routine— waking time, meal times, nap times, play times, TV time… will help your child to feel secure, relaxed and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime.  Children like to know what to expect, and not have the stress of wondering what’s going to happen next.
  • Exercise and fresh air – Make sure your child has interesting, stimulating and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air; so she can burn up energy, exercise her body and mind, and be looking forward the wind down time at night.
  • Consistent sleep schedule – We have said this many times. It is essential for your child to have a clear and consistent schedule. Her wake up time and bed time should be the same every day, regardless of the circumstances (weekend, holidays…). We don’t expect you to have a set time (ie. 7:14am), but you should have a clear window, 10 minutes up or down and be consistent. Therefore, if your bedtime is 7pm, sometimes your child might go to bed at 6:50pm and others at 7:10pm, but that’s all the wiggle you should allow.
  • Loving bedtime routine and wind down time – Plan quiet time before bedtime every night for approximately 30-60 minutes. This means that the activities take place 1 hour before bedtime should be calming, and enjoyable. This might include: taking a bath, getting a massage, listening to quiet music, reading a book, singing lullabies… Try to be consistent with your bedtime routine. This quiet time activity need not all take place in the child’s bedroom but it should culminate there such that the last 10-15 minutes are in the bedroom where the child will sleep. The bedtime routine should be a time for you to interact with your child in a way that is secure and loving, yet firm. Spend some special time with your child, let them know you love her and you are going to be there for her. Please, avoid TV watching, homework, video game playing and other exciting activities. Never use sending your child to bed as a threat. Bedtime needs to be a secure, loving time, not a punishment.  Your goal is to teach your kids that bedtime is enjoyable, just as it is for us adults.  If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.
  • Appropriately full stomach – You should guarantee that your child has a heavy dinner, at least 1 hour before going to bed, so she will not wake up hungry in the middle of the night. You can also provide a light snack or cup of milk right before bedtime (remember to brush their teeth after this). Eating too much right before bedtime or much earlier might interfere with your child’s sleep quality.
  • Sleep-friendly bedroom – Your child’s bedroom should be quiet, safe (baby proofed, no cords, hard corners, accessible electric outlets, no loose sheets…), secure (allow for security blankets if your child needs them, display a picture of the family…), adequate temperature (68° F – 75° F), happy (bedroom should not be used for super exciting activities or for time outs, in order to avoid bad sleep associations, however, it should be used for calming, enjoyable activities besides sleeping), and dark (a nightlight is acceptable for children afraid of a dark, but make sure it’s not too bright).

Remember, consistency, calmness, trust and reassurance are essential in helping your child become an independent sleeper.

Sources: Cleveland Clinic research, University of Michigan research

Schedules and children

“Children thrive on schedules”

That’s not just a statement or our opinion, it’s a fact! Children do develop better, grow better, behave better… when they know what to expect from their days, when a routine (this doesn’t mean it has to be boring!) is in place for them to follow. Additionally, once they have a set schedule, parents will be able to better plan and organize their day and will be able to get more things done for themselves.

Here are some tips on how to get your baby/child on a schedule:

  1. Know that each baby/child is different. There are basic principles that work with every child (ie. children thrive on schedules). However, each child is different and what might work for one, might not work for other. Parenting should be somehow customized and adapted to every child.
  2. Start as soon as possible. Once you get home from the hospital with your baby take the time to study his  clues. At the very beginning, you’ll notice that your baby spends his day sleeping, feeding, peeing and pooping, and back again to sleeping, feeding… During the first week, you can start noticing when and how often your baby needs to be fed, needs to sleep, needs a diaper change… Once you have a rough idea, you can define a first schedule that’d work for you and your baby.
  3. Set a bedtime. According to most sleep experts an early bedtime is essential. Make sure you set a bedtime and stick to it. Regardless of whether your child is already sleep trained or not, is still feeding over the night or not, you should have a time in mind at which ‘night’ starts for your little one.
  4. Bedtime routine. We can’t emphasises how important this is. The bedtime routine can be however you want it to be, as long as it is relatively short, consistent every night, includes a wind down time and shows your child that the night is here and it’s time to sleep. Your children should understand the difference between day and night as soon as possible, and your bedtime routine is essential to achieve this.
  5. Be flexible. Realize that your baby will change enormously over the first months of his life, so your initial schedule will evolve into a new schedule within the first month, then again after another month and so on. This is due to several factors: (1) Babies soon begin to stay awake longer, (2) the amount of their feedings will increase, as the number of feedings decreases, (3) some feedings will be dropped, (4) sleep training will take place (sleeping through the night will come), (5) new foods will be introduced… Between 6 and 12 months it should be much more stable, and the changes to it would be minor (ie. pushing bedtime 15 minutes early).
  6. Be consistent. Once you decide on a schedule, or any other parenting issue, be consistent, don’t doubt yourself and keep at it.
  7. Keep track. You don’t need to write everything that goes on with your child, but it’d certainly will help you to take notes about feedings, sleeping patterns, bowel movements, behavior changes…
  8. Seek help if you need it. This issue will probably need a post on its own. Parents are not used to ask for advice or help, even when we are drowning, exhausted and at our wits ends. If you feel overwhelmed, or feel like nothing is working, seek help! Join support groups, read books, meet other parents, hire a sitter, ask a family member of friend to come help, hire a parenting coach or sleep consultant, talk to your pediatrician… Do whatever you need to do to feel that you’re in control again and that you are being the parent that you’ve always wanted to be, raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child.

The result of implementing a good schedule that works for you and your child will be a more peaceful, less chaotic and more harmonious home; where your children and you will be able to thrive as individuals and as members of a family unit.