Baby Sleep and Memory

During the REM phase of sleep, the baby’s brain assimilates and stores all the information that babies receive during their wakeful and alert hours. Babies are in an almost constant state of motor skill learning and coordination. They have a lot of new material to consolidate and, therefore demand more of sleep. Hence, sleep appears to play a key role in human development, and interferences to their REM sleep could undermine their learning.

A new study, published online in Nature Neuroscience, from researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, argues that sleep deprivation also hampers the brain’s ability to make new memories.

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Baby Sleep and Growth

Sleep is essential for baby’s development, health and growth. The human growth hormone, a protein hormone secreted by the pituitary gland responsible for the baby’s physical growth, is mostly secreted while the baby is in deep sleep. In fact, studies have proven that 80% of growth hormone is released during the deep sleep phase. Therefore severe and prolonged sleep dissorders or defficiency might directly impact your baby’s physical development and growth.

It has also been studied that sleep (in particular, REM sleep) promotes brain growth. Babies are born with around 30% of their full brain size. During the first years of life, the brain grows enormously to its full adult size. Sleep plays an integral role in this growth.

Baby Sleep Safety

We’d like to share with you some simple safety tips to have in mind when putting your baby to sleep for nights and naps. Many of them have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS*.
  • Put your baby to sleep on his back
  • Keep your baby’s face clear of coverings
  • Do not leave loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys in the crib
  • Do not over-clothe your baby, avoid overheating
  • Use a safety-certified crib (JPMA certified)
  • Have a firm crib mattress
  • Don’t let your baby fall asleep on the sofa, or untied on a swing/ bouncy seat
  • Maintain an appropriate temperature on your baby’s room (68 – 72 F)
  • Improve the ventilation in your baby’s room
  • Avoid exposing your baby to tobacco smoke
  • Offer your baby a pacifier (under 12 months old)

Educate babysitters, day-care providers, grandparents, and everyone who cares for your baby about SIDS risk and the importance of observing the advice offered here.

* SIDS: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. There are no symptoms. SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old. Though SIDS remains unpredictable, you can help reduce your infant’s risk.

    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!

    Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed

    How’s that process going to affect her sleep habits?

    Some toddlers will enjoy their new found freedom and jump out of the bed and roam around; some will feel afraid being taken out of the safety of their familiar crib; and some will transition easily to their new beds and sleep there from day one.

    Sleep training and sleep adjustments are different for every one of us. Keep in mind that your child will eventually sleep in her bed. Make a plan of how the transition is going to go and stick to it.

    When should you do it?

    Making the transition to a ‘big boys/girls bed’ can be difficult, and many parents stress about this process. Our advice is to keep your toddler in a crib for as long as possible, this means waiting until your toddler is around 3 years old.

    There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation to tell parents when a child is ready to make the move from a crib to a bed. Every child is different and you know yours better than anyone. Wait to make the transition once you feel she’s ready and she’ll be able to do it without major complications. Some signs that she’s ready are:

    • She’s been trying to climb out of her crib consistently at night and naps (cribtents and mattress on the lowest position didn’t work).
    • She understands directions and boundaries.
    • She shows interest in other friends or siblings’ beds.

    When shouldn’t you do it?

    When there’s another major change or event going on (i.e. new sibbling, new house, potty training, new daycare, new caregiver…).

    How do you do it?

    We advice you to break it down in two different phases:

    1. Preparation:

    During the preparation you should talk to your child about moving to a ‘big bed’ and how great that is. You should make it sound like a big accomplishments to her. Tell other family members and friends what a big girl she is, and that you trust her so much that you’re going to give her a ‘big girls bed’. Your goal is trying to get her to feel proud about the transition, create anticipation. You can mention older friends, siblings or friends who sleep in a bed. Remind your child how big and grown she is now, and remind her of other milestones she has reached (i.e. potty training, giving up a pacifier, drinking by herself, brushing teeth, dressing herself, etc.)

    If possible, try to involve your child in the process. Let her pick up the bed, the sheets, choose between two different locations where the bed would go in the room, decide what to do with her crib, decide how she wants to ‘say bye’ to her crib, take pictures of her in the crib, etc.

    Make sure her bedroom is ‘safe’ before making the transition. As she will be mobile, you have to make sure that she won’t be able to harm herself if she decides to move around at night or during naps.

    Pick a date in which you will make the transition, and make a fun countdown with your child. She could cross the days in the calendar, write the number of days left on a board, etc.

    2. Mixing it up:

    During this phase, you should let her familiarize with her new surroundings without making the transition. This means, letting her use their new sheets and pillow while she’s still sleeping in the crib.

    Remeber to celebrate and take pictures of every step towards the transition.

    3- Transition:

    There are many different approaches of how to do the transition. However, we believe that the most effective for most kids is the ‘cold turkey’ approach.

    On the day you and your child decided the transition would take place, talk about it from the moment your child awakes in the morning. Set the new bed (or take down the side from the convertible bed), have her help you make the bed, arrange the pillows… You would remove the crib and you could throw it a ‘goodbye’.

    Start the transition at nap time that first day; and celebrate after the nap is over, even if she fought it a little bit before falling asleep. Remember to have your same routines in place!

    Remember:

    • If you think your child is ready, and you decide to make the transition, stick to that decision (no going back!).
    • Take the crib away once the transition is done (out of sight means out of mind).
    • Celebrate your child’s accomplishment in the morning.
    • Make a big deal out of it.
    • Keep your bedtime routine in place. You can also incorporate the bed into the routine (i.e. reading time now is on the bed).
    • Do not put ‘bad associations’ on your child’s head. She might not think that it’s going to be scary, so don’t suggest it by saying ‘You don’t have to be scared’. She might not even think of coming out of bed, so don’t tell her ‘You can’t come out of the bed’.
    • If your child has a convertible crib, the transition should be easier, as she would still be in her familiar ‘crib’.
    • If your child comes out of the bed, bring her back, calmly but firmly.

    Remember that moving to a ‘big bed’ is one of the many milestones your child will accomplished in the first years of life. Our experience tells us that the attitude the parents have towards the transition determines how easy or hard the process will be. So, try to be relaxed about it, feel proud of your child, think you both can do it, and do it!

    Good luck!

    Announcing: Baby Sleep Webinars

    Smooth Parenting team is thrilled to announce the launch of their new Sleep Webinar ‘Teach Your Baby to Sleep

    Is your child keeping you up at night? Are you wondering when are you going to sleep again? Have you read all sleep training books and nothing is working? Are you expecting want to know how to teach healthy sleeping habits to your baby from the beginning?

    Join us and you will learn how to help your child become an independent sleeper. The topics covered in the webinar are the following:

    1. • Sleep needs by age; setting the right expectations.
    2. • Sleep tips and techniques for your baby and toddler.
    3. • Step by Step sleep training guide by age.
    4. • Schedules.
    5. • Nursery set up.
    6. • Bedtime routines.

    This webinar is perfect for parents with children between 0 and 3 years old, and for expecting parents. Webinars are live and highly interactive. You can attend from the comfort of your own home, with your computer. All the webinars include a ‘questions & answers’ section, in which you will be able to ask questions about what was discussed in the webinar, and about your baby’s particular sleep issues.

    Sign up here: http://smoothparenting.com/Smooth_Parenting/Webinars.html

    When to stop swaddling?

    The main purpose of swaddling your baby while she’s a newborn is to make her feel secure, warm and safe. After night months inside your womb, your baby will feel disoriented in the outside world, and the swaddling will help him remember her previous environment and rest.

    After two months, many babies will start kicking and fighting the swaddle, while others are comfortable being ‘wrapped’ until about 4 months. Whenever you see your baby fighting the swaddling while he’s sleep or before falling asleep, it’s your cue to stop swaddling.

    Swaddling a baby become a safety hazard once your baby is able to roll over, which usually occurs between 2 and 5 months. Once she has the ability to roll, you should stop the swaddling, as you don’t want her to be all tighly-swaddled and roll onto her tummy, since she could end up suffocating her, and certainly increases the risk of SIDS.

    Swaddling also becomes a safety hazard when the temperature is high. Make sure you swaddle your baby on a breathable blanket, that is appropriate for the current weather conditions. As a rule of thumb, remember that babies should wear one more layer than adults, so do not overdress your baby as overheating is a major risk factor for SIDS.

    Some babies don’t like being swaddled, though. If your baby doesn’t, you can try swaddling him a bit looser or leaving his arms out of the blanket altogether. To sum up, we recommend swaddling your baby during the first two months of life, if she looks comfortable like that; and read her cues after that as to when to stop swaddling.