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Is it a Sleep Regression? Or Separation Anxiety?

Does this sound like you? A few weeks ago, things were trudging along okay. In fact, you might even be as bold to say that your child was sleeping fairly well. You had a little routine, and sure it took some effort. Maybe some songs, a few stories and a cuddle to sleep…but it worked (most of the time anyways). 

But lately, nothing is working!

Or maybe you’ve been struggling all along (If this is you, I am sending virtual hugs Mama! Stick around, this blog may just help you too ;)) 

If you have a child who:

  • Will suddenly only sleep on or touching you in some way
  • Is taking foreverrrr to fall asleep – whether it is constant battles, or crying when you try to leave
  • Wake the second you leave their side… or
  • Needs A LOT more from you overnight than you’d like, with things like crying out, or sneaking into your bed

You are probably wondering what the heck is going on!?

Could this be a sleep regression?

Do Toddlers Even Have Sleep Regressions?

You might be wondering if your child is experiencing a sleep regression?

The truth is, there really isn’t even such a thing as a sleep regression!

Sure, sleep can go belly up now and again. This is quite common with babies around 4 to 5 months, and again around 7 to 9 months. Toddlers experience dips in sleep too, most often around 18 months, and 2 years old.  

But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. There really isn’t any predictability when it comes to sleep development. Scientists have been researching looking for patterns, but have had no luck!! (crazy right!?)

Sleep is not like a magical elevator where we all hop on, put in our time and eventually get to our destination. Nope, I’m afraid sleep is more complex than that.

Sleep is like a roller coaster ride through a corn maze. Only you are blind-folded, and have no idea what is to come, or when the ride will end.

In the medical world, regressions mean a loss of something. A return to a previous developmental level. Do you get less sleep, yup in some cases this happens. But your child has not actually lost the ability to sleep. 

It’s more like their brains and body are too busy working on other things. Learning and growing, developing brain cells, and forming relationships. It’s more like they’ve taken a different route on the ol roller coaster. 

Fun right!?

So no, your child is not experiencing a sleep regression?

If you’ve ruled out illness, and teething, it may actually be that your child is experiencing a developmental shift that is contributing to some separation anxiety.

How to Know If Separation Anxiety is Impacting Your Child’s Sleep?

Before you freak out, you should know that in most cases separation anxiety is normal. Pretty well all children experience it at some point in childhood. 

It’s common to see peaks of separation anxiety around 7 to 9 months, and between age 1 and 3 years. But it can happen at anytime, or even multiple times!

It has a lot to do with development and attachment, and when we think about it from an evolutionary perspective, on some level it helped to keep kids who were growing in independence from wandering out into danger.

Mother nature didn’t want all of our littles to be eaten by tigers afterall!

What Does Separation Anxiety Look Like?

During the day you might notice…

  • That your child is more clingy or whiney than usual
  • That they are less tolerant of receiving support from alternate caregivers (they only want YOU!)
  • Crying or upset whenever you leave their sight
  • Apprehension or fear in new situations, or among strangers

At night, you’ll likely notice one or more of the lovely examples I mentioned above…anything from a refusal to sleep, or increase in the number of awakenings, to a change in the amount of support normally needed.  

Fun right!?

So now what…?

How Can You Help Your Child with Separation Anxiety to Sleep Better?

Parenting is hard enough as it is, and becomes a heck of a lot harder when kids need more from us. 

So what can you do?

You’ll no doubt face massive pressure from family and friends (or even yourself) to make changes, and quickly – before any ‘bad habits’ start, or before they get ‘too dependent’ on you. 

Balarsky!

The truth is, if your baby or child is showing signs of separation anxiety, the best way to help them sleep is to support this need. 

While it is true that most kids will outgrow separation anxiety on their own. There are a number of ways that you can support them, while not losing your sanity!

Supporting Separation Anxiety Through Play

Practice mini separations – during the day – through play. Lift the flap books, and peek-a-boo for young ones, and games like hide and seek, or go, go, go stop for kids. Role play, or tell stories that resemble your family situation, but with happy, peaceful separations and reunions. Keep these short, sweet, and fun!

Changing Your Sleep Mindset

Re-Write your Story. Remind yourself that your child needs you. No, you are not spoiling them or making them more dependent! Reassure yourself that this is likely just another temporary blip that will restore itself in time. During the more challenging moments, it can help to use a mantra. I am a big fan of: “They aren’t giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.” And don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate being loved so much by such an adorable little human!

Meeting Your Child Where They Are At

Don’t force it. This isn’t really a rip the Band-Aid off type of situation. Now is not the time to make big changes, whether to do with sleep, or daytime. Avoid sneaking away, or  pushing them to spend time with others. If you can, focus instead on meeting your child where they are at. For sleep this might mean cuddling them to sleep, or shifting to bed-sharing for a while. I know it’s tempting, but making changes with a goal towards independent sleep right now is likely to be a whole lot harder than it needs to be. 

And lastly… Just give it time 💕

Meeting your child’s needs in a gentle, supportive way is without a doubt the quickest and easiest way through this – for both of you!

If you are looking for more practical tips for your child’s sleep routine, then click here to sign up for my free Peaceful Bedtime Mini-Course. 

Maisie xx

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Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Sleep Coach

I get a lot of families coming to me for help. Many of whom have tried solving their sleep struggles on their own. Between Dr. Google, and all your Mama Friends, there is a wealth of information out there.

Sometimes this advice helps, sometimes it doesn’t. With so many differing opinions, it’s easy to doubt your next move.

I get it. Hiring a sleep consultant isn’t exactly high on your list of ways to spend you hard earned cash!

Maybe you just learned that sleep consultants exist and are not sure if this is something for you. Or maybe you have been contemplating getting professional sleep support for a while now and just need some motivation.

Many people have a good couple of nights and think “I can do this!” but then retreat into desperation and despair when the sleeplessness returns. The sleep roller coaster is REAL and sooooo emotional!

So, I am going to start off by saying what I needed to hear when I was in your shoes with my boys a couple years ago.

You are doing a great job!

Just the fact that you are here reading this blog shows that you are a caring parent, carefully weighing your options.

But even more than this…you are brave. Why? Because it takes a brave soul to ask for help. It should’t be this way. But our culture and society has led us to value independence. We are expected to be self-sufficient. To not complain, and to do it all.

Only this isn’t how we are supposed to parent. No…our anthropological history valued something very different. It valued community. In fact, we are meant to parent together. A whole village of support! A village our culture lacks despite the fact that it is so desperately needed – especially among new moms.

So let me tell you about the ways a sleep consultant can help.

1) You are tired

So, I’ll keep this one quick. A sleep consultant saves you the time and energy of having to solve things by yourself.  

2) Cut through the crap

With the MASSIVE amounts of information out there on the internet, a sleep consultant can help you get to the important stuff quicker. Why waste your time searching and reading and watching content that doesn’t even seem to really apply to you?

3) Education

Anyone can read a book or blog on sleep. (In fact, most of my clients have a good collection of DIY sleep books). There are countless publications about sleep. Many of which are great! The vast majority, however, spout off the same old lessons, full of unresearched, and contradictory methods which only help to perpetuate the many myths and misconceptions that help to keep me employed!

4) experience

THIS is really what you are paying for. Knowledge is great, but it can only get you so far. A good sleep consultant can tell you WHY they are recommending something, and importantly steer you away from the things that others have found difficult or unhelpful – AND help you avoid the stuff that is NOT backed by science.

5) coaching

Try to rid yourself of the mental image of the angry athletic coach pushing you past your breaking point. Will I tell you how it is? Sure. But, for me, coaching is more about helping you to maximize your strengths. While, creating an awareness of how our every day lifestyle can negatively effect sleep.

Its sort of like having your very own cheerleader to help motivate you and keep you accountable when you are feeling overwhelmed or get stuck making the same mistakes over and over.

6) i’ve got your back

Is your spouse skeptical? Are your in-laws razzing you yet again? People are judgmental, and they LOVE to give {bad} advice about sleep. I am big about involving family in the assessment and planning process.

A supportive family increases your odds of success! So, invite them along, send them a copy of your plan – I love educating people on sleep!

7) boost your confidence

Not knowing if you are helping or hindering a situation can be stressful. Most of my clients are anxious. They simply want to know that they are on the right track.

Rest easy – Stop second guessing yourself! My goal is to give you the tools to start parenting confidently not just at night, but during the day too!

8) personalization

Your personal beliefs and values are important. If something doesn’t feel or sit right with you, you are not going to be invested enough to follow through. A sleep consultant can help you discover what your non-negotiables are, so you can spend your time and energy in the areas you are willing and able to change.  

I will never expect you to try something you don’t agree with. YOU are the expert on your child, your input is not only needed, but valuable.

9) troubleshooting

Something not working?  Not sure if you are doing the right thing? Have questions? One of the best parts of hiring a sleep consultant is that you have someone knowledgeable and experienced to problem solve with. Most sleep packages come with follow-up support. Reach out for help!

10) take back your life

A better sleep is about a whole lot more than just sleep! A sleep consultant who specializes in a holistic approach can help you modify your lifestyle in a way that will help to set the stage for sleep.

My coaching plans include a holistic health and wellness assessment covering areas like self care, anxiety management, and nutrition.

I hope this helps! I am an over-analyzer by nature and so lists like this help me to make decisions.  I really hope this helps to paint a clearer picture of what working with me will be like.

In the end, what it comes down to is S-L-E-E-P. The ultimate prize.

In truth, I haven’t met a Mama that didn’t want my help! 

You just feel badly asking for it, and even worse having to pay for it.

Why is this?

Why can we spend $6 on a coffee, $20 on a bottle of wine, worse – $200 on a new hairstyle!? Yet we cannot rationalize spending a little extra on our health…our wellness….and our life!?

When working on your sleep, you are investing in your future. Results that will definitely outlast those new highlights.

But I also get that this can be a lot of moo-lah 

So, I offer a variety of different packages, including pay-as-you go support. Just like you would do with a massage or physio therapist.

For those who just want some quick reassurance or have a one-off question – I now have an option for that too.

Not sure what is best for you? Send me a message at [email protected] and I’ll help you decide!

Sleep well,

~ Maisie Zzz