Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Loving Lessons

Here is the follow-up to the post from last month about my recommendations for 'teaching' your newborns how to sleep.  I had the pleasure of meeting Irene Gouge, owner of Loving Lessons Pediatric Sleep Consulting and Educational Growth Center.  Irene is the answer to all those weary eyed parents out there who feel at a loss of how to improve their child's sleep- or lack there of!  From her experience as an educator she understands the importance of sleep and as a mother she realizes that sleep is learned and there are gentle, loving ways we can teach our children.


 Can you tell us a little about your business, Loving Lessons?   What inspired you to start Loving Lessons?

As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant with Loving Lessons, I support tired parents to help get sleep in place and empower parents with positive and gentle solutions to help their children transform their sleep habits, set children up for academic success while enjoying the parenting journey!  Loving Lessons is based on transitioning our parenting from fear based to love based.  It’s about building those loving connections to leave a legacy with our parenting for our children.  

My inspiration for Loving Lessons comes from my boys Connor and Bailey.  They taught me how important sleep really was, how different they were as children, and to respect and understand them for who they were and what they needed.  Prior to my consulting,  I was a  5th and 6th grade teacher- turned mom in 2006 to become a sleep deprived parent until 2009.  I decided to retire from teaching to do a home daycare so I could stay home with Connor and Bailey.   While taking care of my boys, 2.5 and 5 month old at the time, and a couple other children in my home daycare, I quickly realized staying home and being a mom wasn't all I had imagined it would be.

So once I learned about sleep for my 5 month old, which was sleeping from 6:30-6:30 with two, 2 hour naps, my life changed.   I was able to get 4 children down for naps at the same time which was heavenly.  I started to get sleep in place for my 3 year old too, but it wasn’t in place until I actually started my training with the Sleep Lady, Kim West.  It was during my training and consultation that I figured out what was missing, what I didn’t know about Connor and his sleep needs.   Once I discovered the secret and understood the science of sleep, it became my mission to share this with other families.  

 What specific services do you offer families looking for help sleep training their babies or children?

I offer personal sleep consultations for children ages 6 and younger where I come to the families home if they are in the local Raleigh area.  If they are not local I can accommodate families by doing our 2 hour session via Skype.   We create a personal sleep plan that will take the child’s temperament, parents’ parenting style, and schedules into consideration so we can figure out the best path to good sleep.  Clients have unlimited access to the  Client Resource area that guides and supports them step by step from sleepless to sleep filled nights.

                                                    What is your philosophy or style of sleep training?

This is always a hot topic in parenting.  Many parents do ask “Are you a cry-it-out proponent or family bed advocate? Do I have to stop breastfeeding to sleep coach my child, do I have to choose between two camps: co sleeping/no crying or crib/cry-it-out?”  You do not have to pick a camp; this isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about what is working for you and your family.  It’s about figuring out that just right approach to meet your families sleep goals.

    What specific advice can you give new or expectant parents who are trying to help their baby sleep longer?

The best thing you can do is observe your baby. Tune into what your baby is telling you.  Your baby is letting you know when they are hungry, sleepy, hurting, ready to play and engage or just content.   Be respectful to tune in and engage with your child.  If you are not sure what your baby is telling you, it might be an important step in connecting with a professional that could help you build that communication with your child. 

 What are the biggest mistakes or misinformation you see related to sleep training a baby?

There is a belief that sleep training involves leaving your child to cry it out and that’s it.  Sleep is very complex and we have to evaluate the entire sleep situation to figure out what might be holding you’re your child back from good sleep.  Leaving your child to cry it out is usually not the answer for majority of families. 

How can families get in touch with you to start the process of sleep training?

Families can get started by visiting my site http://loving-lessons.com/

You can also set up a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if sleep coaching would be the right step for your family.  https://www.timetrade.com/book/VX5T6

Fun Stuff
1.      Favorite vacation spot…Walt Disney World.

2.      Favorite restaurant…Cheesecake Factory

3.      Favorite movie…Love Actually

4.      Favorite weekend activity…is hanging out with my family. 

5.      Favorite book…Heaven is for Real

  I want to thank Irene for taking the time to share her business with us!  So, you may be wondering is it worth it to contact Irene for a consultation?  Well, check out what her clients are saying...

"Irene Gouge’s Loving Lessons saved me! I was running on fumes, averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night and wondering why my 7-week old daughter was simply miserable. She wouldn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time during the night or day (often times less) when Irene came over to help us. Her suggestions were tender, warm and incredibly useful! And if something wasn’t working for our family, she listened very well and gave us another idea. The best part was IT WORKED! The same night Irene came over for the first time, our daughter slept 4 hours straight and within 2 weeks she was sleeping as much as 6-8 hours straight into the night. Of course, things weren’t perfect because Dani was so young and her nap schedules were really rough for me and her. Whenever I called Irene, she was WONDERFUL, understanding and could sense my urgency and frustration. She calmed me down and let me know so stay the course and Dani would find her way with our guidance. She did! And just when Irene said she would. She’s nearly 6 months and sleeps sometimes as much as 13 hours straight thru the night, naps well and is a VERY happy baby. Because of Irene, I can happily spend more time with my toddler while the baby is sleeping, and my husband has since bonded with the baby so much better because both are far more rested and happy. I LOVE IRENE and her Loving Lessons. Oh, and she has fast become a friend to me, answering questions not only about Dani but about my 2-year old, when I just cannot find a solution on my own. She’s a tremendous person and resource and I would NOT hesitate to recommend Irene to ANY ONE OF MY FRIENDS!!!!!"

-Kristin & Brian, Holly Springs, NC

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sleep. What's that?

"You're pregnant....Congrats!  Better load up on your sleep now because once that baby comes..."

"Oh, your baby is adorable!  How is he sleeping for you?"

"Ugh, my newborn has her days and nights confused.  I was up all night!"

So, does any of that sound familiar?  If you are pregnant, have a baby, or know someone who does you have probably heard some variation of the quotes above.  Sleep, or lack of it, has to be one of the hottest topics of conversation with new parents followed closely by the bowel habits of their babies!  Most parents resign themselves to the fact that they have baby so that means they will not get a full, uninterrupted night of sleep for the next one, two years maybe.  I say that's nonsense!  It is possible for a baby to sleep through the night, even as young as three or four months.  Now of course every baby is different but every baby (excluding those that have some medical condition preventing it) is capable of sleeping through the night!  They just have to learn how to do it just like they learn how to roll over, sit up, and crawl.  As parents we have to provide the best possible environment for them to learn.  The problem is most new parents don't know how to do that- but they can learn too! 

I used to think my husband and I were just lucky.  Our first, Ella, was sleeping 8 hours straight by 3 months and then 12 hours straight by 4 months.  And yes, she was on breast milk.  Breast milk has the same caloric content as formula, so although it is digested easier, babies should not always need to eat more frequently at night just because they are breastfed.  We figured we were just blessed with an "easy" baby and surely the second would be up all night for months.  But to our amazement Keegan was the same, sleeping 12 hours by 4 months old.  And this was despite having major surgery at 3.5 months old to correct a cleft lip.  So we must have been doing something right!  Well, when I started reading more on sleep training I discovered that what we had done instinctively in those early days was exactly what was necessary for our babies to learn how to sleep.  My own children are proof that what is said in all those books does actually work!  And the best part is, none of it is hard!

1.  Routine, routine, routine
I can't say enough about the importance of a routine.  When you get ready for bed, don't you do basically the same thing every night leading up to falling asleep?  Your baby needs the same thing!  So start a bedtime routine as early as possible, even within the first few weeks.  Pick a late evening feeding as the "bedtime" feeding and then start a routine just prior.  Whether it is bath time, or a nightly massage with lotion, then change into pj's, turn the lights down, turn soft music or white noise on, then have a feeding.  Before long your baby will recognize the routine and begin to understand that it is bedtime!

2.  Nighttime feedings are all business
This is soooo important!  So, of course for the first few months your baby is going to need to wake up to eat throughout the night- there's just no way around that until they get bigger and are taking larger volumes.  But that doesn't mean that you have to be up for hours because of the feeding.  When your baby wakes up don't turn the lights on and don't engage with her.  Now this sounds mean, right.  But think about it.  If you wake up at 2 am to pee do you turn all the lights on and start a conversation with your significant other?  Of course not!  You don't want your baby to learn to expect 2 am play time from you.  You want her to learn that it is time to eat and then go back to sleep.  So keep a night light on, change her diaper, re-swaddle her, feed her, and then put her back in her crib (or where ever she sleeps).

3.  Sleep swaddled
I am a huge advocate of swaddling!  Both of my babies slept swaddled- day and night- until they were around 5 months old.  Swaddling prevents babies from startling themselves awake.  Babies have very short sleep cycles so they go into REM (active) sleep every 1-2 hours whereas adults only do 1-2 times a night.  When babies start getting active in their sleep they are more likely to elicit their Moro reflex, aka the startle reflex, and wake themselves up.  If a baby is swaddled with their arms down, yes I said arms down!, this prevents them from startling.  According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the Happiest Baby on the Block, swaddling alone can increase the sleep time between feedings by one hour.  Swaddling also keeps a baby warm and feeling secure which reminds them of being in the womb so they stay calm and relaxed.

4.  Allow swings and bouncy seats
It is okay if your newborn only sleeps well in the swing or bouncy seat!  Isn't that better than you having to hold them all night?  You shouldn't expect your baby to be able to sleep unassisted right out of the gate.  The swing and bouncy seat help recreate the environment that your baby is used to- the womb.  The swing and bouncy provide constant movement as well as an inclined position, both things newborns prefer.  So, let your baby vibrate or swing all night (make sure to strap her in!).  By the time she is 3-4 months old she will have learned how to sleep so you can then transition her seamlessly to her crib.

5.  Use white noise
Not all babies need white noise to stay asleep but many babies love it.  There are plenty of adults out there who rely on their white noise machines or apps to sleep, so why not a baby?  Again, white noise helps recreate the environment in the womb.  Inside the womb your baby heard a constant whooshing noise comparable to the decibel level of a vacuum cleaner yet when she is born we expect her to sleep in a quiet room!  So put a white noise machine next to her crib or use a swing that has a sound feature. 

So, that's it!  Not rocket science right?  That's just it, it isn't hard or complicated.  It's just all about creating the right sleep environment so your baby can learn to sleep.  As your baby outgrows the nutritional need for nighttime feedings she will naturally sleep longer because you have taught her how!

Okay, now I realize that despite their best efforts, helping their baby learn to sleep is not easy for all parents.  But don't worry.  There are plenty of professionals out there who can help you get on the right track and start sleeping more!  And if you feel like you are getting into this whole sleep training thing too late, say you have a 9 month old who still wakes 2-3 times a night or a toddler that won't stay in his bed.  Don't fret.  There is help for that too!  It is never too late to teach your baby or child how to sleep!  Stay tuned for my next blog post which will feature Irene Gouge, owner of Loving Lessons Pediatric Sleep Consulting and Educational Growth Center.  Contact Raleigh Baby Planner if you'd like more information on creating the perfect sleep environment for your little one or little one to be!