Sadly, our culture still views toddler nursing as ‘taboo’ and calling it ‘extended breastfeeding’. The reality is that nursing a toddler is NORMAL and healthy. However, because we often spend so much time trying to be accepted, we forget we also can set boundaries with our toddlers.
There’s a false dichotomy that it’s either nurse on demand or wean. This is not true! You can limit nursing sessions or cut down some feeds and maintain your breastfeeding relationship. You get to do what works for your family.
So here are some tips to help you set loving boundaries around breastfeeding your toddler. Please note this is for TODDLERS, aka 12 months and up. Babies under 12m should always be fed on demand.
Understand your Why
There’s a lot of reasons you might choose to cut down on feeds. Maybe you’re feeling touched out. Maybe you’re just ready. Maybe you’re getting ready to wean in the future.
Whatever your reason is, it’s valid! But what I don’t want you to do is to cut feeds because your mother in law said so or you feel like all your friends are. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding your toddler on demand if it works for you all.
Explain Ahead of Time
If you already know when you want to nurse, explain this to your toddler. For example:
‘Now that you’re getting bigger, we are only going to nurse for bedtime and nap time. During the day, you can have snacks instead.’
Keep it simple! You don’t need to overexplain your reasons. The idea is to give your child a heads up of what’s to come.
Observe when your child asks for milk and what need they are trying to meet. Do they ask when they’re hungry? Do they ask when they are upset and need comfort? Do they need it to fall asleep? Do they ask when you are distracted and they are seeking connection?
Understanding this is key. It allows you to meet their needs before they even come up. For example, if you notice they will be seeking connection you can give them some quality 1:1 time before hopping on your phone.
Label what you think their needs are, even if you aren’t ready to set the boundary yet. For example:
‘You want boobies right now. I think you’re hungry. Does your tummy feel hungry?’
This starts to foster your child’s sense of bodily awareness. It’s so important for them to learn how to identify their own needs.
Knowing what the underlying need might be, you can start to redirect them when they ask for milk. For example:
‘I hear you want to nurse, it seems like you are hungry. Would you like a snack?’
For many toddlers, that simple prompt might be enough to distract them. But depending on their temperament, they might need more of a boundary. For example:
‘I hear you want milky right now. I see you want some bonding time. We can’t do milkies right now but I can cuddle you instead’
Remember, this is your body! You are allowed to set a boundary about what you are and aren’t willing to give. That doesn’t mean they have to like it, though. Your job isn’t to fix their feelings but rather to empathize with them.
Offer a Choice
It also helps to offer a simple choice when you are trying to redirect. This helps your toddler feel empowered and in control. For example:
‘We aren’t going to nurse right now but I see that you’re hungry. Would you like goldfish or veggies for a snack?’
Remember both choices need to be choices you’re okay with!
Empathize and Hold Space
Again, just because you set a boundary it doesn’t mean your toddler has to like it. They are allowed to be upset! Welcome their feelings and empathize with them. For example:
‘I hear you, you’re so sad we can’t nurse right now. It’s okay to be sad. I’m here for you.‘
Remember you’re not ‘fixing’ their feelings. You’re just holding space for them and helping them co-regulate.
Looking to Wean?
If you’re ready to start the night weaning process but don’t want to use cry-it-out or any harsh methods- I got you!
My friend Marissa and I created an amazing Gentle Night Weaning course which has everything you need to know to support your toddler thorough weaning in a slow and responsive way. Marissa is a certified Lactation Counsellor and fellow Baby Sleep Specialist. We both have weaned our toddlers and have helped countless families do the same. Check out the course page here to learn more!
A cheat sheet
Pssst! I made you a little cheat sheet if you wanna screenshot and save:D
Let’s talk about long toddler bedtimes. These can be downright infuriating for parents. I’ve been there, it’s so hard to stay calm and not get frustrated when we are just looking for a break at the end of the day. There are lots of reasons this could be happening and in this post I’ll cover the most common ones. Like anything to do with sleep, there is no one size fits all. You’ll have to take what makes most sense for your family and do some trial and error. Always remember to stay in touch with your instincts and follow your baby’s lead!
How long should bedtime take?
Sleep onset latency is how long it takes someone to go from fully awake to asleep. Generally speaking, a healthy person takes between 10-20 minutes to fall asleep (as per the National Sleep Foundation). If the amount is too short it could indicate that the person is sleep deprived. Whereas if it takes too long, it can indicate under-tiredness or some of the other things we shall discuss today.
Every child has a unique amount of sleep needs. The chart below shows the general sleep needs as per the National Sleep Foundation. Each child will fall somewhere in that chart. Notice the ranges are really wide! So if you have a baby that generally needs about 11 hours of sleep in a 24hr period and you are expecting them to take a 2hr nap and sleep 7-7… well… I’m sure you can see the problem. That child will likely have really long bedtimes, very early wakes, or split nights (when a child is awake for 1+ hours in the middle of the night).
When it comes to toddlers, this is the most common cause I see for long bedtimes. Little ones will be taking 2-3 hour naps and then taking forever to fall asleep at bedtime. So take a look at the nap times and see if capping the nap slightly helps. Start small (for example, capping at 1.5 hours and then take it from there).
To wake them gently, start by making some noise around the house and letting more light in. Then gently rub their back or hug them so it’s not a brisk wake. A good tip is to have snacks on hand to help them perk up. Of course, if with all these tips your toddler seems really miserable for the afternoon it might not be worth it to shorten the nap.
Bedtime is Too Early
A study found that parents struggling with toddler bedtimes were often putting their babies to sleep too early. You might hear that 7PM is the ideal bedtime. But in reality, it is different for every baby and most older toddlers actually benefit from a later bedtime.
While we can all empathize wanting to get your kids to sleep earlier, a 9-10PM bedtime might be more prudent for your toddler.
A really important aspect of sleep that the mainstream narrative is missing is that sleep is separation. What do I mean? When you go to sleep you are no longer with the person you love, you are unconscious and you cannot be sure they are right there. For infants and toddlers, this is really scary as they are wired to stay close to an attachment figure. Feeling close and connected with their caregiver is what helps them feel safe enough to fall asleep.
What happens in our modern society is that we’re often spending a lot of time with our kids but we’re not spending a lot of time WITH our kids. We are on our phones, doing chores, focused on a million things…. Our children need quality time with us to feel seen. If your toddler suddenly wants to tell you about their day when it’s bedtime… chances are they are using this as connection time with you.
One option is to go with it: enjoy this special 1:1 time with them and use it to connect after a long day. Option two is to add connection time during the day. Scheduling special time with your children is an amazing tool that can go such a long way.
Sensory Needs/Activity Level
If your child seems to be really wiggly and restless at bedtime, this might be the culprit. Little ones are made to be active. In our modern society, babies and toddlers are often spending a lot of time inside ‘containers’ which limit their movement. Step #1 is to make sure they’re getting as much free time to move during the day as possible.
Now you might be the parent that says ‘my kid is moving ALL DAY and they’re still restless’. In that case, your little one might just have higher sensory needs than other children. The girls over at Development Tools have a fantastic resource you can download for free.
The two that come up most often are proprioceptive input and vestibular input. To put it simply, a little one that is seeking proprioceptive input might be the kid that jumps up and down all day, likes to bump into things, doesn’t seem to know their strength, etc. If this sounds like your kiddo, try providing them with lots of ‘heavy work’ games during the day to ensure they get those sensory needs met.
As for vestibular input, a child that is seeking in this area might be running around a lot, love swings, love going upside down, and require lots of motion to fall asleep. Provide them with lots of vestibular movement during the day such as swinging, rocking, bouncing, spinning, etc. Learn more about sensory diets here.
Don’t be afraid to do some rough and tumble play at bedtime if your child needs it. Try different things and see what works!
Please note this is a very simplified version of sensory needs. Check out the links provided and if you have any concerns, reach out to an Occupational Therapist for support.
Is your child getting a lot of screen time during the day? No judgement, I get we sometimes need it to survive. But what I want you to understand is that for little ones watching too much TV can be really overstimulating. It causes their senses to go on overload from all of the images, sounds, etc but their bodies aren’t moving in response to it.
The other concern is that the blue light coming from screens interferes with your little one’s circadian rhythm. It tells their brain it is still daytime, preventing them from producing the melatonin they need to fall asleep.
My recommendation is to be sure to turn off screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. Also dim the lights slightly to signal bedtime is coming. During the day, try to keep screen time to a minimum and always make sure it is met with lots of gross motor play during the day.
The last factor I’ll touch on today is stress. This goes for you and your baby but we’ll start with your baby. Going to sleep is extremely vulnerable and requires us to feel safe and calm. Although it seems to us that babies and toddlers have an easy life, they have a lot to be stressed about. The world is big and scary and they don’t always understand it. Oftentimes it is in the comfort of their bed at night and in your arms that it all comes out. Think of it like coming home after a long hard day at work: sometimes you just need to vent!
If you are noticing this with your baby or toddler, try and build in some time for them to release those emotions. You might be thinking ‘but they’re not even verbal yet!’. That’s alright, you can still give them space to release their emotions. This might be why your toddler suddenly hates every color cup you give them even though they loved it yesterday.
One great way to help your toddler de-stress is play. Play is the best medicine for kids. Don’t be afraid to make bedtime fun and exciting. Chase them around the house, engage in rough and tumble play, make funny noises and silly faces. Observe how your child reacts and always stay in tune with them. For some kids, they might need some wind down time after playing. Others can go straight from chasing to bed. There’s no right or wrong here, just test it out and find what works!
Your State of Mind
Last but not least, how are YOU feeling at bedtime? Like we said before, babies need to feel safe and calm at bedtime to be able to drift off. The thing is little ones are also highly intuitive. They pick up on our moods, especially those of their primary caregiver. So if you are feeling anxious and stressed at bedtime, chances are your baby is feeling that way too.
Try practicing some mindfulness before starting the bedtime routine if you know you’ll get frustrated. As well, repeat some mantras to yourself:
‘They’re not giving me a hard time, they’re having a hard time’
‘It is a privilege to be my child’s safe space’
‘It won’t always be this way. They won’t always be this little’
These can help to keep you in the right state of mind so you can calm your baby to sleep. Of course if you are experiencing signs of Post Partum Mood Disorders, please seek help through Post Partum Support International.
I hope this article was helpful! Let me know if you tried any of these strategies or had any ‘aha!’ moments. If you need further support, visit the Sleep Coaching tab for a list of services so I can help you out!
On November 7th, Daylight Saving ends in the majority of the United States and Canada. Remember the times when the biggest issue with the time change was making sure you switched your clocks? Parenthood brings a whole other level to this doesn’t it?
Like many parents, you might be concerned about what the time change means for your little one. So let’s talk about it.
What does the time change entail?
On Saturday night, the clocks will ‘fall back’ one hour. That means that 1AM will now become 12AM. For childless adults this is cause for celebration as you ‘gain’ one hour. But those of us with little kids know that our little ones do not care about our schedules.
How can this affect my household?
The trickiest thing about this change is the potential of having really early wakes. If your child is already waking up at 6AM, for example, they will now be waking at 5AM. If you have been struggling with late bedtimes, however, this is a perfect way to move bedtime earlier without trouble.
Option one: do nothing
This is generally the option we take in our household as we are able to be flexible with my son’s schedule since we both work from home. If you gotta get to work/daycare in the morning this might not work.
With this option, you just adjust the bedtime the day of the time change and follow your child’s cues. You are trusting sleep will sort itself out and/or making peace with a different schedule in the winter season than the summer season.
I also recommend this approach for little babies, especially under 6 months. Until 6 months, your baby’s circadian rhythm isn’t fully established so it is easier to change patterns (that’s if they have a pattern to begin with).
Option 2: Slow Approach.
This approach is going to be helpful for older toddlers/children who have established schedules. It will also be helpful for little ones who are naturally more set in their routines (some babies have high rhythmicity while others are a little more unpredictable).
What you want to do is move bedtime later by an hour. For example, if your little one usually goes to bed at 7PM, you want to work towards an 8PM bedtime so that when the time changes it becomes 7PM again.
You can take this change as slow or quickly as needed depending on your child’s temperament. Below is an example of how this might look with a slow approach:
You can adjust this approach based on your child’s needs. For example, you might switch bedtime by 15m every day instead of every 3 days. Or you might do a whole week instead.
Use light to your advantage.
Anytime you are adjusting your little one’s schedule, use light to help you. This means using sunlight/darkness to help manipulate their circadian rhythm.
1- One to two hours before bedtime, draw the curtains and dim the lights. Turn off screens and if possible, use a red light bulb or candles for lighting. This helps your child know it’s getting close to bedtime.
2- Use blackout or dark curtains at night. Darkness triggers our body to produce melatonin so it’s helpful to go to sleep in a dark room.
3- Keep the room dark until desired wake time. If your little one wakes really early- say 5AM- don’t ignore them! Get up with them and go about your routine but try keeping the lights dim and things generally quiet.
4- Expose your child to lots of sunlight during the day. In fact, I recommend napping in the light as well. This helps your child understand the difference between day and night. Not to mention the amazing benefits of getting their daily dose of vitamin D.
That’s all for today’s post! If you found this helpful, share with a friend that might need it! If you’re struggling with your little one’s sleep, reach our for a 1:1 consult! Click here to book your free 15m discovery call (no strings attached!).
If you hold your baby to sleep, he might get used to your comfort If he gets used to your comfort, he might expect it there all the time If he expects your comfort, he might cry when it’s not available If he cries, you’ll have to comfort him some more If you comfort him when he cries, he might think you are reliable If he thinks you’re reliable, he might expect you to understand him when he’s upset If you understand him when he’s upset, he might learn to regulate his emotions If he regulates his emotions, he might have an easier time forming relationships If he has an easier time forming relationships, he might become well adjusted If he becomes well adjusted, he might become self sufficient And if he becomes self sufficient… Chances are… He won’t want you to hold him to sleep anymore
This was originally posted to my Instagram account. It was inspired by the book ‘If you Give a Mouse a Cookie’
For a free printable version of this poem, click the link below:)
Every parent has been asked the question: ‘Does your baby sleep through the night?’. I have never used separation-based techniques with my son. And last night, a few days after turning 17 months he slept through from 7PM to 7AM without calling for me. Here’s how I did it.
First, let me back up a bit. Here’s the funny thing about this situation. That day, I wrote an Instagram post about how my toddler wakes an average of 2 times per night. My intention was to normalize toddler wakings, as this is a topic I feel is not often talked about. That same night, he slept through for the first time.
Maybe it’s a funny coincidence. Or maybe there’s a reason. I know a lot about sleep and I constantly talk to parents about following their children’s lead. This is what I do, I follow my son’s lead. But even so, in the back of my head there was always that thought: ‘Am I doing this wrong?’
You see, our culture is so saturated with this notion that ‘sleeping through the night’ is a necessary milestone. Not only that, but it is somehow insinuated that if your child does not, it’s your fault. It means you haven’t done enough to ‘teach’ them how to sleep.
And so that day, when I finally let go and announced to the world that I have a normal toddler; I relaxed a bit more. I knew that it didn’t matter whether or not he slept through. And so he did. Kids are amazing like that; they are always teaching us a lesson if we pay attention.
The other incredible thing that happened after that post is that I received countless messages from parents thanking me. They too felt there was something wrong with their toddlers, or that they had spoiled them, or that they should have sleep trained. Hearing that it is NORMAL for toddlers to wake up at night made them feel more confident in their parenting. Even further, many of them admitted that it wasn’t really their toddlers waking at night that was exhausting; but rather the many modern day pressures of parenting, including the pressure to get your kid to sleep through the night. Yes, it really is all as ridiculous as it sounds yet here we are.
How Did I Do It?
Now this is the part where I admit I may have misled you. You probably clicked on this to learn how to get your child to sleep through the night. The truth is, I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t get him to sleep through the night, he did it all by himself when he was developmentally ready to do it. Don’t click away in frustration yet! Let me explain why this is important:
I did not ‘teach’ my son to sleep
Sleep consultants all over North America are quick to tell you that your child will never connect sleep cycles unless you teach them to sleep. But the truth is your child is born knowing how to sleep! They spent most of their time in the womb sleeping, as a matter of fact. Sleep is a biological function that cannot be taught. What we CAN do is provide a loving safe environment that is conducive to rest. That is all I did.
I did not make my son fall asleep independently
Along the lines of this need to teach our children to sleep, sleep consultants will tell you that a child must fall asleep independently otherwise they will never know how to connect sleep cycles. Well this is just plain false. My son was nursed and cuddled to sleep in his floor bed and he proceeded to spend the night alone in his room. Did he wake at some point in the night? Probably. Everyone wakes up at night! But what probably happened is that he looked around at his environment, knew he was safe, and settled himself back to sleep.
I didn’t avoid ‘bad habits’
Another myth that drives me insane. They’ll tell you ‘Don’t nurse your baby to sleep’, ‘Don’t bring them in your bed or you’ll never get them out’, ‘You better night wean already’.
In the early days of parenting I did avoid all of those things. Read more about that in this blog post. And all that did was give me anxiety. Once I finally learned to trust my baby, I started allowing my intuition to lead and stopped parenting out of fear. I maximized my own sleep by safely bedsharing on my son’s floor bed (read more about our floor bed journey here) and adjusting my expectations. The truth is, waking once or twice a night was no longer an issue for me. I quickly nursed my son to sleep and fell right back asleep with him. Now that he slept through it truly didn’t make a big difference for how much sleep I got.
So there you have it. That is what I did or rather, what I didn’t do. I share this with you not so you can give me praise for my nighttime parenting but so you understand that parenting out of fear is not the answer. My son has been loved to sleep every night his entire life, he’s been nursed on demand, he’s been responded to every time he calls. He did not need to be ‘trained’ to sleep.
What Does This Mean For You?
First, I don’t want you to read this and think ‘Well my 17 month old doesn’t sleep through the night’. Due to my occupation, I know plenty of toddler parents who haven’t used sleep training. Some have had their kids sleep through the night by 1 year. Others have 2 year olds that have yet to do it. All of their kids are perfectly healthy and normal.
Most importantly, the takeaway is this: if your child is happy during the day, developing well, and getting the recommended amount of sleep within a 24 hour period, they are doing just fine! If, however, your child wakes up and stays up for long periods, wakes up hourly throughout the night, fights bedtimes, or seems in pain; there may be something preventing them from sleeping.
This is where I come in. I am here to help you understand sleep so it does not become a stress. I’m not here to give you a step-by-step guide to get your baby to sleep because I do not know your baby. Only you do. What I will do is provide you with knowledge, education, and encouragement. I will help you block out the noise and tap into your instincts.
Does this sound like what you’re looking for? Click here to see how we can work together. With every support package, I ask questions to get to know your family and I provide resources to help you meet YOUR goals. This is not a one size fits all approach. After all, your baby is not one size fits all.
We’re often told as parents to just ‘trust our instincts’. But this can be extremely hard for new parents because we live in a society where we have never been taught to trust our instincts. We’ve instead been taught from a young age to listen to authority, fit the mold, and never question. Add to that going through the immensely transformative process of becoming a parent to a brand new human being and it’s no wonder the first year is so hard!
So, first of all, do not feel guilty if you don’t yet feel those parental instincts. This is not your fault. You can, however, work towards becoming more in touch with it so that you can be the parent you want to be and block out the noise.
Two big things to keep in mind in this process are: reparenting yourself, and mindfulness.
I won’t get into repareting too much in this post because I could be here all day. But the important thing is becoming aware of your triggers and your own stories so that you don’t react to your child from your own wounds.
Mindfulness is the art of staying present in the moment. We tend to dwell on the past or stress about the future: both of which lead to anxiety and depression. So a mindfulness practice is just that: being in the now. One effective tool to get there is meditation. I highly recommend the free app Insight Timer which comes with many guided meditations. Yoga, exercise, dancing, and nature walks are also great ways to be in the now. Hopefully you are doing some of these in your day to day.
However, the key is integrating. When you find yourself in those moments where your child is pushing your buttons, what do you do to stay grounded? What do you do to keep your triggers from taking over? Finding a technique that works for you can be incredibly helpful.
What does this have to do with sleep?
We often talk about the effect of sleep deprivation on our mental health. But we rarely discuss the effect of our mental health on our children’s sleep. The reality is that our children are incredibly aware of our moods. When we feel anxious, they know it. And when we’re stressed to get them to sleep, they know it too! They naturally do not want to go to sleep when you are upset because their brain sees it as unsafe. After all, if mommy is worried it means something is wrong. Staying calm during bedtime will help our children stay calm too and therefore allow them to rest.
So I’ve rounded up some quick strategies you can use in the moment to get back to a balanced state. Please note that the important thing is to find what works for you! These are just suggestions.Use a grounding object during your mindfulness practice. For example, if you fidget with a hair elastic on your wrist when you get frustrated, try doing that while you meditate. This way you shift your brain’s association with fidgeting from an anxious state to fidgeting to stay calm. It’s amazing what we can trick our brains to do! Thank you for this suggestion Dr. Laura Froyen.
Try a breathing technique. Focusing on your breath can really bring you back to the moment. For example, take a deep breath in, hold it for 3 seconds, and let it out through your mouth as slowly as you can. You can also try making a ‘shhh’ sound or a hum to release some energy.
Try a mental distraction. Count one thing you can smell, see, touch, taste, hear. Or tell yourself your name, address, and age. Better yet, create a little mantra for yourself to say in these moments. A love and kindness meditation can go a long way to helping you find peace.
Try a physical grounding technique. Maybe it’s a yoga pose you enjoy that you can do in the moment. I find a cat/cow pose to help my anxiety or maybe you can go outside and put your hands and feet to the bare soil
Involve your child! Make it fun. Can you show your child how to breathe out fire like a dragon? (And in the process release some of your energy) or can you play a little chase game and release tension through giggles? Play is the best therapy!
Remember that it’s all about finding what works for you. It’s also not about being perfectly happy and peaceful all the time. You will get triggered. You will feel anxious. It’s simply about bringing ourselves down to a manageable state in those moments so we can be the parent we want to be.
Later, once you’re feeling better examine what happened. What triggered you? Why? What came up for you? How can you shift that for next time?
As always, remember that our children are HAVING a hard time, not GIVING us a hard time.
Struggling with bedtime battles? I can help! Click here to see my one-on-one packages.
If you’ve been following me on social media, you know that I love floor beds. I talk about how much easier our life is since moving my son into his floor bed and I love to recommend it to bed sharing families.
Important disclaimer: I encourage you to do your own research to decide what is a safe option for your child. While I would personally choose a floor bed from birth that is NOT the right choice for all families and it depends on a variety of factors. Please note this blog is to share knowledge and does not substitute individual advice.
I thought I’d start with my top reasons to get your baby a floor bed.
Why I love a floor bed
Fosters Autonomy and Trust
I often get the question ‘Won’t they get up in the middle of the night?. They absolutely can. And you have to be okay with that. The freedom of movement that comes with a floor bed means your child might get out of bed at night and play (mine has yet to do that because contrary to popular belief, kids WANT to sleep at night).
On the flip side, you get a child who feels trusted and has autonomy. This is why floor beds are often recommended in Montessori circles, where allowing children autonomy of their own bodies is crucial.
Allows for safe bedsharing
The misconception is that a floor bed automatically means independent sleep. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! The awesome thing about setting your kid up with a floor bed (preferably a double or bigger) is that you get to sleep there! As long as you’re following the safe sleep 7 you are good to go. This can be a great option if, like me, you have a partner that isn’t totally comfortable with bedsharing.
For our family, this means our son can sleep independently for naps and the majority of the night but then I can bedshare with him when he needs a feed and stay until morning. Win win situation.
Easier to soothe to sleep
Even though my husband doesn’t bedshare with our son, he still loves how easy it is to soothe him to sleep with the floor bed. It used to be so difficult trying to soothe him over the crib bars or trying to transfer him from our arms to his crib. Now when dad goes in to support him back to sleep, all it takes is a cuddle and then he can sneak away.
This is one of the biggest reasons I recommend floor beds to families. Often families really struggle to transfer their little one to the crib once asleep. And most babies do not enjoy being put in the crib ‘drowsy but awake’ (more on that another day). So the floor bed is a great way to cuddle to sleep and still be able to sneak out for some adult time.
More sleep for the parents
Every morning my son wakes up, nurses, and then goes off to play while I sleep for a bit longer. He looks out the window at the cars or plays with his toys. I drift off to sleep (which is great because I am not a morning person) knowing that he is safe in his room and enjoying his toys. If he was in a crib I would have to get up to get him out.
Even the fact that we can lay with him to settle him to sleep means we aren’t sitting up trying to stay awake in the middle of the night. This is so helpful in us getting more rest overall.
Floor Bed Options to Consider
Will baby stay in your room?
A floor bed can be in your room. In fact, it can be the bed that you all sleep on. Or it can be a bed in your child’s own room. It’s important to note that it is recommended for little ones to sleep in your room until at least 6 months of age, ideally until 12 months.
Another thing to consider is siblings. If there are toddlers running around the house you might need to be more careful about where you set the bed.
Size of the mattress
This is largely going to depend on the space that you have. For us, we started with a double mattress on the floor. This was great because there was plenty of room for me to sleep with my son. It also meant less risk of him rolling off (even though it was super low to the ground)
Frame or no frame
Many families choose to simply place a mattress directly on the ground. This is what we started with too. It’s inexpensive and you don’t have to commit if you’re not sure the arrangement will work. The main concern is that mold can form under the mattress as there is no airflow. Check it regularly and prop up the mattress against a wall to air it out every so often
Rail or no rail
Some floor beds have a rail so that the child cannot roll off, but there’s always a way for them to climb out if they choose to. This is an option if you feel nervous about them falling off the bed.
Purchase or build
There are many options to purchase online but there are also guides to build your own. This can save you money but also create a bed that is customized to your needs.
I’ve created a Pinterest board with some great floor bed options to consider. Check it out here.
Floor Bed Safety
Regardless of the bed you choose, the most important thing is to make sure the room is baby-proofed. Yes your baby will be able to wander around the room if they choose to, that’s the point! So you want it to be as safe as possible.
Anchor heavy furniture to the wall. For older babies and toddlers you also want to assess the risk of climbing and falling off something. Put yourself in your baby’s shoes and see if there’s a way for them to get up onto a dresser by propping on something else. And don’t underestimate your baby’s capabilities!
Check for choking hazards. General rule of thumb is that if an item can fit in a shot glass, it’s too small! Make sure your child’s space is free of small pieces they can choke on. Check toys for removable pieces also.
Outlet covers are crucial. For outlets that are being used, either have them behind furniture or you can purchase an outlet box to prevent your child playing with the plug.
A fan to help circulate the air is a great way to help prevent SIDS. A smoke detector nearby or in the room is important too.
Check that there’s no way for your child to open the window. Seems obvious but toddlers are so much smarter than we give them credit for! Install a safety guard if necessary.
If the rest of your house is completely safety proofed you might not need a gate. If not, install a baby gate at your child’s door so you can still hear them but they can’t run out. Of course if they are in the same room as you you could just shut the door.
Keep pets away from your child while sleeping. Also, particularly for younger babies, be mindful of older siblings running around.
Remember to keep blankets and pillows away until 12 months and follow the safe sleep 7 if you’re going to bedshare.
I recommend having the doors open to be within earshot or using a reliable baby monitor.
I hope you found this helpful! Are you considering a floor bed yourself? Let me know in the comments! If you’re thinking about transitioning from full-time bed sharing to a floor bed for independent sleep, check out my Bedsharing to Independent Sleep webinar where I give you all the tips and tricks to transition your little one.
Today I am sharing a story from a client of mine. This mama has dealt with a lot and I am hoping her story can help someone out there experiencing similar circumstances. When I met Courtney, her 14 month old son was waking hourly at night, taking 45 minutes to finish a bowl of purees (not able to handle solids) and not talking. He had every red flag for a tongue tie. But at 14 months this mama was still fighting to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Instead, she was being told to sleep train her baby and night wean. Luckily, she listened to her instincts and was able to get help. This mama is a true supermom!
‘Our son was born at 39 weeks via cesarean section because he was frank breech, the doctors were very concerned about his hips but all that turned out to be fine, everything seemed great. I thought they seemed so thorough, but there was one thing they missed that changed the course of our journey this past 16 months. My son has seen about 7 different pediatricians, and they all failed to diagnose his tongue and lip tie.
We had all the classic signs, when he was first born he latched on great or so it looked great but it certainly didn’t feel great to me. The lactation consultants I was seeing said it looked great and to give it time, and it will be uncomfortable at first but it will get better after about 2 weeks so I took that and went with it.
The first sign was that it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was painful to breastfeed my son, my nipples were cracked and bleeding and blistered. It did heal but the blistered stuck around off and on until recently.
The second sign was at his 8 week doctors appointment the doctor was concerned about his weight gain, she said it didn’t seem like he was gaining weight the way they’d like him to. Of course that was the last appointment we had with her as we were moving 3000 miles away, so under her advice she said to check his weight when we got to where we were moving to, from Washington state to Florida. Once we arrived in Florida, we took him right away and all of a sudden the pediatricians here weren’t concerned at all. He “looked healthy and was just fine is what we were told.
A third sign was he was having horrible reflux, he was upset and projectile vomiting after every feed from 3 weeks old and on. I was told this is normal and not to be concerned over it because his epiglotis was not strong yet and it is normal for young babies to have reflux and they usually outgrow it. I was not satisfied by that so I did some additional research thinking it was something in my milk that was making his belly upset so I first cut dairy out of my diet and it seemed that his reflux was not as bad so for the first year of his life I was dairy free and I thought that was the solution to our problems. He still wasn’t gaining really well and sleep was never good either, I thought it was normal, but he was waking up every 1-3 hours all night.
A fourth sign was that he was super gassy and preferred to be on his stomach to sleep, being so scared of SIDS we kept him in the bassinet next to our bed and bought the owlet baby monitor to put on his foot to monitor his oxygen levels and pulse. He slept on his belly from about 5-6 months and still continues to sleep on his stomach at 16 months, he has always preferred it and that is because of the tongue tie, his tongue hasn’t been able to maintain the proper resting tongue posture due to the tongue tie, undiagnosed tongue ties cause issues with sleep, feedings and speech.
Another sign was that our son was a very quiet baby as far as babbling, we have frequently been asked on flights if we took his vocal cords out as a joke because he was so quiet the whole flight… turns out the tongue tie made it difficult for him so he was very quiet.
Once 6 months came along we were so excited to start solids to see his reactions and he showed 0 interest in solid foods. We tried baby led weaning and he hated it- he couldn’t chew the foods or move his tongue properly to maneuver the food around in his mouth. At that point, we tried purees and it would take him more than 2 hours to finish 4oz of puree, we thought ‘ohhh he really just doesn’t want it or like it’ so we tried few other purees and then dropped it thinking maybe he just wasn’t ready for solids. We were told the old saying that “food before 1 is just for fun”, we learned the hard way that it is not just for fun, it’s for the micronutrients as well! After 4-6 months the natural iron stores in their body are no longer enough for them and they need it through their diets, we didn’t know this and sadly our son became anemic and at 11 months was diagnosed so we had to start him on a liquid multivitamin. That is also when we started feeding therapy.
From about 7-11 months before his diagnosis, his sleep gradually got worse and worse, to the point where he was waking up every 20 minutes at night and it would take sometimes 40-60 minutes to settle him back down every time. Again, we thought this was normal and maybe he was teething but it was not normal. After a blood test confirmed his anemia, the multivitamin started and his iron levels normalized and were healthy again around 14 months, but he was still waking up 8-10 times a night. I thought ‘okay something else is wrong, maybe he is just so hungry because he wasn’t eating well for solids and was just stuck on the breast all the time’ so with feeding therapy and more structured meals we got his eating to a better place but still not great. It was the feeding therapist that noticed he doesn’t have a lot of tongue mobility, his oral motor skills were lacking.
After 15 months of his life, we were finally on the right track to getting some answers, we took him to the pediatrician and said the feeding therapist is concerned about a tongue tie and the pediatricians continued to dismiss our concerns. So I took him to a specialist that knows a lot about tongue ties where it was confirmed that he does have a tongue and lip tie, and that the tongue tie was affecting his sleep, eating, and speech development.
I took him to a different doctor to get his tongue tie released at 16 months, and immediately we saw a huge difference in the way nursing felt way more comfortable, and he actually napped in the car for the first time since he was a tiny baby, he napped when we got home really easily and sleep has gotten a lot better he went from 8-10 wakes a night to about 3-5 wakes depending on the night as he is also working on molars. Now we are watching as he heals to see if his mouth breathing gets better.
But all of this has stemmed back to a tongue tie, so I think it is imperative that every baby gets evaluated by someone that knows exactly what they are looking for, because 7 paediatricians and 2 lactation consultants all looked into my son’s mouth and all missed his tie and a lot of our struggles could have been avoided. I am hoping this reaches the right caretakers and that it can help if anyone else is having similar struggles. Thank you!
So what is Baby-Led Sleep and Wellbeing Specialist?
Before I talk about how this approach is different, let’s talk about the sleep industry for a minute. Unfortunately, the sleep coaching industry is not regulated, meaning anyone can call themselves a sleep coach or sleep consultant without any qualifications.
There are a number of certification programs available through various organizations but again, since there’s no actual governing body, there’s a wide range of education (or lack thereof) provided in these programs.
Now the majority of sleep consultants use traditional sleep training methods to help their client’s babies sleep. These include several different forms of cry it out, ferber, etc. Basically, there is usually a baby being left alone to cry in order to self-soothe.
But there is a growing number of families who don’t want to use these harsh methods to train their children. Especially with what we know about attachment and the importance of the parent child relationship. Moreover, we don’t believe that children need to be taught to sleep anymore than they need to be taught to poop or eat.
So Lauren Heffernan of Isla-Grace Sleep created the Baby Led Sleep method and subsequently the Baby-Led Sleep & Wellbeing Specialist Certification Program.
Try saying that 5 times really fast.
Basically, Baby Led sleep coaches support families with their sleep challenges WITHOUT using sleep training, instead looking at sleep in a holistic manner.
The biggest problem with sleep training culture is this belief that babies need to sleep through the night. Parents are bombarded with propaganda basically making them feel inadequate if their babies aren’t sleeping through.
Well, a huge part of my job is educating parents on what IS developmentally normal and appropriate.
So your one year old wakes 1-2 times every night? That’s normal
Your 4 month old only wants to sleep on you? Normal.
The moment you begin to understand how babies are meant to behave is the moment you can begin to accept that there is nothing wrong with your baby.
Ok, that sounds lovely. But how do you get more sleep?
Good question. Remember how I said we look at sleep holistically? What that means is that we view sleep as part of a bigger puzzle. We do not view sleep as a behaviour problem but rather as a manifestation of other things that may be happening with your baby.
So when I work one on one with clients, I have them fill out an extensive intake form. In this form, they answer questions about their sleeping habits, their nutrition, the parents mental health, babies mental health, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and more.
There are a million different reasons why children wake up at night. It’s their only form of communication. So it is our job to figure out what is happening.
When I see any red flags in a client’s answers, I refer them to the appropriate specialist to get support.
If we’ve ruled out any underlying conditions, I support families to gently shift their routines and approach to support their child to sleep.
Does that means there’s no tears?
Not exactly. I am not anti-tears. I believe that children should be free to express their emotions and frustrations. However, I do not believe they should be left alone to figure out their overwhelming emotions on their own. Their brains are not fully developed and they need a caring adult to coregulate with.
So in our work together, your child might cry. I would be surprised if they didn’t when you are making changes to their day. However, I will always encourage you to empathize with them and not leave them to cry alone.
So what’s the plan?
There is no pre-set plan. It varies significantly from family to family. In fact, I would argue that anyone who sells you a pre-made sleep training plan is scamming you. They don’t know your baby. Only you know your baby.
A huge part of my approach is empowering you to trust your instincts and follow your baby’s lead. I believe we have gotten to a point in our society where we are so far removed from our natural instincts because we are bombarded with information and ‘rules’. I help you filter through all the noise to find your inner guidance and be able to tune in to your baby.
So you’re basically saying to wait it out until things get better?
No. I don’t believe that it is either sleep train or suffer with bad sleep forever. There is a middle ground and a gentle respectful way to make changes that gets you more sleep. In the process, I help families reconnect with their little ones and deepen their relationship.
I like what I hear, where do we start?!
I have a variety of ways to support you depending on your budget and need. For starters I have a free nap guide ready to land in your inbox when you sign up for my newsletter (scroll all the way down to the bottom of my site).
On the low price-end, I have great webinars every Thursday on various sleep topics. You get to ask questions live and get a link to the replay and accompanying handout for every webinar you attend.
Last but not least, I have a few different ways to support you one-on-one which you can check out here. Regardless of the option you choose, you will be asked to fill out the Intake Questionnaire which we will review together and you will have access to a plethora of resources.
I also do free 15m consultation calls to gauge your needs and help you decide what package is right for you (if any!). Simply fill out my contact form here.
Not currently in need of support? If you like what you see here, I would be very appreciative if you share with a parent or parent-to-be who could use this information. Help me spread the word that sleep training doesn’t have to be the answer.