Help! My Child Won't Sleep!

Diving into the tiny human brain and the science behind sleep!

[This is also an episode of Friday Free Talk on The Tranquility Tribe Podcast on iTunes. Listen here.]

Hello Tranquility Tribe!  Thanks for joining us for the fifth episode of the Tranquility Tribe podcast!  In this episode, Hehe spoke to the incredible Alyssa Blask Campbell (one of my personal favorite childhood educators, aside from Hehe of course!).  Throughout the podcast, Hehe talks to Alyssa about her business, Seed and Sew, and her passion for supporting parents with her knowledge about sleep and emotional development among tiny humans.  

Who is Alyssa?

Lover of chai lattes and tiny humans (aren’t we all!), Alyssa has a masters in Early Childhood Education and a wide array of experiences working with children and their families, including being a nanny, a teacher of all ages between infancy and kindergarten, and a sleep, education, and behavioral consultant.  One of her many passions is studying emotional development during infancy and childhood, with a particular focus on the intersection of sleep and development.  Alyssa’s goal trough Seed and Sew is to support and educate parents and to connect families so that they can help each other through the trying times of parenthood.  

Why is this support so important?  

We are not meant to raise children by ourselves - they weren’t kidding when they said it takes a village!  As the number of households with two working parents has increased, so have the difficulties associated with ensuring that children get the attention they need.  Trying to care for a young child on top of the already busy daily routine can make parents understandably exhausted!  Our society no longer has the same family structure that it used to, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t lean on others in our community for support. 

One reason that sleep causes so much strife among parents is that it is something that you cannot MAKE your child do.  Raising a tiny human can be confusing, and the unpredictable nature of sleep adds to the lack of control that parents feel.  

From her five years of experience working as a sleep consultant, Alyssa has seen firsthand the variety of struggles that parents experience.  One of the biggest concerns among new parents is how long they’ll have to wait before their little one is on a “normal” sleep schedule.  Alyssa’s answer?  Tiny humans don’t start producing melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep, until they are four months old.  Until the four month mark, Alyssa says, it’s important to focus on the awake time rather than the sleep time.  Your little one shouldn’t be awake for longer than 90 minutes to two hours at a time.  The best way to maximize sleep for babies between zero and four months is to find their ideal “sleep pressure”; if they are overtired or not tired enough, they won’t sleep as well or as long.  Alyssa recommends using a sleep app, or even just an old-fashioned pencil and paper, to keep track of your tiny human’s sleep schedule so that you can know when they are in need of their next nap.  

After the four month mark, you can start working with your little one to consolidate their sleep.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that a “normal” sleep schedule may not be what you expect or hope for, at least at the beginning.  According to Alyssa, getting your child to sleep for six hours at a time is an accomplishment.  

Many parents may not know where to start when trying to sync their child’s sleep schedule; throughout the podcast, Alyssa provides some suggestions that can help you support your tiny human’s sleep.  First, that ideal sleep pressure mentioned above?  It doesn’t just apply to infants!  Alyssa says that the majority of sleep problems that she sees in little ones have to do with the fact that they are not in the right sleep pressure zone; that is, they are either not ready to sleep or are so tired that they can’t go to sleep (it sounds counterintuitive, but we’ve all been there!).  In addition to finding that sleep pressure sweet spot, it’s also very important that your tiny human feels safe and loved.  As Maslow’s hierarchy suggests, a secure environment is necessary before anything else can be achieved!  However, getting your child to sleep can sometimes involve letting them cry.  We’re not talking about the cry-it-out method, though - on the contrary, Alyssa supports the Ferber method, which encourages allowing your child to cry, but checking in on them in regular intervals to let them know that they are safe (for more info, check out all that Alyssa has to offer through Seed and Sew!).  Other quick tips include putting blackout curtains and a noise machine in your baby’s sleep room.  Excess light and sudden noises can disrupt your tiny human’s sleep, especially during the light sleep stage of the REM cycle, so blocking out light and maintaining constant noise can help your little one stay asleep for longer.  

What's the bottom line?

The topics of both sleep and emotional development are complicated, often stigmatized, and charged with differing opinions.  What’s Alyssa’s piece of parting knowledge?  Be critical of the advice that you hear or read - if it’s worded in a way that makes you feel fearful, look for different, more supportive resources.  And ultimately, trust your instincts!  You know your child best, and you have the final say.  

If you want to learn more about Alyssa and Seed and Sew, visit seedandsew.org or check her business out on Facebook or on Instagram at @seed.and.sew.  And if you want to hear more from Alyssa, stay tuned - she will be starting her own podcast soon!  

Don’t forget to join our private Facebook, The Tranquility Tribe Podcast, and follow us on Instagram at @tranquilitybyhehe!

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Written by our Guest Blogger, Kyra Shreeve. She is a Biochemistry, Health Policy, and Music student at Brandeis University. 

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