First at Four: Advice to help you deal with a 'picky sleeper'

First at Four: Advice to help you deal with a 'picky sleeper'

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Earlier this week on WECT News First at Four, we talked about how to make mealtime less stressful for those of you with picky eaters.

Now, we're exploring how to make bedtime less stressful if you have a "picky sleeper" at home.

Breni Malpass, a certified child sleep consultant with Seaside Sleep Consulting in Wilmington, joined us on the show to share some advice.

She works with families who have children who may experience multiple night wakings, struggle with an age appropriate schedule, take short or non-existent naps and more.

We asked for her advice on some sleep issues. Our Q&A is below:

Question: What are some healthy sleep habits?

Breni's answer: No matter how old your child is, there are several things that are important when creating and reinforcing good sleep hygiene. Some of those include: respecting your child's natural sleep rhythms (giving them the opportunity to sleep at the right times – when their bodies need sleep), creating the ideal sleep environment (temperature, dark, white noise, consistent sleeping place) and establishing consistent routines for both bedtimes and naps.

Question: What are some of the sleep training methods you use?

Answer: I am trained in a variety of methods. However, I take a holistic approach when suggesting a method or intervention that would be best for a client family. It's my job to educate families on the biology of sleep, proper sleep hygiene, how developmental stages affect sleep and when appropriate interventions can help babies sleep more consistently so that mom and baby are better rested. Ultimately, it is about matching the approach to the clients parenting philosophy & lifestyle as well as the sleep temperament of the child.  Interventions range from very gradual/more parental presence to less gradual/less parental presence. Some methods that parents choose, include Pick Up/Put Down method, Chair Method, Check & Console, Graduated Extinction, and Extinction. Regardless of the method chosen, they are all successful if parents are consistent in their implementation.

Question: How do you handle sleep training with more than one child? 

Answer: When working with a family with more than one child who needs help, determining the best approach is a combination of a variety of factors. The ages, where each child sleeps (whether they share a room or separate rooms), whether there are multiple caregivers and the sleep temperament of each child. For example, if you have a toddler/preschooler who starts out in their room but sneaks into their parents room at night where the younger sibling is also sleeping in the room with the parents, it would be best to work with the older child first. Once the older child is consistently sleeping in their own bed all night, it's easier to address the younger child.

Question: How do you keep kids on a sleep schedule when you travel or it's a special occasion? 

Answer: The important thing to consider here is whether the child is well-rested to begin with. If so, there should be very little disruption to their schedule when they return. When on vacation or holidays, it's important to stick to their normal schedule as much as possible. Try to re-create their usual sleep environment for both naps and bedtime (dark, cool, white noise, and maybe something that smells of home). Sometimes activities may interfere with naptime (skip nap or sleep in stroller) and in that situation, it's critical to have an earlier bedtime. The more sleep debt they create while on vacation the more adjustment when you return.

Question: What are some tips to transition a child to a bed?  

Answer: The most important advice I can tell you…wait until they ask for it! Many times the transition happens too early. Children under the age of 2.5 – 3 years do not have the capability to understand the imaginary boundary that exists with a big kid bed or the rules associated with it. While they may stay in bed for the first part of the night, they may lack the impulse control to actually stay in bed. Not only is safety a concern but most likely parents sleep will be disrupted as well. If it's time to transition, then there are a couple of things families can do to ensure success. First, decide what bed the child will transition to: toddler bed, twin bed, or double bed. If you have a crib that converts, I'd suggest starting with taking the rail off. It's a way to test the waters so to speak. Get the child involved in the process to get them excited! In addition to helping pick the bed, let them pick out their new bedding. Second, toddler proof the room because they will likely get up anyway. Consider installing bed rails, a baby gate at the door, or even securing furniture to the walls. Lastly, hold a "family sleep meeting". Sit down before the move and explain what is happening, why it's happening, and what the expectations are. Include all members of the family.

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