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Moms, the sleep struggle is all to real for most of us. Whether the disrupters are night time feedings for newborns, teething for toddlers, anxiety for tweens or coming up holiday travel – all of us want to know how we can help our little ones get more sleep, which means we get more sleep.
We interviewed Rebecca Michi, a children's sleep consultant and mama herself, about everything from best nursery design practices to toddler room transitioning must-haves. So grab your latte and read through this quick how-to.
Q&A With Rebecca Michi
HELPING EVERYONE GET THEIR BEAUTY SLEEP
Q. What was your path to becoming a children’s sleep consultant?
A. I have a degree in child development and have worked with families for over two decades. After having my daughters and realizing that two children could be so different, I began to look at temperaments and how they impact everything, especially sleep. My daughters slept so differently and uniquely, and both were quite normal for them. I couldn't force them to do something that their temperament wouldn't allow and had to work with them on a daily basis; this made life much easier and their sleep so much smoother.
Q. What sleep challenges Did you have with your kids?
A. My eldest daughter (now 14 years old) had many sleep challenges; she would not want to miss out on anything, she would become overstimulated, over tired and would fight sleep so much. My eldest daughter has an intense, spirited temperament. My youngest daughter (now 13 years old) had far fewer sleep challenges; she was far more relaxed and laidback and took very little help getting to sleep and back to sleep.
The way they slept was more to do with them than it was me, their temperaments were playing a big part in the way they slept and still does.
Q. What are some of the common ways you’ve seen new moms sabotage themselves when setting up the nursery as the perfect sleep environment?
A. When a child is over 12 weeks of age we want them to sleep in a dark environment; the nursery needs to have blackout blinds at the windows. When we are in a dark environment, we produce melatonin and as this induces sleep we want to make the most of this. Don't worry about your child getting day and night mixed when they are over 12 weeks of age; you won't let them nap for 8 hours!
New parents should set up several safe sleep spaces for their child, they may have every intention of their child sleeping in their room in their crib from birth, but waking to feed every hour or two makes walking to the nursery tedious and so exhausting. If you have a safe space for your child to sleep in your room, this will make those night wakings and feeds so much easier on you.
Q. On that note, what are some best practices tips for prepping the nursery to encourage baby’s best and safest sleep habits?
A. A newborn doesn't need much when it comes to sleep; they are pretty portable. Babies need a firm, safe surface to sleep on. Babies sleep a lot, and we want the surface they are sleeping on to be safe and risk-free. Putting money on a good quality mattress is beneficial. A baby doesn't need comforters or crib bumpers, in fact, these are a risk to your child. A baby should sleep alone (no pillows, bumpers, or toys) until their first birthday.
Q. Are there any products you recommend to help babies fall, and stay asleep? Any products for toddlers or young kids that are newly sleeping in big beds and having trouble with the transition?
A. White noise can be so helpful in helping your child sleep when they are in the womb it is not quiet, trying to get them to sleep in a quiet room can be hard for them. Loud white noise in the nursery can make the difference between short stretches of sleep and longer stretches.
I advise families to swaddle their newborns when getting them to sleep. The startle or moro reflex can be strong, and your child can wake themselves up when you try to lay them down, or they are moving through sleep cycles. A swaddle will prevent the startle reflex from waking them.
As children get older and transition from the crib to a bed, having the freedom not only means that they can leave the bed whenever they want, but they can also fall out of the bed. An okay to wake clock may be helpful as it will let your child know when it is time to get up in the morning. A bed rail can prevent your child from falling out of the bed.
Q. Do you have some advice for a successful and happy transitioning from baby crib to big kid bed?
A. Don't make the transition at a trickier time if you can help it. Making the change before 18 months of age or when your child is older three years of age will be an easier time. Between 18 months and three years of age, a child is very physical and you cannot reason with them. Of course, if your child is starting to climb out of the crib you may need to make that transition. Consistency is the key to success; they will climb out of the bed just because they can, keep walking them back to bed, repeat and repeat. Don't start doing things to make the bedtime easier, rocking your child to sleep or sitting with them in the room may initially help but it will quickly become a habit and you will need to do that each night.
Q. What is your position on weighted blankets for tweens and teens with sleep anxiety?
A. Weighted blankets can be helpful for teens and tweens and can really help them get a better night sleep. Don't start off with something that is too heavy. Add more weight as you need to.
Q. With the winter holidays coming up families will be travel around and young ones will be sleeping in new or strange places, not to mention special late night activities. what sleep hacks do you have for parents to keep kids refreshed and happy during this holiday season?
A. Try to keep your routines as consistent as possible when you are traveling, the more consistent we can keep things the easier time your child will have sleeping. If you are having late nights make sure that you and your child are able to catch up on the missed sleep either with an extra nap or a sleeping in (not that children want to do that!), if they miss out on too much sleep it is going to have an impact on their mood and that can make your days tricky, The more tired and sleep deprived we become the harder time we have sleeping. You know your child’s limits, keep their sleep a priority over the holidays. Check out this article on this topic, 'Helping Little Ones Sleep While Traveling'
Q. Let’s shift gears. What's your own personal home décor style? What favorite pieces do you have in your kid’s bedrooms?
A. I love antique furniture, and though there aren't too many antiques I trust my teenagers with, they do have some old chairs in their bedrooms that we love. We have a lot of pictures on our walls, old maps of all the places we have lived (on 3 continents) and pictures from old magazines. My daughters have many photographs of friends and family in their bedrooms.
Q. Do you have a social media style crush and/or favorite blog?
A. I love following design and interior blogs on Instagram. Being English I love to follow people who have beautiful, old houses. One of my favorites is @gettingstuffdoneinheals and I also love @cathkidston.
Q. What's next for you?
A. In the new year I am launching my new online course “Working with your child’s temperament to achieve blissful sleep.’ The Michi Sleep Academy is still growing in leaps and bounds.
Get more of Rebecca Michi
A self-starter in pursuit of all things smart, savvy and stylish.