Top Sleep Training Tips (for Mom and Baby) from Psyched Mommy’s Dr. Ashurina Ream
As an expecting parent or a new parent in the throes of sleep training, you’ve probably heard comments like these over and over:
“Good luck sleeping with a baby in the house!”
“Better get some rest whenever you can.”
“Are you exhausted yet?”
Maybe you can relate. And you’ve likely realized by now – through personal experience – that sleep deprivation can be absolutely brutal. It seems that every time you finally get your infant down, tiptoe away, crawl into bed and barely shut your eyes… you’re awoken only moments later by wails or shrieks.
It’s difficult to relay the depth of frustration and destructive nature of coping with a major lack of restorative sleep unless you’ve been through it yourself.
Dr. Ashurina Ream, has been through this ordeal herself. The popular Psyched Mommy “momfluencer” has studied sleep deprivation in-depth and created a suite of resources for handling the challenges of being a first-time parent. Here, she offers effective tips on when to start sleep training methods and how to find your way back to getting a good night’s sleep.
Dr. Ream to the Rescue
A licensed clinical psychologist, Ream became certified in perinatal mental health after she struggled with managing her first baby.
“Having my first baby was not the magical, transformative, rainbows-and-unicorns experience I’d been told it would be,” recalls Ream, on her website. “Instead, I was angry, sad and lonely. And I was guilt-ridden over all of it. I had so many tabs open in my brain — baby, marriage, household, work, friends, other responsibilities, etc. — that I didn’t know what to do first! And my own needs didn’t even register on that list.”
She took what she learned — from her own experiences to evidence-based-research — and created an online course and community, Keeping Mommy in Mind. She also blogs on her website Psyched Mommy, which is loaded with online mental health resources to help moms navigate motherhood with confidence and joy.
Here, in an interview with Zulily, Ream tackles some of the most buzzed-about parenting topics: sleep training, sleep deprivation and how to get your kid to sleep through the night. She also shares her advice on why creating a comfortable setting and a bedtime routine is important for getting a better night’s sleep for everyone in your household, and more. Above all, her goal is for every new parent (like you!) to navigate your new role with confidence and joy. As she likes to remind her patients, “You’re doing a great job!”
The Zulily Q & A: Expert Sleep Training Advice from Dr. Ream
I’m expecting my first child. Is it better to have my baby sleep in the same room as me, or sleep in the nursery?
I suggest that parents follow the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) when it comes to safe sleep. The AAP recommends room-sharing with your baby for the first 6 months. Room-sharing is different than bed sharing. Room-sharing means that your baby will sleep in their own crib (or bassinet, play yard, etc.) close to your bed, but not in your bed.
My daughter won’t sleep in her bassinet. The only way she will is if I’m holding her. Is there anything I can do? I feel like I can’t get anything done.
This isn’t uncommon. Small children desire to remain in close proximity to their parents. I also understand how challenging this can be when you’re trying to get things done. You might consider babywearing, as it frees your hands and allows your baby to sleep when they desire. However, this doesn’t work for everyone. You’ll notice your baby will take shorter naps when transferred to the crib/bassinet.
You can make some changes to the sleep environment that can help, too. Create a few cues before naptime that remain consistent (i.e., reading a book, singing a quick lullaby, etc.) Be sure the room is dark and the temperature is comfortable. Using a white noise machine will be helpful, too. Assess the schedule to make sure your baby isn’t overtired. Consistency is key; however, I want to remind you that there isn’t a set of magic steps to make babies sleep.
When my child does fall asleep at night, I know I should go to sleep too, but I find myself mindlessly watching TV instead. How can I get into a better night-time routine?
This is one of the themes that often comes up in therapy sessions with my clients. They yearn for alone time and try to take advantage of the quiet after their baby goes to bed. I recommend not using an all-or-nothing approach.
What if you watch a bit of TV and you create a better routine? You might consider setting a time-limit for TV-watching, or a cut-off time for all technology. And just like you would with your child, create a few steps leading up to your bedtime. This can be 30 minutes before bedtime or as much as an hour. Choose a few activities that you find calming (and will likely do) before bed.
Here’s an example: Turn off all technology by 9 p.m.; read from a book for 15 minutes; stretch for 10 minutes; wash your face; change into pajamas; get into bed. (Obviously, this is just an example. You can choose whatever you’d like, from deep breathing, listening to soothing music or sleep stories, saying affirmations, taking a bath… or anything, really.)
I struggle with relaxing when I go to bed, because I think about everything that needs to get done at home, at work and with my kids the next day. How can I clear my mind before going to sleep?
This is something I have found to be challenging personally, too. I like to clear my mind by doing a brain dump activity. I give myself a time limit and write down all of the things clouding my thoughts (to-do’s, worries, all of it!)
When I’m in bed and I notice my thoughts racing, I will use a grounding exercise. The easiest one for me is to focus on my senses. I will usually choose several things around me and try to describe them to myself. This type of grounding exercise will allow you to focus on what you hear, feel, smell, taste or see.
For example, if you’re focusing on your sense of touch, you’d describe what your body feels like against your bed/pillow, and how the sheets feel against your hands or feet. When your mind drifts, acknowledge that it’s okay, and try the activity again.
How do you deal with all the conflicting advice you get from people about sleep advice and find what’s right for you?
This can be challenging because there’s so much noise around us about sleep advice. My best guidance is to determine what your values are in relation to sleep. What are your musts, non-negotiables, etc.? When you determine that, it will be easier to identify if a piece of advice lines up with your values or not.
I like to ask my clients, “Does this sound like you or someone else?” When you ask yourself this question, you can better understand if you’re taking on other people’s rules or if you’re doing what you desire to do.
Dr. Ream’s Favorite Products for a Good Night’s Sleep (for Mom & Baby!)
In addition to following Dr. Ream’s guidance on good sleep practices, here are four products she likes to recommend that can help new parents cope with – and hopefully avoid – sleep deprivation. For a better night’s sleep, try these clever items. You’ll find similar items like these on Zulily.com’s Welcome Baby Shop.
White Noise Machine
White noise machines create steady, soothing, static tones that neutralize other jarring, erratic noises. And they’re great for parents and babies. Some feature sounds from nature, such as rain or ocean waves. The gentle audio allows you to breathe regularly, relax deeply and lulls you into a sound sleep (though you’ll still be able to wake up for any urgent needs).
Pulsating Meditation & Dream Light
New to deep breathing techniques and need a little guidance? This unique device helps train you to practice meditative breathing timed with a pulsing, soothing light. The patterns encourage a meditative-like state that can also help you reach the deeper levels of sleep that refresh your mind, like R.E.M (rapid eye movement) during which one can dream.
Humidifiers steadily add extra moisture to your living spaces, such as bedrooms and nurseries. This portable, ultrasonic version is designed with an added essential oil diffuser plus a customizable hot and cool mist.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is a classic, proven, relaxing essential oil. Many products are infused with lavender to encourage rest, including microwavable heating pads, bed sheet sprays and baby bath lotions. Lavender essential oil can be used in room diffusers (for bedrooms and nurseries), added to the above-mentioned humidifier, and even rubbed on bedding and blankets.