Our social media manager, Brandi, and I got to have a chat with Mandy Treeby, one of the sleep coaches and brains behind the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers App. We were so grateful to chat with her about all things sleep and since we both have a four-year-old struggling to stay in bed, we just had to start the interview with some personal asks 😉
My four year old still creeps into our bed at night. What are your tips for older babes/little kids in guiding them back to their bed
OK, let me let me start with your 4 year olds cause honestly, like this, they’re it’s so funny, right? Sleep is such a roller coaster like you think you’re kind of out of it with a little baby. You know, my kids are a little bit older now. They’re 11 and almost 9 tomorrow actually. But still, we have these little wavers along the way. But for four year olds, one of the biggest challenges is they they kind of go through a little bit of the twos again where they test the boundaries.
I recommend you hold a family meeting. So you sit down with your 4 year old and basically explain the importance of sleep. Why is sleep so important? And we sleep so that we can do all the things that we love like. Going to the park or maybe your 4 year old likes gymnastics or soccer or something else. And when we don’t get enough sleep, we can’t do those things. And you know, even their favorite superhero needs to sleep, right. So you kind of talk through all of those things. And then you explain that when we don’t sleep, it means we can’t go to the park. So there’s a logical consequence of them not doing what they need to do. And in that meeting, you can make something called a sleep rules poster. And then that night when you go to bed, you hang your sleep rules poster in the room and go over the rules before they go to sleep.
OK, if they come to you in the middle of the night. So they’ve broken a rule, then I use what’s called the silent return. So that’s basically a robotic return of your child to their bed. So it’s not giving in to anything that they want at this point. You basically you can cuddle them and pick them up and carry them back. Or you can just hold their hand and carry them back. But if they start asking you questions or trying to engage with, you’ve got to cut it off because what they’ll do is they’ll be like, I need one more hug. I need you to tuck me in. I need a water and you start giving in to all of these demands. And it’s really giving in to their wants not their needs.
So you use the silent return as many times as needed until they stay in their bed and go back to sleep. And if they did break the sleep rules you follow through with that logical consequence the next day. So basically we can’t go to the park or you have to miss out on because we didn’t follow the sleep rules and usually within a few days it sets itself straight again. It’s kind of like the toddler stage all over. You just have to kind of not negotiate. They’re just much better negotiators now.
A question I get from so many moms: How to survive the 4 month regression!
You know, it’s such a beast because you go through this three months of disorganized sleep. What happens is the circadian rhythm matures and sleep starts to consolidate and you think like things are all cool. And then this 4 month sleep regression hits and it kind of comes like a ton of bricks. So what’s actually going on is it’s a developmental progression. Your baby starts to recognize patterns and they’re starting to wake fully between sleep cycles.
So whereas before you may have been rocking or feeding your newborn to sleep and they kind of dozed, they connected cycles more easily. Now, at this age, they’re waking fully. And because they’ve been supported to sleep, they don’t know how to go back to sleep themselves. And at the same time, they’re sleep has shifted because of this circadian rhythm maturity happening. So that’s what’s going on. And it normally lasts like two to six weeks. The best things you can do so not helpful for parents already in it. But my first tip for those that are nervous of it is to be ahead of the game. So.
Three things you can do to survive the 4-month sleep regression:
Be ahead of the game. Establish healthy sleep habits from day one, with consistent bedtime routines and placing your baby down drowsy but awake – giving your baby the space and time to practice falling asleep independently before this regression hits. That alone will help minimize disruption at 4-months.
Stick with your sleep routine. Just because they are suddenly waking more often, resist the temptation to introduce new sleep crutches (like bringing them to your bed) or nursing/feeding to sleep when you didn’t before.
Start following a solid 3 nap schedule. And use earlier bedtimes to help recover any lost sleep during this change.
I will say, you know, obviously I’m coming from this Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers. Our app is designed to totally hand hold you through things like that. So you have your schedule. It’s gonna give you all of these tips on routine and on environment so that you’re well set up to go through any regression or teething or sickness and things like that. It’s really kind of. It’s such a roller coaster sleep. So this back and forth of like 2 steps forward, one step back can throw you.
I just feel like it’s a natural segway to talk about the crying it out method because you’re talking about, you know, how our kids don’t know, they’re learning how to fall asleep. Yeah, like kids don’t know how to put themselves to sleep, so we have to teach them. And so I know so many people who have used the cry it out method and, you know, it’s really polarizing. People are either really for it or really against it.
So like you said, falling asleep is a learned skill, like rolling, crawling, walking, talking. All of these are skills that your baby needs to learn. So I use a lot of analogies, but imagine every time your baby went to pull up on the furniture, you picked them up and pulled them away, right? You don’t want them to fall and hurt themselves. But if you never let them cruise, they’re never gonna get the balance. Now, the truth is, everybody eventually gets there, right? That kid will eventually walk and so on. But the more support you continue to give your baby, the longer it will take them to learn that skill independently. I think cry it out has that same kind of level of I don’t want to hurt my baby. Is this gonna hurt them? It hurts me to hear them cry. That’s what sleep training is. It’s leaving your baby alone. And that isn’t the case. Sleep training is really just weaning your baby off the support that you’ve been giving them.
And there’s many ways to do it. You had a question earlier on genetics and the role that they play in sleep. The reason why cry it out works so well for many babies is because of a genetic element called temperament. For some babies, it’s just better to leave them to deal with it themselves. When you try a different approach, like, I don’t know, chair method where you’re sitting in the room with them, they are just so distraught that you’re sitting there and not rocking them, that they cry even harder.
Or if you try Ferber, where you leave the room and you come back, and then you leave again – they’re like, what on Earth? You’re not gonna pick me up? Whereas if you try cry it out for those babies quite often in 15 or 20 minutes, they’re done and they’ll fall asleep. And so I think what, what is a little bit of a myth is that any change in habit will be met with some resistance. Find me a baby that likes tummy time the first time they tried it. Right. But you just keep trying for longer periods until they get the strength to to enjoy it to some extent.
What I say with this is you have to pick a sleep training approach that you can consistently deliver, right? And if you can consistently deliver chair, even though it’s really hard on your baby, for example, but you can do it, they will get there. They will sleep. If cry it out is the right one and it works well for your baby, normally what happens is it results in less overall crying because it works so much faster than many of the other methods. It’s just, you know, a little bit of a toss up of really what fits for you as a family.
And that’s been an important kind of element as we develop the app because we didn’t want to be one size fits all. We definitely know that one size fits none essentially. And so we wanted to make it flexible enough that you could really find a method that’s in tune with you, your values and your baby’s temperament.
What are some of the most common sleep issues you come across in your practice?
The one I hear quite often is ‘my baby will only fall asleep when nursing’ or feeding to sleep. It’s quite often babies that don’t need to eat at night anymore. But what’s happened is again they’re associating feeding with sleep because that’s what they do at bedtime. I always loved this analogy: It’s a bit like, imagine you go to sleep in your cozy bed and you wake up on the kitchen floor. And that’s what happens to these babies. They fell asleep cozy with their mom nursing. And then they wake up in their crib on their own.
So that’s like, #1. Rocking is right up there with that, too. The other one that’s quite common is bedtimes are too late. So babies get over tired, and parents think they’re just not tired. So we let bedtime go a little bit later. And that really eats into their deep sleep because you only get deep sleep before midnight. So the later we push bedtimes the less non REM sleep your baby’s getting and that’s why we tried it and that’s actually true for adults too. If you’re ever tired, go to bed early. It will help you versus sleeping in the morning. It’s just the way our circadian rhythms are set. So they’re the most common. All of these things you can deal with.
It’s never too late to establish healthy sleep habits. It’s really about when are you ready to change? It gets harder the older your baby is just because it’s more ingrained. Like I said to a mom recently – she had been feeding her baby to sleep and he was, I think, 19 months. So every sleep for 19 months of his entire life, he’d been fed. And she’s like, it’s not working. I’m like, but it’s only been a day, you know, so you have to think, you know, for three to four sleeps a day or however many a day until 19 months. It’s a lot of time that that baby is spent doing that.
Changing that habit is difficult, but it’s not impossible. So actually within the app we would work with each of these cases and go through and be like, OK, so this is the challenge. This is the age of the child. We ask questions about temperament and then we would work with them on a sleep training approach and guide them step by step through changing that habit to be a more independent sleep habit.
Can you tell us about your most common suggestions to parents of little ones?
- Black out shades are your best friend: Naps and overnight sleep should be in a pitch dark room
- Brown noise is better than white noise – it’s more dull and pleasant while delivering the same benefits of blocking out sudden sounds.
- Bedtimes always need to be flexible – we adjust bedtime earlier if naps don’t go well – it helps prevent overtiredness
- A late bedtime won’t result in a late wake up – quite the opposite, later bedtimes usually result in early wake ups. Sleep begets sleep, so opt for an early bedtime and let your little one catch up on lost sleep!
- Track your baby’s sleep – if sleep isn’t going well, knowing when your baby is sleeping / waking is at the heart of understanding how to fix it. That’s why we put the scheduling tool at the heart of the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers App, so that we always know what is happening with your individual baby’s sleep and how to adjust things to make it better!
In your opinion, why is sleep so important in the first few years of baby’s life?
So, you know, during your first three years of of life, it’s the fastest rate of brain development in your entire lifespan. So most of that development in that first three years happens while we sleep as humans. Now, babies will always get sleep. I think this is also an another kind of challenge with babies. Sleep is what they do. They just might not always sleep when you want them to sleep or you know they may be waking a lot at night, but when sleep is disrupted for for a baby, it can cause all kinds of other issues with their behavior, their mood, even their appetite. And it can become just much more challenging as a parent to manage that because you’re also sleep deprived, right? So it’s really important that you establish, solid sleep habits that really support their happy, healthy development so that they are able to handle their emotions. They are happier in the day. You are better rested and as a parent, there’s nothing better than when your baby is happy. So it’s, there is obviously a critical developmental angle that connects to their social, emotional and cognitive growth, but there’s also just this I think you also alluded to it in the question.
It’s really important for you too, as a parent that sleep is there. I think there was a stat recently that said new moms in the first six months lose at least an hour of sleep a night minimum just because it’s so challenging and it doesn’t need to be that way. I think that’s the other piece that people don’t realize. It’s like people will tell you you’re never gonna get sleep again when you have a kid. And the truth is actually you can. Yes, you’re going to have to get up and feed your child and you’re going to need to support them and they’re going to get sick and teething and all these things. But actually, in the most part, you can establish sleep habits that will support you. And that was one of the core drivers behind me, when I was joining this team and we were parents together creating this app. Like there’s gotta be something more we can do for sleep and help people be aware that there are solutions and ways to improve their baby’s sleep.
I know you mentioned that it’s never too late to start implementing these routines and schedules. But when is a good age to start? Like is newborn just too impractical? What’s a good time to start implementing these things?
It’s a really good question. So what I say is newborns are just biologically, you know, not ready to be scheduled. But if you start tracking their sleep at newborn, you start to be able to see what patterns are emerging. It just helps you to know, OK, it has been X hours since they fed, right? So what I would say at newborn is start bedtime routines, make sure your sleep environment is set up and track sleeps because that just sets you up for success, particularly on some of the tips I gave earlier on the four month sleep regression.
But the perfect age to start sleep training or to really start what I would say weaning your baby off your support is around four months and that’s because the regression that we talked about earlier that progression that development was this ability to recognize patterns. So they now know when this happens. So I think four months, it’s the perfect age. It’s definitely a good idea to do it before 8 months if you can, because that’s when separation anxiety kicks in.
It is never too late. And for some parents, they’re just not ready. And that’s perfectly cool. No one says you have to do it now. It’s more that if sleeps bothering you, if you’re returning to work, if you’re feel like you’re exhausted and you can’t think straight, there are solutions for you. And four months is a great time to get started.
No one saying like it has to be some regimented like now go to bed. It can be super cozy.
Tell me about Smart Sleep Coach and why it’s a great tool for parents.
So I mean, we created the app really to make sleep coaching accessible to everybody, right? Hiring a sleep coach it can be a little bit like how long is a piece of string? It really depends on what level of of interaction you’re asking for, but it can be hundreds and thousands of dollars, right, depending on the level of support. Our app is about $0.27 a day. So it’s less than the cup of coffee you’re gonna need to get over the fact that you were awake multiple times.
And it grows with your baby. So what happens often with a sleep consultant is they’ll come in and they’ll maybe help you with the four month sleep regression. But then you hit the eight-month regression. Well, you got to hire them again to come back in and do that. So it’s kind of like this cycle. Now sleep consultants are amazing. I’m a sleep consultant myself. But what the app does is really puts that sleep consultant in your pocket. So what we what we realized is as parents ourselves, we know every baby’s different. So our product is geared to fully understand how hard it can be to get good sleep and to help you get it.
We know that every family can sleep better. So with this kind of smart sleep consultant in your pocket or the Smart Sleep Coach app, we’re giving you a truly custom and tailored approach to sleep. It starts off with an in-depth sleep consultation where we understand everything about your baby’s sleep habits and some of your preferences. And then we deliver a truly custom sleep plan that grows with your baby as their habits adjust. So initially, if you’re coming in with a sleep problem, that plan is going to be geared at almost intervention based. And then it’s gonna adjust into more of what I call maintenance. Like just making sure that sleeps are going well and keeping things ticking over until maybe the next regression happens, be it jet lag, it could be a sleep regression, could be your baby gets sick, teething, any of that.
The app has 4 core tools. It has a smart sleep schedule which updates automatically or dynamically as you track sleep. So helping make sure that they’re biologically set with your baby’s rhythm.
It includes smart sleep courses, so there’s daily bite size classes that give you all of the information that you need to know when you need to know it. So it’s kind of tailored to coax you along slowly versus kind of jump straight in. We have notifications. You call them smart notifications to remind you to look for sleepy cues when a nap might be coming. And then we have smart sleep support so you have access to me within the app. And so if you have a question and I get many a day of people that are just, hey, I learned this, but what do I do about that or they can reach out directly from within the app and get that extra support when they when they need it. So it really is a cool tool.
We really did bring our best of the best to this product to make it as helpful and useful to tired parents as possible.
I always say to parents, if your kid wanted to eat the dog food and you took it away and they’re, like, throwing the biggest tantrum and they might bang their head or whatever and you’ll move them. But, you’re not gonna give them the dog food, right? They’re not gonna be allowed to do that. And a lot of it is needs and wants. And it’s finding that balance for where you are in your journey. And there’s such tiny little cute things. And they’re only little for so long. So I say enjoy it. But if sleep is bothering you there are tools, there is help and there are ways to teach your baby to learn to be a strong independent sleeper and help you get the sleep you need so that everybody is is in a better place.
Smart Sleep Coach App has four key features:
- Smart Sleep Schedule: updating dynamically as sleeps are tracked to suggest the optimal time to put baby to sleep (in tune with their biological rhythms) helping baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. to support everything parents need to improve their baby’s sleep.
- Smart Sleep Courses: short daily classes that right size what parents need to know about sleep, when they need to know it.
- Smart Notifications: keep parents accountable in delivering their sleep plan, so they are always one step ahead of their baby’s sleep.
- Smart Sleep Support: step-by-step guidance as parents implement their sleep plan to help ensure sleep is approached consistently, with access to a Pediatric Sleep Consultant for extra support when needed!
As part of its mission to make quality sleep support accessible to parents everywhere, they let parents try out the app for free for seven days.
Follow Smart Sleep Coach on TikTok for real time sleep tips!
*This article is intended for our North American audience – advice on sleep (as well as other parenting tools) vary across countries and cultures. While here at Ergobaby our favorite, and preferred, way of parenting is Attachment Style parenting with an emphasis on responding to your baby’s cues, we recognize that when it comes to helping our little ones sleep, every parent and baby is different and we encourage you to do your research and find out what’s best for your family!