Sleep Training

I recently posted an article comparing the CIO (Cry It Out) group supporters to the Co-Sleeping supporters, and briefly discussed our daughter’s experience with both sleep plans. We are now 4 weeks into implementing a successful CIO bedtime and nap-time routine for our 11-month-old daughter. I have not seen a detailed example of how CIO plans are implemented, so I have decided to share the specifics of our plan.

First, I would like to clarify that my previous article was not well accepted nor appreciated in some groups. Several individuals firmly believe that subjecting a child to CIO is inadequate and cruel parenting. Therefore, if you believe children should not be subjected to CIO, then I recommend that you do NOT read this article. If you and your partner are not ready to commit to a sleep plan, it would not be a good idea to implement a sleep plan. I apologize to those that I have sickened. I do not claim to be a parenting expert, and I believe that every parent should consider researching multiple resources before making substantial child raising decisions.

Before we begin, I must clarify the following: successful sleep training methods require schedules, routines, and consistency. I strongly recommend implementing the following suggestions before starting sleep training. Under each point I have noted some of the specifics of the schedule we had before attempting sleep training.

Sleep and Feeding Schedule

  1. Set a sleep schedule with at least a 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time.

From the age of 9-10 months, we had set a somewhat consistent nap schedule for our daughter. Her first nap started about 2.5 hours after waking in the morning and 3 hours of waking from her second nap. This usually left about 4 hours until bed time.

There were times when the nap was pushed back too late. If she wouldn’t fall asleep for the second nap we would then take her on a car ride to help her fall asleep, and that was often too late in the afternoon after the failed nap attempt. A child certainly needs sleep; however, we should have kept that 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time even if she was exhausted. The night-time sleep plan trumps the nap plans.

  1. Set consistent sleep routines with the night sleep routine lasting about 10 minutes.

From the age of 9-10 months we also started implementing a sleep routine. We would read to her before each nap and bed time for about 5 minutes. The bed time routine also included a diaper change and putting her in her pajamas.

The night-time routine should have lasted closer to 10 minutes, and we should have included a more detailed, consistent, and step-wise routine. This will be further discussed in the ‘Re-Set’ plan below.

  1. Set a consistent feeding schedule, including a dream feeding if necessary.

We did not put this into practice until we started the CIO plan at the age of 10 months. We used the bottle as a sleep aid, and this was a mistake. Looking back I have realized that even if the initial CIO method would have worked at the 6 or 9-month attempts, it would not have lasted through the night. This is probably the case even if we would have implemented a well-timed dream feeding because she was dependent on the bottle as her soothing requirement. If you want to implement a sleep plan, the bottle should not be used as a soothing tool.

The last feeding must be at least 15 minutes before the start of the night-time sleep routine. If feedings are necessary during the night, a dream feeding should be scheduled before the child would wake for the feeding. At 10 months we decided a dream feeding was not necessary since her night feeding usually resulted in a skipped morning feeding.

Additional Considerations

There are situations when such schedule synchronization is difficult to implement. If all of these variables are perfectly set, your child is probably very close to being perfectly sleep trained anyway. Most parents who are researching sleep training are facing exhausting and overwhelming inconsistencies which need to be corrected. That is exactly where we were, and we started the successful sleep training from a fairly unstable starting point. Our daughter did not have any self-soothing skills before our 10-month sleep training attempt. Furthermore, her inconsistent sleep from the age of 4-10 months left her exhausted for too much of the day. This scattered her eating schedule, and the cyclic nature of inconsistencies continued. We didn’t realize how exhausted she was until about 5 days into our successful sleep training attempt.

(Re)Set the Sleep Stage

  1. The Child Must Sleep in a Crib, and That Crib Is the Only Sleep Option.

Allowing a child over 6 months old to fall asleep while feeding, being held, riding in a car, or co-sleeping are not helpful options when attempting to acclimate a child to sleeping in a crib. If the child is used to those options, the challenges of sleep training increase exponentially. The crib must be the only option. By the age of 10 months we had allowed alternative sleep options much too frequently, and she knew that crying in her crib would eventually result in being removed from her crib.

Before the official sleep training attempt began, she was required to sleep in the crib for 4 nights. She hated it, and it didn’t matter if we were in the room or not. I decided to lay with her in the crib for an hour, and then sleep next to her on the floor for the entire night. Your methods are up to you, but before a sleep training attempt it must be accepted by all parties that sleeping in the crib is the only option.

  1. Optimize the Sleep Environment

For us, the two final steps for the optimal sleep environment included adding about 8 more pacifiers around the crib and using a white noise machine. The room should be completely dark and a comfortable temperature.

  1. Continue or start a schedule.

If you haven’t already, do your best to set the sleeping and eating schedules. The more defined the schedules are, the easier the sleep training will be. As these schedules are set all milk feedings should be at least 15 minutes from any sleep attempt.

For bed time, the consensus is a 7:00 – 8:30 time window. During our four days of preparation we aimed for a 7:30 p.m. sleep time. This would be +/- 15 minutes depending on when she woke up from her last nap. In the morning we took her out of the crib no earlier than 6:00, but if she was sleeping we let her sleep until 7:30 (that never happened). The first nap would start 2.5 hours after she woke up in the morning. The second nap would start 3 hours after she woke up from the first. The second nap would not continue past 4:30 p.m. We had to wake her up twice on the occasions when she fought the second nap for too long.

Ideally, the previously mentioned sleeping and eating schedules as well as not using the milk for soothing purposes would also be integrated as much as possible. The better these foundations are set; the easier sleep training will be.

  1. Optimize a Sleep Routine.

Set the sleep routine of your choice. The final feeding should start at least 20-30 minutes before the child is set in the crib for the night. After the feeding, allow the child to sit or be held upright for about 5-10 minutes, then proceed to the sleep routine. This part of the routine should last about 10 minutes. Our routine included a diaper change, a coconut/lavender oil massage, dressing her in her pajamas, two books (4-5 mins), clicking on the sound machine, and then laying her in her crib. As you are prepping for the sleep training, you could be crazy and sleep in the crib as I did, you could stand by the crib, and/or you could stand across the room. Whatever works! The goal is as little crying as possible with as little contact as possible. For naps we included a diaper change and one book.

Sleep Training

If steps 1-7 are going well, sleep training might be as easy as all of the CIO and Ferber advocates proclaim. Our sleep training started by implementing the previous 7 steps within the narrow time window of only four days. Since we were consistently implementing each step, and we were confident that our plan would work. The small 4-day window of preparation as well as the previously failed attempts (intermittent re-enforcement) did not make our sleep training path easy. However, it worked.

  1. Start with only night-time sleep training.

There isn’t much to say about the sleep training once steps 1-7 are set in place. At 10 months she no longer needed a dream feeding. After the night-time routine, we left the room for the night. For the first week she averaged 25 minutes of crying, for the second week she averaged 10 minutes, and for the third she averaged 5 minutes before falling asleep. For the first two weeks we only implemented sleep training at night. Since naps are more challenging with less of a physiological sleep synchronization, we remained next to her crib until she fell asleep for naps.

As our daughter became more comfortable with the sleep training routine, she also had some interesting behavioral changes. After the feeding we would walk into her room, and she knew that it was sleep time. For some reason she always accepted diaper changes, but after the first week she started to fight the diaper change. She knew that it was bed time, and she knew that she would be stuck going to sleep once it happened. After the diaper change she usually calmed down more during the massage and dressing in her pjs. Then, during the book reading she was very calm. The battle shifted from fighting sleep in the crib to making a short plea within the bedtime routine.

  1. Continue to nap sleep train if necessary.

After the first week of sleep training at night, the naps became more challenging. She wanted us to pick her up out of the crib. We were focused on the night-time plan, so we would often give in to relentless crying and take her on a drive so she would fall asleep. I don’t necessarily regret this decision, but after the second week of night-time training, we also implemented CIO for naps. The first week of nap-time sleep training also had it’s challenges. We maximized CIO to 45 minutes, and she reached that two times. We are now at week 4, and over the last four days she has averaged 5 minutes of light crying before falling asleep for naps, and she is averaging less than 5 minutes of light crying for bed time.

Conclusion

By our daughter’s 10 month mark, it seemed as if co-sleeping or sleep training were the only two options we had. We thought co-sleeping would have been a fairly easy pathway and at least another 6 months of low quality sleep for us and for her. We figured sleep training would at least require a solid three days of torture for everyone involved. If sleep training worked, we were pretty sure it would be worth it, and even if it didn’t, we had to know if it wasn’t a possibility. Sleep training did require several hours of crying over the first week, but from weeks 2-4 there has been significantly less crying than we were used to. After the first week our daughter started to crawl, pull herself up, and balance herself while standing. She has started to interact with us more than ever, she has been more interested in everything around her, and she is a happier girl in general.

Hopefully this outline was helpful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions please leave a comment!

The Child Sleep Conquest

The internet is flooded with child sleep recommendations, and after reading all of them I am still not sure I have the answer. However, I do know that there are two distinct teams: the co-sleep team and the cry it out (CIO) team.

Co-Sleep team vs. Cry It Out (CIO) team

Here is how the CIO team would describe the co-sleep team:

Co-sleeping with your infant is nothing short of attempted murder and child neglect. Sleeping in the same bed with your child will significantly raise the probability of SIDS. Your child will be deprived of any self-soothing ability if you constantly cater to their needs.

Here is how the co-sleep team would describe the CIO team:

Letting your infant CIO is nothing short of attempted murder and child neglect. Abandoning your child to cry relentlessly for hours will significantly raise the probability of SIDS and cause internal brain damage. Your child will be deprived of any relationship potentials if you subject them to neglect for more than half of their living time.

If you are feeling some tension, there is really nothing to worry about. Life isn’t that black and white.

Although both parties have categorized the other as inhumane, they agree that children do need quality sleep which requires the following:

  1. Safe sleep conditions
  2. A nighttime routine
  3. A dark room
  4. A room with predictable noise consistency (no sound or a sound machine)

They also agree that children will experience physical and psychological growth which will alter their sleep patterns. Thus far, that has been one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. Is our daughter crying because she is sick, teething, hungry, hurting, or something else? Maybe this is related to my question the norm type thinking, but it was pretty easy to find a variable to question as my daughter was crying relentlessly during the night.

Our Infant Sleep Experience

As we started the child raising journey we faced an immediate challenge of digestive system sensitivity. This made the first two months rather challenging. It wasn’t quite this extreme, but it seemed as if our daughter was always hungry but never wanted to eat. Therefore, laying her down in the tilted infant bed was rarely a pleasant experience. With the help of probiotics and the elimination of dairy and egg white proteins from breast milk, she was finally able to experience a more consistent sleep routine.

However, our daughter was rarely comfortable with the sleeping experience, and this was compounded when we moved her to her crib. To remedy the situation, we would help her to fall asleep, pick her up to soothe her if she woke up, and maintain night-time feedings for longer than what was recommended. We were doing the equivalent of co-sleeping in the uncomfortable standing position for too much of the night.

At the 6-month doctor appointment we were told that babies are fully capable of self-soothing, and it was time to let our daughter adapt. We tried the 15-minute interval Ferber method. For two nights she cried relentlessly for three straight hours before reaching a state of exhaustion. For the rest of the night she would wake every 1-3 hours followed by another 30-60 minutes of crying before falling asleep again. Each morning she woke up in a state of fear, sadness, and exhaustion. The fear I saw embedded within the eyes of my daughter during and after each night was a truly disheartening experience. After the second night we decided it was time for Co-Sleeping. The SIDS risk drops significantly after six months, our daughter was finally able to roll over, and we are both isolated sleepers. Even though the CIO group frowned upon our decision, we all needed sleep. Our goal was for her to be an independent sleeper, but after the two-night CIO attempt, we decided to join the co-sleeping team.

After three months of co-sleeping for at least the last half of the night, we were strongly encouraged by our doctor to attempt the Ferber method again. Children at nine months undoubtedly need to learn to self-soothe, and parents undoubtedly need to attain adequate sleep. Although the co-sleeping made things a bit easier, it is hard to get a good night sleep next to a baby, especially one who is very sensitive. After a three-hour period of intense crying enhanced by our ‘calming’ attempts at 15-minute intervals, we jumped ship again. The co-sleeping community welcomed us back with plenty of supportive blog posts and encouraging responses to our questions.

After another week of co-sleeping, we transitioned her to a floor mattress next to our bed. This resulted in more crying, so one of us ended up laying next to her for about half the night. Since the consistent night wakings disrupted everyone’s sleep, we moved the floor mattress back to her room. At least one of us would get a good night sleep while the other would sleep next to her on the floor.

Looking back, our thinking may not have been all that clear throughout this journey. In addition to our lack of sleep, the comments received from friends, family, coworkers, doctors, and psychologists lacked cohesion.

The Sleep Study

Because of our ‘child sleep’ related internet searches, we were the advertising targets of sleep teams around the country. We were planning to pay a group in Florida $400 for a sleep plan and a three-hour support phone call. This had us questioning reality since I often walk to the grocery rather than paying for the gas and mileage costs my car imposes. Fortunately, we stumbled upon a local research study for sleep training. We were quickly accepted into the study, and we were told the cameras would be installed on the crib within 3 days. One day before the team arrived we transitioned our daughter back to the crib.

She absolutely hated the transition, and on that night, she cried hysterically for at least four hours. After the first hour of hysterical crying, I literally climbed into the crib to console her. She was a bit shocked for about 5 minutes before she started screaming again. After another 30 minutes I finally picker her up out of the crib, rocked her to sleep, and then slept with her in the crib for about an hour. For the rest of the night I laid next to the crib, and she woke up crying every hour. Each time took about 15 minutes to console her back to sleep while she remained in the crib. Even though I was by her side for the entire night; it was almost like subjecting her to the CIO method.

The next morning, we decided that if it was that bad for another night, we were going to abandon the plan and fully join the co-sleeping team until our daughter could talk. Fortunately, both of her naps in the crib went better than anticipated. While we were still touching her in her crib, she cried lightly for only about 10 minutes until falling asleep.

For the sleep study, cameras would record baseline data for the first three nights before we were assigned to a group. The control group would allow us to keep doing the same thing, and after the study we would receive a sleep plan. The first intervention group would be given a bed time CIO plan, and we would follow the same night-time practices if she did awake during the night. The second intervention group would be given a bed time CIO plan and that would be followed throughout the night.

Even though our routine didn’t change as the baseline data was collected, the first night of the sleep study was a significant improvement. She cried lightly for about 30 minutes before falling asleep. We also consoled her back to sleep for three night wakings, and she consoled herself back to sleep within 2 minutes of a few other night wakings. Our daughter realized that she would be sleeping in the crib, and she was able to accept that fact. This is the foundation of a rational CIO plan, and we had made the first small step in implementing a working CIO plan.

The second night of the sleep study was even better. For the first time she was laid in her crib awake (but exhausted) and fell asleep without crying at all. She was able to console herself back to sleep during all but two night wakings, one of which was a ‘necessary’ feeding. On the third night she again fell asleep immediately, but she was up a few more times during the night. After her feeding at 3 a.m. she was awake until 5 a.m. There were hundreds of variables to ponder, but I chose not to worry about it since there was a 66% chance we would be put in an intervention group.

We were selected to be in second intervention group. We agreed on a bed time plan, and we would not re-enter the room to console her during the night. We also chose to not implement a dream feeding for that plan. In the past, she would certainly drink plenty milk if it was demanded, but then she would refuse milk in the morning. We were pretty sure our daughter would re-experience another full night of relentless crying, but we were lucky to be incorrect. Since we weren’t in the room her crying was closer to a calm whining rather than a plea of relentless hysteria. The following table shows the amount of time she cried or lightly whined before falling asleep for the first seven nights:

Sleep Table
Cry It Out (CIO) Time Per Night

She continued to have a few night wakings, but she put herself back to sleep each time. It was light crying because even with both doors open we only faintly heard a few of them.

Even though it still took her 42 minutes to put herself to sleep, by the third day of the sleep training we were 100% committed to the CIO team. By the third day of the sleep training we were both fully rested for the first time in 10 months. After the first three days of sleep training our daughter was finally sleeping for an adequate amount of time to be rested and content during the day. She was not aggressively screaming for help each time she rolled over in her crib, and she was not demanding immediate consolation following each sleep interval.

Her body was finally able to synchronize with a schedule. Rather than six ‘attempted’ feedings randomly dispersed over a 24-hour period, she is drinking 6-8 ounces of milk exactly four times per day. Rather than naps ranging from 20 minutes to over two hours, she is consistently taking two 45-75 minute naps per day.

At this point we are only one week into the sleep study. I planned on writing this article when it was completed, but there is no reason to wait. We might implement the CIO method for naps after the two-week study is complete, but that matters much less than I thought it might.

There are certain cases when co-sleeping might be the better option, but for our daughter the CIO method was what finally worked. We start her last feeding 4-5 hours after she wakes up from her second nap (around 6:40 pm). She still fights the bottle every once in a while, but she usually drinks 6-8 ounces of breast milk within 20 minutes. By 7:00 we change her diaper, give her a light coconut/lavender oil massage, put on her pjs, read two books (5-10 minutes), and then put her in her crib. She is content during the time we read the two books. However, she is slightly discontent when we dress her in pajamas, and she is also discontent for the last few seconds as she is placed in the crib. Maybe that will improve after a couple more weeks, but it doesn’t really matter. The night-time routine lasts 15 minutes, so she is in bed at 7:15. In the morning we planned to get her out of her crib by 6:00 if she was awake. That happened on the first night, but for the rest of the first week she slept until between 6:30 and 7:30. We all needed a more consistent schedule, and the consistent schedule is what finally allowed our daughter to sleep independently.

All situations are unique, and this is certainly not an article meant to apply to everyone. From 4-9 months our strategy evolved into a situation where our daughter became too dependent on us. It was a difficult cycle to break, but we realized our relationship had to be modified. She was not getting enough sleep, and it was not healthy for her development to be deprived of sleep. We were not getting enough consistent sleep, and it was not healthy for us as individuals or as parents.

Here is what I learned from the experience:
  • If your 6+ month child is not hungry in the morning, the child may not have needed a night feeding.
  • If your child is waking multiple times during the night, the child will eventually want to be fed.
  • If the child anticipates soothing during the night, soothing will be requested multiple times per night.
  • If the child understands that night soothing won’t be provided, eventually it won’t be requested.
  • If the parent is not in the same room, it is easier for the child to understand that night soothing won’t be provided.
  • The more acclimated to co-sleeping and/or night soothing the child becomes, the harder it is to break the cycle.
  • It is extremely difficult to break the extra night feeding and extra soothing cycles requested by the child when co-sleeping.

I am not advocating for CIO methods for children under six months old, and I am not advocating for CIO methods as the solve everything solution for all families. However, I am thankful for the CIO as well as the co-sleeping community advocates. I hope that advocates from both groups remain focused on family support rather than criticizing the other side. Looking back, I still don’t think she was ready for CIO at six months. Our situation might have been slightly (only slightly) easier if we would have transitioned her completely back to her crib for two full weeks, practiced a consistent bed time routine, and implemented dream feeding rather than demanded night-time feedings all before implementing a CIO routine at nine months.

People asked me how I felt about having a child, and I always said that I was 100% confident that she would be perfect. Raising a child is not quite as easy as I proclaimed it would be, and I was certainly lacking some sleep for a short period of time. However, I still stand by my original proclamation. She is perfect. It just took some time and strategy for her to become a perfect sleeper.

Please share any comments you may have!

Children and Television Background Noise

My recent post discussed the objections which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has regarding TV watching experience for infants and children. I shared my personal perspective which sided with the AAP. Feedback from the post has inspired me to continue researching the topic with a focus on non-direct television exposure (TV background noise). This article will summarize a few research studies as well some additional thoughts and perspectives on the topic.

Before we begin, I admit that I used to over-watch the television. Between the NFL, NBA, college sports, news, weather, and prime-time television, I was often close to the national average of television watching time.  Currently, my wife and I do enjoy a few entertainment shows; however, we watch them only when our daughter is asleep. They do not offer any educational value, and I am not willing to admit the names of the shows. Feel free to guess our current preferences in the comments section!

Research on Television Background Noise

One of the most inclusive research summaries of background television noise found that children aged 0-2 years old are exposed to an average of 5.5 hours of background television per day. Television noise of 5.5 hours per day is 38.5 hours per week which is 83.4 days (24 hour periods of time) per year. This is equal to approximately 3 months per year. Nearly ¼ of the year is clouded with television shows and commercials. This extensive quantity of time is a crucial data point which is often overlooked when considering the specific effects of background television noise exposure.

A more recent publication has clarified the impact television background noise has on child development. Children exposed to significant tv background noise develop shorter attention spans and decreased playtime focus abilities. Even if they do not care to watch the television, they are cognitively distracted by the noise. Since they are also experiencing less person to person communication as well as less content rich communication, they consistently test at lower levels of language development, receptive vocabulary, and cognitive development.

In summary, television background noise is limiting the thought processing and developmental potentials of the child, and it is distracting the adult from high quality parent-child interactions.

Does the Specific Distraction Content Matter?

Very little research has been completed on the content specifics. What is the difference between watching Jeopardy vs Judge Judy? Higher fractions of Jeopardy content are more content rich and educational. Commercials are also slightly more content rich, and the emotional tone is much less negative. That being said, background noise from either source is a cloud of distraction. The closer and louder it is for the child, the more distracting it will be. The repercussions are also dependent on the parent’s level of investment. If you are only distracted from the child for 5 minutes of a Judge Judy show vs 15 minutes of a Jeopardy show, then Judge Judy might be the better option.

Children playing with constant television background noise

Although the television is high on the list of distractions within today’s norms, the broader distraction issue is the primary concern. Other potential distractions include the radio, cell phone, computer, books, magazines, and newspaper to name a few. If you are focused on something else you cannot be fully present with your child. For this reason, very little research has delved into the specifics in terms of distraction rankings for the impact on child development. Silent options might be slightly better since they are not directly distracting the child. However, they are often more fully displacing the interest of the parent. Noise only options like the radio may be better since they might be less distracting for the parent, but the child is exposed to the constant sound. If the radio content is a flurry of negative news and commercials, it is probably not the best option for yourself or your child. If the content is positive music with plenty of co-singing and dancing involved, then we have probably ventured into the realm of positivity for child development.

Maximize Learning Potentials

I am the first to admit that interacting with an 8-month child is not the most entertaining experience. However, I assure you that children are soaking up your words and actions like a sponge. If your language is distracted and inconsistent, regardless of the cause, valuable knowledge is not present to be absorbed. At this point you might be wondering if you should hire out jobs like washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning the house in order to maximize positive parent-child interaction time 24/7.

I am not making  a case for obsessive catering to all of your child’s immediate desires, as this will probably do more harm than good. However, your child is very perceptive to your presence. Rather than distracting yourself and your child with TV background noise, consider including some fascinating self-dialogue about the dish washing experience, laundry organization process, and the house cleaning chores. With these habits you are maximizing the child’s focusing and language acquisition potentials.

Consider limiting your newspaper or magazine scan to just a few minutes, or better yet, read the details while your child is asleep. Then, your child would love to hear your perceptions of the content, especially if it closely relates to the order and efficiency which all the toys are removed from the toy bin. When a text is received make sure to verbalize who contacted you, what they have to say, and the thoughts behind your response. Two or three years later they will have much more valuable input when you are working together to formulate an ideal text response for family updates.

Outdoor time is a valuable experience for child development as well as parental sanity. Consider taking a walk highlighting the sights, sounds, textures, and smells of the great outdoors. Another blogger has already beat me to writing a great research summary clarifying how the outdoor experience allows your child’s the imagination, patience, and peace to truly flourish.

In conclusion, if you feel that your time could be invested more productively for yourself and your child, then I highly recommend you clarify and pursue your goals. For me it seems fair and logical to provide a pathway for my daughter to reach her highest potentials. One big step in the right direction is simply pressing the off button on the TV remote and remaining present with my daughter.

Applied Meditation

Before our daughter was born I meditated for at least 30 minutes per day. My wife and I would often follow a guided meditation including a few hand motions and about 20 minutes of calm background music. The meditation would then include the following quote:

“Just for today, I am free from anger. I am free from worry.
I am humble. I am honest. I am compassionate toward myself and others.”

Now that practice has been reduced to about 30 minutes per week. I have chosen to title this post ‘applied’ meditation because I have found that I am still practicing components of meditation each day. As I am calming Madelyn before bed time, when she is fussy, or when she just seems interested in hearing me speak, I often state the quote to her. It usually helps calm her, and I feel like it also helps me remain calm. This is especially true during more challenging situations of parenting.

The meaning I feel within the quote:

  • Each day I optimize my psychological self by remaining perceptive to the destructive and counterproductive feeling of anger. Although I accept the immediate emotion of anger, I do not cognitively reproduce or reconstruct feelings of anger into my rational thoughts. I am free from anger.
  • Each day I optimize my rational self by remaining perceptive to the emotions that I feel, and I choose to accept challenges which are presented to me. I follow the drive of my spiritual self and accept the present moment. I am free from worry.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by being thankful. I am not possessive of anything I have or anything I have done. I choose to live in the present, and graciously accept each present moment. I am humble.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by fully exploring the innermost thoughts and feelings I am experiencing. I fully accept what they are, and I learn more about myself. I choose to share my thoughts and feelings with those who would benefit from them. I am honest.
  • Each day I optimize the person that I am so that I can share love with the people around me. I value and care for my physical, psychological, rational and spiritual foundation. I pursue the complete awareness of who I am, and this allows me to pursue a genuine awareness of the people around me. With this fully encompassing awareness I strive to share an open-minded acceptance in all situations. I am compassionate toward myself and others.

The Meditation Experience

I started meditating about 5 years ago, and from the start I felt like meditation allowed me to be a more peaceful individual. I know meditation is a journey which is never mastered, but I was starting to feel very comfortable with my habits and the corresponding peace which had entered my life. Now that Madelyn is here, my meditation habits have changed. I am surprised that the quotes I had repeated for years within my meditation practice have started to synchronize with my daily activities more clearly. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the direct application potentials of meditation.

The experience of silent meditation in a quiet place certainly has its advantages. It is easier to disconnect from the human self and find a place of peace. As the mind starts to wander back into the scene, it is possible to refocus on background rhythm, meditation posture, or a place of peace and drift back to a pure nothingness. The clear mind is certainly a valuable experience. There is a new connection between the mind and the body, and there is a disconnection between the mind and the thought within it.

Applied Meditation

Applied meditation with my daughter certainly has its differences. I am usually holding her, and I am often starting the meditation at random. Also, rather than clearing my mind at the start, I am starting with the meditation quote which I continuously repeat. If I am holding her, laying next to her, or feeding her, I remain fully aware of her physical presence as well as my own. However, the thought within my own mind does eventually disconnect. I simply become present in the room with her.

Both meditation practices allow the experience of pure nothingness, but the applied meditation practice allows me to remain connected with the people around me. Each day I am grateful for the opportunity to experience and share that peace.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, and here is the quick link to the comments!

Children Watching Television

Concerns and Research on Children Television Time

Infants and children seem to love watching the television, and many adults love seeing their kids watch TV as well. After my daughter was born, I searched for some articles clarifying the impact which television sights and sounds have on young children. Our families, friends, co-workers, and even the random lady at the grocery store have advice about TV time (and pretty much any topic), and advice from one person to the next is frequently contradictory. Fortunately, there is plenty of research describing the implications of increased amounts of television exposure. A great summary on national data is available here, and the specific learning implications are specified here.

There are many important details within each article, but the following quote sums it up quite well: “Audible television is associated with decreased exposure to discernible human adult speech and decreased child vocalizations. These results may explain the association between infant television exposure and delayed language development.”

Children and the Television Experience

As the child views the screen they are processing the non-stop and overstimulating content to the best of their ability. It is the item of peak interest. There is an entire world of complexity beyond reality and beyond imagination all encompassed within a viewing box in the living room. The child is completely invested in the television moment, and the adults are grateful for the short break from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
Once the world of fascination is turned off, the mind of the child is slow to disconnect from the television. Nothing in the actual living area is able to reach that level of stimulation, but it doesn’t matter because their mind is still attempting to process and store the massive quantity of information which was recently projected onto them.

Children and the overstimulating tv

Imagine the most thrilling movie you saw when you were 10-12 years old. After you watched that thrilling movie, what was it like as you left the theater?

You were probably feeling some emotional excitement, and you may have been feeling a bit exhausted from the theatrical journey of the movie. Most importantly, you are engrossed within each moment of the movie. After the movie you enjoyed remembering the specifics of what you saw and re-experienced the excitement of your favorite scenes.

When a young child watches the television, there are some similarities. They are also completely engrossed within each moment of the show, and they are also emotionally stimulated by the screen activity.
The child is also hyper stimulated with the thrilling experience of non-stop motion, happy sounds, and bright colors. Their ability to categorize and discuss the events are lacking, so the experience is inefficiently stored within their developing mind. The TV experience takes priority over the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes of their current experience, and their ability to process their surrounding environment is hindered.

Perceptions after the TV Experience

Children are still experiencing the stimulation of the television after it is turned off, just as you continued to experience the stimulation of the thrilling movie after you walked out of the theater. The journey of learning, and the sensory experiences of reality are altered by the television experience for two reasons.

  1. The lights and sounds of the living room and the family experience are not up to par with the television.
  2. The child’s experience of television excitement requires additional ‘processing’ even after the television is turned off.

Since infants and young children are incapable of adequately processing that level of stimulation, the jumbled excitement is scattered across their mind. Sensory learning experiences become secondary and different from what they were before the television stimulation. Processing the words of people is less interesting, and communicating with people becomes less relevant.

Recommendations for Families

NPR has a great article summarizing the recent recommendations changes made by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ‘No screen time before the age of 2’ has been replaced with allowing limited educational content after 15 months, and video chat communication (Skype or iPhone Facetime) are OK for communication with family and friends.

However, if you read beyond the quoted headlines, the AAP has three important recommendations for children under 5 years old:

  1. Only allow the children to watch the best educational content options including Sesame Workshops and PBS.
  2. Limit screen time to no more than 1 hour per day.
  3. Always co-experience the screen time with the child to support adequate information processing.

I am in full support of the AAP recommendations. Rather than exposing my daughter to overwhelming screen stimulation, I will do my best to fill her day with broad ranges of human interaction, toys for learning and imagination, and as much time outdoors as possible.

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Prioritizing Sleep

Why Quality Sleep Is Often Overlooked

In high school and in college there were times when I overlooked sleep on the weekend. Staying up late with friends was higher on my list of priorities. Other than that, I cannot think of a time-stretch when I did not prioritize a good night of sleep. During my time with roommates I discovered that the sleep priority was abnormal. I had trouble understanding why I would walk downstairs at 8:00 a.m. to find a roommate asleep on the couch with the tv still on (the electric bill might have also been on my mind at that time).

Within the last 9 months I have also bargained with my sleep priorities. Sleeping BabyMadelyn’s well-being has taken first place. We have yet to perfect her sleep schedule, and we are not yet in the category of excited parents posting their child’s sleep miracles. Madelyn had about 2 months when she was awake every two hours. Now she is up for one reason or another at least once per night, and I am happy to take plenty of turns helping her when she needs it. Fortunately, Lorean and I have offset sleep schedules, so we both get at least 8 hours each night. I sleep from 12-8 and she is sleeping from 9-5 most nights.

Regardless of whether the sleep issue is choice, circumstance, or somewhere in between, insufficient sleep is a modern health epidemic according to me and the CDC. The world of psychology has some great ideas to help, but I think it is crucial to gain a better understanding of the impact which a lack of sleep has on the human body.

The Negative Impacts of Insufficient Sleep.

I am going to skip over the metabolic specifics and jump right to resulting items of interest. The deprioritization of a good night sleep is a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics of today.

I wish that would be enough motivation for everyone to go to sleep early and that would solve the issue. Unfortunately, the debilitating health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation have each been associated with the cause of the current sleep epidemic. The lack of quality sleep, which the average individual attains, inevitably enhances the degrading health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation. And the cycle continues.

It is fascinating that these seemingly unrelated topics have harmoniously synchronized into the major problem it is today. I do not have a quick fix for the sleep problem. Although plenty of other sources have some great ideas, the only way to truly correct the problem is to re-prioritize your health.

Optimizing Your Potential for a Good Night Sleep

This means that a healthy diet, more physical activity, less exposure to toxicity, and minimized evening light stimulation need to be prioritized. Health practices should be the first line of defense and the major form of treatment for obesity and blood sugar challenges. Finally, positive night time habits including visual or audio books, family communication, outdoor time, indoor games or puzzles, and meditation are great options to be included within nightly routines.

Our sleep time schedule is not extremely consistent and certainly not perfect, but I am appreciative that our general health as well as our nighttime habits do allow us the restorative pleasure of a good night sleep.

Let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.