All posts by Jessica Bryant

Daylight Savings “Springing” Forward



Springing Forward often causes parents more concern than Falling Back, because surely it is easier to fall asleep later than usual than earlier than usual, RIGHT?!

I like to simplify all the overwhelming information that circulates around the time change.  If you read my blog post about “Falling Back” you will know how much I encouraged you to use light, natural and artificial, at bedtime to help little ones adjust to the Fall time change.

Now with the Spring Forward in the clocks, we are going to use the lack of light to help naturally tigger earlier sleepiness. I encourage you to dim the light 1 hour prior to bedtime. This means you need to have dimmers, black out curtains, black poster board or trash bags and painters tape on hand to bulk up your darkness game starting on Wednesday.  The dimming of the lights also includes turning off iPads, iPhones, tablets, television shows, and other stimulating screens.  If you have other questions about my recommendations on screen time before bed, feel free to read my post on Screen Time Truths.

Time Change Tips:

Take a deep breath, continue to be thoughtful in reading YOUR child’s cues, stay calm and confident.

Select between TWO options:

Option A:  Do nothing, wing it, follow your child’s cues and adjust schedule if needed starting Sunday.

Option B:  Shift Schedule forward starting Wednesday to give yourself 4 days to shift bedtime up.  Wake from last nap of the day 15 minutes earlier than normal in order to be able to shift bedtime 15 minutes earlier AND wake your child each morning 15 minutes earlier than usual to fit the new Sunday morning target wake up time.  {I know this is the most brutal suggestion, but it will have the best pay off down the road.}  Repeat this method for each of the four days so that when you reach the day the time shifts, your child’s new schedule will match her pre-DST schedule.

Darken bedtime zone 1 hour before bedtime to naturally signal the hormone release to move them into a sleepier state.  This means no outside play (move it to first thing in the morning instead the first week) and no exposure to screens at this time.  Dim lights and quieter voices are great signals for young children to start calming their bodies for sleep.

Make sure you are consistent with your response and reinforcing boundaries for sleep as you guide your child through the time change. You don’t want to build in a new crutch.

How do naps work if I decide to move up bedtime and wake time 15 minutes each day for 4 days?

You have a young infant and you still watch the awake time intervals and balance that with your baby’s sleepy cues to know when to but her down for naps.  Continue with this plan, but be sure to wake from naps when needed to protect the next sleep session and insure that your baby is not getting too much day sleep.


You have a child that naps at a predictable time each day. Apply the 15 minute earlier a day strategy to help with the adjustment.


Still feeling apprehensive about this time change thing that everyone thought was a good idea way back in 1918?

Think about your child’s needs.  Think about your schedule.  What can you be consistent with for a week to get through the adjustment?

PREPARE Decide what approach your family will take to adjust to “loosing an hour” or “springing forward.”

WATCH Watch nap durations to make sure children do not get too much day sleep.

USE LIGHT AS A SIGNAL Dim light ONE hour before bedtime.  Move evening outdoor playtime to the morning to help with the transition to an earlier bedtime.

Most #happysleepers that already sleep well because their parents have firm boundaries for sleep in place adjust to the time change in a few days.  A small percentage of children require a gradual adjustment and take a week or two to settle in.

Have more questions?  Would you like a sleep expert to weigh in on your current sleep routines?  Schedule a free 15-minute call to learn more about how Sleep Happy services can your help you reach your sleep dreams by following this link: 


Screen Time Truths

In the current age of technology, people spend increasing amounts of time in front of screens.  While electronics can have a variety of educational and developmental benefits for children, being in front of a screen before bed can affect sleep.  The stimulation that comes from screen time can be the cause of wake-ups during the night among children.

When children watch TV they respond emotionally, not logically.  These emotions can stay with children for up to two hours after the event that first elicited the emotion.  Children can even become addicted to screen time and can exhibit a “fight-or-flight” response in an effort to keep the TV on.

In addition to affecting emotions, the blue light from screens has a physical effect on humans.  Electronic screens emit blue light.  Many studies have shown this blue light can curb the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep.  A reduction in melatonin makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

If you are working on sleep routines and screens are a part of your evening routine, consider moving screen time from after dinner to the morning.

Here are some more bedtime tips:

1. Empower your preschooler to be part of the process of working towards new boundaries for sleep.

2.  Set the expectations and give your child specific, attainable jobs at night. (ex. Your job is to lay down and work at going to sleep)

3. Discuss what your job is as the parent.

4. Let them know that their favorite show will be available to watch at another time, but no longer at bedtime.

Looking to make bedtime a dream again, email to set up a Free 15-Minute Phone Consultation to see if our services will be a good fit for your needs.


Think Outside the Book

I often hear from clients that reading a book to their baby or toddler as part of the bedtime routine is a struggle. Some parents feel it’s an unspoken rule that they must read their baby a book at bedtime. Side note…I had to laugh when I selected this image…I think the title should be “Bedtime in a Dream World.”  I know that bedtime might look this snuggly 2% of the time, but it’s by no means the norm.

Bedtime reading, in the traditional sense of a child sitting in your lap while you read a book, is not age appropriate for young children.  As a former kindergarten teacher, I am going to encourage you to read to your child as much as possible ALL the way through school.  However, if books are a struggle, there are many great alternatives that all foster the development of language, attachment, and future academic achievement.  I have listed a number of them below.

Sit on the floor while you read and allow your baby or toddler to crawl around the room during the bedtime routine instead of trying to hold them in your lap.

Replace a book with the lost art of story telling.  Use different voices.  Feel free to tell the same story each night.  Children LOVE when parents tell stories.  (I do not have the gift of storytelling myself, so I am always jealous of those who do.)

Tell nursery rhymes or finger plays instead of reading.  The rhyming and and alliteration help young children learn about sounds and language, which later translates into reading.  The more children are exposed to rhyming and alliteration the easier it is for them to recognize sounds and sound out words when they enter school.

Sing a favorite song.  When my oldest was a tiny infant, I learned a song at a mommy group that I began singing:

Good night sweet Madeleine it’s time to rest… lay your sweet head upon our Savior’s chest.  I love you so, but Jesus loves you best. Good night sweet Madeleine, good night.

Here is another sweet simple song.  I require simple, especially in the lyric department.

Good night to you.
Good night to me.
Now close your eyes and go to sleep.
Good night. Sleep tight. Sweet dreams tonight.
Good night. I love you.

Don’t let bedtime become stressful trying to get your child to sit for a book.  Change it up, pick one of these options to see if your child enjoys changing up the routine.



Traveling with Happy Sleepers

Traveling with little ones this season?  Worried about your good sleep routines falling apart?  Don’t.

Children that have a predictable sleeping routine are often more flexible because they are not sleep deprived.  Enjoy your trip.

Starting your trip (notice I don’t refer to travel as a vacation 😉) with a well rested child always sets them up for success with the changes and unpredictability that travel brings.  That being said, if you can’t stick to your normal routine…

Pick one routine (bedtime or naps) to maintain as well as possible.  

If you stick to your bedtime routine, try to encourage naps on the go at your normal awake time interval.

If you choose nap routines, stretch naps when needed to adjust to a late bedtime.

AND give yourself and your little ones THREE days of strict routines (wake time, cues, awake times, and bedtime) when you get home to get back on track.

What to pack to recreate your sleep environment:

  1. Bring your Pack ‘n Play or rent one with a company like
  2. Pack your crib sheet
  3. Bring lovey (and backups if you have them)
  4. Bring a portable noise machine like the Dohm Portable found on Amazon.
  5. Portable blackout curtains like Gro Anywhere Blinds found on Amazon.

If sharing a room, it’s important to create a boundary between the parent bed and little one’s sleeping area.  Some rooms may have a living space or furniture you could place the crib behind.  For other rooms here are some options:

  • Snoozeshade Breathable Canopy found on Amazon
  • Create a DIY boundary by packing a dark sheet and clothes pins or command strips to hang a makeshift curtain as a boundary

And above all, have a great get away!!

One more tip for infants…because it is GENIUS!!!  Pack an air pump and an inflatable pool to provide a clean confined play boundary.

Packable Travel Play Pen

Update:  A Sleep Happy client recommends BabysAway.  In San Diego, she used Toddler Travels.  “Both companies have been excellent to work with, and everything we rented has been great quality.  The prices were reasonable too, not to mention the peace of mind that you don’t have to remember all the things!!”

Car rental companies (Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty at the time of publication) offer car seat rentals with your reservation.  Car seats are an additional cost, but I have heard you can receive a free rental with AAA memberships and National PTA memberships.

For families that travel long distances by plain, these JetKids BedBoxes look amazing.

And just in case you need a little help getting everyone on board for holiday travel success, here is a little note to share…


Have more tips to share?  We would love to learn from you!  Please share!




Does Your Preschooler Struggle at Bedtime?

Does your preschooler struggle to calm their bodies for sleep?

Does your preschooler sleep through the night but take forever to fall asleep at bedtime?

Here are some tips to help your child calm their bodies and prepare for sleep.

  1. Limit electronic screens 1-2 hours before bed.
  2. Incorporate specific play activities to help calm their bodies for sleep.  Playing  wheelbarrow or pushing a weighted laundry basket are examples.  For more calming play ideas, consider scheduling a Sleep Happy Phone Consultation.
  3. Keep a consistent bedtime routine (ex. PJs, activities, story or song before bed)
  4. Keep a consistent wake time in the morning

Does your child have more specific needs?  Would you like to talk about sleep in your house and get help creating a Sleep Plan that is specific for your child?

Contact Sleep Happy today for a Free 15-minute phone consultation by emailing 



Daylight Savings: Fall Back

The Fall time change causes many parents to worry about early wakings.  “Will my 6 a.m. early riser suddenly start waking at 5 a.m.?”  Typically, it only takes a day or two to adjust to this 60-minute shift.  Daylight hours begin to get shorter very quickly this time of year, which helps to reset their body clocks.

After the first morning, treat early wake-ups as you normally would to reinforce the boundary for sleep.  Let your baby sleep until your normal wake time or cutoff time.  While most babies adjust quickly, some more sensitive babies take a couple of weeks.

Recent research indicates exposure to light (natural or artificial) helps reset young children’s body blocks during time changes.  Keep light dim in the morning when you are up before your ideal wake up time.  Take your child outside in the morning and in the evening to expose them to the natural rhythms of the day.  If it gets dark early in your area, keep the house well lit to indicate wake time, then dim the lights when you start moving towards bedtime.   Light is a logical indicator of awake time or calm to sleep time for young children, so using it to reinforce changes in their schedule is very helpful.

Yes, there are other techniques to prepare for Daylight Savings.  If you have a method that works great for your family.  Stick to it.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Often, there are so many suggestions for how to deal with time changes that it becomes overwhelming to know which method to try.  Reinforcing boundaries for sleep, and using light to help little ones understand when it is time to be awake or asleep is a simple research-based method, that will work when consistently reinforced.


Making Bedtime Fun Again

Burrito Game Lover, 18-month-old James

Making bedtime fun for my young clients and their parents has become key to establishing new routines.  Nightly intentional play activities engage children and create excitement at bedtime.  Sleep Happy bedtime games, such as the “Burrito Game,” give children something to look forward to at bedtime.  My 18-month-old client this month loved the Burrito Game so much, he began initiating it each night.  A definite sign of empowerment!  During our 10th Day Wrap Up, his mom eagerly talked about how he would purposely head into the nursery, pick out a blanket and spread it out on the floor, then lay down on it ready to be “Burrito’d.”  This is proof that bedtime doesn’t have to be dramatic.  With consistency and engagement, it can be a real dream.

My Kids and Sleep

I bet you are wondering how my children slept when they were little. I have a 14-year-old daughter named Madeleine, and boy/girl twins Everett and Ashton who are 10 years old.  Just like all of my clients, getting my children on the right sleep schedule so that the entire family was well rested was a process that took work.

An older photo, but one of my favorites – it perfectly captures their personalities.

First Time Mommy:

When my oldest was born I was teaching kindergarten and nannying. She was one of those babies who took to a schedule easily. The first book I read when I was pregnant (and felt like I was racing full speed ahead into the black hole of motherhood) was The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. Her approach fit my personality and the ideas I had about how I wanted to parent. Her “Eat, Play, Sleep” plan worked for us. I remember sitting with the page open to the newborn body language descriptions and constantly studying it and making notes every time Madeleine cried or moved. I also followed the calming routine of Dr. Karp (Happiest Baby on the Block author) to the point that I felt like my uterus was going to fall out from swinging and my mouth was dry from shushing. Slowly, Madeleine picked up on the routine, and the swinging, shushing, sucking, and swaddling on your side motion became a 2 minute process instead of 35+.

At around 5 months, I felt our schedule was off. She was going to bed at 9 or 10, but she had started sleeping later and I felt our nursing schedule was thrown off. After one mommy friend reminded me that “babies can sleep 7-7,” and another shared Happy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Marc Weissbluth, MD with me, I gradually backed up her bedtime. In three nights she was sleeping 7pm to 7am. She was nursing and eating solids during the day and was gaining weight, so she did not need to eat during the night. She loved the predictability during the day and I felt more in control because I knew when I was going to get a break.

Not all babies have Madeleine’s health or temperament and not all new moms are as relaxed as I was. Remember, I have been around little ones since I was a tween. I have babysat and nannyed countless families, studied child development, observed in lab schools, worked in homes with children with developmental delays, and taught kindergartners in an inner-city school. My background meant that most days, I was comfortable setting boundaries for my little one. Even so, I still had to sometimes step away and take a deep breath, have a cry in the shower, and dart out the door when my husband walked in. But I want to emphasize: we are all different, especially in how we handle parenthood, and that is a good thing.

The Twins:

I know you are wondering… what about the twins? It was a whole new ballgame with Everett and Ashton. To be honest, I can’t remember much of the first 4 months. I felt like all I did was feed babies. Pretty soon I was dealing with a milk intolerance for one and the other screaming because my let down wasn’t fast enough. One baby wanted to live in the swaddle because he was so tense and tightly wound, and the other one screamed and swirled her limbs so much we called her ‘The Tornado.’

I learned with my first that life was just easier for us with a routine. And now with 3 under 3.5, survival was all I could manage. I followed the same routine I did with Madeleine, though I quit nursing at 8 weeks. I ended up feeding my son homemade formula due to his milk intolerance, and my daughter was more content with a faster flow bottle nipple. This change allowed me to have more time for my oldest.

What stands out the most is that I kept my son sleeping longer (a little past 3 months) in a bouncy chair so that he could be upright because of his reflux. (Side note: our bouncy chair was not the fluffy papasan-like one, it was flatter without any stuffed areas and therefore had more room for air circulation). While we had help staying with us the first several weeks, my son slept in the room with us and my daughter was in the nursery/guest room.  They were both swaddled very snuggly for sleeping and they took pacifiers instead of sucking their thumbs like my oldest.  They were big, healthy babies so they did not eat during the night after about 3-4 months, but I replaced those pacifiers a whole bunch until they learned to replace them themselves. Survival. It helped that they napped well and ate well. But it was death to replace the paci. They began sleeping through the night at around 7 months. By 8 weeks, the twins were in the nursery together at night, which was much better for me.

As a toddler, my son was the play hard, sleep hard type. The transition from two naps to one was really hard for him. He wanted to nap at 11:30am for what seemed like forever (18-24 months). His twin was a more average sleeper, not as sensitive to the routine. Ashton is the kid who sleeps in, whereas Madeleine and Everett were always my early birds. My twins gave up their naps earlier than Madeleine did, but they still went to quiet time in separate rooms until they were over 5.

Where We are Today:

Fast-forward to now, my oldest is still my sleeper. She requires more sleep than the twins and has an earlier bedtime than her peers. Some of this I feel is due to her dyslexia diagnosis. She expends a lot of energy focusing at school. I have always thought that her healthy sleep habits paid off when she started school. She started each day rested with the energy to push through all the challenges that came at her through the day. What would 1st grade have looked like if she were exhausted on top of having a brain that worked differently? Today my twins have a later bedtime at age 10 than my oldest had when she was their age. Different kids, different needs.

Once my husband and I set boundaries for sleep and reinforced them at each new developmental level, nap and bedtime routines have never been a fight in our house. Yes, they ask to stay up late every now and then, but they understand the boundaries and follow the routine.

I thought you would enjoy seeing a glimpse into my time in the trenches with tiny humans. It was messy, it was not perfect, but throughout the years my husband and I worked hard to reinforce a consistent sleep routine that worked for our family.

This month I would like to feature former clients that would like to share their story. Would you be interested?

All in a Month’s Work

As always, I work with children across a wide range of ages in any given month.

This past month, I happened to work with two boys that were both 2.5—one locally and one in Connecticut. The two different families were comfortable with different methods, but both had the same goal: to build confidence in their toddlers so that they could self-soothe, go to sleep independently, and stay in their room all night.  Discerning which methods work best for different families is an important part of what I do.

I recently worked with a 6 and a 7-month-old, who each needed more time to adjust to new routines. Depending on their individual sleep associations, some infants need you to reinforce new sleep habits longer than you might think. This adjusting process can be a challenge for mom and dad.

Lots of phone consultations were also scheduled this month. I have the pleasure of speaking with many parents who truly love having a conversation focused on the individual needs of their child. Learning and tweaking sleep schedules, adjusting feeding, setting expectations, and staying consistent are all important parts of the process of working with clients.  I truly enjoy getting to know each family and creating a plan to help them become a well-rested household.  


Guest Post: Experience with Perinatal Mood Disorder

storm before calm

By Rachel O’Dwyer


Where to start? It’s hard to say, my symptoms came on gradually, then all of a sudden.

A perinatal mood disorder cannot be oversimplified. Sure, I now understand some of my main contributors, yet the disorder has a complexity of layers, and each person’s experience is layered differently.

Under the best care a mother could possibly have, my beautiful twins were born at 41 and 3, breech, vaginally. This was by no chance. I was under co-care of the best midwives in the country, who were also connected to a unique OB/GYN, whose beliefs about the capabilities of a woman’s body aligned with our family’s goals: to have as natural of a birth as possible and give my twins a full chance at a full-term gestation. I also have an extremely supportive husband and network of family and friends (and I didn’t discuss my preferences with those who were not supportive); oh yeah, and I’m determined as hell.

Looking back, my first symptoms started to show as early as 6 weeks, with their first growth spurt. It was blatant at their 3 month growth spurt, which lasted a week! I didn’t even really realize that what was going on with me was something I had heard of before. Luckily, I had a wonderful, accepting friend, who I first told of my intrusive thoughts and anxiety. I was so confused because I loved the babies so much and felt deep gratitude for them finally being in our lives. She calmly told me to reach out to our midwives. Upon reflection, I felt most comfortable reaching out to our birth class instructor. She had gone over challenges we might face, and I knew she would be a safe person, caring, to reach out to as a first step.


I immediately started going to a counselor* my instructor recommended. The first meetings were soaked in tears, fear, hurt, confusion, and fog. I was one of the lucky ones: I recognized the symptoms early, got help early, and was connected to the best network of support imaginable. So many suffer unknowingly, unnecessarily for years, and my heart aches for them.

Without ever getting a concrete diagnosis of what kind of mood disorder I had, the matter of the fact was that there was not one or two reasons I as struggling, there was a multitude. As Macolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, when something perceivably negative happens, there are not one or two factors that contribute to the outcome, there are at least 7. For me, I had had a miscarriage before getting pregnant with the twins, both through IVF. Not having time, or perhaps the capacity, to mourn our lost baby impacted me significantly. We had also been on quite a journey through infertility. I was back to work when the babies were 8 weeks. And then, we were adjusting to life with twins. As my counselor put it, the event is not actually the birth, but bringing a new family member (or two) home.

As we adjusted, I was breastfeeding both, and my son had to be supplemented, so I got about an hour and a half of sleep between feedings at night for the first 7 weeks. I was severely sleep deprived, and headed back to work. Despite the incredible help and support we received, I was still on my own at one point, and was trying to be super woman and clean and cook and take care of myself and my babies. I also was doing my best to be accommodating to my husband, okaying later work days often. This was the norm before. Please know my husband is one of the rare ones, the incredible ones, and at the same time he’s not psychic. He had no idea I was struggling so badly with the weight of everything, and at the beginning I was clueless as well.

My understanding of the relationship of cause and effect has also shifted. For example, one of the twins was fussier than the other, and her crying stirred my anxiety, but it was how she decompressed to go to sleep. Originally, I thought that the crying was causing the anxiety. Now, I have learned that my lack of sleep and healthy boundaries, and my previous experience, was causing an overall anxiety, and my threshold for stress was low. As a mother, hearing your child cry causes angst. During my toughest times, her crying caused me to suffer, my stomach would turn. Now, after months of being well rested and going to counseling, I realize that my anxiety was a symptom of the above mentioned, and my daughter’s crying was not the cause.


The main reasons I am at this point of healing and happiness is due to the support I received. The combination of counseling and as well consulting from a sleep consultant got me creating healthy boundaries in many aspects of my life. For example, my husband committed to being home during the few hours before bed when the babies were fussiest, or else he would find someone I was comfortable with to help me if he could not. Then, we worked on subtle shifts in eating and sleeping during the day, and after some work, my babies were sleeping 12 hours at night. After counseling and continued consulting, my mind and body started to recover. It was as though I had lost who I was, I had lost my personality, and it was coming back.

As Anita Moorjani says in Dying To Be Me, “I was experiencing a battle between my heart and my mind, and my heart was winning.” Thank god for expert support, and the power and wisdom of listening to your heart.

I share my story in hopes that others will read something that helps them. These experiences only help us to connect with others. I am so fortunate to say that I feel like I have never felt before now. And it is in many ways because of the darkness I experienced.

*The counselor who worked with Rachel O’Dwyer:
Jessica L. Shepard, MA, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor


For more information on perinatal mood disorder, signs of depression and anxiety, as well as well as treatment options, visit: Moms’ Mental Health Matters by the National Child & Maternal Health Education Program.