Shannon Mills, Occupational Therapist
Helping families achieve sleep goals for their infants and young children.

Wintertime Sleep Tips

With the cold weather closing on on us, it is time to start bundling up warm and turning up the heat. When it comes to our sleeping environment however, we may want to hold that thermostat back a few notches. A room temperature that is too warm can actually prevent your child from to getting a restful nights sleep. Additionally, becoming overheated is a risk factor for SIDS. Keeping the bedroom temperature cool but comfortable can help improve the quality and safety of your child’s sleep. In general, the recommended ideal sleeping temperature is is usually between 16-22 C.

Here are a few additional sleeping tips to keep in mind as the winter weather approaches:

- If your child is an infant, try using a sleep sack to avoid the problem of blankets falling off, and reduce suffocation risks.

- Heating systems tend to create a very dry environment. Two big winter sleep disrupters, stuffy noses and coughs, are worsened in a dry environment. Help your child breath more easily during sleep times by using a humidifier to keep the air moist.

- Don’t let that cold weather stop you from getting outside with your kids. Our children need plenty of sunlight and outdoor time to prime their bodies for a good night’s sleep.

Wishing your family happy sleep this winter!

Better Sleep for Your Child Webinar

Better Sleep for Your Child Webinar /Tele-seminar 

Parents will gain an understanding of key factors influencing sleep and learn strategies to improve the quality of their child’s sleep.

Time for Question and Answer will be provided. 

Wednesday July 11, 2012, 8:00-9:00 pm

 Cost: $25

To register contact Shannon Mills


855-U-2-SLEEP (855-827-5337)

Taking Care of Sleep Deprived Parents

Most of us as parents have high expectations as we set out to raise our children. We often have glorious plans to ensure we are near perfect parents and our children have a near perfect upbringing. We are often in for a shock after we become parents, when we realize that the job is much more challenging than we could ever have anticipated.

If you have a child who is not sleeping well, and you as a parent are in the midst of sleep deprivation, chances are you know exactly what I am talking about. It can often feel like your life and your role as a parent has become more about day to day survival rather than enjoying parenting and raising your child with all those good intentions you had set out.

Managing sleep difficulties is an extremely stressful and often times an overwhelming task for parents. On top of the sleep deprivation, we are often ridden with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. All too common are feelings that we are somehow failing as a parent for not being able to get our child to sleep, or feelings that we are somehow being selfish for craving just one decent night sleep ourselves.

It is essential for the well- being of your whole family that you take care of yourself as a parent during this difficult time. Some strategies to help with this include:

- Focus on overcoming those feelings of guilt for taking care of yourself. Whenever possible, take time for yourself. Do something to help yourself become more calm and relaxed. Read a book (for enjoyment, not parenting!), go for a walk, have a bath, watch a funny movie, whatever works for you to help you recharge your batteries. Reduce your expectations for other tasks until you have the sleep issues under control. Cleaning, gourmet meals, the long to do list, etc can all take the back burner for now. It can be helpful to remember this airplane analogy “always put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help others”. You will be better able to help your child if you are taking care of yourself.

- Enlist the support of family and friends. As parents we are very often hesitant to ask for assistance, however, friends and relatives are most often more than happy to help in any way they can. Don’t be afraid to ask! There is a reason for the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child!”

- Take the pressure off yourself to be a perfect parent and stop comparing yourself and your child to others. We have all heard of those kids that are naturally great sleepers anywhere, anytime, no matter what the circumstances. Yes these children may exist, but every child and family is unique. Your child’s personality and needs are individual. What works for one child and family may not be what works for you. Having a child who does not sleep well does not mean that you are failing. Rather, it just means that you may need to find a different approach that works better for your specific situation. 

- Strive to silence those feelings of inadequacy and don’t be afraid to seek expert advice or professional support. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. As a parent you are most certainly your child’s best expert. However the best experts are those that continually search out education to help them learn and grow.

When we are in the midst of sleep deprivation it can feel like everything around us is spinning out of control and it is easy to forget to about the importance of taking care of ourselves. Being kind to ourselves as parents is one of the most important things we can do to help us and our children get through this difficult time.


Does my child really need that nap?

Daily naps are very important for infants and young children. Even though they may resist napping at times, most children do actually need these naps up until about the age of 4 or even 5 years old.

Here is more support for the importance of high quality daytime sleep: http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/01/04/toddler-naps-aid-emotional-control/33270.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

Why Choose an Occupational Therapist for Sleep Consultation?

The goal of a paediatric Occupational Therapist is to enable children to participate to the best of their ability in all activities of everyday life. Sleep is one of the most important activities for infants and young children as it impacts upon all other areas of their lives.

Occupational Therapists have university level training to assess the child (physically, emotionally, cognitively), the environment (family, home, daycare, etc.) and address difficulties with specific actives (e.g sleeping, playing, learning, feeding). By having a comprehensive understanding of the unique interaction of the child, the activity, and the environment, Occupational Therapists can provide recommendations which are effective, safe, healthy, and meet the individual needs of the child and family.

Occupational Therapists follow a client/family centred approach. This means that the client/family chooses the goals, and the Occupational Therapists works together with the family to help achieve these goals.

Occupational Therapists are regulated healthcare professionals. There are many individuals who offer a variety of sleep services, however, not all of these individuals are members of a regulated health care profession. Sleep consultation by itself is not a regulated profession. Individuals who are not part of a regulated profession are not held accountable for their services by a governing body, and may or may not have received adequate training.

What is a Regulated Healthcare Professional?

In Ontario, some health professions are regulated by health regulatory colleges. For example, the College of Pharmacists regulates all of the pharmacists in Ontario; the College of Midwives regulates midwives; and the college of Occupational Therapists of Ontario regulates Occupational Therapists.

These colleges protect the public’s right to safe, effective and ethical health care, and they do so under a law called the Regulated Health Professions Act.

To practice as a regulated health professional in Ontario, an individual must be a member of the regulatory college for his or her chosen profession, and hold a certificate of registration from the college. Regulated health providers are required by law to deliver competent, ethical and professional services, and are accountable to the public through their respective colleges. 

Source: http://www.healthforceontario.ca

What is the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario?

The College of Occupational Therapists supports registered occupational therapists to ensure that they are competent, ethical and accountable in enabling the health of Ontarians. 

The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario is the organization established by the provincial government to oversee the practice of occupational therapists in Ontario. The College is responsible for protecting the public interest by setting standards for practice and having programs in place to see that occupational therapists practice safely and effectively.

Occupational Therapists are required to participate in ongoing education and quality assurance programs to ensure they are providing safe and effective recommendations. Occupational Therapists are subject to regular random audits of their practice to ensure they are meeting all guidelines set out by the college for service provision.

Source: http://www.coto.org/about/default.asp

Approach and Background

Shannon’s Approach to Sleep Consultation:

My priority is the physical and emotional health and well being of every child and family. As a regulated health care professional, I am committed to ensuring all recommendations are safe, healthy, appropriate, and support the development of a secure attachment between parent and child. 

I take a holistic approach to addressing sleep. There are many underlying factors interacting to impact sleep, and it is essential that we take all these factors into account. There is never a one size fits all approach to addressing a child’s sleep. Rather every child and every family presents with a unique set of circumstances, and recommendations must be customized to address these individual needs.

I work together with families to ensure the development of a comprehensive plan, which suits the individual needs of the child and family. I am highly respectful of every family’s unique set of values and approach to parenting, and I support parents in their decisions when it comes to things such as co-sleeping and breastfeeding. I strive to help families meet their goals without compromising their values, and to help them find the balance that works best for their family.   

Shannon’s Background and Training:

I am an experienced paediatric Occupational Therapist who has worked with a variety of infants and children of all ages. I have worked with both typically developing children and those with special needs such as autism, sensory processing difficulties, congenital diseases and syndromes, developmental delays and motor impairments.

I have competed a Masters of Science degree in Occupational Therapy at McMaster University and a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto, with Majors in Biology and Psychology.

In addition to my formal university education, I have completed numerous trainings and workshops during my professional career.

Some of my paediatric and sleep related training includes: 

 The Gentle Sleep Coaching Training and Certification Program. presented by Kim West, LSCSW-C This program involved over 50 hours of training. Some of the training topics included: Counselling Skills; Child development; Sleep Science; Behavioural Modification; Techniques; Reflux; Co-sleeping; Working with multiples and siblings; Secure Attachment Theory; Breastfeeding; Newborns.

Lactation Consultant Training Program (in progress). Presented by Lactation Education Resources. 

 Medical Conditions and Sleep Apnea in Children, presented by Dr Lewis Kass, Director of Children’s Sleep Center

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for Professionals, presented by the Canadian Institute for the Study of Infant Deaths

Postpartum Depression Overview, Identification, and Management, presented by Dr Shoshana Bennett, author and leading specialist on Postpartum Depression

Supporting the Breastfeeding Mom, presented by Heather Irvine, Lactation Counsellor and Infant Care Specialist

Milk supply in the Breastfeeding Mom, presented by Dr. Jack Newman, Lactation Specialist.

Effective Interventions in Paediatric Feeding, prented by Suzanne Breton and Sherna Marcus, Registered Occupational Therapists at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children

Naturopathic Approaches to Reflux, Colic, and other Gastrointestinal Issues in Infants and Toddlers, presented by Dr. Carly Wendler licensed Naturopathic Doctor

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, presented by the Ontario Early Years Centre

Positive Discipline, presented by Dr. Renee Hackney, parenting expert

Triple P Parenting: The Power of Positive Parenting, Confident Competent Children, Raising Resilient ChildrenPresented by Ontario Early Years Centre. Presented by Ontario Early Years Centre

Sensory Processing Disorders and Sleep, presented by Jodi Jennings, Occupational Therapist

Developing a Sensory Lens to Enhance Your Paediatric Practice, presented by Ellen Yack, registered Occupational Therapist

SticKids Sensory Processing Workshop, Presented by Meryle Lehn and Shirley Sutton, Registered Occupational Therapist

Managing Sleep Disorders in Autism, presented by Sandee-lee Parker, Clinical Director of Centre for Behavioural Consultation and Therapy Services

Autism and Sensory Integration, presented by Shirley Sutton, registered Occupational Therapist

Living with ASD, presented by Dr. Temple Grandin

ADHD/ADD: The New Understanding, Approach and Critical Guidelines, presented by Dr. Thomas Brown

 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Neurobehavioural Accommodations Model, Presented by Simcoe Children’s Treatment Network

 Acquired Brain Injury Care within the Community, Presented by Manitoulin Sudbury CCAC

 Clinical Assessment and Practical Intervention for Praxis, presented by Ellen Yack, Registered Occupational Therapist

 The Learning Triad: How the Eyes, Hands, and Cognition Impact Activities, presented by Mary Benbow, Registered Occupational Therapist

Professional Accountability, Presented by Manitoulin Sudbury CCAC

 Privacy Legislation in Ontario, Presented by Manitoulin Sudbury CCAC


Do I Need to Let My Child ‘Cry It Out’?

Many parents have concerns about using the ‘cry it out’ method to sleep train their child, as they fear it will cause their child undo distress. In fact, it is not necessary to leave your child alone to ‘cry it out ‘ in order to help them sleep better.

Although there is some research to support that extinction (typically referred to as ‘cry it out’) can be effective (1), that does not mean that it is the only method or the best method for helping your child achieve better sleep. There are many factors that can be contributing to problems with sleep, and every child and family is unique. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to addressing sleep difficulties.

Whatever strategies are chosen to address a child’s sleep needs, parents can effectively help their children learn to sleep better while still remaining emotionally available. This is key, as research suggests that mother’s who are more emotionally responsive to their child’s needs at bedtime have infants/toddlers with higher quality sleep (2).

1)Mindell, J. Empirically Supported Treatment in Paediatric Psychology: Bedtime Refusal and Night Wakings in Young Children. Journal of Paediatric Psychology. 24, 465-481.

2) Teti, BO-Ram, Mayer and Countermine. Maternal Emotional Availability at Bedtime Predicts Infant Sleep Quality. Journal of Family Psychology. 24, 307-315. 


Help Prevent Holiday Meltdowns!

Holidays are a joyful time, but they can also be a stressful time, especially for babies and toddlers. Young children thrive off predictability and routine. The added excitement and disruptions to their routine and can lead to irritability, fussiness, and meltdowns. Throw sleep deprivation into the mix and you are potentially looking at a recipe for a holiday disaster!

Do whatever it takes to get your child as much sleep as possible during these busy few weeks. Whenever possible, avoid keeping your children up past their bedtime and skipping naps.

Contrary to common sense, infants and young children will not sleep in later the next day if they stay up late or miss their nap. On the contrary, they are more likely to wake up earlier!

With all the holiday get-togethers, you may need to do some problem solving to help maximize sleep and maintain your child’s sleep schedule. Here are a few tips:

- Host holiday festivities at your own house so you can put your child to bed at the scheduled times.

- Bring a playpen and set it up in a dark quiet room at guest’s houses. (Have you child practice sleeping in the playpen at home for a few days ahead of time.)

- Time longer car trips so that your child can have their nap in the car. (Sleeping in the car is not as restorative as sleeping in a proper bed and should not become a routine, but it is better than skipping naps all together.)

- Find a trustworthy babysitter to stay home with your child.

- Don’t be afraid to put your child’s sleep first, even if it means turning down invitations.

Everyone will enjoy the holidays much more when you have a happy well rested child!!!

My Blog

Sleep – There is No One Size Fits All Approach!

Click the link to read the full article: http://www.startwithmom.com/article-sleep—there-is-no-one-size-fits-all

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