A Good Night’s Sleep…

After having a baby, most parents long for a good night’s sleep. Many turn to sleep training in order to make that happen. Sleep training is a controversial subject, especially lately with the Cry It Out method making national headlines. However, the importance of sleep for the health and happiness of the entire family is universally accepted. Very few infants sleep through the night before six weeks of age and if you ever meet a parent who says that their infant does – ask them specifically how and when they are sleeping. You will find that “sleeping through the night” has a very different definition for every family.


While babies will start sleeping longer stretches (4-6 hours) at night around 8-12 weeks, most don’t truly sleep through the night consistently until 12-18 months. Even if a baby has been sleeping through the night, sleep patterns often changes with growth spurts, teething, and illness. If you make a decision to go through with sleep training, you will have to find a method that everyone is comfortable with and makes sense for your infant and parenting style. You may find that you must modify your chosen sleep training method at different stages in their child’s development and what works for one child may not work for another. Recent studies have found no long term impact on children’s development or emotional health with behavioral sleep interventions.

The most widely accepted sleep training methods range from the Cry It Out (AKA extinction or gradual extinction) to the No Tears Methods.
  • The Cry It Out methods involves putting your infant in the crib while sleepy, but awake. Then letting them cry either until falling asleep or leaving them for incremental longer periods of time before gently soothing with patting or shushing – but not picking up, rocking, or feeding. The goal is to teach your infant self-soothing tactics. These methods generally take from 3-5 days to work. Authors who have written on this subject include Richard Ferber, MD and Marc Weissbluth, MD.
  • The No Tears Methods typically involve repeating the same bedtime routine every night, starting when your baby is showing signs of sleepiness. This may be a bath, massage, lullaby, then rocking or nursing to sleep. Remember that your infant will likely require this same routine with each nighttime wakening, which may continue until early toddlerhood (but hopefully not). Authors who have written on this subject include Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears, MD.
  • If you are a parent who started off by sleeping with your baby or older child, then a method of gradual extinction from the room may be your best bet. Start with a nighttime routine, then gradually eliminate yourself from the bed, then room. Many parents start by turning away from their child, then sleeping on the floor, by the door, outside the door, then in your room with the doors open. This may take weeks to accomplish, depending on the degree of separation anxiety displayed by your child.
Typically, I recommend a combination of these methods, modified for each family and baby. I have had good luck with starting a daytime feeding and sleeping routine around 6-8 weeks, with little stimulation at night (dark room, quiet feeding). After the baby starts following a predictable eating and sleeping schedule, make an evening routine leading to bedtime. With both of my boys, I have ended up with a modified Cry It Out method, increasing in increments no longer than 10 minutes. After MY anxiety dissipated, everyone was sleeping better and now they have healthy sleep habits.
The key to success with any sleep training method is developing a solid plan, being consistent and following through. Anticipate loosing some sleep and having some difficulty the first couple of nights with Cry It Out, seek support from your partner or family. You may feel that letting your baby cry is not the right approach for you or your baby and a No Tears Method may take longer, but will leave you feeling more at ease with your decision. Whatever your take, I hope for a good night’s sleep for everyone your family.
Heather Joyce, MD
Sources and Sites:
Price, All M.H., BA, PhD; Wake, Melissa, MB BS, FRACP, MD; Ukoumunne, Obioha, PhD; Hiscoch, Harriet, MB BS, FRACP, MD. ” Five-Year Follow-up of Harm and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Interventions: Randomized Trial.” Pediatrics. Vol 130 No. 4 October 1, 2012 pp 643-651. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/4/643

Breastfeeding Part 3 – Pumping

Whether you plan on staying home with your infant or going back to work, most breastfeeding mothers end up pumping at some point during their breastfeeding journey. Pumps range from single, manual pumps to double electric ones. For mothers who are only going to pump a few times, a single, manual or electric pump will work. However, if you plan on working out of the home or pumping frequently, investing in a double electric pump will increase your success rate and decrease your frustration in the long run. You do not have to buy a pump, you can borrow one from a friend, buy a used one or rent one from your local hospital. Several medical insurance plans are now covering the cost of pumps – all you have to do is call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask about your breast pump benefits (you may need a prescription from your pediatrician or OB/GYN). Just make sure to get new tubing, nipple shields, and collection bottles when you start pumping, especially with a used pump.

The process of electric pumping can be daunting at first, ask a lactation consultant or nurse in the hospital to show you how to set it up and get started. First, hand off your infant because it is very difficult to pump holding your baby! Next, connect the tubing, set up the nipple shield and collection bottles. Finally, place the nipple shields to your breasts and turn on the suction, slowly. If you are going to be double pumping frequently, several manufacturers make hands-free pumps and bras for easier use. Pumping takes an average time of 10-20 minutes per breast. Continue to pump until the milk flow stops if you have adequate supply, or longer (5-10 minutes) if you are trying to build up your supply.

Some breastfeeding mothers start pumping in the hospital, within a few days of birth. Breastmilk supply is based on demand – so the more stimulation to the breast, the faster milk “comes in”, with increased supply. Sometimes, mothers pump because they want their milk to come in faster, which works, but is not necessary for most mothers. The mothers who do need to pump are the ones with infants who are being supplemented formula because of jaundice or weight loss, or those who have infants in the NICU.

There are several different strategies for pumping and you will hear different advice from everyone you ask. I make my recommendations based on whether or not you are going back to work and when. For mothers who are going back to work within 6-8 weeks, I recommend starting to pump during the “engorgement phase” – usually between days 3-7 after birth. You will make plenty of milk during that time and it will help make you feel more comfortable. Pump only a couple of times per day, after your infant feeds. Remember that when you pump after your baby feeds, your body will make more milk at that time… so you can take advantage of that and pick times when you will be able to pump when you go back to work. Continue to pump daily after that to store milk for when you go back to work. For mothers who are not working outside the home or have an extended maternity leave, I recommend starting to pump and introducing a bottle a couple of weeks before you need it or just doing it “as needed” for a night out.

Expressed breastmilk can be stored in hard plastic bottles or breastmilk bags. I recommend storing or freezing in 2-4 oz allotments, so you do not waste any milk when you thaw it for your baby. As your infant gets older and eats more, 4-6 oz bags work well.  Click here for a chart on safe breastmilk storage:


While most breastfeeding mothers will admit that pumping is not the most exciting activity, it does give many mothers the opportunity to provide breastmilk for their infants whether they are working outside of the home or just out for a quiet dinner.

Heather Joyce, MD

Breastfeeding Part 2 – The First Days Home

Congratulations…you gave birth, decided to breastfeed, and made it through your hospital stay!  With the support of doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants, by the time you are discharged, hopefully, you are feeling pretty comfortable with the breastfeeding process.

This is exactly how I felt with my first son…so, when I got home and started having difficulty and pain, I felt frustrated and started doubting my ability to breastfeed. He was fussy and frantic at the breast, which lead to painful feeding sessions. I knew some pain was normal, so at the time I didn’t even know I needed help. Most parents would agree that the first couple of nights home with your first infant are the longest, most exhausting nights of your life. Add in difficulty with breastfeeding, and a time that should be filled with joy, becomes one that is filled with frustration. The good news is that this time passes quickly and with some patience and support, breastfeeding can get easier every day!

In my opinion, the biggest reason that new mothers are in this situation, is the fault of our current medical system. We send mothers and their infants home within 48 hours of delivery – well before most mother’s milk “comes in.”  So, many infants start to get very hungry within 24 hours of going home. This is a time when they start to gain back the weight that they lost after birth. If your milk is not “in” yet, then you are dealing with either a sleepy baby who does not have the energy to feed or a frantic, fussy baby.

The second problem that many mother’s run into is engorgement. Once the milk “comes in,” the breasts become hard, swollen and painful. A baby who was latching on perfectly before engorgement, can develop difficulty finding a comfortable latch – especially at the beginning of a breastfeeding session, when your nipple can lay flat against your areola.

Here are my tips to help you get through the fist days of breastfeeding, with as little difficulty as possible:

  1. Find support – a friend, relative, or lactation consultant
  2. Put your infant to the breast as often as they want (every 1-3 hours) – you can work on a feeding schedule later. In the first couple of weeks, the more your infant feeds, the faster your milk will “come in” and the more milk you will produce
  3. If your infant is too sleepy to feed or falls asleep at the breast, attempt to breastfeed for 10 minutes on each side, then pump to let your body know that you need more milk. If your infant is not gaining weight or having problems with jaundice, feed the baby this pumped milk (either with a supplementing tube/syringe or a bottle) after attempting to breastfeed. As a side note, this is exhausting – so utilize your partner or a relative to hold or feed the baby in between breastfeeding/pumping sessions. 
  4. If you are having pain or difficulty latching your infant due to engorgement, express breastmilk either with your hand or with a pump for about 1 minute prior to attempting to breastfeed. Be advised not to pump too much during this time (like after every feed) because you will overproduce milk and this can lead to lots of discomfort.

You will know that your infant is getting enough milk by the number of wet and dirty diapers they are having. They should increase every day until day 5 or 6. They will also start gaining weight around this time. So follow-up with your pediatrician is important.

It is normal to feel nipple discomfort for the fist 1-2 weeks of breastfeeding, though if the pain is making breastfeeding a dreaded task or you develop red sores, cracks or blisters – then find a lactation consultant to help work on your infant’s latch. You will also feel pain and fullness during engorgement – starting days 3-4 and resolving slowly over about a week. This pain should be tolerable with a supportive bra and cold packs.

Within 10-14 days, breastfeeding should become comfortable for both you and your infant. If it is not, or your infant is not gaining weight – seek help, because there are fixes for most breastfeeding problems. However, you need to know that some infants are not great breastfeeders and some moms don’t make enough milk – which makes me very thankful that formula was invented!

Heather Joyce, MD

Breastfeeding Part 1 – The Initiation

The best time to start breastfeeding is within the first hour after delivery. After an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, most infants are awake and alert for about an hour and will latch and start to suck right away. Not all infants are able to go to the breast immediately and it is OK to wait until you and your infant are ready. Some have problems with blood sugar after birth and need a small amount of formula or sugar water to keep them safe – this is common practice in most hospitals. These infants will not have the energy to breastfeed if they do not get their blood sugar into the normal range. If your infant requires supplementation in the hospital, I recommend pumping every time this occurs, even if you don’t produce any milk – this will let your body know that your infant needs more milk and will help your supply.

During the first days of breastfeeding, most mothers produce a small amount (5-10 ml) of colostrum with each feed. You will feel tugging and pulling, but should not feel severe pain. If you do, then your infant’s latch may need to be adjusted. Take advantage of the nurses, doctors and lactation consultants in the hospital – they will have lots of advice and can provide hands-on help. You will also feel uterine cramping with each feed, this the due to hormonal contraction of the uterus – it hurts, but is good for your body. The more often your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce, the more contacted your uterus will become, and the more experienced you and your infant will be prior to going home.

You will not “know” how much milk your infant is getting, but if they are waking to feed every 1-3 hours, having wet diapers and clearing their meconium, they are getting enough. All infants loose weight after delivery, but should start gaining it back after 5-7 days. Your infant should see the pediatrician for a jaundice and weight check within 3 days after discharge from the hospital.

Breastfeeding for the first time will be uncomforable and sometimes stressful for the fist couple of weeks, but it gets easier. If if continues to hurt or your infant is not getting enough milk to gain weight, then find support. Most hospitals, doctors offices, and specialty baby stores have lactation consultants available. You can also talk with an experienced breastfeeding mother, who may have some great tips for you. Just remember, for every person who tells you that breastfeeding was the easiest, most natural part of motherhood…there are 10 others who will give you a different story.

Next up…the first days home and pumping (aka The Milk Machine).

Heather Joyce, MD

Infant Reflux

This post was inspired by a friend who is having a tough time with a fussy newborn, but dedicated to all the parents out there who have ever cared for a baby with reflux, my husband included.

Reflux, colic, gas, milk intolerance, or general demeanor…there are many reasons for an overly fussy baby. Many babies who cry excessively swallow lots of air and always appear to have belly pain or gas, so figuring out the reason for a baby’s fussiness can be challenging. I will focus on infant gastro-esophageal reflux in this post, though many of these suggestions can help a baby with colic. Some babies with reflux are not fussy at all (they just make huge messes with spit-up), while others can have discomfort, poor weight gain and feeding problems. The symptoms of reflux are caused by milk that makes its way back up through a weak muscle at the top of the stomach, into the esophagus, and to the back of the throat or mouth. Infants do not all have the same symptoms, but can have spitting up, frequent hiccups, swallowing or grunting, arching of the back or neck, coughing, wheezing, difficulty feeding or excessive crying. Most infants with reflux act like they are always hungry, this is because they cry and root as a reaction to discomfort – often 1-2 hours after a previous feeding. If your child has been diagnosed with reflux or exhibits these behaviors, there are many techniques you can use to decrease symptoms.

1) Feed sitting upright – with bottle feeding, this is easy; but with breastfeeding you will have to find the most comfortable position for both you and your baby.

2) Burp frequently – with bottle feeding, this means every 1/2-1 oz; with breastfeeding it is still best to burp in between breasts or after 10-15 minutes.

3) If you are bottle feeding, find the right nipple and bottle. Babies who drink too quickly or swallow too much air spit up more. There are many choices and you may have to try several, but I say go with the one that works best for you and your baby.

4) Feed small amounts, frequently. For small infants, this means 1-2 oz every 1-2 hours; bigger infants need 2-4 oz every 2-3 hours and increase gradually. Do not over-feed your baby, this will lead to more discomfort!

5) Keep your baby sitting upright 20-30 minutes after each feed. Easy to say, not so easy to do (especially in the middle of the night or when you are chasing around another child). You do not have to hold your baby, you can use any contraption that works for you – bouncy/vibrator seat, upright swing, head elevating positioner, wedge with a sling, baby carrier/sling, just to name a few.

6) Position your baby to sleep elevated (30-45 degrees). The easiest way to do this is to put a couple of books under the legs at the head of the crib or bassinet. If you are using a co-sleeper or pack and play, a couple of rolled up towels or receiving blankets under the thin mattress works well. They also make special foam wedges for this purpose.

7) Do not lie your baby down flat on their back, especially after feeding. If possible, try to change your baby’s diaper prior to feeding.

After utilizing these techniques, your baby may still spit-up. If they are happy and gaining weight, your next step is to stockpile burp cloths, bibs, and wet wipes. If your baby has extreme fussiness, coughing, wheezing, difficulty feeding or poor weight gain, you need to take them to the pediatrician. They may recommend an elimination diet (for breastfeeding mothers), a formula switch, or medication for your infant. This can be a very stressful time as a parent, so keep in mind that whatever is causing fussiness in your baby will pass with time.

Heather Joyce, MD

Poison Ivy

A huge part of summertime fun is playing outside. Naturally curious, most children love to explore overgrown areas of the yard or park. Unfortunately, poison ivy thrives in these areas. The rash that develops after exposure to poison ivy is a contact dermatitis to the chemical urushiol and can usually be treated symptomatically with home remedies.

Prior to summertime excursions, look at pictures of poison ivy and teach children to avoid it. Tell your children to count the leaves on plants and look for the “three, almond shaped, sharp-teeth leaves” that are classic for poison ivy. Dress your child in protective clothing – long pants, shirts, and shoes with socks for outdoor adventures.

If  your child comes into contact with the plant and you notice prior to the rash appearing, wash the area well with soap and water. Remove the clothing that your child was wearing and wash it in hot water.

If the urushiol absorbs into the skin, a red, itchy, blistering rash may appear. It usually appears in straight lines because of the way the plant comes into contact with the skin, but may be diffuse and appear spreading. The rash does not spread with itching or breaking the blisters, but if your child’s skin comes into contact with urushiol again (from clothes/pets/repeat exposure), it will continue to spread. Urushiol will continue to occupy any surface if it is not washed off, including dead poison ivy plants.

Home remedies to try if your child develops a rash:

1) Cool oatmeal baths

2) Calamine lotion

3) Vaseline

4) Cool compresses

If itching is severe and keeping your child from sleeping you may try diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or 1% hydrocortisone cream to the red areas.

The rash typically lasts 1-2 weeks, but may last as long as 8 weeks, depending on how your child’s skin absorbs the urushiol and reacts to it.

The rash may become infected with bacteria if you child is itching it, so seek medical care if they develop fever, yellow or white drainage, yellow crusting, severe swelling or warmth to the area. Also, your child may require strong antihistamines or oral steroids if the rash spreads to the face, mouth, eyes, genitals or involves the entire body.

Heather Joyce, MD


Hives are very common in children. The rash is itchy, red, raised welts that often move from one location to the next within minutes. If you are like most parents, your first thought is an allergic reaction and you rack your brain trying to figure out what your child may have eaten or touched. However, hives have many different causes, the most common in children being illness, either viral or bacteria. Allergen exposure is second on the list. Allergens may be food, medications, lotions, insect bites, soaps, detergents, fabric softener, clothing …just to name a few. In many cases, it is difficult to figure out the exact cause.

Hives may last for hours to weeks, but most often 1-2 days. If they are due to an allergen exposure and the substance is taken away, the hives usually resolved within 24 hours with treatment. However, with illness, you may have to wait until the illness resolves for the hives to fully go away.

Most often, symptomatic treatment for hives is the best course of action. Antihistamines, like diphenhydramine  (Benadryl) are very effective at treating hives, however this medications may make your child drowsy or hyperactive. Your doctor may recommend a long acting antihistamine like loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadin (Allegra), certirizine (Zyrtec), or desloratadine (Clarinex) if the hives last longer than 2-3 days.

Home remedies to make your child more comfortable include placing your child in a cool bath (with or without oatmeal to sooth the skin) and dressing your child in light, airy clothing. Do your best to try and keep them from itching!

If your child develops swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or joints they need to be seen by a physician. If they develop difficulty swallowing or breathing, vomiting, abdominal pain, or pass out with hives – it is a medical emergency and can be a sign of a severe allergic reaction.

Heather Joyce, MD