MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – WCCO’s Good Question Reporter Heather Brown knows the struggle to find sleep first hand. She’s been off the air the past two months concentrating on her newest job, being a mom.

Heather and her husband, Joe, welcomed Riley Rose in May.

“It is more demanding, more tiring, but more wonderful than I ever, ever expected,” Brown said.

WCCO’s Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield visited with the family and invited over a professional to give the couple some sleep tips.

Susan-Elizabeth asked sleep expert and ‘U’ of M neurologist Dr. Michael Howell to make a house call.

After years of research, the neurologist and father of three came up with a five step process to keep children sleeping through the night.

Step One: Introduction to Planet Earth.

“When babies are born, they don’t know if this is a 36-hour planet or an eight-hour planet, or a 24-hour planning. And the way to do that is to give them a sunrise,” Howell said.

Dr. Howell says to raise the blinds or do what Heather says she does.

“If she wakes up at 7 p.m., I try to get her by a window so she knows its day,” Brown said.

“The best way to fake the sunrise, it’s say 5 p.m. in the middle of the winter,” Howell said “Is to use the type of lamp you use for seasonal affective disorder.”

Step Two: Exercise.

Howell says two hours before desired bedtime, walk the baby or have them spend time on their tummies. Get them tired, even if they fuss.

Step Three: Rock a Bye-bye.

Howell says this is a tough but he says its key put the baby to bed before they fall asleep.

“When the baby is being rocked to sleep and then put down, what’s going happen when they wake up? They’re going wonder, ‘Where’s this wonderful person who was rocking me before?’ and they’re going to get distressed until that person goes and brings them back,” Howell said.

Step 4: Steady to bed, steady to rise.

Despite the child’s alertness or drowsiness, keep bedtime and wake ups the same.  And if they give a fitful night, do not let the child sleep in.

Step 5: Stop late night feedings. 

After four months, Howell says to stop late night feedings. Their bodies can make it through the night and eventually it will help parents make it through, too.

“You want to check on the child, but you don’t want to rescue them. Make sure they’re ok, but when it comes to crying for crying’s sake, you’re not there to soothe them,” Howell said.

Four to six months is when Howell says enforcement is key.

For Riley, the sleep prognosis is good.

For her parents, somehow in the restless of nights, Riely Rose’s parents have found the deepest peace.

Seven days since Dr. Howell’s visit, Heather tells WCCO that since then Riley has slept seven to eight hours every night.

Perfect timing, because Heather will be back on TV next week.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield


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