Q&A with Kaitlin Riggs : Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Mother
Can you tell us about yourself, how you became a sleep expert, what that role looks like, and where we can follow you for more advice!?
My name is Kaitlin Riggs. I’m a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant from New Orleans, Louisiana. I am married to Charles and we have a 5 year old daughter, a 3 year old son, and a baby on the way! I am a certified teacher but found myself in this career because my first daughter didn’t sleep at all! I started researching to see how I could make it better. I learned and experimented with so much and within a couple of weeks she was sleeping so much better. After that I constantly found myself asking friends how their babies were sleeping and trying to help them solve any sleep troubles. Before I knew it, I was getting certified so I could help more people! This all started as a hobby, but turned into a career that I absolutely love. You can follow me on Instagram where I post a lot of tips and tricks for sleep! My handle is @sleepwise.kaitlin
Are bedtime routines important for kids?
Yes, bedtime routines set the stage and allows the babies/toddlers to know whats coming. There is nothing magical about a single part of the bedtime routine though. For example, giving your baby a bath every night isn’t going to magically make them sleep all night. But it signals to the baby that they are about to lay in bed and sleep for a longer stretch of time. It helps distinguish the difference between naps and bed.
What are some strategies to help kids wind down in the evening and signal their bodies it's time to sleep?
Most people think watching a movie or TV show is the way to do this, but this actually has the polar opposite effect on a child’s sleep. All screens emit blue light, and when our eyes absorb blue light it stops our bodies natural production of melatonin. So, with that being said, you want to turn all screens off within 1 hour of bedtime. I prefer to have kids playing outside or eating dinner right before going into bedtime routine. Then your bedtime routine is the way we help them wind down. Your bedtime routine for a toddler should consist of a bath, picking out their pajamas, reading a couple books (no more than 3 books), then laying them in bed.
How many hours should different ages sleep each school night?
Children ages 3 months-3 years should be getting a solid 11-12 hours of sleep at night. Ages 3 years-6 years should get no less than 9-10 hours at night.
Can you change kids' weekend sleep routines, or is it better to be consistent?
When you are first establishing good sleep skills for your child you will want to remain consistent, but on they are in a good groove with that consistency, you can begin to bed the rules a little on the weekends!
What role does tech play in the quality of sleep for kids?
A HUGE role. All screens and tech are made of blue light and when our eyes absorb blue light, it slows or stops our natural production of melatonin. We want our kiddos naturally creating ALL the melatonin possible right before bed. So screen time can absolutely stand in the way of good sleep.
Other family members (grandparents/aunt/uncles/friends who help watch our children don’t support our sleep routines, can you recommend some things to say that might help them understand the importance of sleep routines for kids?
All growth and development happen when our children are sleeping. It is scientific fact. We teach our kids proper sleep habits because we know whats best for them. Think of how you feel when you’re up all night with your child… the next day you feel tired, groggy, and unproductive. Your child feels that exact same exhaustion. I think when we explain this to our family members, they will also want the best thing for you baby/toddler/child.
Are there certain foods to avoid or give your children to ensure a better sleep?
We obviously want to avoid sugars and such as much as possible, but don’t feel like you can never give your child treats! The main thing I would avoid is giving your child melatonin gummies or tablets. These are a bandaid to the real problem and inhibit their body from learning to produce a natural source of melatonin.
As we are all back at school, the colder weather is approaching, and flu season is heading our way, can sleep help stave off illness? Do kids need more sleep to do that?
Sleep is the best medicine! The better your child is sleeping, the better their immune system is going to be! However, for a baby who has good sleep habits, sickness shouldn’t cause any major sleep disturbances.
Best advice for helping kids have a good sleep?
The number one and most important piece of advice I can give is to TEACH your babies HOW to sleep entirely on their own. If your child relies on your rocking them, nursing them, laying with them, etc. These things inhibit foundational sleep skills. You want to remove all sleep props and teach your child how to sleep independently. Once they have that skill of sleeping, not much will stand in the way of it!
Where can we follow you to get all your expert advice?!
I post a lot of helpful tips and tricks on my Instagram page @sleepwise.kaitlin
Christine Russell Janis writes about life as a mom of four children, living in Paris, and travel on her life & style website ashadeofrose.com. You can also follow on social media @a.shade.of.rose.in.paris.