Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
March 1, 2021

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Chapter 1 (only 16 pages!) outlines everything you need to know about your child's sleep.

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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

“Sleep Readiness” is the title of Chapter 11 of the United States of America Department of the Army field manual (FM 7-22) that prepares young men and women to become soldiers.  It is the official document that describes how all young recruits will acquire necessary skills during the process that is sometimes referred to as basic training or “boot camp.” Updated in 2020, it is based on empirical data using traditional scientific methods. Sleep is serious business.

If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial, from the point of view of the United States of America Department of the Army. I have lightly edited, added emphasis, and condensed Chapter 11 in order to show you how “Sleep Readiness” can also help parents help their child sleep better.

Initially, I posted Chapter 11 (Blog Posts 1 through 5) to emphasize the value of healthy sleep. Based on the material presented in Chapter 11 of the Army field manual, Blog Posts 6 through 15 show how basic principles of sleep apply, not only to military basic training, but also to parenting.

Going forward, I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. For now, only read the single, age-appropriate Chapter for your child. Later, if you wish, read Chapters on What is Healthy Sleep, Why Healthy Sleep is Important, and Preventing Sleep problems. Finally, if needed, read the Chapter on Sleep Solutions.

Let’s go!

Blog 16Self-Soothing


A common goal in a baby sleep training plan is to have a bedtime routine that includes soothing (Blog Post 10) followed by putting your child down and then your child falls asleep, without crying. The idea behind self-soothing is that during the sleep period, your child is not in your arms, swing, stroller, nor riding in the car. Your child remains asleep without your effort. Also, your child is able to fall into a deep sleep unassisted, or has the ability to self-soothe. If your child has self-soothing ability, at sleep onset, the transition to deep sleep appears effortless. And importantly, during naturally occurring brief arousals in the middle of the night, your child also has the ability to return to sleep without your assistance. Thus, consolidated sleep (Blog post 11) is more likely to occur.

Self-soothing is learned behavior. How do parents encourage the ability for their child to self-soothe? The answer is complicated by the fact that specific circumstances (Blog Post 14) might create challenges so there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Please keep this in mind as I describe what will help children learn self-soothing. Hopefully, some of these items will be available to your own family. Because self-soothing is learned behavior, the earlier you begin to help your child, the easier and faster your child will acquire the ability to self-soothe. If you start to encourage self-soothing when your child is older, it may be more difficult, for example, because your child associates sleeping only when rocked in your arms. 


When your child begins to show drowsy signs (Blog Post 9), begin soothing to sleep and bedtime routines (Blog Post 10). Then your child begins to associate the sensation and timing of drowsiness with a quiet, calm, and relaxing environment conducive to falling asleep. The association helps establish the habit of falling asleep without crying.


After bedtime routines and soothing to sleep, one goal is to put your child down drowsy, but still awake. Then your child will make the transition to deep sleep unassisted and acquires self-soothing skills. Another goal is to leave the room after you have put your child down.  Parental presence at sleep onset is more common in Asian than English-speaking countries and predicts more night wakings and shorter sleep durations. Research suggests that your child will learn self-soothing better if you leave the room after you put your child down. When thinking about encouraging self-soothing to prevent sleep problems, leaving the room might be something you routinely practice from the get-go. Alternatively, you might feel more comfortable doing this in a gradual fashion, that is, slowly reduce the amount of time that you are present after your child falls asleep.

After your child has fallen asleep at night, your child will make non-distress sounds (Blog Post 11). At 3 months of age, delaying a parental response just a few minutes to non-distress sounds predicted self-soothing ability in the child at 12 months of age. However, an immediate response to distress sounds that includes minimal soothing, but not feeding, might also encourage self-soothing ability.


During the day, there are many naps because the baby’s brain goes into sleep mode after only brief periods of wakefulness. The duration of wakefulness varies but it is usually less than 2 hours. It might only be 30 minutes! Expect many naps of variable duration with no predictable schedule until about 4 months of age. If you respect the need for many naps, your baby remains calm when awake and is more able to learn self-soothing when drowsy.  If you keep your child up too long, a second-wind develops and then your baby becomes aroused and agitated which interferes with self-soothing.


Allowing different people to practice soothing and bedtime routines gives the baby an opportunity to practice self-soothing under different circumstances. In contrast, if the child always falls asleep at mother’s breast, the child might have difficulty falling asleep in other situations. Before her child is in a deep sleep, a nursing mother, after feeding, can pass her drowsy child to someone else for soothing to sleep.


Fathers might be more successful than mothers in putting your baby down drowsy but awake. In addition to directly helping with nighttime parenting, during the day, the fathers support of the mother in general indirectly helps care for the baby. This general care, during the day, supporting the mother, may actually be more powerful regarding the baby’s sleeping than father’s directly caring for the baby at night.


  1. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,
    I read your book and at 6 months old decided to start sleep training my baby boy. The main objective was to teach him self-soothing because he got accustomed to falling asleep only in my presence with me lying next to him in bed. He naps regularly usually for 45min to 1.5hrs/nap twice to three times a day and also has no trouble sleeping at night. We also put him to bed early in the evening between 6pm and 7pm according to drowsy signs and his night sleep is not fragmented. He usually wakes up between 6.00 and 7am.
    We tried extinction for 5 nights in a row by putting him in his crib drowsy but awake and he cried for the following amounts of time: Night 1: 58′; Night 2: 45′; Night 3: 30′; Night 4: 23′; Night 5: 47′. He woke up a couple of times each night but we ignored him and he went back to sleep on his own, sometimes crying just for a few minutes. As for naps, we tried to put him down drowsy but awake once a day for 5 days in row (same days we did the night sleep training on) but he cried for an hour on each day so we stopped trying.
    I was wondering if you recommend carrying on with the night sleep training or stopping for now and trying again later on? Also is it counterproductive to do sleep training at night but not for naps at the same time? How many nights in a row should we use extinction for before resorting to another method which might work better for our child? Thank you in advance for your advice.

    1. Thank you for your detailed description. Please describe, in detail, the drowsy signs in the evening that you use as a prompt to begin soothing to sleep at bedtime. Also, when do the naps usually begin?

  2. The first nap starts between 8.40 and 9.30. He takes the second nap, depending on the length of the first one, either between 12.00 and 13.00 or between 14.00 and 15.00. Again, depending on the length and timing of the second nap he either takes a third nap between 15.00 and 17.00 or doesn’t nap in the afternoon until bedtime (this does not happen often, it happens if he wakes up from his second nap at around 16.00). Sometimes when his naps are short during the day he gets tired around 17.00 and takes a short nap then. I was wondering if, in this case, we should put him directly to bed for the evening. The only thing is that, at that time, he usually isn’t hungry enough to have dinner so that would mean putting him to bed for the night without feeding him.

    As for drowsy signs in the evening, he usually becomes very calm and starts playing silently with his pacifier or looking at his hands although sometimes it seems to us that he goes suddendly from being attentive and playing with his toys to rubbing his eyes and becoming mildly fussy or whining which you describe as fatigue signs.

    The usual evening routine includes a bath around 17.30/18.00 (this seems to cause agitation instead of calming him since he loves to play with water so we try to keep it very short), a bottle (he is no longer breastfed, switched to formula at 3 months old) and, as soon as we notice him starting to be drowsy, a short story and quick soothing by rocking in the arms and singing a lullaby before putting him in his crib. If he seems tired we skip the story and go straight to soothing and crib.

    1. Nap rhythms are well established by 4 months of age so it is age-appropriate for you to work on both naps and night sleep for your 6 month old son.
      In general, you begin a bedtime routine around 5:30-6pm and put him to bed between 6-7pm. He has self-soothing skills because when he woke up a couple of times at night , he went back asleep on his own.
      My suggestion is to stay the course for 4-5 days and nights with these modifications:
      When tired at 5pm, no nap, skip the bath, shorten the bedtime routine, lights off by 5:30pm for night sleep.
      The 3rd nap is variable and sometimes naps are 45 minutes. So, for now, consider a bedtime of 7pm to be too late. During the next 4-5 days, skip baths at night (bathe some other time), do a shorter bedtime routine, and lights off always between 5:30-6:30pm. The earlier the better. Later, when napping better, perhaps the bedtime might around 7pm, or not.
      Keep a detailed diary record of nap and night sleep onset and duration, crying with extinction, and night wakings.
      Send me a detailed progress report after 4-5 days.
      How involved is the father?
      Sweet Dreams, DrW.

  3. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,

    Thank you, we are proceeding as advised. I just had a question but first a quick update on how it went the first day.

    The night before we started nap training again, we put him to bed earlier, as you recommended, so lights off at 18.00 (with dad). He didn’t cry much. He whined and kicked his feet for 20′ then slept until 4.50 and woke up 4 times after that. At 4.50 when he started crying we fed him because we thought he was hungry (he wasn’t very hungry). At 5.23 we let him cry, he fell back asleep after a few minutes. He woke up crying again at 5.45 so we changed his diaper, soothed him, and put him back in his crib. He cried until 6.20 so we ended up picking him up and putting him in bed with us because we were exhausted. He fell asleep and woke up at 7.30.

    Day 1:
    Wake-up time 7.30

    First Nap: put down in crib at 9.00, he cried for 45′ then fell asleep, slept until 11.35

    Second Nap: put down at 13.35 cried until 14.20 then kicked for another 40′ without making sounds and didn’t fall asleep

    Didn’t take any more naps during the day

    Lights off at 18.10 (with dad), cried for a few minutes then started kicking without making sounds, fell asleep at 18.28

    Woke up at 3.00 cried for 10′ then silence, from 3.24 to 3.36 bouts of crying then fell asleep

    Woke up at 6.30

    I was wondering if we should put him down drowsy but awake for all naps even if he skips 2 naps a day this way because he doesn’t manage to fall asleep on his own after one hour in his crib? Or should we instead attempt to maximize sleeping hours during the day by soothing him the usual way for the next nap if he ends up skipping the first (so putting him down already asleep)? I ask because I wonder if total nap hours during the day impact the length of uninterrupted sleep during the night.

    As for dad’s involvement, he works full-time so I have been mainly the person putting him to bed at night and for naps. He’s been helping out more these past 2 weeks since we are on vacation and decided to start sleep training.

    Thank you again.

    1. Yes, continue to put him down drowsy but awake for naps. Please read ‘Nap Drill’ on page 289 in my book for a detailed discussion about your issue(s) with naps.
      Bringing him to your bed early in the morning teaches him to cry longer and louder in the morning for your comfort; please stop. Perhaps try to go to bed earlier yourself. It is possible that if he had started the day at 5:45am (as in your note) instead of 7:30am, he might have gone down for his first nap around 8:30-9am without any crying. For this week-end watch carefully for drowsy signs during the day, give extra soothing if needed and strive for naps around 9am and 1pm. Caution: If he is sleepy before those times and you keep him up with extra soothing to catch those times, he might get a second wind. The competing goals are to sleep him in synch with his nap rhythms and to not allow him to get too overtired; trial and error and patience is key.

  4. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,

    Here is how it went during the following days.

    Day 2: Saturday August 20th

    Woke up at 6.30

    Midmorning nap: put down in crib at 8.00 cried and kicked until 9.00. Couldn’t get him to sleep at home after that so we went out for a walk at 9.45. He fell asleep in the stroller at 10.15, came home and put him directly in bed at 10.30 without waking him. He woke up at 11.15. I realized that I may have put him to sleep a bit too early.

    Midday nap: he started showing fatigue signs at 12.30, I put him in his crib he cried and kicked until 13.15 then fell asleep. Woke up at 14.00.

    No third nap

    Lights off at 18.05 with dad, kicking without making sounds, fell asleep at 18.27.
    Woke up at 1.24 cried for a minute then fell asleep, woke up again at 3.40 cried for a minute then fell asleep

    Day 3: Sunday August 21st

    Woke up at 6.30

    Midmorning nap(with dad): 8.58 cried until 9.07 then fell asleep, woke up at 9.37, we failed to extend the nap (Total nap duration 30′)

    Midday nap (with dad): 12.05 cried an hour and didn’t fall asleep. He seemed already drowsy to us at that time but we may have put him in his crib too early.

    Afternoon nap: he was drowsy again around 14.30, we soothed him and tried to put him in his crib but he cried so we picked him up immediately.
    From 14.30 to 15.00 he started becoming very tired so we started soothing again, he almost fell asleep in dad’s arms. When dad put him in his crib at 15.00 he protested for a few seconds then crashed (he was for sure overtired and already sleeping a bit so not “drowsy but awake”), he woke up after 40′ still a bit tired. We kept him up and put him to bed earlier.

    Lights off at 17.36, cried until 17.57 (He was very loud and upset with respect to the previous nights, also much more tired).

    Woke up at 3.20 cried for a minute then fell asleep, woke up again at 5.40 cried for less than a minute then fell asleep or was absolutely silent for around 20′.

    Day 4: Monday August 22nd

    Woke up at 5.40/6.03

    Midmorning nap (with mom): in his crib at 8.42 cried until 8.47 then fell asleep. Woke up at 9.20, my attempt to extend the nap by soothing failed. (Total nap duration 33′). He woke up still tired because he rubbed his eyes a few times while we played.

    Midday nap (with mom): in his crib at 12.15 cried until 12.21 then fell asleep. Woke up at 13.56
    (Total nap duration 1hr 35min).

    No third nap

    Lights off at 17.55 (with dad), cried for less than 1′ then fell asleep.
    Cry heard for a second at 18.49 then he went back to sleep.
    Woke up between midnight and 3.00 (not sure what the time was) and cried for about a minute then went back to sleep, woke up at 3.50 cried for a few minutes then went back to sleep.

    Note: he had a soiled diaper in the morning (which is unusual) so one of the wakings might have been because of the diaper.

    Day 5: Tuesday August 23rd

    Woke up at 5.38

    Midmorning nap (with mom): in his crib at 8.28 whined for 1 minute then fell asleep. Woke up at 9.26 (Total nap duration 58′).

    Midday nap (with mom): in his crib at 11.55 (a bit of whining and a lot of eye rubbing a few minutes before), cried until 12.01 then fell asleep. Woke up at 13.17 (Total nap duration: 1hr 16′)

    Third nap (with mom): he started showing drowsy signs at 15.15. I put him in his crib but he cried so I picked him up (as instructed in the “Nap Drill”). We played a bit but he clearly started getting tired so I tried to put him in his crib again but he cried so I picked him up and we made it to 16.30, at which time he was clearly very tired so I fed and changed him and started soothing . He was in his crib at 17.10. Cried until 17.35 then fell asleep.

    Woke up at 18.21 and cried for a couple of minutes then went back to sleep.
    Woke up at 4.50 cried for less than a minute then fell asleep.

    Woke up at 5.56.

    Note: he had a soiled diaper in the morning so one of the wakings might have been because of the diaper.

    Day 6: Wednesday August 24th

    Midmorning nap (with mom): eye rubbing started at 7.15. In his crib at 8.29, cried for 8 minutes then fell asleep. Woke up at 9.25 (Total nap duration: 48′).

    I will be putting him down drowsy but awake for the next nap as well while I wait for your feedback.

    Here are my overall comments, doubts and questions:

    Nap time without mom by his side is going better but it is quite hard sometimes to put him down drowsy because he seems to go from attentive and playful to tired (eye rubbing and whining) very quickly sometimes. I guess this is because he is tired because of missed naps/short naps?

    What do you suggest can be done about the third nap if we know he is sleepy around 15.00 but he refuses to go to sleep without crying? He was clearly overtired in the afternoon on Day 5 but I had no idea how to handle the situation so I kept him up as long as possible and put him to bed earlier than usual. The crying was very loud.

    For the third nap, as a general rule, I am trying to not let him nap after 16.00 because we are striving to put him to bed earlier but if he gets very tired around 16.00 what do you advise us to do?

    Our son will be 7 months old in 5 days (born at 38 weeks, birth weight within average). He has an easy temperament and did not have extreme fussiness/colic.

    Thank you in advance for your feedback and advice.

    1. Thank you for your detailed report. Regarding naps, please clarify the phrases ‘(with Dad)’ and (‘with mom)’. Please describe in detail what you and your husband do around nap times after you have put him down (after the soothing process).
      The third nap disappears between 6-9 months of age and because of brief naps midmorning and midday, your son is often tired in the afternoon. However, if you allow a third nap to occur, a super early bedtime is less likely to occur. Because of his age, how do you feel about never allowing a third nap and focusing your efforts on a temporary super-early bedtime around 5-5:30pm? How about your husband; would he permit this? The notion is that more sleep early in the evening will cause him to wake up in the morning better rested and be better able to nap midmorning and mid-day. When this occurs, weeks later, the bedtime will be able to moved to a later time. If you want to try this, I will give you more specific advise regarding implementation. Also, look at ‘Crystal’ in comments on Blog Post 25 and my Instagram Reels (#marcweissbluth) Sleep Tips.

  5. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,

    Thank you for getting back to me so fast. After soothing, we both leave the room, close the door and turn on the baby monitor. So we’ve been letting him cry until he falls asleep at night. We do the same thing for the midmorning and midday naps (except when he cries for an hour then we go and pick him up). I put “with dad” and “with mom” between parentheses just to let you know who has been doing the soothing and putting down in the crib.

    I read the comments of Crystal and it indeed rings a bell because I can see that he may be ready to go to bed by 5pm on most nights. I have to admit that sleep training has been particularly hard on him because, before we started (we’ve been doing extinction at night for 13 days now and extinction for all 3 naps for 6 days), he was regularly napping for at least 2.5hrs a day (most of the time split into 3 naps, the last not necessarily taking place before 4pm). The naps involved crying sometimes even if I was by his side but I realize now that that was mainly due to the fact that I was missing his drowsy signs.

    The fact of the matter is that I am on maternity leave until September 13th so, until then, I can manage to go to bed early and wake up super early with my son. After that date, my husband will take care of our son for another month (so he will stay home from work) until he starts daycare on October 10th. My concern is that it will be already very tiring for my husband to take care of our son all day as he is not used to it. So, I am not sure he can tollerate a very early wake-up time in the morning. I will talk to him tonight to see how he feels about it and get back to you. I am assuming a 5pm bedtime means at most a 6am wake-up time, correct?

    Do you think we might already achieve some results in 3 weeks time (when I will have to go back to work) or would it be too soon if he starts napping well by then to restart pushing the bedtime to a bit later?

    In the meantime, here is how it went for the rest of the day today and my questions in the end:

    Day 6: Wednesday August 24th

    Midmorning nap (with mom): eye rubbing started at 7.15. In his crib at 8.29, cried for 8 minutes then fell asleep. Woke up at 9.25 (Total nap duration: 48′).

    He became very whiny around 10am so I fed him. He was hungry but, after eating, he kept whining and didn’t want to play or interact so we went out for a 35′ walk. I put him in the baby carrier so that I would be able to see if he was falling asleep. After we came back home, things went better because he started playing calmly on his own and then we played together until 11.15 when he started rubbing his eyes. I kept him awake to reach at least 12.00, trying not to get him overtired, and put him in his crib at 12.08.

    Midday nap: From 12.19 to 13.46 (total nap duration= 1hr 27′), so he cried for 11′ before falling asleep.

    In the afternoon, he was still quite active at 15.45 (not showing any drowsy signs) so we went out for a walk again. Unfortunately, he started rubbing his eyes around 16.45 so by the time we got home, I bathed him (we unfortunately could not skip the bath before going to bed today) and tried to feed him (he was so tired he ate very little). I realized that had already missed the window and he was super tired when I put him to bed at 17.45. He cried for 15′ then fell asleep.

    Do you think we should keep on using extinction for naps even though he is still crying a little almost every time or should we go back to staying by his side until he falls asleep? The latter would, however, mean that we would then need to move him from the bed to the crib. Sometimes this ends up waking him up.

    For bedtime, I can try tomorrow to start soothing as soon as I see minimal drowsiness signs and put him to bed even if it means putting him to bed super early to see if the crying might disappear completely. Do you think that would be a good idea?

    Another thing I wanted to ask you about is moving the crib to another room. In 4 days, we will be going back home to our city apartment. The plan is to buy him a bigger crib and put it in a separate room (his crib is at present in our room). Do you think this change can be a setback in some way with regards to his sleeping habits/patterns? I don’t know if this can help but, a few days before we started sleep training, I started putting him to sleep for naps in the complete dark because I noticed he would fall asleep much faster this way. So I am wondering if maybe he won’t even notice the change?

    Thank you again for your advice. It has been really challenging these last 2 weeks but we really want to find the best solution to make him and ourselves sleep better!

    1. Be optimistic, there can be a lot of improvement in 3 weeks with a super-early bedtime! Depending on naps, it might be anytime between 5-6pm.
      Continue with extinction for naps.
      If able and desirable, make the separate room for naps pitch black and consider a white noise machine.
      Most importantly, the general goal is to nap him around 9am and 12-2pm and not let him sleep at other times. For example:
      “Midmorning nap (with mom): eye rubbing started at 7.15. In his crib at 8.29, cried for 8 minutes then fell asleep. Woke up at 9.25 (Total nap duration: 48′).” [Maybe he would have napped longer if he had fallen asleep around 9am]

      “He became very whiny around 10am so I fed him. He was hungry but, after eating, he kept whining and didn’t want to play or interact so we went out for a 35′ walk. I put him in the baby carrier so that I would be able to see if he was falling asleep. After we came back home, things went better because he started playing calmly on his own and then we played together until 11.15 when he started rubbing his eyes. I kept him awake to reach at least 12.00, trying not to get him overtired, and put him in his crib at 12.08.'”[Congratulations!! By gently stretching him towards 12 noon and not putting him down for a nap much earlier, he was able to sleep longer]

      Midday nap: From 12.19 to 13.46 (total nap duration= 1hr 27′), so he cried for 11′ before falling asleep.

      So, if before about 9am and 12-2pm he is appearing drowsy or fussy from lack of sleep, attempt to soothe him for comfort and simultaneously distract him with movement, activity, noise, music, etc so he is calmer and awake. If this fails and he gets more upset, then sleep him. But what you want to avoid is a situation that will lull him to sleep substantially before about 9am and 12-2pm such as a car ride. Walking outside might be calming and stimulating (wind, fresh air, street noises, dogs, children playing) or puts him to sleep (rhythmic rocking motions). You decide. Please note that I used the word ‘about’ because these times are goals and approximations, not rigid rules.

      Please read, and have your husband read, Blog Posts 23 and 38 so he will be more able to help your child sleep better.
      Please keep your detailed record going.
      How do you feel about going forward?

  6. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,

    Thank you for your advice and for your support. I read the Blog Posts you indicated and I agree that sleep is fundamental. I saw the direct effects of sleep deprivation on myself during these months and cannot begin to imagine how much lack of sleep/poor sleep can be detrimental to a growing brain.
    A few months back (after reading your book) I started protecting his naps like a maniac and I felt that some family members didn’t understand but what other people think has never discouraged or stopped me from doing what I know is right for my family. I will have my husband read the blog posts as well.

    We will proceed as per your advice and I will get in touch if we have any doubts.

    For the sound machine, do you advise to use it for both naps and at bedtime? Should we keep it on the whole night until he wakes up the next morning? Are there any specific sounds in your experience that are best?

    Thank you again and I hope to write soon to report some major improvements!

    1. Continuous sounds drown out the signal intensity of intermittent sounds so even the hum of a desk-top fan might work.Quiet noises are best to protect baby’s ears. Sounds of nature or music that has a narrow dynamic range (harpsichord or guitar) is better than music that alternates between very loud and very quiet.

      You might appreciate reading Blog Post 38 that discusses what you experienced from family members.
      Please send me an update.
      Sweet Dreams,

  7. Dr.Weissbluth
    I have a 5 month old son who will only go to sleep nursing. The process is usually very easy and short to get him to sleep and most of the time his naps are long and great. The problem is he will only go to sleep nursing. On the days I work my mother in law has a horrendous time getting him to go to sleep for his naps. Then, when he falls asleep his naps are often short and he isn’t well rested causing him to be very fussy all day.
    Since birth, we have had trouble getting him to go to sleep. He stayed up for hours at a time, followed by hours of inconsolable screaming and then brief bouts of sleep. He was a very alert baby from day 1 and would be wide eyed the entire awake period. As first time parents we didn’t know about wake times and sleep times. If he was awake we were interacting with him even if it was hours. We thought when he became fussy is when it was time for sleep.
    After restless days and nights of googling, I stumbled upon you and your book. At around 1 month old I started to sleep train him. We took the slower method and would let him fuss but when he began screaming we soothed. This worked for a few weeks as most of the time he would fall asleep on his own with little whining or some not at all anywhere from 5-20 minutes after laying down. He then went through a fussy period and this no longer was working. He would scream and cry until he couldn’t breathe. We stopped the training and I nursed him to sleep.
    For naps, he would fall asleep in his swing until he grew out of it around 3.5 months. (He is a big baby) So then, nap time consisted of nursing to sleep as well because nothing else seemed to work.
    Even though it is mostly easy for me to nurse him to sleep, it is not ideal for anyone else. At the end of the day when my mother in law brings him home he is fussy and exhausted and does not sleep good at night with a lot of night awakenings in which consist of crying that can sometimes be soothed with just simply touching him but most of the time result in him being nursed back to sleep.
    How can I sleep train him without it resulting in him purple crying?

    1. Perhaps your child has the post-colic sleeping problem of impaired ability to self-soothe as described in my book. Do you agree? Also, based on his behavior in the late afternoon and his naps during the day and the fact that some days you work outside the house, do you think that sometimes the bedtime is too late?

  8. Yes, I would agree. He does occasionally fall asleep on his own. Typically when I’ve been nursing him and he seems to be a bit squirmy, I then lay him down and leave the room. He will be loud for around 5 minutes, no screaming or crying just loud grumbling basically. Then, he moved his head side to side a few times and makes this humming noise and falls asleep. He only seems to do this if he’s been nursed first, but will not do this every time I try, just occasionally.
    As for late bedtime on the days I work, I would agree. His bedtime gets pushed back to about 8:15.. I get home at 7:30 and because I work in the medical field I am exposed to a lot. I have to shower immediately when I get home before touching him. By the time i do so as quickly as possible and then change him it’s around 8pm. I have shortened the time frame a little by skipping his night bath on these days going from bedtime at 830 to 815.
    Now, for that being said. Do you think that on the days I work it throws off his night time sleep and the following day naps?
    I have dropped down to part time only working 2-12 hour days. But I still feel like He only gets about 2 good days of night sleeps and daytime naps. My work days are sometimes back to back or a few days apart.
    Lastly, say he has had a few days of good sleep and naps and the next day I have to work. Even though he is well rested and happy, my mother in law still has trouble getting him to sleep. She follows the same routine as I do, besides the final step of nursing. He will occasionally suck on his thumb for her but it just doesn’t seem to soothe him enough to sleep.

    1. Because he only falls asleep well after nursing, but twice a week (when you work) the bedtime is way too late, I think that the 3 variables (lacks self-soothing skills, dependency on nursing to sleep, and working late twice a week) are intertwined and you have to change at least one in a dramatic fashion. I do not know what is doable for you or what your preferences are so I am unable to make a specific recommendation. Perhaps a community sleep consultant or lactation consultant can better guide you to a solution.

  9. Nursing him to sleep will be the dramatic change I need. With accomplishing this he will also learn self soothing skills. I am just at a stand still of figuring out how to stop him from associating nursing with sleeping. I reached out to my lactation consultant as recommend.
    Thank you.

  10. Hello,

    I have a 4.5 old baby. His naps are great. 3 naps averaging 1.5 hours each with the last one up at 430. His naps are like this. I take him to his dark room, lay him in bed where sleep sack is and put pacifier in and walk out.

    Before reading your content I would put him to bed at 730 nightly. Night routine is bath, lotion, sleep sack and bottle. I make sure he’s not fully asleep before I lay him in his crib ( separate room than ours). He would be asleep by 730 and wake every-night at 4. Some nights I would replace the paci and others he wouldn’t fall back asleep so I would feed him. He would suck that 8 ounce bottle down in 10 min and I would lay him in his crib after awake and leave the room. I would watch him on monitor and sometimes it would take an hour for him to go back to sleep on his own without fussing. Last night I put him down at 7 and he woke up at 3. I let him cry off and on for 30 min and I went in and put in his pacifier. He went back to bed until 6. Is that ok?

    1. Does his 3rd nap end at 4:30PM?
      Did you observe drowsy signs (see Blog Post 115X) before naps and at 7pm last night?

  11. Yes his nap ended at 430. Yes on drowsy signs before bed. Honestly I was seeing it even at 530 pm yesterday and just entertained him until bath time at 630.

    1. He will fall asleep easier and have consolidated night sleep if you respect his drowsy signs. If he is becoming drowsy at 5:30pm, then his brain wants to sleep then. Don’t withhold sleep. If he has a need for a lot of sleep (lots of daytime sleep and an early bedtime, it is a symptom of superior intelligence!). Please read the Blog Posts or the sections in my book why an early bedtime is very important.

  12. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,

    We recently used the extinction method with our 5 month old daughter. She went from waking every 40-80 minutes through the night to sleeping 11 hours without a peep (thank you!!). We started this two weeks ago and she has been sleeping through the night since night 4.

    While she puts herself back to sleep throughout the night without crying, she continues to cry quite a bit (~30 minutes) every night when we put her in the crib awake. I follow drowsy cues to determine bed time (her signals are yawning and zoning out) but it is generally at or around 6:30 PM (dependent on her last nap – I aim to put her down within 90 mins of her last nap but rely more heavily on drowsy signals).

    We continue to let her cry herself to sleep since she always does eventually get there, but I wonder if the lack of improvement in the time it takes her to get herself to sleep is concerning. I would appreciate any advice you have. Thank you!

    1. “While she puts herself back to sleep throughout the night without crying, she continues to cry quite a bit (~30 minutes) every night when we put her in the crib awake.”
      During those 30 minutes: Is the crying continuous or intermittent? Is the crying mostly mild, moderate, or intense? How much does the crying bother you?
      Perhaps put her to bed 10 minutes earlier than is your current custom and see if she falls asleep at this slightly earlier time and what happens to the crying. This trial would be for only 3 nights.

  13. I have read your book almost in its entirety and returned back to it many times for my first child, so I’m familiar with the methods you describe and know that they work.

    Now I have a 4 week old baby (our 2nd). Occasionally it is not feasible to put her down when she’s drowsy but awake and she gets overtired. Then she takes lots of soothing and we have to wait until she’s asleep to put her down, otherwise she sobs. But she sleeps for a much shorter period of time when put down this way.

    How much crying it out is acceptable for this age? I’m wondering if maybe letting her cry a bit might be necessary to help her sleep well and longer.

    1. At 46 weeks post-conceptual age, normal infant fussiness/crying peaks and then afterwards, infants sleep more at night, fuss/cry less, and want an earlier bedtime. So some of what you are observing might be due to normal developmental changes and/or your inability to put her down when she’s drowsy.

      Going forward, take a step back and ask how you might be able to reduce the frequency of late sleep times or make the too late sleep times a little less late or both. Especially for bedtimes after 6 weeks of age. The more you are able to do this, the less presleep arousal you will see and the less crying there will be. The opposite is also true. Maybe your specific family circumstances means that you will have to ignore some crying sometimes because the reality is that sometimes the falling asleep time is too late. Remember, a falling asleep time that is a little too late is better than a falling asleep time that is way too late.
      Does this help?

  14. To clarify why we can’t avoid letting her get overtired: she is one of those babies who sleeps almost constantly. She can’t handle more than 30-45min of awake time at a time; maximum 1 hour. She sleeps best in her dark bassinet with white noise at home.

    At a minimum, we have to leave the house to go to church on Sundays, and she gets overtired from the stimulation/ being away from her bassinet for too long. The other need to leave the house is to go to the grocery store; she’ll get overtired then because by the time she’s finished nursing we only have ~10-30 min of awake time left before she needs to go down again.

    When she gets overtired it is MUCH more difficult to get her to sleep.

  15. Yes, I could go grocery shopping only on weekends while dad is home. However, I’m not sure that never leaving the house during the week would be mentally healthy for me. I know that few things are more important than her sleep. But our space is not huge and we live with two other families, so a bit of outside time is important for us all.

    Do you think it would be acceptable to try to let her nap once a day or a few naps per week in a stroller while I go on a walk / jog? I know it’s not ideal. But I could make it somewhat dark with a cover and use a portable white noise machine. All other naps would be in the bassinet…. Would that be enough to help her develop self-soothing skills? At what point (age) should all naps be taken at home?

    Thank you.

    1. Please focus now on your mental health and follow your heart. Do your best to help your baby sleep well but not at the expense of your well-being.

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