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. A major point, emphasized by the Army, is that more sleep produces more benefits for Soldiers. Also, more sleep produces more benefits for children. Even small amounts of extra sleep help Blog Post 6. At every age!
Another point made by the Army Blog Post 5 is that “Soldiers [Children] best accomplish sleep extension [more sleep] by going to bed earlier.” The Army is clear about who is in charge: “Planning for sleep is a leader [Parent] competency”.
An early bedtime may prevent sleep problems from developing in the first place. A slightly earlier bedtime alone might completely or partially solve a sleep problem. An early or an earlier bedtime, even just a slightly earlier bedtime, might produce:
In short, your child may fall asleep and stay asleep better when the bedtime is early. This is because a bedtime that is too late causes increased brain arousal that interferes with easily falling asleep and staying asleep. This results in a shorter duration of sleep and less consolidated (or more fragmented) sleep.
An important point for babies and young children is that, when the bedtime is too late, although night sleep may be shortened, and naps may be longer, often, the total (24-hour sleep time) is less. Long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep. Further, when the bedtime is too late, even when total sleep is normal due to very long naps, the child suffers adverse consequences because the short night sleep alone harms the brain. Again, long naps do not fully compensate for short night sleep.
If your child has a sleep problem, moving the bedtime just a little earlier, perhaps 10 to 20 minutes earlier, may produce a small amount of extra sleep that, in turn, solves the sleep problem, because a small amount of extra sleep makes a big impact Blog Post 6.
At about 6 weeks of age, counting from the due date, not the birth date, three predictable changes occur because of brain maturation:
The failure to move your baby’s sleep schedule earlier will cause a cumulative sleep debt to occur that will eventually produce bedtime resistance and night wakings.
Hi Dr Weissbluth,
My 5 month old child has problems sleeping at bedtime. We have tried bedtimes between 6pm-8pm after a warm bath and an evening formula feed. Most of the time he falls asleep within 30 mins of his meal, but then he ALWAYS wakes up crying after 30 mins, no matter what time we try to get him to bed! Within an hour of this crying he is easily soothed to sleep (10-15mins) but wakes up within 10-15 mins again. This continues for an hour or so, after which he seems no longer sleepy and just lies awake in bed, playing by himself. Most nights he only manages to fall asleep around 9-10.30pm. We have tried soothing him many times but it does not help him sleep earlier. This also seems to lead to his long night waking (1.5 hrs of awake time!) after his 2am/ 3am feed. Help! What should we do?
Because his bedtime is too late, he is at a higher level of neurological arousal that causes him to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night. Either use his drowsy signs (Blog Post 9) to determine an earlier bedtime or just move the bedtime to 5:30-6:30pm for just a few nights. Then, evaluate naps and bedtime routines. He might nap better and after a few days you can move the bedtime later to maybe 6:30-7:00pm, but 8pm is too late. Please report back and describe how it goes.
Hi Dr Weissbluth,
Thanks for the prompt advice!
We have tried an earlier bedtime between 5.30-6.30pm for a week. He still woke up exactly 30 mins from when he fell asleep. There was a slight improvement where for 2 days of that week, he was able to go back to sleep after 30 mins of soothing (but woke up twice in between needing soothing before going down for the night around 9pm). For the rest of the week, he treated the 5.30-6.30pm bedtime as a 30 min nap, waking up fully for 2 hours after, before he goes down for the night at around 9pm.
His wake/sleep times are: 7.30am wake-up, naps 9am-10.30am, 12nn-1pm, 3-4pm, 6.30pm-7pm (attempted bedtime), actual bedtime around 9pm. In the night he used to be able to sleep 5-6 hours and wake up just once around 4am for a feed, but in the last 3 weeks has been waking up twice in the night at 2am / 5am for feeds. We started him on solids as he turned 6 months last week but it doesn’t seem to change anything… Help! 🙁
If the ‘slight improvement’ was a novel event, be optimistic that you are on the right track. At 6 months of age, 84% of children are taking 2 naps a day and 16% are taking 3 naps a day. Please continue the plan but additionally, eliminate the 3rd nap (perhaps start on a weekend when you have extra help to get through a rough patch in the late afternoon). Read Blog Posts 19 and 24-27 to think about possible ways to help him sleep better.
Dr. Weissbluth, My son is five months old. We began sleep training using your method about three weeks ago. He is doing very well going down by himself at night. He stays asleep for about three hours and then weeks for a feeding. After that, he is waking about every hour and a half to two hours. I know he does not need to be fed that frequently, but he cries for about 45 minutes each time that I do not go in and breast-feed him. Please help!
Thank you so much for your wonderful book!
The Sleep Solutions chapter in my book is long because there are many age-specific and family-specific variables to consider when creating a successful sleep solution for a particular family. For your child’s age, the general principles underlying a successful sleep solution is to focus on early bedtimes (Blog Post 7) based on drowsy signs (Blog Post 9), and naps (Blog Posts 53-56). Try to be flexible (Blog Post 14) and optimistic (Blog Post 66).
My baby is almost 6 weeks old, and I want to create a “bedtime” for him so that he hopefully starts sleeping longer stretches. I’m not really sure how to being that he doesn’t have so much awake time and I’m having a hard time keeping him up in order to nurse him right before he is ready for an early bedtime. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but I can’t seem to create a different situation for an actual bed time to occur for night.
This might help organize your thoughts:
A. Healthy Sleep includes soothing, timing, and ‘many hands’.
1. Encourage sucking (nutritive or non-nutritive sucking) when soothing to sleep.
2. Begin soothing to sleep when drowsy signs (Blog Post 9) appear.
a. Get Dad or others to help with soothing to sleep (Blog Posts 17 and 18).
B. More calories do not make your child sleep longer.
1. If your child is hungry, then feed your child.
2. If your child is drowsy, then soothe your child to sleep.
3. Feeding and soothing may, or may not, occur at the same time.
Thank you for responding, Dr. Weissbluth! I’m going to try to keep those points in mind and see if it helps my baby sleep longer.
We’ve been putting our 8 month old down between 5 and 6 based on drowsy signs for about a week now and she still takes a long time to fall asleep. She could be falling asleep in my arms but still start to scream and stay awake for a minimum of a half hour after I put her down. She won’t usually fall asleep before 6:30 no matter when we put her down.
Please describe a typical nap pattern, a typical overnight sleep pattern (awakenings for feedings and awakenings for only soothing), and the usual wake-up time in the morning.
Please describe in detail her mood and behavior around 4PM.
I have a few issues that I’m not sure how to handle. My baby is now about 2 months old. (1) I’ve been doing an early bedtime for weeks already, but he still won’t really sleep long stretches at night. I have a bedtime routine, and I put him in somewhere in the 6s. He usually doesn’t fall asleep until somewhere in the 7s. He’ll only sleep for around 3 hours for that first stretch. A couple times he has done a 4 hour stretch, but that is not the norm, and it is very exhausting that he is not doing any type of long stretch. And after that first stretch, he sometimes isn’t even sleeping for more than 2 hours straight. (2) Additionally, once it reaches around 4 am, he doesn’t seem to be fully sleeping and fusses around for hours. (3) Another issue is that during the day, for his naps, he often wakes up after 20 min, or sometimes more, and I have to put him back to sleep (usually with a pacifier but it can take time). He doesn’t generally stay sleeping for even an hour straight. I generally put him down before he gets overtired, and he thank Gd can self soothe and fall asleep on his own (with or without a pacifier). So I’m not sure what the problem is.
Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!
What was your child’s gestational age at birth?
How does he behave and look around 4-5pm?
About how long is the bedtime routine?
What’s the most common time you are leaving him at night after the bedtime routine?
He was born at 40 weeks + 4 days.
Usually around 4-5 pm (and later) he’s a little fussier and won’t nap as well, although sometimes he does nap.
The bedtime routine is short. I change him, talk to him quietly, say a prayer with him, and sing a bedtime song.
Do you mean how long do I leave him after the bedtime routine? I usually have to keep going in to put his pacifier in and stroke his cheek for at least a half hour if not more until he falls asleep. I sometimes pick him up again for a minute and just rock him (but not until he’s sleeping. Just for a minute to calm him)
Early bedtimes emerge (around 6 weeks) before naps begin to get organized (around 3-4months). So, for now, because he is “a little fussier” around 4-5pm, I suggest a trial of 3-5 days with a bedtime that is 20 minutes earlier. Over time, this should improve night sleep (first) and naps (second) at which point the bedtime might become a little later. Also, to enhance self-soothing skills, try to either give less attention after the bedtime routine or have someone else do the curtain calls or both. What are your thoughts?
Sweet Dreams, DrW.
Thank you so much for all your advice! I will definitely try that and see if it helps, including giving less attention after the bedtime routine. I have referred to your book for all my kids and really appreciate your approach.
Hi again Dr. Weissbluth,
My now 2 1/2 month old (11 weeks) still does not seem to be picking up on longer night stretches, despite my attempt to do an early bed time (even earlier than I was before, like you suggested). He keeps waking up after just 3 hours of sleeping, sometimes even less, sometimes a little more. He only once recently went 7 hours without eating – so I know he could do it – but that was with me putting the pacifier in 1-2 times instead of nursing. He didn’t seem to be waking up to nurse because he went right back to sleep with the pacifier. I try doing that other times too, but even after 3 hours he sometimes just continues to fuss/cry a bit until I nurse him.
I’m trying to set him up for success to be a good sleeper so that hopefully he can get into a good routine and maybe I won’t have to let him cry it out to train him.
I’m so tired though being that I also have 2 other kids to care for (and a very helpful husband thank Gd, but neither of us can do everything).
Any advice and help would be much appreciated! Is my child just defying the rules and being stubborn :)?
Please clarify how many times he awakens at night and how many times you nurse him at night.
He nurses 3 times a night usually, which basically ends up being every 3 hours and sometimes less. And he usually gets up 1 or 2 other times and either needs a diaper change or just fusses a bit and I put the pacifier in and he’ll go back to sleep (that often happens in the early am, around 5).
Here are some possibilities to consider; they are not mutually exclusive. Most children this age need 1-2 feedings at night: One in the middle of the night and one in the early morning.
1. With 3 children keeping you busy, perhaps your breast milk supply is low and he is awakening at night because he is hungry. Here are some ways to make that determination.
a. Watch the suck-swallow patter: If he is truly hungry, the general pattern is suck-swallow, suck-swallow, suck-swallow, etc. If not truly hungry, it is more like suck, suck, suck-swallow; suck, suck suck-swallow; etc.
b. Offer a test bottle once (perhaps have Dad do it) to see how much and how quickly he swallows.
c. If you are expressing breast milk, perhaps there has been a recent decline in the volume pumped.
d. Ask yourself, have you become more thirsty recently?
e. Has his recent weight gain been appropriate?
If you determine that he might be hungry, consider drinking much more fluid during the day or talking to a lactation consultant or your pediatrician.
2. The night waking might be a developing habit. If so, a 3-4 night trial of a sleep solution (‘No cry’ or ‘Let cry’) might be considered with only 1-2 feedings at night.
3. With 3 children, perhaps your baby has not had the needed nap opportunities that are age-appropriate. If so, he is then way over-tired at the end of the day and has difficulty settling.
Please share your thought with me.
Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
Our daughter just turned 5 months old. We were committed to your strategies with our first child with great success. He was self settling from 3 weeks old and required minimal efforts when learning to sleep through the night. He’s testing the waters again now with many curtains calls (which we respond to with a silent return to bed) and early wake ups (5:15-6:00) where he is super emotional for the first hour of his day and sometimes longer. He goes to daycare 5 days a week and fights nap but always at least rests. His bed time is between 6:00 and 7:00 pm depending on how his day has been and how he is acting. Yesterday he probably needed to be in bed at 5pm but I was struggling to get dinner on the table and had a grandparent drop by for an unannounced visit just before our typical dinner time at 5:00.
All that, and I’m actually here to ask about my 5 month old.
She self settles well and has done so since she was about two months. She typically naps from 8:30 or 9:00 until 10:00 or 10:30, 11:30/12:00 until 2:00 (I have to wake her by 2:00 to go pick her brother up from daycare), and 4:00-5:00 – this nap is the one I struggle with the most as we are often on the go at this time trying to stay out of the house as my husband works from home, but when she does get this nap it’s an hour long at least. Bedtime is about 6:30 or 7:00. She goes down for most sleeps with little fuss and can connect sleep cycles during the day with typically no fussing. Her night sleep is a whole other story. She wakes every two hours and screams her head off until she is fed. I have to say, I am terrible at settling her any other way. She screams until I cave and she’s at the breast. The only time it doesn’t end with me feeding her is if I put headphones in and crank up white noise for myself. She is a healthy weight and I have been told by our pediatrician that it’s time to start dropping some of those night feeds (no joke!) but I just can’t seem to get over the hurdle. She will scream for over an hour at each waking. If she does return to sleep, she’s awake again within an hour. I’m utterly exhausted. Between her being up all night, and her brothers frequent curtain calls and night visits I hardly sleep. She can’t be truly hungry can she? Is it just a habit at this stage? Why can she self settle during the day and not at night? Is it the rocky 3rd nap?
Any guidance would be much appreciated!
Let me first say that my advice might not comport with your values and lifestyle, therefore ignore that which is unacceptable to you. Secondly, I apologize for having to be concise and blunt in this format. Additionally, you are currently very sleep deprived so I deliberately want to keep this simple.
Because your older child is not napping well at day care, his current bedtime is too late, and this is causing his night awakenings. Simultaneously, attempt to move his bedtime earlier and implement a ‘let cry’ sleep solution. If both are doable, you will see improvement in 1-2 nights. Also, be strict about sleep on weekends to help compensate for not napping well in daycare.
Because you have to wake your baby from the second nap, the best strategy is to skip the third nap and strive for a much earlier bedtime. Feed her only 1-2 times overnight and implement a ‘no-cry’ or ‘let cry’ sleep solution.
The ultimate success or failure to help your children sleep well depends on your husband’s help. Have him read the relevant sections in my book, especially the role of the father. Blog Posts 17,18, and 23 might help. You cannot do this alone.
Please share your thoughts with me.
Sweet Dreams. DrW.
Thanks so much for such a prompt reply. We will implement your suggestions and report back. Fingers crossed we see some improvement. I have two questions. My firs question is related to dropping the third nap. I worry her wake time will be quite long. How early are you suggesting for bedtime? Second question is related to the night feeds. When you say 1-2 feeds is that from when I initially put her down for the night?
Thank you again,
As your daughter begins to show drowsy signs, then begin to soothe her to sleep. Or as soon as you can thereafter.
Children her age are usually fed in the middle of the night and early in the morning (twice) or just once in the middle of the night.
Thank you for all those pointers and thoughts. Regarding the “no cry” sleep solution: Is that what I was doing with just putting the pacifier in instead of nursing when he wakes up around 9/10 oclock? Then I skip that feeding and he goes longer. Would he eventually just stop waking up at that earlier time in theory, and then hopefully only wake up 1-2 times a night? Based on what I read in the book, I would just keep trying to soothe him back to sleep without nursing him if I use that solution?
And what about for “Let cry” – can I do that with delaying the time when I go in and console him? At what intervals should I delay? Do you have other advice about that aside from just letting him cry without checking and consoling at all (I’m not sure I’m ready to do that just yet)
Can I try one of those sleep solutions for a few nights and then switch it to a different one if it doesn’t work? (Assuming the baby isn’t hungry). Thanks!
Blog Post 19 summarizes ‘No Cry’ sleep solutions and Blog Post 25 summarizes ‘Let’Cry’ sleep solutions. Many parents start with a ‘No Cry’ sleep solution and see partial improvement and later switch to a ‘No Cry’ sleep solution and see more complete improvement. Blog Post 26 compares these different approaches.
With 3 children, another factor to consider is ‘teamwork’: Please review Blog Poss 17, 18, and 23. Perhaps your husband’s contributions is more important than you have considered.
Please tell me what you have decided and how it is, or is not, working.
Hi Dr. Weissbluth. Im trying check and console for now because I don’t think I am ready to just let him cry. Some nights I can go in and put the pacifier back in between 9-10 when he wakes up and he goes right back to sleep for another 2 hours or so. So I don’t think he is waking up to nurse really. But other nights, I try the pacifier and it doesn’t work. Then I try to hold him and he goes back to sleep basically right away, but he wakes up when I put him down. So on those nights after trying that for a little, I end up just nursing him. I read in your blog that this is still part of check and console being that I’m trying as little interaction as possible (with just putting the pacifier) and if not, I hold him. And if that doesn’t work, I nurse.
Should I just keep trying this for a bit longer and see if it gradually improves a bit more?
He can fall asleep on his own without being rocked and even without a pacifier sometimes. But he can’t seem to implement those self-soothing techniques when he wakes up at that 930 pm wake up when I don’t think he needs to nurse (although he does usually go to sleep on his own after nursing as well).
For naps, he still wakes up after about a half hour/45 minutes and needs to be put back to sleep – and sometimes, he won’t even go back to sleep even though I can see he’s tired. He’s just 3 months tomorrow, so I know that naps can take another month to be more consistent possibly, but he just never sleeps for an hour or more straight. I’m not sure how to improve that as well.
I have had my husband go in a couple times at that 930 wake up to try to put him back to sleep instead of me, but so far, it hasn’t worked. I can keep trying.
What is the usual bedtime or range of bedtimes currently?
Between 6-630 but he doesn’t always fall asleep right away
Currently, when does his last nap end?
How does he behave and look around 5-5:30pm?
It’s really different everyday – I’m not sure there is any consistency yet. Today, it ended around 4:15 I think and he ended up not falling asleep and napping again after that. I put him to sleep before 6:15. He went to sleep very easily and didn’t cry at all – I didn’t even go in once to put the pacifier in or anything. He was very calm around 5-5:30 today. But other days, his last nap is earlier and even though I try to have him nap again so that he doesn’t get overtired, he doesn’t always. And then he won’t be calm at 5/5:30…
1. Your son has self-soothing skills: “He can fall asleep on his own without being rocked and even without a pacifier sometimes.” Congratulations! Because of his age, naps are highly variable in duration and length. I would not attempt to start a new nap after around 4:00pm in order to protect an early bedtime, even if he appears like he might want a nap. Please review Blog Posts 9 and 83 regarding Drowsy Signs and think of a bedtime that is temporarily super-early (around 5-6pm). the bedtime will vary because the naps vary. Try to determine the bedtime based on drowsy signs. Over time, the naps will get longer and he will comfortably have a latter bedtime.
2. Be consistent at times of curtain calls at bedtime and throughout the night: For check and console, respond promptly to crying (perhaps delay your response to low-level fussy sounds), soothe him but do not pick him up and do not feed him unless it is for a feeding.. Continue to have Dad do this, as much as possible.ant
3. You decide when you want to feed him (once or twice) overnight.
Please share with me your thoughts on this plan.
Thank you so much for all your responses!
I can try this. But what if during a check and console time, he does not settle without being picked up and/or fed? How long should my husband try/should I try? What if he just continues to cry?
He also will wake up sometimes at 530 even after he was just awake at 430. And he is definitely still tired. I assume it is all connected to his sleep patterns and that it will hopefully improve as his night sleep improves…
For check and console, respond promptly to crying. If soothing without picking him up fails, then pick him up but do not feed him unless you are certain that he is hungry. If Dad does this consistently for 2-3 nights, he might improve faster. Do you ever hear him up or fussy at night and he returns to sleep unassisted?
Ok, thank you. We will hopefully try that.
Sometimes in the early morning he fusses a bit – not cries – and I think he sort of goes back to sleep but not into a deep calm sleep. So far when he has been up at night and I hear him, I end up just picking him up and nursing him before he even cries.
“So far when he has been up at night and I hear him, I end up just picking him up and nursing him before he even cries.” Currently, how often does this usually occur? A few weeks ago, did it occur more frequently?
Usually 3 times a night. But sometimes, like this morning, after waking up at 4:15 am to nurse (which was the 3rd time of the night), he woke up at 5:30 am, and I’m not sure why. He still was tired but after I picked him up and he fell back asleep, he woke up again when I put him down.
I know the pattern can vary, but when are the three times that you usually nurse him at night?
9:30/10 if he doesn’t just take the pacifier and go back to sleep. Around 130 or so and then some time in the 4s.
If your breast milk supply is ample, he does not these 3 feedings. Feed him once around or before midnight (for example, 9:30/10pm or later) and once after midnight (for example 3-4am). If you hear him in between, then Dad goes to soothe (hopefully without picking him up) or practice extinction or graduated extinction now for this middle of the night awakening. Today’s Instagram post (#marcweissbluth) is on this topic. Please let me know how you feel about this.
My husband tried last night around 830 to first soothe him without picking him up, then he held him, but he woke up when he was put back down. And he wouldn’t settle until I finally nursed him (even though that wasn’t supposed to be the goal).
Another question is don’t I want him to do a longer first stretch and NOT have 930/10 pm be the first nursing? I would rather get him used to skipping that feeding and do one at midnight or later.
Thank you again for all your advice and prompt responses! I talk about your approach and book anytime a conversation comes up about babies and sleep!
I agree with you. How certain are you that he was actually hungry around 8:30pm last night?
I’m not sure. I just wasn’t sure what else to do after my husbands efforts to soothe him didn’t work and the baby got very worked up
If you are not sure he is hungry, then don’t feed him. Have Dad walk with him around the house, shushing, and rocking until he is drowsy agin and calm…then back to sleep. You should leave the house at this time for your peace of mind and your baby will sense that you are gone and he knows that Dad can’t nurse him so he’ll calm down sooner. It will be easier for all three of you. If, on the other hand, you persist in using your breast as a pacifier to soothe him, he will not be able to easily learn self soothing. Thoughts?
Yes I totally agree and want to implement this. It’s just very difficult sometimes 🙂 But I know this is what needs to be done. Thank you very much for all the help!
Hi Dr Weissbluth, I have read several blog posts and your book. We have had some success with my 17 week old using extinction, but some issues remain. He naps 4x a day- the first nap is typically very strong (1.5+ hours) while the others vary. Bedtime can be as early as 6pm due to short naps, and it is never later than 7:30pm. For several weeks, we applied check ins at bedtime as it was taking up to an hour to fall asleep. We pushed bedtime by 15 minutes to create more sleep drive and moved to full extinction eight days ago. Since then, he falls asleep independently within 5-10 min. but wakes approx. 40 minutes later. We do not go in unless we believe there is a need (usually if crying persists 40+ min.) but this wake up will last 2+ hours leading to a “new bedtime” that is very late and then creates a 5am wake up. How can we work past this “false start” at bedtime? Finding the peak of the sleep wave feels impossible. Thank you for your writings and research- it has been invaluable to me as a first time parent.
Even though there is day-to-day variability, please describe the common times of day and durations of the 3rd and 4th naps. Also, if you have not already read it, please read ‘Parents Reports’ section 2: Bedtimes.
Question! Little one is eight weeks old. She currently sleeps from 8/8:30-6:15ish (depends on her naps– sometimes she is down at 7:30 if her last nap ended earlier in the day). Sometimes at 6:15 she is ready to get up for the day and other times she finishes her bottle and easily goes back to sleep for another 1-2 hours. I keep reading about the value of an early bedtime. In a case like this, would I want to try and move bedtime back at all? As she’s reached this stage, her naps have gotten shorter (30 min-75 min). She’s also pretty hard to keep awake after 45 minutes– it’s a struggle to reach an hour sometimes, let alone anything close to her 90 minute maximum (she’s typically always in bed after 60-65 minutes). Should I be putting her down as she gets drowsy at 45 minutes??
Please keep it simple and enjoy your baby. If she appears hungry, feed her; if she appears drowsy, sleep her. Watching her is better than watching a clock. Go with the flow and try to not control her (“it’s a struggle to reach an hour sometimes”); be patient. Nap rhythms begin to emerge at 3-4 months of age but long and regular naps are not well developed until 4-6 months of age.
Are you OK with this or am I missing something?
I have not managed yet to skip a night feeding and to do extinction/graduated extinction. I am going to try in a few more weeks if he doesn’t get better on his own with sleeping. Recently, he seems to have been doing a longer sleep stretch/stretch without eating at night, although it’s still not consistent. I know I need to take out one of the 3 feedings to make it 1-2 a night, I just don’t feel ready to yet.
But there have been times where I heard him fussing around at night and then he put himself back to sleep. So maybe we are on to something! There seems to be slight improvement in certain regards. He is now about 15 weeks.
My question is though – he can fall asleep on his own without being rocked. Sometimes, I need to rock him if he is overtired or if he wakes up after a short nap and still tired. But he has the ability to just be by himself in the crib – with out without a pacifier – and go to sleep.
But sometimes, I’ll just leave him to put himself to sleep, and he won’t fall asleep, but he won’t be crying. I’m not sure what to do in that situation. He’ll just stay awake for hours, not willing to let himself fall asleep, but also not be crying. And I can’t always rock him to sleep since I have other children – and I don’t even know if I should be rocking him to sleep for those times. He’ll let his eyes close for a minute and then just open them again – but not cry. Am I making sense? It’s not even a situation of “let him cry and fuss a bit to learn how to fall asleep on his own” because he is sitting there on his own, and just won’t go to sleep.
Why do you “just don’t feel ready yet”?
He is still in our room next to me, and I feel like it will be easier once we move him out. I also keep giving in to nursing him every time we’ve tried to have my husband put him back to sleep and he kept crying. I need to be more committed to it so that I don’t give in and just nurse him. I know it’s okay to let him cry for a bit if need be, I just feel that I am not committed enough yet and then I will just keep giving in, if that makes sense.
Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
My twins are now 3 years old- we used your book to guide us through their younger years and we had really great sleepers until a few months ago when they turned 3. My little girl, who has always struggled more than he brother with self-soothing to sleep, is now strongly resistant to sleeping when we put her down. She naps for 2 hours reliably everyday, and rarely protests naps. She wakes around 6:30/7:00. When we try to put her down around 7:30, she has a difficult time and doesn’t go to sleep until 8:30/9:00. By the numbers, it seems like a decent amount of sleep and we’re happy she’s still napping. We are concerned bed time is “too late”. What are your thoughts? What constitutes “early to bed” for 3 years old? So far as proportion of time napping v proportion of sleep at night is 2:10 a good ratio? Is there much we can do to shift the time she wants to fall asleep at night to earlier? Her bother seems happy to go to bed at 7:30, and we want to keep them in the same rhythm as much as possible.
Please describe your daughters behavior and mood between 5-6pm.
Based on your report, because they are fraternal twins, I might, or might not suggest an earlier bedtime for your only your daughter. Is your husband available to help or do you have other help earlier in the evening?
Please read about Bedtimes in my Blog in the sections “Blogs by Topic’ and ‘Parents Reports’.
Thank you so much for responding! Around 5 I would describe her as a little fussy. This is when I first start cooking dinner so I always assume her blood sugar is a little low and now I’m focused a little more somewhere else. If her dad is home by then, she seems fine to play with her dad and brother. By 5:30/6:00 we are eating and I’d describe her as happy, calm, a little spunky/playful some days. But generally not crabby. My husband helps with bedtime most nights so we could stagger if we had to.
Is 8:30/9:0 too late for 3 years old if she sleeps 10- 10.5 hours at night and naps for 2 hours? On one hand we are concerned she isn’t getting her best sleep by going to bed so late on the other hand I’m wondering if we are expecting too much and fighting some kind of biological setting that doesn’t want to sleep more than 12 hours.
Your daughter’s sleep tank is going to dry around 5pm (“a little fussy”), not low blood sugar, but her sleepiness is masked by playful interaction with Dad and the family around dinnertime.
On the 3rd birthday, 92% of children are napping 6 days a week. On the 4th birthday, 57% of children are napping 5 days a week. So depending on their birthdate, your twins will be napping less in the future and the bedtimes will need to be earlier because of less day sleep. Please read, and have your husband read about bedtime (Blog Posts by Topic #2 and Parents’ Reports #2). Because of individual variation, your daughter might always need a bedtime that is earlier than your son. Your daughter now has difficulty falling asleep with a 7:30 bedtime.
My suggestion for your daughter is to attempt a 6:30pm bedtime (lights off) for only a few days to repay her accumulated sleep debt and after that, experiment with a bedtime between 6:30-7pm. Keep a detailed record of day sleep and night sleep and report back how sleep is going. Also. move your son’s bedtime earlier by 10-20 minutes to see if he falls asleep earlier. If so, then you know that his current bedtime is too late (keep a separate record of his sleep).
Another relevant factor may be that our twins were sharing a room at night time (separate rooms for naps since they were roughly six months old) but we recently separated them for night sleep. When they shared a room, they would chat sweetly with each other about their day for a while before going to sleep. But then she started getting out of bed and it would really rile him up when we came in to put her back. So we moved him to his own room- he loves it. She seemed uneasy about it the night we switched him and she has said a few times that she wished he was back in her room at night.
Transitions in sleep can sometimes be rocky. As you embark on earlier bedtimes and you know that their naps will decrease and disappear, I suggest that you utilize Sleep Rules as described in my book (page 309) so the transitions will be easier for the entire family. Let me know how it goes.
Hi Dr. Weissbluth;my 13 month old has this past week started waking up at 5am everyday and we are wondering how to get her to sleep longer? She is in bed between 615 and 630 every night. She also has been napping very poorly as well as of late (we’re lucky to get 45 minutes). Should we be trying an even earlier bedtime? Thanks for any advice
An even earlier bedtime will help. Please read about early bedtimes in ‘Posts by Topic #2’ and ‘Parents’ Reports Topics #2′ and give me your thoughts.
What causes my 5 month old to have a lot of nighttime awakenings screaming? Sometimes he will fall back to sleep on his own, sometimes just cuddling him, but most of the time i have to nurse him back to sleep.
This happens frequently. Even if he has had three good naps that day and falls asleep without trouble at bedtime. Which is (6:30-7:30).
When he has 2 good naps, how does he look around 4-5pm?
When he has 3 good naps, how does he look around 5-6pm?
Two good naps, he usually skips his third nap, which consist of him not sleeping past 4:30 and signaling bedtime around 6:45-7pm.
Three good naps he is ready for bed 7:30-7:45.
His first two naps are usually around 2 hours long and his third if he takes one, 1 hour or under. When he wakes up before two hours, say 1 hour 10 minutes I will try to soothe him back to sleep but if he doesn’t and stays awake, the rest of the day he just seems easily irritated and moody. Even when I move his next nap up a little and it is a good nap, it seems his body is just still out of ryrhym.
How often doe he take 2 naps and how often does he take 3 naps?
Is it possible that in either case that he might be able to fall asleep 10-15 minutes earlier?
If sleeps past 4:30 then his third nap will be skipped. Which he does a couple times a week.
Yes, I will try putting him to bed a little earlier way.
For now, please try for the earliest bedtime possible because the third nap will disappear soon. Let me know how it goes.
Thank you for your time and recommendation. I will update soon.
I have been putting my 5 month old to sleep a few minutes earlier as recommended but he still is very restless with a lot of wakings at night. Last night he didn’t take his last nap of the day so I put him to bed at 6:35 and he was asleep in 3 minutes but woke up almost every hour, sometimes putting himself back to sleep and sometimes I had to cuddle him or nurse him. The previous nights I put him to bed around 7pm and he’s usually asleep in 10 minutes or less but still has the night wakings.
Is he sleeping too much during the day?
I haven’t let him sleep past 5:30pm.
What is his common nap schedule (times and durations) and how does he look and behave around 4-5pm?
The past two weeks I have been sleep training him. He is waking up around 7:30 am and down for his first nap at 9 am and the duration has now shortened to around 1-1.5hr instead of 2 since training. Second nap around 11:30 and is anywhere from 1-2 hours but mostly his naps are more on the shorter end. His third nap is between 2-4pm depending on his previous naps and is around 1 hour or under. I don’t let him sleep past 5:30pm. If he doesn’t take his 3rd nap he is whiny and quiet around 4-5. If he does take a nap he is a happy camper until bedtime. At 7pm. If third nap is missed bedtime is 6:30.pm
When he takes 2 naps, when are ‘lights out’ the end of all feeding bedtime routine, soothing, and you leave the room?
When he takes 3 naps, can you have ‘lights out’ before 7pm?
With 2 naps I turn lights off, fan on, and then nurse him at 6:30 then lay him down and he’s asleep in 10 minutes or less. Usually around 3-5 minutes if the last nap is missed. 3 naps same routine but I start nursing at 7pm.
If he takes 2 naps, “If he doesn’t take his 3rd nap he is whiny and quiet around 4-5.” “With 2 naps I turn lights off, fan on, and then nurse him at 6:30 then lay him down and he’s asleep in 10 minutes or less.”
Currently, with 2 naps, based on his behavior around 4-5pm, he should be asleep around 5:30pm, not 6:40pm. That means that you begin all bedtime activities much earlier so he is actually asleep at 5:30pm.
If he takes 3 naps, I suspect that starting nursing at 7pm is also way too late. I would suggest that you do everything needed so that he is asleep between 6 and no later than 7pm. The earlier, the better.
Can you do this? Do you want to try this? If so, do this for 3-5 nights and report back regarding times asleep and night waking behavior.
Also, it seems he becomes restless in the early morning hours. He rarely wakes before 12pm. Usually most awakenings are around 1am-5:30am
Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
First, I just want to thank you for your work. Your sleep research and advice have been instrumental in helping me raise a happy, healthy little girl. My daughter is 20 months, and – until recently – has been sleeping from 6:30pm-6:30am and then typically napping 11:30am-1:30pm. Recently, she has begun resisting her early nap. She seems to want to nap around 1:30pm-3/3:30pm, which seems too late to me given her early bedtime. (Also, she wakes up crying and crabby from the later nap, which makes me think she’s not well rested from the nap.) Is this shift to a later naptime common for toddlers? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you again!
How does she look around 11-12noon before her nap?
How does she look around 5-6pm before bedtime?
Thank you for your quick reply. For the past week, she looked wide awake from 11am-12pm and 5pm-6pm.
Was she calm, relaxed, playful, independently playing without electronic stimulation (TV, Video, etc) or fussy, whiney, or needing attention?
hey dr weissbluth! so we have a 5.5 month old (6 months in a week) and she’s been so hard to get down at night! usually up several times the first few hours with lots of false starts. she just recently started going 11-12 hours without a feed at night but wakes up and can be soothed otherwise. she is often up at 8:30 am and asleep by 8:30 or 9 pm but i don’t know how to try to move her bedtime earlier. i tried last night to put her down at 6:30 pm but then she just woke up at 7:30. since she usually eats around 8 should i just have fed her and tried to get her down? she used to put herself to sleep but has been sick and needed rocked to sleep most naps and at bedtime. usually she’s awake for 1.5 hours before her first nap and naps for 1.5-2 hours and then is up for 2-2.5 hours before her second nap, which is usually 1.5-2 hours also. because of another feed she then has a third nap a few hours after that. but it makes bedtime so late. if i drop that nap, she then is up so long before bed! any tips for a suggested schedule? thank you!
If I understand correctly, you want to move the bedtime earlier from 8:30-9:00pm? Is this right? Does she have self-soothing skills for her naps?
ideally, yes. only because it can take hours for bedtime. isn’t 9 pm too late? or because of her late wake up is it not an issue? how many hours in a day does a 6 month old need? she just has such a hard time at bedtime and usually is up and down till 1 or 2 am before settling down till 8:30 or 9 (i often wake her). what am i doing wrong?? should i start her day earlier? cap her naps? i tried a 2 nap schedule today and did 2 hours of awake time, she did a 2.5 hour nap. then 3 hours of awake time and i woke her at 1.5 hours bc it was 5:30 and wanted her in bed by 8:30. she uses a pacifier to soothe at naps/nighttime, occasionally her fingers.
What is a typical nap schedule (both time of nap and duration of nap)?
ideally up around 8/8:30 am, asleep 2 hours later (sleeps 1.5-2.5 hours—is there any reason to cap this?). then can sometimes make it almost 3 hours for this next time and sleeps another 1.5-2 hours. then 3 hours before bed.
Does she have self-soothing ability for her naps?
Do you want to move quickly or slowly to help her sleep better?
Please read Blog Post 8 carefully.
she has some self soothing abilities! i’m ok moving quickly (i think haha) i can’t imagine she needs less sleep, but with increased naptime sleep we’ve had split nights!
Your daughter is sleeping out of synch with her circadian sleep rhythms (Blog Post 8)
Blog Post 74 explains how to move the bedtime earlier by waking her up in the morning at 7am.
Her naps will be around mid-morning (about 9am) and mid-day 12-1pm). Do not cap naps. No 3rd nap.
Bedtime is based on drowsy signs.
Slow: Do only this and report back in 5-6 days.
Fast: Do this plus graduated extinction or extinction (Blog Post 25) and report back in 3-4 days.
Be optimistic (Blog Post 66) because your daughter has self-soothing skills.
ok thank you! i’ll try this! if she takes a long morning nap but then rubs her eyes an hour after waking up, do you lay her down again or try to wait a certain time?
Try to impose an age-appropriate nap schedule: mid-morning and mid-day. Stretch her a little, if needed, to hit her marks but not so much that she gets a second wind.
ok, thank you so much for all your help! last question—how do you handle a nap going late in the afternoon? i missed her sleepy cues and it took an hour to get her down for her nap. so if she goes down at 3 pm, how would you handle bed if you don’t cap nap? will she show sleepy cues soon after she wakes?
No nap begins at or after 3pm in order for the bedtime to become earlier. Work hard to soothe her, distract her, and avoid a situation that might cause her to sleep such as a stroller ride or car ride. Try to gently keep her up until at least 5:30pm for a bedtime.
helllo! so we have done 3 nights of this and overall things are going better! bedtime is much easier and quicker. however. from 11-12 ish she seems to stir a lot and be awake. we do a version of crying and then soothing (5-10 minutes of crying before going in). any idea why? her first nap is long—often 2.5 hours so her second nap is short, about 1 hour. then she’s awake 3 hours usually before bed. is there a way to extend the second nap a bit? thanks!
Congratulations!! Please be patient; stay the course.
correction:she was up from 11pm-1:30 am off and on. and honestly has done this for months. usually by 2 am she’s settled.
Between 11pm and 1:30am, please describe in detail how she is behaving and what you are doing.
she is upset, fussy and crying (usually her mad cry) off and on. we go in every 5-10 minutes to soothe but don’t pick her up out of the crib. we pat her booty and offer the pacifier (she sometimes will take and sometimes won’t) and say “shhh”. at the hour mark i usually pick her up to let her calm down, sometimes she falls asleep quickly. after laid down, she calls back out within 10 minutes or so. repeat the above this till about 1:45 am. she is not hungry—i woke her up for the day bc she’s tired (rightfully so!).
she has moments where she settles and stops crying while soothing her, but then usually cries out within 10-30 minutes. she usually isn’t crying the whole time! but a good chunk of it
sorry-sometimes she is happy for 20-30 minutes before getting upset again and is just in her crib.
Because she has improved and is getting more sleep at night with an earlier bedtime and because she has self-soothing skills for naps, if you did extinction, she would be sleeping much better at night in 2-3 nights. For graduated extinction, 4-7 nights. What are your thoughts?
last night she only called out a few times within 20 minutes around 12:30 and we only had to go in 2 times! she slept then till i woke her. so i think we are on the right track and will keep doing this a few more nights to see if with our gradual extinction it works! (we have older kids whose rooms are next to the baby so this helps keep them asleep and gives me more sanity to check in periodically!). thank you!! i’ll report back in a few days 🙂
how long will we need an early bedtime before we can try to reach a more normal (7pm) bedtime?
Please read about Bedtimes in my book to fully understand the answer to your question.
Hello. My baby is almost 9 months and is struggling with early morning wakeups. She keeps waking around 5:20-35. We leave her in the crib (she usually isn’t crying) until 6am. She goes down for her first nap about 8:30am, which is usually 60-100 minutes, and again around 1:30pm, which is about 60-90 minutes as well. Bedtime is between 6:15-6:45 depending on how long her naps are. Sometimes as early as 6pm. She goes down for bedtime and naps well enough (fussing for less than 5 minutes, sometimes 10).
Are we just doomed with early mornings? Or is there something we can be doing to help get her to closer to 6am?
Please describe her mood and behavior between 5-6pm when your child is alone, not in front of a screen or being soothed by you, or interacting with an adult.
When does she actually fall asleep at night?
She is not typically alone between 5-6pm. Depending when bedtime is (sometimes as early as 6pm if she didn’t have great naps), we might be finishing dinner, going on a walk, or starting the bedtime routine about then. However, the times we have put her down on the floor to play while we finish something (for a minute or two), her attitude is very pleasant. During the day she plays independently very well.
Overall she’s a happy baby, even at that time. It’s not until we get into the bedroom that she starts fussing (she really hates the changing table right now). Bedtime takes 30-40 minutes between washing up, pjs, diaper change, nursing, reading, and nursing again (she doesn’t drink much milk until she gets sleepy, and then she takes a while to get letdowns).
She typically falls asleep 5-10 minutes after we put her down, so between 6:20-7pm, depending on when we put her down. 6:15pm is likely our average the last week, with one might being 5:45pm and 2 nights being 7:10pm. Her naps have been all over the place lately (somewhat unusual). She is getting 3 teeth in right now.
Because she seems well rested, perhaps do nothing and go to bed earlier yourself to help you cope with her early awakenings.
Because “Her naps have been all over the place lately (somewhat unusual)” she might be developing cumulative sleepiness from a bedtime that is slightly too late; teething is a myth.
Consider reading the section in my book on page 214 ‘When the bedtime is too late’ to fully appreciate why sleep begets sleep. Then, super carefully for 4 consecutive nights, you might want to try a bedtime that is 20 minutes earlier than what you normally would do. Here are some possibilities:
1.She falls asleep earlier, has more sleep at the front end and is better rested in the morning and sleeps in later.
2.She falls asleep earlier and she wakes up at the same time as before, but because she starts the day better rested, the naps become more regular and longer which leads, over time, to a later bedtime and a later wake-up time.
3.She falls asleep earlier and consistently wakes up even earlier. After 4 nights, abandon the trial.
4.She does not actually fall asleep at this 20 minute earlier bedtime and is awake for 20-30 minutes at sleep onset. After 4 nights, abandon the trial.
Don’t do anything if you cannot commit to a 4 night trial because improvement might be seen on night 3 or 4. If you do try this, keep meticulous records regarding night and day sleep and let me know how it goes.
Hello. Thank you for the reply. Most nights bedtime is before 6:30, often 6:15. We have done bedtimes between 5:45-6:30 for a while now and she still wakes at 5:30. The last two days she has had great naps but has woken up about 5am. Because we consider anything before 6am night sleep, we leave her in her crib until 6am to start the day. Do you think we should get her up when she’s up and start the day at 5:30? Thank you.
At 5:30 am, I would suggest that you vary your response based on her behavior and your past experience.
Sometimes, she might be quietly stirring and by leaving her alone, she might return to sleep for a while.
Sometimes, she might be quietly stirring and you have learned that a quick change or feed and soothing causes her to return to sleep for a while.
Sometimes, she might be loudly stirring and you know that she is ready to start the day.
Is one pattern more common than another?
Maybe twice in the past several months has she gone back to sleep after waking anytime after 5am. I have not attempted to go in and feed her and put her back to bed, as she seems quite awake when she wakes around 5:30. We just leave her in bed until 6am. Most of the time she doesn’t even fuss – just chats to herself or scoots around in the crib.
I’m actually wondering if she needs more wake time during the day. She has also begun waking at night about 60% of the time the past month. She usually fusses/chats a few minutes and goes back to sleep, sometimes she cries up to 15-20 minutes and goes back to sleep. We don’t intervene. We tried back when this started with no change in night wakings.
I’d be willing to try earlier bedtimes, but the app I track her sleep on shows she’s averaging 13.25 hours of sleep a day (naps and night sleep combined) despite early bedtimes and a schedule that permits up to 14.5 hours of sleep. I’m wondering if she’s just tapped out on sleep and needs more wake time.
That being said… The nights she wakes does disrupt her sleep and she has red bags under her eyes. So that seems like more of a problem now then the early morning wakings.
Unfortunately I’m getting burnt out trying to troubleshoot this. Nothing appears to be working well.
Consider reading the section in my book on page 214 ‘When the bedtime is too late’ to fully appreciate why sleep begets sleep. Then, super carefully for 4 consecutive nights, you might want to try a bedtime that is 20 minutes earlier than what you normally would do.
Are you able to do this?
I will read the section again and try 4 nights. Thank you.
Please keep a detailed record of night and day sleep times.
Hi Dr. Weissbluth. My baby girl is 13 weeks old. After reading your book I realized I made her chronically sleep deprived around 8 weeks old by putting her to bed at 10:30pm! So for a month we bedshared to get sleep (she refused to sleep in her crib). However, when she was 12 weeks old we started extinction method in her crib in her own room. After two weeks of extinction she still has a hard time falling asleep and can take up to 1.5 hours of crying until she finally sleeps.
I am trying to maximize her day sleep still so that she can sleep better at night, but she doesn’t have a strict schedule yet and the naps vary day to day. She isn’t sleeping well or long in her crib still so I usually end up holding her to get longer naps. I try to get her midmorning nap at 9am but she sometimes cries 30 minutes so I have to hold her and then the nap is delayed to 10am. The midday nap starts anywhere from 12-1. The third nap starts somewhere from 3-4. Her nap lengths vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours. After about 1 hour of awake time I start to get her ready for a nap (her drowsy signs are very hard to read).
She is put to bed drowsy but awake somewhere between 6-7pm, but she cries and doesn’t fall asleep until closer to 6:45-7:30. Right now she’s been crying for over 1.5 hr and is still crying at 7:40pm (I put her down 6:10pm). Usually I dream feed her around 10pm and then she wakes at 3 or 4am, so I feed her. Usually she falls asleep immediately after night feedings or after 20 minutes of fussing to sleep. I tried an earlier bedtime of 5:30pm yesterday (she fell asleep by 6:45pm) but she had several night wakings and couldn’t fall back asleep after her night feed for over an hour. She also woke up earlier in the morning at 6:45am instead of her usual 7:30-8am wake up time.
1. How do I help her fall asleep better at night without so much crying? Is she just too young or am I doing something wrong with her day sleep? We don’t want to go back to bedsharing and so feel that extinction is the best option get her sleeping faster than other options (like you point out in your book).
2. And then how can I help her sleep in her crib more for her naps?
Night sleep begins to become organized around 6 weeks of age and day sleep around 4-6 months of age. Based on her age and previous sleep-deprivation, focus on night sleep. Based on her not napping well focus on a temporary 5:30pm bedtime with extinction or graduated extinction. Stop dream feeds. Do whatever you can to maximize day sleep and not worry about a schedule for now, but no naps start after 3:00pm to get the early bedtime. When night sleep improves, improvement in day sleep will follow, and then the bedtime will be moved a little later. How does this sound?
Oops, correction: she has been doing extinction for 10 nights. (Not 2 weeks)
That sounds good! So if I drop the dream feed, how long can I let her go without eating at this age (13 weeks)?
Last night she could not fall asleep and cried for 2.5 hours until I fed her, after which she finally was so exhausted that she slept. When I do these nights of 5:30 bedtime, is it ok if she cries that long?
How many days should I do this temporary earlier bedtime?
Are you breast, formula, or mixed feeding?
Feed her only when you think she is hungry.
After 4-5 nights of the super early bedtime, report back to me’
Keep a detailed written record of nap times and duration, latency to sleep onset, night awakenings, and crying severity (mild, moderate, or intense) and duration.
Note: 5:30 is the fall asleep time, always put her down drowsy but awake, you are walking out of the room then; the bedtime routine starts earlier.
She is breast fed. When she was 8 weeks old she started going all the way to 8 hrs sleeping without feeding so I know she’s been capable of that in the past. Ok, I will keep a record for the next 4-5 days and report back. Thank you so much for your help!
Update: Reporting back after the 5 night trial of an early 5:30 bedtime… And WOW, such improvement!! Baby girl only cries 15-35 minutes before falling asleep instead of over an hour (hopefully that will keep improving) and sleeps about 12 hours now! I dropped the 10pm dream feed and she only wakes to breastfeed once a night. I reread the part in your book that said that even small things like adjusting covers can disrupt their attempts to self soothe so we stopped going in to help her when she seemed in an uncomfortable position, and she just figured it out on her own and sleeps better because of it. It also seems like she cries less when my husband soothes and places her in the crib for the night like your book suggests too.
One thing I’m doing that is probably incorrect… She started waking up earlier than I would like (6:30-7 instead of 7:30-8). So I’ve been treating it like a second night feed by quietly feeding her and placing her back in her crib. She sleeps an extra 0.5-1.25hrs until it’s a better time to start the day. I also reread in your book about the “5:30 bedtime rut” but does that mostly apply to dropping a nap or should I also try stretching her wake time until the first nap time? In an effort to get her to wake up later, 2 nights ago I tried a slightly later bedtime (of 5:50pm; she fell asleep by 6:30) but she woke up even earlier (6am). However last night she didn’t fall asleep until 7:40 and she slept until 8am! Do you think that’s a sign I can start pushing her bedtime back slightly?
You said her naps will start to improve after night sleep does. I try to let her practice self soothing for her midmorning nap (letting her cry 15-20 minutes) and so far that has worked twice in the last week, so I’ll keep trying. Occasionally I can rock her to sleep, place her in her crib, and she’ll sleep for 30 minutes that way. Otherwise she sleeps in my arms or carrier to maximize sleep. She’s between 3 & 4 months old and showing such improvement that I think she might be ready to start the nap drill for one nap a day.
Again thank you SO SO much for the help and even responding! I’m such a huge fan after reading your book (and especially seeing such improvement)! So I’ve been telling all my pregnant friends to read your book too! My husband and I are just ecstatic that we’re all sleeping so much better now. It changes everything.
I am happy for you that all of you are sleeping better!
“She started waking up earlier than I would like (6:30-7 instead of 7:30-8). So I’ve been treating it like a second night feed by quietly feeding her and placing her back in her crib. She sleeps an extra 0.5-1.25hrs”-This is fine, but if she doesn’t return to sleep, don’t let her cry…start the day.
I would gently discourage trying a later bedtime right now; please let a couple of weeks go by to completely repay her sleep debt and see what her common sleep pattern is like before trying any adjustments. On the other hand, if letting her self-soothe for the morning nap seems to work often, go for it! Naps mature starting around 3-4 months of age and by 6 months they are quite regular and predictable. The midmorning nap starts to get organized first and the mid-day nap second.
By the way, how would you describe your husband’s role in all of this?
Ok, so after I continue the 5:30 bedtime for a couple weeks…
1. How will I know when she’s repaid her sleep debt?
2. After 2 weeks and once I’ve noticed her sleep patterns, should I then start pushing her bedtime back…in 15 or 30 minute increments? I’m assuming there will be some trial and error to find what time seems to make her best rested.
My husband’s role was to go into the baby’s room to adjust her (flip her if she rolled or to get her arm out of the crib slats) when we were doing that, although we stopped so she could better focus on self-soothing. During our initial 5 day trial of an early 5:30 bedtime, he was the one that soothed her to a drowsy but awake state and placed her in the crib after our bedtime routine (I mostly do the bedtime routine but sometimes he reads her a book as a part of it). We usually found that she cried for shorter periods when he soothed her versus me.
Try to unobtrusively monitor the time required for her to actually fall deep asleep after she is put down drowsy but awake (sleep latency). Pretend it is currently is 5-10 minutes but in a few weeks, you notice that she quietly moves around and now requires 20-30 minutes to actually fall into a deep sleep. This suggests that her bedtime might be moved 10-15 minutes later. The main advice is to go slow, don’t rush to move the bedtime later and when you do, do it gradually ( a few minutes at a time). Also, be flexible. There will be days (short naps, special events that cause skipped naps, illnesses, family holidays, vacations, etc.) when she does not get enough nap sleep so that night will require an earlier bedtime. Review the section in my book on a ‘reset’; maybe Dad will be in charge of ‘resets’.
Do you agree with this?
As expected you were certainly right about her needing to still go to bed at 5:30 to make up more of her sleep debt. Last night with a 5:30 bedtime, she slept a little over 14 hours!
Yes your advice definitely makes sense so I will go slowly and wait until we’ve given her a couple more weeks of 5:30 bedtimes before I adjust it to be later if necessary. One question I have though is that she is still crying off and on around 30 minutes before falling asleep each bedtime. I assume it will improve over the next couple weeks of continued 5:30 bedtimes… Is this ok or is it most likely because she’s overtired and maybe I need to adjust something? Her wake window before bed is around 1.25-1.5hr, and she does start to get fussy at the end of it. And so far she gets 3 naps equalling a total 2-3 hrs of daytime sleep.
I reread the Reset section in your book. We actually do have a 4-day vacation coming up soon that will require a reset for sure. The vacation will land right after the 2 more weeks of her 5:30 bedtime so I’m thinking that we’ll try a reset (and yes my husband can be in charge of those) as soon as we get back from the trip! Although it seems like she’ll need more than 1 night of a reset since she’s been going to bed at 5:30 every night already, right?
“One question I have though is that she is still crying off and on around 30 minutes before falling asleep each bedtime.” I assume this is intermittent quiet crying, yes?
“Although it seems like she’ll need more than 1 night of a reset since she’s been going to bed at 5:30 every night already, right?” Probably. Discuss with your husband how you might be able to enjoy a ‘modified’ vacation so that you will have an enjoyable time and also, not disrupt your baby’s sleep in a major way. The specific circumstances might make this doable, or not. But if possible, you would like to try to avoid a major disruption in her sleep that might undo all your efforts.
She must have heard me talking about her crying habits haha, because the last two nights she has drastically changed her bedtime crying. Last night she was “intermittent quiet crying” like you assumed for 15 minutes and then mildly (but still loudly) cried for 10 minutes before falling asleep. Tonight was absolutely NO crying for 30 minutes after being laid down (she just laid there while sucking on her hand) before she quietly fell asleep. Strange, since today I had a very hard time trying to maximize her sleep and minimize her crying. I didn’t expect her to go to sleep so well, however a pattern seems to be that when she goes to bed within about 1 hour of waking from her last nap, she cries much less (which was the case tonight). So the crying before night sleep is definitely getting better. But other than these few successful nights she had been loudly crying for about 30 minutes before sleep (with occasional breaks to try self-soothing for a few minutes).
If you think this bedtime crying is nothing to worry about and will keep improving that’s awesome, but if this is not supposed to be happening I’m curious if I should be adjusting wake times or something like that? She does the intermittent quiet cry (or quietly lays there awake) for 15-30 minutes before her first nap of the day too but I assume that will improve with time (unless that means she’s not tired enough yet? The first nap is always about one hour after she awakes for the day).
Ok, yes we will definitely try our hardest to get her as much sleep as possible on our vacation and then do a multi-day reset. I don’t want to undo all our work and progress! Do you have any blog posts or book sections on how to maximize sleep on vacations? Thank you again so much for all your help with our baby girl’s sleep, I am so appreciative!
Bedtime crying will disappear if, and only if, the interval of wakefulness before a sleep period is not too long: “a pattern seems to be that when she goes to bed within about 1 hour of waking from her last nap, she cries much less (which was the case tonight)”.
Blog Posts 26 (Reset) and 63 (Sleep Banking and Recovery from Sleep Loss) might be helpful. Maybe a pitch black room for naps (Blog Post 110) or a sound machine might help for naps-perhaps both only on vacation’
If you are curious, look at Blog Posts 79 and 80 about older children.
Let me know how the vacation goes and her recovery.
Before vacation: (Baby is now 4 months old.) She kept improving every day! She started dropping her one night feed so she would sleep through the night without interruption around 12-14+ hours every night. Then her mid-morning naps were more consistently in the crib (less contact naps) and started lengthening from 30 minutes to much longer even up to 2 hours! I watch both her drowsy signs (“the stare”) and the clock so it takes her just a couple minutes to quietly fall asleep for naps. I keep her wake window short (1 or 1.5 hours) before her bedtime and when put down she doesn’t cry AT ALL before falling asleep (a huge win)!
During vacation: She wouldn’t sleep in the rental home’s pack-n-play for naps (only contact naps or carrier) but she slept GREAT in it at night, 12+ hours and only woke up one of the nights to feed. I used a blackout travel crib cover for darkness and a white noise machine. In the 4 days since the trip, Baby has been taking consistently longer naps (about 1.5-2 hrs) always in the crib and she seems to be done with night feedings! She sleeps 12-15hrs at night. Two of the first nights home she did protest with loud cries at bedtime for 30 minutes before falling asleep, but we just let that be extinction and she doesn’t do it anymore.
I am now hoping we can slowly start moving her bedtime later than 5:30. I pay attention to her cues in the evening and will only try pushing it back by a few minutes at a time. For example tonight was 5:40 instead of 5:30. I do let her take tiny cat naps in the late evenings when the wake window will be most likely too long from her last nap (say she wakes at 3:15pm) to 5:30 for bedtime. I think you’ve suggested not allowing naps after 3 if we’re aiming for a 5:30 bedtime, but she seems to do well with these occasional cat naps. Is it ok for me to continue doing so?
Thank you so much for your help with me and my daughter’s sleep; we are so appreciative!
“I am now hoping we can slowly start moving her bedtime later than 5:30”
You may have specific family circumstances that encourage you to want to do this and I respect your wishes.
My following comments are in general and may not apply to all families: Providing more sleep to your child encourages brain development (see Blog Posts 1-5). The more sleep the better and the more that the sleep is in synch with biologic rhythms, the better quality is the sleep. Your daughter might become a Nobel prize winner or Olympic athlete or both because she has a big sleep need that I would encourage you to respect.
What are your thoughts?
I honestly don’t have any good reason to push her bedtime back! I just get a lot of shocked comments from family/friends of how early it is and it does keep us at home more in the evenings, but that’s all. I’ll do what you mentioned in a previous comment to me by just observing if it takes her a longer time to quietly fall asleep at bedtime. When that happens I’ll try moving her bedtime back by a few minutes. But otherwise a 5:30 bedtime is really nice for me to have more time in the evening to do things I need to do and rest more! I didn’t realize that maybe my baby just has a higher sleep need than others. I’m on board for Olympic athlete or Nobel Prize winner haha.
Maybe I exaggerated a little, but think of Bob Mathias who at age 17 who won the Olympic Decathlon, the youngest to ever win a track and field event, napping under a tarp in between events! Well, not only was he the only person to successfully defend this win 4 years later, he led the Stanford football team to the Rose Bowl! So maybe you’ll have to settle for only Olympic gold and a stellar college for your daughter. Remember, the peer-reviewed scientific literature clearly states that if you continue to protect her sleep, she will be taller, slimmer, smarter, more creative, and more athletic. Not a bad trade-off for ignoring people who do not understand the power of sleep on the developing brain (Blog Post 38).