Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
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Early Bedtimes
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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

Buy now

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

Buy now

Report 2Early Bedtimes

Introduction

Early bedtimes are based on drowsy signs (Blog Posts 79) because a late bedtime causes an increase in neurological arousal (a second wind) that interferes with falling asleep and staying asleep. Even a few minutes earlier might make a big difference (Blog Post 6).  Better night sleep will cause better naps and as a result, and eventually, your child will be able to stay up later. A temporary, super-early bedtime might be needed to get things going. The wake-up time might be only a few minutes earlier or surprise, she might sleep in later! Sometimes, a slightly earlier bedtime alone, while responding to all crying, is an effective sleep solution for a parent that does not want to let her child cry (page 240, in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child).

Drowsy in this context doesn’t mean about to fall asleep (half-closed eyes, barely able to keep open). When my son was a baby he would become very still about 10 minutes before he fell asleep—he is a wiggle worm, so it was noticeable. He would also gaze for long periods of time at something. This was the window when he needed to be put down for his nap. If I waited until it passed and he was really tired, he would fight sleep. So when “the stare” appeared, I would check his diaper, swaddle him, and put him down. He would gaze at his mobile for a while and then fall asleep.

When our daughter Jaden was born, we were anxious to start off on the right foot with her sleep habits.  We immediately focused on no more than two hours of wakefulness with a bedtime around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., which was very easy to accomplish. After a few weeks, though, we still weren’t really seeing very long nighttime stretches. When Jaden was 8 weeks old, we visited Dr. Weissbluth to discuss her sleeping pattern. Dr. Weissbluth told us that at 6 weeks, we should have incorporated an early bedtime in addition to keeping shorter periods of wakefulness. We left wondering whether an early bedtime would really work for someone so young. We really expected that Jaden would be up within an hour or two after we put her down. We started off with a 7:00 p.m. bedtime. She still woke up in the late evening to eat, but we put her promptly back to bed. There were a few bumps in the road for the first couple of nights—sometimes she would wake up a few times and cry—but we kept at it. After a few days, Jaden went from sleeping a four-to-five-hour stretch in the evening, to seven, then eight, then nine or ten hours a night. In fact, she seemed happy to be sleeping so much! If she woke up to nurse, she would eat and immediately fall back asleep as soon as we put her back in her crib. We couldn’t believe how easy it was. The earlier we got her to bed, the better she slept. Her daytime naps even seemed longer and more restful. She is now 7 months old. We now try to get her down between 6:00 and 6:30 each night, and she is extremely happy about it. (So are we!)

When our pastor asked us if our 8-month-old son, Henrik, was a “serious, sullen” boy, I knew we had a problem. Just one month before, my friend had sent us a note saying how Henrik was the happiest baby she’d ever seen. She could elicit a belly laugh from him with just a sideways glance. Now our pastor, an experienced grandfather, was pulling out all the stops—goofy faces and exaggerated sneezing—and Henrik wouldn’t crack a smile. But it wasn’t because he was suddenly sullen or serious; he was exhausted.

What I had hoped was just a napless phase that he’d outgrow was catching up to him and choking his vibrant personality. We needed help. While Henrik was sleeping better at night, his daytime naps were becoming history. Over the past two months, his decent, if erratic, nap schedule had faded into two brief naps and then disappeared altogether.

Getting my son to fall asleep was never an issue; nursing or rocking soothed him easily. The problem was getting him to stay asleep once I set him down. As soon as I’d set him in his crib, his back would arch and he’d be choked up before he touched the mattress. “Nap time” had come to mean Henrik crying in his crib until my nerves couldn’t take it anymore, or him sleeping soundly on me.

I knew he needed to learn to soothe himself to sleep, but crying it out just didn’t seem to work. The longer I’d let him cry, the more he would work himself up. I knew sleeping on me wasn’t a good solution, but when I’d see the dark circles under his eyes and hear his voice husky from crying—and especially when he got his first cold—I just couldn’t let him cry anymore. He needed sleep. So I’d get comfortable with him on the sofa and hope a good movie was on cable.

We set off for our consultation with Dr. Weissbluth. After studying our son’s erratic sleep patterns, he recommended an earlier bedtime and regular wake-up times for my son. Dr. Weissbluth explained that Henrik was going to bed too late and wasn’t getting enough sleep at night. (Henrik usually fell asleep between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. and woke up around 7:00 a.m.) This lack of sleep and a consistent schedule—as odd as it may seem—is what was keeping him from being able to cry himself to sleep during the day. He was too overtired to sleep! Dr. Weissbluth suggested a 7:00 p.m. bedtime and a 7:00 a.m. wake-up for the long-term goal, but said that we’d probably be looking at a 5:30 p.m. bedtime until Henrik’s napping got better.

Once Henrik was up in the morning, we were to stimulate him through walks, outings, and vigorous play. After that, a soothing period would precede his attempt at a 9:00 a.m. nap. I was to continue putting Henrik to sleep in my normal way (nursing and rocking) and then set him down in his crib. I was then to leave him alone for one hour either to sleep, cry, or a combination of the two.

Then, after his midmorning nap, we were to repeat the process for his attempt at a 1:00 p.m. nap (or earlier if no midmorning nap was taken). And then we’d go about our afternoon until it was time for the evening soothing. He asked us to chart our sleep data so we could clearly see Henrik’s progress.

When we got home, we played and played, and then I soothed Henrik to sleep. When I set him down for his afternoon nap, he cried. I said a quick prayer, told him I loved him, walked out, and closed the door on my wailing son.

As I walked down the stairs, I breathed in slowly, reminded myself that I was doing this for my son’s well-being, and hit the pause button on my emotions. I spent fifty-nine minutes emailing friends with one ear to the monitor to see if and when he’d stop crying. Didn’t work today, I was telling myself on the way back up the stairs. But by the time I got to his door, I realized he was quiet. He fell asleep after fifty-nine and a half minutes of crying. If I had gone up one minute sooner, I would’ve cheated him out of this accomplishment. We were on our way.

The midday nap was the first to get back on track. It took about a week for him to be able to go down at all without crying, and he was still only sleeping for a half hour at a time. But he was sleeping—and on a schedule! I used to think that because Henrik was an erratic sleeper, a sleep schedule wouldn’t work for him. Now I know that Henrik was an erratic sleeper because he lacked that schedule. While the idea of a schedule sounds limiting, establishing a schedule was the most freeing thing for our family. We are now able to make accurate plans instead of having to wait around and guess when our son would be ready to go.

The midmorning nap was more of a challenge. For two weeks he cried through his entire midmorning nap. It was difficult to put him down each day knowing he would cry, but his success in the afternoons, along with the giant hug I’d receive when I came to get my teary son, gave me the strength to keep going. Then one day he cried himself to sleep after just twenty minutes, and from then on he would stay sleeping after we put him down. It took two weeks for Henrik to get back to two naps a day, but he did it.

Despite Henrik’s sleeping for only thirty to forty-five minutes at a time, Dr. Weissbluth told us we should get him as soon as he woke up. He suggested we keep the 5:30 bedtime, which would naturally help lengthen his naps. Our days are now virtually tear-free.

My son is thriving on his new schedule. He’s back to his giggly, healthy, and well-rested self. Instead of being the sullen boy in church, he’s now the chipper angel who sings out loud with joy—with or without the rest of the congregation.

We had never been very consistent with Meg’s bedtime. We would put her to bed when she appeared tired (rubbing eyes, yawning), anywhere from 7:00 to 7:45 p.m., but occasionally even later. It usually took her between fifteen and thirty minutes of crying to fall asleep. I thought this was normal. She had always gone to bed rather late, and she had always taken a while to fall asleep.

At Meg’s 9-month appointment we asked Dr. Weissbluth about her night waking. He made a very simple suggestion. He told us that we should put Meg to bed twenty minutes earlier at night. He said that her night waking would disappear and she would still wake up at a normal hour in the morning. I told him that we had been putting her to sleep when she appeared tired, at around 7:30 p.m., give or take thirty minutes. He said that once she appears tired it is too late and she should already be in bed.

The first night we put her to bed at 6:45. We were very skeptical. We were sad to put her down so early when she seemed so wide awake and happy. She cried for about five minutes and then fell asleep, and with no night waking! The same thing happened the next night—about five minutes of crying and then asleep until morning. Sometimes she would wake up as early as 5:30, but we would give her a bottle and she would fall back to sleep, sometimes until almost 8:00!

It has been almost four weeks since our 9-month appointment. Bedtime is an absolute joy. Meg eats dinner, takes a bath, and is in bed about 6:30 p.m. Sometimes I hesitate to put her down so early when she seems to be in such good spirits, but she cuddles with her blanket and her doll, sucks her thumb, closes her eyes, and sleeps till morning. It’s the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

My friends and family look at me in disbelief when I tell them my 14-month-old daughter goes to bed around 6:30 on her own (without a bottle or rocking or crying) and sleeps soundly until 7:00 the next morning. The training exercise of putting the baby to bed drowsy but awake so they can learn self-soothing is the key. The crib, her bedroom, naps, and bedtime are a place and time of relaxation and enjoyment for our daughter and for us! No crying, no anxiety. I will admit it wasn’t always easy and there were trials and tribulations . . . but once you get over whatever humps are your challenges, it’s relatively smooth sailing. My experience this past year can be described as follows: 0–3 months is unnerving and exhausting, especially for the first-time parent; 3–6 months is anxious, wondering if you are doing the right thing; 6–9 months is more rewarding as you start to see your efforts really paying off; 9–12 months brings a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment; and 12 months and over makes all the training worth it.

At 18 months it became apparent that Anna was ready to make the transition from two naps to one, but would need some help because she fought the midmorning nap. We began, as Dr. Weissbluth suggested in his book, by gradually delaying the midmorning nap till 11:00 or so. Over a two-week window we were able to continue to push back the nap to sometime between noon and 1:00 p.m.

In his book, Dr. Weissbluth suggested an earlier bedtime to help prevent night waking or early-morning waking. Anna was going to bed at 6:30 p.m. and sleeping until 7:00 a.m., so we really questioned this theory. My husband and I agreed that Dr. Weissbluth’s advice has always been right on the money, so we decided to put her down an hour earlier. We feared that she would wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. after her usual twelve or thirteen hours of sleep. To our surprise, she awoke at 9:00 a.m., and she was in the most cheerful mood to date!

Family, friends, even strangers constantly tell us what a happy, cheerful child we have. The reality is that she is a very well-rested child.

When we met with Dr. Weissbluth, Jared, now 19 months old, was waking up every hour and a half to two hours during the night. He would have to fall asleep while we were walking and carrying him on our shoulder. When placed in the crib, Jared would awaken and abruptly “pop up.” He would only sleep in the bed “nest” we created for him on the floor of our family room. We endured three months of the night waking before we consulted Dr. Weissbluth.

We were instructed to place Jared in bed in an awake state between 6:00 and 7:00 P.M. in the evening and that we should leave him there until 6:00 in the morning. Our initial reaction was that Jared would carry on relentlessly when placed in his crib so early, and that the recommended approach was too strict and would never work. Much to our shock and delight, the first night we tried the new routine, Jared was asleep after five minutes of crying, and remained asleep for eleven hours, not waking until 5:30 the next morning. During the next two nights, Jared went to sleep on his own, with no episodes of crying. On the fourth night, he lay down in the bed with his favorite stuffed animal under his arm, as he has done since. Our baby was clearly overtired from going to bed at 8:30 p.m. and not being allowed to relax and go to sleep without interference. We never expected it to be so simple and provide such an immediate result. Jared wakes up happy, energized, and ready for a day full of adventures. Now, several months later, Jared is most happy when going to bed at 6:30 p.m., and will go to his bed himself if he is tired.

Comments

  1. Hello,
    Your book has been tremendously helpful. Our daughter is 13 weeks old and we put her to bed usually around 7pm, however no matter what she wakes up between 3-4am wide awake and alert. We feed her then promptly put her back to bed until she wakes us up (usually between 7-8am) again. We’ve experimented with earlier bedtimes here and there but the 4am wake up still occurs. Anything we are missing? Please help! Thank you.

    1. You are blessed to have a child with great night sleep!
      1. If your daughter is wet, soiled, hungry, or thirsty, continue to go to her. If not, consider extinction.
      2. Circadian rhythms for night sleep begin to develop at 6 weeks and for day sleep, 3-4 months. Focus on naps. If she naps well and continues to have a reasonably early bedtime, the night waking will disappear.
      3. If there are any external noises (from the street?) that awaken her, consider a white noise machine.
      Sweet Dreams,
      Marc

  2. Dear Dr Weissbluth,

    I was recommended your book after my sister-in-law trained her newborn son using your method to sleep through the night at 5.5 months of age.

    Coming from India, I wasn’t even aware that there is something called sleep training, and there can be a predictable schedule for a baby. Your book was an eye-opener! Thank you! I have visibly seen my son’s sleep pattern progress the way you have outlined in your book. His night sleep consolidated somewhere around 7 weeks.

    My newborn son (he is my first) is 10 weeks old. We stop all activity by 5:30 PM – 6 PM each day. He then has a small nap + feed + diaper change and then sleeps through the night from sometime between 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM each night till 6 AM – 7 AM, but wakes up for 3 hourly feeds. This isn’t an issue at the moment as it is an improvement from his 1.5 hourly feeds!

    His daytime naps are a completely different story! I am not able to get him to sleep beyond 30 -45 minutes during the day (if i am lucky), some naps are just 10 minutes! This is even though I look for the sleepy signs within the 1-2 hour window and soothe him using method 2 per your book. What am I doing wrong?! I can feel him becoming more and more cranky as the day goes on, but I’m helpless trying to make him catch some shut-eye.

    Having read your book, I’m waiting for the 4 month mark to slowly ease my son on a more predictable schedule. Is there anything I can do in the meanwhile to help him nap better?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Please read the ‘Parents’ Reports’ section on Naps. Naps begin to become more regular and longer around 3-4 months of age and are highly organized by 6 months of age. Please be patient and naps will improve. The most common issue that messes up naps is a bedtime that is too late. Perhaps change nothing now. Or perhaps consider his drowsiness at 5:30-6:00pm to be his bedtime; talk to your sister-in-law about this. Maybe night sleep will start earlier, he will awake better rested in the morning, and naps will become fewer and longer. If this seems inappropriate now, consider it again in a few weeks. Let me know your thoughts and plans.

  3. My 12month old has been having trouble with day sleep and consequently night sleep or vice versa for about 8 weeks now. He goes down easily for first nap between 9-930 and sleep about 1-1.5 hours. His second nap is a trouble spot. He may or may not take it. Often he will just spend 1-2 hours hanging out in his crib. He is not fussy or crying but he’s also not sleeping. Regardless of wether he takes this second nap or not he becomes intolerable abound 5-530. At 615 I start getting him ready for bed. He has a bath, I breast feed him and then lay him in his crib sometimes awake and sometimes asleep around 7pm. He has started night awakenings and early morning wakings. I need guidance. Is he ready for one nap later in the day? Help! I want my happy baby back!

    1. Have you read about nap transitions in my book?
      What do you think you did to cause this problem to appear about 8 weeks ago?

  4. Our 17-week-old has been waking at 4 am for four weeks straight now. We have tried a 7pm bed time, a 6pm bed time, but he still wakes up right at 4am. He is also waking many times throughout the night. When he wakes at 4am, he is generally alert and sometimes cranky. He no longer wakes to eat in the night, and we feed him at 5:30am in order to leave for daycare. How do I get these 4am wake ups to stop?!

    1. When are the common times that he appears ‘somewhat cranky’?
      What is his usual nap schedule like at daycare and when do you enter your home with him from day care?
      Is day care 5 days a week?

  5. Thanks for the fast response!

    He is fussy/cranky from 3:00-5:00 most days.

    We just started daycare so they are still working on consistent naps, but as of now he has his first nap very briefly (20 minutes) in the car on the way to daycare, a 30-45 minute mid-morning nap, a 2-hour nap around noon, and again a brief nap (30 minutes) in the car on the way home from daycare. The brief car naps are not ideal but unfortunately, I have a long commute. I am hoping his daycare will begin to get him down for a nap as soon as I drop him off in the morning instead.

    We return home around 4:00pm.

    I should add, when he wakes at 4:00am we are able to extend his sleep until 5am while holding him. This is our desperate attempt to increase his sleep before a day of daycare. Crib sleep is unsuccessful after 4am.

    Thank you again!

    1. Because of his behavior between 3-5pm, you have to conclude that he is overtired. In part, this is because of his brief morning nap in daycare. For now, your goal is to walk in the house around 4pm, feed him, bathe and dress him, soothe him, and leave the room by 5pm for asleep time. Is this possible?

  6. Hello! Responding back after a week of trialing this. We are able to get him down by 5:30pm at the latest most days. He goes down pretty easily and stays asleep until some point between 9-11pm, after which he wakes up hourly until 3:00 where he wakes up even more frequently. During those times we give him 3-5 minutes to self-soothe then attempt to soothe with a pacifier unless it’s been 15-20 minutes of attempts, after which we rock him.

    We were not previously feeding him during these times, but after a stomach bug hit us last week and he needed overnight hydration we have attempted 1-2 bottle feedings per night. Sometimes this results in a longer stretch of sleep after his wakings, anywhere between 1.5-3 hours.

    How do I know if he is truly hungry? He definitely takes the bottles and seems very interested in eating, but he almost never denies a bottle so we aren’t sure if he is actually waking due to hunger or not. We only do bottles if he is wide awake and alert or if those long periods of soothing don’t result in him falling back asleep. I feel like we are going about it the wrong way.

    1. Is he hungry?
      1. Pay attention to the suck-swallow pattern.
      The hungry baby will initially suck-swallow, suck-swallow, suck-swallow and so on. Every suck is followed by a swallow. Later, there may be more swallows for every suck.,
      The baby who is not hungry will initially suck-suck-suck-swallow, suck-suck-suck-swallow, and so on. Many sucks and few swallows. Sucking is soothing so your baby sucks but because your baby is not hungry or thirsty, there are fewer swallows.

      2. Have the father offer a test bottle of expressed breast milk or formula once in the middle of the night. Pay attention to both the volume taken and the time required for a feed.
      The hungry baby will quickly suck down 3-4 ounces or more.
      The baby who is not hungry will slowly suck down only 1-3 ounces.

      Is he still fussy/cranky between 3-5PM?

      Please read and have your husband read the section on Extinction and Graduated Extinction in my book and tell me how you would like to proceed.

  7. Hello Dr. Weissbluth,
    Our son is 4 months old and is struggling with waking up at 5am and 6am every morning. He goes to sleep at 7:30pm and takes about 3.5-4 hours of naps. We have blackout shades, white noise and he is in a swaddle. Any tips on how to get him to 7am? Looking forward to your insight! Thank you!!

    1. How is his mood and behavior between 5:30-6:30pm when he is alone with toys and not interacting with adults?

    1. This tells you that his current 7:30pm bedtime is way too late. Please read the Blogs about drowsy signs (especially 115X) and the importance of early bedtimes based on drowsy signs for healthy sleep and healthy brain development.

  8. Okay, we are going to try an earlier bedtime and the gradual extinction! Our naps have been between 3.5-4 hours per day, does that seem like a good target?

  9. Dear Dr. Weissbluth,
    Our daughter is 7 months old. We live in France. I have owned your book for 17+ years (since our oldest child was a baby), and early on with this new baby, I read it again and used it regularly as a resource. Our baby was a great sleeper for the first few months of her life. She quickly started sleeping long stretches at night, and would sleep a lot during the day ( close to 18 hours a day, around 3 months, and between 16 and 17 hours a day around 4 months of age). I had organized my life around her naps to protect her sleep, as it was very important to me, and life was peaceful with a baby who slept so well (except on certain exceptional days when for no apparent reason she would only sleep 45minutes on a given sleep cycle). When our daughter was close to 4 months, we took a trip to visit our oldest son in Germany, and her sleep routine was disrupted. She recovered fairly well on the back end through longer naps when we came back, although from that point on her sleep became a little more rocky. Then a couple of weeks later we took a family trip for a short vacation, and our precious little one’s sleep was disrupted again. From that point on, her sleep has been more erratic, and my many attempts at getting her more rested and back on a good schedule for naps have not proven fruitful in the long run. I have read and re-read the key chapters in your book, made several adjustments, tried different things… There were some improvements, especially tied to trying an earlier bedtime mid-May (6:40 to 6:50pm) and therefore cutting off the 3rd nap to achieve an earlier bedtime, but it did not last…. the greatest challenges have been with naps, which would only last 30 or 45 minutes (when they used to be at least 1 1/2 to 3 hours long!), and also with new night wakings, probably tied to the accumulated sleep deficit. We are in a vicious cycle that I cannot seem to break. I am exhausted. Again 2 days ago, I eliminated the 3rd nap to try an extra-early bedtime, which yielded a much better night (only one wake-up for a brief feeding around 2am and 12 1/2 hours of total night sleep), but the next day, our daughter only napped for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the early afternoon, and then 30 minutes in the mid-late afternoon…. She is back on a vicious cycle of being exhausted and not able to get the naps she needs…. Today she cannot even fall asleep for her naps, she is so “wired”…. Her schedule has not changed though. I still put her in bed around 9am or roughly 2 hours after she woke up, and then again around 1pm or 2 to 2 1/2 hours after she woke up from her morning nap. Since her afternoon nap tended to be too short (45 minutes to a hour max at the best for the past month), I had to re-instate the 3rd nap, or she would be way to tired through the entire afternoon… and so bedtime tended to be closer to 7 or 7:30pm, with a spontaneous wake-up time between 7 and 7:40am. Whenever I can though, I try to put her in bed around 6:40pm, if the earlier naps permit. We definitely need some help. We have been struggling for well over 2 months now, and the whole family is affected. My older 2 children are now home from school for the summer, and desperately need some attention too – I cannot continue focusing all my energy and time on the baby, through the day and then being so fatigued from loss sleep at night. And in a month and a half, I am scheduled to start work back, part-time. Thank you for your willingness to help us.

    1. “There were some improvements, especially tied to trying an earlier bedtime mid-May (6:40 to 6:50pm”
      “Again 2 days ago, I eliminated the 3rd nap to try an extra-early bedtime, which yielded a much better night (only one wake-up for a brief feeding around 2am and 12 1/2 hours of total night sleep),”
      “Whenever I can though, I try to put her in bed around 6:40pm, if the earlier naps permit.”
      I think that your analysis and attempts are on target. To repay an accumulated sleep debt, please try a falling asleep time at 5:30pm (she is fed and soothed, lights off, you are leaving the room at 5:30pm) for only 3-4 nights and then send me a progress report. No new nap begins after 3:00pm but if she is asleep then from a nap that started earlier, let her sleep. Is this doable?

  10. Thank you so much Dr. Weissbluth for taking time to read my long post and offering your insight. I admit I have been afraid of trying the 5:30pm bedtime so often mentioned in your book, as I have enjoyed our daughter’s 7 to 7:45 am natural wake-up (which coincides well with our family life), and have been afraid she would start her day at 5 or 6 am if I put her in bed that early. That said, I will try what you recommend tomorrow (as it is already almost evening here in France), and keep you updated.

  11. “To repay an accumulated sleep debt, please try a falling asleep time at 5:30pm (she is fed and soothed, lights off, you are leaving the room at 5:30pm) for only 3-4 nights and then send me a progress report. ”

    Here is a brief report after 4 nights… 1st night in bed at 5:30pm, she fell asleep right away, then woke up after 30 minutes, cried hard, I had to help her go back to sleep, and finally at 6:30pm she was sound asleep again; that night she woke up at 10pm and then slept until 5:50am (great progress!), then went back to sleep after a brief feeding until 6:40am. So I would say the 1st night was a success, however the next day she slept only 30 minutes for each nap of the day and was extremely tired and cranky… Following night woke up at 8:50pm, 2:00am, 5:00am then 7:15am…. To fast-forward a bit, with a similarly super early bedtime over 4 days, we had roughly the same issue everyday, ONLY 30 minutes for each nap, lots of crying before the nap and upon waking up, a very fussy baby all through the day, and still many night awakenings very similar to the ones mentioned above. To be honest, by Tuesday morning, I felt like everything was worse than before. Our daughter has NEVER gone this many days in a row with only 30 minutes of napping 2 to 3 times a day, and never been this cranky all throughout the day for so many days in a row…. In the past, to break the fatigue cycle I would try to extend her naps through the use of the stroller, but now it is way to hot outside to do this throughout the day, and also I did not want to add extra dynamics to this trial, so that the report could be as easy to read as possible (child routinely put in her bed awake at nap time and night time).
    Yesterday morning, seeing that our daughter was still in a vicious cycle of great fatigue, not improving, I modified my approach sightly: I let her go back to sleep after her wake-up/feeding at 6:15am and chose not to wake her up at 7 or 7:30am… she slept in until 9am!!! And then had a 1 1/2 hour nap early afternoon, around noon!!! That was such an encouragement. It looked like the cycle of fatigue had finally been broken… However, last night, many night wakings again and now a new thing: not able to go back to sleep after 5am!!! Was it a bad move to let her sleep in until 9am the morning before? Is it possible that what helped her so much yesterday during the day was detrimental to her night now?

    I am seriously considering hiring a sleep coach. Do you still do consultations or do you know of a reliable sleep coach?

    Or maybe I just need to be a little more patient, and persevere? Thank you so much for your help.

    1. I am sorry that it did not work. With two older children home from school, I think contacting the Family Sleep Institute (I am an unpaid consultant for them and have absolutely no financial interest with them) for a recommendation for a Community Sleep Consultant might help.

      After the first night, when the night sleep was improved, do you have any thoughts on why the next day’s naps were so brief? Light, noise, commotion, older siblings,..any change in nap routines? Just thinking it might give us a clue of what went wrong.

  12. Thank you for the lead with the Family Sleep Institute. I checked their website and apparently they also have trained consultants in France! However, if you propose online or phone consultations as well, I would be more than happy to pay for your services (depending on the price of course).

    Regarding the brief naps, after the 1st night of 5:30pm bedtime… the room was dark as usual, white noise machine on… I cannot think of any particular disturbance or change in nap routine. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps she went to sleep too late: after waking up around 6:40am that morning, she fell asleep a little before 9am, and perhaps she would have slept a lot better if we had put her down earlier? She was definitely sleepy around 8am… I really think she was just over tired, and it compounded.

    Today after I wrote the naps were a lot better! She slept 1h and 20 minutes this morning (went to sleep at 8:20am after waking up soo early) and 1h and 45 minutes this afternoon (went to bed a little after noon)!!! So there is hope 😉

    Let me ask you a brief question. In your book usually you recommend to keep the 9am morning nap and 1pm afternoon naps as targets, and in those instances where naps were too briefs, it seems that families continued with that routine, to keep in step with the biological rhythm of the child. In my situation, would you recommend putting the baby back to sleep after only one hour or one and a half hour of sleep in the morning, since she is so tired? Or waiting a minimum of two hours and trying to stay close to a 9am start of the nap? It seems that having only 30 minutes naps and trying to keep the rhythm of a close-to-9am nap, and a midday nap, our daughter became ever more tired the past few days.

    Thanks again so much for all your help!

    1. First, some general comments:
      In well rested children, naps starting around 9-10am and 12-2 pm are in synch with biological rhythms and are most restorative.
      In not well rested children, when attempting to help the child sleep better, by keeping the intervals of wakefulness short and avoiding the overtired state, the morning nap might start much earlier.

      Now some specific comments:

      “The only thing I can think of is that perhaps she went to sleep too late: after waking up around 6:40am that morning, she fell asleep a little before 9am, and perhaps she would have slept a lot better if we had put her down earlier? She was definitely sleepy around 8am”. YES!

      Now, depending on the duration of that morning nap and her mood and behavior, the next nap time is quite variable, but again, the goal is to not let her get overtired. So a baby might wind up taking 3 naps that start before 3pm.
      “Today after I wrote the naps were a lot better! She slept 1h and 20 minutes this morning (went to sleep at 8:20am after waking up soo early) and 1h and 45 minutes this afternoon (went to bed a little after noon)!!! So there is hope 😉”
      So you might want to continue the original plan for a few more days with the additional focus on brief intervals of wakefulness during the day.

      Read the section ‘The 5:30pm Rut’ in my book to understand why you might have soon a great sleeper but on a schedule that is not sustainable and will have to be slowly adjusted. I don’t want you to have any surprises!
      How does this sound?
      I am sorry but I do not do sleep consults.

  13. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    Thank you so much for all of this information that you have provided to us! I was hoping you could provide some advice with our 4.5 month old son. We started with the 5:30pm for 2-3 nights and it went well! Sleeping until between 3-5 to eat and then back to sleep for another 2ish hours. We have moved bedtime to about 6:15/6:30 and he did great the first few nights. We have noticed that he goes down fine but may be up 2-3 times for a binki in addition to the feeding. We are going to try the gradual extinction for those wake ups that are soothed with a binki. Should he also just stick with the 5:30 bedtime?

    1. The key is to watch for drowsy signs, mood, and behavior between 4-5pm. Because naps vary a bit from day to day, sometimes 5:30pm will be perfect. Other days it will be a little later. Adjusting the bedtime to match his need to sleep will meant that the bedtime is not rigidly fixed to clock time. Thus begins the arc to healthy sleep and a happy family! Do you agree?

  14. Okay! Until a couple days ago he had been taking on average a 1.5 hr, 2 hr and then about a 45 min nap. He’s been usually been getting up from his last nap around 4:15, we’ve been waking him so he has a couple hours of awake time before bedtime. But the past few days he has been having very short 30 min naps. I feel like we were on a roll then he’s regressing in both night and daytime sleep now 🙁

    1. “He’s been usually been getting up from his last nap around 4:15, we’ve been waking him so he has a couple hours of awake time before bedtime.”

      Waking a child from a nap might be part of a sleep solution, for example, establishing an age-appropriate nap schedule in an older child or establishing an earlier bedtime.
      But waking a child from a nap without a sleep problem is likely to create a sleep problem.
      At 4.5-5 months, naps are still developing and will settle into a more predictable pattern around 6 months of age. I would gently suggest you stop waking him from a nap and take a more naturalistic approach, when he has drowsy signs, sleep him. If he’s asleep, let him sleep. Watching him is better than watching the clock.
      Now that I know that you are waking him from a nap, maybe my last comment to you was incorrect. Maybe he will do better with not waking him from his nap and a much later bedtime, for now.

  15. Thank you so much Dr. Weissbluth, this is all very helpful!
    I am hopeful that things are getting better. Last night was much better, with only 2 brief awakenings feedings and a total of almost 13 hours of nighttime sleep 😉 She is able to take her morning nap well again and sleep over an hour, however the past couple of days, she has not been able to fall asleep for her second afternoon nap, strangely (tried after roughly 2 hours of wake-up time, and she cried for over 30 minutes, tried again a bit later, same, and finally fell asleep at the 3rd nap’s time, but after 3:30pm…. oh well).

    I looked for the section ‘The 5:30pm Rut’ in my book but could not find it – maybe it’s because I own the 2003 edition and you have updated it since?

    Anyways, since she has been naturally sleeping until 7:30 – 7:40am the past couple of mornings and taking better naps, I have been able to put her in bed closer to 6:30pm/ 6:45pm, which hopefully will help me avoid the “5:30pm rut” 😉

    Thanks again for your very valuable counsel.

    1. I am hopeful and congratulate you on your continuing plan to help her sleep well. The 4th edition came out in 2015 and the 5th edition in 2021. A lot has been learned about children’s sleep since I wrote the 3rd edition in 2003!

  16. Thank you so much Dr. Weissbluth. I guess I should look at the 2021 edition of the book then 😉

    A brief question still: FOR HOW MANY DAYS is it advised to SUSTAIN THE 5:30PM BEDTIME, in order to see lasting improvement in the baby’s sleep (naps and night)? Maybe I moved on too fast from the 5:30pm bedtime after seeing some improvement? After 2 days of her not being able to sleep for her 2nd nap, then sleeping for a brief 3rd nap and going to sleep for the night closer to 6:30 or even 6:45pm, she is back to waking up many times at night and napping for only 30 minutes today (after lots of crying).

    1. “Maybe I moved on too fast from the 5:30pm bedtime after seeing some improvement?” Because there are many variables, I can’t give you a specific response. But the general principle is that when you make a change to help your child sleep better, go slowly. Too many changes or making changes too quickly hinders your ability to determine whether your are actually helping her and if so, what might be working.

  17. My 9 month old daughter is generally a good sleeper. She goes to bed around 6:30pm every night. She falls asleep on her own and rarely wakes. However, she gets up EVERY morning between 4:45-5:15am. She will NOT go back to sleep no matter what we do. She takes 2-3 naps per day.

    1. Please describe her mood and behavior between 5-6pm when she is alone with toys (no screens or parental involvement).
      Please describe a typical nap schedule.

  18. She is generally very happy and playful from 5-6 when playing alone. Rarely fussy during this time unless she has had a bad nap day.

    Naps are a usually 1.5 hours in the morning and then we deteriorate in the afternoon most days. Her afternoon nap can be anything from 30 min to 1.5 hours. If it’s short then we usually have to add a cat nap to get her to bedtime. But sometimes she refuses that 3rd one and she has to go to bed super early.

    I will add she was a colic newborn.

    1. How often does she have “a bad nap day”?

      Your answer might support the following:
      Even though her mood and behavior is fine between 5-6pm, because her afternoon nap is sometimes problematical, I would suggest:
      Try a strict 5:30-6:00pm falling asleep time for 3 nights only (instead of “around 6:30pm”). Because of her age, do not allow a 3rd nap.
      Monitor whether she falls asleep at this earlier time and her wake-up time. Do not assume that she will simply wake up earlier. She may or may not.
      Monitor the duration and ease of her midday nap.
      Report the details back to me after the 3 day trial.

  19. Ok, so here is how it went for the past 3 nights.

    night one:
    asleep at 5:56pm
    woke in the night from 12:17am-2:30am
    woke for the day at 5:15am

    day one:
    nap 1: 8:45am-10:00am
    nap 2: 1pm-2:30pm

    night two:
    asleep at 5:35pm
    zero wake ups in the night
    woke for the day at 5:15am

    day two:
    nap 1: 8:45am-10:10am
    nap 2: 1:15pm-2:05pm

    night three:
    asleep at 5:50pm
    zero wakes up in the night
    woke for the day at 4:45am

    day three:
    nap 1: 8:30am-10:15am
    nap 2: 1:05pm-1:50pm

    Really not sure what to do here. Yes, she’s sleeping through the night, but she is still waking at 5:15am or earlier and now her afternoon nap is shorter than ever. I’m so lost about what to try next.

    1. Thank you for your detailed response. I feel that you are frustrated with her early morning wake up and I suspect that my comments might be unsatisfactory for you, but I sincerely will try to help you help your daughter sleep better.
      “My 9 month old daughter is generally a good sleeper. She goes to bed around 6:30pm every night.”
      The fact that your daughter fell asleep before 6:30pm the last 3 nights is proof that the old 6:30ish bedtime was too late. By putting her to sleep earlier, usually, the total night sleep is longer and the child wakes up better rested and starts to nap better, which over time, maybe allows the bedtime to be shifted a little later, for example 6pm or 6:15pm , but maybe not 6:30.
      “She gets up EVERY morning between 4:45-5:15am.”
      Her wake up times the past 3 days was 5:15, 5:15: and 4:45am. The good news is that falling asleep earlier did not cause her to wake up earlier. Therefore, I advise you to stay the course while you monitor her afternoon nap and her mood and behavior between 4-5 pm to see if she becomes even more charming and delightful. “She is generally very happy and playful from 5-6 when playing alone. Rarely fussy during this time unless she has had a bad nap day.” Also, monitor whether the “bad nap days’ become less frequent.
      “Naps are a usually 1.5 hours in the morning and then we deteriorate in the afternoon most days. Her afternoon nap can be anything from 30 min to 1.5 hours.”
      For the past three days, her afternoon naps were about 90, 50, and 45 minutes. Your comment, “now her afternoon nap is shorter than ever.” is confusing to me. Please clarify.
      If you continue with the super early bedtime, it appears that she will not get up even earlier, her afternoon nap will get longer, and when this occurs her bedtime might be a little later. But I cannot tell you whether this will take several days or weeks. A major potential problem with my advice is discussed in my book under the heading “The 5:30pm Rut” which I encourage you to read so you won’t be surprised and you will know how to deal with it if it occurs. By the way, would a white noise machine help her sleep in later in the morning?
      I wish I could be more definitive or specific about what to do next but I would be very optomistic because she has great night sleep and great mood in the late afternoon/early evening. What are your thoughts.?

  20. We will stay the course! Honestly, I think the afternoon nap will elongate just given all of these things and if the afternoon nap gets better and better and she is still getting great night sleep, maybe then the time will switch to a tad later than 5:15am. Fingers crossed. I’ll read that part in the book again and then report back in the future. Thanks for all the help!

  21. Hello!
    We have a 6.5 month old baby who is struggling in the middle of the night. He used to sleep from 6pm- 6/7am with a feeding between 4-5am. He is now up at 2am on the dot every night and will not resettle until he gets a bottle and then is usually up again before the morning. Do you have any advice? He usually takes 30-45 min naps 3 times a day. Thanks!

  22. He falls asleep between 6-6:15pm usually then is up at 2am almost on the dot. We try to soothe and let him cry for about 5 min at a time and then usually give him a bottle. He takes more than enough milk during the day but will stay take 5-6oz during this feed. Sometimes he will still be up before 6am.

    1. Please describe his usual nap schedule and his mood and behavior between 4-6pm when he is alone (with toys but no screens or parental interaction).

    1. Based on his behavior and short naps, your goal should be a strict 5:30pm fall asleep time (you have finished all the bathing, feeding, soothing and are leaving the room at 5:30pm) for several days and monitor night and day sleep and mood and behavior. How does this sound? is it doable?
      Is he able to be put down for sleep drowsy but awake?

  23. Sorry I forgot to add the naps. His naps are about every 2 hours for 30-45 min, he takes 3 on average. It doesn’t matter the wake window he never takes longer naps than that. I go by his sleepy cues.

  24. Hi, Dr. weissbluth,

    Our son is 14 weeks old and we have recently hit a lot of night wakings—I’m talking hourly sometimes starting an hour after bedtime. When we watch the monitor he seems to be trying to roll in his sleep and waking himself up (he is in a sleep sack). We have tried CIO for these wakings but he does not self settle. His current schedule is 6:30 wake, with 1-2 hour naps at 8:30ish, 12:00ish, and a short nap between 3:30 and 4:00, with a 6:30 bedtime. He gets 3-4 hours of daytime sleep.

    This is a change: previously he was taking 4 naps and going to sleep at 7:30, with 4.5 hours of daytime sleep, but he stated shortening his naps, and fighting the last two naps so that bedtime was being pushed back, so we dropped a nap and moved bedtime forward. On his last schedule he was sleeping 6-8hour stretches.

    Should we go back to the old schedule or will the wakings even out? Do you have any other recommendations.

    1. Please describe his mood and behavior between 5-6pm when he is alone with toys (no screens or parental involvement).

  25. Around 5:00 he has finished a bottle and is alert and happy with his toys (lots of movement and focus), after waking up from a nap around 4:15, by 6:00 he has slowed and we start bedtime routine. I know that your books says not to worry about the early bedtime, but I fear he might not tolerate over 12 hours in his crib for sleep.

    I also usually try to cap him at about 3.5 hours of daytime sleep to prevent not being tired enough overnight. I know your book states that sleep begets sleep, but is there a limit to this, if we’re hoping to get 12 hours of overnight sleep. Is there a way to tell if he’s getting too much daytime sleep?

    1. Did you do extinction as described in my book? Eliminating his third nap might permit an earlier bedtime and the better quality night sleep might eliminate the night wakings. Because of his age, I honestly don’t know if this will work but there is no harm in trying this for 3-5 nights. Let me know your thoughts.

  26. Hi, Dr. Weissbluth,
    We did try extinction without a cap, but he seemed to settle after 20 minutes, just to wake 20-40 minutes later and cry again. Last night I tried not capping his naps, but waking him from his evening nap at 4:30 to ensure a bedtime or 6:15-6:30, and he did sleep really well again. 6:30-2:30 (to eat) and then 2:30-6:00. I got him at 6:00 and extended his night sleep until 6:30 on me because we would prefer that wake up time. Is there a strategy to teaching this to wake up time?

    His room was colder than usual at this time and he also only eats 4oz overnight because we don’t want dependence on night feeds. Should we change either of these things?

    1. For now, do not let a new nap start at or after 3pm in order to get an early bedtime and feed him as much as he eagerly wants in the middle of the night. Circadian sleep rhythms develop over the first 6 months of life; please read about them from the Index citation in my book to understand that if you try to fight them (“we would prefer that wake up time”), you will lose.

  27. Thank you, Dr. Weissbluth,
    We will make the changes and look at that section of the book. If his circadian rhythm is for a 6:00 wake time, I assume we will need to shift his naps throughout the day accordingly, to keep with 1-2 hour wake windows?

  28. Dr. Weissbluth,

    My 15-week-old (born at 38 weeks) daughter’s naps only last 30-50 minutes if she sleeps in her crib. If we “save” the nap by picking her up and rocking her back to sleep when she starts to wake up, then we can get a lot more sleep out of her. We have been “saving” the naps for the last month. She usually takes four naps… 75 min, 90 min, 75 min, and 30-45 min. We wake her up from the nap if it’s going over these times because we don’t want her to sleep too much during the day, and she can sleep a lot if she is being held by one of us. We have also noticed over the past few weeks that her nighttime sleep has gotten worse. She has been going to sleep between 7 and 7:30pm every evening since she was 12-weeks-old. She used to only wake up between 3 and 4am. Now, she wakes up at 10/11pm, 2/3am, and 5/6am. We used to think it was because she was hungry so we would give her a bottle. Over the past few days, we have been able to soothe her back to sleep for 2 out of 3 of those awakenings, so we know it’s not because she’s hungry every time. Other possibly pertinent information: her morning wake up time is usually 6:45-7:15am, we soothe her to sleep at bedtime and then transfer her to the bassinet in our bedroom, she eats 28-32 oz of formula every 24 hours (8 of those oz being overnight), she’s awake about 75-90 minutes between naps, and she seems to be very reliant on the pacifier for sleep (even though she sometimes fights the pacifier if she goes down cranky). We are wondering what is causing the increase in nighttime awakenings and if we should be “saving the naps” or just letting her wake up from a nap after 30-50 minutes. We would really appreciate any advice you can provide to us!

    1. Blog Post 84-86 explain why cumulative sleepiness, starting perhaps from 12 weeks of age, is the reason for the increase in nighttime awakenings. Does she have any self soothing skills? What exactly are your goals?

  29. Hello Dr. Weissbluth,

    Thank you for your responding so promptly!

    Our goals are to get her to sleep through the night and for her to take longer naps on her own instead of us needing to extend the nap by taking her out of the crib and doing a contact nap with her. We have tried soothing by not taking her out of the crib and just replacing the pacifier and patting but it doesn’t seem to work.

    I believe the pacifier is an issue because she gets upset if she drops it during a nap or over night, and she won’t calm down until it’s replaced, which happens all of the time. I’m wondering if we need to wean her from the pacifier. She puts her fist in her mouth a lot when she’s awake, so perhaps she can learn to suck on her fist or thumb to self-soothe because I don’t believe she has any self-soothing skills right now.

    Thank you,

    Elena

    1. At 15 weeks of age, “I don’t believe she has any self-soothing skills right now.” is the problem, not the pacifier. Please read only the first few chapters in my book to understand how this came about and how I will help you help her sleep better. Let me know which sleep solution fits your specific family circumstances and your values and then we will go forward.

  30. Hello again,

    After reading chapters 1 and 2 (I have not yet finished chapter 3) in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, it has become clear that we need to give our daughter the opportunity to learn how to self-soothe. We have tried putting her down drowsy but awake, but I fear that we have not done it enough and are too quick to pick her up to help her finish the nap if she starts to fuss or drops the pacifier.

    We are open to trying extinction but are hoping to have a cap of one hour. Is this done only for nighttime sleep at her age (15-weeks-old, but born at 38 weeks)?

    We are also considering an earlier bedtime of 6:30pm as she seems to have a natural wake up time of 6:45am or so… Is this advisable?

    Thank you,

    Elena

    1. Can you seriously consistently commit to extinction for 3-5 nights? Will your husband support you and help out at night. Are you breast or bottle feeding at night?

  31. Dr. Weissbluth,

    Yes, we can seriously and consistently commit to extinction for 3-5 nights. I will
    mention that my husband has offered to do extinction on his own with me out of the house at night as he is not as affected by the baby’s crying.

    My husband is very involved and has been responsible for the majority of the nighttime awakenings and feedings since I am with the baby more often during the day. We are exclusively bottle feeding.

    Thank you,

    Elena

    1. OK. Here we go. Start now with maximal involvement of father: soothing to sleep for naps and night when available. This is temporary.
      The temporary falling asleep time is 5:30pm (you have bathed, fed, and soothed; you are putting him down hopefully drowsy but awake and leaving the room at 5:30pm). Extinction with 1-2 feedings, by the father, overnight and you do not “start the day” until 5-6am but you do not wake him if he is asleep then. Before the “start the day”, extinction is in place.
      Read the section on the “Nap Drill’ for your attempt to get a major midmorning nap and mid-day nap +/- a third nap. All naps are in the cot/crib with ‘drowsy but awake’ as a goal. Do not wake him from his naps No new nap starts at or after 3pm. If he is asleep at 3pm, do not wake him.
      Read the section ‘The 5:30 rut’ as a possible complication of the plan.
      Keep a detailed record of sleeping and crying (mild, moderate, intense). In the future, with better naps, the bedtime might become a little later.
      Does this help? Let me know how it goes.

  32. Dr. Weissbluth,

    Is it possible to improve her nighttime sleep with a 5:30pm bedtime and extinction before working on her naps? She is only awake for 1.5 hours in the morning before showing sleepy cues and going down for her first nap, so I imagine trying to get her to stay awake from 5/6am until 9am will be very difficult right now.

    Thank you,

    Elena

    1. Yes. For now, you might follow the plan for night sleep but during the day, do whatever works to maximize sleep and minimize crying…but no new nap starts after 3pm to protect an early bedtime.

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