Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
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Focus on Naps
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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 3Focus on Naps

Introduction

When naps are going well, the bedtime might be a little later, but when naps are not going well, the bedtime needs to be a littler earlier. These reports include paying attention to early bedtimes.

Here’s an account from the mother of a 3-month-old infant who successfully accomplished the midmorning nap and helped her baby sleep better at night:

It started at just 12 weeks. Katie was so fatigued she would cry for hours, screaming completely out of control, scratching her head, pulling her ears. Holding her didn’t help, so it wasn’t hard not to pick her up—she screamed anyway.

Instituting a new day schedule was easy. As soon as she started getting cranky, I rushed her to her crib to sleep. She would watch her mobile, and then sleep for hours at a time. The first week, she was so tired that she only stayed up thirty to fifty minutes at a time and slept three to four hours in between. The key for me was to get her down before she got really upset.

The afternoon was when she was awake the longest, and then it was hard getting her to sleep at night. The first few nights under our new regime were the worst. Positive reinforcement from my doctor was important then. I had to hear several times that this “cure” was the best thing to do.

The first night under our new strategy, my husband lay on the floor in her room (I guess to make sure she didn’t choke) while I sat crying in our living room. Finally, after forty-five minutes, Katie was quiet! Hurray! Each night she cried less and less, and I handled it better and better. After a week, her hysteria was gone! Sure, she cried a little sometimes, but now she was on a schedule. She napped two or three times a day, two to four hours at a time, and slept twelve to fifteen hours a night. Sleeping promotes more sleep, and makes it easier to fall asleep. It’s a catch-22.

Writing down the sleep patterns helped, too. For one week I kept track of every time I put her down and every time I picked her up from her nap. At the end of the week I noticed a distinct pattern. She fell into it herself!

Here is an account from a mother who started early with her second child:

As patients of Dr. Weissbluth, we were ready to commit ourselves to promoting good sleep habits in our children. When our first son, Hayden, was born, it was easier said than done. Being new parents and not knowing what the different cries meant, we would pick Hayden up at the slightest whimper. We were quick believers when at 4 months we were a bit more seasoned and decided not to rush in at the first cry. The cry lasted fifteen minutes, and then it was smooth sailing; he gradually went to bed earlier and earlier until we reached a 6:00 p.m. bedtime with a 6:30 a.m. wake-up, and then naps at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. This pattern still holds true minus the first nap, and bedtime is at 6:30 p.m. at almost 3 years old. He is social, happy, sweet, and most of all well rested.

With the birth of our second child, a girl, Lily, we were busy with Hayden, now a toddler, and were quite the experts on all the “signs” babies give out. We had a rule: If she was sleepy and not crying (even at a few days old), she was to be put in her bassinet. We still played with her and enjoyed her, but we were not walking around the house with her twenty-four hours a day. We also provided Lily with the same nighttime routine we give Hayden: dim the lights and give a massage, bath, bottle, book, and bed. This prompted Lily to develop a quicker sleep schedule, and we found by 2.5 months she was sleeping through the late-night feedings. By 3 months she was going to bed at 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. and sleeping until 6:30 a.m. Also at 3 months we began putting her down for her midmorning nap two hours after she woke up, and that began her nap schedule. Now Lily, almost one, wakes up at 6:30 a.m., takes her first nap at 8:15 a.m., takes her second nap at 12:30 p.m., and is in the bathtub by 5:00 p.m. and asleep by 5:30 p.m.

We are vigilant about not letting either child nap in the car, strollers, or for that matter miss naps or have delayed naps. Once our children are in their cribs for the night, we don’t hear from them until the morning . . . no night waking or games! We greet them each morning with a smile on their faces.

We are committed to having well-rested children and will defend our decisions with any naysayer suggesting we don’t get to be with our children at night or we are too strict with the daytime schedule. We find too often it is the parent who is putting the child on their schedule instead of vice versa.

Babies yearn for routines and respond unbelievably to them. Again, we feel that we have two of the happiest, sweetest children, and knowing that teaching them good sleep habits and, more important, the ability to fall asleep unassisted is the best gift you can ever give!

Here is one parent’s account of how shortening the interval of wakefulness during the day between naps helped her child nap better and sleep better at night.

In November, our third daughter, Rebecca, was born. At that time I prided myself on how well I schlepped our new baby everywhere and how wonderfully she slept in and out of the car seat all day.

Our days were filled with errands and car pools; Rebecca would be nursing and napping on and off all day. What a cooperative baby, I used to think. But I was so exhausted by evening that I found the only way to survive was to sleep with her, waking up every hour or so to shift her so that she could nurse on the other side. I knew then that having her in bed with me wasn’t such a terrific idea, but it was the only way for me to get any rest.

When Rebecca turned 5 months old, I placed her in her crib instead of going to sleep with her at my breast. As I anticipated, every few hours she began to cry, expecting me to be by her side. I would quickly run into her room and rock and nurse her back to sleep . . . until the next time she woke up.

And so our next pattern began. She would wake up every few hours, and I would faithfully run in and get her back to sleep. I was certain she would grow out of this bad habit . . . our other two had.  A few months passed. By now Rebecca was weaned to a bottle and I was sure things would change for the better. That didn’t happen. In fact, things got worse. There were many nights when Rebecca would get up every hour on the hour. I tried letting her cry, fifteen minutes at a time, but it was much easier to just go in and give her a bottle.  When Rebecca was 1 year old, this pattern of frequent waking continued. It was difficult leaving her with a babysitter on the occasional evening we went out. I knew that within an hour or so of our leaving she would be up crying for me. I actually felt sick leaving her.

When Rebecca was almost 13 months old we went to see Dr. Weissbluth. When we left his office I felt prepared for battle—armed with all the mental ammunition I needed to change Rebecca’s nightly wakings. We started the program of shorter intervals of wakefulness the next day.

In a week’s time, the change in Rebecca was phenomenal! She was always a happy baby, but when she began to sleep better, she became even more relaxed, more affectionate, and more fun to be with.  The change in her sleeping pattern has had an effect on everyone in the family. I don’t yell and lose my patience with my older children quite as much, for I am better rested and I feel so much better physically and emotionally.  This has been one of the most rewarding and positive experiences that we have shared as parents. We are so proud of Rebecca and also pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done.

Shhh! Rebecca’s sleeping!

Here is one mother’s account of how an early bedtime did not help her child become better rested and able to take two naps, but subsequently it did help when the single nap was delayed until midday.  

Sophie has always been inconsistent when it comes to napping. Some days she would sleep for half an hour, others she wouldn’t sleep at all. And if I was lucky, she would take an occasional hour nap. I decided it was time to get help before the situation became worse.

Sophie was 13 months old when I met with Dr. Weissbluth. She was sleeping for thirty minutes in the morning; her midday naps were unpredictable. At night, getting her to sleep was even more frustrating. Sophie had always been a great nighttime sleeper. Then, all of a sudden [cumulative sleepiness], she was waking up several times throughout the night. Not only was her mental state unbearable, but physically she did not look well. As for me, I was becoming mommy the monster. There were days when I thought I was going to lose it. I blamed myself for her sleeping disorder, even though I was doing everything right—putting her to bed early, keeping a consistent nap time, and putting her down in her crib for her naps instead of allowing her to sleep on the go.

After looking over Sophie’s sleep log, Dr. Weissbluth gave me several options: Try an earlier bedtime (5:00 p.m.), lots of stimulation when awake, and soothing her longer at night. The goal was to allow her to catch up on her sleep.

My husband and I put the plan to work. He supported the decision of an earlier bedtime, even though his time with her was already limited. Unfortunately, Sophie’s sleeping did not improve. She continued to take one nap for thirty or forty-five minutes and then skip her midday nap. She and I were both exhausted, and my frustration level was sky-high at this point.

During our follow-up conversation, Dr. Weissbluth asked if I would consider dropping her midmorning nap. He recommended the continuation of an earlier bedtime (5:00 p.m.), which, surprisingly, she welcomed. Although I was hesitant to drop her midmorning nap, I was determined to get my happy child back.

So I put plan B to work. For the first several days, Sophie could barely keep her eyes open past 10:30 a.m. I was able to keep her up until 11:00 a.m. and then 11:30 a.m. for the next several days. She continued to take thirty-minute naps. I called Dr. Weissbluth and he reminded me that she was still trying to catch up on sleep, that it would take several days for her to feel rested. After day four, she was staying awake until 12:30 and sleeping for an hour. And she was sleeping through the night—no more nighttime waking. By the end of the week, she was starting her nap at 12:30 and waking up at 2:00 p.m. And Sophie and Mommy were happy.

The early bedtime is a non-negotiable component of healthy sleep training.  If you want your child to sleep soundly and wake up well rested, you have to marry the idea of an early bedtime.

Comments

  1. I have been implementing an earlier bedtime and have been trying to catch the drowsy signs to get my 11 week old down for naps and bedtime. Right now I feel like we are playing catch up from all the sleep deprivation from the last few weeks. The last 2 days, naps have been a little better but are still rough. I currently get him in bed between 6:00-7:00 but he doesn’t always go down easily. He wakes a couple times at night to nurse and doesn’t wake for the day until late- around 10:00 am. I’m wondering if I should be waking him in the morning but I feel like he’s so tired and want to let him sleep.

    1. Comparing “the last few weeks” with the “last 2 days”, “naps have been a little better”: Congratulations!! Please continue to focus on drowsy signs in the evening and early bedtimes because night sleep circadian rhythm begins to emerge around 6 weeks of age. Nap rhythms begin to emerge around 3-4 months of age. So be more focused on night sleep now and go with the flow regarding naps, for now. Please do not wake him in the morning. Because of his age, be patient, trial and error will be needed, and be optimistic. Blog Post #14 (Be Flexible) and Parents’ Reports #2 (Early Bedtimes) might be helpful. Good Luck!

  2. Hi Marc

    My 5 month old daughter wakes from her last nap of the day (her third) around 3:00pm. We then try and keep her awake for a 6:00pm bedtime. We follow the same bedtime routine each time and she doesn’t take long to drift off. However, she wakes up after 45 minutes every time and needs help to resettle- sometimes 4 or 5 attempts over a 30 minute period. She then sleeps a few hours until her midnight feed. Is it possible that she believes her 6:00pm bedtime is actually an evening nap? Do you have any advice on how we can get her to sleep through from 6:00pm?

    Thanks

    1. How does she look between 5-6pm? Please give a detailed description of her, mood, demeanor, sociability, and activity level.

  3. Hi Marc

    Between 5-6pm:
    we go for a walk
    she has a bath
    has a bottle
    we read her a book
    put her in her sleep sack

    We then go into her room, put the white noise on and she has a cuddle/sucks on her dummy, we put her in her bed and walk out.

    She is often tired and yawns during the walk because, by that point, she has been awake for around 2 hours. She becomes more alert when she has her bath- smiles and giggles. She doesn’t fall asleep with her bottle but is disinterested in the book. When putting her in her sleep sack she will often grizzle. She then goes to sleep very quickly with only a couple of minutes of settling.

    Thanks

  4. Hi- Thanks for sending me to Blog Post 9. I have been keeping a record over the past week of my daughter’s awake times and the length of her naps. I have noticed that she starts showing drowsy signs within one and a half hours of waking up. I had been keeping her up for two hours between naps before reading your blog- watching the clock and not my baby!- but I now start to settle her for a nap as soon as I see these signs. This has led to a fourth nap later in the afternoon, with her waking up from this no later than 4:45pm. On some days she has fought the fourth nap and has only had 20 minutes of sleep. Do babies find it harder to nap later in the afternoon?

    She seems to show drowsy signs after this last nap of the day within an hour of waking up. She has had some afternoons where she has woken up from the nap and started yawning and rubbing her eyes after 53 minutes awake and at other times, she has shown these drowsy signs within 10 minutes after waking up. Her bedtime is still between 6-6:30.

    We’ve noticed somewhat of an improvement since my initial blog post- she has had a few nights this week where she has either slept through from bedtime until her first night feed, or has required only a couple of attempts at resettling after waking 45 minutes after being put down. I am hoping that if we keep responding to her drowsy signs and trying to reduce her wake window before bedtime, she will feel better rested and start sleeping through.

    1. Congratulations! Nap sleep rhythms begin to emerge around 3-4 months of age and are well established by 6 months of age. Because your daughter is about 6 months old, establish an age appropriated nap schedule so that it is in synch with her biological nap rhythm for better quality day sleep. At the same time, the bedtime might have to be temporarily moved much earlier until naps improve. After she naps better, the bedtime might be moved later. This combination of imposing an age appropriate nap schedule and moving the bedtime temporarily earlier is described in detail in my book along with the speed bumps along the way. Be optimistic! You will be successful because you are already sensitive to the differences between her alert and drowsy states. The root cause that set all of this in motion was an old customary bedtime that was innocently a little too late.
      Sweet Dreams
      DrW

  5. My 5 month old (4 months adjusted) does not seem to have developed a nap rhythm. He sleeps 11.5-12 hours every night with no waking. Bedtime 6:30. Usually wakes between 6 & 6:30am. I have been putting him back to bed after an hour or less in the morning (around 7:30am). He seems drowsy and falls back asleep easily. Should I begin trying to lengthen this wake period so he starts taking a true mid-morning nap?

    Dad is usually in charge of bedtime. Baby is bottle fed only (surrogate). Eats every 3 hours, currently about 36 oz/24 hrs. Between 4&6pm he needs a lot of attention and will begin fussing if left on his own. This is a time we’re often trying to get him to take a last nap as well, which he always fights. Usually have to have him in a wrap and walk around the house for him to fall asleep after 3:30. No matter what, we always have him awake by 5:30 at the latest. Bath sometimes, jammies, bottle/book then bed. Last bottle of the day always at 6pm.
    Thank you for your time!

    1. Naps begin to become more regular and longer around 4 months of age and by 6 months are fairly predictable and long. Your ‘4-month-old’ “suddenly will not nap for 45 minutes at a time when previously would have 1.5 -2+hour naps” (on Instagram) means that he has developed cumulative sleepiness (Blog Posts 84-86) from a failure to move his bedtime a little earlier when he was about 6 weeks old (adjusted age). Currently, “He has completely lost the ability to self soothe to sleep in the day”., “Between 4&6pm he needs a lot of attention and will begin fussing if left on his own.” His sleep tank is about empty between 4-pm. Temporarily, a bedtime routine/soothing at 5pm and be done (leave the room) at 5:30pm. Please read Blog Posts and Parents’ Reports about ‘Bedtimes’ Also, see IG reel ‘Sleep Basics #4.. Over the next several weeks, naps will lengthen and become more regular and then the bedtime will become later. How do you feel about this?
      Sweet Dreams,
      Marc

  6. Thank you so much Dr. Weisbluth! After initially writing to you, he began taking longer naps and being better about putting himself to sleep. Current schedule over last 3 days:
    Wake 5 am (I adjust in crib/give pacifier, he goes back to sleep) this is new, he used to sleep straight to 6:30.
    6:30am wake
    6:40 bottle
    7:30 back to sleep for 2 hours
    Awake for about 1.5 hours
    11am back to sleep for 1-1.5 hours
    Then he has two more naps between 45 and 55 minutes in length. Still relatively fussy after 4. Almost never sleeps past 4:30. Would your recommendation to move nighttime bed routine up to 5pm still hold?

    I appreciate your time.

    1. Please stay the course for at least a few more days to see what happens to naps and the after 4pm fussiness. Please be patient: The temporary early bedtime will allow him to wake up better rested and then the first nap will drift toward an onset closer to about 9am. Let me know how he’s doing over the next several days.

  7. Hello Dr. Weissbluth,

    We have implemented the earlier bedtime routing beginning at 5pm for about 5 days, see detailed sleep schedule below. His naps still seem to be all over the place, with the first invariably occurring within an hour of waking. He does seem to be in better spirits in the afternoon. I have noticed daytime fussiness when either his first or second (or both) naps are <90minutes.

    I had a couple questions for you as well:
    1. In your opinion, can developmental or growth spurts disrupt sleep?
    2. If the child has already demonstrated the skill for self soothing to sleep, when he occasionally does have difficulty falling asleep, is there harm in soothing him to sleep in my arms and transferring him to the crib asleep?
    – and relatedly, if he is unable to fall asleep (for a nap) is that clear evidence that I have either tried to put him to bed too early or too late? I am having great difficulty catching his "sleep wave". I am still on leave, so with him all day and watch him very closely (not on phone, etc). I am also a very well-rested adult, usually getting 9-10 hours of sleep/night.
    3. How do you know when a nap is long enough? For example, he just awoke from his second nap with loud crying after 35minutes. Attempts to soothe him back to sleep were not successful. Is 35 minutes adequate? Should I try harder to get him back to sleep and lengthen his nap?

    Thank you so much for your time and attention.

    Best,
    Beth
    10/5:
    6:04 sleep onset
    7:28am wake (awakening @ 5am)
    Nap 1: 8:55am 36m
    Nap 2: 10:46 44m
    Nap 3: 1:35p 1h
    Nap 4: 4p 25m
    Sleep onset 6:10p

    10/6
    7:37 wake
    Nap 1: 8:47a 56m
    Nap 2: 11:11a 2h38m
    Nap 3: 3:12p 32 m
    Sleep onset 6:05p

    10/7:
    6:10a wake
    Nap 1: 7:10 1h11m
    Nap 2: 9:57a 44m
    Nap 3: 12:10p 1h37m
    Nap 4 2:55p 56m
    Sleep onset 5:57p

    10/8
    6:08 wake
    Nap 1: 7:30a 1h51m
    Nap 2: 10:59a 41m
    Nap 3: 1p 2h
    Nap 4 4:40p 34m
    Sleep onset 6:31p

    10/9
    7:04 wake
    Nap 1: 8:10a 1h
    Nap 2: 10:38a 27m
    Nap 3: 11:50a 48m
    Nap 4: 25m then 18m – travelling awoke 3:08
    Sleep onset 5:24p

    1. “He does seem to be in better spirits in the afternoon.” You are on the right track.
      1. NO!
      2. No harm.
      3. Follow the suggestions in the book regarding attempting to lengthen naps.
      For the next 5 days: Try to not allow a nap to begin after 3:30pm. Use extra gentle and prolonged soothing and distraction to get through a rough patch. Begin your bedtime routine earlier and shorten it if needed so that you have a rigid “lights out” at 5:30pm (you are leaving the room at 5:30pm). Please keep a detailed record and report back to me.

  8. I appreciate your prompt reply! I reread the section on lengthening naps in your book.
    I have a question on nap drills.
    If baby wakes at 6:30 and shows drowsy signs at 7:30, should I attempt to forestall the first nap until closer to 9?

    Thank you.

  9. Hello Dr. Weissbluth. With baby’s nap rhythms, it has worked out to put him down so that his sleep onset is around 6pm. He has been self-soothing for naps very well and generally in good spirits. Although he used to have at least one nap around 1.5hrs every day, that has become more rare. Most naps are now in the 40 minute range. With the earlier bedtime, he has also begun waking before 6am with more regularity as his total sleep time seems to be conserved (11.5-12 hours). We are considering shifting his bedtime forward 30minutes (returning to) 6:30pm as pre-6am wake-ups are not our favorite. Also, with the early wake times, it is not possible for him to make it even close to 8 or 9am for his first nap. His detailed sleep schedule below. Interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks much!

    10/10
    Sleep onset 5:24p
    6:25 wake
    Nap 1: 7:30a 1h34m
    Nap 2: 10:35a 34m
    Nap 3: 12:40a 42m
    Nap 4: 3:05p 40m
    Sleep onset 5:55p

    10/11
    5:54 wake
    Nap 1: 7:38a 1h31m
    Nap 2: 10:35a 42m
    Nap 3: 1:10p 1h
    Nap 4: 3:29p 30m (in wrap carrier, woke him after 30 minutes, was fussy until bedtime)
    Sleep onset 5:54p

    10/12
    5:30 wake
    Nap 1: 7:40a 1h41m
    Nap 2: 10:53a 51m
    Nap 3: 1:30p 40m
    Sleep onset 4:55p

    10/13 – two night awakenings that required attention at 12:30a and 4:30a
    5:40a wake
    Nap 1: 7:01a 1h37m
    Nap 2: 10:05a 1h
    Nap 3: 1:00p 40m
    Nap 4: 3:23p 37m
    Sleep onset 5:55

    10/14
    6:30a wake
    Nap 1: 7:55a 1h
    Nap 2: 10:35a 54m
    Nap 3: 1:09p 52m
    Nap 4: 3:39p 37m
    Sleep onset 6:15

    10/15
    6:25a wake
    Nap 1: 7:44a 45m
    Nap 2: 10:13a 42m
    Nap 3: 12:32 1h
    Nap 4: 3:13p 40m
    Sleep onset 6:10

    10/16
    5:39a wake
    Nap 1: 7:00a 1h10m
    Nap 2: 9:55a 38m
    Nap 3: 12:30p 1h25m
    Nap 4: 3:22p 42m
    Sleep onset 5:58

    10/17
    5:15a wake

    1. Around 4 months of age (adjusted), you wrote that his daytime fussiness was mostly gone. Is that still the case?
      Because he has self-soothing skills, an early bedtime, and ample consolidated night sleep, your expectation is that the naps will naturally lengthen, become fewer in number, and become more regular between now and 6 months of age. The bedtime will then naturally be later. Because he currently falls asleep easily around 6pm, you are meeting his sleep needs. If, for your convenience, you think that moving the bedtime later will produce a later wake up, try it. This rarely works for children who take 2 or more naps. Instead, often a cumulative sleep debt slowly develops and daytime fussiness and sleep problems emerge. My advice is for you to go to bed earlier to better cope with his wake-up time. What are your thoughts?

  10. Again, thank you so much for your prompt reply! Literally right after I wrote that, he took two very long naps! Will continue with the 6pm bedtime for the time being. Truly appreciate your attention to my messages.

    1. You are welcome. Naps will still vary a bit, but the trend towards a regular and long mid-morning and midday will become more apparent as he approaches 6 months of age. A third brief and more irregular nap sometimes occurs but disappears by 9 months of age. When he is completely well-rested, adjust the bedtime based on drowsy-signs which will vary a bit because of nap variability. Resist the temptation to move the bedtime later, for whatever reason, past the time of drowsy signs. Please send me a progress report.
      Sweet dreams,
      Marc

  11. Hello Dr. Weissbluth! Between 10/17 and 10/20 our little guy was doing so well. Sleeping 12-13 hours a night. 6pm bedtime. No night wakings, napping well, mostly 45 minutes, but a couple 1.5 hour naps. Then on Friday 10/21 we took a short trip for a previously planned vacation. That night due to circumstances out of our control we all had a sleep disturbance causing us to be up from about 1am onwards. We cut the trip short and came home the next day. We’ve been trying to get him back on track with a temporarily earlier bedtime at 5pm, but 5 days later he still seems to be struggling, with occasional night waking and early waking at 4:30 for past two days. He’s been quite fussy and unhappy most of the day the last two days, taking very short naps 30-40 minutes requiring a lot of soothing. Just wanted to make sure there was nothing else we could be doing to help him aside from the early bedtime.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. I am happy that you had a few days of great sleep and sad that you had it messed up on 10/21. The last two days he is obviously overtired (“quite fussy and unhappy most of the day”) and barely napping (“taking very short naps 30-40 minutes). The earlier bedtime (“5pm”) is and will help him recover from his major sleep debt.
      I know this will sound crazy, but please consider a one night only ‘reset’ of a super early bedtime of around 4-4:30pm. If he falls asleep then and if seems, in any sense, a bit better the next day, then try it again for only 1-2 nights more. Don’t do this for many nights because it will eventually backfire and cause him to awaken way too early and this early wake-up will then mess up his nap schedules. If this attempt fails on the first try, then go back to your 5pm bedtime and do whatever works to maximize daytime sleep and minimize fussiness.
      How does this sound?

  12. Again, thank you so much for your prompt reply! He went to sleep a little before 5 tonight, so I will try the 4:30 bedtime tomorrow and see how it goes. I agree he is completely underslept! Your book and this conversation have helped me spot overtiredness very easily. It’s so helpful to know the cause of his irritability/unhappiness.

    Thanks again.

    1. You are welcome.
      Perhaps also shorten the interval of wakefulness between the naps because he is overtired and the naps are short.
      Let me know how it goes.

  13. 4:30 bedtime did not work out on 10/28. He was sleepy, but resistant to soothing techniques and did not fall asleep until nearly 6. He has been waking pretty consistently at 4:30 or 5am since the sleep disturbance, no matter when he falls asleep (4:50, 5, 5:30, 6:30). He has only slept past 6 once on his own in the last 8 days. He will not sleep in his crib after this wakening but will sleep on me while I hold him for up to 1.5 hours more, or will sleep in his crib again only after feeding. Is one approach better than the other in your opinion?

    His naps are still short but the last 2 days he’s had one 1.5 hour nap per day. We are shortening his wake period if he seems amenable to sleep. He is still not back to his happy self, though. Quick to fuss and cry, shorter attention span, difficult to soothe to sleep.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. “He will not sleep in his crib after this wakening but will sleep on me while I hold him for up to 1.5 hours more, or will sleep in his crib again only after feeding.”
      Please clarify:
      Are you referring only to the first morning wake up?
      How often do you do the holding for 1.5 hours or more?
      How often do you feed him then and he returns to sleep? Here, how long does he then sleep?

  14. When my husband attends to him @ 4:30am, he feeds him and puts him back to sleep in the crib. He then usually sleeps 2+ more hours. When I attend to him, I put him back to sleep while holding him and remain there until he wakes up, about 1-1.5 hours later at which point we start his day at what would be his “normal” time around 6:30. Out of the last 6 days, husbands gotten him 4 times, and I have twice.

    Incidentally, I have also been suffering from novel, acute, severe insomnia since the big sleep disturbance, and for which I am receiving medical treatment.

    1. “4:30 bedtime did not work out on 10/28. He was sleepy, but resistant to soothing techniques and did not fall asleep until nearly 6.” Was he completely left alone between 4:30-6pm or were you soothing him?

      If possible, for the next 5-10 days, please have your husband promptly feed hime and put him back to sleep with minimal soothing.
      Currently, how do you fee about graduated extinction or extinction?

  15. Thank you.
    With the 4:30pm bedtime attempt I was with him for 30min and then my husband was with him off and on.

    I believe my own insomnia -induced anxiety about his sleep has been causing me to intervene too much in his sleep. Today I have only soothed him to drowsy and put him in his crib awake and he is already napping much better. We plan to reinstate his consistent 6pm bedtime, leaving the room at 6pm. I will have my husband feed him and put him directly back to bed if the 4:30am awakenings continue.

    Again, very grateful for your attention and suggestions.

    Regarding extinction, we’ve never really needed to use that before. We do attend to him if he is truly crying (with tears) but otherwise try to let him work it out on his own if it is just whining, or loud vocalizations.

    1. Having insight into your own insomnia-induced anxiety will allow you to be successful in helping your son sleep better! Here are my suggestions. Tonight, sit down with your husband and write down a sleep plan that you are both comfortable with. If need be, have him read any relevant sections of my book for his full understanding. The sleep plan consists of two elements that are equally important.
      1. Work out and write down an age-appropriate sleep schedule for your son that involves maximum involvement from your husband, friends, family, or hired help. If not now, implement this plan when your husband is most available, perhaps this week-end. Because your son has self-soothing skills, the plan involves minimal soothing from adults.
      2. Work out a plan that will restore your sleep by relying on your husband or others. Stand down and let others do the heavy lifting.
      Once started, both elements of the plan are to be rigidly and consistently enforced for 5-10 days. Consider extinction (even when crying with tears) if he is not wet, soiled, hungry, or in distress.
      The idea is to help you better help your son sleep better. Because your husband is cooperative and you have insight into how your inconsistency or too much involvement has contributed to his sleeping problem, please be optimistic.
      Are you comfortable with this?

  16. Thank you so much! Yes my husband has already read the age appropriate sections of your book and we have a part-time nanny who helps. I will indeed endeavor to step back more and interfere in his sleep less. I truly believe he is an excellent sleeper and should get back on track soon. Appreciate your input very much!

  17. Everyone’s sleep has improved! Managed to use your extinction method to let him get back to sleep during a nap. He’s napping better and did not wake until 6:30 this morning. We are sticking with the 6pm bedtime.
    My sleep is also returning to normal.

    I have two remaining questions for you:
    1. Wake times- we haven’t had to think about this too much as he is almost always awake before 6:30, however if he does sleep past 6:30, or wake, but be quietly alert in bed, should we always get him out of bed at 6:30 for consistency?
    2. Daylight savings time! Any tips?

    Thanks much!

    1. I am happy that you are getting more sleep! Always remember what you hear on an airplane before take-off: Put your oxygen mask on first and then your child’s. Take care of yourself; it’s smart, not selfish.
      1. When he wakes up and quietly is looking around, studying the room, planning the day…let him be. When he calls out and signals that he is ready to interact with you, respond promptly. A general goal is to have a first nap around 9:00am but this will vary based on when he starts the day and how well rested he is from the night before.
      2. In addition to light/dark cues that help adjust circadian rhythms, social activities help as timing cues. Just as you might eat meals around the same time after DST, he will associate feeding, playing, bathing, etc with a rhythm of the day. So you can continue with the same approximate clock times after DST; but focus more on how he looks than be rigid about clock times.
      Does this help?

  18. It does, thank you so much! Truly feel much more confident that he is finding his own rhythm and is back to being a well-rested, happy baby

    1. Would you consider writing a narrative report describing your journey helping your child sleep better? I would publish it anonymously as a Blog Post. Your voice might resonate with other mothers going through similar sleep issues with their child.

  19. I would be happy to write that up for you. Let me know the best way to send it to you.

    Our little guy’s naps have truly gelled in the past two weeks.

    1.5-2 hr nap around 8am
    1-1.5 hr nap around 11 or 12
    30-40 minute nap around 3 (although this one has been a little challenging the last two days, he may be close to dropping this nap?)
    Sleep from 6pm – 6 or 6:30 am.

    His mood is generally good. He received his 6 months vaccination and had his first two teeth erupt recently. Last night he woke crying in distress every hour after midnight. We soothed him back to sleep each time. He has also started rolling to his belly in the crib. He does not like being on his belly, so we have been rolling him back. Do you agree with that?

    Hopefully his extreme night wakings was an isolated incident. Can tooth eruption or vaccine side effects disrupt night sleep?

    Thanks again.

    1. Thank you Beth,
      I am happy that naps have improved. You can send the narrative report to me as a comment.
      When a baby is able to roll from their back to stomach, but he does not like to be on his stomach, you might:
      1. Use a rolled up towel as a wedge to prevent him from rolling.
      2. Leave him alone to allow him to learn how to roll back to his back or how to tolerate being on his stomach.
      3. Go promptly and roll him back (if this happens infrequently, it’s tolerable… if it’s a frequent occurrence, it’s not sustainable)
      Vaccinations might cause soreness at the injection site and disrupt sleep for a night or two. Teething pain is a myth.

  20. Dr. W,
    I am experiencing similar problems to those you’ve described and those others have shared. My some is 5 months and 1 week old. It is unclear wether he is 3-4 weeks early based upon the due date based upon the LMP (4 weeks) or ultrasound (3 weeks). His medical history includes IUGR, PPV resuscitation, hyperbilirubinemia, hypoglycemia, SGA, ASD, ankyloglossia, viral meningitis (11 weeks), cows milk protein intolerance, & possible colic/GERD. He exclusively bottle fed breast milk due to MD recommendations for weight gain early on & inability to establish breastfeeding later on due to a variety factors. He has developed unhealthy sleep associations due to his fussiness & my lack of know how. Over time, he became more and more accustomed to sleeping on me as he would fuss whenever I put him down. I’ve been using an app for months, watching for early signs of drowsiness, watching wake windows, etc. I instituted an early bedtime before reading your book. It is difficult to time naps as he either takes forever to get to sleep most of the time. He is either undertired or overtired. If the timing is right, still he will only sleep for 30 minutes unless held the entire time. He has gone to bed for the night as early as 3:30 ish pm. Waking every 3-5 hours to feed. He Generally, he is asleep by 5:30 ish pm. He’ll generally go to bed with little to no resistance at that time now that I’ve identified over tiredness and try to extend naps by sleeping on me. However, I know now this is not as restorative & obviously not sustainable long term. I’m sure he has a cumulative sleep deficit. I’m trying to institute the extinction method, but I am unclear on some points. Yesterday he woke at 6:00 AM. He woke happy & content, so I left him in his bassinet & waited an hour with some crying to see if he would fall back asleep on his own. I then tried to get him to nap around 7:40, but he didn’t seem tired after the nap routine, so I tried to reset for 30 minutes & try again. Inadvertently, he didn’t get to sleep until around 9 AM & was obviously overtired & only slept 30 minutes. During the week I would attempt to sooth him back to sleep or shorten the window if soothing ineffective. As it was a Sunday, we got ready for church & took a car ride instead. He did not fall asleep on the ride, but seemed like he may be getting tired. My husband, despite my recommendations continues to push to keep him up for activities. l was pressured to keep him up until 11:25 ish when he started to fuss, an obvious late sign. I took him back to the car on a car ride & he was out in 5 minutes & slept for 1.5 hours in the car seat. This makes me nervous because of SIDS, but since he always wakes on transfers I let him sleep with close supervision. He probably would have slept for longer, but woke when bringing the car seat into the house. He took his 3rd nap around 3 PM door 30 minutes. I believe he woke cranky, but wouldn’t go back to sleep despite multiple attempts & signs of tiredness. He the fell asleep at 5:30 & slept until 8:30 to feed. Dad attempted to help by doing the feed, but this caused him to wake more fully & required me to sooth him back to sleep with a 2nd feed. He was back to sleep in his bassinet at 9:45. His feedings can take 45 minutes in which he is in a kind of 1/2 sleep. Dad does not consistently help out, so son has a preference for me for any soothing/sleep activities. Through the night he woke at 1 AM for a feed & then continued to wake every 1.5 hours. I ignored his 3 AM wake & he fell back asleep unassisted. At 4:45 AM it had been 3 hours since his last feed, so I gave him a bottle and laid him back down. He protested, but I soothed him in the crib then left him. He cried for an hour, so I got him up at 6 AM. I started his nap routine a little after 7 & he was asleep in by 7:45 after feeding. However, he only slept for 30 minutes & woke upset. Feeding & soothing didn’t work to get him back to sleep. He started showing signs of fussiness, tiredness, & overstimulation almost immediately. I shortened the wake window & tried to get him back to sleep with the sleep routine, but he resisted. I laid him down in the bassinet & let him cry it out for an hour. Then I fed him & was able to sooth him to sleep, but he would wake whenever I tried to lay him down. I didn’t think continuing to let him try to cry it out would be productive. So, I let him sleep on me, but again it was only for 30 minutes & he woke upset. He is still clearly tired, fussy, and overstimulated now. I know tonight will be restless sleep, even with the welt bedtime. How do I proceed? To clarify, what should I do for naps if he wakes/fusses when laid down drowsy, but awake (method a) or wakes/fussed from being almost all the way asleep (method b)? Method b would be the norm at this point as you mentioned consistency is important, but as stated he mostly will not nap for longer durations unless held. Should I continue to hold him for now until nights are better?

    1. Here’s the big picture:
      Read and make your husband read Blog Posts 1-5, 18 and 23. We need to get him more on board.
      At my Web Site, at ‘More for Parents’, at ‘Parents’ Reports’, item #1 is on’Extinction and graduated Extinction’: Read and make your husband read these reports.
      Check with your pediatrician to OK shortening the duration of time to feed your child. The expectation is that he will suck hard for about 4-5 minutes and suck less hard for another 5-10 minutes. Then stop the feeding. Perhaps he will consume less per feeding this way and thus there may be an additional feeding per 24 hours.
      Night sleep develops around 6 weeks of age (counting from the due date) and regular and long naps begin to develop around 4 months of age and are solid by 6 months of age. Your child’s corrected age is about 4 months of age.
      Here are some specific suggestions:
      Focus on night sleep: After reading the above, tell me whether you want to use Extinction, Graduated Extinction, or Check and Console (read the section in my book)
      Do whatever you can to maximize sleeping during the day with hired help, relatives, or hopefully your husband.
      Go to Blog Post #67 and read the thread “Mary” for reassurance and more advice.
      Let me know your thoughts.

  21. Hi –

    We started transitioning our 15 month old to a 1 nap schedule because we thought she was getting too much sleep with 2 naps that were totaling 3- 3.5 hours a day. She also sleeps 11 hours at night. Suddenly she was waking earlier and earlier from her usual 6:30 to screaming at 5:30 so we wanted to try this transition to see if it helped.

    So far it’s taken a week to push her 9:30 nap to 11 but she sleeps for 2 hours when she goes down. We implement an early bedtime around 6 and she sleeps until 5am. I worry we pushed the transition too soon since she is still waking so early and is very tired in the evening. Should we revert for a while and try again later?

    1. Please read about nap transitions in my book to understand how complicated it may be. Perhaps a temporary 5:30pm bedtime would allow better quality and maybe more night sleep so that it is easier for her to shift towards a solid mid-day nap starting between 12-2pm, after which the bedtime would be shifted later. I suggest this because she “is very tired in the evening”. A pitfall is the “5:30pm rut” described in my book.
      Based on her age, going back to two naps does not make much sense.
      How does this sound?

  22. My 8 month old has fallen into a good routine of a mid morning nap around 930 am with a wake up around 11 am and then I put him down for his afternoon nap about 3 hours after he wakes up. Usually around 2 pm. Lately he’s been waking up at around the 40 minute mark and he’s a cranky mess. I can tell he is still tired but he can’t get back to sleep. I usually leave him in there for the hour but he rarely goes back to bed. It’s a pretty rough afternoon until we put him down at around 630 pm. He will then sleep until about 7 am. Any insight into how I can lengthen this second nap? Thank you!

    1. Currently, how does he look (mood and behavior) between 5-6pm when he us unattended but with toys to play with (no screens or parents playing with him)?

      Please shorten the interval of wakefulness between the end of the 1st nap and the start of the 2nd nap. Watch carefully for drowsy signs as you get close to 2 hours of wakefulness and, if present, immediately soothe him to sleep for a 2nd nap even if he has been up for less than 2 hours. How does this sound? If you try this, please let me know how it goes.

  23. He is pretty irritable between 5-6 and will only be held. If you try to put him down to play with his toys he gets upset. I will shorten the interval of wakefulness over the next few days and let you know how it goes. Thanks!

    1. You previously wrote: “It’s a pretty rough afternoon until we put him down at around 630 pm.”
      Now: “He is pretty irritable between 5-6 and will only be held. If you try to put him down to play with his toys he gets upset”
      This is proof that his previous 6:30pm bedtime was way to late. Therefore, in addition to a shorter interval of wakefulness between naps (use drowsy signs as your guide), it is necessary to go to a much earlier asleep time based on drowsy signs; even as early as 5:30. This means that sometimes, he is bathed, fed, soothed, and put down (hopefully drowsy but awake) and you are leaving the room at 5:30pm. As naps improve, the bedtime may be shifted a little later. Can you do this?

  24. I can do that. For the last two days I have noticed that he starts to loose interest in toys/ playing and rubbing his eyes at around the 2H30min mark so I have been putting him down then and he has napped for about 1H30 min. He is much better in the afternoon but will start to get irritable again around 5:30. Does this mean I should put him down at 5:30? Thanks for your help!

    1. Yes. To be absolutely clear: 5:30 is not the beginning of your bedtime routine. “This means that sometimes, he is bathed, fed, soothed, and put down (hopefully drowsy but awake) and you are leaving the room at 5:30pm.” This means his asleep time is 5:30. Let me knowhow it goes.

  25. Dear Dr Weissbluth

    My husband and I read your 5th edition book numerous times and it has helped us tremendously over the first year of our baby’s life. Our boy is almost 15 months old. Since month 13 he’s consistently refused his mid-day nap. His usual wakeup/bedtime is 6am/6pm with a 9am/1pm nap that’s usually an hour long each. Therefore, over the last 1-1.5mo we’ve been attempting to transition to one nap while moving up his bedtime earlier to 530pm and sometime as early as 515pm depending on how tired he is. We’ve tried the one nap at 10ish/10am/11am/1130am, most of these naps are crazy short 30/45min only, with a lot of sleep inertia type of behavior on waking from these naps. He’s banking solid 12-13 hours at night un-interrupted, and every 14 days or so even slightly longer at night probably from the nap debt?

    Our questions are
    1) does the “one” nap have to be mid-day (12/1pm) or middle of his circadian cycle (if it’s 530-530 technically falls around 10/11ish)
    2) will this one nap eventually lenghten on its own to 1.5-2 hours

    Any insight you may have as to what we may be doing wrong or what else we should be doing would be greatly appreciated.

    1. At 12 months of age, 81% of children are taking two naps per day.
      At 15 months of age, 44% of children are taking two naps per day.
      At 18 months of age, 23% of children are taking two naps per day.
      The transition to one nap around 13 months of age is uncommon and now at almost 15 months of age and going forward, one nap is more common. There is not a single or clear strategy for you because of this wide variation of napping behavior at these ages. But not to worry because he is a great night time sleeper!
      For young children, the single nap onset is always mid-day (12-2pm), so my suggestion is to entertain him and distract him as he gets short on sleep in the mid- and late-morning and try to put him down for a nap consistently around noon or as close to noon as possible for 4-5 days. Because he may be short on sleep then, extra soothing might be required. If this backfires and he gets so wound-up and upset that he refuses the single mid-day nap or this single dap is less than 30 minutes and the rest of the afternoon is a disaster, then abandon the effort. During this 4-5 day trial, the bedtime might have to be super early. How does this sound.

  26. Hi Dr. Weissbluth,
    My son is almost 4.5 months old and went from sleeping several hours throughout the night to waking every 45 minutes through the night. He normally gets 3-5 naps throughout the day, but they have started to be a mess- 45 or less and fighting them for 30+ minutes. We moved his bedtime earlier 6:30-7:30 and that has caused false starts after he’s asleep for hours until around 9:00. I know 9 is too late a bedtime. He normally wakes at 7:00.

    We started extinction last night and it went very well. We put him down for his first nap at 8:30 and he slept 2 hours- a first- we woke him at the 2 hour mark (10:30) He showed tired signs about an hour later so we put him down at 11:37. He slept for maybe 15 minutes and now is awake and crying. I am letting him cry it out.

    My question is how long should naps be? I know he is tired from crying last night, should I allow him to sleep for longer than 2 hours/ take more naps? How should I sleep train naps? How long should I let him cry it out? Thank you.

    1. Please read the section on ‘Extinction’ to fully understand how to do it. I suspect that your son developed cumulative sleepiness from a bedtime that was too late. Extinction works well, if, and only if, the bedtime is early. Based on your description of naps, he might temporarily need a 5:30pm bedtime. This will help him repay his sleep debt, improve his night sleep so that he wakes up better rested which allows him to have a better morning nap (don’t wake him) which will lead to a better mid-day nap which will eventually lead to a later bedtime. Improvement is sequential (night sleep improves before the morning nap which improves before the mid-day nap). The entire process may take a few weeks. How does this sound to you?

  27. Dear Dr Weissbluth,

    I am following up on your recommendations to move my 15mo nap (2 to1) to mid-day. I am happy to report that today (1 week later) he went down at 1145am. The 10/1030 slump is challenging the first few days, but with practice we were able to keep him entertained/awake through it. At night he’s down around 515pm and waking up on his own past 6am, so we are very happy with his progress. The naps are still a little on the short side (45min-1 hour each), and we plan to move the nap time slightly back to noon as you suggested. It also took some trial/error to re-configure snacks/lunch time but we are getting the hang of it. Thank you for helping us out YET AGAIN! We are TRULY GRATEFUL!!

    1. You are welcome. Would you be able to write a narrative report describing your journey that I would Post as a mini-sleep consult? If so, should it be anonymous?
      As the nap gets a little later and a little longer, baced on drowsy signs, expect the bedtime to become a little later. Please go very slowly with a later bedtime.
      Sweet Dreams,
      Marc

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