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7 Days to Chunky Naps and 11 Hour Nights – Reader Q&A

May 6, 2014 |  by  |  1 YO, cry it out, Q&A, Sleep Consults
reader mailbag sleep training
This post is part of a monthly series where I invite newsletter subscribers to ask me questions and I share our email exchange with readers. If you want to participate in a future Q&A session just sign up for the newsletter for more details on how to join in!

Alexis,
I’m really glad I found your blog. Sheesh, the internet is a SCARY place, and I’m so relieved to find your safe, understandable unbiased little island of inspiration!

What I need help with is establishing a routine. I need an initial outline. I’m a terrible habit-former. As in, I smoked cigarettes for a few months, then one day realized I hadn’t smoked a cigarette in a while because I FORGOT TO SMOKE THEM. I don’t wake up to an alarm because I can’t get into the habit of setting one in the first place. I eat, generally, during the day at various points when I wonder why my stomach hurts and then realize I have hunger.

So you see where my main problem lies, and add to it the sleep deprivation is creating fantastical worries of child protective services coming in and declaring us unfit because the infant won’t sleep.

I’ve been reading everything on your blog, and I think we’re at the cry it out stage. Caleb is almost 11 months old and we had a great thing going for a while and then dundunDUUUN – the holidays, travel, in-laws, and catastrophic schedules. It was like a sleep tsunami.

Then I had him going down with a little (5-10 minutes) crying, but my LOVING PARTNER IS A YELLOW BELLIED SAP SUCKER and nixed it because he “doesn’t like it!”. I will admit to you if you never ever ever let him find out that partly I think I may have gone back to boobing the baby to sleep out of spite, instead of sticking to my guns and getting him on board. I am equally at fault. Never tell.

But now, Caleb is too big for a swing, a method I thought would work well since he loves being in the Ergo. He’ll sleep in ten minutes if I walk him in that but that. He’s exhibiting crappy day time naps, late bed time, and frequent wakings, and I’m exhibiting the defeated “fine, I’ll let you nurse just sleep for the love of god!” behaviors.

Also, this child has decided to be a “thrasher” and every morning around 4 am when he’s usually in our bed he begins to toss and turn and throw himself around. I have bruises on my face from his head smashing into mine as he violently tries to “snuggle”.

His bedtime is around 10:30 now too when it used to be 8pm.

I’m going to give you what I’ve come up with for a plan, and see if it’s even remotely reasonable. My higher functions are dull so I don’t trust myself to retain much of what I’m reading. Would you let me know where any faults or flaws lie in this approach? How can I mail you chocolate and presents for your help?

The Proposed Sleep Plan

Night 1:
9:00pm – Caleb gets a bath.
9:15pm – Caleb gets lotion and jammies.
9:30pm – Move to bedroom, Caleb gets stories while we nurse.
9:45pm – Loud white noise, lights dim, a little snuggle-bounce, maybe a song.
10:00pm – Caleb in crib. Kisses, good night song, leave the room.
10:05pm – If he’s crying, go in to soothe. No talking, just lay him back down and give a few head rubs. Leave.
10:15pm – Repeat.
10:30pm – Repeat.
10:45pm – repeat? How long do I keep going with this? Assume he sleeps by 11 per usual.

Then he wakes up around 1:30-2am when I normally nurse him and bring him to my bed. (Rarely I’ve been able to rock him back to sleep w/o nursing). Should I feed him? Should I leave him to cry? How long? Do I go in to soothe him?

Night 2: Begin process at 8:45pm

Night 3: begin at 8:30

Night 4: begin at 8:15

etc until 7:30-8pm is bedtime and he sleeps by himself.

Will fixing bedtime fix naptime as well? What do I do about the terrible day time sleeping? Do I make sure he’s not nursing when he wakes up that first time BEFORE we try to let him CIO? After? Is that 4am nurse still a legit feed at 11 months old or can he make it to breakfast? I didn’t even know night weaning was a thing…

Oh gosh this email is so long. It feels like I’m telling you the same story you’ve heard a million times. I hope this all sounds typical and you can offer some guidance or point me to some specific articles and passages on your blog to study (powers of retention are very limitied these days… I may have read the answers, I have no idea.)

One Thing at a Time

Hey Jennifer,

You can definitely mail me chocolates but you may not want to because I’ve already emailed your husband and told him all about your spiteful night nursing so probably that killed all your chocolate-sending instincts. *sigh*

Methinks there are 3 different things going on and you probably want to tackle one at a time vs. all at once:
#1. Naps are crappy.
#2. Bedtime is waay too late (you must be EXHAUSTED).
#3. He’s nursing to sleep and thus nursing all night. You’re also co-sleeping but you don’t want to. And you’re getting cuddle wounds, so that’s not really working out for anybody.

As a result of this you’re all pretty wiped out. But sadly you can’t fix everything all at once, much as you might want to.

The Sleep Training Plan, Bedtime, and Naps

If you’re going to do CIO you need to put him down when he’s used to going to sleep. What time does he fall asleep now? 10:30 PM? So THAT’S his bedtime. Do CIO at THAT time. Yes it’s too late and all the baby books talk about not letting your baby become overtired so there is a tendency to rush to an early bedtime to avoid the dreaded “overtired baby syndrome.” But Caleb’s biological rhythms are currently set up to sleep AT 10:30 PM so putting him down earlier is quite likely to lead to him simply crying until 10:30 PM.

Personally I would strongly advocate for no checks but your sapsucker probably isn’t keen on that. Fine – checks are acceptable. But don’t muck with the time he falls asleep until at least 5 days post-CIO so that you get him falling to sleep solo settled in BEFORE you start mucking with bedtime.

You don’t mention what time Caleb wakes up. Often kids who have a really late bedtime also sleep late(ish). For those kids, you want to wake them up earlier to shift things up. So if caleb is sleeping 10-11 hours at night and thus waking up at 8/9 AM you’ll want to start shifting his nights up by waking him up ~15 minutes earlier each day (9:00 AM, 8:45 AM, 8:30 AM, etc.) If however he wakes up fairly early (6/7 AM) already your plan of inching bedtime up by 15 minutes a day is a good one.

So start with sleep training at bedtime aka helping Caleb fall asleep without nursing. Then work on shifting bedtime up. Your goal is to do what you can do to extend his night sleep to 10-11 hours. Because increasing the duration and quality (fewer wakeups not changing location) during the night will create a much stronger foundation for your success with naps.

And yes an almost 1 year old can definitely go without food for 11-12 hours. Of course if he’s used to eating a ton at night he’ll continue to demand to do so. Night weaning is DEFINITELY a thing. For sure. But often the desperate and constant night nursing is really about his boob=sleep association that is created AT bedtime. When you separate nursing from bedtime the constant night waking/nursing can quickly and organically turn into 1-2X feedings at night. At his age you’ll definitely want to gradually wean off those feeds but Caleb won’t fight you on it so viciously once you’ve separated the boob=sleep association at bedtime.

So think of this list as your “to do” but remember things go more smoothly when you do one thing at a time.

1

Bedtime Sleep Training

He falls asleep solo. No nursing near to bedtime.

2

Bedtime Shifts Earlier

Either by waking him earlier or by gently moving bedtime up.

3

Everybody Gets More Sleep

Total # of hours of sleep at night increases substantially!

4

Naptime

Work on putting Caleb down for naps while still awake.

And Then What Happened?

Holy crap. It’s working.

Now, I don’t want to get to excited and do something stupid and mess it up again, but we are now on Day 10, and not only has he slept through the night the last two nights, but he’s going down to sleep with hardly any grumbling at all.

I took your advice about bedtime and just started inching it up after he was showing good progress and responding to the new bedtime routine. Last night he went to sleep at 9 pm, a full hour and half earlier than he was going to bed the last few months. THANK YOU GODS.

We kinda did everything all at once, though. I started before I received your response, and figured I’d best not mix things up AGAIN so I continued with the double-down of trying to fix naps and night time at once. For my kid, I think it was a good choice. But I’d hesitate to advise anyone else on doing it this way. I think this guy is more responsive if he knows what to expect all the time and the consistency of nap time and bedtime having similar routines helped him figure it out, I think.

So it looks like I am made good progress with #1 and #4 in your plan, at the same time, and now we’re beginning #2 by moving bedtime up slowly. Partly this seems to be happening naturally and I’m trying not to rush it. He’s still rising about the same time though, so it seems #2 will fall into place naturally extending the length of night sleep he gets. It feels like it’s all working out relatively smoothly though!

I’m so glad I found your site, and all it’s great advice and thank you so much for the personal response. Having a solid resource to present to my ever-loving sapsucker really helped too. He read your links and was less adverse to CIO, even though the ONE night I asked him to go in when the baby woke up at midnight he went in there for 15 minutes came back out with the kid still wailing and was like “I tried for like, an hour!” (WEAKLING. This is why the women bear the children. I see it now.) Now, though, that the baby barely even grumbles to sleep and stays down for 8 hours, Papa is fully supporting the endeavor!

I took notes this first week and for the purposes of research and data (aka, reminding myself what the heck I did when the next kid comes around), I’ve included it here.

Grateful,
Jennifer (100% less likely to want to murder a loved one), Michael (the sapsucker/Papa) and Caleb (the now peacefully sleeping cherub)

SLEEP TRAINING LOG – 7 Days

Night #1

9:00pm – Nursed. Potty time, clean diaper and jammies.
9:20pm – Move to bedroom, books in bed; held and rocked. White noise on loud. Laid down, kisses. Left room. (9:35)
5 minute timer – Went in to hug, no holding. Sing, head rubs, lay back down. (5 min? 9:45)
10 minute timer – Went in, hug, laid down. Left room. (2 min? 9:50)
10:00pm – silence, baby sleeps!
11:00 pm – I go to bed.
4:30 am – Woke crying. Nursed, rocked. Put down.
4:45 am – Woke. Put back down. No nursing, just a little head rub.
5:00 am – Woke, or still awake. Sent Michael in, he gave up by 5:13am. I went in, took Caleb to cuddle, no nursing, slept til 7 am.

notes: even this first night was less typical. He seems to “get it” a bit already. Fingers crossed…

Day #2, Naps

#1 – 10:30 (9:30 nursed), clean pants, potty time, white noise in room. Held and rocked. Settled nicely in my arms. Put down, some head rubs, some fussing, went to sleep.
12:00 – woke

#2 – 2:30 pm clean diaper, white noise, rocking. Settles somewhat. Nursed laying on my side, but he got restless, so I laid him in the crib.
5 minute timer – soothe. lay down.
10 minute timer – soothe, lay down. Slept 3:10.
5:00 pm – woke

Night #2

9:00pm – potty w/ Michael, jammies, diaper. Nursed ~8:30pm
9:30pm – story, rocking, lights out, white noise, Thomas in room for observational purposes. Laid down, left. Crying.
5 minute timer – went in , cuddled, laid himself down after a quick minute. BIG sigh. Left room.
10:00 pm – asleep! no fussing.

note: so glad he’s recognizing that he can lay himself down! I thought this was a big step for him, since he has never shown that sort of acceptance (defeat?) before.

Night #3

9:30 – bedtime routine, forgot to write down timers. No memory. ugh.
12:45 – woke. I thought it was 4 am so I nursed him back to sleep :/
3:00 am – woke, took him to cuddle til 7 am. Obviously. still sleep deprived. ugh.

Day #4

Naps got all messed up during errands.

Night #4

9:30 – bedtime routine, nursed first. Stories, etc. Cried when I put him down.
5 minute timer – cried, soothed. Laid down. No holding.
10 minute timer – soothed, head rubs.
15 minute timer – went to sleep before it was up.
4:00 am – Woke. Yay! Nursed to sleep, laid down. Woke right up. Soothed again, and laid down.
8:00 am – woke!

notes: nap and night time def related with this guy. Bad naps made night time a little more difficult. But pretty good compared to last week. He was really ready for this and all signs point to successful outcomes.

Day #5

Nap #1 – skipped, brunch w/ friend
Nap #2 – 2:10, fell asleep on Michael shoulder during our walk, slept ~1 hour in the cargo bike as we walked around the ‘hood. Great weather for outdoor napping! (Also, add to list of places I can get my baby to sleep!)

Night #5

9:15- Bath, jammies. potty.
9:40 – lavendar on temples, lights down, white noise, 2 stories. Rocked in arms. Laid down. He quietly tossed and turned. No cries.
9:50 – left room. Quiet.
10:00 – peek thru keyhole – asleep! no timers needed.
3:00 am – woke, nursed, laid down. Cried a bit. Laid back down. Head rubs.
6:30 – woke. White noise cut out! gggrrr. Stupid radio.

notes: personal goal of getting him to nap anywhere is being realized! Also, white noise effect proven! Need a more reliable radio/machine.

Day #6

Nap #1
9:30 – diaper, white noise, some rocking and cuddles. Laid down, briefly then picked up to get him drowsier. Rocked more, laid down. Toss and turn, head rubs, left room. One squawk, then silent.
12:20 – woke!

Nap #2
3:30 pm – diaper noise rocking. Laid down. Cried.
5” timer – Soothed, laid back down.
10” timer – Fell asleep (bit rougher than AM nap.)
4:20 – woke. stupid radio cut off again.

Night #6

8:30 – Sponge bath, nurse.
9:00 pm – Noise, lavender, stories, rocking (lights out completely now). Put down awake. Toss and turned a few minutes.
5” timer – cried 3” then sleep.
1:45 – woke, soothed, laid down, went to sleep.
3:30 – nursed. radio out again. accidentally fell asleep with him on the bunk. 🙁
7:45 – woke.

note: radio batteries died. Plugged it in instead. Hope this hasn’t mucked it all up.

Day #7

Nap #1
10:00 am – diaper, potty; noise and a quick snuggle, laid down. Cried as I left.
5” timer – soothed. Laid down.
10” timer – cried, then quiet, not asleep.
11:00 am – awake, but calm and quiet. Leaving him be.
12:00 – crying out. No sleep. 🙁

Nap #2
3:00pm – after bike ride/park, clean diaper, nursed in room with noise, laid down, fussed. Head rubs, then left room. No cry, passed out!

Night #7

8:30 – nurse, potty, diaper/jammies. Noise low lights, 2 stories. Seemed ready to sleep, so I laid him down with no rocking. Toss and turn a bit, 2 songs. Left room, no crying.
9:00 pm – asleep!
6:30 am – Woke up, cried a few minutes, then slept another hour. Michael picked him up at 7:30ish.

WOOOOOOO!

Closing Thoughts

Jennifer made HUGE progress in 7 days. The keys were that she was persistent and consistent for both nights and naps. She started where Caleb’s bedtime was instead of where she wished it to be. Also she never lost hold of her amazing sense of humor. Is persistence, consistency, and a sense of humor enough to get you through the dark days of sleep deprivation?

Yeah pretty much.

Clearly I used Jennifer’s email because she is hysterical AND included all the nitty gritty details. Because I’m assuming you want details. Is this true or is this TL:DR?

And also to hopefully give you some hope. You could be 7 days away from some really great stuff. Honestly!

Did her journey resonate with you? Anybody have anything they want to share?

And don’t forget, if you want to participate in future Q&A sessions you can only do so by subscribing to my awesome and free newsletter. Cheers!


108 Comments


  1. Alexis,
    I have soo many questions…

    Our 8.5 month old daughter who is exclusively breastfed wakes every 3 hours at night to nurse. I am going to follow your advice for weaning a nightnursing baby.

    I work full time and we have a wonderful nanny. Our daughter takes 1-3 naps a day, usually anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes each (there isn’t consistency). We have a bedtime routine that we start around 7:15 PM each night, with the goal of her being asleep by 8 PM. She sometimes usually fights sleep a lot by crying and sitting up in her crib. I have to go in every 10 minutes or so and help her lay back down and I usually give her her pacifier and that calms her.

    Question 1: Do I wean the pacifier? When? How?
    Question 2: How long should I go between the last nursing session and bedtime?
    Question 3: If she has a head cold and is terribly congested, the only thing that gets her to sleep is to cosleep with us. I’ve propped up her bed, added a humidifier, given her infant Tylenol and the only thing that helps is for me sleep beside her in our bed. As soon as she’s showing signs that she’s feeling better I return to our routine of her sleeping in her crib.

    Question 4: How long do I let her CIO before I go into her room and soothe her by patting her back, shusshing her, holding her hand, etc? Or, because of Object Permanence should I do NONE of these things?

    Question 5: During the day do you recommend we stick to a strict nap schedule, a strict nursing schedule, and/or a strict solid food schedule so as to set our baby girl up for a good night’s rest?

    Thank you in advance. My brain is mush and I cannot cope.

    Heather

  2. Hi there!

    Please help! I’ve created bad habits rocking my baby to sleep for naps and night time sleep. My husband and I would also run in too quickly at night to soothe him. He’s a big boy, already 16 lbs so I know he can sleep longer.I’m trying to sleep train now. He’s just now 4 months. I started last night letting him CIO, which I swore I’d never do, and it was rough. He wakes frequently at night after a 7/7:30 bed time. I woke up 4 times last night, one for his night time feed at 3:20 am. He wakes up during naps around the 30 minute mark every time unless we’re in the car or I’m holding him (again…bad habit). Do you have suggestions on what my husband and I could do?

  3. This was fantastic and hilarious. Love hearing personal experiences.

  4. Hello there!

    I guess I ended up in your website because I’m really in the end of my rope here… my son is now 1 year old and he is a very hard one to put down for naps… he does sleep through the night and will take a nap after 2-3 hours in crib with many many check ins and stuff but I just feel so exausthed and so freaking frustrated with this situation.. it seems like it’s never a good time to put him down.. too early and he is not tired enough. too late and then, oh well, it’s too late! I have gave up on morning nap because I don’t seem to be able to conciliate putting a baby down for a nap and picking up my daughter at school!
    I neeeeeeed help as I grow more and more frustrated by the minute.. I feel like all I’m doing is trying to put him down and can’t get anything done and this is also affecting the way I talk to my husband and oldest child! This really makes me feel sad!
    His schedule is roughly this:
    7am – wakes up
    7:15ish – nurses
    8:30 -9am – breakfast
    11ish – 1:30/2 – trying for a nap
    2pm – lunch (he is now refusing to eat solids- hopefully a phase that will go away quick)
    He has a snack at some point of the day depending on the time he wakes up from his nap, if he takes one!
    6pm – dinner
    7:30/8 – sleep

    Hopefully you will have some tips for this very frustrated mama here!

  5. Hi!
    I need a serious help with my third baby.
    My oldest and middle children were awesome babies and they still are. Have had no problem since they were 3-4 months to sleep and I didn’t even have to try hard. I am a firm believer of bedtime routine and all, so when I was pregnant with the third, I thought I knew what I was doing. Oh boy was I wrong!
    This one was not so bad at first. We went outside of the country for about a month when he was a month old and he was doing good then, but as soon as we came back to US, everything changed.
    He eats every 3-4 hours during the day, but he wakes up so many times at night and I am so tired I just don’t know what to do.
    My husband is not so patient when it comes to the baby waking up at night and since our older children had no problem like this it has been very difficult and frustrating.
    He naps pretty good 2-3 times a day once around 10 and another one at 2. About 1-2 hours each time and he goes down once more between 5-6 for 30 minutes nap and then goes down for night between 7-8.
    He wakes up so many times and trust me I’ve tried CIO and it doesn’t seem to work with him.
    What do you suggest? I really am desperate!

  6. Hi Alexis,

    As others have mentioned, your blog is really amazing! I have a 6 month old, and we are starting Night 9 of CIO. We put him down between 7:15pm-7:45pm (awake). I try to start nursing by no later than 6:30pm, but last night a friend came over so I didn’t start his last nursing session til 7pm. Last night (Night 8), he fell asleep after only 5 min of crying (amazing!), but he woke up a lot more than usual (good nights it’s been 3-4 times, only feeding 2x in the night (12-2am range) and (4am-6am) range. My husband and I take turns, he gives a bottle during the 12-2am shift, I do the 4am-6am shift. So he hasn’t been really consistent about when he’s waking up in the night, and last night was pretty terrible. Woke up at 11pm SCREAMING, I nursed him, then 1:30am – screamed for 30 min, my husband fed him but he wasn’t really hungry, only ate an ounce. Then he woke up at 4am, cried for 15 min, then at 5:00am – I nursed him for 10 min, he fell asleep, I set him down, he woke up again – thinking he was still hungry I nursed him a bit more put him down at 5:30am, woke up at 6:30am, cried for 10 min, then slept til 8am.

    I have two quick questions:
    1) I’m trying to follow your advice about feeding twice a night, is his inconsistency about waking because we’re not being as consistent as we could about the exact time we’re putting him down?

    2) We haven’t tackled naps or night weaning yet. Should we do nap training next then night weaning, or vice versa, or can we work on them simultaneously?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Alexis,

      Just wanted to share an update – I reread various blog entries more carefully, and decided that our problem was too inconsistent wake-up times and that we were feeding him during the night too inconsistently too. The last few days we’ve been much more consistent (though I have to admit, I did hit snooze this morning and woke him up at 7:55 instead of 7:45am), and have not been bringing him back to bed in the morning for a snuggle. We are also only feeding him after 2am and then after 5am (even if he wakes up before those times). The last two nights, he’s fallen asleep now without any crying, and one of the nights he only woke up once!!

      I also decided (based on re-reading your blog entries), to start nap training before night weaning, and so far so good. We started during afternoon nap yesterday, and have continued today. He cried for about 10 min and then falls asleep for an hour in the am, and in the afternoon, he’s been putting himself back to sleep for a total of almost 2 hours of sleep.

      I share to say thank you for your incredible work, and also for any parents going through similar experiences, in hopes that our trouble-shooting is helpful. My husband and I are TERRIBLE about consistent schedules/routines, so this is not easy for us, but it is definitely worth it to learn!!

      Thanks so much!

  7. I have an 11 month old that’s started screaming crying and totally hysterical before every nap and bedtime the last few days. She will eventually go off after 20 minutes of crying for her naps but bedtime she won’t stop until we go in and hold her she drops of in minutes and after 10 minutes she’s put in her cot and doesn’t wake until 7am is this a phase or SA? I’ve never had to do this before. Not sure whether waiting 15 minutes before going in and comforting her is too long or not long enough. Naps range from 35 minutes to 50 minutes. She’s only having 2 naps a day up 6.30-7am bedtime 7-7.30 but seems to be more like 7.30. Nap times 10am and 2.45pm

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