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What You Need to Know to Diagnose Your Child’s Sleep Struggles EP 6

July 5, 2016 |  by  |  naps, night sleep, Podcast, schedules

This podcast is essential listening. Full stop. If you want to figure out why your child isn’t sleeping this podcast is going to provide the foundation in sleep to diagnose your specific issue.

The world is awash in baby sleep advice. You probably have 3 baby sleep books in your home as of this second. This is the 5th baby sleep website you’ve visited today (YES I KNOW YOU ARE CHEATING ON ME, I’VE MADE MY PEACE WITH IT). Facebook groups, Babycenter, Reddit, etc. we are drowning in resources providing us with insights into our baby sleep woes.

Put them down for naps every 90 minutes. Pick up, put down is a lifesaver! It’s definitely a sleep regression! Probably teething? Maybe they need more exercise. Have you tried cutting out all products with sugar? Push bedtime earlier. Later. Nurse more! Nurse less! Offer a bottle! Put rice cereal in the bottle! The answer is co-sleeping!

No. The answer is that you need least a general understanding of how sleep works, biologically, so you can wade through the piles of advice to figure out which applies to your particular situation.

This podcast will provide you with a crucial understanding of sleep including:

  • How sleep develops from birth into a more mature sleep pattern around 5-8 months.
  • How nap sleep works and how it’s different from night sleep.
  • Why wake times are crucial and how to use them to maximize naps.
  • What is object permanence and how it’s keeping you up all night.
  • How to identify the sleep association that is leading to night waking.
  • Why “wait it out” doesn’t work.
  • How to use light exposure to help your child sleep better.

In a nutshell, it’s everything you need to wade through the oceans of sleep advice and accurately identify which applies to your particular situation.

must listen podcast

If you find this podcast useful and you want to encourage us to keep it up, ratings and reviews on iTunes are always welcome!


58 Comments


  1. Great podcast! Very informative and easy to understand!

    What do you recommend on the occasions when bedtime has been pushed (due to family visiting/special outing, etc)? When a usually easy to fall asleep baby is now overtired and a fussy mess, and crying at bedtime because bedtime is too late, is it ok to fall back on soothing methods such as pacifier to go to sleep for that night? Or do you recommend they just CIO after doing the usual bedtime routine? I don’t have a problem with CIO in general (I have let him CIO when I felt it’ was needed). I just feel bad having baby CIO on THOSE particular nights because I feel like it’s MY fault he can’t fall asleep easily that night because I chose to push bedtime later for whatever the special occasion was that evening, when he normally can fall asleep very easily and independently at his normal bedtime.

    Also, baby goes to sleep at 730pm and wakes up between 430-630am for a bottle and back to sleep. Is there a reason or a bad thing that it’s not the same time each morning? But always within that time frame?

    • Odd nights like that are a tricky situation and ultimately you have to use your judgment. Some kids can roll with a sleep association one night. Others will be nursed to sleep one night and only one night, and then protest greatly when the sleep association is taken away again. Experimentation will tell you which type of kid you have 😉

      What you are describing is the “snooze button feed” and it’s often the only way to get to a civilized hour. Stay tuned for a podcast about early wakings.

      • My 3.5 month old daughter does that exact same “snooze button feed”! It can be so frustrating because she is so awake and wants to play after I feed her. I can usually get her back down, but sometimes it won’t be until 7:30am, which is her normal wake up time anyways! Should I let her go back to sleep and get her up later? Or stick with getting her up at her usual wake up time?

  2. I’ve not got all the way through – listening at work – but at 8 minutes when you talk about adjusting your own bedtime, oh my gosh, I can’t support this enough. I am currently recovering from the effects of not heeding that advice. I work fulltime in corporate communications last year, at about 20 months, he got really rubbish at sleeping and my husband and I took the path of least resistance – him in with us, and he is what I would politely call and ‘active’ sleeper (which I now know is perfectly normal!). At this time I began having severe anxiety – essentially I had a panic attack that lasted from October through to earlier this year during which I had two mini breakdowns which consisted 24-plus hours of non-stop crying and some other nasty symptoms (suicidal thoughts among them). After the second mini breakdown I started CBT alongside drug therapy (I should have done this much sooner, but I didn’t want to be seen as failing – a whole other conversation). Neither Fluoxetine or Citalopram worked – in fact they made my symptoms way worse. Halfway through therapy it suddenly clicked that maybe sleep was the issue (Duh) and exacerbating my natural tendency towards anxiety. (My fight/flight response was treating EVERYTHING at that point like a sabre toothed tiger) I raised this with my Dr (who is super understanding and listens) and he gave me two weeks of zopiclone to reset my sleep patterns and I switched to amitriptyline for its off label treatment of sleep. I’ve not looked back – I feel human again. I am now VERY defensive of my sleep! Unfortunately though, DS (now two and a half) is not sleeping great again, so on that note, I will continue on with podcast… (and my work!)

    • What a rough ride, and one more experience that shows just how important sleep is for parents too! I hope you feel better soon!

    • I am SO sorry you had to slog through that miserable experience and so happy you found a path back out. But yes sleep is crucial for us! This isn’t specific to you, studies are unambiguous. Long term chronic sleep deprivation breaks us. This is one of the many reasons why the “wait it out” philosophy makes me furious. How is this helpful or reasonable advice to new families? (Not counting the first few months where obvs. there is a bit of waiting it out required). Telling parents of 1, 2, 3 year olds that they need to keep on trudging ignores the fact that sleep is an essential biological need and that foregoing it for long periods of time has SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE EFFECTS.

      Anyway, SO glad you feel human again!

  3. Alexis, your blog kept me sane during my son’s 1st years (which I kindly call baby purgatory). In the grand scheme of things, he’s been a pretty easy baby and on a good sleep routine and has healthy sleep habits since birth.
    He’s now 20 months, with one nap a day (1.5 – 2 hours). Nap and bedtime routines have been consistent and he tells us “night night” and asks to be put in the crib, which is great. The issue is that for the past month, he has been waking up several times a night which is driving US insane! He also insists on ONLY me to soothe him in the middle of the night, which is driving ME insane! Luckily (HA!) his night wakings require only a quick cuddle, reassurance, and he’ll say “night night” again and falls back to sleep in his crib, so at least he’s not up for hours at night. But, I’d like to sleep a full night without him crying out for me.

    Should I let him CIO? We used to give him 10 minutes before attending to him which seemed to work well in the past. That all stopped when he learned to call for me. Now it’s too heartbreaking to hear him yelling for me or speaking full sentences to wait the full 10 minutes. I feel like I may have just answered my own question but I’d love to hear your take on this.

    Some more backstory, just in case it’s relevant: My husband took time off from work and has been home the last 5 months (yay daddy daycare) which has allowed me to start working full time since my son was born. I work from home but ever since I started locking myself in my office for long periods of time, we’ve noticed my son has become increasingly clingy to me and only wants me when he needs to be soothed (day and night).
    We’ve been traveling a lot during this time, with a long stretch of 6 weeks (May – June) on the road. Despite the travel, we’ve kept his general routine as consistent as possible, so he seemed to do fine with the changes, jet lag and had a great time. We are home now and back to a consistent routine. He’s started daycare 2 weeks ago and seems to be doing fine (a little upset at drop-off but that’s it).

    So yes, there’s been some big changes in his life to possibly explain his poor sleep behavior but I’m out of ideas as to what to do help ease him out of this “regression.” Thanks for your help and loving the new podcast!

    • I forgot to mention, he used to sleep till 7am (sometimes even to 8am, those rare unicorn mornings) but he’s been consistently waking up around 6am this last month.
      His bed time was consistently 8pm which worked fine until now. We’ve been putting him to bed at 7:30pm the last few nights but he’ll hang out in his crib till about 8pm before falling asleep.
      We’re trying to shift his bedtime to ultimately be at 7:00pm to make sure he gets enough sleep at night, esp if he plans on staying an early riser.
      I’ve noticed he gets tired by 11am for his nap. He usually goes down for his nap between 12pm / 1pm.

    • So just a brief recap of the major life changes within the past few months:
      – change in primary caregiver
      – immense amounts of travel including jet lag
      – started daycare

      THIS IS HUGE STUFF. This would be the adult equivalent of getting a divorce, moving out of state, and launching a new career in the same month 😉

      Also there’s the issue that you can’t wait because it’s too heartbreaking because he’s using words. Personally I would see that differently- words make EVERYTHING better. You use words. He uses words. You’re having a dialogue! This is awesome! Use this – talk to him about what IS and ISN’T OK at night. TELL him what WILL or WON’T happen when he calls at 2 AM.

      Because yes you have a huge amount of change happening. But this is still fundamentally a behavioral issue. I know this is true because of this “only a quick cuddle, reassurance, and he’ll say “night night” again and falls back to sleep in his crib.” <— that right there tells you the answer. This is behavioral.

      I would do the following:
      1) Push bedtime back to 7:30 or even 8:00. Pushing bedtime up at this age to "make up lost sleep" is likely not helping. He's waking earlier because he's outgrowing the need for so much sleep. If you don't want him waking at night make sure he's not sleeping MORE than his body needs.
      2) Have dedicated consistent 1:1 time with him each day – you + him. No dad. No distraction.
      3) Remove yourself fully from bedtime (temporarily). You're not part of the routine for now.
      4) Use your words – you're not coming in at 2 AM. Tell him WHY. You need your sleep to be a good Mom. He needs his sleep to stay strong and healthy.
      5) Mean what you say.
      6) REWARD him not calling for you at 2 AM. Morning pancakes, trip the park, whatever.

      Do all of those things consistently for 1-2 weeks and report back!

      • Thank you for the fast response. I’ll let you know how it goes!!

      • One week check in!
        The last week, I swear, I had moments in which I thought he was possessed. We had a perfect storm of him getting sick, breaking out in hives due to the cold, and all four canines wanting to come out at the same time. Daycare was closed so he was at home with us all day, another wrench in the routine. He was irritable, cranky, extra clingy and the poor sleep was compounding which led to the most epic tantrums I’ve ever seen!
        However, we tried our best to stick to the plan. I made sure to set aside mommy 1:1 time, explain to him that I can’t be at his beck and call at night, and gave him 10 minutes if he woke up before dad went in to give him comfort.
        Saturday he was taken to the hospital with fever and hives. Saturday night, he woke up at 1am and threw the biggest tantrum I’ve ever seen. At first, we thought it was night terrors but it devolved into a full on body throwing, sobbing, screaming tantrum that lasted almost 2 hours. He screamed himself hoarse. Then he woke up Sunday morning and proceeded to throw another tantrum. Usually we are able to calm him down quickly by talking to him, but there was no reasoning with him these two times. Finally I had it. I told him firmly, “It’s okay you’re feeling this way and you can stay in your room until you’ve calmed down. When you’re calm, you can come find us and we’ll go downstairs and have breakfast.” After 5 minutes, we heard the sobbing subside, he walked in to our room calmly and quietly… AMAZING.
        I was feeling pretty hopeless about all of his crazy behavior and dreading Monday when we brought him back to daycare. BUT… after reading your advice, I realized that after coming home from our travels, we’ve been lax with having a predictable schedule at home. Every day feels like a weekend day because my husband is at home. Before my husband’s sabbatical, my son and I had the same morning routine (at least on weekdays) which set the tone for the rest of the day. So Monday, I started establishing a morning routine with Luca before we dropped him off at daycare. This way, he knows he will always get mommy 1:1 time in the morning and in the evening when I pick him up from daycare.
        It is now Thursday, Luca has slept 7:30pm – almost 7am for the last two nights with no night waking. He wakes up happy and refreshed. He is thriving at daycare and is not clinging to me or crying at drop off.
        Establishing a morning routine has benefits for me as well. I’m going to bed earlier to make sure I wake up 100% present for Luca so we can both start our day right. I work from home so I fall into the trap that my office is always “open.” With the new schedule, I have been much better at setting my work hours by giving myself the responsibility of dropping off and picking up Luca at daycare. I’ve been able to turn off my work brain and actually enjoy the evening with my family and letting work wait till the next day.
        Thanks Alexis for the advice, it makes so much sense. Sometimes it’s just so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re thick in the mess! I will report back in two weeks to let you know if his sleeping through the night this week was a fluke. Please let it not be so!

  4. Love your blog and I can’t wait to hear about how to brake those sleep associations! I’ve got a 7 months old that still demands to be nursed to sleep. All I want is for him and ourselves to be able to get a restful nights sleep.

  5. Alexis (and PLS crew), Thanks for a great podcast. When I received the email announcing the latest podcast I couldn’t wait to give it a listen. Again it didn’t disappoint. My question pertains to how to time the last nap of the day so my little guy isn’t over tired or under tired. This has proven to be quite tricky. My son is five months now and naps (not well) 3-4 times a day. The third nap can end anywhere from 3pm to 5pm. Bedtime typically falls around 7:30 so if he is up from his last nap at 3pm I feel like I should nap him a fourth time. This is usually a quick nap in the swing (20-30 minutes) but is still late in the evening (around 530/6pm when he gets home from day care) and encroaches on bedtime. I don’t want to adjust bedtime but this makes it so on some nights he is up for 2-3 hours before bedtime and other nights just an hour. Mind you the napping is done at daycare so during the week I don’t have much control. We are stuck in this 5am wake-up and wasn’t sure if his bed time or sleepiness/not so sleepiness at bedtime is contributing to this. Thanks again for your help. Can’t wait for the next podcast on independent sleep. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure this one out without tears.

    • So by 5 months I would lock in on a bedtime that you feel you can commit too. If he’s napping till 6:00 PM then that might be 8:30 PM (~2.5 hours after he wakes from his last nap). Once you’ve committed to a bedTIME, then you defend it by managing naps so that he doesn’t sleep within the 2.5 hour window prior to bedtime. In your case that means wake him up if it’s 6:00 PM and he’s still asleep. Over the next month or so you’ll notice two things happen:
      – the WT prior to bedtime will expand to 3 hours
      – He’ll stop napping at 5:30.

      When those things happen bedtime will shift up to likely closer to 7/7:30.

      If you have to pick between OVER tired or UNDER tired heading into bedtime, OVER is generally better. Asking a 5 month old who has only been awake for 1 hour to go to bed and sleep well generally doesn’t work out well (unless they’re sick or something). So the 2-3 hours should be more of your normal pattern prior to bedtime.

      Is that why he’s waking at 5 ? Unsure – LOTS of reasons why kids wake at 5 AM. Luckily we’ll be covering that soon in a new podcast (plug plug 😉

  6. Ok! I just clicked “post” and saw how incredibly long my post was. I do fully apologize.

  7. I want a PLS bumper sticker too! Dorota, yes to everything in this post! Looking forward to the response.

  8. Alexis and Admins,

    First off – Thank you from the bottom of my sleep deprived, anxious heart for this podcast, the blog and everything that you do to help us figure this baby sleep stuff out! I need a PLS bumper sticker already – seriously!

    Here’s my long winded question/essay:
    On PLS and on this podcast episode, you underline how important a consecutive bedtime is. My 5mo1w boy wakes at different times in the morning (between 5-7am), follows a 2/2/2.25/2.5 routine (some days there’s a 4th nap with a 2.25 wake time, but we’re in the process of dropping it). Because of the inconsistency with wake-up time and resulting inconsistency with number of naps, I have found it impossible to have a consistent bedtime without stretching him for too long before sleep, which I’m currently not doing, by the way.

    Between 2.5 – 4 months, I was able to have a more consistent bedtime at around 6:30pm because I was rocking/holding/swaddling/pacifier-ing my boy during his last nap, so I could often successfully manipulate the timing/length of that last nat nap. I was also “saving” earlier naps by swooping him up and out of his rock n play and rocking back to sleep, often finishing the nap in my arms. Crazy town, I know.

    By 4 months we had a mess on our hands, spent hours bouncing on the exercise ball in pitch black rooms, many frequent wakings during bedtime process and at night, too many night feedings, sleep associations, fussy baby, etc. It was the whole ugly nightmare you write about on PLS.

    At just under 4mo we started dabbling in sleep “work” – started with sleeping in his own room, solid bedtime routine, feeding 30m before sleep, then sleeping in crib, then at 4.5mo we tried CIO/falling asleep on his own for bedtime/unswaddled w/out pacifier, and started working on the too frequent nightwakings.

    Right now my son doesn’t sleep through the entire night – usually waking after 8-9 hours. We’ve had a couple nights of no nighwakings, none in the last month though. At this point, he’s waking 1x if bedtime isn’t too early. If we fall into an early bedtime, there may be a 2nd waking very early in the morning. If we fall into the later end of bedtime, the 1 waking also tends to be in the early morning. On those nights, it is incredibly difficult for my son to fall back asleep at 5am-ish, so he is up for 45+ minutes or so trying to settle back to sleep, and that final stretch of sleep often (but not always) lasts for a short period of time.

    At 5 months we started nap training – nap in crib, falling asleep on his own, separating feeds from sleep by 30 minutes, no swaddle, no movement, no pacifier, removing all the sleep props that helped me influence when naps took place.

    In the last week (right after turning 5mo), my son started fighting the 4th nap and finding it more difficult to fall asleep, sometimes refusing the 4th nap altogether. For a short while, a car nap was a surefire way to get that cat nap in (he never naps in the car for longer than 30m anyway), but now he struggles even then. I do crib naps, but when I’ve been out and needed to do the cat nap in the car, it always worked. The fact that it’s such a wild card now, I feel forced to get into early bedtime-land, which (in conjunction with the short naps) creates even greater bedtime and wake-up windows.

    Right now his naps are pretty crappy, averaging 30-barely 60 minutes instead of the desired 1-2hrs. The short naps lead to – “Hey! It’s 2:30pm and we just woke up from nap #3! Since your sleep was crappy and nap #4 is a toss up, we’ll stay on the safe side and do an early bedtime of 5pm”. On other days when I’ve been out, following a 2.25 waketime from a 2:30pm wake-up, car nap #4 would fall on 4:45pm and he would wake at 5:20 with a 7:50pm bedtime!

    So, our window of bedtime has turned into anything between 5 – 8pm! This is a new development, possibly related to dropping this 4th nap, but it’s clearly way too big of a window and it’s throwing days and nights completely off!

    Other random things:
    He is a crazy cryer – crying before sleep and at wake-up from naps and nights. Usually very intensely and I hold my breath every day waiting for a furious neighbor to knock on my door! I will say that he starting to cry less and less while putting himself to sleep and it seems to be taking less time too. He almost always wakes crying from naps and night sleep, but I am starting to see exceptions here and there (of him calmly laying in bed and babbling) becoming more frequent – so I’m hoping that’s a trend.

    About 3 weeks ago, I was trying to get on a 3 nap schedule with a consistent bedtime, but I found myself stretching his waketimes too much and he turned into Mr. Fussy Pants and it wasn’t fun for anyone involved. Interestingly, his naps were better around that time and he was connecting sleep cycles very often, so naps were more like 1st: 1-2hrs, 2nd: 1-1.5hrs, 3rd 30-45m.

    I’ve been working a lot on tweaking his waketimes and right now we’re at 2/2/2.25/2.5, but I wonder if the first one needs to be 15 longer because his first naps are usually super short (30 – 40 minutes). I’m a little nervous because of the age appropriate 2 hr waketime standard.

    And, I’m sure it’s apparent from my entry, I’ve been tweaking almost ALL things sleep related in the last 4 – 5 weeks, some are still fresh and possibly haven’t had time to fall into place just yet…

    So, long story short …

    IF consistent bedtime = consistent wake-up time AND consistent wake-up time = consistent naps HOW do I get to consistent bedtime without obscenely stretching waketimes?

    With the fluctuation that I’m dealing with on the front and back end of night sleep plus nap inconsistency and wildcard nap #4, how do I stretch my son from a possible 2:30pm wake up from nap #3 to a 6:30-7:00pm bedtime (6:15-6:45 lay down)?

    How much stretching can I do to get to a consistent bedtime?
    Do I just stretch the last waketime or spread out among all waketimes?
    What is the consistent bedtime window? 15? 30 minutes?

    Thank you and I apologize (sort of) for the long post 😉
    Best,
    Dorota

    • ruminating – ruminating – ruminating

      So that’s a lot of stuff to process. But here’s what jumps out at me.

      1) Wake times are not an exact science. Don’t feel like you “must adhere to the rule of 2 hours” or anything. Do what works for YOUR child. Feel free to experiment.

      2) “On those nights, it is incredibly difficult for my son to fall back asleep at 5am-ish, so he is up for 45+ minutes or so trying to settle back to sleep, and that final stretch of sleep often (but not always) lasts for a short period of time.” So I’m wondering if this is actually more of a nap. Meaning he wakes up at 5:00 AM “for the day” has a short wake time, takes a catnap, then goes on about his business. Neither hear nor there really but something to consider – what if his REAL start of the day is 5 AM? (This is not unheard of BTW).

      3) Consistent bedtime frequently STARTS by having a consistent start of day. You says yours is between 5-7. One angle would be to start dialing that down by not allowing him to sleep past 6 AM. This has 2 benefits – puts you on target for a more consistent bedtime AND establishes the basis for a “by the clock” nap schedule.

      Additionally the “no later than 6 AM” plan has a few other benefits. As he IS dropping the late nap he’s likely to start having his last sleep of the day in the vicinity of 2:30/3 PM. If he can be awake 2.5 – 3.5 hours prior to bedtime this puts you in the zone of a 6:30 PM bedtime.

      That would be:
      – consistent
      – age appropriate wake time (slightly OVER tired is better than UNDER typically for bedtime)
      – And if he sleeps till 5/6 AM, gets you an 11+ hour night sleep duration.

      That would be a pretty solid night of sleep for a kid who takes crappy naps during the day no?

      • Alexis,

        Thank you for responding!

        1) I’ll play around w/ waketimes. Thanks for the encouragement – I think I can stretch the first by 15 minutes to see if that will get us a more solid 1st nap.

        2) I feel like the early morning “night waking” only happens if his bedtime is too early or too late. Last night he had a later bedtime at 7:50pm, lay down at 7:35. He woke at 4:20, I went to him at 4:30, put him back down at 4:45 and then he fell back asleep at 5:30. If his bedtime is somewhere in the middle, then he’ll usually wake around 2/3, fall asleep within 20m, then sleep to 6am.

        3) This ties to what I just wrote. His wake-up tends to fall at around 6:00 most of the time, so maybe I should go by that…

        I pull him from the crib at 6am or later, which usually doesn’t go past 7am.

  9. Hi again! Just wondering if this sounds like a sleep regression or something else:
    8.5 month old, falls asleep independently for bedtime and naps. Last bottle and dinner of the day about 30-40 min before bedtime. No paci use during day or at bedtime. Takes 3 naps, usually the 1st or 2nd is an hour. Rest are 30-45min. Past few days all naps are 30 min, bedtime at 730 no problem there, but waking up around 930/10ish crying and only soothed with either paci or bottle. Nothing has changed routine-wise. Only change i noticed is that he usually finishes his solids dinner and doesn’t drink bottle, maybe an oz or two. Past two nights he won’t finish solids dinner but will drink more of the bottle (4oz) which is unusual. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    • There’s a lot going on at 8 months so I almost never use the term “regression”. If you don’t use the paci ever then I wouldn’t offer it at 9:30 typically.

      I’m more inclined to think this is a sign that he’s ready for 2 naps. Even when he takes crappy naps, the 3rd nap might be mucking up his pre-bedtime wake time. Most 9 month olds are awake close to 4 hours prior to bedtime. Short wake time can definitely lead to mysterious night wakings popping up on you.

      • Thank you for the reply! I’ve been wondering that too if it’s time to skip the 3rd nap…I’m just really nervous about having him awake that long before bedtime. Does that mean I should push bedtime up a little bit to 7pm while he adjusts to the longer wake time? And slowly push it back to 730? Hoping it also won’t make him start his day earlier. Have grandparents babysitting him so would like him to start the day as late as possible to give them a break.

        • (He’s currently only awake for 2 hours before bedtime…that’s why I’m worried about jumping to 4 hour wake window between nap and bedtime)

      • So we tried a couple of days with skipping the 3rd nap…fail! =( he was toooo overtired by bedtime with a wake time of about 4 hours. He would either cry really bad and fall asleep or sleep-cry throughout the night and wake up earlier than usual. Seems like he’s not ready for such a long wake time. What we do now is give him just a 10 min catnap in the swing around 430/5 with a bedtime at 730 and he’s doing well with that. He doesn’t fight that 3rd nap at all (yet) so I guess I will hold onto it until he starts fighting it. also, his top teeth came out last week so maybe that’s what was causing the night wakings as well? ahh the mystery that is babies!

  10. I just listened to this entire podcast hoping to get some advice for why my 20 month old is suddenly unable to go to sleep at bedtime. Turns out this is a (great) podcast for people with newborns! I wish you would have mentioned that to begin with. I feel like I just wasted 44 minutes hoping there would be something to help my screaming baby (yeah, he was screaming the whole time).

    Can you throw a bone to those of us with toddler problems? We are traveling — should we just throw sleep training out the window and use any method that works? Or is this happening because it’s summer? Or what is the ‘really common’ 2 yo sleep regression mentioned in one of the comments?

    Please help,
    Sincerely,
    Broken hearted mama

    • Not just a bone, a whole section on the website! And it’s all free, so even better, right?! See here: https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/toddler-and-preschooler-sleep-guide/

    • Hey Andrea,

      I’m sorry you didn’t find your answer here. But I do want to be clear: EVERYTHING in this podcast applies to toddlers and older kids. We have done a few on newborns (talking pacifiers and swaddling) that were specific to the <6 month crew. But this one full on applies to your child.

      Your child is likely struggling to sleep due to issues unrelated to sleep hygiene (which this podcast covers). The likely issue is BECAUSE TRAVEL. Which is it's own specific topic.

      • Thanks for your reply! We re-did CIO which was pretty horrible (he cried for 3 hours) but since then he’s been pretty good about napping and sleeping like he used to do. AND he put two words together for the first time. “Big truck” instead of just “Truck”.

        Thank you again for all these resources and I cannot wait for your book, which hopefully has some advice for traveling parents…

  11. Hi Alexis,

    Love your site! I’ve probably read almost every post, ha! I have a stubborn, breastfed, 10 month old son who has never been a good sleeper. I nursed him to sleep for far too long because he didn’t seem to like any other soothing. I started putting him down awake about two months ago and had to use cry it out – extinction method because he would get too riled up if we went in there. He takes two naps a day and waketimes are about 3ish hours. Goes to sleep no problem now and sometimes may cry 5-10 minutes before falling asleep at nighttime only. For about one week he was sleeping 7-8 hours consistently (7pm-2 am) and then waking up to eat and sleeping until 5 am. I could bring him in bed with us and get him to sleep until 630ish. He’s reverted back to waking every 2-3 hours and the only thing that will calm him down in the middle of the night is nursing. I suspect he’s hungry because he’s too busy to eat during the day. Although his nursing sessions aren’t very long (maybe 3-4 minutes max) so it could be habit?? He’s a really strong willed baby and I know CIO isn’t effective for night weaning. We also live in an apartment complex and I dont want CPS called on us 😉 I’m kidding but the kid can really scream.

    Any suggestions?

    • His night is a touch long. At 10 months, he probably needs a solid 4 hours between last nap and bedtime in order to accrue enough sleep debt to fall asleep and stay asleep for a long stretch, and an 11 hour night is average (https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/secret-baby-sleeping-12-hours-at-night/). I’d experiment with putting him to sleep at around 7:30-8 for a week and seeing what happens.

      Also, when you say he goes to sleep “no problem,” that means nursing separated from bedtime by 20 minutes, no pacifier, yes?

      • Thanks for the reply! Yes, nursing is separated by 30-40 minutes before sleep and he won’t take a pacifier. I’ve been putting him to bed after a four hour wake time and he’s still waking after 3-4 hours. He is definitely falling asleep awake at nap and bedtime. I’m not sure what’s going on but I sure am tired!

  12. Loving the podcasts! Thank you for all you put into them! Just curious when the next one is coming out? Is there a regular timeframe or just as you are able? I know you all have crazy busy lives too – just curious; and excited for all the topics! The website is really helpful but I really enjoy listening 🙂

    Thanks again for the podcasts!

    • Hey Joy,

      We’re working on a 2X a month (or every other week) schedule. Mostly because (despite the enormously amateur sound quality) they take a lot of time to create 🙂

      Thanks for listening!

  13. Good morning! Any suggestions on how to get a very active 9 month old to stay still long enough to finish a bottle? He is so active and only wants to play, and because he is underweight (1%) we are concerned about his calorie intake. It seems that the best time for him to have his bottle lately is right before his naps, which I know is not the best since we don’t want a feeding=sleep association. I also heard that nap sleep and bedtime sleep is different. Is it ok if he gets a bottle right before naps, as long as he doesn’t get a bottle at bedtime?

    • Btw, he’s been an independent sleeper otherwise for naps and bedtime. I don’t want to mess that up now by introducing a bottle at naps! Thanks for all your work!!

      • Hi Sam,
        Just wanted to let you know what works for me. My daughter is 8 months, an independent sleeper and also tiny (15 lbs). I was concerned about her weight gain, too as she is in the 13% and dr. made me bring her for a weight check. From 6 months on, she has been the most distracted eater. I breastfeed and I started feeding her right when she wakes up. I stay in her room, keep it dark, white noise still on. She is still sleepy so she eats (similar to her 1 night waking). If I bring her downstairs, she doesn’t eat. She is too busy looking around and wanting to play. If you are concerned about feeding right before naps, maybe try right after? This can help with gas issues, too. I know if I feed right before naps or bed, there are too many burps (she has silent reflux) that interrupt sleep.

        • Thanks for the suggestion! That’s actually the routine that we did prior to starting solids. Since we started solids, he gets a solids meal after waking from nap and then bottle an hour or so later, about 15-20 min before nap. We are gonna try switching around the bottle and meals so he gets a bottle when waking up and solids before nap. Hopefully it will work!

    • Is your pediatrician concerned about weight? Because 1% isn’t necessarily underweight just as 99% isn’t necessarily overweight. But OK let’s assume you’re worried.

      Distracted eating is really common for this age. Life is happening, bottles are boring, and nobody wants to stop playing long enough to eat. Pre-sleep feeds go easier because they’re slowing down and thus can be coaxed to eat more. This is not a problem unless it IS a problem. If you give him a bottle, read a few books, then put him down for a nap and he sleeps great – bobs your uncle. If however he starts falling asleep on the bottle and naps get short then it’s not working for you. Try it and see!

      • Thank you for the reply! He’s a baby who loveeesss routine so I feel like he would become dependent on the bottle for naps if we continue. We are going to try Jennifer’s suggestion and swap the timing of bottles/solids. We also have his checkup soon and I’m going to ask if we need to be concerned about his formula intake. His weight hasn’t really worried the pediatrician THAT much since he’s always been on his own curve even tho it’s the 1%ile, but it’s been a constant worry for me even though he’s SO happy and active and healthy otherwise. When you’re used to seeing other babies who are so chubby it’s hard not worry when you see him and he’s so tiny. Thanks again!

  14. Two questions:

    1. What is the ideal time between light exposure (playing outdoors) and beginning the bedtime routine which lasts 30 minutes before the child is in bed?

    2. If your body has a rhythm to sleep, when your toddler stops (refuses) to nap, do they lose that rhythm to nap during the day? More specifically, we moved to quiet time when he was relentless about not napping (improved our sanity and his) but we worry that he won’t return to his rhythm (like he usually does after a stubborn streak) and will not be well rested. He often falls asleep late in the afternoon if we errands (3pm-ish) which NEVER EVER happened in the prior 3+years of his life.

    We would be interested to know how these things affect his sleep. Thanks!

    • The studies on this specifically look at adults so it’s hard to give exact numbers as I’m extrapolating from adults not little dudes but I generally find that 1.5-2 hours prior to bedtime is solid. The key here is – if your child has a hard time falling asleep then bright light prior to bedtime isn’t helping. If your child has NO issue falling asleep and sleeping to a reasonable time in the AM then the light exposure is not a problem. So let his behavior guide you.

      The circadian rhythm has little to do with napping, it’s a primary function of night sleep. It sounds like he’s 3+ years old which is typically the age that most kids STOP napping (https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/baby-drop-naps/) and he’s likely DONE 🙁 He’ll fall asleep in the car because he’s still got one foot in the “nap years” but that’ll only happen for a few months and then that’ll stop too.

  15. I’m a desperate first time mommy that can’t seem to get my 5 month old to sleep through the night. He will only sleep 2-3 hours at night & wakes up. He used to be such a good sleeper sleeping between 5-7 hours at night. Now something has changed I haven’t done anything different I try to have bed time between 8:30-9pm & it includes bath & feeding in dark room with soothing music. What are some things I can do to help him sleep through the night? He won’t take a pacifier & he won’t stay in his swing & fall asleep only when he was an infant he would sleep in his swing I think he out grew it. I will take any suggestions please help.

  16. Thank you for another amazing podcast. I’ve stopped looking at other sources of information.. Your website is a one-stop-shop!

    I have a question regarding my 4 month old baby. We re-settle her 8-10 times per night. Some nights less, some nights more. We know that we have accidentally created a monster by introducing several sleep props early on (rocking/shushing/patting/dummy/feeding) and didn’t realise they would be a long term issue, so we’re kinda stuck with them!

    We have a very consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. She knows its bedtime at 7pm every night. We also ensure age-appropriate awake time. Although in saying that, I have found different people recommend different awake times. I spoke with one sleep consultant who recommended 2 hours awake time and another recommended no more than 1.5hours. We aim for 1.5 hours or earlier if she is showing signs earlier. I think we need to possibly keep her awake a little longer right before her 7pm bedtime sleep.

    I KNOW we need to stop the sleep props and help her to learn to ‘self-settle’ but she is so reliant on them that we just don’t know where to start. Do we take them all away at once? One at a time? I really want to avoid crying! Its tricky knowing what you need to do but not knowing how to do it 🙁

  17. Hello Alexis,

    can you help me? I don’t know what to do. Have a 9 month old and he simply won’t sleep. Have tried everything and nothing works, so I ended up settling on the times where he should be landing anyway, nap and bedtime-wise. He is fighting every sleep time anyway.

    -Bedtime 6:30, sleeping by 7, crying 1/2 h, no matter if I’m in the room or not
    -Wakes 3:30, goes back to sleep on his own
    -Wakes 4:30, is carried around without food or playtime, cries for 1-2 hours, falls asleep at 5 (sometimes)
    -Wakes at 6:30-7 day starts (sometimes he won’t even go to sleep again at 5, meaning he is up from 4:30 on.
    -1st nap 8:30, sleeps at 9, already way overtired but won’t sleep earlier, sleeps 50 min
    -2nd nap 11:30, sleeps at 12, already waaaay overtired but won’t sleep earlier, sleeps 50 min
    -Tried every time between 2 and 5 to put him down for a 3rd nap, but nothing works. He won’t sleep for 5 to 6 hours.
    -Put down again at 6:30, by then already waaaaaaaay overtired.
    -Next day just the same.

    The 4:30 waking is recent. Is that because of 7 sleep time? I can’t put him to bed later. He’d be so overtired because he simply won’t sleep after 1pm. Please help.

  18. Hi Alexis! Just wondering if u or any others have some suggestions…my 9 month old is currently sick with a virus . He’s still falling asleep on his own well at night, but waking a few times now and so I give him a bottle to make sure he’s staying hydrated since his milk intake is a little low during day. Anything I need to keep in mind to help things get back on track once he’s feeling better?

    • ahhhh hope he gets better quick! woke up 5 times last night, and bottle didn’t help. seems like he was just looking for some comfort from me. im worried about creating bad habits now while he’s sick but at the same time I don’t want to leave him crying while sick! the strangest thing is that he’s still falling asleep 100% independently at bedtime! doesn’t need extra comfort or soothing at bedtime oddly enough.

  19. hi! so baby is feeling much better thankfully. But he’s waking up a couple times at night now when previously he would only wake up around 530/6ish for a bottle and back to sleep. I’m wondering if these wakeups have to do with separation anxiety at this age or what. He falls asleep on his own wonderfully at bedtime so I don’t think it’s an object permanence issue. I don’t think he’s really hungry because he only drinks a few ounces. Any recommendations on handling separation anxiety at wakeups? CIO? Soothe back to sleep and wait this phase out?

  20. Somewhere on this wonderful blog, you told someone in the comments that at bedtime, slightly overtired is better than slightly undertired (I wish I could find where you said that!). Does this apply to naps as well?

  21. Awesome information on the podcast! I think I’ve come to realize that my 7 month old is associating a bottle and patting of the thigh with sleep. He’ll go to bed at 8:30 and wakes up between 1-2 to eat and be patted down and again at 4-5. As a baby around 3-5 months he would wake up once around 4-5 am which was fine with me Bc I would still get some rest. But recently the last three weeks he’s begun this new wake cycle. Any suggestions? Do I completely remove a feeding so close to bed? I was also making the big mistake of feeding him in his crib and then just removing bottle and patting him. But I just read that feeding them lying down can cause an ear infection now I started to feed him in my arms. Any help would be very appreciated! I’m really running on fumes now.

  22. Hi! I was wondering you had any insight into this…My 11.5 month old used to sleep from 730pm-730am with a snooze button feed around 6am. Lately he’s been waking up at 3am, has a bottle, then wakes up at 630am for the day. Last night, he woke up at 3am, but didn’t cry, was just kind of playing around so I let him be thinking he would fall back asleep on his own. After half an hour, he was still up (and so was I!) so I went in to check his diaper for a leak or poop, nada, so I gave him a bottle and he still didn’t go back to sleep right away! In total, he was probably up for close to an hour. I have no idea why! His wake time before bedtime seems long enough, 4 hours. He naps about 2.5 hours during the day. Could this be a sign of dropping to one nap? Or just a phase because of all the developmental stuff going on (learning to walk/talk etc)? I’d appreciate any thoughts/suggestions! Thank you!!

  23. Hey! i have found your podcast really helpful. in the midst of completely loosing my mind (my 5 1/2 month began waking ever 1.5-3 hours to feed for a solid month) i finally followed your CIO method and our little guy is successfully falling asleep on his own in his own bed with at his consistent bedtime nightly. the first week or so he began sleeping longer stretches (4-maaybe 5 hours) and now he is consistently waking 30-50 minutes after he puts himself down (first sleep cycle?), then an hour and a half in he wakes and from that point on is waking (like freaking clockwork) every 3 hours again. i refuse to feed him every 3 hours again and have tried everything. help?

    • So there is no obvious “this is what that is” thing jumping out at me but whenever I see that sort of stutter-sleep happening at bedtime it’s almost always linked to:
      – a scheduling issue (bedtime too early/late)
      – a lingering sleep association (something is still IN there)
      – not awake enough at bedtime (sounds like this is NOT your issue)

      My best guess would be scheduling – is he awake ~3 hours prior to bedtime? Are you using a pacifier or feeding TOO close to bedtime? Is he 100% awake? The answer lies in one of those issues – likely.

  24. Hi,
    Im a new mom that needs a lot of HELP! My son is 7 months. I feel that I need help with everything from naps to bedtime and scheduling. I dont seem to know where to start. I recently quit my job to stay home and go to school. Since after the holidays its been a mess. He used to sleep at night and would only wake up once or twice and now he literally wakes up every hour at night and i have no idea why. He uses a pacifier and sleeps in the crib. Where should I start? naps? schedule?.. I don’t really have a schedule for him and i know i need to. My son seems to wake up at night and the only thing to put him back to sleep is to feed him. What is the right thing to do?

    Thank you in advance.

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