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What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through the Night – Part I

Bedtime Battles with Baby

After you’ve read 1 or 8 books on baby sleep you may be rightfully confused about why your 8 month+ baby is still up all night. And while I’ll admit that there are a few reasons why this may be happening 99% of the time there is one single reason why older babies, toddlers, and even preschool kids are still waking up multiple times each night. If you’re ready to sleep through the night you need to understand why they’re waking up and what to do about it.

Teaching Baby to Fall Asleep

You’ve been teaching baby to fall asleep since the very beginning, usually through some combination of nursing and rocking. When they’re younger than 4-6 months nursing, rocking, bouncing to sleep is effective and totally reasonable. While some babies this young will figure out how to sleep through the night most will wake up 2-3 times a night (newborns may wake up 4-6 times but this usually settles down within a few weeks). You feel tired and develop a substantial coffee habit but this is what being the parent of a baby requires and so you do it.

But you are hoping for the night your baby delights and surprises you by sleeping all night long. I mean REALLY all night long (not the crazytown “4 hours in a row” that many sleep books talk about).

Your baby also hasn’t yet mastered how to fall asleep on their own. She still needs to be rocked, nursed, etc. and complains loudly when you deviate from this routine. Some babies are champion sleepers who figure out how to fall asleep on their own. How delightful it must be for these lucky parents of easy babies. These babies sleep often and easily, establish predictable nap schedules, rarely fuss, and poop unicorns.

Most babies are not so easy.

When to Put Baby Down Awake?

Newborn Baby Sleeping QuietlyFor the first 3 months you are welcome to nurse, rock, bounce, etc. your baby to sleep guilt-free. No you don’t want to let your baby become overtired and yes various soothing techniques/use of swings will HELP her fall asleep. But the truth is that you have enormous flexibility to help your baby sleep however and wherever it works best for everybody for the first few months.

The easiest (this, of course, is a relative term) time to work on teaching babies to fall asleep on their own is ~3-6 months of age. If you are the parent of a 3-6 month old you may be thinking, “Um…this isn’t easy at ALL!” For some babies it’s NEVER easy. So maybe you could consider that 3-6 months of age is a time when it will likely be less horrible to teach your baby to fall asleep on their own?

6-9 months is less ideal. Why? Because most babies are starting to get teeth and this brings it’s own night challenges into the equation. Because some babies start developing separation anxiety around this time (8-12 months tends to be the peak) and this can complicate your efforts to put her down and leave the room.

But most importantly, if you haven’t gotten your baby to fall asleep on her own by 6-9 months you are likely to find that your baby who was waking up 2-3 times a night while a newborn has turned into a 6 month old who now wakes up every 45 minutes all night long and if this continues you will willingly shove bamboo shoots up your own fingernails because this would be preferable to another long night of waking up every 45 minutes.

Why You Need to Put Baby Down Awake

Read this carefully. Don’t skim it, ACTUALLY read it. What I’m about to tell you is the single most important thing you need to know about why 99% of babies older than 6 months are crappy sleepers. What I’m about to tell you is the answer to every post on every desperate new-baby forum where desperately exhausted parents are asking questions like:

  • My baby used to sleep great and now is up all night. I think he’s teething – help!
  • My 8 month old is hungry all night long. I’m afraid my milk is drying up. What can I do to increase milk production?
  • 7 month old used to sleep great in the crib but now will only sleep while being held. My back is killing me. How do I get her back into her own bed?
  • 9 month old is having terrible separation anxiety and now demands that we come back into his room and rock him all night long. We’re soooo tired. Anybody know when things will get better?
  • How do I get my 14 month old baby to sleep through the night?

The answer to all of these questions/challenge is actually THE SAME. The following 2 pieces of information are the missing links that most parents don’t understand and that fundamentally hinder their ability to help their child sleep through the night.

#1 Object Permanence

Most babies develop a new skill around 6 months (give or take a month) called object permanence. Prior to this for babies, out of sight LITERALLY meant out of mind. Now they can remember things, people, etc. exist even when they can’t see them. This is closely linked with stranger/separation anxiety which occurs because now your child actually remembers that you exist when you aren’t physically present. For the first time they are capable of missing you. Which is really sweet but often hard to enjoy. It also means that they are now capable of remembering that you were THERE when they fell asleep but are MISSING when they wake up.

Many of you will know EXACTLY when your child mastered this skill. It was the day your once decently-sleeping baby became a short-napper who wakes up all night long.

#2 – Baby Sleep is Fundamentally Different from Yours

Most nights adult sleepers will wake up ever so slightly ~4 hours after they fell asleep. Usually you fluff your pillow, roll over, and aren’t even really aware that it happens. Unless you’re pregnant in which case this is probably when you make your nightly trip to the bathroom.
What Your Sleep Looked Lke Before You Had Kids

Babies wake up all night long. Sometimes they may need your help or a quick meal to fall back asleep. But I promise you that between bedtime and morning your baby wakes up far more often than you know. Beyond the times when they wake YOU up they also cycle into light sleep far more often than adults do. This is roughly how your baby sleeps from 0-6 months of age:
Modified infographic from Dr. Richard Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems

Babies who have not yet developed object permanence can be happily rocked, bounced, or nursed to sleep without issue. They’ll wake up 2-4 times each night to be fed and/or rocked back to sleep. It’s not the most fun thing you’ve ever done but it’s to be expected of newborn babies. So you clutch your coffee with white-knuckled hands and dream of the day your baby sleeps through the night. But putting your baby down 100% asleep will seem like it’s a winning strategy. For now.

But once your baby develops object permanence putting baby down while asleep will almost always blow up on you. Now your baby remembers that when they fell asleep you were there. When they move into light sleep where they used to simply fall asleep on their own, they wake themselves up fully. Because you were there, and now you aren’t. Worse, they’re generally pretty upset. In their own baby world they’re yelling at you saying, “Hey! Where did you go! What happened?”

Why babies sleep poorly after they develop object permanence

Let’s put this in perspective. Imagine going to bed in your bedroom. A few hours later you wake up on your front lawn. Would you simply roll over and go back to sleep in the grass? Or would you stand up and start screaming? Would you demand loudly to be let back into the house so that you could sleep in your bed? Do you think you would be freaked out by the mysterious force that somehow carried you out to the lawn?

Your baby is reacting to the surprise of finding out that the circumstances they observed when falling to sleep is no longer the circumstance they are finding when they wake up. There are lots of different surprises that can result in a baby who wakes up all night long.

  • Putting baby down 100% asleep
  • Pacifier use – fell asleep in mouth, wake up not in mouth
  • Mobiles or other timed devices – on when fell asleep, off when wake up
  • Music used at bedtime but not played all night long
  • Mommy/Daddy stay in room till baby falls asleep but then sneak out

Now you and your baby are up all night. Even worse, their longest window of uninterrupted sleep probably occurs before you even go to bed so now you are literally up all night.


Thus, in children, the first three or four hours of the night are spent mainly in very deep sleep from which the child is not easily aroused. Parents are often aware of this fact, because the period of lighter sleep that follows, with more frequent wakings, may begin at about the time they are going to sleep themselves.
-Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems Dr. Ferber

That Way Madness Lies

Most people don’t understand these two things. They don’t understand what a fundamental shift object permanence is in their baby’s perception of the world. And they don’t understand how different sleep for babies is from our own. So they continue to rock, nurse, etc. baby to sleep. Things are getting worse but they’re desperately clinging to the hope that it’s just a temporary sleep regression. Maybe it’s a tooth that has yet to erupt. Perhaps they just started daycare and are hoping that everybody will settle into the new routine and things will get easier.

They won’t.

Bedtime Battles with BabyIf you continue to surprise your baby by changing the circumstances after they fall asleep, you’ll find yourself with a baby who starts to fight falling asleep. They become hyper-vigilant at bedtime because they know that you’re trying to sneak out. Some babies will fight sleep desperately trying to keep an eye on you so you can’t go anywhere. The baby who used to cuddle and laugh with you at bedtime is now agitated and anxious.

Imagine the scenario where you woke up on the front lawn. How many times would this have to happen before you started to struggle to fall asleep in your bed? Before worry about the mysterious alien force that was moving you in your sleep kept you from sleeping AT ALL?

This hypervigillance is completely understandable from their perspective, isn’t it?

So now you’ve added bedtime battles to list of fun things you’re dealing with at night. You’re probably dealing with it during the day too as the surprises that are waking your child up all night are making their naps short during the day. The 4 month old who used to take a 2.5 hour nap is now a 9 month old who never sleeps longer than 45 minutes. And she wakes up miserable and is generally inconsolable for half an hour every time she sleeps.

Of course now that her naps are significantly shorter and she’s getting poor quality sleep at night (because she’s constantly waking up) she’s a lot less fun to be around. As are you, because you are morphing into a bleary-eyed troll who can’t remember where she put the car keys and is so cranky the mailman is afraid to deliver packages to your house.

Ah….good times.

When Does it End?

This ends when you stop surprising your child when they sleep. When you stop rocking them to sleep. Stop nursing them to sleep. Stop cuddling them to sleep and then sneaking out the door. When you stop using any timed device (mobile, music, etc.). When you stop using pacifiers at bedtime.

Your child wakes up many more times a night than you do. The scene they find when they wake up needs to be IDENTICAL to the one they saw when they fell asleep.

No this is not the ONLY reason why older babies and toddlers wake up at night. But this is the MOST LIKELY reason.

When you’re ready to stop shuffling around like a sleep-deprived zombie, you’re going to need to come up with a plan to teach your child to fall asleep in such a way that there will be no surprises throughout the night. You and your partner need to commit to that plan. And put it into action.

The series continues so keep reading!

What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through The Night – Part 2
What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through The Night – Part 3

Anybody have any experiences with this they would like to share? Lessons learned? Happy success stories?

{photo credit: Paul Sapiano}

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221 Comments


  1. Hello, my baby girl is 9 months old and will only fall asleep nursing while laying down on my bed . If I try and get up once she is a sleep she will wake up. I have no clue where to start with trying to get her to sleep on her own:( Help! She has never once slept in her crib .

    • I’m in the same scenario at 8 months and need answers too! Hugs!

    • I am in the same situation with my 6 month old son. He will only sleep if I am there with him. If we put him in his crib he is waking up every 30-45 minutes..

  2. Great article! My wife and I wish we would have found this earlier. Our son is just over 7 months old and this ALL sounds way too familiar. We’ve tried “crying it out” and after nearly 2 hours on multiple occasions, we gave in to the same old routine. I guess it’s time to try it yet again.

  3. I am having sleep issues with my 10 month old. We have been doing the Ferber method for almost a month and she goes down to sleep around 7pm relatively well (though its still all over the place–sometimes she falls asleep right away, other times she cries for 40 mins.). She sleeps through the night until sometime between 4 and 5:30. At this time we feed her and put her back down but she doesn’t always go back to sleep. If I let her fall asleep on me after the bottle rather than putting her down, I could be successful at getting her back to sleep. However, would that hurt the progress we’ve made getting her down at night?

    Also, we are having issues with naps. Ferber method is no longer working for naps. She just cries for the 45 mins until nap time is over (Ferber says to wait 30 mins and then end the nap time, but I wait 45 mins). I think she knows that I will take her out of the crib. Again, if I feed her a bottle and let her fall asleep in my arms, I could successfully get her to sleep alot of the time. But I am trying to be consistent about getting to fall asleep on her own for both naps and her big night sleep. Sometimes she only gets one nap per day. And often its a cat nap. I’ve tried moving nap times which doesn’t seem to help. I don’t know what to do. Please help!!!

  4. Thanks for this article; so well written and clear. My 7 months has been self settling for bed and naps for over a month and used to wake for just one feed during the night. Recently, she has started to wake 3 times a night for feeds – every 3 hours. It’s been warm, but I’m not convinced she needs it as her nappy leaked for the first time ever this morning at 5 it was so full! For some reason, she’s also started fighting her morning nap quite a bit of the time. She recently transitioned to 2 naps, but this was always the sure one! I’d be really grateful for some advice as we’ve been trying to get her down for 1.5hours now and the night waking is draining me. Thanks.

  5. Hi, I’ve been reading things from your website since my daughter was 3 months old. I used the swing and the white noise and it worked wonders. However my daughter is 8 months and I cannot get her to fall asleep on her own to save my life. I’ve tried baths, bottles, rocking her until she’s drowsy and dropping her off so she knows where she is and it doesn’t matter. As soon as she realizes I’m not holding her, she cries. Sometimes she’ll even cry while being held because I’m not rocking her. It’s a fight every single time it comes down to her going to sleep. What else can I do? I also do not slow her to stay awake too long. Idk. I’m out of ideas.

  6. Hi, I really like all your articles and tips. Here is the problem I am facing with my 9 month old who doesn’t want to sleep b/c she is too excited to play and sit up and pull herself. So when we leave her in her crib drowsy to fall asleep on her own, she doesn’t cry, she plays and talks to herself and tries to stand up and sometimes this goes on for 2 hours and at the end she ends up without a nap. So to actually make sure she is sleeping we rock her and she does great during the day – two naps for about 1-1.5 hours. However at night is a nightmare – she wakes up every hour. Again if I leave her she might cry for a few minutes and then starts to play so she would go in between playing and crying but I feel like she won’t ever fall asleep on her own. I really have no idea what to do with her anymore. And I need some sleep too…

  7. Hi Alexis! Love your site.

    Was hoping I could pick your (well-rested) brain. I have a different question about bedtime and separation anxiety.

    We did CIO at 16 weeks to break a very, very bad paci habit. Our daughter had started sleeping through the night on her own at 2 months, but at the 3 month mark, out of nowhere she seemed to have developed a sense of object permanence, and every time the paci fell out, we had to provide reinsertion services. It only took one day of CIO to break the habit, and for the next month, bedtime and naptime were actually something we looked forward to. I would feed her, change her, then read her a bedtime story. She’d yawn and pop her little left thumb in her mouth right around the time we said good night to the old lady eating her “mush,” and then I’d deposit her in her crib, close the door, pour myself a glass of wine, and enjoy the rest of the night. Naps were similarly peaceful.

    At about 20 weeks, seemingly again out of nowhere, she developed an intense sense of separation anxiety. When a new person enters the room, she looks back and forth between me and the new person with a look of intense fear on her face, searching for my approval. If I hand her off to the new person, half the time, all hell breaks loose. For the first few days, this didn’t appear to be affecting her sleeps. Then, again(!) out of nowhere, bedtime when awry. I’d put her down in the crib and everything would seem peaceful, but before I had made it halfway down the hallway, she’d be screaming. Oh, the screaming. Over an hour of screaming for the last 4 nights. She looks over her right shoulder towards the nursery door, screams for a few seconds like she is trying to summon me back into the room, turns toward her left thumb, sucks it, looks like she is about the fall asleep, then turns towards the right screaming again. Rinse and repeat. Until she finally falls asleep. Then, she stays asleep for 11-12 hours and wakes up with a smile on her face.

    For some reason this doesn’t appear to be affecting any of her naps except for the last nap of the day (which used to start around 3pm). That nap is now history after it appeared that she was just going to scream for an hour. So now, she wakes up between 6-7am, gets about 3-4 naps (usually short ones, 30-45 minutes, rarely longer), is awake for 1-2 hours between naps (except for the evening ever since the last nap disappeared), and bedtime is between 6-7pm (followed by the aforementioned hour + of screaming).

    Is CIO the best way to be dealing with this? Do you think this is all related to separation anxiety, or the loss of her last nap of the day, or perhaps she is transitioning to a new sleep/nap schedule? I decided to introduce a lovey this morning – I put it next to her right side for her first nap (which she fell asleep for with no protest). I’ve read Weissbluth but he doesn’t really have anything useful on how to deal with extinction bursts.

    Would appreciate any advice you might have!! Many thanks.

  8. Sleep training done-does CIO ever apply again?
    Your advice has been very valuable. My 6 month old can successfully put himself to sleep at bedtime and for naps typically in 5 minutes. Bedtime is 7 and he is up at 5:30/6.My question is what to do with wakings at 3 or 4 am. (I do a dream feed at 11am and do not usually feed again until he wakes at 5:30 or 6.) In your opinion, does CIO no longer apply once a baby has been sleep trained. How would you apply your philosophy to periods of growth spurts/teething/developmental milestones. Do the old standard tricks of nursing and rocking undo all the training?
    Thanks in advance!
    Carol

  9. Using pacifiers or letting baby nurse at the breast while falling asleep has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.

    • I would amend slightly to say that using pacifiers while falling asleep and nursing in general has been associated with a lower incidence of SIDS.

      That being said the paci can and does cause substantial sleep problems especially for babies older than 6 months. So those parents might need to consider not using the pacifier for older babies.

  10. Ok so our 7.5 month old can put herself to sleep no problem at bedtime. A normal night for he uses to result in 2-3 wake-ups, which was great! But for the past couple weeks she has been up every two hours. I nurse and she goes back to sleep. Now, I know she can put herself to sleep but I also don’t think she needs to eat this frequently at night. She eats solids 2-3 times a day on top of breastfeeding. She has 6 teeth..we thought maybe teething but we haven’t seen anymore come in for the past month. But still lots of drool and always chewing things. It just doesn’t seem like it could be this bad for so long because of teething? Help!

  11. Hi.
    My 8 month old is has started refusing to lie down when I put her in bed. She immediately goes onto all 4s then to sitting, and stays sitting and crying until I go in to breastfeed her, and even then sometimes she does not fall asleep. Sometimes she drinks so much she vomits, but still doesn’t go to sleep. How to do I get her to sleep when she won’t even lie down (even thought she is absolutely exhasusted)?
    She usually used to fall asleep after 5-20 minutes of crying.
    thanks!

    • Hi Naomi-
      Our 9 month old is going through exactly what you describe here. Did you figure out what to do?

      Thanks,
      Kara

      • Hi Kara. It was a phase so we just let her cry after i fed her. Max 30 mins. She grew out of it.

        • Thanks! That’s good to know. It’s like he hates to be on his back. When we put him down, he just cries, and immediately gets on all 4s rocking forward and backward. We’ve never let him cry longer than like 10 min… So, yours would fall asleep within 30 min?

        • Usually. She also prefers her tummy. Your son might wanna sleep in his tummy.

  12. I have a 3 1/2 month old who was sleeping 8 hrs in a row at night til a few weeks ago. Now she wakes up several times at night, and getting worse. Last night she woke up almost hourly. I have been rocking her til she’s drowsy, then putting her in the rock n play by my bed, where she’s always slept. Been trying to stop the pacifier use, so she went down fine without it. But without fail, every night she wakes up 45 mins to an hr later, crying. I have tried shushing and patting but it makes her mad. If I give her the pacifier she will go back to sleep. Usually. She also is a champion 30 minute napper. 🙁 I’ve been lucky a few times to get an hour. She always has her morning nap in her swing, and every nap after that in her crib. Is 3 and a half months old enough to be super attached to a pacifier?

  13. My almost 6 month old has been able to sleep for 4 hours during the night time and he would wake up to be fed and some nights, he would fall back asleep after I give him the bottle and he wakes up 1-2 hours again. Then I give him another bottle but this time, he doesn’t fall asleep after. I also swaddled him at night too and there would be times where he would roll over while being swaddled. I’m losing hope because I’m soo tired ! He also takes 2 naps: one around 2pm
    For about 45 min and the next is at 7-845pm (longest). Then we bathed him at 1030 and then give him
    A bottle and he would sleep for 4 hours . Then the night repeats . *sigh

    • Hi Monica!

      I also have a 6 month-old and we have been doing the CIO method this week. While reading through your post I noticed that you are putting your baby to bed a little late – 10:30pm. Is this his normal bedtime? Around what time does he wake up in the morning? I only ask because this might be the main issue you’re facing. Generally, for a baby waking at any “normal” wakeup time – around 6am – their bedtime should be around 6:30-7pm. For my daughter, she goes to bed at around 7pm, wakes at 5:30am at which time I offer her a bottle and put her in her swing for an early nap. She generally sleeps until 9am and then has another 2 naps at around 11am and then around 2:30pm. I’m absolutely not suggesting that my schedule is ideal but I would say that around this age babies do best to sleep every 2.5 hours and have an early bedtime. Thoughts? 🙂

      • Hey Amanda, apparently that was my little ones routine from 5months +. Suddenly now at 8months +, she has started fighting it waking up every 2hours or so. Your routine was exactly what we were used to until I really don’t know what happened. I loved the fact that I could predict her next move. Now my mum is around and I’ve been trying to put my baby back on track by letting her cry it out but my mum always refuses to let her and goes in to pick her up. It’s getting frustrating.

  14. 10 month old has been co sleeping with us for months, we have attempted to transition to crib with no luck! Over the course of last 6-8 weeks, LO has been waking up multiple times in night sometimes crying, sometimes playing and it takes feedings to get back to sleep for a short couple hours then we repeat! No one is sleeping well. Routine is the same nightly and goes down between 7-8 and wakes between 5-6 no matter how often up thru the night! LO needs to go to crib and we need some much needed rest! Help… I feel like a failure as a new mom!

  15. I have a 3.5 mo old and we are working towards the crib and away from a bouncy sleep chair. Its a challenge but going ok so far. I’m confused about your suggestion to use a swing. I’ve read so much about “negative sleep association” and we are trying not to rock or feed to sleep, how is the swing different? We want them to learn to fall asleep themselves right?

  16. We are getting our 10 month old to fall asleep at bedtime on his own. It has started going better an better.

    I know it is essential that he gets good naps during the day to help with bedtime. But when, and how, do I start letting him cio for naps?

  17. Alexis,
    Desperate! My 6 mo old hates the swing, won’t take a paci and has been exclusively breastfed so he won’t take a bottle. I think he’s most definitely come into object permanence. He’s waking every 45min to 2 hours. Never sleeping longer than 2-2 1/2 hours. He co sleeps with me bc he was being tested for VLCAD from the time he was 2 weeks until almost 5 mo. It’s a condition where he had to eat every 2 hours (gradually increasing time with age) to keep his blood sugar up so sleeping with me was the only way I stayed sane. So now I’m stuck feeding him all night long. His crib is also in our room bc we are in the middle of building a house and a nursery didn’t seem logical with a move around the corner. Do I crib train him or sleep train him first? How do I break him from nursing to sleep? I’ve recently attempted mild CIO, where I stay in the room. a few times I have let him cry several minutes then lay with him and he falls asleep. But he still wakes up all night long. I can’t tell the difference between when he’s waking to eat or just to comfort suck. I haven’t had more than 3hours (and a rare 4 hours) of sleep since he’s been born! Any advice would be so appreciated! Thanks!

  18. Uri, my little lovely bundle of a tyrant ruler who rules with a crying fist of fury. I can say quite literally the day he turned nine months old, is the day he threw all methods out the window. I’ve been reduced to a blubbering cry-it-out sleep training method where I peek in at him at intervals. I believe I went wrong at bringing him into the bed to co-sleep because I couldn’t handle another couple nights of mushing my face into the mesh of his crib in total exhaustion as I figure out some method of getting him to sleep. Naps and nighttime sleep seem like a long ago dream. Tonight we started the five minute interval cry then peek in. Tomorrow night is ten. Back to gradually rising the time limit over the course of the next few days. I’m at my limit of ideas, nothing works anymore save for co-sleeping (which has worked since he was a newborn) and I can’t keep co-sleeping with him because the once grand self-soother, refuses to acknowledge he can get himself to sleep, err, sorta. His routine is all over the place again, I feel like an absolute terrible mother, heck, I’m a stay-at-home now and my day is baby and house all day everyday and I can’t seem to do even that correct, it feels like. The five minute interval worked tonight. Tomorrow night’s bedtime is ten minutes. And also figuring out how to get his naps back on track, the duration of time between his naps, how many, how long they should be. And what is good for him. He used to nap three times a day for three hours total, after two hours to two and a half hours he’d go down for a nap, till three naps total then bedtime routine then hopefully asleep by the latest of anywhere between 7:20PM to 7:40PM. (He loves to sleep at weird numbers, it’s how he always has.) Now I try to keep him up for three hours between his first nap, three hours, second nap, then it gets tricky towards bedtime. Naptime and bedtime are now a war-zone, he fights me on them scream and nail, and tonight is the beginning of a hopeful self-soother in the making yet again after he was about two hours and forty minutes past his bedtime (Usually 7PM is where he use to be asleep in his bed.) The inspired individual who could write stories for hours, had the greatest imagination of all, now stares at her son through the mesh of his bed in a zombified stupor wondering if I’ll ever know the silence of blissful baby sleep.

  19. Hi Alexis,
    I am a father of 8 month old twins, a boy and a girl.Let me get straight to the point. Our daughter Mia has almost always been a good sleeper and in the last week or so has started sleeping almost all of the night from nearly 7-8pm till about 5-6pm. On some nights she has woken in the middle of the night but I have managed to put her back to sleep without mum needing to nurse her. They are both mostly breast fed, maximum 120ml of formula a day some days none.Our son Ian on the other hand was colicy while he was younger and used to cry in real agony between 7-9pm up until the age of 4-5 months. Then his sleep improved for the next few months untill a few weeks back. Now he never at goes to sleep on his own without being nursed and never sleeps for longer than an hour and if we are lucky 2! Nights have become very tough for both my wife and I. Its easy to put a lot of the suggestions of making the baby to go to sleep in their cot when there is one, but when there is the possibility of the crying baby waking the other baby up, we are left with little choice but to spoil the crying baby, ie Ian. We are almost debating sleeping in different rooms with one baby each to address Ian’s sleep regression. But we don’t know where to start with addressing it. Last night was particularly hard as I slept after reading your web pages, tried to apply what I read at 3:15am and all 4 of us were still awake at 5:30am including our daughter. I admit, it was the wrong time to try to apply what I read. Eventually my wife nursed Ian to sleep around 5:30 and thankfully Mia slept on her own. Any suggestions are welcome as we are desperate… thanks.

    • I forgot to add a couple of very key points. Till recently Ian used to suck his thumb and manage to self soothe, but recently he seems to have forgotten his thumb exists. We keep hoping and trying that he rediscovers it, but he doesn’t want to. My wife is dead against the use of pacifier, so never tried it. But effectively the boob is serving as the only pacifier in his case.

      • Sorry for coming in dribs and drabs. The twins never really slept enough in the day time though my wife has tried a lot. They would just have a couple of cat naps at most about 15 minutes each time. For the last week she has tried to make them nap at the same 2 times each day and after a lot of struggle they have slept about 45 minutes each time. We are followingOur evening routine is as following baby led weaning since they turned 6 months old and that’s ok given that they are also on breast milk as much as they were before. Solids are just play right now. In the evening, from 5:30, they are fed their solid dinner, by 6:30 we bathe them. By 7, we try putting them to bed. Books have been tried but that just makes them more alert and playful with the book so book has never been the norm. Its a bit vague from here. Some nursing, some bottle, but in combination, Mia usually sleeps but Ian could sleep by 8 and some days even 9, but never without nursing. He is up within an hour again and nursed back to sleep and this keeps going on most of the night. Sometimes if I am quick, I am able to tap him back to sleep. Hopefully, I have captured all there is to it. Thanks for your patience if you read so far.

        • Garry,

          So this?
          ” he never at goes to sleep on his own without being nursed and never sleeps for longer than an hour ”

          This is the object permanence/sleep association issue to a T. He falls asleep by being nursed (or with a bottle) then wakes nightly to fall BACK to sleep generally via nursing. The issue isn’t his thumb or lack of paci, it’s what’s happening at bedtime. The key to breaking out of this is not to convince him to take a paci (he’s 8 months so likely that ship has sailed) or rediscover his thumb, it’s to fully separate out nursing or bottles from bedtime by a solid 20 minutes.

          So shuffle up that last bottle/breast before jammies or books (doesn’t matter how you do this, just so that 20 minute gap is there) and have him fall asleep independently. YES THIS IS CHALLENGING! For sure. But that is where the “wakes every hour” stuff will end. Yes he will still expect to eat at some point – he won’t go from hourly nursing to nothing. But maybe you could get down to 2X a night which will feel like a huge improvement from where you are. Once you’re THERE you could gradually wean to 1 or none.

          As for the twin issue – yeah it’s probably not a bad idea to have them in separate rooms for a week or two.

          Good luck!

        • Hi Garry – I found some more great tips on this that complement Alexis’s on the Baby Whisperer website. Hope that helps!

      • Hi Garry – I found some more great tips on this that complement Alexis’s on the Baby Whisperer website. Hope that helps!

  20. Hi Alexis. I am a huge fan of your site. I do have a question. Can you help us figure out if CIO is for us? Our three-month-old sleeps fairly well at night (9-10 hours), but only if we nurse or walk/rock her to sleep. She is swaddled, goes in her rock ‘n’ play (because of reflux), and has a very dark room with a noise machine. Naps are crap naps (20-45 min), and we unswaddle her and put her in her crib, on her tummy (again because of reflux, but also because of her flat head), and the noise machine and a dark room. She is very hard to put down while awake, unless we give her a pacifier. Should we do CIO with her so that she is able to sleep (and nap longer) without us walking/nursing/pacifier, or is there something else we can try?

    • Eeeeh…I wouldn’t. At least not now. Here’s my 2 cents on things:

      1) Personally I wouldn’t put an infant face-down to sleep even if they had reflux (trust me, my 2 guys had BAD REFLUX so I totally get how desperate things can feel). If your pediatrician has OKed this plan I guess it’s OK? But somewhere I read a study that suggested that sleeping face down didn’t make an appreciable dent in reflux symptoms. However I can’t find it to back that up so take that as you will.
      2) Crap naps are pretty much the defining thing about reflux babies. Although many 3 month olds takes crap naps regardless so it’s hard to say if this is reflux or just age. But I don’t see that as a problem per se.
      3) Sleeping 9-10 hours is FANTASTIC for a reflux baby! 11 hours would be a touch better but at 3 months, 10 hours is solid. Well done baby!

      So – will you eventually need to have her fall asleep independently (meaning not rocked, held, or using a paci)? Yes. Does that have to happen today? No. Usually those things are a problem closer to 6 months. So today you can put her down however works.

      ALSO CIO tends to be a bit dodgy when you have reflux so ideally that’s a fallback plan but not one you START with. I would start by experimenting with putting her down awake with the paci and then hovering nearby, when she starts nodding off, take the paci out. She wakes up – put it back in. Repeat until she falls asleep without the paci. (swaddling and RnP is OK for now).

      If it fails miserably – OK try again in another day or two. The great thing about this age is that what doesn’t work today might next week.

      Hope that helps – good luck!

  21. Hi Alexis!
    I have been reading your site since my son was 2 mo old, and I have always tried to lay him down sleepy but awake. Recently he has learned to crawl and is waking up all throughout the night no matter how I lay him down. Am I supposed to lay him down with no soothing at all? I usually rock him until he is drowsy.

  22. Hi! I’m experiencing this, where my 6 month old sleeps for about 4-5 hours at the beginning of the night then wakes up every 1-2 hours until he wakes up for good. The only thing is that he sleeps with me in bed, so I don’t understand why he won’t go back to sleep when he wakes up, he cries until I nurse him back to sleep.any suggestions? Also during the day, I will put him down in his crib(side carred to our bed) and he falls asleep on his own but wool wake up 20 min later and won’t go back to sleep. So he is falling asleep the exact same way he is waking up but won’t sleep!

  23. I have a 6.5 month old that is going through this exactly. He was sleeping through the night by 3 months, but when the attachment phase started, all hell broke loose. Naps are terrible and nights even worse. Just recently he takes about 1-2 hours to fall asleep (I’ve tried everything!). Do you suggest tackling falling asleep for naps and bedtime separate or same time or focus on more than the other to start with? Thank you!

  24. Hi,
    Talk about lightbulb moment! I love your articles. I have a 8 month old who sleeps (or doesn’t!) terribly. I have rocked him since he was colicky and he sleeps with a pacifier. He has this past week been waking up more than usual and doesn’t settle, sleeping for maybe 30-45 min at a time so I’m tired! I decided to do the cio method starting tonight. Just a quick question. I want to have him in his own room. Do I do all of it at once? ( remove pacifier, own room, no rocking etc). Also I have to rock him to sleep for his 3 naps during the day. Do I stop that now as well or just start with getting him to sleep by himself at night? Sorry, first time mom!

  25. hi there,
    my 7.5 mo went through a few rough patches recently, a cold, stomach bug, and i think she is also teething (she doesn’t have any yet). She started to wake up at 5am (sometimes 445!!!) and has been getting up 2-3 times a night. sometimes, when she gets up, she doesn’t fall back asleep for over an hour, even though i fed her. she started to stand and is crawling and i figured she is going through a lot, both physically and mentally so her sleep is being disrupted, but i also feel like i have created a sleep association (with nursing) now. i sleep trained her a couple months ago, but it seems like all of that has gone down the toilet recently!!! i feel like there are a lot of variables…i started work, more solids, less breastmilk (my mom says that she doesn’t want to take the bottle as much while im at work), illness, teething, milestones, object permanence…ahhh!! at this point, im not even sure how to adjust my routines! help!!

    • It’s tough to tell but I might start here:

      – Is she eating within ~20 minutes of going to bed? Eating TOO close to bedtime can re-establish the food=sleep association that you used sleep training to get OUT of.
      – Make sure she’s falling asleep independently because if NOT, it’s going to make it all but impossible to not feed at night 🙁
      – Solids can muck things up. Try to make sure that solid food is not impinging on liquid consumption.
      – Sometimes babies have a preferred source (you’re way better than bottles) so you may need to put some lines in the sand like (no food before X hours at night) because if frequent eating is an option many babies will snack all day preferring to tank up at night.

      And also – good luck!

      • so would you recommend feed before bath? im afraid to do anything thats going to stimulate her before bed!

        • I hear you. But clearly nursing NEAR bedtime or not falling asleep 100% independently is locking you into a pretty miserable night. And breaking out of that pattern means changing what happens at bedtime 99% of the time. Is change scary? Yes. Is whatever will happen when you make that change worse than continuing on as is? You’re call.

  26. Dear Alexis,

    Found your blog not only helpful but entertaining as well 🙂

    My son is 7,5 month old. At 6 m we went trough sleep training CIO – now he falls asleep really great on his own. (I don’t breastfeed or bottle feed him during night anymore).
    He goes to sleep at 7:30 PM. Sleeps till 7AM. And I feed him for the first time at about 5AM.
    Till 5AM he wakes up 1 to 2 times. He screams, sometimes to cuddle him back is quite easy. But usually he screams for an hour or more.

    We can’t understand the reason. If he knows how to fall asleep in the evening why he doesn’t do it during the night? (He sleeps in his crib, in his room, falls asleep without screaming or our assistance).
    We give him pacifier in the evening, usually he spits it out before falling asleep, sometimes puts back himself.

    We can’t fall asleep after his screaming dramas and our sleep is ruined :(((

    With respect, Annija.

  27. Dear Alexis,

    I am in dire need of HELP!

    i am so glad i discovered your blog. i have been reading it over and over, searching.

    My 6.5 month old has completely regressed. She use to sleep beautifully. I started at 8 weeks putting her to sleep awake in her crib and she fell asleep on her own. She would only getting up around 2 am for a feed up until 5 months. Then at 5 months she became ill (bilateral ear infections and RSV) and after that everything sleep wise went out the window. She wouldn’t go to sleep without soothing, naps are terrible and short, she is up every 45 minutes at night crying. This has been for the last 6 weeks and now just getting worse and worse. We do use the paci and I know its a crutch and I am going to take it away. Now the paci doesn’t even soothe her when reinserted. Now my concern is when to take it away. I have to retrain her to go down awake on her own again and not sure if the paci will help or hinder. I need to insure she stops taking Crap naps. I almost need to retrain her with daily routine, naps, and night time. I am on the verge of breakdown. I have two older school aged children with busy schedules so this makes it even more difficult to adhere to a schedule during day and night time routine and getting in consistent naps. I am a nurse working 13 hour shifts. I could not tell you the last time I have slept more than a 2 hour stretch. I am desperate for any help or advice. My first two children were so easy, self schedulers, like clock work. I thought i had it all figured out by now but I’m lost. She has no teeth, gums do not appear swollen and red. Teething, likely, but i do not feel like it is the reason her nights are so restless and sleepless.

    Please HELP!!

    A very tired and stressed mom, Rachel

  28. Regarding object permanence… my currently sleep training 8 month old shares a bedroom with my almost 4 year old (both boys). My older boy goes to bed pretty well with a book or 2 and me sitting get in the room with him until he falls asleep. We are adjusting his bedtime routine to books outside the bedroom so that hopefully he can go to bed (quietly) after the little is already asleep because he will never fall asleep while baby is crying it out. Will this effect baby when (if?) he wakes up in the night for a feeding since big bro wasn’t there at bedtime and will be there when he wakes up later? What is a good solution to this?
    Thank you!

  29. I have a 10 month old. He naps twice during the day 9am and 2pm for two hours. Eats ok, drinks formula total comfort. Read,Bath, and drinks 6 oz at 8pm and falls asleep with little rocking and little fussy … i take him to my room and try to let him fall asleep them move him to his crib. He likes his pacifier close by. So he moves around at 10pm doesn’t get up , moves around 12am does get up around 1AM he stands u in the crib about to cry so i run and bring him to my bed because I am too tired from a long day of work. He sleep with us in our bed wakes up 3-4am and hungry so I feed him 4 oz. back to sleep in our bed wakes up 5:30-6:30AM. 7AM 5 oz and breakfast and play time.. nap time 9am. So the night is not great since 10 months i am connected to the monitor and the baby :(.

  30. Second question, how does one feed with bottle where one should feed ? i lay him on my bed with a pillow. Is there a better way, he is too big for the bouncy.

  31. Finally we found something that worked for us: http://sleepsense.info/
    Very happy that we found this method on the internet, we all are having a good night’s rest now.
    Can really recommend it!

  32. Hi Alexis,

    Thanks for all your great advice — and giving it all with a sense of humor. I have a 5 month-old-old. My issue is I know all that I need to do: put baby down awake, get rid of sleep associations, etc. I’m just having trouble putting this into action. I’m currently breastfeeding and I know I need to stop doing that before sleep. But how? Do I feed him and then wake him up and put them into the crib? Feed him before I know he’s sleepy? Cut back on the time I feed him so that he’s not fully asleep? Usually once I put him in his crib, he wakes up… which I’m assuming is because he’s angry about suddenly not being cozied up on my breast anymore. How do I get him off to stop using bf as an association?

    He’s going down about 9:00 pm and basically wakes up at 10:00ish ready to get on the breast again…and then again around midnight. And then again and again and again and his wake up time in the morning is approx 7:30 am. I know it’s all related and a vicious feeding-sleeping cycle. I just need advice on where to start to get on track again.

    As a side note: I feel in my heart that he has the ability to be a champion sleeper. Often times, when I do try to put him in his crib awake (say at nap time), I have noticed that he puts his hand in his mouth and sucks and grunts and groans and is a bit fussy but not full out crying. I assume that’s how he’s trying to self soothe but I freak out letting him fuss for too long because I feel like he’s too young for what is essentially a CIO scenario (even though he’s not fully crying)… am I on the right track? Should I just let him do his fussiness until he basically starts full on crying? And when he does start crying… what do I do?

  33. My baby is just hitting 5 months this week, and his sleep patterned is currently a nightmare! When he was a newborn he would wake up 12,2,4,6 (am) then it slowly started to get better and went to only waking up 2 times a night, but now it’s anywhere from 2 times to 12 times a night – it’s like playing a sleep lotto every night… After reading this I really want to think that what is described is my problem as he has all of the characteristics, fighting sleep, waking up up to 12 times a night, short naps during the day, super cranky baby etc… But the only thing that doesn’t match up is I am co-sleeping with him, so I am there all night with him… Also during day naps I do often leave him to get things done while he sleeps, and sometimes I’ll check on him and to my surprise he’ll be wide awake having a great old time by himself on the bed – not missing me at all. So now I am just totally confused… He is teething, he got his first tooth almost 3 weeks ago. Could this by why his sleep pattern has gone nuts? Am I making things worse by continuing to co-sleep? I just don’t know what to think…
    Another thing is when he wakes up at night he just wants to be held and be on the breast and won’t let me put him down, sometime for up to half an hour.. Half an hour 12 times a night is killing me…. This is such a great article, would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  34. As you obviously know, sleep is a timeless and constant issue so even though this post was written years ago it is still relevant! i even read the comments. I saw somebody with a similar concern; however, I did not see a reply to that comment. I have an almost ten month old boy, my third and most humbling of the sleepers. I have 10 and 12 year old boys who nursed to sleep and slept with me and on me and next to me, but they slept compared to this baby. Even early days, 3 months old, I found myself reading sleep books (which I swore I wouldn’t do this time) and doing a routine and also living with the expectation that I would set him in his crib and he would sleep, and he did, for one week. I don’t even care where he sleeps, I would co-sleep, if he didn’t wake every 30-45 minutes. AND, this is the most humbling, I had admitted I couldn’t do it and paid hard earned money meant for a house remodel on a sleep trainer who guaranteed of course this will work in three days and she came and stayed with us for 72 hours ….anyway, what do you do for gradual weaning when you have done the sleep training techniques and they are leaving your baby with bruises from banging into the crib and standing? Also, how do you give up two weeks sleep (even though I tried for three weeks two months ago) when you are already zombie tired? Thank you!

  35. Hi Alexis
    I have a 5 1/2 month old healthy baby boy, but I truly believe he’s an habitual waker. He is exclusively breastfed. But I have a couple of issues. This is my first child so I created the habit of rocking/bouncing him to sleep so he doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently. He does fall asleep if he’s riding in his car seat  and he has fallen asleep in my arms a couple of times without me rocking him but he was pretty much exhausted and just fell asleep. I do have a bedtime routine which includes a feeding and i try to get him in bed by 8 pm by rocking him. He will wake up at 10pm and 1am, (these are usually dream feeds) then he poops around 4 or 5 am every time so ill have to change him because he wakes up. He is a tummy sleeper so he will roll onto his back and eventually start whinning if i dont respond to him.Then I have to bounce him back to sleep or feed him again if he’s not falling sleep. And he usually wakes up again around 7/7:30 to start the day. I want to start sleep training him but I don’t know when a good time to start is and what method to use. I also know that at  this age he should be able to pretty much sleep through the night (or should he?) so how to I go about dropping these night feedings because I also believe they are causing him to poop/wake up. I should also mention that he is teething. He already has his 2 bottom teeth and his top 2 are coming in. Any advice u give would be helpful!!

  36. Alexis! I need help! My baby isn’t sleeping and I’m a zombie! I need a plan of action and my husband isn’t helping but I’m putting my foot down bc I need sleep. How do I post and ask you questions?
    Thanks!!!

  37. Alexis,

    So I’ve been reading through these responses in search of someone who has a similar issue you may have already responded to but no such luck so I’m reaching out.

    Our son is 7 months old. He puts himself to sleep with ease at 7pm and has for months. However he is waking 4 times a night to feed still…although I can’t imagine he’s actually hungry. I used to wait 15 minutes before going in at all before 2am as he would often fuss a bit and put himself back to sleep. He was eating at 2 and 5 only. However for the last 3 weeks or so hes outright crying and waiting only gives him time to amp it up. Ultimately we try to rock and calm him and put him back to sleep for the 1030 wake up and then I’ll feed at 1230 or 1, 3, 5, and then he’s waking at 630 or 7.

    I believe it’s more often gas than anything else but he won’t sleep on his tummy. We started solids at 4 months and more recently he’s into chicken and more hearty foods versus cereals.

    What do you suggest to help him get a more restful sleep (and me!).
    Thank you, Ellen

    • Sorry I should add, when he wakes to eat at night it is often an initial eagerness to the breast but then a few comfort suckles and he basically falls asleep although if I then take him off he awakens and cries. He will “eat” casually for 5 minutes and then head back to bed calmly.

  38. So happy Im not the only one 🙂

  39. I think your article has really great points and methods that work for some but there are 2 side to the coin. And of course all babies are different, I rock my son to sleep and he sleeps though the night just fine… He went through a patch when he started teething and waking often… I let him sleep with me for a bit and he’s back in his crib again sleeping though the night. I also fed him at night until he was ready to be done which was around 6 months. (He let me know when he was done by falling back to sleep and not giving the hungry cry) he is almost 9 months now. My personal opinion…rocking or breast feeding doesn’t last forever if that’s bonding time between you and baby do what you need to do to make both happy. I think watching and understanding baby’s cues are most important and to establish your “language”. Once you figure out the problem then it makes it easier to start trying to find a solution. I’m just posting this article from psychology today for everyone to be informed about any and all choices. I love doing research about everything before I make a decision on what to do. I don’t judge and I like to hear and read from all perspectives. I’m just a mom navigating babyhood! ☺️

    • Hey Erika,

      I’m thrilled that you found a good path to STTN. It is, however, enormously unique. I would suggest that your little dude is likely a bit of a unicorn and I share that simply as something you might want to consider for a future time if #2 shows up.

      Because for most parents, nursing to rocking to sleep does NOT lead to “sleeps through the night.” It does NOT lead to night weaning fully by 6 months. It leads to – exactly the opposite.

      I would also point out that you are bonding with your child 24 hours a day. Fostering independent sleep at bedtime has nothing to do with the bond you have with your child but everything to do with establishing a strong basis for them to successfully sleep at night. Because 99.9% of babies will NOT do this if rocked to sleep at bedtime.

      While I appreciate it was well intended, I did go ahead and delete the article you linked to. I hate this article. Full on hate it. It’s flat out wrong, misrepresent the science, and is inappropriately alarming with it’s histrionic language. It totally hear that you’re all about doing research and in that vein, I would strong suggest you steer clear from anything presented on the Psychology Today website. Or if you ARE going to use that as your primary source, dig up the studies the article cites and see what they in fact say. Because the studies don’t back up what the article is suggesting at all. Or they’re misappropriating unrelated studies and applying them to sleep training.

  40. Hey my six and a half month old is waking ever two hours to feed in the night. He slept for 9-11 hours for one week of his life when he was little and from then on its normally 2,3 times he’s been up too feed but recently it’s every two hours and I don’t know what to do I can’t keep up this pace. He has a soother but it never really bothered him before when he lost it and I’m not sure if that’s what’s causing him to wake up, he is also normally nursed before bed but doesn’t fall asleep while nursing and I never had to rock him before but the last two weeks he won’t let me put him down he already has his bottom two teether and I don’t think his top would be coming in this early, he’s been eating solids for three weeks now and I’m not sure if that could be causing any problems his naps are pretty good normally 2.5-3 hours a day. I just don’t know what to do or how to even begin to help him sleep for longer stretches any advice would be sooo helpful!!!!

  41. My 8 month old daughter has been a hit and miss sleeper. She was colicky until 3 months so I got her to sleep however I could, where ever I could. We transitioned from colic to unintended co-sleeping. I’ve been working hard on trying to get her in her crib at night. She naps like a champ in her crib during the day, and for the most part goes to sleep with ease at night in her crib. My problem is that a few weeks ago she stopped sleeping through the night. She goes down at 9pm, wakes around 11pm and fusses. I can usually get her back to sleep with a little pat on the back. But then she wakes up at 1am, 2am, 4am etc. Does anyone have any suggestions of how to get her back to sleep then? Do I let her cry it out? I have a husband and another child who aren’t huge fans of that, so more often than not we go back to co-sleeping. I NEED her to sleep in her own bed so I can get some sleep. Does cry it out work in the middle of the night? She just recently started pulling herself to standing in her crib and tends to let go and bonk her head if left alone. I need advise. Or a unicorn.

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