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Get a Better Night's Sleep

Keriann M.
KERIANN M.
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant
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Check out our live Q&A with Sleep Consultant Keriann MacElroy. Ask a question and get expert advice to help your baby take better naps, sleep through the night and more! Check out Keriann's profile for more info.

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KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Tired mom!
ANGELA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Cooper is my 3rd. My first two were great sleepers and followed a solid schedule. Cooper has silent reflux and that has caused major sleep issues. That in addition to having to bend to the pick up and drop off requirements of his older siblings have made scheduling difficult. We just moved to a new house and really need to get back to a routine. Each day I try but his wake ups are inconsistent and so the day starts off different every day. I need him to wake at 6:30 but he has woken up at 5:15/5:30. The past 2 weeks he has had an ear infection and we moved. There have been nights where he woke every few hours. He goes to bed at 8:30 and I dreamfeed at 11:00. He takes 2 naps (first 1.5-2 hrs and second about 1.5). Help! How do I get this baby on a good sleep schedule.

ANGELA

He also wakes 1/2 way through naps often. If he wakes at 5:15 to nurse should I nurse again at 6:30?

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Angela! How old is Cooper? Age can make a big difference in my response ;)

ANGELA

He is almost 9 months

ANGELA

He eats 3 meals a day

Keriann
KERIANN

Thank you for the additional information. At 9 months I find that many babies do well with a set schedule. I would first start with a consistent bedtime and wake time in the morning. To encourage a consistent wake time, I would leave him in the crib until it is time to start the day, so if 6:30 is your desired wake time, then I would leave him in the crib as close to that as possible. Any wakings before 6:30am should be treated like a middle of the night waking, and encourage him to go back to sleep. I would base the naps off of a 6:30am wake up. Ideal times for naps would be around 9am and 2pm, depending on when you have to pick your other kiddos up. At 9 months, I typically strive for 12 hours of nighttime sleep, so if he has to wake at 6:30am then he should be in bed by 6:30pm at night (ideally). Early rising and frequent night wakings are often a result of over-tiredness at bedtime, so my first response is to try an earlier bedtime. If 6:30 isn't doable, then try for 7:00. It can take a week or more for his body to adjust to this new schedule, so give it some time before determining whether or not it is helping. I would not do a dream feed at this age. Instead, I would let him wake naturally if he is hungry, rather than intentionally getting him up to eat.

ANGELA

Thank you so much! From reading your response to others I should also work on not nursing him when he wakes middle of the night. So do I pull off the bandaid and implement all these changes at once or go one at a time!!
Thank you!!!

Keriann
KERIANN

If you are trying to lessen his night wakings, then yes, I would recommend not nursing to sleep, even in the middle of the night. When I work with families we often make all the changes at one time. I find that getting it all done at once can get quicker results than rolling changes out one at a time and being in a constant state of transition, but it can be a rocky few nights. Most babies at 9 months of age catch on quickly though, so if you are consistent it is possible to see positive changes quickly. Feel free to reach out to me if you need further assistance!

ANGELA

Thank you! We have a busy weekend ahead of us so we may need to wait until Monday. Daddy may need to be the one to go in to comfort him in the middle of the night.
Thank you so so much!

Our Q&A is now over.
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Keriann! Dream Factory Sleep Solutions offers a variety of sleep services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Check out Keriann’s profile for more info!

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
How do we start?
MERLE, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

My baby is 3.5 months old. She naps usually on someone, in the rock n' play or the carrier. SHe goes to sleep at night after a bottle, in a swing with LOUD white noise. When she wakes in the middle of the night, if she's not hungry, I can get her back to sleep by making the swing faster and the white noise louder.

At what point do I need to start getting a schedule (I'd like to have one) and getting her settled in a crib without a swing and the white noise that loud?

When and what should I start doing?

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Merle! Thank you for your question. I think you can start shaping your baby's sleep now. At 3.5 months, I wouldn't recommend doing a set daily schedule per se, but would be very strict with awake times. I would expect that she can likely handle about 1.5 hours of awake time, so I would be very consistent with offering naps 1.5 hours after she wakes from her previous sleep. If she is waking roughly at the same time each morning, then she will likely fall into her own predicable pattern, which will become more predictable for you. I would recommend having a set wake time in the morning (time you get her out of the crib to start your day) and a set bedtime at night to start shaping your days (I would stay within 30 minutes of your ideal times each day). I would keep the white noise, as this can be very helpful for sleep, especially naps. I think transitioning her to the crib now would be fine. You will likely have better success at bedtime than starting at a nap since sleep tends to come more easily at night than during the day.

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
6 month twins
MELISSA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

One of my 6 month twin boys will only sleep 3-4 hour stretches at night. I put him down awake and he can put himself to sleep at 7 pm with no trouble, but is waking 3-4 times per night to nurse. We've tried sleep training with no luck. After 45 minutes to an hour, he is still awake and can't get himself back to sleep, even with a fair amount of soothing. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Melissa! Thank you for the question! Although he is putting himself to sleep at bedtime, it is possible he is using nursing as a sleep "prop" in the middle of the night. At that age (and assuming he is at a healthy weight), I would expect that he wouldn't need more than 1-2 night feedings, if any. Having a set time period that you offer feeds can help, perhaps between 12a - 3a, any wakings outside of that encourage him to fall back asleep without nursing. When nursing, be sure he is staying fully awake for the entire feed, not even getting drowsy during the feed. I recommend doing a diaper change first, to fully waken him and break the waking/feeding association. Then nurse, being sure he stays fully awake and actively feeds throughout. You may have to remove him from the breast if his eyes are getting heavy, then resume feeding once he full awakens. Lay him back in bed awake to let him fall asleep on his own, just as you do at bedtime. This will help break any lingering feed/sleep associations he may be hanging on to. Also, be careful you are not providing too much soothing during the other wake ups. Since you know he can put himself to sleep, he should be doing that each and every time.

MELISSA

Thanks so much for the helpful advice, we will try it tonight!

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
6 month old napping at daycare
SHANNA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi! Thanks for your help! My 6 month old has always been a bad sleeper and terrible napper. I ST him so at night he goes down drowsy at 7, puts himself to sleep, and typically doesn't wake up for his first feeding until around midnight. He starts waking up hourly around 4:30, but I can usually get him to sleep/nurse until about 7 by putting him on my breast in the bed with me.
The issue is that he barely sleeps during the day at daycare, which he attends 5 days a week, and that leads to him being pretty fussy. The crib is in a pretty dark area and I brought in a sound machine that they run all day (all the other babies are sleeping better with it). He will only sleep in 15 minute spurts, either in someone's arms or because he is just so exhausted that he falls asleep when I am nursing him, so I am able to put him down and he will sleep for a bit. I think some of the problem is that by the time we get to the daycare, his window of being up for 1.5 hours has passed and he is overtired. In addition, he usually falls asleep for about 10 minutes on the car ride in. On the weekends I have noticed if i put him down for a nap around 1.5 hours after waking, he sleeps well the rest of the day. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Shanna! Thank you for your question! Despite having sleep trained for bedtime, it definitely sounds like he still has a strong nursing/sleeping association since you are using that as a means to help him get back to sleep in the middle of the night. You may want to consider sleep training for middle of the night wakings as well. If he needs to feed, be sure you keep him awake during the feed, then lay him back in the crib to drift off to sleep again on his own. Due to the frequent wakings in the early morning hours, he is not getting quality sleep so is likely tired heading into daycare. At 6 months, most babies can handle an awake time of 2.5-3 hours (assuming they are getting adequate naps and nighttime sleep). So, it sounds like your little one is certainly operating on a significant sleep debt. Since bedtime seems to be going well, I would recommend you use the techniques you use at bedtime for every sleep scenario, including naps at daycare and middle of the night. Once he truly develops independent sleep skills and can consistently put himself to sleep, he will likely find it easier to fall asleep at daycare. I would encourage them to offer naps in consistent intervals to be sure he is not getting over-tired, rather than waiting for sleep cues (every 2 hours, then build up to every 3 with time).

SHANNA

This is really helpful! Thank you!

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
6-,month old waking up during the night
AROW, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Keriann!

My husband and I want to stop using the monitor at night for our 6-month old, and are wondering how to set an official "wake-up" time for her.

Our daughter is consistently inconsistent with her nighttime wakeups, and we want to get her to go back to sleep on her own without us coming in to give her the pacifier.

She goes to bed by 7:30pm (routine starts ~6 or 6:30) every night. Some nights she sleeps straight through until 5 or 6am, when she wakes up crying and I feed her. Other nights she wakes up anytime between 2 or 4am. We let her cry for 10-20 minutes, then she either falls back to sleep on her own or we put a pacifier in and she falls back asleep. She sometimes then repeats this cycle until it gets to be 5 or 5:30am, at which point I feed her.

Can we stop going in to comfort her during the night? Should I only feed her at the same time every morning? How do I push this morning feed to 6:30am?

She is always awake when she goes down for naps and for bedtime. When we comfort her during the night we just replace the pacifier in her mouth. We use a white noise machine and we have blackout shades in her room. I always wait until 5am at the earliest to feed her.

Thanks!

ALLY

Following

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Aimee! Thank you for the question! The best way to stop having to go in to replace the pacifier multiple times a night is to stop using for sleep altogether. If she can learn to fall asleep without the pacifier, her frequent wakings will likely subside. In order to push her mornings later, I would have a minimum wakeup time of at least 6am. I would treat any wakings before that our like a night waking and encourage her to go back to sleep on her own. Do your very best to keep her in the crib until 6am every morning to help set her circadian rhythm. As she adjusts to being left in the crib and holding off for a feeding, you can slowly increase the time in 10 minute increments. So, start waiting until 6:10 for a few days, then 6:20, then eventually 6:30 a.m. if that is your target. Be patient! This kind of adjustment can take several weeks to get your baby used to waiting for the morning feed, but if she starts to learn there is no feeding to wake up for, it is more likely she will go back to sleep for a bit longer.

KRISTIN

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KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Three-year-old sleep issues
ANGIE, PARENT OF 5 YEAR OLD

My daughter just turned three and has never been a great sleeper. There is a lack of consistency. She will sleep through the night for two/three nights and then the next three nights wake up three times and scream for me. Or sleep until 7am some mornings and 5:45 other mornings. It has always been like this. I am against the 'cry-it-out' method and we didn't do it, even though my husband wanted to. Her bedtime is between 7/7:30 and the routine is always the same. She loves going to bed and never fights it or tries to stall.

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Angie! Thank you for your question! There can be a number of things that are interrupting your little one's sleep. Is she falling asleep at bedtime independently or are you laying with her? How are you currently responding when she yells for you in the middle of the night?

ANGIE

I sit in a chair in her room while she falls asleep. We did just transition to a bed, so sitting in the chair while she is in the bed is new. I had been rocking her. She yells a bit for me, maybe five minutes or so before I go in. However, if she is crying I go right in. I don't like the crying, I can't handle it, so info in.

Keriann
KERIANN

Ok, this makes sense. It sounds like she is still getting used to falling asleep independently. Sitting in a chair is a good transitional tool, however if she is getting used to having you present as she is falling asleep, she may start requiring that you come back for every brief awakening. I would recommend slowly moving the chair out of the room so you wean her off of your presence. Move your chair every few nights, closer to the door, then in the hallway, then out of sight completely. Once you are out of the room, do not go back to sitting in the room. You can go back in to check on her periodically, but I would advise not to stay in the room. Once she is used to falling asleep alone in her room, I would expect that her night wakings will reduce. If she experiences a usual brief awakening, she will know how to fall back asleep on her own without your assistance or presence.

ANGIE

Thank you. We will try this.

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Keep awake in day to help sleeping at night?
CANDICE, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD, 13 MONTH OLD

Our daughter is 5 weeks old. Someone told us that if we try to keep her awake more during the day it will help her to sleep through the night. Is that true? How should we do that and how much does she need to sleep during the day? Thanks!

Keriann
KERIANN

No, this is not true! This is one of the most common pieces of advice I hear, but it is the exact opposite of what you should do. "Sleep begets sleep", meaning the better she sleeps during the day, the better she will sleep at night. When babies aren't getting adequate sleep during the day, they become over-tired, which causes the body to produce a hormone in an effort to stay awake (what we refer to as our "second wind"). If you are trying to put your baby to sleep in this over-tired state with hormones working against you, you are likely to have WORSE sleep at night, not better. At 5 weeks, your baby needs about 16-18 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. She should be awake about 45 min - 1 hour in between naps, ideally each nap would be 1.5-3 hours each (this will likely result in 4-6 naps per day). She should be asleep more than she is awake at this age, that is completely normal!

MERLE

I heard this too but at what point is there TOO much sleeping happening during the day?

Keriann
KERIANN

Merle, as a general rule, I would say there is no such thing as too much sleep, especially with a newborn. Most babies will wake naturally when they are hungry, but if you are worried about sleeping too much during day, then it is ok to wake them every 3-4 hours to feed during daytime hours, but I would let them sleep as long as they can at night to encourage longer stretches of sleep at night. Exposure to light during daytime hours and exposure to darkness during the night is usually enough to help regulate circadian rhythm.

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Night Feedings-4 month old
JULIE, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD

My daughter can generally put herself to sleep, but her overnight stretches have decreased, and now she wakes to feed every three hours or so. She is breastfeed with some formula supplementation. I'm not expecting her to STTN at this age. Any ideas to extend the stretch? She often doesn't get a full feeding though before falling asleep on the breast, which is one of the reasons I'm wondering if we can eliminate one of those wakes for eating.

Keriann
KERIANN

Hi Julie! Thank you for your question! It is a great sign that she can put herself to sleep at bedtime. It sounds like she may still be using the feeds as a way to fall back asleep in the middle of the night, though. If you are going to continue offering feedings, I would recommend keeping here AWAKE during the feed and encouraging her to fall back to sleep on her own each and every time. For night feedings, try changing her diaper first to break the waking/feeding association. Then offer the feed, being sure she stays awake and actively feeds the entire time. This may mean you have to remove her from the breast or bottle if she starts to drift off to sleep or gets too relaxed. Give her a burp until she is awake again, then resume the feed. Make sure when you lay her back in the crib, she is awake and puts herself back to sleep on her own. Also, when she wakes at night, I would wait about 10 minutes before responding to her to see if she will fall back asleep. Babies often wake throughout the night as they transition sleep cycles, so you want to be sure she is truly awake and not just resettling before offering a feed.

JULIE

Thanks Keriann! She's still in her Rock and Play and about to transition to the crib. Any pointers for that?

Keriann
KERIANN

I would try getting her to sleep in the crib at bedtime rather than naps at first. She is likely to be more tired and ready for sleep at nighttime than she will be for daytime, so you are likely to be more successful starting the transition at night. Otherwise, just go for it and don't look back. It might be difficult for a few days, but if you stay consistent she will catch on quickly that the RnP is no longer an option.

KERIANN ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Toddler wake ups
NINA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi,

Our 2.9 month old has been a good sleeper so far. Typically sleeps(slept) through the night, accompanied with a nap from 2-4pm. He has been waking up atleast once every night, sometimes twice. When we tell him to go back to sleep he does, doesn't ask for food or milk. Things that have changed are:
1) our family welcomed a new baby, 6 months ago, but our toddler has been generally secure, good with the baby
2) toddler going through language burst

Any thing we can do to get his night sleeping schedule back on track? He wakes up around 7;30am every morning, bed around 8/830pm and naps from 2-4pm

Thanks so much!

Best,

Keriann
KERIANN

Well, the good news is he is going back to sleep on his own during those night wakings! That is fantastic and I would encourage him to keep doing that. Don't panic and create any new habits (i.e. coming to your bed, needing someone to lay with him, etc.) during this time. It is very possible that the transitions you mentioned are having an effect on his sleep, the language development in particular. When kids are working on developmental milestones, they often experience interrupted sleep. If you stay consistent with how you respond to these wakings, his good sleep will likely return in a week or two. However, his daily schedule may need some tweaking. His nap is on the late side, making it too close to bedtime, which may be effecting his nighttime sleep. With a 7:30am wake time, I would recommend a nap at 1:00pm with a bedtime around 7:30/8pm (that means lights out at that time).

NINA

THANKS SO MUCH! We'll shift his nap earlier. Is it okay if we do it in 15 min increments as he might be resistant to going to down at 1pm at the beginning?

Keriann
KERIANN

Yes, you can shift it slowly if that makes it easier.