When Collins was around 4 months old, we hired a sleep consultant through Sleepwise Consulting to help us navigate some things surrounding sleep training. I could tell the second time around that I was becoming a little “soft” and needed some hand-holding to work through a few sleep issues we were having. It was tremendously helpful and I’ve raved to others about how professional, thoughtful and skilled I felt our consultant, Jeannine, was as we worked with her.
Since then, I’ve passed along Jeannine’s name to readers asking for sleep advice. While I’m certainly no expert, Jeannine is! She is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and a fellow momma of little kiddos. And she has graciously volunteered to answer YOUR sleep questions. I solicited sleep questions on Instagram and Facebook from you guys, and chose 5 to answer this month. This will be an on-going series on the blog so if you have questions you want Jeannine to answer, send them my way (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll add them to the list!
Jeannine has done her best to cover the basics in her responses below, but if you want to talk with her in more detail you can get a free 15 minute phone consult here, or sign up for the full sleep consulting package if you want more personalized help and hand-holding. We started with the 15 minute call, then decided to buy the full package and it was money well spent! You can also check out their Facebook page for more info.
So, let’s get to the questions…
Question: Ever since we stopped swaddling our son, he will not sleep longer than a 2-3 hour stretch. How can we lengthen this?
Child’s age: 5 months
Child’s bedtime routine: He is ready for bed between 7-8pm, we do a bath, I nurse, and he falls right to sleep — in the Rock and Play. If placed flat on his back in his crib, he immediately rolls over to his belly and starts rotating around in a circle, crawling and screaming — he will not lay down on his belly and
sleep. So we’ve reverted to the Rock and Play for the past two months. He still has a strong startle reflex and continues to wake every 2-3 hours, sometimes more, kicking and flailing about. I go in, nurse or bounce him and he goes back to sleep.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: We do a bath, I nurse, and he falls right to sleep.
Jeannine’s Response //
This is such a great question! Learning how to sleep on a flat surface is a common struggle for little ones accustomed to the incline of a Rock and Play. We commonly see the moro reflex, which is the involuntary reflex response found in infants, go away between 3-4 months. He could have a bit of that still lingering. Since your little one is 5 months, and with the additional information you are giving me, I would suspect there are a few other things that could be causing the frequent wakings in the middle of the night. To work on those night wakings, I would try to move your son back into his crib. And then, you can help his troubles with rolling in the crib by practicing rolling front to back and back to front during each wake period each day.
Lastly, it’s common when a little one gets help to sleep, they wake every 1-3 hours at night needing that help back to sleep. So, I would recommend making sure your son is putting himself to sleep for both naps and night sleep independently, without any help including, nursing, rocking, or bouncing. This can be a tough goal and is something I would be happy to help with if you have a hard time on your own.
Question: For the last month my daughter has been waking up in the 5:00 hour most days. I get up just after 6, so if she wakes before then I’ve started taking her into bed with me and she’ll sometimes fall back asleep and get more rest (otherwise, she’ll be crabby that day before her nap). If I lay her down in her bed she just screams and disrupts the house waking up her older brother. Any tips for getting her to sleep
Child’s age: 22 months
Child’s bedtime routine: bath (every other night), PJs, snack, brush teeth, 2 books
Child’s nap routine: afternoon 1-2 hours
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: Lay down in bed awake
Jeannine’s Answer //
Early morning wakings are one of the most common troubles in this age group and can be the toughest to resolve. I would start by making sure it is completely dark in her room. When I say dark, I mean it should be just as dark at 12 pm as it is at 12 am in her room. The sunlight can come into our little one’s rooms and cause their mind/body to start to wake. Early mornings also our lightest sleep, and therefore can be hard to resettle once she has woken. Once you have made those changes, I would look at her schedule. If she is waking at 5am, happy and ready to go, she maybe capping out on total daily sleep needed. At her age, most toddlers need between 11-14 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period. If she is getting 2-3 hours of daytime
sleep and goes to bed at 7pm, she has reached 12-13 hours of overall sleep by 5am. If
you continue to see that 5am waking, schedule a free 15 minute call with me to discuss in depth.
Question: My little man is 9 months old and hasn’t slept through the night once! Advice on how to get to a full night of rest would be appreciated! I am not afraid of letting him cry it out but he will cry all night so we usually have to get up to feed him and he will always fall asleep again after a bottle. We have tried filling his belly before putting him down but he will only drink 4oz. at a time and we are up every 2-3
hours yet. Mama needs rest!
Child’s age: 9 months
Child’s bedtime routine: Bottle/rock at 6:45, lay down at 7pm (falls asleep right away)
Child’s nap routine: Morning nap at 9 am, afternoon nap at 1pm. Bottle before each nap, and sleeps 1.5 hours each nap.
Jeannine’s Answer //
Hi momma, 9 months is a long time to go with this kind of broken sleep; you must be exhausted! I would be happy to help your family get some restful nights. It sounds like your son has an eat/feed association. This is the most common sleep prop for most infants. A sleep prop is anything external your son needs to fall asleep. What happens is, your son uses the bottle and possibly the rocking to get himself to a drowsy state to fall asleep. Then, when he moves through his sleep cycles in the middle of the night, he wakes and cannot get himself back to sleep, needing a bottle to get him drowsy again. To help this, you want to remove the feeds from his sleep. I would recommend changing your bedtime routine, so the bottle comes first, then a bath, pajamas, book (without rocking) and then into crib awake to drift off to sleep
on his own. Lastly, to work on removing feeds from daytime sleep, I highly recommend an eat/play/sleep pattern, so he eats when he wakes, then plays, and then falls asleep on his own without a bottle. These two changes can be tough, but with consistency they make such a huge difference in your son being able to fall asleep AND stay asleep on his own.
Question: My daughter will nap an hour and a half to two hours for her daycare providers/sitters who watch her 3 times a week fairly consistently without waking. But when I am getting her to nap at home the other 4 days she will most often only do half hour to forty minute naps for me before she wakes herself up crying. I have tried to let her cry for up to 10-15 minutes to see if she will fall back asleep but she doesn’t.
Child’s age: 6 months
Child’s bedtime routine: We still nurse to sleep after getting her into pajamas and a sleep sack. She has been a fairly good sleeper. Sleeping from about 6 PM till 9:30 PM when I do a dream feed for her before I go to bed. Will sleep most nights until about 6 AM. So she does get about 12 hours most nights.
Child’s nap routine: Put her down when she starts to show signs of tiredness and let her cry for up to 20 minutes before going in and holding her. (we do feedings when she wakes up from naps.) She naps once in the morning around 9:30 or so, once in the afternoon around 1:30 and SOMETIMES will do a catnap around 4.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: She puts herself to sleep for naps usually 5-10 minutes of crying, unless she cries for 20+minutes then I will try to rock her/walk with her to see if sleep will come, if not we go back to playing for a while and try again later. Nighttime still falls asleep while nursing.
Jeannine’s Answer //
I am so glad you asked this question, I get at least 2 calls a week asking “why does my baby sleep better for our sitter?” It is most likely caused by the the differences in the way you each put her down. Do you have a similar routine? If not, I would try and synch up your routines. A great nap routine is diaper change, sleep sack (if you use one), read a book, white noise on, lights out and goodnight. If the child is
crying when mom puts her down, and then mom goes in and rocks her to sleep, her naps will most likely be only 1 sleep cycles (30-45 minutes). What happens is, they wake from their cycle, looking for mom to come back and rock them to sleep for the rest of their nap. In additional to synching up routine, I would be sure you are both on the same schedules as well, awake time can play a great part in how easy it is
for a LO to fall asleep. All my best to your family!
Question: Our 8mo sleeps in short spurts and only falls back asleep by breastfeeding and rocking him. He goes down around 8pm, wakes at 11pm, then 1/2am, then 5am, then 8am for the day. We are not sleeping well. How can we get him to sleep in longer spurts?
Child’s age: 8 months
Child’s bedtime routine: we get him dressed in his pjs with a fresh diaper around 7 pm, then around 8 pm he has his final feeding and falls asleep just after that.
Child’s nap routine: He takes two naps a day, from 11am-1pm, and from 4pm-6pm.
How your baby/toddler currently falls sleep: He falls asleep after eating or being held/rocked. He shows a lot of anxiety when he sees or hears me leaving his room and freaks out, then needs to be rocked all over again. He sleeps with a white noise machine, no blankets, but does sleep with a paci and small animal lovey blankey.
Jeannine’s Answer //
Your story is so similar to about ¾ of the families I work with. Some families have a single sleep prop they need to work on removing, but most of the families, have several sleep props. Sleep props are anything external needed for a child to fall asleep. They can be a bottle/nursing, pacifier, rocking, bouncing on a ball, twirling mom’s hair, playing with dad’s fingers, the list can go on. With the
information you gave, it looks like your son is using nursing, rocking and the pacifier to help with his sleep. When a baby uses these things to fall asleep instead of their own independent sleep tools, its often I see waking in the middle of the night every 1-3 hours. The reason for this is that once they fall asleep with someone or something’s help, when they come to their lightest sleep state in their sleep cycles, they wake entirely, and cannot put themselves back to sleep. They need those external sleep
props. Removing these can cause some protest at first, but with consistency and commitment, the protest should resolve, and your child will then have his own sleep tools to fall asleep and stay asleep on his own. This will require some sleep training. I recommend because of the way he already shows anxiety, to choose a very gentle sleep training method, and stick with it.