I’m so confused!
Things seemed to be getting a little bit better each night and I was slowly gaining confidence that this might actually be working and then… last night was terrible! Violet woke up at 2, 4, and 6 am!
I have only been feeding her once at night and she hasn’t woken up three times at night since the beginning!
I thought we were doing so well and now I’m so discouraged!
This is a not uncommon, and naturally worrying, occurrence for some families who are sleep training.
Things seem to be getting so much worse and then sleep suddenly goes off the rails again! Parents worry that all of their hard work has been for naught.
Fear not, tired parent!
This is called an extinction burst. It’s actually a sign of progress, though it’s hard to see that in the moment.
First off, an extinction burst is unrelated to the sleep training method of extinction. It can happen with any style of sleep training.
Actually, an extinction burst can happen when any kind of behavior is gradually being discontinued by not rewarding it with attention any more. It can even happen when training other mammals.
Basically, when the unwanted behavior is almost gone, the child suddenly brings it back with a vengeance, as if to test the parents to see if they were really sure about not rewarding night wakings any more. Suddenly your child wakes up three times a night where she had been waking only once for a while now.
The important thing in this scenario is to stay extremely consistent with whatever method of sleep training you have been using and to NOT reward this new (recently extinguished) behavior with attention.
If you have weaned down to just one night feeding and your baby suddenly wakes up three times at night, it’s crucial you not panic and offer a feeding three times because that would teach your baby that three night feedings are suddenly an option again.
So in this scenario, feed at the appointed time and then use your chosen soothing method at all other times. Do not feed at those other times!
The same applies for night wakings for other reasons.
Trust that this is all a normal part of the process and stay strong. Nothing has gone wrong.
In another 1-3 nights, if you stay consistent, this behavior will disappear. You will reach the promised land of excellent sleep!
Are you ready for great sleep for your family but aren’t sure where to start? Schedule a free chat and let’s see what we can do to help your entire family feel well-rested and happy in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
If you’re like me, your transition to standard time might have been a bit (or a lot) of a cluster.
We can’t all be well-organized!
If your child is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night, or crazy early in the morning, don’t despair.
Hope is not lost.
The main thing is, stay consistent. Keep aiming for an early (but adjusted-to-standard-time) bedtime. Wake your child in the morning by 7 am, even on weekends. Keep the midday nap starting between 12-1 pm, regardless of how early your child woke up.
And if your child (still) takes a morning nap, don’t let it get too early, even if your child is waking up quite early in the morning. In most cases, a first nap (after the first four months of life) should be between 8:30 and 9 am.
If you are panicking because sleep has totally gone off the rails for your family, don’t. We can totally fix this. Schedule your free discovery call today. And if we’ve worked together before and you just need a few questions answered, schedule a 30-minute Ask Me Anything call and receive a 10% off returning client discount.
Daylight savings time starts this Sunday, March 7. in the United States. It doesn't start for another month in Mexico, not until April 5.
Daylight savings time is rough, especially for parents.
Or rather, the "fall back" at the end of daylight savings time is rough. "Springing forward" is actually a lot easier in most cases.
If your little one is waking too early, this is the perfect opportunity to reset her clock. Just get her up at her regular time and voila, it's magically an hour later!
The only challenge with this is, if you want to keep her waking at this suddenly-later time, you have to keep the rest of her schedule on the "old time" too. If you adjust her meals and her naps to DST, you can expect her early wakings to return, too.
Of course, early wakings are almost always the result of a too-late bedtime, so it might be easiest to focus on solving that problem. For more tips on that, check out Why Does My Child Wake Up So Early?
If you want your child to continue waking at the same time -- for most children, a wake time between 6-7:30 am is ideal for the best rest at night -- try to start transitioning the schedule now, if you are in the States, or 6 days prior, if you are in Mexico or another place with a different start date for DST.
Everything in your child's schedule will need to shift. Get him up 10 minutes earlier, feed him 10 minutes earlier, put him down to nap 10 minutes earlier. Tomorrow you will do it 10 minutes earlier than you did today. And so on. So that by the time DST arrives, you are already on the correct schedule. Easy peasy!
If you weren't that organized, no problem! Just start the transition as soon as you can. Or allow your child to transition gradually next week, if work and daycare schedules permit.
As the days get longer, children will also struggle with early wakings because the sun is rising earlier. Make sure your child's bedroom is equipped with really great blackout shades. Any leakage of light can lead to early wakings when your child is naturally less tired after a long night of sleep. Not sure you want to invest? Try taping garbage bags over the windows for a few days. I did this with my older daughter and her room was depressingly dark and cave-like but suprisingly effective at creating great naps. Your local hardware store will likely have inexpensive stick-on black out shades as well.
Make sure you are using white noise as well, to block out outside noise. The birds -- and the garbage trucks -- will be getting up extra early as the days get longer. I love this one -- it's suprisingly loud, inexpensive, lightweight and portable -- you can power it with batteries if there isn't an outlet available. We bring it on all our trips, even when we go camping!
As the days get longer, it's also easy to let bedtime slide later. It's harder to keep track of the time when the sun is shining so brightly. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to start bedtime. If the living room is sunny and bright, consider transitioning to a darker room an hour before bedtime. Exposure to darkness naturally encourages our bodies to produce melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. Exposure to blue light from screens does the opposite, so make sure to avoid them in the hour before bedtime.
Any shift in schedule can be stressful with little ones, but the start of DST in most places is a lot easier than the end of DST. A little preparation can make this transition even easier!
For help with transitioning your child to a time change, addressing early wakings, or any other sleep challenge, set up a free chat so we can get your family the sleep you deserve.
My fifteen-month-old naps from approx 10am to 12p. He has been rejecting his second nap (typically around 2:30/3p.) He nurses to sleep for nap time and also wakes to nurse or to be rocked 2-6 times during the night. I'm wondering if I need to drop or adjust morning nap?
S, mom to 15-month-old twins H & B
Many toddlers transition from two naps a day to one too early.
This transition often takes place in daycares at around 12 months, while most toddlers aren't actually ready to drop a nap until 15-18 months, although it can range from as early as 12 months to as late as 21 months.
There are typically two patterns we see when children are ready to transition from one nap a day to two. The first, and more common, is that they take a long morning nap and then can't seem to fall asleep for the second nap, resulting in late afternoon overtiredness and misery. This can also lead to nighttime or early morning wakings as a result of the overtiredness.
The other pattern we see is children that skip the first nap in favor of playing in the crib. These children generally have an easier time transitioning to one nap a day as they essentially make the switch themselves.
If your toddler is struggling to keep two naps a day, preserve that second nap as long as possible. Here are some sugestions as to how this can be done:
This can be a tough transition to make so plan for a couple of low-key weeks, if possible. There's no magic trick to make it easy. I recommend moving the morning nap time back by 10-20 minutes per day. You can expect that it will take him a bit longer than usual to fall asleep because he will be a little bit overtired. I suggest you allow a minimum of 90 minutes in the crib. If your child sleeps less than an hour, leave him! He may well fall back to sleep if given enough time.
While you are making the transition, you may temporarily need to offer a very early bedtime, as early as 5 pm. You'll know you need to do this if your child is cranky or alternatively, acting wound up and bouncing off the walls in the late afternoon. If this is happening, you can expect that your child may not eat much dinner. Don't worry about it -- she is unlikely to wake from hunger (really!). It's much more likely that she will wake up from being overtired. So just get her to bed as early as you can.
As you are able to move the nap later, your child will gradually be able to lengthen out the nap with the single nap ideally being around two hours, though this will vary for each child. Your child will likely need an earlier bedtime now than when he was taking two naps a day, though likely later than 5 pm.
Some children do well with having an occasional day with two naps a day as they transition to one nap a day. If your child is just miserably tired by 9 am on some days, this may be a good option for your family. Rest assured, as she gets older and as the transition to one nap a day stabilizes, it will get easier!
In the case of the family with 15-month-old twins, we tried many things. We eliminated the sleep crutch of nursing and rocking to sleep -- took only two nights! -- and capped the morning nap at 1 hour. We moved bedtime earlier. They weren't able to move the morning nap earlier than 9:15 am due to some medical issues, unfortunately, and after a week, the afternoon nap was still erratic. Ultimately we decided to move the morning nap later again, making it 15 minutes a day later. The toddlers are currently working on making it to 11:30 am for a two hour+ nap.
The transition from two naps a day to one is a tough one but it's a beautiful opportunity for a family to get a little further from home. In daycares, the transition often means that all toddlers sleep on the same schedule, which means it's easier for children to sleep.
If you would like help transitioning your toddler from two naps a day to one, or if you need support with any other sleep challenge, schedule a free chat with me. Let's get your family the sleep you all deserve so you can better enjoy your time together!
Night Weaning and Sleep Training
Ah, the sweetness of snuggling your little baby against you in the dark to breastfeed or bottle feed as she drifts off to sleep. There's nothing quite like it.
But as your baby (or toddler) gets bigger and heavier and continues to want those snuggles and nighttime feedings, your arms and your sleep-deprived brain may no longer appreciate those moments quite so much.
Does this sound like you? Do you feel guilty about wishing you could get more uninterrupted sleep?
The guilt is normal. And so is the need for better sleep. Rest assured, your baby needs better sleep, too, once she is out of the newborn period.
For the first six weeks, most pediatric providers recommend your baby have unlimited access to breastmilk or formula. I would add that even in those first weeks, if your baby has recently eaten (less than 90 minutes prior) and you are confident that he had a good feeding -- drank several ounces from the bottle or your breasts are noticeably more empty -- you don't need to offer food again right away if your baby begins to fuss. In that scenario, he is probably tired, not hungry. Try putting him to sleep with other comforts, such as a pacifier, rocking, walking (in the stroller or baby carrier or your arms), white noise, swaddling, or even just laying him in his bed and gently patting and shushing him. It's not too early to teach him self-soothing. It may actually make future sleep training uneccesary!
If he is unable to put himself to sleep without nursing or bottle feeding, that's fine. Keep trying, at least once a day. He'll get it eventually.
After about six weeks adjusted age (from the due date), you can expect that your baby will begin to have a longer stretch of sleep. It usually starts as about a 4-6 hours stretch and is usually at the beginning of the night. Her bedtime will move earlier around the same time. I encourage you to go to bed when she does, to make the most of that longer stretch. After that one longer stretch, she will likely wake every few hours to eat.
By 4 months old, you can expect 0-2 feedings per night. If you are enjoying feeding your baby at night, that's great, no need to change anything! If you want to start cutting back on feedings, that's fine too. I recommend a gentle approach of gradually reducing the feeding volume or time (if breastfeeding) at the earlier feeding first. Only start to eliminate the later feeding when the first one has successfully been eliminated. Once a feeding has been eliminated, try not to offer a feeding at that time again. Try other methods of soothing first. Of course you'll want to confirm with your pediatric healthcare provider before beginning night weaning.
By 9 months old, your baby no longer needs a feeding at night (assuming your healthcare provider doesn't have a concern about her weight). But if you and she are both enjoying a night feeding, there's no reason you need to eliminate it quite yet. I do, however, encourage you to put her down awake at bedtime, at least. If she always nurses or bottle feeds to sleep, she won't know how to put herself back to sleep alone and will need your help every time she wakes up. It's normal for people of all ages to wake momentarily between sleep cyles -- we do this too, but it's so brief we don't remember it -- and we want her to know how to go back to sleep when this happens.
After about a year of age, I recommend that parents night-wean because of the risk of cavities when a toddler has milk on his teeth during the night. Seeing a two-year-old get multiple fillings in his teeth would be traumatizing for any parent. I think it's easier to save the nursing or the bottle for the morning. It's fine to offer a sip of water if your baby wakes up during the night, though.
Please also make sure you don't put your baby in the crib with a bottle of milk as this is a risk for cavities, too, as well as a risk for ear infections.
It's wonderful to continue nursing or having a cup or bottle of milk at bedtime after the first birthday, though! Just make sure to brush those tiny teeth before bed. By this age, I recommend you incorporate a story and a song, or some other consistent screen-free ritual, to help your child learn to anticipate bedtime. By doing the same thing every night, your child is able to prepare for the upcoming separation from you and is less anxious. (Some separation anxiety at this age is normal but when we do things like this, we lessen it.)
If your child is past one and is still bottle or breast feeding to sleep, don't panic. Just work on moving the feeding earlier in the evening and putting your baby in bed awake.
It's normal for little ones to protest a change like this in the routine. Parents often worry about their little ones crying at a time like this. But it's perfectly natural for her to dislike the change... and it is very healthy for her to express her feelings.
An important part of parenting is sympathetically supporting children while they express their feelings about our consistent boundaries. Just like insisting on car seats and tooth brushing, sometimes we do things that children don't like. It's part of being a parent. Our children will not be traumatized by loving, clear limits. And the good news is that if you are consistent, your child will quickly adjust to the new routine and her protests will end. It's when we are inconsistent that things are much more confusing and challenging for children.
Night weaning sounds simple but the emotional aspect of it can be challenging for parents. I am here to help. Set up a free consultation and look forward to great sleep for the entire family.
There's one essential ingredient for sleep training.
And nope, it's not crying.
Or white noise. Or any specific sleep environment.
It's actually the essential ingredient in changing any human behavior. It's even necessary for changing the behavior of other mammals, too.
It's so easy to forget about. But once we remember, it's so helpful.
Case in point: my four-year-old had a habit of swallowing the water she uses to rinse her teeth after I brush them.
It drove me batty. Because she's not supposed to swallow fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin. Ingesting small amounts are almost certainly not dangerous but all the same, I'd rather not risk it.
So it became "a thing" between us. Every night she would defy me when I asked her to spit. And every night I would get frustrated. And then she would laugh. Delighted that she had power, once again, over my emotions.
Until finally, I came to my senses, and tried a new strategy.
Before I brushed her teeth, I said, "Hey Amelie, I bet you can't remember to spit in the sink after you rinse your teeth!" (Four-year-olds are total suckers for reverse psychology.)
I could see her eyes brighten at the challenge. Game on.
I brushed her teeth then handed her the cup of water. She rinsed and spat and turned to me with a triumphant gleam in her eye.
"Whoa! What??? You did remember! That was AMAZING! Give me a high five!"
And that was the end of that battle. As long as I remember to occasionally praise her for spitting out that toothpaste water, she's delighted to comply with my preferences. Eventually, the behavior will become so automatic for her that I won't need to comment on it anymore.
Likewise, when we want to change a child's behavior around sleep, the easiest and most successful way to do it is by focusing on the positive. Find the one thing, no matter how small, that your child did right and praise it to the skies. Make him a sticker chart and use it to acknowledge even the smallest of successes. If you only had to silently return your child to bed 20 times last night and it was 30 times the night before, celebrate! Make a huge deal of it. Give hugs and verbal praise along with the sticker.
Likewise, if you are using a baby gate or Door Monkey to keep your child safe in his room at night, he still gets a sticker or a prize in the morning for staying in his room. Why not? There is no harm and lots of benefit to celebarating the positive.
Along with that, we will totally ignore the negative. We think that commenting on the behavior we don't like will help change it, but it rarely does. So say nothing when your child gets out of bed for the 11th time. Just lead them back to bed without a word. Don't engage. Likewise, if they are yelling or falling asleep at the baby gate, leave them be. Wait for the morning and then celebrate the positive. It will change your child's behavior so much faster.
This approach works even with much younger children. If you are waiting until 6 am for the first time to go get your baby from the crib, make sure to have a huge smile on your face when you go into the room. Scoop her into your arms and smother her with kisses. Hide your frustration from your child and let your love shine, no matter the age.
The best thing I ever read about this was this Modern Love piece from the New York Times, published for the first time more than a decade ago, and reposted recently: What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage. I highly recommend this entertaining read!
Having trouble finding the positive in your child's anything-but-sleeping behaviors? Schedule a free consult and let's get you and your little one the sleep you both deserve.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.