Parents of anxious children face a conundrum. They know that better sleep can only help… and they don’t know how to get there. Because insisting on new sleep boundaries is only going to make both sleep and anxiety worse, right?
Sleep training does not have to be traumatic. It does not need to make anxiety worse. In fact, successful sleep training can really help anxiety.
I’ve worked with two children with anxiety in the past two weeks and sleep training was a huge success for both.
Here are their stories. After that, some tips for working with anxious children. (Note: all young children are anxious at times, and you don’t need a diagnosis of anxiety to struggle with these issues, or to use the technqiues outlined below.)
First, Liam. Liam was a skin picker when he felt anxious. He had multiple scabs on his body as a result. His parents worried that sleep training would make things worse. It was a battle to keep bandaids on him and they were worried about the risk of infection.
Here’s what his mother said after our two weeks working together,
“To my shock, his skin picking didn’t get any worse with sleep training.
And what’s more, I actually saw that setting clear boundaries around sleep really helped him. As a result, I started setting more clear boundaries at other times and you were right, when he had a tantrum about a boundary I set (he wanted more bread and I said no), I just waited. Afterwards, I didn’t discuss it with him, I just said, “do you want a hug” and he did, and after that, he was calm. I couldn’t believe it!”
Child number two, Layla. Layla is almost two-years-old and has always had a fiery temperament, unlike her even-tempered twin sister. Layla’s mother was nursing her all night long, in an attempt to get Layla the rest she desperately needed, even though it was physically painful for Mom. Any time that Layla’s mother tried to refuse to nurse, Layla got furious. She would leave the family bed and go sit in the corner of their bedroom and refuse to come back. She also had night terrors.
Less than a week after starting sleep training, Layla is peacefully sleeping through the night. In the family bed. Her night terrors have disappeared. She is sleeping many more hours, and goes to sleep peacefully at bedtime as well as nap time. While she still has a fiery temperament, her mom can see a huge change in her – Layla is more easygoing and happy now.
Tips for working with anxious children:
1. Anxious children need extra time to prepare for big changes. I recommend starting to prepare toddlers and preschoolers three days ahead of time. Have a family meeting, make a social story to help explain the upcoming changes, and continue to remind them of the upcoming changes over the three days prior to making them.
It’s important to talk, talk, talk about what is going to happen… even if your child gets mad. The anger is actually very healthy, because it means she is starting to process the changes ahead of time, which means the day you make the change will be that much easier. So don't stop talking when she gets upset!
Also, if someone took away your beloved morning coffee or evening Netflix, you’d be mad, too. You like your routine… and so does she! Let her have space to be mad…. And show her that you will love her through it!
2. Anxious children may need to make changes more slowly. This requires extra patience from you. In Layla’s case, we had her dad stay with her at bedtime to get used to not nursing to sleep. Once she was used to that, he started to gradually withdraw his presence after lights out. With zero tears.
3. Anxious children need boundaries even more than other children. It is an act of love, not cruelty, to establish and maintain boundaries. When children rule the household, it gives them the scary feeling of too much power. Young children don’t want that… even though they resist boundaries. Know that it's a child's job to test boundaries -- it's his way of figuring out how the world works -- and it's your job to maintain them. Even in the presence of meltdowns.
4. Emotions are never a problem. Let her have her big feelings… without changing the boundary. Stay close during a tantrum, stop talking, avoid eye contact. Just sit down and wait. Let her yell and cry. Stay silent. When it’s over – I promise it won’t last long, even if it feels like an eternity – quietly offer a hug. And be amazed that your child feels better after releasing those big emotions.
I know it is scary to set new boundaries with anxious children. You don’t have to go it alone. Set up a free discovery call and find out how much happier your entire family will feel – most especially your anxious child – when you all get the sleep you deserve.
Two-and-a-half year old Liam’s sleep was finally improving. After months of bedtime protests, he was going to sleep independently and easily.
But there was a catch.
Liam still had one more tool in his toolbox. The potty.
You see, Liam had successfully potty trained during the day, and was dry most nights, despite wearing a Pull-Up. Both Liam and his parents were excited by his progress… and that made them reluctant to ignore Liam’s requests to go to the bathroom…. Even when it was only 15 minutes since the bedtime bathroom trip.
Liam was also requesting lots of water at night. He actually slept with his water bottle in his bed! He also drank water somewhat compulsively during the night, but not during the day. (So we knew there wasn’t a medical issue going on.) And the frequent refills were, of course, making Liam need to go to the bathroom more often. Disturbing his sleep and his parents’ sleep.
But Liam's parents were loathe to tell him that he couldn’t have water at all. Both because they didn’t want him to be genuinely thirsty, and also because Liam would throw a massive tantrum if they took his beloved water bottle away. It seemed to be like a security blanket for him.
So here’s what we did. We set new, very clear boundaries.
Liam got two “pop-up cards” each night. He decorated them with marker and stickers so they felt very special to him. He actually loved them so much he carried them around the house with him!
After lights out – which was dictated by a timer set ahead of time – Liam could trade in his pop-up cards to have his parents come back. Just twice. His parents warned him – ahead of time, so there was no middle of the night conversation – that when the pop-up cards were gone, they wouldn’t come back, no matter what.
Because the presence of the water bottle was so soothing to Liam, his parents decided to keep the water bottle but gradually decreased the volume of water in it, so that it was less likely to create another bathroom visit. And then instead of refilling the water bottle, which took more time and thus created more engagement, they kept extra water bottles at the ready, outside his room.
So when Liam invariably used a pop-up card to request a trip to the bathroom, they also handed him a new water bottle, with only about an ounce of water. No negotiating for more.
Liam’s mom asked why he was still waking up twice a night near the end of the two weeks, and we realized that they were probably inadvertently reinforcing the night wakings with too much attention, even though it was so much less attention than he had received prior to sleep training.
Handing him a new water bottle instead of refilling the old one helped. I also instructed them to reduce the nighttime conversation to zero. They would silently take him by the hand to the bathroom, help him use the potty and wash his hands, silently escort him back to his bedroom, and silently point him in the direction of his bed. No more tucking him into bed in the middle of the night. Even the time and attention of tucking him into bed was reinforcing his night wakings. I asked his mom to act like a robot. Zero interaction, beyond escorting him and providing physical attention in the bathroom.
In case this sounds cruel, remember that this is only in the middle of the night. I encouraged his parents to actually give him extra attention during the day, in the form of roughhousing before dinner, so that he felt extra supported and loved. The idea is to give attention at appropriate times. When a child’s night wakings are rewarded with attention, though, it creates more night wakings, and everyone suffers, most of all the child, who becomes overtired.
Love and attention are critically important… but they should only happen during the day. Give extra attention during the day to make up for the lack of attention during the night.
If you are ready to set more clear boundaries around sleep but aren't sure where to start, set up a free discovery call and discover that your entire family really can feel well-rested.
“Is There A Way To Teach My Newborn How To Be A Great Sleeper So I Don’t Have To Sleep Train Later On?”
This was a question I received from Fatimah, my first client in Saudi Arabia.
She hadn’t sleep trained her older son until he was a year old. At that point, he was waking up seven times a night to nurse. And sleep training him was excruciating.
Now eight-week-old Farris seemed to be following in brother’s footsteps. Fatimah really didn’t want to endure the same nightmare again.
Also, Farris was heavy, and rocking him and nursing him to sleep multiple times a night was really hurting Fatimah’s back. She has almost no time with her older son because Farris seemed to need her all the time, and she was feeling a lot of guilt about that. And of course, she was exhausted from nursing and not-sleeping all night long.
But she didn’t want to do anything that would harm him, of course. So she scheduled a free call with me, and we decided to move forward in a gradual, gentle progression. Neither of us wanted him to cry for long periods of time. Older babies can handle this but newborns aren’t ready for that.
Newborns have immature nervous systems and often need a lot of help falling asleep…. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to take over the job.
Here’s some of the strategies we used. None of them involved crying:
Some of the changes she noticed in Farris, “He actually now prefers to fall asleep on his back in his bassinet instead of in my arms. He often wakes up happy now, whereas before, he was really fussy. Sometimes I don’t even realize he has woken up because he wakes up happily, without crying!”
And about herself, “I have so much more energy now that I am sleeping more. I would never have been able to do this on my own. It was scary at first, because I never sleep trained my older son at this age. I am so glad that I could message you with questions, or even just to rant! That really helped.
Farris sleeping independently will make it so much easier for him when I go back to work. I am so excited that his sleep habits will continue to grow and I will never have to sleep train Farris like I did with my older son!
It's also great having some time to relax and connect with my husband in the evenings.
I am so happy I did this!"
If you would like to help gently guide your newborn to better sleep, it is absolutely possible! Better sleep is in your future. Schedule a free chat and let’s get your family the sleep you deserve.
Poor little Elian looks miserable because, well, he is.
He fell asleep in the car at 4 pm and woke up after 5.
No doubt he needed the sleep, but the problem is that the timing was all wrong.
You know how you adult feel terrible if you take a nap at 5 pm? Cranky and groggy and miserable?
That’s how Elian was feeling too. Because the timing was off.
Our bodies produce melatonin at predictable times. For a two-year-old like Elian, his body produces melatonin the middle of the night and again in the early evening.
When we sleep at those times, we generally fall asleep easily and wake up easily (assuming we don’t have other sleep issues, of course). So a toddler who naps in the middle of the day should wake up fairly cheerfully.
When we sleep at the wrong times, we feel terrible.
I didn’t know this when my daughter, Calliope, was a toddler. I loved having long mornings to do things so I would put her down around 2 pm for her nap. And I couldn’t understand why she was waking up absolutely hysterical a couple of hours later. There was nothing I could do to coax her out of it. It was at least 30-minutes of kicking and screaming from my otherwise super chill toddler. It was horrible.
So sticking to a strict naptime schedule may be inconvenient to us parents, but if the payoff is a cheerful, alert child, I think you’ll agree it’s usually worth it. Save your exceptions to the schedule for days you really need them.
If you have optimized your child’s schedule and sleep is still a mess, set up a free discovery call and let’s get your family the rest you deserve.
A parent told me this recently and I had to laugh. And agree.
Every sleep book out there will tell you to put your child down in the crib “drowsy but awake.”
And parents the world over strive for this goal and then wonder what they are doing wrong when they carefully rock or feed their baby to a state of drowsy calm, gently place said baby in the crib… and the baby erupts in angry howls of protest.
Parents, it’s not your fault.
It’s bad advice.
Forget you ever heard “drowsy but awake.” It doesn’t work.
You have two choices. You either feed/rock/bounce/walk your child fully to sleep, or you put them down fully awake.
If you do the former, your child will more than likely wake up at some point, wonder where your loving arms -- the last thing they remember -- went, and start to cry for you to come back and repeat the process. It’s not your child’s fault. He or she just doesn’t know how to put themself back to sleep.
Imagine if you went to sleep in your cozy bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and your soft comforter, and woke up on the hard living floor. You wouldn’t know how to go back to sleep either.
The same is true for your child. If she went to sleep in your warm embrace, she doesn’t know how to go back to sleep without the same conditions.
This is why I always recommend putting your child in his bed fully awake. If this is new to him, yep, he’s probably going to cry.
But not because he’s afraid, or feeling abandoned (pro tip: children can’t even understand the concept of abandonment before late toddlerhood), or in pain, never mind traumatized.
He’s crying because he’s tired and he doesn’t know what to do, becuase you’ve always helped before, and he’s probably angry that you’ve changed up the routine that he liked so much.
Imagine if someone told you, “from now on, you will no longer be having coffee in the morning. Good luck.” You’d be pissed as hell. And so is your confused kiddo. And being that he’s so little, you can’t explain.
Don’t feel guilty. He’ll get over it. The best thing you can do to help him is to be strong and consistent. Don’t cave. Ever. Well, at least not two weeks. Otherwise, all that crying will be for naught. After two weeks, once the new habit is strong, you can make the occasional exception.
I promise that if you stay strong, he’ll get it, and not only that, he’ll be happier than ever!
Of course, if you are able to rock/feed/bounce/walk your child to sleep and she stays asleep, rock on. (No pun intended.) But if that was working for you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post.
This is not an easy transition. Be kind to yourself. Know that it's supposed to be hard. Remember when you started a new exercising or organizing or flossing habit? It was super hard at first, right? But then you started to get used to it and little by little, it got easier and easier until it was second nature, at least most of the time.
The same is true for your child. She'll get there. She just needs time and your loving consistency.
You don't have to make the change alone. Let me help. Set up a free discovery call and let's get your family the sleep you deserve. You got this!
"You and I have been talking about this years. And I finally realized it's what you said. It's about making a committment.
We have been sleeping badly for four years now, since Leo was two and started coming into our bed at night, saying he was scared. I knew I should deal with it but honestly, I was just so tired during the night and it was too hard to motivate myself to deal with it.
I finally realized that it wasn't going to get better until I took action. We have friends whose 10-year-olds still come into their beds every night, especially since COVID started.
It's nice to snuggle with Leo at night but neither Seth or I sleep well.
Also, I have been doing yoga every day this summer and I am very motivated to keep it up this school year. I want to get up early and work out before work, but with Leo in our bed, I can't because I'll wake him up.
So I made the committment while we were away in Colorado, where Leo was sleeping all night in my bed because Seth wasn't there. I used the trip as a transition.
I sat Leo down and said, "Mommy and Daddy don't sleep well when you are in our bed. We have to stop this. When we go home, you'll be sleeping in your own bed the whole night." I felt like it was important to not talk too much and just keep things simple.
I tried to be very positive, and said he would get a star on a star chart every night that he slept the whole night in his own bed. After he received 7 stars, he could buy a toy of his choice.
I made sure to remind him periodically of our conversation while we were still in Colorado.
I am not going to lie. The first night was hard. He was scared by something in the Scooby Doo show he had been watching, and was sobbing. He kept saying, 'I just want to snuggle with someone and not be alone.'
I honestly don't know where I got the strength but I just kept silently walking him back to his bed. I gave him an old necklace of mine to hold and told him it gave him a force field to protect him. He's been sleeping with it ever since!
In the morning, I focused on being positive, despite all the return trips to his bed during the night. I hugged him and said, 'I am so proud of you and you are going to be so proud of yourself when you sleep the whole night in your bed.'
After the first night, things gradually got easier. There wasn't any more sobbing, but I did have to walk him back to his bed multiple times.
Once he got his toy after the seventh night, I told him that from now on, he can't come out of bed at all anymore if he wants to earn another toy [after the second set of seven nights].
What do I wish I had known? What would I tell other parents in a similar situation?
Well, I honestly don't know how I didn't cave! I felt so sad when he said those hard things. Maybe it would have helped to have a coach to plan ahead and create resolve. I did have your moral support, which helped.
The most important thing was being really clear within myself that I want this. And I do.
I feel empowered now, knowing that if we have a night where we slip up, we can get back on track. It's like missing a workout. I know how to get back on track. I won't let one night derail us. Still, I want to try to avoid slip-ups, because it’s harder to get back on track afterwards.
It’s only been a week but i am excited to keep going.
It took years of talking to you to be ready to take this leap. At six-years-old, I finally did it."
If you are in a situation like Amy's, you don't have to go it alone. And you don't have to wait six years for great sleep, either! Set up a free consult so you get great sleep, and maybe even a great yoga routine going, too.
Three different parents have asked me just this week how to handle jet lag in their baby or toddler.
It seems after a year and a half stuck at home, we are all suddenly eager to get out of our homes and in some cases, our countries.
I am there with you. We are headed east in a few days (only one hour time difference) but then to Europe later this summer.
Europe was never even on my radar for these childhood years -- jet lag is hard enough on adults -- and yet, when a unique opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t pass it by.
So here are my tips for you, and the things I will try with my own children.
1. Don’t even bother trying to transition them gradually, unless the time difference is two hours or less.
Instead, just focus on making sure your child is well-rested, well-fed, and well-exercised prior to the trip.
2. If the time difference is only 1-2 hours, by all means start moving bedtime, meals, and naps about 10 minutes later each day until you reach the desired, adjusted schedule.
3. Consider avoiding socializing and childcare for a week or two prior to travel, if you can manage it, unless your child is able to wear a mask or you can ensure to only socialize outside.
(This is more to avoid a COVID diagnosis that could cancel your trip, rather than a true health risk, though congestion and clogged ears can be miserable for a young child on a plane.)
4. On the day of travel… all bets are off. Do whatever you have to do to survive. Bring alllllll the snacks. Offer unlimited screen time if your child enjoys it. Bring lots of little wrapped gifts -- the Dollar Store is a great place to pick these up. Bandaids, cling films, post-it notes, tiny containers of play-doh -- wrap it all up. Bring a new gift out every 15-20 minutes, or as needed. Record yourselves on the plane on your phone and play it back.
Survival is key, here. Good nutrition and award-winning parenting are not.
5. If you can afford it, a separate seat for your under-two child is a great idea, but you probably already knew that. If your child naps well in the car seat in the car, lug the car seat onto the plane so the child has a familiar place to nap. Safety is a nice perk but wasn’t my primary reason for bringing it on board!
If you are flying across an ocean and your child is small enough, a bulkhead bassinet is amazing.
6. Try to initiate a nap on the plane about the same time as you would start a nap at home, if logistics permit. Try to keep your child awake before boarding the plane unless doing so would result in massive overtiredness.
7. When you arrive in your new location, try to initiate bedtime as early as you can, as your child will surely be overtired, no matter which direction you have traveled.
8. The next day, try to acclimate your child to the new time zone… without waking them unduly early. This will probably mean some compromising on schedule -- just do your best.
9. Expect there will be a few ugly days of overtired behavior and wonky schedules. Keep your own -- and your family’s/friends’ -- expectations low. Warn them ahead of time because people who aren't parenting a young child -- even if they have done so in the past -- don't always remember how hard it is to travel with a little one, never mind across time zones.
Expect your child to be a monster some of the time, and be pleasantly surprised if this doesn’t turn out to be the case.
Also plan that meals will be extra challenging. Bring some familiar foods so your child has something to eat in case things are just too different while she is exhausted.
Do not attempt restaurant meals or anything else unduly challenging with a toddler. You will both end up frustrated.
Playground meet-ups are a safer bet.
10. Plan for plenty of unstructured time outside. Exposure to daylight will help to reset your child's body clock, as does ample opportunities for exercise.
11. Check with your pediatrician to see if melatonin is safe to use. It can be a miracle for resetting bedtime either when you arrive or when your return home, depending on which direction you are flying, but not all health care professionals feel it is safe.
If your healthcare provider approves, I recommend the Tired Teddies brand because it's a lower dose of melatonin than any other I've found, just 0.3 mg versus 1 mg or more. And oftentimes, just a half a tablet suffices for my six-year-old. Try a half and see if it works for your child.
Likewise, check with your pediatrician if you are considering using Benadryl to initiate a nap or a bedtime -- some children get ramped up instead of sleepy from it. Try it at home before you try it during travel, just in case things go terribly wrong.
And along with the flight recommendations, if your child suffers from motion sickness (whether car, plane, or boat) -- as my nine-year-old does -- check out Dramamine chewables. They have been life changing for us. Just make sure to give the medication 45 minutes prior to travel.
12. Go with the flow. If your child is up at 3 am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you can keep the lights off and try to be boring but at some point, you may have to face the inevitable and get up too. Or offer screen time in these special circumstances to save yourself -- you will go back to the old rules once you get home.
13. When you get back home, you may have to ease gently back into the old schedule but be sure to immediately go back to the old sleep rules -- if you didn’t bed share before, end it immediately. If you only feeding once at night before the trip, go back to that.
A friend talks about the “half-life of vacation” -- if you were gone 10 days, expect 5 days to return to baseline. But the more time zones you crossed, and the more exceptions you made to sleep rules, the longer it will take to get back to normal. Don’t panic. Just stay consistent. Things will eventually go back to normal.
14. And finally, someone asked me “ShouId I take my baby to see family in Europe?” This was a question I asked myself, and my “baby” isn’t a baby!
There’s no one right answer to this question, of course. That said, consider that we have all been locked down for a very long time, and most of us have desperately missed seeing our loved ones. Many of you have babies and toddlers that have never met close family members in person. And we don't know what the future holds, especially in terms of the virus but also, in general in life. I’m the first to say that sleep is important… but so is living fully. Life is short. It’s okay to make exceptions to the rules sometimes. Just get back to them as quick as you can.
If you are struggling to get your child's sleep on track, you aren't alone. Set up a free chat and find out how to get your family the sleep you deserve. Good sleep is everything.
The tantrums, in this case, are happening to a six-year-old. My six-year-old. Amelie, who declares herself “the leader of the planet,” has both a bold confidence and an extreme sensitivity to criticism.
She is also struggling at school, according to her, though according to the school, everything is great -- no fighting, no meltdowns, good cooperation and socializing. But Amelie tells us that everyone else in the class -- by which she means the three other English speakers -- are “besties” and she is only a “half bestie” because she doesn’t have scrunchies. Also, the teacher is "mean."
At home, she loses her temper easily, generally when she feels criticized, and occasionally has meltdowns, “barrinchas” in Spanish. Nobody enjoys these!
Just like all of you, I am still learning the art of parenting. We have started working with a therapist to get some strategies, and I’ve also implemented a few from my own reading. Many of these ideas I share with my clients as well.
Here are some things we are trying:
Parenting is an art, not a science. I am always trying to learn and grow as a parent. What interventions have you tried? What has worked best for you and your family?
PS If your child is overtired, behavior will almost certainly be more challenging. Schedule a free consult to find out if your child is in need of more sleep.
My girls turned 7 months a week ago and should be napping 3hrs max at 3 naps a day. I’ve found going from 3.5-3 hrs has been hard for them. I have to wake them up from each nap and they are upset when I do.
Also when I don’t give Y at least 3.15 hrs of daytime nap, it makes putting her down for naps challenging as she screams until she falls asleep. Yesterday I gave them 3.5hrs but thought it’d affect their night time sleep but it didn’t. They went to bed at 7:35pm, and woke up at 7am. Their wake windows are also 2.5hrs which works best for Y, but I’ve put Z down a bit earlier than that and she still sleeps. How can I slowly dial it back to get to 3hrs or should I just let them be since it’s not affecting their night time sleep?
In a word, no. It’s not a problem at all. Some babies just sleep more than others.
Sleep predictions by age are just averages. Some babies will inevitably need more sleep and others need less. If you are the parent of a high sleep needs baby, you are, by many accounts, lucky.
Other parents worry that their babies don’t sleep enough. I worked with a client recently whose 12-month-old baby just wouldn’t take longer than 30-minute naps. We tried everything. But the baby’s night sleep -- after our work together -- was beautiful. Ten to eleven hours a night, with no wakings. And her mood was great during the day. She just didn’t need a lot of sleep, total, and especially, not a lot during the day.
So while it’s a good idea to have a general idea of average sleep needs and average awake intervals, try not to get bogged down with them.
Here are some general guidelines for what to expect in terms of awake intervals. I recommend switching to a clock-based schedule (as opposed to an awake-interval based schedule) by about 5 months but awake intervals are still useful beyond that age as a general guide. For example, if your two-year-old naps from 2-4 pm, she’s probably not going to be ready for bed at 7 pm because she needs 4-5.5 hours awake between the end of nap and her bedtime.
Awake Interval Details by Age *averages. In general, try to keep the awake intervals at the shorter end of the range unless you have a low sleep needs baby.)
Birth to 6 weeks: 45-60 min
2 mos: 1 hour
3 months: 1-1.5 hours
4 months: 1.25-1.75 hours with bedtime about 1.75-2 hours after the last nap ends.
5 months: 1.5-2.25 hours with bedtime no later than 2-2.5 hours after the last nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from 4-5 naps a day to 3 naps a day by about 5 months old. You can expect naps to get longer when this happens. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
6 months: 2-2.5 hours Naps should be ending by 5:00pm with bedtime 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
7 months: 2.25-2.75 hours with naps ending by 5:00pm. Bedtime should be 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
8 months: 2.25-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm and bedtime should be 3-3.75 hours after that.
9 months: 2.5-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm. Bedtime should be 3-3.5 hours after that.
*** Most babies transition from 3 naps a day to 2 naps a day between 7 and 9 months old. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
10 months: 3-3.5 hours awake between 2 naps with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
11 months: 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12 months: 3-4 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (2 naps): 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (1 nap): 5-6 hours awake before the nap and bedtime 4-5.5 hours after the nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from two naps a day between 15 and 18 months but some children transition as early as 12 months or as late as 21 months. When this transition happens, move bedtime earlier to prevent overtiredness.
18-24 months: 5-6 hours before the nap and bedtime 4-6 hours after the nap ends.
24+ months: The nap should end by 3:00-3:30pm or even earlier if you are finding that bedtime is too late. It is normal for bedtime to become later the longer the child keeps their nap. You may cap the nap to keep bedtime from getting too late.
For most children under age 6 (yes, a huge range of ages!), the sweet spot for bedtime is between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
Don’t be afraid to try a much earlier bedtime if your baby or toddler seems overtired! If your preschooler is still napping (yay!), you may need a slightly later bedtime but if your little one is up until 9 pm or later, cap or eliminate the nap.
Again, these are just guidelines. If you are worried you child is sleeping too much or too little, schedule a free chat and we can figure out what is the best individualized schedule for your little one.
Fisher Price just issued a recall on their 4-In-1 Rock ‘N Glide Soother, an infant seat that can rock a baby forward and back as well as side-to-side. Four deaths have been reported: in each case, the baby was placed in it without the safety straps on and the baby subsequently rolled over in the seat and suffocated. They were four months old, two months old, two months old, and 11-weeks old.
Back in 2019, Fisher Price recalled almost 5 million Rock N Play Sleepers after 10 babies died in them. The deaths occurred “in most cases” after the babies rolled over in the devices, due to the fact that the safety straps were not used.
Clearly, the first lesson with these recalls is that it's critically important that safety straps are always used in infant containment devices. No matter what. It also suggests that parents should try not to rely on any inclined baby seat.
I have to admit that I was pretty devastated when the Rock n Play was recalled. My younger daughter LOVED that thing and would sleep up to 10 hours straight in it. It’s been hard to admit to my clients that that was a huge part of my success with sleep training!
Parents today have it harder, no doubt about it. A lot of newborns just don’t want to sleep flat on their backs, alone in a crib or bassinet.
It is safe to use a bouncy seat or swing for a nap if you are in the same room and watching your baby sleep. But it is critically important that safety straps are always used, even with you in the room. And that you are observing your baby breathing, of course. Being on an incline seems to be a risk for SIDS, possibly even with the safety straps, so better safe than sorry.
It is not recommended that you let your baby sleep in her car seat except when she is riding in the car. In that case, her car seat is the safest place for her, of course. Once the car ride is over, it is recommended that you take her out of the car seat and put her into her crib. I know how terrible that sounds! But the problem with the car seat is that over time, it can compress her airway and increase the risk of SIDS.
If your baby doesn’t want to sleep in his bassinet -- and this is very common, especially for newborns -- here are some things you can try.
First, try the actual crib. Many babies sleep better in the crib than the bassinet. Perhaps the mattress is more comfortable? Give this multiple tries before deciding if it helped or not.
Second, use the 5 S’s to your advantage (with babies under 12 weeks old). They are swaddling -- even if he cries! -- suck (pacifier or a clean finger), side lying (in your arms only, on his back in the crib), shushing (white noise), and swinging (in your arms, before placing in the crib).
Third, try placing a heating pad in the crib for a few minutes. Remove the heating pad and feel the mattress with your hand, checking to make sure it’s not too hot, before you put the baby down.
Fourth, don’t be afraid of a little crying. Even for a newborn, it is perfectly safe. Put the baby down and stay with her and gradually increase the amount of support you offer. Maybe your presence, or a soothing voice, is enough. Next, try the pacifier or a clean finger to suck. Maybe just placing your hand on her body is enough, or jiggling and patting will do the trick. If not, try rocking her and putting her back down again. Use feeding as a last resort as a way to put her to sleep.
Don’t expect perfection the first time. But keep trying at least one or two times a day. Things will improve with consistent practice.
If all else fails and he will only sleep in arms, enlist all the help you can. If you have a partner, family member, or alternate caregiver, take turns sleeping and holding the baby (the person holding the baby stays awake). If you can enlist a friend to take the 8 pm -- 12 am shift even occasionally, take advantage! Go to sleep as early as you can. Even an unbroken 4-hour stretch can be lifechanging. These difficult early days don’t last forever.
Likewise, if you can hire some temporary nighttime help, do it! I hired a “baby nurse” every fifth night when Amelie was a colicky newborn and it was the best money I have ever spent. I couldn’t have parented my three-year-old humanely in those early weeks without help. I was just too exhausted and frazzled without help.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against bedsharing. If you are nonetheless committed to it, please read up on “safer bedsharing practices.” The safest option is room sharing but not bedsharing.
Parenting a young infant is hard. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Ask for all the help. Be safe.
If you are struggling with massive sleep deprivation and an exhausted baby, you aren’t alone. Let’s set up a free chat and get your family the great sleep you all deserve.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.