Baby and Toddler Nap Transitions: When and How to Drop a Nap

NAP JAIL.  It’s a real thing, and often times, you won’t understand the meaning unless you’re a Mom or Dad living through it.  Nap Jail as I call it, refers to the time(s) of day where you are locked down in your home, unable to leave due to your baby or toddler’s nap time.  In the beginning of your little one’s life, you’re quite literally in nap jail all day!  The good news: all these naps won’t last forever, and wake windows will increase with age, which means it could be time for you to begin thinking about introducing an older age-appropriate schedule that includes less naps.  But when do you know that your baby is ready?  How long should each of these naps be in length?  And how exactly do you go about changing up your child’s schedule so gently that it doesn’t affect their night sleep?  Let’s discuss by starting with the younger babes below.

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Let’s start with the necessary number of naps by age for children under 12 months of age: 

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These are the desirable nap totals per day by age for children 5-12 months. Under 5 months of age, naps are incredibly inconsistent in time and length, therefore only striving to meet napping totals is recommended.  Between the ages of 6-9 months is when you’ll want to drop down from three naps to two naps, timing them about 3-3.5 hours apart from one another.  You start the transition by simply increasing the time spent awake between sleeps, beginning with stretching baby’s wake window by 30 minutes each time for a week, then another 30 minutes the following week until you’ve met the goal of 3-3.5 hours apart.  

You’ll know that baby is ready to drop a nap once you see the following signs for at least three days per week, three weeks in a row: 

  • Baby refusing the first nap of the day, or playing/fussing the entire time
  • Baby refusing the last nap of the day, playing/fussing the entire time
  • A nap that was consistently long in length drops to 30 minutes or less

Once baby is between 15-18 months, he or she is ready for the biggest step of all: the one-nap schedule!  On a one-nap schedule, your toddler should be achieving about one to two hours of napping per day. Once your child is showing the signs above of needing to drop one of the two naps, it’s time to begin thinking about lengthening your wake windows once again, this time to five to six hours between sleeps.  This is a large leap from the time between naps that they are used to having, so you’ll want to take it slow.  Here are the steps you’ll take to successfully drop down to one nap:

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  • Make sure your child has a consistent schedule before you attempt to drop down to one nap.  This means you’ll be attempting to encourage a nap every 3-3.5 hours for at least a week before you introduce a one-nap schedule.
  • Starting with the morning wake window, you’ll want to slowly increase this wake window to four hours before offering a nap.
  • After the end of the one nap, aim for bedtime to occur about five to six hours after waking from the nap itself.
  • You’ll want your child to nap for at least 45 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.  If baby only sleeps 45 minutes the first few times you attempt the one-nap schedule, move bedtime up earlier that night by thirty minutes.
  • If baby naps more than 2 hours, wake him or her up and aim for bedtime to occur five hours after waking from the nap, or the max wake window suggested for this age (6 hours).
  • After your child is able to sleep one hour or more on a consistent basis, you can increase the time spent awake in the morning before naps to 5-6 hours from waking.

Here is an example of a transitional schedule for a toddler waking at 7am, followed by a “one-nap” schedule that you will introduce after the nap has once again lengthened:

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The first three weeks that you attempt a one-nap schedule, expect short naps, this is extremely common!  Stay patient and celebrate the small wins, and make sure that you praise and reassure your child.

 Photo cred: @littlemissleighton

Photo cred: @littlemissleighton

In the end, always be sure to use my “Sleep and the City” rules for successful sleep shaping:

¥ The same sleeping environment is encouraged ( meaning one place over and over, or to start, at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day).

¥ Swaddle (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times as needed 

¥ Comfy outfits for nap time

¥ White noise is continuously running; a one with low rumbling is best

¥ Room is completely dark for naps & nighttime (nightlight over 2+ years ok)

¥ Understand the Wake windows by age and know how to respond to night wakings accurately

¥ Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first if nap is less than 45 minutes

¥ Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)

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Pacifier Weaning: When is the Best Age to Wean or Take Away the Pacifier from Baby or Toddler?

The pacifier (or dummy) is a wonderful soothing tool for Newborns under 3 months, who come into this world with a need and strong instinct to suck.  In fact, many children grow to love their pacifier for years to come!  By the time baby reaches 8 months, with a little practice, many have the ability to replace the binky themselves, woohoo!!  However, if you have found yourself re-plugging baby's pacifier all night long, it may be time to rethink your soothing strategy.

When you or your child is finally ready to drop the pacifier, what are the best methods to gently wean a baby or toddler? And when is the best time? And how exactly do you even begin?? Let's dive into the world of pacifier weaning.....

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AGE MATTERS:  The best possible age to wean from the pacifier is follows:  Between 4-6 months, and after 2.5 years of age.  Between the ages of 6M-2.5YRS, there are extreme spikes in separation anxiety, stranger danger, and developmental leaps.  Taking away a primary comfort item during this time is not only traumatic for the baby, but could also lead to the baby wanting something in it's place to soothe him or her back to sleep between every sleep cycle, which repeats every 45 minutes.  However, if you're still willing to go for it, see the next step below which is good for pacifier weaning at any age.

ENCOURAGE AN ALTERNATIVE: A lovey, a small silky blanket (like this one), or a small stuffed animal to squeeze at night can be encouraged during the DAY in place of the binky to transfer their attachment to.  To encourage the bond, bring the new lovey on car rides, place in child's hands during cartoons/storytime, and incorporate the new "friend" in silly games like peek-a-boo games in the child's room or wearing it on your head and ask your child to "help you find it". Make sure the lovey has no small parts like button eyes or any potential choking hazards. 

SLOW & STEADY: To gradually wean a 4-6 month old off the pacifier, start by introducing about 5 minutes of rocking into your naptime and bedtime routines after the feed, allowing baby to suck on the pacifier.  When baby is about a 9-9.5 on the drowsy scale, slowly inch it out with your pinky finger.  If baby's eyes pop open and they look around, go ahead and pop it back in, keep rocking, and try again in a few minutes.  This can also be done if baby is already in the crib, and almost asleep.  Give it a week or so, practice makes perfect!

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LIMIT TO NAPS & NIGHT:  To begin, start by limiting pacifier usage to the crib for naps and nights (another great way to encourage sleep!) If your toddler throws a fit or needs calming during the day, encourage your little to take a breather in another room, give him some additional one-on-one time, or find his new lovey or security (from above) to calm down with.

PACI-FREE TIME: If limiting to naps/night is too much of a step for your paci-loving toddler, try instead to limit it's usage throughout the day to 30 minutes for 2-3 days, then 45 minutes and so on.  This can also work the other way, allowing the child to have binky back after 30 minutes, then 45 minutes and so on.  Make it fun and encourage good behavior!

GOSSIP:  Let your child overhear you "raving" on the phone/to his animals/older sibling/parent about how your toddler went all morning without the pacifier. Reassurance and PRAISE for the older toddlers is a must!

DISCUSS: Sit down with your child and discuss together when to give up the binky.  This could be a special day, like the weekend or an upcoming birthday, and reward them with a special trip somewhere they enjoy, or that toy they've seen (over and over and OVER- or is it just me that sees it this many times?!) on the Disney Channel commercials.

READ ABOUT IT: Invest in some tried n' true pacifier weaning books to enjoy with your child at night for about a week before you attempt to remove it completely.  This book has rave reviews on Amazon by parents whom have sworn by it!

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Lots of love, reassurance, and positivity will ease your child through the transition.  some toddlers may regress; it's ok to "call it" and try again another week. 

 Contact us here if you'd like some further assistance on this topic, we are always here to help, make your life easier, and toast our wine glasses to your successes! xo

Daylight Savings 2018: How to "Spring Forward" your Baby and Toddler's Nights, Naps, including Schedule and Early Rising

Daylight Savings 2018: How to "Spring Forward" your Baby and Toddler's Nights, Naps, including Schedule and Early Rising

As a special Thank You to all of my dedicated readers, I'm sharing my super easy (& super secret) Spring Forward Daylight Savings sleep tips today in this post so you can enjoy your summer alongside me!  Wake up- this is parenthood- don't all good things come to an end?! Guess what- this one doesn't have to.  Read more to find out how you can use this time change to your parenting advantage!

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Top 5 Mistakes that New Moms Make: How to Prioritize Sleep, Nutrition, and "Me Time"

Get pregnant, check.  Have a beautiful, healthy baby, check.  Read the manual the hospital sends home with you after baby is born...wait, you didn't get one either? 

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Of course becoming a Mom is a big learning curve for most of us, and I was no exception.  After years of raising my own children, my nieces, and helping out friends & clients, I wanted to compile a quick list of items that I personally felt that I could have done better in hindsight.  As a new or seasoned Mom, you're only required to do your best, but hopefully you can skip a few of these mistakes below when it comes time to make a decision about your baby, lifestyle or routines at home.  In the comments, let me know what you think?  Do you agree?    

Mistake #1: (Incorrectly) Bed-sharing

  The very first 4 weeks of life, both of my children slept swaddled up between my husband and I, within 12 inches of our faces, so in the event the baby should stop breathing (I still worry about this even to this day!), we could easily be woken up and tend to the baby quickly.  I remember waking one night to see that one of my pillows was only inches from my newborn's face- and that was the last night she slept between us.  Although bedsharing is commonly practiced in many parts of the world, especially with breastfeeding mothers, the AAP actually does not recommend bedsharing at all.  Recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths occur when an adult that is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or is a moderate smoker, all ways to sleep heavier and deeper (thus not waking up if baby is in distress).  I believe you should be able to make your own informed decision here, so if you do consider this, here are some pointers:

  • Sleep with the spring mattress on the floor (no box spring), no pillows and no blankets/comforters.  Parents should wear additional layers to stay warm.
  • Consider investing in a safe sleeping area for baby between or next to the adult, such as the one DockaTot provides (also great to combat separation anxiety and lengthen naps!)  Visit our "Sleep Must Haves" tab for more information on this Babylist 2017 winning product
  • Do not sleep together with baby if you are a smoker, or smoked during pregnancy, or under the influence of any OTC or illegal drugs
  • Offer a separate sleeping area for older siblings, such as next to the mattress on the floor in a larger Dockatot (the Grand)
  • Do not swaddle a bedsharing baby, this may cause overheating.
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Mistake #2: Keeping Baby up during the day to help him/her sleep better at night

Guys, even my pediatrician recommended this little ugly and WRONG piece of new Mom advice.  When I asked at my son's 4-week appointment the common "How can I get him to sleep longer stretches at night" question, my pediatrician (who above all else was fabulous btw) answered, "Do whatever you can to engage him during the day!"  LIttle did I know that a Newborn's circadian rhythm develops in approximately 6-8 weeks, meaning it'll take a little over 1-2 months for your baby to switch their nights to their days and sleep longer at night.  So there I was, keeping my poor crying son up for hours at a time, and feeling absolutely defeated when this tiny overtired child would only nap for 20 minutes at a time.  SLEEP BEGETS SLEEP, meaning the more rested a baby is, the better he or she will sleep.  Once I was able to figure out that a child of his age should only be awake in between naps for about 90 minutes or less, he started sleeping through the night by 10 weeks!

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Mistake #3: Mama Isolation or "The Newborn Fog"

Admit it, you were, or are, a much less devoted friend to your group of girlfriends now then before baby was born.  And you should be by all means; children are work, but GREAT work, and sometimes (ok, always) that means social obligations fall to the side.  However, this can leave a New Mom or newly-stay-at-home-Mom feeling alone.  Not feeling like you can leave a breastfeeding baby for a quick break, or connect with other Moms going through the same things you are, can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times.  The good news: This Newborn Fog we all experience won't last for long.  The bad news: if you don't take time for yourself and reach out to others going through the same experiences, you might find yourself feeling way too lonely- or isolated- and bring on those baby blues.  Try finding a local MOPS group (2 hours of morning chats with other Mother's of preschool children/babies & listening to hand-picked speakers- and most have daycares for free!), or search for a Moms group with your city name within Facebook like "Los Angeles Moms Club"- there are TONS of other women dying to meet each and chat about that gross yellow poop and exchange babysitter information.  Don't be afraid to reach out, trust me you'll be SO glad you did!

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Mistake #4: Pacifying my Baby to sleep every single time

Breastfeeding was LOVE for me the day I latched my daughter for the first time and got the thumbs up from the hospital nurse.  She had a terrific latch, and was on her way to be an excellent feeder.  This was unchartered territory for me, as my first child was a formula-fed child  from Day One after a semi-traumatic emergency cesarean.  I embraced feeding her, and felt proud and formed a deep connection with her knowing that I was her primary source of nutrition, I was the one still keeping this tiny human alive who was sleeping 3-4 hours at night by one month old...until she became sick a month later, causing night wakings every 2 hours.  I was desperate for sleep, crying alongside her many nights.  I tried something one of my friend's had mentioned, "Just put a boob in her mouth to get her back to sleep".  So I tried this new idea...and it worked, she fell asleep so quickly!  But as the nights went on, she went from waking every 2 hours, to every 45 minutes. She didn't need a feed every 45 minutes, as I confirmed with my doctor, hallelujah! This tiny baby could no longer fall asleep without a breast in her mouth.  Now clearly if you've followed along with me for a while now you know what I did next (as she was too tiny to formally sleep train), and I can tell you I didn't stop feeding her at night.  But I did stop feeding/pacifying her at EVERY waking, and instead offered an alternative form of soothing like rocking, swaying, singing, etc. After a few more weeks, she was sleeping 4-8 hour stretches at night!

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Mistake #5: Comparing your Baby's Sleep to Others, Including a Sibling

"My 6-week old son naps for 6 hours a day, he's amazing, I get so much done!" or "My daughter slept through the night by 4 weeks, I don't know what the big deal is?" are examples of the conversations I've overheard in Facebook groups and Mommy playdates.  Comparison when it comes to sleep will do you no good, take it from me.  As parent's, we often try to focus on our child's accomplishments instead of the downfalls, and usually what you're reading on Facebook has some truth to it, but it's not all rainbows there either all the time.  I often also receive emails from parents frustrated with a 2nd or 3rd child's sleep habits, mentioning that they never had a problem with their previous child.  I am here to tell you, that while we are all for the majority "wired the same" when it comes to sleep, that all children are different with different temperments.  Yep, you can raise your first and second baby exactly the same, and one will nap better, and one will always sleep in later, and one will never wet the bed or experience nightly terrors.  So here's my PSA: Just don't worry about others, and do the best you know how to do.

What was one of the mistakes, or learning curves that you can look back on and wish you knew before you had a baby?  Do you agree with the above?  What was your experience as a new Mom like?  Comment below and let's chat!

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How to Dress Baby for Sleep: Safe Clothing & Bedding Suggestions for every season- with TealBee Organics

How to Dress Baby for Sleep: Safe Clothing & Bedding Suggestions for every season- with TealBee Organics

Baby has finally arrived, and it’s the first night home from the hospital- but what should your baby wear to sleep at night? And what about your older toddler?  Hi, I’m Lauren, certified Sleep Specialist with Sleep and the City, and I’m talking today about how to dress your child comfortably at night during any season (and at any age!) and provide the optimal environment for quality sleep.  Throughout my post today I’ll also include some of my favorite examples of clothing and bedding from TealBee.com, so let’s dive in!

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The Dock A Tot: A Sleep Consultant's Review & The Toddler Bed Transition

The Dock A Tot: A Sleep Consultant's Review & The Toddler Bed Transition

"How do you feel about the Dock-A-Tot?"  and "Do you think I should order the Dock-A-Tot for my child?" These are two questions I receive almost weekly in my Inbox, as this Baby "Must Have" is on the top of most Mama's list of "Wants".  After some extensive research, a little contemplation and my toddler expressing interest about moving into a toddler bed, I finally decided to try the Dock for myself.

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What is THE WITCHING HOUR? Tips to Avoid & When it will End for your Baby

When we say "It's 5 o' clock somewhere", we are generally speaking about having a glass of wine at the end of the day......kicking up our feet (ok, briefly anyways)....and relaxing a little bit when Daddy comes home after work to help shoulder the parenting load.  But your newborn has a different idea, and terrible, scary, idea: to cry or scream NON-STOP......starting in the evening.....all the way until BEDTIME.  

Keep that wine bottle opener handy, because you'll need it to get through what is commonly referred to as "THE WITCHING HOUR" during these first few months of life.  Let's make your evenings a little less "Witchy" and dive into why it happens, how to avoid the Witching Hour, and when the Witching Hour will finally come to an end.

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The good news?  They have automatic wine bottle openers these days.  Better news? The Witching Hour doesn't last forever, usually ending around the 4 month mark.  The bad news?  When an Infant is increasingly fussy in the late afternoon/evening, they aren't able to settle easily, causing short or missed naps.  These "disaster" naps turn normally calm babies into overtired, overstimulated babies, and with the added stress hormone from lack of age-appropriate sleep, you've got a full meltdown-mode newborn on your hands.  

Here's a few reasons WHY most doctors believe the Witching Hour occurs:

  • Baby is overtired: Depending on the child's age, baby needs anywhere from 4-7 hours per day of napping under 4 months old. If the nap needs aren't met for the day by the early afternoon, or the wake window is too large, your little bundle of joy will take a turn for the worse.

  • Baby is overstimulated: Gone are the days when baby was a month old and could physically shut down or "habituate" to block out overstimulation when family visits or during a birthday party at a loud restaurant. When babies are no longer able to habituate, baby becomes overstimulated very easily.

  • Baby has tummy/gas/digestion issues: Dietary and medical issues such as reflux, silent reflux & GERD, especially when undiagnosed, can make baby wail for hours in the evening. Gas bubbles can also cause major discomfort, causing the child to writher & squirm (and cry), so make sure baby is burped after every feeding, and you pay attention to your own diet when breastfeeding to see if there is anything that triggers increased lengths of crying.

  • Baby wants/needs to cluster feed: If you look at your own body's rhythms, the end of the afternoon is a natural time to have low energy, and babies often look to soothe themselves during these times. Children often feel the most safe or soothed feeding with Mom, or "tanking up."

Here's a few ways to get through the Witching Hour, or at least handle it without cracking an entire case of wine:

  • Be realistic about having a newborn. You have a baby. You won't be able to come home and lay motionless on the couch anymore until bedtime. You might not even eat your dinner until it's cold for a few months. Remind yourself that this is TEMPORARY, and one day, your hands will be empty. Embrace the crazy, and prepare for the worst to happen every single night until baby is at least 4 months old (so you have some "good days" when baby only cries temporarily).

  • Allow baby to have a carrier nap. Now listen, I'm all about a consistent nap place, but when you have a newborn it's vital to grab an evening nap before bedtime, and most babies will LOVE a chance to nap close to Mom. Our favorite carrier for both our children was the 360 Degree (front face & back face) Original Ergo carrier (click here for exact one), it sits on your hips perfectly and doesn't kill your back! Plus this carrier can hold children from infant up to 2 years old!

  • If breastfeeding, review your diet: Lactose? Caffeine? Spicy foods? All have been known to be culprits of upset tummies in breastfed children.

  • Cluster feed/Comfort Feed: Some babies simply want to be held, and shown that everything is ok in the crazy evening hustle of homework, dinner, laundry & The Bachelor handing out the final rose. Cluster feeding may even get you a few hours of sleep at night!

  • Protect the nap schedule. Visit our naps post here for a guide on how many hours per day your babe should be napping, and rock/walk/bounce/wear your child to squeeze in any missed time before you attempt bedtime for the night.

  • Take a walk. With or without baby, some children do best in the evenings when exposed to natural light, fresh air, and the motion of a good walk. I found this method to be most effective in my family (when it wasn't freezing outside) and gave me a chance to catch up on my day with my husband.

Remember, the Witching Hour in babies does NOT last forever, even if it can seem like forever when you're going through it.  Email us or Contact Us to talk about how we can help you get the age-appropriate napping schedule, or more ways to help soothe a fussy baby.  And cheers ;)

Can my children share a room? What age can Baby share a room with my toddler?

I get this question a lot for various reasons: smaller spaces, wanting a playroom, vacationing, or just parents wanting a guest room or office.  The simple answer: any age, but I recommend waiting until the youngest is at LEAST 2.5 years old (sleep regressions before then happen almost every 6 months, yikes.)

If you decide to go for it, here are some great tips I can give to make this process go smoothly for those parents out there dreading the idea (or those lucky enough to be expecting twins!) and still want their babies, toddlers, twins, or older kids to sleep through the night!

#1: Always put the youngest child to bed first. Generally your youngest will naturally have an earlier bedtime due to their biological sleep needs, so begin there.  I always recommend that a child's bedtime routine end in their room (reading a story, etc.).  While you are putting down your youngest, hopefully Dad is home to play with your oldest or he/she can understand that you'll be absent for a few minutes (a cartoon is my last resort!) and doesn't come barging in the room.  Afterwards, make sure to carve a little downtime for your older child as well.

#2: When sleep training one child but not the other, separate.  I see this a lot with twins- one is a great sleeper while the other has some issues getting (and staying) asleep.  For this situation I recommend that you temporarily separate the kids while you sleep train so the "sound sleeper" isn't bothered during the process.  Once you feel as though the kids are ready to be in the same room, move them back together.

#3: Manage your expectations.  Sharing a room is EXCITING!!  Even with the best sleepers, prepare yourself for a few nights of giggles and play.  Toddlers love a good reason to combat sleep, right? If you need to step in if things get too rowdy, go ahead, but explain to the older one that this isn't a time to encourage hide-and-go-seek.

#4: Will baby wake up my older child?  Yes, probably.  And I'm not talking about small noises here but the "super-loud" crying type of noise.  My advice here would be to wait until you really know your baby is in need of assistance (depending on age) and first assure the eldest child that everything is alright and "to go back to sleep"- and THEN tend to the younger upset child.  I've taken my baby out in the hallway on vacations (while sharing a hotel room) to calm her down and tip toe back in to lay her down after she's calmed down, minding the sleeping toddler whom had already fallen back asleep.

#5: Sleeping in the same bed?  Sometimes.   It's important while I advise my clients to keep the crib as long as possible for young babies & toddlers, if you would like your 18+ month old to share a bed with their older brother/sister, that's ok!  If your oldest is fine with the idea, I've found that generally children love the idea of sleeping together in one bed at night.  Some parents even claim this decreases sibling rivalry and fighting.  They may also bed-hop if you have two beds in the room- and eventually with age will settle in their own respectable beds. 

As always I’m here to help and please don’t hesitate to contact me and we can chat more in length about the best solution for your individual child that fits within your family’s values.  Remember that healthy sleep=happy family! 

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WHEN to Expect Your Baby To: Sleep Through the Night, Drop the Swaddle, Night Wean and More!

WHEN to Expect Your Baby To: Sleep Through the Night, Drop the Swaddle, Night Wean and More!

“When can my baby sleep through the night?   When can I stop swaddling? and “ When can I drop the dream feed?” are some of the first questions as a Mom that I found asking myself (and Googling for hours).  With so much conflicting information and advice from my friends and the Internet, I decided to really dedicate myself to learning as much about infant sleep as possible. Knowing what to expect and about WHEN to expect it made me feel just a little less crazy in the Motherhood department! 

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