Our Top 10 Baby & Toddler Sleep Tips: Help with Early Wakings, Naps, Night Wakings & More!

Sleep, precious sleep. 

Some of our children are blessed with great sleeping habits from Day 1, and some need a little coaching.  This week, we are tackling the Top 10 questions we receive, and providing answers to some of today's hot Infant sleep topics.  From night weaning to night wakings, we've got you covered!

 Photo courtesy of  Raven Vasquez Photography

Photo courtesy of Raven Vasquez Photography

1.  “My 2 year old has had what we think are nightmares or night terrors almost nightly for over a year. I’m so tired and I hate seeing him scared! What can be done to help the poor little guy?”

  Nightmares become increasingly “real” to children the closer they get to age 3, when these types of dreams become more sequential. Possibly there was a big change recently in his life that is causing them? I would recommend napping at least 45 minutes/day, having a consistent schedule, limiting any scary movies/videos/news channels on TV or the smartphone, and giving your child a safety item to hold in the night should he/she become scared. If you don’t have a schedule, I would highly recommend hopping over to the website and purchasing the “Custom Schedule” under Sleep Survival Guides for only $20; sometimes missing out on those precious zzz’s during the afternoon is enough to cause your busy toddler to become overtired, which is another major cause of nightmares AND night terrors.

2.  “My daughter was a great sleeper until 4 months old. Since then we wakes up every two hours and some nights every hour or half hour and requires a bottle to fall back asleep (doesn’t always actually drink the milk just needs it in her mouth) - pacifiers don’t work and I did/do not want to sleep train. She is also a light sleeper. Help!!!”

 This sounds like the classic 4-month sleep regression, it can be brutal! The most common sign is that your Infant begins waking every 2-3 hours at night like they did when they were first born. Often parents aren’t aware of this regression and overcompensate to help baby back to sleep, missing the root of the reason that baby is waking in the first place. I would use any other means of soothing to help baby get back to sleep aside from using something in her mouth, bulk up feeds during the day (distraction is high at this age so a quiet room is best) and drop the pacifier all together if she’s not interested. I have a few guides on my website under “Sleep Survival Guides” that you may find helpful for a fraction of the cost of my consultations as well- hang in there!

3.  “My 8 month sleeps in her own room but is waking 2-3 times a night, how do i stop this? Is cry it out my only option?” and “My 11 month old cosleeps (75% on my breast). How do I teach him to sleep in his crib, in his room, and stay asleep or put himself back to sleep? He refuses bottles and pacifiers.” And “What exactly means through the night?  How many hour are appropriate for a 5-12 month old?"

For starters, if you find yourself in this situation (or a similar one) and your baby is between 5-15 months old, I would HIGHLY recommend downloading the Infant Sleep Survival Guide!  Whether your co-sleeping, breastfeeding to sleep, bed-sharing, or baby is sleeping in the nursery but wakes up all night, this guide is perfect for those who wish to take gradual steps with maximum results!  6-12 old months is an excellent age to begin encouraging healthy sleep habits; if baby is already in his/her own room that’s a start!  Cry it Out is definitely not your only option with me, thank goodness! Common causes for night wakings include insufficient napping, wake windows that are too large, or having a sleep dependency on an object that she can’t sleep without.  After 6 months of age, a baby is capable of sleeping 11-12 hours at night without a feed as long as you’re cleared by your doctor of course!  The best way to help a baby sleep through the night is using consistency, routine & a united front with your significant other or additional caretakers living or working within the home.  Combined with a schedule, good nutrition, and a sleepy environment, you will be good to go! You can start establishing healthy sleep habits from Day 1!

If you’re ready to GENTLY (or quickly, I have options for everyone!) help baby sleep all night AND take longer naps on your own time in your own home (at your own pace!), I would highly recommend heading over to my website and downloading the Infant Sleep Survival Guide for your little, this will help drop those wakings and increase nap lengths with minimal tears and at your own pace!

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4.  “My three year old who use to sleep through the night has been waking up around 1 or 3 several times a week and coming in our room. I feel like it started around the time we day potty trained him. Helllppp I’m due at the end of June and need one to at least be sleeping, lol! We always take him back to his bed and he falls back asleep.”

 Toddlers can want Mom/Dad at night for a variety of reasons; needing to use the potty, bad dreams, scared of the dark, or just having trouble overall falling back asleep. The good news is that unlike tiny babies, we can communicate our routines & expectations to our toddlers- they aim to please at this age!
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The KEY to toddler sleep expectations is always letting them know what’s coming first before you ask of it. Sit down and have a “family” meeting to discuss the new changes (“no more coming into Mommy’s room, call out for me instead”) and what you’d like your little one if he/she should wake up in the middle of the night. If you don’t mind them sneaking into your room to sleep on the floor, tell them they need to use quiet feet- and practice! If you can’t sleep with a toddler rolling around on the floor all night, invest in an “Ok-to-Wake” light (see Sleep Must Haves on the website) and tell your child that they aren’t allowed out of bed if the light is still “red” (you can change it on your phone, ha!), and PRACTICE.
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Whatever route you decide, stay consistent- it will fail and/or go more slowly and met with more tears if you “cave” one night but attempt to hold your ground the following night. Stay firm with your expectations but gives LOTS of love and reassurance, even rewarding your toddler with something special the following morning should they follow the new sleep rules. Outside play time is also SUPER important, throw on a coat and puddle jump if you have to!
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If you’re still experiencing issues or you’ve tried nearly everything, drop me an emai and let’s schedule some one-on-one time to search for the real root of the issue together- we can do this!

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5.  “Early Rising & Wakings: How can I get my baby and older toddler to sleep past 6am?

 Early rising can be so tricky and hard to understand! The top reasons your baby could be waking before 6am could be one of the following: bedtime before 7pm, wake windows are too lengthy, insufficient napping, napping is too LONG or environment issues such as lack of black out shades or white noise.
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If you feel like all of these things are 100% in place, try pushing back your entire schedule by 30 minutes for 2-3 days, and then another 30 minutes the next 2-3 days, until you’re an hour ahead of schedule by the end of the week. Baby SHOULD begin to sleep in by Day 7, and all days before keep baby in his/her room in the dark playing in crib or even holding baby in the room.
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If all else fails and you’re not seeing any improvements, shoot me an email and I’d be happy to make some further suggestions ok? You’re in the right place, it’s completely possible to shift baby forward but I agree, it’s tricky!

 Photography courtest of Layce Bauman Photography

Photography courtest of Layce Bauman Photography

6.   “Is there a recommended age for a toddler and baby siblings to start sharing a room? If so, what would that be?”

  Ideally, the minimal age for the second child should be after 2.5 years, after the major sleep regressions have passed (at 4, 8, 12, 18 & 2 years old).  Bonus points if your child is already potty trained and/or wearing a pull up at night to reduce chances of needing a diaper change and waking the older child.  Always stagger bedtimes putting the oldest to bed last and reminding them of whispering and tiptoes only as to not wake the younger one.  Expect some excitement too at first (giggles and playing in the middle of the night or morning); this is a big change in a little one’s life!  If you do wait until 2.5 years as well, your older child can have quiet time outside of the bedroom while the youngest naps!  If you need a napping schedule for your toddler (or aren’t quite sure when to put them down for naps), I would recommend the Custom Schedule on the website, or drop me an email and let’s chat!  

7.   “What is your experience with & feelings about sleep training?”

 Sleep “training” is the use of various methods to encourage our children to fall asleep without the use of any props or physical reassurance from a parent (a breast in mouth, rocking to sleep, etc.).  This should never be attempted without your doctor’s consent, under 11 pounds, or before 5 months of age.  I also recommend that if you do decide to enlist professional help, do your homework- there are a LOT of sleep coaches popping up that sadly aren’t trained or certified.  Prior to 5 months of age, you can introduce a variety of healthy sleep habits that assist baby in falling asleep independently with zero tears- yes, it’s possible!  I outline exactly how to help Newborns sleep well for naps and night within the Newborn Sleep Survival Guide (on website), but if you feel like your baby is ready to sleep all night and you’ve met those minimums above, the Infant Sleep Survival Guide or a Mini Consultation ($150) may be the right fit for your family depending on the type of support you’re looking for.  Thank you for your question!

8.  "Does an Ok to Wake clock work for children over 18 months?" 

Yes, the "Ok to Wake" color clocks work!  BUY ONE.  (Here's our favorite.)  We love using one for my toddlers especially with the toddler bed transition.  When the clock arrives, act excited and tell your child all about it, and what the "rules" or your expectations are around using the clock.  This particular light/sound machine/ok-to-wake clock (all in one!) is controlled from the unit itself or entirely from your smart device, so you control when the light turns "green", signally when your toddler is allowed to get out of bed or call out for Mom.  In my daughter's room, we keep the clock on orange/radio static all night, and once it turns blue in the morning, she is allowed to call out to me that she's awake.  Until then, I encourage her to play quietly in her room or sing/talk to her stuffed animals, in the event that she were to wake much earlier than everyone in the house (which is common!).

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9.  “My 9 week old is sleeping pretty well at night 🙌🏽 but we are struggling with napping during the day - any tips we can use that won’t jeopardize our nighttime progress?”

  I’m thrilled to hear that baby is sleeping well at night already at 9 weeks; you are doing a lot of things correctly it sounds like!  Napping under 6 months of age is incredibly inconsistent in time and length, so just be sure to offer baby some downtime or a nap every 90 minutes or so and shoot for about 14-16 hours of total sleep in 24 hours.  If you don’t already, I would highly recommend the “Newborn Sleep Survival Guide” for all children under 5 months of age (on the website), it’s been receiving some incredible reviews and most children have been sleeping all night by 12 weeks!! If you need more help, shoot me an email and I’d be glad to discuss further.

10.  "I hear all about the DockaTot from my friends and I'm wondering if you'd recommend it for my 12+ month old?"

   I am a HUGE fan of the Dockatot!  Not only is this product helpful to combat separation anxiety, help a child feel safe, or lengthen short naps, it’s also the perfect item to help transition baby to a nursery or toddler bed or take along with you on vacation!  Why?  Imagine if you could bring your own bed with you on the airplane/hotel, don’t you think you’d probably sleep a lot better as well?  Read more about my own experiences with the Dockatot here, or visit their website here and use code DOCKCANDY10 for $10 off!

And one last bonus Question:

11.  "What is a dream feed and when is the best time & age to offer one?"

  The dream feed:  This is a feed given exactly 2 hours after baby falls asleep at bedtime, offered anytime during or for 3-12 months old.  Once baby begins sleeping 4-6+ hours straight, this is the time you can introduce it, once you've agreed with your doctor that baby only needs one feed overnight for optimal growth (vs. feeding at 5am instead!).  The beauty of the dream feed is that it's extremely easy to offer and even easier to "drop" this feeding, due to the fact that the parent is controlling the waking, and you're catching baby in a deep state of sleep.  Expect baby to only take in about half of what they usually would during a full feed, and attempt to set them back down in the crib just barely awake to encourage self-settling.  If you wish to offer baby a feed in the early morning, say around 5am when they usually wake up, try setting your alarm for 4-4:30am and wake them for a feed, and keep your other responses consistent.  If you're not sure if your baby is ready for a dream feed, or ready to drop ALL feeds but aren't quite sure how to go about it, our founder Lauren is a pro at nighttime nutrition- feel free to reach out!

Remember: keep realistic expectations.  

These are children, not robots, and not everything will go perfectly or smoothly the first time.  Even as adults we wake up at night, and can't seem to shut our brains off, so give your toddler some slack.  Always reassure, encourage, and take their feelings into consideration.

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