your baby sleep questions answered!

by Janetha on March 17, 2015

in questions answered


hey, guys! this post is a continuation of my post on getting your baby to SLEEP. we received a sleep plan tailored to fox. we actually haven’t implemented the plan 100% yet, as we are trying to get him out of the rock n play and into his crib before diving totally into the detailed plan. the nice thing is tracy, our sleep coach, works with us closely and tells us what half-steps to try before doing the plan all-out. she is SO helpful!

fox has now been in his crib for over a week and, while he still doesn’t LOVE it, he is getting more and more used to being in there. i am confident we will be able to gently coach him to sleep through the night soon.

as you know, i opened that post for you to ask sleep expert, tracy spackman of quiet nights, any questions you may have about baby and toddler sleep. i sent her all your questions and she has replied with very informative, helpful answers. i hope you find this post as useful as i have!

if you would like to contact tracy for a free 15-minute consultation, call her at 602-524-7610 or you can email her at


also, tracy has generously offered 15% off ALL her services to those who mention this blog post. this deal is good through the month of march, so give her a call today to get a sleep plan tailored to yours and your baby’s needs!


now.. onto the Q&A! (questions are bold with answers below the question.)

I’m 30 weeks pregnant with our first child and wondering what you best advice is for new parents?

Congratulation on your pregnancy.  I wish I had been told that the best thing to do when you have a baby is to practice figuring out my baby’s cues.  Hunger cues and sleep cues and over-stimulated cues.  For the first 4 months, just reading your baby’s body language and following what he is telling you means you can’t go wrong.  You won’t feed him too much, you won’t let him sleep too much.  Be responsive.  Let him be the boss.  He is trying to figure out the world and the more responsive you are, the better able he will be able to learn to handle stress and become more independent and resilient.  You can’t hold him too much and you can’t spoil him.  When his life goes crazy with development at 4 months old, wait a little longer to make any changes to sleep.

I have an 18 week old. I love nursing him to sleep at night, but he has to be able to fall asleep during the day with dad, grandma, or nanny. So, my question is, is it ok for us to have different routines for day and night sleep? (This had been working ok, but since he turned 16 weeks old everything with sleep has been a lot more difficult, especially with a lot more night waking). 

Yes, it’s fine to have different nap routines and sleep associations than you have for nights.  Nights and Nap Sleep are controlled by different parts of the brain.  At 18 weeks, you can still be in coping mode so do what works and it’s fine if it’s different than what works for your other caregivers.

My baby boy is 13 weeks old but born prematurely so 8 weeks adjusted. He sleeps about 5.5 to 6.5 hours overnight. Our issue is with his naps in the later afternoon and evening. He is on a 3 hour schedule during the day. His waketimes vary each day depending on what time he wakes to feed. In the evening it is so hard to get him to sleep. We do a bedtime routine, bottle, change diaper/PJs, swaddle, book, bed. But I end up spending alot of time rocking him to try to get him to sleep and once he gets to sleep he wakes frequently so one of us is in his room trying to soothe him to sleep. I’ve read to not let babies sleep after 430p. I’ve also read to be consistent with wake times ie waking him up the same time every day, even if he was awake 2 hours prior to eat. What are your thoughts?

At 13 weeks (8 weeks adjusted) you want to follow the adjusted age guidelines for sleep.  This is very young and the tips you mentioned do not apply to his age.  Waking him at a regular time each day is something I only do for older (over 6 months) babies whose parents need a regular schedule for their work. Following the child’s natural circadian rhythm usually works out better.  As far as not letting babies sleep past 4:30, is more of an older baby thing (over 9 months for a 2 nap baby) so this also doesn’t apply to an 8 week adjusted baby.  It’s ok that your wake times vary, this is normal.  In fact, the range of normal for babies under 20 weeks is so broad that have stopped talking about what is normal in current sleep science.  Is your 3 hour schedule for feeding or for sleep?  Many babies this age can’t go 3 hours without eating and can only go 90 min between sleeps.  Please follow your baby’s tired and hunger cues, even if it doesn’t fit into your idea of a schedule.  Figure out your baby’s idea of a schedule and follow it. It will be easier.

So my question is this: Grayson wakes up several times throughout the night (about every 2 hours). He only wants to nurse for a few minutes and then goes right back down. We’ve tried EVERYTHING else and like you Janetha, CIO just doesn’t work for him. I almost think it’s better for me to just nurse him for a few minutes and then he will go back to sleep immediately rather than being up with him for an hour trying to soothe him from outside the crib. I was told that always picking him up to nurse him back to sleep is not a great idea and that he should learn to self-sooth and we should try soothing tactics while he is still in his crib. So my question is, should I stop nursing him so frequently throughout the night? I don’t think he is necessarily very hungry, I think he just needs the comfort to go back to sleep.

You didn’t say how old your baby is and that makes a big difference.  In a nut shell, if you don’t have a firm idea of what your sleep plan would look like to make changes, keep doing what works consistently.  So in your case, consistently nursing back to sleep will leave you in a better place when you are ready to make changes. If your baby is over 6 months old, starting with helping your baby fall asleep without nursing will be a great place to start.  If you baby is nursed to sleep, or rocked to sleep, that sleep association will be what he is looking for to fall back to sleep.  Sometimes, just starting with removing bedtime sleep crutches can help with middle of the night changes over time.

Hi…my son is just under 3 wks old and whenever I try to swaddle him, he can’t stand it. He loves kicking his legs around so he goes to sleep in a sleep sack…do you think this ok? Could I not be swaddling correctly? Thanks for any advice.

Some babies just don’t like the swaddle.  Yes it’s fine not to do it.  So many people were doing it wrong that many hospitals now won’t even allow it.  If he’s happy kicking, let him kick.  He is learning to use his body.

My son goes through stages where he will wake up crying (we did cry it out it worked initially but not anymore) and he will only sleep if we are holding him. This is uncomfortable for me and not to mention prob not the safest. Any advice on how to get him to shake the wanting to be held?

You are right that holding your baby all night can be potentially harmful if you were to let go in your sleep, especially if you are sitting in a big reclining chair.  Putting your baby in a baby carrier like a sling or ergo may be safer.  If your baby is over 6 months old, you can start putting your baby to bed drowsy but awake, if that doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t for alert babies) then putting your baby to bed totally awake but in his sleep window is the place to start.  Usually you need a sleep plan to be successful in that endeavor as it’s natural to resist what is unfamiliar and going to bed awake will be unfamiliar to a baby used to being held to sleep.  Call me to schedule a sleep plan consultation.

I too am struggling with my 4 month old and sleeping. She wakes up anywhere from 2-5 times a night. I am lucky if I get one long stretch of 4 hours. It’s exhausting. I go to bed with baby at 8pm because I’m desperate for sleep. Anyway, I nurse to sleep and I’m wondering how to get out of this habit? She already uses a soother during the day, so I really don’t think it reminds her of sleep. I’d love to be able to get her down to sleep and actually be able to have some “me time” after. I just can’t do that now because I don’t want to miss out on what little sleep I do get.

4 months can be a crazy time.  The vision improves and your baby can see more details in her world and it takes longer to process all those new memories as she is trying to relax into sleep.  There is a lot going on in her brain and she may be working on her rolling skills.  So exciting.  You can try an earlier bedtime.  The average bedtime for a 4 month old is about 6-7pm . But that’s an average, not a rule.  If you put her to bed earlier, before you go to bed, try giving her a dream feed right before you go to bed so you may still get a good chunk of sleep before she wakes to feed again.  An adult needs at least 5.5hours of sleep in each 24 hour period, even if it’s broken up, in order to remain sane and not start to show signs of “crazy” like driving through the garage door without opening it. Even a nap and broken up night sleep can get you by.  If your baby is over 18 weeks, we could do a gentle delayed start sleep plan if you are going crazy but try to hang on a little longer.

My son is 5 months old. He slept through the night (usually) until he was 3.5 months. (7:30-7:30). He now wakes up twice a night. I never know if I should nurse him or not? If I do he will go right back to sleep. But I was told not to bc I don’t want to make a habit of it. If I play the paci game he sometimes will go back to sleep for an hour or two and continue waking until nursed. Tried cry it out and that doesn’t work. Should I nurse when he wakes? How can I get my awesome sleeper back?!?! And my sanity. He takes 2 1-2 hour naps along with a short cat nap before bed. He also had a tooth break through this week….

Sleeping through the night and having it fall apart at 3.5-4.5 months is very common.  Sleep ability changes at that age and sleep becomes a need to learn skill.  It sounds like your baby still needs some night feeding.  Many babies this age do.  Yes, nurse your baby back to sleep.  You both will get better sleep and more sleep and consider doing a sleep plan at 6 months.  Your sleep plan will work best if you take the nursing out of your bedtime routine.  Call me if you would like to work through a gentle plan.  Another option is to use dream feeds instead of nursing back to sleep.  Keep track of when you think he is waking hungry and wake him up just before.  This works best with a sleep plan where you don’t nurse to sleep.  Call me if you need help with this.

My 4 month old always wakes up when we put her down in her crib at night. We have a routine of bath, massage, feed. She falls asleep when nursing and then I put her down and she always wakes up. I try to stick to the rule of not keeping her awake for more than 2 hours. What am I doing wrong???

You aren’t doing anything wrong.  There is a startle reflex in the first stage of sleep and her mattress is probably not as snuggly as your arms.  This happens to many babies.  You can try to hold her longer so she is in a deeper sleep when you lay her down, she will still wake up eventually and need help getting back to sleep.  Or you can do the opposite and put her down drowsy but awake and stay and do some shushing and patting to help her settle in her crib.   When she wakes, she will not be as surprised by her location in the crib but will still need help settling.  Feeding to sleep is natural and easy but your baby will need help getting back to sleep since that’s how she knows how to fall asleep.  This potential skill of falling asleep without nursing or rocking just starts to develop in the 4th or 5th months but be in no hurry to make changes if it’s working for you.  Waiting until 6 months to make sleep changes is better if you can wait.

So my questions is about a toddler sleep… I have 20 month old twins.. they started sleeping through the night at 8 months (no pacifiers, white noise in their room, lay them down awake in the crib after pjs/storytime). Stopped white noise around 13 months.. no problem. About 2 months ago they stopped sleeping through the night… possible due to a combination of cough/sickness and 1 week trip to the West Coast with them in which their sleeping was totally wrecked havoc with. So now we have been back home for 5 weeks.. no more illness and they seem to take turns waking up in the night. One night one sleeps through, and the other wakes up. The next night, they switch! So I know both of them are capable. When they wake up, we just go in, pull up their blanket and presto.. back to sleep for another 4 hours (usually only 2 wake ups a night). A few weeks ago we tried cry it out(basically checking on them every 10 minutes but not moving the blanket) and didn’t seem to work.. my one twin cried for 1 1/2 hours until we couldnt take it anymore and went in, moved her blanket and she was right asleep. Of course, I realize we basically taught her if she cried long enough we would come in.. When they were 8 months old that sort of 10 minute check worked in 3 nights.. the longest crying being about 40 minutes the first night. So.. my husband and I have basically been taking turns with running in through the night.. any ideas? Wait till they grow out of it? One of them is VERY attached to the blanket during the day (carries it everywhere) so I think taking it away totally will create even more distress).

20 month twins!  So exciting. The first thing I would do is to put them in a sleep sack so it’s not the blanket keeping them warm.  When the body falls asleep, the body temperature drops and if there is no covering to trap the body heat, you get cold.  Think about falling asleep on your bed in the afternoon on top of your covers.  Shortly into your nap, you are grabbing the covers off the other side of the bed to wrap around you even though you were perfectly warm enough when you lay down.  So maybe your babies get cold.  Also, 18 months is a major milestone mentally and separation anxiety peaks again.  If the sleep sack isn’t enough (still keep the blankets as loveys) then a sleep plan to help them get back on track sooner rather than later would help your whole family get better sleep within a matter of days or weeks.  I like the gentle, responsive methods, I don’t really like cry it out.  It just doesn’t seem to work for alert babies and toddlers and can teach your baby the wrong lessons or even cause an anxiety disorder.  Find a way to be responsive.  Even if it’s just pointing to the blanket to encourage them to pick it up themselves.  Especially if they don’t need it for warmth.

Naps are our issue! We’ve come a long way, but I’d be interested in any advice. Little one is 11 months old. From 3-8 months of age, I was lucky to get him to nap for more than 30-40 minutes. I did a lot of reading, and finally was able to get him on a decent schedule where he takes 1.25 hr naps in the morning and afternoon. He’s been sleeping thorough the night since 5 months. I was a nanny for years, and must of the kids I cared for slept 1-1.5 hrs in the morning and 2-3 hrs in the afternoon. I guess what I’m wondering is if I should accept the 1-1.25hr naps im getting, or if there’s a way to promote longer naps?

If your baby is happy and looking rested, and sleeping through the night, then your nap schedule is fine.  IF he seems tired, try to get the afternoon nap to 1.5 hours or longer.  Babies this age need 3 sleep cycles, Typically 45 min each.  One sleep cycle in the morning and 2 in the afternoon nap back to back (1.5 hrs).  You could try to coax him back to sleep in the afternoon with some patting, snuggling, holding, rocking but if after 20 min he just won’t resettle into sleep, this may be all he needs.  If he’s not having overtired meltdowns in the evening, you may not need to make any changes at all.

My question is about super early wake ups. My son has been waking up between 4:45- 5:30 almost every day and will not go back to sleep. Sometimes he has a poopy diaper which obviously I have to deal with, but then he is up. He used to go back to sleep if I fed him half a bottle, but that is not working any more. I do try my best to leave him in his crib until 6:30, but sometimes I get him out a little sooner if he is really crying. I know he is overtired because of this, but I don’t know how to get him to sleep later. He takes 2 naps a day, and we’ve tried earlier and later bedtimes, and nothing seems to do the trick. 

Early Rising is one of the most frustrating parts of Baby and Toddler Sleeping Issues. Here are the things that typically cause Early Rising and once you have identified the cause, you can work on the solution. Here is the list from my Blog

1.   Lack of day sleep.  Your child’s body has a period of time it can stay awake and when she runs out of energy, she has a sleep window.  If she is not falling asleep by the end of the sleep window, her body produces a hormone called cortisol.  This is the stress hormone.  The fight or flight hormone reaction.  It gives you an adrenaline like burst of energy.  It’s hard to go to sleep for her nap with that pumping through her system and it stays in your system for a while, messing with naps and night sleep.  Often causing early rising.

2.  Too late bedtime.  Similar to Lack of day sleep, missing your bedtime sleep window also causes a rush of cortisol and its residual affect can cause early rising.

3.   Lack of sleep skills from going to bed too drowsy at bedtime. If you used a sleep crutch at bedtime, like rocking or nursing or holding to sleep, your baby didn’t get the practice relaxing their body falling asleep.  She will wake between sleep cycles, that’s normal but she will need you to help her fall back to sleep, especially when falling back to sleep is the hardest in the early morning hours.

4.  Lack of skills from being put to bed asleep.  If you hold or rock or nurse your baby to sleep, they are in a different place when she wakes up between sleep cycles and needs you to help her fall back to sleep.  Again, she has insufficient sleep skills.  She may get more cortisol in the night from waking and needing help and by the early morning hours, just can’t get back to sleep.

5. Tummy discomfort from food issues.  If your baby had a food sensitivity or is having a negative digestive reaction to a new food, that can often manifest in the early hours when sleep is more difficult.  Have you ever woken from a bad headache or a tummy ache? It’s in the early hours that it wakes you over and over again.  At least you can mostly go back to sleep. And as an adult, you likely have pretty good sleep skills. It’s a rough time.

6.   Developmental milestones like crawling and walking. These are major skills that require brain and muscle changes.  When your baby is working on a new skill, they want to practice this new skill when they wake up between sleep cycles. It’s a very exciting time.  The sooner she masters the skill, the sooner her sleep can get back on track.

If any of these ring a bell, you can get started on a solution.  Call me if you need help.

Our 16 month old does ok for everything except that she says awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. She will babble some and then get angry until we give her a bottle. Then she will be ok for a while then she wants another bottle before going to sleep. We have no idea how to stop this habit that started a few months ago. Any ideas why she would be up for hours in the middle of the night? She’s only taking one nap a day now and there’s sufficient time between her last nap and bed time around 7.

Cortisol in the body can cause this.  Cortisol is the hormone your body produces to get a quick energy kick.  Like in a stressful situation or if you are tired, have run out of energy but are not falling asleep.  I call it a cortisol rush from missing the sleep window.  At this age, the body usually can go 4 hours from nap wake up to bedtime.  Longer than that will give you a cortisol rush.  Like a second wind.  It has a residual effect and can cause middle of the night waking.  Try to move your nap later to close the wakeful window to 4 hours at the end of the day or try an earlier bedtime.  You may still need a sleep plan to undo the bottle back to sleep habit but fixing the timing of end of the day window will need to be a part of that plan.

My baby is 3.5 months old, and has never been a good sleeper. Naps are out of my control as he is at daycare, but typically will nap 2-3 times a day for about an hour. We put him down at 6:30 PM as he has to wake at 6:30 AM. We have a consistent bedtime routine of bath, lotion, and nurse. He will promptly fall asleep after this and sleep until anywhere from 10 PM – 2 AM. However, he ALWAYS wakes at some point during this time; I feed him and he will usually go back down. He then sleeps very restlessly until around 3 or 4 AM, when he is wide awake again, usually screaming and crying until we walk around and settle him down. I try not to feed him at this time. Once he finally goes to sleep again, he will normally sleep very restlessly again until he gets up for the day at 6:30. My question is how do I get him to fall into and stay in a deeper sleep? Or is it normal for a baby to be moving around a lot and appear to not be sleeping very deeply during the night? Also, how can i get him out of the habit of waking around the same times each night? Thank you so much!

This is all very normal for this age.  Naps are still developing and 3 1-hours naps is not too bad but only 2 is not enough.  6:30-6:30 is a good schedule for night sleep and a feeding between 10pm-2am is normal and just feeding back to sleep is a good idea.  He may also need a second feeding in the night.  The range of how much babies need to eat at night is also very broad.  It is common and normal to have a long period of restlessness in the early morning hours.  People have REM sleep at that time and sleep cycles are shorter and not as deep.  It takes time and practice to sleep less restlessly at that time.  He may still be too young to work on those sleep skills.  You may all get better sleep if you  nurse back to sleep for now for all the wakings right away and work on these skills in another couple months when his body and brain are ready to learn sleep skills (around 6 months). This is more of a coping time, not a teaching time.  A time to follow your baby’s needs.  I think he may need to eat.  Eating is more important than sleeping and when he is old enough, you can have both.

How long should our bedtime routine be? And what should it consist of? Right now we do bath time every other night, and story time every night, and then feeding right before bed.

For a young baby, bath, diaper, lotion, pjs, story, song, kisses, feed, bed is a great routine. If you are working on catching tired signs, try doing your bath, diaper, lotion, pj’s, watch for sleep cues, then story song kisses, feed is a better routine. If you are trying to take out your sleep crutches, try: feed, bath, diaper, lotion, pj’s, and watch for sleep cues, then story song kisses, bed. The time it takes depends on how long each activity takes.  Once you see early sleep cues, try to have your baby in bed within about 7 minutes so you don’t miss the sleep window.  If you have an alert baby, you want to have their head on the mattress before you get as far as yawning and eye rubbing. Those are late sleep cues.

Will giving my baby rice cereal before bed help them sleep longer? I have read that but also read not to start that until 4 months.

No. It will not likely help him sleep longer.  There is research that shows the opposite is true. It more often causes problems with sleep rather than fixing it.  When you start solids, do it after milk feedings and in the morning so that if your baby has a negative digestive reaction, it will happen during the day, not during the night and interrupting sleep.

I use all the crutches. Swaddle, pacifier, white noise, feed to sleep, rock to sleep, pick up all night long to calm. Do we need to eliminate ALL of these to get him to sleep through the night and if so what order do we do it?

No, you don’t need to eliminate all of these things.  I like white noise. It’s helpful for sleep for active minded babies and noisy houses. I like the paci if your baby is able to re-plug it himself (usually over 8 months). Removing the swaddle by 4 months is developmentally recommended. I think pick-ups are often necessary and helpful.  Especially if you suspect stress is high or discomfort or pain is the cause of crying. Removing the feeding and rocking to sleep at bedtime allow your baby to use their own skills to settle into sleep.  Then, if they can do it at bedtime, they will be more likely able to do it when they wake between sleep cycles in the middle of the night.  It’s the removal of these types of sleep crutches that make you want a sleep plan.  These changes will cause crying. It’s natural to resist what is unfamiliar and going to bed awake may be very unfamiliar and the resisting is crying.  It’s natural. It’s expected. It needs responding to.  Not leaving them to cry it out.  Don’t make these changes unless you have a firm plan in mind that you are comfortable with to respond with or else you will make it worse with inconsistencies and intermittent reinforcement.  It’s easier to go from a consistent crutch to a consistent gentle response in place of the crutch.  Sleep plan responding is individual and you want to look at the entire sleep puzzle, not just at the bedtime responding. It all makes a difference.  Environment, schedules, nap amounts, stresses, consistency, night feedings…it should all be part of your plan to help your baby have the lowest stress experience possible when you make necessary changes.  Call me to help you with your specifics. Every plan is different.  Every baby is unique.

We were putting our son to bed WAY too late and I noticed that once we moved it to 7pm (he wakes at 7am) things have been SO MUCH BETTER! Does she recommend not using the binkie at night? My son is 5 months old and he is attached to it just at nap times!

That is so great that you figured out your son’s perfect bedtime.  12 hours after wake up is a good place to guess the baby’s bedtime when your baby is over 4.5 months old.  If you don’t want to have to re-plug a pacifier at night, taking it out of your bedtime when doing a sleep plan is often helpful.  You don’t have to take it out of nights and naps at the same time.  Nights and naps are controlled by different parts of the brain (thank goodness) so keep it for naps and just don’t use it for nights.  But if you want to keep it, just be prepared to re-plug it.  If you don’t mind doing that, don’t let anyone tell you not to.  Any of these things are only a problem if it is a problem for you personally.


thanks SO much to tracy for answering all these great questions! it’s been a pleasure to have you as a guest here on meals & moves.

make sure you join the facebook group sleep sisters: get quiet nights. tracy can answer additional questions in there. plus, it’s a great community of moms who support each other and chime in with advice and experience!

xo. janetha g.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate March 17, 2015 at 10:52 am

Awesome post! I’m 17 weeks and have been absolutely loving your FTM series! Keep ’em coming!


Nikki March 18, 2015 at 6:56 am

I feel very lucky. My son just turned 9 months old and always goes to sleep easily and never wakes up during the middle of the night.


Carolynne March 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Wow, thank you so much for answering our questions Tracey!


LG March 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

Thank you very much for this post!!! We were (finally) matched with a birthmom to adopt…our baby boy is due on March 24! So um, yeah. I’m bookmarking this. :0)


Janetha March 23, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Ah! Awesome news. Congrats!


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