"Ask Me Anything" about Getting your Baby on a Sleep Schedule with Dr. Natalie Barnett - Extended!

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  • Hi Dr. Barnett,

    My son is 18 weeks old and he’s never been the best sleeper but me and my husband have been struggling to help our son sleep through the night. A week ago he also learned out to roll over so he has been in a sleep sack (arms out) constantly wanting to roll at night which has factored into his and our sleepless nights. He typically goes down between 7-8pm and max will go 5 hours without waking but then usually wakes around 1/2am and then 4/5am. At times he also wakes around 10:30/11 but will go back to sleep with singing or touch, without being taken out of the crib . For the 1/2am wake it seems to occur because he is rolling over, gets frustrated then cries. We attempt to soothe him in his crib and he, possibly out of frustration, poops so then we have to change him and post change he is typically unable to be soothed back to sleep and rooting so we feed him. Then the 4/5am wake up he also gets fed again and this wake up ends up being longer as well due to him waking from rolling, getting frustrated, and crying out. At this age I know he should be able to make it through the night without a feeding but he seems to only calm down with one especially after the lengthy wake ups he has. We have tried a “dream feed” and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. He is breastfeed and eats during the day every 2-3 hours. He gets 4 naps, never exceeding more than 30/40 mins because he wakes. He also seems constantly irritated whenever he is getting put in his sleep sack and we are getting ready for naps or bed no matter how calm our routines are. Any advice on how to set him up for better/longer sleep? Thank you!

  • Natalie_Barnett_PhD
    Natalie_Barnett_PhD Member, Nanit Team, Expert

    Hello! Its really normal for babies this age to still be feeding overnight, so please dont beat yourself up if hes not sleeping through the night just yet!

    Just so you know, it is safe for a baby to sleep on their tummy if they are able to get there themselves. You will always put him down to sleep on his back but if he's capable of getting onto his tummy its fine for him to stay there. The best way to get him used to that is to practice tummy time during the day as much as possible. I like to suggest even 10 times per day, if you can, right now. At this tricky stage, you want to get him used to the feeling of being on his tummy and know what it feels like and what he should do with his head and arms to get himself comfy. Just do tummy time for as long as he is happy there - that might be 30 seconds or it might be ten minutes. I dont want him in tummy time upset, so if he gets upset, pick him up and try again in another 30 minutes or so.

    The most important thing he can do at this stage though is fall asleep by himself at the beginning of the night. Once he can master that, we see those night feeds start to fall away pretty quickly.

    30-40 minute naps are really normal at this age. They will likely start to lengthen over the next few months but these shorter naps might be a main stay for a while!

    Take a look at the Nanit sleep schedule generator which will give you a nice guide for when to feed him and put him down for naps. You might find that the naps improve slightly with the right timing.

    Good luck!

    Natalie

  • Hali
    Hali Member

    HI Dr. Barnett!

    My 6 month old son has had us on quite the sleep journey :) He has GERD and was born about 3.5 weeks early so he struggled to gain weight and was colicky the first two months, which contributed to poor sleep. Since about 10 weeks, we have had him on a good formula/medicine combo, he has been gaining weight, and sleep has improved TREMENDOUSLY! We also moved him into his crib in his room at that time, which I think helped as well. Recently, our only real struggle is early wakings. For the past month or so, he has been waking up around 5-5:15am. I am okay with early mornings, but would really like 6am to be the earliest if possible. He is currently on a schedule of either 2 or 3 naps a day, totaling about 2-2.5 hours of daytime sleep. He usually goes to bed between 6:30pm and 7:30pm, depending on how much he slept that day and his last nap. We have been finding that the early morning waking of 5am doesn't vary that much whether he goes to sleep at 6:30pm or 7:30pm. We haven't been doing any MOTN feedings since about 4.5 months of age and are really trying to avoid giving him a bottle at 5am with hopes that he goes back to sleep for just another hour. Full disclosure - he usually falls asleep during his bedtime feeding and is placed into the crib either asleep or very close to being asleep. I didn't think this was the source of the issue, however, as he is able to self-soothe back to sleep at other night time wakings (typically hear him stir a bit around 10pm and again around 2am). Thank you so much for your help and insight!

  • Hi Dr. Barnett!

    My wife and I have been experiencing issues with our son sleeping through the night lately. He is a 14 month old boy and previously was an AMAZING sleeper. We had him a very strict routine for both naps and bedtime sleeping. For about the last 6 weeks now he all of a sudden started fighting his afternoon nap. Often screaming and crying to point where you would just have to give up and skip the nap - other days he would accept the nap fine and sleep as usual. Each of his two naps (if he took the afternoon nap) was about 1-1.5 hours each. However the real issue came for bedtime; all of sudden around this same time he would go down for bed just fine and then almost exactly 1-1.5 hours later he wakes up and will not self sooth back to sleep. After some time we go up once its apparent he will not fall back asleep on his own and rock him back to sleep and put him back down. He often then will awake again in the middle of night doing the same thing at around 12am or 1am. The moment his body touches the crib again he instantly cries and wants to be picked back up, often taking 2 or 3 attempts to get him to finally fall asleep and stay in the crib. We have never experienced this before as he was always a great sleeper, barely woke from noise and slept straight through the night, his Nanit sleep score where always in the mid 90 percentile. We are dumbfounded as to what we are doing wrong. His room has blackout shades, we play the same white noise hes always had on since birth, we do the “wind down” period about 30-45 minutes before bed time with reading time and a bath, his diet has been fine, and the doctor at checkups says he is totally normal with no issues, so we truly are puzzled. I would chalk it up to teething but it seems odd that especially his first wake up of the night is always 1-1.5 hours exactly after being put down that it would be pain hitting you daily at nearly the exact same times. Any help or guidance would be a tremendous help!!

  • MeyersLemons
    MeyersLemons Member
    edited July 2021

    Hi Dr. Barnett,

    Our 9 month old son is in daycare during the day and we are having a hard time managing his naps. Around the 4 month mark, his naps became 30-45 minutes long and that trend has carried on and we’ve been unable to lengthen them consistently. When he’s at daycare during the week, he will get between 1.5-2 hours of sleep divided between two naps. He wakes around 7am and goes to daycare by 8:30. His first nap isn’t till 10, 10:30am and the second is around 2pm. With the excitement of being around his friends, he usually doesn’t sleep longer than 45mins to 1 hour at a time. When he comes home at 4pm, we don’t put him down for a nap since bedtime is at 7, 7:30pm. He’s an okay night sleeper doing approximately 10-11 hours a night, so on average he gets 13 hours of total sleep in 24 hours.

    My question is, since we can’t control the time or duration of his daycare naps, should we be trying for a third nap at home before or after daycare to increase daily nap hours? We don’t know if we should be prioritizing those nap hours or getting more night sleep.

    Thanks in advance,

    Veronica

  • Natalie_Barnett_PhD
    Natalie_Barnett_PhD Member, Nanit Team, Expert

    Veronica,

    This is a really common complaint (not be able to control the daycare schedule), but honestly, it sounds pretty great. I would be suggesting two naps at this age at about these times anyhow. Im not worried about shorter naps if he is happy during the day. To your point, since you cant control the day sleep, my preference is that you focus on the night sleep. 'Normal' sleep ranges vary a LOT and the best guide is looking at your son. If he is happy and engaged throughout the day, he is likely getting enough sleep. If he seems tired or grumpy, you might want to focus on trying to lengthen the night sleep. You dont need a 3rd nap when he gets home. Instead, my preference would be to put him to bed earlier in the evening if you think he is tired. This is also a great way to lengthen the night sleep.

  • Natalie_Barnett_PhD
    Natalie_Barnett_PhD Member, Nanit Team, Expert

    Vinny!

    Honestly, I think hes ready to move to one nap. It sounds like he might not be tired enough going to bed at the beginning of the night which might have been the catalyst for your struggles. Take a look my Nanit Sleep Schedule Generator for a guide of when is likely to be the best time to put him down for a nap. He likely needs around 5-6 hours of awake time before going to bed a night.

    I think it should just take a week to get you back on track!

    Since he is used to taking that earlier nap in the day, try to keep him busy at him in the morning (ie, avoid the car or stroller so that he doesnt fall asleep). Then give him an early lunch (this will help lengthen the nap) and then put him down around noon (or even 11.30 if he cant make it to noon). He might then need to go to bed a little earlier in the evening as he gets used to the longer awake time in the afternoon but give this schedule a week and then let me know how it goes!

    For the middle of the night wakings - this very often stems from him not falling asleep by himself at the beginninng of the night. Make sure he is going into the crib awake and getting himself to sleep by himself. Remember - what he needs to get to sleep at the beginning of the night will be what he needs to get himself back to sleep when he wakes. So if that is a breast, bottle, warm body, being rocked or held, it will be frustrating for him not to have those things when he wakes in the night. So I'd suggest focussing on the beginning of the night and then the night wakings should take care of themselves, since it will be far easier for him to get hiself back to sleep.

    Whatever method you choose to implement the changes, just make sure you are consistent. All sleep training methods work! Choose the one that feels best to you and follow though with it for a week.

    Natalie

  • NanitMelanie
    NanitMelanie Nanit Team

    Thank you for participating in our Ask Me Anything with Dr. Natalie Barnett! The AMA is now closed, but be on the lookout for our next Ask Me Anything.

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