Mama, I think we can all agree on one thing here. “Sleep training” can seem like such a huge undertaking when you’re 100% exhausted, right? Where do you start? Is it too late to start? You’ve probably asked the Google machine for all the sleep training tips or all the moms at your Monday Mommy Meet Up.
I know you’ve probably got all the questions I did, so I called in the big guns- my sweet friend and expert pediatric sleep consultant, Monica! She’s here to deliver all the sleep training tips you’ve been waiting for.
Sip that coffee and take notes, because Monica is here to make all your dreams come true! You can book a free, quick chat with her too so she can answer your personal questions.
Monica is a pastor’s wife to Joel, and mama to their cutest little almost-two-year-old, Samuel. She loves gifting mamas and babies the gift of more sleep- you can email her if you have any specific questions.
You can find my favorite baby sleep essentials rounded up in this post.
Ah, the newborn phase. I lovingly refer to this time as the “newborn haze” because everyone is so ridiculously tired but SO enamored by this sweet nugget baby. I can’t wait to use Monica’s tips with our third baby! So many gems.
Q: What’s the earliest a baby can sleep through the night safely?
This is a great question and one that I get asked quite a bit! First, let me say that every baby is different, and I highly encourage a conversation between you and your pediatrician about this topic. That being said, when independent sleep skills are in place and baby is physically and developmentally ready, they can sleep 12 hours through the night. I have seen this as early as 11 weeks old! My general rule of thumb is 12 weeks old, 12 lbs and independent sleep skills in place = 11-12 hours overnight.
My general rule of thumb is 12 weeks old, 12 lbs and independent sleep skills in place = 11-12 hours overnight.
Q: Co-sleeping? Yes or no?
I’m so glad this question was asked! Let me clarify a few things before I answer. Co-sleeping is a really broad term and is often used to describe room sharing, as well as bed sharing. Room sharing is completely appropriate. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep during the first 6 months.
However, bed sharing (having your infant under 12 months in your bed) is NOT safe. This remains the greatest risk factor of SIDS. I always recommend following the ABC’s of safe sleep for infants under 12 months old: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib (or safe sleeping surface).
I always recommend following the ABC’s of safe sleep for infants under 12 months old: Alone, on their Back, in a Crib (or safe sleeping surface).
Q: When can a baby safely cry it out (CIO)?
Honest moment? I don’t like the traditional cry it out method. To me, traditional CIO is leaving your baby to cry and not responding, (or responding very little). I don’t find it to be very effective and it’s REALLY hard on mama and baby. It’s usually putting a band-aid on a problem that really needs a true solution.
Honest moment? I don’t like the traditional cry it out method.
However, when making changes to a little one’s sleep habits, those changes will likely be met with some protest. That protest is usually in the form of crying… because your little one can’t say “hey, things are different here.” And anyone who tells you that you can do this without some tears, you need to run the other way from.
How much crying really depends on:
1) Your child and their personality
2) How big their sleep debt is
3) How overtired he or she is
When I work with families in a private consultation, I build a personalized plan to their child, and coach them through implementing that plan, including what to do when/if their child cries. I won’t have parents let their child cry for long periods of time without responding to them, and I coach them on just how to do that. Most families I work with see significant improvement in their child’s sleep, and the crying lessens within 3-7 days.
Q: Is it okay to let a tiny baby nap in a swing?
While the swing is a really helpful tool for our little ones, it is not a safe sleep item to use. This is due to the position that swings put our babies in, causing a potential cut off of oxygen. Baby carriers are a great alternative for a nap on the go!
Q: What about a Dock-A-Tot or Snuggle Me infant lounger?
I do not recommend using the Dock-A-Tot or the Snuggle Me. These items are not approved for safe sleep, as they cradle babies in a position that could potentially cut off oxygen. Additionally, I find that families who use these products have an extremely difficult time getting their babies to sleep without these products!
Q: Are all swaddles created equally? Is it worth investing in the pricier ones?
I would say no, not all swaddles are created equally, because not all babies are the same! Some babies can be absolutely fine with a simple Velcro swaddle like the Halo swaddle, or the Ollie swaddle (two of the same types, but very different prices). However, some babies are little Houdini’s and they need something stronger like the Miracle Blanket, (my personal favorite). Some babies also like to have their arms up, and the Love to Dream is a great option for that.
The bottom line is: find a swaddle that works for your baby! If your baby is past the age of 10 weeks and they are consistently breaking out of their swaddle, it’s time to drop it all together! I’ll be going into that one a little more in the next question…
Q: When should I transition from swaddle to sleep sack? When do I remove the sleep sack altogether?
This is one of my favorite topics! Honestly, I remember being a first-time mom and being absolutely terrified to drop the swaddle. It can be really stressful when you aren’t sure how to go about doing it!
To answer your question, I like to see the swaddle go away between 8-12 weeks and replaced with a basic sleep sack. The AAP recommends removing the swaddle completely by 12 weeks.
I recommend keeping the sleep sack until around 2.5-3 years old. (They even make sleep sacks now that have leg holes at the bottom!) The sleep sack is such a beneficial tool. It keeps your infant warm and signals to them that it’s time to go to sleep. And it helps prevent your toddler from climbing out of the crib!
For all the mamas looking to drop the swaddle, here is a very helpful article on how to do so.
Q: My baby will only sleep ON me and freaks out when they’re moved to the bassinet. Cry it out? Keep holding them?
Mama, my heart goes out to you! I am sure you are beyond exhausted. I certainly understand what that’s like, and that’s precisely why I became a sleep consultant. To help mamas like you get their babies in their bassinets and sleeping all night every night!
To answer your question, I would not continue to hold him or her. That might be what’s working for you now, but it’s not a long-term solution, nor is it safe for baby.
However, leaving them to cry is not the only option out there! I don’t like the traditional cry it out method, as I often find it to be unsuccessful and really hard on baby and mom. Without knowing the specifics of your baby, it is hard for me to recommend a method that’s going to work for you. This is exactly what I do in my private consultations. So if you’re interested in learning more about how to get your baby sleeping all night every night, I would love to offer a free 15 minute evaluation call. You can book on my calendar here.
Q: What if your 1 month old refuses to sleep on her back? She already rolls to her side on her own no matter how many times I try to put her on her back!
Wow! What an advanced little baby!! That is amazing to see a one month old already rolling to her side. Sounds like you’ve got a mover and a shaker on your hands!
That being said, if you are currently swaddling her, I would recommend removing at least one arm from the swaddle, if not both arms. And I would PRACTICE rolling! Practice, practice, practice during the day. I have a little trick that I like to recommend with this…
Lay a blanket on the floor and place your baby at the edge of the blanket. Cradle your baby’s head and slowly lift the edge of the blanket so your baby rolls over. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Here’s a video of the blanket trick to give you a visual.
Q: How do you help a newborn to sleep in their bassinet?
This can be a really challenging stage, especially when you feel like you can’t put your baby down! My encouragement to you is practice overnight and the first nap of the day. If you try to lay your newborn (0-12 weeks) down for every single nap in the crib, you’ll drive yourself crazy. I’ve been there – literally!
Start with nighttime and the first nap of the day. Do a short routine (less than 5 min) and lay your baby down relaxed, but awake. Also, keep in mind that newborns can really only handle about 45-60 minutes of awake time between sleep, to avoid getting overtired. We have an amazing program for newborns, so please reach out if you’d like information about that! I would love to help.
Ask a Sleep Consultant
I took questions from sleepy mamas everywhere and these are a few handpicked questions for Monica to answer. I feel like I’ve experience these with either of my babes!
Q: I’m still nursing by 10 month old. She still wakes up in the middle of the night a least two times. I can count on ONE HAND where she actually slept through 6 hours without interruptions. My question is, how do I stop this madness? I’m not gonna lie, I will be so tired in the middle of the night and just put her in the bed with me and feed her until she knocks back out. We have a set schedule for bedtime as well.
This is a great question and I’m so glad you asked! You are exactly right, mama. It doesn’t have to be this way. Way to go on prioritizing her bedtime schedule! That is the first step towards sleep success. Now, I rarely find a 10-month-old that actually needs a middle of the night feed.
So, what is likely happening is she’s waking up out of habit, not out of necessity. And then she gets to see her favorite person and do her favorite thing – eat until she falls asleep! I see this ALL the time in my private consultations.
My recommendation to you is to make sure your baby is going down to sleep 100% wide awake at night. Meaning- no rocking, no feeding to sleep, etc. I call all of these things “sleep props”. If your child depends on a prop to fall asleep – such as breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, patting, rocking, or even playing with mommy’s fingers – then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their prop.
If your child depends on a prop to fall asleep – such as breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, patting, rocking, or even playing with mommy’s fingers – then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their prop.
There’s a lot more that I would need to know about your family and your baby before I would make a recommendation of a method on what to do when she wakes in the night. Please feel free to reach out and set up a free 15 minute call with me!
Q: My little guy has been sleeping a ton since we moved him into his own room at night around 6 months old. He NEVER slept before that. Now he sleeps 11-13 hours at night without waking up. He takes 2 to 3 hour naps daily. Am I crazy for thinking that’s a lot of sleeping for a 9 month old? Or should I just count my blessings and quit worrying?
Hey there, mama! Yes, girl- count your blessings! You are truly the envy of so many moms out there. That is a lot of sleeping, but it sounds like your little guy is high sleep needs and that’s ok. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” As long as you’re not seeing problems overnight, let him sleep.
I typically recommend capping naps at the 2-hour mark so they don’t interfere with overnight sleep. For the average 9-month-old, I usually see two naps during the day, no more than 3.5 hours of daytime sleep, and an 11-12 hour night. Enjoy this time because before you know it, he’ll be running all over the place and you’ll be reminiscing of the days when he slept slept slept all day and night!
I typically recommend capping naps at the 2-hour mark so they don’t interfere with overnight sleep
Q: How often should a 10 month old be napping?
At 10 months old, I like to see two naps! One morning nap, one afternoon nap, and 11-12 hours overnight. What that typically looks like is this:
7 AM – wake up
9:30 AM – nap 1 (90 minutes)
2 PM – nap 2 (90 minutes)
7:30 PM – bedtime
I told you, right? SO much wonderful advice all in one place. For personalized advice, be sure to schedule a chat with Monica. She’s a total resource of knowledge and specializes in helping you and your family get more rest!