One of the central rules of sleep training is that you should allow your little one to develop their abilities to fall asleep on their own. So it can cause a real “Should I or shouldn’t I” moment when you look at the baby monitor and see that your child has pushed themselves into an uncomfortable looking ball against the side of their crib.
I see this issue predominantly in babies who have been either rocked or nursed to sleep in mommy’s arms, and are then put into their crib already asleep. It may seem a little silly, but this is typically because they haven’t learned that they need to lie down in order for sleep to come easily.
After all, up until they start the program, babies have been held in a certain position in their parents’ arms, which doesn’t allow for any kind of exploration or experimentation. They’re held in a nice, comfortable pose until they fall asleep, and then they wake up in their crib.
This can lead to babies falling asleep in some pretty amusing positions when they are eventually left to figure it out for themselves, as they try to discover what sort of position they need to get into to get to sleep. Many will fall asleep sitting up, or even while they’re still on their feet, after a little time spent exploring their crib. So obviously, priority one with any baby is safety, so yes, you should absolutely go in and lie your baby on their back if they fall asleep in a position that’s not safe for them.
“But won’t that wake them up and send the whole process back to square one?” you may be asking.
Well, yes and no. There’s a good chance baby might wake up and want to interact with you, but if you lay them down and reassure them that’s it’s still time for sleep, then promptly leave the room, chances are they’ll find their way back to sleep before long. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than risking them falling over.
But what about those times when they manage to wriggle their way into the corner of their crib? There are times when baby might not be in a dangerous sleeping position, per say, but just one that looks really uncomfortable.
Well, what may seem uncomfortable looking to us grown ups might be super comfortable to a baby. The most common scenario I see is babies lying against the edge of their crib, which we equate with sleeping against a wall, which is not something most adults are terribly fond of.
But babies do seem to like to sleep while pushed up against something. It may be for a sense of security, or a feeling of being next to someone, but whatever the reason, they do seem to gravitate towards some kind of a surface to sleep against.
And if they do end up a little smushed up against the side of their crib, or curled up into the corner, your best bet is to let them sleep.
Again, our number one concern is safety, so if baby has a limb hanging between the bars of the crib, or has gotten into a position that might make it difficult to breathe, go ahead and reposition them. Just remember to make it as quick and quiet as possible, and don’t linger any longer than you have to in order to get them back into a safe sleeping position.
As for what to do when your partner gets into a position that only leaves you seven inches of space on the edge of the bed, you’re on your own with that one.
P.S. In what position does your baby sleep? I'd love to hear your comments
Daylight savings ends in the Fall season each year. It will be time to “fall back” the clocks. It can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because with this, comes an adjustment that does not happen immediately. This is because children tend to be more structured in their bedtime and wake up around the same time each morning and that is why people usually can see a greater effect on children when the time changes.
However there are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new time go a little smoother. My recommendation is to leave your clocks alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast, then go around your house and change your clocks. Psychologically, it will feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time.
My best advice for children to help them with the change is to split the difference with the old time and the new time. How does that work?
School Age Children- If you have a child that does not nap and normally goes to bed at 7:00 p.m., you would put him to bed at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night, the first night of the time change. Do this for 3 nights, putting him to bed 30 minutes earlier than normal, then on the 4th night put him to bed at the normal time, 7:00 p.m. or whatever is normal bedtime for your child.
Toddlers- If you have a toddler ages one and older, on Sunday the first day of the time change, you would put him down for his first nap 30 minutes earlier than normal. So if he naps usually at 9:30 a.m. put him down at 9:00 a.m. You would do the same with the afternoon nap if he takes an afternoon nap. For bedtime, if his normal bedtime is 7:00 p.m., you would put him down at 6:30 p.m. Do this for 3 nights after the time change and then on the 4th night, put him to bed at 7:00 p.m. and on 5th day move nap times back to normal time. So if your child naps at 9:30 a.m. put him down at 9:30 a.m. and so on with the rest of the day.
Infants- If you have a baby and his bedtime and naps have become predictable (usually over 6 months old) meaning he is always going to bed around the same time each day. For example if bedtime is normally 7:00 p.m. move bedtime 15 minutes later each night until you reach the normal time again. So the first night you would put him down at 6:15 p.m., the second night 6:30 p.m., and so on. On the fourth night you should be back to 7:00 p.m. Do the same thing for naps. Start 45 minutes earlier than normal and move them 15 minutes later each day. So if morning nap is at 9:00 a.m. normally, start with 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, 8:30 a.m. on Monday, 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday and then 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Do the same for the afternoon nap. If their bedtime and nap times are not predictable (0-6 months old) simply jump to the new time Sunday night as if you were traveling to a new time zone and use their wake time window (awake time between sleep periods) as your guide.
A great thing about this time change is that there are more hours of darkness which helps make this transition a little easier. If your child wakes up too early, walk them back to their room and tell them it’s not time to get up yet. If your child wakes up too early and is in a crib, be sure to help his body understand it isn’t morning time by keeping him in his crib in the dark room until normal wake time.
Note for Toddlers/School-aged children: If you have a toddler or an older child who relies on a clock to know when their “morning time” has arrived, set the clock one half hour ahead of the new time so that it reads 7:00 a.m. at the new time of 6:30 a.m. Allow your child to wake a bit earlier than normal (they will think it is 7:00 according to the clock but it will be 6:30 a.m., new time). This will only be temporary as your child adjusts to wake at their usual 7:00 a.m. time after about one or two weeks.
It may take children and babies a bit more time to fall asleep, this is normal, since the time is different initially they might seem tired earlier. It usually takes about a week for children and babies to completely adjust to the new time, some children it can take up to a month.
Be patient and stay very consistent, it will happen. If you have questions, I am always here to help, firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care and sleep well,
P.S. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
So, perhaps that’s a bit of a misleading title.
I’m not suggesting that you can remove yourself from baby’s bedtime routine altogether. Even if you could somehow say to your child, “Alright. It’s almost bedtime. Go have a bath, brush your teeth, get into your PJs, read yourself a story and tuck yourself in. Mommy will be out here watching The Bachelor with a glass of wine if you need me.”
Even if we could pull that off, I don’t know a single mother that would actually enjoy removing themselves from the routine. (Well, maybe once a week.)
Truth be told, I loved putting my kids to bed. Watching them play in the bath, getting them dressed in their warm, fuzzy pajamas, cuddling and reading stories, I wouldn’t trade that for all the wine and trash TV in the world.
But the issue that I see with most parents whose babies won’t sleep through the night takes place after their little one gets into bed.
Specifically, the problem stems from a parent getting in bed with their child in order to get them to fall asleep, and here’s why…
When you crawl into bed with your little one, they will almost always want to cuddle up to you in some manner. Even if it’s just the slightest touch, they rely on the sensation of feeling you next to them in order to soothe themselves to sleep.
The problem with this arrangement is that babies, like their adult counterparts, don’t just fall asleep and stay asleep for eight or ten hours. We all sleep in cycles, which transition from a stage of light sleep to one of deep sleep, and back again.
When adults wake from one of these cycles, we typically don’t even remember it happening the next day, because we’re barely awake for a minute or two before we fall back to sleep. We can do that easily because we’re good at it. We know how to get back to sleep on our own.
But if baby is accustomed to falling asleep next to a parent, with the reassuring ability to reach out and touch that parent, then what are they supposed to do when they wake up after a sleep cycle and that parent is nowhere to be found?
Well, as I’m sure every parent knows, when a baby wants their parents, they cry.
They cry until a parent shows up and gets back into that familiar spot, which baby recognizes as a cue to go to sleep.
So that’s the reason why you’ll so often hear parents utter some twist on the old line, “My baby absolutely won’t go to sleep without me next to her.” It’s not because they need the reassurance that they’re safe, or that your presence is necessarily calming to them, it’s just part of their routine that they follow to get to sleep.
So what’s the solution?
Well, you could co-sleep, so your baby can reach out and touch you every time she wakes up, but if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve already given that a go, and found it’s not the Utopian solution you had hoped for.
A couple of late-night kicks in the face, or a perpetually writhing baby with her fingers in your eye can cause a quick change in plans for a lot of parents who thought co-sleeping would solve their nighttime woes.
Or, and this suggestion comes with a much higher recommendation, you can let them learn some independent sleep skills which they can call on anytime they wake up, in order to get back to sleep all on their own.
I know that might sound like a tall order for a baby, but I’m not suggesting anything too challenging, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly they adapt to new strategies for getting to sleep. Stroking a lovey, chewing on a blanket, or even just playing with their own fingers and toes can be effective little methods for making the transition into sleep, and the best part is, they can be done anytime baby wakes up, whatever time of the day or night.
P.S. I'd love to hear your comments below!
Is your baby a light sleeper? Does she wake up every time you so much as walk past her door? Does she go from fast asleep to wide awake the second you put her into her crib?
This is one of the most common complaints I get from parents. They say that their babies are just so easy to wake, and when they do, they’re exceedingly difficult to get back to sleep.
So first of all, let me dispel a little myth.
All babies are light sleepers, and all babies are heavy sleepers. So, for that matter, are all adults.
We all go from light sleep to heavy sleep and back again several times a night. Some babies spend more time in light sleep stages before slipping into deeper sleep, and some go from light sleep to deep sleep in almost no time at all, but everyone goes through these cycles every time they shut their eyes.
The truly restorative sleep, the stuff that does us the most good, is the NREM or “deep” sleep that we get in the middle of the cycles. That’s why some people can get by on less sleep than others, because they get more NREM sleep than those of us who spend more time in light sleep stages.
So when someone claims that their baby is a light sleeper, what they probably mean is that their baby tends to spend more time in light sleep than deep sleep, because that’s the easiest stage to wake up from. It’s when we dream and are more aware of our surroundings, so external noises tend to wake us up easier.
Babies also have shorter cycles than adults, and are therefore spend nearly twice as much time in light stages of sleep than grown ups. So if you’re finding that your baby is prone to waking up a lot, it’s partly a matter of inconvenient timing.
So what can you do about it? How can you teach a baby to spend more time in deep sleep?
Well, you can’t really. But what you can do is teach them to fall back to sleep on their own when they wake up. It’s a wonderful gift to give them, and it will benefit your entire family for years to come.
There are a lot of elements to teaching a baby to fall asleep independently, but the single most important one is the elimination of sleep props. By that, I mean anything that baby uses to help them fall asleep that they can’t provide on their own.
Pacifiers, rocking motions, and feeding are all good examples of sleep props. If baby needs a car ride to fall asleep, then they’re going to need another car ride when they wake up again at the end of the next sleep cycle. If they get rocked to sleep, they learn to rely on that motion as part of the process, so once they wake up at night, they’re stuck that way until you come in and help them get back to sleep.
This is often accompanied by a bunch of crying and fussing in order to get your attention, which wakes them up even further and requires more soothing to get them settled.
However, the babies that people refer to as “good sleepers” have the same sleep cycles as the ones who wake up crying. They’ve just gotten the hang of falling asleep on their own, so they wake up, squirm around a little, maybe babble to themselves for a bit, then go happily back to sleep.
So although you can’t stop your little one from waking up at night, you can absolutely teach them how to get back to sleep independently, and once you do, you and baby can both look forward to full nights of deep, rejuvenating, uninterrupted sleep.
P.S. Have a thought about a light sleeper? Comment below!
Jo Anna Inks
I help tired, frustrated parents get their babies sleeping through the night and napping well so everyone in the family can get the rest they so desperately need!