The Tot Q&A: How to improve Baby & Toddler Sleep

If you had one question about baby or toddler sleep, what would it be?

Lauren Olson, The Tot Holistic Sleep Expert and Founder of @sleepandthecity, a baby and toddler sleep consulting business where she strives to assist families with their pediatric sleep issues, answers your most pressing sleep questions.

Q: 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?

Q: I want to sleep train my 9 month old, who waking two times to feed. Should I try to get him down to one feeding or zero? How many hours is considered STTN? Thank you!

Q: My 11 month old still wakes up twice a night for a feeding. Is this normal or what can I do to get her to sleep right through?

Q: My 9 month old needs to be held to fall asleep for nap time and bedtime. If I leave him in the crib he cries and cries and pulls himself up and then falls down since he doesn’t know how to stand yet. What can we do to have him learn to sleep on his own? He also constantly wakes up throughout the night every 1-2 hours needing his bottle but only drinking an ounce or two. What should I do?

Q: What does ‘through the night’ mean exactly? 5,6,7 hours straight? Also how do I get my almost 10 month old to sleep through the night uninterrupted, he goes to bed and wakes up like 2-3 times before 11 pm then sleeps till 5 am. Thank you.

Q: How to teach my 9 month old boy to sleep on his own?

Q: I’m still nursing my 12 month old to sleep. He only wakes up once and takes two naps, but I’m going to start weaning and I don’t want his sleep to regress. How can I transition him to a different sleep routine?

Q: Can you please help a 6 month old to sleep longer at night? He’s sleeping 10 hrs but regressing a little to 9 hours lately. Or do i just have a 9/10 hr babes? Is it stretching him and his waketime? We sleep trained so falling asleep in his own has been great!
A: Hi there! Between 6-12 months is an excellent age to begin encouraging healthy sleep habits; if baby is already in his/her own room that’s a start! With me, ‘Cry it Out’ is definitely not your only option, thank goodness! Common causes for night waking include insufficient napping, wake windows that are too large, or having a sleep dependency on an object that he/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! I would recommend heading over to my website and downloading the 5-12 Infant Sleep Survival Guide for your little one, this will help drop those wakings and increase nap lengths with minimal tears and at your own pace!  Good luck Mamas xo

Q: My son 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 his mouth) – pacifiers don’t work and I did/do not want to sleep train. He is also a light sleeper. Thanks!
A: Hi there and thanks for your question! 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. I would use any other means of soothing to help baby get back to sleep aside from using something in his mouth, and drop the pacifier all together if he’s not interested. I have a few guides on my website under “Sleep Survival Guides” that you may find helpful – hang in there!

Q: My issue is early wakings. How can I get my 8 month old to sleep past 6am?
A: Hi Mama! Early rising can be so tricky and hard to understand!  The top reasons for why your baby may be waking before 6am could be one of the following: bedtime before 7pm, wake windows are too lengthy, insufficient napping, or environment issues such as lack of black out shades or white noise. If you feel like all of these things are 100% in place, email me and I’d be happy to make some further suggestions ok?  Just know that you’re in the right place and it’s completely possible to shift baby forward!

Q: 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 night time progress?
A: Hi there and congrats on your new baby!  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 need more help, email me and I’d be glad to discuss further.  Thank you for your question!

Q: How can I gently transition my 5 month old from a swaddle to a sleep sack?! The doctor said it’s time!
A: Hi there and thanks for your question!  Yes, it’s about that time so I’m happy you asked!  You can start by leaving one arm out of the swaddle for 3 nights, and then the other for 3 nights while only swaddling baby waist down.  On the 7th night, make the switch! Making any changes to a baby’s sleeping arrangements can cause some fussing for 2-3 nights while baby adjusts, so that will be a common occurrence should you come across any. Good luck!

Q: As a new mom, how can I learn to sleep when my newborn sleeps as I wake up and check on baby with every sound made.
A: Hi Mama! Congrats on your Newborn! I think that is completely common when co-sleeping and/or room-sharing with your new baby – they are very NOISY sleepers!  Be sure to feed baby every 2-3 hours the first month, and offer other means of soothing in between. If baby is super noisy, you can even move the co-sleeper further away from your bed, or increase the volume slightly on your white noise machine. Thanks for your question and email me should you have any further issues!

Q: My 6 month old is sleeping through the night from 7pm-7am (hallelujah, hasn’t always been like this) but takes two crib naps that only last 45 minutes each. Sometimes a cat nap in the stroller on an afternoon walk. I have black out shades and two white noise machines going. How can I get him to take longer naps? Isn’t the goal to take 1 hour then 2 hours at his age?
A: Hi there! WOW: 12 hours is fantastic, great job!! Often when a baby is sleeping THIS well at night (so incredible), the naps will often result in 3 naps that are 45 minutes or so. If you’d like baby to nap longer during the day, wake baby after 11 hours of night sleep. Thanks for your question.

Q: My 2 month old baby sleeps throughout the day and stays wide awake at night. After a good feed at night, he does doze off but only for an hour or so. This gets tough for me as I can’t sleep enough during the day to compensate for the night.
A: Congrats on your new baby! The good news is that this should be ending soon, as it can take up to 8 weeks for baby to switch from “night to day”.  Keep daytime feeds lively and interesting for baby, and nighttime feeds with low lighting and minimal interaction.  Baby should be napping about every 90 minutes.  Good luck and please let me know if you have additional questions, and check out my “Newborn Sleep Guide” on the website for a full breakdown of what to expect for 0-4 months!

Q: I have Irish twins, 1.5 and 2.5, both were sleep trained at 2 months and have been sleeping through the night ever since… Until two weeks ago when we took the rail off my 2.5 year old daughters crib. She’s been waking every night and now that she can open her door and is coming into our room. Additionally it’s been more challenging to get her to go to bed at night. I’m exhausted. Help!
A: I love Irish twins, so fun!  My children are super close in age too, and I promise it does get easier, and a lot more fun as they grow up. Yes, the toddler bed transition is a BIG change in a little toddler’s life.  I would step back and take a look at your routine; where are you finding that you’ll bend to accommodate her where you didn’t before when she had the crib?  Be firm, but reassure her with love and praise when she does something “right”.  If all else fails, introduce the crib again and try later once she understands the new “toddler bed” rules better.  Good luck!

Q: My 15 mth old wakes up every single night around 2am and cannot get himself back to sleep. During the day he currently has one big nap late in the morning and then skips the second nap. Even with two naps he was still waking during the night. I haven’t slept through the night for a LONG time. Help!
A: Hi there!  I would work to begin shifting baby to a one-nap schedule, this could help!  I have a download on my website under “sleep survival guides” that you can opt into for a custom schedule to help you through the transition also.  If you find that dropping down isn’t helping completely, try waking baby slightly at 1:30am for about a week to “reset his sleep cycle”.  Good luck!

Q: Hi! My daughter is 4 years old and she can’t sleep well at night if she has a daytime nap. But if she doesn’t sleep at daytime, she becomes crazy and stressful in the evening. What is wrong here? Thank you
A: Hi Mama!  Sounds like your daughter is very active, yes? Often times if an active 4-year-old doesn’t nap, they are increasingly sleepy as the day goes on. I would encourage a quiet time in her room about 5 hours after waking for the day for about 30-60 minutes, and waking her after 15 minutes should she fall asleep. This “catnap” should move her through the rest of her day with ease.  Thanks for your question.

Q: How much does sleep training cost? Why isn’t this intuitive to me? Why do I need a consultant to know how to support my babies rest?!
A: Hi there! Great question! I suppose if everything came completely naturally to us as parents, then services like mine might not exist! Plenty of parents aren’t aware of the science behind supporting healthy sleep habits, so that’s where I come in.  I work with all types of families worldwide on any sleep situation that they might deem problematic.  If you do ever find you come across a sleep issue with your little one, you know where to find me!

Q: What is your experience with & feelings about sleep training?
A: Great question!  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.  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!  Thank you for your question!

Q: Is there a recommended age for a toddler and baby siblings to start sharing a room? If so, what would that be?
A: Hi there!  Ideally, the minimal age for the second child should be after 2.5 years, after the sleep regressions occur.  Bonus points if your child is already potty trained and/or wearing a pullup 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 only as to not wake the younger one.  Expect some excitement too at first, this is a big change in a little one’s life! Good luck!

Q: Please explain ‘night terrors’ to me? My 16 month old has them periodically. It’s very sad and scary sometimes. What causes them, what can I do to prevent them ? Any tips to calm him down
A: Good question! I’m so sorry that your baby is experiencing these, how scary for everyone involved!  Have there been any major changes in his schedule/household – e.g. a new home/new babysitter? Even the smallest detail in an adult’s life can make a huge impact on a little one. Although random and infrequent night terrors don’t need medical attention and aren’t treated with medicine in young children, you can attempt to avoid them by limiting stress, fatigue and stimulation, or looking for patterns: if he wakes at 10pm every night, try slightly waking him at 9:30pm to “reset” his sleep cycle.  Usually they will resolve on their own but do let me know if you need more assistance. Good luck!

Q: What’s the best way to teach a baby to sleep through the night? And when should we try?
A: Hi there! The best way to help a baby sleep through the night is using consistency, routine and 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. Thanks for your question!

Q: When do you think naps can be at a more “set time” (ie at 10 and 2) verses timing how long the baby has been awake? My 9 month old still has really erratic naps, sometimes he naps great, sometimes he won’t sleep at all. It’s really hard to have a consistent schedule with naps being so erratic. He goes to be at 7 and sleep until 5, nurses, then back to bed until 7:30.
A: Hi Mama!  Great question!  I always recommend using wake windows for babies under 6 months, and a set (yet somewhat) flexible schedule by the clock over 6 months of age.  If your baby is sleeping 12 hours, you’re doing a great job!  It sounds like you have a great start!

Q: My 2.5 year old has had what we think are nightmares 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?
A: Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear this!  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, 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 become scared.  Nightlights are also helpful!  Hang in there!

Q: Is it better to leave a 3 month old alone in the bassinet if she wakes up from a nap at 30 minutes or leave her alone to ‘explore’? I watch her on the monitor and she’ll fall back asleep for a split second but won’t STAY asleep on her own. She sleep like a champ overnight so I don’t understand what the deal is!
A: Hi there and congrats on your new baby!  30 minute naps are extremely common during the 3rd and 4th months.  If a nap is less than 30 minutes, you can absolutely give her a little space to see if she will resettle back into another sleep cycle, maybe 3-5 minutes tops. Go ahead and grab her if she begins to fuss, as these short naps are typical during this time as mentioned. Thanks so much for your question, and if you have other questions, I would recommend visiting my website over at @sleepandthecity to view some of my survival guides!

Q: 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.
A: Hi Mama!  I would first highly recommend downloading the “Infant Sleep Survival Guide” on my website; this will walk you through all of these steps at your own pace, on your own time.  First, you’ll want to start with night weaning down to what you’re comfortable with, followed by some room acclimation and gentle sleep shaping.  You’ve got some work ahead of you, but it’s completely possible to do within a couple of weeks.

Q: How do I get my daughter to nap at predictable times for a substantial amount of time instead of quick naps randomly throughout the day?
A:
Great question!  Napping on a schedule, or within age-appropriate wake windows, can be the part (if not the entire) solution to longer naps!  I would set aside those time(s) and plan to be home and schedule social outings around these designated times.  Try to limit car travel for one full hour prior to naptime to reduce chances of baby falling asleep in the car for a powernap, which will almost always derail even the best napping schedule.  For an idea of nap lengths and times, you can try searching my blog for more tips!

Q: How can I transition my 8 month old from co-sleeping in our bed back into his crib?
A:
Hi there!  Great question- and it’s a tricky one!  I would recommend visiting the Sleep Survival Guides portion of my website to find more detailed solutions, but you’ll want to begin by doing some room acclimation.  This involves spending at least 15 minutes playing in baby’s room during the morning, and 15 more again in the afternoon or nighttime.  The crib isn’t off limits either for play, we want to encourage baby’s room as a safe, happy and loving environment during the day.  Expect some upset the first few days you gently move to transition baby to the crib, and always begin with the nighttime.  Let me know if you need any help ok.

Q: How do I get my 5 month old to fall asleep on his own (not on chest, on boob, etc) and nap longer than a half hour? On the move in a pram is no problem.
A:
Hi there and congrats on your new baby!  To gently assist a baby to sleep independently, you’ll want to start with the first nap of the day in the area that you desire baby to sleep in. You may want to attempt using any soothing methods aside from a feed to help baby fall asleep, and placing him into the crib about 5-10 minutes after he’s fallen asleep.  The trick is to slowly have baby get used to the idea of sleeping flat, in a new environment, which can take some time to get used to.  Take it slow, and stay consistent.  Keep me posted over ok?  Good luck Mama!

Q: How long is a normal timeframe for a child to lay in the crib before falling aslep? My 2.5 yr old son will always take 15-30 min of laying before his one after afternoon nap and always a minimum of 30 minutes before evening sleep. Sometimes 60 minutes! We are structured and he’s had his 13 hr day by this time too.
A:
Hi there!  As a Mom of a 2.5 year old myself, you’re in good company!  It’s perfectly acceptable (and normal) for a child to take about 15-20 minutes to fall asleep for naps and at night, similar to an adult.  You may want to take a look at his schedule as well, encourage bedtime aimed at about 13 hours after waking for the day, and give lots of opportunity for stimulation during the day through mental & physical activities to make sure your toddler is ready for sleep!

Q: I’ve been struggling with nap training — I’ve actually found that to be more difficult than sleep training! What are your best tips for nap training? Thank you!
A:
Great question!  And YES, nap training is much tricker than “fixing” the nights, absolutely, for a few reasons.  First, our bodies are biologically tired at the end of the day, and combined with our bedtime routines and natural hormones prepping our bodies for rest, we feel more tired at night.  It’s also usually pretty dark outside as well, and we spend about 30 minutes or so with our children winding down.  I would recommend introducing a naptime routine that lasts at least 5-10 minutes, a blackout shade to limit light in baby’s room, and a consistent response to any protest that may occur (there are gentle ways, don’t worry!)  Keep me posted and thank you for your question!