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Naps: Troubleshooting--Revised and Updated

During the first year (at least) of your child's life, there is probably little else that will cause you stress than sleep issues. Naps are a big part of the day. If baby doesn't nap, mom is stressed and baby is understandably fussy.

All three of my children are good sleepers. Brayden (4.5) rarely naps, but takes rest time each day. Kaitlyn (2.5) still happily naps each day. McKenna (9 months) is a great little napper and always has been. By the time McKenna was born, I could really quickly and easily identify reasons for waking early from naps.

If your baby was taking 1.5-2 hour naps and is now waking early, here are some things to check.
  • Growth Spurt: The first thing to try is to feed your baby. Every time McKenna woke early, I fed her. We never had consistent or persistent nap problems with her. Once the growth spurt was over, we went back to normal naps. I noticed that both of my girls had days where they were hungrier. For Kaitlyn, it was Thursday. For McKenna, it was Friday. I could count on those days having short naps during the newborn months. They just needed to eat more often for one day. See blog label Growth Spurts for more.
  • More Food: This is slightly different than a growth spurt. Maybe the baby is hungry and just needs the food increased. This happened with Kaitlyn around 8 months. On day two of short naps, I started troubleshooting. She wasn't at a growth spurt where she needed more food for a while then backed off, she just needed more solids offered at each meal. Then the nap situation was fixed.
Once you are positive baby does not need more food, move on to these possibilities:
  • Waketime Length: Baby might need a longer waketime length. I always add in five minute increments. I know some (probably most) moms do more than that. I strongly suggest you never add more than 15 minutes at a time. I obviously think 5 minute increments are the best to work with. This way, you avoid adding too much waketime. Too much waketime causes nap problems even more than too little. If you add too much waketime, you risk jumping right over the perfect window. See blog label Optimal Waketime Length for more.
  • Sickness/Teething: A simple thing to consider is sickness or teething. Children handle these situations differently. These things didn't affect Brayden or Kaitlyn. Sickness only makes McKenna sleep better. When her first (and so far only) tooth broke through, she had one day of off naps. Some babies, however, will wake up early when sick or teething. When this happens, do what you can to soothe and wait for the pain/sickness to pass. Do what you can before the nap to create a successful nap by alleviating the pain/discomfort. See the Comforting a Sick Baby/Toddler post for more information:
  • Gas Pain: Babywise says this is one of the most common reasons for waking early. Be sure your baby is not in pain. If your baby is suddenly waking early, then gas is one of the less common culprits unless baby's diet has changed (which includes yours if you are breastfeeding). Got Gas post: . See also blog label Gas.
  • Stimulation Levels: If your baby was sleeping well and is now consistently waking early, it is unlikely baby is overstimulated. Think over the days since baby started waking early and be sure she isn't overstimulated. A better possibility in this situation is baby is understimulated. This happened to McKenna. I was very careful with her stimulation levels. As she got older, she needed more stimulation and exercise and I wasn't increasing it. Her naps got shorter. I realized this was the problem, added stimulation and exercise opportunities (basically tummy time at that age), and her naps went back to normal. See Overstimulation and Importance of Exercise and Stimulation
  • New Skill: Is she learning a new skill? Sitting, standing, walking, a new word or consonant....babies like to practice their skills, and many times those new skills take precedent over their naps. See Nap Disruptions for more information on this topic: . See also Disruptions.
  • Environmental Factors: Is there some noise that could be waking the baby up? A dog? I have a friend whose son woke up whenever she cooked. The smells got him up. Pay attention to your environment. If you suspect an environmental factor, you really need to focus in on what has changed. Is it warmer? Colder? Is there a new dog in the neighborhood? You need to be observant to catch environmental factors. 
  • 45 Minute Intruder: It could just be the 45 minute intruder.
  • Wonder Week: There are typical times during a baby's development when she is grumpier and can't sleep as well as usual. I have definitely noticed this to be true during McKenna's life. Once she is over the wonder week, she is back to normal! See Wonder Week blog label for more.
  • Off Day: Sometimes they just can't sleep. I have nights like that. I am not personally a napper unless I just gave birth, and in those times I also have days I can't sleep (even when I really want to). Babies are humans. Therefore, they aren't perfect. Even if she is really good at something, she is going to have difficulties at it at times. Even my husband who can pretty much sleep anywhere, anytime, has a night that he can't sleep every so often. This is rare, but it does happen. So if an adult who wants to sleep can have a hard time on occasion, then a baby will, too. They are just learning.
  • Props: Sometimes props suddenly become a problem. Many moms find the pacifier to suddenly become a problem around 3-4 months of age. Baby won't sleep through a nap without it. If that is the case, you can continue using it and wait for baby to be able to put it back in, or you can break the habit. See Pacifiers and Sleep Props for more. 
If your baby has basically always taken short naps, here are some things to consider. All of these suggestions are assuming you have done Babywise (or some other routine) for quite some time. If you are just starting a routine, it will take time for your baby to learn to take longer naps:
  • Feed Baby: The first thing to check is a need for food. Try feeding your baby every time she wakes early for a week or so. This might fix it. If she started a growth spurt and you have been fighting against it, bad naps have and will continue until she gets the food she needs. You should look into your milk supply if breastfeeding, also. Better safe than sorry. A lactation consultant can help you--they can even test the number of calories per ounce in your milk. See blog label Growth Spurts for more.
Once you are sure it is not a food issue, consider the following:
  • Reflux: Be sure your baby does not have reflux. If your baby does have reflux, know that a baby with reflux will often take short naps. If so, help your baby make it through a longer nap. See the blog label Reflux for a lot more on this topic.
  • Other Medical Condition: Make sure there isn't some medical condition causing short naps. These can include allergies and eczema.
  • Gas Pain: Babywise says gas is one of the most common reasons for waking early. If your baby is in chronic gas pain, I suggest you use gripe water or gas drops. Also, evaluate baby's diet and yours if breastfeeding and eliminate foods that are causing pain. See Gas for more.
  • Waketime Length: Once you have covered food and possible pain, easy fix number one is to analyze the amount of waketime. If your baby is up too long, he will wake up early. For a young baby, 5 minutes too long can do it. Babywise suggests moving your waketime back by 15 minutes if your baby isn't sleeping well. Try it. It is an easy thing to fix. (see Easy Nap Fix for more information on this topic: ). It is possible your waketime length is too short, but in this situation, I think it is best to first shorten it. If that doesn't work, try lengthening it. See blog label Optimal Waketime Length for more.
  • Stimulation Levels: Since your baby has always been taking short naps, I suggest you first tone it down. Monitor noise levels and visual stimulation. Overstimulation is more damaging to a nap than understimulation. Age also has something to do with this. The younger the baby, the less stimulation she needs and the more sensitive she will be to overstimulation. If your baby is older than 6 months, it is unlikely overstimulation is causing problems unless you live in a casino :) But be sure there is no television watching--for a baby, that is quite stimulating. Be sure exercise levels are where they need to be, too. By exercise, I mean natural exercise that happens when a baby is allowed to be a baby. I am not suggesting baby yoga or anything. See Overstimulation and Importance of Exercise and Stimulation.
  • Environmental Factors: Is the baby too hot? Too cold? Be sure to dress the baby appropriately for the season and for your home. Does baby like to wear socks? McKenna sleeps much better with socks on her feet. Kaitlyn hated to have socks on her feet. Find out what your baby likes. If your home is noisy, I suggest you use white noise of some sort. If you have other children, they might be waking baby up. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, there are lots of things that can be waking baby up. You can't control your neighbors or the garbage man. You can't really expect your other children to tip-toe around the house. You can put a humidifier, fan, or white noise machine in your baby's room to block things out.
  • Comfort: Is your baby comfortable enough? I sometimes had Kaitlyn nap in her play yard, and those naps often were not as good as her naps in her crib. This doesn't mean go buy your baby a feather bed; that is not safe. But a crib mattressis more comfortable than a "mattress" in the pack and play.
  • Inconsistency: Are you consistent with your schedule? Are you usually home for naps or if you are usually out and about. A baby won't sleep as well out and about as at home, so if he is used to being out and about, his body will be trained to short bursts of naps. Also, if he typically is napping in a carseat, he will be used to sleeping with the help of motion rather than by himself.
  • Props: Evaluate your use of props and if they are interfering with your baby being able to make it through a transition (every 45 minutes) on her own. See blog label Consistency for more.
  • Self-Soothing: Most babies will not sleep through the transition point (45 minutes) if they are unable to soothe themselves to sleep. Teach your baby to self-soothe in whatever method you think is best for your family. Once she is capable of soothing herself, she should start making it through the transitions. See CIO and 4 S's for more.
  • Lack of Routine: Do you have a good routine for your baby? Evaluate your nap routine and be sure it is best to help your child sleep well.
  • Issues Above: Consider the issues listed in the suddenly waking section. It is possible your baby has just had one issue after another.
  • My baby only sleeps one hour for the last nap of the day--is this okay? Yes, it is okay and it is normal. If your baby is going to sleep only one hour try keeping them up until it is one hour before the last feeding. If they are too fussy for that, put them down when they need to and just play with them after they wake up until dinner time.
  • My baby is waking early from naps. Should I get him up or let him CIO? First, let's address all of the issues listed above. Let's be sure the early waking can't be fixed easily. If baby is crying for one of these reasons, CIO isn't really going to help. When Kaitlyn was a young baby and waking early, sometimes she would wake after 30 minutes of sleep. At one point I decided she needed to CIO, so she did. After a few naps of that, she was fine. Other than that, I have never done CIO to get back to sleep after a nap. Emotionally I just can't hack it. I also don't really think it is a good idea to do CIO mid-nap with a newborn. There are so many growth spurts in those first three months and you are just getting to know the baby. With McKenna, if I didn't think it was a growth spurt, I would give it 10-15 minutes to see if she was just having a rough transition and were going to fall back asleep. If not, I got her.
  • My baby is waking early but is happy. What do I do? This is a nice thing--when the baby is a the point that they wake up and play and wait for you to get them. If it is early and they are happy, I leave them there. A baby will be more patient for food if he isn't staring in the face of the one who provides it. It is also more relaxing and restful in a bed than out playing and getting stimulated. Don't leave your baby in there forever, but give them more rest time if they are happy. When my kids wake early and are happy, I let them play in their beds until nap time normally ends.
  • My baby just can't seem to sleep through the 3 hour cycle. Why? So far as sleep through a cycle goes, I thought about this when Kaitlyn was not sleeping through, and came to a conclusion. I think it is nearly impossible to expect a baby to sleep through on a 3 hour when they are so young. The way the cycle is described in the book seems impossible to create in the real world. Here is why. The routine is 2.5-3 hours. Your young baby can stay awake at best for 1 hour. The nap is to be 1-1.5 hours on the routine. So, if they are awake for 1 hour, the best you can expect according to BW would be 2.5 hour routine all day, and that is if they took the 1.5 hour nap. Some babies can only be awake 45 minutes. What is the answer? Don't sweat it. Keep to the schedule as closely as possible and with time your baby will get it. With McKenna, I let her do short waketimes and long naps, and it worked really well.
While you are troubleshooting, try to address only one problem at a time. Give each "fix" a few days to work before moving on to something else.

Also, I find keeping logs to be really helpful. See blog label "log" for more.

Something good to realize is that sleep issues are not the main and end-all point of Babywise. It is more about raising children who have self control, are respectful, are able to focus and self-entertain, and most of all, are moral. You are teaching your child to be able to live on her own in the real world. It seems things eventually just work out as far as sleep goes so long as you stick to the schedule the best you can.

Is it important to have good sleep habits? Yes! Is it worth working on? Absolutely! You will have much bigger fish to fry as your child gets older. If they are good sleepers, they will have an advantage. But remember, Babywise is more than sleeping. Sleeping is the first stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Enjoy your baby. Cherish every moment. Pretty soon he will think you are so lame, then soon after that he will realize you are wise, but will be off on his own with his own children. Don't get so caught up in things you forget to enjoy what is in front of you at the moment.

Related Posts:

 The Babywise Mom Book of Naps

Poll Results: When your toddler first went to one nap a day, what time did naptime start?


11:00-11:30: 23 votes (12%)
11:30-12:00: 40 votes (20%)
12:00-12:30: 41 votes (21%)
12:30-1:00: 47 votes (24%)
1:00-1:30: 32 votes (16%)
1:30-2:00: 8 votes (4%)
2:00 or later: 8 votes (4%)

Total of 199 votes

Reminder: You can leave comments on poll results posts if you would like to add to the poll after it has closed. This would be helpful for those who have more than one child, those whose children have reached certain ages after a poll closed, and those who didn't visit the blog while that poll was open. To find closed polls, click on the poll results link above.

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Index: Swaddling

Dropping Swaddling
Poll Results

Index: Feeding Babies and Children

Establishing Habits
Finger Foods
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Introducing Solids
Introducing Sippy Cups
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Poll Results

Scheduling Meals

McKenna Baby Summary: Week 39

This week was relatively uneventful, especially compared to last week.

Nursing is going well still and we are nursing four times a day.

Sleeping was back to normal this week.

McKenna is happily eating what we eat at meals. She still eats her babyfood, but she also has what we are having. She has gotten a lot better at her pincer grasp. She loves to eat! One night this week, she sat in her highchair for a solid hour eating finger foods. This was after her dinner. It was really nice because it was during our Christmas Eve dinner, so she sat and happily ate with the rest of us.

McKenna is wiser with food than Brayden and Kaitlyn were. With both of those two, so long as they were eating, they didn't seem to notice that they were eating something different from me. I could eat treats all I wanted and they had no idea it wasn't peas :) McKenna, however, knows. She recognizes there is a difference and she wants in on the action. I guess it will be good for me to not be able to eat treats in front of her (I am one of those moms who keeps sweets from her child for as long as possible. Brayden had his first M&M when he was 18 months old, and that was given to him by his cousin).

I forgot to mention last week that I gave McKenna some cherries mixed in with applesauce.

Her eczema is still doing well other than her head. I have heard a lot of good things about Burt's Bees products for Eczema, so at the end of the week, we got some. We got the Burt's Bees - Baby Bee Shampoo & Wash, 8 oz liquid and the Burt's Bees Diaper Ointment - 3 oz. (by the way, this on Amazon is much cheaper than it was at the store). The diaper ointment is great for McKenna. Brayden and Kaitlyn both used Boudreaux's Butt Paste, Diaper Rash Ointment, Tube 4 oz (113 g), and I loved it. It was awesome for them. But it never worked well for McKenna. You might remember that the Lansinoh baby diaper rash ointment with triple protection - 3 oz worked well for her, but we were out of it and I couldn't find it in any stores around me. the cheapest I found on Amazon when I was looking for it was about $15, which I thought was a bit much. It is now cheaper. Anyway, the Burt's Bees is really good for her. It is too soon to tell on the shampoo.

The big news of the week is our start to dropping the third nap. I decided to give it a shot while my husband was home for a while. If she was overly tired and thus woke early in the morning, I wouldn't be on my own trying to get Brayden off to school. We started at the end of the week, so more to come on that next week :)

Our schedule did shift a bit this week.

8:15 AM--wake, nurse, solids (prunes or peaches and oatmeal)
9:45-10:00 AM--nap
12:30 PM--wake, nurse, solids (green veggie and applesauce. Sometimes mix with blueberries).
2:10 PM--nap
4:30 PM--wake, nurse, solids (yellow veggie and bananas or pears).
5:30ish PM--dinner with family. Finger foods and what we are having.
6:45 PM--nap. Some nights, she stays up until 7:00. Since most of this week included this nap, I am including it in our schedule.
7:45ish PM--wake, nurse, PJs, story, bed



CIO Bootcamp: Revised and Updated

How to do Cry It Out withyour baby
While this blog has several posts with CIO (Cry It Out) information on it, none is more popular than this one. I wrote this when Kaitlyn was around 4 months old. So here it is revised and updated! This is a parent bootcamp to get the parent to know what to do and not do during CIO.


CIO Bootcamp was derived when I had written a couple of posts to a BW Yahoo group on CIO (Cry It Out).

The definition of CIO ranges from person to person. For some, it means putting baby in bed and walking away never to return until A)baby has slept and/or B)naptime is over. That isn't my definition. For clarificaiton purposes, let me talk about what my definition of CIO is.

For me, CIO is a method used to help your baby learn to fall asleep. I don't think it is a process you can use a formula with. You can't use langauge like "never" or "always." There will often be times when you need to break rules. You are using this process to help your child learn to sleep on their own, and the exact steps you take will vary from child to child.

Your goal with CIO is for your child to learn to sleep on her own.

It is SO HARD to listen to your baby cry. It put me in tears so many times with my first and the second time around was easier because I knew the benefits, but I still had my days of tears. And you know what? It really wasn't easy for me the third time, either. My third child only had a couple of naps where she cried herself to sleep, but it still was very hard for me.

Don't confuse hard with wrong. There are a lot of things in life we have to do that are hard that bring about great benefits. We have to work out to be in shape. If we want to get in shape, it will take hard work. To make a nice meal takes work. To have a clean house takes work. To be pregnant and labor to deliver a child is hard and takes work. The best things in life are hard to come by!

You will think back to this time and remember how hard it was but realize how beneficial it was! You will also think the process wasn't that long after all and the benefits were worth the heartache. That is easier said on the happy side of things than at the beginning of the process, I know. But it doesn't make it less true.

Things are easier to deal with if you have a better idea of what to expect.
  • It is hard. Listening to your baby cry is hard. Know that the difficulties you will experience are normal--especially if you start after you have soothed them for some time. Babywise says some crying is normal, but I don't think they really give an honest picture of what to expect. It is harder than they make it seem.
  • It will improve. Know that if you stick with it, it will get better over time.
  • It can be a roller coaster. You will have difficult days interspersed with the good days for some time. Kaitlyn would have days with no crying, then a day where she cried at least thirty minutes for every nap when I did nothing differently. But as time went on, the hard days got fewer and farther between and eventually were a thing of the past.
  • It can be a roller coaster. I know I said it. I need to say it again. Expect things to get better, then to get bad again, then better, then bad. You will have dream days. Then you will have days that make you wonder what on earth you are doing and will reduce you to tears. But stick through it. This pattern is true of having a baby CIO at any age, from my observations.
Like I said, you will sometimes need to break rules, but here are some basic ones to follow.
  • Work Toward Your Goal. If you can think through things as to how they apply to your goal, you will make this a lot easier on yourself. You won't have to second guess yourself and wonder if it is okay to do XYZ. Always keep your goal in mind: You want to teach your baby to sleep on her own. You don't want to just make your baby cry.
  • Be Consistent. If you are going to do CIO, I think you need to do CIO for every nap and for bedtime. With my first child, I first tried just at night, but that ended up making no sense. Why rock him sometimes and expect him to fall asleep on his own others? I think in the CIO case, it is best to do it all at once rather than trying to ease into it. All or nothing! I don't think you should do CIO at all if you aren't going to stick to it. If a baby knows they will be "rescued" at some point, they will cry until they are. Go big or go home, as the saying goes. If you know you can't see it through, wait until you can.

    Of course, there will be times you will break this rule. Maybe you are at a friend's house. Maybe your baby is sick or teething. Maybe he is overstimulated because you kept him up too long. These are examples of times you will rock your baby to sleep, put him in a swing, or do something else to help him fall asleep.

  • Be Ready. This rule applies to both you and the baby. Mom needs to be ready for this, but so does baby. If baby has reflux or some other medical condition then wait until the pain is under control and not a factor. Don't start if baby is sick or teething. See Should You Do CIO? post:
  • Be Home. Don't start CIO while you are traveling or when you will be in and out for several weeks. You need to dedicate at least two weeks to staying home and getting this worked out.
  • Be respectful. If you know you are putting baby down too late, don't do it. The baby will just cry and never go to sleep and you will eventually get baby. That does not work toward meeting your goal. I wouldn’t put Kaitlyn down if I knew I had missed her window--I would put her in the swing. And at 7 months, if she had missed a nap and needed to sleep, I would often put her in the swing just because I think the more tired she was the harder it would be for her to fall asleep without difficulty. With McKenna, I never had to do things like that. She was skilled enough at falling asleep on her own she could always just go down without a fuss.
  • Check...or Don't. When doing CIO, I would check on Kaitlyn at some point if she hadn’t gone to sleep. Figure out your child's reaction to your interference. Brayden wouldn't ever go to sleep if I made my presence known after I put him down. And, if I ever got him out of bed after he had been crying, naps would be AWFUL for a long time afterward. He seemed to hate to sleep (he still does!). He would even fuss to go to sleep in a swing. That is when you know you have a hates-to-sleep-er.

    Kaitlyn, on the other hand, did well with my presence if she had been crying for a while. When she was younger, I would go in after 20 minutes. At 11 weeks I waited 30. I didn’t pick her up because that made it worse for her. I would pat her and tell her to go to sleep. Then she usually got really mad when I left but was asleep within 10 minutes.

    Now, this did not work for my son. If I ever checked on him, he would not go to sleep at all. For him it was better to be left alone. Once I left the room, I needed to leave him be. So, this is something else that you need to learn about your child.

    I have no idea what would have been best for McKenna becuase she never really did CIO.

  • Set a Limit. Set a limit you can all deal with. If Kaitlyn had not gone to sleep after an hour, I moved her to the swing so she could get some sleep before the next feeding. This way we avoided getting overly sleepy and getting way ahead of schedule. For her, if she hadn’t fallen asleep at that point, she just wouldn’t.

    That worked for her, but for my son, that was asking for trouble. If I ever did that, he would cry double time for his next nap (and often for every nap for a couple of days) because he knew if he cried long enough he would get out of it. I don't know if it was his personality or if it was because I started him at 9 weeks so he knew there were other options. I started my daughter CIO at one week, so to her this is just the way it was.

  • Have a Back-Up Plan: Have a plan for if your child is overstimulated or just won't fall asleep. When I wrote this post originally, I said I thought that a swing is a better alternative to you rocking or doing something to help--then the baby is still "alone" and not relying on you and knowing you are doing it for them.

    Then McKenna came along and hated the swing with a passion I have never seen. We literally just packed it up before she was 3 months old because she even hated it just to sit in. If she was woken early (usually by a noisy sibling), I would go rock her back to sleep and we didn't have any long-term sleep problems.

  • Keep Baby Awake. It is good to not let baby fall asleep (as best you can) while eating. If they do, they aren't quite tired enough to fall asleep when it comes time for nap.
  • Adjust For Context. Some moms are nervous to attend to baby later down the road after sleep training is completed. Say baby has been falling asleep without a peep for three months, then one day cries before going down for her nap. This would be uncharacteristic for her. This is a moment when you want to go in and attend to her needs. You want to be sure there is nothing wrong. If you have checked her over and are sure there is nothing wrong, you can have her CIO if needed.

    I remember when Brayden was one year old. He woke in the middle of the night crying. This was really uncharacteristic of him. I had the thought that maybe I shouldn't go in, but I knew this was different and figured something had to be wrong. We were in the middle of moving and were in a different house than he was used to, but I didn't assume that was the problem. I went in to find that he had diarrhea --the worst kind--the acid kind that burns the minute it touches the skin. I was very glad I had checked on him
  • Discover Optimal Waketime. Get to know the timing of your child's naps. The younger the baby, the more crucial it is to get them down at the right moment. As they get older, down-to-the-minute isn't as important, but timing was still important for Brayden at two years old. He wouldn't cry if I put him down late, but he would play in his bed for X amount of time rather than going right to sleep. We've all experience the second wind or being too tired to fall asleep. So get to know your child's cues.

    This is a hard thing and unfortunately can require some trial and error on your part. Kaitlyn would always yawn (at least for the first couple of months of life. Then she went to zero sleep cues. Talk about hard!). Brayden would get fussy. He had an easy sleep cue. McKenna yawns and starts squaking like a bird :).

    Your child should get tired around the same time--for example Kaitlyn stayed up for about an hour each wake time, so I started watching her at 50 minutes like a hawk so I didn't miss the sign.

    You also don't want to put them down too early. A young baby may only be able to do 45 minutes of waketime—including feeding. Take note of the timing of everything and how baby responds. Unfortunately, there is some trial and error here.

    If you are following cues and your baby still has a hard time falling asleep, you might need to ignore cues. Those cues might be "too late" cues rather than "just right" cues.

  • Swaddle. If your baby will be swaddled, I would do that for a newborn. The problem is that their arms will fling out and scare them awake, so if you can swaddle, it does help. My first wouldn't ever be swaddled, but my second would. Around 3 or 4 weeks she protested the full swaddle, so we moved to one arm out. McKenna was swaddled until about 4 months old. Now, as a mom with more experience, if I were to have another "Brayden" who seemingly hated to be swaddled, I would do it anyway! I have talked to other moms of 3 or more who say the exact same thing, "My first wouldn't be swaddled, but knowing what I know now, I would make him/her!" There will definitely be exceptions. There will be some who absolutely will sleep better unswaddled. But I think those are in the vast minority. Give swaddling a fair shot.
  • Have a Routine. I like to sing the same lullaby every time once they are in bed. This lets them know it is bedtime, plus it is something you can take with you everywhere you go. That is nice when you aren't at your home, and also nice once you move them into a bed and out of the crib--it will come quicker than you think. You could also rock your child so they are more drowsy to start, but don't rock beyond the point of the sign of sleepiness. Rocking can be a good thing to do with younger babies, even if it is just for your peace of mind; then you know you did something to help. Tracy Hogg, The Baby Whisperer, says rocking is never a good idea before sleep and that it overstimulates, so keep that in mind.
  • See the Connection. Overall, everything is connected. The better rested they are, the more awake they will be for eating, and the more they eat, the better they will sleep, and the more they are awake, the more tired they will be for sleeping.
  • Get a Video Monitor. You will love it! It takes a lot of the guess work out of things. You can see your baby so you know if she is unswaddled or stuck in a corner or flipped on her tummy. During McKenna's two naps of crying, I could watch her. She sounded furious, but didn't look that mad. Watching her actually made it easier on me. I use a Summer video monitor.
If your baby is crying because of colic or witching hour, this is not the time to do CIO. If you need a break for sanity and need to put baby down for a few minutes, that is fine, but don't try to sleep train a baby who is crying for one of these reasons.

McKenna experience witching hour as a baby. She was fine all day, but would cry for her last nap. We couldn't do the swing because she hated it (that would have been my first choice). We tried to rock her. Otherwise, she just stayed up. She would stay happy with a pacifier in her mouth. We used this time to get out of the house as a family since she wasn't sleeping anyway.

Here is a basic synopsis of each of my children's CIO experiences. Keep in mind that this is a synopsis of me looking back. Things always sound better looking back than they do in the heat of the moment!

  • We started CIO at about 9 weeks of age.
  • We did it in the summer when things were crazy. We spent about a month meeting family expectations and being everywhere. This was hard on Brayden because we were so inconsistent. We eventually decided we needed to be fair to him and dedicated to stay home and be consistent for one month.
  • At first, he cried a lot. It was definitely a roller coaster experience in the beginning.
  • Within days of starting, he went from waking twice a night to just once.
  • After two weeks, even despite the inconsistencies, he had really improved.
  • Once we started being really consistent, he went to just basic fussing for a few minutes before some naps.
  • 4 days before his 4 month birthday, he stopped fussing at all before naps and never looked back.
  • For the first 5 days of her life, she just slept basically around the clock, but when she was a week old, I started working to keep her awake after eating and putting her to bed awake.
  • At first, I was going to rock her to sleep, but I felt like I should put her in her bed. I decided it was unfair to train her to fall asleep one way only to switch it up on her in a few weeks.
  • The very first nap we did "CIO," she didn't cry at all.
  • The next nap, she cried between 5-10 minutes. Then she went days without crying at all. Then she started having some long crying sessions. Then she would go back to not crying at all. Then she started crying 20 minutes. Then down to 5 minutes.
  • She went to minimal fussing before naps, but by 8 weeks she was not crying/fussing at all before naps.
  • I did the 4 S's recommended by the Baby Whisperer with McKenna. I only ever had to do the first 3 S's.
  • I started putting McKenna to bed awake at three days old.
  • McKenna never cried before a nap until she was 3 months old (except for witching hour--at that time, I didn't have her "CIO"). On this day, she cried for about 5-10 minutes before a couple of naps, then she was done.
Good luck. Just know it gets better. I believe it is best for the baby, but that is obvious because I do it. Do what you think is best for your baby because you are his mom and no one will know better than you do. If you ever need support through it, let me know. I know it is so hard. I also know it is so worth it.

Where are we today? I have a 4.5 year old who, despite his disdain for sleep (and I can't blame him, I don't really like it much either), sleeps 11 hours at night and spends one hour each day resting in his bed. I have a 2.5 year old who sleeps 11.5 hours at night and 3.5 hours for a nap. I have an 8 month old who sleeps 12 hours at night and takes two 2.5 hour naps and one 1 hour nap each day.

All three are very smart. All three are very happy. All three are very loving. My older two show great compassion. I constantly get comments on how well behaved my children are and how happy and alert my baby is.

Both Brayden and Kaitlyn got to the point of no crying for naps or bedtime rather quickly. Brayden at 4 months and Kaitlyn at around 8 weeks. She would cry on occasion after that age, but rarely and it usually meant something was wrong. If it was a cry to settle down into a nap, it wasn’t the screaming cry that breaks your heart but more of an off and on and half-hearted cry.

If you are in the middle of CIO and need some encouragement, see the post When Does it Get Better?


Revised and Updated

For a bit, I am going to post some of the most popular blog posts, only revised and updated. A lot of the most popular posts are the ones written in the beginning two years ago. Now that I am two years and one child wiser, I thought I would see if there is anything to add. It will also give those of you new to the blog an opportunity to see some of the most popular posts. I know it can be overwhelming when you first find the blog!

Index: Pre-Toddler Summary


    Help A Reader Out: 5-8 Month Sleep Disruptions

    davidsarah311 said...

    I've been reading your blog since my little one was born. (I think she is about the same age as McKenna-my little girl was born April 2nd.) Anyway, I've read everything I could find about 6 month sleep problems. I was just hoping to get your help...

    My little girl seems to go through 2 or 3 week cycles. She has a bad night when she wakes up many times-she was awake off & on from 1-5:30 this morning-and then we will deal with a couple of weeks of frequent night wakings. She takes an 8oz. bottle at around 6:30 and gets a 2oz. dreamfeed at 9. I was trying to cut out the dreamfeed, but should I be upping it instead? or is the dreamfeed interfering with night sleep? I don't know how to tell the difference...I'm not feeding her at night when she wakes. I tried to comfort her with the paci last night to make sure that it wasn't hunger. She was soothed, but wanted to play, so I put her back in bed. I do not usually use the paci at night & don't replace it during naps.

    Her naps are inconsistent at best-a lot of 45 minute ones with an occasional hour and 15 minutes.

    Do you have any ideas what I'm doing wrong?

    We have started rice cereal about a week ago, but she doesn't really care for it... :)
    October 5, 2009 12:40 PM
    Plowmanators said...

    davidsarah311, I would wonder if she wakes because of a growth spurt? That is about how often growth spurts are supposed to happen (3-4 weeks). When she does it, I would try feeding her more in the daytime.

    I would make sure she isn't cold or something with the weather changing. Brayden and McKenna are both very sensitive to temperature in the room while sleeping.
    November 2, 2009 11:24 AM

    davidsarah311 said...

    Thank you for your ideas. It might have been a growth spurt. I'm dealing with the same thing again right now. I tried to give her extra in her bottle yesterday (she takes 6 oz-3 times & an 8oz. before bed), but she wasn't willing. She was up for 1 1/2 hours last night-I checked her once and she was fine. I eventually went in there to hold her because I wasn't sure what was wrong. I sat in her rocker with her, but she just wanted to play. During the couple of hours that I was holding her, she did drift off a few times but then jerked back awake. Eventually, at 1am, I put her back in bed, she was awake, and I didn't hear a peep out of her until 7am. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I do know that it's a problem to go in and get her after letting her cry for a while, I just trained her to cry that long, but I don't want to leave her if something is wrong. I guess it could be separation anxiety-she stops crying as soon as I come in the room. She is very clingy throughout the day too. I really wish I could get this right! She puts herself to sleep for naps-she has them at 8:30 & 12:30, about 1:15 a piece. (Lately the morning nap is sometimes 2 hours.) I dropped the late afternoon nap several weeks ago since she started getting up at night again & we thought she might be getting too much sleep. (This is a baby that used to cry in her swing when she was sleepy.)

    I need some advice-what am I doing wrong?

    It would be helpful if I had my husband's support too, he told me that he was going in her room last night if I didn't. :( I felt like such a bad mom!
    December 2, 2009 11:48 AM

    Plowmanators said...

    davidsarah311, Does she have gas? Is there something that is bothering her that she eats? Does she need a bigger diaper on at night? Have you looked at the nighttime sleep problems post and the Naps: Troubleshooting post? Those both have lots of ideas.
    December 15, 2009 11:19 AM

    davidsarah311 said...
    Yes, I've looked through the nap troubleshoots & I wish I could figure out what it was. She hasn't gotten up again in about a week & a half. I switched her to fleece pajamas, so maybe she was cold! I feel a little silly if that's what it was....we'll see. Thanks for your help!
    December 15, 2009 12:46 PM

    Plowmanators said...
    You might be surprised. Brayden and McKenna are both (still) that sensitive to temperature.

    If it doensn't work out, let me know and I will post your question as a "help a reader out" post.
    December 17, 2009 3:50 PM

    davidsarah311 said...
    Unfortunately, it didn't work. She was in a pair of fleece pajamas and a cotton wrap-she didn't feel cold to me, but she was up again last night. I went in to check on her & held her for an hour, but she just wanted to play. I eventually put her back in bed and she went to sleep after another 20 minutes of crying.

    She has never really had a gas problem. I'm still introducing foods one a week. She wears the extra protection diapers at night & they don't leak through-I smother her behind in butt paste & vaseline before bed.

    I feel so discouraged. We're going out of town for Christmas and I know that it will make things even worse when we get back....
    December 17, 2009 6:47 PM

    Merry Christmas!

    I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas! I know not all of you follow the Children's Learning Activities blog, so I thought I would post this poem I wrote here, too. I am by no means a poet--I am a technical writer! But I wrote this so I could have something to teach my children about the symbols of Christmas:

    Remember Christmas
    by Valerie L. Plowman

    Red reminds of the blood He spilt
    to wash away and cleanse all of our guilt

    White is for His actions, most pure.
    Through sinless perfection, He did endure.

    Green is for the life eternal
    we can obtain through our Lord supernal.

    The star shines like the one so bright
    that twinkled above that first Christmas night.

    The fir tree is for many things:
    the tree of Jesse--the father of kings,
    and for the needles pointing to the Lord--
    that little babe we all adored.

    The wreath shows one eternal round;
    the begin' of the Lord cannot be found.

    The lights remind us that this babe
    is the light of the world, and born to save.

    The candy cane is for the crook;
    not one sheep or lamb the shepherd forsook.

    The Christmas bells we love to ring
    proclaim joy! The birth of a newborn king.

    These symbols remind us that we,
    more like the three wise men all now should be.

    Earnestly seeking to find the new babe
    who humbly in a manger laid.

    Index: Sleep Problems

    By Age
    Naps (see also Naps blog index)
    Nighttime Sleep
    Preventing Sleep Problems
    Problem Solving Sleep Problems
    Stimulation Levels