Getting your baby and kids to sleep better

Who doesn’t dream of having babies and kids who sleep well? When they are young, they have FOMO (fear of missing out) and colic so they won’t sleep. When they are older, they have FOMO via electronics or anxiety from overload of school work/friend drama, so they can’t sleep. I have some unknowingly lucky parents who ask me what to do about their babies taking cat naps during they day and yet sleep through the night. I immediately cut them off. Stop. Talking. Now. Do. You. Know. How. Lucky. You. Are. If. It Ain’t. Broke. Don’t. Fix. It. Don’t. Jinx. It.

So now, let’s talk about everyone else, including myself. My kids are are 2.5yo and 5yo and just recently started sleeping through the night consistently, but only when I lay on the floor next to their bed (they share a room) can they fall asleep. Let’s break it down age by age on the evidence-based ways to sleep train with a few commentaries on when and how to deviate from the rules. 


Sleep for Newborns to 3 months

Young infants really only need to sleep and eat. On average they sleep 14-19 hours a day, in about 1-3 hour spurts for the first few weeks of life, and then as their bodies mature, they can sleep up to 4-6 hours at a time at night.

How to survive the nightly fussy period

It’s normal for young infants to have a fussy period overnight, usually from 8-10pm, and often lasts for 1-4 hours. Exhausted parents rock, sway, sing, bounce, feed, and maybe shed a few tears of frustration (not a matter of if this happens, but when). But there’s light at the end of this twilight tunnel! The babies usually fall asleep around 2-4am for a good 3-6 hour stretch, which in my mind, makes the fussy period an acceptable fact of life as long as they baby is feeding and acting normal the rest of the day. If the baby has been changed and fed and doesn’t appear ill during that fussy period, it’s also totally acceptable to let the baby be fussy (i.e. glass shattering screaming) in the crib on their back while the parent lays down for a quick break. 

2017-betamomma-baby-sleep-halo Infant Swaddler – They are simple, easy to use, light. Many other swaddlers bunch up around the neck as infants squirm and the velcro gets raggedy after a few washes. I felt the Halo Swaddlers didn’t have any of those problems.
2017-betamomma-sleepsack-baby-sleep Infant Sleepsack – I bought a few of these sleep sacks in larger sizes for my baby. They were comfortable, simple, and easy to wash. They kept my baby warm without any frills. I stopped using them at 10mo once the baby was pulling to stand.

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How else can we help the babies sleep better?

So basically, with young infants,they just sleep, eat, get changed,and repeat. When they are more alert, you try to talk, sing, read to the and do some tummy time on your chest or a play mat. 

More survival tips for parents

Use YOUR VILLAGE. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is no joke. 

Sleep for older infants 4 months – 12 months

Older infants sleep 12-15 hours per day. They may enjoy longer naps during the day and sleep a little less overnight, or take short cat naps during the day and go for a longer snooze overnight. Here come those scary words for parents who aren’t lucky enough to have babies that just automatically sleep through the night (yes, those babies exist, I have heard of them but my kids have not). Sleep training. Take comfort that studies have shown letting babies cry it out does NOT traumatize them later in life. As I tell parents, their babies will find other many reasons to blame their parents when they become teens, but sleep training is not among them.

Sleep training via cry it out technique

Well, all the sleep training techniques require some form of crying it out, but this one is the most “cruel” but the most effective, and also the one that requires the least amount of effort for those “beta” parents out there (like myself – my kid can cry it out because I don’t want to get out of bed or stop what I’m doing if I’m still up finishing notes or working on a blog post, until the crying wakes up my wimpy hearted husband and he nudges me to go comfort our baby).

Babies are smart. If you lay them down sleepy and then walk away, they will learn over 2-3 nights, that it is easier to go to sleep than to keep crying for you to come in. Because you won’t go in. No matter what. Get ear plugs. Turn the monitor off (I never had one). Put on a movie or grab a captivating book to distract yourself. It may be 2 hours the first night (yes, TWO HOURS – not 5 minutes, a baby’s strong-willedness will outlast even 20 minutes). It maybe 1.5-2 hours the second second or third night. Most babies, will slow down to 20-30 minutes the fourth night, and by the fifth night, you will have peace.

Be warned that at about day seven or eight, the baby will make one last ditch effort to scream like never before to try an get your attention. Do not relent, do not give up, and victory will be yours within 2 weeks.

Sleep training via checking in every 10 minutes technique

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Sleep training via inching towards the door technique

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How to get toddlers to sleep through the night

To be finished later

Sleep training for twins

To be finished later

Sleep training for babies with siblings

To be finished later

Sleep training for teens

To be finished later – a searchable website written by sleep experts literally all over the world from our backyard at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to Australia. – guest post by a pediatrician (don’t click on his blog link, it doesn’t work/doesn’t exist anymore). I don’t know who he is (not that I would know everyone, but I’m familiar with a lot of pediatricians especially those with an online or Twitter presence), but I like his advice for sleep. Wimpy Parent Syndrome, ROTFLOL!!! – from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pretty standard advice with a few practical tips. Don’t overthink it, keep it simple.

Editorial – I wrote an oped to advocate for school to start later so that teens can get better sleep. Call your school districts. I tried but they won’t listen to me, I’m just a pediatrician making some evidence-based noise.