Healthy Sleep Habits

Updated on May 18, 2008
A.L. asks from Coatesville, PA
13 answers

Background: My daughter will be 8 months on May 25th and has not been sleeping well at all! When she was younger she got to a point where she just woke up once a night when she slept in our room in her pack n play, and we responded to every cry. Now she's in her own crib and after a few sicknesses she's become not such a great sleeper, waking up every hour and a half or so.

Well last night was a victory in our household. I have been reading both "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Pantley and "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Weissbluth, and have really been working on her sleep and eating schedule, naps, bedtime routine, early bedtime etc. Last night we started the bedtime routine at 6 pm. I thought it was insane to start so early, but that's what the books said, so I was going to try it. We were out running an errand as a family at 5, and I wanted to swing by the grocery store, but we skipped it and went straight home to get our little one going. She got a bath, Daddy read her a story and rocked with her (We'll read her one of her books, and then we'll read the Sleep Habits book out loud because she just likes to hear our voices :) ), and she was out by 6:30!! She stirred and woke once or twice in the evening before my husband and I went to bed, but got settled and went back to sleep... and slept almost a 6 hour stretch between 8:30 and 230 am! It was absolutely amazing. She hasn't slept that long of a stretch in months.

She did down about 8 ounces of formula in the middle of the night and had a very full diaper, so handling that always seems to stimulate her and wake her up-- so she didn't get back down until 3:30. She then woke up at 5:30, Jay calmed her down, she slept in until 6:45, we got up, ate breakfast, and she was back down for her AM nap at 8:15 and is still sleeping- in her crib and not the stroller!!!

Now I haven't totally abandoned the cry it out method, but for now I've been mostly focusing on consistent routines and a good eat/nap/sleep schedule and it's been showing great results so far, really getting her biological clock on track. Just last week she was waking up every hour and a half or so.

The next hurdles are shortening that stretch of wake up time in the middle of the night to hopefully eliminating it, and also shortening the pre-bed rocking routine so eventually I can just lay her down in the crib sleepy, and she'll go to sleep completely on her own! Baby steps of course. And who knows- maybe tonight will be a relapse, but a night like last night gives me so much hope!!! As much of a struggle on our busy lives it is to be in the house by 6 pm, if she sleeps, we'll defintely take it!

I'm open to hear any of your critiques, or suggestions on how to overcome those next hurdles.


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So What Happened?

New update:

So we've been applying the suggestions in Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, and The Ferber Method, and my daughter-now 9 months old- has had a pretty good schedule and sleeping has been improving. But now we're REALLY having success! Friday night she slept almost 12 hours, without us going in to do anything at all! It was amazing, we got her out of the crib at 7 am. Then Saturday and Sunday night she had this episode from around 3-4:30 am. Upset, not able to fuss back to sleep until we changed her diaper, and the one night fed her 9 ounces of formula. I was trying to pinpoint what was so different about our successful Friday and the other two nights.

I googled "baby waking up too early" and found a random website that said I might try overnight diapers or diaper doublers. Well I used a diaper doubler the one night and it was still completely soaked through. Another suggestion on the site said don't feed your child liquids 1-2 hours before bedtime. I thought this defintely might be it, because on Friday she wasn't really interested in her bottle all day, and then that night she didn't wake up needing to be changed. Usually we'd be feeding her a bottle as part of her night time routine, trying to kind of "top her off" so she wouldn't wake up hungry. The real trick we needed though was for her to not even wake up- and then she wouldn't even know she could be hungry.

Well last night, we decided to stop all liquids at 6:30. We started the nighttime routine after 7. Finished up a bath and put a fresh diaper on. Turned off the lights and immediately she rubs her eyes (yay for routines!), lay her down to sleep, take out the trash, and by the time we get back in the house she is sleeping! The first hour she does that restless sort of sleep where she'll whimper for a few seconds, and then be fine. The kind that by the time you go check on her, it's over, and if you do check on her you might mess up her sleep! So we let her do her thing and after a little bit she was sleeping solidly, and has been sleeping ever since and it's almost 6:30 am!!!!

Now this is what I signed up for!!!
Older update:
Thank you so much for the great advice. My daughter is sleeping much better now. It amazed me that if I just delay my response to her cries by a few minutes, I find out that she really didn't need me to comfort her anyway, and by the time I get to the bedroom door- she's already asleep! Early bedtime (the routine starts at 6:30 pm) and sticking to a schedule has worked wonders. We went on vacation and surely paid the price for not giving her proper naps or a good bedtime, but we've recovered from that and have one happy baby!

Featured Answers



answers from Philadelphia on

I love the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" and have been following it with my son who is now 20 months old. I know the early bed time seems too early, but my son still goes to bed at 6:30p.m. and gets up anywhere between 6am and 7:30am. We've tried moving the bedtime closer to 7pm and he just ends up getting up earlier. The book really helped me get him to 2 naps a day and then to 1 nap a day.

My daughter is 4 and we rocked her her to sleep also. As she got older, probably after 1 year old, we'd rock her until she was almost asleep. It wasn't until after she was 2 and in a big bed that we stopped.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Sounds like you are doing a great job and have it on track! The only thing I could suggest is to try to keep the middle of the night diaper change/feeding as low key as possible: low lights and very little communication with words. I used to actually be able to change my son's diaper without waking him up--do you think you could get away with that maybe when YU go to bed so it doesn't need changed at 2-2:30? Just a thought. Good luck. Praying for another record night for you!



answers from Sharon on

Unless rocking her to sleep is taking her hours I wouldnt worry about it to much right now.
We spend about 10 mins on each of our chidlren at night soothing them actually in their beds so they feel safe enough to go to sleep. The time spent before we get into bed with books also classes as a soothing technique so we are probably spending longer than that.
They are 8, 5, and 3. You'd think at that age it would be kiss godnight and into bed but we find our children sleep better if they have that time with us. We have learned to relax and enjoy it and not be so eager to get onto the next thing.
Our oldest son loves to talk to me when we snuggle in his bed and I learn much more about him and whats going on in that time than I do during the day. It is precious to me. Tehy grow up so fast. I am hoping this habit continues when hes a teenager becuase it would keep the windows of communication open.
Heres one thing I do if theres a needed diaper change in the middle of the night.(I also have an 8 month old baby) I feed while my husband changes their bottom. It keeps my little one sleepy cos he loves his feedings. That way its done before he finished. Also my husbands been putting his binky back in in hte middle of the night for me and hell sleep an hour or too longer. This seems to train him to sleep longer hours. I have my husband do it cos I nurse and the baby associates me with food so gets more upset if I do it.
Good luck it sounds like your doing a good job!



answers from Pittsburgh on

A thought on her being stimulated by and waking up a bit too much from her feeding and diaper change...what type of lighting do you use to do this? If you aren't doing so already, try to use indirect lighting, such as the hallway light with the bedroom door only open enough for you to sort of see what you are doing. if there is too much light, even a low lamp, that could be part of the reason. Another idea is if this is something routine (wake up, eat, need changed) then have the diaper and wipes and disposal method all lined up and ready to go before you put her in bed. That way, it's all ready to go, no fumbling around or finding that the box of wipes only has 2 left and you have to hunt for more. Also, and some may not agree with this, but try leaving her in her crib during the feeding and changing. The less she is moved around, the less likely she is to wake up fully.

Good luck, I hope things continue to work well for you!



answers from Harrisburg on

Hi Sheena. I can give you some advice on what I did with my son (who is now 6 months old) to get him to fall asleep on his own. It sounds like you don't like to hear your daughter cry. However, when my son was 3 months old, we needed to establish that bedtime was for sleeping and I needed to get to sleep earlier than 1am (which was his time that he wanted to go to sleep.) So I did start a bedtime routine, which consisted of feeding him, playing music, and rocking him until he fell asleep because I did not like hearing him cry. Well, that was short lived because it was taking 1-2 hours for him to actually get to sleep and he was still crying when I was rocking him! I decided that I was just going to do the routine...rock him for maybe 5 minutes and then put him in his crib. It took maybe a week for him to really get used to it (he would cry anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before he would fall asleep). However, he learned how to fall asleep on his own. And now when he gives me the signs of being tired, we do our routine and occasionally he will fuss, but most nights he just talks himself to sleep or will just fall asleep. It really made life much easier when he realized that it was ok to fall asleep on his own. Like I said earlier, it sounds like you do not like the "cry it out" method, but as long as you can just bear it for a little while, it will work. If my son gets completely out of sorts, I will go and rub his back. Good luck!



answers from Allentown on

I saw in your bio that you wanted to learn how to make baby food. I used the website when I was learning what foods to make for my first son. His favorite was banana's and avocados. Sounds weird but taste like a nutty banana. I would make a bunch of stuff out of frozen fruits and veggies, cook it down, add formula for the liquid and then pour it into baby food jars and freeze. You can buy baby food containers too, if you don't want to buy baby food and save the jars. You can also freeze the food in ice cube trays and then pop them out into bags and then take out what you need. It was easy to do all this and I felt better knowing he wasn't eating all of the preservatives.
Also I feel for you on the sleeping problem. My 5 month old wakes every 2-3 hours I guess I should get your books!! Which book was the better one? I need to get some sleep also!!



answers from Scranton on

Have you tried doing your routine a little later and maybe you'll be able to get her later through the night, try starting at 7pm if she is falling asleep so quick. You could get her longer through the night and then it will puch up her naps a little during the day and then she'll be ready in the evening a little later. I let my kids cry it out for a day or two when they were younger and they are great sleepers. Now 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, when its bed they go to bed and that is it. We don't have to "help" them fall asleep. I think the most important thing is to make sure they are sleepy, there are times now that if we've been somewhere or the kids are really super hyper for some reason I may let them stay up for an extra 1/2 hour and do something relaxing during that time, like a couple books or we'll all snuggle in mommy's bed! It works great and then they are ready. i can tell you though that my son (2 1/2yr old) his sleep schedule is always off for a couple days after he recovers from a sickness that has him up at night. Its almost like they start to get on a schedule while they are sick and it screws everything up! She may liek you said just be messed up from being sick and it might just take some time to get her back on schedule. Once she is walking and using up a lot of energy they really start to sleep good because they can really exhaust themselves! One more thing, my daughter was always a really great sleeper, sleeping through the night at 2 1/2 months old! But my son on the other hand didn't sleep through the night until after he was 1yr old, I thought he'd never do it. Anyway, I found out when he was about 1 1/2-2yrs old that he sleeps soooo much better without a nightlight. At first i thought it was mean to leave him there in the dark, but one night his nightlight went out for some reason during the night and he had slept through the night perfectly. Not until the next night putting him to bed did I realize that the nightlight wasn't working. I thought if he was scared not having it then I would get a new one, but tried that night putting him to bed without a nightlight and he went right to sleep and slept all night again! From then on its been great! i think that that little bit of light when he is not a deep sleeper is enough to get him awake in the middle of the night and he is not great at getting himself back to sleep. Now the only downfall to no nightlight is that when you want to check on them its dark in there, so i have a little flashlight that I shine up to the ceiling so it doesn't wake him when i check on him before i go to bed. I know your daughter is young, but it could be helpful, she is young enough too that she isn't going to be scared of monsters or anything at this point.
Good luck J.



answers from Philadelphia on

We're still working out the kinks after the 19 week sleep regression. DD is 8 months old, and is usually up twice per night; once when we go to bed and once about 3 AM. I don't plan to nightwean until at least 12 months.

There is another big sleep regression around 9 months as our little ones master all the new developmental milestones. I keep telling myself that in 10 years, this is all going to be a fond memory.




answers from Philadelphia on

I think you are on the right track. Keep up the good work. On making your own baby food i think it is great. i do so myself and it is much cheaper. I buy fresh or frozen veggies and cook them then put them in the food processor and grind them up. I do the same with fruits. I buy fresh when i can and sometimes canned but watch out for the sugar. when it says no sugar added is best. I do cheat on the apple sauce. I buy it with no sugar added,motts makes a good one and a big jar is less than $3.00. Try mangoes they are really good and my son likes them a lot. the one thing i want to wait on is strawberries since my dad is allergic to them. I just want to wait til he is a year old before i give him that or any type of peanuts or honey. Stick with everything and you will be fine. Consignment shops are great but flea markets are also great. i get a lot of my sons clothes from the flea market. one lady sells a lot of the childrens clothes for $1.00 each and they are in great condition. the berlin flea market is where i go when i have time on the weekend. take it easy


answers from Pittsburgh on




answers from Philadelphia on

It sounds like you're doing all the right things! One thing that has helped us a lot (and we have a 10.5 month old) is to have dad take over the bedtime routine. I used to breastfeed our daughter to sleep at the end of the routine, but we discovered that by switching things around and starting the routine with the last feeding, my husband could take over the routine, ending with him rocking her and then setting her in the crib slightly awake. He's gradually been putting her down more and more awake, and this week he discovered that he hardly has to rock her at all, just turn the lights out, set her down, pat her bottom for a minute, and she's out. So patience will get you there! She still wakes about twice a night, and often needs me to nurse her to get back to sleep, but right now I'm willing to deal with that compared to how she used to be (like yours, she's been sick and was waking every hour or so).

One bit of information that has never made it into any of the sleep books I've seen is that there's these specific developmental "leaps" babies go through that wreak havoc on their sleep patterns! If you can get it from your library, I highly recommend "Wonder Weeks" by Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij. It describes the specific developmental leaps and how they affect your baby's behavior. I wish we'd had it from the day she was born!! So one of these leaps occurs around 8 months -- it's a doozy -- so don't be frustrated if your little one goes through another sleep regression soon. Her head is just overloaded on understanding the world around her, so she may wake up more in the night. But she will get over it and sleep better afterward.

Good luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

It sounds like you are finding a routine that is starting to work for you. My only suggestion is maybe adjusting the time back. I know from reading other baby books and personal experience that although the routine itself usually works for a great number of people. Sometimes the timing doesn't, depending on work schedules and such.

My suggestion would be to try the routine as you did the other night but instead of 6 pm try 8 pm as the start time. It may give you more actual sleep time at night for you.

Also, for the middle of the night wakeup, you might want to try a nighttime diaper. I know Huggies makes some. They are more absorbent and hold more. She may be waking more from the diaper being so full and wet against her. With the Huggies, the wet diaper may not wake her at that point and she may sleep a little longer.

Also, if she is going to have that bottle in the middle of the night. Change the diaper before the bottle not after. The bottle usually calms them back down. And make sure you do all of this in a room with very minimal lighting. Get a low wattage light bulb for the lamp in your or her bedroom. Do the diaper change and the bottle with the low wattage bulb on. The bright light can also stimulate and wake them. So sometimes if you use one that is just barely light enough for you to see what you are doing, they are less stimulated and less wakened by your ministrations.

Anyhow, these are just a few suggestions. Please feel free to take them or ignore them. I know the low lighting has worked with all three of my children. The Cry Out Method did NOT work with any of them. They would all cry until they vomited. I was told by a well meaning soul that I needed to clean it up and then do it again. One time of cleaning up vomit all night was more than enough. My 8 year old goes to bed on her own without any problems. She has been on a set schedule for years and is a good sleeper. Her younger brother, who is three, likes to try and stall at night. He wants to get into our bed but we are holding strong and he is doing really well overall. He has been on a schedule but we are trying to adjust it back. (He goes to bed after his sister since she has to be up for school. We didn't want him to keep her up.) Our almost 9 month old son doesn't give me any problems going to sleep. He likes to go to sleep at between 10 and 11 pm and sleeps usually until between 9 and 10 am.

Good luck with your little girl and fitting work into your day. I know how rought that can sometimes be.


answers from Williamsport on

Your doing an amazing job, and the sleep schedules do work really well in most cases.
The one that made my life suddenly easy was "On Becoming Baby Wise" book one or two, with the Sleep, Eat, Wake cycle. You don't worry about how long naps are, or what time it is, you simply feed them immediately when they wake up from a nap, then let them be awake a while, then they fall asleep without eating. The cycle runs about every three hours but varies. It's great, because you always know what he/she is needing next, food or sleep, and you can gage your day based on when you can do stuff. Then at night before bed, they do get a bottle, and somehow miraculously my daughter started sleeping from 10 pm to 10 am (I'm a vampire so I didn't want her up early, but you could put her down at 8 or 7...) She woke up once to eat and went back to sleep right away in the beginning, but when I increased her food during the day she made it through the whole night. The best thing is the lack of effort at night, you just feed her, put her down, and walk away. She's now two and has never had trouble sleeping at night. I guess we sort of use the cry it out method, but not really since she's never cried a lot. Keep up the good work!

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