To help your child consolidate their sleep, you have to fail. You have to fail to give your child the pleasure they seek. It is a crucial habit to master as a parent, now and always.
— Lina Acosta Sandaal, MA, LMFT

Common Sleep Myths

  • If baby doesn’t nap then he will sleep longer in the evening.
  • Cereal in the formula will help them sleep through the night.
  • Put baby to sleep later and they will wake up later.
  • Infants can sleep as long as adults over night.
  • This is the only way they learn to self soothe
  • If you let them cry it out then they will sleep

What the science tells us

  • There is very few conclusive research as it pertains to infant sleep
  • We have tracked how “most” children sleep but we can’t conclusively  state what they “absolutely need”
  • Between 25% and 40% of babies born in the US experience sleep problems in the first 6 months of life
  • 3 key complaints by western parents about sleep are:
  1. Baby has difficulty falling asleep
  2. Baby wakes up too many times at night
  3. Baby awakens too early  (Medina, 2014)
  • It is not recommended to let your child cry it out to sleep, sometimes called unmodified extinction.  Multiple studies point to higher levels of anxiety and stress response for children who are left alone to cry.
  • Graduated extinction- also known as Ferber method – works most of the time only if  the response is consistent
  • Nocturnal breastfeeding on demand correlates with problem sleep patterns

Sleep in Development        

Sleep statistics (primary source Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s research and

0-4 months

  • Most newborns 0-4months will sleep a total of 16-17 hrs in a 24 hour period with the longest sleep period being 4-5 hrs.  If your under-4-month-old has a consolidated night time sleep of 4-5 hours, they are sleeping through the night.
  • Most will wake up at least 3 times a night
  • Do not expect predictable sleep patterns before 4 months

4-11 months

  • Sleep a total of 14-15 hours in a 24-hour period
  • Take 2-3 naps, lose 3rd nap around 9 months, daytime sleep totals 3-4hours
  • Sleep approximately 10-11 hours a night (i.e. 8pm-6am)
  • Most wake up at least 2 times a night.
  • Depending on weight and pediatrician’s recommendation no feeding is needed between 4-9 months
  • For all children no need for feeding after 9 months. 

1-2 y.o.

  • Sleep a total of 12.5-14 hours in a 24-hour period
  • May wake up at least once a night
  • 82% of 1 y.o. have two naps lasting about 3.5 hrs total
  • 56% of 2 y.o. have one nap lasting 1.5-2 hours total
  • 26% of children wake up at night at least 3 times a week
  • 20% of children wake up at night five or more times per week

3-6 y.o.

  • 3-5 y.o. sleep a total of 11 to 12.5 hours in a 24 hour period
  • 5-6 y.o. sleep a total of 11 to 12 hours in a 24 hour period
  • 91% of 3 y.o. still have one nap lasting 1.5-2 hours
  • 50% of 4 y.o. have one nap and 25% of 5 y.o. nap;  naps are usually gone by age 6

 Sleep and Brain Development

  • Sleeping well increases brainpower, just like lifting weights increases strength in muscles
  • As the infants brain matures so does the pattern and rhythm of sleep. There are five turning points for sleep and brain development:

a.       6 weeks – night sleep lengthens(no more than 5 consecutive hours)

b.      3-4 months daytime sleep regularizes

c.       9 months disappearance of more than 2 night wakings; no need for feeding

d.      12-21 months disappearance of morning nap

e.       3-4 y.o. afternoon nap becomes less common

  • REM sleep in infants is full body movement, not just eye movement
  • The first task of brain development is to regulate the mind and body. 
  • The primary marker for brain health is deep restorative sleep and alert awake time

Parenting Tools for Sleep:

1.      Learn to recognize drowsy signs in child:

  •  Decreased activity
  •  Less vocal
  •  Calmer
  •  Uninterested in surroundings
  •  Eyes less focused
  •  Yawning

2.      Avoid overtired zone

  • Fussiness
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Irritable
  • Crankiness

3.      At 3 months, begin to keep a sleep journal. 

Keep until the 6th month.  This will help you to be aware of sleep patterns &/or possible sleep deprivation.

4.      Become your child’s sleep time keeper

  • Sleeping well is a 24/7 process.  Naps are as important as bedtime.
    • Most infants become sleepy after 3-4 hours of wakefulness
    • Toddlers and Preschoolers generally nap around 12-2:30
    • Optimal bedtime is between 7-9 pm for most children


6.   Create and maintain a consistent nap/bedtime routine

  • Infants 4 months and older - Protect the morning nap.  When they wake up in the morning, keep them up and alert as much as possible.  Try to push them to the 9am zone for the morning nap.  An ideal schedule for naps in this age group are:
  •       9-10:30am,
  •       12-1:30pm,
  •       3-5pm.
  • Bedtime needs to be around 7-9pm for 5-12 month olds.
  • Between 4-6 months is the best time to consolidate naps.  During these three months, sacrifice outings with baby to make sure that the naps are consolidated.  Once they are, you can plan your day accordingly and be on a schedule that maintains healthy sleep patterns for the months and years to come.
  • Feeding is directly linked to sleeping, make sure your feed to sleep pattern is different than all other feedings
  • Create a ritual around sleep.  Perform the same ritual every time you put your child to sleep.  Same order, same content, same environment is the rule. (Medina, 2014)

7.     At 6 months, begin to help your child to consolidate sleep (otherwise known as “sleep training”).

  • That’s only if the pattern you currently have is not working  Trying this prior to 6 months is just fighting the brain pattern

8.    Plan for and expect disorganization of sleep throughout development (until the teen years)                                                                                                     

9.     To Respond to wakeful times:

  • Pause, wait to walk over.  Children over 6 months you can choose an actual time to wait and gradually increase (3 minutes – 20 minutes, never longer).  If you do this you have to keep that waiting time consistent
  • Respond with:
    •   Voice
    •   Touch
    •   Hold
  • Don’t Be A Slot Machine
  • Evaluate and shift your efforts continually

10.  Be aware of your  own sleep deprivation and ask for help when needed

  • Sleep deprivation for an adult begins once you have not slept 6 consecutive hours in three days