Sleep Props and Sleep Associations

A sleep association is something that a child associates with falling asleep.  It can be anything from a bedroom, crib, darkness, special blanket/toy, nursing, warm arms or body, rubbing of the back, rocking, pacifier etc. From that long list, you get that it can be pretty much anything! Notice that I said falling to sleep. Something you do right before sleep but not to fall asleep is different and considered part of
the pre-sleep routine.

If you haven't noticed already, a sleep association can be a VERY strong thing. Baby can get quite addicted to it! This can be good or bad, depending on what the sleep association is and what your goals for sleep are.
  • If your goal is to have baby cosleep and baby is addicted to sleeping next to you, no problem. But if your goal is to be able to have baby sleep in a crib, an addiction to cosleeping won't be at the top of your to-do list. 
  • If your goal is to have baby fall asleep and stay asleep on her own and she adores her lovie and she adores her crib and feels sleepy when you place her in it in a dark room with white noise, then yippy!  And yes, this does happen! If you want her to suddenly cosleep and she's used to sleeping on her own, she'll likely just play the whole time or even cry. 
Babies are creatures of habit! Maybe you've experienced one of these common situations:

  • Nurse baby, try to lay baby down, baby wakes up, nurse again, try to lay baby down, baby wakes up again and repeat, like forever!
  • Baby begins to take longer and longer to fall asleep, even with the use of a sleep prop. (Baby realizes that the moment they fall asleep their sleep prop --often YOU-- will be gone so they resist falling asleep).
  • Baby wakes up all. night. long. and you have to help her go back to sleep every stinking time.
Because sleep associations can be so helpful or hurting, it's a good idea to think about what you are comfortable doing sleep wise with your child right now and in the future. Yes, sleep associations can be changed (welcome to sleep training land...), but it isn't always so fun--errr, ever fun-- so an idea of what you are willing to do and for how long can be helpful from the get go (see accidental parenting and habits).

Although you can certainly have something connected to falling and staying asleep that involves you and your presence (aka, a sleep prop), I'm not going to get into that. If that's you and you are happy with sleep, I'm not sure why you are here. If that is you and you are unhappy with sleep, well, there is no magical fix to your situation that doesn't include waiting it out (for a looooong time) or CHANGE.

What do I mean by change? I mean helping your child learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own. And that means dropping anything associated with sleep that your child can't control herself (like you helping out all the time). We call these little sleep addictions that baby can't control SLEEP PROPS.

Sleep props--like cuddling, rocking, swinging and sucking to sleep or until drowsy--usually interfere with baby being able to go to sleep and stay asleep by herself.  And they are exhausting for parents! They are actually the most common cause of children's sleep associations (Ferber and Sleeping Through the Night). This is because when children have a partial arousal (which happens pretty often) during sleep they will often not return to sleep unless the same conditions exist that they had when they went to sleep. In other words, if you nurse your child to sleep she may wake up during this partial arousal and need to be nursed back to sleep again. This can mean frequent night time awakenings for months if not years past the time baby is capable of making it through the night without feedings.

I'm going to say this again because, along with consistency, this is probably the most important sleep tip I can offer: If you want your child to be able sleep through the night and have long naps, whatever sleep prop they go to sleep with, MUST be there for them the entire time they sleep. If it isn't, they will wake up needing it again, regardless of the hour and regardless of how dang tired you are!  No, your child isn't trying to get back at you for offering him cold peas the other day, she has simply come to expect you and your assistance and doesn't know how to go to sleep any other way.

Some Helpful Sleep Associations (for self-settling)
  • Lovies (see below)
  • Pacifier if baby can and will put it back in
  • White noise or music if it is continuous
  • Swaddle (if baby stays swaddled) or Sleeper Blanket
  • Fingers/Thumbs
Some Not So Helpful Sleep Associations (for self-settling)
  • Sucking to sleep or until drowsy (bottle or boob)
  • Pacifier if baby can't or won't put it back in (pacifier holders can help with this). Not rushing in when your child cries out and practicing putting the pacifier back in during the day can help. If you child refuses to put the pacifier back in but is capable of doing it, then you are now a sleep prop. If you want the wakings to stop, you will have to stop being the sleep prop :)
  • Non-continuous sound (some do ok with only sound as they fall asleep at night-but don't bet on this if your child has sleep issues)
  • Blankets or Swaddles that don't stay put. Get a swaddle that does stay put, like the miracle blanket.
  • Contact with baby while she falls asleep (holding, patting) 
  • Movement while baby sleeps (a swing early on is ok if needed, car rides, rocking and pacing the room with your 1 year old is not so cool)
  • A toy or mobile that plays/moves for only a short time.

Lovies and Blankies
Transitional objects, like a blanket or stuffed animal are a great option because it always stays with baby during sleep which helps her soothe herself back to sleep during a sleep arousal. I bought a small, thin muslin blanket like this for Stella when she was 6 months and I love it. She snuggles with it now and I felt safe with her having it in her bed.

Some Extra Stuff
  • Unlike what many people think, sleep prop addictions don't usually go away on their own with time. Instead they often get worse over time so "waiting it out" is usually not a good idea (Ferber, Sleeping Through The Night).
  • Some sleep associations that aren't a problem with a newborn may turn into a problem when baby gets older.
  • Some sleep association problems only cause trouble with naps but not night time sleep or vice-versa.
  • Sometimes something you do right before falling asleep can cause sleep issues, but usually this isn't the case. If you think it might be an issue, simply move the 'something' forward 10-20 minutes for several days and see what happens.
  • Just because something is considered a sleep prop (like nursing to sleep often is) doesn't mean the act is bad, it simply means that it can interfere with a child falling to sleep or staying asleep on his own.

Related Post:
Sleep Props and Newborns


  1. Thanks for all the useful info on your site! I have a 13 week old who is a habitual short napper. I have read most of the Baby Whisperer and I am still not sure on how to do the shush-pat. I do a 2 hour max wake time routine and then I close the shades, swaddle him, give him his pacifier, cover his eyes with a blanket, sing to him while walking then rock a bit on a chair and then lay him down. He usually falls asleep fine but wakes up 30-45 mins later and it is usually very difficult to get him back to sleep. I am going to try not walking & rocking him tomorrow and read over the shush-pat method again. Hope it works! Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

  2. You might want to consider a shorter waketime. He could be overtired and waking early bc of that.

    Make sure to look over the shush-pat method post I have if you haven't already. Look under index and the baby whisperer. You might need to adapt it a little to fit you and your baby's needs. You might want to slowly decrease the amount of soothing that you do at each nap period so he learns to fall asleep better on his own which will help him when he wakes in the middle of a nap.

    Make sure to look over the short nap posts. It talks about possible causes of short naps and some ways to help extend a nap.

    Just keep in mind that your son may take short naps for a while no matter what you do. So try out some things to see if you can extend the naps (do it consistently for a while), but don't get too discouraged if they don't work. Some babies just need some time before they seem capable of taking long naps, no matter what you do.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi Rachel thanks for your response! Here is an update and new issues I would like your input on. I am able to get the baby to transition & sleep longer for his first 2 naps using the wake-to-sleep method instead of shush-pat. He now takes a 2 hr nap in the morning and sometimes for the second nap also. I put him to sleep 1 hr & 15 mins after he wakes up, but b/c he's awake for such a short period it would take 4 naps to make it to bedtime @ 8 and after the second nap he naps less and less, and if I do wake-to-sleep at those naps he usually does not fall back asleep for much longer after so I would rather he just sleep his usual 45 mins then and at least have that. What do you think? I also don't know how long I should continue doing wake-to-sleep.

    Another thing is that I think he is getting stuck on having his pacifier to fall asleep cause he will wake up from his nap sometimes if he drops it and cries. He doesn't do this at night but it will happen a few times during the day, especially w/the later naps. I've read about props in BW but I'm not sure if to try to wean him off of it or how to get him to be ok if it's not in his mouth during a nap. Thanks for your help! I am thrilled to see him sleeping more already and I can't wait to see him do it on his own!

  4. I'm so glad you got him to sleep for longer periods!

    Hogg says it usually takes a few days to work but I have heard of people doing it for a a week or two. I'm one that will do it a bit longer than maybe needed just so I don't have to start over. I guess the best way to know if you don't need to do it is to try not doing it :) Here's a post on it in case you need it:

    For many babies, naps get a bit worse as the day goes on. Often it is an overtired issue, but certainly not always. You might want to consider that. It could even possible be a too short of a wake time issue. You'll have to evaluate and see. If having two shorter naps makes things easier for you, I don't think it is a big deal. Long naps are good, but you can only do so much to get them. And sometimes, as I mentioned before, it can take baby time before he can take very long naps. You might want to consider an earlier bedtime though with shorter naps. An earlier bedtime really can make babies sleep so much better at night although it can make you nervous to try out :)

    It does sound like the pacifier may be a bit of a sleep prop. So you need to decide if you want to keep giving him back the paci for a while longer until he can put it back in himself (although many babies will still call for their parents to help even when they can do it themselves) or if you want to try to wean. It can be pretty hard to wean though. You can either try to put him to bed without it (you could offer it to sooth him before bed then take it out before you put him to bed if this isn't more upsetting than simply not offering it at all at this time) or put him back to sleep when he wakes without putting it back in. Either way, when you do this you might end up creating another sleep prop (like holding) at the same time that you will eventually have to wean from once your lo can sleep without the pacifer. I know, tough! If you let your lo cry it can take one step, but it is a bit harder and longer to do without crying. You might be surprised though, some babies do surprisingly well.

    I hope that made sense! Let me know if you need clarification. Good luck!

  5. My 9-week-old son has been waking up more and more frequently at night. He used to be able to sleep a 5-6 hour stretch, but now he's waking every 2-3 hours! I have tried soothing him back to sleep or letting him cry, but he gets so worked up and eventually I nurse him. He eats, but not a full meal. I know that he is capable of going longer without food. Has nursing become a sleep prop? Sometimes I put him back in the crib asleep and sometimes he wakes up, but if he has nursed he seems content to drift off to sleep by himself.

    If nursing has become a sleep prop, what measures can I take to change it? He took the paci once but cried after 30 minutes. And I can't seem to pat him to sleep...maybe I didn't try long enough? Once or twice he has cried for 10 minutes and fallen back asleep, but most other times I end up nursing him.

    I am also wondering if he is waking more often because he needs to go to sleep earlier. He used to go to sleep at 11 pm (as a newborn), then I moved it earlier to 9 pm two weeks ago. He doesn't do a dreamfeed (I tried it at one month and it made him worse. Should I try it again?). Should I put him to bed even earlier, e.g. 7 pm? The 9 pm bed time worked for a while because he was waking once at 3 or 4 am, then 7 am. But if he goes to sleep at 7 pm he will wake even more times throughout the night. After he wakes the first time, it seems like he wakes every 2-3 hours after that. Any suggestions?

    He eats every 3 hours during the day and usually takes good naps. I just put him in his crib and he goes to sleep. Sometimes he cries for 5-10 minutes but he will usually go to sleep on his own.

    Thank you for your help!

  6. Anonymous,
    Since he is going to sleep pretty well for naps that is good. Does he go to sleep by himself well at night too? Those things, while connected, are also separate. So a baby can go to sleep well for naps but not at night and vice versa. Once a baby goes to sleep well by himself at night he will often sleep much better through the night.

    Since you don't think he is hungry, he is probably waking and needing help to go back to sleep. Seems like leaving him to cry isn't helping too much since you just end up having to help him out. You might want to give him a couple minutes to see if he'll go to sleep on his own (or whenever he gets really upset), and if this doesn't happen then go help him. I would just try to hold out on feeding for a little bit each night. The pacifier is a helpful tool with this. Even if he lasts 30 minutes, you've just helped him get over the habit of eating at a certain time. Keep this in mind when you feel tired at night--it is harder at first but easier in the long run. Some babies will stop waking after just a few nights, some will need the pacifier inserted for a couple weeks before they stop waking. I can't guarantee this method will work but it often does. If you notice no change then he might be waking more out of just habit and not for food and is having difficulty settling back to sleep. you can try wake to sleep with this, and the shush/pat among other things (look at night waking post in index). If you are going to decide to shush/pat, you probably should keep at it until he goes to sleep or almost goes to sleep. If you give up then it was all for nothing kind of:) With newborns I will "give in" and often help them go back to sleep if some of my methods aren't working and baby is really overtired even if it results in some extra wakings. I know that I will get a little more strict later on. That is just me though. I don't really let them cry at nightif other things fail until they get older.

    Another random thought. Since if you nurse he'll go back to sleep, even without being nursed to sleep, it seems like he simply needs some soothing to fall back asleep. So you could also just hold him instead of offer a pacifier and see if this helps give enough soothing that he'll go back to sleep (since you didn't think shush/pat helped much). Sometimes this helps, sometimes it can cause more wakings though. depends upon the baby.

    Most experts will recommend an early bedtime, especially starting around this age. It usually doesn't backfire, but when it comes to babies you can never say never! I would make sure you do the early bedtime and stick to it. He might wake after only a few hours at first bc he is used to that or even just take a short nap at first instead of going to sleep for the night but he will get it eventually. A slow change to make things earlier will probaly work better. Make sure to do it for several days before deciding it isn't working. But it would be pretty unusual for an early bedtime to be bad in the long run.

    The dream feed may give more straight sleep for you by feeding him before you go to bed, but it probalby won't do anything about the 2-3 hour wakings.

    Hope some of this mumbo jumbo helped! Sorry for all the random thoughts!

  7. Thanks so much for your quick and detailed response, Rachel!

    In answer to your question, yes, he can go to sleep well at night after I nurse him. Sometimes he is asleep after nursing, but half of the time he is awake when I put him down and will fall asleep on his own without a fuss.

    In general I think he is able to fall asleep well for both naps and at night, but it is when he wakes in the middle of his sleep that he has trouble. He has had trouble with naps, waking 30 or 45 minutes into his nap for a long time. I tried the wake-to-sleep method and it seemed to work most of the time.

    Since your reply, I am thinking maybe he has sleep transition problems, and that is why he is waking every 2-3 hours at night. I would do the wake-to-sleep at night, but his waking time varies each night, so how would I know what time to do it? For example, last night he woke up at 1 am, 3:30 am, 5:30 am and then at 7 am. The night before he woke up at 1 am, 3 am, 6:30 am.

    Also, do you have any suggestions as to which times I should go ahead and feed him (since he may be genuinely hungry), and which times I should try to make him go back to sleep without feeding? Last night I fed him at 1, 3:30 and 7. I was able to get him to go back to sleep at 5:30 by holding and patting him for a bit. But I wonder if he really needed the 3:30 feeding at his age.

    Another question: Do you think babies naturally grow out of these sleep transition problems as they grow older, or do they need our help to learn to do it? I would be patient and wait it out, but I don't want to create any bad habits in the meantime. I am also exhausted as I have a 2-year-old to take care of as well.

    You mentioned that you get "stricter" as they get older. At what age do you think it would be appropriate to stop "helping" them get back to sleep and how do you do that? With my older son, who also had nap problems where he would wake up 30-45 minutes into his nap, at 4 months old I let him cry through his wakings, and he was able to take longer naps after that. (My older son only had nap transition problems, not night waking problems! He was able to sleep through the night around 3 months.) At night, how long would you let them cry before deciding that they are genuinely hungry and need to be fed?

    Thanks again so much for all your help! I appreciate it.

  8. Chantal,
    It will be hard to do a wake to sleep with so many wakings. And If you do it for one it will probably throw off the other wakings. So I would maybe try starting with one of them that is pretty consistent and if you get that one down move on to another one.

    You're probably going to have to work with one feeding time at a time. I would offer a pacifier at that time (or something else to get him to go back to sleep). If he refuses to settle, then feed him. If he settles easily then you know he probably wasn't hungry. I guess you could do this for more than one time, but it might get confusing, especially in the middle of the night. It'll be much easier to work out once he is down to like one feeding. Then you just feed if they wake at a normal time and see if they will take the pacifier (or whatever) when they wake earlier than normal. And when some time goes by or they seem like they aren't as hungry at that feeding any more, you offer the pacifier even when they wake at a normal time to push them back a little later. You can also do the method of feeding a little less at each feed (starting with one feed). I've never had as much luck at this method, and since your son isn't eating tons anyway it might not be as effective anyway.

    I think that babies will grow out of some of the sleep issues by themselves. Some things more than others and they usually need to have some kind of good sleeping foundation. Like if they are able to initially go to sleep for a nap but often have a hard time with the nap transition, they very well may out grow this. If they are always held to sleep and need help to go back to sleep, they very likely will continue to need help to go back to sleep. And once again (i know this is such a clique), every baby is different so it is hard to predict. Usually by 6 months most babies will outgrow waking early from naps if they already know how to go to sleep by themselves. I'm really not sure how this works for babies that wake at night though. Many babies that learn to put themselves to sleep at night will not ever have the night waking problem--or at least not very often. For the babies that end up having this issue, it seems a little harder to suddenly go away by itself. I am guessing on this though. I don't have enough data from experience, talking other moms and from books to say this for sure.

  9. I think it is a good idea to see if baby will go back to sleep on his own when he wakes early from naps no matter the age. But I would only try for a really short time and then intervene if it is a newborn. When he is 3 or 4 months old I may let him cry longer. If after several attempts there is no improvement at all, I might decide that we will try at a later date. For many babies the ability to go to sleep after an early waking in a nap seems to be developmental. Sure if you leave them for weeks they might get it, but I'd prefer to help out a bit longer and try again at a time they are more receptive and have it only take a few days to see improvements. Now if baby was really difficult to get back to sleep and taking tons of time and you have other children and are feeling overwhelmed I might change these guidelines a bit. I'm sorry I don't have any exact rules I follow :) It depends so much on the baby and circumstance for me.

    As for the middle of the night, I will try the methods I mentioned above right off the bat. Well, I don't usually use them right away, just as they seem to be needed if at all. Before all the methods I will see if baby will go back to sleep by himself without interference first. I try not to rush if baby would have gone to sleep by himself without my help. Around 3-4 months if these or whatever other gentle methods that seem appropriate don't work I might try something less gentle. This is just what I do though, isn't necessarily the right thing to do. It is what I feel comfortable doing :)

    As for how long to let them cry before feeding, I suggest you only work past one feeding at a time. And you work by increments (like 15 minutes every few nights) if needed. This way his body has time to adjust. I know if I were to do this with my 4 month right now and he started to scream a certain way I would go in to him bc it is a very high stress scream. At the same time, my friend's baby that I watched for several days for her would make a cry like this after about 1 second, so it would totally depend on the baby (sorry, I know I keep saying this)! On a side note, I like to first help baby get used to not eating at a certain time with me there comforting if needed, and then if he still wakes at this time after this point I might leave him and not go to him. Kind of a two step method, but it makes me feel better to not leave a baby that feels hungry but simply a baby that needs to learn to sleep on his own.

    Good luck! Sleep deprivation is no fun, especially with a toddler to look after as well!

  10. Rachel,

    Wow your blog has such a great resource and has so much information! Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge and experience.

    I'm hoping you might be able to provide some insight and clarity on my situation. My 4 month old has been unable to nap anywhere other than my arms for a good 2+ months now. The habit started because she was diagnosed with GERD and was vomitting regularly, so I was keeping her upright after feedings which eventually (and unfortunately) developed into entire naps. She is now on medication for GERD and the vomitting has stopped, but we still try to keep her upright for 30 minutes after feeding to prevent the reflux.

    To get her to sleep during the day, we have to rock, bounce and shush her on our shoulder. I've read Babywise, No Cry Sleep (and Nap) Solution, and Baby Whisperer. Unfortunately I have been unable to implement any of the recommended techniques consistently because I have a hard time deciding which is best and I get completely overwhelmed and frustrated when I try the P.U/ P.D. method in BW and the similar technique in No Cry. I am not comfortable letting her cry it out as she gets incredibly worked up and takes hours to calm down, gasping for air and quivering.

    At night she had been sleeping great, she was up to 7 to 8 consecutive hours a night regularly, from 10/11 pm to 5/6 am, but just this week has started waking between 3 and 4:45 am to breastfeed. I am hoping this is a growth spurt but its been 6 days in a row now so I'm not so sure anymore. We still swaddle her at night, and she still sleeps in the newborn napper in the Pack N Play in our room, all of which I know will need to change very soon as she is outgrowing the napper and her Miracle Blanket. (Any tips here are appreciated as well!)

    She is on a flexible eat/wake/sleep routine and now tends to go about 3-3.5 hours between feedings. Lately she has been awake for 2 hours or a little less then gets tired and cranky, so she naps between every feeding. Her naps tend to last anywhere from 40 minutes (the length of one sleep cycle I think) to more than 2 hours. In the evening, she usually eats between 7 and 8 pm, but we're still holding her afterwards, and then we wake her to feed her again at 10 or 11pm before putting her down for the night. She falls asleep immediately after nursing and rarely wakes up. So I don't even know what I would label as her bedtime.

    When we try to put her in her crib for naps, she usually wakes up crying before she even reaches the mattress. Sometimes she'll stay asleep a few minutes, and if we're lucky, 20 to 40 minutes, but this is rare. This is the case both swaddled and unswaddled. I try to keep my hands under her and continue rocking and shushing and then gradually move away, if i can.

    I am terrified to make any changes in her routine as I'm afraid it will make the situation worse, but I know I need to do something. Any tips you might have would be greatly appreciated. As I'm sure you can imagine, holding her for every nap is definitely starting to wear me out, and I'd love to start out the New Year with a clear plan of attack. Thanks so much ahead of time, and Happy New Year!


  11. bellyblogger,
    I would be pretty worn out if I was you too. My arm hurts just from holding my son for his nap at church today :)

    Unfortunately I don't have any advice that will be super easy. Ingrained sleep props (with most babies--there are those random few who sleep great no matter what that I'm jealous of!) can be pretty tough to change. Actually, getting many babies to sleep with no sleep props can be tough. So keep this in mind when deciding what method you are going to use to make changes. And consider getting some outside help. Because change is going to take some work, probably feel a bit overwhelming and you will possibly feel like giving up. Especially because from the sounds of it, your little sweetie isn't one to pick up on changes after like one nap period. BUT, the key is to pick a plan that you feel comfortable with and decide before doing it that you are going to stick with it. At least decide to stick with it for some period of time. Things will change and get better. You really have to keep the end goal in mind. Otherwise you'll just give up at 2 am when you are feeling too tired to keep your eyes open. Things get better and once they do you'll look back and think--was I really there once? Look where we are now. It is so much easier. Baby is well rested and happy. Etc. Sorry to get corny there but it's true. And it is good to keep this in mind during the tough moments.

    As for what plan to do, it sounds like you have ruled out CIO. So we can take that of your list. I am going to suggest one form of CIO though, that you might be comfortable with. It is in the book Twelve Hours By Twelve Weeks. She suggests going in every 3-5 minutes and comforting baby until she calms down then leaving again. You are pretty much helping baby calm down so that she has the ability to attempt to go to sleep on her own. If she is crazy upset from crying for long stretches this might not happen. To do this you'll want to have some way that seems to calm her well. A pacifier works well, maybe a lovey, maybe stroking her face. Just try to keep her in her bed if possible. Next is the baby whisperer's stuff you mentioned. Love the four S routine (see index). I think it is a great thing to do with babies. Since your daughter is used to so much physical activity to get her to sleep, you might want to do a little of this and slowly decrease it over time or as you do the four S routine. Or you might need to hold her in your arms for the four S routine and either do the shush/pat or let her cry for a moment to help herself relax (sounds weird but it works well for some babies). Next you'll have to decide what method to use to help baby go to sleep on her own. The baby whisperer and the no cry have some good solutions for you if you don't want to do CIO. But they are tough to do as you mentioned. But they will probably works if given the time and effort. I can't really choose a method for you because only you know what you will feel capable and comfortable doing. But hopefully I've helped you out a little.

    Lastly, and this probably should have been mentioned first, make sure you have a good, consistent sleep routine(see index). Create a good sleep environment (see index). Introduce a lovey or something that smells like you. You can have it near you when you nurse and then have baby sleep with it/by it.

    Oh, have you tried the fisher price sleep and play sleeper. It is good for reflux babies. And the cotton swaddleme works pretty good at keeping baby swaddled. The key is to wrap the first side (left side) under babies right arm to keep it down snug when you wrap the left side over the right side of the body. And do it tight!

    Good luck. Sorry I don't have any easy miracle advice to give you. Some people may claim that this exists, but I have yet to hear about it although I'd welcome the knowledge :)

    Happy New Year to you too!

  12. Thanks so much for your quick and thoughtful response. Everything you mentioned is true and I know the key is going to be consistency. I like the idea of trying the Four S's and gradually reducing the time spent holding her. I am also getting some outside help starting tomorrow which I think will be good and give me a break when I'm feeling completely overwhelmed and helpless. I do have the Fisher Price Rock N Play Sleeper although I haven't tried having her sleep in it, I use it a lot during the day when she's awake. On a positive note, baby has been sleeping through the night the past 3 nights. I think her week of waking once or twice a night was just the "Four Month Sleep Regression" we've all read about. Thanks again for your reassuring words!

  13. bellyblogger,
    Glad to help! And glad you are getting some help so you don't feel so overwhelmed.

  14. Bellyblogger,
    I have a question for you. I have a 4.5 month old who is a decent sleeper, but is addicted to the pacifier to fall asleep. She wakes 2x at night for feeds, but can awaken up to 6-8 times for a pacifier. Some nights are better than others....
    She also needs the pacifier to fall asleep for naps, and the only way to lengthen the naps is to go back in and replace it multiple times. Otherwise, she can go to sleep for naps/bedtime awake and put herself to sleep. We are thinking of breaking the pacifier habit. I have a few questions:
    1) Do you think she's too young to break the habit now?
    2) Do you think we should break it first for bedtime, and let her use the pacifier for naps, or do we do it all at once? I worry about her being so overtired by bedtime if her naps are bad, and she still can't stay awake for more than 1.5-2 hours between naps.
    3) She is a pretty vocal, persistent little girl. Do you think that CIO would be the best option in this case, or controlled crying? She really is only comforted by the pacifier (holding, rocking, shhshing etc doesn't really do anything for her anymore).
    4) Do you believe in scheduled awakenings for feeds (we will wean her eventually, but want to deal with the pacifier first I think), or should we just go to her when we think she's hungry but not at other times?


  15. Oops...meant to post the question to Rachel! See...I'm just too sleepy to even think straight!!

  16. Yaliberms,
    LOL about posting to bellyblogger. Gave me a good laugh :)

    1) 3-6 months seems to be the time that experts say a baby's need for sucking diminishes and a pacifier isn't so important (if it was at all). For my kids they had much less of a need to suck by 3 or 4 months. I've noticed similar things with others kids. So...I think she isn't too young to break the habit now, but 6 months is a more undisputed time to stop it. But then again, she'll get more addicted to it by then.

    2) I find it easier to do things at nap times first because I am not sleepy and delusional then :) And often if baby does better at naps she'll start to do better at night. But I don't think doing both at once is a bad thing. It is possible to do, it just might be overwhelming for the both of you. Once you get naps down if nights don't improve you can work on them then. Or you can first work on going to sleep right at bedtime(either now or once naps are down) but go in the middle of the night. With many babies if they can put themselves to bed without help they stop waking int he middle of the night. Definitely not true for all though.

    3) This is a hard one for me to answer because it depends on so many things. Not just her, but you. What do you feel like you can do now and in the future? What does your daughter end up doing well with. Some babies do very badly with interference, other do fine. Does she get super worked up and have a hard time calming down with straight cio? If so, you might want to do controlled cio. Take note that crying harder right after you leave isn't necessarily bad bc many babies do this then go right to sleep. With my son jacob I had him cry 5 minutes then I would resinsert the pacifier. He rarely would cry again for another 5 minutes, but if he did I did the same thing. After a few days of this he learned to go to sleep well if the pacifier fell out, even without me going in to reinsert. But some babies will need you to take it away for good and not reinsert. Just an idea beyond the controlled crying vs straight cio.

    4) Not exactly sure what you are asking here. At night? During the day?

  17. Thanks Rachel! I think we need to pull the pacifier for good. She was up every 2 hours last night! We are going to wait till she's 5 months - so she's closer to the ideal time to do sleep training, but hopefully not TOO addicted to the pacifier (I say that with a grain of salt...I know she's already very addicted!). It's just that she goes to bed so easily once it's been reinserted, that I know sleep training will make everything so much more difficult in the short term (but hopefully better for all in the long term!). It's just hard getting your head around that!

    We have actually never let her CIO, so I don't know how she will do. The only experience I have is when she's out and about. She is used to falling asleep in her stroller or car seat from when she was younger, so if I want to keep her up till her next nap time to get her in her crib, I don't give her the pacifier. And she will WAIL on me then, so I guess I'll have to see how she does at bedtime/naptime in her crib and go from there.

    I am actually inclined to start with bedtime, cause then my husband will be home and I'll have the added support. I was just unsure whether it would be fair to pull the pacifier at night and then give it to her during the day so that she gets good naps in, and then once we have nighttime solidified, move onto naps? Or just do it all at once?

    Can you start with controlled crying, and if that doesn't work, switch it cio in a few days? I just hate putting her through all of that....

    What I meant by scheduled awakenings, was scheduled feedings at night (as opposed to just guessing when she is waking out of hunger, and when she is waking cause she wants the pacifier). Right now she feeds around midnight, and 3 am. She's 14.5 lbs and has skipped the midnight feed before, so it's possible that she can be weaned off that one - but I'm not sure. Her pediatrician didn't really give me much guidance on that. So, when it comes to sleep training, do I just go to her when I think she's hungry but not at other times? Do I wake her to feed her before she gets up? Or do I try to wean her off the feeds first?

    Thanks so much for your are really good at this! It's just so nice to have some support in our corner. I think sleep is probably one of the most stressful things to deal with in the first year of life (for an otherwise healthy baby, so I should count my lucky stars on that one!).

  18. It isn't too uncommon for people to have a baby go to sleep with the pacifier but not reinsert it if it falls out. It seems like this would be confusing for baby but many babies seem to catch on quickly and do good with this. But it probably takes longer to sleep train this way than an all or nothing approach. Just thought I'd mention that.

    Starting with nights then moving onto days should probably be ok. If it doesn't seem to be working well, then add the days in too. Good nights might help the days out, although they sometimes can be very separate from each other.

    I think it is fine to start with controlled crying and move to cio with no checks after that if needed. Baby might resist more right after you make the change, but it should be ok. Less change is nice, but it is hard to know exactly what will or won't work until you try it. Just make sure to give whatever you do some time before deciding that it isn't working well.

    With feedings at night I definitely do not wake a healthy baby this age to eat unless I am doing a dream feed (a sleepy feed around like 10 or 11 before I go to bed). You want baby to go as long as possibly as often as possible so that she gets used to going longer between feeds. If I were in your situation I would keep in mind when baby normally wakes to eat. Then I would not feed baby if she wakes before that time. Well, I might feed say 30 minutes earlier than usual if she has been up for a while since crying etc might make her hungrier sooner than usual... I'm a softy :) If baby sleeps longer than usual one night (or to be safe, maybe 2-3 nights in a row) you make that feeding time your new feeding time and don't feed baby before then. When baby learns to sleep better by herself she might naturally drop a feeding. If she is still waking to eat but sleeping well in between, you can move the feeding to a later time (leave her in bed longer before feeding her, give her a pacifier for a bit to hold her off) or feed her less every few nights at that feeding. Some people like try and drop a feeding before moving onto cio. Generally you want to just work on dropping one feeding at a time, but if baby drops another one you are not working on by herself then let her do it!

    And yes, many pediatricians aren't tons of help when it comes to sleep information. It is a huge issue for many parents so they really should know more about it. But I don't blame them. It can be complicated and hard to figure out, even for me.

    Good luck!

  19. Thank you so much for your thoughtful suggestions Rachel! I will let you know how it all goes....

  20. Yaliberms,
    I hope I was able to help some. And let me know how it goes. I'm always learning from others experience :)

  21. Hi Rachel,
    Just an update. We pulled the pacifier last weekend. We used controlled crying. It's been 3 nights, but she's done it, and sleep has improved SO much! She is still crying before bed (30 minutes or so), so hopefully that will improve. She is still having one dream feed, but otherwise, sleeping from 7pm (or so, when the crying stops) - 6 am. Naps are another story. I am finding it really hard to get her to nap long. She goes down without a fight for her morning nap, but the rest of the day will fight the nap, and will only sleep for 30-45 minutes. She can only stay awake around 2 hours in between naps, so she's taking 4 a day (she's 5 months). I used to be able to lengthen her naps with the pacifier - but no more! Any tips on helping her to lengthen her naps?

    1. Hi,
      This is a bit unconventional but I thought I´d give it a try since I am experiencing the same issue you had about 1,5 year ago. That is the paci addiction and our LO is 5 mo today. How did you drop the paci? Did you just put your LO to bed one night without the paci? Did you go in every so often to sooth your LO was crying? When your LO woke in the middle of the night wanting the paci did you just let your LO cry back to sleep?

      Hope you can help!

  22. Yaliberms,
    So glad sleep has improved! I bet you are beginning to feel like a different person now, apart from the nap difficulty. And the crying for bed should improved. Do make sure she isn't under or overtired then. That can cause crying too.
    It isn't uncommon for some babies to start to sleep well at night but not for naps. And it isn't uncommon for the morning nap to be the better for the naps. Most young babies seem to be more sleepy then and there is a less chance of them being overtired from previous bad naps etc. I would work on making sure wake time is ok for her age. 2 hours at 5 months sounds about average but average is only average and all. But I would probably work with adding or taking away 15 minutes to her waketime to see what happens. That can help the falling asleep and the waking up after 45 minutes. It is possible she is getting overtired from having difficulty falling asleep for a nap which is making it hard for her to go back to sleep when she wakes. I would say it might be developmental (and there is a small chance it still might be) but she was going back to sleep before with the pacifier so it sounds more like she needs some extra practice--so controlled crying at this time too.

    Good luck!

  23. This blog is a favorite of mine. Thank you for organizing it!

    I have nursed/rocked my 6.5 month old to sleep since birth. I started unlatching him to fall asleep around 5months and sometimes he will roll over once he's full and fall asleep on my breastfeeding pillow. However, if I try to put him in his crib without him being in a deep sleep he will usually just wake and start screaming.

    We've tried CIO at 5.5months and couldn't do it. He cried between 1-2 hours every night for 2 weeks. I usually would get him and nurse/rock him to sleep at that point. He only cried himself to sleep the first night (after 45 minutes). We were really disappointed he never did it again.

    His naps have been short (about 45 minutes) since about 2 months. He's generally awake for 2 hours between naps. He doesn't fall asleep and stay asleep lately until around 10pm and will wake at 2a and/or 6a and fall back asleep until 8.

    My husband and I are both students so I feel like I can't be super consistent with him and I get stressed about having to do homework and am exhausted. I realize I could use an extra dose of patience.

    I guess I'm wondering if there's any hope. How would you suggest transitioning him to self-soothe himself to sleep?


  24. Lauren,
    I don't have time this moment to give much of a response, but I wanted to say that you might want to start off on working with feedings during the day. Try to get them around 4 hours apart. It sounds weird, but just this step alone can help baby sleep longer at night.

    And I can imagine you are exhausted. College wasn't so long ago that I have forgotten it! Just take it day by day, even hour by hour if you need to.

    More later...

  25. Lauren,
    It can be pretty tough to help a child learn to sleep well when you are unable to be consistent. Well, some kids will do fine with this, but other kids really struggle and it sounds like your son does. But, I bet if you are able to help him self sooth a lot of things will change. Less night wakings and possibly longer naps might start. I wouldn't be surpirsed if your son isn't overtired. Look closely at that and see if things improve if you get this issue solved. Sounds like you don't want to do CIO so I would suggest the baby whisperer methods. shush-apt and pu/pd. Look under the blog index. In fact, I would even suggest getting the book the baby whisperer solves all your problems. It is really helpful. An even gentler method would be the no cry sleep solution. You can look over that in the blog index also. See which sounds better to you. I think they are both good alternatives to cio. If you wanted to do some cio but not very extensive, 12 hours by 12 weeks is a good book that hels you do this. Baby never cries more than 5 minutes at a time.

  26. Rachel,

    So glad I found your blog. I hope you can shed some light. My baby is 11 wks old today and we were using the 12 hrs by 12 wks method. We are down to one night feeding at 545 am with only 1 oz. at around 8 wks baby was sleeping from 830 to 4 with no waking between, all on her own eliminating her night feedings to 1. Then around 9 wks she started waking up before and we would just go in and give her the pacifier and she would go back down. Some night she would wake more frequently before her night feeding and a pacifier worked. Now it seems to be becoming a sleep prop? How do I get her to sleep through to her night feeding. I feel she is too young from CIO but maybe controlled CIO would work? how do you suggest? I am trying to limit her use of the pacifier during the day as well since I noticed she was having it a lot more than I intended. I know she still has the need to suck so I know its too late to wean from the pacifier all together right now. But we do plan to do it around 3.5 months.

    She does fall asleep without the pacifier so I know she can do it but not sure if we should try the slush pat method at night instead. if so how long do you let them cry before you go in?

    Also she sleep a lot throughout the day. Could this be causing her to wake early & frequently at night?

    Sorry to ramble. so much going on and going back to work soon. We need sleep.

  27. Jonna,
    If she is sleeping too much or too long during the day that can definitely cause issues. I would try not allowing longer than a 2 hour nap and keep wake time to 1.5-2 hours and see if that makes a difference( wake time may be much more than this if you are following 12 hours by 12 weeks in which case you might need to decrease them a bit since an overtired baby will usually sleep worse at might and have more night wakings). Also make sure she is getting enough to eat during the day. Maybe she has had a growth spurt and needs more to eat during the day now.

    You can try the shush pat instead of reinsertingg the pacifier. You can do the 3- 5 minute wait like the book suggests then go in and calm in whatever way is calming besides using the pacifier. If you do the shush-pat like the baby whisperer suggests you will not have crying going on unless it is a little fussing or a " I'm settling to sleep" cry.

  28. Hi Rachel,
    I love your blog so much its bookmarked on my phone! Thank you for all the info.

    I have a little 5.5 month son with sleep problems.. (as with most moms :) i used to have to carry and pat him to sleep but a month ago it stopped working. Nothing worked so I did cio.. It has helped his naps tremendously with only occassional crying, however cio did not help his night sleeps.. In fact i think it has created a new sleep prop for him as he now wants to be nursed to sleep every night! What I think happened is that during the cio I would go in at 45 min intervals to feed him.. But because he's so tired from crying he would fall asleep on the breast. Happened a few nights and also for his night wakings so we're now in a new sleep prop situation :(

    I tried cio a few more nights n tried to keep him awake during feedings but then he would cry again until the next 45 min feed, for hours! So I've now resorted to nurse him to sleep for a few nights as the cries are just heartbreaking especially when there is no end in sight. I don't mind trying cio again but i need help!

  29. Lane,
    At this age, if you have nursed him before bed and he doesn't fall asleep, he doesn't need the additional nursing 45 minutes later to make sure he is full before sleep. With a newborn I might do this, but with an older baby, as you found out, it can lead to more issues and he doesn't need it. But you might have just been doing this to comfort him, not feed him. are a couple ideas. You could continue to do the cio, but DO NOT feed him when you go in (what intervals you go in are up to you and you can find ideas in the sleep training section in the index). Give him a pat, tell him you love him and that everything is ok, tell him it is time to sleep, even pick him up for a minute if he is crazy upset, but don't feed him. He will eventually go to sleep, but from the sound of it, it sounds like it might take hours the first couple nights. Likely he would get better after that, but you may not want to do that much crying. You could try the gentle removal plan listed here ( or pu/pd from the baby whisperer.

    IF he falls to sleep nursing at bedtime but has no other problems sleeping through the night, as is the case with some babies, I wouldn't be terribly concerned. You might want to stop nursing him at slightly earlier times every 1-3 nights (depending on how he does ) until he can go down without the nursing. Or you might want to read a book before nursing for several nights to make it a habit in the routine. Then you can move the book reading to after the nursing and see if he'll go to sleep still. Also, if he is falling asleep while nursing before bed, he is very possibly overtired and you might want to make sure he has adequate day sleep and not too long of a waketime before bed. Some soothing music might also help him make the nursing to bed transition too. sorry for all the random ideas all thrown together!

  30. Hi Rachel,

    So grateful to have found your blog! Such a great resource. I'm hoping you can give me your opinion on a simple question. I have just started putting my 4 month old on the EASY routine, I bought Hogg's book and have one question I can't seem to answer for myself. My daughter lovers her pacifier. I am unable to come to a conclusion about whether her pacifier is sleep prop that I need to eliminate.
    We do the 4 'S routine, with the pacifier. I lay her down almost immediately after her swaddle (brief sit and shush pat)she is able to sooth herself to sleep. Often she spits the pacifier out and lies awake for 10 min before falling asleep (I watch on the video monitor), sometimes she falls asleep with the pacifier in, but eventually it falls out. She has been waking numerous but scattered times during the night. When i go to her the fix is usually as simple is replacing the pacifier and a couple shush pats, and then shes back to sleep (still waking numerous times though).
    So I guess what I'm wondering is because she is unable to replace the pacifier herself, but seems to find so much comfort in it when it comes to soothing herself back to sleep, is it then a sleep prop and not a comfort item?? I'm just wondering if I should be doing the p.u/p.d method when she wakes at night instead of the shush pat and the pacifier replacement. When she is fussing before any sleep time, the pacifier always soothes her.

  31. Essance,
    My guess is that the pacifier is probably the proble. Sorry! That is never fun to get rid of.


  32. Hi,
    My 11 week old cries and cries when we try to put her to sleep. She has the habit of fist/finger sucking since birth. We offer paci and she goes to sleep with it sometimes. But sometimes, she cries even with the paci and doent sleep. We ve tried alot- lullabies, hair dryer, rocking, swinging. Nothing seems to work. She usually sleeps from 11 pm to 7 am waking up only for feeding. And her first nap after 7 am is pretty long -1 and a half hrs. After that its usually 40 mins. He rwake time in between naps is arnd 1 hr. TOTally worried as to which side to go. Is she overtired or undertired? She drinks 2.5 ounces of milk(breast + formula) and feeds every 2.5 hrs. So want tomake her go to sleep peacefully. Please help.


  33. sandhya shankaraman,
    Some kids are big sleep resisters. They would rather do anything besides sleep (even though they need it) and they let you know it in the only way they know how--by crying. Many children seem to need to cry a few minutes to settle themselves before sleep. If a child is overtired the crying is probably going to be a lot more. Kids get into habits easly too. If she protests sleep with a cry and you stop putting her to sleep, she will associate the two things. For now it may not be on purpose (but cause and effect still happens), later it will be.

    Wake time seems a little on the low end. look at teh waketime post you can find in the index.

    Make sure her feed amounts are apporpriate. 2.5 oz seems low at this age. Just make sure she isn't hungry at sleep times.

    Look at the post I suggested as well as the presleep posts and other posts that you are directed to there. You can do a lot to try to create peaceful sleep, but some babies will not go to sleep peacefully, even under teh best of circumstances. This will almost always go away as they get older (as long as good habits are in place and you are not giving in--like the cause and effect I mentioned above). Sometimes goes away rigth after they learn to sleep well on their own with some form of sleep trainig (gentle or cio etc), but sometimes kids will cry a bit and resist for several months--it is just their personality.

    You may need to some form of sleep training to get the peaceful sleep you desire. It will probably not be peacful at first, even with teh gentle appraoches give what you have told me, but it will get peaceful. You have to keep the end goal in mind.

    I understand a bit of what you are going through. my oldest always resisted sleep. My youngest did too, but not like my oldest. I always wished they would just drift off to sleep easly like I saw other babies. It was so frustrating. But they are who they are.


  34. Hi Rachel
    I would appreciate your opinion on this so much..... My LO is 12 wks old now. At 9 weeks I was exhausted and out of ideas, he was always nursed to sleep prior to that but then as alertness increased it became impossible. The moment his head hit the cradle he would go into emotional full cry straight away. I went through a period where I would avoid home and drive with my cranky baby the whole day because trying to put him to sleep was stressing me out so much. Walking, rocking, shush pat all just seemed to stimulate him more. He did 10 min naps in car and stroller. Then we started gina fords 'cry it down' method 3 wks ago. We have the same routine in his darkened room for naps and evening( nappy change, same lullabye, swaddle, white noise, rock on chair with boob/paci until drowsy, then I put him to bed drowsy but eyes open, offer paci and say goodnight. Takes about 10 mins for routine. Then go in at 10,12 etc min if cries, offer paci, put my hand on him and say reassuring things. Seemed to work OK, went to sleep right away for 50%, selfsoothe in 2-5 mins 25% and 10 min cry for 25% for first 2 weeks. Last week however is much worse. Has to go in several times, cries once paci drops out, really emotional cries, shorter naps.... I'm worried that I'm doing something terrible to my baby and I spend hours crying when he cries(and beyond). He's healthy, on 97th centile weight for age, full feed every 2.5-3 hrs, 1,25 hrs waketime between naps and 2 hrs before nighttime. Goes to bed at 7pm. Usually wakes once at 4 or 5am for feed then sleeps to 7 or 8am. Nap time varies, 45min to 2.5 hrs...... What could be happening???? Any help would be soooo good!!

    1. ElsieL,
      I wonder if he is in a wonder week.

      I would work at trying to reduce overtiredness. Move bedtime a bit earlier. Watch for sleep cues closely. If there is a short nap and he doesn't easily fall back asleep, consider getting baby up for more waketime and then doing a nap again rather than keeping baby in his bed and trying to get him back asleep (not sure if you are doing this, but thought I'd mention it). This will help you get over some overtiredness.

    2. Thanks Rachel.
      I decided that the paci might be causing some problems and tried to take it away and try some extinction crying after reading HSHC but seemed to make matters worse, about and hour of crying per nap and then short 10-20 mins sleep for 3 days, I then gave up. Moved bedtime earlier by 20mins but no real difference. He seems really tired after being up for just 45 mins but when I try to put him down that early I can just forget it, seems to work better if I push a bit and go for 1.15 hr which seems more age appropriate.
      I really hope it's a wonder week or a growth spurt, he woke up twice last night which he hasn't done since age 6wks, the crying before sleep and my own failure to be able to soothe him by any other way than a paci and some crying is making me feel like the worst mom ever. I mean really, what good are you if you can't get your own baby to settle???

    3. EiseL,
      I would expect the sleep to get worse for a short time after taking away the pacifier.

      Some babies at this age do much better with checks with cio and maybe some soothing for a minute during the checks.

      Don't feel bad that you are struggling soothing him. This is the case with so many parents. My kids both fought sleep from an early age (my second from the second he was born) and I always wished that they would just drift off easily to sleep like some other babies. But that is just not them. Having a perfect waketime helps, but it only does so much. They are who they are and I have to accept it and work with it. Don't compare yourself to others because it won't help things out. Everyone is so different, you and your baby.

      If you can't handle the crying, then I would suggest changing things up a bit. Maybe do frequent checks (if you feel ok with this) and leave once he calms down a bit. It will be a lot of work whatever you do, but you certain can find something you can handle doing and that doesn't make you feel terrible.

      Also, I would try to evaluate things like crazy if this suddenly started out of the blue. You want to make sure he is healthy and everything.

  35. Rachel,

    What a great blog! I've been searching and searching for some guidance to help with my 7 1/2 month old daughters sleeping. Up until about 4 months old, she was a great sleeper because she slept swaddled. When she started rolling over, we took her out of the swaddle. Around 5 months she got a cold and self-weaned from the pacifier because she couldn't breath. Within a month, her two "comforts" were gone and since then, her sleep patterns have become increasingly worse with each month.

    We follow the same bed time routine at roughly the same time every night, but as each month got progressively more difficult, I would rock her a little longer before putting her down, or pick her up sooner when she woke up (because I was SO sleep deprived--sometimes only sleeping 3 hours total each night!), so I can definitely blame myself for where we are now.

    I've tried shush-ing, patting, introducing a lovey, etc., but haven't had much success. I do believe rocking her to sleep is her prop and she doesn't know how to soothe herself back to sleep.

    My question is how do I get her to learn to soothe herself to sleep when she cries immediately when I put her in the crib at night? I've tried staying there with her for several rounds of back-patting and comforting without picking her up, but each time her crying gets worse and she will not settle until I pick her up. I don't want to go the cry-it-out route again (which we tried with much regret on two separate nights). I think by picking her up I'm reinforcing the bad sleep association. How we can we get her to sleep without picking her up and without hours and hours of tears?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. I suggest offering a lovey. If she doesn't seem to prefer anything, give her something you think she'll like. Offer it at bed and possibly during milk feeds. Keep offering it and she will likely turn it into a lovey.

      With sleep, you can try doing the opposite of what you did before. Rock but slowly decrease the amount of time you are rocking or how sleepy she is before you put her down.
      The book listed above plus the posts below it may help you to sleep train without crying. But I have to let you know that many children will not easily sleep train. It often requires lots of work and perseverance and crying (even if you stay by their side). I wish I could say there is a magical answer outside of wait things out and they might get better in months if not years, but there really isn't. I would look over some of the things on this post (only some will be applicable) to see if there is anything else that may be helpful at this time, like making sure she isn't overtired

      Good luck. It is rough being a tired mommy, especially months on end!

  36. I have a 9wk old who is refusing to sleep. He has black circles under his eyes and I have run out of ideas to help him sleep. I do the pat/shush and that will soothe him but as soon as he closes his eyes it's like knows he's about to fall asleep and he will start screaming again. If he does fall asleep it's never more than 40min and at night he wakes up every 1-3hrs to feed. He uses a pacie but if he spits it out and I go to try put it back in, he doesn't want it and usually stays asleep so I know its not that, but he does seem to move around a lot when sleeping. He will drink from 3-6oz depending on the time of day and he hasn't had any reflux issues. So what am I doing wrong?? PLEASE HELP!

    1. You aren't doing something wrong Lyssa, you just happen to have a baby who doesn't sleep easily. Mine have been heavy refuses from early on. It can get better though. It just takes time and effort and trial and error to see what works the best for your child.

      Movement during sleep isn't' uncommon, but it can increase if a child is overtired.

      I wouldn't rule out the pacifier being a sleep prop, just yet.

      Work on slowly extending the feeds out a bit more, night and day. Try to get full feeds. Look over the top sleep tip post I have that you can find in the index.

      As you noticed, he is overtired. I would try to help him go to sleep for only so long before I try extra hard (and even use props) to get him to go to sleep. You won't ever get too far with sleep if he is always extremely overtired. You may want to try doing the shush-pat for longer (even past the time he seems to need it) to see if it'll help him stay asleep. Make sure waketime is super short (glance over at that post too). Avoid too much stimulation. Try swaddling if you aren't already.

      Good luck. I hope some of that was helpful!

  37. Hi Rachel,
    I know you are busy updating your blog but I thought I give a shot anyways.

    Our DD 4,5 mo has been STTN since 10 weeks old and has always used a pacifier falling asleep. She never uses it outside the bed and doesn't have a need for it. However a few weeks ago she started to wake up frequently during the night to have it reinserted to fall back asleep. It sometimes happens during naps as well, mostly just once. But some night it feels like are we are doing is to give her her paci over and over again.

    At first I thought it was a WW-issue but the WW has passed and the behavior didn't. Do you have any advice on how to stop this or will it go away on its on? We are not comfortable doing CIO, especially not during night.

    Hope you have time to help


  38. Hi Rachel
    Thanks for helping the moms who need advice. I've been reading your blog and need help of my own.

    If my LO 5.5 months wakes up 40 minutes later then usual am I suppose to keep to the same sleep/eat schedule?

    I only had one day of success doing the shush/pat for naps, but this led to him waking at 3.30am and staying up for 1.5 hours while I did the shush/pat/. This led to him sleeping later in the morning by 40 minutes which through me off schedule. Was I suppose to keep to the same times because I couldn't possibly get everything in that I do with 40 less minutes. His A time is only 1.5 to 1.75 hrs. Now we are completely off. Today I let him cry after I did the shush/pat. He cried for 40 minutes and then woke up after a 40 minute nap.

    Can you offer me your great advice. I need to know how to get a baby on a stricter schedule if he is waking at different times? What am I suppose to follow a schedule or his wake /sleep times. I was watching the clock rather then a schedule, but now I'm all over the place.


  39. It makes me a bit sad how negatively sleep associations are portrayed. Most parents would prefer to put their baby down and have them self-settle, but unfortunately, the vast majority of babies just do not. What do you do then? You can't just leave them to cry, especially when they are very young. They need comfort, and that will usually be in the form of shhh'ing, rocking, patting and so forth.

    We currently have a 7 week old that takes such a long time to settle for his day time naps. We try to keep him in his cot, but still have to shhh and pat him. If he is left to self settle, he just screams. Even when he does finally settle, he'll wake 10, 20, 40 mins later for the whole process to start all over again. Have we made a rod for our own backs by the shhh'ing and patting and now he expect the same when he stirs from his naps? Maybe, but what choice do you. Your damned if you do and damned if you don't :-(

    1. Belle,
      This blog is mainly about helping children go to sleep and stay to sleep on their own so negative sleep associates or sleep props are not encouraged. They will sometimes happen though either because a parent prefers it (say,nursing a child to sleep) or because it is the best option at the time. This is mentioned in the accidental parenting post
      There are techniques you can do at this age and any age that do not require you leave the child to cry at all or not for more than a few minutes. You can see some of these in the sleep training index. Techniques, like shush/pat which you seem to be doing is one of the main ones the baby whisperer suggests. It CAN turn into a sleep prop with some kids and if it is done too extensively, but often you are able to do it less and less with time and you use this method to help baby learn to fall asleep. I agree, it is a tricky thing to work around. especially with some children, which is why some people do "whatever works" for the short term at this age until they are ready to sleep train at a later age.


    2. I did this post recently that relates more to what you are talking about

  40. Hi Rachel,
    thank you for a great blog. I'd like your opinion on my situation if you have the time. Thank you in advance
    my baby is 20 weeks and has always been quite an easy baby and fairly predictable. He is exclusively breastfed, doesn't take a dummy and is generally quite a happy baby. he seems to know night from day and does most of his sleeping at night. before I'd been introduced to the concept of babies needing daytime naps, i just went with the flow and sometimes obviously missed tired cues as sometime he wouldn't have any sleep during the day. since about 12 weeks I have tried to instigate a 2 hr wake time (experimenting with different amounts of time but mainly watching for sleep cues and keeping an eye not to go over 2 hrs). he has always been difficult to put to sleep during the day, when he starts to relax he gets upset and really fights it and i need to walk up and down with him shushing and patting his bottom for anything between 5 and 20 mins. He would then only sleep for 35 mins at a time and often only have 2 naps a day. at nights he used to go to sleep really easily; bed time started at about 6.30pm and would normally be asleep by 7.30pm and waking up between 7 am and 8:30 with 3-4 feeds in the night which had until last week to 1 or 2) sometimes nursed to sleep, sometimes just falling asleep in my arms) until about 15 weeks when putting him down at night started to be a nightmare. as soon as he starts to relax he would go beserk, pushing against me and crying sometime up to half an hour and frequently waking for a couple of hours. since finding your site I realised he was probably chronically over tired so really tried hard to instigate a nap schedule, a pre-nap routine and put his bedtime to start at 5:15 and i tried to separate feeding from sleep. This started to have some success with the odd nap over 35 mins, less crying before falling asleep and me being able to feed him at night and put him back in his cot awake and he would go back to sleep by himself and my husband was able to put him to bed after i had fed him. since the clocks went back his sleeping has been getting progressively worse. he now goes to bed at the new 5:15-5:30 (asleep by 6-6:30pm) but wakes up an hour earlier at 6:30am instead of 7:30. he still wont sleep much during the day, his naps are getting shorter and shorter. this has also coincided with him becoming incredibly windy (i can hear it gurgling and squeaking inside him and he is clearly uncomfortable lying down and is very difficult to burp which has been disturbing his sleep. we stayed away from home three nights ago and he was difficult to get to sleep and woke repeatedly (it didn't help that is was guy falkes night with fireworks going off all evening) and the only thing that would get him to sleep was feeding. he woke in the middle of the night crying in pain with really bad gas and wind and again the only thing that would comfort him after an hour of trying all sorts was feeding again. the two nights since has be a repeat of that night. crying for an age before going to sleep with nursing to sleep being the only thing to stop him crying. him waking repeatedly, crying in pain and burping and farting and only stopping crying when i feed him, him falling asleep at the breast and then waking soon after i take him off. I'm not sure what to do now to break this cycle and fear i have now allowed him to develop nursing as a sleep prop (although can it happen as fast as 3 nights?).
    any advice appreciated

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  42. Hello, I am having major sleeping issues with my daughter. She has been a bad sleeper since we came home from the hospital. Our current issues are that she only naps for 45 min at a time and wants to nap after an hour of being awake. Also she wakes up every 1-1.5 hours during the night wanting her pacifier. Please help!!!! We are exhausted. She is 2 months old

  43. Hi there!!

    We have a beautiful and energetic 9 month old lite girl at home, who seems to get up EVERY two hours...on the minute....starting at three sometimes one am. Generally we will walk in place her pacifier in her mouth and all is well, for the next two hours...other times, we will try and let her cry a little bit, but she works herself up into such a tizzy, that the only way to help her get back to sleep is my rocking her and holding her. As I write this, I realize all of the sleep props that are put in place for a little sweetheart , but how can we break some of these? We are in desperate need of sleep at our house...please help :-). Thanks!!

    1. Katie,
      You could try the wake to sleep method, but most likely the issue won't resolve until she learns to go to sleep by herself at bedtime, and when she wakes up. So you would need to try some sleep training. Look at the sleep training tab and decide which method fits your family and what you can be consistent with. and Review the healthy sleep tips to make sure there isn't something stumping you there (like a super late bedtime).


  44. Rachel,
    My husband and I are first time parents to our adorable (and spoiled) 8.5 month old. We got in the habit of bouncing him to sleep when he was little and now we would like to get out of that routine. We also were unaware we were supposed to be putting him down to sleep drowsy, we've been putting him to sleep after bouncing then snuggling for awhile to make sure he is completely asleep. Any advice as to how to get him out of these habits?

    1. Bridget,
      Take a look at the sleep training tab. It has links to post that will help you to be choose a plan and be consistent. Really, that's the main thing you need to do right now. Think about what kind of sleep train you want to do (no cry, maybe cry), get some good sleep habits in place (look at the post on setting the stage for sleep tear free) and then do the sleep training and be consistent. And keep in mind that things will get easier soon--you just have to get through a rough patch first :) good luck!


  45. Hello,

    My name is Adriana and i have a wonderful little boy that is now 1 month and 4 days old. We were ok with sleeping during day and night. Our only problem was that he starts moving his hands and the startle wakes him up. We would swaddle him and the problem was solved. I must say that he goes to sleep only on my arm in vertical position as it is the one for burping. I do not need necessarily to rock or move only to keep him this way. Since a week now he finds it impossible whether it is day or night to sleep longer than 30 -40 min. He wakes up crying. As i see he does not go into deep sleep beacuse in those 30 min starts to move and say sounds and in the end wakes up. I tried to soothe him with ssh method untill he woke up but it is in vain, this does not work anymore. The only way to keep him asleep more than this is for me to lay on my back and place hom on my chest. This works every time but i do NOT want to co sleep or put him to bed. I dream of s baby thst puts himself to sleep in his crib...oooh! He sputs out the pacifier in 1 sec...SOS!

    1. Adriana,
      At this age, I would look at the suggestions on the 0-3 month sleep post. You can only do so much to help baby sleep longer at this age. That post will have some suggestions. In the end, if they don't work, then you will probably need to assist some for now. But that won't last forever. You can always adjust things when he is older.


    2. Thank you a lot Rachel. I will look into it. We are a little bit older now 2mths and half, but we are still dealing with the same problems. We tried for a couple of nights tummy sleep and it was considerably better because of the lack of startle, but finding the little one with his head in the matress made tummy sleep a no no. So back to the basics :) i try to male a routine same hour bath, sleeping sack, breastfeed and than sleep. No self soothing and we have a good day or two and afterwrds a 2h sleep night.....i think sleep training is our solution for the future....
      thanks again!!!

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  47. hi
    my son is 4 months old and is used to go to sleep with pacifier. once is asleep, he reject it. been doing this since 2 weeks. hes been waking up around 2:30 everyone since a growth-spurt and wants his paci. is there any tips to keep him asleep...i know he'll be able to place it back by himself in a few weeks..but still. sometimes, he'll wake up at 2, 3 and 4 am...we tried feeding him but he only drink 1-2 oz so thats not it. and i dont think its the diaper....

    1. ...waking up around 2:30 every night *** since a growth...

  48. Hi there, I realize this post is from a number of years ago but I thought I'd post anyways and hope for a reply!
    My son (second child) is 5 weeks now. I have been working really hard trying to get a good routine happening and putting him down in his crib awake. when I get him at the right time he does fall asleep on his own which is glorious. He seems to get overtired in a split sedond though and when he down it's game over for falling asleep on his own in the crib. I rty the methods you mention on your site (pu/pd( for about 20-30 mins but as you mentioned I try not to go over that too much as I don't want to make him so overtired. At that point the only way I can consistently get him to sleep is if I put him in the carrier on me. Would this be considered a prop? I am feeling really discouraged when things go this way, but with a demanding 3 year old as well I can't spend my whole day trying to get him to fall asleep in the crib. If a carrier(in this context) is considered a prop I will have to re-evaluate....but what can be done when you have a screaming overtired infant? Thank you so much.
    Discouraged Mom

  49. My baby always sucks on her bottle until drowsy and I am worried this is why she wakes up so much and can't settle. However, she has such a small appetite and her last bottle of the day is the only one she chugs. But...if I try to give it to her earlier in the bedtime routine she won't take it. What do I do???

    1. jamison lounsbury,
      Sometimes there isn't always a great solution to something :) You could always try taking the bottle out right when she finished so she doesn't get very drowsy, or read a book or do something else to cut the eat to sleep/drowsy association

    2. Haha, yeah I tried doing that for a couple nights but she gets drowsy so quickly! I was literally holding her up to look at a book and she started crying with her eyes clothes because she wanted to go to sleep. Reading just seemed to annoy her. She's only 6 months. Do you think she's too young to worry too much about the bedtime bottle?

    3. Jamison Lousbury,
      Not sure I'm understanding the last question right, but at 6 months the bottle before bed can definitely hurt sleep with some babies. I would try to move it up a bit earlier so she's at least a bit less sleepy during it. Maybe try giving her other bottles in a dark and calm room, like right when she wakes in the morning and from naps, to see if she'll eat more milk this way.

    4. Also, it's very likely that the night time sleep issues aren't related to the bottle at all, but to simply not knowing how to settle to sleep at night by herself or because the wakings are being reinforced by something.

    5. Sorry for the long response, but I thoguht it might be helpful to have the whole story: I have been sleep training my daughter for a month (night sleep only), and while she has made a lot of progress, things are still fairly unpredictable. She now only eats twice a night, but the times she eats changes often. some nights she eats at 10:30 and 3:30, some nights at 12:30 and 4, a couple times she only ate at 3:30. At first I tried sticking to fixed feeding times, but I realized she goes back to sleep after sooner when I just feed her rather than cry for 2 hours and still not be asleep! Also, she has never been a big eater. so I'm always stressed about her not getting enough. Maybe I am reinforcing her waking up by going in at different times to feed her? Should i be sticking to fixed feeding times or just make a twice a night rule?
      Now the second part of the equation: my daughter is in daycare so I've never attempted to nap train her. I figured it wouldn't be worth it because of daycare. She's always consistently had three or four 30 minute naps a day, which although has not been great is now getting worse! She now only ever naps 3 times a day, and only for 15-20 minutes!!! Needless to say, she is falling apart at bedtime and thus the reason I can not get her to stay awake during her bottle. Should I try to nap train on the weekends or is it not worth it because she's in daycare?

  50. Hi ,
    Great blog, I have been reading a lot on ST from the past 2 months but still couldn't gather the courage to implement any. After reading your blog I could gater some courage and started to implement some basic good sleeping habits(early bed times, putting baby to sleep drowsy but awake for atleast few sleeps).

    My Son has just turned 3 months old and I need some help with taking a right direction to ST him. The first 2 months he was severely gassy and was in constant pain . Due to which he couldn't sleep well.Hence he was constantly held and rocked to sleep.

    After he has recovered from the gas he has been a good sleeper, the problem is the way he goes to sleep and where he sleeps. In the nights I rock him a little and put him in the swing drowsy but awake. He sleeps well in the swing with 2 wake ups for feed.At times during the night he cries and wakes up in the sleep when he has to pass gas or poop but self soothes himself and goes back to sleep.
    At around 11 weeks I tried to put him in the crib after he is deeply in sleep but he would wake up with in 1 hr of sleep(where as in a swing he would sleep for 5-6 hrs). I tried doing that for 4 days and saw no improvement . I gave it up and started to put him back in the swing.

    During the day he only naps in my arms( morning nap 1hr, afternoon nap 3hrs and evening nap around 30-45 mins).He is growing big and I am unable to hold him in my arms for such long times. I tried to put him in the swing for naps but he would wake up with in 30-45 mins. This is fine for the morning and evening naps but getting difficult for the afternoon naps as he sleeps for 3 hrs in my arms but wakes up after 30 mins when put in a swing.Once he wakes up he cries inconsolably as his sleep is not completed. After 20-30 mins of soothing he settles and then I rock him again and put him in the swing after he is deeply in sleep. He wakes up again in 10-20 mins and starts crying.And he continues to be unhappy and crying for the rest of the day.

    I want to first wean him off from sleeping in my arms for naps and get him to sleep well in swing. Once I get this done I want to ST him to sleep in his crib.

    My question is
    1)Can you provide me some direction/suggestions on how to get him to get a good afternoon nap for 2-3 hrs in the Swing .I am fine with doing extension with a cap. He seems to slef sooth and sleep well at nights, why cant he do the same for the afternoon nap?
    2) Is he too young to try the extension with a Cap?
    3) Am I moving in the right direction? First get him to sleep well in swing for both night and naps by placing him drowsy but awake in the swing. And then ST him to sleep in the crib?

    I need to ST him to sleep in his Crib as soon as possible as I am afraid his back might hurt due to the long hours he sleeps in the swing. I am a first time mom and getting very nerous about the entire ST process and if I would be able to ST him:(.

    1. Or is it ok to let him sleep in my arms just for the afternoon nap ? Will it confuse him ?

  51. My 4 months old has started waking around 4 am. At first she was just talking to herself and no crying. My husband couldn't leave her alone and he picked her up. Now she keeps waking up at that time. How do I know if it's created a habitual waker or if she is genuinely hungry because of a growth spurt the spurt? After I feed her she sleeps again anywhere to 8-930 in the am? Any help would be great!

  52. My 7.5 month old has been waking once in the night for months. I haven't mined feeding her once. I feed her in her room in the dark and don't talk. She sometimes falls asleep on the bottle, sometimes doesn't. The problem is she is now waking and talking/crying during the night for up to 3 1/2 hours even if I feed her. It's now starting earlier in the night. Help please.

  53. I have a 6 month old i put him on his tummy for nap awake and he usually goes to sleep fine but he wakes up all night long every 3 hours if not less and needs to be nursed or rocked back to sleep. I don't know how to stop unless i cio which sucks for my two year old. Is putting him on his tummy a sleep prop?

    1. unknown,
      If baby can get to her tummy and back by herself while sleeping and won't, that is more of an issue you'd probably have to have her figure out on her own. If she simply can't get to her tummy on her own, then it's more of a safety issue. More on that below.

    2. Thanks. He can go back and forth but for some reason wont go on his belly even though that is how he sleeps. So frustrating. i am so tired of every 3 hours of feeding.

  54. I have a 6 month old who I've come to recognize uses ME as his prop. I nurse him. How do I cold turkey this!?

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  56. Hi Rachel! My son is almost 4 months old. He has mild reflux (now medicated) and has been described as a “high needs baby” by our pediatrician. He really has been a tough cookie since birth, and has had several sleep issues. Night time has improved dramatically for us, although I still think there is a need for some improvements.

    Our main problem is that our son relies heavily on sleep props to fall and stay asleep. We try to follow “eat, play, sleep” as we did with our older son but are really struggling. During the day I have to hold him, rock him and let him suck on his pacifier to nap. If I’m really lucky I can transfer him into his rock and play and he’ll stay asleep, but often wakes up within 20 minutes. If I try the crib it’s even worse, awake within 10 minutes. I pick him up and start again, put him down and the process repeats itself until I resign myself to the idea that the only way my baby will take a significant nap is in my arms. At night I nurse him to sleep, he usually wakes up once for a bottle of pumped breastmilk, then goes right back to sleep until morning.

    He has so many bad sleep associations (nursing, pacifier, being held, rocking) that I don’t really know where to start. I’ve tried to rock him without the pacifier and he flails around and cries until I give in. I’ve tried to put him down “drowsy but awake” (as suggested by so many) and he’s screaming himself purple, covered in sweat and hyperventilating within a few minutes.

    Our schedule (unfortunately) looks like this: 7:00 am: Wake, Feed bottled breastmilk // 8:45 am: Nap #1, usually awake by 9:10 am // 9:30 am: Feed bottled breastmilk // 11:00 am: Nap #2, tends to be a little longer, usually awake around noon // 12:30 pm: Feed bottled breastmilk // 2:30 pm: Nap #3, usually awake by 3:00 pm // 3:30 pm: Feed bottled breastmilk // 5:00 pm: Nap #4, usually awake by 5:20 pm // 5:45 pm: Feed bottled breastmilk // 7:00 pm: PJs, white noise, nurse to sleep, into the crib by 8:00 pm.

    I would love to see him take longer naps during the day (at least a few @ 1 hour each) without so much assistance from me. Any advice would be super!

  57. I just stumbled upon this blog and WHAT A GEM! Thanks so much for the awesome info. I have a 7 mo old who can’t self soothe. I’ve been doing some sort of sleep training since he was 4 months. We’ve done a lot from Elizabeth Pantley until we hit a wall at 6 months and tried CIO. He has ditched his pacifier, takes three regular naps with a 2-2.5 awake time between them but they are typically still short (30-45 minutes) with an occasional long one. He goes to bed between 6:30-7:00 and we have a solid bedtime routine. My biggest problem is that he wants to nurse to sleep or be rocked to sleep. I had gotten to the point where I could put him down in the crib drowsy and he would fuss his way to sleep or we would check on him every few minutes or so and pat him down… But somehow that got lost after he had his shots a couple weeks ago and he won’t do it anymore. He now wants to be rocked all the way to sleep before placed in the crib otherwise he will scream. When I tried cry it out again he could go a solid hour and not ever decrease in intensity or fall asleep. And honestly I can’t stomach the crying anymore. I’ve developed a severe anxiety associated with putting him down to sleep… I mean heart racing, legs shaking, almost blacking out at every naptime and bedtime because I know he’s going to refuse and cry and I won’t know what to do. He’s a side sleeper too so now in order to get him to sleep we have to basically hold him down and pat him on the back in the crib while he screams. If left alone he will not roll on his side to settle himself, but will just lay on his back farms flailing screaming until we come in and help him. I am so discouraged! I truly don’t know if I’ve got what it takes to teach this boy to settle himself and put himself to sleep. I’m at a complete loss on where to start. He is the funniest, sweetest, easiest baby 98% of the time until you try to put him down to sleep. I know he can sleep through the night because when we last did CIO at 6 months he did it several nights in a row. I’m not sure why he stopped and why he can’t get back to it but I see him becoming more and more tired and us too. I know I don’t have what it takes to do another CIO session. How can I get him to even give his crib a chance instead of going straight into screaming mode? How does one encourage self soothing? He is starting to wake up every hour or so again at night like he used to when he had a pacifier and I suspect it’s because he has now replaced the pacifier association for one of us patting him down. He has a lovey (a little bunny blankie) but will only use it when we tuck it under his hand. Where do I even start?