No-Cry Sleep Solution: Sleep Solutions for Older Babies (4 months to 2 years)

Pantley suggests you look over this list (p. 89) and choose what you think will work best for you and your baby. If your baby is close to 4 months old you might want to look over the list for babies 0-4 months of age too. If your baby is over 2 years old, these suggestions might also be useful.

Believe it or not, but you may actually be the one preventing any changes from happening. Let's look at a few things that might be going on to prevent
  • Do you really want things to change, or are you just feeling pressured to change things because of what you hear and see around you? Be honest in evaluating the situation, how you feel about it, and what goals you have. You need to be motivated for change if it is going to happen.
  • Do you actually enjoy feeding baby at night time? Do you love this one on one time? Do you love feeling needed at this time? Are you having a hard time letting go of this special time because it means your child is growing up? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it will obviously be hard to commit yourself to change until you are ready to move your special one on one time with your child to the day and accept that he is growing up.
  • Are you worried about baby's safety throughout the night? If you are used to checking on your baby several time a night when he wakes, having him sleep longer stretches without you checking in on him constantly can be rough. Take some steps to ease your mind by following these suggestions, having a baby monitor nearby or doing anything else that helps you feel more comfortable.
  • Are you hoping things will just change on their own? "It is a rare night-waking baby who suddenly decides to sleep through the night all on his own. Granted, this may happen to you--but your baby may be two, three, or four years old when it does!" (p.95)
Change is hard. It often requires more work in the short term than keeping things the same. This is why you need to keep your long term goals in mind. Remind yourself what you are working for and that this extra bit of work right now will make things so much easier in the long run. It will be hard to keep this in mind the tenth time your baby has woken in one night, but if you want things to change you will have to force yourself to follow through.

Pantley mentions that a "baby's sleep habits are only problematic if you feel they are." (p. 90) I'm going to have to disagree with her on this. Sleep is very important for us and babies. Good sleep is a health issue just like good food is a health issue. If what you are doing is not allowing your child to get quality sleep, then I believe some changes should take place. Of course, there are still many things you can do that allow a child to get healthy sleep that others may disagree with and pressure you to change.

Before you try to make any changes, your child should be healthy and comfortable.
  • Make sure your child is eating enough during the day and not in the habit of getting all his calories during the night. If he is on solids, try to avoid foods that may make him hyper before bedtime like tons of sugar or caffeine. Offer a nutritious, varied diet and keep in mind that children's appetites vary day from day.
  • If your child is taking most of his calories at night try to offer more food during the day. You may have to nurse more often during the day or offer food that can be eaten while your child plays if he doesn't want to stay still long enough to eat.
  • Make sure your child is comfortable at night. Comfortable clothing, comfortable temperature, no pain--you get the point.
Here are some steps to a good routine:
  • Have a consistent pre-bedtime routine. Pantley suggests keeping the hour before bed peaceful and calm. She also suggests doing the routine in a dim room and ending the routine in a dark, quiet bedroom. She empathizes that this routine is important all throughout childhood, although it might change a bit to fit with the age of your child. Also have a consistent pre-nap routine that varies slightly from the bedtime routine so your baby can more easily tell the difference between the time of day.
  • Consistent naptimes, bedtimes, feeding times and activity times help set your baby's internal clock. "When you have a daily eat, sleep, and play routine, you will find that your baby is more willing to nap, eat, and sleep when the regular times comes, because his internal clock ticks along with your predictable schedule." (p. 109).
  • Consistent nap and bedtimes results in sleep success much sooner.
  • Remember to keep in mind that babies sleep needs change so your sleep routine should slowly change to work around this.
  • Make sure to have a flexible routine (if baby is sleepy before his normal nap time, put him to sleep sooner, if he is hungry before he normally eats, feed him, etc.) and realize there will be times when you will have to vary from the routine.
  • Have a consistent morning wake time (7 days a week, not 5!) and expose your baby to bright light at this time.
Early bedtimes are the way to go! "A baby's biological clock is preset for an early bedtime. When parents work with that time, a baby falls asleep more easily and stays asleep more peacefully." (p.103) Most babies are ready to go to sleep between 6:30-7:00. When you put a child to bed late he is often overtired making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep and he often becomes chronically sleep deprived. Sometimes a severely overtired child will sleep longer, but this is the exception and usually ends up happening only in the short run. Plus, why do this to a child?

Pantley suspects that the many children that have a meltdown period at the end of the day are actually overtired and should already be in bed. I couldn't agree more.

Children put to bed early usually sleep longer than children put to bed late. Believe it or not, but it's true!

If you work late, try spending time with your baby in the early morning instead of keeping him up late at night.

To find your child's best bedtime you can either move your child's normal bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes every few days until you find the time that he goes to sleep the easiest, stays asleep the longest, and wakes up the happiest. You can also watch closely for your child's tired signs in the evening and put him to bed as soon as he shows that he is tired using your normal bedtime routine. If he wakes up in a short time (he may think it is only nap time) then try to put him back to sleep using the methods that you normally do.

Good naps equal good night sleep (and vice versa). They also equal a happy, well rested child throughout the day.

Generally, a nap under one hour is not very refreshing because it doesn't allow a child to complete the sleep cycle. Some kids seem to do well with short naps but this is the exception.

The timing of a nap is important. For example, too late of a nap may make an early bedtime difficult. Look under each nap in the blog index for more on this.

Watch closely for a child's sleep cues when trying to determine when to start a nap. As your child grows older nap times will become more predictable. With an older child not on a routine you can pay careful attention for several days and then create a nap schedule that works naturally with his periods of alertness and tiredness. (keeping in mind that you need to be flexible too). If your child is obviously tired before your nap-routine has started you may want to shorten or eliminate the nap routine so that your child is not overtired by the time you put him to bed.

Many babies take short naps because they awaken when they reach a brief awakening. The first of these occurs about 20 minutes into a nap. If this is a problem for you, Pantley suggests you go in the moment your child starts to rouse and try to get him to go back to sleep with any means needed. After several days your child will hopefully be able to make it through this sleep transition on his own. For more ideas on how to fix short naps, look here.

Every baby has night awakenings, the problem is when baby can’t fall asleep by himself when he has these awakenings. Here are some tips to help your child feel secure and comfortable enough when he wakes that he can go back to sleep without outside help.
  • Try to make baby’s bed a positive and happy place. Play with baby here and do other enjoyable activities like cuddling here. Work slowly on having her play by herself here too. Some parents worry that this will make baby want to play instead of sleep in her bed. I’ve talked with many parents about this and as long as a good pre-sleep routine is in place, this doesn’t seem to be the case.Have baby fall asleep in different ways. If your child only knows how to fall asleep in one way (i.e. nursing or rocking) then you may want to introduce other ways for him to fall asleep. Pantley goes on about this method but honestly I didn't quite get what you were doing and why. But maybe I've just got pregnancy brain right now. Who knows? Anywho, if you want to know more about this method, check out her book.
Lovey's are great transitional objects that help comfort your child when he goes to sleep. Pantley mentions that it "does not take your place. Instead, it is something that your baby can use to feel safe when you are not with her." (p.117) Some children attach themselves to a lovey while others never do or only do with some help by you.
  • Make sure the lovey is safe. That means no little eyes or small pieces that can come off, no removable parts like clothes, nothing that a young child can suffocate with etc. For safety it shouldn't be introduced to a child while sleeping until he is 4 months old and can roll and move his head easily.
  • Use a lovey only at sleep times at first so that it acts as a sleep cue. As your child gets older he may hold his lovey whenever he needs extra comfort or security.
  • You may want to place the lovey in between you and your child while you feed him or rock him to get him used to it (if you are choosing one for him). You may also want to place the lovey in your shirt for a short time so that it will smell like you and be more comforting for your child.
Pantley lists some ways to make night time unique from day time so your little one will hopefully want to sleep instead of play.
  • Keep things quiet at night. No conversations as tempting as this may be with your cute little one.
  • Keep things dark. If you must turn on a light to nurse or something, make it a low-wattage one. You may also want to get black out blinds or put cardboard over your child's window to keep out morning light.
  • Keep things nice and slow.
  • Don't change your child's diaper unless necessary. And if you do, use a nice warm wipe instead of a freezing cold one. No need to startle baby awake. I mean, I'd wake up if you suddenly put a cold wash cloth on my bottom! Using a bigger diaper at night or a night time diaper is also a good idea if leaking is a problem.
  • Keep playtime toys away. You want to signal that it is time to sleep not play.
Say the same words or hum the same song as you put your child to sleep or when he wakes in the middle of the night. These words/sounds will help signal to your child that it is time to sleep. I hum the same song to my son Joshua whenever I put him to bed and then give him a kiss, tell him its time to sleep, that I love him and that I will see him when he wakes up. When he was younger and was sometimes fussy I'd throw a few "shhhhh" in there too.

At first use your key words/sounds when your child is in a relaxed and sleepy state so that he doesn't associate these words with an active or fussy state. Later when a strong association with sleep has been made with these words, you can use these words to help your child calm down and fall asleep.

You can play soft music in the back ground as your baby goes to sleep. Make sure the music isn't too complicated or it can be too stimulating for baby. There are specially made cds to help babies fall asleep that you can buy. A nature sound track works great too.
  • Music is great to block out outside sounds if you live in a noisy place. So is a sound machine.
  • Your music cd can also be brought with you when you leave home to help your child adjust better to different sleep environments.
  • Some people worry about their child getting addicted to sound machines or music cd. Valid worry. But I still think something like a sound machine is the way to go.
CHANGE YOUR BABY'S SLEEP ASSOCIATION - For frequent breastfeeders, night time bottle feeders and pacifier users



HELP YOUR BABY FALL BACK TO SLEEP WITH ANOTHER PERSON'S ASSISTANCE - especially useful for co-sleeping and breastfeeding babies


WRITE A FAMILY BESTSELLER - for babies over 18 months
Reading books to your child that show other children going to sleep with a good pre-sleep routine can be helpful for your child. You can make a book with pictures of other children sleeping and getting ready for bed (brushing teeth, having a bath). You can also make a book that depicts your child getting ready for bed and sleeping. The book can show him as a young baby growing up and end with him doing something that you are aiming for, like sleeping without his pacifier. For more specific details, see Pantley's book.

MAKE A BEDTIME POSTER - for children over 20 months
Make a poster that pictures your child going through his pre-sleep routine. Hang the chart in your child's room and use it to refer to as your child gets ready for bed each night. If your child wakes in the middle of the night, you can add something to the poster that addresses this. For example, take a picture of your child sleeping in her sleeping spot in your room and write below the picture what is happening.

If your child normally gets out of bed several times shortly after being put there, you can make some get out of bed cards. He can use one of these cards to go to the bathroom, get a drink etc. You may want to decrease the number of cards he gets over time. You may also want to offer a prize if he has some cards remaining in the morning.

Pantley suggests doing a sleep log (also find some logs on her site) where you look over your success every 10 days so you don't feel frustrated by doing it more often and not seeing any visible succeses. Remember it takes time for changes to happen. Also remember to try not to stare at the clock all night long. Just focus on following your plan.

Related Posts:
No-Cry Sleep Solution, The: Sleep Solutions for 0-4 months
No-Cry Sleep Solution, The - Ten Steps to Helping Your Baby Sleep All Night


  1. Keri Matthews commented on No-Cry Sleep Solution, The: Sleep Solutions for Older Babies (4 months to 2 years) - My Baby Sleep Guide:

    Hi Rachel,

    I am so happy I found your blog. You are truly a positive source of wisdom for all moms. I am going to follow you on FB as well.

    Me and my husband are at a loss with baby #2 on the way! This week has been our last straw. Our 16 month old has been waking up between 4-5 am on and off since October. We, and the Dr, thought it was the onset of walking, teething, etc. But it’s mostly every day now. We are at our wits end. She is miserable, we are miserable. We wait about 10-20 min before going in to rub her back and put our hands on her back. But some nights it does’t work and when we leave the room, she is up again crying out to us. It’s terrible. We created a sleep log- trying to find a pattern with days of the week, naptimes, foods, who put her to sleep that night, how was her day,. etc. We are not seeing a pattern. She has consistent naps at home and at daycare from 1230-230- thereabouts. She is sleeping by 715-745 and never gives us a problem going to sleep, thank God. She takes her stuffed animal, we put the music and white noise on and she is asleep within 10-20 minutes by herself. We have a white noise machine but I am thinking of switching it since it is a womb sound machine she has had since birth. Also, we have a nightlight in there- it’s not too bright but when we took it out last night, she woke up within an hour of going to sleep looking for her lovie in the dark and couldn’t find him. It took us an hour to get her back. This am, one thing worked- we stood at her crib till she went to sleep- it took 20 minutes. She then slept an additional hour after that. But we don’t want her to get dependent on us standing at her crib every day between 4-5 am. Do you think there is any harm to us standing there if it helps her?

    I am doing so much research and am getting nowhere, until I came across your blog. I am going to some suggestions from the below:

    Any additional advice you can give is greatly appreciated. I realized

    Thank you so much!
    Keri Matthews, a sleep deprived mom who rambled in this email. Apologies.

  2. Hi -
    I love your blog and have been referencing it for the past few months. I have a 6 month old, and he has been sleeping through the night (11-12 hours with no wake ups) since about 2 months. He puts himself to sleep for naps and bedtime, and has for quite awhile. In the last few weeks he has been waking 1-3 times a night. I feel like it's becoming habitual and that he really doesn't need to be fed (he is BF and nurses 6-8 times a day). I feel like his bedtime has gotten pushed back later and later, as his 3rd nap of the day ends up starting at 5 and he sleeps for an hour or more. Yesterday I woke up him from his nap at 6 p.m and then had him in bed by 8 p.m. I feel like 7 p.m. is a better bedtime for him, but it's hard when he wakes from his 2nd nap at 3 p.m., there is no way he can make it to 6 or 7 p.m. He does about a 2 hour waketime, and I'm very consistent with naps and bedtime 2 hours from his last nap. I think he needs to go to bed earlier, so maybe I've already answered my own question. But do you have any other advice or tips? Thanks!

    1. Stacy,
      An 8 pm bedtime might be fine when you are going to transition out of a nap soon. Or you could try to extend waketime a bit throughout the day. Either way he will get older soon and be able to stay awake longer and no longer have that 3rd nap. Sometime there is a transition period of several days to weeks with some of these naps. It sounds he is probably waking from habit too. Some people will just say he must need the food and to feed him, but in my experience, when you stop feeding them and reinforcing the waking they sleep through happily without the feeding (or at least with a max of 1 feeding at this age). So I would do a ST method (whatever you feel good with) for wakings.

    2. Stacy,
      An 8 pm bedtime might be fine when you are going to transition out of a nap soon. Or you could try to extend waketime a bit throughout the day. Either way he will get older soon and be able to stay awake longer and no longer have that 3rd nap. Sometime there is a transition period of several days to weeks with some of these naps. It sounds he is probably waking from habit too. Some people will just say he must need the food and to feed him, but in my experience, when you stop feeding them and reinforcing the waking they sleep through happily without the feeding (or at least with a max of 1 feeding at this age). So I would do a ST method (whatever you feel good with) for wakings.

  3. My little girl is one. She rarely naps and if she does its for 20 mins. I extend this by going in and picking her up and breastfeeding her. She will then nap for up to an hour but only while on the breast. She sometimes has a second nap in the pram (for about 45mins) but equally can go a whole day with no naps regularly. At night she wakes around 3 times in the evening and 3 times through the night and will only go back over if fed. I have tried to take her off the breast when dozey but she wakes and cries instantly and roots to go back on. If my husband goes in to her she gets really upset until I eventually go in. I don't know what else to try. She just seems to sleep really lightly and not for very long!