The biggest complaints I hear from parents with children between the ages of 3-24 months old is that their child is:
(1) Waking up quickly after going to sleep at bedtime
(2) Waking up too early in the morning or
(3) Taking short naps
Maybe they put their baby to bed at bedtime, baby falls asleep and then like clockwork, baby wakes up 30 minutes later and the whole process of getting baby to sleep starts all over again. Or 5 a.m. rolls around and baby is wake awake but Mom isn’t ready to get up for another 2 hours. Let’s not forget about naps! Who has a baby who only sleeps 30-45 minutes at a time for naps? Believe me, as a mom of 4, I completely understand that is not enough of a break! As a baby sleep consultant, the first thing I ask parents is how long that are waiting before responding. The typical response? “I am supposed to wait?”
Baby Sleep Cycles
You may have heard something about sleep cycles, where you cycle between periods of deep sleep and shorter stints of light REM cycle sleep. When we transition there is usually a brief awaking, known as partial arousal. As adults, we most likely go right back to sleep, or maybe wake up, move around a little bit then go right back to sleep.
Babies do the same thing. They might let out a cry, whimper, maybe even some cooing sounds. This is usually when parents think their baby is done sleeping and get them up right after they hear these noises. You will be amazed that if you give them a little bit of time, you may find that they may actually go back to sleep on their own!
How Long should I wait?
Every baby is different, and you also need to do what you’re comfortable with. But as a baby sleep trainer, I find on average it takes about 12 minutes for babies who have learned how to self soothe to put themselves back to sleep. I have had clients with a baby who fusses or cries almost the entire 12 minutes or even a little longer, to almost walking in to comfort their baby and as they are walking over, their child falls back to sleep!
The first sleep cycle for bedtime and nap time can last anywhere from 20-45 minutes. To find out how long your child’s sleep cycles are, you can time your child’s next nap and listen for when you hear them start to stir…it is by the clock. But I encourage you to try waiting some time after your baby wakes up from that sleep cycle. Set a timer because if your child is crying, it might seem like forever! See if your baby goes back to sleep before you do anything.
We help families teach their babies and children how to self soothe and fall asleep independently. Once babies have learned these skills, we see then going back to sleep during these arousals very quickly.
Mornings go later.
Naps get longer.
And nights are 11-12 hours!
Somethings all they need is a little bit of time.
To healthy sleep,
Your Houston Sleep Consultant