5 Things I Wish They Had Told Me… When My Children Were Babies

baby sleep with mom

As a gentle sleep coach and mother of five, I often reflect on the things I wish I had known when my children were babies. Parents frequently ask me if I used my own methods with my kids, and I always laugh and say “no.” Back then, I didn’t know any better than the moms I talk to now. I wish I had a sleep coach when my children were little because I made so many mistakes, yet my kids still turned out great. It could have been so much easier, but those challenges have given me valuable insights that I now share with sleep-deprived parents.

Here are the key things I wish someone had told me—or at least that I had been willing to listen to:

Realistic Sleep Expectations: Babies can often sleep long stretches at night after 6 months. The range of normal before that is incredibly broad.  Understanding this would have saved me a lot of frustration and uncertainty.

Night Weaning: Night nursing sessions are typically the first feedings to wean when it’s time to reduce feedings, not the last. Not necessarily all at once, but starting to reduce some can make a big difference. I didn’t know that, and my doctor’s advice to expect my baby to sleep all night by 3 months didn’t sit right with me then, and it still doesn’t now.

Gentle Sleep Coaching: Gentle, responsive sleep coaching can start after 5 months, but you can wait until both you and your baby are ready. There’s no rush, and it’s okay to take things at your own pace.

Importance of Naps: Aim to get the best naps possible while working on night sleep skills. Day sleep is the building block for night sleep, and vice versa. You can focus on night sleep first and then work on naps, or tackle both together.

Every Child is Different: Avoid comparing your child to others. Each child is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Trust your instincts, you are actually doing a great job.

In hindsight, I wish I had done things differently, but those experiences have shaped who I am today and how I help others. If your child’s sleep patterns are challenging, start by noting the longest stretch they’ve ever slept and build from there. With patience and gentle methods, both you and your child can achieve better sleep. Remember, your child is wonderful and unique, and you are doing an amazing job!

When Do You Transition Your Toddler from Crib to Bed?

When is the right time to move a child from a crib to a bed? When they climb out? When they turn 2? Many people seem to think that by 2 years old, you “should” make the transition from a crib to a bed.
2 years old is not a magic age to stop using a crib when it’s not a problem for you. And actually, 2.5 years old is the average age when toddlers start to understand the concept “stay in bed” and do well without the boundaries of the crib bars. Moving a child to a bed before they grasp this concept may put you in a position where you need to bring the child back to bed over and over and some children are actually uncomfortable without the boundaries before they are ready.
 
Listen to your gut. Listen to your heart. If that is telling you it’s not time, then it isn’t. Remind your family and friends who may be pressuring you to make the transition that it’s after 2.5, not 2 when you want to start thinking about it. You can even keep them in a crib past 3 if you want to. If the child is climbing out out of their crib, and it’s just not safe anymore, often a sleep coaching a. Can extend their crib stay or you can put the mattress on the floor and treat their whole room like a crib area. Talk to a sleep coach for specific advice for your situation. Every child is unique.
 
This is Ginger when she was 2. I remember the loud Thump we would hear when she started climbing out of her crib. I wish I had just own then, all the things I know now. Thrive, don’t just survive, with the help of a gentle sleep coach.

Exhausted? To night wean or not to night wean your baby, that is the 1st question.

The second question is how to do it if the answer is yes.

But first, answer the weaning question. Is your baby ready to go all night without eating? Many babies are ready at 8 months and many are not. Keeping at least one-night feeding until after a year is not uncommon or weird. Each baby is different.

If your baby wakes multiple times to feed overnight and you are ready for some longer stretches of sleep, then it might be possible to get 6-12 hour stretches. But it might not. If your intuition is telling you that your baby doesn’t need to wake to feed as often as they are, begin with bedtime.

What? Bedtime? Not the middle of the night?

That’s right. Maybe that’s not what you expected me to say. Well, what your baby uses to fall asleep is what they want to use to fall back to sleep when waking between sleep cycles in the middle of the night and in the wee early morning hours. So, when you change what happens at bedtime, it can potentially change what happens in the middle of the night. Try putting your baby to bed awake and aware onto their mattress but also in their natural sleep window and see if they fall asleep on their own, without your assistance with feeding or even rocking.

If they can, then wait for the middle of the night magic to happen. Longer stretches of sleep could be in your immediate future.

If they can’t fall asleep on their own, we can work together with a sleep plan using gentle and hands-on techniques to help your baby get there. A sleep consultation may be in your future. Set up a sleep assessment to talk about it with me on the home page. https://getquietnights.com

Check out my other article on this topic.

Tracy Spackman

Certified Gentle Sleep Coach.

What's the most common sleep issue?

The most common sleep issue I see has nothing to do with how awesome a parent you are, but everything to  do with the temperment of your child.  Alert temperments can cause a child to have a difficult time settling into sleep.  As a result, to foster a secure connection, you are nursing or feeding to sleep.  Or holding and rocking to sleep.  Or letting your child fall asleep next to you is the best way to help them settle into sleep.  Those are wonderful security estabilishing techniques.  But there may come a time when it’s not sustainable and it’s time to help your child develope more independant ways of falling asleep.  How your child falls asleep can effect what your child needs to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night.  There comes a time when you want your child to sleep through the night or at least do a longer stretch so you can get good sleep too.  That time may be at 6 months, or a year or 2 years. It’s never too late to make a change to help the whole family get good sleep.  Making a big change at bedtime is often the answer to this common issue.  Let me help.

Contact me for a free sleep assesment.
Tracy Spackman
602-524-7610

Pacifier Plan for a 2-year old sleep regression

Question from Ashley:
My son turned 2 at the end of December and for the last few weeks we’ve been having some early morning issues. At least 2-3 times a week he wakes up like 1.5-2.5 hours earlier than normal. He wakes up asking for me and/or his pacifier. The first time it happened I tried to ignore him, but after over 30 min I went in gave him his pacifier and laid him down and he went back to sleep. Since he went back to sleep so easily the subsequent times it happened I would just go in and give him his pacifier and cover him up, then leave. However, since the frequency is increasing, I am thinking this was the wrong approach.
We did sleep coaching after taking Tracy’s class when he was 1. This is the first sleep issue we have had since the 18 month regression. Just not sure what the right response is. I know he’s been having separation anxiety more during the days so I feel guilty not going to him, but I also don’t want to prolong these issues. Any similar experiences? I’m half tempted to get rid of the pacifier, but he only uses it to sleep and I don’t think I have the energy for that yet.
His schedule is typically:
Bed by 7, up about 6, and nap from about 1-3 (varies).
Hi Ashley
Separation anxiety peaks again at 2 years old and sleep. Needs may change. Extra attention is appropriate during the day and this may pass in a few weeks. It’s a really good time to evaluate your accuracy at catching the sleep window so watch his body language carefully. Perhaps  a later bedtime  is needed. Watch for the tired signs.  I suspect that the label of “terrible twos” is the result of the changing sleep needs at this age and  the parents haven’t adjusted for or are even aware that this happens.  Before this milestone, many children have a 4 hour awake window. Then, around 2 years old it can change to anywhere between 3.5 hour to 6.5 hours. Watching for the sleep cues will help you figure out the new normal.
To help you prevent a compounding issue of needing more and more attention in the early morning hours, You could try a paci plan.
Put the pacifier(s) in a small bucket attached to the corner is the crib. Easily accessible. Let him help you fill it at night.
When he wakes wanting the paci, come right away and say “find your paci” or something like that giving him vocal direction.
Then hand him a pacifier.
Do that for 1-3 days.
The next step is to do that but help him find the bucket by guiding his hand to it. And say your vocal directional phrase like “Find the paci.”
The next step is to just say your directional phrase. . No other help.  Each step can be 1-3 days each.
I like behavioral plans that are responsive and supportive.  They help the growing child feel secure    which helps  them more easily learn.
I hope that helps.
Tracy Spackman

Free Newborn Coping Tips

 Valentine’s Day is just a couple weeks away and to show you some love, I am doing FREE newborn coping tip calls.  Many moms who talk to me about their young babies are so relieved that following their instincts is healthy.  Call me to share your concerns.  602-524-7610. To get you started, here is a video about some of the common things moms need to know.  https://youtu.be/khHpppRr5zw

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Schedules: Finding the right one for your baby

Let’s talk about baby sleep schedules.  I am suggesting that instead of putting your baby on a schedule, you find your baby’s natural schedule.

Our bodies all have a body clock called our circadian rhythm and it is heavily influenced by the sun, our mealtimes and the timing of our daytime sleep cycles.  There isn’t one perfect schedule for each age group, but there may be a perfect schedule for each baby.  You just need to find it.  Finding the right schedule for your baby helps them to be happy and rested and ready to learn skills and self-regulate their bodies.  Getting enough day sleep is foundational for getting great night sleep.
When night sleep is less than perfect, one of the first places to look is at the day sleep (napping) and the schedule you are following, (if you are following one at all).  If your baby doesn’t seem to be happy and rested, it’s time to maximize the day sleep.
There are a few goals to consider when it comes to finding the perfect schedule. I want to discuss the most important one:  Catching the sleep Window (Avoiding Cortisol spikes).

Your body has a period of time that it can be awake before it begins to run out of energy.  Many call it the wakeful window.  At the end of the wakeful window is the sleep window.  This is when the natural awake cortisol hormone levels are dropping, and melatonin levels are on the rise, preparing the body to rest.  If you miss the sleep window, your cortisol levels will spike to help you manage the lack of energy.  This spike can be called getting a second wind or it can be called getting overtired.  To avoid missing the sleep window, you can watch the baby’s body language for their sleep cues.  These sleep cues can be subtle.
Early sleep cues are, for example; zoning out, glassy eyes, staring off into space, disinterest, disengaging, clumsy, dropping things, pulling their ears, pulling their hair, crawling over to you for a hug, resting their head on the floor or on your shoulder or other things unique to your child.

Later sleep cues may include; yawning , eye rubbing, slowing down, increasing irritability, etc.  Signs that you have missed the sleep window and the cortisol is spiking may include; a burst of energy, either as giggling and happy energy or the opposite with temper tantrums and crying. Either way, you can see an increase in the child’s energy levels.  It would be fun if we all had Cortisol Gigglers as opposed to Cortisol Crankies.
When you are finding the perfect schedule for your child, following the early tired signs help you be successful.  If you need some sample schedules so you have a place to consider when to watch for the tired signs, I can give you some examples.  Use them as a starting place, not as a rule to follow.
6 months
Babies around 6 months often have about a 2 hour wakeful window all day and have 3 naps.  Sometimes the first and last windows are a little shorter.  Naps often organize into a more predictable schedule around 6 months but if you are getting short cat naps instead of full sleep cycle naps (40-60 minutes), it may take a little more time for it to get into a good rhythm or you may have the timing off and need to pay more attention to the sleep cues.  It’s better to have many cat naps if that means you continue to catch all the sleep window.
6-month Sample Schedules

6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
11am-1pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
3pm-4pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-10am Nap 1 (45minutes-2hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
12-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
4pm-4:30pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 1.5 hours)
6:00pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
11am-1pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
3pm-4pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
6:30am Wake up
(awake 1.5 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
11am-1pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
3pm-4pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-10am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
12-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
4-5pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-11am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more is great)
(awake 2 hours)
5-6pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
8pm Bedtime.

8  Months
Sometimes a baby has a natural schedule that doesn’t look anything like any of these, but the mother is following the tired signs, the baby is happy and rested, and the baby is sleeping through the night with or without a feeding or two.  In that case, that baby is unique and healthy. Nothing to worry about.
8 months can be a tricky month as the baby may be getting ready to drop the 3rd nap.  As this happens, the wakeful window between the first 2 naps may start to lengthen and the 3rd nap may get shorter, harder to get and drop intermittently through the week until it drops all together.  The wake windows may go from 2-2-2-2 into something like the following schedule where the 2nd wake window is 2.5 hours.
 
8-month Sample Schedules

6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2.5 hours)
11:30am-1:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours is great)
(awake 2 hours)
3:30-4pm Nap 3 (20-60 minutes is great)
(awake 2 hours)
6pm Bedtime.

6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 2.5 hours)
11:30am-1:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 2 hours)
No nap success, just a quiet rest
(awake 2 hours)
5:30pm Bedtime.
Some days may have the 3rd nap dropped  and the bedtime is a little earlier as a result.
It’s often important that the 2nd nap is a double sleep cycle (80-90 minutes).  If you ever notice a pattern  that when; the am nap is long (80+), then the pm nap is short and visa versa; when the am nap is short (45-60), then the pm nap is long (80+), that would be a scenario when it’s actually helpful to limit the am nap to 60 minutes in order to ensure the double sleep cycle of the afternoon nap.  This helps the baby have their longest wakeful window at the end of the day.  Around 9 months, the 3rd nap gets dropped completely and the last wakeful window is 4 hours.
9-month Sample Schedules

 6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
12-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-10am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-11am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
2-4pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
8pm Bedtime.

7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-10:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more)
(awake 3 hours)
1:30-3:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7:30pm Bedtime.
Sometimes babies have a longer wakeful window in the morning of 2.5-3 hours.  I don’t see it as often as  the 2-3-4 pattern but I do see it occationally.  When I do, I try to watch the morning carefully,  just to make sure we are not missing the first sleep window.  When you do miss a sleep window, the next one will likely show up 30-60 minutes later. Try to catch that one as your back up plan.

6am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
8:30-9:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
12:30-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
8:30-9:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
12:30-2:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6:30pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
9:30-10:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
1:30-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
9-10am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
10-11am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
2-3:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7:30pm Bedtime.
7:30am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
10:30-11:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
2:30-4:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
8:30pm Bedtime.


As 12 months come along, the schedules often stay the same.  There is often a sleep regression that makes the naps a lot harder to get but if you can push through it, keep offering both naps, then the naps usually come back just the way they were.  All you need to do is offer both naps at the regular times that had been working before.  If the nap fails, just do distracting activities and offer the next nap at its regular time.  Don’t be fooled into thinking your baby is ready to drop down to one nap.  Taking only one nap is more common at 18 months old.
12-month sample schedules

6am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
8-9am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
12-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-10am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-11am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more is great)
(awake 3 hours)
2-4pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
8pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2 hours)
9-10:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes or more)
(awake 3 hours)
1:30-3:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7:30pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
8:30-9:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
12:30-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
8:30-9:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
12:30-2:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6:30pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 2.5 hours)
9:30-10:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
1:30-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
9-10am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
10-11am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
2-3:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7:30pm Bedtime.
7:30am Wake up
(awake 3 hours)
10:30-11:30am Nap 1 (45-60 minutes)
(awake 3 hours)
2:30-4:30pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
8:30pm Bedtime.

Around 15 months, some babies start to get ready for the transition to 1 nap.  The naps start to  struggles again.  It may be helpful to limit the am nap to 30 minutes.  Especially if your baby just can’t seem to handle it when you skip the am nap all together but if you do the am nap, the pm nap is too much of a struggle.  This 30 minute am nap limit helps many babies get through the transition to 1 nap more smoothly.
Around 18 months, many babies are transitioning to 1 nap.  Keep the afternoon nap.  That will likely give you the most rested day.  Some babies don’t drop the am nap for a couple more months but that is less common.  When you have dropped the am nap, that wakeful window is around 6 hours.  The wakeful window after the pm nap is still often just 4 hours.
18-month Schedule Samples

6am Wake up
(awake 6 hours)
12-2pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
6pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 6 hours)
1-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
6am Wake up
(awake 6 hours)
12-3pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
7pm Bedtime.
7am Wake up
(awake 6 hours)
1-4pm Nap 2 (1.5-2 hours or more)
(awake 4 hours)
8pm Bedtime.

Just a few short months later, your baby approaches the infamous 2 year old schedule.  The thing about  2-year old’s is that with their increasing cognitive development, they become less predictable.  The 6 hour wakeful window after waking in the morning is still common the wakeful window after the nap is often somewhere between 3.5-6.5 hours so I hope you are well practiced in reading their sleep cues because it all changes.  You need to find their new normal to help prevent it feeling like the terrible twos from overtiredness.