Q&A with Melissa Brown: infant and toddler sleep

Categories   miscellany, Nursery + Kids Room Decor

Hi mamas! Amanda here, following up on the *quite* popular Q&A Instagram post we did on sleep with Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Melissa Brown, of Sleep Shop. We had SO many questions from sleep-deprived mamas, and Melissa had the chance to answer some of them in our post, as well as on her Stories. There were definitely some common themes in many of the questions we received, so we thought we’d post a few in-depth answers from Melissa here, so you can refer back!

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First of all, I’ll talk about my experience working with a sleep consultant. My 5 month old son was sleeping through the night (we got REAL lucky.. I’m still not sure how.) but his daytime naps were all over the place. Sometimes they’d be 4 hours and sometimes 20 or 40 minutes, and we wanted to get him on a little bit of a schedule.  I was initially hesitant to work with a consultant because I thought I should be able to read books and figure out how to make this nap schedule happen. But alas, I discovered I didn’t have the time it would take to crack the sleep code, so I hired Melissa.

She started by asking me a lot of questions about his sleeping pattern, and wanted me to send her his current schedule. She sent me back a recommended schedule based on what he currently does, including nap times, feeding amounts, soothing techniques and tips on good sleep environments, etc. Within days, my son was sleeping 2 hours in the morning (instead of a 20 minute cat nap), and taking another nice nap like clockwork during the afternoon, and then a cat nap late afternoon. Melissa was available any time of the day and evening for texting advice, which was seriously amazing! Whenever he would go way off schedule, she was there to tell me how to handle it. I’m happy to say that we’re now currently on a great schedule and I feel like I have my mornings back! Brooks seems happier too. It’s amazing how much having a little assistance and hand-holding through the baby sleep process can quite literally change your life.

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I’ll let Melissa take it away with a few answers on baby/toddler sleep!

“I loved working with Amanda and getting Brooks on a more consistent schedule. It is always so nice to walk step by step through the process with a family. They get the results they are looking for but also a clear understanding of implementing good sleep habits and why it is so important. I love being available for every question because no two babies are the same and I think it is important to handle each family a little differently and do what works best for them!

So thank you all for your questions submitted. I wish I could answer them all! I will do the best I can with the ones below!”

1. How do I extend a short nap? My 8 month old son always wakes up after 30 minutes wanting to be fed and then Go back to sleep. He is tired and wants to go to sleep. I would prefer him to just have a short nap and then nap again later or have 1 longer sustained nap. I’m tired of having to put him back to sleep every day. I can’t get anything done because I am always interrupted. 

I think naps are the hardest part of sleep training for sure! Babies naturally wake when they transition to REM sleep from NREM sleep. It always usually happens around the 30-45 min mark and most babies wake at the same time on the dot! The best thing you can do is set them up for success. So make sure he is not hungry, not in pain and that he was not up for too long before he went down for a nap. For his age, he should be up for about 2-2.5 hours before being put back down for a nap and that nap can range from 1-2 hours in length. I would also make sure the room is pitch black so that the light is not waking him and have a sound machine that is loud and goes the length of the nap time. If all those things are still not working I would work on going in there and settling him but not picking up or feeding. It sounds like he is feeding for comfort and to go back to sleep but not for a full meal. :) Which is very common for this age! The more consistent you are the faster he will fall into a routine. Also at this age he should have a morning nap, an afternoon nap and some days when he is really tired or did not nap well earlier in the day a short catnap will help.

2. My 5 month old wakes every 2-3 hours all night. Sometimes will fuss then put herself back to sleep, other times it escalates and she needs even just one minute of nursing before she passes out again. How can I stretch those hours out so she sleeps a little longer? I know she shouldn’t (technically) be hungry! 

So the good news is she is putting herself back to sleep at times and that’s huge! My guess is the other times she keeps herself up too long and then she gets overtired and it escalates. During the day I would make sure she is eating every 3-4 hours and they are full meals (5-8 oz). Babies need 24-32 oz in a 24 hour period. Talk to your doctor about cutting down night feedings little by little and make sure she is big enough to do so. When she wakes in the middle of the night I would first try and get her back to sleep without feeding. Nursing for 1 min is just pacifying and not eating so try and get her calm by giving her a paci or rubbing her back. If she persists I would feed and put back down. Right now it sounds like she is waking and needing help back to sleep which I would recommend you keep doing but just make sure you are helping and not doing it for her! :) Also if she does eat at night make sure it is a full meal because that will usually mean a bigger stretch after that. Without knowing exactly what she is doing day to day it is hard to have the magic solution but overall- good wake windows 1.5-2.5 hours and full meals will help! Also when she does wake and it is not hunger try your best to put back to sleep but soothing rather than feeding or rocking back to sleep :)

3. Oh goodness, where to begin! I have a 6 month old who rolls so I’m trying to stop swaddling him. (Plus he hates it. I have tried to swaddle him with one arm out to begin transitioning him but then he waves it around and thinks it’s waking time. He doesn’t swaddle for naps and does fine (unless he rolls over immediately and also thinks it’s waking time). He won’t go back to sleep once he has rolled over. He wakes up every 1.5 to 2 hours allllll night long. (Maybe because he hates the swaddle?) help!

OK it’s definitely time to drop the swaddle if he is rolling! That is for safety reasons but also because it is important for him to be able to practice his new skill and eventually get himself comfortable and back to sleep during sleep transitions. I always tell my clients the more they are able to practice the better they get! So give him lots of time on a play mat when he is up and encourage him to try to roll around on his own. Other reasons he could be waking, pain or hunger so make sure that is not the case. When he does wake because he has rolled to a new position and startled himself, go in there and rub his back or head. Get him as calm as you can, let him know you are there and settle in ways he will respond to. Once he is able to settle and is drowsy you can either stay with him until he is asleep or leave once he is no longer crying. It is a process and will take a couple nights but like with everything the more consistent you are the faster you will see results. And remember the rolling is a good milestone and even though it interrupts sleep it won’t last forever! :)  

Thank you for answering a few questions, Melissa!

Mamas, if you’re interested in hearing and learning more about infant and toddler sleep, Melissa has a podcast, blog, gives tips and advice on her Instagram page, and of course you can hire her to help you come up with a custom sleep schedule and be available to help you and your child(ren) along the way!

(First photo cred: Jason Frank Rothenberg / Second credit: Jessica White Photography)

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