When Can My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

It's the question we've all asked within weeks of our beautiful bundle's birth.  Once the bliss of having a newborn starts to wane under the cloud of sleep deprivation, thoughts of sleep (more sleep, please more sleep!) begin to take over.

Some babies are natural sleepers; these little angel babies can knock off 10-12 hours a night at about three months old with little-to-no concerted effort from their parents.  You don't hear about them much because their parents know not to mention it in public.

For the most part, babies will need to have calories in the night for up to six months of age*, beginning with feeding every three hours as a newborn to just one feed per night at four-to-six months. (*Your baby may need one night feed for a little longer if he is on the small side, and definitely longer if baby isn't holding his growth curve - if that's the case, seek the advice of a pediatrician.) 

tired mom and baby.jpeg

The idea of baby sleeping 12 hours straight may sound absurd to the mom of a 10-month-old who wakes 3-4 times a night for her self-declared snack time. But these wakings are not physiological. In a healthy baby, night wakings at this age are in the realm of habit and a lack of self-soothing sleep skills.

For example, babies who are breastfed to sleep or use a soother will wake fully, crying out, when they come to a normal awakening at the end of each sleep cycle. These mini-awakenings are a normal part of sleep; we all have them with little or no recollection in the morning. Babies who have already learned to self soothe wake only briefly and simply reposition themselves before starting their next sleep cycle. Babies (or toddlers) who need a "prop" - something external like a soother or breastfeeding - to fall asleep wake fully, crying out for the "prop"  they intially fell asleep with.

In the case of a baby who is dependent on a sleep prop, it will take some encouragement and habit-breaking to help her learn not to wake in the night once she's past the age of physically  needing night feeds. The good news is, there are more compassionate methods now than the old-school cry-it-out technique (which essentially means saying good night to your baby and not opening her door until 7 a.m. - apparently effective, but jeesh...). 

The method I recommend to parents is one in which you are beside your baby supporting them with voice and touch as they learn this ever-important new skill of falling asleep. And it works, virtually every time.

So if your baby is healthy, beyond the newborn stage and is still waking every 2-3 hours, or beyond four months and waking more than once or twice, or beyond 7-8 months and is waking at all, you can assume it's an issue of habit, not physiological need. Babies will always make up the calories during the day to get all the nutrition they need.

With the right advice and a proven plan, your baby could be sleeping through the night within a week.  Then you'll be the one keeping quiet at the Mommy group. 

Sleep Is A Dream

distressed mom and baby.jpeg

Sleep is a dream, too good to be true

Because I am a Mom of not just one but two.


For those parents of three I shudder to think

Of how brief their shut-eye – the span of a blink?


If not one then the other. If by chance they both snooze,

My body’s forgotten just what it should do.


I lie awake staring, growing even more tense;

I know all too well that the peace will soon end.


From the moment of birth until now four years on,

It’s been work through the day and a job all night long.


I’ve tried everything – read five books or more,

Ferberized while they cried, and camped out on the floor.


I am so tired now. It’s all that I know.

My patience is thin, my body moves slow.


I try to carve out some time for my spouse;

When he speaks, sleep is all that I’m thinking about.


It’s become an obsession, a fix I can’t get –

It’s dragging me down, I can’t focus or think.


Is this the best that it gets? This is life as a mother?

A string of hangovers, one after the other?


I love my kids dearly, they’re the reason I live,

But at the price of my sleep I don’t have much to give.


So I’ll slog through the day, enjoy second winds,

And hope that tonight, my new life begins.


I’ve hoped that before, yet it goes on and on.

To sleep through the night is for other kids’ Moms.


I don’t sleep well or much, not nearly enough.

My kids don’t sleep either, and it’s all the more rough.


I know that there’s more, for them and for me.

We can have much more joy, so much more “joie de vivre.”


The life in my head I am too tired to lead.

Will my kids ever know the fun, boisterous “real" me?


For now I put one foot in front of the other

And hope that a new path I soon will discover:


To tuck my sweet ones into bed with a kiss,

As we all drift off fast to a full night’s sleep bliss.


And wake with eyes bright, full of wonder and magic,

Greeting each day like an artist’s blank canvas.


I want that for me, for my children of course,

An end to the stream of emotion outbursts.


To be one of those families hand-in-hand on the beach,

Not corralling their kids or dragging their feet.


Or the ones in the park full of giggles and smiles,

Running after kids like they could do that for miles.


Sleep is a dream? Too good to be true?

It’s happened for them, maybe one day, me too.


Inspired by comments from the parents I meet who have suffered months or years of sleep deprivation, and yes, my own experience too. I want to help every one of them.

Sleep is possible for every child, every family.

Adventures in Sleeplessness - stories from sleep-coached dads

Dads often suffer as much as moms when their baby or toddler isn't sleeping.

Dads often suffer as much as moms when their baby or toddler isn't sleeping.

Moms definitely feel the brunt of post-partum sleep deprivation – those newborn months are a blissful slog.  But (thankfully) modern dads are often very involved in soothing their restless little ones, especially as they get a little older, and they too pay the price of sleepless nights. Here are a few of their stories about getting to the other side of sleeplessness:



Some parents have good sleepers.  You ask them how they do it and they tell you that they just put their kid to bed and they sleep. They look at you like it's a silly question. 

It was honestly pretty hard not to resent parents like that because we didn't have one of those kids.  

By the time our daughter was two, Melanie and I had developed a lengthy, complicated and totally useless bedtime routine.  It was a combination of nursing, dancing, singing, voodoo, stories, more dancing, patting, loveys, no not those loveys, new ones, not those ones, the other one ("it's in the car.  It's in the car!"), bouncing in fifteen different ways, bouncing while patting and dancing and singing, high humming, low humming, and finally like another hour of nursing.  Every night our ritual seemed to get longer.  Wake ups were still happening two to five times a night, quenched only by more nursing and the kind of bed sharing that wasn't good for any of us.  We were exhausted, barely coping, and very deeply unhappy.  The idea of sleeping through the night seemed impossible - hearing about it felt like a cruel joke being played on us. 

Hiring a sleep coach turned this around for us.  She simply taught us how to teach our daughter to sleep.  We may never have done it without her. Things changed very quickly for the better.  I think it honestly took about a week or two and our toddler was sleeping through the night.

What can I really say about having sleep come back to you and your partner's life, to your kid's life?   It's incredible.  All of us were (and are) happier.  Our daughter stopped acting up.  She was well rested for literally the first time in nearly two years and so were we.  I started being able to hold adult conversations again without forgetting words like "car" and "house".  I'm not even sure I knew what a wreck I was until things started improving. 

A year and a half later things are still good with us. The skills we all learned have not gone away.  We are still happily sleeping through the night. We seriously got our lives back. 



Sleep training has been amazing for us! Before we started, we were co-sleeping with Gus, and we were both turning into zombies; Gus was waking up almost every hour and Justina would nurse him back to sleep. None of us was getting enough sleep; I even noticed that Gus was starting to get grumpy during the day which was unusual because he is a pretty smiley guy.

I had been holding out on hiring a sleep trainer, but co-sleeping just wasn't working. Then we saw that Hilary was holding a public seminar. We had other plans that weekend, but we changed them and went. I couldn’t believe it when she said most babies on her plan learn to sleep through the night within a week, two at most.

We signed up that day.

It took two nights of sleep training and Gus was sleeping through the night! It was unbelievable. It changed our lives.

We like to camp, which has still been a bit of a struggle for Gus as he often wakes up during the night while we're camping. We worry that we'll ruin everything he’s learned, but Gus picks it back up again as soon as we’re home and back to the routine.

It's been great, and I think our little boy is happier now that he is sleeping through the night.



Before our twin girls arrived, I was an active, energetic, guy who thought that he could handle any challenge these two little ladies might throw my way. Well within a week of their arrival I had to concede that I was wrong – the feedings and diaper changes felt like a constant tick-tock of the clock: tick – get the formula heated, tock – help my wife double breastfeed the girls, tick – get the formula heated, tock – change those diapers.

Please sleep now… please…

Fast-forward eight months to when we met Hilary, a sleep coach, and her family in the park. Our girls were still feeding at least once during the night.  We were tired. Very tired. We hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since the girls arrived. 

We had an initial consult and signed up for a full sleep-training plan. Four or five nights later, they were sleeping through the night. We couldn’t believe it. Seriously, it happened that quickly.  Pretty soon, all was ironed out like a smooth, starched shirt: their 5 a.m. waking turned into 6, then 7, and now, almost two years later, they sleep until 7:30 or 8 every morning. Double WOW (one for each of them!).

Our lives are still very full with our lovely girls, but we are all happier, healthier and more energetic with a good night’s sleep every night. Hilary’s thoughtful and thorough approach, which was tailored to fit our girls’ sleep history and patterns, made all the difference for myself and my family.


Sleep Hygiene – it’s not about washing your sheets

We’ve probably all heard the term "hand hygiene" – the sanitation police are all over hospitals and doctors offices plastering posters about how important it is to wash our hands. 

But what’s “sleep hygiene?”

You'll often see this term when reading sleep guidebooks and research. Dictionary.com defines the word hygiene as “a condition or practice conducive to the preservation of good health, as cleanliness.”  So, sleep hygiene refers to the practice of sleep habits that lead to optimal health, not how often you wash your sheets (although I’m sure there’s a minimum on that too).

So what constitutes good sleep hygiene for our kids?  According to the American National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the “key features” include:

  • having a consistent bedtime routine
  • a bedtime before 9 p.m. (*more on that in a minute)
  • falling asleep independently
  • no TV (or other screen devices) in the bedroom
  • no caffeinated beverages
  • enough total sleep
  • not taking too long to fall asleep
  • no night wakings

A 2004 study by the NSF found that the two biggest factors in poor sleep hygiene for children of any age (newborn to 10) were:

  • having a parent present when the child falls asleep, as this resulted in more night wakings, and
  • a late bedtime – this resulted in children having a harder time falling asleep.

Wait – shouldn’t putting them to bed later make them more tired and help them fall asleep faster?!  That’s not logical!

Therein lies the problem. These little people aren’t logical. Just try explaining to a toddler that saving the last cookie means she gets to enjoy one tomorrow. Sleep begets sleep. That goes for all of us but it’s really obvious in babies and young children.

*It's important to note that "bedtime before 9 p.m." is a very general recommendation for children of all ages.  9 p.m. is simply way to late for a baby, toddler or preschooler.  These young ones should be tucked in with lights out by 7:30 at the latest in order to get an age-appropriate amount of sleep. It's also been found that the hours of sleep before midnight are more valuable than those after - so it's not enough to go to bed late and sleep in later to make up for it.

Back to the NSF study: for the 3-years-and-older age group, not having a consistent bedtime routine resulted in less total sleep time. That’s why tens of thousands of families have had remarkable success (and often claim happier children) after a sleep-training program with their baby, toddler or preschooler.  That melting down, crying-out-in-the-night child is craving routine and an ease of sleep.

Like anything that’s good for us, it takes an adjustment period to get there. Take, for example, getting fit.  Those first workouts, laps or runs don’t feel good. You can even get injured if you don’t start properly.

If your child has a prop like a soother or will only breastfeed to sleep, or needs you lying beside them in order to fall asleep, there is a gradual way to help them adjust. All you really need to give your child good sleep hygiene is a proven, effective plan and consistency on your part in carrying it out. Having a sleep coach guide and support you through the process virtually guarantees quick success.

We teach our kids how to wash their hands because it’s good for them. We can also teach them to sleep well – it is immeasurably good for them, not to mention the rest of the household.


How Hot is Too Hot?

The best room temperature for your baby's sleep is between 16 and 21 degrees celsius.

The best room temperature for your baby's sleep is between 16 and 21 degrees celsius.

How hot is too hot for your baby's bedroom? Here's the short answer: anything above 21 degrees celsius.  Babies are most comfortable sleeping between 16 and 21 degrees.  The rule of thumb to keep them warm is to dress them in one more layer than you feel you need to sleep comfortably. 

But what to do in the summer with no air conditioning?

Therein lies the need for the long answer.

One thing is certain: it is safer for baby to be too cold than too hot. Babies will wake and cry if they're a bit chilly, and you can solve the problem then. But they won't likely do the same if they're too hot. And while I don't like to spark fear, especially when the summertime heat is beyond our control, overheating is a risk factor for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). 

If you're one of those parents whose home is just stifling and you can't seem to cool baby's room, here are some ideas and tips to help keep your baby safe and comfortable:

  • Dress baby as lightly as possible (see rule of thumb in the first paragraph). Sometimes this could mean nothing but a diaper or just a light, sleeveless sleep sack.
  • Keep a fan running on high in the room in the hours before bedtime. Turn it to low, direct it away from your baby and keep it far from his reach before you put baby down.
  • Remove any waterproof mattress coverings while the weather is hot as it doesn't breathe as well.
  • Invest in good window coverings for baby's room and keep them closed all day with the windows open to prevent the sun from heating the room more.
  • If your baby falls asleep in the stroller, keep a close eye as she can easily get too warm in there. And don't cover the stroller with a blanket - this can trap more heat inside.
  • If your baby falls asleep in her carseat, keep the car running and air conditioning on. I know, I know, more greenhouse gasses, more climate change and more hot temperatures. But you have a pretty good reason; all those other idlers should get with the program. (And car seats are for cars - don't let baby sleep in the car seat at home.)
  • Here's a great idea from Babycenter UK's web site: hang wet towels over chairs and window frames (never over baby's crib railings!) as the evaporating water can cool the air.
  • Give your baby a cool bath before bed.

If you think your baby may be too hot, feel his belly; if it feels overly warm or he's sweaty, remove a layer; it's worth waking him for.  Remember that it's normal for your baby's hands and feet to be cooler than the rest of his body, so don't check there.

While we move through the lazy (or busy!) months of summer, don't forget to keep yourself and your baby well hydrated. For babies under 6 months, breastfeeding to meet demand should be sufficient; just be sure she's having a normal number of wet diapers. If your baby is a little older, offer water from a sippy cup more often than usual. 


Giving your baby a cool bath before bedtime can help keep him cool for sleep in warm temperatures.

Giving your baby a cool bath before bedtime can help keep him cool for sleep in warm temperatures.

What’s holding you back?


Sometimes the universe sends us messages. For example, we think about how we really should call that friend we haven’t been in touch with, and an hour later, out of nowhere, we see them driving down the street.  (The message there being, yes, definitely call them.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little slow at picking up on these messages and sometimes you pretend you didn’t hear.  It’s an evolved habit to pay attention and listen, and it often takes a big leap to follow where the message seems to be guiding you. But when the same thing keeps popping up over and over from different angles, even my ears perk up.

For me lately the message has been “what’s holding you back?” Whether from a business webinar or a chat with an old friend, the same question keeps coming up. A wonderfully wise American Buddhist teacher I know – Lama Marut – calls this “holding on to our burning coal.”  We want to change or live differently, but we’re not willing to let go of the burning coal in our own hands.  We clutch on to our current ideas and our existing self concepts, despite wanting change.

Change is hard.  Which brings me to the point where I need to make this relevant to babies’ sleep.  :) When your baby has always gone to sleep with a “prop” – on your chest, in a swing, at the breast, on a bottle, with a soother, etc. etc., the day that that has to change (and of course it has to change) will probably be hard for your baby.  There are some gradual ways to warm up to it, to make it less sudden and stressful, but there will still be a big shift one day. 


And human beings don’t like change, by nature. If you don’t believe this, you probably don’t have a two-year-old yet (just try giving them a different spoon at dinner time, I dare you).

The shift is also big for parents, especially mothers.  If baby has a sleep prop, chances are Mom is either somewhat involved or is the outright human pacifier.

There are all sides to the argument of whether sleep training is a dream come true or downright awful (especially online!), and that can make it tough for some parents to make the decision.  Plus, the ones who really need it are sleep deprived, so double-whammy in the decision-making department.

So when you haven’t slept more than a few hours in a row for months (or years!) on end, and you so desperately want sleep, maybe this is a helpful question to ask: what is holding me back? This is always a tough question for us to answer about ourselves.

I’ll start.  My issue isn’t around sleep, but more general lifestyle. What’s holding me back from living the way I want to live?  The answer (I think) is my own negative self talk around the time excuse: “I don’t have time. I’m a working mother of two young children; I can’t.” 

So yesterday I threw dinner into the pressure cooker and went out for a bike ride and we ate a little later than usual. As my mother likes to say, “Your kids are never going to thank you for staying home.” This is in relation to travel, but in this case, they’re not going to thank me for being out of shape and bluesy about it. 

In another example of us banging our parenting heads against the wall for way too long, my husband and I finally read up on how to tackle the incessant mealtime struggle with our three-year-old.  We ordered a book, read the expert advice, started an entirely new approach to eating and suffered through the two-week change phase.

We are now blown away on a daily basis by our child happily coming to the table and eating things she never would have before. It’s shocking.  Kind of like high-fiving your spouse for an entire year after sleep coaching because you still can’t believe your child just accepts the new norm and happily, easily falls asleep in their little bed every night and for every nap.

Time can be a big excuse.  So can money.  We have to first value ourselves to make change.  And we have to be happy ourselves in order to help others be happy.

Anything is possible. We usually just have to listen up, trust and get ourselves out of the way.

Is White Noise Safe For Your Baby's Ears?

I use white noise in my children's bedrooms. I recommend it to my clients to help their little ones get to sleep independently and stay asleep all night.

But is it safe?

Here's the short answer: probably, but it depends.


White noise - like ocean-wave sounds or a fan - can help block out household noise that either prevents babies from falling asleep or wakes them prematurely.  Some say it's a soothing sound that can help lull them into sleep. I'm not so sure about that - we can't ask the babies.

But how much is too much?

It's not clear whether a baby's threshold for noise-induced hearing loss is lower than that for adults, but as a conservative measure, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are recommended to keep ambient noise levels to 50 dB-A (a-weighted decibels) or less. (FYI that’s really quiet – the ambient noise in my home with computer on and refrigerator humming is higher than that.)

A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that of 14 infant-sound machines tested, all of them were able to reach noise levels over 50 dB-A. No surprise there – it has to make some noise.

But what's concerning is that several of them, when placed on the crib rail, were able to produce sounds exceeding 85 dB-A at baby’s level. That's over the limit for adult occupational noise – the level at which hearing damage is known to occur on chronic exposure (picture the guy who spends 8 hours a day operating a jackhammer).

Before you panic and run to turn off the fan in your baby's room, 85 decibels is really loud.

When I first read this study, I did panic, and I did run to turn off the running-water-sound device in my daughter’s room. At the time I read it, she had been suffering from obvious hearing loss (which we had initially thought was selective toddler hearing, until we started testing her by offering chocolate and videos, to no response). Turns out she had a middle ear full of fluid; her hearing resolved as her head cold cleared, but not before I brought up my concerns about white noise with my family doctor.

His immediate thoughts were that a) I was crazy, and that b) the white noise would have to be insanely loud to cause hearing damage. A few days later, he bumped into a colleague specializing in Pediatric Ear Nose Throat and asked her about it.  Her answer was that there was no way my daughter’s hearing loss could have been caused by white noise.

Sigh of relief (and shedding of massive amounts of useless guilt).  But I still turned our white noise down, and I follow the Pediatrics article’s recommendations of keeping the machine on the opposite side of the room from our child’s bed and turning it down or off when my husband and I go to bed and the house is quiet. (See below for the researchers’ recommendations.)

Now, what about creating a dependency on white noise?  I get this question a lot when I recommend it in seminars or to clients.  White noise is not what we call a “prop” – an external person or object (like a pacifier or Mom in the rocking chair) that baby doesn’t know how to sleep without.

It’s also easy to wean.  Once babies have solid sleep skills – they can fall asleep independently and soothe themselves right back to sleep as they stir in the night – you can gradually turn the white noise down over the course of weeks or months.

In the meantime, I am still recommending it. My doctor can probably find lots of other reasons to think I’m crazy.



Not sure how loud your white noise is?  Download a decibel-meter app on your phone and place it next to your sleeping child while your white noise is on.

Recommendations from the Pediatrics February 2014 study:

1. Place the ISM as far away as possible from the infant and never in the crib or on a crib rail.

2. Play the ISM at a low volume.

3. Operate the ISM for a short duration of time.

An End To Bedtime Battles?

Is it 7:00 yet?

This is the question I asked my other half as we sat at the dinner table the other night with our two children.  We love them dearly, but honestly, we don’t always love their company.

Each was refusing to eat in their own way – the one-year-old wanting to bang the spoon and fling food with his new-found motor skills, his older sister unnervingly exhibiting behaviour that friends have described to me as the “threenager”.

It was all run-of-the-mill parenting stuff, with a few things we could probably work on (okay, we’re actually failing miserably at French parenting à la “Bringing Up Bébé”).

But I look forward to bedtime; it’s the easiest part of my day. Since we embarked on sleep training our first child (we hired a Sleep Sense consultant three years ago), bedtime has been pretty much a cakewalk.  I’m not bragging here  we did way more than our share of late-night laps around the neighbourhood. Also see previous paragraphs.

A phrase I often hear with respect to children’s sleep is “bedtime battles.” I shudder at what that might look like for some families, especially with multiple children. But I don’t believe there are inherently good or bad kids; just well-rested ones and overtired ones. Battles ensue when overtired kids get wound up and just can’t co-operate. Often there’s just a subtle lack of routine or boundaries. And even the most energetic parents can hit the wall and not be at their best at 6 p.m.

Was sleep training hard? Yes. Were there moments of doubt while I sat beside my baby whispering to her as she learned to fall asleep on her own? Yes. Do I have any regrets? Hell no! I barely remember the one week it took to change all our lives. By all accounts, neither does she. There has been so much LESS crying ever since we sleep trained.

Before sleep training, our baby’s overtiredness from not having independent sleep skills – being breastfed to sleep, carrier-walked to sleep, car-driven to sleep – created ear-piercing wail-a-thons on a regular basis. That all pretty much ended after three nights on the job.

My second baby gradually learned how to sleep independently from the beginning with just a few simple ideas (we weren’t going down that exhausting road twice). He’s not been perfect, but putting him down for nap or nighttime is simple, gentle and easy.

So when 7 p.m. comes, I know that all will be calm and quiet, and my husband and I will get some time to relax, read, talk, work and – oh yeah – sleep.

So perhaps you’re thinking what I thought: “Fine for you but that would never work for my child!”

That’s what we've all thought ("we" being those on the other side of sleeplessness). Mine had a strong will, a set of lungs that would bring the house down and an apparent congenital disdain for shut-eye.

But all healthy babies have it in them to sleep well. Even those with physical or mental challenges can learn when given the opportunity and the right guidance.  As well-meaning parents, we often get in their way; then the well-meaning strategy becomes habit.

And then it stops working.

The number one mistake we as parents make is thinking our high-energy child isn't tired enough at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and so we keep them up later to "tire them out". When kids get overtired, they get wired (likely just the first of many ways they will yank our chains over the course of 18 years).

The second biggest mistake is varying the routine, or not having one, often because we're losing steam at the end of a long day. But cultivating your inner drill sergeant and keeping the list of to-dos ticking along before bedtime will do wonders if you keep it up.

And definitely no screen time at least 90 minutes before bed.

If after using these tactics you still have a nightly ritual of bedtime battles, whether they involve driving a baby around the block 45 times or wrestling a toddler into pyjamas, there is a way out. And everyone wins.

Call me and we’ll chat about it. 15-minute consults are free. 604-789-0850.