Nightmares vs. Night Terrors

Check out my graphic below to see what the major differences are between nightmares and night terrors!

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Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting, now based out of Kamloops, B.C. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

The (Dreaded) 18 Month Sleep Regression

I hate to say it, but this regression is often the most difficult of the sleep regressions due to a discipline aspect that is involved which wasn’t present before. We really need to be diligent to ensure we don’t see a colossal setback with sleep during this time.

If you are struggling with this regression or are looking to prepare in advance, please check out the article below that I wrote for Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit’s blog for the 5 important steps to take to tackle it:

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Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting, now based out of Kamloops, B.C. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Toddler Sleep Schedules [with 2-1 information!]

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Considering the popularity of my blog post for sleep schedules from 4 months to 18 months, I thought it was time to give toddler sleep some love! Read on to learn about different schedules for toddlers from 18 months [or 1 nap] to age 3! I will preface this blog post the same way I did my first schedule post by saying that all children are different and yours might not necessarily fit into this schedule perfectly every single day but it is just meant as a guide to know what is typical at each age and as your child grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a toddler on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - meals, naps, and nightsleep. When looking at these schedules, what's important to note is the time awake in between sleep times, not necessarily the time on the clock [unless otherwise indicated]. I generally recommend laying the child down 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

18 months [the start of the 2-1 transition]

Children at this age need roughly 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime with 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

Prior to the transition [age 13-18 months]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
9:45am - 10:45am - nap#1 [to hold off the transition until this point, it's beneficial to cap this nap at 1 hour]
12:00pm - lunch
2:00pm - snack
2:45pm - 3:45pm - nap#2 [a full 4 hours of awake time between naps 1 and 2]
5:30pm - dinner
6:30pm - bedtime routine [should not include any milk, last milk with dinner!]
7:15pm - bedtime [asleep by this time]

One week into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
10:15am - 12:15pm - nap [we pushed out the first nap by 15 minutes every 3 days. If the nap ends at noon or later, we move to bedtime. If the nap ends before noon, we do a catnap/quiet time around 3:00pm]
12:30pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
2:30pm - small snack
5:00pm - dinner
5:30pm - bedtime routine
6:15pm - bedtime

Two weeks into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am -  breakfast
10:00am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
11:00am - 1:00pm - nap [we continued to push the nap out by 15 minutes every 3 days]
1:15pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
3:15pm - small snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:00pm - bedtime routine
6:45pm - bedtime

Four weeks into the transition [transition complete]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:15am - lunch
12:00pm - 2:00pm - nap [nap was pushed out by 15 minutes every 3 days to a 5.5 hour waketime]
2:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime

Please check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here for detailed information about each nap transition!


19-23 months 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:45am - lunch
12:30pm - 2:30pm - nap [if the child's 1 nap is well-established, we should move to a 'by the clock' nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm. This nap should be no longer than 3 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:00pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:30pm - bedtime

2 years old 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime. After age 2.5, children do not developmentally *need* a nap like they did prior to this age [although the longer you can hang onto it, the better!] Keep in mind that if your child has dropped their nap, they should now be clocking the full 12-12.5 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on what time they normally wake up in the morning.

A 2 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 2.5 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
2:30pm - snack
5:15pm - dinner
5:45pm - bedtime routine
6:30pm - bedtime

3 years old

Children at this age require 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 9-12 hours at nighttime. For children who no longer nap, they should now be clocking the full 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on their usual wake-up time.

A 3 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should still occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours [but may need to be closer to 1-1.5 hours to not interfere with nightsleep] and not past 3:00pm
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 3 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30 - 2:30pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
3:00pm - snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

5 Reasons Why your Child Isn't Sleeping through the Night

This blog post is meant to be PART THREE of my Toddler Sleep Series on Nightwakings (you can reads parts 1 & 2 here and here) but really, this information applies to babies and toddlers alike. Unless you have an all-star sleeper from birth (and damn you if you do. We are all jealous of you!) then we need to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row before your child will sleep through the night (whatever that may mean at their age, see here for the definition of 'sleeping through the night' by age). This list is meant to give you a helpful idea of the top 5 things that we as parents might be doing to sabotage our chances of our child sleeping peacefully the whole night through.


1. Baby is not falling asleep independently

What's that you say? You knew I was going to say that? Well sorry folks, but it's absolutely true. Unless your child magically fits into that very small category of babies who can be nursed/rocked/bounced/cuddled to sleep and stay asleep all night long (and I hate to say it but even if they are, there is a pretty good chance that their sleep might regress and you can start to see nightwakings in your future) then we need to ensure that our child is falling asleep 100% independently with NO props (that bottle that baby takes to bed? That's a prop too! That paci they use to fall asleep? Prop!) In order to help your child fall asleep independently, some sleep coaching will likely be necessary, and there are a range of methods from the 'let cry' to the 'no cry' that can help them do just that. Why is it so important that they fall asleep on their own? We often use this analogy and it's the best way to help parents realize why it's so crucial.
Imagine if every night you fell asleep in your comfy cozy bed, but when you woke up in the middle of the night, you were in your kitchen. You would sit up and wonder how the heck you got here and of course, being so confused, you would not simply be able to roll over and fall back asleep. You would have to get up, walk back to your bedroom, and fall back asleep in your bed. Now imagine this happened to you night after night after night. Soon, you would start fighting sleep in hopes of catching the person that keeps moving you! Now think of it how a child sees it. Every night the child falls asleep snuggled up to Mom, maybe with a boob or a warm bottle in her mouth. When she wakes up everything has suddenly changed. Now she's in a dark bedroom, all by herself, the boob and bottle are nowhere to be found. Unlike an adult who just gets up and walks back to their bed, baby is unable to simply get up and re-create these conditions she used to fall asleep. So what does she do? She cries. And if this same sneaky change of scenery keeps happening night after night, she might start to fight sleep in order to prevent it from happening. Our goal with babies and children alike is for their to be no surprises in the middle of the night. We want everything to be exactly the same when baby falls asleep as it will be when they wake in the middle of the night (as all children do!) These same rules apply to toddlers, and laying in bed with your toddler until they fall asleep is going to cause the same issues as nursing a baby to sleep.

2. Baby is being put down 'drowsy but awake'

I am sure all of us at some point have had someone tell us that we need to be putting our babies down 'drowsy but awake', and while this is great advice for someone with a newborn baby (0-4 months), after this age, we really want to be putting baby down wide awake, and helping to teach them to go from that wide awake state to a fast asleep state completely on their own. Why doesn't drowsy but awake work? While it seems like helping baby to that drowsy state will facilitate the falling asleep process, it actually works the exact opposite. When a baby is in the 'drowsy' state (eyes open but heavy, looking around but slowly) they've already entered the first two stages of sleep. Now, when they are put down in this drowsy state, they are either going to a) fight sleep or b) succumb to sleep, but they are still associating the 'falling asleep' part with wherever they became drowsy. So what happens when they wake at night? They need those same conditions re-created (as we talked about in #1). So instead of bouncing/rocking/nursing baby until drowsy, make your bedtime routine short and sweet, include a song/short rocking right before put down time to relax baby, but not to help them become drowsy.

3. Baby is being fed too close to sleep times

This goes hand-in-hand with #2. A feeding too close to sleep time will work against us in the same way that helping baby to the drowsy state works against us. First off, even if baby is not falling asleep while being fed, it is pretty likely that this feeding is helping them to that drowsy state, and as we talked about in #2, we want baby falling asleep 100% on their own. Second, feeding baby too close to sleep times can still cause a feeding-to-sleep association even if it's not necessarily to sleep. When a feeding is the last thing that we are doing at the end of the night, guess what's the first thing on the child's brain when they wake at night?  Ding! Ding! Ding! Food!!!! As well, while it's pretty popular advice to 'tank baby up' before putting them down for the night in the hopes that they will sleep longer, past 4 months of age we really don't want to be trying to 'clusterfeed' baby anymore. Think about how you feel right after you eat a huge meal. Your digestive system goes into overdrive and it would be difficult to sleep (and if you did sleep, it would be a very restless and non-restorative sleep). Same goes for baby. In reality, if you are seeing multiple nightwakings all night long past 4 months (or any nightwakings at all past 8/9 months if baby is growing on time), they aren't hunger-related, so no amount of food is going to make them stop. Therefore, try moving the last feeding of the night to the beginning of your bedtime routine (for a baby 8/9 months or younger that still wakes multiple times a night) and for a baby 8/9 months who is still waking during the night, move the feeding even further, to immediately before/after dinner (or a cup/bottle with dinner if you've introduced one). This same advice goes for toddlers. Food = calories and calories = energy, and if we are giving our toddler a late-night or middle-of-the-night snack, that food turns into a burst of energy and your child is going to have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. Make sure that you are separating any snacks from bedtime by at least 30 minutes and that you are feeding your child enough healthy food during the day to ward off any late-night hunger.

4. Baby's daytime schedule is not age-appropriate

'Sleep is not logical, it's biological'. This is what I tell my families when they call me crazy for all the sleep-related advice that seems so backwards; tanking baby up won't help them sleep longer, early bedtimes = later wake-ups, and more daysleep leads to more nightsleep. That last one there couldn't be more true. The more baby sleeps during the day (as long as it's not in excess), the more baby will sleep at night. A well-rested child accepts sleep more readily, sleeps better, and sleeps longer than an overtired child. This means that in order to see A+ nightsleep, we need to see A+ daysleep - naps aren't optional, your child needs them. Making sure that your baby isn't kept awake too long in between naps (see here for how long is too long), making sure that baby has an appropriate number of naps and an age-appropriate bedtime (read here to find out if your baby's bedtime is too late). Keeping baby up in hopes that they will sleep longer at night may work for one night, but sleep debt is accumulative. Following that night up with another day of crappy naps and another too-late bedtime will almost certainly backfire. Making sure you respect your child's need for sleep will pay off in a big way.

5. Rushing in too quickly in the middle of the night

Guilty! When I was a first-time mom, I rushed in at first peep. I rushed in before there even was a peep. I didn't let my daughter learn to soothe herself because I was so afraid of my baby feeling any sort of pain, sadness, or loneliness. But as the months went on and the sleep got worse, I came to realize that I myself was sabotaging it. By rushing in too quickly, I wasn't giving K the chance to soothe herself in the middle of the night, and what I was the most shocked to discover were the phenomenon of 'sleep-cries'. All babies will have the occasional sleep-cry (and overtired children can have many sleep-cries over the course of the night, and the combination of chronic overtiredness and an inability to self-soothe means these sleep-cries may often turn into full-blown nightwakings). A sleep-cry is exactly as it sounds - a cry that baby makes while in their sleep. The cry is often a very piercing cry, it almost sounds like they are in pain, and it can last up to 10 minutes in duration. Rushing in during a sleep-cry will only awaken the child when they would have simply returned to sleep on their own (if you have a video monitor as I do, you can see that in fact, babies eyes are still closed while crying). If you are experiencing many sleep-cries within the first 3-4 hours of baby falling asleep, this is a good sign that your child is overtired and you may want to take a look at their daytime schedule and bedtime to see if it's meeting their needs. Sleep-cries are the reason that I always recommend to all my families to wait 10 minutes (up to 6 months) 15 minutes (up to 11 months) and 15-20 minutes (for toddlers) before deciding if you should intervene in the middle of the night. Your baby may surprise you one day and return to sleep unassisted, and they would never have done it if you hadn't given them the opportunity.


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Toddler Sleep 101 - PART TWO - Crib to Bed Transition

There are a lot of milestones in the first 3 years of a baby's life; sitting up, crawling, walking, sleeping through the night, and the list goes on. But one of the transitions that really makes you realize that your little baby is no longer a baby is the transition from crib to bed. Now, this transition can either be easy and pain-free (for all parties involved!) or....the opposite. There are some key components that we need to keep in mind when deciding how, when, and why we are transitioning to a big kid's bed, and this blog post is meant to help you with that decision. Read on and I hope you find it helpful!

The When

The biggest reason that the transition from crib to bed ends in disaster is that parents are making the switch far too early. We want to keep our child in the crib as close to 3 years of age as humanly possible. Why is that?
Before 2.5-3 years of age, children simply do not comprehend the imaginary boundaries of a bed. Once you are removing those crib bars, you are removing those boundaries. In addition, even if your child does understand that they are to stay put in bed, before this age they lack the impulse control to actually follow through and stay in bed. Too often, parents make the switch and the first few nights/weeks/even months are blissful. The child stays in their bed and there are no issues. But then one night, Johnny discovers that he can get out of this bed...and now he is free to roam his bedroom and maybe even the house! Now you have a child with "Jack-in-the-Box" syndrome, who pops out of bed every time you leave the bedroom. Exhausting.

But your child is climbing out of the crib, you say? There are a few tricks we can try to keep them in the crib a bit longer, to hopefully buy you a little more time:

  • A sleepsack. Ahhh I love sleep sacks. It is darn near impossible to scale a crib in a sleepsack. If you've used one from baby-hood - don't stop now! I had my daughter in a sleepsack until we made the transition to her bed around 3 years of age. Grobags make sleepsacks all the way up to 7-9 years of age!

  • Turning the crib. This may seem a bit strange (and probably look a bit strange in the bedroom) but works really well especially if you have a crib that has ends that are taller than the sides. Simply flip the crib so that the headboard/footboard face outwards. This is often enough to deter a climber (at least for a while!)

  • Video monitor with the talk-back function. If you have a video monitor (love me a video monitor!) with a talk-back option, watch your child after you put him down for sleep. If he starts to lift his leg over the crib rail, say a stern, "NO!" into the monitor. You may have to repeat this a few times but he'll get the idea.

  • Lower the crib mattress. Seems obvious but sometimes gets missed! As well, make sure to remove crib bumpers or anything else that could give your child 'leverage'.

If you have tried all of these tricks religiously and your child is still able to climb out of the crib and is risking injury, it may be time to make the big move.

If your child does not climb out of the crib and seems happy and content in there, you may be asking yourself how you know when to transition. It's simple - when your child asks for it! By the time he can come to you and say that he would like to be sleeping in a big kid's bed, it's likely that he's now able to grasp what is happening, why it's happening, and what the rules are while it's happening.

The Why

Too often parents decide to move baby to a bed in hopes of correcting poor sleep habits. The transition should be a reward for good behavior, not a solution for poor behavior. I can almost guarantee you that if your child does not sleep well in a crib, they will not sleep better in a bed (and more likely, will sleep worse!)
This transition is not only a milestone in your life as a parent, it is a milestone in your child's life as well. An 18 month old does not understand what these changes mean. They aren't able to get excited about picking out sheets, or putting the bed together, or deciding on what the new rules of a bed are. But a 3 year old sure would! 
Parents with another baby on the way might feel that the arrival of a sibling is reason enough to make the move to a bed but I will caution you against that. It is not uncommon for an older sibling to 'regress' in certain ways (sleep being one of them!) when a new child is brought into the family. I don't know about you, but getting up all night long with a newborn and walking a 2 year old back to their room 100 times a night because they have been moved to a bed too soon does not sound like fun in my books ;) If it's at all possible (and this is exactly what we did) purchase a second crib for your toddler (even a less expensive one or second-hand one since you will only be using it for a few months or so) so that we aren't making the switch out of necessity, before the child is ready. If this isn't possible and you have to move the older child to a bed, make the move after the baby is born, not right before. That way, your older child does not feel 'pushed out' by the baby, and will have a few months to become acclimated to the new family dynamics. This is only a possibility if you had planned on co-sleeping with your baby in a bassinet for the first few months.

The How

It is so important to have a plan of action once you've decided that it's time to move to a bed. The first step will be choosing what type of bed your child will be moving to. A toddler bed? A twin? Straight to a double? It's entirely up to you. My personal recommendation is to start by removing a side of the crib (if that's possible with your particular model) to get them acclimated to sleeping without the confines of a crib but without making the transition seem so drastic, and then moving them straight to a twin bed. Especially if money is tight, a twin bed is your best option since it won't be long before your toddler outgrows a toddler-sized bed (as essentially, it is the exact same size as a crib). Involve your child in the process of picking out the bed and the accessories. This helps them to begin to understand what is happening and to get excited about it!

Your next steps will include:

  • Toddler-proofing the bedroom. Even though our goal is for the child to stay put in his bed all night long, that sometimes is not a reality. Since he is now able to have free-reign of his bedroom, you want that bedroom to be safe. If you wish, installing bed rails might be a good idea, especially if your child seems to move around a lot during the night.

  • Holding a Sleep Rules Meeting. This is why it's so important for your child to comprehend the transition. We want to be sure to sit the child down before the big move and explain to them what is happening, why it's happening (for good behavior I hope!), and what the rules of the new bed are. They need to know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequences are if they don't follow the rules.

  • Have a game plan for set-backs. In a perfect world, your child will successfully transition without ever having the desire to leave the bed and roam the house (I can proudly say this is the case with my daughter, but we have yet to see if it will as easy with my son!) But in reality, this may not be the case, so we want to have a plan of action for the "Jack-in-the-Box syndrome" that we talked about earlier. If your child leaves their bed to roam, you will want to silently return them to their beds. The key here is silent - emotionless. The solution to helping a toddler learn to stay in bed is making it unrewarding to leave, and even negative attention is still attention. If he is getting a rise out of you, then he is likely to continue the behavior.

  • Consistency. It's impossible to say how long the transition will take, but I can promise you it will be a lot quicker and easier if you remain 200% consistent. Toddlers love to test their boundaries but it is our job as parents to set those boundaries and stick to them.

Has your child made the move from crib to bed? How did it go for you? How old were they? Let me know in the comments below, and good luck to those embarking on this adventure! 

THE PACI

Ahhh pacis. They are simultaneously lifesavers and sleep ruiners. If you're stuck doing 'the paci dance' all night long, then this blog post is for you!

Why pacis are great

There are a lot of pros to pacifier use:

  • Protection against SIDS. Pacifier use has been shown to help reduce the risk of SIDS and is recommened for sleep up to age 1. However, it is also recommended that you put baby down for sleep with the paci, but not to replace it once it falls out.

  • Helps babies pacify themselves and satisfies the suck reflex. A pacifier is a great way for baby to soothe themselves. As well, most babies have a need to suck that exceeds the time spent on the breast or the bottle. Instead of mom becoming a human pacifier, the paci meets this need.

  • Easier weaning. If your child has a strong suck reflex, it is a lot easier to wean the child off the paci vs. his own thumb/fingers. In terms of sleep coaching, tackling a pacifier association is much easier than a feeding to sleep association so if it's a matter of choosing between the two to help your baby sleep, the paci is the way to go.

Why pacis are not-so-great

There are also cons to pacifier use:

  • Risk of nipple confusion if introduced too early with a breastfed baby. Speak to a lactation consultant/educator if you have concerns about breastfeeding and pacifier use.

  • Overzealous suckers may change their tooth alignment or delay speech. Especially important for toddlers still using the paci.

  • May cause sleep associations and disturbed sleep. When a baby is dependent on a pacifier to fall asleep at night, they often will need these same conditions re-created when they wake up in the middle of the night. A baby under 8/9 months is likely not able to replace the paci on his own, so he will call to you to come do it for him.

How do I know if the paci's got to go?

There are a lot of babies that are completely okay with falling asleep for naps/bedtime with a pacifier and not really caring that it falls out at night. These babies may awaken at night (as all babies do) but are able to self-soothe back to sleep without having to call for their parents to replace their paci. For these babies, the parents may not perceive the paci as an issue and may choose to keep it for an undetermined length of time.
More commonly, however, a baby who needs the pacifier to fall asleep will also need it every time they wake up at night. For a newborn baby, these wakings happen a lot. You can check out my blog post here for more about how newborn sleep works. Even for an older baby, you may be having to do the 'paci dance' all night long every 45 minutes - 2 hours. If this is the case, your baby isn't getting the consolidated sleep she needs, and neither are you.
Even if your baby is in the former category and is able to fall asleep with the paci and sleep all night long, there are things you need to consider. How long do you plan to keep the paci? Eventually the child is going to need to learn how to sleep without it, and the longer they are using it, the harder it is for them to 're-learn' how to sleep. As well, taking a paci away from a toddler is often a much more difficult feat than taking it away from a baby.

When to ditch the paci

Unfortunately there is no magic age as to when we should be getting rid of the sucky but as I tell all my clients -  the earlier, the easier.
Before the age of approximately 8 months, babies haven't grasped the concept of "object permanence". What that means in paci-terms is that if the pacifier is not right in front of their eyes, it does not exist to them. This isn't to say that if you try and put your baby down for a nap without the paci when they are used to always having it that they won't cry, but it's not the actual paci they are crying for, it is because they do not know how to self-soothe in any other way as they have not yet been taught this skill.
Between 8 months and 18 months, babies have now grasped the concept of 'object permanence' but it's still unlikely that they have formed a deep attachment to the pacifier. So taking it away in this age range may be more difficult than when they were young babies, but still not a huge undertaking.
If a toddler over the age of 18 months has routinely used his pacifier to sleep, taking it away after this age may be a bit more of a challenge. The child has now likely formed a real bond with it, it is like a lovey to them, and taking it away will likely cause tears and anger (from you and your child!) However, it is far from impossible.

How to take away the paci

Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

Baby A, rockin' the paci since 2013

Under 18 months: I'll be completely honest and tell you that at this age, cold turkey really is best. There are a lot of so-called 'gentle' methods of weaning the baby off the pacifier at an early age (one called 'The Pull-Out Method' involves letting the baby have the paci until he's almost asleep and then removing it from his mouth and continuing this until he is asleep. Torture!) While all of my families that I work with whose children have a paci addiction think it's going to be an awful and horrid process, it really is never as bad as they think it will be. It will take some sleep coaching because we really are re-teaching baby how to fall asleep, but it's likely the child is already used to falling asleep 'independently', it's just a matter of them finding a new way to soothe themselves that doesn't involve a dummy. As parents, you need to pick a sleep coaching method and stick with it, but more often than not it is one or two rough nights and then you are in the clear. For young babies as well, we are still able to keep the pacifier for use during awake times without confusion if you wish. Just make sure that once you take it away at sleep times, that you are 200% consistent with it. We use a pacifier still with my 15 month old and when he goes down into his crib, he will take his paci out and hand it to me. It's drilled pretty clearly into his head that he's not allowed to sleep with it :-)

Toddlers: there are lots of very creative ways that we can help a toddler ditch the pacifier, but the main components of any weaning process are:

  • Preparing your child in advance. Talk to the child about what's going to be happening and why you are taking the pacifier away. Toddlers do not like surprises; they thrive on predictability. We don't want him to just wake up one day and it's gone. Make sure that the paci weaning isn't occurring around the same time as another big event in the child's life (such as a move, travel, or the birth of another sibling). We don't want too much change at once.

  • Limit use up to the Weaning Day. Try only letting the child have it in certain locations like the car or the bedroom. Instead of giving them the paci, offer another security object for them to hold and walk around with.

  • Don't offer it. This one may seem plain and simple, but often children don't ask for the pacifier as much as parents are quick to offer it. As well, most kids will go through periods where they become disinterested in the paci. Take advantage of these 'lulls' and see if making the paci permanently disappear during this time is enough for them to forget about it completely.

  • Be patient and be firm. There are bound to be good days and bad when ditching the paci but this is to be expected, so be prepared. There may be days where you feel like quitting but especially with toddlers, consistency is key. If they have any inclination that their tantrums/crying/whining/screaming/etc. is going to 'break you' - they will do it. Toddlers are smart!

As far as the 'how' of weaning the toddler off the paci, I have heard lots of stories of different ways that parents have helped their child say bye-bye to the sucky. From cutting the nipple, to sending the pacis away to children who don't have any, to sticking the pacis in a Build-a-Bear teddy so that they are still near when they sleep. You know your child best and what kind of tactics will be the most successful.


I would love to hear your stories. How did you wean from the pacifier? Share your success stories below!



Toddler Sleep 101 - PART ONE

I write a lot of posts about baby sleep so I thought it was time that we addressed our older kids' needs! While it's true that a vast majority of my clients are under the age of 1, there is also a significant portion of them that are toddlers/preschoolers. While many parents might feel that when their babies have trouble sleeping we can 'wait it out' and it will disappear once they are a bit older, more often than not this is not the case. I hope this series of posts can help you to get your big kids' sleep back on track because it is never too late to instill healthy sleep habits with our children!

What are some common toddler sleep issues that parents may face?

Toddler sleep issues can actually be very similar to some of the issues that we see with babies. The biggest ones I encounter are:

  • Early wakings (before 6:00am)

  • Nap transitions (transitioning from 2 naps to 1 or 1 nap to 0)

  • Transitioning to a big kid's bed

  • Bedtime & naptime battles

  • Nightwakings (either from nightmares, night terrors, sleep associations, or other reasons)

In part one of my blog post, I will address the first two issues above, and stay tuned for part two and three where I will discuss the final three.

Toddler Sleep Issue #1 - Early Wakings

I consider an 'early waking' to be anything before 6:00am. Anything after this time is a perfectly normal and acceptable time for a toddler to rise. Some of the most common reasons a toddler may be waking before the sun is up are:

  • Bedtime is too late. Are you sick of me talking about late bedtimes yet? I hope not, because I will never stop! While it seems opposite that a late bedtime would = an early wake-up, you need to remember this saying: sleep is not logical, it's biological. Simply put, a bedtime that is too late will almost always lead to a wake-up time that's much too early. If you are struggling with your toddler waking too early, try putting them to bed earlier. Check out my blog post here on how to find the ideal bedtime for your toddler and here for other causes of early wakings.

  • Parental inconsistency in the early morning hours. We need to be consistent in the way we respond to our children when they wake before it is 'acceptable' to be awake. If your child woke up at 2:00am, you wouldn't get them up and start the day, as we shouldn't if they wake up at 4:30 or 5:30am. We need to treat these wakings just as we would any other nightwakings. To help teach them what an acceptable time to wake-up is, I recommend a Gro Clock. Now, the key to these clocks is consistency. If you lose interest in the rules of the clock, so will they. Even if they wake up five minutes before the sun comes up, you walk them back to their room and tell them it's not time to get up because Mr. Sun is still sleeping. They might put up a fight the first couple of days but if you are consistent, they will learn the rules!

Toddler Sleep Issue #2 - Nap Transitions

Nap transitions can be a hairy time for everyone. We just recently went through the 2-1 transition with my son and while for us it was smooth as butter, it was not the same experience with my daughter years ago! The key to a successful nap transition is preparation, consistency, and patience. You need to have a plan of attack and you need to be consistent and patient with the process.

Rule #1 - don't rush the transition.  Many parents may think that once their child hits 12 months they should be transitioning to one nap. I can tell you right now that the vast majority of 12 month olds (aside from those perhaps who have been consistently sleeping through the night forever and who take 2 hour + naps) still need two naps. The normal age for babies to transition to one nap is 13-18 months (with the average being 15 months). Transitioning too early will almost always lead to a baby who becomes overtired and thus may begin taking short naps and/or waking at night. Some of the signs that baby may be ready to go to 1 nap include:

  1. Refusing the afternoon nap even after adjusting the awake time. Once you need more than four hours in between first and second naps, it is probably time to transition. The occasional nap refusal is normal, but if baby is refusing the second nap 50% of the time, it may be time to drop the nap.

  2. Afternoon nap is occurring too late in the day and thus pushing bedtime too late. If you are struggling to get that second nap in before 4:00pm every single day, it may be time to transition to one nap.

  3. Nightwakings that are otherwise unexplained. If you have a good daytime schedule, an age-appropriate bedtime, your baby is falling asleep independently and without props, but starts to have nightwakings while on two naps, it may be time to drop that 2nd nap and move to a one nap schedule.

  4. Early wakings that are otherwise unexplained. If baby starts to wake up earlier than usual (and clocking much less than 11 hours of nightsleep) and it cannot be explained otherwise (i.e. bedtime isn't too late, no sleep associations, etc.) then it may be time to move to one nap.

The same goes for the 1-0 nap transition. Most kids still need 1 nap up to 3 years of age or beyond (in fact, according to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, 91% of children at age 3 are still napping). Parents may think that just because a child starts to fight the nap that this means they don't need the nap anymore while in fact sleep issues at this age are more about discipline and less about actual sleep. Some of the signs that it may be time to drop the child's nap include:

  1. Consistently playing through nap time even after adjusting the awake time before the nap. Children's sleep needs are always changing so you may need to play around with the timing of their nap once they get a bit older. As well, if your child is sleeping in until 9:00am and you are trying to nap them at 1:00pm, it probably won't fly. It may be in your best interests to wake your child up at 7:00am to get them back on a regular napping schedule before deciding to drop the nap altogether.

  2. Consistently taking a very long time to fall asleep at bedtime. It is very normal for toddlers who still nap to have a long transition time before bed but if bedtime is getting pushed to 9:00pm or 10:00pm or even later, it may be time to drop the nap and move bedtime earlier. Or, if the child is in a pattern of a late bedtime, a late wake-up, and a late nap, you may want to break the cycle by waking them up at 7:00am so that they are tired earlier for their nap and thus tired earlier for bed.

  3. The child doesn't suffer any negative side effects when a nap is skipped. This one is very important. If your child skips their nap and then is an absolute demon in the evening (MY KID) then they are not yet ready to get rid of said nap. If after skipping a nap your child is pleasant and happy all the way to bedtime, this is a good sign that they may be ready to drop their nap.

For more information on the 2-1 and other nap transitions, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

Rule #2 - have a plan of attack.  With nap transitions, we don't want to just dive in head first without a plan. A lot of times, parents will just drop the second nap, push the first one later, and be done with it. While it's possible that this may work for your child, in my experience this will lead to baby becoming overtired. Our #1 goal during nap transitions is to minimize overtiredness. With the 2-1 nap transition a solid plan would be to:

  • Move the first nap of the day slowly later in the morning (possibly by about 15 minutes every few days). If the first nap ends before noon, try for a cat nap in the afternoon around 3:00pm to help baby get to a 'normal' bedtime.

  • At the beginning, the stretch between the nap and bedtime is going to be quite long (around 6 hours) but as you stretch the nap later, you should also decrease the awake time before bed (until the nap is occurring about 5 hours after baby wakes for the day, and bedtime is occurring about 5 hours after the nap ends).

  • Eventually, you will want the nap to be occurring around 12:30-1:30pm (or about 5.5 hours after baby wakes for the day) and bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. Once you are on this schedule, your one nap is well-established and there is no need to tweak unless you are getting lengthy monkey business before the nap/bedtime.

For the transition from 1 nap to 0 naps, the key to making this successful is:

  • Continuing to offer a 'quiet time' in the middle of the day (somewhere between 1:00-3:00pm). This quiet time should be occurring in the child's bedroom with no electronics. Around 45 minutes is sufficient and helps the child to recharge their batteries (thus hopefully avoiding a late afternoon meltdown!)

  • Move the bedtime earlier. I cannot stress this enough! Children this age still require 11-13 hours of sleep every single day. If they aren't getting any of that sleep during the day, they need to get it all at night. To figure out what your child's bedtime should be once their nap is dropped, take the time they wake up and subtract 11-13 hours from it. If they seem irritable and cranky throughout the day and/or are having difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, chances are you need to move bedtime even earlier and they need even more sleep.

Rules #3 - have patience.  As I have mentioned a few times, nap transitions can be hairy. There's likely to be some short naps, some frustration, perhaps some nightwakings or sleep-cries, but if you stay consistent and trust the process, it will all come together. Often, once parents don't see immediate results they are quick to switch things up and try something else, but with babies consistency is key. As well, a nap transition doesn't just happen overnight. It can take weeks from the first day that you decide you are ready to drop the nap to when baby is well-established on their new schedule. Take it from me, I just went through the 2-1 transition with my 15 month old and it has taken six weeks from the day I decided that I was done with the afternoon nap to today where he is solidly on one glorious nap.


Stay tuned for PART TWO of Toddler Sleep 101 where I will be discussing how and when to transition to a big kid's bed. Are you struggling with any toddler sleep issues that I haven't listed above? Leave me a comment below and let me know!