Sleep Advice From Dr. Jodi Mindell

Your Children's Sleep Questions Answered by Q&A with Dr. Jodi Mindell

Dr. Jodi Mindell, author of the best-selling book Sleeping Through the Night, has helped hundreds of Parents.com Community members get their little ones (and themselves!) to sleep as the expert and host of the Sleeping message board. Here, we've collected some of her best advice.

How do I get my son on a nap schedule?

Q. My eight-month-old son falls asleep on his own and sleeps well at night, but naps have never been great. For instance: After waking up at 7 a.m. he's ready for a nap by 9:30 a.m., but he only sleeps 45 minutes. When I put him down again around 12:30 p.m. he'll sleep only a half-hour, so I put him down around 3:30 p.m. and he'll sleep until 4 p.m. These half hour naps are killing me. I try to put him down when he's sleepy, but something is not going well. Can you help? -calebmommy

A. At his age, three short naps are fine. If you want to switch him to two naps, pick two times (such as 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) and stick with them for at least a week or two. It will take at least that long for his body to get used to the new pattern. It will also take a while for these nap times to get longer, too.

How to I break my daughter's pacifier habit?

Q. My 10-month-old daughter uses a pacifier when she sleeps in her crib but refuses it any other time of the day. She is constantly waking up for it in the middle of the night. What would be the best way to break her from this habit, and make her feel more secure with sleep times? -leigh-ann lamparillo

A. You can either take it away altogether or you can teach her to get it herself; she's definitely old enough. If you want to help her learn to calm herself with it, put several in one corner of her crib. When you put her in at night, guide her at first to help her get one. Do the same when she wakes up at night. In a few days, you can just tell her to get it. She'll get the hang of it quickly and it should solve your problem.

How do I get my son to fall asleep without me holding him?

Q. I seem to be spending my entire day trying to get my three-month-old to go to sleep. When I put him down he wakes up screaming, yet if I pick him up he almost immediately falls back to sleep. He will sleep for hours if I hold him or if he is in his infant carrier. It's frustrating, especially since I have three other children who also need my attention-as well as a mountain of laundry! Any advice? -my3crz

A. It sounds like it's time to start putting him down awake rather than rocking him to sleep. Put him down, give him something interesting to look at (like a mobile) and see how it goes. You may have one tough week or so, but you will get you past the hump.

When should my son sleep through the night without a bottle?

Q. I give my six-month-old son a bottle at 7 p.m. and then he goes down for the night. He sleeps until 5 a.m., at which time he gets a bottle and goes right back to sleep for two to three hours. With his early morning wake, he cries very loudly and can't get back to sleep without a bottle. At what point should he be sleeping all night without having a bottle early in the morning? -cjf

A. At six months old, he is right on track. Needing to eat after nine or ten hours of sleep is about all you are going to get. If you really want to make a change, you can wake him before you head to bed, around 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. and give him a bottle. That will likely take him to the morning.

My daughter hates going to bed, what can I do?

Q. Lately, my 20-month-old has been getting very angry about having to go to bed. Every night she bites, slaps, pinches, and struggles with us, and has almost taken a chunk of skin from both my husband and myself. Not only is it painful, it's getting out of hand. Help! -magick1

A. First of all, you need to make it very clearly that biting and hitting are not allowed. Be firm. Say "No," and put her in a chair away from you for a minute or two, repeating "No biting" or "No hitting." Ignore any tantrums. (I know, easier said than done, but it will work.) Continue with your normal routine and you will get back on track.

How do I enforce a bedtime with my daughter?

Q. My two-year-old daughter has a lot of extra energy and won't get on a sleep schedule. Every night, she comes in my room two or three times to tell me what's bothering her. Yet waking her at 6 a.m. to get ready for daycare is impossible. And, her daycare provider tells me that sometimes she won't nap. You would think that she would be worn out by the time bedtime arrives, but she isn't. How do I get her to understand that her day ends at 8:30 p.m.? -shalisha

A. First of all, try moving her bedtime earlier than 8:30 p.m. That's late, especially for a little one who clearly needs more sleep. Second, put a bell on her door—it will ring and let you know that she is up and about. Be sure to always return her to her bed. Make any nighttime interactions totally boring. That will help make it not worth her while.

Was co-sleeping a mistake?

Q. I made a big mistake in letting my baby sleep with me. It was so much easier when she was first born and I was nursing. Now, at eight-and-a-half-months-old, she has a fit whenever I try to put her in the crib. She is still nursing every two hours too. My doctor said to not feed her because she should be able to go through the night, but whenever I don't she just cries harder and harder. What can I do? -tkdavis4

A. Start making the change at bedtime. Put her down awake instead of nursing her to sleep. When she wakes at night, bring her to your bed for the first week or two. Once she is able to put herself to sleep at bedtime, you'll find that she will naturally start sleeping better throughout the night.

Does teething cause weird sleep cycles?

Q. My 10-month-old son is driving me nuts! For the past two nights he has been waking me at odd hours. Not hungry. Not wet. I think he is teething but he does this even with the baby medicine I'm giving him. Could there be an underlying problem here? -tubby_tubs

A. Definitely contact your doctor. There is a chance that it's an ear infection (not all babies get cranky) or teething. Sounds like something is going on. It also could be that he is about to take a developmental leap (such as crawling or walking). Sleep often falls apart right before a major milestone.

I'm the one who can't sleep, what can I do?

Q. Dr. Mindell, I'm the one who can't sleep! My daughter goes down like a rock. I'm fine at bedtime, but wake a few hours later unable to fall back to sleep. I'm so tired but nothing helps. Is there anything for adults? -icky-sticky-kisses-from-breezy

A. It could be a number of things, but you should talk to your doctor to narrow it down. Also, the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) has some excellent information on adult sleep on their website.

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All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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