Friday, October 26, 2018

Time Change - Fall Back 2018

Summer is officially over and we are in the midst of the fall time change. Sunday, Nov 4th at 2:00 AM clock fall back by one hour.

Spring forward...Fall back....

I love fall! Cooler weather, leaves changing colors, holidays around the corner and I get an extra hour of sleep. As a parent, I dread my kids waking up too early and having to adjust their sleep patterns. Do you?

If so, here are some options to help you and your family through the transition when we set our clocks backwards one hour on Sunday November 4th.

Gradual Approach: 

The gradual approach is usually recommended for younger children (3 and under) or those who do not adjust well to rapid changes in their schedules.

Start the week before the time change and slowly shift your baby's sleep schedule later.  For example: move bedtime, morning wake up time and nap times later by 10-15 minutes.

Keep moving the entire schedule later every few days but ensure your child doesn't get overtired.  By the time Sunday comes, your child's schedule will be based on the new time.  You will have gently shifted the circadian rhythm which regulates your child's sleeping patterns.

Rapid Approach: 

For the rapid approach, put your child to bed at their normal bedtime on Saturday, the ideal bedtime for most children is between 7-8 pm.

Your child will likely wake up at their normal time (6-7am), but the clock will say (5-6 am).  Your brain will say uck!  Go ahead and get them up, they don’t know about daylight savings time, but you can keep it low key for 30-60 minutes until you are ready to start your day.

If your child is less than 3 years old and still naps then stretch him as close as you can to his normal 1st nap time (using the current clock).  Water play, a stroll outside (don't let them fall asleep in the stroller) or getting outside is a great wake to keep any kiddo awake!

If you think your child can’t make it a full hour later, split the difference pushing the morning nap later by 30 min.  If that is too much, push the 1st nap later 15-20 mins and continue to do so every 3 days until the new time is reached.  The rest of the schedule will naturally be later if you follow this sleep tip.

Early Rising Tips:

The next few mornings, they may wake up a little early, but don’t let them start the day before 6:00 am (new clock).  You may need to review my blog on Early Rising if you have issues with waking up too early in the mornings or if your child is waking before 6:00 am.

Daylight Savings Tips:

On Sunday, follow your usual schedule as close as possible.  Move meals, the rest of his naps(s) and bedtime using the new clock time.

Ensure that your child is well-rested during this transition period and if needed, putting them to bed 15-30 minutes earlier for a few days is okay.

If your child had too late of a bedtime before the fall time change, here is your chance to move it earlier without too much fuss.  So, if your lil one's nite-nite time was too late, don’t move it later - pretend time change didn't happen.

It may take everyone a few days to adjust but it should not take more than a week to adjust your child's sleep patterns to the new time.

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Photo Credit: Classic Kids Photography Newport Beach, By: Jenn

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Nap transitions from 3 naps to 2 naps

Around 7 to 9 months most babies drop their 3rd cat nap and transition from three to two naps. The sign for this change may come in many different cues from your baby.  Some baby's will continue to take the 3rd nap but it will last only 10-30 minutes and then it will stop completely.  Other's will take the 3rd nap some days but not consistency.  The last group will suddenly one day refuse the 3rd nap altogether.

When any of the above happens consistently for more than 3 or 4 days, it's time to drop that nap and begin transitioning baby's schedule from a 3 nap routine to a two nap schedule.  
This can be a little bit of a bumpy road and most babies go through a yucky phase where three naps is too much but two naps is not enough.  You may need to be patient and some days you will need to try for that 3rd nap in the car, stroller or arms if that's what will get even just a little catnap and help baby make it to bedtime before she is running on fumes eg: over tired!  The transition to a 2 nap schedule can take as much as two weeks and it's important to follow your baby's lead until she adjusts to the new schedule.
During this three to two nap transition baby can become overtired so the occasional early bedtime by up to 30 to 60 minutes, is appropriate and recommended.  But don't move bedtime up so early that baby starts to wake up earlier in the morning.  I recommend, at this age, a bedtime no earlier than 6:30 PM and a morning wake up no earlier than 6:00 AM.

Sample Schedule for 3 Naps:

  • Bedtime: 7 or 7:30 PM
  • Wake time: 6:00 AM
  • 1st nap: 8:00 AM (sleeps 1  to 1 1/2 hrs till 9/9:30 AM)
  • 2nd nap: 12:00 PM (sleeps 1 to 1 1/2 hrs till 1/1:30 PM)
  • 3rd nap: 4:00 PM (sleeps approximately 45 min till 4:45)
*Adjust the times and schedule to when your baby wakes up in the morning.

Gradually increase the awake windows -

When making the transition from the 3 naps to the 2 naps, you will need to adjust the wake windows by at least 30 minutes each.  It's always best to adjust wake windows gradually and I recommend that you do this schedule adjustment in the following manner. 

For the first awake window, increase baby's awake time by 5 to 10 minutes, so delaying the usual nap time by 5 or 10 minutes than you normally would. Do this for 3 days in a row and evaluate if baby seems to be able to handle the longer awake time. If she does, repeat the process and increase the awake window another 5 to 10 minutes and hold for 3 days. 
Repeat this process until the awake window for the morning nap is two and a half to three hours from when baby started their day. 
Next, we need to adjust the awake window for the second nap.  We will repeat the same process of gradually increasing be awake window 5 to 10 minutes every few days and only increasing it an additional 5 to 10 minutes once the baby has adjusted for the extra time.
We continue the above process until the afternoon nap awake window is 3 to 3 1/2 hours from when baby wakes from the first nap.  

Awake windows chart -

Follow your child's sleep cues but also use this awake windows chart below to help time your child's naps to an age-appropriate schedule.  If your child is a champ at hiding their sleep cues, try taking them to a dark room near when you think it's nap time, sometimes that will bring out the tired signs you were looking for to know when is the best time to put them down for sleep. 

Sample Schedule for NEW 2 Naps:

  • Bedtime: 7 or 7:30 PM
  • Wake time: 6:30 AM
  • 1st nap: 9:00 AM (sleeps 1 to 1 1/2 hrs till 10:30 AM)
  • 2nd nap: 1:30 PM (sleeps 1 1/2 to 2 hrs till 3/3:30 PM)
*Adjust the times to when your baby wakes up in the morning.
The goal is to get baby on a schedule where the first nap starts about 2 1/2 to 3 hrs after morning wake up time, the second nap starts about 3 to 3 1/2 hours after the end of the first nap and bedtime is about 3 to 3 1/2 hours after the end of the second nap.

Most babies stay on this new two nap schedule until 15 to 18 months when they transition to the one nap.  Here's the link for assistance with that transition, when your baby is ready.  Nap Transitions from 2 nap to 1 nap

Sweet Dreams,

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Tips for Nap Time Success

The key to good napping is to be consistent. Make sure to always watch the awake windows and put them into the crib drowsy but awake. This is how they will learn to fall asleep independently and stay asleep!

Top 5 tips for naps:

1) Nap Routine -

Create a good nap environment: Give wind-down time, which should be a short version of the bedtime routine.  For example, a simple routine could be a diaper change, swaddle (for babies under 4-5 months), close blinds, turn on the sound machine and sit for 5 minutes in the chair (sing, read a book) then into crib drowsy but awake.

2) Environment - 

A dark, quiet room: Some babies need total darkness to nap. I always recommend room darkening shades and if it is a noisy home, you might want to try a loud fan or place a white-noise machine in the room.

3) Crib nap and back up plan -

Try the nap in the crib twice a day before going to a “back up nap plan”.  If you look at your log and see that the day sleep is much less than it should be - get a back-up nap using motion sleep, stroller, swing or car ride. Remember nap deprivation will create MORE night wakings.

4) Drowsy but awake - 

After an abbreviated version of the bedtime routine, put your baby in his crib drowsy but awake.  If 10 is fast asleep and 1 is wide awake, shoot for a 6 or 7. This will teach them to put themselves to sleep.

5) Gentle Sleep Coaching - 

Sit beside the crib and soothe the baby. If they need help falling asleep, you can use your verbal (talking or singing) and physical presence to help soothe them the rest of the way to sleep.

Other tips - 

Awake Windows:

Follow your child's sleep cues but also use this awake windows chart below to help time your child's naps to an age-appropriate schedule.  If your child is a champ at hiding their sleep cues, try taking them to a dark room near when you think it's nap time, sometimes that will bring out the tired signs you were looking for to know when is the best time to put them down for sleep. 

For more detailed help with an age-appropriate schedule view our blog with sample schedules by age group.


Consistency is your best friend. We parents can sometimes forget the factors that set naps and night sleep apart: noise level, too much daylight, etc.  Don't forget that naps are the hardest time to put yourself to sleep. 

You want to stay consistent in order to make their nap time the most effective.

Sweet Dreams!

Written by: Michelle S. Donaghy

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Summer Sleep and Travel Tips

Summer is coming and keeping your little one on a schedule is a challenge.  With vacations and long summer days the routines are bound to be disrupted.

As a general rule it is a good idea to return to your normal routine as soon as you can. 

Some children return to their normal sleep patterns without much fuss.  With others you need to do some sleep training, but it falls into place much faster then the first time.  

When you return from vacation try to keep the schedule clear for a few days so you can make sleep and returning to your normal routine a priority.  I hope these tips below help you and your family have a fun, but sleep filled, summer vacation.

Packing List

For your packing check list, here are a few items you should not leave home without:

  • Travel crib, sheets, pillowcases                                        
  • Crib blankie, sleep sack, security object
  • Sound machine and/or white noise app on your phone
  • Bedtime books
  • Night light  with a small 4 watt bulb
  • Garbage bags or black flat sheets (from Wal-Mart) to cover windows             
  • Pushpins, electrical tape and/or binder clips

MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: Wal-Mart sells flat sheets very inexpensively in black.  I never traveled with my girls without our black sheets and binder clips (to hang them), just in case the room wasn't dark enough for naps or nighttime.

Sleeping Environment

Young children thrive off routines and predictability. Set up your child's sleeping environment to mimic the home environment as much as possible.

  • Bring familiar objects from home and set them up around the room.
  • Bring bedding from home that your child has already slept on rather than a freshly washed sheets. The familiar smell will help your child feel more at home.
  • If your child will be sleeping in a travel bed from home, have him get used to the bed by sleeping in it at home for a few days ahead of time.

Adjusting to the New Space

While you set up your child's sleeping room, have them in the room with you.  This will help your child get accustomed to the new sleeping environment.  Give him some play time in the playpen or crib when you arrive at your new destination, before you actually put him down for sleep. 

MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip:  Crib or room acclimation activities before sleep are great ways to help your child create a positive association with this new place.  While he is in the new crib, play games with him like peek-a-boo, read books or toss a soft toy back and forth. You can also both get down on the floor and allow him to explore the space together.

Sleep Routines

When possible keep your bedtime routine the same as it is at home. E.g. If your child always has a bath then reads a book before bed, try to do this while on vacation as much as possible.  Respect your child's need to sleep while on vacation.  Avoid keeping your children up past their bedtime or skipping naps. Try to stick to your at-home daily sleep schedule if you can. 

Depending on what type of vacation you are on, here are a few tips for preserving your child's sleep routine:
  • Plan out your days so that you are able to get back to your "home base" for nap times.
  • Bring a playpen and set it up in a dark quiet room at guest's houses.
  • Time car trips so that your child can have their nap in the car.
  • Have your child nap in the stroller by finding a quiet location to go for a walk.
Sleeping in the car or stroller is not as restorative as sleeping in a bed and should not become a regular routine, but it is much better than skipping naps altogether.

Your child may need a little bit of extra comforting the first few nights while he/she adjusts to the new sleeping arrangements. It is ok to provide some extra soothing if needed, just avoid reverting to old sleep crutches. E.g. If you have eliminated nursing to sleep at home don't start this again while away.

MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: If you have a method of sleep training that you used successful at home, you can re-visit this method to help your child settle in their new sleeping space without starting new habits that you don't want to keep when you get home.

Time Zones

Changing time zones can be difficult for both adults and children. Here are a few tips to help your child (and yourself) adjust to the time change.
  • Try to switch your child's eating and sleeping schedule onto the real time of the location you are in as quickly as possible.  Ideally within 24 hours from when you arrive. This may mean getting your child up from naps early so he doesn't nap too late in the day or waking him up in the morning even if he went to bed late the night before.
  • Exposure to daylight during proper wake times will help your child's body adjust to the time change more quickly.
  • Flights that land in the afternoon at the destination and time changes of less than three hours usually make for an easier adjustment.

Be Flexible

Have realistic expectations and be flexible.  Planning ahead is essential, however, even the best laid out plans will always have snags!  Even if things get thrown off for your child, don't let yourself become so stressed that you don't enjoy your vacation. Once you are home you should get back to your 'normal' routine within 1-2 days so you can get your child's sleep back on track asap.

Don't forget to enjoy yourself!!!!! It is easy to get so caught up in managing our child's sleep and routines that we forget the reason we took a vacation! So go ahead, relax and have fun!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is there such a thing as too late of a naptime?

We are starting a new series of Q & A blogs-

I take a question (from tired Mom's like you) and give my answer (and my professional opinion).  Note: If you would like to submit a question please do so in the "Post a Question" area of the blog below.  

This month I answer a question from the Mom of a 3yr who's late naps are making bedtime too late.

Question from Mom:

Q: "I'd like your professional opinion - I am the mother of a 10-month-old and 3-year-old. My older daughter just turned 3, and currently on a 2:30PM nap to match my (11-month old's afternoon nap). 

However, the nap ends up running later and later, which results in a late bedtime (10 or 10:30 PM). 

My husband thinks I should drop the nap, but I'm not sure. It just seems 10:30 PM is too late for her to go to sleep at age 3.

Should I continue with the nap? How can I control these factors and get bedtime back to a reasonable hour?

My answer:

A: Yes, there is definitely such a thing as too late of a bedtime and I get this question from my client's at nearly every age of baby or child.  I agree that 10 PM is too late for a 3 year old.  

You didn't mention what time she wakes in the morning but assuming she:
  • wakes around 7 AM
  • falls asleep independently
  • is taking one nap a day
then the schedule below would be a great schedule to follow and is age appropriate for a 3-year-old.

At her age (or a child between 2 and 3 years old), the average amount of sleep is around 10 1/2 hours at night plus a 1 1/2 hour afternoon nap.

Ideal schedule at 3 years old  

Wake up in the morning (no early than 6 and no later than 7:30 AM)
7:00 AM - wake up
1:00 or 2 PM - nap 
(put her down between 6-7 hours after she woke in the morning)
2:30 PM - Wake from nap (wake her up no later than 3 PM).  
8:00 AM - bedtime

NOTE: A good rule of thumb at 3 years old, up from the nap by 3 PM.

Instead of dropping the nap, all at once take these gradual steps to fix the problem and move towards a no nap schedule soon.  Work on cutting back or shortening the nap so that her bedtime isn't so late.  You do this by waking her up from nap time by 3 PM or after 1 1/2 hours of day sleep!!  

Or if it works better for your two little ones plus you don't mind a little bit of a later bedtime and your child sleeps after 7:00 AM in the morning - then you can push nap and bedtime a little later in the day.  Just keep in mind that we really do want her to get that 10 1/2 hours of night sleep.    If she wakes at 7:30 AM or at least after 7 AM, then a 2 PM nap and an 8:30 or 9 PM bedtime would still work.

Shorten naptime to fix late bedtime

The first step to fix this late bedtime and gradual the step before you consider dropping the nap completely is to shorten her nap so that she sleeps around 1 1/2 hours at naptime.

I agree with you, 10:30 PM is too late for her to go to sleep at night so to help with that start waking her up from the nap 15 min earlier every 2-3 days until you find a place that brings bedtime up to where she is getting about 10 1/2 hrs of nighttime sleep.  You didn't mention how long she sleeps for at naptime, but start with waking her at 1 1/2 hours of sleep or less.

You can keep shortening the nap and cutting it down until you get to a 45min mark.  At that point, you can decide if it is time to drop that nap completely.  My blog on dropping the nap is a good review of what to be looking for to decide that. You may see that she needs a nap every 2 days or 3 days before she gets ready to drop athe napo completely.

Quiet Time

When she is ready to drop the nap, don't skip nap times completely - you both need the downtime. What I recommend is to keep sending them to their room for quiet time - say to her "you don't have to sleep but you must have 45-60 min quiet time".  She can read a book or a quiet toy, but she must remain on her bed quietly for this time period.

On days when she doesn't nap make sure her bedtime is early enough so that she gets at least 12hr of night sleep.

I hope that helps!
Sweet Dreams
Michelle S. Donaghy, Certified Gentle Sleep Coach

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Top Tips for Early Rising

For a lot of my clients, spring forward and the time change fixed their early rising problem, but not for all of them. Early Rising is common for babies and young children.  Waking between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m. is typical for most young children.  But waking up before 6 a.m. and being ready to play is an early rising problem you must address.

Understand the Cause

Early rising is typically caused by one of these four problems and identifying what is the cause, will help you find your fix.

  • Too late of a bedtime
  • Not enough daytime sleep
  • Staying awake too long between end of afternoon nap and bedtime
  • Going to bed too drowsy.

Earlier Bedtime

Keeping your child up later will not help them sleep later in the morning and could be the cause of early rising.  For the first 5 years of a child's life, bedtime is usually between 7 and 8 p.m.


That old myth of keeping your child awake all day and they will sleep better at night, is an untruth.  Skipped or short naps will create early-rising, more night waking, and poor quality of sleep - not to mention and over tired and fussy child. Try to pay attention to the schedule and awake windows to increase your daytime sleep.  Or review my blog on sample schedules for children from 6 months to 5 years old.

Awake Windows

Awake windows are basically periods and when you can expect your child to be awake between his or her nap. Too large of a window between the end of the last nap of the day and bedtime can also cause early-rising. For a child on one-nap the average awake window is around 4 hours.  You may also review my blog on schedule, naps and awake windows.

Medical condition

Sleep apnea is frequently overlooked in children and can cause a very stubborn early-rising problem so speak to your child's doctor if you suspect any medical issues that have not been addressed.  If your child regularlly snores or you hear them gasping in their sleep, please discuss this with your pediatrician.

Dark Room

Ensure that your child's room is dark in the early morning hours. Purchasing room darkening or blackout shades / curtains will block out the most light.  Too much light can definitely cause your child to wake up earlier than normal.


For a child under 8 months of age the cause of early-rising could be hunger. If you think this is the cause of your early rising, try an experiment.  Give your child a dream feed. This means you would feed your baby one more time before you go to bed. The hope is that baby will eat and go right back to sleep.  If after a few days you do not notice a change in the early rising you could end this experiment and rule out hunger.

Going to Bed too Drowsy

Make sure your child is going to bed awake. It should take your child at least five minutes to fall asleep when you put them into their crib. Many parents get confused by this term and put their child into bed too sleepy. If you are putting your child to bed, too drowsy - they will not be able to put themselves back to sleep in the early morning hours which is the hardest time of day to practice that skill.

Have a Morning Routine

Make a big deal about the morning wake up and have a morning routine that could include: opening up the blinds, turning on the light, singing a good morning song and having the happy voice when you greet your baby. This will help your child to differentiate between morning time versus sleep time.

As with most changes and learning a new habit, a little patience and 100% consistency will be required to resolve an early rising problem. So don't give up after a few days, but give it a good one to two weeks to see results.

Sweet Dreams,
Michelle S. Donaghy

Monday, February 5, 2018

Baby and Child Sleep: Sample Schedules from 6 months to 5 years old

Does it seem like just when you have your baby on the "perfect schedule" - it changes?  I hear that a lot from my clients.  As your baby develops and grows, their sleep needs change too.  Keeping up with these changes can be hard for parents.  

I have put together all of my sleep schedules for you, across each age group so you can have them in one place.  These are the same handouts I provide to my clients and that I share when I speak to MOPS and Mom's groups across Orange County.

Both the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and the NSF (National Sleep Foundation) have published new sleep recommendations which give a range of hours within a 24 hour period.  

Where is my child's range?

I find it most helpful for parents to know how much sleep is needed for naps and night sleep. Therefore day and night sleep are noted separately on the sleep schedules below.

It is also very important to keep in mind that their is "at least a 1-hour variance" each direction on the numbers noted on each sleep schedule.   I recommend you use the numbers as a guide and follow your child's sleep cues, along with their behavior to know if your child is getting enough sleep.

6-8 Months

At this age, babies need an average of eleven hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep and three and a half hours of daytime naps spread over two to three naps.

From six through eight months, babies become more mobile. They roll over, sit up, maybe even stand holding on to something. Many scoot or crawl, and the first teeth come in. Most babies sleep through the night fairly regularly but if yours doesn’t, it is still quite easy to get them on track.

Download - Sleep Schedule and Tips For Your Six to Nine Month Old

9-12 Months

Nine to twelve month old babies on average need eleven hours of sleep at night and three during the day. At nine months, babies should nap for about an hour and a half in the morning and about one and a half to two hours in the afternoon. 

Most have given up that brief, third late-afternoon nap. By twelve months, the morning nap is about an hour, and the afternoon nap is about an hour and a half.

13-18 Months

At this age toddlers need an average of eleven and a quarter hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and two and a quarter to two and a half hours during the day. Children at the younger end of this age bracket take two naps, in the morning and afternoon, but by eighteen months most consolidate to one midday or afternoon nap. 

Young toddlers are prone to behavioral sleep problems. Their increased mobility (including walking), a peak in separation anxiety around the first birthday, transition to one nap and emotional attachment to such objects as bottles and pacifiers can all complicate bedtime and contribute to nighttime awakenings. 

18-30 Months

An eighteen month old on average sleeps eleven and a quarter hours at night and two and a quarter hours during one midday or afternoon nap.

At age two
, sleep requirements drop to eleven hours at night and two during the day. Over the next year that will drop to ten and a half hours at night and one and a half during the day. Remember these are averages but variations should not be huge. Watch your child’s daytime behavior for clues to whether he or she needs more sleep.

2 1/2 to 5 Years

Between ages two and three, average sleep needs drop to about ten and a half hours a night, plus an hour-and-a-half afternoon nap.

Four year olds
need eleven and a half hours at night, and most no longer nap daily, although they do need about forty-five minutes of quiet time each afternoon and possibly an occasional nap.

Five year olds
sleep about eleven hours a night, and afternoon quiet time is still beneficial. 

Would you like All of the Sleep Schedules?  Download them here

Sweet Dreams,
Michelle S. Donaghy

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Top Sleep Blogs of 2017

As we start a New Year, let's look back at the top blogs of 2017.

#3 - Is my toddler ready to drop to one nap

Knowing when it’s time for your baby to make a change and drop a nap is no easy task.  Not to mention most Mom's tell me: "I'm not not ready for less day sleep!"  Read through this blog for tips on how to keep the two nap schedule for longer and if it really is the best time to drop a nap.

#2 - Early Rising

Not surprising early rising is on this list as it is the second most common question I get, next to night wakings.  Early rising is also the last stage of sleep to be learned so it's more difficult to fix, especially if independent sleep at bedtime hasn't been established.

#1 - Schedules, Naps and Awake Windows

This blog was the all time most viewed MSD Baby Sleep blog!  Not surprising as a child's sleep changes every few months.  Staying on top of how much sleep your baby or child needs is a daunting tasks.  This blog also includes a recommendation on how to time naps to ensure your child is well rested.

Happy New Year to you and your family!  May the New Year bring you health, peace, happiness and more sleep!

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy, founder of MSD Baby Sleep Coach and Certified Gentle Sleep Coach