Top 3 Myths around On-Demand Feeding and Baby Sleep

I often come across moms and dads who think that choosing to feed their babies on-demand means that they won’t be able to have any kind of structure in their day, and that it is not possible for their babies to sleep through the night. I disagree with both ideas, and I would like to clarify some of the most common myths around on-demand breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) and baby sleep.

Myth #1 | Constant Feeding: Feeding on-demand means feeding every time my baby fusses or cries

Breastfeeding on demand—-also known as ‘feeding on cue’ and ‘baby-led feeding’ doesn’t mean that you have to feed your baby around the clock and every time he/she cries. Feeding on demand means responding with flexibility to your baby’s hunger cues. You feed your baby when he/she shows signs of hunger for as long as he/she desires to be fed.

Therefore, one of the first things you should do as a mom is to learn your baby’s cues. The only way your baby can communicate with you is crying, so you should listen to the different cries that your baby has and respond accordingly. Your baby will cry when he/she’s hungry, tired, overtired, bored, sad, gassy, uncomfortable, wet… and paying close attention you will learn the difference among those cries.

Common baby’s cues:
– Hunger: mouth movement, sucking, rooting, crying, fussing, and frantic head movements.
– Sleep: rubbing eyes, yawning, staring, crying, fussing, alertness, and whining.

My recommendation is to feed your baby on demand for the first weeks (1-6 weeks), while he/she is still a newborn; while you learn your baby’s cues. Once you know the difference, limit your feedings to when he/she is hungry and make sure you don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism. If your baby is crying, but not showing signs of hunger then it is likely that something else is the problem.


Follow your baby’s cues and respond accordingly and make sure that you do not nurse every time your baby fusses, and he/she will develop healthy eating habits on his/her own. The same applies to your baby’s sleep patterns.


Myth #2 | Unpredictable and Unstructured Day: Feeding on-demand means ‘waiting for my baby to demand food’

As I suggested above, you should be ‘learning your baby’, tracking his natural feeding and sleeping patterns, so you know when to offer food and when not to. After the first few weeks of life, it is perfectly realistic to establish a feeding routine based on your baby’s cues.

Note that I said ‘routine’ (a regular order to the day) not ‘schedule’ (set times for set activities). The secret is to have a routine (a regular order to the day). Feeding on demand does not mean that you wait for your baby to ‘demand’ food. Once you learn your baby’s natural cycles and his/her cues, you can predict a certain routine for you and your baby.

Myth #3 | No Sleep: On-demand fed babies cannot sleep through the night until much later and wake up constantly

This one is right up my alley! Generally speaking, breastfed babies need to feed more often than bottle-fed babies. Breast milk is very rich in enzymes that aid digestion, requiring little digestive effort on the part of the infant, and therefore it is digested faster than formula or cow milk.

However, this doesn’t mean that an on-demand breastfed baby can’t sleep through the night or take proper naps. If you learn and follow your baby’s cues as I suggested before, your baby will get the right sleep consolidation. You will notice that your baby will nurse more right before bedtime, and that he/she will naturally consolidate his nighttime sleep before his/her 6th month of age. During the day, you will notice that the shorter catnaps consolidate into two long naps.

The best way to help him/her do this is by not offering food when you know your baby is not hungry. Don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism, or your baby will learn exactly that and demand exactly that.

Believe that babies are made to sleep and eat naturally. We, as parents, only have to understand how they express their needs to avoid creating poor eating and sleep habits.

What’s an Independent Sleeper?

Baby Sleep Goals: Creating the right sleep associations

The image most parents have of sleep training is a baby crying until he succumbs to exhaustion and falls asleep. However, sleep training does not have to be like that.

The main goal of sleep training is to help our children become independent sleepers. An independent sleeper is that who falls asleep on his own and puts himself back to sleep when he wakes up.

I would also add that a ‘real’ independent sleeper is so ‘for life’. This means that real independent sleeper will not need to be ‘retrained’ to sleep when he is moved to a toddler bed, starts preschool, is potty training, etc. In order to create a ‘real independent sleepers’, we need to help them establish the right, positive sleep associations.

Our children shouldn’t associate sleep with feelings of abandonment, fear, desperation, anxiety, punishment, excitement, or stimulation. Sleep should be associated with feelings of tranquility, relaxation, love, trust, restfulness, empowerment and peace. Here are some simple tips to help our children create those positive associations:

  • Establish and maintain a soothing and calming bedtime routine
  • Use bedtime for bonding
  • Help your child feel safe, secure and comforted in his crib/bed
  • Make your child’s room a soothing and calming place: dark, quiet, organized and safe
  • Avoid active playing, television, videogames and other exciting activities before bedtime Do not use the crib/bed for time-outs or disciplining

Children model our behavior, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep!

By Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For more baby sleep and parenting tips, sign up for Smooth Parenting’s FREE newsletter at http://www.SmoothParenting.com; and follow them on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

Sleep Training Multiples

Tips to help multiples get a good night’s sleep

Healthy sleep habits are essential for our children’s development and for our own sanity! Here are some tips that parents of multiples can implement from day one:


  • Help them become independent sleepers. Allow them to experience the feeling of being drowsy but awake on their cribs; avoid creating negative sleep associations (rocking, feeding, patting, holding… them to sleep); and do not respond immediately to every single noise they make.

  • Follow a schedule. Your babies (and you!) will thrive on a schedule. Pay attention to your babies’ clues during the first weeks and pick a schedule that works for your multiples. An early bedtime (between 5 and 7pm) is an essential part of great schedule. If one of the parents (or both) get home late from work, do not keep your babies up to see them before bed, as you will all pay for it with a terrible night sleep. Instead, wake up early and play with them in the morning right after their first feeding.

  • Keep them synchronized. Once the right schedule is in place, synchronization is possible. Remember to wake them up for feedings when necessary; to put them down for naps and nights at the same time (one down, both down); and to be consistent. Synchronization usually comes easier with identical babies.

Sleep training multiples can be exhausting, but remember that you can do it, and that a good night’s sleep is as important for your babies as a proper meal.


Good luck!

By Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For more baby sleep and parenting tips, sign up for Smooth Parenting’s FREE newsletter at http://www.SmoothParenting.com; and follow them on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

Is your bedtime too late?

One of the most common (and easy to solve) mistakes regarding baby sleep is having a bedtime that is too late for our baby. Here are some tips on how to know whether your bedtime is too late:

  1. The 4-5pm test. Look at how your baby is around 4-5pm. If he/she is cranky, sand, whinny… your bedtime is too late! A well rested child  should be happy, playful, and in a good mood around 4-5pm.
  2. The Sleep’s Speed test. It takes an average of 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. This applies to grown-ups and babies. Experts argue that if your baby ‘falls asleep before his/her head hits the pillow’, or if it takes him/her more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, she/he is probably sleep-deprived and an earlier bedtime is needed.

A good bedtime for most babies should be between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. If you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep at night, do the previous tests, and try bringing up her/his bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier. You won’t believe the difference those 15 – 30 minutes can have on a child’s sleep.

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Healthy Sleep Habits for Children

There are many things that we, parents, can do to help our children fall asleep easier and sooner, stay asleep and have healthy sleep habits.

These are basic and simple things that will help with this:

  • Consistent daily routine – Keep to a regular daily routine— waking time, meal times, nap times, play times, TV time… will help your child to feel secure, relaxed and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime.  Children like to know what to expect, and not have the stress of wondering what’s going to happen next.
  • Exercise and fresh air – Make sure your child has interesting, stimulating and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air; so she can burn up energy, exercise her body and mind, and be looking forward the wind down time at night.
  • Consistent sleep schedule – We have said this many times. It is essential for your child to have a clear and consistent schedule. Her wake up time and bed time should be the same every day, regardless of the circumstances (weekend, holidays…). We don’t expect you to have a set time (ie. 7:14am), but you should have a clear window, 10 minutes up or down and be consistent. Therefore, if your bedtime is 7pm, sometimes your child might go to bed at 6:50pm and others at 7:10pm, but that’s all the wiggle you should allow.
  • Loving bedtime routine and wind down time – Plan quiet time before bedtime every night for approximately 30-60 minutes. This means that the activities take place 1 hour before bedtime should be calming, and enjoyable. This might include: taking a bath, getting a massage, listening to quiet music, reading a book, singing lullabies… Try to be consistent with your bedtime routine. This quiet time activity need not all take place in the child’s bedroom but it should culminate there such that the last 10-15 minutes are in the bedroom where the child will sleep. The bedtime routine should be a time for you to interact with your child in a way that is secure and loving, yet firm. Spend some special time with your child, let them know you love her and you are going to be there for her. Please, avoid TV watching, homework, video game playing and other exciting activities. Never use sending your child to bed as a threat. Bedtime needs to be a secure, loving time, not a punishment.  Your goal is to teach your kids that bedtime is enjoyable, just as it is for us adults.  If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.
  • Appropriately full stomach – You should guarantee that your child has a heavy dinner, at least 1 hour before going to bed, so she will not wake up hungry in the middle of the night. You can also provide a light snack or cup of milk right before bedtime (remember to brush their teeth after this). Eating too much right before bedtime or much earlier might interfere with your child’s sleep quality.
  • Sleep-friendly bedroom – Your child’s bedroom should be quiet, safe (baby proofed, no cords, hard corners, accessible electric outlets, no loose sheets…), secure (allow for security blankets if your child needs them, display a picture of the family…), adequate temperature (68° F – 75° F), happy (bedroom should not be used for super exciting activities or for time outs, in order to avoid bad sleep associations, however, it should be used for calming, enjoyable activities besides sleeping), and dark (a nightlight is acceptable for children afraid of a dark, but make sure it’s not too bright).

Remember, consistency, calmness, trust and reassurance are essential in helping your child become an independent sleeper.

Sources: Cleveland Clinic research, University of Michigan research

Sleep Needs By Age

Sleep is probably the most discussed aspect of baby care. As we mentioned in a previous post, sleep is essential for babies and children’s development. The quality and quantity of a child’s sleep has a direct impact in his growth, development, awareness, happiness and overall wellbeing.

Many of you have written us asking about how many hours of sleep children and babies need. This is a general guide, every child is different and certain developmental milestones and personal and family-related circumstances might influence the amount of sleep they need.

Age Total Sleep Hours Comments
Day-Naps Night Total
0 – 1 Month 5 – 7 10 – 13 15 – 18 §   Preemies may need more sleep.

§   Newborns usually wake up every 2.5 to 4 hours; since that’s the longest their tummies can go between feedings. Therefore, do not expect newborns to sleep those 10 hours straight at night.

§   Newborns sleep most of the day, so ‘naps’ are not really so. They happen often and not necessarily at the same time every day.

2 – 4 Months 4 – 5 10 – 12 14 – 16 §   A more regular sleeping pattern usually emerges around the 2nd or 3rd month of life.

§   The longest sleep periods are from 4 to 8 hours.

§   Naps are usually 3 (morning, midday and afternoon).

§   Between 3 and 4 months of age, formal sleep training can begin.

§   Establishing healthy sleep habits is a primary goal during this time.

5 – 6 Months 4 – 5 10 – 12 14 – 16 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps decrease from 3 to 2 and increase in length.

§   Establishing healthy sleep habits is also a primary goal during this time.

7 – 9 Months 2 – 4 12 – 13 14 – 15 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps are 2 per day.

9 – 12 Months 2 – 4 12 – 13 14 – 15 §   The longest sleep periods could last 10 to 12 hours at night.

§   Naps are 2 per day, and one of them starts to shorten.

13 – 18 Months 2 – 3 11 – 12 13 – 14 §   Some children lose their morning nap during this period.
19 Months – 2 Years 2 – 3 10 – 12 12 – 14 §   Children lose their morning nap if they haven’t done so yet.
2 – 3 Years 0 – 2 11 – 13 11 – 13 §   Most children drop their final nap by the time they are 3 years old.
3 – 5 Years 0 – 1 11 – 12 11 – 12 §   Children usually transition from their cribs to a toddler bed at around 3 years old if they haven’t done so. Remember to be patient and know that some sleep re-training might be needed due to this change.

§   Remember to maintain a clear bedtime routine.

5 – 11 Years 0 10 – 12 10 – 12 §   Children should continue with their healthy sleep habits.

§   Bedtime routine has probably evolved, but must still be present; children still need a wind down time.

§   Do not bring a TV into your children’s bedroom, do not allow them to fall asleep with the lights on, do not allow them to play with the computer right before bedtime.

12 – 18 Years 0 8 – 10 8 – 10 §   Sleep is as essential for teenagers as it was when they were children.

Sources: Smooth Parenting research and experience working with families; WebMD; American Association of Pediatrics; Gina Ford’s Books; Dr. Weissbluth’s Books.

Bedtime routine, sleep pattern and children’s health

A child’s bedtime routine could affect his or her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Setting bedtime routines and bedtime can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants and toddlers. Not getting enough sleep affects children’s behavior, memory, attention, and emotional well-being.

“Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development,” said Lauren Hale, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook, New York. “If it sets a pattern in the way you treat sleep or bedtime, these patterns may last your whole life unknowingly.”

Devote time and effort to make sure your children get enough and proper sleep, it’ll be a fantastic health gift for life.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/14/bedtime.children/index.html