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Aug 16 2011

He Used To Be A Good Sleeper….Help!

By at 10:01 am

No sleep, no way, no how!

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to

Dear Batya,

My 11-month-old son had been sleeping well (going to bed at 7 and sleeping straight through the night to 7) for a while. The past few weeks he has been getting up very early  at 5 and is clearly still very tired. I have been trying to get him to sleep later in the morning by not responding to him and letting him kvetch until at least 6, but he is waking my older children and is not falling back asleep. He is cranky when I take him out and ready for a nap by 7:30. I tried making his bedtime later in hopes that he would sleep later but that didn’t help. Any other ideas to get him to sleep later in the morning? I know he needs it as do I! Also, he takes two good naps per day, each lasting between almost two hours.


Dear Caren,

Early rising is a very common problem for toddlers and older babies. Usually it can be caused by one of two main issues: Either he needs his internal clock readjusted by making his bedtime slightly later, in hopes that he will eventually wake up later, or his overall sleep distribution needs to be fine-tuned.

Even though you’ve attempted to make his bedtime later and it didn’t help, it takes 6-8 weeks of continually putting your baby to bed later to see significant progress. Therefore, trying it out for a few days cannot determine whether or not it is what his body needs. If you feel you have the patience to commit to this, it’s definitely worthwhile as based on what you’ve written it seems this would be the most helpful for him. Do it slowly. If he normally goes to sleep at 7, make bedtime 7:15 for a week or so. Then slowly bump it up to 7:30. I wouldn’t make his bedtime any later than 7:45, as over-tiredness would make it more difficult for him to settle. But, by the 7:30/7:45 mark, his body will eventually regulate which will in turn help him to sleep later than 5:30 in the morning!

If that doesn’t work after a good two months, then it would seem he needs to redistribute his day sleep. Most 11-month-olds still require two naps daily, but when early rising like this occurs consistently, it demonstrates he may need to tweak his existing nap routine.  Assuming that each naps is consistently the 1.5-2 hr mark, I would start by trying to combine his naps into one.  If he normally goes down around 9:30, slowly offer his nap later and later (by 15-20 minute intervals ever few days) until you’ve combined the naps into a nice, late morning nap (usually if a baby wakes around 7 am, then 11/11:30 is an optimal time for this).

It’s also very important to ensure that there are no streams of light at that early hour of the morning so make sure you have good blinds that block out the light.  Some babies are extremely sensitive to their visual sensory input.

Remain patient with all of this and as long as you’re consistent his body should readjust. Good luck!

Contact Batya and mention you saw her on Kveller for a free phone consultation!

Aug 8 2011

Batya the Sleep Coach: The Baby Who Keeps Waking Up

By at 1:26 pm

When those eyes won't shut, it's time for some expert advice from Batya.

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to

Dear Batya,

Oy…where do I start? My 7 month old has never slept well. I put him down drowsy but awake for his naps and he will fall asleep but will generally only go up to an hour…is there a way to extend at least one of those naps to 2 hours?

Our biggest problem is at night. He has yet to go more than a 4 1/2 hour stretch…What can I do to get him to at least do an 8 hour stretch?

-Kellie Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 21 2011

Batya the Sleep Coach: The Early Riser

By at 4:05 pm

Awake, not asleep? Email Batya for help

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to

Dear Batya,

No matter what time I put my 19 month old to sleep he wakes at the same time. Bedtime is between 7pm- 7:30pm (usually right at 7pm on the dot) and he wakes up between 5am and 6am (usually closer to 5am!). He naps once a day at 12pm (sleeps just over an hour, and then comes to bed with me and sleeps a bit more- up to an hour). Mornings he is exhausted; always lying around on the couch or floor if I don’t get him out and keep him busy. I have tried not responding until 6am but that usually means I hear him crying on and off until I give in at 6. How can I get him to sleep the 11-12 hours he so desperately needs?

Dear Chana,

Your toddler seems to be suffering from a common case of early-rising here.  Don’t worry, though, it’s not usually a complicated issue to fix – it just takes a lot of consistency and perseverance on your part. Tiredness upon waking in the morning, though, is not always the best determining factor if a baby/child is well-rested or not. Some children wake up ready to start their day refreshed and exhilarated, while it takes others much longer to “wake up.” That said, it would seem that 10 hours of sleep is not enough for him. On average, a 19-month-old needs one nap, approximately 1-2 hours in length – which is what he’s getting.  The issue with his nap seems to be the same recurring theme that you’re facing when he wakes in the morning:  he’s able to settle to sleep easily, but once he wakes up and is exhausted, can’t resettle and needs a lot of intervention on your part to help aid him back to sleep (which is what you currently do for his naps).

I would first suggest not waiting too long to put him down for a nap. If he’s conking out in seconds at 12 pm, he probably needs to go down a bit earlier. When you put a toddler to sleep when he is too overtired, he doesn’t actually wind down for sleep on his own – he is simply falling asleep the second his head hits the pillow. After he then completes a sleep cycle, he is unable to settle himself back to sleep because he never really calmed down in the first place. Experiment with timing, but if he’s waking as early as 5 am, a nap around 11/11:30 would be more appropriate.

Readjusting internal clocks takes time, so I would tackle that issue first for at least a week or two until you start seeing improvement in his naps.

After that, you’ll be able to approach his early rising. Children who are overtired don’t sleep well, but at the same time 10 hours of sleep may simply be the amount he needs.  You’ll need to experiment a bit, but he will fall under one of two categories: either an earlier bedtime, where he is more rested, will help him transition back to sleep in those early hours which will in turn prove your theory that he needs more sleep. Or on the contrary, you may need to continue readjusting his internal clock, gradually (by 15 minute intervals or so) pushing his bedtime later and later until it’s closer to 7:45.  It will take a good 6-8 weeks before he’ll begin sleeping later in the morning, but if you’re willing to work and stay consistent you will see his body slowly begin to adjust.

Jul 12 2011

Batya the Sleep Coach: Getting the Twins to Sleep

By at 9:52 am

Why sleep when we can play with each other?

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to

Dear Batya,

My husband and I have almost-10-month-old twins. They wake up repeatedly during the night. Often it’s easy to soothe them back to sleep. But sometimes one (or both) of them is just wide awake at 4am and it’s really hard to get them back to sleep. They start off the night around 8:30pm in their cribs. If someone wakes up before we are in bed, we rock him or her back to sleep and put them back in the crib. If they wake up after we are in bed, we just bring them into bed with us (we have a king size bed for this purpose). That used to solve the problem and they slept solidly the rest of the night. But more and more they are waking up even once they are in bed with us. I don’t know why and I don’t know how to get them back to sleep. We are not willing to let them cry (beyond a little kvetching), so that is off the table as a strategy.

Dear Ana,

Sounds like you have a tag team over there! It seems they are both waking so frequently at night due to the fact that they simply don’t know how to settle themselves to sleep. You can never spoil a baby, and all you can do is love them to pieces, but when push comes to shove they need to learn how to self-soothe in order for them to improve in their sleep habits.

You need to first ensure they’re not overtired by bedtime, and on a decent routine during the day that allows you to predict when their bodies are actually regulated to sleeping for the night.  Below is a sample schedule that may help you:

7:00 – Wake and Breast milk or Formula
9:00 – Breakfast
10:00 or 10:30 – Morning Nap (at least 1 hour)
11:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
1:00 – Lunch
2:00 or 2:30 – Early Afternoon Nap (at least 1 hour)
3:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
5:00 – Dinner
6:15 – Begin bedtime routine, including Breast milk or Formula
7:00 –Bedtime (aim to have them both asleep by this time)

After ensuring their bodies are regulated, you can then move onto actually TEACHING them how to sleep. When working with multiples, it’s best if you can separate them so they don’t wake each other up. After a few weeks of their sleep improving, you can then move them back into the same room and allow them to get used to each other again.

Place each one in their crib/room at bedtime. Sit there with them for as long as it takes for them to fall asleep. They see you, hear you, and can even touch you to know that you’re there, but give them the secure, loving, but firm message that they need to learn to sleep on their own. Some protesting will be involved, but they will never feel alone or abandoned because you are right there with them! After 3-5 days, you can slowly become less involved in helping them fall asleep until you’re able to simply kiss and cuddle them, put them in their cribs, do your routine, and leave the room to let them drift off on their own.  It’ll probably take about 2 weeks of hard work…but it’ll be worth it!

Jun 28 2011

Batya the Sleep Coach: The Baby Who Wouldn’t Sleep

By at 9:02 am

When you've got this instead of sleep, it's time to talk to Batya.

Sleep. It’s the problem that plagues all parents. Help is on its way!  Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to

Dear Batya,

My 7 month old has been sleeping through the night (seriously, 10-12 hours!) for 5 months (I know, hooray…how can I possibly have a sleep question?). For the last week, she gets very sleepy while I am nursing her between 8:45 PM and 9:30 PM but when I go put her in the crib, she bolts up, wide awake. She’s been going down more like 11:00 PM. I don’t mind the later bedtime, the problem is that she then wakes at about the same time (8:30 AM) and is cranky in the morning. She will nap, sometimes too well. I wake her up so that she doesn’t go too far in naps and completely destroys bedtime.

She did get her first tooth this week but nothing else has really changed. How can I get my easy to bed baby back?

Dear Lori Beth,

Regressions like this can be typical sometimes, but you want to ensure that the problem doesn’t escalate further. If she isn’t falling asleep until 11 pm, and still waking early at 8:30, this is due to the fact that she is overtired. The first step to solving this problem is to introduce an earlier bedtime. She is probably fighting bedtime so much simply because she is overtired, so I would recommend the goal of her sleeping no later than 8 pm.

If she needs an extended routine or wind-down process to help her relax, that’s fine.  That means starting the nursing before bed no later than 7:30ish to ensure she is asleep by 8.  Also, as you’ve realized, you don’t want her naps too close to bedtime which could interfere with her ability to wind-down at that time. If you want her sleeping by 8 pm, ensure that her last nap doesn’t extend past 4-4:30, latest. This will also help her settle to sleep in a way that allows her body to naturally acclimate.

Good luck!

May 4 2011

Happy (you suck at being a) Mother’s Day

By at 3:30 pm

Every time I see a blog post by Renee Septimus I take a deep breath and read with a nervous flutter in the pit of my stomach.  The same portion of my anatomy that has been newly ulcerated by the searing judgment of someone who thinks I’m doing it wrong or they did it better. Grandma Renee has told us to put down our breast pumps, stop talking on our cell phones, and not to let our child cry for more than 45 seconds for fear of permanent brain damage.  If that isn’t condescending, I’m not sure what is.

Much of the same started rolling my way less than a week after my son was born.  People were examining us as if we were auditioning to be parents. Watching us struggle with nursing, with sleeping, with balance.  Some did it quietly with odd glances and “helpful” comments to sing to him more, shhhsh him less, rock him more, swaddle him less, feed him more, bathe him more, while others laid it out there without a shred of finesse or tact. Three days before my first Mother’s Day I got an email from a family member outlining all of the ways in which I had failed my son in his first three months of life. The letter urged me to put down the books and “…start relying on common sense and advice from the people you love. You are supposed to be such an educated woman, start being a mother to this baby and take care of him properly” with a few jabs at the end about how my grandmother, of blessed memory, would be appalled at the mother I had become.  You would have thought I was putting cigarettes out on his arms while feeding him rat poison from my bloody nipples. That criticism burned like salt in my open wounds. I didn’t need to be told that I was being a terrible mother when I was already telling myself that very thing every minute of every day.

I’ve struggled a lot with this over the past year and all the therapy in the world can’t take away those comments. Most of my new-mama friends share similar stores, and while my family seems to have been more forward than most, I can tell you that Ms. Septimus isn’t the first grandma to classify cry-it-out as a form of child abuse.

I’ve narrowed it down to two things, grandparents forget and the vast majority of parenting literature was developed over the last 30 years.  For them, “parenting strategies”, “sleep solutions” and “attachment parenting” were things you learned through trial and error, not something you read about in a book. You didn’t use an electric gadget to suck milk out of your breasts or talk on your cell phone because they weren’t invented yet.  You couldn’t have read about Harvey Karp’s “Five S’s” because his findings weren’t published until after the new millennium.  You can’t remember what you had for lunch last week so don’t tell me your baby didn’t scream at night during his first week of life. I don’t want to sound disrespectful because advice and supportive words from family can be worth their weight in gold to a new mother, but organizations like La Leche League were founded because over the past 50 years, family systems have changed and new parents are looking to books and experts for support because they don’t have an elder lactating woman in the house to offer a breast while they figure it out.

Perhaps our new-fangled parenting methodologies are a slap in the face to the ways in which we were raised or maybe it seems disloyal to accept scientific theories over the advice of our own flesh and blood.  But in the end, that’s the license that comes with having a child of your own. You get to figure it out for yourself and slowly and dynamically turn into the parents you hope to be. My son is and has always been well fed, rested, healthy, and happy and at the end of the day we do what works best for our little family.

This mother’s day just tell your daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter that she is an amazing mom, because even if she doesn’t do it exactly the way you think she should, take a nice long look at your beautiful grandchild and know that she wakes up in the morning with a desire to do her best and goes to bed each night with a promise to do better tomorrow. Just like every Mama I know.

It Takes a Lot More Than Crying to Break a Baby

By at 1:37 pm

Babies are pretty tough.

As a writer, blogger, and mouthy Jewish Mama, I’ve done my fair share of jumping on to the third rails of motherhood, including breastfeeding, vaccinations, and, yes, sleep training.  Yes, I have opinions about all of these issues, but I also respect that every child is different, every family is different, and my opinions are not necessarily relevant for anyone else.

Which is precisely why I can’t stay quiet in response to Renee’s recent piece against letting babies cry it out. I don’t know Renee, but from what I have read, she seems to be a thoughtful, concerned, and loving grandparent.  I respect her opinions, but I don’t necessarily agree with them.

Yes, some doctors believe that crying it out is harmful to babies. In some cases, they may be right. But there are other doctors who disagree, and they’re right too. There are studies in support of both perspectives, and there are so many different factors to consider, that I don’t see how there can be one best answer for every family. The truth is that anytime anyone tells me that there is one right (or wrong) way to raise a baby (short of blatant abuse or neglect), my little red flag goes up and my cynic light starts flashing.

I have a few concerns with Renee’s piece.  First, sleep training is not an all-or-nothing practice. The phrase “crying-it-out” triggers images of babies wailing and screaming for hours on end, and that is rarely what actually happens. In my house, I will let my daughters cry for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, because I have learned through trial and error that going into their rooms agitates them even more. I would rather have them cry for 10 minutes and get a good night’s sleep then go into their rooms and spend the next hour (or longer) trying to soothe them back to sleep (which rarely works with my girls–they really prefer to put themselves to sleep).  The point is, there are gradations of letting your babies cry, and for many families, if some amount of crying results in more and better sleep for everyone, it may well be worth it.

Furthermore, the idea that we should never let our babies cry because chronic fatigue is all part of the parenting job is a rather privileged view.  The soul-crushing exhaustion that all parents have experienced at one point or another is a lot more tolerable if one is home during the day and can nap for a few minutes when the baby is asleep.  (As a part-time SAHM, I can attest to this.)  But for those parents (especially single parents!) who have to work out of the home, who have to get up, go to the office, and be functional in their interactions with other adults, well, that level of continued fatigue just isn’t an option. Read the rest of this entry →

Parents Should Make Their Own Decisions

By at 1:07 pm

Our resident grandmother blogger, Renee Septimus, likes to take on controversial topics: Breastfeeding, cell phones, and now, sleep. When she posted yesterday that letting babies cry it out was a form of cruelty, we were surprised to see the strong show of support she got from Kveller readers (more than 100 Facebook likes!). Parents piled on with support in the comments section citing that “extended crying in infants causes brain damage.” Brain damage!

That’s a lot of judgment to heap on parents who have found that this method works for their families. When we reached out to bloggers to see if they wanted to respond, one woman said she wanted to but didn’t feel ready to talk publicly about her sleep choices. “Sleep has become more private than breastfeeding,” she said.

Then the responses started flowing in. So, today, we are publishing two posts by women who disagree with Renee. As always, we here at Kveller think the most important thing is to support parents in their choices (unless said parents are doing really bad things like feeding their kids Twinkies all day long).

May 3 2011

Does ‘Crying it Out’ Screw Your Kid for Life?

By at 11:30 am

I am taking a deep breath and entering the controversial arena (second only to the hoo-ha made over breastfeeding…and maybe cell phone use) of the Ferber (cry it out) vs. Sears (no cry) debate. I am emboldened and empowered by a recent article sent to me entitled “Why I No Longer Believe Babies Should Cry Themselves to Sleep,” by family physician Gabor Maté of Vancouver, who, as a doctor and parent, now regrets that he practiced this method himself.

Dr. Maté writes that he has come to believe that the Ferber method is “harmful to infant development and to the child’s long-term emotional health” because of the “intrinsic memory” imprinted in the nervous system which “encodes emotional aspects of early experience.”  The message the infant receives when left to “cry it out” is that the world is a hostile place, indifferent to her feelings. She experiences a sense of abandonment when her cries (the only way she has to communicate) are ignored and, rather than learning the “skill” of falling asleep as Ferber claims, her “brain, to escape the… pain of abandonment, shuts down. It’s an automatic neurological mechanism. In effect, the baby gives up. The short-term goal of the exhausted parent has been achieved, but at the price of harming the child’s long-term emotional vulnerability.”

When my kids were “Ferberizing” my grandchild, I told them straight out that I can not let a baby cry more than (tops) 45 seconds. It is unbearable to me and I could not accept the responsibility of doing that even for the baby’s nap. I didn’t get fired. (But then again, I work for free. They know a good deal when they see one.)

When I had my own babies, I generally nursed or cuddled them to sleep while I rocked them. When they got older, we had a long relaxing nighttime ritual while I snuggled with them in their beds. When they woke in the middle of the night and wanted to come in bed with us, I rolled over. When they got so big that their head was on my stomach and their feet were on my husband’s face, and no one got a good  night’s rest, I put a special Mickey Mouse sleeping bag on the floor near my bed and told them they could come into the room any time and scoot into the bag. Dr. Maté quotes scientific studies which confirm what I, and other mothers, intuited. We would have emotionally healthy and secure children if we answered their cries, if we recognized that they were crying because they could not speak and if we believed that answering those cries was essential to their well-being and did not “spoil” them. (As, years ago, my mother-in-law insisted it would. I ignored her. Which is good advice for daughters-in-law everywhere, including mine.)

When an infant cries, she is trying to communicate something and we parents have to figure out what that is. When she cries when being put to bed, I believe it means- I need my mom or dad (or other caregiver) to hold me to make me feel safe and secure. As Maté writes, “The baby who cries for the parent… is expressing her deepest need—emotional and physical contact with the parent.”

Yes, I did have exhausting nights–we all have them no matter what we do. The occupational disease of parenthood is chronic fatigue. That’s just the way it is- pretty much for the rest of your life. If you’re not up because of crying or childhood illness, you’re up worrying about something. About anything. Forever.

And yes, there were nights when the kids were small that we all slept like refugees, several children in the bed lying between us, their parents. But it worked for us–for the baby, for us as a married couple, for our family.

Now that I am no longer perennially exhausted from the demands of young children, the feel and smell of a little body in bed next to me is a delicious treat. My grandchildren know that any time they sleep over, they can come and hop right in next to Savta.

They sleep well and my dreams are sweet.

UPDATE: Moms respond here and here about why they totally disagree!

Mar 1 2011

Little Apartment, Big City

By at 12:14 pm

We’ve been sleep-training our baby, which means moving the big boy temporarily into our room so he and the baby don’t disturb each other with their midnight mayhem.  I’m antsy to reclaim my space, and after one recent failed attempt to bring them back together I railed at my husband: that’s it! We need a house! We need more rooms!

Ever the Vulcan, he calmly explained to me that by the time we find a house, bid on it, get financing, close and move in, presumably the sleep issues will have already worked themselves out. Spoken like a man who grew up in a little apartment in a big city.

I, on the other hand, grew up in a big house with more rooms than we really needed. And as our family grows, sometimes our two bedroom apartment in Washington DC feels like it’s bursting at the seams. We’ve started to understand why almost all of our friends dutifully left downtown for the suburbs when baby number two came along. And yet we stay…happily, most of the time.

Raising children in a big city is a mixed bag. For instance: We live in the nation’s capitol. This is awesome, and means that my older son gets to see the White House, the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian museums, and the memorials as a matter of course, and has an amazing array of international friends. It also means that the Vice President’s motorcade zooms past our apartment—noisily—at all hours of the day and night. And I suspect that suburban moms don’t have to stand over their children’s cribs loudly shushing to drown out the sound of the Free Tibet protest down the street.

Then there are the people. Cities seem to economically favor the young and unencumbered and the older and established. What this means, practically, is that in addition to a few 4-year-old playmates at shul, my big boy has befriended the 86-year-old retiree who studies Talmud with my husband and a gaggle of doting young professionals. I love that his world is full of these positive and sometimes unusual things—older Jews continuing to be active and razor sharp, younger Jews voluntarily engaged with Jewish life.  I also kind of wish, though, that our community was filled with more families that looked like ours.

In my imaginary suburban life, I send my kids into the backyard to frolic with the (as yet imaginary) dog on our beautifully manicured lawn. But here in real life, I guess I’ll content myself to grab the kids and head to one of the seven beautiful playgrounds walking distance from our cramped city apartment. While we’re there we’ll probably hear at least four different foreign languages and meet a bunch of new people. Maybe the suburbs can wait.


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