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December 07, 2009


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I used Ferber when my son was 10 months old. It worked very well, but probably took longer than if I had waited for a 'good window'. Unfortunately, my son is now 12 months and his sleeping (or lack thereof) is like a newborn...up every 2 hours and needs me to hold him. I think this is because of ear infections and multiple other colds. So, we are back to square one. But, I'm glad that I'm now in a 'good window'. Now it's just waiting until he feels better.

Isabela - Any thoughts on what to do when your little one is not at the top of his game? It seems that he perpetually has a stuffy nose or slight cough which makes me not want to use any sleep training methods. However, I fear that I will never be able to get him to sleep if I wait until he's 'all better'. It seems that may not happen for a few years with the way this fall/winter season has been! Sigh.

@Tina: Ugh. That's tough. You know, 12 months is actually a pretty common "blip" in kids' sleeping habits -- they often get disrupted by big physical changes. Is your child just starting to learn to walk, or has he JUST learned? This can often be a trigger to sleep disruptions. But of course the sick stuff can always get in the way and disrupt good sleeping habits because OF COURSE they need you more when they feel yucky and you're more likely to want to provide more support when they're vulnerable. THen those supports are hard to take back after the snot and coughs have subsided (if indeed they EVER do).

Personally, I would try to find the lowest ebb in all the sickness and re-train. He'll probably get it quickly if he's already learned the skills before... he just needs a little reminding that he can do it. If you wait until he's totally snot-free, well, as you say, you'll be waiting a few months. But if the walking stuff may also be disrupting, then think about waiting until he's really feeling more confident on his feet, that might help too. I'll get the link up to the blog post I wrote about physical development and its potential disruptions...

@Tina I agree with the 12-month blip. We went through a blip around that time too. About 3-4 weeks of bad sleep. Followed by 3-4 weeks of good sleep, and now back to bad sleep and not-so-great naps (1-2 naps only <1 hr long, and up 2-3 times before midnight; thankfully (touch wood) he usually sleeps from midnight till 7:30am). There is always something - teething, cold, cough, teething, milestone, walking, etc. My husband and I go by the "3 day rule" - if something doesn't work after 3 days, then we give it a break and take a week or two off and try again. My theory is, you kind of want them to learn to sleep despite of their disruptions, so you try, but if it doesn't work then there's an obvious reason and you just try again later. There's no "perfect" way or time to do it, you can't really pre-empt every single possible scenario so you just do what you want to do (or have to do, out of need/desperation!)

I have noticed that at 13 months my son is more sophisticated than he was at 12 months. In the past two weeks he has a) shown that he recognizes certain Chinese words (e.g., body parts, pointing to the picture of whatever thing I'm saying), putting things together (brings me pack of crayons from one side of the room and the colouring book from the other side of the room), etc. Also, my husband and I are much better at distinguishing between his 'wants' and 'needs' these days. E.g., my 13-month-old seems to be teething (we've noticed the white swollen bumps for 3 weeks now). The past week has not been much fun for us, sleep-wise. We usually comfort him for about 10-15 mins and if he is still hysterical, we give him some tylenol (to rule out pain). If he still will not settle, then we give him some hugs, a drink of water, and tell him it's time for bed. The crying/fussing becomes the "wah-wah-silence, wah-wah-silence" cry (crying and then listening to see if we come), which we know is a "want" cry rather than a "need" cry. That helps us figure out whether he actually needs us or if he just wants our attention. If it's a want cry then it usually subsides after about 5 mins.

We never sleep trained per se, but we did attempt to nightwean at about 9.5-10 months. Before we started, our daughter was waking 3x/night to nurse. We got her down to one night feeding at that point. We gradually increased the time before the first feeding. Hubby went in to comfort (rock/bounce) my daughter until the time we had agreed upon. She dropped two feedings very quickly but wouldn't drop the last one- so we gave up. She dropped that one at about 21.5 months. That time, sending Daddy in made her hysterical, so I just went in and said "no, let's snuggle instead", and then brought her into bed with us for the rest of the night.

I wrote posts about both nightweaning attempts:


She was a difficult sleeper (especially compared with her little sister!) so we were shocked at how well our nightweaning went both times. She eventually started sleeping through the night most nights in her own bed a little after 24 months, about the time we moved her from her crib to a big girl bed.

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Hi, I'm Isabel

  • I'm a developmental psychologist and mom to two awesome 3-year-old boys. My area of expertise is social and emotional development and most of my research is on interventions that help make families and friendships healthier for children. More about me...


  • scienceandparenting@gmail.com
    Ask us any question about your child, child development in general, or parenting. We'll try to post your question as soon as possible, with our take on the answer. We both have our PhDs in developmental psychology, so our "take" will usually be informed by our own and our colleagues' research, as well as developmental theory that spans several decades. And of course we'll throw in some thoughts that come from our own personal sample size of 3.

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