REBROADCAST - Independently Falling Asleep


 00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 168. This is a rebroadcast of one of our most downloaded episodes ever. When folks come to us asking, "How can I support my tiny human with sleep?" There are a few foundational skills that we look at one of which is independently falling asleep. Now, I want you to know that if what you are doing for sleep with your tiny human is working for you. Awesome. That is rad. You don't have to change a single thing. It's also crucial that when we are navigating independent sleep, when kids are learning how to fall asleep without being bounced or rock or fed. It's crucial that we're supporting their emotional development through this process. We'll dive into what that looks like in this podcast episode, but over at Seed and Sew we do not practice "cry it out." It's imperative that we are supporting kiddos emotional development anytime they're learning anything new, whether it's going to school for the first time or welcoming in a new sibling or falling asleep independently. If you are struggling with sleep and you want support, we have a special going on right now if you head over to and you snag the course is right for your kiddos age by Sunday, April 18th, you get a bonus of our ultimate guide to nap challenges as well as entered to win a 5-minute voice memo answering your biggest sleep question directly from our sleep team. Sleep is not something that you have to navigate on your own and it's not a one-size-fits-all. Every child, every family unit is different and our courses support you with figuring out what works best for your unique child. Head on over to to snag your course today and get started so that everyone can get a restful night of sleep. All right folks. Let's dive in. 


00:02:27    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 



00:03:00    Alyssa

I've been sleep consulting for six years and one of the most common questions that I get is how do I teach my kid to fall asleep independently, I get this in all different forms. Sometimes it's oh my gosh. I cannot rock this child to sleep for another hour or every time this kid wakes up. I have to feed them back down in order order for them to fall asleep. And sometimes it's every time this kid wakes up, I'm feeding them for less than a minute and they fall asleep in my arms and then I have to wait for them to be totally asleep. And then I can maybe transfer them or it's I'm sitting on a yoga ball bouncing for so long. It comes in all different forms, but I get it very very frequently. And the thing is I don't care how your child falls asleep or where they sleep as long as it's safe. But if what you have going on isn't working for you. I'm happy to help you with tools to navigate this. Sometimes people come in. They're like, oh I'm going back to work and I travel a lot for work. And right now the only way my kiddo falls asleep is from breastfeeding and I'm not going to be there or I worked with a family who was going on vacation and they had also always fed there kiddo to sleep by the breast and now the parents were going away and the kiddo was staying with grandparents. There wasn't gonna be a breast to feed him. So first I just want you to know if it's working for you. I don't care you can keep doing it. As long as it's safe. This is for folks who are like, oh my gosh. It isn't working for me. There is no shame in your game. I'll just want to give you some tools here. So it can start as early as infancy. Now, this doesn't mean that every single time your kiddo falls asleep in that newborn stage that they're going to be independently falling asleep. In fact, I like to think of this time as practice. We can shoot for once a day where that kiddo is falling asleep independently not in your arms, not at the breast, not at a bottle, but independently falling asleep. Once a day, for practice. 


00:05:27    Alyssa

We want them to start to build the toolbox for being able to fall asleep because habit is real and routine is so powerful. Our kiddos respond based on how we respond to them. That's how they learn expectations. So if they start to cry and we swaddle them up or we snuggle them in and we feed them and they fall asleep and we hold them until they're asleep it. That's what they know to do. That's what they think they're supposed to do. And if they don't get any other message from you, they don't know that they're not doing the right thing or not doing the thing that you want. They're not just like a doing it to screw you, they're doing it because they don't know what else to do, and we can teach them. In my newborn sleep class. And in Awake Kiddos, Snoozy Parents, I have videos that walk you through how to do this, but I'm going to talk you through it right now. First with a newborn, we want to make sure they've been fed and they are awake and then I want to swaddle them up. Face them out not in towards the breast, but out like a football hold, facing out. I want to bounce or rock like give them some movement and give them some white noise right in their ear. Just like this "shhh." See when they're in the womb they're hearing that sound over and over and over and over. It's like a vacuum sound and so we want to replicate that and it'll help them calm and relax, usually I like to wait like 20 to 30 seconds in between these stages so I'll swaddle them up and then face them out and then just wait and see like, how are they doing? If they're still fussing then I'll start to bounce or sway and then if they're still fussing then I'll add the white noise like from my mouth into their ear and then if they're still fussing I will offer them a binky if they take one or my finger to suck on because the suckling is calming for their nervous system when they are in the newborn phase, so at this point they'll start to calm in your arms. It's okay that they're having all that movement all that jazz and then once they're like calm, I'm talking calm now, we're going to transfer them, laying down in a bassinet or in a crib in a safe sleep space, still swaddled, tightly swaddled and with white noise on. I like to have dim lights. So during the day we do want them exposed to light and as specifically to sunlight if you have access to it feel like in Vermont, sometimes we're like, hey sun, where'd you go? But exposing them to light during the day is important not just like the day-night confusion. We don't start producing melatonin until closer to four months and melatonin has a drastic effect on our circadian rhythm and light plays a huge role in the production of melatonin or rather the absence of light but what we want them to know is that like when were up and about and we're moving in your like looking at the mirror or whatever exposing them to sun and light that it's not sleep time yet. And so I like the like dark space as a sleep association. But so I'll dim the lights and lay them down in their bassinet and they might start to cry when you lay them down. Wait 20 to 30 seconds. Give them a minute to like, can you imagine if every time like a kiddo makes a noise if we just go over and we react instead of respond. Then we're telling them like oh, yeah, it's not safe here we’re reacting to their cry to make it stop for our comfort, give them if you can't wait 30 seconds, give them 20seconds. Give them 10 seconds. I wouldn't go lower than 10. They will need at least 10, max 30 seconds where you're letting them like they might fuss they're going to like figure out their cozy spot here. If they're still crying, again white noise is on they're in a dark room in their bassinet or crib then go over put your hand on their chest and gently rock them giving them that movement again. Still crying? Up the white noise or give them an additional like "shhhh" from you, don't look at their eyes. Don't give them that stimulation. Just bring the calm. So you have to regulate your emotions here or else they will feed off of your energy. It's called mirroring where they literally are feeding off of your cortisol if you're producing it, so it's your job to go in calm. I know it's so stinkin hard when there's a crying baby, but if you can just breathe you with your hand on them? And relax, it can be a game changer so then if they're still crying then you can offer the binky and if they're really still crying then pick them up help them find their calm again and when they're calm and relaxed in your arms and then put them back down. We're just practicing so we want them to learn to fall asleep on their own in the crib or in the bassinet. Just once a day is what I say in the newborn phase and again in our Awake Kiddo, Snoozy Parents online sleep class. I have videos that show you how how to do all of this and then in our newborns sleep guide that's just for the newborn stage, I also have videos that show you how to do this so there are tools there for you, but we want them to just practice and learn it once, once a day and then what can happen is that then over time they know that they have this tool and then they can put themselves back down when they wake up. What might happen is that you do this and they are up in 30 minutes because that nap cycles over, and that's fine. That's totally fine. If you want to lengthen that nap, you can go in then in like snuggle them and put them back to sleep or feed them or whatever. We they just got the practice of once a day and that's all we're going for there. You can lengthen that nap by snuggling them and like helping them sink into another cycle also short naps for newborns are totally fine. The length of awake time is more important than the wake, the length of their sleep time. So we don't want them to be awake for too long because they can get over tired, there's more on that in the newborn sleep, episode number 65 with Rachel, our sleep consultant. You can dive into that in depth there. Okay. So now older kids say you're like whatever listen my kid is not a newborn anymore. I missed out on the like teaching them this skill when they were that young. Okay, let's move into, they're between five and nine months around nine months kids develop what's called object permanence where they know that you exist when you're not in the room. And so we'll often see a spike in separation anxiety here and that can be very challenging for sleep as you could imagine. So in this like five to nine month range, what you're going to do is, also it's important that when we're putting kids down they are not in distress. They are not crying that they are like calm so you can rock them. You can soothe them. We want to develop a sleep routine. That is consistent. It is a matter of that routine is five minutes long or 20 minutes long. I don't really want it to be more than 30 minutes, that that's intense. It's a lot for them to keep track of really like I shoot for like 15 20 minutes for like a bedtime routine something like that nap time if we can keep it to like 5 to 10 minutes. That's great. So we're going to do the whole thing if they have been falling asleep at the breast or at a bottle. Then we want to move that feeding to the beginning of the routine like before they're in their sleep sack before you've changed their diapers, whatever like still feed them at this time. If that's the time they should be fed, but we don't want it to be the last part of their routine. So we want them to be awake when we do the routine. So you're going to feed them go through your routine and then you might rock and sing a song to them and then you say goodnight. I love you and you put them down in their crib and you can't, you have two choices here. You can stay and have your hand on them and sing them a song or sue them in some way. 


00:14:17    Alyssa

A lot of kiddos are stomach sleepers at this point that can roll over and most kiddos prefer that so if they're stomach sleepers, they might have rolled over in the crib and you can pat their bum or put your hand on their back, but you can stay crib side and like sue them and help them learn to fall asleep and then slowly pull that back like once they're okay not falling asleep in your arms or at the breast or at a bottle, then you have them in the crib like great and you're still there and then slowly you'll like pull the amount of time that you stay back or you can do intervals where some kiddos they're just like trying to climb out of that crib up your body because as long as you're there it's harder for them. If this is the case you can do intervals where you like give them time to soothe, if you're doing this, it's very important to me that you have a coping mechanism in that crib for them to tap into it could be like a lovey, if it's a lovey make sure that it's safe. It's like a small piece. They cant get wrapped up in not like a big giant muslin blanket or anything or it could be a pacifier. I had a little kid who had a plastic hammer as his lovey like whatever as long as it's safe but something that is a coping tool for them when you're not there. So we're not just like good luck figure it out. I want them to have a coping mechanism to tap into but then you're going back and forth. If their cry ever changes from a protest cry and is now like getting to a distress cry, go pick that kiddo up and give them love. We'll try again later. That's not as important. Like it's important to me that they don't get in distress. I always love to start this at bedtime like going down for bed because that's where your sleep pressure is going to be. The greatest at this point they have melatonin producing so that's going to help you in this process, again start at bedtime. Once they're consistently falling asleep like this at bedtime. You can bring it into nap time, start at bedtime for this age. Intervals are,  that where you're like leaving and coming back at the interval should gradually get longer it can literally start it like a one minute interval where your you will leave and then you come back you might lay them back down in the crib and just put your on them and pat them into good night. I love you. Once they learn a new routine. It will be what they expect right now this feels new to them because they've had the same routine their whole life their entire life when they went to sleep. You did something you fed them or you rocked them or you bounce them and now we're doing something new and different and they don't know what's coming. They don't know you listen to this podcast. They have no idea that what's been happening isn't working for you or isn't what you want to have happening. And so they are going to be surprised and that's okay. That's okay. They're going to have transitions their entire life. They're going to learn new skills their entire life. What I want them to know is that you can handle their hard emotions if you make their crying stop for your comfort. The message that we're sending them is that they're not safe in that situation and/or that you can't handle their big emotions and I don't want to send that message guys. I know it's really hard to hear them cry. I want you to learn, what is their protest cry? When are they just like what is going on here? Or I'm mad at you come pick me up. This isn't what we usually do and when are they like guys? I don't feel safe. Somebody come help me. Those are different cries and the I don't feel safe. Somebody come help me. I want you to go in and snuggle that babe and let them know like you are safe and I love you and I'm here if they're like, hey lady come give me that boob or where did that bottle go then I want you to go in and say I hear you. We're doing something new. I love you. Good night. It's not going to be easy, doing new things is never easy but change only happens when we change. So if we continue doing the same thing over and over again, they're not just all of a sudden going to be like, hey, you know what? I don't want to feed to sleep anymore. I just want to lay down by myself. They will not initiate it, maybe ever there are kids that I have worked with families who have a three and a half year old who's feeding to sleep because that's what they've always known and they don't know how to break this cycle. And so there are some kids who maybe down the road will be like, all right. I'm not going to feed to sleep or whatever. But if what is happening right now isn't working for you or if this kiddo is waking up all throughout the night and feeding not for nutrition, but for comfort to go back to sleep, you can help them build a toolbox where they can put themselves back to sleep so that they can get quality restorative sleep and not have to come to a full wake to cry out for you to come feed them to go back to sleep. If you want to build that toolbox you can, again if this is working for you cheers man. This is not the episode for you at least not right now. This is if it is not working for you. Here's how you make those changes. 


00:19:38    Alyssa

Tiny human sleep can feel like such a doozy to figure out. Maybe your first kid was totally different than your second kid, or you've hit Google and found such conflicting advice. We've got your back, over at seed we have sleep courses for newborns, five to twenty three month olds, and two to five year olds. We broke them up into different ages and stages so that we can support you with developmentally appropriate ways to help your tiny human get optimal sleep. This is a shame free, judgment free space, where we have folks who are navigating sleep in all different ways. It is not one-size-fits-all, your child is unique, and your family unit is unique. Everybody's going to have unique sensory profiles and different sleep needs. Our sleep courses guide you through creating a plan unique to your child. We look at the foundational skills, take a look at biology and what's going on beneath the surface so that your tiny human can get restorative sleep which is huge for immune function and emotional development. For regulation and the ability to thrive throughout the day. You don't have to do this alone. We're here to support you. And if you snag one of our sleep courses right now between now and Sunday April 18th you get access to our ultimate guide to addressing nap challenges, a bonus that's only available right now. You also get entered into win the chance to get your biggest sleep question answered by our sleep team. You'll get a five-minute voice memo with your answer head on over to to find the course that's right for your child's age group and get in on these bonuses now. you do not have to do this alone. 


00:21:48    Alyssa

Okay. So now once object permanence is in play, we're looking at like nine months to well and beyond, object permanence is in play. But let's look at like 9 to 15 months. First of all gross motor is the worst for sleep. So like as they're learning to roll over, sit-up, pull to stand, crawl, walk. Like they you will see a change in their sleep if their sleep has been totally normal. Finding that all of a sudden it's like super wacky and it's off and you haven't changed anything. I first say like wait, wait seven to ten days. I know that feels like forever. Usually it's seven days max, but every once in a while, there's that kid where it's like 10 days. So wait and see do they start crawling? Are they on their hands and knees rocking in the monitor? Girl. You have no idea how many photos I've received of monitors that are just like oh my gosh, what do I do with this kid, who's rocking? And you do nothing. They're doing exactly what they're supposed to do. They're waking up and working on a new skill set because they're super jazzed because their brains are doing way more in a day than ours will do for the rest of our lives. So you let them go, you let them practice right then and there, what we don't need to do though is like go in and try and make them go back to sleep. They're going to sit up and they're going to practice they might call out for you to come help them like when they're done practicing and they're ready to go back to sleep if that's the case like go ahead and soothe them put them back down. But usually it's yeah seven to ten days for gross motor if it's separation anxiety. What I really want them to know is that you exist and they are safe in a space without you that they are safe in their bedroom that they are safe wherever they're sleeping that they are safe there. And the way that we send that message is by going in giving them that emotional support and saying good night, I love you and leaving because if we stay the message is your only safe if I'm here. The first three nights of initiating something new are the hardest. They're the hardest because it's brand-new for this kid and after three nights, they kind of know what to expect. They know that you're going to do this routine and the more consistent you are with the routine the easier it is for them to learn the expectation. If it is just like flip flop-in, sister. It is real hard for them to learn what to expect. In Awake Kiddos, Snoozy Parents and in our newborns sleep class. We have an emotionally supportive sleep plan outline. It's also available at the snoozy shop. If you go to if you just want to get this sleep plan outline, it'll guide you through like all the steps that we take behind the scenes when we're doing a sleep consult for creating the sleep plan. So in both classes the newborns sleep class and Awake kiddos, Snoozy Parents, we are guiding you through to figure out like so many more things than this but this tool when we are actually going to implement a sleep plan. We won't implement a sleep plan without this sleep outline filled out because it guides you through how you're going to divvy up tasks. Maybe between partners. What is the response going to be? How are you supporting yourself? How are you emotionally supporting your child? What night are you starting? What is this looking like? It walks you through all these steps so that you're not 2 minutes in saying. Oh shoot. Let's jump ship. We didn't have a plan for this it got hard and we're out. So I think it's really really really really important that any time you're going to make a change you have a plan in place for yourself, for your partner so that you can be on the same page with this and be consistent in your response to this kiddo. Consistency and routine are two of the best gifts we can give to kiddos and anytime we're going to change a routine consistency in that change is important. So okay, we're going to go from this feeding to sleep to now falling asleep in the crib, great. 


00:26:13    Alyssa

I want consistency every night at bedtime. We're going to do this. It's not going to be that some nights we do this, some nights we do that, some nights we do this, some nights we do that. Consistency here folks. I also as kids get older say you were starting this with a kiddo who is older than 12 months, especially older than 15 months, a transition chart, so like a visual, again it exists on the Snoozy Shop. It's also in Awake Kiddos, Snoozy Parents. It's a guide for you of like or for your tiny human, like what's coming next so you can reference it so that they know what's coming next. And you can talk about it and they have a visual aid to support them. I also love things like an okay to wake light that comes on. Even if they're in the crib a lot of people use them when they're in bed to try and keep kids in bed. I like to use them in the crib. So that kids know when it's wake-up time. I wake up throughout the night and I will look over at my alarm clock. I'm like, oh 3:30 still sleep time. Good night, Alyssa, but if I roll over and it says 6:30, I'm like all right time to get up. So having visual aids for kiddos. I think it's really really important. Figuring out who your kid is do they best respond when you stay crib side and support them or is that too hard for them? Do they best respond to your partner going in? So I've had like say if there's a breastfeeding parent the breastfeeding parent feeds and does part of the routine and puts this kiddo down and they leave and the parent who then comes in after is not the feeding parent is the parent who this child doesn't have that association with for falling asleep. And so they build this other association for how they're going to go to sleep with this parent and this involves like the kiddos staying in the crib getting like pat or a song or something like that, hand on their chest that sort of thing. So remember if it any point that cry changes no matter how old they are. If at any point that cry changes, please go pick that kiddo up and give them love and soothe them before they go back in that crib. If a kiddo is sleeping in a bed and they can like get up and leave if you leave you can stay and support them. You just slowly pull back. So you might start by like you're laying down with them. And now it's that you're sitting up with your hand on their back and I tell kiddos like I will stay as long as you are going to sleep. I'm not here to play or talk were not making eye contact, you're not on your phone, the entire time you are breathing. It's actually a great time for you to like pause and breathe. Bring that calm. You can close your eyes if you want sit up put your hand on their back and support them. And then you'll you would do it without your hand on their back and then you would slowly like pull away. So I had a mom who's like sitting outside of a door. So the kids still knew she was nearby and then eventually she could just tell him good night. I love you and he felt safe and comfortable falling asleep on his own without her nearby. So this as kiddos get older it gets harder, but it's definitely still possible for sure still possible. It's also possible with co-sleepers, with co-sleepers same thing. You're going to pull that feeding to the beginning of a routine and then you're going to sit next to them or lay next to them in the same way. I just described and support them. They're going to be confused. At first. This is new for them. They don't know what's coming only you do. It's your job to be the reassuring calm party here. It's not not their job to make you feel calm. It's yours to regulate your emotions. Do not start this plan until you have a plan in place for yourself emotionally to feel supported and calm. All right, guys, I love you. You've got this and if you need more support come on over our snag our newborns sleep guide or Awake Kiddos, Snoozy Parents you can snag those classes also you can get both of them at in those classes. I walk you through all these steps, there are videos and audio support, there are bonus tools for implementing all of this and I do a weekly live where I answer, it's just a Q&A people bring their questions as they're getting their plans ready things like that where I can answer all your questions and get you all set up for success here as you implement new strategies and approaches and build these sleep foundations for your kiddos. All right, you've got this, you've got this. 


00:30:50    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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