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.

Baby feeds on MOM's breasts
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.


Much love, Diana-

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!

Much love, Diana-

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!


Much love, Diana-

Help Your Baby Sleep BEFORE Sleep Training

Formal sleep training should not happen before your baby is 4 months old, in fact, the ideal time is between 4 and 6 months old.

However, there are many things you can do to ease your sleep training process or to avoid it completely by developing certain routines, even before sleep training can take place, while your baby is younger than 4 months old:

  1. Early Bedtime: pick a time, between 5:30pm and 7:00pm, that you will consider bedtime. From that time on, keep you baby in the nursery, with the lights down, no noises, no playing, just soothing activities or sleeping. You want to teach your child the difference between day and night as soon as possible, and you want her to learn that night is a time to relax and sleep.
  2. Bedtime Routine: develop a consistent bedtime routine that involves soothing and calming activities. Remember to keep it short and to be consistent with it. Your baby will associate this routine leads to night time sleep.
  3. Drowsy but Awake: try to put your baby down on her crib when she’s drowsy but awake. Avoid letting her fall asleep in your arms or while nursing.
  4. No ‘External’ Soothers: try to keep the external input that your baby gets to fall asleep to a minimum. The goal is to help your baby learn to sleep on her own, and fall back asleep on her own if she wakes up in the middle of the night. So, try not to make her dependant on things/rituals she won’t be able to have without your help. Try to avoid mobiles, pacifiers, rocking, bouncing, bottle/breast… unless it’s bsolutely necessary.
  5. Know your Baby: keep a log of your baby’s feeding times, bowel movements, sleeping times and mood. The goal is for you to understand your baby’s biorythm, and to learn to identify your baby’s clues.  This will be unvaluable information that you’ll use during the sleep training process.
  6. Consistent Schedule: This is a hard one, especially at the begining; but try to be somewhat consistent with your baby’s schedule, it’s particularly important to help her develop consistent waking time, bedtime and feeding times.
  7. Let your Baby Sleep: It sounds simple, but it usually isn’t so. Newborns need to sleep many hours a day, sometimes as much as 20. Do not feel obligated to have your baby awake because you have visitors, do not disturb your baby’s sleep because you have company, do not try to keep your baby awake so you can play with her a little longer. Babies need sleep to develop and grow properly, let it happen from the begining.

If you follow these routines from the begining, your sleep training process will much easier whenever it takes place.

Sweet dreams, Diana-

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.

Much love, Diana-

Schedules and Children

“Children thrive on schedules”

That’s not just a statement or our opinion, it’s a fact! Children do develop better, grow better, behave better… when they know what to expect from their days, when a routine (this doesn’t mean it has to be boring!) is in place for them to follow. Additionally, once they have a set schedule, parents will be able to better plan and organize their day and will be able to get more things done for themselves.

Here are some tips on how to get your baby/child on a schedule:

  1. Know that each baby/child is different. There are basic principles that work with every child (ie. children thrive on schedules). However, each child is different and what might work for one, might not work for other. Parenting should be somehow customized and adapted to every child.
  2. Start as soon as possible. Once you get home from the hospital with your baby take the time to study his  clues. At the very beginning, you’ll notice that your baby spends his day sleeping, feeding, peeing and pooping, and back again to sleeping, feeding… During the first week, you can start noticing when and how often your baby needs to be fed, needs to sleep, needs a diaper change… Once you have a rough idea, you can define a first schedule that’d work for you and your baby.
  3. Set a bedtime. According to most sleep experts an early bedtime is essential. Make sure you set a bedtime and stick to it. Regardless of whether your child is already sleep trained or not, is still feeding over the night or not, you should have a time in mind at which ‘night’ starts for your little one.
  4. Bedtime routine. We can’t emphasises how important this is. The bedtime routine can be however you want it to be, as long as it is relatively short, consistent every night, includes a wind down time and shows your child that the night is here and it’s time to sleep. Your children should understand the difference between day and night as soon as possible, and your bedtime routine is essential to achieve this.
  5. Be flexible. Realize that your baby will change enormously over the first months of his life, so your initial schedule will evolve into a new schedule within the first month, then again after another month and so on. This is due to several factors: (1) Babies soon begin to stay awake longer, (2) the amount of their feedings will increase, as the number of feedings decreases, (3) some feedings will be dropped, (4) sleep training will take place (sleeping through the night will come), (5) new foods will be introduced… Between 6 and 12 months it should be much more stable, and the changes to it would be minor (ie. pushing bedtime 15 minutes early).
  6. Be consistent. Once you decide on a schedule, or any other parenting issue, be consistent, don’t doubt yourself and keep at it.
  7. Keep track. You don’t need to write everything that goes on with your child, but it’d certainly will help you to take notes about feedings, sleeping patterns, bowel movements, behavior changes…
  8. Seek help if you need it. This issue will probably need a post on its own. Parents are not used to ask for advice or help, even when we are drowning, exhausted and at our wits ends. If you feel overwhelmed, or feel like nothing is working, seek help! Join support groups, read books, meet other parents, hire a sitter, ask a family member of friend to come help, hire a parenting coach or sleep consultant, talk to your pediatrician… Do whatever you need to do to feel that you’re in control again and that you are being the parent that you’ve always wanted to be, raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child.

The result of implementing a good schedule that works for you and your child will be a more peaceful, less chaotic and more harmonious home; where your children and you will be able to thrive as individuals and as members of a family unit.

Much love, Diana-

Baby Lola, 3 Weeks Old

Lola was born in October 2009, healthy, full term baby, after only 5 hours of labor to first time parents Alice and George. George had been wanting to have  a baby for years, but Alice was not so sure about it. In fact, she was the first one to be surprised when she got pregnant at their first try.

From the moment she was born, Lola was described by her mother as a very difficult baby. Alice pointed these as the main problems of her daugher:

  • She had trouble latching on and wouldn’t want to breastfeed
  • She wouldn’t like to stay on her crib by herself
  • She fussed a lot, and she cried for hours on end
  • She didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes straight
  • She was impossible to read

Alice was a little desperate and didn’t know what to do with Lola. However, every time I would meet them, go visit them or babysit for them, I didn’t see many of the issues she complained about. Many times Alice would tell me how they have implemented this and that methodology, routine… to solve Lola’s issues, but the situation wouldn’t improve. I was so surprised to hear that, so I offered to analyze their case and give them my suggestions. They accepted!

I sat down with them, trying to understand what a normal day looked like for Lola. Lola was 3 weeks old at that time.

  • Lola woke up, crying, at a different time every day
  • Alice tried to breastfeed her. If it didn’t work, she would hand her over to her mom (Alice’s mom, Lola’s grandma, who was staying with them) for her to bottle feed her.
  • Alice would let her mom take care of Lola, or would strap her on  carrier/sling and take her around. Store, park, grocery, meeting friends….
  • Lola mostly slept in the sling for long periods of time
  • Lola woke up either super hungry or just uncomfortable and cry loudly and unconsolably
  • Alice fed her (bottle or breast) if possible, if not she would wait until she got home (30 to 90 minutes later)
  • Alice put her in the sling again and went on with her daily life
  • The same crying episode ocurred several times a day, and Alice would do the same.
  • Once they got home, Alice would try to put her down (swing, cot, crib…), but Lola wouldn’t take it. She just wanted to be held.
  • Lola spent all night walking up every 1-2 hours.
  • They would feed her by breast and bottle depending on their situation.
  • They would try to put her to sleep when she looked tired.
  • They went on with their life as was, going out, having people over…

My first impressions were:

  • Lola was getting too used to the sling
  • Lola would sleep when she didn’t need to (most of the day), not burn any energy, and would stay up throughout the night
  • Lola needed some structure and certain routine
  • Lola was overtired once she was put down for naps or night
  • Lola didn’t know what to expect throughout the day
  • Lola was getting unconsistent messages (different responses to the same situations)

So, I suggested them the following:

  • Schedule: define a schedule that worked for them and Lola, and stick to it! No wiggle room! Adjust their life to Lola a little bit.
  • Routine: define bedtime and nap time routines, play times…
  • Sleep & Awake times differentition: make sure that Lola knows what night is, when she has to sleep during the day. Make sure the sleep arrangements are the most appropriate to help Lola sleep (dark room, quiet, no distractions…). Put her down before she gets overtired.
  • Tracking: I shared with them the daily tracking that I designed when my daughters were born. The purpose of tracking is trifold: (1) Understand your baby, clues, behaviors…; (2) Keep track of important details about your baby; and (3) Work towards a schedule that works for both your baby and the rest of the family.
  • Basic Needs: Make sure Lola was getting the right amount of sleep and food.
  • Consistency: decide how they were going to react to certain situations, how to treat Lola, and stick it. Every time the situation arises, the response is the same.

I stayed with them for the first two days, starting on a Saturday morning. The first night, Lola slept 4.5 hours straight for the first time. She was calmer throughout the day, she didn’t cry as much when out of the sling, and she breastfed better. The second day, she did even better, she fell back to sleep for her day naps without fussing, and she slept another 4.5 hours at night.

Things were running smoothly, and I felt they really had it under control. Both Alice and George were starting to enjoy parenthood, and loving spending time with her daughter; and what’s more important, Lola was calmer, better rested and fed, and happier overall.

Much love, Diana-

Disclaimer: Names have been changed to preserve my clients and friends’ privacy.