top of page

Understanding and Solving False Starts in Baby Sleep

By: Sarah Bossio, Certified Pediatric Sleep Expert

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

False starts are probably one of the most frustrating parts of your baby's sleep routine. They are very real but also very solvable and avoidable. Let's talk today all about false starts, what they are, why they happen, and how we can fix them.

Your Zen Baby Sleep Logo - moon and stars

Definition of False Starts

Let's lay out the definition of a false start so that we're all on the same page as to what it is and if you're experiencing it.

A false start happens at bedtime. I'm putting naps to the side because short naps, especially between the ages of 0 to 6 months, are kind of normal. We're not going to talk about naps with false starts; let's focus on bedtime.

Picture that you have put your baby to sleep, whether that is by rocking them, using the breast or bottle, putting them in their crib drowsy but awake, or they actually put themselves to sleep from an awake state. Once they are asleep, they wake up within at least 30 to 45 minutes but it could be even up to 2 or 3 hours after they have been put to sleep. It wouldn't be considered a false start if you have a teeny tiny newborn who needs feeding — I’m talking specifically about babies who don’t need night feeds anymore or have taken their full bottle or breastfed completely.

If your baby wakes up 30, 45 minutes, or even 2 hours after they fell asleep, this is a false start.
Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

Why Do False Starts Happen?

Sleep Associations

It happens for a couple of different reasons, but most likely your baby has a sleep association. A sleep association is how your baby fell asleep, and when they wake up, they need that condition to be recreated to continue to sleep. It’s not negative or positive, just an explanation of what’s going on in your baby’s brain as they fall asleep. For example, if you rocked your baby to sleep at 7:30 PM and put them in the crib at 8:00 PM, and then at 8:37 PM, their eyes pop open and they start crying, they are likely waking because they were rocked to sleep and now they are not.

Undertiredness or Overtiredness

Another reason for false starts could be that your baby is undertired or overtired. It can be tricky to determine if your baby is undertired or overtired. Working with a sleep expert can help as they can analyze sleep logs and patterns to identify the root cause.

Identifying Undertiredness

If you suspect your baby is undertired, they may need to drop a nap or increase the time between the last nap and bedtime.

Identifying Overtiredness

If your baby is overtired, they may have frequent night wakings or short naps, accumulating a sleep debt, leading to imbalanced cortisol and adrenaline levels, making it harder to fall into deep non-REM sleep.

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

Solving False Starts

Adjusting the Sleep Schedule

To solve false starts, ensure your baby's sleep schedule is appropriate for their age. If a schedule change doesn’t work, consider working on independent sleep skills.

Independent Sleep Skills

This means helping your baby fall asleep in their crib independently so they feel safe and confident when they wake up during the night. I use two methods for this: time checks and the chair method, which are supportive and align with most families when they choose to sleep train their children.

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

Tell me about your experiences with false starts!

I would love to know if you found this information helpful or if you have questions! Drop a comment or send me an email and let's chat.

Also, be sure to check out and subscribe to my Youtube channel, where I release videos once a week on all things sleep covering toddlers, babies, big kids and newborns.

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

Take advantage of the free sleep resource that is my blog! Reference it anytime you are seeking sleep help and be sure to bookmark it so you've always got it!

I also host a weekly Q&A on my Instagram. Tune in or slide into my DMs!

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

If you want to learn more about what it's like to work with a sleep consultant, please take a look at my sleep training packages and book a free discovery call with me. Together, we'll talk through your child's sleep challenges and I'll tell you how I can help.

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line
Pediatric Sleep Expert Sarah Bossio sits on fun wicker chair with arms wide smiling

May your coffee be warm,


Your Zen Baby Sleep - stars

Sarah is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Expert based in the NY/NJ Tri-State area and has helped over 400 families worldwide get their sleep back on track.

Your Zen Baby Sleep - divider line

7 views0 comments


bottom of page