Breaking Down The Dreaded Extinction Burst; A Must Read!

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

You finally arrived and made it, the day you have dreamed about since your little one came into this world. It has been a rough road in the department of sleep, but you set out a plan and you conquered the battle of getting your child to finally sleep through the night. Small glimpses of your rested self-flash before you and your heart skips a beat imagining a full night’s rest again.

It quickly hits you like a ton of bricks, your babies old sleep habits have creep back into your nightly routines and you are left feeling defeated. The extinction burst has officially hit and your mind begins to play tricks and you feel as though you should just wave the white flag now and succumb to your child’s demands and you will sleep again when you are officially living in the nursing home knitting your great grandchildren's sweaters.

The extinction burst is a term that many are not familiar with as it is not a term directly related to sleep, it can affect many areas of your life. Extinction burst is anytime you have an undesirable behavior you are trying to break, and you are trying your best to not reinforce the negative behavior.  Many of us can relate to wanting one piece of pie or ice cream to top off our meal, but we understand this is making our waist line grow and cholesterol sky rocket. Therefore, you have finally decided you will kick the sweets for good. You have several days of being spot on and no attempts to even sneak a piece of chocolate, but then you make it to the neighborhood cookout and you tell yourself just one small piece won’t make a difference. Before you know it days later you are back to the homemade apple pie and sweet vanilla ice cream each night. Sweets are your undesirable behavior you are trying to beat, but you gave in to the temptation to go back to old ways. The saying goes it takes roughly 21 days to officially kick an undesirable habit, therefore you must remind yourself there will be some rough times before reaching your ultimate goal.

A child wakes throughout the night demanding a pacifier be placed back into his mouth. As parents you have decided to break this unwanted habit and you have finally seen progress, but then your baby begins to wake even more or amp up his uncontrollable fussing and demands. This child is hoping that by reverting back for a short period of time that a parent will just give in and go back to their old ways. An extinction burst is a short lived period; I highly suggest you push through as restful nights are just on the other side. When babies or small children are trying to officially break a habit, nursing to sleep, toddlers rely on parents to sleep, being held to sleep, co-sleeping, they display their extinction burst by crying or being extremely resistant to the change. They know up until this point it has always worked and everyone has given in to quickly get some much needed rest.  

During this time many parents revert back to old ways and throw in the towel, I encourage you this time to make the final push. As soon as you give in you have set yourself back to the beginning. This is one reason hiring a sleep consultant has proved wonders for so many. It helps keep everyone on track and for the much needed daily support to push through this tough time. Just as many invest in a nutritionist or personal trainer to keep their goals on track the same concept applies when helping your child learn the proper techniques and methods for healthy sleep.

Remember that every child and situation is different, but the extinction burst usually occurs within the first week of breaking the old habit and can last for anywhere between 3-5 days. 

Remember you have made it this far and just as you do not want to give in to that piece of pie to back track and ruin the hard work you accomplished, the same applies when working with your child to get their sleep back on track. Giving in will only create set backs and a more difficult road ahead. Push through and just on the horizon is more peaceful sleep for everyone.  

Interested in finding out more ways to get your little ones sleep on thr right track; email me at as I love to hear from you and your personal stories. Check out the latest blogs at