There is nothing more sacred to a mother of young children than sleep.
I am pleased to share a series of a few emails between myself and a mom who just happened upon me, and in a matter of days and a few emails later, she was able to get her baby to sleep which meant she was sleeping too!
I asked her if I could share the emails we exchanged so others could see the success that can be theirs too. Here is how it went:
I just got 5 minutes to sit on the couch and I came across your Parenting Show on Roger’s Television. You seemed very informed and practical during the discussions. I therefore have a situation with my 7 month old baby boy, AJ, that I would love your advice on. He can not go to sleep without first nursing and falling asleep at the breast. I don’t mind this in and of itself however, he is incapable of putting himself to sleep. The night wakings are numerous and require my intervention every time.
I need some downtime. With a two year old also at home with me, I am babied out at 9:00 pm but have to stay up with AJ until 10:30 or 11:00. I end up taking AJ in the bed because I am too tired to try to get him to sleep in the crib.
I know your probably shaking your head right now thinking I gotta get him out of the bed and I agree. He has a terrific disposition despite that I feel that he is not getting enough sleep.
Your insight and advise would be most appreciated.
"the Mommy who has no time to herself"
I emailed this mom back to see if she had a partner to help out, and to determine if she was really ready to tackle this.
This is an important point.
When a parent has decided THAT’S IT — ENOUGH, their children usually know it with out anything being said, and change happens quickly. Conversely, if you are still waffling, the child senses your unassuredness and works hard to keep the status quo.
Well, if you are up for it, here you go….
Some things to consider:
- Understand that AJ may just be a babe who needs less sleep. Some kids are naturally "active" or "alert" and that means one tired mom, but it also means he has more hours of learning each day and he’ll be smart as a whip!
- His tummy probably has gotten to a sufficient size that he can get a whole meal in and it can hold him for the entire night. That means, he does not NEED you – he just WANTS you.
- He has NOT learned how to fall asleep on his own (a skill) and he HAS learned if he cries, long enough, he gets mommy!
Step 1 – Teach him to fall asleep on his own. Start with the time of day you are most likely to get success. Be VERY ritualistic. Same chair, same time, same song, and so on. Nurse him, but keep him alert. Don’t let him fall asleep on your nipple. Rub his head with a cool washcloth if you need to. Then after the nursing, put the satiated and tired AJ in his crib awake, kiss him, and leave. Let him cry if he doesn’t fall asleep. It is okay for a baby to cry. Crying is NOT causing him damage if you know all his needs have been met (dry, feed, not in pain) He is using his only tool (tears) to try to get his preference YOU. We want him to understand that YOU are no longer a choice. The only way to get there, is to NOT go in.
As an aside, I recently received an email from a gramma who was caring for her grandchild because mom needed emergency surgery, and mom was a nursing mom. The baby had no option but to "do without". It took him three days until he went from crying 40 minutes to falling asleep with out a peep.
Why did this work? Because there was NO chance of mom screwing it up by caving out of pity and coming in to nurse since mom was in the hospital.
Step 2 – Once you know AJ can go from awake to asleep on his own in the day, you can start night training, which basically means your husbands has to deal with him so you can sleep (and your breast milk will come in better too if you are rested) After AJ realizes that there is NO mommy at night, he will learn to get himself back to sleep at night. Your husband doesn’t even need to go really – but if he goes and settles him, or offers him a bottle with only water, he will be sufficient disappointed that he will get angry, but then you don’t have the worry that he is feeling no one is responding.
If you NEVER show your face after 9pm, he will decide it is not worth waking anymore.
Let me know how it goes.
Well, here is the reply I received, and I think it will motivate others!
I am happy to report that things are going much better then I anticipated. I started placing AJ in his crib for naps a few days ago. At first he objected but now, on only day three, he goes in his bed awake and after only about 2 minutes of fussing and not crying, he’s off to sleep. Even the afternoon nap that I always lay with him (to catch a nap myself).
As you suggested, we established a very ritualistic routine: nurse him about 1/2 hour before he goes to sleep and keep him awake at the breast. Then it’s diaper change, blinds closed, lights dimmed, same music CD, white noise machine on, then into bed. Same stuff, same order, all naps. Last night we tried this at bedtime. I tried the same thing but I think he is so used to ending up in bed with me and the boob that he was getting progressively more upset in his crib– he was crying hard. So I brought him out of the room and after some calming then playing, my husband tried. Then as you said, I left AJ’s sight.
My husband went through all the rituals a full seven times before AJ realized I was not coming back and he always ended up in his crib alone. I wanted to go to him so bad but decided to let Steve try. Steve went in the room at 10:10 and came out at 10:30, AJ asleep in his crib.
I can’t believe it was this easy and quick! Next is eliminating night feeds and getting him to bed earlier.