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Getting Your 7 Month Old To Sleep At Night

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Putting Your Young Child to Sleep at Night

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.

Signed
"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….

THE ADVICE

Some things to consider:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

To Do:

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.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

12 Responses to “Getting Your 7 Month Old To Sleep At Night”

  1. Alyson Schafer

    Hello Jessica,
    The worries you have: he’ll wake up others, and maybe he is hungry need to be resolved in your own mind before you’ll be successful since these concerns interfere with your desire to just let him be.
    Ask your pediatriacian to confirm he is fine with out night feedings ( usually past 6mo and this is not necessary any more) — and send your neighbours flowers / wine / to a hotel! or move the crib to a different part of the house while your doing the training. Your hubby is a big boy – he can manage a few days. Start on a friday and have him take Monday off. He can suffer a bit of fatigue ( you are!!)
    Hope that helps!
    Alyson

    Reply
  2. Reina Brown

    Ok, first of all, i’m anything but a marter. That is the last thing I want to b considered. Second of all, i’d not ever ignor a a crying baby. Perhaps, you need to do some reading up on why babies cry. Babies do not have the reasoning skills to manipulate parents, contrary to what it seems that you guys believe. You’d never ignore a crying adult who could not speak, as it would be taken to be abuse, now would you? And how can you expect babies to put themselves back to sleep? Do you expect them to sing to themselves? Do you expect them to rock themselves in their crib? Do you expect them to do jumping jacks until tired? Um, no! Because babies do not possess the faculties of reasoning, it is the parents job to help them get back to sleep. The problem is that people rush their children to be independent too soon, and then they become upset when their twelve year old wants to act like she is thirty. Small children do not become fully independent until three to four years of age. Think of it. All your baby ca do is cry, right? Now, suppose it had a bad nightmare and needs comforting? Do you just ignore them in the night? That could be pretty traumatizing. Thank God my mother always comforted me. I do remember one incident when I was left to CIO in my crib when I was two. I still remember it today, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences as a tot. Something must be wrong if it still haunts me. Thank God my mother had the sense to never do it again. I have nightmares about it, and I could still remember everything like it was yesterday, where the crib was in the room, how I was positioned, and the condition of my diaper as it was heavily soiled out of terror. So, I’d never do that to my baby.
    As far as having children of my own, I do not. Never did I state that I did have kids. However, I do not need children to exercise common sense. Common sense would tell me that I’d not leave my baby, who was just in my womb not to long ago and brand new to the world and feeling scared and unsure and anxious to scream and scream and scream and scream and scream and scream and scream until she is tired and just gives up. Never EVER! That is just wrong! Though when I do have them, I’ll never, ever ignore their cries. I will not rush them into doing things that are inappropriate for their age. Ignoring a baby will only make it more clingy or apethetic, as there are many write ups on the effects of CIO. Also, studies show that excessive crying is harmful. Never did these studies state that excessive crying is harmful during the daytime hours only. They merely stated that excessive crying is harmful all across the board. While some babies give up hope on their care givers after a few nights of CIO because they realize they are not important enough to receive love during these hours and trust for their parents is broken, some never do give up, as they refuse to believe that mommy is cruel enough to leave them to cry to sleep. These babies do go through excessive crying, and their are very ill effects. I have personally seen CIO sleep training ruin two children. After a week of it, one stopped talking altogether and runs from all adults. Before, she was a normal happy child who spoke short sentences before one year of age. But at a year old, her mother did CIO because she started not sleeping well, and boy, did she pay for it because that child is so ruined. The second would CIO every single night for three years straight, and it turned into self infliction, as she began biting her hands open, punching herself in the face, and banging her forehead against the crib violently. It did not happen that way for awhile, but by two-and-a-half, all this behavior started. Believe me, mommy followed everything to the letter. She’d shut the door and not make her face seen until morning. That child would shake her crib, bang herself, scream and scream and scream and scream. And because her mother thought it was right, she never budged. Now, her mother, who is a first time mother that listened to her doctor and thought it was the right thing to do, hates herself. She feels she hurt her child. The child hates and is extremely terrified of bedtime, and needs a therapist in the home to help since it is so bad. How can you explain that? Please, enlighten me about why these otherwise very normal children were deeply traumatized by CIO.
    Have you ever heard of separation anxiety? Believe it or not, it is quite common in small children, and it does not suddenly occur when a child hits toddler years. Babies have it too, but I guess it is easy to dismiss since that all they can do is cry and cannot call out to tell you they are scared. Of course, crying is very easy to dismiss. Did you ever think that your baby would be anxious and scared all alone in that dark room without you?
    And on a final note regarding my children, I have too much of a heart and maternal instinct to just sit back and chill out while my baby screams unconsolably for me all alone in the next room, which is hardly how biology has designed us. Mother and baby by nature were designed to be close to one another, not separated. Babies, for thousands of years, were always close to their mothers, and they turned out fine. They needed this closeness for survival. Not to mention, they needed the closeness for reassurance. However, for the convenience of parents, experts say you should abandon your baby at night because you are entitled. Sorry, but I do not fel I am entitled to abandon my baby, no matter what time of day. And before you throw the you don’t have children card at me, let’s just say that all women have a maternal instinct, or else they’d not be able to love children they have adopted. Maternal love does extend past biological children. That is how women were created. Mothers can choose to ignore their instinct or listen. No expert will ever convince me to ignore my baby at any cost. If it makes you sick and it doesn’t feel right, I’m not doing it. I will not engage myself in some other activity just to ease myself in dealing with my baby’s screams. We were designed to feel pity for a reason, not to be cold and ignore it. How would you like to go to bed all worked up after crying yourself to sleep. No, I should say screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming to sleep. Would you like that?
    As for the statement made about caring for the challenged in shifts, that is true while it has sometimes not been my situation. Here is mine at present.
    1. A seventy hour work week. I own my own business, and I must work to keep it going. This is extremely demanding, but nonetheless, it must be done.
    2. I’m taking five onlin classes at the university level, currently holding a 4.0 grade point average. I’m proud of that, too. I’m planning to attend Harvard Next Spring upon completing my bachelors this year.
    3. I care for a good friend who suffers from MS, and no, I do not have a shift. It is more than full time. And the funny thing is, she goes into relapses when she is unable to speak for sometimes a month stretch. Now, suppose I felt she was disturbing me too much at night? Should I leave her to CIO? Of course not because Adult Protective Services would view such a thing as abuse. So, why a tiny helpless baby? Adults are never denied comfort, so I suppose babies are inferior?
    Any parents want to trade with me? I think that caring for a baby is sooooooooooooo much easier than my situation. Heck, I’d care for ten of them! Oh, and on one final note, I may have MS myself. But I will not know until all the tests are complete. And, if I DO have it, I’m still having my children, and I’m still going to Harvard. Do not marter me, and never pity me. Those two things, I profoundly loathe. I merely share my experiences to help you understand things, not to get your sympathy. Only losers feel sorry and pity for themselves.

    Reply
  3. Jessie

    For starters, Reina, you need to stay off of this discussion board until you have kids of your own. You have no earthly idea what it is like to be a parent. When you are a parent, you cannot get in your car and leave for home at 5 o’clock, and you cannot call in sick when you are not feeling well. It is constant. I don’t think you will ever understand that concept until you have had a child of your own. Secondly, you talked about babies not having the understanding to “manipulate” their parents. They do have the ability and skill of understanding what is called cause and effect. They know that when they cry, someone will come to them. When they drop something off of their highchair mommy will pick it up. (They actually do that for amusement.) So to say that they do not have the capacity to understand is ignorant. To answer your question on if mothers expect their babies to sing themselves to sleep or to do jumping jacks until they are tired: No, we do not expect our children to sing themselves to sleep or to do jumping jacks until they are tired, but we do expect our babies to develop the skill of going to sleep by themselves. Yes, this is a skill. Skills are things that are sometimes acquired through teaching. I find it quite comical that you think taking care of a baby is “sooooooooo” much easier than your situation. You obviously have a little time on your hands to write posts that do not pertain to you at all.

    Reply
  4. Katrina

    Now I think I’ve heard everything…. a woman who thinks she’s qualified to give advice on getting kids to sleep through the night who… let me get this straight… doesn’t have kids who she’s managed to get to sleep through the night?…??!?? Huh?
    Next post will be from the guy who’s eaten too much at King’s Crown buffet and can relate to being pregnant…good grief.
    As a point of disclosure, I have 2 kids now (5 and 2) and claim to be around a 2/10 on the parenting scale (which btw puts me 2 points above our other exalted poster)
    Here’s my advice:
    1. Get the book “Happy sleep habits, healthy child”- Marc Weisbluth I think it’s a good text to review the normal habits of kids and sleep and gives a variety of options based on your parenting style
    2. My kids did not respond to the check and console… so I went to the ‘extinction method’ – yes I wept outside their doors, but was soooo glad when it was all done and I could go back to being a decent mum and they could learn how to play peek-a-boo with me without having a sleep-deprived breakdown.
    3. Buy yourself a video monitor. I recognize that they are really expensive, but hawk your engagement ring, or husband for that matter (we love them, but really they are mostly useless at this time….buy back later) to get one. That way you can have some peace of mind that your child is OK while you are letting them cry it out. Keeping in mind that every time you go and check on them when they are crying, you teach them to cry THAT long plus, the next time.
    4. Keep telling yourself that you are doing the best that you can, and that you need to do what is best for the whole family. This also means keeping YOU healthy so that you can do a good job raising this piece of sweetness. If you are on this site, it’s very likely you’re a great mom and just need someone to remind you of this. Remember kids are really resilient – mum’s who had 10+ kids didn’t go to them every time they cried and they are now our politicians and lawyers (ok… bad example 🙂 … our philanthropists.
    To poster above… I would be delighted to hear your contrarian view and commentary after you have reached the 2 year mark with your ‘real’ baby – all the best.

    Reply
  5. Reina Brown (not afraid to put my full name)

    Jessie and Katrina, I do not need children to use common sense. I hope that when you are old and feeble, you children will be able to overlook your training and care and respond to you when you need it. Perhaps, you should read the Baby Book by Dr. Sears. Then, you will understand my way of thinking.
    And, Jessie, if you had read my post, you’d know I’m self employed, meaning that I’m living for my business and will never get the chance to call out sick, as it is never an option, and caring for a sick friend twenty-four/seven, who has just gotten soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much worse. I can’t just get in my car and leave for two reasons. One, i’m blind, and blind people do not get drivers licenses. And before you ask, blind people can have children, can live on their own, can own a business, can conduct their lives, and yes, can be a caregiver. I’ve cared for a friend who is now dead from AIDS, and let me tell you, it is not easy. Two, she is like caring for, surprise! a baby, and I just can’t leave her alone to fend for herself.
    There are many people who do have children who will agree that it is sick to leave a baby to scream unconsolably until it is wiped out. Sick! Sick! Sick! Did you ever think that the child is scared all alone like that? No, I guess you are only thinking of yourself. So, i guess that the fact that you HAVE children give you a free pass to ignore them when it is convenient for you? I swear… Some people need help.
    When I do have my first child, i’ll take you up on it and come back here to post abouthow I have not left my child to scream its head off. Oh, do that to your mother or grandmother when you get a chance, would ya? Tell Adult Protective Services all about it, too, while you are at it.

    Reply
  6. DreamyMama

    “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.”
    I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. Please have a look at “The Science of Parenting” by Margot Sunderland, Director of Education and Training, Centre for Child Mental Health, London.
    Research clearly shows the following negative consequences to leaving babies to cry:
    – At birth, the child’s lower brain (reptilian and mammalian brains) is in charge. This brain rules the rage, fear and separation distress systems, and is designed to keep baby safe (i.e. close to mother).
    – Infants keep getting overwhelmed by these systems because there is so little higher rational brain functioning “on-line” to help them think, reason and calm themselves down. With consistent emotionally responsive parenting, your child’s frontal lobes will start to develop essential brain pathways that will, over time, enable him to calm these states of alarm in his lower brain.
    – When a child is not given enough help with his intense lower brain feelings, his brain my not develop the pathways to enable him to manage stressful situations effectively. Brain scan show that many violent adults are still driven, just like infants, by their ancient rage/fear and defense/attack responses deep in the lower brain, and show little to no activity in the higher brain that should regulate and modify raging feelings.
    When a baby is left crying in her room:
    – High levels of toxic stress hormones wash over her brain
    – There is a withdrawal of opioids (chemical that promote feelings of well-being) in her brain
    – The brain and body’s stress response systems can become hardwired for oversensitivity
    – Pain circuits in the brain are activated, just as they would be if she was hurt physically.
    – Early stress can result in enduring negative changes in the infant brain – developing an oversensitive stress response system that can leave her perception of the world and what is happening to her colored by a sense of threat and anxiety.
    – A baby who has been trained out of his instinct to cry at being separated from a parent should never be mistaken for being in a state of calm – babies who have been left to cry move into primitive response mode, with irregularities in breathing and heart rate, and high levels of cortisol.
    – The long-term effects of repeated separation anxiety can result in adults with an extreme sensitivity to stress.
    Please have a good look at what neuroscience is telling us about North American approaches to nighttime parenting before making statements about how “safe” the CIO approach is.

    Reply
  7. Cindy

    I have an 11 mth old son and I am a nursing mother. We have been using CIO to get him to sleep through the night – and it worked in one night. Our problem now is that he will not nap. And, although he sleeps 12 hrs at night (likely out of exhaustion) he will not nap. We’ve eliminated the morning nap and kept him stimulated through the afternoon nap. Our ritual is the same every day as is he’s crying. It’s been almost two weeks and he just screams. I’ve tried consoling him and rocking him back to sleep. The only method that works is to put him in bed with me and he happily naps for 3 hours. I certainly don’t want to get into that routine. I’ve called our pediatrician and he recommended the CIO and just letting him scream for the full hour as Dr. Weissbluth recommends, however he’s just learned to scream for the full hour. Any advice???

    Reply
  8. Alyson Schafer

    Hi Cindy – it sounds like you are okay with allowing him to cry, and he has proven to you with the nighttime sleeping that he is able to learn and settle from this approach. Now that he is sleeping more at night, he needs less in the day ( its total hours sleep over the course of 24 hours that matters).
    So somehow he has still managed to calculate that you are more apt to respond to tears in the day, so he has persisted longer. He has reached his goal of sleeping with you occasionally and so he works to hard to accomplish that each day now with persistent crying.
    The idea is to maintain the schedule and allow him to adjust to the schedule.
    (FYI: I don’t recommend this approach for little babies birth – 3 mo as they are developmentally still maturing).
    Its nap time – you are not available – he can sleep /play or cry, that’s his choice to make. ( assuming he is healthy, dry, feed etc… ) We must always respond to a child’s “needs” but not so their “wants”. Just as we say ‘no’ to cookies, so too must we say ‘no’ to play when its time for quiet.
    I would set an alarm when you put him down for his nap. If he falls asleep, turn off the alarm and let him finish his nap. However, if he cries for the entire hour, he will hear the alarm sound at the end of the hour and then you come get him so he learns it was the alarm and not the tears that brought you back.
    Arrive with a big smile saying ” Naptime all done!” open the curtains, sing the same wake up song and get him up, begin to play, so he recognizes your routine that says nap is over.
    Try again for a nap when it might fit into the routine next, or try again tomorrow.
    Good luck!
    Alyson

    Reply
  9. Alicia Salas

    I have a 7 mth old who used to sleep thru the night. Now for the past 3 weeks she has been waking with small cries at least 2-3 times a night? I have no idea why, she is my first child. I go to her each time and roll her to her side and pat her back to sleep, but I know this is not helping her and she knows that when she cries I come running. Any advice?
    Also to the lady Raina posting comments about raising children when she has none, you are in no position to give us Mothers advice, we do the things we need to do for our children and for their health as well as ours. If they are sleep deprived they will not be able to funtion properly during the day and if we do not get enough sleep we arent in our best state of minds to be the best mommas we can be. So you can judge us but until you have a child up 2-3 times at night and then up early in the morning please stop giving advice.

    Reply
  10. Alyson Schafer

    Hi Alicia,
    Sometimes the small cries occur and they are not even really awake – just “stirring’ and if you let them be, they may go right back to sleep on their own. Others find quickly going in and out gets them settled so they don’t stir until they are full on awake and bellowing. Trust your own judgement and experiment. There is no magic bullet with this stuff.
    Alyson

    Reply

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