31 answers

Help! My Baby Is Using Me as a Pacifier All Night Long!!

My baby is 6 months old, and we have reluctantly co-slept since the beginning. He was never happy sleeping in the bassinet, and I needed my sleep - I think we have created a monster. He sleeps pretty good in our bed and nurses whenever he wants. Unfortunately, he has been sucking more and more - much of the time not even for milk. We have to get him out of our bed before winter when we would like to use our heavy blankets. He is a terrible napper most of the time - he naps in his crib. I am afraid we got him used to our bed which has a pillow topper and smells like me. He won't take a pacifier, and he doesn't just cry, he screeches when awake in his crib and rotates so much that he ends up getting an arm or leg caught in the bars on a regular basis. We don't want him screaming/crying too much because we have a 3 year old who's room is right next door. I know he is overtired from not napping very well. I really need my sleep to deal with the 2 kids, and I work 2 days a week. Sorry this is a bit scattered; I just typed it as I thought of things. Please, don't comment/preach to me that co-sleeping is dangerous; we do it very safely.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Sorry, I don't have any advice for you. But I just wanted you to know that we are going through the EXACT same thing. You are not alone! We will be looking to make the change in about 2 weeks, when we get back from vacation, so I hope you get some good advice I can steal :) Just wanted you to know that you're not alone. My daughter is doing the same thing.

Good luck!

I would get and read "Healthy Sleep Habits, happy baby" by Dr. Mark Weisblut. Sleep begets sleep and so working on the naps will help the night sleeping. At 6 months, the baby can handle Cry it Out. I was somewhat reluctant to use this technique but it is the only one that really works effectively. It takes a few days and yes it will likely wake everyone in the house up but once it is done, everyone sleeps much much better for years. My baby hated the crib when she was really little and so she slept in her car seat and then an amby bed (www.amby.com) and only at 4 months transitioned to crib. It took a few nights to adjust but she got the hang of it. I am very happy I did this as everyone that I know that has problems with sleeping children has them in their beds. The whole family benefits from a good night's sleep. Good Luck.

Read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for tips on how to transition and get him the sleep he needs for healthy growth and development.

More Answers

Co-sleeping is the best...don't worry about the heavy blankets...

A few suggestions:

My son woke several times during the night and every time I looked at the clock I got angrier and angrier. That combined with my husbands very loud snoring made me nuts and exhausted. If you keep looking at the clock every time he wakes you, turn the clock around. Trust me, it works.

My kids slept with me for years. People all over the world have been doing it since the beginning of time. Totally normal and I think totally healthy. When you have a child, it is natural for them to want assurance throughout the day and night. I think it is wrong for parents to think that they can shove their kid aside for a predetermined amount of time so that the parent can "get their life back" or "get enough sleep". If your family and friends think it's wierd, let them feed their kids formula, sucking from plastic, getting constipated and sleeping all alone surrounded by Winnie the Pooh instead of you.

Sometimes formula is a necessity, like adoption or for example, my first child that was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 1/2 lbs. I pumped my milk for 4 weeks for him and he was fed this through his Nasal Gastro tubing, and eventually through a bottle. He was never able to nurse because of his severe disabilities. The suck, swallow breathe combined with his tonic bite were not a good combination, to say the least. My milk dried up and we had to use formula. Fortunately we were so poor, the government paid for it (thank you all for supporting us through your taxes).

Leon slept in his own room on a heart monitor for a year. He kept me awake all night long with his incessant crying. After my daughter was born, when he was 2 yrs old, I couldn't stand it any longer so I made a make shift bed right next to ours and brought him into our room. That night was the first time ever that he slept through the night. Amazing! He needed his mom! Because of his severe cerebral palsey, he couldn't call out my name or crawl out of the bed to come to me, so he just cried to get my attention. (yes I'm crying as I write this)

As for the baby using the nursing as comfort rather than nutrition through the night, my daughter slept with us and nursed for years. It was rather irritating when she Would just nurse a couple of sucks and go back to sleep, but she needed this. She was the secondary kid...always having to wait for me to take care of her brother first. This was a time when my focus was on her so if this is what she needed to get through the day...so be it. If it really bothers you lay on you tummy so he can't get at you. Try rubbing his back to let him know your their.

My opinion: crying it out teaches your kid that when they need you, their needs won't be met. I do not believe in it. Caring for and loving your child when they think they need you will build confidence and inner strength. You cannot spoil a child. Fruit spoils and then you throw it out.

Their dad and I are divorced now and I have a third child.

I get no child support and am the head of household. Leon died when he was six so I now have 2 kids.

Longer story short...They are awesome. My 16 year old daughter is a straight A student at one of the top high schools in Chicago. She's smart, respectful, kind, caring, considerate and grateful. She is not a typical kid. She is a shining star and I'm not saying this because she's my daughter. People go out of their way to tell me what a wonderful person she is. My 10 year old boy is terrific. His dad and I never married and so I have been the sole round the clock support his entire life. (Dad is involved and our son is the love of his life but gives me no child support) Sometimes I barely see the kids throughout the day what with school and my working. Even now sometimes he wants to sleep with me. He needs me at night to feel cared for during the day. He is an awesome kid...doing very well in school at one of the top Chicago magnet schools, he is a kind, caring and sensitive young man (he's also headstrong at times...typical boy?).

I know that my kids are who they are in large part because they were/are allowed to sleep with me and were breast fed for years.

So in conclusion, let the baby sleep with you, keep nursing, and turn the clock around. This will all be over in about 20 or so years.

1 mom found this helpful

J., our daughter went through something similar, right be fore she turned 1 and right before she turned 2. I attributed it to an emotional growth spurt where she just needed extra connection. I chose to co-sleep but it was still rough at those times. I used some of the methods in No Cry Sleep Solution. The main thing I did was to repeatedly remove her from the breast before she completely fell asleep. If she cried, I put her back on. I did this repeatedly until she gave up and just fell asleep. It helped immensely, but she was a bit older than your son, so I'm not sure how it would work with a 6 month old.

Hi J.,

I would recommend the book The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. She has a lot of suggestions for transitioning away from co-sleeping without crying, some of which I found helpful with my daughter.

Best of luck,

Good for you for setting boundaries w/ us! I applaud the co-sleeping...if we're there for our children through the day, why not night?
My second was so strong-willed that she actually herniated her bellybutton screaming! So I know about the screaming in the crib. Consistency is what worked. Soft, reassuring words, night lights, lots and lots of checking in. It was more than a newborn! BUT, it eventually worked. Put playthings in the crib as well to keep the child occupied. And a pacifier. You just never know....Once you start be willing and able to follow through. Get Daddy to help also.

My son was the same way! It was a tough transition to get him to sleep in his crib. By the time he was 6 months, we wanted our bed back. It was not easy, it took us about a month of crying (not just the baby!) and waking up multiple times during the night. Things did get better, but honestly my son didn't sleep through the night until he was 2. I think the key is being consistent and even though you are tired don't give in and let your little one in bed with you. All babies are different, my son was very difficult (now a well adjusted 8 year old) and my daughter was a breeze (3).

Read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for tips on how to transition and get him the sleep he needs for healthy growth and development.

Hmm I wonder if it's about sucking or just being with you. Can he sleep with you in a position that doesn't permit him to suck? My baby can sleep on his tummy on my chest and he likes that because it's "kangaroo care" like they advised in the hospital-- skin to skin, but because of the way my chest is contoured, he can breathe fine on his tummy because my breasts work like bumpers keeping him still and his nose is in the valley and able to breathe fine. And he can't suck that way. Is your baby too big for that? Mine is only a month an 12lbs, so maybe it wouldn't work with a 6m, but there's gotta be a way for your baby to sleep in your bed safely without sucking. Have you tried those little baby bed things that you put in your bed between you and your husband so he's in bed with you but it has walls so you can't roll over on him? That would be a close second cuz he'd be in your bed but you wouldn't have to worry about SIDS...

Famous last words (your last sentence). You have to let him scream honey. He must learn to sleep on his own like his sibling does. You'll all be tired and crabby but if you give in to baby, he learns that he can have his way. Maybe let the sibling sleep with you a couple of nights till baby starts sleeping on his own. Make sure she knows this is only temporary. Blanket bind the baby if you're worried about his legs. Remember that babies ar more resilient and can squirm their little appendages around anything. They're usually fine.

I loved cosleeping with my babies but sometimes it is hard when they want to suck all night. It is totally normal that he wants to be with you at night. Letting children cry it out at night is absolutely NOT NATURAL. Have you tried different types of pacifiers? Also a bedside cosleeper might be an idea to try. That way you are very close to him but not quite so close. And is there anyway you can get your husband to help out at all? You might have to take yourself out of the picture a little bit? Yes the little guy might cry for him but it is completely different crying in somebody's arms than it is to be all alone and crying because nobody will come to you.

Just my thoughts.

T. S.

I would get and read "Healthy Sleep Habits, happy baby" by Dr. Mark Weisblut. Sleep begets sleep and so working on the naps will help the night sleeping. At 6 months, the baby can handle Cry it Out. I was somewhat reluctant to use this technique but it is the only one that really works effectively. It takes a few days and yes it will likely wake everyone in the house up but once it is done, everyone sleeps much much better for years. My baby hated the crib when she was really little and so she slept in her car seat and then an amby bed (www.amby.com) and only at 4 months transitioned to crib. It took a few nights to adjust but she got the hang of it. I am very happy I did this as everyone that I know that has problems with sleeping children has them in their beds. The whole family benefits from a good night's sleep. Good Luck.

You have a range of advice addressing much of your concerns so I'll only add one thought;
For the transition we did two things that haven't been mentioned. While co-sleeping, my husband would let the baby sleep chest to chest on him unless s/he was actually hungry. during this time I would sleep on one of the bay's balankets. When this became satisfactory, we began to use the blanket I slept on in the crib during nap time. If the baby wasn't willing to stay in the crib we'd throw him/her in a sling carrier and work while s/he napped on us. then the shirt being worn duringthe sling nap became the snuggly blanket.
You're right on about him wanting your smell nearby, so give it to him. with each of our kids the transition was a bit different but he'll let you know when he's ready to be on his own. trust him and yourself.
And, don't worry about the heavy blankets, he'll be generating so much body heat you may find you don't need all that you think you do.
Good luck.

Married mom of 3 beautifully loving and attached children. (ages 7, 5, 2.75)


Okay, the baby is now in the habit of sleeping with you and not taking naps. Now it is time for you to decide what works for you and your family in the way of sleeping arrangements. What are your ideal sleeping arrangements? How are you going to acheive such a goal? Habits are hard to break, but new habits can be formed. Come up with a plan and stick with it. There will be crying, and a few sleepless nights in the beginning, but if you stick with it, it will work. Good Luck.

Hi J.!

Try to make his crib a comfortable and safe feeling place for him. Give him snuggly blankets or sleep toys that he can snuggle and soothe himself with and try some calming music....for the first couple of weeks put him in his crib at bedtime and naptime and pat him or reassure him until he falls asleep (but do not take him out of his crib)...when I was doing this with my oldest daughter I use to read my book in her nursery while she would fall asleep in her crib so that she would see I was still there and things were okay. Eventually he will understand the routine and know that bedtime is cribtime and you can get your sleep back!

Please do I know about needing my sleep. I'm 41 now and my five month old is a terrible sleeper. I spent five month of my pregnancy in a chair because I couldn't lay down with that big baby pushing acid up my throat and so forth....Now I'm in a chair all night holding the big baby because he won't sleep in his crib. I'm so tired half the time I just fall asleep feeding him and then wake up two hours later him contently laid in my arms on top of the boppie pillow sound asleep.

Seriously I am really good at sleeping sitting up. It is ridiculous. Five years ago I would have told you to let that baby cry. Put him in his crib or you will be sorry. Now I'm sleeping all night with one in my arms.

I practice during the day putting him in his crib. He takes short catnaps about four or five times a day. He sleeps in his crib for about four hours or so the first time I put him down for the night...then he wants to nurse. I nurse him and fall asleep....I wake up and think Oh I gotta burp him now...I fall asleep...I wake up two three hours later and he's ready to snack again. If I could just stay awake.

I recommend putting the baby down. Patting their little bottom if you don't mind putting them on their tummies. Mine all slept better that way...I know SIDS. I think they are wrong about that by the way.

Anyway, pat the bottom until they conk out. Keep going in to pat the bottom each time they cry. Don't pick them up if you think they can make it through the night without nursing. Mine thinks he has to eat every two to three hours still.

At any rate, don't feel alone. Next time you wake up in the middle of the night...think to yourself S.'s sleeping in a chair with her son. :)

I have heard that if you wear a shirt, sweater all day and then wrap your baby in it at night it works. It smells and feels like you to the baby. Seems easy enough to try. Good Luck

We've done co-sleeping with both our boys. (2 1/2 and 1)
I've got a co-sleeper attached to the side of my bed, if you don't have one of those you may want to look into it as an option (I got mine in great condition at a resale shop).

Our first born went from the co-sleeper to a toddler bed - stayed with us until a month or so before the baby was born. - And the little guy is still with us.

Both of them went through times (and still do) of being good sleepers, and then not so great.

I have read the different books on sleeping - especially with our first one, but ... call me what you like, it didn't work for us.

As you DO make a decision as to what to do and what direction to go in - keep in mind that you are nearing the teething times and if you are nursing those are HIGH nursing need times and they just want to be attached with that boob in their mouth -(neither of my boys showed ANY interest in a pacifer ... EVER).

Feeling your pain ... as my little one is going through HIGH attachment need right now. He's slept tucked in my arm most the night the last couple nights - I think another tooth is coming in.

(mother of 2 and 2-day a week job holder also)

I want to encourage you to do what your heart and head are telling you: get your baby to sleep independently in his crib. First of all, just know that deciding that you cannot be available 24/7 for the baby is perfectly reasonable and justifiable...it does not make you a bad mom.

Some things to do to make it easier: get the Weisblut book and read it. Get the mesh bumpers to take care of that problem. Buy a fan or white noise machine for yourselves and your three year old. There is no way to do this without enduring some crying.

Then, sit down with your husband and make a plan. Again, I recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits.... Pick a long weekend if you can to start so that you can trade naps during the day with your husband.

What has worked for me: a schedule! In the schedule for naps and bedtime we have a specific ritual that we followed. You can come up with your own but I recommend doing nothing in your bedroom...do it all in the nursery. Bath, feeding, lullaby tapes, swaddling and rocking, soothing white noise. The baby will probably cry and it will be hard for you. That's where the white noise machine helps. Don't sit there and listen. Stick to your plan and rely on your husband for support.

Just know that lots of people have done this and the babies turn out fine! Its so worth it!! Good luck and take care of yourself the best that you can during this trying time.

It is great that you are trying to break this habit now. I didn't until my daugther was 10 months because my husband couldn't sleep with her crying. She is now 26 months old and sleeps independently in her own room. Unfortunately, it was something that we all had to work through. Luckily, I never kept a quiet house while my children were babies so noise didn't generally affect the older ones - a younger sister crying did. Also, none of my children liked the bassinet. Here are my suggestions in no particular order:

1) My two youngest would never take a pacifier, so be prepared for that if you choose that option (I saw it in another post).

2) Take one of his blankets and sleep on it for a couple of nights. Also wear a T-shirt all day and set it aside. Use either or both of these as a cover during nap time. This worked well for me for naps and when I transitioned her into her crib at night. While on a car trip my daughter wouldn't go to sleep and screamed because she wanted her Mommy pacifier. Well, I was on the interstate and took my shirt off while driving (it was night). My husband laid it over her. Voila! She was purring like a kitten and in no time fast asleep.

3) Be consistent - it is difficult, but once you move him don't look back.

4) Set a routine - bath, nurse, read a book (to both children) then off to bed. You may even want to read an extra "special" book for your 3 y/o after you put the baby in bed. A reward for being an understanding big brother.

5) I played soft children's music in both of my older children's room to help with the noise.

6) When the baby does wake up crying, don't take him out of the crib. Rub his back or bum. Once you pick him up he knows he's got you.

This worked for me. It's not easy because I was just as sad as she was. Hope this helps!

Hi J., As you can see you are in a plentiful company, lol! My daughter slept with me until 8 mo when I decided I couldn't take it anymore. (She's 16 mo now) She shares a room with my then 2 yr old. For 2 weeks, I slept on a sleeping bag on the bedroom floor to comfort her while training her to sleep alone. (I got the 2 yr old into bed first). It was VERY HARD the first night, less so each night after. I had to let her cry until she layed down and fell asleep. I called my sis-in-law for support to keep me from picking her up. Each night got easier and she got into the hang of it. My 2 yr old slept soundly right thru it all, suprisingly. I play a lullaby cd at night for them and try to keep a routine now. She still feels the need to cry for a half minute or so when I leave the room but I just give her a big kiss and say, "I love you", and LEAVE and she's out in no time. She still wakes at night sometimes too, but unless I think she's hurt or stuck I DO NOT go in or make a sound. She has learned that nothing happens and gets herself back to sleep just fine.

What helped with the crying is separating the two types of cries: needing and whining. I had to be the boss.

Best of luck!

Sorry, I don't have any advice for you. But I just wanted you to know that we are going through the EXACT same thing. You are not alone! We will be looking to make the change in about 2 weeks, when we get back from vacation, so I hope you get some good advice I can steal :) Just wanted you to know that you're not alone. My daughter is doing the same thing.

Good luck!

Why are some women just adamant about putting their 2 cents in after you specifically asked to NOT comment/preach about not co-sleeping?!!?!! Ugh.

Anyway, had a similar situation with my son. Forget about Healthy Sleep Habits Healthy Child. Very CIO centered. I'd second the No-Cry Sleep Solution. It didn't necessarily work 100% with us, but it did have some useful info.

The problem with the constant suck, is that it can potentionally lead to an improper suck while you're asleep leaving you to wake with incredibly sore nipples (it happened to me - OUCH!!!!!!) Also, the potential for cavity causing bacteria rises once your baby starts getting teeth. I don't believe breastfeeding is the cause of early childhood cavities by any means, but having a constant flow of milk probably doesn't allow the little amount of saliva one produces at night enough time to remineralize the teeth.

Try to unlatch him once you are positive he's asleep but before the 20-30 minute mark. I found my son would easily wake up then. Apparently, that is part of their natural wake cycle (I did get that info from HSHHC but not much else). If he roots again you can let him latch but try to unlatch again in a little while. Keep unlatching until, hopefully, he stays off the breast. The NCSS book suggests to gently push the chin closed but that didn't really work for us. Sometimes I'll just back away and he'll stop rooting after a few seconds! HTH's :)

Have you tried turning him around? When my daughter wakes at night, I'll let her nurse until she falls back to sleep (deep enough to let go for a couple minutes) and then I turn her so that her back is to me instead of her tummy. That way, she still gets the full body contact she seems to need but she can't use me as a pacifier. It also makes me worry less about whether she can breathe - she loves to bury her face when she sleeps and it makes me nervous - part of the reason she sleeps with us in the first place. I don't know if it'll work for your little guy, but it's worth a try - my little one loves her pacifier almost as much as she loves me, so as long as her tummy's full it's not hard to switch it out and turn her around.

I'll bet there are a billion of anonymous co sleepers out there who need their sleep and found that to be the only solution and I know that I was one of them and before there were car seat laws so severe I got in the back of the car and nursed my baby (and yes sometimes sucking a little extra) so he could stop screaming and arrive at the other destination in one peace. (Obviously you can't do that now and I wouldn't recommend it then or now, we just did it because that was part of our solution many,many years ago). Anyway that doesn't help you. Since you are this far into the juncture is it possible to lay on the floor by his room to, move to a huge house with a huge room and put all the beds in there(okay that was to get you to laugh) or put some sort of sleep device in your room since you got this far along such as a small mattres, or perhaps turn your heat up and loose the heavy blankets. You are in a fix, so you will deal with your current circumstances with what you have. Believe me they do not want to sleep with mom when they are older so it will end and yes, you need your sleep. Perhaps a good nursing before hand, then transfer. If arms and legs are getting caught in the sides, do people still use pads on the sides of a crib? Maybe that would be a solution. I fear I'm not much help but been there done that and have lots of compassion. And would give anything to have that all over instead of worrying about where my son is overseas in the service. Good luck! S.

Our daughter was and still is a mover and shaker at night. I can't offer advice on breaking the mommy-pacifier but can on the moving all over the place. We didn't want to put a bumper on the crib for the whole air flow issue BUT we decided it had to be done because she kept getting in the rungs with her little arms and legs. Tie a bumper on VERY securely and as low as possible. We knotted it on so tightly we could barely get it off..it was the only way to keep her from catching an arm. Also, no blankets and none of those sack things that are supposed to be like putting your kid in a blanket. With movers they get it wiggled behind their bums or in front and will darn near choke. Use warm sleepers with legs and feet or put on socks. Good luck!!

I know this is hard to hear when you are in the middle of it all and aren't getting enough sleep, but....it will pass and you will miss it...they need you for such a short time and as long as you do what your heart/gut tell you...you are doing the right thing for a baby this age. Be safe (sounds like you are very educated about co-sleeping when you talked about the big bankets) We used a co-sleeper bed at a certain point. It was right next to the bed so they can hear you breathing, you can reach in to them, they can smell you and you can still nurse at night and get some rest. It is also a pack and play later. Good luck and this time will be over and gone before you know it.(It might come again if you are still nursing at 12-14 mos) and my kids didn't sleep all night until 19 mos. but sometimes now, I think about those times and the cuddling, smelling them, watching them sleep...It is so special and so short lived. You are not alone in this and you are strong enough to do what you know to be right for your child.

At 3 months old they are old enough to go through the night without eating. You know that putting him in his own bed he will not go hungry. He will act like he wants to eat and that he needs to but it is time to break him of the bad habit. There are many ways to break the habit. The best way I found was to but the baby to bed and let him or her stay, mostly crying for a few minutes then I would go in and reassure him/her then I'd leave again. Waiting again a few minutes repeating what I did the first time. Then I would extend the length of time I waiting to go in to reassure. I found this worked best for me, it took about three days and then the baby was fine. Althoug I did it when they were 3 months old. Being older it may take a few more days. If you do it without giving in he will learn. Consider a few nights of hell in exchange for not being a human pacifier any more.

Hi J.:
I was having the same difficutly with my 5 month old. I too am a co-sleeper. We are currently using the strategies in "the no-cry sleep solution" book to transition. It's worth a read for good ideas and doesn't make you painfully cry it out with your baby! I've found this book to be the start of a good nights sleep. We've gone from up 10 times nightly to 5.
Good Luck!

Many studies actually suggest co-sleeping is BENEFICIAL. :) We too co-slept and my daughter used me as the human paci for a long time. lol. So eventually, when she turned one, I just started telling her "Milkies go night night. Can I rub your back instead?" She eventually, after many grueling attempts, would self sooth a bit. Good luck mama!

Oh, that is a tough spot to be in. Kudos to you for meeting his needs consistently, however hard it is for you, though. :) I also recommend Elizabeth Pantley's book No-Cry Sleep Solution. Have you tried a paci recently? I found that my babies didn't really grow to love them until they were 3+ months old. They both took the MAM (and generic Walmart brand) style the best. Maybe buy just one of those and see if he will take it. I had to wrap my kids up in a blanket and hold them like they were about to nurse for them to really want to take it. But after a time, they took it no problem.

Good luck to you. I know this is a rough period, but it will go by quickly and you will be on to a new developmental stage before you know it!

we didn't co-sleep so i don't have advice for making that transition but for the getting stuck in the crib rails we put the mesh bumpers in my sons crib and they work perfectly. you can find them a babies r us for $20 or so. you might check out mothering.com/discussions for tips on how to make the transition, a lot of families there co-sleep. If you are not opposed to putting a small lovie in the crib with him there is also a small breathable blanket by Prince Lionhart that you can sleep with for a few nights and then put in the crib with the baby. Alternatively, you could use one of those flannel blanket toys that are sold on sights like oompatoys.com. Good luck!

I went throught the exact situation with my now two year old!
We tried EVERYTHING and nothing worked, except what the first response said about the No Cry Sleep Solution.(as far as weaning was concerned). My daughter was 11 months when we started that. I really don't know how you take care of two other kids with this situation. Its so hard!!!!! To tell you the truth my daughter is still co-sleeping with us and just started sleeping 9 hours, before that she was up at least twice at night wanting something to drink. I think its a personality thing that some babies have, I don't know I just know its very challenging!!! Good luck and I feel your pain!

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