B.F. asks from Denver, CO on March 18, 2009
Is Nursing to Sleep Really That Bad? And, Getting a Baby on a Schedule?
I have a 4-month-old son who has always struggled with sleep. He hasn't napped regularly until just recently, where I can sorta see a pattern forming. I know my son struggles with self-soothing, it is very hard for him to fall asleep. My husband and I have tried hard to avoid rocking him to sleep or anything that would inhibit him from learning healthy sleep partterns and self-soothing. It is apparent to us that he doesn't know how to put himself back to sleep when he wakes out of a sleep cycle because his naps are often just 45 minutes long. I have noticed though, that when I nurse him to sleep for naps and at night, there's 0 crying and he naps longer (sometimes up to 2 hours!). I know there are many different opinions on sleep and what is "right." I've read all the books possible on sleep (seriously, it's getting confusing!) and know that some people think nursing to sleep is fine and some think it's a terrible idea. My fear is that if I continue to nurse him to sleep for naps and nighttime sleep, he won't be able to put himself back to sleep when he wakes from a sleep cycle and that I'll be the only one to put him to sleep because of the nursing. I also wonder how we'd ever stop nursing to sleep as he gets older and we wean off breastfeeding ... does anyone have any experience with this? Or suggestions?
Also, after reading "The Baby Whisperer" and skimming "Babywise" I know we would benefit from being on a schedule. These books say that the schedule should be: eat, awake, sleep. Obviously, nursing to sleep isn't incorporated in that. Currently, my son isn't really on a schedule, but is kinda on a routine. We try to do eat/awake/sleep, but it's tempting to just nurse him to sleep knowing that he'll sleep longer and cry a lot less. I would love to get him on a schedule though, knowing it'd be easier on him and easier on me to know what my day will look like. Does anyone have suggestions on how to start your baby on a schedule at 4.5 months old?
G.W. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
Try the No-Cry Sleep Solution. . . she has a lot of different tools for different babies (vs. a lot of books that think all babies - or moms - are the same!)
S.K. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
My son just turned one and I nursed him to sleep for naps, night, you name it! When he was your son's age, I tried some techniques in Baby Whisperer and also some other stuff I had read on line.
Don't sweat it, many may disagree with me. Luke goes to sleep really well on his own now. We have some nights when he cries, and some where he goes right down! My pediatrician told me eventually it will take care of itself. I made it a yr nursing and now he is on milk.
Scheduling is still pretty little at his age, he should be sleeping around every 3 hours or so for a nap and nighttime routines are good, making it the same every eveing.
Enjoy your time with him, it will be over very fast!!
In time he and you will both get on a routine. He is still pretty little!
J.F. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
I have never read any books and I am no expert, but I'll tell you what we have done...
My daughter was the same way. Didn't even consider taking a real nap until she was over 4 months old and a schedule didn't come around till about 5 months. So you aren't alone there.
I was a feed on demand mom. She was eating nearly all the time and the only time she would sleep was after a feeding or rocking and even then she would only stay asleep in her swing. I never had any problem doing this despite others opinions. I looked at it like it is my job to comfort her and help her realize she was safe and loved. I knew she wouldn't always be so attached, so I took all of this time with her for all it was worth.
She is now going on 11 months and I had to stop breastfeeding due to becoming pregnant again. But I wanted to let you know that all on her own and over a bit of time, she learned that she didn't need us for every nap and every bed time. Sure there were some tears, but not more than a few minutes.
I was still rocking her in her room, while giving her a bottle at both of her daytime naps until 9 months or so. Now I give her a bottle (which she loves to hold) in the family room where we all are. When she is done then we take her off to naps. We usually get no arguments from her. She hears us turn on her white nose, close the shades, turn on her aquarium in her bed and we walk out the door.
At night it is nearly the same but we throw in bath time and that signals to her that bed time is near. She was NEVER a good sleeper so I am sure some moms would just say we are lucky. But I think in reality we were patient. We did this all in stages! And if one day she just needed that time again we gave it.
I don't think there is any simple solution, but I would suggest following your heart and your mommy instinct and forget the books and know it all friends. Each baby is different and there is no saying that your child will be a nightmare if you rock them to sleep. TRUST me they will not always want this and you will miss it!
Just be patient and let your baby mature on their own. Slowly transition and realize it is ok for them to take one step forward and one step back. They will be just fine. A just wait you will see a schedule develop before your eyes. Of course you do have to take the lead, but I just watched my daughter for sleepy cues and hunger and from there our day just unfolded.
Good luck and know it will get better!
B.H. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
I agree with Shannon, Colleen & Whitney. Follow your instincts and don't believe everything you read. I did the exact same thing as you with my son (who is now 22 months old). I read all the books, worried about "indulging" him too much. And, ya know what, I finally found a book that was "in the middle" on advice. Good Night Sleep Tight by the Sleep Lady. It's perfect "middle of the road" advice. I didn't follow it exactly...but, pretty close and it worked.
I nursed my son to sleep for a year and in the middle of the night whenever he woke up. It was THE BEST thing I ever did. We did not have major fits at all...and, to this day, he doesn't pitch major fits because he is secure in his relationships with mommy & daddy.
A year is such a short time to bond...in the whole scheme of life, that is. Anyway, I admit, that around 1 year...he was having trouble staying asleep at night (up every other hour to nurse...Ugh)...so, we had to transition him to his own room and stop nursing to sleep (only nurse in the mornings). And, based on the advice from the book, my husband took over the bedtime routine and read him stories. It's been a wonderful bonding experience for dad & son. It worked like a champ and he sleeps great, for naps & nights.
Bottom Line...if it doesn't feel right...don't do it. Your baby will have plenty of time to get on a schedule and learn to fall asleep on his own. Remember he's only been breathing air for about 4 months. :) He's got a lot to learn in his first few years.
Also, I totally agree with Whitney...just when you think you've got a routine, it changes. :) That's all part of this wonderful experience of being a "mom."
Good Luck!! Trust yourself!!
D.R. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
As a Babywise follower 2X over (it works!), I can say that the most important thing about the schedule is the eating part. That is, let your baby eat at approximately the same time everyday, including the first feed of the morning. Yeah, you can stress about the "wake" part afterwards, but having done this already, it will eventually work itself out. Sometimes you just can't force them to be awake when you want them to! You can gradually start to work in more wake-time as he gets older, and maybe only nurse to sleep a few times during the day. My son was a preemie and he often falls asleep at the bottle and there's not much I can do to keep him awake. So I feel your pain. I do notice, however, that as he has gotten older (he is 2 mos now), he has gotten much better about the wake part. Your baby will get better about this, and at 4.5 months, can sleep 12 hours at night.
S.R. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
I liked the book Babywise. Didn't follow it exactly, but used its general guidelines, like looking for a pattern in your child's sleep patterns and then encouraging them so that you can have a routine, while remaining flexible. I think you do want a schedule of sorts for your own sanity and because rountines are comforting- people, especially kids- feel most comfortable when they know what to expect every day.
I always nursed my baby to sleep at night, but not before naps, so he wasn't totally dependent on it to fall asleep. I think eating just before bed time helped him sleep through the night + I just never could seem to get away from it. Put him in his crib, though- don't co-sleep! I did try to put him in his crib while he was still a little awake for naps to help him learn to fall asleep by himself. There was some crying a few times, but not too bad. I would just watch the clock and go in to comfort him every 10 minutes or so, but not pick him up because I think that would encourage him too cry again and naptime is time to sleep!
Eventually, he just didn't care about nursing anymore- didn't seem to have the patience for it- supply and demand went on a downward spiral, and so he was weened at about 9 months. The before bedtime was the last feeding to go.
Oh, and he did go through a phase of short naps too. For us, that just meant he had more naps during the day. It was three for quite a long time- late morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon. I often tried to see if I could comfort him and get him to go back asleep for a longer nap, but that usually didn't work. Eventually, his naps grew longer and he dropped them one by one. He dropped to one nap shortly after turning one.
Good luck! I've found that a lot of these things tend to work themselves out with just a little guidance and patience.
C.P. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
I nursed my daughter to sleep from birth until about 10-11 months old. When she was around 11 months, she stopped having to be nursed to sleep on her own. I had soooo many mothers tell me NOT to nurse to sleep, but it all worked out for us. The only time my daughter needed nursing to sleep was at night. She didn't nurse to sleep for naps. In the end, I ended up nursing until DD was 14 months old.
M.G. answers from Denver on March 18, 2009
I agree with Patti. I got into the habit of nursing my youngest son to sleep and eventually because of convenience, he just ended up sleeping with us. We stopped co-sleeping when he was 19 months,and it was such a struggle. Have you tried nursing until he was just drowsy? That's what I did with my older son and it worked fine.
As far as weaning off nursing, are you planning on exclusively nursing? I did for the most part for all 3 of my children, and none of them ever had a problem when it was time for a sippy cup. I think as long as you nurse for nourishment exclusively, not as a comforting mechanism, weaning will be much easier. Just replace one feeding at a time with either the sippy cup or bottle.
The only routine I stick with is bedtime, meal time, and naptime. I like being able to be a little spontaneous with everything else, and I think people put too much unnecessary restrictions on their lives when they follow a rigorous schedule.
I hope you find this helpful.
W.N. answers from Denver on March 19, 2009
Do what works for you and your son! I hate Babywise and The Baby Whisperer. I can't tell you how many clients of mine have struggled and think they're a bad mother and they have bad babies because they can't do what the books tell them! Watch him, he'll let you know what his schedule should look like, and at 4.5 months, it will change. He might have one routine for a few weeks, then change it for a few more, then change it again. That's okay! He is growing and learning, and what works for a 4 month old, won't work for a 6 month old, won't work for a 9 month old, etc. Your job is to respect what he's trying to tell you, while at the same time respecting your own limits. It can be a difficult dance, but that's part of being a new parent, learning the steps to this intricate dance. I hate to give you more books to read, but two that I think have a much better perspective on this are "Touchpoints" by Dr. Brazleton and "The Baby Book" by Dr. Sears. You can do this! Trust your gut and listen to your intuition! You can always contact me if you want to! I hope all three of you are well!