22 answers

Sleep Training for My Three Month Old

Help! I adore my 3 month old but I have to do something different about our sleep arrangement. From the time he was born, I took the path of least resistance and had him sleep with me. I was so stressed about nursing working out that it was my only focus so once I could nurse him lying down I just let him nurse on demand all night and sleep by me all night. Now we have two sleep associations I need to "fix":
1) not only does he lay by me, he wants the nipple in his mouth. He won't go back to sleep any other way. I tried and tried to get him to take a binky and he won't.
2) Sometimes he sleeps for up to 4 hours, sometimes only for 45 minutes and then he wants to eat again! Not only do I not have the milk supply for this, I know he doesn't need food this often.

I have a co-sleeper bassinet but it's a joke. He cries for 20-45 min to get to sleep then sleeps less than an hour.

Ideally, I would like to put him in his bassinet (eventually crib) at 8 pm and feed him once at 12 or 1. I would let him co-sleep if he would just sleep :(

Please help. I have tried "the no cry sleep solution" and found it too vague and the suggestions did not work. I have tried crying it out to initially put him to sleep, which took 20-45 minutes. But when he wakes to eat, do I have to do that process again? I don't want to wake the whole house up all night long.

Also, I have tried crying it out for naptimes and I just end the naptime after 30 minutes of crying. For naptimes, he either wants to nurse to sleep and lay by me or be held or sometimes I can sneak off the bed.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

The "sleep training" method that worked best for me was The Baby Whisper's method. She not only gives you helpful tips on how to help a baby learn to fall asleep on his own, she also helps you break other habits that you no longer want to support. At 3 months, a baby is still easy to "break" of habits. You may have to deal with one or two difficult days/nights but it is so worth it in the end to have a happy, sleeping baby.

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I feel your pain darlin'. My daughter was all over the place with sleep and eating.

First... don't assume he doesn't need the nutrition. Babies are operating on basic instinct. They aren't trying to manipulate. You CAN'T spoil your baby at this age. You CAN'T. Letting him 'cry it out' is only going to frustrate you and him. He NEEDS to know you are there to meet ALL his needs. The CIO method just teaches that you WON'T be there to meet his needs and he has to sort himself out on his own. He's too little to understand this concept.

Second... three months. GROWTH SPURT! He may be growing ALOT and therefore needs more milk. Try nursing more often late in the evening to 'tank him up'. Also, try to nurse not in bed. Sit in a chair and rock him.

Third, as already suggested try coating the binki with your milk.

Fourth, also don't assume you don't have the milk to supply his needs. The lactation process is a supply and demand process. However, around the 3 month mark you and baby are really getting 'in sync' ... so you won't necessarily 'feel full' all the time... even when you are. Your body is adjusting to what he takes and is not making any more. BUT if baby increases the demand your body WILL MAKE MORE. It is VERY rare that a woman doesn't have enough milk to feed her child. It is MORE common to have too much milk. The body is a wonderful system and it will adjust to meet your sons needs.

Now, that being said... if he isn't really sucking for FOOD... but for comfort.. .your body knows the difference in that as well. To see if he is sucking for food... notice his jaw muscle. Is it engaged all the way back to the ear? Also, is there a couple of short sucks followed by a long suck? (long suck like you're drinking through a straw ... suck on your finger as if it is a straw to see the chin action) If you see these things ... then baby is sucking for FOOD. If not, then it is for comfort. And no.. you don't want to be the pacifier. It will take some time...but by offering a binki that tastes like mamma... I think you can coax him into taking it.

Change the routine. It will alert baby to the change and ease him into something new.

Yes, you are the parent and he is the child ... but we are here to teach our children... not train them like dogs. We need to TEACH them to soothe themselves. TEACH them how to meet their needs. Not train them to fit our sterotype of a perfect baby. CIO doesn't teach. It offers NO resources for baby to soothe themselves. Rocking, walking, sushing, stroking, soothing music... these TEACH our babies how to soothe themselves. It gives them tools.

Be patient. Also keep in mind every baby is different. Some babies WILL sleep through the night. Others will not. No two babies are alike and all have different needs. My daughter is VERY active. She likes to interact with people and be where the action is. Friends of ours... their daughter who is just 3 days younger is content to just sit and watch everything. Try lots of different things but keep in mind baby will let you know what works for him.

3 moms found this helpful

Three months is a tough age. Growth spurts all over the place, possible beginnings of teething (not to say the teeth will be in soon, but they're likely moving around in there), and wanting to interact more but being unable to as of yet.

Try NOT laying down to nurse. Sit in a rocking chair and nurse and rock and hum or sing. DON'T try to move him until he's been sleeping for at least 5-10 minutes. Then, transfer him to his bed or bassinet or whatever. When he wakes up, nurse him again and repeat. Eventually he'll get used to not nursing constantly. He's probably hungry due to the growth spurt or whatever and really does want to eat. Hang in there mama. I remember 3 months being a rough age on me and my daughter. If I remember right, things got good and comfy and easier for both of us by around 4-5 months.

Hang in there! Be patient. When you're sitting there worrying and stressing HE CAN TELL and picks up on those feelings. Relax. You'll get the hang of it and all will be fine in the end. If you are stressing cuz you need sleep - pump some and let someone else deal with him for 5-6 hours while you get a good solid block of sleep (waking up to pump of course!).

EDIT- Swaddling is good. Try that too. He may be waking himself up still and the only way he knows how to get back to sleep is to nurse - even if it's only comfort nursing.

1 mom found this helpful

Congrats on your new little guy! I think you're going to need some help with this one. Because he's so used to nursing on demand it'll be tough for you to comfort him with out nursing because he's going to smell you and want to nurse. Could dad try for a few nights? Here's what I would do - nurse at 8 and then put him in the crib/bassinette. If he needs to be comforted have dad go in until the next time he needs to eat. Kind of remove your self for other than eating at night and it may help get baby on a schedule with eating and help with sleeping.

Hang in there! My boys are almost the exact age difference as yours, and though it was trying and tough in the beginning, I wouldn't trade it for a second. They are the best of friends now.

1 mom found this helpful

My little one is also 3 months and I was going through this EXACT same thing. I am now happy to say that for the past month I have her sleeping in her own bed on average of 4 hours at a time at night thanks to the book - The Happiest Baby on The Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. An old sorority sister sugested I try it so I ordered it express delivery from Amazon. I got it the next day, tried the special swaddling technique that night and she slept from 10:00 PM to 2:30 AM! I actually woke her up - first to check that she was still breathing and then to have her eat as my breasts were so full! Basically the book talks about the "fourth trimester" and goes into detail on how to calm baby and keep him that way. Dr. Karp instructs you on how to use the 5 "S" techniques of swaddling, shushing, side position, swinging, and sucking. I thought my daughter hated to be swaddled but it turns out I was doing it wrong and not nearly tight enough. The author gives simple step by step, easy to follow, ways to get your baby to sleep and comfortably stay that way for 4 - 6 hours at a time at night and for 1 - 2 hour daytime naps. I sort of sampled his ideas and used what I thought she needed. The book has been a blessing. Give it a try, it certainly can't hurt. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I second the recommendation for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, although I do think your little guy is still too young for sleep training. It's just a physiological development that you can't do a whole lot to change. Check out the book and it will explain the way babies organize their sleep, and when you can expect him to be ready for sleep training.

Babywise is a very controversial method of training your baby to conform. The AAP and many other pediatric experts do not support the babywise method and it has been linked to cases of failure to thrive, dehydration and slow growth and development. Here is just one of many articles about the book http://www.ezzo.info/Aney/aneyaap.htm.

I slept with my babies in the king size bed for 6 months..

They transitioned easily to the crib..

As babies get older they just naturally sleep better longer.

I would wait a bit and try again in a month..or two or three.

Babies' eating and sleeping habits never seem to jive with what we expect. He is still so little, just wants his mom and never wants to be the least bit hungry. The times he is sleeping for 4 hours he is probably on a grow as well as when he wakes more frequently and wants to eat. The more you nurse, the more milk you will have. There will be times it seems you don't have enough but as the demand grows as long as you nurse on demand, you will have enough milk. Be patient, it sounds like you are! Good job on the breastfeeding...keep up the good work!! This will pass...with my three it seemed that 4 months was the magic time where they figured out the eat/sleep thing.

I would recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It is a wonderful resource with practical, realistic solutions and options. I've relied on it for many (many!) situations.

That said, my daughter is 14m and still wakes up once/night to nurse. It was usually 2x/night until she was 1 year. This is normal for breastfeed babies.

Your little one is still so young. I know my daughter was quite a few months older before we tried any sort of sleep training. The book gives a lot research-backed suggestions and we were able to find a best-fit for our baby. I hope you will, too. Best of luck!

I second the Babywise book by Gary Ezzo. You CAN take control of this situation. You are the parent, they are the child. They look to you for their cues to sleep/eat. They can't do it themselves, they need you to establish the cycle for them. It is definitely the hardest thing I ever had to do (some crying involved), but it pays off in the end. My child has been sleeping through the night since he was 6 weeks old and now, at 9 months, still sleeps 11 hours a night with two 2-hour naps during the day. Not only is that great for their growing minds and bodies, it also makes your home run more smoothly when mom is rested!!

The "sleep training" method that worked best for me was The Baby Whisper's method. She not only gives you helpful tips on how to help a baby learn to fall asleep on his own, she also helps you break other habits that you no longer want to support. At 3 months, a baby is still easy to "break" of habits. You may have to deal with one or two difficult days/nights but it is so worth it in the end to have a happy, sleeping baby.

He is still probably too young to train. At about 4 mos most babies should be able to sleep through the night (about 6-8 hours) without eating.

To help him to sleep at around 4mos start putting him to sleep while awake. he needs to learn to fall asleep so that he can fall back asleep when he wakes in the night. After about a week...you should see progress.

Hi R.,
First off, I'd like to encourage you to take a deep breath; you sound so stressed about your wakeful baby. I know going without sleep gets old; but take a step back and begin to look at what is going on. Our babies aren't out to get us. Your little one is only 3 months old and you have been there to meet his needs day in and day out - good for you. You have established a great bond with him and he has learned that you can be counted on. No wonder he is crying and crying when you don't show up when you try to let him cry it out. A 3 month old may be too young to be doing some of the things you are trying; it may also be helpful to only be working on one thing. My kids nursed frequently, alot, all the time......and I too struggled through that sometimes....but by my third baby I realized that much of the time, nursing was for comfort and comfort alone - so when your son wakes up, he is looking for what he knows, what you have taught him - mom is there with her warm milk, and that is not a bad thing. You have a co- sleeper and I would re-think how it might work better for you. Trying to lay him down at 8, only wake up at 12, go to sleep without nursing, not wake up after only 45 minutes - you may be asking alot of a three month old. This too shall pass. Babies pick up on our moods and our stresses. I am sure he is well aware that you are tired and ambivalent about meeting his needs (picking him up when he cries, nursing him, co-sleeping); perhaps you and your husband can step back and objectively come up with working on one thing in the gentle style of parenting that you have started with and then move forward from that. You have done such a great job with a great beginning. Perhaps you also would benefit from some sleep - do you have a friend or neighbor who could come over for an hour or two and hold the baby and watch your two year old so you can rest. Sometimes just getting in some sleep is really helpful.

read "baby wise" by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. It gave such peace to our home and to our babies. Read it and stick to it. 3 months is the age to instill it cause after about 3 months their awareness really changes. PM me if you have more questions.

I think your little one may be trying to increase your milk supply (growth spurt) or is just a high need baby who is greatly comforted by nursing. I really believe 3 months is too early for sleep training and sounds like your baby knows exactly what it needs to sooth himself. I had one of those babies and it was very difficult because of exactly how you are feeling right about now. I ended up doing a lot of research (found some great books) and had to let go of all my pre-baby expectations in order for me to deal with the excessive night nursing in those early months. For some reason, our society puts a lot of pressure on us and expects us to lay a baby down at 7pm and be done until morning. Sounds ideal but really, it is not what biology demands. Babies nurse frequently for many reasons. Yes, it is very frustrating when you are interrupted repeatedly from trying to sleep and sometimes you just don't think you can do it anymore...yet, for me, listening to my baby cry, never felt right. My advice is to take it day by day--just when you think you cannot do another night--your baby will have a great nights sleep. It really should get better soon although i will tell you that our first daughter was very much a 'nurse to sleep' girl her first 15 months. I don't care what advice people gave me, she couldn't fall asleep otherwise :( She did take a pacifier at one month and we always had to slip it in after i nursed. My second daughter, is totally different which only confirms to me that every baby is different so we just cannot expect the same from all children. Also, much of what you are feeling is surely the stress from having a two year old as well! That is plain exhausting! All i can say is hang in there and find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Plus, you are over the hardest part! By the way, my intense nurse to sleep baby is now 3 in her own big bed (since two), she falls to sleep on her own and sleeps very well! Overall, she is just a sensitive, loving child!

Be patient. Your 3 month old is just trying to figure his way around.

Every baby is different. Naptime to mine sometimes is a 10 minute cat nap, but other times 1-3 hours. It's what works for him. I don't try to force the nap on him unless I can tell that he's tired or I think that's what he wants. Mine is 5 months and he's never had a "nap schedule".

I nursed three babies and they all responded pretty much the same. They would fall asleep in my arms nursing, then I would gently roll them out of my arms onto their side in the crib. I won't say I NEVER nursed them in bed, but I was one of those moms worried about squishing their baby after falling dead asleep from sleep deprivation! So every time they woke up in the night, I would take them to my trusty rocking chair and nurse them back to sleep. As they got older, I would try to stay in bed longer and longer before going to their crib in hopes they would fall back to sleep on their own. Your little guy is only 3 months old. Nurse on demand for now. I wouldn't watch the clock to monitor how long in between feedings. I wouldn't encourage starting a pacifier. Just stop nursing him in bed and try my suggestions. Be patient and persistent. He is not going to like a change in routine but if you are nursing on demand he'll learn to be content. As he approaches six months, then think about spacing out the feedings more. Depends on when you intend to wean him to a cup. After I started solid foods between 9 to 12 months the babies were only nursing at naptime and bedtime, eventually just bedtime, and then I weaned them completely. Hope something in this helps. Trust your instincts and know that you're a great mom!

At 3 months old, your baby needs you for more than milk; he needs you for comfort. That's what he's doing when you say he nurses without getting anything - he's getting comfort! Nursing on demand is not a bad thing, and 3 months is way too early to start sleep training. At this age, they cry because they need you, not because they are being manipulative. It's not possible to spoil your baby at this age, so enjoy the cuddle time now!

He might be in the middle of a sleep regression or growth spurt (http://www.kellymom.com/bf/normal/growth-spurt.html), and if so, just keep chanting to yourself: "This Too Shall Pass". Eventually he will sleep. Good luck mama :)

1. When you tried letting him "cry it out" you said it took 20-45 minutes. You may have to go through it for a few nights, until he learns to put himself back to sleep. Better to deal with it now while he's only 3 months old. When he gets older he'll be able to cry for a lot longer than 45 minutes. And it may be better to try that when he's just a little older.

When he's about 4 months old he should be moving toward sleeping through the night w/o eating every few hours. Hold on just a little longer :)

2. If he cried himself to sleep (eventually) at bedtime, he may do the same at nap time. You may have to wait a few more minutes, but wouldn't it be worth it if he slept for an hour? He needs his rest, even if he'd rather hang out w/ mom.

Everytime a mom has sleep issues I recommend the same book b/c it worked wonders for me and my son. It's called "Healthy sleep habits, Happy child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. His whole premise is that when the whole family is well-rested life is better or everyone. And amen to that!

At 5 months old my baby was taking 2-3 naps a day (when at home. It was hard when he went to day care) and sleeping 12 hours a night. We hit a few rough patches, but now I can just lay him down (while awake) just walk away. He sleeps so well on his own, and I owe it all to that book. See if you can find one at a library, or maybe a used copy on Amazon.

Good luck.


I found a ton of useful suggestions when I when I talked to Jane, the lactation professional, at Indigo Forest during one of their 'Nursing Cafe' breastfeeding support groups! Not only is she amazing with breastfeeding, but she has 4 kids herself and seems to have ideas for everything! (www.VisitIndigo.com)
Good Luck! It DOES work out!B.

Hi R.,
I understand your frustrations. This may/may not work for you but give it a try.
1) to make the binky work, it needs to taste like your milk. You may have to express and dip the binkie in the milk. The baby will suckle and then cry, but keep trying until you don't have to dip anymore.
2) Getting the baby to sleep away from mom - babys like the way mommies smell, so maybe you can share your pillowcase. Place it over the bassinett pad;Or use your pillow as the pad in the bassinett. And in extreme cases your husband may have to become the "bedtime" person, with a bottle.
3) As funny as it sounds, boys like to nurse and some longer than others. If you can stop nursing right before he goes to sleep and just cuddle him to sleep.
This is the advice of an young grandma of 2, mother of 4.
Good Luck and God Bless!

Please consider attending the La Leche League group in your area. If you go on www.llli.org and check on resources then answers, you can find a lot of info that would be helpful. You can also find a local group & contact the leader. I am a leader in Warren, but there are several groups in Michigan. I definitely wouldn't let him cry it out. It's terrifying to him. He has no clue what is going on. He needs you but you need to figure out how to handle his needs in a way you can both live with. Good for you for breastfeeding! You're giving your kids the very, very best! I know some families do a lot of scheduling with tiny babies, but as a former family therapist, I have to say that the emotional price that is being paid is astounding. Your baby totally trusts you to be there for him and meet his needs at this age - what else can he do? Please get some help from La Leche League. We've been around over 50 years and have seen the wonderful results of attachment parenting and loving guidance. You'll never regret what you invest now in your children. You are not alone! Many moms go through these issues but trying to push him toward more independence at this age is fruitless and may be damaging. He's telling you he needs to be with you! I encourage you to listen to him!

I also read and followed the book On Becoming Babywise by Ezzo. It was the only book I needed. Feeding and sleep-wake cycles are the most important thing to establish with you newborn. To give you the basics of the book: During the day, feed no more than every 2.5- 3 hours. Establish a first feeding time, Wake up your baby to keep him on schedule during the day, make sure he gets full when he eats then when he cries you know he isn't hungry. Keep him awake after he eats for at least 45 minutes. When it is time for a nap again, lay him down and walk away. He will cry (crying is the only way babies have to relieve stress) At night, you feed him a full feeding and let him wake you when he is hungry. the time he sleeps at night will get longer and longer and he will cry less and less... but it will take time to establish the cycle. This worked great for us!

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