Breaking Bad Nap Habits (Carseat, Nursing Down)

Updated on April 29, 2007
S.C. asks from Columbus, OH
6 answers

My 6 mo. old daughter has always been a good sleeper. She started sleeping 12 hours/night at 3 months, started taking two 1.5 hour naps around 5 months. She chose to do this--she likes to be well-rested. The problem is that I've instilled some bad sleep habits that now I'd like to break. I realize this was my doing, and I feel terrible that I didn't see this day coming.

The first problem, the bigger problem as I see it, is that I don't know how to get her to sleep without nursing her down. We've gotten to the point where I'm the only one who can get her to sleep in the crib because she needs me to nurse her to sleep, then slip her into the crib while she's asleep. Of course, if she wakes up when she hits the mattress, we need to go through the process again. This means that a) I feel somewhat trapped into always being there when she naps or goes to bed , b) my husband is entirely shut out of a portion of her care, and c) she doesn't deal well with other caregivers (dad, nanny, grandma).

She also has GERD, so when she was a teeny-tiny, she wouldn't sleep on her back. No problem, I let her sleep in her carseat and it worked wonders. We transitioned her out of the carseat at night around 4 months and it went fairly easily, but naps have been harder. She's no longer in pain--I know this--and at night she is so ready for sleep that she has fewer objections to the details, but at naptime...whew. I've spent two days now letting her cry it out, and the only result is that she's cried through all of her naps. She's exhausted and I'm a wreck. The main reason I'd like to break her of the carseat habit is that now she's outgrown her infant carrier and eventually, it will become uncomfortable for her. Really, of the two issues, I think this is much less serious, but I think they're related.

The poor girl wants to be asleep, but she has no self-calming skills at all, and I'm afraid I haven't helped her learn any. She can nap in her crib if I nurse her down; she can nap in her carseat without nursing (but it has to be rocked). Neither of these are helping her learn to calm herself. She's a beautiful, brave, bright, and extremely stubborn little baby, and she really needs more sleep.

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So What Happened?

I decided to create a new bed/naptime routine for my daughter. I gave her a "lovey"--a small stuffed dog, handed her a passy, put her in the crib, and then sang to her and rubbed her stomach. At night, she took to this immediately, falling asleep within 10 minutes. Naps were much harder. She was quiet while I sang to her, but refused to fall asleep. I would leave the room after 15 minutes, and she began to scream, so I let her cry for small stretches. She screamed instead of napping for 4 days. She took short (20-30 minute), fussy naps for the next 3 days. By a week and a half, she was napping beautifully--no nursing, no carseat, sleeping for 1-1.5 hours at a time. She's a great sleeper these days. She now seems a little fussy if I sing to her for too long, like I'm getting in the way of her getting herself to sleep. Thank you so much, all of you, for all of your advice. I really appreciate the things I hadn't thought of, and for the encouragement.

More Answers



answers from Lima on

Don't worry! 6 mos. is still pretty young. I didn't really train my son until 9 mos. (when I stopped breastfeeding). The thing is: you will probably have to let her cry, and that is VERY hard. But keep in mind that if you put her down awake and she cries, she will eventually go to sleep. The next night you try it, it will take less time. I think it only took 3 nights of crying (20 minutes was the most, then about 10, then 5) before my son learned to go to sleep. We trained him to go to sleep at night first, then worked on naps a few weeks later.



answers from Cleveland on

My second son had GERD and would only sleep in his swing for the first 9 months of his life, as for the car seat if it works then use it, when it is eventually uncomfortable she should transition herself out of it. as for self soothing does she take a pacifier or a bottle? i know you nurse but you could always pump and give her a bottle to get her down and that would at least allow you a break and i understand that a pacifier is just another thing that later you will have to break her of but i used one with all my kids just to get them to sleep and would then take it away once they were in bed and that was the only time they ever had it and by their first birthdays they were all off them with no trouble and again it served it's purpose they got to sleep and i got a break. and this might be harder nursing than if she was on a bottle but i used to stop feeding when they dozed off, if they weren't going to be awake and actively eat i stopped, the bottle was not a pacifier, so you could try to unlatch her when she dozes off and start putting her down awake or more awake and gradually working yourself out of the room i had to feed my kids then put them down half awake and rub thier backs till they were asleep but it was better than having them asleep in my arms and then waking up when i moved to put them down and eventually it got to the point where i could just lay them down and pat their backs and leave, but all my kids were terrible sleepers, i think it's genetic, lol, and anything you do now will take time to work so jsut know that eventually she will outgrow this and at lest she is sleeping at night, you're very lucky for that. good luck.


answers from Cleveland on

Hi S.!

I can understand how concerned you must feel, especially since EVERYWHERE you look and read, there's some expert telling us to let our babies cry it out, they must have a self soother, and blah blah blah. As a first time mom, I ran myself in circles trying to get my son on schedule and get him into self soothing. You know what happened? I said screw the experts!

I gave my son a bottle before naps and bed. I knew I could be getting myself into a lot of trouble, but it turned out to be no trouble at all. My son weaned himself off his bottles when he was ready, and learned to fall asleep when he was tired. He sits with my boyfriend and I, and falls asleep on one of us. And then we put him in his crib. He is a cuddler when he's tired. I don't care that he falls asleep on us. It's what works for us.

So do what works for you. She'll figure out some calming skills on her own. Babies know these things, and they eventually figure it all out. If you're still worried, maybe try pumping and introduce her to bottles. So that way she can get used to other people putting her down.

Trust your instincts. My son slept in a car seat for naps at his babysitters (it's the only way she could get him to sleep) until he was 10 months old. You gotta do what you gotta do to keep your sanity and keep your baby happy and well rested. My son slept on his stomach since he was a week old. It's what made him comfortable and helped with his gassiness.

Just go with the flow and follow your baby's cues. She'll let you know. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

Each time we got into the habit of aiding my son to sleep one way or another we broke it by letting him cry it out to an extent...with the breastfeeding to sleep, I broke when I stopped breastfeeding. He weaned himself at 9 months and I would give him a drink of a cup before bed but nothing that would put him to sleep. I would sit by his bed and slowly move out of his room each night...starting further and further from his bed. He would cry a little but I wouldn't look AT him...just be in the room. After crying it out a couple nights in a row, he started going down on his own. Each time (we've gone through this process...breastfeeding stopping, and him getting very sick twice and being sick for weeks at a time) we have set up a bed time routine, brush teeth, say goodnight to everyone, read a book and go to sleep...and the go to sleep part we let him cry it out...Ive let him go two hours with me in the room and that was the worst night...otherwise he has adjusted well.
Best wishes!



answers from Columbus on

Don't feel guilty. You aren't doing anything wrong. Every child is different & requires different things to sleep. I hope that you don't feel like this because of something some "expert" said. In my opinion, those "experts" don't know my kids & if I want to rock them to sleep I will. Sorry about the soapbox. I say this because I had people telling me I had to let my son "cry it out" when he wasn't sleeping. We tried it for 3 days. HATED IT!!! My son is now 4 & sleeps very well on his own. Every night, we rocked him to sleep. It was also a time for my husband & I to be together. One would rock & the other was just there. My son had us both. When he hit about 18 months, we started switching the bottle (which was the only one he had, he used sippys during the day) to water. We kept the routine the same, but put him to bed with his bottle. Eventually, that bottle got smaller & then switched to a sippy, then disappeared altogether. Over the year, the routine changes to fit the child, but bedtime is still great. I may hear him playing a little with his Curious George doll, but he sleeps on his own. We are doing the same for our 5 month old daughter. She gets a bottle of breastmilk & we only lay her down after she is sound asleep. She sleeps 10-12 hours a night. The same for her naps. So, have you thought about pumping just for the night time? That would give you a break & your husband some baby time. It might be an adjustment for her, but might help. Your husband might need something of yours for your daughter for scent. I gave my husband the shirt I wore for the day & he used it as a burp cloth once in awhile.
As for your daughters naps, there is a great rocker that even my son still uses. It is from Fisher-Price. It is a toddler rocker & has two reclining positions. We also use the Boppy pillow if our daughter gets congested & also in the beginning when she spit up more. It reclines only a little, but just enough for us.
Bottom line, use your mommy instinct & do what you feel is best & don't worry about what others think you should be doing. Things will work out. Good luck.



answers from Mansfield on

Having a bedtime routine is perfectly fine so don't feel guilty about that. I know "letting your baby cry it out" is VERY hard, but this is what you may end up having to do. Only doing it for 3 days isn't really enough. You have to keep at it. You can go in and pat her back but not pick her up and nurse her. The long term effects are well worth it. Imagine, as an adult, not knowing how to fall asleep on your own! As for the carseat, a lot of parents do this and it is fine! If your baby is too big for it now then you have no choice but to just lay her down in her crib. She will figure it out on her own in time and start sleeping like the peaceful, beautiful angel she is!

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