How Can I Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night Without Nursing or Being Swaddled?

Updated on March 16, 2017
S.B. asks from Mandan, ND
12 answers

Our 9 month old keeps waking up every two hours at night. I can get him back asleep, but usually I can't get him asleep without nursing him. Also, I still can't get him lying down in the crib without being swaddled. I can get him to sleep in my arms without, but when I try to lay him down in the crib he gets startled and starts to fuss. Part of the reason is because I had to move the crib mattress down so it's somewhat awkward to lay him down.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

We co-slept. Sometimes what baby really wants is to be close to you. If baby wakes at night and finds you right there, baby often goes right back to sleep.

I never did find a way to get them to sleep in the crib unless I had them completely zonked out and placed them in the crib. So I gave up and let them sleep with me. Once they were a little older we had them sleep on a mattress on the floor in their room. But co-sleeping at that age was so wonderful for us. We actually got to sleep!

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K.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

At this age, he shouldn't need to nurse more than once overnight and many babies can go all night long without nursing at all. In my experience, having my husband go in to put my kids back to sleep at night worked better because they knew they weren't getting milk (or the comfort of nursing) with him. He was usually able to put them back to sleep a lot faster than I could.

For swaddling, he's getting too old for that too. What if you put a stool next to the bed so it was easier for you to lean over the side of the crib to lay him down? I know I had a really hard time putting my daughter in the crib when they were already sleep once the mattress was in the lowest position. My son had a drop-side (back when they were still allowed) and it was much easier.

Sleep is so hard. Ultimately, you have to do whatever you have to do in order for you to get a decent night's sleep. I nursed my daughter once at night till just after her first birthday, but my husband would go to her if she woke up a second time and just rock her back to sleep. We also eventually let both our kids cry it out...it took a few days, but they both learned to put themselves to sleep.

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V.B.

answers from Jacksonville on

I'll bite.

Google The Ferber Method. Then actually read what it says. Then, decide if you want to try it. If you do, great. Do it and don't look back. Know also that it takes a few days to a week to have success, typically. But if you try it and give up on Day 1, it will fail. And please actually read what the plan/method is, rather than making assumptions. Soooo many people think it means to ignore your baby. It does not.

I did it with my daughter at about 6 months. Best decision ever. Best sleeper ever.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you nurse him to sleep every single time he goes to sleep? If so, that's the major issue here - it's the only way he knows how to fall asleep. I very slowly got one of mine to go to sleep without nursing. Right now, I assume you are nursing him until he's totally asleep. For the next week, take him off of your breast when he's mostly, but not 100% sleep (for example, his eyes are closed but he's still a little twichy) and put him in his crib. When you can do this without him waking back up, then start taking him off your breast when he's at the long blink stage - very very drowsy but eyes not totally closed - and put him in the crib. Once you can do that successfully, start taking him off when he's sleepy but his eyes are still mostly open and put him in the crib. You get the idea. Gradually put him in his crib more and more awake until you are nursing him totally awake and letting him fall asleep on his own. This method will take you a month or so. It's not fast, but it's the only method I know of that doesn't involve a lot of crying (Ferber works great for some parents and it's certainly faster than what I did, but I couldn't let him cry, that's just me).

You can get him out of the swaddle in the same gradual way, but I would do this AFTER you get him going to sleep on his own. Don't try to change 2 things at the same time. For the swaddle, first I stopped swaddling the legs, but would tuck the blanket around his arms, so just the top half of the swaddle. Then I left 1 arm in, and one arm out. Then I put the blanket around his body but with both arms out. Then he stopped needing it.

Finally, this all applies assuming your child doesn't have any medical issues. If, for example, your baby has reflux, all bets are off. Breastmilk is a natural antacid. My reflux baby did not stop nursing at night until he outgrew the reflux, because that was his only way to manage the pain and I wasn't going to let him cry in pain in his crib.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

Read mynewnickname's response. This is really important. (Don't put him down fully asleep, for example. And don't pick him up every time.)

My pediatrician told us that, in most cases, a child over 6 months of age doesn't need to eat at night. He'll make up for it during the day. In fact, she said babies need a full night's sleep for proper brain development. She told us to read up on and use The Ferber Method. You can get a book from the library. Choose what to do, and then do it, every time.

And a mother needs to sleep. She cannot be getting up every 2 hours. That's serious sleep deprivation, and you should not be driving under those circumstances. Your child isn't nursing out of a strong need for nutrition, but for comfort. You've created this situation, and you can un-create it! And he's not getting a deep and restorative sleep, so use that as your motivation.

You cannot be the only one in charge of getting this child to sleep. Someone else needs to help teach him to calm down and feel safe at night. You'll learn that from Ferber. For most people, it's 3-4 tough nights and then you're done. You have to be consistent so be sure you buy into and you and your husband, your mother, a friend, whoever, all do exactly the same thing. For us, it was 3 nights. We chose a long weekend, took turns (so each of us got at least 4 hours of sleep at a clip), and it was done.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

One of our children was like this as a baby. I would try lying him down while drowsy but still awake. I did the Ferber method. I did many things. He HAD to be swaddled and he was super super touchy...he woke up every 1-2 (or 3 if I was lucky) hours for 2 years. He had the hardest time self soothing. Teething started at 4 months and was extremely hard for him. The littlest things bothered him it seemed. I felt like a failure. I did what other people say and nothing worked. Our 2nd child was totally different...all the normal things worked perfectly with her. All I can say is good luck. I hope you find something that works. It turns out it is his personality...he is 13 now. He was very hard when he was younger bc he is very sensitive, his senses are all on high alert, he always had a very hard time with transitions of any kind. I do not know what I could have done differently...I was not letting him get his way all the time or babying him. All I know is all the normal parenting stuff worked great with our 2nd child but not with our very sensitive and highly reactive child. We just had to muddle through it with very little sleep, nothing working, and feeling like bad parents until he got older. I am not assuming your child is like this...I just want to point out that there is probably a bell curve in personalities and not that many people get a really hard/super sensitive kid. So the majority of people who get "normal" kids cannot really understand. I would work really hard on teaching him to self soothe...that means lying him down while still barely awake and yes, listening to him cry till he goes to sleep. If you can do this things will start to get better. He will learn that it's ok and he knows how to go to sleep. He just does not have this skill yet.

Updated

One of our children was like this as a baby. I would try lying him down while drowsy but still awake. I did the Ferber method. I did many things. He HAD to be swaddled and he was super super touchy...he woke up every 1-2 (or 3 if I was lucky) hours for 2 years. He had the hardest time self soothing. Teething started at 4 months and was extremely hard for him. The littlest things bothered him it seemed. I felt like a failure. I did what other people say and nothing worked. Our 2nd child was totally different...all the normal things worked perfectly with her. All I can say is good luck. I hope you find something that works. It turns out it is his personality...he is 13 now. He was very hard when he was younger bc he is very sensitive, his senses are all on high alert, he always had a very hard time with transitions of any kind. I do not know what I could have done differently...I was not letting him get his way all the time or babying him. All I know is all the normal parenting stuff worked great with our 2nd child but not with our very sensitive and highly reactive child. We just had to muddle through it with very little sleep, nothing working, and feeling like bad parents until he got older. I am not assuming your child is like this...I just want to point out that there is probably a bell curve in personalities and not that many people get a really hard/super sensitive kid. So the majority of people who get "normal" kids cannot really understand. I would work really hard on teaching him to self soothe...that means lying him down while still barely awake and yes, listening to him cry till he goes to sleep. If you can do this things will start to get better. He will learn that it's ok and he knows how to go to sleep. He just does not have this skill yet.

1 mom found this helpful
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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

I used to let my kids fuss for 5 minutes at a time and then go in and comfort them without taking them out of the crib, just rubbing their tummy/back and singing or talking softly, laying them back down if they tried to get up. Once they had calmed I would leave and if they started to fuss I would wait another 5 minutes before going in once again to comfort. I never had to go in more than twice but I started this much younger so there may be some long nights to start, but if you start stay consistent because if you give in they will learn that if they just hold out long enough you will give them what they want. Best of luck.

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J.C.

answers from New York on

I did CIO when my baby was 9 months. It took two nights. 12 minutes of crying the first night and 2 the second. She has been the best sleeper ever since!

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I.N.

answers from Atlanta on

I have twins and we did cry it out early on. Babies and toddlers learn to self soothe when you allow them to. They get used to routine. You can remove the swaddle and leave him clean and fed in his crib to sleep for the night. He will get used to the new routine quickly. In addition to my own twins I have nannies others. Children get used to the routine and are smarter and more adaptable than we give them credit for. A couple of 14 months old I nannied were literally sticking their fingers down their throats to make themselves puke so their parents would pick them up during the night. One of my twins was at 16 months old pretending to sleep, getting up to hit his brother, then immediately pretending to sleep while his brother woke up confused and crying (they are best friends now at age 7, but we had to separate their cribs after we discovered that!) This thing at 9 months can and often does go on for years, or until you decide a new routine is needed. And I do also agree to lay him down awake. We had toys in the crib. if they couldn't sleep, they could play. But they weren't getting picked up at sleep time. If you do need to change a diaper, make it a quick change and right back down. No playing, cuddling, or feeding. It isn't time for that, it is sleeptime. Make up for it the next day with extra love and play. A 9 month old needs solid food to learn how to chew and swallow. At 10 months old it get difficult for them to learn without intervention, but I am assuming you have a child on solid (soft nonchokable of course!) food by now. Swaddling should be stopped by 5 months. It's purpose is to prevent newborns from waking themselves with their own jerky movements. He should be unswaddled and allowed to self soothe. Those that self soothe sleep better, and you will too. Better sleep makes for everyone being happier!

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D..

answers from Miami on

I feel sorry for both of you, but the truth of the matter is, you haven't allowed him to learn to sleep through the night. He needs to learn to do this! He needs continual sleep for brain development.

This isn't going to be easy. You are both going to have to suffer some over this.

He DOES NOT NEED to be nursed. He doesn't need the milk. He uses you and the milk to put himself to sleep. You have to understand that this is habit. And you have to break the habit for his best interest.

Look up the Ferber Method. You need to go by it. Talk to your ped to help you through it. You must use 100% consistency. If you don't, then you will be unsuccessful. Don't try different forms of the method. He has to know that you will not bail him out, no matter who hard the cries. When he figures it out, he will stop waking up.

As hard as it is for a week or two, it is worth it. Keep your resolve.

T.D.

answers from Springfield on

while i hate them i ended up using a pacifier to get my daughter to stop using me to get to sleep. find a pacifier that resembles what your nipple looks like and offer that. as not all suckling is for nutrition. he may be suckling for the comfort of it, try a pacifier and make sure its in his mouth when you lay him down.
and as others have said feed as much breastmilk or formula as the baby wants then offer real foods mashed to get nutrition not junk in them. avocados, yogurt, mashed bananas applesauce and sweet potatoes mashed were a few of my dds favorites.

S.L.

answers from New York on

There is something called a Merlin sleep suit that is supposed to help the transition from swaddling to not swaddling, havent tried it myself but you can sometimes find on Ebay

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