Switching from Feeding to Sleep to Self Soothing - Where to Begin?!

Updated on March 15, 2009
V.M. asks from Lincoln, MA
8 answers

So, it appears I have gotten my 6 month old DD into a few bad habits, that I am now gearing up to rectify. She used to go to sleep easily enough, then around 3 months we had a growth spurt, first cold and teething all go off at once. The only way to get her to sleep then was to breastfeed her - and so this is now the only way she knows how to sleep! Actually she can fall asleep out in her stroller, but it's never for more than 30 mins. To compound this problem when she wakes up at night (around 2am) I always bring her into bed with me so she is also used to the warm body at night (and often for her morning naps as well if I'm tired too!) She used to sleep 5 hours at a stretch at night - now I'm lucky if I get 3.

So needless to say I don't know where to start with this. It's as much of a feeding issue really - I don't think she gets enough food because she almost always passes out (in the afternoons she's awake after feeds, but so distracted it's the same thing!) Our night time routine is: 7:30 get ready for bed, 8:00 feed to sleep (this takes an hour if she's going to not wake up when I move her - she eats a good bit, 2 goes of about 10 mins each), 9:00 in her cot - dream feed around 11-12, but now she often wakes at 12:30-1:00 regardless of the dream feed, clearly wondering where the warm body is! Some nights she won't wake then til 2-2:30.....

So....Do I start with naps or tackle the sleeping-in-the-bed-at-night first?? I thought maybe if I started by still bringing her to bed but not feeding her she might start sleeping through, and then I could move to leaving her in her cot? I've just started her on first solids, next week we'll move up to two "meals" a day - but even though she's chowing down on her purees it's not effecting her sleep either way (which clearly I was hoping it would!) I'm not a fan of "cry it out", so have read the Baby Whisperer and feel the patting and reassuring is how I'd like to go, but I don't know what aspect/issue to tackle first. ANY advice would be HUGELY appreciated as I realise that her sleep is being effected and I want to make sure she's getting quality rest! (Though I must say, she's pretty delightful considering!) Thanks in advance - you guys always have great advice!!!

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answers from Boston on

wow, where do I start. First of all, you have not gotten your baby into ANY bad habits, she is six months old and still needs to nurse during the night. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nursing during the night! in fact she needs this nourishment (and comfort) she is way too young to try to get her to "sleep through the night". That being said, I can tell you that my daughter, who is six months, has always slept in my bed, right next to me. We have always slept right through the night, only half waking up to latch her on to the breast a few times a night. This is absolutely the most natural option for breastfed babies and their moms. We have never had sleeping issues and it is certainly not a bad habit to break. You should ask yourself what kind of situation works best for your baby and you. I find it disturbing and unnatural that we tend to think of babies as "manipulating us" or forming "bad habits" or the need for us moms to have "schedules" and timetables that don't necessarily fit into what is best for our babies. The cry it out method is cruel and based on a male-centered theory that babies need to be taught "independence", babies do not learn to be independent by showing them that you will not listen to the only way they know how to communicate. Babies work primarily on instincts that us mothers should listen to. I encourage you to look more towards the attachment parenting point of view. Read the Continuum Concept by jean leadloft, Mothering and Fathering by Tine thevenin, and check out ANY Dr. Sears books(especially the Baby Book) and askdrsears.com also Mothering Magazine (such an excellent magazine!)had a great issue last month on co-sleeping, check it out.
Honestly take all our moms advice with a grain of salt, we all seem to do things a little different based on our own belief systems. It sounds like she is telling you what she needs, you should listen to her. Also be cautious about feeding too much sold foods at this age as well, her digestive system is still immature and can not handle too much solid food, look at her stool, if it is getting too solid and she is having a hard time passing it, you should sloooow down. My theory is breastmilk is babies' perfect food, why rush feeding solids when she gets everything she needs? at least in the first year. Again, do what she needs, not what fits best into your schedule. I now that I often have a hard time surrendering to the beauty and simplicity of just being a mom, it takes patience ans sacrifice on our parts, but this time passes all to quickly! cherish these moments of nursing and sleeping at night, it will be gone before we know it! Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

This is completely normal, and only seen as abnormal in this country. I am not harping on you or anything, but babies like to be near mommy, especially if they are breastfed (formula fed too, but there is a difference). I have 2 older boys (6 and 3) and I nursed them both to sleep until they were 2. Yes, 2. I then would lay with them until they fell asleep, but that only lasted a few months, and now they both go to sleep on their own, no problem.

Why would a baby that is 6 months old want to sleep alone? It is cold, the endless squishy food and comfort supply is not there, therefor they are not comfortable. I don't care what anyone else says, babies are not meant to sleep alone. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is now recommending that an infant sleeps in the same room as their parent for the first year, because it is safer. Get a co-sleeper, or let her sleep with you. If you are worried about intimacy with your husband, spice your life up a bit and do it elsewhere.
You have a smart baby girl there. I understand it may get frustrating sometimes, but it doesn't last long. She will grow up a happy, healthy well adjusted child doing exactly what she is right now. Her sleep is only being effected if she is up all hours of the night, which she isnt. She does wake, but is right back to sleep with your help. It is okay to love and nurture your child, even at night. Your a good mom and doing what feels right. Society makes us feel wrong. Listen to your heart and your baby. You know what is best.

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answers from Boston on

Not sure if anyone else has suggested this...but if you really want to do this, try the No Cry Sleep Solution.

But you should also consider that you may just have a baby who is very attached to you (which is wonderful) and there is nothing wrong with sharing a bed or nursing her to sleep. Not every baby fits into a sleep book description. My little one also is not a great sleeper by book's descriptions but his milestones are on target and he's super healthy, and that's what matters.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hi V.. I would tackle one sleep problem at a time. You can also help that by making sure your DD gets enough milk during the day. Feed her every 3.5-4 hours with milk, and if she falls asleep - WAKE her until she is done eating. Rub the palm of her hand, or move her arm around overhead and it will help stir her to eat. Feed her in only her diaper if you have to.

If the dream feed is no longer working, then drop it. Give her extra time to nurse before bed. The dream feed at this point may actually be disturbing her sleep.

Naps often affect night sleep, so start with those. She should be napping 2 times a day, maybe three - a catnap at the end of the day if she needs it. The catnap can be in the car or stroller if needed, but I would try and get her to sleep in her crib for the other 2 naps. Have one nap with you, and the other in her crib to start.

Then you can start having both in her crib. Of course this is assuming you WANT her to sleep in her own space. There is nothing wrong with co-sleeping unless it is affecting you or your husband.

The BabyWhisperer solves all your problems is her second book, FAR better, and goes into more detail on the sh-pat, and pick up/put down methods. Stick to those methods religiously for one of her naps, and in less than a week I bet your LO will catch on. It WORKED for my baby - but it did take some time, and I had to be extremely consistent. You can also go to www.thebabywhisperer.com for another online mother's support group.

Does your DD have a wind down routine? Bedtime routine? Babies thrive on structure and scheduling to know what is coming next.

Sorry for the long post, but sleep was always such an issue for me, and we need all the support we can get!

So in short:

drop the dream feed
nurse longer during the day at feeding times
get a nap time and bed time routine in place
work on one nap at a time
let the third (cat) nap be where ever it needs to be (she will outgrow this in the next 4-8 weeks anyways)
then tackle the night issues (same methods as naps) - which may go away once she is napping better

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Burlington on

check out www.sleepsense.net Dana Obleman is an expeert on children and sleep. She has a program that might help. My daughter-in-law filled out a survey and gets e mails etc. good luck Debbie



answers from Boston on

The "bad habits" you have were the norm in our house! Nurse to sleep at 8pm. Baby sleeps alone in crib til 2am. In bed with me quickly nursing back to sleep til 6-7am. It's a cozy habit.

But when I was ready to stop that cycle (for my sake, baby was perfectly happy) at about 10 months, I began with the 2 am waking. I just had to tough it out and wake up enough to go in fast, nurse her back to sleep as quickly as possible, then back into her crib. (Yes, easier said than done. My motto is just do whatever it takes to get everyone back to sleep ASAP.)

At about 10-11 months I began making nursing earlier in the nighttime routine, before books and teeth brushing, and then rocked her for a while in the dark, then into the crib (again, way easier said than done). Then a few months later I stopped the night time nursing, SO hard to do, but I just held DD and rocked her til she went back to sleep. I nursed her at bedtime til 22 months, gradually weaning down to a few minutes then stopping.

The naptime nursing I did til 21 months and never even really addressed it, it just phased out & read books insteasd. (BTW, we really did no CIO either, maybe that works for some, but I just didn't feel it was right for us.)

This will all be a process for you over the next months as she turns one. No quick fix, and every baby is different. Some sleep all night right away, mine not til age 2! Hope this helps somewhat. Sounds like you're really doing a great job anyway!



answers from Springfield on

Cry it out really shouldn't be done until a child is over 1yr but I'm not a fan of it either. My 23 month old still wakes once during the night. There is nothing wrong w/ co sleeping especially if it allows you to both get the sleep that you need she will not sleep in your bed forever if you don't want her in your bed I suggest you pull the crib up next to your bed so that way she still has close by and then slowly wean her back into her own room. As for naps I wouldn't worry about them as long as she's taking them and if she's keeping you up at night you need your rest too.



answers from Boston on

Oh the baby subject can be so complicated. I agree with part of the responses that have been posted for you. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and view and you should just take advice with a grain of salt and do what ends up working best for your family.

I have walked both sides of this line personally (have 2 children, changed the way I handled the 2 child as I never got sleep with the 1st) and business wise (I run family childcare).

You have to weigh out your situation. I did the joint bed sleeping with my first (my son), as he was up every 2 hours on the dot for feedings (breast fed). I had a routine and never woke him from his nap, unless I had to.

Babies need sleep:(National Sleep Foundation)
NB (1-2 mos) 10.5 - 18 hours a day
Infants (3-11 mos) 9-12 hours during NIGHT
30 min. - 2 hr. naps
1-4 times a day
Toddlers (1-3) 12 -14 hours a day
Preschoolers (3-5) 11-13 hours a day
School-aged (5-12) 10-11 hours
Teens (11-17) 8.5 - 9.25 hours
Adults 7-9 hours
Older Adults 7-9 hours

I did not joint sleep with my daughter, she was breast fed and had a more normal routine than my son did when he was a baby due to our living situation - we were more settled and were less on the go.

Now my son sleeps like a log and pretty much through the night, unless his meds. cause him to be restless and my daughter sleeps through the night, but wakes easily (just like her dad - hears everything while she sleeps).

I am not a fan of the joint bed sleeping because I have seen personally and professionally the "bad" side effects. A couple examples: I know someone (a friend) and there daughter is 6 years old and they can't keep her out of their bed. They are still not getting a good nights sleep! (they have 15, 13 and 6 yr olds - and should be able to get a good nights sleep) We know of someone else who's son is 2 years now and they are not getting good sleep, because they can't get the baby to sleep in his own bed! If you do it once in a great while, well okay - sort of, but you are really setting yourself up for major struggles later when things "generally" are supposed to get easier.

Sleep while feeding, rub the bottoms of her feet, move arms or rub hands, but don't let her fall asleep while feeding (if you can help it) as you are getting her in the habit of needing that feeding to get to sleep. If she starts to fall asleep and you cannot stimulate her to be alert, then stop feeding, burp her and put her to bed.

Sleep: Routine routine routine! Try to keep things generally the same as far as nap, eating etc.. Children NEED routine, yes even at young ages (you don't have to be military about it though). Sleep should be in quiet soothing atmosphere with no white light (use blue night lights below sleep level) you might even find the need to use a sound machine at some point in time (I think there was a post lately about these machines).

Every child and family is so different. You really need to be patient and try things and see what works for you. Remember children love stories and music (soft soothing before sleep, if used)at all ages. This can be used to relax your daughter prior to naps and night time sleep.

We have story time before bedtime in my house. No t.v., games, loud stimulating music or play 45 minutes prior to bedtime (of course they are older, but this has been routine since they were babies).

I do the same for my daycare children. We don't go from stimulating to rest time, we have quiet time (stories, coloring, etc..) then go to rest time.

Just more advice. Good luck with what you try and I hope that you find something that works. I think everything is linked, so I would not hesitate to change everything at once.

Oh yeah - a little crying for a child is NOT bad. Some children need to cry for a few minutes, then settle down. If the baby cries for more than 10 minutes (depends on type of cry of course - if she is crying so hard she can't breathe properly intervene), then soothe her, but try it again and again and again. Eventually they learn to self soothe and get themselves to sleep without your help. If she cries in her sleep, don't run & pick her up. Give her a few minutes and see if she settles back into sleep. A lot of babies settle right back into sleep. Babies cry out in there sleep for a multitude of reasons (growth pains, dirty diaper, hungry, night terrors, etc..). Been there - done that!

Just think when your child gets into Kindergarten are you going to be there to soothe your child or is she going to have to know how to settle herself down?

Good luck and sorry for the length. There are so many things that you can cover on children and so many different approaches.

Best to you and your family.

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