There are about a million forums online about mom’s desperately seeking sleep but their baby refuses to sleep unless rocked, bounced, or nursed to sleep. At some point your precious little baby got heavy and it’s taking an hour or more to get her/him to sleep. Mom and Dad are tired and just want to get their baby to sleep without all the fuss.
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My sleep story…
I am guilty of nursing, bouncing and rocking my babies to sleep. I love my children so incredibly much and knew they would only be this little for such a short time! I wanted to enjoy every minute I could.
At some point, this turned into me rocking a heavy 1-year-old for an hour every night to try to get her to sleep. The second I laid her down she would scream and it would start all over again. I was ready for it to stop. I missed the little time at night I got with my husband, and baby J and I were feeling frustrated every night. Getting her to sleep was something neither of us was enjoying anymore. I was afraid I was creating negative sleep associations!
I also had conceived the notion that if I didn’t rock her to sleep she would scream. This is what happened when I had to run to the bathroom or something. So that is what I expected would happen at bedtime.
As it turns out, it was me holding her back from getting to sleep all along. Who knew?!!! She was plenty old enough to soothe herself to sleep I had just taught her to depend on me instead. It may well be you that is holding your baby back from getting to sleep too! So here is what I have learned about how to get your sweet baby to sleep without all the bouncing, rocking and nursing.
How we changed things and how you can too!
- Make sure you have a bedtime routine in place! Ours included having a bath, getting on jammies, reading, singing and then nursing. Yours can be whatever you choose but make sure it stays the same every night. That is how you tell your baby that it is time for sleep. It makes them associate that routine with sleeping and it is a positive way to help your baby wind down and know what to expect next. Babies really thrive on routines! If you don’t already have one start this a few weeks before you change anything else. Also, keep in mind that good naps equal good night time sleep(what to do if your baby won’t nap). If you have an overtired baby it will make the process much harder on everyone.
- Try it with an open mind! I told myself there was no way that my baby would go to sleep without me rocking her and I believed it. I was not and am not comfortable with letting her cry it out. I hoped eventually she would be old enough to communicate and reason and would then get herself to sleep. DON’T DO THAT. It is usually us parents holding back our babies from getting to sleep on their own. So do yourself a favor and say that for the next few weeks you will not think this way. You will try something new with a positive attitude and you will mentally give it a chance to work. This part is critical! If you don’t give it a chance then you will fail out of frustration.
- Set realistic sleep expectations! Personally, I wanted my daughter to be able to get herself to sleep without causing her distress. Your goals may be different but are probably fairly similar. Remember that your baby is going to be trying something new and that you need to have patience and be understanding that it won’t happen immediately. Understand that you are going to have some sleepless nights and plan accordingly. Meaning if you have a crazy week at work it may not be the right time to start. Also keep in mind that babies are not ready to soothe themselves to sleep until at least 6 months of age. You can attempt to put your baby down drowsy at an earlier age for good practice but when they are that small they still may need your extra help to get to sleep. 9 months of age is a realistic age that you can expect your baby to be able to soothe her/himself to sleep.
- Set the stage and have the necessary tools! Talk to your baby about the new routine you’re going to try(even young babies understand what you are saying but just can’t talk back yet, so please don’t skip this part). Reassure your baby that mommy or daddy will be there to help her/him to fall asleep. Some tools that we use to set the stage for sleep in our home are video baby monitor(these are truly amazing you can be in the room without actually being in the room), room darkening curtains, white noise machine (these drown out noise and let you still have a life after baby goes to sleep! They are amazing!), sleep sacks for safe sleep(these have always been a sleep cue for my kids and they make them feel secure), and a lovey to snuggle up with for comfort(if your baby is 1 year or older).
- Give it your best shot! Don’t back out for at least a week! Follow your nightly bedtime routine. Come up with a saying you will use at bedtime. “Sweet dreams. I love you all my heart! Time for bed baby.” That is what I use, yours can be whatever you want but it needs to be a way to tell your baby cuddle time done and it is time to go to sleep now. Consistency is very important for babies so whatever it is, memorize it and use it every time you put baby to bed. Lay your baby down in her/his crib and give a lovey to snuggle(if your baby is 1 year or older). Try rubbing baby’s back or head for a few minutes and then leave the room. Grab the baby monitor and watch. If baby is fussing that is okay. There is a difference between fussing and crying. I am okay with letting my baby fuss and talk out her frustrations but not okay with letting her cry and scream. If you’re really lucky you will be surprised by how your baby plays and talks in their crib when you just let them be. If your baby starts crying wait just a minute and then go in and comfort baby. Try comforting without taking her/him out of the crib. Sing, back rubs, shush, pat, or whatever you can to comfort baby without leaving the crib. Once your baby calms down then leave the room again. If your baby will not be comforted in the crib then take her/him out and soothe in your arms. Once baby is calm then lay her/him back in the crib. This will take some repeating you are teaching something new and you can’t expect baby to get the hang of it right away. I think my first night I stayed and rubbed little J’s back until she fell all the way to sleep. After I had picked her up to calm her down at least 5 times. But you know what? After 3 days she knew the routine and she was quite content to talk and babble until she fell asleep. My little J is a very particular child she likes things just the way she likes them so I know you may think this won’t work for your child but give it a chance! If every night is a crying and soothing fest for a week then you can choose to take a break for a week or two.
- Try Try Again! I tell my 2 year old this all the time. If at first, you don’t succeed try try again( it’s from some kid show.. Can’t remember which one). Seriously though this is something that is so important for your family. Good sleep associations and the skills to get yourself to sleep are important for the rest of your life! Remember to keep it positive and happy! A crib is a place where your sleepy child can be comfortable and rest safely and happily. It should not be a bad or scary place. If you’re feeling really frustrated take turns with dad or take a break and come back to it in a week.
- Enjoy the peace of having a child that puts her/himself to sleep! You’ll soon be wondering why you waited so long to do this! Nights are so much happier when getting your baby to bed isn’t something dreadful and prolonged. Enjoy some extra you, husband or sibling time!
What gave me the courage to try this was a book called “The No-Cry Sleep Solution,” by Elizabeth Pantley. If you are not into crying it out methods then this book is a must read! It has great tips to getting your baby to sleep without crying.
***UPDATE WITH BABY #2***
I just put this method into action with my little man and it is going great! I wanted to share with everyone what the first week looked like with him so you have an idea. My sleep goals with him were much more relaxed than with my first because I know he is my last baby I will have. I am soaking up the snuggles and breastfeeding while I still can. I nurse little man and snuggle for a couple minutes and then lay him down.
The first night I put him down and left the room and he screamed and cried instantly. I went back in tried to soothe him in the crib, he was not having it so I picked him up soothed him and laid him back down, walked out of the room. He was screaming the moment I tried to lay him down. I walked back in questioned myself, was I doing something wrong, maybe we weren’t ready for this? I picked him up and snuggled him until he was okay and while I did, I reminded myself that this was important for him and for my marriage!
Day 1 it took about a full hour of up and down, soothing, back rubs and bouncing his crib mattress to get him to sleep. To my pleasant surprise, he only woke up twice which was and upgrade from the cosleeping usual 4 times. I nursed and he went right back to sleep. Day 2 we took it down to only 40 minutes until he was asleep and less picking up. He woke twice again in the night. Day 3 we reverted and it took an hour to get him to sleep with lots of pick ups and soothing. He only woke once this night! Day 4, 30 minutes and he was fast asleep much less picking up. Only woke once again. Day 5 he took 45 minutes to get to sleep but did it mostly on his own. I went in twice to soothe him but didn’t take him out of his crib. He woke twice that night.
By the end of week 2, he has been taking around 5-15 minutes to get to sleep and can do it on his own now and has been waking only once a night and sometimes not at all. I’m so happy with the results and everyone is getting more sleep. My husband and I get our time together at night too! About midway through week 2, he has also switched to napping this way as well and is napping longer too! Horray!
Now we are bringing big sister back into the room for bedtime too( they share a room)! I’ll be sure to write a post about that if we manage to find a smooth routine!
Cheers to peaceful bedtimes and well-rested babies!
As always please share! How is this method working in your sleep life? What other methods have worked well for your little ones? I love the feedback I get from you guys and I love to know what is working and not working for other parents out there! Check out the comments below and see how this is working for other moms! I’m loving the community we are forming here and would love to hear from all of you! Even if you don’t normally leave comments, I would love if you left one here!