Can we get our baby to sleep alone without a few nights of crying?
August 8, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Baby light thief is almost one year old, and won't nap on his own unless he's exhausted, won't go to sleep on his own, and usually wakes up once in the night. Please help us get him to sleep on his own and stay asleep, and without crying if possible.

Baby guy sleeps in his own bed, in his own room. He wakes up between 6 and 8 am, more often around 7 am. He naps once or twice during the day, then goes to sleep between 7 and 9 pm. He has never been in a day care, and has always slept at home or around family when we travel, with family or friends watching him. Mom and I worked until a few months ago, when we moved out of California and in to my wife's parents' home. Mom works now, and I don't have a job at the moment, but am trying to get one.

Baby is getting weaned now, but still nurses in the evenings and in the middle of the night if/when he wakes up. Unlike this prior question, I rock him to sleep instead of him falling asleep while nursing on mom (except in the middle of the night), and he doesn't seem to get calm enough to be almost asleep. When I try to put him down and he's almost asleep, he gets riled up.

We have the schedule set: eat dinner, relax for a while, brush teeth, say good night to everyone, I read him books in his quiet and low-lit bedroom, then I rock him to sleep, with his CD playing on repeat through the night. Mom and I are ready to try putting him down awake and letting him cry (Google books preview of Sleeping Through The Night), but we're hoping there's something less heart-wrenching for us. If not, does anyone have tips for our situation? Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Human Relations (43 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Try a signifigantly earlier bedtime, no later than 7 but probably more like 6:30. If he seems visibly and obviously tired, it's too late and they are much harder to put to sleep.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:05 PM on August 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Cosleeping worked really well for us.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:07 PM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I almost never let my daughter cry it out. It just didn't seem right to me.

Things we did:
1. She slept with us. It gave her incredible security. If you're not willing to do that, perhaps you are willing to curl up in bed with him at night and be there until he falls asleep. Then you're not putting him down. He may be insecure, and this would give him the security to fall asleep. Although some may worry that this will create a dependency, my experience is that children go through phases, and that what happens at one does not equal a lifetime of the same experience. (Similarly, he will not nurse, use a bottle, or be in diapers forever. These are age-dependent needs, and having you stay in his bed until he falls asleep may be one of those needs.)

2. We cut out her naps once falling asleep became a problem. Instead, we just had low-activity time during the normal nap time, and curled up, looked at picture books, named body parts, etc.

3. We had raucous tickle fests with her, made her run around like crazy, gave her inane assignments, etc. to wear her out. This is not easy if he's not walking (which he's probably not) but perhaps you can find a crawling-based activity that will wear him out. With our daughter, we'd tell her to run to Dada and touch his nose, then run to Mama and touch her ear, then run to Dada and pull on his thumb, and on and on, always after she was in PJ's and had brushed her teeth, so that when she was ready to collapse, we didn't have to go through that routine. Maybe this is the time when he should practice walking up and down the stairs while you hold his arms up? Or when he can be in a jump-up and bounce wildly? Some children have trouble falling asleep after lots of activity, while others need this kind of end to the day. Ours loves it, still does at age nine. Winding her down just drags out how long it is before she's ready to sleep.

Best of luck.
posted by Capri at 4:10 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would also say keep any naptime short and then keep him up a little later and then he will fight sleep for a shorter period.

I was so resistant to letting my first child cry herself to sleep that it became something bigger than all of us and when I finally did it, it was so less painful than I imagined, and I wish I had done it sooner. It took three nights and she was fine to fall asleep in her crib after that. My husband had to sit in front of the door so that I would not go in and pick her up.

I don't advocate cosleeping. Baby sleeps, parents don't, plus couple time gets quashed enough already without having a baby literally and figuratively between you. I've had horrified parents tell me differently and that I am awful for thinking that, but I'm telling you it's perfectly okay whichever way you decide to do things.

Another tip I wished someone had told me from the beginning? Turn out the lights in the baby's room completely. No night light, low light, nothing but darkness. It worked wonders for her and then for baby #2!
posted by pink candy floss at 4:14 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our pediatrician recommended Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and it's worked miracles.

The boys sleep, regularly, at the same time. The predictability and regular evening routine is *fabulous*.
posted by colin_l at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

This sounds completely counter-intuitive, but have you considered moving everything an hour or so earlier? My daughter was a very lousy sleeper for a long time, but it turned out she was just over tired by the time we got her down for bed. We moved nap time from 10:30 am to 9:30 am and then from 1:30 to 1. Bedtime became in bed by 7:00 not getting ready for bed at 7:00 (which translated to a in bed at 7:45).

Also, Routine, Routine, Routine, it doesn't matter what, just keep it consistent.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:30 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Assuming you don't go with "cry it out", I think with cosleeping, you're definitely going to get a lot more sleep than if your child sleeps in a different room. For intimacy, you will definitely need to find a different room to have sex in... such as your child's old room. Or the living room. Or the spare room. But, speaking as a man, I don't think that the child will come between you and your partner, because it's all about attachment.

Besides the logistics of intimacy, the downside of cosleeping can be later - far later - weaning age. That can present its own problems (although your child may develop better verbal skills as a result of weaning at a later age), notably a tendency for cavities.

Our first son took forever to wean. Our second son was weaned at just over a year when my wife had to go back to Japan by herself for a couple of weeks. So you could go on a vacation or something for a week to take care of that issue.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

My brother-in-law swears by The Happiest Kid on the Block, and my nephew is a brilliant sleeper (unlike either of his parents or his uncle or at least one grandmother).

Poor baby light thief. Sleeping is hard.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

How is the quality of Baby Light Thief's sleep once he does drop off? Any snoring, gasping, labored breathing, night sweats, extreme restlessness and/or lots of kicking or flailing? When he wakes up, is he raring to go or red-eyed, dragging and grumpy? Sometimes there are physical reasons for poor sleeping such as sleep apnea, so a checkup with his doctor might be worth it.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:53 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

With my older daughter I was very hesitant to let her cry it out. Bedtimes became more and more complicated as time went on. Eventually I got go sick of the whole thing and let her cry it out at almost 2. It was heart wrenching but one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I didn't wait as long with my second child and it went much smoother. If you do decide to do it, don't put it off.

Listening to your baby cry and intentionally ignoring it is very difficult. Think of it as training for the millions of times you will say no to something later. Doing what is good for your child often does not make you feel good as a parent.

Skipping the CD is a good idea also. It can interfere with healthy sleep patterns.
posted by Requiax at 4:54 PM on August 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

AskMoxie has some interesting stuff to read about babies & sleep: start with these posts on tension increasers & tension decreasers, and babies & CIO. Here's all her posts tagged with "sleep" - the comments are useful to browse through as well.

My second child (far and away my worst sleeper of all of them as a baby) cried before he went to sleep almost every naptime & every night until he was 3 years old. No more than five minutes of crying, but he couldn't go to sleep without fussing it out first (what AskMoxie calls a "tension decreaser") - we could put him to sleep perfectly smiling and happy - cheerfully waving night-night - but then he would wail like he was grievously hurt for say three minutes, and then like a light switch, stop crying and drop off to sleep like a rock!

Another thing to think about maybe: I always stop night nursing first - usually between 8 and 10 months - a while before gradually decreasing daytime nursing, so when they wean at some point over a year old they are only weaning off daytime nursing. Once my children hit that age (as it becomes convenient to do), if they wake up, my husband goes in to comfort and settle them - when they get the idea that they won't get to nurse in the middle of the night, pretty quickly they stop waking up. It has to be my husband because they will not accept mere comfort from me - if they hear me or I'm anywhere near, they want to nurse, full stop. Mine have all been big babies where it was clear that they didn't need the night nursing for nutrition's sake - it was obviously just a soothing method out of habit - YMMV.

The long-term goal is to teach your child how to self-soothe - they have to learn to calm themselves somehow to fall asleep - so you have to approach your method with that in mind and give them opportunity to figure it out. I can tell you what we do - we lay down with (whoever is our current) baby on our chests and pat their backs to get them to sleep. When they are tiny infants, we pat them until they are asleep, and usually end up co-sleeping, although they often take naps in their own little bed to get them used to the idea. As they get older, we do a bedtime routine then we will pat them for a few minutes, but put them down when they are not quite asleep yet - first in our bed, and then in their own beds. They learn to associate the patting with sleepytime, but gradually are not reliant on being patted all the way to sleep. Eventually we just do the bedtime routine, put them in their beds and say good night. It was normal with all of them except my first (though not as pronounced as with our second) to cry for a couple minutes (but only a couple minutes) then fall asleep. We did not leave them to cry - if they cry for more than a few minutes, we pick them up, but sometimes they seem to need to fuss a little to calm down enough to sleep.

In your bedtime routine I would look at perhaps adding bathtime? It could help to replace the physical act of rocking with the physical act of washing & water to delineate bedtime - a supportive thing to help them soothe, through routine, but not one in which they are directly reliant on you to fall asleep.
posted by flex at 5:03 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agree with putting him down earlier if at all possible. There's this weird "sleep begets sleep" thing that seems totally counterintuitive but often happens to be true.

Flex is right- Ask Moxie is a fantastic resource. And a bath before bed is an excellent add to the nighttime routine.

With our second we did eventually let him cry. Once we made the decision to allow it, we were sort of surprised at how quickly he adjusted. He cried for maybe 15 minutes the first night (reports my husband, I was out of the house during bedtime, which I highly recommend!) And the second night he cried for not more than 5 minutes, and after that, not at all. It was something we had dreaded and feared and finally driven to by exhaustion and then once we did it we were like "why the hell did we wait so long?"
posted by ambrosia at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had to go cry-it-out for a couple external reasons that gave us a deadline for us getting regular sleep; it was the most harrowing thing we've ever had to do in terms of child rearing so far, and it took 3 full nights, and kiddo actually cried himself hoarse.* He cried, at times, for hours. After an hour or two of straight crying (not fussing) we would go in, without saying anything or making any noise otherwise, and rub the kids back, just to let him know he wasn't alone. On the 4th night, we were going to give up, but then he slept for a full 9 goddamn-beautiful-shining-glittery-straight-from-heaven hours, then took three two hour naps the next day, three hours apart. We slept wide-eyed all night long, not being able to shut our brains down.

I'll echo a couple other people upthread have said, and what our pediatrician told us:
-We also had a very regimented bedtime routine: Bath, book, bottle. No exceptions.
-We also put him to bed earlier, it makes no sense, but it helped.
-We have had friends who have done this while their partner is away for the weekend; whoever has the steely nerves stays home

*We did this under near hourly nurse-phone-line supervision through our pediatric office. They might go hoarse, it's apparently common if you have a stubborn kid. They were sick of hearing from us by night three, but we sent them each a stocked gift basket afterwards, because we were so relieved and happy to actually have sleep back again...Thinking about polyphasic sleep still makes me anxious to the point of panic attack, it's not to be trifled with. It's the worst thing ever. Ever.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:28 PM on August 8, 2012

We also did the cry-it-out method with our first 3 kids and had the same experience as ambrosia....we start Baby #4 tonight :) I will say, though, that all of our kids are excellent sleepers in general, so I can't guarantee you will have the same results.
posted by puritycontrol at 5:30 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our daughter was an AWFUL sleeper from birth right up until her second birthday, when we moved her from her crib to her big girl bed. That very night, Dear Reader, she slept through the night for probably the fifth or sixth time ever, and she almost never woke in the middle of the night after that. My wife and I were furious we didn't make the move MUCH earlier. Would we have done it as early as 12 months? Maybe. she was a confident walker (started at 10 months), and her toddler bed was no more than 12 or 18 inches off the ground (though she never fell out of it). Maybe something to consider?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:35 PM on August 8, 2012

Keep in mind you are in a sleep regression stage right now too. With our son, pretty much any new development coincided with an interruption in sleep. This is good and bad for you - on one hand, it means you have opportunity to reset sleep habits, on the other, good habits can reset every over month or so (more if he gets sick).

We eventually cobbled together a sort of three stage sleep system. West has his crib in his own room, a portable pack and play in our room, and space enough for him in our bed. We put him down in his crib and if he makes it through the night with minimal fuss, great! If he wakes up and can't self-soothe (50/50, but getting better - he's 2), he comes into bed with us to calm down, then gets moved to the pack and play (assuming we don't fall back asleep as well - when that happens I'm awoken around 5am with a "HI DADDY!" and a smack to the face).

As for getting him to sleep, naps are handled by daycare. We try to stick to their nap timing, which helps as kids that age like a regimented schedule. He accepted naps at daycare pretty easily as he saw the bigger kids do it and wanted to copy. At home, we work our schedule so that we'll be in the car during naptime (easy sleep there) or make sure he gets a morning runabout so that he's ready for sleep after lunch (look into swimming lessons). Bedtime routine starts around 6:30 - bath, quiet plat, stories, bed. He likes to have people watch him fall asleep, so the iPad and Kindle Fire see a lot of use in the darkened bedroom.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:44 PM on August 8, 2012

Oh, I have so been there. The kids mother and I tried a lot of different things, and I'm happy to be able to tell you what worked perfectly, through three kids.

1. Bought a crib/baby bed that is adjustable in height.

2. Took off one side of the crib, adjusted the crib so it was the same height as our bed, and shoved it right up next to the bed.

3. Their mother nursed the kids to sleep, then whenever she felt like it just gently slid them over into the crib. (This takes a bit of practice, but after a while it becomes easy.)

Hope this helps someone else!
posted by Alaska Jack at 7:14 PM on August 8, 2012

We followed Sleeping Through the Night to the letter; it worked, and worked fast, and wasn't as harrowing for us as we expected. All babies are different, but I'd try that first and see how it goes.
posted by escabeche at 7:34 PM on August 8, 2012

I am expecting a baby and so I read this thread with interest.

However I would like to comment on the link above to the "babies and CIO" post at AskMoxie - I think her theories on different baby personality types are interesting, but she makes claims in the article about studies showing brain damage from crying and that not practicing attachment parenting causes children to suffer PTSD and other emotional problems later in life, and I followed up on these resources and they do not pan out scientifically in terms of being true research that shows what they claim.

Anyway as I mentioned I am not a parent yet, but it seems to me there is a middle ground between just letting your baby cry and not letting your baby cry at all. The book you linked to seems to be putting forward a variant of the Ferber method, but it is less detailed about the process - something to look into?

Also, I think that on the spectrum of sleeping methods, the Sleep Lady method is a little bit more hands on and drawn-out than the Ferber method, while still putting forward an approach that generally involves helping the baby teach itself to self-soothe and sleep on its own. So if I were you I would look into both of these compromise methods.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:35 PM on August 8, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies so far!

Our little guy isn't walking on his own yet, but he's crawling around or walking with supports (along book cases, furniture, with hands held, etc) most of the time he's awake. We're not great with any schedule because there's always someone around to watch over him, and we often wait for his prompts to try and get him to nap. Plus, I'm the only one who can reliably get him to nap.

Getting him to sleep isn't that bad for me, and he doesn't seem bothered by the struggle, but more that he'd rather be awake and involved. We don't bathe him at night because his skin is a bit dry on the shins and his cheeks, and baths dry him out faster. Our pediatrician said daily bathing isn't necessary, and he'd be fine with having the muck wiped off of him with a warm, moist cloth.

His regiment of going on a walk, getting a bottle or a bit of boob, then brushing his teeth, getting good-night kisses, and stories read in his room generally lead to a fairly quick path to him sleeping soundly. I bounce and rock him for 10-15 minutes on most nights, sometimes reverting to a bit of boob time to get him calmed down if that doesn't work. We don't co-sleep much because he's a sprawly little guy, he tends to sleep in really late, and we don't sleep as well.

I'll read through these replies and suggestions with my wife, and update y'all from there. Thanks again!
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 PM on August 8, 2012

I have found that a pretty consistent schedule is VERY helpful for little ones' sleep. We give our two girls meals, snacks, naps, and bedtime at almost the exact same times every day. Most kids crave predictability and routine. Both of our kids sleep in their own beds, in their own rooms, and have from the start.
I would also strongly discourage rocking to sleep at almost a year. Our younger daughter will be a year old in a few weeks, and she usually falls asleep right away for nap time, but doesn't for bed time. Sometimes she cries or fusses at bed time, but she does comfort herself and fall asleep within minutes. It's really important for kids to be able to comfort and self-soothe- otherwise, they won't be able to fall asleep without the assistance of someone else.
It sounds a lot like your son is overtired-sometimes babies fight sleep when they're overtired. Try an earlier bedtime, dark room and white noise machine.
posted by percor at 8:24 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wanted my little angels to have the positive bedtime experiences that I never had (bad bedtime habits ruin a lot of things in life but rarely take the blame). One night after the punkin-heads got out of bed for the fifth time, I realized two things:

1. Kids aren't born with good bedtime habits. They have to be taught.
2. What they really wanted when they kept getting up was mommy & daddy time.

I came up with a long-term strategy that did pay off in the short-run as well.

Mrs. Director and I spent as long as necessary with the girls, in their room, to get them to sleep. Back rubs, rocking chair, but only quiet things. We stayed until they were asleep.

Our oldest could keep going for a long time, though. She would wiggle a foot, or a hand even while her head lolled around, struggling for one more moment of wakefulness. However, she did learn to relax for just long enough to let sleep win.

The short-term benefit was that once the kids were down for the night, they were down for the night.

Over the years (yes, years) the time requirements grew shorter until they could (and would) put themselves to bed completely on their own, without a fuss.

Plus, I have very warm memories of those training sessions.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:35 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cry It Out works great but can take some time.

Limit a lot of liquids before bed to limit wet, uncomfortable diapers at night.

Diaper rash cream can reduce itchy effects of wet diaper.

Very little stimulation an hour before bed.

Story at bedtime.

Stick to bedtime routine night after night.

A sound machine can work wonders.

Adjust air temperatures to find a level acceptable to all. Make sure pajamas match season or thermostat preferences.

Teething pain, growth spurts, and mental development spurts happen randomly and are harder to contend with.

Check for fever if in doubt and nothing is working.
posted by kanaan_minks at 10:24 PM on August 8, 2012

For us it was all about habit. Bedtime is fun time. We had a concrete routine of bath, jammies, book, bedtime song (twinkle twinkle with glow in the dark stars on the ceiling), bed. I think there were two nights of crying it out at the start but on the third night he got right into bed. Maybe we were lucky. Also - never ask if they're ready for bed, always tell. "Ok! Time for bed! Yay! Bed!"
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:05 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also - never ask if they're ready for bed, always tell. "Ok! Time for bed! Yay! Bed!"

Oh hells yes. One of the best things I've ever learned as a parent (and it still applies to parenting my 11-year-old) is never ask a question when you already know what the answer needs to be. "Do you want to wear your red shirt?" should be "Let's see how quickly you can get into your red shirt!" and "What do you want for lunch?" should be "Do you want carrots or cucumbers with your sandwich?"
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agree with everyone about the routine. It sounds like you don't have consistent nap times ("one or two") or a consistent bed time. It's great to be flexible, and I was never one to adhere to a strict schedule, but a more solid routine is probably in order here. By that age, our daughter had collapsed to one longer nap.

Also, just as a note of encouragement, we rocked our daughter to sleep every night until she was just older than one, and we gave her a bottle in the middle of the night until she was just over one, and now that she's more than three, she's a rock solid all night sleeper (although we are currently going through the "I'm afraid of the dark/the monsters/ I need a drink/to go potty/one more hug stalling phase").
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:50 AM on August 9, 2012

We did all of the non-cry stuff for 2 years with no luck, our little guy would wake up 2-4 times a night every night, and sometimes took an hour to get back down. When we decided to do cry it out, it took 3 days, and since then he has been going down by himself and sleeping through the night almost every night since. He only cried for a total of about 35 minutes the first night, 10 minutes the second, and 3 the third (or something like that).

It seems harsh, and it's hard to do, but doing some form of cry it out ended up being the best thing for us, not just because we get to sleep better (which is heavenly), but now we have more energy to be better parents. It also gave us an additional hour or so of couple time, since one of us didn't have to sit in his room rocking him to sleep and trying to sneak out every night. It also means we can go out at night and let a babysitter put him to sleep, which means date night again (yes!).

We do bath, toothbrush, pajamas, 3 stories, and a short snuggle before putting him down to sleep. The routine never changes, and he goes right to sleep every night now. Teething makes things a little more difficult, but we still aren't getting up at night nearly as much as we were in the past.
posted by markblasco at 8:03 AM on August 9, 2012

I, too, was hoping for a non-CIO method for getting my son to sleep when he was about the same age as yours is now. Turns out, CIO is really the easiest way to train kids to sleep on their own. It's like ripping off a band-aid: momentary pain, but much easier in the long run. We liked the Sleep Lady method a lot -- a bit gentler than Ferber. Here is how it ended up working for us.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:25 AM on August 9, 2012

A consistent bedtime routine -- followed even when your child isn't sleepy at the specified nap/bed times (if occasional; if always then adjust the routine accordingly and stick with the new routine for a month) -- is a tremendous help, without which my twins would have been miserable, and so would I have been.

Does this mean you might put baby down for a nap when they're not tired? Yes, and if you do, leave them there. I know you don't want "cry it out", but you can be in the room for naps...just don't engage with them. Establish consistently that this is "baby lays down and relaxes" time, whether that involves sleep or not; don't establish that by talking during naptime, or rocking during naptime, or making eye contact/faces; instead, get a book, put 'em down for naptime, read by the soft, low light, and let 'em fuss or cry or not. You're not abandoning them, you're not failing to fulfill their needs, you're simply establishing that there are times when they have to relax, and sleep if it suits them. If they cry about that, it's simply because everybody wants attention, and even babies know how to get it. Be consistent and it'll all be okay.

If it helps, consider a six-year-old: if they didn't want to stay in bed at bedtime, they'd try everything -- sneaking out, demanding to get up, complaining, begging, crying, the whole bit -- to get you to let them get up. A baby who isn't in distress (hungry, in pain, lonely) is just doing the part of their repertoire that they know how to use: cry to get attention when they're bored. Be there, ignore it, and they'll feed off your lack of concern and nap (or at least relax.)

Will you feel awful when they cry? Yes, yes you will. Welcome to parenting. I promise you'll be okay, and more important, so will baby. By being in the room reading a book and not engaging eye contact, you should be able to take some of the sting out (no fears of them feeling abandoned) and that'll be that.

Nighttime is the same, really. I didn't read; I sung songs. Yes, it was loud, but it was something I was engaged in, and paid attention to instead of them. So they'd fall asleep, and that was that.

downside to the music approach, or reading to them: they want more and ask for it. so you read or sing to them, then you say "naptime" or "goodnight", then you simply sit there and read to yourself or similar.
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

We've had little luck with CIO (which we tried recently, as it was taking 2+ hours of screaming-in-arms for our 17-month-old to fall asleep). The first three nights, he was so stunned he didn't cry at all and just put himself to sleep. Since then? He'll cry for EVER and not put himself to sleep. What we're doing now is: bedtime/naptime routine, mama or papa leaves, little dude cries for fifteen minutes, a parent goes up and snuggles/nurses, and he falls asleep. It's not independence, but it's significantly less stressful than what was happening before.

On the bath thing, though: giving him a bath every night made a big difference. We don't use soap every night, or even every other night. I think I wash his hair, like, once a month. He just plays in the warm water for about fifteen minutes, and then gets out.
posted by linettasky at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you need a better nap routine and an earlier bedtime. My just-slightly-older-than-yours son also wakes at different times every day, so rather than napping at the same time every day, he naps at certain increments every day. Basically, he's up for two hours, naps, up for two more hours, naps again, then up for 2-4 hours till bedtime. Bedtime starts at 6:30, which means less time with dad, or mom in your case.

I know you don't want crying, but as someone just a few weeks ahead of you, you are about to start making that baby cry all the time anyway. When mine tries to resist naps because he'd rather be up with the big people, I just mentally categorize with all the other little "Sorry pal, I know what's good for you" fits I cause when I won't let him play with cords or climb on tables.

Also, I'd cut out the middle of the night breastfeeding. Of course he's waking up for super special mommy time, especially now that she's suddenly gone all day. However, if your wife is still enjoying the bonding time, too, then good for her and keep going.
posted by that's how you get ants at 4:46 AM on August 11, 2012

Response by poster: It's night #4. Night 1 was Friday, and we went through our routine. Dinner starting around 6pm, wrapping up after 7 for teeth brushing, kisses good night, and story time. We kissed him good night again, and left him alone in his room, without his lullabies. That may have been a bad idea, as he freaked out. 45 minutes later, we went in and he was standing up, bawling his eyes out.

So we rocked and bounced a bit, soothed him enough that we could read a few stories. After that, we wrapped him up (we swaddle torso and legs, not to the point of constricting movement, but to keep him cozy -- some times he wakes up out of the blanket, others it's loose around his legs from him rolling about), we put him back down, turned on his music, and he was out in 10-20 minutes.

Night 2: same routine, except with music on from the beginning, and he was asleep in 30 minutes.

Night 3: it was an off day, as he only napped for 20 minutes in the car. We didn't plan things well, so we messed up his day-time sleep schedule. Same routine, with music, and he was asleep in 10 minutes.

Day 4: like the other days, I read to him then rocked to sleep for his naps, after trying to put him down after only reading to him, and he freaked out. Two decent naps, and he was winding down through dinner, so I had high hopes for the evening.

Night 4: bedtime routine went well, music on, swaddled legs and said good-night. He cried almost like he did the first night, but we let him go on. And he did, so Mrs. flt went in, saw that he hadn't moved from where he was laid. She picked him up and rocked him a bit and soothed him, then put him back down. He sounded upset again, but was out in 10 minutes after .

Question: how close do your little ones get to a really set schedule? Baby has woken up between 6:45 and 7:45 on these last three mornings, so I haven't tried to get him to eat and nap at the same times.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:39 PM on August 13, 2012

Question: how close do your little ones get to a really set schedule? Baby has woken up between 6:45 and 7:45 on these last three mornings, so I haven't tried to get him to eat and nap at the same times.

We're pretty consistently with in thirty minutes of the target start times. End times are all over the place. It takes a little bit to get the routine established, both on your end and the kid's end, but believe me it's worth it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2012

Measure your progress over weeks, not days; there will be outlier days fom illness, routine change, and "just because." Keep it up!
posted by davejay at 11:20 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: davejay, that's a good thought, especially as our little guy now HATES being put down to sleep. After the first time or two that he cried himself to sleep, he cried when he went back into his bed room, so we spent time with him in the room while he was awake, playing with toys and reading books when we weren't going to put him to sleep.

Now he will stand up if he's not completely worn out and bawl his heart out. Even when worn out, he has stood up and cried for 25 minutes, even days into our routine of sorts.

So now we try to put him to bed at 11 am, 3 pm, then bed between 7 and 8. He's usually really worn out by bed time, so he only cries for 10-20 minutes. But today he only napped for 45 minutes, 15 minutes when he fell asleep on Mom's lap, then ~30 minutes in the afternoon, after crying for 15 minutes, if not longer.

I'm writing this down to remind myself what we've gone through, and for anyone else who wants to know what could be in store. We still suck with keeping a tight schedule, but he seems REALLY resistant to naps unless he's very tired.

Tomorrow I'll try putting him in his bed sitting up instead of laying down, and let him play with toys. I did that today, but he stood right up and cried, while I stood there and tried to get him to play with things. Tomorrow I'll try to hand him his toys and head out, not looking back.

At this point, I'd like to start this process earlier with kidlet #2, whenever that happens. We'll see.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2012

Is it possible that he's ready to consolidate into one nap? I feel like by the time our kid was 12-14 months old, she dropped from two naps to one longer nap (like, three hours long).
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:20 AM on August 20, 2012

Response by poster: Our little guy seems to hate sleeping. We tried cry it out for over a week, maybe two weeks. That sort of worked in the evenings, but we had some really off days that may have ruined any attempt at setting up a nap-time schedule, and thus he should have gone to bed earlier.

He seemed to be coming to terms with sleeping by himself. We'd brush his teeth, he'd get good-night kisses from Grandma and Grandpa, and Mom and I would read him a few stories, then wrap his legs up in his blankie, and lay him down. After those first days, he would crawl over to the bars of his crib, pull him self up and stand bawling at the side of his crib. He did this for 45 minutes and we gave in. He might have fallen asleep alone once or twice, but after at least 30 minutes of serious crying. It seemed like we hadn't been regular enough, and he was really resisting sleeping alone, even with his instrumental lullabies playing.

We continued the bedtime pattern, but shifted him onto his back after a few stories, then wrapped his legs up. The first night of this, with Mom on one side, Dad on the other, cuddling and reading, he fell asleep while we were reading. I transferred him from the guest bed in his bedroom to his crib, and he slept all night. Night two, he stayed awake through all the books we read, so we turned off the reading light, then rubbed his tummy and talked or sang quietly along to the lullabies, and he was out. I transferred him to his bed, and he stayed asleep. Night three, he stayed awake longer, but finally seemed asleep. I moved him to his bed, but he was woke up enough to freak out about being in his crib, though he didn't move from his spot. We picked him back up, and took turns rocking him. He was quickly calm and seemed asleep again. Back down, back to freaking out. So Mom laid down on the guest bed, and put the little guy on her, tummy to tummy. He slept that way for 15-20 minutes, and she put him back in his crib without a fuss. This is our new normal.

He now sleeps through the night, unless he gets stuffy in the night and has trouble breathing through his nose (it's pretty dry here, and he gets boogers pretty frequently -- we'll be asking our pediatrician about this, once we find one). If he sleeps through the night, he will generally wake up around 6:30 am. Then he naps once, maybe twice during the day, but he hasn't been sleeping too long. Today he napped twice, once for 30 minutes in the morning, and he's asleep now, and has been for the past 30 minutes. He'll either sleep on someone's lap, or in a little foam kiddie fold-out couch/bed that's his size. I tried moving him to his own room one day, but he didn't sleep very long after being transferred.

Now he'll crawl all over the house and us until he gets tired, then he'll put up with laying on his back on someone's chest and lap. When he falls asleep, we leave him there, or move him to his little bed. He seems to do best when there's minor activity in the room around him, including TV.

In short: how could we get him comfortable with his own, quiet room? We play with him in his room, and in his crib, so he doesn't equate his room and crib with terrible alone time. He's happy to play in his crib for a bit, but once he's bored with the toy or book with him in there, he'll stand up at the railings and bawl.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:54 PM on August 28, 2012

We had stuffy nose problems from day one, and our pediatrician recommended a cool mist humidifier. We got this one, which works great and is adorable. (Tip: If it starts putting out white dust, get a filter. It completely eliminated the dust for us.)

Have you tried one of the lights-and-music crib soothers? I've never tried one, but I've heard very good things. We have one of these light up turtles which have worked a few times when he was really resisting naps. We also have this mini music player which our son adores and is the only thing that keeps him happy during diaper changes.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:53 PM on August 28, 2012

Response by poster: treehorn+bunny: I think that on the spectrum of sleeping methods, the Sleep Lady method is a little bit more hands on and drawn-out than the Ferber method, while still putting forward an approach that generally involves helping the baby teach itself to self-soothe and sleep on its own.

I got Good Night Sleep Tight: The Sleep Ladys Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy (Google books preview) from the local library, and liked her strategy. Stick to a schedule, and easing into babe sleeping alone.

But I also recognize that every baby is different. We started our attempts at getting our little guy to sleep on his own after he was able to pull himself up and stand at the crib bars. From our CIO attempts, he'd stand and bawl. Sleep Lady suggests staying with the little guy at first, then moving further from the crib every 3 nights, until you're outside of the room. At that point, you come back every 5 minutes. I tried this at nap time, but me being in the room made him irate that I wasn't interacting with him, so tried to leave him be and come back every 5 minutes.

On my first attempt, he was upset, but calming down. After 5 minutes, I went back in to find him sitting down. Hooray! Except when he saw me, he stood back up, and my quick pats on the back and kisses on the head did not provide him with any reassurance, just a reminder that I left and I had the power to save him from the crib. Away for another 5, and he's getting more upset.

The schedule makes rocking him to sleep easier, but I think I need to get him really drowsy before putting him down alone, and I can't come back. In short, my baby seems to be defying the simple book methods. It's been 15 minutes of terrible crying, back to sooth my baby.

Parting note: if you're reading this as a parent-to-be, or the caretaker of a few-month-old baby, the Sleep Lady method seems great: get them used to sleeping alone EARLY. If/when we do this again, I think we'll start when (s)he is a month or two old. Fingers crossed.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:16 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: And our little guy still needs two naps. I've read that at 9-12 months, babies need around 11 hours of sleep at night, then 3 to 4 hours of napping in the day, and at a year, that's down to 3 hours of napping. If your little one takes a nice 3 hour nap, that could work, but I think that's less common than two naps.

My Baby Sleep Guide is a mother's blog/review of a number of sleep books for babies, including nice comparisons of what the books say about how much sleep babies need at different times, and other guidelines in various sleep-related books.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:01 PM on September 11, 2012

Response by poster: My parents-in-law take care of our son during the week, and my father-in-law started putting our little guy down when he was still awake. But instead of just sitting there, my FIL would put little guy back down every time he stood up. The first day was about half an hour of that, and the next days got easier. But my wife and I were still rocking our son to sleep at night, because he would freak out every time we tried to put him down before he was asleep in our arms.

When my son started fighting his nap times with his grandpa, my wife and I decided we should show solidarity in sleep routines, and it wasn't all that bad. At first, we both stayed in the room, but we found it works a lot easier if it's only one person, because our son can't look to the other person for a way out.

The routine is to darken the room, read some books, and put him down. My wife and I play his lullaby CD once, instead of keeping it on repeat like we used to do, and she or I will rock him for a few minutes, but we put him down while he's not yet asleep, and tuck a second blanket around him (it's not balmy in our house, and while he stays warm enough when he's running around the house, he cools off when he sleeps). Then we sing softly, or talk to him, until we hear him breathing deeply. If we leave earlier, he will fuss. We're only a few weeks into this new routine, so I figure we cut a few steps out over the next weeks, until he is comfortable with being laid down without any company.

He's 17 months old now, and I've read that the 2nd nap goes away around 18 months old, but he's pretty comfortable with the afternoon nap. I've tried to put him down in the morning some times when he seems tired, and if he does sleep in the morning, he won't nap in the afternoon, or he won't fall asleep and he gets up after a bit of lying down and he smiles at me.

In short: being present and reminding him that we're there seems to calm him,
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I didn't finish that last thought.

In short: being present and reminding him that we're there seems to calm him, after we got past the period where he fought being put down. It's a process that will change as your little one grows up, as some growth periods are marked with regression, so you might have to re-do some of the process at some point.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on January 21, 2013

Best answer: So .. that didn't last. Baby light thief would fall asleep with us present, but would freak out if he realized we left. And he was starting to wake up in the middle of the night and demand attention/ comforting. And it was impacting his napping, where he wouldn't fall asleep right away, but would instead fuss for a while, sometimes demanding cuddling to get nearly asleep before being OK with being in bed.

The Mrs. light thief found a variation: 2-4-6-8-repeat. Normal bed time procedures (brush teeth, change diaper and outfit, read stories, say good night to everything in the room, say good night and give good night kisses to Baby light thief), put him in bed without rocking or further soothing, cover him as best as we can, and say "I'll be back soon."

Then you leave for 2 minutes. The first couple of nights, Baby didn't like this, and cried, per usual. He'd get up, stand and hang his arms over the crib sides, and he'd fuss. Two minutes later, one of us goes back in, says soothing things, lays him back down, rubs his back, and maybe sings a song or two. Generally, you're trying to sooth him a bit, and to get him to lie down. Then you leave. Let him cry for four minutes, then come back to sooth him and lay him back down if he's standing or sitting up. Out for 6 minutes, and back to sooth. Out for 8 minutes, and back to sooth. Then you go back to 2 minutes, 4 minutes, etc.

We wouldn't pick him up out of his bed, and some people say you should stay in for the same amount of time you've been gone, but we generally didn't stay in that long. If nothing else, make sure you don't stay in there too long, and some places list 10 minutes as the cut-off for attempts to sooth.

Anyway, there were a few long nights, where the cycle took an hour or more. But in 5 days, he was content to go to bed by himself, and for us, it was a sudden change. One night we went got up to 8 minutes the first time, and realized he hadn't been crying for a few minutes, so we waited to make sure everything was OK, and he was asleep. The next night, he went into bed and didn't cry once, and didn't wake (us) up in the middle of the night! Naps were a breeze! This, the 3rd night, he started to lean out of my arms and into bed after we finished saying good night to everything.

Last night was cold, and at 3 am, he woke up, and kept fussing quietly. I went in, and he was lying on his back, crying quietly and rubbing his eyes. He was uncovered, and I was tired, so I brought him into bed with us, but he fell back to sleep quickly, where nights prior, he would wiggle and writhe for a while before falling back to sleep.

Cry-it-out didn't work, because he'd outlast us, and he'd get more upset as the time went on. And if we went in at all, he'd REALLY freak out. But with 2-4-6-8, he was comforted, but we had a plan, and we could both stick to it. A few minutes of crying isn't bad, especially compared to an hour of sobbing.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Non-parametric models for a non-normal outcome...   |   What's the best and cheapest way to get between... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.