Co-sleep without constant nursing?
December 4, 2016 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Is my sleep training dream possible? Inside, I describe what I would like to achieve, and what happens now. What's the closest approximation of my dream? How do I get there? Which of the many sleep training resources (books, blogs, gurus, consultants) would be most helpful in figuring this out?

We co-sleep. In my ideal world, which I realize may not be possible, I'd lie down with our nine-month-old at bedtime and nurse him to sleep around 7:15 or 7:30 or so. I'd stay there maybe 45 minutes. (I usually need a rest then anyway.) Around 8:15 or so, I'd get up and stay up until about 11 pm without him waking up and crying for me. Then, I'd go to bed. He'd nurse occasionally during the night, maybe 3 times or so, but not want to constantly comfort nurse. Then around 7 am, we'd all get up.

Here's what happens now. Around 7:15 or 7:30 or so, I go lie down with him. He seems asleep, but does some light, fluttering nursing(?) every few minutes. When I try to get up, he starts looking for me after that same few minutes pass, so I stay longer. Around 9, he falls into a deep enough sleep that I can get up and have a bit of uninterrupted dinner. But in about 45 minutes, he whines again, so I go back in. Maybe after another 45 minutes, I can get up one more time, but somewhere around 11:30, he gets much more restless and waking him means he's AWAKE, so pretty soon, I play it safe and just go to sleep. Some nights, he nurses intermittently, but it's a bit more frequent than I'd like (some nights every 45 minutes, some nights he wants to comfort suck for hours, some nights he cries every time he's trying to latch on but I think he was sick that day). Then we all wake up around 7 am.

All of us are mostly rested, but I'd like to reduce the number of times we wake up in the middle of the night. I'd also really like a few hours in the evening, because every hour of work I can do while he's asleep is an hour when I'm not paying for childcare and apart from him.

But I'd rather not give up co-sleeping or night nursing. I work full-time, and so that togetherness means a lot to me. Of course, if he seemed tired, I'd put his needs first, but it seems to mostly work for him, too. But what I'm learning is that I probably cannot cut down on his frequent wakings to comfort nurse without eliminating it as a sleep association altogether. And I cannot figure out how to put him to bed without nursing him down (thereby creating that association) without full-on sleep training to teach him to sleep on his own. But then how does that work with us co-sleeping? Doesn't he unlearn everything the minute I climb into bed?

Beyond that, I'm not sure how to get there. I'm not totally opposed to a bit of crying, but there's no way I'm going to be able to hold out the way Ferber requires. The stories of people holding out for 5+10+15+... minutes are-- I don't know how they have the fortitude. (I managed nine minutes in the car once and felt mildly traumatized for three days.)

Before I read six books and spend money I don't have on sleep training consultants, I thought I'd see if veterans of this process could point me in the right direction.
posted by slidell to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If he's not really falling asleep until 9, why are you laying down at 7:15? What kind of naps is he getting?
posted by cabingirl at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you might be putting him down for the night before he's actually ready to sleep because you want some time to yourself, which is COMPLETELY understandable but might be counterproductive.

My friend is semi-cosleeping right now (bassinet right next to bed, usually winds up picking him up into the bed during the night). Baby doesn't go to bed until she goes to bed, but once or twice a night when he seems sleepy (usually after nursing), he goes into the magical electronic baby swing, which is in the living room, and naps for 45 minutes to an hour. That seems to give her a decent balance of 'baby is sleeping so I can get shit done' time.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2016

FWIW, I coslept with kid 1 when she was in daycare, and she basically reverse cycled; she nursed all night, getting her calories from me instead of pumped milk, even though I was pumping. I did not cosleep with kid 2, and she was a much, much better sleeper. I do think that when they can smell the milk all night, they're going to want to nurse more. Also FWIW, kid 2 was pretty much totally fine in the crib, even though I was expecting a tough time. Maybe try it and see how it goes? (If possible, have someone else do the crib bedtime and checks, as it will be easier on everyone, babe included.)
posted by instamatic at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

How old is your baby? That could change things.

I did what you're asking about, when my son was 13 months old and still nursing many times each night. I did it following this plan by Dr. Jay Gordon. For us, we discovered that he was waking up so much in part because he was hungry: after losing nighttime milk access, he would get up with dad and have another mean at 1 am. After he learned how to eat more during the day, he slept better.

I will say this was hard at first, for about a week: when he woke up he cried, and wanted milk. I would comfort him but tell him that there was no milk between 11 and 6, and we could have some later. Having dad take him for food helped, and he learned that I was still there to comfort him.

Also: when your baby gets older, have him evaluated for sensory processing issues. It turned out that was part of the reason why my son loved nursing so much - it was a way for him to soothe the otherwise overwhelming sensory input his little brain was having trouble handling.
posted by medusa at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is more or less what we do, minus the nursing. I think you're probably putting him to bed too early? Maybe? My son has never been ready to go to sleep until 8:30 at the earliest. At nine months (and still at 15 months) we were/are following the 2-3-4 schedule. Like this: baby wakes up for the day at 8, naps 10-11:30, naps again 3:30-5, bedtime at 9. (My baby will not go to bed until four hours after his last nap, whenever that is.) We have a bath, play for a little bit/ watch a little tv/listen to music, read a story, have a bottle, then I rock him to sleep. I plunk him asleep in the middle of the bed and then go about the rest of my evening. Sometimes he has little wake-ups, but is easily soothed back to sleep, sometimes he puts himself back to sleep. We change his diaper between midnight and 1 am when I go to bed so we don't all wake up in a river of pee. We've done this since he was about five months old.

My son does sometimes (Er...often) cry because he doesn't want to go to bed. (He is constantly on the GO and regards sleep as real fun killer.) I hold him, rock him, tell him in a quiet voice it's night-night time and time to go to sleep but I don't interact with him otherwise? I make it clear that it's bedtime and he isn't getting anything else out of me, but the occasional kiss. This works for us, I guess?

We love cosleeping. No one seems to believe this. Everyone keeps telling me to get him out of our bed. We don't want to! I work first shift, my husband works second shift, we don't get a lot of time as a family of three. We love the togetherness too, so I totally get it. Obviously, I'm not addressing the night nursing aspect because I stopped nursing at 5 months, sorry.
posted by Aquifer at 3:12 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

We did this and I totally feel your pain. I did a little bit of Elizabeth Pantley's no cry sleep solution a couple times (if he got sick or teethed we'd need a repeat), at least her method for getting them to detach. We also shifted naps to make sure he was tired, have a solid bedtime routine, and a bedtime snack. Also, it gets better as he gets older. How old is he? I remember this being an issue...around 1, maybe younger?
posted by jrobin276 at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2016

Not a complete solution, but a tip for whenever you implement whatever you implement: I wore a turtleneck underneath a long dress to bed when we were stopping night nursing. Because in the middle of the night I wasn't awake enough to remember that we weren't supposed to be nursing, but this clothing made it impossible to do it.

(I can't really remember how we did the whole process. It's possible that I literally didn't manage to stop until we weaned entirely after I took a week-long trip away when my son was 2, and I just wore the dress so that I wouldn't slip up and start nursing again when I came back. Now I'm wishing I remembered, because I'd like to night-wean #2, but I think he's reverse cycling. Sigh.)
posted by wyzewoman at 3:37 PM on December 4, 2016

Sorry, I must've been unclear. At 7:30, he does fall asleep. Just not so deeply asleep that I can sneak away easily. He's asleep more deeply later. But he's definitely not awake and trying to interact. And he seems to get fussy if we don't put him down around then. (But I'm listening. Maybe a later bedtime is worth a try! I just didn't want to seem to say he was lying there largely awake until 9ish.)
posted by slidell at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2016

Can you try nursing in bed, but not side lying nursing? Sit up and hold him, nurse him to sleep and lay him down next to you. Then either nap or get up.

I'm one of the odd few that side lying nursing made me miserable. My back hurt, my hips hurt, I don't think I was ever fully asleep. So I preferred sitting up to feed and then laying back down. YMMV.
posted by checkitnice at 4:49 PM on December 4, 2016

I have an 8mo old, so I'm definitely still figuring it out, but doing some sleep training has been helpful for us. We started once we noticed that she had the ability to self soothe to some degree, and the maximum amount of time we let her cry for is 15 min - which seems like a very long time, but luckily it's usually much much shorter (if she's still crying at 15 minutes we go in and snuggle her). I'm the nursing parent, and I also had a VERY hard time with the crying at first - my wife did the majority of the sleep training. I actually had to leave the house to go on a walk or put on headphones with very very loud white noise for the first few days. Before the sleep training, I usually had to hold her for an entire nap if I wanted her to sleep; now I can usually just put her down and she'll put herself to sleep. I sometimes put her in the crib awake, and sometimes nurse her to sleep then put her down - she usually wakes up when I put in her the crib, cries for less than a minute, then goes back to sleep. She does wake up and nurse 1-3ish times during the night (more if she's not feeling well). The big caveat is that we don't cosleep, so I'm not sure how that affects it.

Also, 7:30 doesn't seem too early at all for bedtime - babies are all different, but that's definitely a normal baby bedtime. My daughter goes to sleep around 5 - 5:30pm usually, which seems crazy early, but it's what she needs. She wakes up around 5:30am most days, and if she goes to bed at 5:30pm, she wakes up rested. If we wait until 6:30 or 7:30 or whenever to put her to bed, she still wakes up at 5:30am but is way more tired and cranky during the day.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2016

I think you are currently in the 9 month sleep regression, unfortunately. Hang in there, and the time between wakings will get smaller again in a month or so. And baby starts needing only one nap a day around 13 months or so.
posted by jillithd at 6:07 PM on December 4, 2016

I just noticed the questions about his age. He's almost 9 months old.
posted by slidell at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2016

I don't think 7:30 is too early. My kids have been going to bed at 630pm ever since they were 6 months old or so (they are 2 and 4 now).

It sounds like you are saying that he uses you as a pacifier and isn't really nursing most of the time. Have you tried a pacifier? My kids were comfort nursers too and the pacifier was really helpful for them. Especially at 9 months because they can actually relocate the pacifier on their own if it falls out. You can nurse him down at bedtime then pop the pacifier in and hopefully it helps keep him from going boob-hunting when he gets into the lighter/half awake phase.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:54 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't speak much to co-sleeping, but one Ime and from what I've read, I think the answer is no, you can't have all of those things. Sorry. But the sleep association thing is real and you have made one (nursing to sleep) that is not compatible with the desire to not have him look for you every time he cycles through sleep. Those cycles don't last 3 hours. So you can't have 3 hours and the sleep association.
posted by jojobobo at 11:47 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Same problem here. This worked for us (for a week, then baby got sick and I resumed night nursing, but we're trying to get back to it): mom slept at a nearby hotel after nursing baby to sleep and dad co-slept with baby and had food/bottle ready. After two nights of this, baby woke up much less frequently and cuddled back to sleep with dad. Mom co-sleeps with toddler in another room after nursing baby to sleep. Dad does bedtime with toddler and then co-sleeps with baby.
posted by meijusa at 12:21 AM on December 5, 2016

I'm still a co-sleeper with my 3yo, who still loves his mama milk. I've been following the Wait It Out method, mostly, which is to go with the ebbs and flows that are developmental milestones. This works for me and my kiddo for the most part.

Kiddos need more mama love at night some weeks and less other weeks.
posted by jillithd at 4:23 AM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Windows link redirect problem with search failure   |   Why does the Queen read the red boxes? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.