14 month old baby boy still doesn't self soothe...
(Oklahoma CIty, OK)
my sweet boy sleeping!
Question: Hello, My sweet 14 month old son still does not sleep through the night. He typically wakes AT LEAST 4 times a night (sometimes every hour!) and wants to be held and nursed/rocked back to sleep. Here's his sleeping history:
0-3 months: Bassinet in our bedroom, nursed to sleep.
3-9 months: co-slept in our bed, nursed freely.
9-12 months: co-slept part time - would nurse to sleep, and put in his crib. he still woke up every 2-3 hours, and by 3am I would just bring him to bed with me so I could get some sleep!
We started a bedtime routine around 9/10 months as follows:
7-8 wash up & play
8-8:30 - diaper change, lotion, jammies
8:30-9 - read bedtime stories, nurse, rock to sleep in dark. He's typically asleep by 9pm, usually a bit earlier, sometimes a little later. He is usually awake for the day between 7am and 8am.
He takes 1 or 2 naps a day, at least 1 hour each, totaling 2-3 hours.
He always wants to be rocked to sleep and has NEVER just laid down to go to sleep. If he's still awake at all when we lay him in his crib, he screams and wants to be held.
He will however, lay down next to me in my bed and fall asleep, and recently he has started to crawl up into his stroller and fall asleep. Initially, I would stroll him to sleep, but now, I simply adjust the stroller so he's laying flat and he lies down (with his pacifier, blanket & bear) and goes right to sleep!
I don't know how to get him to do this in his own bed! He plays in his crib during the day just fine, but if he thinks it's time for sleeping in it, he get's really upset and will not lay down.
We've tried some of the no-cry solutions in Pantley's book but still can't get to the point of laying him down until he's completely asleep. Even tried CIO, but can't for more than 10 minutes, it's just unbearable. Any other advise you have is appreciated!
Thank you!! :)
Heidi's Answer: Dear Crystal,
What a cutie! Thank you for posting the lovely pictures!
I was happy to read in your message that your son actually does fall asleep when just lying next to you in bed and also all by himself in the stroller. That is good news because it means that he is capable, physically of self soothing. And that of course is a very good start.
These are my suggestions to help him do that in his crib as well:
First a couple of preliminaries. Can you shift his bedtime to earlier? If at all possible practically for you, shift the whole evening routine to one hour earlier. 9pm is rather on the late side for this age and, contrary to logic at first sight, an early bedtime makes for a better onset of the night's sleep and for a more restful night overall.
Also and especially, self soothing is so much easier if far from over-tired. The later he goes to bed, the bigger the chance that he is too tired to peacefully start his night and the bigger the chance for more awakenings.
Don't worry that he would make an earlier start in the morning then. First of all he probably will not get up earlier at all and even if he does, the better night more than makes up for the slightly earlier start of the day.
It is OK to do this in one drastic move, and just start your evening routine 1 hour earlier from now on.
Then also, you mention he “plays in his crib during the day just fine”. I wouldn't let him play in the crib. It is good to have him like it, but it should be a place for sleeping, nothing else. It is a good idea to 'decorate' it though and surround it with toys, pictures or other things he likes.
I'm sure you must have studied what could make the stroller better for him to sleep in. Is it softer/harder to lie on? Does he have a toy there that he doesn't have in his crib? Is it because of the playing in the crib? Is it because of the room the stroller is in? Is that room darker/lighter or noisier/quieter than his bedroom? Are you around when he goes to sleep in the stroller? ...
It could be a small detail that makes the stroller more inviting to him to sleep in. It can also be his personality of course to prefer something special, something different from what you had in mind (and I don't mean this in a negative way, it may just be his sense of adventure).
You have a number of possibilities to try and transition from the stroller to the crib:
Make the crib more attractive than the stroller. Maybe hang a new mobile, a simple musical toy or something else you know he likes. 'Discuss' this with him, show him where you hang it, in or near the crib. Tell him that is for when he sleeps in the crib. And whenever he is not sleeping (or not needing them otherwise), put his blanket and bear in the crib. This shows him that this is where they belong and can help him
Talk positively about the crib and how great a place it is to sleep in – do this casually without making a big deal of it, but say it regularly every day. These little kids may not understand or react to everything we say exactly, but they do 'get' so much. Especially the positive and encouraging tone of how you talk about him, nicely sleeping in his crib, can have important results.
If you think it is rather the bedroom than the crib itself, you can put the stroller in the bedroom for a little while and have him sleep in it consistently, or just for naps. That helps him get used to sleeping in his bedroom as a start.
Also, you can adapt the gentle self soothing method to transition from stroller to crib gradually. Then you let him doze off in the stroller but transfer him to his crib once asleep. In the beginning you do that when he's fast asleep. Then little by little, transfer him earlier and earlier, i.e. less and less deeply asleep. Go very gradually, as little as a minute earlier in the first tries to see how it goes.
I discuss the techniques to transition from sleeping in the stroller - and any 'odd' place - in full detail in No-Tears Self Soothing.
Applaud him for every tiny step in the right direction, for example when he has slept half of his nap in the crib after such a transfer.
He may be a bit too young yet but if you think he may be sensible to it, you could try a sticker reward chart (there's a free printable if you just want to give it a try).
With all the above, you should see the nights improve in the next week or two. What will also help with the nights is to be consistent as to when you nurse. Nursing each time gives a risk of creating a hunger feeling at those times, not something you are looking for. On the other hand, nursing sometimes and sometimes not may confuse your son.
So to avoid that confusion, and to avoid you having to debate in the middle of the night 'should I nurse him now or not?' ... decide at which awakenings you will feed and at which you won't.
For example, say you will nurse at the second and fourth awakenings. At the others, do whatever necessary to help him sleep and/or do the self soothing method as above, but do not nurse.
Once this is set, and if still necessary, you will be able to wean from these last two nursings similarly. One by one then.