Transition from bedsharing to crib
(Jersey city, NJ)
Question: Hi Heidi. We are currently bed sharing with our 12week old baby and would like to transition him to his crib. Would it be better to co-sleep first then move on to his crib in his own room or just skip co-sleeping? I'm solely breastfeeding.
His bedtime is around 8:30. Our bedtime routine starts with nursing, diaper change, short massage & jammie change, book reading, rocking with a prayer, then nursing again (most of the time). For his night wakings, he usually wakes up 3x - around 11:30 or midnight, 2am, 4:30am, all of which he is nursed back to sleep. Is there any way to know if he's actually hungry or just needs sucking comfort?
Then he wakes up for the day around 6:30am (with his first nap at around 8:50am). I have been guilty of not allowing him to self-soothe for fear of reading that if not responded to his cry immediately (real cry, not sleep whimpers & grunts), it becomes harder to put baby back to sleep.
Would also like to add that he's extremely gassy & has reflux which is why we didn't want to move him to his crib sooner.
However, I feel that if we don't move him in the next 2months ( before he hits the 5month mark), we might have a harder time moving him to his own crib.
As for his naps (3-4x), he's been sleeping in my arms, or i wear him as he gets the longest naps this way. I've been slowly trying to get him to nap away from me (swing which works well or crib where he usually wakes crying after 5-15mins).
Also want to add that he's a late pre-term baby born at 36 weeks.
Help, please! Thanks!
Heidi's Answer: Dear AK,
It is good of you to be thinking about moving your little boy to his own crib, this is indeed a good time although there is no rush: both the 2 upcoming months will still be fine. But that's good, it gives you the time to work toward it gently.
Firstly I am sure you have taken every precaution and try to relieve maximally, but you may want to have a look at the gas and reflux pages for extra tips and help there. For whichever sleep issue or the transition you are looking at, relieving that discomfort is the first step.
The good thing about you carrying him (in a sling?) for naps is that he gets decent naps, the being carried in a sling (or simply on you) has a soothing effect on the reflux and gas and that it will allow you to work on a regular nap schedule in the weeks to come.
I am supposing you are now mainly having him nap when he is getting tired but you can now gradually move towards a more precisely timed schedule. Even more so if you recognize that he is typically tired at about the same times. Then start sticking to these times more and more. His body will get used to these nap times and that will help him with settling and sleeping well, also when put down in the crib later on.
You may find my “Nap in a Snap” mobile app (free for Android) helpful to set these nap times, see the download page (scroll down to the bottom to get to the app.)
The nights sound rather good and the 3 feedings are fine at this age. Especially with the reflux you want to have more frequent feedings of small portions, to keep meals light, so the 3 small nightly nursing sessions can help with that.
12 weeks anyway is a bit early for pure comfort sucking. However if you notice that he feeds really well at those night awakenings, i.e. takes a big, complete feed and on the contrary tends to be quicker (more distracted) during the day, do try to reverse that. Simply by firstly offering frequent enough feeds during the day. If he is easily distracted by activity around him when nursing during the day, do find a quiet spot to nurse, so he can concentrate ...
Learning to self soothe does not mean crying to sleep, so you are right to not let him cry. Some whimpering and a short cry within sleep are fine of course. The most powerful pre-requisites for being able to self soothe are to not be over-tired (which you will accomplish by the regular napping) and to not have any discomfort. Doing as many of the gas and reflux remedies will help with that but you may not be able to get rid of it completely right away so that may make it a bit harder to teach self soothing right now.
About the co-sleeping transition. Both going through an in-between of having his crib next to your bed or going straight to his room are fine actually and can work. I will ask you to decide in the end by going by feel but I will give you my preferred recommendation based on what you wrote.
The gentlest transition will be to have that intermediate step of his crib next to your bed first, and seeing that he is still so young I advise you to do that.
It will be less of a shock for him and it will mean less running back-and-forth at night for you. That will keep his night awakenings shortest and that again improves his overall night time sleep.
Do this for a good 3-4 weeks before moving him to his own room.
But that said, I do want you to go by feel. If you prefer him in his own room right away because you tend to sleep lighter when he's there, and you don't mind going to his room to feed at night, and if you feel confident form him to absolutely fine in his own room right away: don't hesitate and move him into his room right away. You will soon know, after a couple of nights, if it is going down well or not at all and then you can also go back and do the intermediate step.
During the first weeks of his being in his crib (whether in your or his room) I advise you to put him down as you are now, by rocking or nursing to sleep. To avoid too many changes.
But if all is going well, you can gently start self soothing practice. That means to gently unlatch him before he's deeply asleep. Or rock/hold him until he's a bit less deeply asleep before putting him down.
No worries if he wakes and needs you again to settle, just help him and then try a bit further a couple of days later, this is practice. As time progresses you will do more and more of this and work with my Gentle Self Soothing method consistently.
Best of luck, do let us know how things are going,