Weaning 7 1/2 month old baby from Rocking and Holding to Sleep
by Anne Munnelly
(Omaha, NE USA)
Question: Hi Heidi, Is it possible to wean a 7.5 months old baby from being rocked/held to sleep? Currently we walk, rock or hold our 7.5 months old little girl to sleep. She usually falls
asleep with in 10 min and stays asleep ( most of the time).
It has become the final step in our
well established bed time routine. At night she sleeps pretty good. Usually 11 hours.
She may wake up 1 or 2 times. We dont get her out of her bed. She usually goes back to sleep within in 5 min or so. If she doesnt I will go in and give her the pacifer back or pat her and she goes back. Is it safe to say she "self soothes" if she goes back to sleep?
She has a pacifer and a " lovey" bunny.
My goal would be to be able to have her go to sleep at some point awake ( drowsy) without
CRYING excessively. We tried CRY IT OUT 1 night and I gave up!. It was horrible. She cried all
all night. And most of the next the next night. Is rocking ok if she sleeps all night? Are we creating a monster who will always need
to be held, walked, rocked? I enjoy it but don't want her to be to dependent on it. I know the key to good sleep habits is " self soothing". She sleeps pretty good at night but the
naps aren't always long enough. They range from 30 min - 2 hours. When she wakes up early from a
nap I have tried to leave her alone in the hope she will go back to sleep. She will go back to sleep at night but not at naps that last under 30 min. She starts crying and cries if I check on her.
Should I leave her alone if she wakes from a nap for any length of time? I would like for her to have at least an hour nap to reap the benefits of sleep. Any suggestions?
P.S. I love your website! It is the best I have seen on SLEEP.. and I have looked at a lot of them!
Heidi's Answer: Dear Anne, Thank you for explaining your situation so clearly and for your kind words about the site!
Yes it is possible and 7-8 months is actually a good age - when many babies can learn to self soothe rather easily. No need for crying whatsoever.
Since you do not mind the holding and rocking, and in all 10 minutes is quite quick, there is no need to rush. But simply wean gradually, but putting her down earlier, little by little. It can be as little as 30 seconds every 3 days.
You can either do this by 'feel' or use a (quiet) timer to help you be consistent. So say you start with half a minute earlier. If all goes well, keep it at this for a few days.
Then again take away half a minute. And so on.
If she fusses a bit and seems to wake, stay calm, and try with just placing you hand on her head or tummy. But if it's to no avail, pick her up and rock a bit further.
And in this way you will work towards putting down drowsy at first, then more and more awake.
Throughout the process, talk to her to help encourage, and praise her enthusistically (!) anytime she wakes after having gone down well. As little as she is, this has an important impact.
You can read about this further on the self soothing page. Or for complete dedicated guidance, you may find my "No-Tears Self Soothing" guide helpful.
Do the same at naps. To help her get to sleep longer naps more consistently, the self soothing work will help of course, try fiddling a bit with her nap schedule. Make sure they are at regular times (say within 15 minutes) each day. And shift to half an hour earlier (if she's very tired at the usual time) or later (if she's not tired at all).
It is OK to leave her for a couple of minutes if she wakes, just to give her the chance and the time to go back to sleep by herself. This can be fussing, even light crying in her sleep - but if she starts to get upset then it's better to go in. What can help is to make some noise from the corridor or so, just hearing you can be reassuring enough for her to go back to sleep.
Lastly, you might want to start working on a 'system' to keep her pacifier within her reach so she can put it back in by herself, whether it is at nights or at naps:
- During the day, help her practice to put the pacifier back in herself, by playing games, applauding when she tries, ...
- Keep it near her when asleep. You can either use a soft short ribbon to attach it to her PJs or sleeping bag. Do not it safely and make it too short for her to get entangle in it in any which way. Or choose a ready made solution such as the Sleepytot Baby Comforter.
Good luck, take care,