Question: I am a single mother. My daughter, Autumn, has a rough time sleeping through the night. She was a preemie, and I slept with her in my bed from when we brought her home (1 month) until 6 months.
She won't let me put her down without breast feeding her, she falls asleep at my breast and if I take it away before she is totally out she throws a fit. I've gone multiple nights walking in the room when she wakes and patting her bottom and calmly telling her it is bed time...it's just hard, she wants me to feed her for comfort. I need help, we both need sleep.
I try to keep a schedule, dinner at 6, bath at 7, warm cereal and bed. She falls asleep well the first time I put her to sleep (breast feeding) and wakes usually a half hour later, and there begins our long night. I really need help, I'm dying to get this little one to sleeeeep! Please help, I would greatly appreciate your advice.
Thank you so, so SO much!
I look forward to hearing from you soon,
Heidi's Answer: Dear Drue,
From what you write, it shows how you have been doing really well with your little girl. Keeping her in bed with you safely has offered her the best chances to breast feed well in those first months. The schedule and regular routine you have been doing are also very good, and important, to have now.
It's quite normal for her to have taken to the habit of nursing to sleep. Luckily it's not too hard to help her wean from that, and to help her self soothe eventually.
To start with, you will want to teach her to fall asleep without the breast. We'll do that gradually, with the gentle unlatch technique:
When you nurse her to sleep until she's almost 'totally out', do the following. To remove your breast without her waking up, gently squeeze a finger in between her lips and your breast. This will release the sucking vacuum. If you do nothing else she will have the natural reflex to try and get the nipple back and this is what makes her wake up and throw a fit as you describe. But you can avoid that: immediately (almost at the same time) as you released the vacuum, use another finger to tip up her chin to gently close her mouth. This helps avoid that reflex, and she should stay calm and continue dozing off to sleep.
This may not work from the first time(s) but with practice you will get the hang of it and she will learn to fall asleep without the nipple in her mouth. Then, very gradually, you will do this move a little earlier (= less and less deeply dozed off). Give you and your little girl at least a week or two for this, you will see how smoothly it goes.
Do the same at every awakening/nursing-to-sleep session.
Little by little you will move to being able to simple hold/rock her to help her fall asleep, without the nursing. Then you'll continue with the gentle self soothing method, where you hold/rock her to deeply asleep at first, and then very gradually put her down a little less deeply asleep.
"No-Tears Self Soothing" is my complete step-by-step guide with detailed instructions, must-do preliminaries and helps you install the best-fit self soothing technique.
These techniques will help you help her sleep more and more independently in the next couple of weeks.
Other than that, try to have good regular naps during the day, that also helps towards good nights.
And lastly, I am not a fan of the cereal before bed, it could simply be too heavy on her stomach to have a restful night.
If you make sure she has good regular meals during the day, a combination of solids and breast feeding, she should be getting enough. If you think she may not get enough, then rather squeeze in an extra snack (that can be the cereal) during the day, or spread during the day if more than one. But in the evening, a regular dinner and then a breast feeding session after bath and before bed should be sufficient to start the night.
Good luck, and hang in there, you will both get more sleep! Kindly, Heidi