Question: Hi Heidi, My daughter Signe (sig-knee) is 15 weeks old. Until about 12-13 weeks, she could put herself down to sleep at night pretty easily. Then bedtime became a battle. While searching for help, I came across your site. I immediately felt a connection to your advice when I saw you suggested using a baby sling or wrap for naps, a "trick" I stumbled into using about a month ago. I’m so glad to discover someone who understands that exhausted families need practical, simple, loving advice, given with a generous heart.
Based off of suggestions found in your page on 1-4 month-old’s sleep, we began a bedtime routine this week that I can already see is making a difference. Where my husband and I used to spend hours trying to soothe her only to experience escalating crying, Sig was able to put herself to sleep last night. It took half an hour, but she did it on her own! We were so relieved.
Signe weighs at least 15 pounds now - she’s a big baby! I’ve been breast feeding her exclusively and she feeds on average about every 2-3 hours during the day and gives one long 4-6 hour break at night. Our bedtime routine includes putting on pjs, lotion/massage, cuddles, singing, a book, and usually her last feed before sleep. I try not to let this be the last piece of the routine - it’s a work in progress.
My bigger challenge now is how to wean off the wrap and put her down for naps. Unfortunately, her sleep quality and (perhaps?) her size have made the wrap a double problem for nap time. She wakes easily if I sit or even begin to walk after having stood still. And naturally, my attempts to remain as much in the same position as I can so she’ll sleep as long as she needs lead only to cramps and tiredness - and she wakes up anyway. Basically, wrap naps aren’t working anymore.
What advice can you give me for the transition from wrap-centric naps to putting her down in her crib? I feel relatively sure about when to begin soothing her to sleep in the wrap and she goes down very easily in it. She’s not on a strict nap schedule yet, though I know around which times she gets tired. I don’t think pulling her out of the wrap after she falls asleep will work as it’s a Moby wrap and she wakes when being taken out. Also, I’m nervous about nap time lost to the time it will take for her and me to soothe her down without the body-to-body contact. I’m paralyzed! Thanks in advance for your help.
I tend to bring Signe into bed with us once she begins waking up for her feedings in the middle of the night - usually after midnight until the morning. This began after I discovered the joy of nursing while laying down (!), which of course resulted in me falling asleep while she nursed, only to wake up when she needed to eat again. On our very worst nights trying to soothe her when her bedtime sleep upheaval began, we'd sometimes take her to bed with us after about 2 hours of more and more frantic soothing efforts. A few nights ago, after it became clear a day of bad naps robbed her of all ability to soothe herself, I snuggled with her and we both drifted off about 9:30 pm. Neither my husband or I plan to co-sleep forever, so I'm aware that the habit will need to end sooner or later. But it's working for us right now ...
Hi Heidi, as an update on my daughter's sleep, she's now in her crib from 6:30 pm until 6:30 am each night and falls asleep at night and for naps on her own with ease. I'm so glad for the support and encouragement I received from you and your site through our sleep travels. Beth ***************************
Heidi's Answer: Dear Beth,
First of all, it seems like you are having a really good bedtime routine now that is doing its job, great! Also you have a good schedule of regular feeds and naps during the day, with good longer stretches at night, really good too.
The co-sleeping seems to be working for you right now, as you mention. And that's great: for now it is simply an easy way to get some much-needed sleep for all of you. It also keeps Signe's night awakenings as short as possible which is very important.
You've decided not to keep doing it 'forever' and that is good to realize. Just keep it in the back of your mind. As the self-soothing will improve again, and her night awakenings will decrease, you will then also find it easier to keep her in her crib more consistently.
Then for naps. The crucial part of moving from the sling to the crib in the 'Baby Sling Trick' is to have a regular nap routine. It is the regularity and the habit of sleeping at those moments, that helps with self soothing. Also, as you've noticed, over-tiredness (such as after a day of bad napping) is the biggest enemy of self-soothing ... that's why getting her down for the nap well on time is crucial.
--- Side note. I have actually dedicated a complete guide to finding the right nap routine. This can be strictly timed, but can also follow a Eat-Sleep-Play or Eat-Play-Sleep pattern. Or follow baby's lead. What counts is to discover which one works for your baby. The Nap in a Snap guide gives you the tools to discover exactly that. ---
Either way, it will be important for you to make the wrap nap routine regular before transitioning to the crib. You say you know around which times she gets tired: use those times. Start early enough though, start the nap at the very first tired signs and:
- Keep up the wrap naps for at least a week in that regular routine.
- Do the bedtime routine also before a nap wrap: the same bedtime routine you will also do when putting her in the crib for the nap later on. This can be the same bedtime routine as for the night or slightly different (I guess no lotion 3-4 times a day ... ;)). It shouldn't be too long either, maybe just the changing into pj, cuddles, singing, a kiss for a favorite soft animal and that's it.
- After that week, try for the crib every now and then. Work with the gentle self soothing method if still necessary: you could even use it to gradually take her out of the wrap earlier and earlier.
- Also, 15 weeks is still on the young side. It may take another couple of weeks before the whole thing truly sets. But it is good to work on it now, perfect timing!
And finally: please don't worry or feel nervous – she will pick that up and it won't help. Take a deep breath before you start, act confidently (even if you don't feel it, act it) and be determined. You'd be amazed at the positive effect that has.
Your daughter sounds like not a too bad sleeper at all and you are doing a great job. Have confidence in the both of you, you will get there!