My 11 month old baby will not sleep in a crib
Question: My 11 month old has to be nursed or held to sleep and when we put him in the crib he usually wakes and screams instantly. If he does not wake right away, he will within 2 hrs or less. If we put him in a bed he does not wake up right away and will usually sleep 3 hrs before wanting to nurse for about 5 minutes until he drifts back to sleep...but this continues all night and not nursing leads to hrs of screaming(literally).
Since my my husband gets up really early for work, I end up co-sleeping with our baby boy in his room so I can get enough sleep to function @ work. He has always been a poor sleeper and will only sleep in a swing at daycare. He usually takes 2 naps a day, goes to bed around 9 & is up by 6:30. The baby used to at least play in his crib, but once we tried "crying it out" he cries if we even hover him over it. I'm desperate for a good night sleep....maybe even in my own bed.
Heidi's Answer: Hi Melissa,
I will suggest the gentle self soothing method to help teach your son sleep more independently.
But before that, it will be important to get rid of his "fear" of his crib.
To do that, spend some time with him in the room near the crib once or twice a day. So you are sitting with him on your lap, on the floor next to his crib. Put toys he likes in it. Play a game in which you throw toys in the crib. Make them jump out again, or funnily let them creep out. Do whatever makes these moments near the crib fun.
Don't be hasty to put him in the crib to play because it will take time for him to forget his fear. But simply by making the crib environment safe and fun, you will make huge progress. And also, the crib is not intended to play so it's even enough for him to like being near it. Being in it will mean sleeping, which you will help him with too.
If you haven't one already, a sweet musical mobile that hangs in the crib can help a lot too. The Cloud b Sleep Sheep is a sweet gentle one many babies love, but it can be any toy your son likes. Install it and test it with your son around.
Then to help with the sleeping and self soothing we will go gradually. Do the same at naps and night time.
At first hold or nurse him to sleep as you do now. Hold him until he is deeply asleep (can take about 20 minutes). Make sure he's all bundled up, in PJ and sleeping bag before you start helping him to sleep. That way there is no fuss at all when putting him down.
Then very gradually you will do the same but put him down a little earlier, say about half a minute each day. So you nurse/rock him to sleep and once he sleeps you hold him for a little less than the previous time. You can do this by feel or use a quiet timer. This way you will gradually go from putting him down deeply asleep, to less and less deeply asleep, to very very drowsy, to just drowsy, ... to awake.
It may not work at each step: he may fuss or start crying. That's normal. Just stay calm and confident, pick him up, comfort him to sleep and continue trying next time.
You will find more on self soothing and extra tips on the self soothing page.
At the same time, help him wean from nursing to sleep with the gentle unlatch technique: When he's dozing off very gently squeeze your finger in between his lips and your nipple - this releases the vacuum. Then very quickly, almost at the same time really, use a finger to tip up his chin to close his mouth. This will keep him from startling and waking up in a reflex to start nursing again. This takes some practice at first but is very efficient. Combine it with the putting down earlier as I above.
2 naps a day sounds good. I will advise you to try and put him down for the night earlier: at least 8pm, rather even 7 or 7.30, whichever early works in your schedule.
Early nights help a baby to self settle (less tired makes it easier) and brings on more restful nights.
And then finally, could you get the daycare's help to work on sleeping in a crib there too? That would be really helpful.
They could still have him settle in the swing if they don't have the time to hold him to sleep (which is definitely understandable). But they could also transfer him to a crib. After 20 minutes or so at first (deeply asleep), then a little earlier very gradually.