My 7month old baby is awaken by new-found skills, and how to have a long nap by himself.

by AK
(Jersey City, NJ USA)

Question: Hi Heidi, I had asked a question transition from family bed to crib back in February. Our 31week (27 adjusted as he was born at 36weeks) baby boy now sleeps in his crib (pack n play) in our room, and I still him nurse him to sleep.

Up until introducing solids at 28weeks, he's been exclusively breastfed, and would like to continue BF'ing for as long as I can into his toddler years. When he was about 26weeks old, he started sleeping well with only 1-2 night wakings with the 1st stretch of sleep being 4.5 - 6.5 hours, then 2 hours, 1.5 hours, etc until he's finally awake around 6 / 7am (this only lasted for about 2 weeks).

I've also found that he would have less short wakings for the 2nd half of sleep on our bed so I started taking him back to our bed for the 2nd half of sleep (anywhere from 3-5am). I was getting myself ready to transition him to his crib in his bedroom, but was waiting for a more consistent 1 waking sleep pattern. But then he started rolling over and he would do this in his sleep and would cry and need help to go back to sleep. I've tried to put him back on his back, without carrying him, but he would just cry.

He now has more night wakings back to 2-3. We're having a good night if he sleeps for 3.5 hours for any stretch of sleep; other wakings would occur from 1.5 - 2.5 hours. The only way I could get some type of sleep is when I bring him onto our bed... Usually during the 2nd night waking, around 1:45 - 3am. He would still move around roll to his side or back, but for some reason, he doesn't fully wake when he's on our bed. I found that when the rolling over started to happen, other things also started happening... Here are the challenges we face and what our day looks like:

Any time bw 9:30 & 10:30 am - 1st nap, depends on when he wakes up. 2.5 - 3.5 hrs from his wake up time. this nap usually lasts anywhere from 2 - 3.5 hours. nursed to sleep. we co-nap in our bedroom. we've moved on from babywearing for all naps to co-napping now.

anytime bw 1:30 & 3pm - 2nd nap, 2.5 - 3 hrs from his 2nd nap waking. this nap usually lasts 1-2.5 hours. nursed to sleep. we co-nap in his nursery / room.

total nap hours per day usually fall in the 3.5 - 4.75 hour range.
total sleep hours per day (naps + night sleep) fall in the 12.5 - 13.75 range.

his bedtime used to be anywhere around 7:30 / 8pm, but he started waking up at 5am which was really quite brutal for me... i don't know if this early waking is related to the longer daylight days and also cause we don't have window shades for our skylights which is not doable for us at the moment. or is he getting too much sleep in the daytime? i don't wake him from his naps. i basically let him wake up when he wakes up. i think his body is used to getting the amount of nap he's getting now as when we get off-scheduled and he would only get a 1hr nap for his morning nap, he would end up napping for 3+ hours for his afternoon nap. because the 5am wake-up time was unbearable for me, i decided to move out his bedtime. this meant that I've had to sneak in a cat nap anywhere bw 6:30 & 7:30pm; i would usually wear him for this nap. so now his bedtime has been moved out anywhere between 9-10pm. since introducing solids to him (thru BLW, baby led weaning), the later bedtime works a little better for us as he can sit & eat with us at the dining table for a family dinner. this resulted in a wake up time anywhere between 6:30 - 7:45am. our bedtime routine is as follows:

diaper change
jammie change
chamomile-soaked frozen washcloth (most nights) - helps with teething and sometimes with settling down
short prayer / rocking
turn on white noise (stays on til morning waking)
nursed to sleep
*** on nights we bathe him, bathing will be the 1st step
i nurse him back to sleep with his night wakings (occassionally, for the premature night wakings, daddy will rock him back to sleep)

in the recent couple of weeks, he would latch off himself after about 5-10mins of nursing and just shake his head side to side, turn to his side, sometimes babble, sometimes he would latch back on for a few seconds, and continue with head shaking... he would then fall asleep and i would transfer him to his crib in our room about 5-10 mins after he falls asleep. Sometimes, I fall asleep before he does!

for his naps, i do a short yoga / stretching for him, put him in a stage 2 "true womb" swaddle (arms free). sometimes stortytime, nap music or white noise that stays on for the duration of the nap, nursed to sleep, with same head shaking, etc mentioned above. usually some time during the nap, he would look for my nipple while asleep, and i just let him nurse (nursing can go as short as a few seconds and as long as 10+mins). i find that the suckling motion helps him stay asleep. i've tried sneaking out to take bathroom breaks but haven't been brave enough to take longer times away, not to mention he rolls over now so can't really leave him alone on our bed.

(... question continued in the comment below ...)

Heidi's Answer: Hi AK,

From what you write, I know that you are nearing a good place – with regular independent sleep, you just need to work on a few aspects and things will start falling into place.

First of all I would like to re-visit the sleeping schedule.

The length of his naps is good but from now on he will benefit more from having them at fixed times (even if that means they turn out a bit shorter). Fix his two nap times (fixed within 15 minutes) by choosing the time (within his usual “any time between”) that ticks the most boxes of: tired enough but not too tired yet, fitting well within his feeding schedule and practical for you.

I also advise you to bring his evening bedtime back to earlier again because I suspect the later one to play a role in his more frequent awakenings right now … I know you saw that the later one helped with sleeping later in the morning, but as long as the night awakenings are too frequent, that is not really a solution.

I understand you may not like this, also because it's convenient for your evening meal … just go as early as you can “live with”.

The benefits of the strictly timed naps at this age, combined with the early bedtime, promotes the steadiest sleep patterns, will help with settling both at naps and nights and once body adjusted, also improves sleep quality.

Now to answer your questions one by one:

1) First of all it will be important for you to decide for yourself what you want. If you want to co-sleep (have the ease of him near, maximal sleep right now, waking up together, …) then that is good and you can decide to do that. You will then have to take precautions to keep it safe for him since he is now more and more mobile – for example place your mattress on the floor.

If you decide not to co-sleep then this is a good time transition to the crib, ideally for each nap and the whole night then (no problem to finish the night in your bed though).

The smoothest transition will then be to a crib in your room before moving to a crib in his own room or you near him in his own crib in his room.

For either option, what you will need to get the best naps and nights is consistency and self settling practice. That will include gradually weaning from nursing to sleep to just holding to sleep in a first phase. Then you will move from holding to sleep towards putting down and also if you chose that, from in your bed to own crib. So i.e. the techniques from the self soothing book (which if I remember well you have?).

2) It is fantastic how you nurse and will continue to nurse. And bless you for not minding to nurse him to sleep, especially during extra challenging times. The evolution you see when he sometimes latches off by himself, shaking his head and nodding off by himself is super!!

At the same time, even during this milestone challenging times in which you feel he needs it: do keep practicing the dozing off without the nipple in his mouth. Because as things get better he might keep doing it out of habit even when it is no longer necessary. Simply stay attentive and whenever you feel he can do without, promote dozing off without nursing.

I wanted to suggest a transitional object like a stuffed animal or other, and I just notice that you mention that he likes to hold on to your shirt … so definitely yes do offer him one of those! Just keep different options near around bedtime, you will quickly notice which one or which type he prefers. You might also consider giving him a soft scarf or piece of cloth that you wear on you for a while before you give it to him. Your scent can be a powerful way to reassure him when he needs to (re)settle alone.

3a) I suppose in the stage 2 you already have his arms out. Having the arms loose already is a great step. And from what you have experienced, it is too early for your son to go completely without. To transition you can start closing wraps around his legs less tightly. A tiny bit less each day will help him get used to being less and less tightly swaddled without noticing it. Until it is so loose that he can go without. A nicely fitting sleeping bag is a good next step, to still keep a bit of that cozy feel of confinement.

3b) With all the above - i.e. stricter schedule, self settling practice and more and more getting used to not nursing to sleep anymore - will automatically take away this issue.

And yes 40 weeks is indeed an age by which many if not most babies do settle into more mature sleep with more regular and longer stretches, and deeper sleep.

Best of luck to you,

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continued from main question
by: AK

... so my questions are:

1) need your advice on how to transition him to his crib in his room. to be honest, part of me not moving him over are for selfish reasons of me getting sleep when we co-sleep for the 2nd half of the night, and also the enjoyment of waking up next to him in the morning. additional challenges:
a) he's outgrowing his pack n play; i think soon he'll be pulling himself up.
b) he starts moving around actively at 5-ish am (half-asleep), and usually have to move with him & offer to nurse, sometimes, half of my head is hanging off the bed, not that comfy, but at least i'm still half-sleeping.
c) as much as I enjoy co-sleeping with him, I worry about what would happen when he starts crawling since our mattress is not on the floor.
I'm prepared to sleep in his room for the transition as I have a narrow futon-like mattress set up in his room where we take most of our afternoon naps where it's darker than our bedroom.
2) I have no problem nursing him to sleep... The fact that he went thru a period of going up to 7 hours continuous sleep proves to me that he can self-soothe except when disrupted for major milestone developments, like most recently with the rolling over. Also, I find it very interesting that he latches off on his own now & tries to "shake" & "rock" himself to sleep. I notice that when he nurses, he likes to hold on to my shirt; is this a sign that he's ready for a lovey or transitional object?
3) naps -
a) I'm afraid what would happen if I don't use the stage 2 true womb swaddle. I tried it once and it took almost an hour to get him to nap, and by that point, I ended up putting him in the swaddle. I find that it helps him fall asleep & stay asleep. Can you please advise on a plan to wean him off the swaddle?b) please help on how I should go about transferring him to his crib for his naps. My concern is that even if I'm successful with the transfer, he won't stay asleep (resulting in a short nap) as he seeks out my nipple during the nap as I mentioned above.

In your experience, would you agree that most babies reach their sleep maturity and would be able to sleep through the night at 40 weeks as I've read on the "No Cry Sleep Solution"?

Thank you, and looking forward to your advice.

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