by Brandi (Kansas)
My daughter is almost 4 1/2 months old and a very alert, happy baby most of the time. Up to this time I have carried her in a sling/Ergo all day and she would nurse, nap and do everything in there while I carried her around.
She also co-sleeps with my husband and I. Lately, I have noticed as she is getting older that she won't nap for very long periods of time while in the Ergo. I seem to wake her up with my activities, to where she will only stay asleep for maybe 20- 30 minutes, if that long even.
So I have started trying to put her down for naps…. and that has not gone well at all. I have been nursing her to sleep in bed (like I do at night), and then trying to sneak away – but she usually wakes right back up once I'm gone. The same thing happens at night… she will only stay asleep if she is right next to me (usually constantly latched on..).
I don't mind co-sleeping but it's getting to the point that it would be nice to have some quiet time while she sleeps/naps by herself. Right now I am going to bed with her at 8pm because she is ready, and most of the time I have to stay in bed for fear of her waking (it's not very conducive to spending some quality time with hubby after work).
Anyway, I am wondering what you would do to develop better sleep habits and patterns at this stage? Am I just being too paranoid and selfish, and is this normal for her age?
I guess I just want her to have good habits as she gets older, like taking naps without a fuss and having to constantly nurse while she sleeps.
Sorry for the long explanation, I am just currently very exhausted trying to stick to my instincts of attachment parenting while still having a marriage and some time to myself.
Thank You in advance!!
I do think that her sleeping habits when she's older will be quite a bit different than in infancy, but I also don't think it's unreasonable to help her develop some good ones now 😉
She is just past the newborn stage, so it's normal to see her sleeping habits start to change and it's also pretty normal to want to try and get her into some more independent sleep habits, if that's what you want to do.
I would start by focusing on bedtime before naptime. I think the best way to start is always by developing a strong routine around bedtime – even with a baby as young as she is, it's beneficial and she picks up on and gets used to patterns in her day. If you always use the same routine, she'll associate it with bedtime.
It could involve a quick bath, fresh pajamas, and you rocking and singing to her. Whatever you desire.
I think it's hard to get a baby to not nurse to sleep at such a young age, but it's often helpful to nurse her a little bit before bedtime – such as at the start of the bedtime routine – then put her down awake. This helps her start to be able to sleep without always having to be nursing.
Take a look at this report for more detail on setting up a baby sleep routine.
With such a young baby I would lay her down in a crib / cosleeper / Pack N Play / etc. in a room close to where I was going to be. With my first three kids this was in my bedroom because it was just off the den where I was at night. With Galen, however, it was in the den outside our office because the bedroom was upstairs. We definitely found he needed to be in another room, however. He wouldn't sleep in the room with us.
But pick somewhere that will be a consistent room. You can put her down there initially and bring her to bed with you when you go to bed, or when she wakes.
Remember that changing sleep habits takes time. You won't ever see a change overnight 😉 Generally I've found it takes at least two weeks if you want to work into it gently.
At her age I would put her down and then be right there with her. You can make soothing “shhh” sounds, pat her back, etc.
I have always felt comfortable with leaving a baby that is just “fussing” in the bed, simply making “shhh” sounds and sometimes rubbing their backs. But if the baby is crying I have picked him up, comforted him, then put him back down again.
I would either stay just beside her until she falls asleep, or do something around the room – where she can see you – until she falls asleep. If you're beside her you can work on slowly moving away a little more each night.
This is what I did with Galen. At this point I still sit in the room with him for the 5-10 minutes it takes him to go to sleep; I just read to him.
For really thorough details on these two methods and a lot more practical tips I recommend The Baby Sleep Solution which worked very well for us 🙂
Once you have her used to bedtime you can work on naps in the same way – work towards getting her used to not nursing to sleep before a nap, then put her down drowsy but not quite asleep.
Some moms are able to get their babies to nap independently for all of their naps. I have never been able to get mine to nap by themselves for their morning nap. I haven't minded being able to read or something while they nurse through that nap, so I haven't made too much effort. But I have wanted an independent afternoon nap, so I've worked towards that using the ideas I gave above.
Expect it to take some time, because changing sleep habits and routines almost always does, but it is possible to do so gently. Best of luck with your little one, and hopefully you'll be getting a little more “grownup time” in the evenings soon!