My daughter is 8 months old. She has slept with me since Day 1. Every nap and every night I lay with her while she sleeps.
Not only am I co sleeping with her, she sleeps while latched on. I have created this sleep association, and I feel bad about it! She wakes up throughout the night to make sure she is attached to me, and wont settle until she is.
If I ever try to sneak away she notices within a few minutes. I would like to teach her to fall asleep unassisted before she is too old.
I have read the No Cry, all the way to Ferber, but feel like the books aren't addressing my specific problem.
I really just don't know what to tackle first. Should I co sleep and not let her nurse? Or just put her in the crib and do it all at once? I feel awful thinking about this and wish there was a gentle and easy solution.
I've gotten three babies from my bed to their own beds so I can give you a few tips.
To start off with, though, the most important thing is to do what feels right to you, and to expect it to take some time.
I've always found that it takes about 2 weeks of being patient and consistent to help a child form new sleep habits.
You've said that you have a couple of big issues: one, that your daughter must have you in bed to be able to sleep. And two, she needs to be latched on to sleep!
Since you're not happy with this arrangement, it's time to change it. And that's OK.
I personally have never trained a baby to fall asleep without nursing. I've always nursed them just before bedtime. But my babies have learned that if they're nursed before bed and they're still awake (if they don't fall asleep nursing) that I'm still going to put them to bed!
With my first child I was in much the same situation as you. I had to go to bed at the same time as her because she needed me there in bed.
My first strategy with her was to get her used to sleeping without me there in the room. I'd lie down in bed with her and nurse her to sleep, then get up. If she woke again I'd go in, nurse her down, and get back up.
I started this when she was around 9 months old.(Hint: Would you like practical, no-nonsense, really-help-you-get-more sleep tips on handling nap time and bedtime with your little one? Check out the baby sleep crib sheet - no crib required - and get better sleep tonight. Get it here.)
I lived in a small house at this point and my bedroom was right off the living room so I could actually see into the room. I felt comfortable leaving her there. It took her several days but she started being able to sleep from the time I got up until I came to bed an hour or two later.
I didn't do this with my boys. With them I had a very set bedtime routine. At the end of the routine I'd rock them while nursing, then put them in bed. If they woke before I went to bed I'd nurse them and then put them right back in the bed. Eventually they, too, learned to sleep until I came to bed. I started this routine with them when they were young babies, though I think with persistence an older baby could learn it.
Night weaning is another option. I waited until around 12 months with my first two children to night wean. I start by just wearing a t-shirt to bed and refusing to nurse. I held the baby and comforted the crying (because they did cry), but I didn't nurse. Some mothers offer a sippy cup of water at this point but I only did it once or twice.
Again, it took several days, but the little one realized the milk bar wasn't going to be open at night anymore 😉
To move them from my bed to their own I've always had them start the night in their own bed (always in my room at first). I rocked and nursed the child at the end of the bedtime routine, then put them to bed in their own bed in my room. I'd leave them there for as long as they were sleeping. When they woke, I'd bring them into the bed with me to nurse.
After night weaning was done I'd often get up to comfort, then put them back in their own bed. They often didn't like this the first several nights, but quickly got used to it.
As I said above, I did this with my first two starting around 12 months. My third baby stayed in bed with me and nursed through the night until he was around 26 months because that was fine with both of us – though I did have him start out the night in his own bed starting around 19 or 20 months. My baby now is almost 13 months. He goes to sleep in his own bed to start out the night, then comes to bed with me when he wakes. He's still nursing at night. He's on the small side for his age so I want to keep him nursing at night.
I've found that I've wanted different things and my children have had different needs that have come into play with how I've done things with each one.
My basic strategy has just been to find what I need and be gentle about it, but firm and consistent.
I'm not sure if this helps at all – feel free to ask anymore questions or if you want to know about something specific.
Best of luck getting your little one used to sleeping better on her own!
Would you like step-by-step sleep guidance based on your baby's age and stage? I share proven, practical strategies to help get more sleep – and teach your little one lifelong good sleep habits in my baby and toddler sleep class. Click here to get more information on Go to Sleep! How to Help Your Baby and Toddler Sleep Well (so you can too)!