Our daughter has been sleeping in our bed since we moved to Nashville. It started out as a convenience thing but then we really loved having her next to us.
Five months later, I was completely touched out and tired of sleeping with a baby attached to my boob all night long.
I desperately needed a good night’s sleep, so I wanted to get her in her crib, but I didn’t have the strength to try. Then one day, she fell asleep on the bed next to Marty without any help. She just lied down and went to sleep on her own. So we decided to try putting her in her own room!
Except, Rue was not having it. Not at all.
We would rock her for twenty to thirty minutes until she was in a deep sleep (or so we thought), and she would wake up screaming every time we tried to put her down in her crib. We did this for three days, each day bringing her back into our bed after several attempts.
After a long day with several failed attempts at getting her to sleep in her crib, she started falling asleep while playing. She crashed on the floor for 45 minutes. Pant-less, surrounded by toys, lights on, and everything.
A light bulb went off. A friend of mine offered to let me use her “No Cry Sleep Solution” book, but I never got around to getting it. So I figured I could read my baby’s cues to devise a plan that would get her to sleep in her own room without letting her cry it out instead. Since she napped so well on the floor, I made her a bed on the floor that night and nursed her to sleep. She slept for six hours straight and only woke up to nurse once. The next morning, she was happy as a clam!
DISLAIMER: This is in no way a debate about the CIO method. I know it works for a lot of people, and that’s great! It did not work for us, so we had to design our own approach. I am not a doctor, parenting expert, sleep specialist, etc. I’m just a mom figuring it out each day and sharing my experiences with you all.
HERE’S WHAT WORKED FOR US:
1.) Set a routine.
Many people have success with the bath time, story time, bed time routine. Rue gets too wound up over baths and stories so I memorized Sleep Tight, Sleepy Bears and The Going to Bed Book and I recite them to her as I rock her to sleep.
Ours routine is: Put on sleep sack, turn off the light, turn on the sound machine/projector, sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and recite two books. I like this routine because I can do it anywhere at any time and she knows that when I start reciting those books in my soft voice, it’s time to sleep. (This has been a life saver for me in the car!)
2.) Create a Comfort Zone.
Prior to this, Rue never had a lovey,a blankey, or a binkey at night because she had us to cuddle and mommy to pacify on. We thought it would be good to give her something to hold on to for comfort in her own bed. So we bring her teddy to the rocking chair with us and she sleeps holding it. I put it on my chest so she can squeeze his head instead of my breast while falling asleep. This makes teddy smell like us and hopefully brings her some comfort in the middle of the night. We also lie her on her side now because that’s how she prefers to sleep, and we cover her from the waist down with a light weight crocheted blankey.
(If your baby is younger than 6 months old, can not sit unassisted, or hold herself up in a push-up, back is best and please forgo the use of the teddy and blankey to prevent any possible suffocation.)
3.) Get Baby Used to Her Room.
We played in her room for 30-60 minutes before and after each nap for the first week so she wasn’t afraid to be in there. We also put her down for every nap in her room. For the first 10 days, I nursed her to sleep on her bed on the floor. I think it really helped the transition because she was so used to falling asleep next to me. It also made her crib mattress smell like me. Sometimes I had to nurse her for an hour before I could unlatch her without waking, but on the 11th day, I was finally able to put her mattress back in the crib.
4.) Let Daddy Help.
It took a few days, but after much perseverance on Marty’s part, Rue now let’s Daddy put her to sleep. Our “rule” is that I put her down for the night and Marty goes in to rock her back to sleep the first time she wakes (which is almost always an hour after she goes down, if not sooner). Then we just alternate throughout the night. I sleep so much better now. And Rue does too. At least once a night I completely sleep through her crying because Marty gets up to soothe her and she then sleeps for 6-7 hours after he puts her down. (I think this is because she can’t get milk from him. So she doesn’t associate sleep with nursing when Daddy takes over. Thus, she doesn’t wake up every hour for more milk. Just my theory.)
5.) Be Consistent.
No matter how tired you are, if you want your baby to adjust to sleeping in their own room, you have to resist the urge to bring them in bed with you in the middle of the night the first few weeks. When I’m too tired to sit up and rock her back to sleep, I lie her on the floor and nurse her to sleep in the side lying position, then carefully move her into her crib.
6.) Follow Baby’s Lead.
It took us about 6 months to notice a pattern in her sleep schedule. She usually naps at 9 am, 12 pm, and 4 pm, and goes to bed by 8:00 pm (give or take an hour on either end of all of these). So these are now my target times for putting her down. Be flexible. A happy baby is more important than any schedule will ever be.
That being said, if she starts crying as soon as I get up from the rocking chair, I sit back down, recite her the books and sing to her again.
If she lets me get up from the rocking chair but starts crying as soon as I lie her down, I pick her up, rock her in front of her crib, and sing to her until she’s asleep enough to lie back down.
Now she’s gotten so used to our routine that I don’t even have to pick her up from her crib if she starts to cry when I lie her down. I just rub her hair and pat her bottom and she falls right back asleep. (This took me five weeks to achieve!)
7.) Go With the Flow.
Babies are crazy. They don’t know what they need and they’re always going through something. Growth spurts…teething…mental leaps…major milestones, etc. We’re right in the middle of leap 6 on the Wonder Weeks chart. On top of that, she is about to cut a couple more teeth. She slept in our bed twice last week because it was impossible to get her to sleep in her crib. Once those couple of hard days were over, she was back in her bed and slept so long that I had to get up in the middle of the night to pump.
If you’re past the second week and you’ve established a good routine, this is not going to set you back at all. The most important thing is transitioning your baby gently, and that means giving them extra cuddles and night feeds if that’s what they need. I always put Rue in her bed for naps during the day though, so we don’t lose momentum.
So this is how we used common sense and our baby’s cues to get her to sleep in her own room without letting her CIO. This is not about sleep training or sleeping through the night. Rue has always loved being held, so our goal was never to lie her down in her crib and let her “self soothe” until she fell asleep on her own. We figured if we wanted her to enjoy sleeping in her own room, she needed to feel secure in doing that, and that meant getting her acclimated with as much of our help as needed.
Though gentle on baby, this approach is absolutely exhausting for mommy & daddy at first. It gets easier after a couple of weeks. We’re on week six and Marty just put Rue down for her last nap of the day in two minutes. She napped for an hour and fifteen minutes! A big difference from the 30 minute naps she used to take!
The next thing we will work on after this leap is over is feeding her 30-60 minutes before bed time so that she doesn’t need to nurse to sleep anymore. (Our hope is to go out for a date night that doesn’t get cut off by a cranky baby who needs milkies!)
This transition will suck at first. Your baby will wake up frequently. You will be exhausted. You will cry. You will want to give up. But if you really want your baby to sleep in their own bed, please don’t give up. It gets better.
Eventually your baby will love sleeping in their own bed and you will love sleeping in yours again. My heart explodes every time I turn over in the middle of the night and find my husband’s embrace. Baby cuddles are sweet, but nursing a baby all night long, is exhausting. It took a toll on my back and I could never fully rest with her next to me.
By the time 6 am rolls around, we bring her into bed with us to “sleep” for another hour or so. Mostly because we’re not ready to be up yet, but also because we miss our sweet baby cuddles. So we get the best of both worlds now!
Again, this is just what worked for us. The most important thing is that you read your baby’s cues and devise a plan that fits your space, schedule, routines, and family. If you would rather start by putting baby’s crib in your room instead of making a bed on the floor in her room, try that! If bath time and story time calms your baby down before bed, do that! If your baby takes a bottle from daddy and a binky at night, continue what you’re doing! You know your baby better than anyone else. Please give them whatever they need to feel safe to sleep without you. Just be consistent with whatever routine you choose and feel free to break your own “rules” and make new ones as you go along.
Before we know it, those two hellish weeks we spent getting baby to sleep in her own room will be a faded memory. Soon our babies will be pushing us away and wiping off our kisses, and we’ll wonder where the time went.
Good luck on this new journey towards a more peaceful night’s sleep fellow mamas and papas. May the force be with you!
L, M, & R