Feeding to sleep – no more (and no tears too!)

Am so pleased with our progress on three month old Baby’s sleep. I’ve gone from having to always feed him to sleep to popping him onto the bed awake and walking out after a very short time. His naps have also lengthened from 40 minutes or so to much longer – today he had one that was over three hours.

I was also very keen to avoid him having to cry it out. I tried (in desperation) a controlled crying approach with his older brother. I hated it and felt so disempowered. Having to ignore my instincts made me feel helpless. I really wanted to find another way.

So what did we do?

Firstly a few useful sleep facts which informed our approach. These are things I’ve read (mostly in the no cry sleep solution) and were reinforced by my experience with my two boys. Babies (and all people) stir frequently in their sleep. Usually this is between sleep cycles which in babies are around 40 minutes in length. The way babies fall asleep is often how they seek to go back to sleep when they stir between sleep cycles. So if a baby falls asleep in their bed on their own steam then after 40 minutes they’ll stir a little and almost always drop off for another cycle. All good. However if they are fed or rocked to sleep they are likely to stir after 40 minutes, wonder where they are, fret about where the boob/rocking has gone and wake up.

So armed with this knowledge I firstly tried to introduce a dummy. I hoped Baby could happily transition to falling asleep though sucking. But he wouldn’t take a dummy so this was not going to work.

Instead I started to rock him to sleep on my shoulder. I did this alongside introducing more of a routine so I could be assured that Baby wasn’t hungry when he was sleepy. At first he fussed A LOT before going to sleep. It wasn’t fun and took about twenty minutes for him to fall asleep in my arms. Once asleep I’d then put him down and he’d nap for (usually) 40 minutes.

Each time we did it he fell asleep faster. However it was back breaking stuff as he’s rather heavy. I had intended to gradually reduce the time I spent rocking etc. However after a week or so I was keen to move onto something else. By now he wasn’t looking for the breast to sleep. But he was still only taking a 40 minute nap.

It was more by luck than judgement that I found our next step. After rocking him for a while my back was aching and so I lay Baby on our double bed. I swaddled him and lay down next to him. When he fussed I put my hand on his tummy (whilst he was still in the swaddle) and rocked him gently back and forwards (more like side to side really.) Again he wasn’t all that happy but he fussed a bit, calmed down and eventually dozed off. My arm ached dreadfully but we’d done it – he’s fallen asleep on the bed!

Having done it once I was determined to carry on. Each time he went to sleep like this is was easier and he went to sleep with less fuss. I would swaddle him and jiggle him when he fussed. When he was calm I reduced the jiggling and just left my hand on his tummy. If for whatever reason he was fussier than usual then I found doing the jiggle and a shh-ing sound helpful. (Rather like the Baby Whisperer’s shh/pat.)

After about a week of doing this for all naps at home we’ve reached a new stage. When he is tired I carry him into the bedroom and swaddle him on our bed. I stay for a minute or so with my hand on him and then leave. He’s still awake at this point. He looks around and then dozes off. And sleeps for AGES – usually at least 90 minutes and sometimes more.

Am so pleased with what we’ve achieved. He is getting the sleep he needs and I have time to focus on his brother. And no tears! Or backache!! Plus I can always revert to the earlier stages if needed. So if for whatever reason he is cranky and struggling to doze off I can do some jiggling or even rocking. All safe in the knowledge that there is a path back to him falling asleep unaided. Very unlike ‘cry it out’ and the main reason I found it so disempowering.

My next step is to put him in his cot rather than on our bed. Now he’s regularly falling asleep virtually unaided this should be fine. I used the bed to save my arms but now he barely needs my help and so I hope this will be ok.

Our bigger future challenge is to remove the swaddle. I intend to do this when he has better arm control and will no longer bash himself in the face after each sleep cycle as he tries to suck his fingers. I hope to do the transition gradually. However my fear is that his naps will shorten considerably. Any tips on doing this gratefully received!

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2 Responses to “Feeding to sleep – no more (and no tears too!)”

  1. It’s all gone horribly wrong! | Don't wake the baby! Says:

    […] the cheery post of a couple of weeks back? Where I boasted of our successful transition from breastfeeding to […]

  2. So pissed off with sleep issues right now | Don't wake the baby! Says:

    […] again shall I post up about our sleeping success. It’s definitely a jinxing thing to do. Twice I’ve done this, saying we seem to be getting there. And twice it’s been only a few days […]

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