Our five steps to better baby sleep. Or how my son became slightly less of a feed-to-sleep addict.

Bub's very first sleepI wrote a few days ago about how Bub’s feed-to-sleep habit had got to the point where he was waking around every 90 minutes at night, all night. Sometimes even more frequently. I was getting to the end of my tether…

But things have improved A LOT in the last two weeks. In the last few nights Bub had one night where he slept six hours straight. And another where he only woke twice. And none of this has involved him crying (though I may have shed a few tired tears myself!) 

So what have we done and how has it helped?

1. I accepted that he had a feed-to-sleep association

Due to my low milk supply in the evenings I always had a doubt in my mind over whether it might simply be hunger causing the wakings. Until I was reassured on this I found it hard to summon the will to try to make a change.

2. We started to offer a bottle of formula as part of Bub’s bedtime routine

Offering formula was a response to my low milk supply, which was worsening as he got older. I still offer a breastfeed, after the bottle. The consequence was that our bedtime routine stopped taking two or three hours and Bub went to bed, full and satisfied, at a regular time. It also reassured me that when he woke 45 minutes later and wanted milk that it was his sleep association talking, not hunger.

3. We noted and respected Bub’s regular nap/sleep times

I was so shattered I needed Bub’s daddy to take on more of his care. I wrote out Bub’s typical day and noted when I’d expect him to nap. Usually I would try to watch him for signs of tiredness, but sometimes these can get missed. Having consciously thought through his typical day meant I ended up following it much more closely. Have been amazed how many times I’ve taken a not-looking-tired Bub into the bedroom at his usual nap time, started our nap routine and seen him suddenly get very sleepy. We are also trying really hard to keep our outings and trips out of nap time to let him get proper rest at home.

4. I expanded Bub’s bed/nap time routine

Previously Bub’s pre-bed routine was go into bedroom, shut curtains, put on grobag, breastfeed to sleep, go into cot. Very focused on the feeding. I’ve now extended it by adding in a couple of steps. After putting on the grobag I sit him on my lap, with a dim light on, and we read a few books. Takes about 5 minutes or so. I then turn the lights out, cuddle him and we sing a couple of nursery rhymes. I then breastfeed him to sleep/sleepy. I’ve definitely noticed the impact of these extra stages. He gets sleepy during the books and now seems to know that bedtime is near. It feels like I’m now only using breastfeeding to ‘finish the job’, rather than take him from wide awake to asleep. My goal is to eventually ease out of the pre-sleep feeds altogether when hopefully the new routine will do the job instead.

5. I began to use the ‘Pantley Pull Off’

The Pantley Pull Off was coined by Elizabeth Pantley in her book The No Cry Sleep Solution and details are available on her website.

When your baby wakes, go ahead and pop his pacifier or his bottle in his mouth, or nurse him. But, instead of leaving him there and going back to bed, or letting him fall asleep at the breast, let him suck for a few minutes until his sucking slows and he is relaxed and sleepy. Then break the seal with your finger and gently remove the pacifier or nipple….It may take two to five (or even more) attempts, but eventually your baby will fall asleep without the pacifier or nipple in her mouth. When she has done this a number of times over a period of days, you will notice the removals are much easier, and her awakenings are less frequent.

Doing this method hasn’t been entirely straightforward and I don’t think we’re probably quite there yet. But even doing it partially and possibly incorrectly has helped no end. I think this is probably the key step in helping Bub to break his habit. It probably deserves a post in its own right, perhaps when we are a little further down the line. But for now I am delighted with our progress using this method. I’d urge anyone wondering if it’s worth the bother to give it a go.

So there you have it. The five steps that have taken us from waking six plus times a night to around two-ish. In less than two weeks. With no tears. It is only early days and I’m not trying to say we have it sussed by any stretch of the imagination. But things were so bad and are now by comparison so much better it felt like it was worth sharing. Now so long as we can hold off teething, colds, other ailments and anything else that might disturb his sleep things can hopefully only get better!

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2 Responses to “Our five steps to better baby sleep. Or how my son became slightly less of a feed-to-sleep addict.”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Great! I used the ‘Pantley pull off’ with my older girls. I find the regular naps help a lot and the pre-bed signs of stories, same songs etc. Unfortunately I’m not always to put baby first, when my older girls demand attention and sometimes she crashes to sleep on my should between 6 and 7 whilst I’m still trying to tidy up after dinner or help my school girl with homework etc. but I know we’ll get there. Baby is happy and I’m looking out for my older girls emotional happiness too. Now I just need to make sure I get enough rest to keep myself sane 😉 x

    Your baby is gorgeous and it’s so lovely to read a loving, gentle post about getting babies to sleep. All the best x

  2. Crying. The baby sleep blues. « Jenmum's adventures in parenting Says:

    […] my optimistic post of a few weeks back about our success with the Pantley Pull Off this didn’t continue. Bub would come off the […]

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