elevating child care

How To Help Your Baby To Sleep (Without Rocking)

Hi Janet,
I am an ardent follower of your blog and always look forward to your posts!  My name is Mandy and I am a stay-at-home-mom to an 11 month old son who is extremely intelligent and aware.  He is able to play by himself for long periods of time and is generally a very happy little man.  Unfortunately, we have had some major sleep issues since he was 3 or 4 months old.  He typically needs 3 – 4 naps per day, each nap only lasting about 1/2 an hour, and about 12 hours of sleep per night.  But, the only way to get him to sleep is by rocking him to sleep (it can take anywhere from 15 -90 minutes each time), and he wakes up at least 3 times per night.  He loves to be held and if I hold him he sleeps much better.  My question is this: how can I help him become a better sleeper?  Should I let him cry it out (even though last time we tried he ended up crying for over 4 hours)? I have tried everything, what should I do next?
Thanks so much for your help and insight!
Sincerely, 
Mandy

Hi Mandy,

Your boy sounds like a great guy! Let’s try to help him find sleep a little more independently.

For the first several months most babies sleep the way you describe (waking in the night for feedings, short naps, etc.). It sounds like you might have tried to make sleep happen a little more quickly and easily by rocking your boy, which created a habit. Most of us do some version of this with our babies, especially firstborns. We feel like it’s our job to make our babies sleep, when actually our job is to create an environment conducive to sleep, then patiently allow it to happen.

You can definitely help him break this rocking habit without leaving him to cry alone, but as with any change in routine, there will probably be some crying and struggle involved. Here are some things you might try…

The basic plan
Make a commitment to do a little less than you are doing and allow him to do a little more. Start with naps, and after a couple of days, transition to the new routine at nighttime, too.

Helpful ingredients
Fresh air, unrestricted free movement and play (those long periods of play are wonderful and even better when they happen outdoors), predictable, peaceful, slow-paced days, taking care to protect against overstimulation — all contribute to healthy sleep. Try to sensitively watch for early signs of tiredness (for some children it’s a dazed expression), because over-tiredness can cause resistance to sleep.

Prepare
First, tell him what you will do and acknowledge the changes. “Today for nap I will stay next to you until you fall asleep. Usually I hold and rock you, but now I’m going to let you relax while I stay next to you. It’s going to feel a little different.” Keep the rest of his bedtime routine exactly the same. For example: a bath, nursing or bottle-feeding, a story, a song, closing the shades or curtains, turning on a music box, etc.

At bedtime
Instead of rocking, just touch if he seems to want that.  Lie next to him if he’s in your bed, or sit next to his crib and be there supporting him, speaking to him soothingly while he settles into sleep. It may be rough the first few times you try this. Calm yourself so that he can be assured that all is well. The first minutes of crying are usually self-regulation, discharging excess energy. If his crying escalates, acknowledge his feelings. “You’re having a hard time calming down.” Some children find it easier to let go and relax if you leave the room, but if your instinct tells you otherwise (or the baby’s cries escalate), stay. If you do leave, be sure to tell him, “Have a good rest, I love you, I’ll be back if you need me.”

Remember to think of this as a very positive journey you are having together, because it is! You are helping him learn something really important — the skill of falling asleep independently. And that means when he stirs at night and wakes a little (as all young children do), he will soon have the confidence and the ability to find sleep again, rather than becoming fully awake and needing your help as he has been doing.  The key is to trust your boy to learn this skill and refrain from interference that conveys to him that he can’t. Project confidence.

“Remember, nobody can make another person fall asleep. How to relax and let sleep come is a skill your child, like everybody else, must learn all by herself.”Magda Gerber

Results
Once you’ve found a rhythm he will sleep better, and you will sleep better. I’ve seen this happen with families in my classes many, many times. It’s like a miracle. The baby comes to class a different person, plays for longer periods, copes better, and is far more relaxed and focused. The parents are ecstatic and a little stunned, finally remembering what it was like to function with a decent amount of sleep again.

Please let me know what you decide to do and how it works out…

Thank you for your kind words about the blog!

Warmly,
Janet

Please look here for more responses to parents’ questions about sleep. Most were contributed by sleep specialist and RIE Associate Eileen Henry.

(Photo by Stacy Lynn Photography on Flickr.)

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61 Responses to “How To Help Your Baby To Sleep (Without Rocking)”

  1. Janet, i wish I had taken these words to heart with my firstborn. Now that I have two children, I see how spot-on you are when you say that most of us rock our children, especially firstborns. We rocked our first child ALL the time, and it took her such a long time to learn how to sleep independently. When we finally came to our senses it seemed like it was too late. Of course it wasn’t, but it did take a lot more work and patience on our part. With our second child I vowed to do it differently with trust that she could fall to sleep on her own. And it works! Passing this post along…

  2. Mandy, if it’s any comfort I went through exactly the same thing with my son. The small amount of sleep during the day can be an indicator of giftedness, if that’s any comfort- to me it certainly sounds like your son is a LOT like mine, and mine has turned out to be extremely bright.

    I certainly wish I had had this advice 26 years ago! I think I was sleep deprived for about 6 years, as my son never needed as much sleep as I did.

  3. avatar Knaidel says:

    My 9-month-old daughter is like this, too. (except rocking doesn’t usually do it for her, I need to jump through different hoops every time… Used to be nursing but I’ve been partially successful at breaking that habit only to replace it with a whole repertoire of holding, walking, bouncing, patting, singing, stroking…) I have tried what you outlined above based on common sense and various things I’ve read and it’s not working at all. Whenever I do anything less than usual, the baby gets hysterical. She ALWAYS outlasts me – I have tried to be extremely persistent but she can go on shreiking hysterically for hours. Often I end up having to nurse her because nothing else will console her by that time.

    My latest effort was the “Baby Whisperer” Pick-up/Put-down method. After a few put-downs, she figured out what was going on; She’d stand up and reach for me to pick her up but then when I reached towards her, she turned away and sat back down crying harder because she knew I wasn’t really going to rescue her. After forty minutes of trying in which she didn’t calm down at all, I just left the room and let her cry herself to sleep (she was totally exhausted, even before that she’d already failed to fall asleep with my husband rocking her and fallen asleep on me but woken up when I moved)

    So now I feel terrible :-( When I went back to check on her she must have fallen asleep sitting up because she was flopped over in a most ridiculous position. And after all that misery… And this has been going on for weeks. Sometimes I think we’re seeing some improvement (4 hours in the crib! Yay!) but then there’s another regression. I’m at my wits’ end.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Knaidel! You are reminding me of a story Magda Gerber used to tell… There are two parents with crying babies. One is rocking, holding, bouncing, patting, singing, stroking. The other is calmly holding or touching the baby, or just remaining supportively in her presence. Both babies continue to cry until they finally fall asleep.

      The point is that rather than battle with the baby (with the best of intentions) and attempt to force sleep, let go, calm yourself and trust. The baby feels it when we are anxious, exhausted, frustrated, working hard. Babies sense our agenda a mile away. Tell yourself it will be alright with you if she cries, because you are going to calmly stick it out with her and support her with all the love in the world while she struggles. If she’s in her own room, have a comfy place there where you can be. Do whatever it takes to make yourself comfortable.

      Your daughter’s strong personality will serve her well in the future… :)

  4. avatar Maree says:

    Hello. Just wondering if there is any advice for me and my 6 week old. The only way to get him to sleep without endless crying is for me or my husband to hold him close to us. Also, once he is asleep, even in a deep sleep, if we put him down in his bassinett, he wakes up after 5 minutes, crying. The only exception is at night when I am able to put him in his bassinett straight after a feed and he usually goes to sleep. As he is only still so young, Im hoping there might be something we can do differently, before a habit is formed.
    I had been hoping that as he gets a little older he may naturally not need us holding him for him to sleep, but Im not so sure?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Maree! The good news here is that your baby is certainly capable of sleeping in the bassinet, because he does so at night. He’s just having a more difficult time settling down during the day and at 6 weeks he’s still finding his rhythm. Just keep in mind that you are going to be gradually developing a routine in reponse to his biological needs and clock. You’ll want to catch tiredness early, keep stimulation low, give him lots of fresh air and time on his back to stretch and move.

      Does he need to burp when he wakes up after 5 minutes?

      For now, you might try lying next to him in your bed and just circling your arm around his head so that he feels you close and feels cradled, but he is still in the position you want him to sleep in. Then when he is asleep, you won’t wake him by adjusting his position. (But if he takes naps on your bed, make sure there is a railing up so he doesn’t fall. )

      • avatar Clara says:

        I’m in this same predicament right now with my 6 week old. She will still cry while I am next to her so after a minute I pick her up and rock her until she falls asleep. Should I just lay there next to her until she eventually falls asleep? It doesn’t feel right to let a 6 week old cry that much.

        • avatar Sarah says:

          Goodness. Being a mom is always going to be a challenge. Some babies sleep easily some don’t. But one thing I read is that BREASTFEEDING AT NIGHT IS NOT A BAD HABIT. :) Actually, read this: http://breastfeedchicago.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/5-cool-things-no-one-ever-told-you-about-nighttime-breastfeeding/

          You make more milk at night. Your milk has melatonin in it at night which helps baby sleep. And it is important to nurse at night for your milk supply.

          But whatever. It’s your baby and you’re going to do what you want to do anyway. If your baby goes to sleep without your help, congratulations. Mine doesn’t! And yes, it is hard. Being a mom is going to be hard in a lot of ways and this is just one of them so get used to it.

          • avatar janet says:

            Sarah – with respect, I have little patience for your “just suck it up” attitude. An 11 month old baby is perfectly capable of sleeping without being rocked and without multiple nighttime feedings. If parents are interested in healthier sleep for their babies, they need to take responsibility for the habits they’ve created.

  5. Hi Mandy,
    I’d like to give you an additional thought that might help you through the transition. A mother in the class we attend with our son had the same question and was exhausted as well. Another mom said: “What helped me through the transition and my daughters struggles was the thought ‘I just help you to be more independent.’”
    I thought this was a much better approach than – as many of us do – thinking of our poor little baby crying and us being bad parents. Because we’re not.

    All the best and thank you Janet for always finding the right words!

    nadine

    • avatar janet says:

      Nadine, thank you… I couldn’t agree more about not being “bad parents”. Helping our children to sleep well is a very positive undertaking!

  6. avatar Rose says:

    Knaidel, I have almost the exact problem. Whatever I do that isn’t nursing-her-to-sleep turns into cry-it-out (not complaints, but tears and screams) and then, as you say, she outlasts me, and I end up nursing AGAIN. And sometimes I know the nursing will work and I want to be quick about it. I also have a toddler and it’s really hard because I can’t devote as much time to coming and going (Sleep Lady style) or whatnot because I have toddler needs to attend to as well.

    I am taking to heart the advice here and elsewhere about how it is being a good parent to let them get to sleep independently, so I keep trying, but it is so hard. Anyway, good to know I’m not alone.

    Thanks.

  7. Great advice…I work with parents and babies and sleep. Your little guy is having his problems settling himself. Consistency and routine are so important.
    Try to also recognize when he is showing the first signs of being tired …that is usually the best time to put him down for a nap. He may cry a little but you can stay nearby and soothe him with your voice and a gentle touch. He should ideally be taking two naps one in the morning and one in the afternoon and he should not be waking during the night.
    Does he have a special ‘lovey’ that he goes to sleep with? That might also help him feel secure and help him soothe himself to sleep.
    Dr. Harvey Karp’s book “The Happiest Baby on the Block” is a very good to help understand the importance of routine and consistency and offers some excellent advice.
    Good luck!

  8. since having my first baby in January, infant sleep has been my OBSESSION! i can’t believe there are a myriad of breastfeeding and baby care classes for pregnant women, but no sleep 101 classes. such a shame! then, when we’re all sleep deprived and desperate new mommies, we’re expected to read long, wordy sleep books and have the strength to implement the tactics, even when it means losing even more sleep in the process.

    i’ve found that the best solutions to sleep problems are holistic and gradual, which is why i really like your advice about toning down your involvement a little bit at a time. i remember i used to have to sing while rocking, bouncing and walking around the room, then let baby fall asleep on my shoulder, then after holding her like a statue for 30 mins, i could *maybe* put her into her crib and creep out like a burgler. only to have her wake up 20 minutes later. it was so stressful.

    but i had set a goal of teaching my LO how to fall asleep on her own, and did what you suggest. each night i took away one of the rituals until eventually, much to my surprise, my mom was able to pop LO into the crib and she sucked on her pajamas and hummed herself to sleep.

    after you get self-soothing down, good communication during the day and a great routine that fits your baby’s sleep requirements is essential for maintaining good sleep.

    one of the ONLY books that really helped me was “Dream Baby Guide” by Sheyne Rowley. from what i can tell about rie (regretfully i haven’t had time to get into rie’s philosophy, besides your wonderful blog) Dream Baby Guide is very much in line with encouraging independence and self-soothing in babies by giving them space, independent play time (especially in the crib!) and guiding them through good communication. basically, taking away their burden to lead, so they are relaxed enough to fall asleep on their own. that book is so priceless, and i recommend it to any moms out there desperate for a total routine and sleep overhaul.

    (btw, i saw your note on facebook about maybe writing a guest post about how i learned my baby could self-soothe. i would be honored! i’ll be brainstorming :)

    • also, to the original poster of the question, i used to have a chronic catnapper too! after about 5 or 6 months of age, when babes are able to stay awake a little longer without going totally nuts, it really helped us to implement an age-appropriate “by the clock” nap schedule (probably 2 naps at your baby’s age?) and really stick with it, instead of doing 3 or 4 (or sometimes 5) catnaps at various times, in order to get baby into a sleep rhythm. this goes against a lot of sleep advice to put baby down at the first sign of tiredness, but at least for my baby, she falls asleep faster and stays asleep longer when she’s stretched a bit. a good piece of advice from the book i mentioned above is “don’t make up for ‘bad’ or lost sleep by offering ‘good’ sleep at the wrong time.” hope that helps!

    • avatar janet says:

      Yes, please do brainstorm about the guest post, it can be a detailed account of the story you relayed to me, with a little of your history and what’s happened since then. I’d love that!

      BTW, if anyone else has interesting or surprising stories to report (when something “worked”), I’d love to hear them.

      Your story about the statue, etc., made me chuckle! And reminded me of the importance of keeping our sense of humor as a survival tool in these early years of parenting especially.

      The “Dream Baby Guide” sounds good (great title!). Yes, playing in the crib, getting comfortable there is very helpful. Some parents worry that babies shouldn’t sleep where they play, but that’s not true at all. The more the baby enjoys that space, the more amenable he is to relaxing and going to sleep there. Communicating with babies from the beginning is also vital. What do you mean by “taking away their burden to lead”?

      Anyway, thanks for the recommendations!

  9. avatar Jessica Z. says:

    I wanted to share that my 12-month-old has similar sleep issues, especially now that she is very mobile and walking. The most helpful thing I found was in Janet’s forums (http://janetlansbury.com/community). There was a post about sleep that practically brought tears to my eyes. The response that resonated with me was to stand near the crib talking soothingly to your baby, letting him/her know that you loved him/her, that he/she needed sleep to grow/learn/play, that you were confident in/trusted him to fall asleep on his/her own, that he/she is safe and that you are right here in the house even if you are not next to him/her. I have a refrain I use when getting my daughter to sleep when she has trouble. As soon as she starts to try to play or get more worked up, I say “I see you have having trouble settling down with me here. I will leave you alone to fall asleep. I know you can do it on your own, but if you are not asleep in 5/7/10 minutes (I increase the times of my checks) I will check on you. Have a beautiful sleep. I love you.” This is what I have found to work best (and I have tried all sorts of sleep solutions). I am still including nursing as part of our soothing before sleep (most times being sure she is awake when I put her in her crib, unless she totally passes out) and when I do eliminate this I plan to use this approach (I know this is different, but I trust you to be able to fall asleep on your own). I have to say that Janet’s/Gerber’s approach to sleep for difficult sleepers has worked best for our family. Good luck!

  10. I don’t fully understand what you suggest to do after initially lying the baby down to soothe himself to sleep. If his crying escalates, do you suggest picking him up and putting him back down, and repeating this until he soothes himself? Or just remaining nearby for support? I’m going through exactly what Mandy & Knaidel are describing. Our bed time routine is the same every night and we’re beginning to have some good nights of sleep, but I’m wondering what I can do to help with consistency.

    • avatar janet says:

      I suggest acknowledging that he’s having a difficult time, caressing him and speaking to him softly and soothingly, but probably not picking him up, because that changes his position… We can be just as present, loving and supportive without picking the baby up. This definitely isn’t an exact science, but if you want him to find sleep comfortably in his bed, picking him up will interrupt that process. As Magda Gerber writes in Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect, “Waking up in a crib with no memory of having been put there can be disorienting and scary. Younger babies who are lifted into their cribs when asleep may wake up confused because of the sudden change (going from a more upright position to lying flat).”

      The most important thing is to be calm, accepting and believe your baby capable.

      • avatar Jen says:

        Hi. I’m really enjoying what I’ve read so far of your blog. My baby is 7 months old and I find myself in a similar situation to others here. We hardly put her down for the first weeks and since then have gotten into some bad sleeping habits, bouncing, rocking, walking her to sleep and at night feeding her to sleep in our bed, throughout the night. We are ready to change these habits (though I fear being stuck at home every day) but struggle with putting her down. It’s especially hard when I’m in the room, she cries and screams, I assume she knows I have the breastmilk. It works a bit better when my husband settles her, but he can’t do it all the time! I think I understand what you are suggesting, but is 7 months too young for her to understand when I explain that we are trying to make these changes and I’m there for her but not going to pick her up, etc…? I feel so unsure, I want my baby to be/grow up to be an independent happy little sleeper but I’m stuck between the hardcore AP people and this seemingly sensible approach which requires much more from me, and from my baby. Sorry if this is a little rambly, I just feel like I need some advice! Earlier I read a post/advice about toddlers and I feel like we are on the wrong track already and I’m not sure how to make these changes, at only 7 months! Anyway, thanks so much for your blog.

        • avatar janet says:

          Jen, thanks for sharing about your process. Seven months is not too young to be talked to honestly and understand at least some of what is being communicated. As hard as it is, the most important thing is not to feel unsure, because it is far more difficult (if not impossible) for your baby to feel okay and settled if you don’t. It might help to think in terms of “needs”. Some babies need to feel close and attended to while they fall asleep, especially if that is what they are used to. (Other babies need us to let go a little more, so they can, too.) But babies don’t need to be bounced, rocked, etc. This is a habit, but NOT a need. So feel good about giving your baby the contact that she needs, but don’t feel neglectful because you haven’t altered her state of consciousness (which is what rocking, etc., does). Acknowledge any feelings she expresses while you do a little less.

  11. avatar Skyfire says:

    My oldest was a dream come true for sleep. She would fuss when she was tired, but as soon as she found (at maybe 2-3 months old) that she could pull a blanket over her face and shut out the world, she would go to sleep on her own. That’s when I learned to make her sleeping room dark. I sang to her during our night routine, at first in my arms, and then, after she weaned, I’d put her in her crib first and sing her to sleep there. She slept through the night by 5 months.

    My 9mo baby girl is not so easy. She’s much more active, for one, and we’ve had a lot of upheaval in our lives since she’s been born. Now that we’re settled, I have been trying to add a bit more structure to our days and it has helped a lot. It helped me to set clear goals, one at a time, and to honestly evaluate the results of each tactic. It also helped me to nap with my baby, so I wasn’t as exhausted at night and could stay calmer.

    She sleeps better, but we’re still working on it. I appreciate this advice, because it confirms what feels natural to me.

  12. avatar Aneela 786 says:

    Pheueewwu, finally I’m finish reading, I will start the process soon with my little one, I know it will be hard because he’s so used to sleeping with me on my bed.

    Thankyou sooo Soooooo much, janet. O wish o have found yew a year ago when my little was born, oh well not too late. I will let you know if it works.
    Aneela

  13. avatar Snail says:

    Hi Janet

    Just wondered on your thoughts for an 18 month old that breastfeeds to sleep currently. If I put him into his bed when he is awake he says “mama pick” (meaning pick me up) and then “mama milk”. I am guessing you would just acknowledge…but not do those things. I feel this is too cruel as he has only just learnt to communicate his needs and this is what he wants. Thoughts.

    • avatar janet says:

      Snail, one thing is certain… If you think it is cruel, it is definitely not going to work. I can certainly understand wanting to encourage your little guy’s communication, which is what “acknowledging” does. “I hear you want me to pick you up, but it’s time for sleep now. I’m looking forward to picking you up and having mama milk in the morning.” You might even add, “Thank you so much for telling me these things.”

  14. avatar Laurence P says:

    Mister A. is the nightmare of all sleep advisers… I think I tried almost everything apart from crying it out and controled crying (Gerber, Pantley, Sears, Ferber’s books). But all he does is going crescendo until I either rock him to sleep or nurse him…
    I tried many times to aknowledge and accept cries in my arms. The worst time he cried for an whole hour. Real cries with tears, louder and louder, and not any closer to sleep. Although you would think that after an hour of sobs in the middle of the night, he would get tired enough (I know I would)… And afterwards (crying myself and histerical because 60 minutes is a very long time to spend with a foghorn in your ears) it took me even more time to make him sleep even with my weapon of massive destruction : the breast.
    I have the feeling he is fighting sleep. It is strange. But really I’m beginning to think I’ll just have to wait until he decides that he can sleep by himself…

    As Rose says it is really conforting to know that you are not alone… Maybe some kids are of different sleep material and just think there is too much to do in awake life ?

    • avatar Anya says:

      I think you’re right about some babies fighting sleep – that’s what I feel our daughter is (was?) like. She’s always been very alert, intense, focused, and smart. Now, at 13 months, she is enjoying sleep – and is now a “sunny baby”, as people often say. We intuitively used Janet’s approach from the get go (although I haven’t found Janet’s blog until April), always had consistent routines, but nothing worked until she turned 10 months. Then, one day, miraculously, she just smiled, rolled on her tummy and closed her eyes as soon as I put her in the crib.

      I wonder if she’s been fighting sleep because she did not want to miss out on things or was fearful – and at some point she understood that I was always there for her and that all the fun things we do will resume after the nap/night. Basically, she heard me.

      How old is Mr. A? I love how you’re approaching this with a sense of humor :) Best of luck to your family!..

      • avatar janet says:

        I agree with both of you that there are children who are more inclined to fight sleep. I have one of those! And his older two sisters were great sleepers, so I really thought I had this down until I had him. It was humbling. He didn’t sleep through the night on a regular basis until he was two or two and a half. He is 10 now and still a guy with huge energy, very positive energy and a zest for life, so I really think there is something to Laurence’s comment about children not wanting to miss out on things. In that sense we could look at this very positively. These children don’t want to let go of their wonderful life!

        But having said all of that, I think the rocking habit (or any parent-created habit that “puts children to sleep”) makes this process far more difficult. Just my opinion. My experience working with parents has been that the parent either gets tired of the rocking or it stops working…and then there’s a difficult transition period that wouldn’t have been necessary otherwise.

        • avatar Laurence P says:

          Mister A. is eleven months. For some time sleep was easy (around three months). Then we moved out, it was an awful period with a lot of tension between me and the father. Then, he couldn’t sleep until two in the morning. After some work on it, he was waking at least once at night and not sleeping until eleven in the evening. That wasn’t perfect but I could try some things, to drag him to a more reasonable hour to fall asleep, sometimes he would fall asleep on his own in his crib. Then at around seven months his sleep became completely chaotic : three wakings at night, no more timetable for naps. As I’m not working right now and thus the only one to wake up (and sometimes almost 12 to 14 hours alone to take care of him), my goal at night became to put him back to sleep the fastest that I could. Just for survival’s sake.
          I surched for medical reason for this sudden change. But when you’re nursing an eight months old in France, most doctors think that’s the problem and that weaning is the only healthy thing to do sleep problems or not. They have a bottle scheme in mind and just tell you “at this age (five months) he should take the breast four times a day and sleep 12 hours a night”. Unfortunatly Mister A. haven’t read their book…

          Anyway I think it would be best for everyone if he didn’t need help to sleep. But I also think that he needs a very progressive approach (I haven’t found yet) to learn it. Because at the very fragile moment when he falls asleep, the whisper of a butterfly can make him begin his fight. He looks at me smiling, and begins bangins his feet on the bed. Yesterday thinking “Janet is my guru for so many things, I’ll give it another shot” I tried again : He didn’t take his nap in the morning because he just won again his fight against sleep (and myself). He gave a brave fight in the afternoon and refused to sleep until 0h30 at night, even though I had came back to my nursing rocking scheme.

          Actually I completly agree when you say it would be best if he could sleep by himself. And beleive me, I’m really frustrated about it. But even if I see it, I find absolutly no way to get out of it. Actually I’m putting some faith in the benefit of him going with his nanny in one week… Even though I think I’ll miss him a lot, I think her professionnal touch could work better than mine. And that I’ll be a more refreched mom with a little less of wonderful boy…

  15. avatar Sara says:

    The struggle I found with parenting my first-born in regards to sleep (and pretty much every thing else), was being the parent she needed me to be, not the parent I wanted to be.
    Ultimately, parenting is for her and leaving her to cry was exactly what she needed. With my presence in the room, she would escalate her crying and it took me longer than it should have (it didn’t fit into my parenting paradigm) to realize that she needed this period of crying to express herself emotionally, to calm, and to be prepared to sleep.
    My second daughter is the exact opposite. Without my presence her crying escalates and she becomes more and more unsettled.
    Every child is unique. In a sense, I am a unique parent for each child also. It takes time to learn about your child, and sleep issues are one of first times you begin to learn about their wants and needs and have to put yours away.

    • avatar janet says:

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, Sara. I agree so much with your first sentence…and it can be very tricky to discern our needs and wants from our child’s needs and wants. There are also situations in which we can’t give children what they seem to want in the moment, because it does not serve their true needs.

  16. avatar Catelin says:

    This sounds interesting. Would these techniques work with a 23mo? We dont have a crib for him not to crawl out of. I currently lie next to him, sing to him and sometimes rub his feet. (what a life right??) This process takes anywhere from 20min-60min. At nap time the only place to get him to sleep is the rocking chair because my DH works nights and we’d wake him if we were to use our bed. As much as I love this time It can be exhausting.

    • avatar janet says:

      Catelin, it’s never too late to make changes to more independent sleep patterns. Figure out how to work the naps in without being stuck with your boy in a rocking chair, let him know the new plan and maybe even invite him to help problem-solve, and then when you put the plan into action, acknowledge any feelings that come up for him.

  17. avatar Linda says:

    Glad that I found this blog. I have a 13 months old daughter, I’ve always been rocking her to sleep just cause this helps to make her fall asleep faster. I decided I had to change things because I want to have another baby and I cannot imagine rocking her to sleep when pregnant. I have tried different things and lately I managed to make her fall asleep on the bed with me lying next to her but that works only at night for some reason. Regarding naps, she fights sleep (keeps ‘running away’ every second and cries if I catch her at the ankle to stop her from going anywhere) and would then only fall asleep when I rock her. (that’s when I give up after 1 hour trying) I don’t understand this, she showed she could fall asleep by herself for bedtime but why is she like this during the day? Any suggestions what to do to break this habit please?

  18. avatar Emily says:

    Hi Janet!
    I was just wondering if you had any advice for my 5 month old daughter. She requires that we walk/bounce her around to sleep before we can carefully put her in her crib. Most of the time she is crying until her eyes shut. I am just looking for advice on if we will ever be able to just put her in her crib for naptime (where we have the most problems) and she will not require our assistance? She is a large baby….so it is starting to take a toll on our backs having to walk her around for sometimes up to a half hour. Is this something that we can train her to do…..or will she eventually just get old enough that she gains those skills? Any advice?

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Emily! Yes, she can transition out of this… This is a habit that has become a “requirement”, but probably in your mind more than hers… She can adjust, but she’ll need your help and commitment. May I ask… If she is crying anyway, why do you feel the need to walk/bounce her around?

  19. avatar BriAnne says:

    Hi. I have a 4 month old boy that I’m having trouble putting down during the day. He sleeps like a champ at night, I don’t even have to rock him, just put him in his bassinet and he’ll put himself to sleep. However, during the day, he won’t let me us put him down on his back, in his swing, or tummy time. Because of this, he’s having a hard time at daycare. He’s not getting naps in and when he gets home, he’s just a screaming mess because he’s over stimulated and tired from not napping at daycare. Any suggestions to get him napping and just being content during the day without having to be help, would be much appreciated.

  20. avatar Katie says:

    It’s a relief reading all of the other mom comments on here regarding sleep deprivation. I was blessed with a baby girl who would sleep 8 hours a night every night until she hit the 4-month-old mark. And even then it was about two 4-hour chunks of sleep (usually). Once she hit 6 months it ended. And these past 2 weeks she has been up every hour all night long. She takes decent naps (at least 2 per day ranging anywhere from 45 mins to 1.5 hours) but nighttime is difficult. She cannot soothe herself through the night. We still do the same nightly routine (bath, lotion, dressed for bed, read a few books, nurse to sleep) but it just isn’t cutting it anymore. I think she is teething but still no teeth (yet) but not sure this is the only reason why she is not sleeping at night. Help!

  21. avatar Elle says:

    I have a 14 month little boy who is a genuinely perfect all rounder…except when it comes to sleeping. He slept through from 5 and a half months but has always been rocked from birth as habit. He didnt even need it sometimes as he would breastfeed a lot and fall asleep that way but has always cried if he wakes up before fully put in his cot. As he has got older it has got better and recently he has started to settle around half the time when not fully asleep. He has gone about 3 or 4 days being put down on his own once for a nap and once at night and even got himself back to sleep in the middle of the night when he woke up which is quite rare.he sleeps in until between 8 and 9am so no complaints there but hes started screaming again when putting him down at night! its like 1 week on 1 week off and I’ve just started work again which means more iregularity any suggestions for stabilty? I can be restarting the rocking routine 5 or 6 times for at least 20 mins per time and he is 2″6ft wheras I am 5″1ft so im holding someone over half my size lengthways. Sorry for the essay and I know I have it easy in general but when this does happen its hard to stay calm/persistent/not feel cruel etc.

  22. avatar Jen says:

    Janet – this was a wonderful article, and changed our (sleep) lives! I had been nursing my almost 2 year old co sleeper to sleep for more than a year, and it was causing a lot of frustration and strain in the household. I read this article, and realized that we could make small changes, approached with love, and that, though the road may be longer, he and I would be happier and more connected. And what do you know! After a month or so (I don’t even remember now), he no longer nurses to sleep. And he sleeps in his own bed! And I can put him down and leave the room while he is still awake! And he doesn’t cry! (Though there were some tears as we moved through the process, but I think I supported him through his anxiety at the changes.)

    Thanks so much for this – it truly has made our home much happier!

  23. avatar Janneke says:

    Dear Janet,

    My daughter falls asleep on the breast most of the time. It’s a very harmonious and beautiful happening. I transfer her to her bed and she sleeps for as long as she needs. I don’t expect her to sleep through the night because breast milk is easily digested and therefor she wakes up hungry during the night. Usually she wakes up twice sometimes three times and half of the time we both fall asleep while nursing and she continuous her sleep in our bed. Of course this is not a constant pattern as she acts different in every stage of her development. We have had going to sleep problems in some stages just as there are moments she doesn’t like to eat or doesn’t like to go to the potty, it’s just part of life and development I think. I assume that when she starts eating bigger quantities during dinner she will naturally also sleep longer stretches. The only downside about nursing her to sleep is that no one else can put her to bed besides me but is that so bad? We have a very independent and happy one year old girl, spicy and strong I should add here as well. Don’t you think that as she becomes more and more independent she will also become more independent in falling asleep? Why would I rush / push her into this?

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Janneke,
      “The only downside about nursing her to sleep is that no one else can put her to bed besides me but is that so bad?” This is not about “bad” or “good”, it’s about fostering healthy habits, which is the way we make life easier for our child.

      “Don’t you think that as she becomes more and more independent she will also become more independent in falling asleep?” Some children seem to transition naturally toward independence, but others hold on to the habit of needing the parent’s assistance.

      “Why would I rush/push her into this?” Honestly, if “rush/push” is your attitude, and you are happy with the situation, I don’t advise making changes, because they wouldn’t work, anyway.

  24. avatar Simone says:

    The little Quinn from the get go seemed to fight sleep with so much energy it was frightening. First I had to figure out his crying actually cooled him down. He NEEDS to cry before dropping off, 80% of the time. Now he is one, its still the same. He does have a different cry when something is wrong, so that makes it easier to tell if he really needs me. Another thing I found out the hard way is our presence would wind him up. If i stayed in the room he would get more and more stressed and hysterical, if I left after a familiar song and said “go to sleep, I love you” he would cry but 90% of the time drop off into a really good sleep within 5 minutes. What helped me in the early days were the time frames, leave for 5minutes, come in, pat his bottom or rub his back say “go to sleep” then leave again, then increase the time. I think that works to calm us parents down more than anything! For the record – he would not co-sleep, rarely sleep in a wrap ect. It was his bed or nothing. If he fell asleep in the stroller (after around 2 months) it was a miracle! Also without a doubt – day time routine was HUGE in terms of helping him sleep. During the day if his naps fell short of the time we had researched, watched and decided would be a good time for Quinn, I would leave him for 5min to see if he dropped off again, then I would go in, pat bottom, massage back and say “go to sleep” It was pretty evident if he woke crying a certain cry that he had not had enough sleep. After doing this for what seems like nothing we had him on a great schedule that worked for the daytime naps. Lets just say first thing i say to mums who are struggling. “Do you have a routine during the day?” They save my sanity and in the end Quinn’s!

  25. avatar Christina says:

    My nearly three month old sleeps well during the night now, and also during the day is getting better, ( we now have a routine of wake up, feed, check nappy, play and back to bed this generally takes up an hr to hr and half) whilst she was a very new newborn we did rock her to sleep and she often fell asleep on the breast or while being burped. We have worked with her to help her sooth herself to sleep by slowly making changes, she also has done this herself by being more awake and alert as she grows and develops. I always try and pop her into bed in an awake or nearly awake stage, I talk to her while I pop her into bed, that she needs to go to sleep, etc etc. I put the time on the microwave for ten minutes, ( as I cant stand the crying). usually after a minute or 2 or 3, she stops crying and lies in bed just looking around and then she dozes off to sleep calmly and quietly. We also ahve a cd with quiet baby sleep music. We did the same with our first baby as well. people always told us we were making a rod for our own back with rocking baby to sleep and letting her fall asleep while nursing, but by three months both my first and third baby go to sleep independently most of the time. baby number two was a whole different story, but I wont get into that, it just took us a lot longer for her to self settle. I think also a baby’s personality comes into it and how content they are as a baby, health issues are also an influence as with our second baby. It sure makes it easier that a baby has long blocks of sleep at night time. Sleep should be a positive time and something a baby looks forward to. (if that is possible?). I think our baby enjoys going to sleep after the initial crying part.

  26. avatar Ieva says:

    This is very interesting topic for me. I like the idea of this article, but I still strugle with some things. Our son (who is now 2 years and 4 months old) can now go to sleep at nights without rocking (routine helped). But when it comes to naps, we gave up several times, because he lies in the bed for some time, then gets up and starts playing something, then we somehow bring him back to bed but everything repeats, so we ended up rocking him (after 2-3 hours of this). Now we tried to try not rocking at all, but he then just doesn’t go to sleep and then goes for a night sleep at 5-7 pm. Routine, long walks outside, nothing helps. So I just don’t know what to do with naps, because without rocking he just doesn’t sleep at day and I’m a little bit afraid that it’s not healthy for him.

  27. avatar Mom in NJ says:

    Hi Janet – are there any RIE thoughts/suggestions about night waking? My second son is 5 months old and is able to fall asleep independently with a little bit of fussing for night time and naps. However he still wakes several times at night. Nursing puts him right back down, but I also have a 2.5 y/o and am feeling pretty tired after getting up at night with the baby and running around after my older son during the day. The baby is very snuggly and seems to love sleeping with me at night, which often happens when I fall asleep nursing and am too tired to bring him back to the crib. Just curious if Magda had or wrote any thoughts on frequent night wakings and how best to manage them. Thank you!

  28. avatar Rebecca says:

    I am a first time mother our daughter is nearly 3 months old. When we first bought her home from the hospital I thought that rocking to sleep and or breastfeeding to sleep was the only way to get her to go to sleep. We had HUGE sleeping difficulties. I felt the most exhausted I ever had in my whole life which was really hard to take as I had already struggled with sleep deprivation throughout my pregnancy. However we got some help through my local early childhood health service and she has become a much better sleeper ! My husband and I soon worked out that she can actually do it alone, so long as she is wrapped fairly tightly which we will slowly stop doing once her startle reflex disappears. We learnt that we need to trust her that she can sleep with out much help from us, all we really need to do it provide a safe environment, wrap her up, and be available if she needs us.

  29. avatar Maegan says:

    Hi Janet, my son is 3 months old and requires me to hold him and all of the above to get him to sleep plus he has to have his pacifier in his mouth while trying to get him Asleep. If he at all feels like its falling out his mouth he starts crying and so it’s vey hard to try getting him to take his nap and mastering keeping his pacifier in too.pleasse help. Today I tried supporting him at his crib and soothing him while he goes to sleep. It didn’t work and now he’s laying in his crib with out me soothing him and it’s not working either.

  30. avatar Maria Albertsen says:

    In the early days we also had to rock our son to sleep. When it was time to start practicing self-settling we used the “vibrating-baby-sleeper” for iPhones to ease the transition. It works by sending soothing and relaxing vibrations through the mattress as well as creating white noise. It worked wonders for us and hopefully it can help other babies to self-settle too

    Link:
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vibrating-baby-sleeper/id599959685?ls=1&mt=8

  31. avatar Ashley says:

    Hi Janet

    My name is Ashley and I am a single mother. I have a 4 year old son that was extremely easy when it came to independent sleep as well as sleeping through the night. He was sleeping through the night by 2 months old and always slept in his own bed. My 3 month old daughter, however, is not the same by any means. I am struggling to make things click into routine with her. I cant ever get her to stay awake during the day for more than her feeding period and at night she wakes up quite often and wont go back to sleep for me. No matter what I have tried I cant flip her schedule and it is taking its tol on me to the point of I cant stay awake with my son during the day and be up with her all night. It has gotten to the point that I passed out from sleep deprivation a few weeks ago without meaning to, and my 4 year old pulled a chair to the door and unlocked it and walked out. He was found by police and I was arrested despite my pleas that it was an accident and i didnt mean to fall asleep. Then a couple weeks later on a Sunday after church, I layed him down for a nap and when I thouht he had finally fallen asleep, I layed down myself to take one too. I wasnt even asleep 15 maybe 20 minutes and the police were at my door again for him sneaking out. I am facing serious charges and its all because I cant get my kids on the aame schedules.

  32. avatar Ashley says:

    I by no means neglect or endanger my children, at least not on purpose because I make myself stay awake as long as.I can. But I dont have super powers and cant stay awake 24/7 so I need advice and some serious help here :( I could lose my kis if thay judge isnt a mother herself and doesnt understand what I am going through. I am open to any suggestions at this point! PLEASE HELP ;(

  33. avatar Ellie says:

    Hi,

    I’am a first time mother to my daughter (13 months old). In the past few days I have put her into a new bed time routine where I lay down next to her, turn the lights off and sing songs as she settles into her bed, we co-sleep and have been since she was born. She takes two naps a day in a rocker which helps her sleep quicker however I would like to stop the “rocking” at nap times as well.

    Just a night ago, she was restless and couldn’t settle to sleep, therefore crying it out until she fell asleep on her own. I would like some advice on whether I’ve switched her routine too quick or if its normal for her to cry it out.

    I feel like a bad mother for letting her cry it out at bedtime.

    Please help!!

  34. avatar valia says:

    Hello Janet,

    I was lucky enough to find your site just as my son was turning 2 months old and he was starting to spend more and more awake time. At first, I tried to entertain him all the time, it felt exhausting and I was starting to resent his awake time…
    When I read your blog, I started laying him on a floor mat and while I was standing close by, I wouldn’t interrupt him. He started looking around the room and noticing things that I probably wasn’t letting him notice with my face in his face all that time.

    The bonus of this approach was a couple of weeks ago (at 3 months old), he was laying on his mat, I went to the kitchen and came back to find him asleep! No nursing, no rocking, no nothing… I believe he realized he was able to do stuff on his own and he went ahead and did it! Now he falls asleep on his own for 90% of his sleeps, he will still need a hug if his too tired or excited but this time, I am more than happy to oblige and help him.

    To cut a long story short, I believe this less is more approach teaches babies that they are not helpless and that they can do stuff on their own, if somebody would just let them try!

    Thank you for all the effort you put into this, you have definitely made a change in our lives!

    • avatar janet says:

      Valia, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story! You’ve made my day! Well done, mom!

  35. avatar Erica says:

    Hi Janet,
    I have worked on some of this with my 17mo daughter, but need more help. She used to wake up 3-4 times at night and I would bring her into our bed and nurse her, it was taking its toll, so I searched your blog and found various posts on sleeping. After just a few nights of being with her in her bed she no longer wakes to nurse and is ok with that. The problem I have run into is she still wakes up at night and wants me, when I go in she falls asleep relatively quickly, so I leave, only to have to go back in a few hours. I realize I don’t HAVE to, but with the set up we have, it is a little tricky, and she is a pretty determined little one :).

    To give a little history/detail, for the first 14 months my daughter slept with me, we then purchased a double mattress that we keep on the floor with bedrails. When she wakes up, she immediately goes to the door, sits in front of it and cries until I come in. I’ve stopped picking her up when I go in, and just tell her to get back in bed, and I lay down next to her. I would love to get a long stretch of sleep, but am unsure of how to manage her night waking now. I am not sure if I should just stoping going in entirely, and/or after nursing her, just leave the room?

    I have tried leaving after nursing her and sometimes she struggles, sometimes she seems to suffer (based on previous posts I have read). I don’t think it is a big deal if she falls asleep on the floor, or if she cries a bit, but think it might be a safety issue if she falls asleep in front of her door (maybe just an excuse?). I want to help her to reach sleep independence gently, but quickly without crying it out! This is tough!
    Thanks,
    Erica

  36. avatar Jennifer says:

    Hi there,
    My 10 month old sleeps from 7 to 7 and takes 2 naps per day. The problem I have is that I have to rock her to sleep and then sneak out. It’s hard on my back and really hard for anyone else to put her to sleep. I would like to transition her to no rocking. CIO does not work with her and I don’t really like that method anyway. Can you give me some advice on how to transition a 10 month old who is too young to understand a conversation, but too old to continue to be rocked?
    Thank you so much,
    Jennifer

  37. avatar Vicky says:

    Hi janeth!
    Well my son is 7 weeks old. He sleeps just fine during the night at the same time but during the day he cries after feeding. I hold him he stops and it seems that he wants to be held all the time ad I can’t seem to do my stuff around the house because all the crying. I don’t know if I should let him cry . I did that the other day and he fell asleep but I feel bad that I make him cry. I don’t know what to do.

  38. avatar Shelly Henrikson says:

    Hi Janet!
    I’ve been following your blog for about a year and have (mostly) followed RIE with our son and love everything about it. He’s a wonderful, confident, happy 22 month old who loves to share (because I didn’t teach him to) and connect with others.

    He sleeps well both during the day and for naps (2 hour nap and 12 hours at night). I put him down for a nap by talking to him about it, putting him in his crib and walking away – it works. However, dad puts him to bed at night and it’s a different story. We did rock him to sleep for the first part of his life. Now we’re kind of at the stage you mentioned. We stay with him, rub his back, etc. He’s fine and will fall asleep as long as one of us is in the room. However, when we try to leave, he cries and gets very upset. We let him cry for a bit and then my husband goes back in, ackowledges, comforts (without picking our son up), and stays with him again. But sometimes this goes on for hours until my son is fully asleep. My husband has actually slept all night on the floor next to our son’s crib. Dad is not getting much sleep and we need some time together in the evenings as a couple. How do we move to the next step of leaving the room successfully? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

  39. avatar Steph says:

    I have a 4 month old son who cannot sleep without being rocked and sung to sleep. He sleeps for a few hours at a time at night but when he wakes up in the night he cannot settle himself back to sleep.
    I’m happy to take the time to rock him but I feel for his own benefit he needs to learn tho sleep by himself.
    I’m a young single mum and had to return to work when he was just a month old so I need my sleep too.
    I also have the misfortune of having several friends who had their babies the same month as me, who smugly tell me how their babies fall straight to sleep at 7 and don’t wake until 7 the next morning.
    I’ve spent the past month or so getting him to sleep very distressing and this morning I’ve been in tears since 3 o’clock trying to get him back down without rocking. After hours of him crying and me comforting him, I finally gave up and took him for a drive in the car to get him to sleep.
    However I found this blog when we got home, and reading other peoples stories has made me feel so much better. I think I was feeling like the only person in the world who’s baby wouldn’t go to sleep, but of course this isn’t true and many people are in the same boat as me. Any advice would be appreciated but just the knowledge that getting a baby to sleep on his own isn’t something that can be done overnight, and it’s ok if it doesn’t happen straight away.
    Thank you fellow mums for not making me feel completely useless!

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