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From Co-Sleeping to Crib

Feb14

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amy,

A couple months ago you answered my breastfeeding sweat question. The clinical Secret is now working great, apply every evening, no sweaty armpits during the day unless I’m working out.

Now my daughter is just over four months old. She is still sleeping in bed with me. I really need my sleep and my space back – she is waking 5-8 times a night to breastfeed – not cool. BUT I read all these attachment parenting blogs and am brainwashed against crying-it-out, which honestly worked fine for my now 3 year old daughter when she was 9 months old. She never co-slept so we didn’t have to transition her. You’ve said that you co-slept then transitioned the boys at around 4-5 months old. Can you and your readers give me some detailed explanations of this process? How much crying? Swaddle or sleep sack? Was the other kid in the house disrupted by the crying if there was any? How many days/weeks before you could put the kids to bed, on their own, preferably in their own room? etc etc. Two nights ago at 4am I lost it, was coming down with a cold, feeling exhausted, and my baby would.not.sleep unless attached to my boob while I sat up leaning on the headboard. I woke up my husband who took her to the guest room where we’ve set up her crib, and I put in earplugs and went to sleep, just said “I’m DONE. You take her. I don’t care if you take her for a drive or walk the house with her or whatever, I just need SLEEP.” He changed her diaper (which was fine but sometimes helps), put her back into her sleep sack and put her in her crib where she screamed for 45 minutes before passing out. I didn’t hear any of it, was both appalled at CIO on a 4 month old baby, and thrilled to have a few hours of solid sleep.

So there you go – HELP!! And thanks!
Eva

Okay, first of all, the last time we did the transition from co-sleeping-to-not was two full years ago, so let me admit that my memory has already faded enough to prevent me from giving you a super “detailed description” of the process. Steel trap, my brain is not.

Noah basically made the transition himself. He simply fell asleep in my arms one night before I was ready to sleep, so I put him down in his crib. He stirred, bleated once or twice, but did not wake, and then proceeded to sleep for a stunning six solid hours or so while I sat in bed staring at the silent baby monitor, alternatively terrified that OH MY GOD HE MUST BE DEAD and waking my husband up to regularly report on how long he was sleeping, ISN’T THIS AMAZING? Why are you glaring at me like that?

We got the memo: Noah slept much better away from us, and particularly me and mah boobs. So from then on, he went into the crib from the start. Being clueless first-timers, we improvised, but essentially went with what I supposed you’d call “fuss it out.” NOT “cry it out”, NOT 45 minutes (oh God no no no, you’re right, that’s too much and she’s far too young), more like chunks of barely five or 10 minutes, with us letting him know he was not alone, but with as little interference from us as possible. Noah was definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a “tension releaser.” He needed to cry a little bit, just to expend that last bit of energy before falling asleep. If you’ve never read about the tension releaser/increaser sleep theory, RUN, GO NOW, to this great article at Ask Moxie. It will change your life, or at least really help you determine what sleep approach to take with your particular child.

Let me say, though, that as “easy” and “ideal” as that transition probably sounds — it wasn’t a straight shot afterwards. There were good nights and bad nights and nights where we simply couldn’t get him to settle down for hours and hours after our newly established “bedtime.” Eventually, it happened. Sooner rather than later, once we were lucky enough to figure out the right approach for him that at least worked MOST nights.

With Ezra, like you, WE made the decision that it was time for him to sleep in his crib. He was waking too much, getting too dependent on my boobs to fall asleep and stay asleep, and starting to roll and move around a bit too much for my liking. I was comfortable co-sleeping with a baby who stayed exactly where I put him when I fell asleep, but I never warmed up to sleeping with kicking, thrashing kids. For every time Ezra woke up, I woke up even MORE, jerking awake with his every movement because my brain felt compelled to check to see if he’d rolled someplace unsafe or was caught in the covers or smushed under my pillow or or or etc.

At first, I think we mostly aimed to just get him to fall asleep in his crib instead of our room. If he ended up back in bed with us at some point (i.e. 2 am feeding), that wasn’t a big deal. At least I felt like he was gaining the skill of falling asleep without me being *righttherethewholetime.* We instituted a strict bedtime routine (bath, boob, lullaby) and put him in the crib swaddled but with one arm out for thumb-sucking, usually at least half-awake. Once he started busting out of the swaddle, we tried sleep sacks (he wasn’t a fan) and different musical/white noise gadgets and ultimately settled on getting him down with a lovey — a Taggies blanket that he liked to clutch to his face while sucking his thumb.

Ezra was tougher than Noah, because he was a tension increaser — some nights he would protest just a little and conk out, while other nights his crying would escalate and we’d have to go back in and repeat at least some of the bedtime routine. But our bed was never part of it. If he was really mad, I’d nurse him again, but upright in the rocking chair. Then the waking after that, he got a lullaby but no milk. After that, he got some back-patting and music from his crib aquarium.

After a couple nights, he got the memo that Mama wasn’t going to come get him and crawl back into bed with him, where he could have unlimited boob buffet access all night again. After a week, we saw a very sharp decrease in his night wakings, and after two weeks of a 2 am feeding (after which he went back to the crib) and a 5 am (after which he did usually stay in bed with me), he slept through the 2 am feeding and we officially had a kid who USUALLY slept through the night. I think he was about five months old.

Of course, there are always sleep regressions and oddball nights — teething, illness, fussiness for ABSOLUTELY NO DISCERNIBLE REASON — that will baffle and challenge you. There is no book or sleep system that will work 100% of the time for your child. Be flexible. Read that Ask Moxie article and see if you can place your daughter in the tension decreaser/increaser camps, and then read about the four-month sleep regression.

There probably will be some crying, and nights where it seems to get worse before it gets better. But it won’t be the end of the world or mark your failure as a parent, or mean that you’re selfish and awful for recognizing your own biological need to sleep. (Quoth the mother who once agonized over 10 minutes of crying in the crib but now gets to hear her five-year-old accuse her of making him cry ON PURPOSE on a near-daily basis over GOD KNOWS WHAT, OH CRY-IT-OUT-A-RIVER, KID. GO CLEAN UP YOUR LEGOS.)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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22 Responses to “From Co-Sleeping to Crib”

  1. IrishCream Feb 14 at 12:46 pm Reply Reply

    We’re in the middle of transitioning from co-sleeping to the crib with my six-month-old. She is an escalator (in the crying, not transportation, sense), so CIO doesn’t work, and it really doesn’t feel right to me. That’s not to say that any crying is bad. We’re taking a baby-steps approach after a couple of failed attempts at ripping off the bandaid. She falls asleep in our bed, without milk, without bouncing. She cries, because man oh man does she want milk or bouncing, but I have a hand on her tummy and my face next to hers and I hum to her. She’s crying a bit because she’s not getting exactly what she wants, but not because she’s alone and freaked out. The former kind tapers off, and she goes to sleep and stays asleep for four hours.
    I’m not in as much of a hurry to move her to the crib now that she’s learning how to go back to sleep without milk. Turns out that co-sleeping is much more pleasant without a barnacle on my boob!

  2. Julie Feb 14 at 1:08 pm Reply Reply

    Another great resource to check out is Bed Timing – there’s a book, and the author had a blog going for a while too. It compares some of the different sleep training approaches in brief summary so you don’t have to spend the brain power to read all the different books. More importantly, it talks about the developmental phases that kids are going through at different ages, and why sleep training is harder at one age and easier at another. Around 6 months is supposed to be a really good age, 4 months is supposed to be pretty rough, so you may take that into account when thinking about how serious you want to get about this.

    For my son, we transitioned him from co-sleeping in a side car to sleeping in a crib in our room… I don’t remember for sure. Somewhere around 6 months. But it was hard – I could nurse him to sleep, and put him down, but he soon got to the point where he would jerk awake as soon as his head touched the crib. I tried the various “no-cry” gradual transitions, and they resulted in him getting even more freaked out – if I tried rocking him to sleep standing next to the crib, the instant I took a step towards the crib he’d freak out. The anticipation semed to make things much worse for him.

    For him, letting him cry was the much better option – apparently he’s in the reliever camp as well. We moved the crib into his nursery, and the first night I did the bedtime routine, tucked him in, and walked out and let him cry. I came in to reasure him after about 5 minutes, and at increasing intervals after that (7, 10, etc) until he fell asleep. It took about half an hour, and he slept pretty much through the night. The second night it took about 15 minutes, then 5, then he stopped crying and fell asleep before I could even move away from the door. Ever since then, when his sleep patterns get really messed up I usually end up trying gradual approaches before remembering why they don’t work, and go back to letting him cry with reassurance for a night or two, and it kicks back in for him.

    On the other hand, I also know lots of parents for whom the gradual, no-cry transitions are best, and crying it out results in the baby getting more and more upset. So you have to figure out what works best for your kid – what worked for your first may or may not work for the second.

    Good luck figuring it out and getting some sleep! I think that’s half of what makes sleep training so hard – by definition, we’re pretty much doing it when we’re sleep deprived, which makes consistant and logical approaches to the issue a bit difficult. :)

  3. BMom Feb 14 at 1:32 pm Reply Reply

    We’re one of the families where the gradual method worked great, and crying got my daughter more and more worked up. (Not to mention me.) We loved the Sleep Lady book by Kim West – though, didn’t get serious about sleep til she was 11 months old. Yeah, not gonna wait that long if we have a second child, oy. Anyway, the Sleep Lady thing is where you sit by the crib by try not to pick the baby up, then move further away after a couple days, until you’re out in the hall. Long before we worked on nighttime sleeping though, she was sleeping in her crib at naps – for some reason, it was just easeir for us to tackle naps first.

  4. Dawn K. Feb 14 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    We made the transition from co-sleeping at about 4 months because she was getting squirmy and reliant on the boob being there at all times. It was a petty easy transition. E loved to be swaddled, so we relied on our Aden&Anais blankets, and that was pretty much all there is to it. I love having the above article from Moxie to reference when people looked aghast at me when I told them we wouldn’t let E cry. While it’s ok for some babies, when you have an escalator, it just makes everything worse.

  5. Stefanie Feb 14 at 2:00 pm Reply Reply

    We transitioned our daughter from co-sleeping at 4 months for the exact same reasons you want to transition. She was nursing all night, waking me every hour to switch sides, my PPD was getting worse instead of better, and when my sister-in-law told me she had allowed my nephew to wake her like that for 13 months, I was terrified. I read a few books and picked what I liked from each (the best were The No-Cry Sleep Solution and Good Night Sleep Tight). The biggest rule we followed was that once the baby is in the crib at night, she doesn’t get out. We spent the first week dividing up the night. We’d put the baby down, soothe her while she was in her crib by semi-cuddling her while leaning over the crib rail and gradually backing away until we could lie down on her floor and sleep, then repeat each time she woke up. For the first 4 or 5 days, she would sleep only in 30 minute increments. It was NOT a fun week, but the first time she stayed down for 2 whole hours, I discovered just how comfortable hardwood floors can be. We did feel badly that she was crying, but we did the best possible thing for her by teaching her to fall asleep on her own. PLUS, I regained my sanity, which is very necessary for taking care of a baby.
    We still follow the baby does not leave the crib rule, and it has worked so well for us. Obviously, if she needs a clean diaper (poop only or leaky) or is sick or has a different cry other than the “why aren’t you picking me up, woman!?” cry, we’ll pick her up. We still have to go in and intervene sometimes when she’s really mad, but our presence often makes it worse, so we just let her fuss a bit. She sleeps better than any baby I know.
    I do think 4 months is a bit young for a full-on CIO, but I don’t believe in the logic that a baby that young can’t be scheduled or taught to sleep. I know what all the experts say, but experts also tell you that if you have multiples you have to start scheduling them from day one, and I don’t see how sharing a uterus can make it so you can schedule your baby, but if they do not you have to wait until at least 6 months.

  6. Procrastamom Feb 14 at 2:28 pm Reply Reply

    Eva, I’ve been reading your blog since before your first baby was born (I know you didn’t post it here, but I recognized you from the description). I don’t have any advice for you, but I just wanted to send you a big, giant *HUG* and hope you get some decent sleep soon. Been there…Cried through that.

  7. JenVegas Feb 14 at 2:47 pm Reply Reply

    When we first brought BabyVegas home he would freak out any time we put him down, anywhere, on his back so I couldn’t figure out any other way to let him sleep at night besides on top of me where we could sleep belly to belly. Which worked out great, for him. Not so much for me. After about 4 weeks of this I got sick of spending the night half sleeping and decided things needed to change. We had one of those co-sleeper side car thingies but we had never used it. One of our friends gave us a copy of the The Happiest Baby On The Block dvd and we tried out that 5 S’s method (shushing, swaddling, swinging/jiggling, side/belly position and sucking) and not only did the kid calm down out of a full on freak out, he fell asleep. So we put him in his crib…where he slept for 5 hours. And ever since then when we want LittleVegas to go to sleep we swaddle him, turn on his white noise machine, and rock him to sleep. Our full on bedtime routine is bath, boob + story, rocking to sleep and then down in the crib and he seems to be doing OK with it. Our next transition will be from rocking to sleep to learning to fall asleep on his own….So I’m going to go read that article on Moxie right now because I suspect we’re going to need all the help we can get with that one.

  8. KE Feb 14 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    We’re playing musical beds with our 18 month old lately, but we transitioned from sidecar co-sleeper to crib for most nights a little bit at a time a couple of months ago.  I’d rock him and put him in the crib just barely asleep, then bring him into our room at his first wakeup.  The second night, he didn’t get brought in until the second wakeup; the third night, not until the third, etc.

    Getting him into his own room seemed to help the waking up (most nights).  Good luck!

  9. Beth Feb 14 at 5:04 pm Reply Reply

    My son went from a baby you could 5-s’s to sleep at 3 months to one that you could rock in your arms for an hour and he would yell and yell and yell at 4 months. We got so frustrated (we=I) that we figured if he was going to cry for that long whether we held him or not, we would let him do it on his own. I get that people think 4 months old is too young but at the time I had intense PP-anxiety, a doctor who told me letting my baby cry for 30 minutes was okay, a mother who had done CIO and a husband who didn’t have a strong opinion either way. So we let him cry it out. It was difficult and so awful that I had to leave the house (I live in a small row house that I can hear my son cry from every room of) and OF COURSE I felt awful doing it but a week later he was going to sleep much easier and so I felt like it had been a success.
    I tried to find other ways of doing this but when you are a WOHM and have a child who won’t sleep it’s hard to read as much research and information as you want/need to to make the best decision and sometimes a decision that works is the best you can do. Don’t feel appalled about what happened. Your baby is safe and well and free from harm. Parenting is terribly hard sometimes and getting through it unscathed, you or baby, is a win. Period.

  10. Lesley Feb 14 at 9:05 pm Reply Reply

    My son is a huge tension increaser. AND from the very beginning (as in, hospital bassinet) he refused to sleep alone. We coslept and at about 3 months onward at varying intervals, tried to move him to his crib. We tried baby steps, swaddling, routIne, etc. Pretty much everything short of CIO. Nothing worked. He just woke up CONSTANTLY when alone and couldn’t self-soothe.

    What finally worked? Moving him to a bed (Ikea Kura loft bed, bottom mattress is literally on the floor) shortly after his first birthday, baby proofed the crap out of his room and bam – he went from thirteen months of multiple night wakings to sleeping 11 straight hours THE VERY FIRST NIGHT.

    It turns out, my kid doesn’t hate sleeping alone. He hates CRIBS. We still have to lay with him to get him to sleep (that’s next on our list of habits to break) but he makes it through the night on his own the majority of the time.

    Of course, he’s older so this wouldn’t apply to a smaller baby. When he was younger, we just kept cosleeping because that’s what resulted in the most sleep for the most people.

    • Kami Aug 24 at 4:04 am Reply Reply

      Lesley- THANK YOU thank you for your comment…my son is also a huge tension increaser (oh hallelujah for the Moxie article which I SO needed to read!!) and I have been thinking for a couple weeks now…that I think he might like sleeping on a bed of his own and that might be a way to transition him.  He sleeps great in our bed…whether we are with him or not.  But he also rolls and rolls and rolls….I have been considering converting his crib to a bed or putting his mattress on the floor but wasn’t sure if this was okay with a baby his age or if anyone else ever tried this with success.  He will be one year old in two weeks, and now I am thinking I will go ahead and try it.  So happy to see that you tried this and it worked for you and you shared it!  Just knowing that someone else had this issue and had this same idea makes me feel better that I am not crazy (just maybe a little bit sleep deprived).  :)

  11. EW Feb 14 at 10:13 pm Reply Reply

    We never coslept, but did wind up with a swing addict.  At 4 months, we tried moving her to the crib, and she screamed for 30 minutes before we gave up.  After two nights, we decided we were training her to scream until we got her and gave up.  We tried various not-very-successful things for the next five months.

    By nine months, we were down to going for a drive every night to get her to sleep.  Then she learned how to wake up on the drive. We wound up going to CIO because we felt we were out of options.  She cried 30 minutes the first night, 15 the next, 5 the next and that was it.  I am not sure that all kids are permanently tension releaser/increasers, as mine at least looked like an increaser at 4 months, but was clearly a releaser at 9 months.

  12. Magen Feb 15 at 1:06 pm Reply Reply

    I hit an “end of my rope” moment just the other day with our teething 4 month old baby. Then I remembered the tension releaser/increaser theory- and watched my little increaser freak out the longer she was in her crib. It was like a lightbulb went off. So we co-slept last night, and tonight we can start a new approach, when we both are more rested. My husband is very pro-CIO, and this helped to explain my feelings about CIO with him in a way where we could be on the same page.

  13. Kim Feb 15 at 1:51 pm Reply Reply

    The Moxie article was great, except for the part where I’ve traumatized my daughter for the Rest. Of. Her. Life! by doing CIO when NOTHING else worked. Because nothing else did with her. So sorry about the early PSTD, honey!

  14. JCF Feb 15 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

    We’ve done a very gradual shift from co-sleeping to crib sleeping with all three of our kids (still working on the third, actually), with using a little fussing, but not full on CIO. My 7 month old son will frequently wake when I know he’s not hungry, and I’ll give him a few minutes to see if he’ll fuss and little and then go back to sleep, or if he really starts crying. If he really starts crying, then I go get him immediately. By doing this, he maybe comforts himself back to sleep fairly quickly with no full-on crying about 50% of the time. One thing that has worked well for us if for my husband to go in to the baby. It doesn’t go over very well the first couple of times, but then it improves gradually as they realize that they’re not alone and scared, but they’re not getting the boob for comfort while cuddling in bed either.

    Amy did link to that 4 month sleep regression post, and I’ve noticed a lot of other commenters mention 4 months. That has been a really hard age with all of our kids. They’ve all had a noticeable regression at 4 months that had me pulling my hair out, one kid far worse than the others. Right now might be a really tough time for you to make that sleep transition if she’s having a sleep regression, and if it is, there’s a good chance things will be better in a month or so. Hang in there!

  15. Meggan Feb 15 at 6:41 pm Reply Reply

    We justjustJUST did this transition at 10 months, because we kept waking each other up and nobody was getting any sleep – as much as I loved it, cosleeping was clearly starting to not work for us.

    Our method so far is to rock him to sleep (with white noise), transfer to crib once asleep, and bring him into our bed at the first wakeup. He will often go for five or so hours before wanting to eat, which is a HUMONGOUS improvement over every 1.75 hours when we co-sleep.

    My new problem is trying to muster up the effort to put him back in his crib after the first waking. When I do, he usually sleeps for another large block of time, so it truly is worth it to do it.

    Best of luck to you! Four months is a rough time.

  16. Sid Feb 16 at 1:06 pm Reply Reply

    I’m just going to chime in to say that while I’m sure some babies fit nicely into one sleep category or another, some don’t. Or they do one week and then not the next. My daughter (17 months) has been both a “just needs to squawk for a minute to pass out” and a “once she gets going an act of God will not get her to sleep” at different times. As well, sometimes a full night of uninterrupted sleep is not the most important thing. Since I work away from home during the day and still breastfeed, nights are when she gets the most boob-time. I don’t want her to miss out on that by having her sleep through the night. Although there have been a few nights where I would have dearly loved to have her be a consistent little sleeper, in hindsight it’s better that she wasn’t very good at sleeping alone.

  17. Olivia Feb 16 at 2:59 pm Reply Reply

    My feelings are more like Sid’s. There have certainly been some rough nights with co-sleeping, but since I work out of the home I find that cuddle/boob time invaluable. I guess my thought is that the OP might want to consider that before rushing into transferring her baby out of her bed.

    The 4 month regression could be at the heart of the sleep issues right now and baby could begin sleeping for large chunks of time once things even out. My daughter would, and still, occasionaly has an all night nurse-a-thon, but for the most part she sleeps 4-5 hrs before waking to nurse. Of course if she’s certain she wants to end co-sleeping, then go for it.

  18. Becky Feb 16 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    I echo Sid and Olivia’s sentiments. My baby is now 3 months old and since I work full time outside of the home our co-sleeping time is so special to us. However, our baby is a really good co-sleeper. She only wakes up twice a night-once after a five hour stretch where we nurse for about 10 minutes on one side and then once again on the other side for 10 minutes about 2 hours later. I love the convenience, having her close to us, and the ability to keep my milk supply up. I know that for my family co-sleeping won’t work forever and that someday in the future she will need to learn to sleep away from us in her own bed without night feedings, but I for one am going to miss it so, so much. (I’m thinking at around 6 months or whenever we start her on regular food.)

  19. Groovymumma Feb 16 at 7:08 pm Reply Reply

    I second trying the book “Good Night Sleep Tight” by the sleep lady (aka Kim West). You can google her method if you don’t want to buy the book, but the book does specifically address co-sleeping so it could be useful. My 9 month old went from waking all night to feed to putting herself to sleep and sleeping for 11 hours (while teething!) in just over a week, without being left to cry it out. Couldn’t believe it! Of course, I don’t know how it will play out long term, but so far so good. Good luck whatever method you try – just remember, one day, they will sleep through whatever you do!

  20. Kim Feb 17 at 10:39 am Reply Reply

    We just got our 13 month old (that’s right) out of our bed. We followed his cues. Like Ezra, he was kicking, thrashing and making our sleeping arrangement a total nightmare (pun intended). Basically he was telling us that it was time to sleep in his crib. Which he did. He woke up 5 times the first night and we went in and soothed him back to sleep. Then the following night, it was four times. The next night, three, until he actually slept until 6am with no wake-ups. Unfortunately, he is getting molars so we are back to waking up.

    Babies are smart. They know when it’s time.

  21. Natalie May 31 at 9:46 pm Reply Reply

    We have a 6 month old baby girl and I am in the middle of trying to get her in her crib at nights… I will rock and nurse her and once she’s drifting off I will lie her down in her crib while shushing and rocking her a bit. I have mixed feelings about it and I cried the first night that she wasn’t in our bed, but my husband keeps insisting we move her… So far she has slept almost 4 hours in her crib, with a break in the middle where she woke up crying and I nursed her back to sleep and put her back in her crib…. I have brought her back to our bed after the 2nd wake because I am just exhausted by that time.
    She does tend to sleep a lot better in her crib… When she co-sleeps she tends to wake up a lot to nurse.
    She is also teething and I think she is wanting to nurse even MORE!
    Like I said I have mixed feelings, and I am also a working mother so I love our time together at night…

    This is a tough transition and I believe she IS ready to sleep alone, since she sleeps longer by herself. She needs her sleep as I do mine.
    I think that mom and baby can work as a team, every baby is different, and we need to do what’s right for you and baby.
    I may be sad, but baby girl is noticeably rested and happy. So I will just have to pull through this gray cloud for her sake.

    Good luck to you and baby!

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