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Baby Sleep Questions Answered

The Must-Have Mommy-Only Bedtime Routine

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

My almost 9 month old used to be great at bed. I know it’s bad, but we still give a bottle at bedtime (not in the crib) and we put her into bed asleep. Two things I know we need to change, but it was working really great for us. She would wake up once for a bottle and then get up in the morning. More or less she was sleeping for 12 hours.

In the last month or so, her sleep habits haven’t changed except for one major thing – if anyone but me tries to put her to sleep, it’s like we are torturing her. My husband works most nights, but wants to give me a break and to put our daughter to sleep the nights that he can. He follows the same routine – bath, pjs, bottle, crib. Sometimes he can get all the way to her falling asleep after the bottle before she realizes he isn’t me and then the tears and screaming and hysteria begins. Sometimes it is during pj time. I try to let him soothe her, but by 20/30 minutes both he is fed up and I can’t take the crying anymore. The instant she is in my arms she is calm and often goes right to sleep.

I am not sure what to do. We are looking at maybe getting a sleep coach, but they are so expensive! I want my husband to be able to put our daughter to sleep or my mother or anyone! Not getting a break is starting to take its toll on me as well.

Any advice?

Yep. I do: Wait it out. This too shall pass.

Nine months old is riiiiight smack dab when many babies develop separation anxiety, and a lot of the times the anxiety manifests in a preferred/non-preferred parent situation. Which is frustrating. It’s hurtful to be the non-preferred parent; it’s EXHAUSTING to be the preferred parent. But it’s completely normal, and (thankfully) temporary.

So I really see two options for you guys: First, you just accept the fact that for right now, bedtime is a Mommy-only task, and your husband can try to find other caretaking routines during the day that he can make “his” without so much drama. She should also spend (non-bedtime) time AWAY from you, either with him or your mom or whoever, so you can have successful, repeated separations/reunions with her. This will help with the underlying separation anxiety and teach her the whole Mommy leaves/Mommy comes back thing, so she’ll figure out that it’s okay if she doesn’t always have a visual on you. You’re still “there.”

Second, if you really, really can’t deal with being her nightly must-have sleep crutch for however long this goes on (and we might be talking several months here), and are serious about making sure she’ll let other caretakers put her to bed, this might be the right time to start sleep training and get her to fall asleep in the crib, independently. Now I know that it probably sounds bonkers counter-intuitive (or downright mean) to suggest sleep-training in the middle of separation anxiety, but honestly a GRADUAL extinction method will give her the same repeated Mommy leaves/Mommy comes back experience. (I’m NOT talking full-on cry-it-out “I’m alone in the world” for hours on end, obviously. I’m never a fan of that.) But a gentle Ferber-esque method can reinforce that even though she is a separate person from you, it’s okay, and gives her the opportunity to learn how to go to sleep, without needing you.

You (or Daddy) give her the bottle but transfer her to the crib while she’s mid-dozing off but not 100% asleep. You (Mommy) time the initial first-night checks super close together, before she has time to work herself up to the “tears and screaming and hysteria” that she’s going through now. You pat and verbally comfort, leave, rinse, repeat. Slowly increase the time between checks and see what happens after three nights or so. If it’s still a disaster, well, at least you tried before just defaulting to bedtime being Your Deal every single night.

I’m not concerned too much about the bedtime bottle right now (ask me again at 12 months though, hahaha), but seriously: A baby/toddler/child who can go to sleep on their own is a beautiful, blessed thing that I wish for all the sleep-deprived people of the world. It’s always a goal worth shooting for.

Click here to find our Infant Sleep Guide.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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Comments

  • Homegrown

    I didn’t even know a bottle at bedtime, not in bed, was a bad thing under a year. Except for maybe teeth brushing issues?

    • bookworm81

      The two concerns are teeth brushing and sleep crutch. I’d be more worried about the former than the latter but I’ve never stressed too much about sleep crutches.

  • Dan

    What about putting her to bed together? And then after a few days you can start giving her a kiss and handing her to Dad to put down. Combined with a bit of putting her down half awake, keeping your hand on her etc and you might just be ok.

  • Jodie Yorg

    We’ve gone through this with each of our kids and usually both parents experience it at one point or another.

    One thing we’ve found helpful is the other parent actually leaving. We’ll make sure the child sees the preferred parent leaving – lots of kisses and hugs. Seems like if they know mom isn’t an option truly it’s ok.

    Bonus – you get some alone time!

  • Myriam

    Is she acting the same way if you are not at home? I know my daughters, at that age, would do great if I was not there, but would protest loudly if I was home but not doing the night time routine…