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Sleep, Baby, Sleep

By Amalah


Okay. So. My son is almost 4 months old and he can’t fall asleep unless he’s eating (he’ll take a bottle, luckily, but he falls asleep much faster if he’s nursing.) And? On top of that? He’s a super light sleeper. So if anybody’s holding him and tries to put him down in his crib/bassinet/swing/carseat/floor/packnplay/anywhere he wakes up. Screaming.

The other day he didn’t get much of a nap. I finally got him to fall asleep around 8:30. At 9:00…he woke up. Screaming. It was 11:00 before I finally got him to fall asleep. (What finally worked? Lights off, my bed, dad out of the room, laying completely still holding him to the boob for 15 minutes until he could calm down enough to eat.) When he was younger we could just pop him in the car and he’d be out before I’d pulled out of the driveway. But now he’ll spend the entire 40 minute drive home from his grandparents’ house crying.

We’ve tried a bedtime routine — dim the lights, put on a Chopin CD, feed, change diaper, lotion, change clothes, bed — but that hasn’t worked..

So…any suggestions on how to get him to fall asleep on his own? He’s definitely an escalator, not a cry-it-out baby.


When Your Baby Won’t Sleep

One big thought, right off the bat: Colic? I know we all think of colic as starting at just a few weeks old, but some babies don’t develop the symptoms until later. If the inconsolable crying jags have been going on for more than a month, you might actually be looking at a slight case of colic or some digestive woes here.

Or not. There are also plenty of babies who just plain fight going to sleep. And babies who have gotten into the habit of falling asleep on the boob or bottle tend to fight it tooth and nail. Since your son’s tension escalates when he cries, I’d recommend checking out The No-Cry Sleep Solution, if you haven’t already. WITH the caveat that I personally have never found any parenting book — be it about sleep or eating or potty training or discipline — to actually apply to my child cover-to-cover. So don’t approach it as, “This Shall Be Our Solution Which We Shall Implement Exactly With Unprecedented Success.” Read it more as a grab bag of ideas to try out here and there.

And speaking of grab bag, here’s my own random dartboard of things that you may or may not have already tried.

Three Ways to (Maybe) Get Your Baby to Sleep

1. Swaddling. A lot of parents stop swaddling once their infant gets too big for those square receiving blankets, but for a fussy, restless sleeper I swear to God, there is nothing better. Usually I recommend the Miracle Blanket, but at almost four months old, your son would likely outgrow it too quickly. At that age I like the extra-large muslin blankets from Aden + Anais, done in the “Aussie Swaddle” style demonstrated on their website. (It includes an extra tuck of baby’s hands to prevent escape and flailing.) (And don’t even talk to me about those velcro SwaddleMe things. Both of my babies could Houdini their way out of that thing in under two minutes.) Eventually we left one arm free so Ezra could self-soothe with a thumb suck, and only after he learned to roll over consistently did we stop swaddling. (But by that point sleep wasn’t a problem, because Ezra simply flipped himself over on his tummy and was all, “THIS. THIS IS HOW I LIKE IT.”)

2. White noise machine. We had one and never had a lick of luck with it, but believe me, I know it’s been a lifesaver for sooooo many parents with babies that sound a lot like yours. A light sleeper who jerks awake at every sound or creaky floorboard? Yep. Try filling his room with constant low soothing sounds — it might help him become less sensitive to outside noises.

3. Kill the milk habit. I know, I know. You hit a wall and just want him to SLEEP, so you cave and give him the boob until he settles and sleeps. But you also cave and kill the routine, making it…not so much of a routine anymore. Even for a “good” sleeper, the bedtime routine is only powerful if you elevate it to sacred-like status. NOTHING EFFS WITH THE ROUTINE. His routine is milk = sleep, and clearly you know what happens when you guys try to eff with that. But this isn’t a routine you want in place long-term, especially since — duh — it’s CLEARLY not really helping him fall asleep and stay asleep. (A baby! Wanting something that isn’t necessarily in his best interest! Imagine that!) Our routine with Ezra was bath, change, swaddle, boob, lullaby (sung OFF the boob) in the crib while still awake. That’s the huge kicker — they MUST learn to fall asleep on their own from the get-go. No falling asleep in your arms and then transferring. Of course they’ll protest, you’re MESSING WITH THEM. This takes practice. This takes patience. And it can take a LOT of nights.

And sometimes they’ll still wake up. Scratch that. They WILL still wake up. And when it happens, there’s another bad habit to kill. But it’s likely your bad habit. It sounds like your son didn’t really NEED milk at 11 pm (the lack of nap tells me he was just overtired and OMG, that’s the hardest baby to put to sleep, I know); you just didn’t know how else to calm him down. But…you need to stop that, because all you’re doing is helping him associate wakings with…milk. Therefore milk = sleep, and the cycle starts all over at bedtime the next night. He NEEDS to learn how to calm himself down. Yes, even though he’s a tension-escalator. The No-Cry Sleep Solution should help you find ways to calm him down OTHER than a) turning the lights on (no), b) picking him up (also no), or c) milking him back into a sleepy stupor (NO!).

All that said, your son is RIGHT in the middle of that weird transition age — 0-3 months, we generally don’t expect babies to have bedtimes and sleep through the night or really do anything other than be cranky, tempestuous little dictators. At 4-6 months, all we hear about is Other Babies who sleep through the night and sleep in their cribs and are just the valedictorians of sleep. Not every baby achieves this right at four months, though the “experts” agree it DOES seem to be the “ideal” age to at least start trying. (And lo, we ended co-sleeping at four months and did seem to have an easier time with the transition than friends who put it off and tried to do it with older babies.) If your son is experiencing a touch of colic or reflux, that throws a huge wild card into the mix.

So…you should definitely keep trying from this point on, but cut yourself some slack over it not exactly going perfectly so far. He’s young. He WILL learn to fall asleep on his own, I PROMISE. I can’t promise it will happen this week or anything, but…at least by kindergarten, I’m sure.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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

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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  • Liz

    April 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Have you checked that he doesn’t have reflux? My son had silent reflux. Drinking helped keep the acid down so and he could only really sleep comfortably on an incline. If he spits up a lot or if you notice him swallowing a lot consider trying an incline to sleep…it might help him get deeper to sleep at least. They have meds that can help the acid too if necessary
    Not sure it helps you get him to fall asleep but it might be a reason he has trouble staying asleep and wants to eat himself to sleep.

  • camille

    April 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    There’s a sleep regression at 4 months, so anything you try now might FAIL. Not sure if you’re familiar with the “Wonder Weeks”, but this research saved me in that it made me a more patient mama (i.e. convinced me that my baby didn’t hate me and wasn’t trying to kill me…and slowly gaining the upper hand). Basically, all their research shows that babies can become crabby (crabbier?) and their sleep goes to hell around the same time, and its related to major brain development. Our daughter followed them pretty closely.
    That said, at 13 months we’re still figuring out the sleep thing. I tell myself its because she’s really really smart.

  • Crabby Apple Seed

    April 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Sounds just like my daughter when she was a seriously colicky, pissed off, hating-the-world newborn. Randomly, my husband found that using both hands to bounce the crib mattress helped her calm down enough to fall asleep. We slowly cut back on that and then cut it out completely, and it worked. We did, however, use this as a complement to CIO. By itself, CIO did not work for her, she also escalated, but with a nudge in the right direction, it was a different story.
    She didn’t sleep thru the night until she was almost a year old, and then, “sleeping thru the night” involved a 4:30 wake up time for quite some time, a habit which took SERIOUS effort to break (….involving CIO, I’m sorry to say), so there is also the caveat that some babies are just truly terrible sleepers. And I don’t say that to be discouraging, I say that to reassure you that this isn’t your fault. The moms whose babies are sleep valedictorians aren’t better moms than you, they’re lucky. Not saying they don’t work hard at it, but that their hard work actually pays off. Soo, if this takes longer than you’d like, please don’t beat yourself up over it.

  • Cobblestone

    April 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    In the immortal words of Moxie – by whatever means necessary.
    One thing I didn’t see you specifically mention was the timing of trying to move him. For Shortstack, he has to be past clinging to whatever he is clinging on plus a couple of minutes before I can move him – anything sooner than that and all bets are off for the rest of the night.
    Good luck.

  • Stefanie

    April 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    My daughter is 4 months old and also had the boob=sleep problem and also wanted to be held 24 hours a day. We finally (mostly) cured her of it using both The No-Cry Sleep Solution and Good Night Sleep Tight. She’s an escalator too, but some of the stuff in the No-Cry was too stimulating for her.
    Here is what we did: first, I stopped nursing her at night. Bottles only with expressed milk. And she wasn’t allowed to fall asleep with the bottle in her mouth. We instituted a strict bedtime routine that ended with a short snuggle and putting her in the crib awake and soothing her without picking her up. Consistency is the key! Resist all urges to pick that child up. We endured a full week of her sleeping in 30 minute chunks 24 hours a day. We took turns sleeping on her nursery floor (hardwood floors have never been so comfortable). Then one day I put her down fussing and she slept for 9.5 hours. Kid was exhausted. She did fairly well for about a week, then had some tummy issues and went back to the ole 30 minutes at a time. But, we stuck to our guns, and now we’re at a point where we can put her down awake and leave the room with her awake and she’ll go to sleep. Most nights she sleeps pretty well. I would also ask your pediatrician about a lovey. Ours ok’d it and it’s helped a lot. Good luck! Stay strong! Sleep training was absolute and total hell, but you can do it and everyone in your house will sleep better.

  • Lisa M

    April 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Try getting him to sleep earlier than you think he should (if possible). He might be having a growth spurt, and need more sleep. Especially if he has a bad nap.
    I know it seems counter intuitive to put him to sleep earlier if he’s having sleep problems, but one possible answer might (emphasize might) be that he’s already overtired and irritated by the time you try nursing him to sleep.
    Sorry…sleep problems suck the life out of you. Good luck!

  • Amy

    April 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I just want to offer my sympathy to the author of the letter. I had a TERRIBLE sleeper by nature and we tried millions of things until finally doing the cry-it-out method from Ferber’s book, which took just a couple of nights at 6 mos old to create a FANTASTIC night time sleeper. It didn’t work at all for napping though because of that escalation issue, which we had too. (DD could cry for the AM nap until lunchtime and the PM nap until dinner time and after 3 weeks of 3 hours 2x/day of crying, I wasn’t sane anymore, so I just held her for nap time…until she was OVER A YEAR OLD!) I then found the “Sleep Lady Shuffle” book and it fixed our nap problem in just a couple days. Lastly, my bad-sleeper-by-nature is now over 2 and because of the stringent routines we put in place, and the lessons we learned about not bothering her if she wakes up unless its a true emergency (believe me, you can tell the difference between fussing half-awake and screaming because they’re sick), I now have a better sleeper than any one of those people I know that bragged about their 4 mo. old miraculously sleeping all night w/o being forced too. She has a well defined routine & can be put to bed in any place from Grandma’s house to a strange hotel, without any struggle at all. Along the way we put in room darkening curtain liners and a white noise machine, and whether or not they worked, we’ve stuck with them because it does make for a very nice place to sleep.
    Good luck!

  • Olivia

    April 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Okay, I know I’m going to sound like a screechy breastfeeder, but wow! Cut the breastfeeding out?! I don’t know how this mother feels, but nursing isn’t just about food and there is nothing WRONG with nursing a baby to sleep as mother is okay with it.
    There is also no reason to think a 4 month old will sleep thru the night (defined by doctors as 5 hrs straight). There are many reasons why an infant or toddler will continue to need comfort during the night. Teething, illness, growth spurts, etc continue for years.
    Consider co-sleeping or bedsharing. Baby will sleep more soundly and you will get the rest you need. Plus, when he wakes up it’s less work for you.

  • Susan

    April 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I concur. As a first-time mommy to an almost-one-year-old, I just want to tell you that I have been there — exactly there — and it will get better. Four months is such a hard time. Just google “four month sleep regression,” and you’ll find lots of info and angst from other moms who are/have been right where you are.
    Here’s my advice, and like Amy said, it may not work for you, because babies are all unique little flowers.
    1. White noise, yes!
    2. Don’t do bedtime alone. Let your partner help you. I made this mistake, and my baby gave my husband HELL when he tried to put him to bed so that I could have a little extra sleep. So, take turns being tortured.
    3. Give yourself a break and try to ignore those terrible people with babies who sleep through the night. When they ask you how your baby is sleeping, go ahead and lie. Don’t give them a chance to make you feel worse. Seriously. Also know that if the person whose babies “slept through the night at 6 weeks” is now a grandparent, she’s a LYING, LIAR who LIES and also maybe does not remember what her children were like 30 years ago. I’m just saying.

  • AG

    April 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Several things that I think contributed from my baby going from only-falls-asleep-on-the-boob to a relatively happy crib napper around 4 months:
    (1) Disassociate sleep from the boob. For us, that meant all naps were taken in a stroller or the carseat for a week. If there is ANY other way to get your baby to fall asleep, go with that. Have you tried a sling?
    (2) Musical seahorse–it’s some Fisher Price thing that looks silly but works wonders. We played it near her while nursing for awhile so that she had positive (sleepy) associations with it. When we finally made the transition to crib, that helped a lot.
    (3) Tummy. I know, I know, but if your baby is even close to turning over and doesn’t mind being on their stomach, I think that’s what finally did the trick for us.
    Also, don’t let your efforts get in the way of what should be your main goal–making sure the baby gets enough sleep. If he or she is overtired, that’s only going to make it harder to fall asleep. So unless you have a foolproof way to get the baby to sleep other than eating (see #1, above) don’t quit it cold turkey.

  • Britt

    April 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    You want advice and you’ve gotten a lot. And I’m hopeful that something will work.
    If something doesn’t work YOU DIDN’T DO IT WRONG.
    Decide the difference between what you want to happen and what you can live with. I ended up with a co-sleeper starting at 6 months (when I couldn’t safely swaddle her anymore) because I am a very un-nice person with no sleep – and a sick person.
    At her 12-month appointment, our told us that if we didn’t have her out of our bed by 18 months, we’d be stuck with her till she was 3 and bribeable. That wasn’t a solution for us.
    I bought a twin-sized mattress and put it on the floor where the never-used crib had been. I’d lay down with her and then run away once she was well and truly asleep (no transfer to wake her up).
    She didn’t have the regression when moving from crib to toddler bed like many of her friends. If she woke up before about 4am, I’d bring her to bed with me. If it was before then, I’d lay with her.
    She’s still a very stubborn go-to-sleep kid, but she and I both get the sleep we need.
    I hope something works that keeps you sane soon!

  • Susan

    April 7, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Snackbox has a NOISY humidifier (or fan during the summer) as well as an iPod playing “Ocean Waves” on loop during naps and at bedtime, which seems to help immensely (particularly when all of our neighbors seemed to be getting new roofs installed on the same day – the incessant hammering ’bout drove me over the edge, but he napped solidly throughout).
    We also sleep with a noisy humidifier in our room, which helps us ignore the minor grunts, farts and hiccups that babies make in the night – if he really needs us, we’ll hear him.
    Good luck – you WILL find a solution that works for you IF you stick with it – I have friends who just threw up their hands and now their toddlers have terrible sleep habits that they just accept as unchangeable, since they haven’t slept well themselves in 2 years and don’t have the brainpower to try anything new.

  • JCF

    April 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I’ll agree with the previous posters who mention the four month sleep regression. Four months is a beast of a time, as far as sleep goes. Neither of my kids was sleeping through the night by any means before then, but they could sleep for longer stretches. Suddenly, around four months, NOTHING seemed to work and they were constantly waking and having trouble going back to sleep. I think your best bet at this point is to know that you’re not doing anything wrong, you likely can’t fix the problem quite yet, and just wait it out. Keep up your good habits (bedtime routine, etc.) and I’ll bet within a few weeks to a month, things will greatly improve. Good luck! I know it is so hard!

  • Jessie

    April 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    It all started sucking for me when my son could roll over to sitting.. and then standing, cause who can fall asleep standing in a crib? I had one of those awesome babies that would just fall asleep. .. Here we are at 11 months, still waking up to nurse in the middle of the night.
    Thank goodness for pacifiers. That wasn’t mentioned, but maybe the baby just needs to suck?

  • eva

    April 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Definitely check out Ask Moxie – lots there about the 4 month sleep regression. Also, keeping the room pitch black worked wonders for our daughter – we have heavy dark towels hanging over the blinds in her room, and wherever we travel, we just make the room as dark as possible. She’s two now and sleeps 12 hours a night, but has always been a poor napper, and often these days will just refuse to nap. Fine by me – earlier bedtimes follow no-nap days!

  • bethany actually

    April 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    My sympathies! My daughter was the same way as a baby. I found some of the ideas in the No-Cry Sleep Solution to be very helpful and reassuring, and when she was older (about 8-9 mos) I modified the ideas in this article ( and that was HUGELY helpful. I started out by nursing her till she was almost asleep, then put her down and stayed by her side, singing and patting her till she went to sleep. She was MAD and it took a couple of hours, but she did go to sleep and I didn’t feel bad because I was right there with her, comforting her. The next night I did the same thing, and it only took an hour. The next night, she rolled over and went to sleep in about two minutes flat while I patted her and sang softly. I thought it would take three weeks, not three days, to get her to that point! There were hiccups after that but overall it got MUCH better.
    Finally I want to say, remember your baby won’t be a baby forever. 🙂 If it works out that the best way is for you to nurse him or rock him to sleep and you don’t mind doing it, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that! He WILL learn to put himself to sleep eventually, and you will never get these baby days back. If, however, you’re resenting the situation, then it is time to make a change so you enjoy your baby again.
    Good luck!

  • Erin

    April 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    My son actually needed medicine for GERD until he was about 8 months old, he would scream all night long without it and only sleep if we were holding him. We also swaddled him until about 6 months when he started to wiggle out of it, we used the miracle blanket (when he got too big only swaddled his top and didn’t put his feet in the pocket) and also let him have a paci at night, as well as put an ipod in his room with a white noise track on repeat on at night and for naps. He would sleep for four hours at a time once we figured all THAT out. But it was rough until he hit about a year old. Until then he ate every 4 hours no matter what. Now he’s 18 months and he’s a good sleeper, but we did end up letting him cry it out (within reason) when he was about 8 months old.
    And as for the routine, I’d keep it really really simple. Like, bath, PJ’S, song, bed. Nothing too involved that will take you forever, because then you have to DO THAT EVERY NIGHT. And the younger the baby the shorter it can be. We use the same routine now that he’s over a year old and 99% of nights he goes down in about 10 minutes, which the changing into PJ’s and story and everything.
    Just my two cents. 😉

  • Dani

    April 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Our first was a wonderful sleeper which completely left us unprepared for our second, who slept ONLY in the swing, ONLY after being nursed.
    What turned the corner for us was on the advice of a friend (long time daycare provider) we borrowed the happiest baby on the block dvd from the library.
    I proceeded to viciously make fun of it.
    Then we actually tried the swaddling and the shushing and the jiggling and she freaking passed out. In minutes.
    I actually bought fabric to continue swaddling her when she got too big for the baby blankets we had. I know it doesn’t work with every baby but it was a LIFE saver for us. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but it definitely helped us.
    Now she’s a year old and a great sleeper. You turn on the noise machine, plop her in bed and she just curls up and goes to sleep.
    Good luck!!!

  • kakaty

    April 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    As for the white noise – it might need to be louder then you think. We were swaddling and she had a sweet little baby-store white noise machine but nothing seemed to work. During the 3-4 month sleep desperation we read Happiest Baby on the Block and it suggested a hair dryer or vacuum. I didn’t believe it – thought it would be too loud – until we turned on my hair dryer about 2 feet away and like a damn switch was flipped she got quiet and fell asleep in seconds flat. Keeping a hair dryer on all night isn’t a solution so my geek husband ran to the computer, found an audio file of hair dryer noise, loaded it on an ipod MacGyver’d some old computer speakers to plug it into, and played it on repeat all night. It had to be loud but it worked. Now, at 3 ½ she still sleeps with her hair dryer noise on every night (although we’ve upgraded to a cheap iPod dock and it doesn’t have to be very loud anymore).
    Also – she liked to be swaddled super TIGHT. SwaddleMe’s were the only ones that worked – she could bust out of the MB and AA’s in no time. But I did have to reinforce the Velcro on the SwaddleMe’s for extra strength. Like Moxie says – any means necessary!

  • Marnie

    April 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Maybe I just got lucky, but I completely ignored the “they have to learn to fall asleep by themselves” advice until my daughter was a little older. We had a routine that included a warm bath, snuggling/nursing (or bottle) while I (or whoever) read a book, falling asleep while eating, and then I’d put her in bed and swaddle her fast. It didn’t mean she didn’t wake up a couple hours later, but it meant she went to sleep easily.
    When she was a little older – I don’t remember exactly, maybe around 6 months? maybe 7? I just remember feeling like she was ready – we had the same routine, but we would stop feeding, then finish the book, then put her in the crib and cover her up.
    Essentially what I’m saying is I did what worked for us at the time and she grew out of the needing the boob/bottle to fall asleep all by herself. Again, maybe I was just lucky, but I just didn’t feel at 3 and 4 months old she was ready to “learn” to fall asleep on her own. If he’s not ready to make that jump now, try again in a month. Or two months. I can almost guarantee he will not go off to college needing a bottle of milk to go to sleep.

  • Amy M

    April 7, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Amalah: When you say that they need to learn to fall asleep on their own from the get go – do you really mean from birth? I have a 5 week old and we let her fall asleep and then transfer her. But I certainly don’t want to create a problem later on so please tell me!!!
    Editor: Thanks for bringing this up. Up until a baby is three months old, the rule of thumb is that because the baby is SO YOUNG you need do whatever is necessary (safely, obviously) to comfort your baby. Once you pass the three month mark, in general, you can help your baby establish healthy sleep habits.

  • Courtney

    April 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I noticed your post said “didn’t get a good nap” (singular). At this age your baby should be getting probably 3 naps a day (depending on how long they are), and/or going down for a nap after he’s been awake for 2 hours max.
    Also, to ditto a previous post, I learned the hard way that you have to wait a while after they fall asleep before you put them down. Rock/jiggle/soothe until he’s asleep, then hold him for another 10 minutes or so until he’s really zonked and then put him down. (This will get shorter as he gets older.)
    To learn more about disassociating the boob from sleep, try googling the E.A.S.Y. schedule for babies. It helped us a lot.

  • Jaymee

    April 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    I am totally not understanding all this, “My baby is an escalate baby, not a cry it out baby.” Just because a baby escalates, doesn’t mean they can’t cry it out. My son would escalate and guess what? He was just left alone to cry that much longer. He screamed at the top of his lungs for upwards of 30 minutes every night for 2 weeks straight before he would fall asleep. After those two weeks though I would put him to bed like normal and he would fall asleep because he knew that it was bedtime and crying was not going to do him any good because nobody would come get him. My son is an very, very happy baby and I think a big part of that is because he sleeps on a strict schedule so he doesn’t get overly tired.
    You should also try putting him to sleep on his tummy. Sleeping on your back is just uncomfortable, especially for a baby that is use to being snuggled. Besides in a few years it will be recommended to put your baby to sleep on his tummy anyways. It goes in cycles, when my oldest brother was a baby he was suppose to sleep on his back. When my youngest older brother was a baby he was suppose to sleep on his side. When I was a baby, I was suppose to sleep on my tummy. Now it’s back to sleeping on the back. It will change again.

  • Jackie

    April 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    My daughter slept 9 hours by 8 weeks old and I thought “I have a miracle baby!” By 4 months, we were lucky if she would do 2 hours straight.
    From 4-6 months, we tried to deal with her sleep issues. She wouldn’t nap for more than 30 minutes and it took me about 90 minutes to get her to fall asleep. I would do lunges across the room while she wailed in my ear to get her to fall asleep. (It did have the benefit of helping me lose some weight.) I was opposed to letting her cry, but she just wouldn’t fall asleep without wailing – except when I let her nurse to sleep. She woke up all night long and we would take turns rocking her back to sleep because she certainly didn’t need to eat every two hours (I was nursing every 2.5-3 hours during the day and she was gaining amazing amounts of weight). We tried everything aside from letting her cry but absolutely nothing got her to sleep without screaming
    I’m rambling, but it turns out that she needed to cry herself to sleep. I went through one absolutely awful morning where I put her down for a nap and just let her wail it out without the lunges or rocking or anything. She cried for a full 90 minutes. And from that nap onward she has fallen asleep on her own within about 15 minutes. Of course she wakes up periodically during the night (like last night… with a fever… so we slept three in a bed with the little one’s knee in my husband’s face and arms draped across my chest), but it is nothing like it was in the beginning. Thank God for sleep! I’m sure you’ll get there soon!
    (One other thing – I really think her change in sleep habits was due to teething. Unusual, but my daughter got her first teeth right at the 4 month mark. Any popping up?)

  • Caitlyn

    April 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    a good carrier can work wonders. a lot of slings are uncomfortable after a few months, but I found wrapping surprisingly easy (start with this: in any soft, non-stretchy fabric) or a good mei tai is easier still (I have one from

  • Jackie

    April 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Just remembered one more thing – a hairdryer worked wonders for us when all else failed. I would lay it on the bathroom floor while I rocked her and she would stop crying immediately. Ended up buying hairdryer sounds on amazon and playing them on a loop all night long. It did help quite a bit.

  • sls

    April 8, 2010 at 2:51 am

    we did something similar — we burnt a CD of “white noise” downloaded from the internet, and we put it on repeat on a CD player in her bedroom. Like you and other people — I don’t know WTF people in my building start doing right at naptime and bedtime, but it is LOUD and that white noise can cover everything!! 🙂 We are even traveling with it when we go on vacation!!
    I think you have to go for whatever works and just tackle the issues once she’s over the sleep regression. We co-slept until 4 months, and then I slept on a guest bed in her bedroom for another month so that I could get up with her in the night. Naps were a whole 15 minutes. We did a numer of environmentally unfriendly car trips just so she could nap. I ate drive-thru meals just so I didn’t wake her up. Not fantastic, but it worked — she slept, and that was what I needed. At 6 months we tackled the night feeds. Again, not terribly fun.
    The key is nerves of steel and perseverence (sp?). Once you have decided on a routine that you feel comfortable with, then just stick to it.
    We did the every-5-minutes method of controlled crying/comforting and back out of the room. It worked for us, but it might not for you.
    Go with your gut! And TRADE-OFF WITH YOUR PARTNER. Don’t let this become the “only Mommy can do it” show!!!!

  • Sarah

    April 8, 2010 at 9:43 am

    First off – my sympathies. Being a new mom is tough. Especially if your baby is colicky, teething or needs more physical contact than other babies. Secondly – it makes my heart shrink up a little when I hear people talk about “stringent schedules” and “crying it out”. Babies are not adults. They do not eat, sleep, or poop like adults. They won’t do those things until they are…well…adults! As a new parent I found that I had a lot of adjustments to make – I could not expect my little one to accommodate my, or my husband’s, schedule. He is almost one now and our lives have not returned to “normal”. We complained for a little while and then just sucked it up – we added a new person to our family, not a hamster. It is hard to do but try to put this in perspective. Your son will grow out of this after a little while and will stop needing to comfort nurse. While part of you will say “Hurray!” another part will probably cry a little because that stage is gone and you’ll never have it back. Having children is so awesome but it is SUCH a physical and emotional roller-coaster. And there are no seatbelts.
    P.S. If someone can point me at some research that shows that comfort nursing your baby after 3 months is detrimental, please do.

  • Olivia

    April 8, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Sarah, just want to say I’m right there with you. And, no comfort nursing is not detrimental to a baby after 3 months. We have never tried to put our baby on a strict schedule especially with sleep. The only thing we do routinely is that I take her to bed around 9-9:30 every night. She tends to get most of her sleep at night by sleeping until late morning and then just one or two short naps. But, sometimes she wakes early and takes longer naps. Bottom line is she sleeps when she needs it for however long she needs, and putting her in a schedule would probably mess her up.

  • Emily

    April 8, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    It is sooo hard to go through this, but I agree with other posters that this too, shall pass! We promise!
    Until then, though, I definitely agree with checking out the possibility of reflux…my daughter has it and she had to sleep inclined until about 7 months. Also, although I know going to music seems like a natural soother, I have to say that, while my daughter LOVES music during the day, she’s very auditory, and any music while she is trying to sleep or is upset actually stimulates her MORE, and prevents her from calming down. White noise in the form of a humidifier or sound machine didn’t seem to bother her, though, so defnitely give that a shot. One caveat about white noise though!! While it can be loud initially, you should NOT leave it at that volume for a sustained amount of time…prolonged exposure to even loud white noise can damage hearing. (from my mom, who is a professional in the hearing field) Gradually turn it down after your little one is alseep to a level more consistent with background noise.
    Good luck!

  • Butterfly

    April 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Go to bed earlier, go to bed earlier, go to bed earlier! I agree with commenters who say that by the time the baby is rubbing their eyes and crying, it’s already too late. They are overtired and won’t be able to self-soothe, no matter how old or young they are. Put that child down for a nap as soon as you see those eyelids get the least bit heavy, even if they seem “awake”. It’s not any strict sleep training technique, it’s just being more attuned to their natural signals and body rhythms!
    We started doing this at 2 months, and by 4 she was a champion sleeper, and a nap schedule kind of emerged naturally on its own. And we got *really* good at spotting sleepy signs.

  • Melissa

    April 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    This is just to reiterate as others have said that it will get better and you will figure it out. Of course then something else will happen like teething or another growth spurt or moving to a real bed and the process will need tweaking / starting over again. Even now as our little man gets ready to turn three, we just hit a phase where naps come only every third day (other days he has to stay in his room at least an hour for “quiet time”) and bedtimes are closer to 930pm than the 8pm when we do our routine and put him to bed. He wants to leave his room or 5 more minutes of rocking or what’s Dadda doing now? This too will pass as we learn what tweak our routine needs and then incorporate that. This is basically a long way of saying you will figure it out just like the rest of parenting and eventually get the sleep you need. Good luck!

  • agirlandaboy

    April 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    We had the exact same problem until our son was seven months old, and the thing that eventually solved it was using old Dr. Ferber. For the first few nights he definitely “escalated,” and for a good long time, but it was seriously a matter of DAYS before the method started working, and after two weeks he was consistent about going to sleep on his own.
    If you haven’t actually read Ferber, just heard the horror stories from some uninformed opposers, I urge you to at least give it a look. The advice is NOT about abandoning your child to just cry and cry and cry; it’s about structured soothing that eventually leads to sleep. The best part is that it works! It’s not a fun time every step of the way (what part of parenting is), but for us it was definitely a sanity-saving solution.

  • professormama

    April 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    We have two, and our son (who is now 5) was a MAGIC baby, magic, I won’t go into the details.
    Our little girl is nearly a year, and she was more difficult.
    I don’t believe in cry it out.
    I can think of any baby animal that is expected to go to sleep alone and be left alone all night.
    We co-slept with both kids- it works and if they need to nurse to go to sleep do it, they grow out of it. Simple as that.
    All babies learn to sleep on their own when they are ready, just don’t lose track of what they are capable of and avoid treating them like babies as they age.
    (A two year old does not need to nurse to fall asleep like a baby and can sleep in their own bed in the same room or in a room of their own.)
    Relax about it, and do whatever works so that you both get a good night’s sleep , and take lots of naps, together!
    Be reasonable, remember it’s a little baby, they need all the snuggling they can get, it makes them grow.

  • Spicy Sister

    April 9, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Oh dear. You have my heartfelt sympathies.
    We went through a similar struggle when our son was six months. From six months-11 months was hell as far as sleep was concerned. And most of it was because we had never taught him how to sleep without nursing to sleep. At the worst period he was waking 4-6 times a night and needing to be nursed each time, but like your son, would wake up if I tried to move him once he had fallen asleep. And I wasn’t one of the lucky women who can sleep through nursing/co-sleeping.
    There are all sorts of intermediate steps we took to create a stable bedtime routine, move his bed time earlier, change the association between nursing and sleep, create an attachment to a “lovey” etc…
    What I can say is that each of those helped, but the book : Good Night, Sleep Tight (The Sleep Lady) – SAVED OUR LIVES!!! And if not our lives, then certainly our sanity and our marriage.
    And honestly, it took a week.
    And now our son happily goes to sleep, wide awake, in his crib. He actually asks to go to bed. And he sleeps 11 hours a night. And it is a miracle every single time to me.
    I hope this helps. You can check the book out from the library to get a feel for it. I thought it was a great balance between The No-Cry Sleep Solution and most other methods out there and I felt like my husband, son, and I were all working together to teach him this new and valuable skill he would need for the rest of his life.
    Regardless of what works, or doesn’t, for you – I hope you get some good sleep soon!!!!

  • Amy

    April 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I know a lot of people insist that falling asleep nursing all the time is a Terrible Thing, but you know what? Sometimes that’s the path of least resistance and there’s nothing wrong with that. My daughter was like Stacey’s. At 4 months everything went to shit sleep-wise and stayed that way for a LONG time. We tried everything except CIO and got nowhere but increasingly frustrated. When I look back at the sleep logs I kept for months I laugh at myself–it really got ridiculous how hard we tried to change things. The ONLY thing that improved the situation was acceptance. The day I finally said “to hell with it–if this is the only way she’ll sleep, fine,” it was like a huge weight was lifted. I kept nursing to sleep every night. I kept being stuck under a post-milk sleeping baby (and eventually toddler) during naptime. I figured out ways to take care of my body’s needs throughout all this so I wouldn’t feel drained by it. I was happier, my husband was happier, and my daughter slept as well as she was able for that stage in her life. It’s OK for a baby to need you. Make the most of it, even if it wears you out. They can’t feed themselves or clean themselves or do anything else for themselves–why do expect them to be able to manage sleeping themselves?
    Now my daughter is almost 4. She is an awesome sleeper. It took a long time for her to figure it out–by herself, on her own time–but here we are and it is wonderful. Being patient paid off. She’s in the middle of her 3 hour nap right now, after just laying down on her own and going to sleep. 🙂

  • Kim

    April 9, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I just submitted this question and then I read this. How did I miss it? I am having the same problem with my 3-month old. It began a month ago. We’re now co-sleeping, which truthfully I love. I just want my son to sleep. I want him to have restful naps and nighttime sleep so he’s a happy baby. I am torn about him crying even a little.
    Good luck to everyone in the same ship as us. It’s tricky to know what’s best sometimes.

  • ksmaybe

    April 12, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Just to throw a slightly different opinion out there…I don’t think nursing to sleep is a big deal. My son did it, for months on end, and then just didn’t. We had some issues around 6 months old to resolve with waking up and not being able to be laid back down (would fall asleep, but wake when we transferred to crib, involved 15 minutes or less of crying, 3 nights). but we never messed with the nursing to sleep plan when it worked. Eventually he stopped falling asleep at the breast and started falling asleep in the crib. He had at that point (somewhere between 9 and 12 months?) long since learned to fall back asleep during the night and simply fell asleep on his own.
    My point is, as Amalah said, grab bag of tricks, not everything works for everybody. I personally couldn’t handle much crying, I just couldn’t take it. My son fell asleep nursing and I just never saw the point in waking him up for a lullaby or book so that I could put him down awake. He was asleep…wasn’t that the point? I’m just at the 4 month mark with DD and who knows what will work with her. I think we’re starting to surface from a regression, so who knows. She nurses to sleep, whatever. Both of mine have figured out how to deal with sitters. No boob, they figure something else out 🙂