Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bedtime for The Wee Farmer

We just didn't have the stomach to allow our son to Cry It Out. We tried... and just couldn't do it. So we had to find another way to gently teach him to sleep on his own. We simply didn't agree with the advice to "teach him that even if he cries you won't come".  As parents who strongly advocate for Attachment Parenting methods,  we didn't want this to be a lesson for him to learn. We wanted him to know that if he cried we WOULD come.  However, we wanted to teach him that he didn't need to cry. That he was safe in his own bed. That he could go back to sleep on his own.

It was challenging, because we co-slept with him from about age 12 months to now.  He would go down to sleep in his own bed at 7, and then awake crying at 10. Co-sleeping happened as a survival mechanism. He wouldn't sleep, I went back to work, and it was the only way that we could all get some sleep.

But daddy and I wanted our bed back, and I decided that I needed to wean him from night feeding.  When we co-slept, he used me as a pacifier to get back to sleep, and it was keeping both of us up.
The only way at that point that we could get him to sleep at bedtime was to pat his bum while he snuggled on a shoulder.  We knew this was going to take some work!

So we took two weeks off work, and prepared for sleepless nights.

The new rules were simple.
  1. Daddy became the main night time response unit. If our son cried, Daddy would go in to put him back to sleep.
  2. No more bringing him into our bed during the night. We both agreed that anytime after 6am if he woke up we would bring him to our bed for a snuggle and a morning feed. But before 6am Daddy was on duty.
  3. I would be in charge of bedtime, as I didn't see him as much during the day and I enjoyed the time with him. My goal was to get him used to being put down in the crib (no more breastfeeding to sleep, no more shoulder and rocking) We would gently wean him from the bum patting by patting lighter and lighter.
  4. We needed a firmer bedtime routine. So we set a new one. Bath, bottle, books, bed. No more play time after the bath. Once you are in your room and get your jammies on it is books and bed.

The first night was hell. He woke up 6 or 7 times. On the 6th wake up I crept downstairs and heated up a bottle. Daddy gave him the bottle and he went back to sleep until morning.   We both felt terrible, but at no time was he crying alone. Daddy was there soothing him and patting him back to sleep.

Bedtime the first few nights was tough too. I put him in the crib and he stood up crying, wanting to be rocked and held. I stepped back from the crib. He cried louder.  I told him gently that if he lay down I would come back to the crib and pat his bum and hold his hand. It took a few tries. He lay down. I came right back and rubbed his back. He got back up. I stepped away. He lay down, I went back. He eventually figured out that if he lay down I would be RIGHT there with him. So he stopped standing up. I pat his bum, I rubbed his back, I sang songs, and he fell asleep.

Over the next week it got better, then it got way worse for about two days. We did a lot of daytime napping!

We are now at about 1.5 weeks. Last night he slept from 7pm-4am and then woke up. He drank a half bottle of warm milk and went back to sleep until 6.  We are calling this an incredible success!

He goes down much easier at bedtime. I no longer rock and shush and bum pat, or breastfeed. We have a bath, go upstairs and put jammies on, read a whole lot of books (I can't help it I love to read to him!) while he drinks his milk, and then I put him in his crib and softly pat his bum. He is asleep in about 12-15 min.  It is so peaceful. No more crying. No more angst.

I am sure that teething and illness and all sorts of things will disrupt things at some point, but I am pleased that we have managed to night wean him and get him sleeping through the night peacefully without having to Cry It Out.

He is learning to soothe himself, and is teaching himself to go back to sleep. He feels secure in his own bed, with his Kitty Cat and his blankie. He also knows that if he does cry out, we are always there.


  1. Thanks for sharing Susan. This sound like a much nicer way to get the same results. Question: What do you do if your child won't take a bottle? I look forward to having a live conversation with you about this.

  2. Carissa, I am not a perfect parent. So we started giving him chocolate milk in a bottle during the day. It was the only time he got chocolate milk, and he loved it. Soooo...he started taking a bottle. Told you. Not perfect. :D