It took Sue until she was 14 months old to fall asleep on her own! Here are the reasons it took me so long, if you were curious. But throughout this time I’ve learned a lot on how to change her habits and move her gently through her transitions.
The methods I used to have Sue fall asleep on her own are below, this is my story. I hope it gives you a few tips on what to do and what not to do when transitioning your baby.
Lovingly wean your baby to have her fall asleep on her own.
Natural weaning, due to pregnancy, sadly forced me to give her a bottle. Although, if you wanted to do this earlier, this step can also be done with pumped milk. Sue was around 12.5 months when we moved into our new home and I continued the bedtime ritual we had, bath time with daddy at 7:00pm, prayers and kisses at 7:30pm, and nursing with me until she’s asleep. The biggest change came as my milk supply drastically dropped from starting my second trimester and I had to switch Sue to cow milk. She took the transition well as I still nursed her for comfort when she woke up in the morning, when she was having a rough day, or when she pulled down the neckline of my shirt. All other times, and especially for nourishment, I gave her a bottle of cow milk.
Follow the same bed time ritual every night.
So we would follow the same ritual; bath time with daddy, prayers and kisses, and then quiet time with mommy. I would have her straddle me and rest her head on my chest as she drank her bottle. I rubbed her back or her calves, she loved that, and as soon as she pushed the bottle out, I placed the pacy in her mouth. I would say a few more prayers quietly and then lay her in her crib when she was fully asleep.
Put baby to sleep in her crib, not in your arms.
Around 14 months Sue no longer fell asleep in my arms. It may be that my pregnant belly has grown too much and that she has grown too big to feel comfortable on me. So after our bedtime ritual of having daddy give her a bath, prayers and kisses, I would snuggle Sue in my arms and let her drink her bottle. I then lay her down in her crib and rub her belly as I held my other hand over her eyes with a blankie, blocking out the light. I would shoosh and slow down my rubbing on her belly until I see her settling down. After 10 minutes, if she is still awake, I quietly walk out the room and let her play if she desires. If she fusses I go back in and do the same thing again, rub her belly, shoosh, and cover her eyes. Half the time she would fall asleep the first time, if not I would go back in after she plays quietly for a while.
Avoid eye contact when putting baby to sleep
Quick tip: when baby makes eye contact with you they want to play and make cute faces, it can wake them up very quickly! So when putting baby to sleep, use soft sounds, gentle but firm touches and avoid making eye contact. It helps Sue know that this is not play time, but time to settle down and rest.
Know the tired signs and respond quickly.
Here are some helpful signs she shows when she is tired. If you wait too long after seeing these signs, your baby may get over their tiredness and get a second wind, which will make it harder for you to put them down to sleep.
- Rubbing her eyes.
- Yawning. This one is very obvious, but easily missed if you are busy.
- Acting fussy.
- Tripping over her own feet. When it is close to nap time and I haven’t seen any of the above signs, but she is falling down for the second time, I immediately get her ready for her nap.
Let baby play for a bit in her crib.
Tonight after her bath, I rocked her and let her drink her bottle. I rubbed her back for a few minutes while she was laying on my chest and I said a few silent prayers while shooshing softly. I could feel she was not getting comfortable on my growing belly and shrinking breasts so I laid her down in her crib. She wasn’t very happy so I placed a book and toy in the crib with her. She quietly played for 20 minutes and when I looked at the monitor again she was laying on her back with her eyes half closed. Five minutes later she was asleep without making a peep! I’ve included a picture of her below, surrounded by soft blankies and her My First Saints book. My baby is growing up so fast!
I use the VTech Safe & Sound Video Baby Monitor. It has great range and fantastic battery life and has never let me down!
It seems obvious, but make sure your baby is comfortable and safe. Don’t put anything dangerous in her crib; strings, cords, sharp items, anything small enough to swallow, etc. I allow Sue to sleep with a few blankies around her. I am no longer afraid that she may suffocate as she is old enough to pull them off and she loves to cuddle with them. I also place a baby book and a Dream Lite Pillow Pet in her crib, she loves it and plays quietly until she is asleep. We keep the house at 79F and have a fan going in her room, which keeps it cool. For naps and bed time I dress her in a long sleeved onesie or a short sleeve shirt and pajama pants.
Make her room a safe and happy place
Since I let Sue play a bit in her crib after giving her a bottle and making sure she is sleepy, she has grown used to it. She likes her crib because it is a safe place, not a place of bad memories and tears. So for the last week we have finally arrived and peacefully transitioned Sue to fall asleep on her own. It has been a longer road than other sleep methods, but I am happy to have learned so much about Sue and myself during this time. Together, we have gone through the different sleep transitions without putting her young and fragile little mind or body through stress.
Update: protecting baby’s teeth
So my dentist friend pointed out that letting Sue fall asleep with a bottle of cow milk could cause issues later. The sugars from the milk could cause cavities if not brushed off. So, we are changing our routine a bit. After dinner and before bath time I let Sue drink her bottle of milk. She either sits with me on the couch or walks around and plays a bit while drinking her milk. Then daddy gives her a bath and brushes her teeth, we then follow our usual routine of prayers and kisses. Instead of giving Sue a bottle of milk, I let her have a bottle of water while laying in her crib to prevent cavities later on. It has been two nights so far, and I had to help her a bit to get used to it. I rubbed her belly and shooshed her to have her fall asleep. Putting her down didn’t take long. I know this will be a small transition, but very necessary transition, for us to do. For all the mommies out there, may you learn from my first time mistakes. 🙂
I hope these tips have helped you! Good luck and try to enjoy every transition, they go by quickly!