When Sue was around 11 months old John and I decided it was time to transition her to her own crib from co-sleeping with us, as we wanted to get pregnant again. I wanted the transition to go slowly so by the time I have a big belly and am sleeping uncomfortably alone, Sue would be well transitioned to sleeping on her own. I read the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and got some great tips! I did not want my baby to go through the unnecessary and avoidable stress of crying herself to sleep. Sometimes it takes me, a grownup, a warm bath, or relaxing book, or back rub from my hubby to put me to sleep, why do I expect my 11 month old baby to be any different?
Well, I had no idea how stressful this would be on me! John joked a few nights that this was not a No Cry Sleep Solution, because even though Sue wasn’t crying, I was the one in tears. There were two weeks when I tried everything to break the habit of using the Tula and nursing her to sleep. Some nights it would take me two hours to get her down, and by then it was my bedtime. I would be biting my lip and have tears roll down my eyes as I was filled with frustration, I didn’t know what to do. By the 90th minute of rocking and swaying with her, I would yearn for a few minutes of quality time with John. I would give up on trying anything new for that night and nurse her to sleep. And sometimes that didn’t even work because she was so overly tired! Then I would send John in to help and he would come out of the room frustrated after 20 minutes. It was not easy to break the habit of using the carrier and nursing her to sleep, but it took time. It was my choice, time over tears.
This is a hard confession to make as I know I am very blessed to have a beautiful daughter, and should not complain. But at the end of a long day, when it has been a week since I’ve sat down quietly at night to talk to my husband, I started to get frustrated.
What I learned through this two month ordeal was to go slower! I tried to go from using the Tula and nursing her to sleep, to laying her down in her crib awake and hoping she would just beautifully drift off to dreamland. Ah, no, that never happened! So I took it one step at a time. Instead of using the Tula, I sat on a comfortable chair and nursed her. I broke one habit at a time, not rushing it all at once. For a week I had to switch between using the chair, and if after forty minutes that did not work, I’d use the Tula. But eventually she became comfortable nursing in the chair. So whatever you do, take it one small step at a time, and lower your expectations, and be patient. Eventually she will sleep better, everyone eventually weans and sleeps through the night, it just takes time.
But the change that came out of this ordeal was that Sue would sleep longer stretches at night! It was difficult to get her to fall asleep, but because I put her down in her crib, she slept for five to seven hours at a stretch. My movements or the smell of mothers milk did not wake her for a few hours! Around 3:00 AM she would wake up and I would bring her into our bed to finish the night there. I felt like I was getting somewhere and making improvements!
She transitioned to the crib well, for the first part of the night, because I tried to make it as familiar as our bed. The crib was still in our room so she was familiar with the look and smell of the room. I placed a comforter on top of her hard baby mattress and rolled two blankies on either side of her. So when she moved around, she felt secure and believed I was still there. I also always used a noise machine to prevent it from getting too quiet in the room and having her sense she I am not next to her. After I nursed her to sleep I would slip the pacifier in her mouth so she could comfort herself while my breast was not there. Additionally, I put her in her crib when I knew she was completely asleep. I know this goes against other parenting advice, but I was taking it one small step at a time.
Additionally, I would not have put this many blankies around her if she was still a newborn or just a few months old. But by 11 months she was old enough that I was not afraid of her getting into trouble.
Another reason why she was going on longer stretches was that I was trying my best to feed her more during the day and allowing her to nurse as often and as long as she wanted to. Instead of just nursing in the morning, I included some pieces of banana or oatmeal at breakfast time. At lunch I gave her small pieces of ham or turkey with a vegetable, and at dinner, whatever we were eating. She was not a big eater, but I kept introducing new things to her. During bath time John would feed her a bowl of baby cereal, to ‘fill her up’ before the night. He liked to do it in the bathtub because it ended up being a huge mess. This helped her sleep longer stretches without waking up to nurse, and it gave me the reassurance that I can night wean her and not be afraid that she is hungry.
Our next transition was moving Sue to her own room. This allowed John and I to chat again before falling asleep while we were cuddling; a ritual we had to give up since we’ve been co-sleeping. It was so nice to have that time to ourselves again! But even as I type this I am excited to co-sleep with my next baby again. The benefits to both baby and mommy far outweigh the sacrifice.
Our nightly ritual would be bath time with daddy from 7:00pm – 7:20pm. Prayers and goodnight kisses until 7:30pm. And then daddy would leave the room and I would nurse Sue on the rocking chair while saying prayers quietly. As soon as she would unlatch from me I would put her pacy in, and after a few nights she became comfortable with not being latched to my breast all the time. I would rock her for a few more minutes and then slowly place her in her crib where she would sleep for 5-7 hours.
I needed to break the habit of having Sue eat in the middle of the night so instead of bringing her into our bed at 3:00 am, I would go into her room and give her a bottle filled with water. This gave her the comfort of sucking and drinking but did not fill her up, like nursing or milk would. I knew if I made any changes they needed to be similar to the previous practice and they needed to be slow. So for a week or so I would give her a bottle of water if she woke up in the middle of the night. Most of the time I would hold the bottle for her and wait until she was finished, I would then slip the pacy back into her mouth and sneak out of the room. She would then soundly sleep by herself until 6:30 or 7:00 am.
I slowly transitioned to just putting her pacy back when she woke up in the middle of the night. If I could see she is pushing it out and wanting something else, I would give her the bottle of water. After a few nights of trying the pacy first and then the bottle if she fussed, she transitioned to falling back asleep just with the pacy.
There were hard nights when neither a bottle of water or a pacy would work, and I would make myself a little bed next to her crib and place my hand on her back as she fell back asleep. I did not want her to get back into the habit of co-sleeping, so I sacrificed a few nights and slept on the carpet next to her as she transitioned. If it was an especially hard night for her, or if she was teething, I would take her out of her crib but stay in her room and cuddle her in my ‘carpet bed’ until she fell asleep again.
One tip I read was not to respond to every sound baby makes in her sleep. Sometimes I responded so quickly that I actually woke her up and she would have gone for another hour or two if I just left her. John talks in his sleep or makes strange grunts, babies do the same thing. Learn to distinguish a ‘waking up’ sound from a ‘sleeping’ sound, it will help a lot!
This was a huge change for me! Two months ago I would nurse her every 2-3 hours, all through the night. Co-sleeping really made this easy so I was only awake for a few minutes as she switched breasts. But having the freedom to sleep in any position, to sleep for longer stretches at night, and knowing I transitioned my baby without causing her stress, was worth all the hard nights!
So to summarize, the steps that helped me transition Sue from co-sleeping to sleeping in her crib were:
- Put baby to sleep in a crib. It can be difficult, but take the transition slowly. Let her fall asleep in her normal method, and place her in her crib.
- Change one habit at a time, be patient, it takes time!
- Feed baby more during the day to fill her tummy for night time.
- Give her a bottle of water or pacy during the night when she wakes up to nurse.
- During difficult nights, sleep next to the crib to have her get used to her new surroundings.
- Learn to distinguish between baby’s sleep sounds.
- Make the crib as comfortable and as familiar as possible.
I hope these tips help you and your baby sleep soundly!