I’m in need of some advice on how to fully wean my breastfed toddler (18mo) to sleeping all night in his bed. We co-slept until he was about 10 months. Since then I gradually started to rock and nurse him in the boys room at night (he shares a room with is 4-year-old brother).
He was doing great. I would nurse until he sleeps (around 9 p.m.) and put him in the crib and then he wouldn’t wake until around 1 a.m. He currently wakes once, sometime between 1 and 3 a.m. now. I’m just too exhausted to rock him back and put him to bed so I still bring him to our bed until my hubby and I need to wake up to get ready for work. I think he is gradually taking long to wake in the middle of the night, but how can I break that for good so we can all get a solid night’s sleep?
First of all—you deserve a huge pat on the back for the progress you’ve already made! Introducing another method for your baby to be calmed to sleep is not an easy feat. The fact that your toddler is now comforted by rocking or holding (instead of nursing all night) is a huge deal.
Next, you need to make a game plan of what your ideal sleeping situation looks like. Is your ultimate goal to have both boys sleep together in their room all night? To separate them? Have your toddler in your room? Once you figure out your goal, then you can map out the best way to reach it.
If your little guy is only waking up that one time around the 1-3 a.m. mark, then he can easily be taught how to calm back to sleep without needing to be held or rocked (and not brought into your bed…sounds like you’re DONE with that!). When he wakes up, respond to him immediately so he can know and expect that when he calls you, you come. Try using other methods to calm him without picking him up and without bringing him into your bed. Hold his hand while he remains in the crib, sing to him, rub his back, and try to find anything else you can that he likes to help him calm down.
He may be angry in the beginning, but he’s certainly not going through any feelings of abandonment because you are right there with him.
After doing that for a few nights he will start learning how to settle back to sleep on his own, and his night-wakings should disappear shortly after.
Do you have a sleep question for Batya? Send it into firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Sleep Coach.”