I have an 11-month-old son. He is a happy, healthy, smiley child. As a newborn, he was a dream. He often gave me 8-hour stretches of sleep at night, but it grew steadily worse. I was perfectly happy to nurse him once or twice a night, when he was about 6 months old, but for the past two months, it has been more like 4-6 times each night.
He is on a regular eating and napping schedule during the day. He naps twice for a total of 2.5 hours or so. He eats dinner around 6 p.m., then I nurse him at 7 p.m. and he goes to sleep. Between about 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., he wakes up 4-6 times. The fastest way to put him back to sleep is to nurse him. Then he is up for the day at 6 a.m., but so is everyone else in the house, too, so this does not bother me. We are all early to bed and early to rise.
I have been reluctant to start any sort of sleep training so far, because…you know, there is always a reason. He is teething; I need to put him back to sleep quickly so that he does not wake up my older son; the fastest way to make him go back to sleep at night is to nurse him; I always said I would let him nurse at night for a full year; etc. But, at this point, I am a zombie and think it is time. I do not even know what I can realistically expect of a baby his age. One nursing a night, or sleeping through the night? Please help.
Good news for you–half your problem is already solved! Night-time-sleep-fighting for babies under one year of age is typically a result of being over-tired and lacking proper daytime structure. From what you’ve written, your son seems to be getting sufficient naps, is on a predictable routine, and overall well-rounded with his day sleep…which is AMAZING!
The issue he does have, though, is his inability to fall asleep and remain asleep independently. He is completely dependent on your nursing to fall asleep! He falls asleep in scenario one (being nursed) and suddenly wakes up in scenario two (no longer being nursed) and he is confused. Where is that deliciousness I fell asleep with? I want that warm, cuddly milk back…now! He then cries out again for you to re-create his original environment (of nursing) so that he can fall back asleep.
The goal here is to teach him to fall asleep and remain asleep in the same consistent environment, so that he can independently follow the necessary cues to go back to sleep on his own. Typically, babies are not able to last 10-12 hours straight at night without eating until solids are firmly established…but that doesn’t mean your baby has to continue waking up every hour at night either! Assuming he is gaining weight and getting the critical calories his body needs, it’s definitely realistic for him to go a solid 7-8 hour stretch at night. That means eating once in the night.
So what to do? The choice is yours…there are many sleep training methods out there to choose from: intense crying methods, no crying methods, checking, going in and out of the room, remaining in the room with minimal involvement, and the list goes on. The most critical point is to ensure that you find something you are comfortable with. Something that goes along with your parenting philosophy and beliefs. How do you feel about crying? Leaving the room? Do you want to remain there with him and help him gently, or do more of a “pull the band-aid off” approach? No one can answer these questions for you, and it’s so important that you go with something you are comfortable with to make sure it fits within your definition and style.
Because despite what your neighbor and best friend tell you, there is not ONLY one way. Is there ONLY one way to parent? Is there ONLY one way to tell a bedtime story? Is there ONLY one way to raise a child? Babies (just like adults) have many factors that contribute to their sleep: their personality, temperament, environment, development, health, and so on. So do your research and make sure whatever you choose is the right method for you….because you are the ONLY mother for your son.
Let us know how it goes!