My 10 month old son puts himself to sleep for all naps and initial bedtime. He has been inconsistent with number of night wakings, but we always have at least one. He’s recently dropping his milk intake in favor of solids and some days will only drink 10-15oz. So, when he wakes once, I always feed him because I do feel like he may need it. I will note that he’s on his growth chart and our Pediatrician said he wouldn’t have to be fed when he wakes. That said, I’m okay with one feeding. My question is that sometimes he goes right back down for the rest of the night and sometimes he fights it. He isn’t content in my arms or in his crib. He did just start crawling so that may be part of the issue. I feel like we need to do a form of sleep training if he doesn’t want to go back to sleep. But, how do I feed one time per night (responding by feeding after crying for ~3 minutes) but then allow him to cry longer or not go in at all when he cries when being put back down or if he wakes other random times? I mention not going in at all when he still cries because sometimes that makes him cry harder and he still isn’t content being held if I were to pick him up. Any advice is so appreciated!
All really great questions! There are so many things happening developmentally at this age and it can certainly affect sleep!
So first, because your son just started crawling, that is very likely impacting his sleep. Developmental milestones can very commonly cause sleep regressions, and the most important thing we can do is try to remain consistent with our responses!
With his milk intake dropping during the day, I would try to get more milk feedings in there, when possible. Here’s an example of how I’d try to structure his day (it certainly doesn’t have to be exact!):
- 7 am wake up
- 7:15 milk
- 8:00 breakfast
- 9:30-11:00 nap 1
- 11:15 milk
- 12:00 lunch
- 1:15 top-off milk
- 2-3:30 nap 2 (this nap may be getting shorter as he gets closer to 12 months)
- 4:15 milk
- 5:30 dinner
- 6:30 milk to start bedtime routine
- 7:00 bedtime
As for when he does wake in the night, if he is of a healthy weight and the doctor said he doesn’t need any night feedings, having multiple night feedings some nights, only one other nights, etc., is likely confusing him. I would also aim not to have any night feedings, but if you do feel like he needs it, really try to stick with one feed; and he shouldn’t need it before 1 am.
Finally, when he wakes in the night, try to wait at least 10 minutes before responding, to give him that space to first try to fall back asleep, since he clearly has the skills during the day and at bedtime! And then at that point, respond similarly to your original sleep training method until he’s back asleep.
Let me know if this makes sense or if you have any more questions!
Gosh, thank you so much! This makes a lot of sense and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the details!!
Three follow-up questions if you don’t mind
We tried really hard to touch his chest and shush him vs picking him up when he was younger and somewhere along the line that translated into putting himself to sleep. This very rarely works these days. He often cries harder when I try this. And lately he isn’t comforted by me picking him up and trying to rock either. So, do I have any other options besides just trying to let him cry more? I hate that, but I also don’t want to create habits that I’ll regret. I’ve tried to be so gentle and I’m afraid I’ve made it harder on him in the long run.
He does stop and suck on his fingers for a bit sometimes when he’s crying out. If his cries pause for a bit, do I restart the clock for the 10 minute wait?
He is in the teething phase and I suspect a couple will erupt soon. How do you balance ensuring he isn’t in pain while following the plan? I’m sure this becomes less of an issue once he’s consistently sleeping as night wakings could then indicate pain/something being off.
Again, thank you so much. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate this guidance!!
Oh I’m so thankful, so happy to help!
I’m not surprised he has a tough time when you try to comfort that way! NOT because you did anything wrong (in fact, that’s a great approach!), you certainly didn’t make it harder on him! Also, when you’re in there trying to soothe him, it’s not because you “can’t” comfort him, he’s just having a tough time and is sleepy and just wants to sleep! You are still there and are still providing comfort, even if he’s not actually calming.
I’d approach it like this: if he’s upset, try to wait at least 10 minutes before responding. At that point, if he’s still just as upset and you think it would be helpful, do a quick pop in (1-2 minutes), then come back out. If you get to 10 minutes and he’s still upset but has calmed a bit, try to give him a few more minutes to ride that calm. If he has a brief period of calm, try to reset the clock, but also of course have the caveat that you know him best! So respond when you think is appropriate.
Teething is so tricky, because it’s absolutely uncomfortable, but it’s also hard to know when they’re actually ready to cut a tooth versus just a baby cutting teeth every few months! And you’re right, once babies are really solid sleepers, teething doesn’t often affect them as much as we assume it will! Here’s a blog post I wrote about it: https://viagraces.com/teething-and-sleep/
If you’re comfortable leaving him longer than 10 minutes, that could actually be helpful to give him more space! When babies are independent sleepers, it can make it more confusing to have someone come in and try to help them back to sleep, or just frustrated them more because another person in there is more stimulating. So while I wouldn’t want you to let him cry for hours, sometimes give him more space is helpful! I do like doing quick check-ins, even if you stretch it to 20-30 minutes, even if just for a quick sniff test to make sure he doesn’t have a dirty diaper.
Here’s a blog post I wrote last summer that I think will also be helpful for you as you navigate all of this: https://viagraces.com/crying-and-sleep-training/
Two more questions just to check: does he still use a pacifier to sleep at all? And when does he get a feed in the bedtime routine, and does he have a feed close to his naps at all?
The wealth of information in this response plus your blog posts is amazing! THANK YOU!!
In regards to your questions:
No, he never took to a pacifier. He sucks his middle two fingers as he falls asleep. When he cries in the night, he normally tries to self soothe by sucking on his fingers.
For naps, 9 out of 10 times he doesn’t feed. He feeds when he wakes then has a meal about 1-1.5hrs later. I have tried a bottle before nap a few times just to see if I can get his milk intake up, but it hasn’t seemed to help nights so I’ve gone back to no feed as part of the routine. His routine is sleep sack, sound machine, quick rock with a song then in crib awake (probably 3 mins total). At times he’ll cry for a minute, but he’s normally asleep pretty quickly.
For nighttime, I’ve changed his routine a little but it may still need tweaked. We now eat dinner then go up for bath, lotion and jammies. Then we come downstairs and play in a dim room for a bit (15-30 mins) while I pump. I was questioning my supply so I started pumping so I now know much he gets. We then go to his room and put on his sleep sack, drink bottle, turn on sound machine, read book, say prayer then in crib awake. He has been crying for about 5 minutes the last couple nights but then puts himself to sleep. I will note that the last few nights I can only get him to drink ~2oz before bed, which is why I worry that he may need the night feed. He has consistently been waking around 11:30 the last few nights and will drink 4-6oz. Two nights ago, he went back down awake and slept the rest of the night. Last night, he wouldn’t resettle. As I mentioned, I couldn’t soothe him in the crib or by holding him so I ended up letting him cry, which broke my heart, but he fell back to sleep within 25-30 minutes then slept the rest of the night.
Hopefully these details help. Again, thank you so much!!
@ViaGraces, thank you so much for your thoughtful, detailed comments. I’m learning a whole lot too
That’s great he doesn’t have the pacifier, I was asking because I often see the pacifier actually break up sleep more, so thankful that’s not it!
And also great that his feeds are not generally part of the nap routine. I would make sure to keep them a good 20+ minutes away from his naps, and when he wakes up, wait at least 10 minutes before feeding him so that feeding and sleep still aren’t associated.
In his bedtime routine, I would move his bottle to the beginning of the routine! There’s a chance that though he’s awake while drinking the bottle, he’s using it to get drowsy/help him get to sleep, and that could be a “lingering association” that he’s looking for when he wakes up rather than slipping right into the next sleep cycle. So I would do that play time (and pump time) after dinner, then feed, bath, lotion, jammies, sleep sack, book, prayers, bed.
Keep us all posted with how you’re all doing! And if you’d like more support making changes, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d be happy to walk you through the different ways I support families.
Truly, thank you SO much! I can’t tell you how much more informed and confident this information made me feel. Last night was a little dicey a couple times, BUT I stuck to the plan. We’ve had a great day and I’m ready for night 2.
I’ll be sure to report back as we get through several more nights! Thank you, thank you, thank you!