Breastfed one year old not staying asleep more than a couple of hours, any ideas?

Karla - posted on 01/23/2010 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My son just turned one in Dec and I have recently moved him to his crib which is going fine but he wakes up every couple of hours to nurse again, he does this even if he is in bed with me. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should do or will this just fade as time goes by. Thanks!

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Ally - posted on 01/25/2010

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I too was all about the crib in the beginning, but could not get my DD to sleep for more than 10 minutes when laid down. She slept for hours when in bed with me, though, so family bed it became. Sleep is so vital when you're not getting it!

She's now 19 months old and she is good for at least 1 wakeup at 11, when she will nurse for about 5 minutes then roll over and go back to sleep. Occasionally she will wake up more than that, but once a night is generally the rule. I can watch her on the monitor in her sleep when she starts looking for me, rolling around, feeling with her hands and feet. She often sleeps with one foot wedged against my back.

This is how we all get the most sleep. I experimented with various means of getting her to go back to sleep without nursing and they have all backfired horribly on me. I tried letting her cry it out. She went for 2 1/2 hours straight with no signs of tiring. I'm talking full on screaming, no break, except to cough and choke from a raspy throat and runny nose after all that crying. Despite this horrible experience, I was told I had to stick it out, she needed to get through it. I persisted for 2 more nights. It became worse each day, to the point that she stopped napping and started screaming when we even went in the bedroom. It took 3 weeks to undo that experiment and get her to take a nap without becoming hysterical. She is not one of the children for whom crying was a means to access tired! Everyone's child is different. Those of you with "persistent" personality children know what I mean.

Another time a few months later, I tried the pick her up and comfort her, then put her right back down. You know, let her know you're there to comfort her, but that going to sleep is the job she will have to do at night? Well, I stood there for 3 hours, alternately holding her and then attempting to lay her down. She was so traumatized by this "practice" that she became hysterical when I would even begin to lean over towards the bed! It took 3 weeks to undo that experiment, as well.

What I notice is that with each thing I tried, my daughter let me know immediately that she was alarmed, insecure, unsettled, call it what you will, by these new practices. She became weepy and clingy during the day, as well. Knowing other people who have used a family bed with multiple children, all of whom eventually left their bed and stopped nursing at night, gives me the courage to keep doing what works for DD.

Some nights are challenging, like when congestion had her waking up more than usual and she couldn't nurse through the stuffy nose. But for the most part? Once a night feeding at 11 seems to get us all the most sleep. She does occasionally nurse for a few minutes in her sleep in the middle of the night at some point, but I don't usually wake up for more than a few seconds nor does she! Not enough to tell you when it happens, anyway!

This big long story is just to let you know that different things work for different kids. I marvel at my friend, whose child will lay down and just close his eyes to go to sleep. My daughter takes 1/2 hour to unwind each night and fall asleep. No two kids are the same, they all grow up and stop nursing and sleeping in your bed eventually!

Only you can decide how committed you are to helping your son get acclimated to the crib. He's still young and he probably does miss you. If that is your gut feeling about why he's become a little insecure, you're probably right! That said, you have to pick what you want to work on or let go of for now. Your son will certainly learn to live with anything you decide to stick to, but you also need to make choices that feel right for you and for him.

I wish you easy nights of restful sleep and a peaceful resolution. We're all slogging through all these questions the best way we know how! Isn't it great to at least see what we're all coping with? Best of luck!!

Louise - posted on 01/25/2010

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I'm afraid letting him cry for a while may be your only solution. However, it took only 1 night/ 40 mins of crying with my 8 month old and she's slept right through now for a week and a half. If he get's hysterical then pick him up - don't feed him though.... Wait for him to calm a little and pop him straight back down. You may need to repeat this countless times for a couple of nights but it'll click realllllllly quick. If he's full before bedtime and has a clean nappy etc. then he'll quickly learn that you're still there but that feeding is for day time and he doesn't actually need it at night.
Good luck x

Karla - posted on 01/24/2010

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Yes, I think part of it is that he does miss me. He slept in bed with me because I gave up on crib training and voted for sleep! Thanks everyone! :)

Melissa - posted on 01/24/2010

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My son just turned 1 the end of November. He has always been in a crib but has RARELY slept through the night. He's up usually 1-2 times a night and occasionally more than that. I could never let him cry in the beginning but now do a little sometimes. He's not one to go right back to sleep though unless he's good and ready. The whole pat his back thing, soothe him thing just doesn't work with him. I work a full time job and have him 11 nights out of every 2 weeks (his father and I are split up) and it's very hard but I just keep going. It's good to know I'm not alone. I know this doesn't help but at least wanted you to know you're not alone!!

Amy - posted on 01/24/2010

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My daughter started doing that when she was 8 months and I finally got to the point where I had to quit nursing her at night. I started getting her into a routine for bed and after her last bottle I would lay her down when she was still semi-awake and let her cry for a little while. It took about 4 nights of listening to her cry before she started falling asleep on her own. She still wakes up during the night but now she sleeps for a 6 hour stretch, wakes up and eats, then goes back to sleep for another 6-7 hours. I hope you find something that works with your son!

[deleted account]

I think he misses you. Where did he sleep for the first year if you just moved him to a crib? I would make sure he had some cereal before bed and then nurse him before you put him down. If he misses you, you might have to figure out how to reassure him.

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