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When Your Co-Sleeping, Breastfed Child Wakes Up 800 Times a Night: What to Do

Katesurfsbabywakes

When my daughter was five months old, she started waking almost every hour looking for boob to put her back to sleep and I was beside myself. She had been sleeping so well up until then, but now her sleeping was fitful and feverish. I knew that all babies woke a little at night, but were they supposed to wake every hour for days and weeks and months in a row?! It wasn’t just developmental stuff or teething, it had to be something else…

This story may sound familiar to many mothers, especially if you are the co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand type. I was (and still am) totally against using ‘cry it out‘ or sleep training in any way and I wasn’t about to stop co-sleeping or breastfeeding. But, I had to search for some sort of solution because waking up every hour just didn’t seem natural. Years later, after doing lots of research and reading, after doing natural parenting workshops, and after having other babies, and after some very nice nights of sleep, I have a list. Here is how to help get a co-sleeping, breastfed child to sleep better, while still keeping the very important, night-time connection and support that a child needs. I did not come up with this list from thin air, it’s all through my experience through researching and talking to other mothers.

1. Don’t Give Up on Co-sleeping or Breastfeeding!
Night time parenting is just as important as daytime parenting. If people are pressuring you to stop co-sleeping because you’re complaining of lack of sleep… just stop complaining to them, and complain to someone else who will listen with an open mind. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand are topics that not everyone agrees on, so if you bring your problems to the wrong person, they may influence you to do something that you will regret later. Your child is only little once. Children gain a huge amount of security and trust by having a parent on call at night. You can leave your complaints with me if you have to. If co-sleeping is causing you anxiety, that’s different and maybe you should consider room sharing or some other situation.

(Numbers 2-5 are all very linked together!)

2. Feeding with Awareness
I discovered that every time my daughter would wake, I would quickly shove the boob back in her mouth to put her to sleep. I thought it was the only way to get her back to sleep! I felt like I had to change something, so I started doing a few things: 1) I started offering a cuddle for every other time she woke, instead of the boob every single time. Cutting down on feeds was a big relief to me! (note, a very young baby needs to feed frequently at night, so this is not advice for the wee little ones) 2) I shortened the length of the feed. This one was mainly because I was doing elimination communication at night, and I didn’t want to have her drinking too much, otherwise I would have to keep taking her to the potty all night! It seemed natural to do this, as I don’t think the cave people would have wanted to get out of bed three times a night to take their baby to the bushes to pee. 3) I started really paying attention to when she was truly in need of a feed… like, if she just had boobs an hour ago, did she really need them again?

3. Watch for Control Patterns
A control pattern is anything that a child does to repress an emotion. For example, sucking a thumb, using a dummy/pacifier, or constantly on the boob, even if they are not really hungry. Often a child uses a control pattern to help them fall asleep or in a situation when they are upset, nervous, or feel like they want to cry. What happens with night wakings and control patterns, is that every time a child wakes at night, they need their control habit to get them back to sleep without crying. It’s not that thumb sucking, using a dummy/pacifier or breastfeeding to sleep is bad, but if it’s used primarily to get them to sleep, then it is certainly a control pattern. To help with control patterns, here’s the next point.

4. Make Sure Your Child is Allowed to Freely Express Their Negative Emotions Throughout the Day
Almost every baby gets cranky at some point during the day for no apparent reason. Or, if the child is older, they might hurt themselves or get upset. The most automatic reaction we have is to stop them from crying. We either use distractions, words or motion (rocking, bouncing) to make them stop crying. Or, we give them some food, a dummy/pacifier, etc. And, we try sticking the boob in their mouth to stop them from crying. Distracting or stopping a child from expressing his or her emotions is something that works short term, but can back fire later on in the form of restlessness, aggression or relentless whining. Crying is a natural process and helps children to release the stress that occurs from day to day living. Unfortunately, in our society, we portray crying as bad or as something being ‘wrong‘, but this is not the case with emotional crying. Emotional crying is an amazing built-in healing mechanism for relieving stress. Some babies and toddlers need to cry more than others.

Of course, we want to lessen the chances of our babies getting frustrated, but nobody lives in a perfect world and upsets happen. If you have done everything possible to keep your baby or toddler happy and they are still border line tantrum, let them have the tantrum!!! You might find that they cry much harder and longer than necessary (for example, crying because you give them the wrong cup). The tantrum ‘over nothing‘ is an excuse for them to get their emotions out. You know how you feel after a good cry? Your baby or toddler will feel the same. Even young babies benefit from a cry in a pair of loving arms. Be sure to support their crying and never make them feel bad for releasing their emotions in a natural way. Releasing their negative emotions during the day, will help them to have a more peaceful sleep at night.

5. Don’t Think You Always Have to Feed To Sleep
I remember sitting there for AGES while my little one sucked and sucked so that I could get her to sleep and I started feeling quite a bit of resentment because of it. When I stopped associating boobs with falling asleep, she slept tremendously better. Countless other mothers report the same thing. Boobs can be for boobs and boobs don’t always have to be for falling asleep on. It really saved my sanity to do it that way. It’s not to say that you should never feed to sleep as a strict rule! If it happens easily, then great. But, if it’s not happening easily, it could mean that they are in need of a big stress release in the form of a cry in your arms. Be relaxed about it and your child will also feel relaxed about it. It was nice when I stopped worrying if my kids would fall asleep on the boob or not.

If your child is used to having boobs to bed, they are probably going to cry if you don’t offer them for sleep. This crying should be supported and will help them to release their pent up emotions of the day. You might find that they cry a lot and this is a very normal process of releasing stress for them. It’s important not to abandon your child while they are crying. If you feel that you can’t handle the emotional releasing, then maybe it’s not time for you to give up the feed to sleep, maybe try it when they’re older. I always found that on the nights my kids DID NOT fall asleep on the boob, and instead had a big cry in my arms, they always slept considerable better, as in 10x better. I fed them just before bed time instead.

5. Exercise
How much exercise does a child need? A LOT! Never underestimate how much exercise they need. Even babies need a fair amount of exercise, they can get this just by kicking, rolling around on the floor, climbing and crawling, etc. Older toddlers need to really run and climb a fair bit. If you’re stuck inside a lot, see if you can find ways to give your child of plenty of exercise indoors, playing games, dancing, rolling balls, etc. On days when my kids have had an enormous amount of exercise, they almost always sleep like a rock.

7. Keep them Dry
One big reason why babies wake at night is simply because they are wet. Even disposables can’t always mask the coldness that goes along with being wet. I practiced night time elimination communication with my kids and found that they always would stir right before they had to pee. Of course, not everyone is going to jump out of bed to take their kid to the potty in the middle of the night, but it’s something to keep in mind as to why they are waking. Another reason to reduce the frequency and duration of feeds at night is to also reduce the amount of pees that they do!

8. Watch the Diet
You don’t need to go crazy with it, but see if there are certain foods that make your child stay awake. My younger daughter is extremely sensitive to raw cacao! When she was a baby and she was heavily breastfed, even if I ate the cacoa, she was up squirming all night because it was being transferred through my breastmilk! Now that she’s older, if she eats it at night, we almost always have a restless night. Depending how old your child is, you may want to give them Horlicks before they go to bed, particularly if they are in their teenage years. Horlicks before bed is an easy way to fall asleep faster.

9. Ask Your Partner for Help
Sometimes it’s all just too much for us to handle. I sometimes would feed my babies and hand them over to my husband for him to cuddle them to sleep. Man, oh man, would they cry! But, they were in dad’s loving arms, and I knew they were safe. The crying was releasing a huge amount of stress from their system and afterwards, they always slept peacefully for a long time.

10. Consider Age Appropriate Night Weaning
A gradual approach to night weaning is best. I started around 8 months and finished night time feeding around 20-22 months. Night weaning simply means you stop feeding at night. And, night weaning may mean different things for different people. It may happen at different ages too, whenever you feel that it is right (with the exception of young babies who need to feed at night). Often, babies and toddlers start sleeping much better at night when they are partially or fully night weaned. This one can be tricky though if you are a working mother and you don’t get the chance to feed many times during the day. So, be mindful of your situation.

11. Avoid TV and screen time right before bed
Screen time, especially TV is not really recommended for children under the age of two anyway, but sometimes it happens! Make sure that the last thing they are doing before bed is not in front of a screen, it stimulates their nervous system too much and can make it difficult for them to sleep.

12. Self Care
Be sure to take care of yourself. Don’t go to bed too late, eat proper food, get a little exercise each day and get some kid-free time off at least once a week or so, even if it’s only an hour. Night wakings are always worse when you’re not taking care of yourself!

I hope these ideas work for you!

Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant. All baby’s needs should be taken into consideration, especially if they are sick or have special needs. Very young babies should never be night weaned and should be fed on demand, with awareness.

275 Responses »

  1. Hi! I was just wondering.. How do you begin the gradual night weaning process? My son is 11 months old and wakes to nurse every 2-3 hours at night. I don’t HATE it, but I’m not interested in cutting him off completely over one night. This kid loves to nurse to sleep.

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  2. This post sums up everything I’ve been wondering about lately. You cannot imagine how helpful this is to me! Thank you so much!

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  3. Thank you soo much for this post…….
    My baby is 17 months now and I feed her to sleep and many times during night. My confusion is, she does take the feeds in night coz may be she is hungry, her diaper in morning is full which means she has drank milk properly. And I don’t think I can make her eat twice the amount of dinner she takes in now in order to full her tummy more. If I take away breast feed from her, won’t she be hungry?

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    • If she is healthy and growing well, and you’re home during the day with her, she’s probably more than capable of getting all she needs during the day at that age…. Can you shorten the feeds at night as a start?

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  4. Thanks, hope you take care of yourself too

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  5. A very interesting read! Thanks for your views.

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  6. Great read! My 11 month old daughter nurses 800x a night and typically only makes it through 1 sleep cycle before she’s up again and needs the boob! It is exhausting! I’m on day 4 of not nursing her to sleep for naps or at bedtime… We do co sleep so she nurses all night. No real progress yet but I’m hoping she’ll get better soon πŸ™‚ Thanks for the post.

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  7. Thanks for this. I am going to start tonight! Sooooo desperate for sleep! One problem though is that I have a 3 year old in the next room that I don’t want to wake… any suggestions?

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  8. This is a lovely article, thank you πŸ™‚ My daughter is 22 months and we think about starting night weaning in earnest quite often – but I worry about the effect on her. So it’s great to be reminded that being allowed to have a good cry is important – I still cry on my mum’s shoulder sometimes!

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    • I had such a big cry the other day! It feels good! I can imagine how good it makes them feel to cry with support πŸ™‚

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  9. I am definitely having a hard time with both co sleeping and night nursing my 11 month old! Definitely will try some of these things.

    I never intended to Co sleep and new next to nothing about it, even thinking it was pretty weird! Till I brought home my baby who refused to fall asleep anywhere but on my chest after nursing and could rarely even move him after he was asleep to set him down with out him waking and starting all over again! I quickly realized Co sleeping was my only hope of getting any rest!

    It was great and I loved having him so near all night. He even got to the point he would go to sleep right on time I would get up and spend some alone time with hubby he would nurse when I went to bed then either sleep till morning or wake once and easily nurse back to sleep. Then about two months ago he started waking several times a night but still easily nursing back to sleep I figured growth spurt or cognitive leap or something but it’s become a constant thing and for the last month or so it’s been extremely difficult to get him to go to bed then once he’s asleep I can’t move or he’s back up. Good bye time with hubby and I often am stuck in uncomfortable positions lest I move and wake him and we start the battle all over again. Then there is the night waking. Some nights I feel like I am hot swapping boobs all night and recently he will seem to fall asleep nursing then roll over sit up and just scream. I try to offer comfort but he climbs all over me head butting me pulling my hair hitting me etc all while screaming. This happens several times a night now and eventually I can’t take it anymore and he ends up sleeping in his baby swing and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

    I feel like I am at my wits end. I have little support from my husband who wouldn’t mind just putting him in his crib and letting him cry it out, no matter how many times I explain the negative effects. He has to get up very early to work and has very little patience. So I really can’t ask for help. My baby won’t even lie down if he’s not sleeping. You put him in a crib and he stands and screams even you you stay and rub his back and sing etc. You can’t move him once he’s sleeping either. I have never been able to get him to sleep with out nursing because that’s the only time he will lie down and relax, or strapping him into the swing or a moby of other baby carrier. I feel badly when he cries even when I support him and since he sits up or climbs all over while crying I can’t imagine him finally going to sleep and I don’t want to keep my husband up when he has to work. He just wants to be on the go all the time and always fights sleep even when he is exhausted and the more tired he is the more wired he seems to get. I just want to be able to sleep at night and not have a battle both at bed time and several times throughout the night!

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    • So sorry I’m just replying to this now! How are you? Have you tried anything? Would you like to set up a consultation if things have not improved. Sending lots of love <3

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  10. Thanks for the post! My son is almost 9 months and is still up every two hours. Well he doesn’t really wake up he just bounces around till I feed him. If I take too long then he will cry. But he’s very strong and literally pushes himself down to my boob if I try to comfort him. He just goes for it himself. I’ve had maybe a handful of days where I get one 4-6 hour stretch. Since he nurses so much I change several diapers a night(which is the hardest) I’ve tried to side lay and feed to make it easier but he leaks right through onto the bed so it’s a mess. Any suggestions? Like you I’m not comfortable pushing anything on him. Thanks!

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  11. It’s 3.16am and I’ve just finished reading your article having been woken up by my breastfeeding, co-sleeping daughter for about the 20th time! I’m at my wits end sleep wise as I spend so much of my day exhausted as I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep since she was born. She is 13 months and I’m still breastfeeding on demand and feeding to sleep. It has helped me so much to know that there is hope for a good night’s sleep without giving up the co-sleeping and breastfeeding. It’s very interesting what you say about your babies sleeping better having not been fed to sleep…I’ve been at odds over what to do- I’ve not been wanting my daughter to cry feeling that this must mean she’s very unhappy- so I have been shoving my boob in her mouth and she now needs this every time she wakes at night. I’ve also noticed that she is quite moany during the day- every time a tear appears I’m right there trying to comfort her as I can’t bear to see her sad. Having read your article I’m thinking maybe I’ve not been doing her any favours!
    In terms of feeding at night- I would say perhaps a couple of times at night my daughter properly feeds the rest of the time she is just wanting the boob in her mouth as a sleep aid. How can I tell when she is needing to feed as opposed to just needing the comfort boob? Or do you think at 13 months that she doesn’t need to feed at night?
    With crying during the day over little things… How did you manage that? Did you pick them up? I’m worried I’ve not been allowing her to express this emotion- she often scratches me and she’s very moany so I was interested in what you said about aggression and whining as a result of pent up emotion.
    I’m also thinking that she doesn’t get enough exercise as most days we are in the house.
    Anyway, thank you so much for your incredibly useful article. You might have just saved my sanity!!! It’s so nice to read about someone who has been through the same things!

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    • Oh, so glad that this clicked for you! My girls still had one, maybe two feeds a night at 13 months. Of course, depending on who you talk to, they will all have different recommendations! So, really trust your judgement here. If you think she’s truly having a feed, and she’s settled, then I would say go for it. If she’s feverish in her sleep and keeps waking for boob every hour, that’s when I would give a gentle ‘no’ and support her if she cries. As for picking her up when she cries, etc. It’s important to be available when she cries, but if picking her up stops her release, then maybe just stand near her and put a hand on her shoulder, etc. unless she’s asking to be picked up. Some kids are more happy to writhe around and scream on the floor with us being ‘present’. I hope any of that helps! I’m always available for a skype consultation if you want me to look deeper into any of these issues πŸ™‚

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    • Oh, and there’s some really fantastic books on Aware Parenting, by Aletha Solter, that I would highly recommend. Tears and Tantrums and the Aware Baby are two.

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    • I would suggest reading the book ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter πŸ™‚ She explains all the stuff about emotional releases in there.

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      • The post on January 19th 2015 did you find a solution ? I am going through the exact same thing !!

      • Hi Kate, thank you so much for your advice- I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. It’s been a tough month and I haven’t felt like I had the energy to sit down and write- I’ve been loving reading all your posts though. I have also been a vegetarian for most of my life and vegan for a long time too. I wonder if there is a veggie/ co-sleeping connection?!

        Since reading your post we have made a few changes- my husband now puts our daughter down in our bed. She tends to have a little cry but falls asleep a lot quicker than when I feed her to sleep (which can take over an hour!!!) I only go up if she seems unusually upset. This has definitely helped her sleep better. She still wakes in the night and I must confess that I still feed her back to sleep then- it only takes a few seconds but it does disturb my sleep. I working up to not feeding her every time she wakes- I’m just not in the right place emotionally at the moment.

        Thank you for the book recommendation- I’m definitely going to order it. I’ll let you know what happens when I pluck up the courage not to feed her every time she wakes (I think it will be soon as I’m in constant sleep deficit). And thank you for the amazing posts- so funny, inspiring, comforting…I could go on xxx

      • Oh so glad you’re enjoying the reads πŸ™‚ Yes, you have to be in the right space for dealing with those big emotions, especially at night!

  12. My son is going through this exact thing (he is 8 months old) and it was such a relief to read this and be offered a suggestion that didn’t require putting him in his crib and letting him cry (which we tried – it was horrible). It’s night one and he isn’t happy about not getting boob, but letting him cry in my arms with a purpose is somehow comforting to me.

    One question – he is a big fan of his binky, although not really interested in it until the end of his cry. Should we just cut it out cold turkey? Limit it to day time?

    Thanks so much. I’m really glad I stumbled upon this!

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    • Glad you found it and it resonated πŸ™‚ Yeah, I would definitely get rid of any control patterns (binky) as it interferes with natural emotional releases. Of course, if you don’t feel like you can stand too much of the crying at once, you can give it to him, but see how you go πŸ™‚

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      • Just to give you some hope, Katie, and to let you know how I am getting on implementing your advice, Kate…
        I bought and read the book that you recommended, Kate, ‘tears and tantrums’ – so enlightening! It took a while to get my head around the fact that it was good to cry as I have been doing everything I can up until very recently to stop my 15 month old from crying!
        When I read your post and the book I thought about how much better I feel after a good cry. I started feeding my daughter just before I put her down in our bed so that I knew she wasn’t hungry and then either me or my husband would lie down with her and cuddle. She protested loudly the first time and I told her that it was okay to cry and that she was safe in my arms. She still tends to have a little cry but I now see it as her way of releasing the tension and stresses that have built up during the day. When she wakes up in the night I have been saying to her that we are just going to cuddle. I still feed her about once a night and she has a proper feed- none of the comfort suckling that she used to do. Now, if she just needs comfort she just puts her hand out feels that I’m there and falls straight back to sleep πŸ˜€ Last night she slept from 7.30pm until 11pm then with a bit of cuddling then went back to sleep until 7am! It is unbelievable! I feel so awake during the day now as I am consistently getting at least 5 hours sleep in a row (previously the maximum was about an hour πŸ˜–). The other positive outcome has been that my daughter has become a lot more loving during the day and I’ve started to get cuddles whereas previously I thought she just wasn’t a cuddly baby😍
        Thanks Kate, and hang in there Katie!
        Perhaps I could ask your advice about whining during the day. I’ve been carrying her a lot since birth but I have recently hurt my foot and so carrying her in the sling for an extended period is painful- she whines a lot and asks to be picked up. Is it right to pick the up all the time or should I be letting her get used to being frustrated occasionally? (I’m happy to keep carrying her but I just want to make sure it’s the right thing to do particularly given my sore foot) xxx

      • Thank you for sharing your experience! Whining during the day can usually be from two things. 1. A need for connection (you can do this through a session of high octane play, peek-a-boo, contingency play, etc. or they could be scared and overwhelmed or tired. I’ve done a blog post on this somewhere and there is another book by Aletha Solter called, “Attachment Play” that I highly recommend. 2. They have a cry brewing. Of course, a 15 month old needs to be held and carried a lot, but if you’re having physical trouble picking her up, then you also have to tend to your needs. Would I be able to share you experience somewhere? I’m not sure where yet, but it’s such a nice articulate response πŸ™‚

  13. I have bought the book ‘attachment play’ and have just started it- thanks for the recommendation. πŸ˜€
    Feel free to share my experience xxx

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  14. I am at my wits end! My daughter is 13 months and must nurse to sleep and wants to nurse ALL NIGHT LONG! This happens every night! She isn’t even nursing, just sucking for comfort! The second I stop she wakes up! If I let her cry in my arms she screams for hours! I’ve tried a pacifier, a bottle, a sippy, anything and everything I could think of and I can’t get her to stop night weaning!! Also I am a single mom so I don’t have any help! Idk what to do! I need help!!!

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    • It must be so frustrating… I highly recommend reading ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter, she can explain the crying stuff and how to handle control patterns (like sucking), without breaking that important night time bond.

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  15. I love this!!! I googled some phrase and it brought me here, but I’m also breastfeeding a 4.5 year old and my 11 month old, co sleeping with both! Our issue is that when my baby wakes up at night (which she does with frequency these days) I always give her the boob instead of letting her cry because if I let her cry she’ll wake up my 4.5 year old very sensitive son! So I’m causing the control issue and it took SO long to break my son of the night nursing habit, so I’m digging a hole while standing in it.. (Huh?)
    But ill try to be conscious of all your advice and thank you for the tips and post:)))

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  16. Just wondering if you could help. I really like the idea of babies needing to cry to let out their pent up emotions. It makes perfect sense. we cosleep and I normally feed to sleep which takes a long time. If I leave he starts to cry but when I hold him he stops. And often if I sit by him he will get excited wanting to play. He is 7 months. Any ideas on how to help him get to sleep because feeding to sleep sometimes takes forever.

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    • Yes, this can happen sometimes. I would highly recommend reading that book, Tears and Tantrums, by Aletha Solter, she goes into much more detail about this than I can in a short reply. But, a few things you can do is trying to change positions. Sometimes when you hold them in a certain position, it’s too similar to feeding and they won’t have the release. So, if you change the way you hold him, then he may let it go. Another is simply just holding him. If he comes to you for cuddles, but then tries to wiggle away, try holding on to him and you may find that he starts arching his back and trying to get away. You can gently hold on to him and that may trigger the release. Or… the big one, if you have somebody else to put him back to sleep, who understands the crying thing, like dad, they usually will cry then and release that tension. Sometimes

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  17. Thank you and I just wanted to share my success story!

    I did get into the habit of breastfeeding my daughter (now 9-months old) to sleep, but with the intention of kicking the habit when I felt sure she was securely attached. She has her own bed on the floor of our room, and I would either move into her bed or bring her into ours when she woke in the night. This was helpful for going to bed with my husband without waking her. I also made the mistake of letting her determine her bedtime, which meant a very hyper baby up until sometimes 10:30pm! She is also a very active, squirmy, strong person, so my first order of business was getting her to go to bed at 7pm. I started a routine, and then literally had to hold her down and basically force her to breastfeed until she calmed down and fell asleep. By night 3 she was showing she was tired by around 6pm, there was no struggling and we noticed that she was much calmer during the day from the longer night’s sleep. Success #1!

    However she was still waking up frequently and I knew it was time to kick the breastfeeding-to-sleep habit. This is where your blog post really helped me!

    After my routine I would breastfeed her and then pop her off the boob. She would get very angry and cry and cry in the way a child does when she’s told “No.” Again I would have to hold her down to stop her from squirming out of my arms. It started working pretty soon, and so what did I do, but get lazy and start breastfeeding her to sleep again. I also never implemented the routine for her naps during the day, I just breastfed her to sleep on our bed as I did something on the computer, my phone or read (totally out of laziness).

    After my lapse it made things a lot worse… she was waking frequently and when I tried breaking the habit again it was way harder.

    The first night I returned to the new sleep routine I actually gave up after an hour of angry crying and struggling. I brought her downstairs for a short snack, and then breast fed her to sleep (I didn’t want her to think that her crying caused me to breast feed). She still slept better though and only needed me to be present to fall back asleep until after I had gone to bed when I assumed she legitimately needed feeding.

    The second day I decided to do the routine for each and every nap, putting her in her own bed and even playing the same lullaby that’s programmed on her monitor for a bit of sleep-music-association. Each time she cried and struggled, but I managed to find a way to hold her down gently while cuddling so she couldn’t get up and eventually she would fall asleep. I wore a watch and noted that she woke up at 12pm, 3am and then 6am to feed.

    By day 3 she knew exactly what was happening when I brought her to her bed, and resisted and struggled and complained, but I was glad that she was recognizing the routine. After only a brief complaining cry, she started babbling and relaxed! By that night it only took her a few minutes to fall asleep, I couldn’t believe it! She woke once that evening and just needed a comfort to get back to sleep. Then I woke up at 4am totally engorged and had to wake HER!

    Today is day 4 and she still resists when I take her to her bed, but she actually calms right down and gets herself comfortable (I still have to cuddle-hold her down) and closes her eyes on her own. This is what really made me happy, to see that she could close her eyes and know that sleep would come.

    I think what really clicked for me is that it’s okay to just remove one “comfort” at a time. Just saying “no” to one thing, and comforting your child as they cry in the other ways you know work, like walking with them in your arms as they cry, then when they get used to that taking that away too but lying with them, etc.

    My step-dad is a great attachment psychologist, and he says that it’s actually really important for babies to discover that their mothers are separate beings, and this happens by their mother doing something they don’t like. It is difficult but they have to recover, and they recover by their mother’s being there to support them through it. Only by discovering that they are separate beings can they feel like their mother’s are actually there to support them when they are upset. If they continue feeling that they are omnipotent, then they feel there is no one there. This is I think what happens when we don’t learn to say “no” to our children. The children feel like they have to be in control, that they are responsible and no one is there to hold them when they feel out of control. This doesn’t do them any favours. I hope I explained that well enough…

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks again and I’m so happy that this is working. There was no way I was going to leave her on her own, and I still think staying with her and co-sleeping is very important, but being firm and saying “no” feels right too, especially after seeing results. Thanks again!

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    • Wow! Thanks for that! I got the chills reading what you said about babies needing to feel that their mothers are separate beings. I think that’s what comes into play with very permissive parenting. Even though the kids get what they want, they feel like no one is listening or supporting them. Very interesting! So glad you found my article useful. Have a read of any Aletha Solter books, I think you would love them. ‘Tears and Tantrums’ explains the whole crying thing much better. Happy (more restful) nights. πŸ™‚

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  18. I am so glad I read this and so thankful you wrote it. Wow I’m not the only one. Wonderful and very helpful!

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  19. Thankyou for this I have a two year old boob mad terrible sleeper exhausted mum everyone wanting me to move lo out which made me sad. For once i read something that feels right Thankyou

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  20. Hello! Great, insightful article! Thank you.
    We have a 15 month old high demands daughter. She cosleeps, and nurses at will. Today I noticed a pock mark in her tooth! Took her to pediatric dentist and they said it is dental caries. The dentist told me it was from breastfeeding at night, and I should ween immediately. Thankfully it is beginning and we caught it. Have you had any experience with this? I’m in such a position, her emotional health or teeth! Yikes. Any insight would be amazingly helpful.
    -Lisa

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the article. Do you mean wean completely?! Or just night wean? There are a lot of theories surrounding night boobing at night and cavities. From what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t necessarily cause it, but it probably doesn’t help. I would certainly not be letting her fall asleep with it in there. When they fall asleep with the boob in their mouths, then the milk pools and sits there. She is, however, at an age where you could significantly wean off the night feeds… A lot of dentists like to blame breastfeeding for cavities. I would also look at diet. Cavities are tricky, I believe it has a lot to do with fats. What’s your diet and hers like?

      Reply
      • Oh, another thing you can do is put a little bit of coconut oil on the pock mark. There is also a homeopathic remedy for strong teeth and bones, you can google homeopathic cell salts. My daughter’s tooth nearly got knocked out, and she took those things for a year and the tooth glued itself back in!

  21. My baby was suddenly waking up and then got worse, it was farts, the milk the was good for many months was now not so good, we switched formula and she is sleeping again almost true the night. She wakes up while peeing. But nothing I can do about that or there is so ething?

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  22. That was great. Really well thought out and so very very useful. LO is 19 and night feeding a lot (co-sleeping). Is getting hard on me and some great tips here. Thanks

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  23. I loved your article – very insightful! I am curious if you have any advice for me? I have a 10 month old who breastfeeds, but we don’t co-sleep. She still wakes up 3-6 times per night crying, and I immediately nurse her back to sleep, as it is the only way I know how to get her back to sleep. Should I let her kinda finish crying, while holding and comforting her, of course, before I try to nurse her back to sleep? Just curious… Thanks.

    Reply
    • It can be a little tricky if not co-sleeping, because of course if she’s crying, you would want to pick her up, or lay down next to her… Is she in a cot/crib or in a bed on the floor?

      Reply
  24. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for replying! She sleeps in her crib at nighttime (I’m too light of a sleeper to co-sleep). πŸ™ I can’t get her to sleep in her crib for naps though, so she sleeps in my arms. Starting to work with sleep consultant #2 on Monday to see if they can help me solve that with a no-cry method.
    Just had the worst new years eve ever. She woke at 10:55 last night (2015), and I couldn’t get her back down until 1:45 am (2016), so officially rang in the new year with my sore numb butt in a glider, with her attached to my boob, as I listened to the rest of the world celebrate. 😒 Pity party over now, thanks for listening.

    Reply
    • Oh… sorry about the sore butt. There are a few things you could do, but I would probably need a history. I know you’re about to do a sleep consultation, but I also do aware parenting consultations through Skype, if you’re ever interested. I can look at the history and we can talk about the crying and any negative emotions in her (or you) that need to come up. The only issue with the no-cry thing is that often babies are harboring some stress and they do need to cry (in loving arms) in order to be able to relax enough to sleep without holding onto negative emotions that effect them during the day with their behavior. Usually restlessness at night is caused by the control pattern, (the boob) in this case. Anyway, let me know, it’s $100 for an hour consult on Skype πŸ™‚ You can also read this book, I highly recommend, called ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter.

      Reply
  25. Kate, thank you again so much for your reply! That is really helpful and interesting information about her needing to cry (in loving arms). And thank you for the book recommendation – ordered it and it will be here Wednesday! I will probably go ahead with this sleep consultant (as I have already paid and sleep plan is being prepared now), but if the no-cry method doesn’t work, I can certainly propose to the consultant the idea of a little crying first (in loving arms).

    I really love the sound of your approach, so if I don’t have luck with this consultant, I will probably contact you. And yes, I think you’re absolutely right about the boob being the control issue and interfering with her sleep. I definitely want to work on that issue as well.

    Thank you so much for your concern and support – I really needed it today!!!

    Reply
    • Glad I could help! Good luck with he sleep consultant πŸ™‚ Sometimes they do a very practical and gentle approach, as long as they don’t ever suggest leaving her alone to cry…

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  26. Thank you, Kate!!! No, I would absolutely never leave her alone to cry! I stipulated that in the questionnaire I filled out. Many thanks for your support!!!!

    Reply
  27. Hi my son is 15 months old he will not go to sleep any earlier than 12:00 midnight he does cosleep with his mother however she is feeding him every hour and sometimes he won’t even fall asleep with boob if I take him sometimes he will just cry and cry but sometimes he will fall asleep with me. This has been going on since he was born we are so so tired I have to get up at work at 04:00am. Me and my partner have been living on approx 3 3.5 hours sleep a night for 15 months. We try cuddling him singing to him but nothing seems to work. We don’t know what to do any thoughts or advice would be so grateful

    Reply
    • Oh wow… that sounds like you must be very tired! The boob has become a control pattern. You don’t have to give up co-sleeping or the breastfeeding, but there must be some suppressed emotions. I do aware parent consultations through Skype, if you’re interested. I look at the history, from birth, and can usually pin point where the restless nights are coming from. Let me know πŸ™‚

      Reply
  28. Hi Daniel, my baby is 9 months and I can only speak for what I have experience. my baby used to sleep all night and since 6 months she is not, long story sort is that she needs to fart, and she is so uncomfortable. I changed the formula and went for waking up every 30 min to 3-4 hours. as well she was only going to sleep breastfeeding. now we are making sure she is well fed at night before to go to sleep and is working also.
    If Victoria watches TV before bed time she does not want to sleep so we do not have any devices (including TVs) on an hour before her normal bed time 7pm. and that helps. When I am not at home ( I travel for work) my husband uses the pacifier. if she still wakes up to eat very often I prepare a bottle and that makes her to go to sleep and not waking up.
    I hope this helps.

    Reply
  29. Last night I had him in the car he was crying instead of trying to stop him I just let him cry hoping this may release some suppressed emotions this was on the way to swimming thinking that we could possibly tire him out. We was in the swimming pool approx 1 hour with him splashing and kicking we get home around 19:30. We feed him up with no TV on or anything we couldn’t get him to sleep until 22:50pm. Me and my partner get in bed with him and 20 mins later he is awake and I mean wide awake like he had been sleeping for 12 hours jumping up and down on the

    bedbcrawling on us wanting to play we didn’t get him back off to sleep until 02:00am I tried cuddling him so did my partner we tried dining to him even went so far as rocking him. And to top it of he had only slept for 40 mins during the course of the whole day. Nothing seems to work. It doesn’t matter if its boob rocking singing cuddling

    Reply
    • Wow! you must all be exhausted… I would have to learn a lot more about the background to give the right sort of advice. Do let me know if you want to set up a Skype consultation and I can email a questionnaire.

      Reply
  30. Hi yes we are shattered the problem I have is I’m trying to find advice out however my partner is very stubborn and keep saying he will grow out of it. I’m concerned his long she can continue lime this before she has a melt down.

    Reply
    • It’s hard seeking advice because for some because to them it means that you think you’ve been a failure… also, in many gentle parenting circles, the trend is to wait and they will grow out of it at 3, 4 or 5… and do nothing. I used to be part of many circles that only repeat the mantra ‘this to shall pass’, and it’s true, it does pass, but by then the restless sleep behavior usually only transfers into some other undesirable behavior. A few nights of restlessness is normal, but if it’s constant, then there is some underlying problem. Actually, nobody’s needs are being met. I love aware parenting because everyone’s needs are taken into consideration. The need for close night time connection is always met, the emotional needs of a child is met (breaking control patterns) and your own need for sleep and rest are met. Let me know if want to do a consultation, just send me an email, kate@katesurfs.com

      Reply
  31. I will speak to my partner and see if she is willing to do a Skype but like I say she is very stubborn and keep saying she can handle it. My argument is she should not have to handle it and we should seek advice to resolve our little boys sleeping issue

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  32. When do you have intimate time with your husband with a bed full of kids?

    Reply
    • Humans have been co-sleeping since the beginning of time. I don’t think the population has been affected too much πŸ˜‰

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  33. How do you know if the crying is what they need, or if they require the comforting? At 6 months, we are oscillating between teething, a mild cold, developmental changes, growth spurts… I feel like all of those are both reasons to cry and reasons for me to comfort…

    Reply
    • You can still offer comfort, without offering the breast. Holding and cuddling. If you read the book, “Tears and Tantrums’, it explains the benefits of crying, even when a child is not feeling well, crying still releases negative emotions that can help.

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  34. Hi, I was wondering how to start the process of getting a better nights sleep πŸ™‚ My son is 10 months old and has been cosleeping and nursing to sleep for pretty much the entire 10 months. The first couple weeks were awful trying to get him to lie in anything other than my arms so when he fell asleep in my arms while I was in bed one night I just had the thought of “maybe I will give this cosleeping thing a shot”. We got much better sleep so I was happy with the situation until around 6 months when he started waking up more than before. At around 7-8 months after reading advice, I tried to not immediately give him the boob a few times to see if he would settle and maybe once out of six attempts he would settle back down on his own. It seems to be not improving at this point. Some nights he wakes up 4 times (good night) and others it seems like we’re up on and off all night long. I have been working full-time since he was 3 months and I am just plain sleep deprived. Last night was extremely bad (he was awake twice for an hour long each) and I caught myself getting very frustrated with him. I don’t want to get frustrated with him!! I am not a patient person by nature so I’m not sure how I lasted 10 months except the mommy baby relationship is just that amazing. So… my question is, how do I start moving in the right direction? For your info also, naps are not awesome. My husband has to push him in the stroller to get him asleep (2 days/week), my mom rocks him to sleep (1 day/week), daycare puts him in a swing (3 days/week), my MIL does various unsuccessful methods (1 day/week). HELP πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Oh, sounds like you’re doing everything you can πŸ™‚ Generally, having a restless sleep is due to pent up emotions. I would really advise reading the book, “tears and tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. She talks about control patterns (the boob in this case). You can also book in for a Skype consultation with me, I’m an aware parent instructor. You don’t have to give up the breastfeeding or co-sleeping to get a decent sleep at night.

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  35. You are my hero. My baby at 8 months has been doing the waking every two hours thing and I thought he was just needing the boob for comfort. I’ve given him the safe place of my arms to cry (after a good long nurse in a different location) the past two nights. Last night was a bit longer than I’ve ever allowed him to cry but tonight after less than ten minutes he calmed down while awake and then went to sleep in my arms. He’s NEVER gone to sleep without rocking or nursing unless in the car. I can totally see this idea that we repress baby emotions. Today was wonderful after he slept better (2 wake ups to nurse which is fine!) and the bedtime routine tonight was so relaxing for both of us. THANK YOU!

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  36. Think outside the box, or rather the bed, too. No rule saying intimacy can only take place there. πŸ˜‰

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  37. Thank you for this! I eventually walked out on my son (leaving him with daddy) at 3am this morning because he had cried or fed all night and I felt like I was losing my mind. He did then sleep until 6am! He sleeps with daddy but not me. I’ll definitely be trying this!

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  38. Thanks for this post! I have a 4 month old who falls into the high needs category. Not as bad as some other babies I’ve read about but a lot of the features are there (intense,not a self soother etc). He goes from 0-60 and is very hard to get to wind down and relax. As of now,he needs to be rocked for awhile and then once he’s asleep/super drowsy we lay down and he will nurse a bit/awhile to sleep. It’s quite exhausting as he already weighs 21lbs! How can I help him fall asleep not attached to me and without (as much) rocking? Or any tips that can make co sleeping with him easier as he awakens frequently and moves quite a lot,needing me to nurse him back to sleep. Anything would be appreciated! Thanks!

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  39. Hey I’m a first time momma of an almost 8 month old adorable baby girl and a step mom to 3 other kids who real mom is not in the picture. My husband is awesome but not as helpful as 4th time father should be and is apparently scared of crying babies. He literally leaves the room when she cries. I breastfeed and she sleeps on my side of the bed. My husband is ready to give her eviction notice as her crib is n our room. But she is one that since 5 months has been waking often more then once an hour all night long. I think if she wouldn’t wake up so often I would b OK with her sleeping n her crib. She won’t nap unless she is on top of or nestled in a cuddle she nurses to sleep and if u try to put her down she wakes immediately. I don’t feel overly tired but admit it would be nice to strecth out at night and not havmade to throw her a boob constantly. So where do I start? I can’t lewt her cry at night when hubby is home bc then he gets anxious and tells me that I can’t have another baby in which I desperately want another of my own. And babies xry I know that. But he apparently and her ha e gotten sobspoiled bx thew second she cries I have been giving her what she wants!

    Reply
    • Oh that’s a tricky one… You definitely want to honor your husband’s feelings too… I would really recommend reading ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. And, if he’s willing too, maybe he will read it too??? If he’s really uncomfortable with the crying, try allowing her to cry in arms when he’s not home. At least she will release some of her accumulated stress that way.

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  40. Hey Kate! I’m pregnant with #2 and we are attaching a cot on the side of our bed for the newborn, whilst little man sleeps in between us. How did your transition go with having a newborn and toddler at night? Any helpful tips? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hey! Well, the interesting thing was that the baby seemed to be used to all the big kid noises. It did take a few days/weeks for everything to settle. But, play it by ear. I think families have been doing it this way for millennium, so everyone will eventually fall into a rhythm.

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  41. I have let her cry in my arms a few times during the day when hubby is gone and she’s did fall asleep! After about 30 min! And it made me think of another question? U said to put her down when she is almost asleep nursing. Well if I cut her off she immediately wakes up and cries if she doesn’t get her boob back! So do I pick her up and let her cry herself to sleep then too?

    Reply
    • At that age, you can hold her, or she can be next to you in bed. Just as long as you’re near her to support her cry. The cry is not necessarily to get them to fall back to sleep (although that tends to be what happens), but the idea is that it releases enough of the pent up emotions, so that they can sleep more peacefully, and less restless.

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  42. Hi my baby is 3 months. Is it still OK for me to breastfeed him for 2hrs straight of breastfeeding then sleeping then will wake up to look for breast and again? If yes when should I stop doing that?

    Reply
    • Do you mean he feeds for 2 hours?

      Reply
      • I’m sorry I’ve made two post and I don’t know how to reply to your msg. πŸ™ (not so much of a techie)

        Yes I’m breastfeeding 2hrs straight that is because he is sleeping most of the time. And he will just stop when I think he is full from waking up then breastfeeding in between those 2hrs.

      • That’s ok πŸ™‚ Two hours straight is very long and indicates that your baby is using the boob as a control pattern… If he wakes when you remove the boob, he would benefit from a cry in arms. Of course, you want to rule out any medicle issues.

      • OK will do that. What medical issues can he have?

      • Oh, I’m not saying he has any, but you want to make sure he’s not crying because he’s in pain… if it’s just attachment to the boob, at that age, it’s ok to take it away after he’s done feeding.

      • Whew. OK. πŸ™‚ thank you so much. I think its just the boob. πŸ™‚

  43. Hi Kate – thank you for your post and suggestions. I’ve read all of the comments and questions too which make me feel better about my situation. I wonder if you could briefly tell me your thoughts on what I am experiencing.

    My daughter is 10 months old, exclusively breastfed and starts off the night in a cot in our room. A few weeks ago I stopped boobing to sleep at bedtime (after some sleep advice) so i feed her in lounge room before Hubby takes her up to our bedroom, where they lie together/cuddle before he transfers her asleep to cot. Since doing this she falls asleep generally more easily than she did with me boobing. She usually wakes every 3 hours, each time, crying. The first wake up around about 10:30 I get Hubby to do where possible and again generally she goes back down with only a few cries and cuddles for him. All other wake ups I do; and I always offer boob straight up to get back to sleep. Trying to get her back in the cot is hard. I try twice or three times then give up and she comes into our bed. Hubby and I are fine with this and if extra tired do this from the beginning of the night. For these wake ups I started to try not to offer boob but she is crying, I’m tired etc and she goes right for it every time – head buts etc. At these points of the night should I physically pick her up and let her cry in my arms?
    I’m concerned she will a) get too worked up and then be too awake, b) she will wake up Hubby (which isn’t really a big concern) and c) break my patience level and heart!! How do I resist this and let her cry and fight me for the boob? Maybe I am being too soft and need to step out of the bedroom while she cries so I don’t give up as easily?
    She does use a dummy/binky for sleep but regularly spits it out on her own accord. I am lucky my husband agrees with my attachment style but I am getting worried as I go back to work in April and she is still waking up frequently even lying right next to us every single night. I feel like I need to her cry during the day for longer when she falls over/is tired/wants a cuddle and perhaps this will help me get more ‘used’ to the crying and be more accepting that it’s ok in certain situations. I just hate it so much and it makes me so sad to see her sad. Clearly I need to grow some balls!!!

    Sorry for such a drawn out post. Do you have any suggestions? Thanking you xx

    Reply
    • Hi Esmae, I understand what you’re saying… It’s not a matter of being tougher on her really. A baby that age will probably wake up anyway a couple of times a night and you don’t have to nightwean that early if you don’t want to. I would highly recommend reading that book, “Tears and Tantrums’. There’s so much more to crying than what we perceive. If she is having a restless sleep, she’s probably really need a release of emotions in the form of tears. It’s never advisable to leave a baby alone crying, unless you feel like you might be violent towards the baby. It’s important to be there for her when she’s crying, that is of course, if you YOU feel like you’re in the state of mind to deal with it. At that age, you can pick her and hold her in your arms when she cries, or be right near her. Also, have you considered co-sleeping for the whole night? It might make things easier, instead of back and forth to the cot. Just a thought, you know what’s best for your family πŸ™‚ Anyway, read the book and if you want, I also do Skype consultations, I would need a bit more of a history and time to discuss things with you. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

      Reply
  44. Thank you Kate! Can you Skype to Western Australia? Will chat with hubby about the option…. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will get that book as well. Xx

    Reply
  45. Hi-
    Thank you so much for this. Co-sleeping feels like it has been so helpful in terms of us getting sleep, but at the same time we have run into these problems lately. I am 4 months pregnant and co-sleeping with my 7 month old. If I were not expecting I probably would feel less inclined to changing anything- our situation isn’t so bad. But I have been needing my sleep more and more, and nursing has been more and more draining. We are waking up a few times a night and getting comforted with the boob or a pacifier or whatever.. honestly it is all a blur. Lately my baby has been sleep-whimpering between 6 and 7am while I cuddle him/nurse him and he on-and-off goes to sleep. At 7 I say something to him and he wakes up and starts to play. I’m going to try some of your tips and I’m welcome to any more suggestions. I’m thrilled about the new addition, but it feels like it has been so taxing on my relationship with my little baby already. Thank you for posting this!

    Reply
    • Oh wow, yes, they are so so close together… a 7 month old baby may still need to wake to feed. Is he getting enough milk do you think? My supply dried up almost completely at 4 months, but my daughter was much older, so didn’t need it as much. Try reading that book, “Tears and Tantrums” you may find a lot of useful things in there to help with the frequent night wakings πŸ™‚

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  46. Just curious, when your baby cried themselves to sleep in their daddy’s arms was it the loudest most horrible cry that turned their face red?

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  47. Hi Kate, could you please share your thoughts about this situation? The story is the same as everybody – 6 month old is waking up every 1-2 hours and needs a boob to go back to sleep. But if he doesnt get the feed, he will not cry or get upset, instead he’ll wake up completely, like he’s done sleeping, start turning and grabbing things, then he’ll want me to play with him. He won’t get tired for a couple of hours after that. What should I do? How can I put him back to sleep if he gets wide awake? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Oh yes… that happens sometimes. I highly recommend reading that book, “Tears and Tantrums” it might give you some ideas on how he can release stress throughout the day. There’s also a way of holding him (gently of course), so that he will release his cry. And, what happens if your partner takes him after he gets the feed and holds him? Sometimes that releases the cry…

      Reply
  48. Hi there. Just wondering about teething. My one year old is getting his molars at the moment and they seem to be taking forever. I’ve read tears and tantrums but when they are in pain they don’t seem to stop crying. So I breastfeed him to help him get back to sleep as the pain is so awful. Any tips. I’m exhausted from the feeding even though we co sleep. Many thanks

    Reply
    • Hmmm… I don’t know if this will resonate with you, but it’s important to also support them to cry if they are in pain. It will help release some of the built up tension. Sometimes teething pain is also confused with the need to release a cry. But, if it’s truly teething pain, you can go to your local health food store and get some homeopathic remedies.

      Reply
  49. My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using http://www.InstantBabySleep.org – by far one of the best things I’ve ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children.

    Reply
    • I’ve always been curious about the use of ‘white noise’ regularly in the use as a sleeping aid. I know it works to put someone to sleep, but I wonder if it’s also a type of control pattern, and if using white noise allows the brain to truly rest as deeply as it would without. Although, I can see using this on occasion where you are desperate for a child to sleep, or in large groups..

      Reply
  50. I know you wrote this a few years ago, but I still want to say thank you. People around me frown upon my continued breastfeeding and the fact that I’ve coslept with my daughter since she was born. At 11 months she still nurses to sleep at her regular time every night and continues to wake a few times a night to nurse quickly and fall back asleep.

    Reply

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