“My 11 month old son doesn’t have a problem falling asleep, it’s staying asleep. He still wakes at night… sometimes 3-4 times a night! He wakes up crying and wants me to put him back to sleep. In order to fall back asleep I need to either carry him or nurse him to pacify him. He’s not nursing out of hunger. He often falls back asleep within a minute or two. I’m just his sleep soother. Will he eventually just sleep through the night? Do I just wait till he does? Or should I just let him cry it out to fall back asleep (can take up to 20 minutes & by then will be in a full blown cry). Also if I don’t pick him up out of the crib, he’ll roll around in the crib often times banging his head. Can you help with our baby sleep issues? Please, I’m desperate and wanting to stop nursing by the time he is 1 years old.”
Rule Out Underlying Medical Issues
First things first, make sure you have spoken with your pediatrician and have ruled out any underlying medical conditions. Second, make sure you are following an age appropriate sleep schedule and that your son is getting enough sleep at naptime and has an early enough bedtime. Average sleep at his age is 11-11.25 hrs of sleep at night and a total of 2.5-3 hrs during the day.
Remember: Drowsy But Awake
Third, I would put your son down more AWAKE at bedtime. This is one of the MOST critical steps you need to take in order to teach your son how to sleep through the night.
I have a hard time convincing parents of this critical step and its importance. They say “But Kim, bedtime is so easy, I just nurse him and put him in the crib and he goes right to sleep…it’s the night wakings that are driving us crazy!”
Remember, bedtime is the easiest time to learn to fall asleep. If you do most of the work for your child at bedtime then he won’t be able to apply the skill in the middle of the night or at naps when it is much harder.
Your child should be awake enough to know that he is going in to his crib. When you start to put him down more awake than he is used to, he will probably protest and fuss more than he has in the past. Don’t worry—but don’t get him out and start the whole routine over again. (Remind yourself that this is confirmation that you were putting him down too drowsy in the past.) Instead, stay nearby and start the Sleep Lady Shuffle.
Follow the guidelines outlined in the 9-12 month old chapter in my book for addressing night wakings and night weaning. He is a great age to do the Sleep Lady Shuffle!
P.s. I don’t find that babies just “outgrow” their sleep crutches without some sleep shaping and direction from the parent.