If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s video:
Hi. Kim West, the Sleep Lady. In this video, I’m going to answer Cynthia’s question.
She emailed in the following, “Hello. I’m reaching out as I’ve gotten to a point where I really need some help and advice. My 21-month-old son has nursed to sleep since he was in daycare at 12-weeks-old. I would go over on breaks since daycare was on campus. He hasn’t been in daycare for over a year now but he’s still in the habit of nursing to sleep. He’s slept for 2 hours for nap time after nursing to sleep and sleeps through the night from 8:30-7:30.
All’s been great up until this point and transferring perfectly. I’m now looking for help in these two areas. Number one, he’s nursed to sleep for nap and bedtime successfully but up until now, but I can no longer transfer him at naptime. He’s catching on. He wakes up as soon as he hits the mattress and he will not go back to sleep. He cries and he cries and I tried the Ferber methods where I leave, tell him I love him and then I’m outside and he cries. It was miserable. I tell him it’s time to lie down and go night-night and I’ve done this for 10-minute intervals and then finally I just go in and get him out after about an hour and a half of trying this. Then he sleeps on me or even in the living room floor but not in his crib. What do I do?”
I am going to address your first question first, then we will get to the second question. It looks like you may be inadvertently tricking him. If you nurse him to sleep, put him into the crib and then you sneak out, it makes sense that he would wake up panicked, wondering “how in the world did I get in here?” That is tricking him and he has finally caught on to you. Its like he is saying “Oh, I get it. You’re gonna nurse me to sleep and you’re gonna try to put me in the crib and then you’re going to leave.” Even though this has been working beautifully for a long time, which is fantastic, it’s time for you to teach him how to put himself to sleep without nursing him to sleep.
So that brings me to your second question which was, “I know I need to completely wean him soon and I’m wondering the best gentle way to get him to get to bed without nursing. Should I do these two things together or tackle nap and then nighttime weaning. I look forward to hearing what your suggestions are and I appreciate your time. – Cynthia.”
It sounds like you’re going to need to do both simultaneously, addressing both nighttime sleep and naps together only because you’re nursing him to sleep, and your crutch for naps is no longer working. One could argue you can get him to sleep initially but you can’t transfer him after he falls asleep. I would say that means your sleep crutch is not working so you’re going to have to address night time and naps.
Now, this does not mean you have to begin weaning him. Weaning is completely up to you, and when you want to do that, but you do need to stop nursing him to sleep. So I would start after a great day of naps, even if that means you have to drive him around or put him into a stroller to have him have a good nap- I would do it. Then at bedtime you can still have nursing as part of your new bedtime routine, but maybe with the lights on and a book afterwards. You want him to be awake so you are not tricking him. Then you can tell him, “I love you, sweetie” and put him into the crib. Stay with him and do The Sleep Lady Shuffle as outlined in my book. Then the next day, I would do the same thing for naps.
So as I mentioned, weaning is not required. I think that you might want to first address the sleep and then sometimes weaning can happen naturally and gently on its own afterwards because he won’t need nursing to go to sleep. It is much easier to address at that point because you won’t be trying to do both weaning from breastfeeding and sleep coaching at the same time.
The Sleep Lady
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