For parents with new babies, sleep (and the lack of it) is a constant topic of conversation: how much sleep did baby get? What’s the longest stretch of sleep? What can you do to get baby to sleep through the night? The holy grail of new parenthood is the night when your baby finally sleeps from bedtime through until morning. Until that happens though, many parents find themselves doing whatever it takes to get baby to sleep as much as possible.
We asked sleep coach Kelly Murray of Kelly Murray Sleeps for her top tips for helping baby learn to fall asleep, and stay asleep, on their own.
A MamasUncut fan asks:
My 11-month-old son recently started having overnights at his dads — 1x a week. I understand sleep regression is a thing but he apparently sleeps 12 hours straight at his dads (so he says) while when he’s with me the other 6 nights a week, he fights sleep then will sleep maybe 3 hours before I put him in my bed with me, and even then he tosses and turns and cries. When he wakes up in his crib, he just SCREAMS but is fine once he sees me. Again, I know sleep regression is a thing, but I do worry about his well being. Maybe he’s not comfortable at his dad’s? I’m looking for any experience, advice, or even proof/studies that show overnights may be affecting his behavior at a young age. I want his father involved but willing to taking smaller steps if needed until he is comfortable.
It sounds like your little boy loves his mama (A LOT), which is a beautiful thing. He has also developed an association between you and sleep. I suspect that you are assisting him in falling asleep. Perhaps you’re rocking, bottle feeding or breastfeeding him as he falls asleep. Although he may be falling asleep quickly using your current method, unfortunately, it will result in night time wakings.
The reason why is that overnight, we all, even adults, wake up about 5 times per night.The wake-ups are usually brief. They happen right after we are ending a sleep cycle and before we start a new one. Our bodies are sensitive to any changes in our environment during those wakings. So, if your son is expecting to be in your arms during the wake-up and he is in his crib, he will be alarmed and fully wake up. It is a protective mechanism. The same thing would happen if you fell asleep in your bed and woke up to find yourself on the front lawn. Once he is awake, he will need you in order to fall back to sleep as that is all he knows.
To break the cycle he needs to learn how to fall asleep on his own – so basically, you will need to sleep train. There are a ton of gentle methods out there. You don’t have to resort to cry it out (CIO), where you put him in his crib, shut the door and don’t go back in until morning. Unless, of course, that works for you. However, since you co-sleep, my guess is that it wouldn’t be your jam. There is a method called “gentle sleep coaching“, where you sit in a chair by his crib while he’s learning to fall asleep. Each night, you move your chair further away from his crib until you are out of his room completely.
I bet you would find it pretty tolerable.The good news is that he has demonstrated that the knows how to fall asleep independently while he is at his dad’s house. He just needs to break the habit at your house.
Good luck mama! You got this!
About Kelly Murray
As the founder and owner of Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting, I get the privilege of helping parents create sustainable solutions for their families to get the rest they need.
Because, after all, well-rested babies and parents do everything better.
I’m the mom of two rambunctiously adorable kiddos, and wife to my amazing husband of 8 years. We live in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago, and in the warmer months, you can find us at the parks, beaches, museums and on the 606 bike trail. We love a good adventure! When my kids wake up every morning, the first thing they ask is “where are we going today?”
My greatest goal is to raise children who work and love hard. This is a big reason I prioritize sleep in my house. Who has the energy to work hard or the patience to be kind when they’re sleep deprived? I don’t care if they are the smartest or most athletic kids, I just want them to be good people who try their best at everything they do.– Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting
Editorial Director of MamasUncut. Currently back on the East Coast. Most days spent chasing after two young kids and our very patient rescue mutt. Learning that parenting never really gets easier it just gets … different. Love running and water views. Also all the coffee.