I have actually been meaning to ask you this question for quite some time, so your Q & A is perfect timing. :) Our littlest buddy is now 10 months old, and I have been having a terrible time getting him to sleep through the night. He is our fourth, and we never had problems training the other three...but this time we have a baby sharing a room, which is different from our other kids.
Any suggestions you have to help me train my baby and to help my older son cope with the noise would be so greatly appreciated!
Thank you for your website and blog...
Before you read this post (or comment), I want you to know that I am completely, utterly, fully aware of the controversy and disagreement between the demand-feed and the schedule-feed crowds. I have, after all, been at this for over 15 years. If any of the comments I receive tend toward ugliness, I will not post them. I have written this post for moms who are desperate to get their baby onto some sort of a flexible schedule. If that's not you, then please have the grace to realize that there are more ways than one to skin a cat.
I have done this little cycle with all 8 of mine, so it's not a fluke (after two or three, I could have thought it was a fluke, but after eight, I don't see that it's just luck). I always start nursing them on a schedule from day one because my newborns are so sleepy that I have to wake them to feed them anyway. By the time they are more wakeful - voila! - they are used to eating, then being awake a little while, then sleeping until the next feeding.
The key, really, is the cycle: Eat, Wake, Sleep. My newborns have a hard time with the "Wake" part, so I usually just try to keep them awake for five or ten minutes after a half hour or so of nursing. Baby goes back to sleep and is awakened by me to feed 2 1/2 to 3 hours later.
We do have them snuggled in with us for several weeks, then in the Moses basket in our room for several more, then maybe into the crib around 3 or 4 months. For goodness sake, there is no wrong or right to this. Those of you who are more prone to attachment parenting will want baby in bed with you for much longer, and those of you who aren't, won't. Here's the thing: how you love your child extends days, weeks, months, and years beyond the first year of life. Nothing hinges solely on whether or not you co-sleep, demand-feed, or schedule a baby.
If you're starting with an older baby, you'll have some habits to break, but if you are determined, it shouldn't take more than a week. Really. I've helped lots of moms with older babies over the years and the longest any baby balked was a week.
At four months, all my babies are eating on a four-hour cycle. All are exclusively breastfed. None are given solids until later, with the exception of our seventh who needed the bulk because I was pregnant and losing my milk supply.
With a ten-month-old, here's what I would do:
1. Decide when the cycle will start- 6 a.m.? 7 a.m.? Even if you just nursed baby, start nursing at the time you want. Then have baby awake for an hour, maybe 90 minutes. Then put baby down. Don't nurse him to sleep, but if that's what he's used to, I guarantee he'll cry. If you are confident he's been fed, had his diaper changed, and is ready for a nap, then "cryin' ain't dyin'"! Walk outside and do something where you can't hear him if you need to. It is super hard, but the crying won't last more than about three days. Is it worth it to you? If not, then you might ultimately not get him sleeping through for a very long time. Just make sure all his or her needs are met.
2. Repeat this cycle throughout the day, until the last feeding. Put him down for the night and then don't wake him up! He'll either wake in the middle of the night himself because that's his habit, or he'll sleep through and you can wake him to start the day in the morning. If he wakes in the middle of the night, I almost guarantee you'll have to listen to him cry again. He's not crying because he needs nourishment, he's crying because at ten months, it's a habit! Rub his back, soothingly talk to him, but don't nurse unless you are sure there's a reason like a growth spurt.
3. My little ones' day at ten months looked like this: 7 a.m. nurse, 9 a.m. down for nap, 11 a.m. nurse, 1 p.m. down for nap, 3 p.m. nurse, 7 p.m. nurse, down for night.
Couple more things . . . my babies don't cry themselves to sleep. It is a myth that babies fed on schedules cry and cry and cry. Some cried for two minutes or so, but most have gone right down. When they get older (15 months or so), they cry when put down because they want to be where the action is! But that has nothing to do with being schedule fed or not.
I learned to do this from my sister-in-law who is a nurse at Central Valley Children's Hospital; babies in the NICU are fed on a schedule, every three hours. I'm pretty confident that if scheduling is a healthy approach for sick babies, it is a healthy approach for healthy babies.
**ADDED 7/10/08** Have you read the story of our Mighty Joe? He spent 9 days in the PICU clinging to life at seven weeks old. When we could finally feed him by mouth, guess what the hospital did? Put him on a four-hour feeding schedule...
Nancy, you are in a tough spot having your two guys share a room. We have had babies sleep in our closet for as long as possible simply because we knew it would allow everyone to sleep better, and that's the only space we had. We did put our seventh little guy in with his ten-year-old brother when he was about four months old, but the ten-year-old is a heavy sleeper and the little guy has done well. If that's not your situation, do you have a quiet closet somewhere?