Ditching the Crib for an Easier Nighttime Routine
Hi Dr. Sears. I am a mama to Sara, almost 14 months old. I need help. She is such a delightful baby, but we are struggling at night. I start her off in her crib and end up bedsharing sometime in the night. It’s becoming increasingly harder to get her into the crib. We feed to sleep and then I transfer her to the crib. She often will wake when I put her in the crib and then I pick her up and she’s back asleep. When she is in the crib, she goes for maybe an hour and then wakes and then the whole process starts over again. I don’t know what to do. I need some downtime. We contact-nap in the day.
To Use a Crib or Not?
Wow! Another nighttime question! That makes sense since it is the second most common question Dr. Bill gets in his office. It’s also the most common thing talked about among moms with infants: “Is he/she a good baby?” translates to “How is your baby sleeping at night?”
My question to you, Erin, is why you are even using your crib. Your scenario is identical to my own so many babies/years ago! I learned to not bother with the back-in-the-crib routine, and hubby highly endorsed that decision. I would nurse the baby down to sleep in our bed (use the side-lying position) and then sneak away until the baby woke up. (This assumes you have met safe-sleep conditions, see our Baby Sleep Book.) This would usually buy me a golden hour or so of downtime. If I got longer, that was a bonus! I always planned to go to bed for the night myself once that first waking happened – I just crawled into bed and enjoyed that well-needed rest for myself. I think the key was having that expectation so that I didn’t get irritated with the waking. With Baby sleeping next to you it is easier to respond to a waking baby, sometimes all it takes is a few gentle pats or even just a calming hand resting on your baby.
I asked our daughter (her name is Erin also, and her baby boy has just turned one year old) to add some ideas for you. Here are her thoughts:
- Sounds like Baby is so used to feeling Mom close that when set down she arouses. Try making sure the crib sheets are warm by putting a warm blanket down and then removing it before transfer. Also, maybe have something that smells like you, like a used pillowcase or nightshirt to lay Baby down on.
- Try getting Baby to sleep in the crib for naps and let her have some playtime in there so she knows it’s a safe place.
- Consider ditching the crib and maybe use a floor bed if you want her to have her own space. You can nurse her down to sleep there whereas you can’t in the crib.
- As far as naps go, you can try to get some downtime here. Let her have a car nap: drive around until she falls asleep and take a book or stream a movie while Baby sleeps.
- Sounds like your baby doesn’t need to always be nursed to sleep after the first wake. But if that is the case, at this age some boundaries are healthy. This is what I am working on: settling him back to sleep without the breast if he wakes before midnight. I know he has a full tummy and he is just nursing for comfort. I am hoping this leads to fewer wakes. So, we snuggle and do rhythmic pats on his back in the side-lying position.
- Lean on your village as much as possible during the day. Find ways to utilize daytime downtime, like a child care swap with a friend, or find a workout class that has childcare. I really enjoy MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). They have loving childcare for the bi-weekly meetings. Building on your daytime support team helps lower stress and recharge the batteries for those unpredictable nighttime hours.
Written by: Martha Sears, RN and Erin Sears Basile
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”