As I’ve mentioned before, Felix still wasn’t sleeping through the night after his second birthday, and it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I love co-sleeping, and most nights, despite Felix’s continued desire to nurse frequently, it has been a pleasant experience–although in truth there have been many nights that were miserable exceptions.
Sleeping Without Nursing: An Impossible Goal?
Recently, I decided I wanted to wean Felix by the time he turns three (a subject for another post!), and that the all-night nursefest will be the first feeding to go.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
When it came to a “sleep training” strategy, I long ago decided against any cry-it-out method. I bought Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution when Felix was six months old, and while in theory I love Pantley’s approach to babies and sleep, the process she recommended felt complicated when I tried to implement it.
When Felix turned two, I purchased The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers, and this time swore I would really put Pantley’s suggestions into action. Again, every time I began the process, I was overwhelmed by too many steps and strategies–sleep logs, jotting down notes in the middle of the night, yanking my nipple from Felix’s mouth before he dozed each time we breastfed…I was too tired just reading the steps involved in Pantley’s plan to give it a fair shot.
Dr. Jay Gordon: Changing Sleep Patterns in the Family Bed
At no point during Dr. Gordon’s plan is the baby or child left alone to cry, and you can continue to co-sleep throughout and after the process–in fact, Dr. Gordon recommends that you do. And unlike Pantley’s no-cry method, Dr. Gordon advocates a simple plan devoid of sleep logs or multiple strategies cobbled together–and it’s all over within about ten days. Best of all, there is no book to purchase and slog through–Dr. Gordon’s method is posted right on his website.
Needless to say, I love Dr. Gordon’s method. I didn’t find his explanation of the method to be totally easy to follow, so I will paraphrase it for you below.
Note: This is summary only; please refer to Dr. Gordon’s website to learn more about his sleep philosophy.
Dr. Jay Gordon’s Stance on Sleep
- Babies should not be “trained” to sleep through the night before one year of age, and the older they are, the easier the process will be.
- Co-sleeping is the best nighttime arrangement for most families; you do not have to put your child in her own bed in order for her to sleep through the night.
- Trust your instincts. If, at any point during the implementation of Dr. Gordon’s plan–or any other sleep training method–it feels wrong, stop and try again in a few months.
Dr. Gordon’s 10-Day Sleep Plan for Babies One and Older
Decide on a chunk of seven hours of sleep that you determine to be most valuable (Dr. Gordon recommends 11:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m., and this seemed to work best for us). This is the block of time during which your child will be “trained” to sleep on his own.
Phase One: Nights 1-3
- At any time before 11:00 p.m., you may nurse or cuddle your baby/child to get her to sleep the first time and to get her back to sleep when she wakes.
- After 11:00 p.m., when your baby/child wakes up, hug him, pat him, rock him, or nurse him for a short period of time, but make sure you don’t let him fall asleep at the breast and that he’s put back down awake.
- Repeat Step 2 throughout the night.
- At 6:01 a.m., do whatever you have been doing as a morning routine, including nursing.
NOTE: Because Felix is 2.5 years old, I did not nurse him back to sleep during these first three nights, and went straight to the second phase of Dr. Gordon’s plan (see below). Felix didn’t protest much, especially if he was allowed to “hold the boobie.” I imagine this step is more challenging with younger toddlers.
Phase Two: Nights 4-6
- Again, the nursing stops at 11:00 p.m. When your baby wakes up, hug him, rock him, or cuddle him for a few minutes, but do not breastfeed him, and put him down awake. (The rocking chair was a good substitute for nursing for us, although I often cheated and let Felix fall asleep there.)
- Repeat Step 1 throughout the night.
- You may nurse your baby at 6:01 a.m.
Phase Three: Nights 7-10
- After 11:00 p.m., don’t pick your baby up. When he awakens, talk or sing to him, touch him, but don’t pick him up.
- Repeat Step 1 throughout the night.
- At 6:01 a.m. you may resume breastfeeding, if you desire.
After these first ten nights, continue to nurse to sleep if you want to, but do not feed your baby when he wakes up throughout the night. The same goes for morning nursing–it’s up to you if you want to continue to breastfeed beginning at 6:01 a.m. (or 7:01 a.m., or whatever time works).
- This is not a no-cry method for every kid. Felix never full-on wailed during this process, but I would predict a fair amount of crying–albeit with mom or dad right there–for younger toddlers and babies.
- Felix doesn’t often wake up before 11:00 p.m. anyway, so we are now going from 8:30 p.m. (his bedtime), until 6:00 a.m. with no nursing. I breastfeed again at 6:00 a.m. in order to (sometimes) get another 30 minutes of sleep out of him.
- After ten days, your child may not be sleeping through the night. Some nights Felix still wakes up several times and needs a pat or pillow adjustment, but this is less disruptive than 45 minutes of nursing. Plus, I now see an end in sight and believe that within a short time I won’t have to intervene at all during the night. If your baby is in his own bed, you may be disrupted even less.
- Our goal is to have Felix in his own room by the time he is three, so he starts the night in his own bed (in our room). He generally wakes up at around 2:30 a.m. and climbs into our bed, where he (usually) falls back to sleep without much fuss.
- Felix used to often wake in the middle of the nap and want to nurse. Since implementing Dr. Gordon’s plan, Felix either sleeps through his nap, or I pick him up and watch TV from the rocking chair while he sleeps his final 45 minutes.
Our next challenge will be getting Felix to fall asleep that first time without nursing. I am all ears, people!
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