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Sleeping in the crib and weaning
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Sleeping in the crib and weaning

We are trying to get our child to sleep in the crib on her own.  She is going on 18months old and to present has been sleeping with us in our bed.  

My wife has been nursing her in bed at night and we wanted to start weaning her.  When we did this, she would cry uncontrollably.  We decided that if she is going to do this she might as well do it in her crib instead of in our bed.

She will not sleep in her crib at all.  She will cry for hours on end.  Her crying is so bad that it sometimes it will induce vomiting.  She is very perceptive as to wether she is in her crib or in our bed.  She will feel around and if she does not feel my wife or the familiar textures of our bed, she immediately wakes up and begins her crying routine.  We go in every few minutes to reassure her but she is unconsolable when in the crib.  

I think her response to this change in sleeping environment is a part confusion, a part anger and, I fear, in part it's a feeling of rejection.  The latter is one part of her response to this that we want to avoid.

To present, she has only fallen asleep in the crib twice on her own.  Both times were during the day and was preceded by an hour of crying and several minutes of my wife rubbing her back.  So technically I guess it may not have been on her own.  

What else can we do to help her sleep easier in the crib?  Is it simply too late for the crib?  Should we try giving her her own twin bed instead of a crib at this age?  Should my wife just continue to rub her back until she gets used to the crib, or is this a just postponing the correct sleeping behavior?  We're at our wits end on this.  Up to now My wife  has had to wake up two or more times every night to feed our daughter.  It needs to end one way or another.

Please advise.
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Dear Mr. Kennedy,

The only way to achieve the results you want is to bite the bullet, so to speak, and persist in having your daughter sleep in her crib. It will make sense to wean her from the during-the-night feedings - they are not necessary at this age. Do not put your daughter in a regular bed. She is too young, and it will only exacerbate the problems you are having.

It will help you to challenge the perception, or worry, that your daughter is feeling rejected. You will be helping her, not hurting her, by having her learn to fall asleep on her own and in her own bed. Remember, she's been socialized into sleeping with you, and change will be uncomfortable.

Take a look at Richard Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. It will guide you in the precise method to employ. If you persist, and there's no easy way to do it, your daughter will succeed.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you for your quick response to our question.  Your advice is in keeping with what both our parents have told us.

Since I posted the message, though, I acquired some other information that more closely parallels our parenting style to date.  

Again, I appreciate you getting back to us.  I just think the rejection feelings are real.  Leaving her screeching MOOOMMMMYYY!!! DADDDDYYY!!! and sobbing until she can hardly breathe or until she vomits is just unnatural.  It's too much to risk loosing her trust in us, even a little.  There must be another way.

My sister-in-law got the following off the Web.  I don't have a citation for this, but I think she said it is from a Husband & Wife Doctor team on AOL.  I hope the following information is useful for others in our situation.

Hi Pat,

I found this article, thought I'd pass it on.  I hope you guys got some
sleep. See you soon!

-Lexi

Missing the Real Cause of Night Waking
This nighttime "hands off, let baby resettle on his own" approach has other
flaws: It keeps parents from searching for the real causes of night waking
and seeking out more sensitive and long-term solutions. It presumes the only
reason baby wakes up is that he is "spoiled." He has not learned to put
himself to sleep because you always help him. If you didn't help him get back
to sleep, he would have to learn self-comforting techniques. What's the
implication? It's your fault your baby wakes up, which is not true.

Cindy, a sensitive and very attached mother, consulted me about her
one-year-old's recent change from a restful sleeper to a restless night
waker. She opened by saying, "I know my baby, he's waking for a reason.
Something's wrong and I'm not going to let him cry it out, as my friends
advise me." I gave Cindy the checklist of causes of night waking. By the
process of elimination she identified polyester sleepwear as the nighttime
irritant. The night she changed baby to all-cotton sleepwear, her baby again
slept well.

This is why you can't separate daytime parenting from nighttime parenting. A
mother who starts off practicing attachment parenting becomes so sensitive to
her baby that the whole cry-it-out approach is foreign to her parenting
mindset, and she intuitively seeks out the reasons for her baby's night
waking and finds more sensitive solutions. A mother who buys into a more
restrained style of parenting, however, is more easily lured into the
cry-it-out approach. It is not so foreign to her mindset, and she may more
easily succumb to it.


Sink or Sleep
In teaching a baby to swim, you don't throw him in and force him to sink or
swim. Likewise, you don't just put a baby in a crib alone and expect him to
go to sleep. You first build baby's confidence that water is not something to
be afraid of, then you help baby create an attitude that water is pleasant to
be in. Then you teach swimming skills. Learning to sleep is a nighttime
discipline and skill that begins with learning not to fear sleep; next baby
discovers that sleep is a pleasant and not a lonesome state to enter (and
reenter); and finally you teach baby the skills to maintain sleep.

Cry-It-Out Alternatives
Rather than the cold turkey approach to letting baby cry it out or the
measured (and less inhumane) approach of letting baby cry with intermittent
comforting, consider the following modifications of these approaches - ones
that maintain parent-infant trust and the mutual sensitivity between babies
and parents.

Like weaning from the breast, when to ease baby out of your bed and resort to
a variety of sleep props varies from baby to baby and according to parents'
life-styles. We are concerned about the rigid approach the cry-it-out books
take. A whole list of do nots permeate this approach. For example, "Do not
give in and pick up baby." The only do not in our approach is "Do not rigidly
follow anyone's method but your own." Babies are too valuable and individual
for that. Instead, here are some basic suggestions from which you can build
your own helping-baby-sleep approach.


Be Flexible
If you pick a system from a book, you don't have to buy into it 100 percent.
You can try part of an approach, keep what works, discard what doesn't. Each
time you try a sleeping method, you build a nighttime experience file.  It's
not as if night waking will go on for years if you don't break it in the next
two nights. Each month that you try something, you are wiser, and baby is
more mature. Time is on your side. The rigid cry-it-out approaches require
you to use the system 100 percent. This is not right. Easing into a system of
sleep training makes baby less alarmed by a change of nighttime management.

Use Baby as a Barometer
Use your baby to gauge whether your approach is working, not someone else's
schedule in a book. If it isn't working, pull back and try a month later. A
problem we have with many of the cry-it-out approaches is that they ignore
the baby's input. Your baby is a partner in your approach. As you ease out of
nighttime attachment and use props to get your child to sleep without your
help, consider your baby's daytime behavior as a barometer. If you are
thrilled with baby's behavior and don't get any vibrations that baby is
disturbed or that your sensitivity is weakened, go on to the next step of
nighttime weaning. If, on the contrary, early symptoms of premature
detachment occur (anger, distancing, clinginess, tantrums), pull back and
alter your course.

Kim and Allen were sensitive nighttime parents, but the consistent night
waking of their two-year-old high-need baby, Jeremy, was getting to them.
Parents were tired; baby was tired. A change of nighttime routine was
definitely needed. These parents had practiced the attachment style of
parenting. They knew their child, and the child trusted his parents. Now when
Jeremy awoke, instead of rushing to immediately comfort him, they would give
him time and space to resettle by himself. They put no time limit on how long
to let him cry and set no rigid rules on "not giving in." They played each
night by ear. If Jeremy's cries had a panic sound that touched their
red-alert button, they trusted themselves to respond. Each night they waited
a bit longer, and when they did go to comfort Jeremy they gave a simple "It's
OK" message. Also, the parents increased their daytime attachment to Jeremy.
They used their baby as a barometer of whether their method was working. If
Jeremy showed any daytime upset or became more distant from them, they would
pull back on their nighttime- weaning pace. They did not let themselves
become insensitive. Within two weeks Jeremy slept longer, as did the parents.

Why did this work? First, the parents and child had built the foundation of
trust and sensitivity. Second, the parents did not lock themselves into a
rigid schedule on how long they would let their baby cry. Baby became a
partner in the approach as they eased him into nighttime independence.


Take Baby Steps
Vicky and Jack were sensitive parents of a nine-month-old night-waking baby,
Michelle. A friend gave them a cry-it-out book that laid down an insensitive
schedule of how long to let her cry. After two nights of cry it out, Vicky
noticed the following changes in their baby. "She cried a lot all day.
Sometimes she was more clingy; other times she was distant. Something we had
before was gone." Jack concluded, "She doesn't trust you anymore."
These parents consulted us, asking for help in fixing their child's daytime
behavior. Here's what we advised: "You see by your baby's negative daytime
behavior that you pushed her too far too fast. You wisely realize that your
baby's emotional well-being and your trusting relationship are at stake. She
is not ready for such a giant step. Going from your bed to a crib in her own
room with no or only partial response from you was too much. So you tried it
- that's OK - and you see you need to back off. Give yourselves a few nights
to get back in harmony, then consider taking some smaller steps that you both
can live with. First, since she's been waking hourly, there could be a
physical cause for the night waking. Go through the checklist of possible
night-waking causes. Next, have your husband lull her to sleep after you've
nursed her, and have him put her down asleep in her crib - or your bed if you
choose to go a little slower. Then on her first waking you decide if you or
your husband should comfort her back to sleep. When you are ready for bed, go
ahead and take her into your bed at the next waking and nurse - it's easy to
nurse once or twice at night - you  decide. Ask your husband to alternate
dealing with her as she awakes. Several nights of this should be all it takes
for a return to a nighttime regimen that you can handle."


What We Do
Here is what we do if our babies show persistent night waking. First, we
regard teaching a baby how to sleep as nighttime discipline. Just as we
programmed ourselves against spanking as a daytime discipline technique, we
vowed we would not use the cry-it-out approach as a nighttime discipline
technique. This mindset means that we are highly motivated to find the real
cause of our baby's night waking and seek, by trial and error, alternative
approaches. Just as spanking keeps a parent from learning the real cause of a
child's misbehavior and finding a more appropriate method, so the cry-it-out
approach keeps parents from finding the real cause of the child's night
waking and trying healthier alternatives.

Next, we decide on just how much night waking we can handle, making
allowances for changing situations (illness, moves, and so on). For example,
at nine months we can handle one-to-two night wakings and easy resettlings or
an occasional bout of more-frequent night waking about every three weeks.
More than that (unless baby is sick) means we put "the system" into effect -
meaning we go through our checklist of night-waking causes and alter the
middle-of-the-night response accordingly.

One night twenty-month-old Matthew woke up wanting to nurse - for the third
time in three hours. "Neee," Matthew said. "No," Martha responded. "Neee,"
Matthew said louder. "No!" Martha said louder. I awoke at the peak of this
"neee-no" dialogue and realized that Matthew had pushed Martha too far.

Martha had trained Matthew to be satisfied with her body next to him, but not
always with an available breast. Sometimes a pat or a back rub would do, or
just holding him extra close as he struggled and fussed. Then he would
gradually get the message "no nurse" and would give up and go back to sleep.
On this occasion, yet another approach seemed in order; it was my turn to
take over as comforter. The important point is to use a variety of comforting
techniques that satisfy baby's need to relax.
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Your daughter is 18 months old?  Has she ever tried to climb out of her crib?  A friend of mine put both his kids in toddler beds when they were able to walk.  He said the first time you walk into your childs room and see her trying to climb out of her crib will scare the hell out of you, or even worse you hear a big thud followed by non stop screaming and crying, and you realize she has fallen out of the crib because she was trying to climb out of it.  His daughter is a year old and she is in a toddler bed, if she wakes up and needs something she can get up and walk into Mom & Dads room.  Maybe you could start out with a toddler bed in your room for her, then when she is used to sleeping in the bed you could move it to her room.  If she is given the option that she can get out of bed on her own and come into yours if she needs to might help her feel better.  If she needs you during the night and she is stuck in a crib the only option she has is to cry.  My husband and I also do not let our son (7 months) "cry it out".  We also feel that if he is just left to continuosly cry he will feel like he isn't worthy of our love and attention, there has to be a reason he is crying, even if it is just because he wants to be held or comforted.  That reasures him that he is important to us and he knows we will always be there for him when he needs us.  Children need to know that they are loved and wanted and can always count on you when they need to.  Remember, being a parent is for a lifetime.  I hope this information along with all the rest helps you.  Good luck to you.
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