How I’m Getting My Baby To Sleep Through The Night…

how to get a baby to sleep through the night

OK so I’m going to – tentatively – put it out there that my baby sleep-inducing methods might actually be working. We’ve had five nights in a row of solid sleep from 11pm-7am, which is simply unheard of until now. It’s a revelation. (So long as you ignore the night before last, which was a total disaster and had me up from 5am. Just to be completely transparent about the whole thing. I’m ruling that night out as an anomaly!)

If you want to recap on some of the things I’ve been doing in an attempt to get Ted to sleep through the night then read my previous sleep post here – if you want to get straight to the nitty-gritty and find out what’s working for us then keep on reading.

If you’re new to the blog then here’s a quick overview of the sleep issues we were having with Ted, who is eleven months old: he was waking up numerous times throughout the night (for example 10.30pm, 12.30pm, 3am-4am, up at 6.30am for good) and we were feeding him back to sleep with formula because otherwise he would scream the house down. He was eating okay during the day, but not as much as I would have liked. Health good, generally a very happy and chilled baby, napping during the day but at random times.

When I look back over that paragraph, the problems are absolutely glaring – in fact, if you are having sleep issues with a baby then I would urge you to sit down and write a few sentences as I have above, outlining what the issues actually are. When you sit back and read your own words, it may all suddenly seem rather obvious as to what the problem is and what you should do. I mean, the situation above was little more than a week ago and already I’m gobsmacked that I spent so many weeks feeding Ted back to sleep with formula, multiple times a night. What an earth was I thinking?

The thing is, when you are absolutely at breaking point with tiredness and frustration, it’s incredibly difficult to take a step back from what you’re doing and realise that – really – you’re sometimes creating the issues yourself. (Not everyone, obviously, but we most definitely were, and the more I read things online the more I see thousands and thousands of parents with identical issues.) All you want is for the baby to go to bloody sleep and you’ll do anything to make it happen, even if it means making a rod for your own back. And, if you’re anything like me, you probably hate the sound of your baby crying and will do anything to placate them and soothe them back to sleep.

Ted didn’t need the formula through the night (he was sometimes having a whopping three bottles), as he’s proven himself over the past week by sleeping through without it. (He doesn’t even wake up hungry – we go down to breakfast in a very relaxed fashion, he sits and waits quite patiently whilst crumpets are toasted and yoghurt is fetched from the fridge and so on – and he’s eating far more solids throughout the day.) We didn’t just go “cold turkey” and take the formula away, though. One of the first changes we made, a couple of weeks ago, was to start reducing the night feeds by slightly watering down the formula each time. This was a good call – it only took a night or two before he could be soothed back to sleep with cuddling and rocking instead of a bottle.

Devising a routine and sticking to it (you can read more about that here) was also a good call as Ted was less fraught and overtired when 6.30pm/7pm came around. It also meant that we got both Angelica and Ted to sleep during the day for two hours at the same time, which helped us to have a breather and regain our sanity and do things like have a proper lunch or get house admin done without having to constantly negotiate our whole day around their various nap times.

But the biggest – and most profound – change has been altering the way we respond to Ted’s crying throughout the night. Now I know that the “Controlled Crying” method is a little controversial, but a) I’m not sure that’s what we’ve actually been doing and b) I think (from reading lots online) that the method itself is widely misunderstood. From what I gather, Controlled Crying is allowing the (older, not tiny!) baby to cry for a certain amount of time, say a few minutes, before comforting them. So rather than jumping straight to it as soon as they wail, or picking them up and spending three hours (not even joking) rocking them back to sleep, you wait a while and see what happens.

Now if this sounds even remotely cruel, then please consider what happens when you’re driving and your baby is crying and you can’t pull over – surely this has happened to most of you on the motorway? The baby has woken up hungry and is screaming and there is literally nothing you can do. The next services is twenty-odd miles away. You listen to the baby go batshit crazy for about twenty minutes (depending on how fast you’re going!) and do that fruitless rocking thing on their car seat, which almost dislocates your shoulder. And that’s if you’re the passenger. If you’re driving, you’re even more stuck because you can’t do anything other than sh-sh-shhhhh yourself towards total madness.

Anyway, my point here is that the baby is crying for quite a while – much longer than you would EVER leave them through the night – and there’s also a difference in that the baby in the car needs something. It’s hungry. With the controlled crying thing, I think the assumption is that the baby is fed, dry, well and warm – this is for babies who are crying because they are used to being constantly comforted rather than crying out of discomfort or distress. For example Ted, who was being fed formula and then cuddled for ages – at least half an hour – each time he woke up. Of course he was going to cry if he didn’t get these things, we had virtually trained him to need them!

(And you might argue that he did need these things, but please show me a human who can survive for almost a year on snippets of sleep, never more than three hours at a time? If you can rock your baby back to sleep multiple times a night for more than a eleven months and not lose your mind then you are a better, more energetic person than me. I’d say that I’m pretty soft when it comes to babies, as are the majority of people – I can’t bear to hear them cry, see them upset – but there’s a very real and definite limit to the amount of sleep deprivation a person – or couple – can endure.)

So on to my mixed-up, thrown-together, trial-and-error sleep method. On the first night, I left Ted – after a lovely, cosy nighttime routine – for a couple of minutes to have a cry. And he got really really cross. But then I went back in, sshhd him, put my hand on his head or his chest, reassured him and he went quiet and smiled. In a way, leaving him again was actually worse after doing this because he was even more cross, but gradually I extended the amount of time I left him for, from two to three to four minutes, and by the time we’d done around six minutes (which – I warn you – feels like six hours) of annoyed crying, he was done. Asleep.

And actually, we only had to do this whole routine TWICE. By the time – on the first night we tried it – we’d done it to get him back to sleep after the 7pm feed and the 11pm feed (haven’t managed to drop that one yet!) he slept through the night. On the second night he cried for a minute or so each time and then was fast asleep. On the third night, no crying really – perhaps twenty seconds? – and on the fourth, nothing. Just a happy baby. (You know I’ll jinx myself here, as usual! In fact I did, because I wrote this and then had the terrible fifth night before I could hit the publish button.)

Now let’s picture the alternative to my random mixed-up method, which is what we had been doing for months and months. (I don’t know why it took us so long to address the sleep situation properly. Maybe I thought that thinks would just “iron themselves out”. Maybe we were too caught up with moving. Perhaps because we were renting a terrace house and – I think, subconsciously – were worried about waking the neighbours, as well as Angelica. But probably it was because we were just too worn-out to contemplate changing our routine – we’d become accustomed to doing the nighttime relay, grunting at each other over whose turn it was to go and do the feed and the rocking. Being like zombies throughout the day, just waiting for the moment Ted might nap so that one of us could also have a rest.) The alternative here is not allowing Ted to cry at all, picking him up and rocking him. For hours. Making him completely attached to the sensation of rocking so that was what he needed to be able to fall asleep, and giving him formula to send him off into a lull. Him crying again anyway as soon as he was put back down, repeating the whole process again, with the addition of two/three nappy changes a night because he was drinking so much…

When I look at that situation it seems absolutely ludicrous.

Now each to their own and I would never tell someone else what to do with their baby, but if you’re in the same boat as I was and want to try the same thing then here’s what I did, for easy reference:

Feed at 7pm (7oz of formula, in case that’s relevant.)

Lovely cuddle, kiss and then gently placing him into the cot, at which point he has always cried until picked back up again.

Resisting the urge to pick him back up, instead shushhing and gently rocking his chest with my hand/stroking his hair, but only for about twenty seconds or so.

Retreating from the room, waiting for any breaks in the crying and shushing in the silences so that he can hear that I’m there. Gradually closing the door and waiting for a few minutes before going back in to repeat the hand on chest/head and gradual retreat.

For me, the crying simply stopped after a few short goes when Ted knew that he wasn’t being picked back up again. The reassuring hand/noise seemed to – well – reassure him, and even though he’d cry again, it didn’t take long for him to work out that crying wasn’t going to get him hours and hours of cuddles.

God, in an ideal world, I’d bloody well cuddle him all day. If I wasn’t knackered, didn’t have another child to consider, tea to make, washing to do, a dog to pet, a cat to feed, a husband to spend time with, a job. But when you think about it, what good would cuddling all night do either of us? It just meant that Ted woke up every time he was (necessarily!) put back in the cot, we were all exhausted and the crying was simply delayed rather than stopped. Because there was no actual discomfort to address to stop the crying, was there? No wet nappy to change or hunger to feed or pain to soothe or what have you. So how do you stop crying, practically, when there’s no real reason for it? I feel as though all we were doing was creating a sort of cause-and-effect situation where Ted knew that if he cried, he got endless cuddles. By taking away the endless cuddles, which were – apparently! – only missed for the few minutes he cried for them before dropping off to sleep, we very easily broke the cycle.

And he still gets the lovely cuddles and the special, warm times and the nice milky feeds, just not at ridiculous hours in the middle of the night. In fact, the cuddles are actually better because I’m not like the walking dead and he’s a happier baby.

So just to emphasise, this isn’t a sad, ongoing regime of relentless crying sessions; it’s a couple of slightly uncomfortable nights after which you’re hopefully in the land of normality once again, with a baby who sleeps properly, eats at the right time and doesn’t drive you (and everyone who can hear them through the night) to the brink of insanity! To be quite honest, I really can’t deal with the sorrowful sound of crying and so if it hadn’t worked so quickly and easily, I don’t think I’d have kept on going, but I do think that it’s worth a try if you too have a similar sleep situation.

And now that I’ve done it, I remember quite clearly having to do something similar with Angelica. In this post, when she was a baby, I wrote that I didn’t ever have to let her cry, but I was reminded recently by a friend that actually I did. I didn’t actively have to go and reassure her, retreat from the room (repeat to fade) but I do remember having a bit of an epiphany when I simply failed to go to her when I heard her cry on the baby monitor. Usually I’d jump straight out of bed, run over to her room, cuddle her, latch her on, lull her back to sleep, and I was doing that three or four times a night until she slept through. But one night I just waited to see if she carried on crying or went back to sleep, and after a minute or so she went back to sleep. Who knew? So simple. Wait a while, see what happens, don’t be too quick to react…

What are your (constructive) thoughts on baby sleep routines or methods? Did you have any issues with your baby, or are you currently struggling to get them to sleep through? I’m talking about older babies here, by the way, not newborns or younger babies. I have no idea when they stop needing feeds through the night – is it four months? Five? I get the idea that breastfed babies seem to continue waking up for feeds for longer – is that a fair assessment? That’s just from friends, family and readers’ comments here on the blog – Angelica was nine months when she stopped her night feeds for good, Ted is eleven months and still has one.

Oh by the way, I finally stopped breastfeeding this week. We were feeding at random times, in dribs and drabs, and it just didn’t seem to be that beneficial at all for either of us. Ted never seemed to feed for long but then would soon after guzzle down a whole bottle of formula – had I been more rational and less tired I’m sure I could have sat down and worked out when to feed and how to slot everything together, but I just decided to draw a line under it. Also I had a milk blister – OW – and it wouldn’t go away, it was painful to feed and I needed to address it, which I did by manually expressing and lots of hot compresses. But anyway, it seemed like the right time to stop. I’m slightly sad and do miss it, but I don’t miss how haphazard our feeding schedule was – it’s much easier working out a routine now, with formula.

Right, fire away in the comments! And wish me continued luck with the sleeping – so far so good, eh?

*© 2017 The Uphill®: *Outbound links are affiliate links, which means that I receive a very small percentage of any sale made. This does not affect my content in any way and does not cost you anything, but you are most welcome to Google the products on a new page if you prefer. All opinions are my own and any sponsored or paid posts will always be clearly marked as an AD in the title. I accept press samples and receive product and services to review as part of my job. "The Uphill" and "Ruth Crilly" are registered trademarks.

Follow:
Share:

62 Comments

  1. January 14, 2018 / 11:36 pm

    Congrats! I might be in the minority here but have no idea why it’s such a bad idea to let a baby cry for a bit. We all need a good cry sometimes and being waited on hand and foot is a lovely concept but completely impractical! As long as baby is alright then they can handle a bit of crying while mum gets on with stuff or has a nap!

    We’re having baby number 2 on the way so we’ll see what happens with this one! But my mantra is happy mum happy child. And that includes sleep!!!! Good tip on the formula feeding though as we did that for baby 1 until he slept through at 8 weeks and don’t want to get too reliant with baby 2.

    X

    • Abi
      January 21, 2018 / 11:13 pm

      This is probably controversial but I did “controlled crying” early on with all 3 of mine, and as a result they have all slept at least 7 hours a night from about 4 months (Obviously excluding nights with teething or illness) and all slept 11 hours from 6 months. I found that as soon as they were old enough for me to be able to distinguish a difference between the hungry cry, the entertain me cry and the pain cry I was able to let them cry for a few minutes before soothing them, and then let them be. As a result they’re generally happy and relaxed during the day, which helps me a lot. Happy Mum = happy baby.

      My top tip is definitely don’t try and put baby down too early at the beginning – put them down when you want to go to bed, then you’ll at least get some sleep which will help you be strong when it’s getting tough later on.

    • February 8, 2018 / 3:58 pm

      Fortunately I think more and more people are “waking up” to the idea that it’s okay to let a baby cry for a little bit sometimes. It gives them a bit of independence and an opportunity to learn how to calm themselves down, which is good not only for the baby but for the parents too! 🙂

  2. Anne
    January 15, 2018 / 12:16 am

    I needed to read that thanks Ruth. Currently bfeeding my 9 month old back to sleep 7 times a night for the past 5 months and thinking but if he wants it surely he must need it – but with a toddler too who is starting the day at 5am lately I need to try and get the sleep routine sorted.

  3. January 15, 2018 / 7:49 am

    My son was always an easy sleeper, but now (he will be two in March), with day care started in October and him having a cold constantly (it feels like he never really is healthy right now, just more or less congested) he wakes at around 3 am and calls me for cuddles. Because I work full time as well and have another child I just take him to bed with me where we keep sleeping, but I fear I have him accustomed to that now. I am just not strong enough to do it otherwise, especially as my sleep is pretty good next to him so the problem isn´t too big…
    I might regret it in the long run though.

    • Gaby
      January 16, 2018 / 11:15 am

      Similar situation here. I have a 2y4m old daughter who was a poor sleeper since birth. I spent 1.5 year waking up to sooth her every 2-3h every night while working full time and supervising house renovation. At some point, when she was 20 months old, I took her to bed with us because I was beyond exhausted and didn’t know what else to do. She immediately started sleeping through the night without waking (usually 20-21h – 07h30). Everyone in the family is finally sleeping (luckily for us, both me and my husband enjoy having her with us, so we all get a good rest).
      I say if it is not a problem for you, there is no problem 🙂 Anyway, I haven’t heard yet of a teenager who is still c-sleeping! 😉 They will grow up at some point and move out – first out of your bed, then out of your house. Time flies. Enjoy while it lasts 🙂
      P.S.: I still don’t know what her problem was with all this non-sleeping. We introduced a well structured routine with established nap times when she was 5-6 months. She transitioned perfectly from 4-5 naps when she was a newborn to finally 1 nap of 1.5-2h since she was 18months. I was exclusively breastfeeding for 12 months. No more night feedings since 9 months. Controlled crying as of 10months. Nothing worked – she needed company to fall asleep, and then was waking up at 22.00, 00.00, 02.00-03.00 and sometimes for the day at 06.00. I am due in 1.5month with a second one. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Rachel
      January 17, 2018 / 3:09 pm

      Yep cosleeping is a fab alternative to controlled crying and the one I wish I’d chosen. I’m way past my baby having but my biggest recommendation to new parents is a huge bed

      • January 17, 2018 / 4:20 pm

        I think that they’re very different options and outcomes though, aren’t they? I can’t actually sleep at all, really, with a baby in with me so it would give me LESS sleep! : )

        • Tina
          February 2, 2018 / 9:18 am

          I am the opposite – I have become so accustomed to being woken up and bringing baby in with us that I can’t sleep until she wakes up (anywhere between 10pm and 1am) and I bring her in. I can see why they can get used to it so easily when its the same for me! However she is now almost one and I think its time I take the plunge and try letting her grizzle for a few minutes before rushing in each time. I feel like this is what we did with our first that eventually got her sleeping better, but I do remember it meant a short term of less sleep for us before it got better. As much as I love co-sleeping and lovely baby cuddles, our bed is starting to feel a bit cramped!

  4. Martha
    January 15, 2018 / 8:05 am

    While I was pregnant I read French Children Don’t Throw Food, and the chapter on sleep focuses on that exact thing. In the book it’s called ‘le pause’ and is basically about waiting a few minutes, even with a newborn, to observe the baby and learn what kind of crying it is. There’s lots of good stuff in there about sleep cycles and how often babies cry when they’re in-between cycles but haven’t woken up, so picking them up can actually wake them. Highly recommend the book, it’s really funny and helped us to feel we had permission to be relaxed and non-jumpy about a lot of this stuff. The other thing we did from the beginning was to obsessively log all her feeds and naps so we could get some sense of what her natural patterns were, then build a nap schedule around that. The biggest revelation from this (which I now know is so basic I can’t believe nobody told us) was that she we were keeping her awake too long between naps and at the end of the day. She basically can’t stay awake for longer than an hour at a time, and if she isn’t in bed by 6pm the whole evening goes to shit. She’s now 3 months and has been sleeping 6pm-7am (with one feed at midnight) since she was about 6 weeks. She still, at the start of every nap, screams blue murder for exactly 30 seconds (I have to count out loud to stop myself picking her up!) but then then conks out.

    I also find it helpful to remember that at 3 months her short term memory is still really short, so even if she’s devastated when I leave the room, she literally won’t remember it a minute later. She’s not lying there thinking, “where did mummy go? I miss her!”

    • Anna
      January 16, 2018 / 1:30 am

      Hi! I too have a three month old but very different to yours! Sleeping 13 hours with only one feed!! What kind of sorcery is this. Please tell me how u managed this. You said she naps every hour, are they short naps and then she does most of her sleep at night?

      • Martha Hampson
        January 17, 2018 / 10:48 pm

        Hi! So, I think probably 80% of it is genuinely that she just arrived like that (as in, I really don’t think I’m better than anyone else at this stuff!). It’s usually three naps a day, very roughly:
        * 90 mins in the morning, starting a bit over an hour after she wakes up (so roughly 8.30-10.00)
        * The middle nap starts 11 or 11.30 ish and can be anything from an hour to three hours
        * 90 mins in afternoon 3.30-5

        It all varies a bit from day to day, and if nap #2 is very short then she might start the last one earlier. The only absolute rule is that we start bedtime at 5pm, it takes about 45 mins (feed, bath, stories) so she’s in bed by 5.45 and asleep by 6. If her last nap is overrunning, I’ll wake her up at 5 to get her ready for bed. This felt like a really weird thing to do to start with but really works.

        I found this site http://www.weebeedreaming.com/my-blog/ really useful (ignore the corny photos!)
        It really helpfully explains the difference between a ‘routine’ (i.e. the order in which things happen) from a ‘schedule’ (i.e. exactly when they happen). My baby responds really well to a routine – she likes knowing what’s going to happen next, so e.g. I always do a nappy change just before the nap and that gets her in the mood, and I always feed her straight after she’s woken up from a nap, so by the time the next one rolls around she’s got as much wind out of her system as possible. But the timings shift around a bit if we need them to. Hope that helps! And obviously so much of this stuff is just luck. I’m fully preparing myself for having a nightmare teenager just to balance it out 🙂

  5. Michela
    January 15, 2018 / 9:12 am

    Beautifully written, Ruth!
    I have a 10 months old son (born 03.03.17), he is still breastfed and going through the very same problems with sleep. No problems at all in putting him down for a nap or for the night, but multiple wakings (at night starting 30 minutes after he falls asleep, then 1 am, 4 am and 6am)… initially we got him to sleep again by giving him his dummy, then it wouldn’t do the trick anymore so we started picking him up and rocking him… then even that wasn’t good enough to get him to sleep so we swapped the cuddles for a feed, then of course even feeding him stopped working. Last Friday during one of these multiple nightmare wakings I had an epiphany and realised that he didn’t need anything apart from me (or my husband) being there because we “taught” him that that was he needed! In fact, he needed us but we disturbed his sleep at the same time. Madness.
    We then decided to let him cry for a little longer than the usual 20 seconds and see what happened. I’ll probably jinx myself too by saying this, but… he slept through the night for the last three days. Of course he cries a bit (more than a bit the first two nights, to be completely clear, and I cried with him too thinking that would live a permanent mark on his psyche or something) and then he falls back to sleep. By himself. No dummy, no cuddles, no milk.
    I still feel a bit guilty, to be honest, and that’s probably why I’m rambling, but I had really driven myself (and my husband and the baby) mad and couldn’t function anymore on virtually no sleep, not to mention the terrible night arguments and the anxiety of living in fear that he would wake up. I think we all needed a fresh start.
    Best of luck to you and your family,
    X

  6. Emma Stenhouse
    January 15, 2018 / 9:19 am

    Hooray! Well done on getting a full night’s sleep, that is an amazing feeling! And thank you for sharing your strategies on how you did it – I totally agree that you need to take a step back and then do what’s right for baby and family. Which has reminded me that’s exactly what I need to do, too. Ha! Our one and a half year old has just started waking in the night again and I’ve got stuck in a right rut of spending hours trying to settle her down again. I’m off to write some things down! xx ps: glad to have you back on both sites!

  7. Hannah
    January 15, 2018 / 9:34 am

    My little one is nearly 7 months now. She was sleeping through quite well at 4 to 5 months but since the last growth spurt she wakes up 2-3 times a night. (I know others have it worse..just my story :-)) I breastfeed, so I latch her on, she drifts off after a few minutes and I put her back in her crib. But most of the time I have the feeling she’s just drinking because she can and not because she’s hungry. Anyway….I am trying to drop the night feeds and get her to eat more during the day. But apart from the night wakings she’s just great. She naps at approx. the same times during the day (3x 30 minutes) and bed time is really relaxed and she puts herself to sleep really well.
    Am I allowed to say that I want her to sleep through the night when she’s actually really good during the day and doesn’t need hours of rocking to sleep? I sometimes feel like I don’t have the right to say or want anything as others have it much worse …
    I love your blog, by the way! So down-to-earth and relateable. And you are just so incredibly funny!
    Greetings from Austria 🙂

  8. Wendy
    January 15, 2018 / 9:38 am

    Thank you for this post, my little girl Lola-mae was a good night sleeper, but then I had to go back to work and the routine has gone, like you I hate to hear her cry, but now reading this I feel a little bit more comfortable trying a similar routine and not feel like an awful mother!

  9. Lucy
    January 15, 2018 / 9:44 am

    We’re just on our second baby who’s six months so I read your blog with interest. If you think about it, babies just CRY. It’s their only expression to get something done. With our first baby every cry sent us into panic, but now, I’m more able to just solve it. Not that I haven’t had a meltdown every so often with this baby! And I suffer from post natal depression and freely admit that. But babies do just cry. So at nap or bedtime when I put him down I’m happy to let him have a little shout. I know he’s ok, because the whole day he chats and laughs.

  10. Vicky
    January 15, 2018 / 10:07 am

    We are still having some sleep issues with our little boy, he’s 16 months still in same room as us (getting own room
    In March) he wakes up 4-5 times a night. He’s not up for long few minutes maybe.. but I still have to jolt out of bed and lay him back down. I’m up and down doing this all night! Sort of used to it now it’s become the norm for me. Really hoping when he gets his own room he will settle himself, Like you Ruth Iam going to leave him to cry for a few minutes. We’ve never had one full night uninterrupted! It’s exhausting isn’t it! Fingers crossed it all goes to plan! Thankyou for the advice!

    • Zainab
      January 25, 2018 / 10:28 pm

      Exactly the same situation except I’m co-sleeping with my son (16 months) and cannot get him to sleep in his cot. He comfort feeds all night and I still havent had a full nights sleep since he was born! I’m not sure whether controlled crying would work at 16 months? I think he would just keep crying for hours.

  11. delphine
    January 15, 2018 / 11:20 am

    I reckon 2 things worked absolute wonder in my case, in a very similar way to you: first I started using the controlled crying method to get my baby to sleep in the evening. We did the 5 minutes / 10 minutes / 10 minutes thing, and after a few excruciating evenings when we would be looking at our watches frantically and artificially speaking very loudly in order to cover the crying noises, it worked. like a bloody charm. And it worked so well that in the upcoming months, when he would wake up during the nights, he would manage to get back to sleep on his own, with no or minimal crying.
    The other thing was getting him on a routine. I feel that when you are breastfeeding and being the primary caregiver (and it’s your first child), there is no need for any routine (as opposed to bottle-fed babes who have a schedule from the get-go if I am not mistaken?), and we as mothers are strongly urged to doing everything under the baby’s lead. So when I started preparing him to go to the nanny’s, I did a bit of research… and discovered that by then he was only supposed to be having 5 meals a day, while I was still doing 10 feeds! Obviously it freaked me out, made me feel like a terrible failure, and then I started giving him bigger meals during the day with coherent times… and the nanny did the rest in terms of regular naps. In one month my life changed from 2-3 night feeds and tiny 30-minutes naps to beautiful 12 hours nights 🙂
    Now I guess once you have 2 it gets more difficult to build up a routine AND to let the younger one cry
    And one last thought: how on earth are people so judgmental that you have to use so much rhetorical preparation around the fact that sometimes you let your baby cry so that you don’t go crazy with sleep deprivation??

  12. Louise
    January 15, 2018 / 1:40 pm

    Excellent – bloody well done you! It’s pretty much what we did too and ours dropped the 11pm ish feed after a few weeks. He still screams when he goes to bed and moans when he stirs in the night (he’s now 14 months) but I think he’s just one of those babies who needs to cry to ‘self soothe’ (that’s what I tell myself haha – he’s clearly just a git) :o) x

  13. Alice
    January 15, 2018 / 1:46 pm

    We have got ourselves into a bit of a state with sleep, naps and weaning, we are just so tired and that effects all of our behaviour badly I think. We are going to try something close to what you describe and I was just wondering how long you stay in the room shhhing and putting reassuring hands on back/head etc? Thanks Ruth for making parenting seem a little bit more normal.

    • Sarah
      January 16, 2018 / 9:10 pm

      I’d like to know this too, please. Is it seconds or do you stay until calm? So pleased to hear you’re getting some sleep! X

      • January 16, 2018 / 9:42 pm

        Sometimes he didn’t calm himself at all, and then I just stayed for ten or twenty seconds. But mostly he would be quieter when he knew I was there. I say “mostly”, but it all worked so fast, we’re really talking about a couple of nights.. x

  14. Marie
    January 15, 2018 / 2:33 pm

    I think you have done great. It does seem harsh to let baby cry but it is just for a few minutes and you have to look after yourself too and make sure you get sleep otherwise it affects your health. I just need to try it myself now, easier said than done!

  15. Gillian Pidler
    January 15, 2018 / 2:47 pm

    Personally I did the controlled crying with all three of mine, now all grown (youngsest is coming up 18!!), and it was a real blessing to have my children learn to self soothe, that’s all controlled crying really is and everyone has to learn that skill or we’d all still be waking up every night wanting food! As long as we know they are safe, fed and clean it won’t do them any harm at all and will absolutely give Mum and Dad that much needed break from being on duty every minute of the day and night. I breast fed all 3 of mine until they reached around 9.5 months and then naturally tailed off, leaving the bedtime feed till last for that comfort element. My absolute belief is that if you implement a regular bedtime routine and rules, as in for me anyway that meant they slept in their own beds, then you will all benefit from better sleep and anything that crops up during the day will be so much easier to cope with, plus then Mum and Dad get some much needed quiet time together each evening, at least until they reach their teens and refuse to go to bed before you!! But that’s another story!

  16. Lauren
    January 15, 2018 / 7:29 pm

    I actually did controlled crying when my little boy was 3.5 months old – I was breastfeeding every two hours during the night, rocking to sleep, bouncing to sleep in the Baby Bjorn or taking him out in the pram/car to get to sleep during the day. I was beyond shattered and was so exhausted I was crying every day. I know that seems very young but I truely believe he was ready for it.
    We started on a Friday night – first night he cried for 25 minutes (we went in 5 minutes intervals, picked up, said sleepytime and put straight back down again). Next nap he cried for 15 minutes, next nap cried for 10 minutes, we went for a walk for the last nap (I read somewhere to do that, can’t quite remember why). Second night he cried for 5 minutes and after no more crying at all and he’d settle himself to sleep!
    About 3 nights later he slept through the night for the first time and has done so every night since (touch wood, he’s 21 months now!). I don’t think it was coincidence that he slept through after we did the controlled crying – he simply didn’t know how to settle himself.
    I truely believe it was the best thing for him and for me and for anyone umm’ing and ahh’ing about whether to do it – give it a go!

  17. Ginny Burley
    January 15, 2018 / 11:37 pm

    Good for you, Ruth!! I am delighted that you and your husband found a humane and sensible way out of that night time horror of the last year. Sounds like this salvation didn’t come a second too soon.

  18. Victoria
    January 16, 2018 / 8:33 am

    I have a 6 month old and also struggling with lack of sleep so thanks for making me feel normal! I think the idea of writing down the issues is a good one but I know that our issue is lack of sleep during the day: Unfortunately I can’t seem to change it. How did you get your little ones to sleep for 2 hours? My daughter will only sleep for 30 min at a time, no matter what I do, and I know she needs more. Did you use controlled crying in the day too?

  19. Kamilla
    January 16, 2018 / 2:04 pm

    Thanks so much for this post, Ruth! Although, of course, I heard about this method – now I am encouraged to try it! My son is 7 months and wakes up at night as often as he likes – min 3 times.. I’m starting tonight 😉

  20. Ria
    January 16, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    I’ve tried this but my 10 month old never gets to the ‘stopping crying’ bit…when I go in to comfort she gets more distressed. I’m back at work soon and need my sleep…just don’t know what to do. She even wakes multiple times when cosleeping (which id like to move on from!)

    • Kate
      January 25, 2018 / 8:15 pm

      Ria, I read an article about how some babies cry and can slowly relax and go to sleep and other babies l cry and get increasingly more worked up. I definitely have one of the latter! So we are still co sleeping at 21 months as everyone gets sleep that way. He’ll grow out of it soon. My advice go any parent would be have an open mind and go with whatever works best – because what works for one baby won’t work for another. They all walk and talk at hugely varied times so the variety when it comes to baby sleep shouldn’t be a surprise either (although it generally is – I think because sleep impacts us as parents the most!)

  21. Katy
    January 16, 2018 / 5:10 pm

    I’m one of those people umming and asahing about doing similar with my 7 month old who is waking up multiple times a night but he shrieks really loudly (!) and I also have a 2.5 year old who sleeps in the next room. Feel like this really stops me leaving him for any length of time in the night. But we can’t move house to solve this! Hmm..

  22. Natalie Dwyer
    January 16, 2018 / 5:18 pm

    Yay for a full nights sleep! Great post which I am sure will help many mums out there struggling with sleep issues. I have done different variations controlled crying with all 3 of my babies, each time different as each child is different. We always say we wish we’d done it sooner but I think you have to be ready to commit. Number three it was just par for the course because I often didn’t get to him straight away, as was busy with the other two, and by the time I got to him he was back to sleep anyway!

  23. Carmel Dawson
    January 16, 2018 / 6:25 pm

    Thanks for this my fella is 11 months old too and eats and sleeps well.during the day but lately has been waking for a feed at 11pm and 4am just as I went back to work. Enough though I know he’s not hungry giving him the bottlenks the quickest way to get him back to sleep. I’m an older mother (44) he was our little surprise after having two older boys (12 &8) so.my energy levels probably aren’t as good as first time around im going to take your advice and let him cry a bit longer and hope he doesnt wake the whole house and see can I feel like a human being again x

  24. Kate
    January 16, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    I think there is few days between ted and my baby girl. Been looking up how to settle and stop feeds in the night (is my second child lol) an this came up too. Every page is full of blah blah blah but you said it straight to the point! Thank you will be doing this!! Appreciate it a lot

    P.s my other child is 14 so is probably why I forgot or I don’t know my mind went blank so thank you and happy birthday for little ted in couple weeks!!

    All the best xxx

    • January 16, 2018 / 9:45 pm

      I forgot everything and there’s only an 18 month gap, so surely you can be forgiven! : )
      x

  25. Seraphina
    January 16, 2018 / 7:25 pm

    Hi Ruth I hope you see this comment:
    How did you get baby Ted to nap for TWO HOURS?!?
    Please give me your secret as my baby only naps about 30 mins to 1 hour if I’m lucky. The only way she’s napped more than an hour is if she’s stuck to the boob so it kind of defeats the purpose of me getting anything done!
    Any tips and advice would be very appreciated!
    Thanks in advance!
    Love your blog!

    • January 16, 2018 / 9:44 pm

      Is she the same age? I followed those Gina Ford timings (though nothing else from the regime!) with a mini-nap at 9.30am for half an hour so that he didn’t get overtired and then a long nap from 1-3. A lot of the time I have to go and wake him up! He never napped before.. x

  26. Elisabeth
    January 16, 2018 / 8:02 pm

    Hi Ruth!

    I am so happy for you that baby Ted is now sleeping better! My daughter Ophelia is a month or so younger (we actually met you at the Newbie pop up recently!) and I remember commiserating with you about our shared sleepless states! Ophelia is now sleeping from 7pm-7am, but only a couple of weeks ago was still waking up to bf 5-6 times per night. I thought it would take ages to drop those feeds, but I just did two things:
    1) put her in her own room. That was a game changer!!
    2) did a version of controlled crying
    After 1 night she was sleeping through. In fact, I had to go in to wake her up at 6amfor the first 2-3 days because my poor boobs were overflowing because of the abrupt night feed cut down. I was so shocked and delighted by how easy it was in the end. I am a big advocate of the crying method, but of course only for older babies. Ophelia was 9.5 months and clearly ready to handle it.
    One final point- I was really motivated to sort out the night feeding/waking because of her teeth. It is really bad for babies to feed through the night once they have teeth, as it can lead to decay.
    Thanks so much for this post – as always, so well written and enjoyable to read!
    Elisabeth xxx

    • January 16, 2018 / 9:43 pm

      So nice to hear from you! Are you still breastfeeding? I so wish I had sorted out his sleeping BEFORE giving up, as I’d love to still be breastfeeding him before bed. Oh well! So glad you got it sorted, hope all well with you! xx

  27. Julie Thompson
    January 16, 2018 / 9:22 pm

    I have an 18 month old who went through a phase of not wanting to go to sleep for hours during December. At the beginning of Jan we had to get it sorted as we have Baby 2 arriving in March and we did a few things that have really helped (a mix of tips from nanny, friends etc) – firstly she has a clearly defined long ish nap at lunch – at home in her cot. Then at 6pm she has a lavender bath, with dim lights – we actually dim all the lights in our flat, speak more quietly and have general ‘non-hyper time’. Then she watches Night garden for 20 mins or so, dim lights, then bed at 7pm, with a soothing music toy. She is FAR calmer and I swear the lights thing makes a difference. Sometimes I think as parents we might forget that our behaviour can have an affect on their general calmness. Especially when we are knackered or fall into ‘bad patterns’.

    • January 16, 2018 / 9:41 pm

      Absolutely! I must get Angelica back into the Night Garden – it’s so soothing. She’s like a maniac before bed, I think that’s the next thing to address on the list.. x

  28. Sarah
    January 16, 2018 / 9:35 pm

    It works !! thank you so much for this post Ruth.I read this in the deep of sleep deprivation. Decided to give it ago yesterday and my 8m baby was down for the WHOLE night after 30mins of crying and 5 times of checking.He cried for only 20mins today and now sound asleep.I cant believe it works that fast (actually he just stirred and settled back to sleep after 5sec ).What makes it really reasurring to me is that he woke up happy and been good all day so I don’t feel guilty for leaving him to cry for a bit at night anymore.My husband and I are over the moon.Hard to believe what being well-rested can do to your mood.Thank you thank you xx

  29. Nicola
    January 16, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Thanks so much sharing this. It really is such a minefield of information and when you are sleep deprived you really will try anything and get so frustrated when it doesn’t work. Our 8 month old was a dreadful sleeper in the early days but we resorted to some controlled crying and worked really well for her day time naps however nighttime is a different story and she always needs to be fed back to sleep. Not so much of a problem when she only wakes once a night, however when she wakes 3 or 4 or more times like she currently then you see how you have created a rod for your own back. If you don’t mind me asking when Ted wakes in the night do you go in and do the shushing and patting him but you don’t pick him up? And you say he only cries for a brief period even if he wakes multiple times in the night now? Maybe need to take the plunge and try this! Fingers crossed that you’ve nailed this sleep thing and can start to feel more human again x

    • January 17, 2018 / 12:03 pm

      He slept through 7-7 last night!!! x

      • Nicola
        January 17, 2018 / 1:37 pm

        That’s amazing! You must be so happy / delirious with all that sleep! Think on the weekend need to give this a try.

  30. Amelia
    January 17, 2018 / 5:02 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this today! My son (also Ted) is 6 months but your story is exactly the same – I’ve been undecided on controlled crying but I finally think I’m going to go for it now!

  31. Rosie
    January 17, 2018 / 5:55 pm

    Ruth, this could be a story of our own household! Couldn’t agree with you more on the issue of controlled crying. You have set it out so eloquently. Good luck with it all. Hope the restful nights continue.

  32. Anne
    January 17, 2018 / 10:19 pm

    YES Ruth, we’ve had the same story here with both children (younger is a day or two older than your Ted) and it was only when, after months (both times..) of hourly boob-feeds-to-sleep-all-night-long, we did some sleep training (pretty much same as you outline above and had the same result after just a couple of sessions/nights) plus eased off the night boob feeds** Anyway, well done for yet again getting to the crux of a potentially emotive issue- it’s a real talent you have, writing about this stuff and sounding like a best ever friend, not a high horser. I’m also 100% with you on parks and pouches btw- I loved that post. I have SO MUCH mum guilt but not over sleep training which has allowed our whole family to get some rest and be our better selves the remainder of the time.

    (**for anyone scouring even the comments for further ideas- to wean off hourly night feeds we aimed to incrementally increase gap between feeds and if baby woke earlier than next planned feed time OH would cuddle and soothe her while she waited. I struggled with it when she cried but we knew she was in a habit rather than needing such frequent feeds and I felt that at least OH was holding her. Glad we persevered – within 2 nights she was sleeping through a couple of planned feed times without waking and she soon (maybe 3 days to a week?) stopped waking for most of those nighttime feeds at all. I read articles on ‘the baby sleep site’ beforehand and there’s info on various approaches on there.. not an ad, I’ve just found that site really useful)

  33. Laura
    January 18, 2018 / 10:38 am

    I have an eight month old baby with all of the issues outlined above! Feeding to sleep, waking (what seems like) every sleep cycle, needing the breast to get back to sleep, and unable to settle herself in her cot. However, we also have a problem that I’ve never heard anyone else mention, which is that when she cries in the night, she gets so agitated that she thrashes around and bangs her head on the wooden bars of the cot. I haven’t done any controlled crying and I run to her as soon as she cries in the night, but usually before I get there I hear a big thwack sound and it’s her head on the bars. Last night the sound of the bang was alarmingly loud, and I feel so terrible typing that! I’ve wondered if I should keep the lights on so she can see the bars, and perhaps it’s the fact she wakes up in the pitch black, expecting to still be in my arms, and just can’t see anything? Or I’ve also wondered if it’s happening because she’s in a sleeping bag so her movement is restricted when she wakes up and tries to crawl. Does anyone else have this problem? I honestly don’t know what to do. I couldn’t leave her to cry for even a few minutes to try Ruth’s method, because in that time she is up on all fours rocking, flailing herself around desperately, and crying, which invariably leads to her hitting her head. And that’s not with me leaving her to cry, that’s in the 30 seconds or so it takes me to get to her! If anyone else has had this problem, I’d love to hear what you did!

    • Amy
      January 20, 2018 / 4:33 pm

      Hi there, our nearly 8 month old also wakes repeatedly. On all fours! Trying to crawl. So won’t resettle himself as he’s not sure if he should be asleep or awake. It’s like he’s asleep and the wakes partially and tries to start practicing his skills. He can’t yet crawl. He’s very close to being able to. I think babies can be very restless at night and wake frequently when they are nearing perfecting a new skill/milestone. There’s not a lot we can do – other than go sooth them back to sleep. I do try and leave him for a min or so before I go in to rescue whatever crazy position he has got himself into, unless of course he is hysterical like when he hits his head on the bars.
      You are not alone on this. I keep thinking – it will pass once he has gained better control over his movement to crawl/walk etc.
      that’s my take on it anyway. My baby is also in a sleeping bag. I don’t think it restricts him at all. X

    • johanna_brln
      January 21, 2018 / 3:20 pm

      Dear Laura, can‘t you cover the bars with something soft? Here (Germany) a cover that you tie to the bars is a common baby equipment product. 🙂
      Also you could try to leave on a low light, my midwife recommended a red light.

      But it is natural for a baby to call for a grown-up when they wake up. 8 months is still tiny. Being alone used to be life-threatening for babies so they always want to be with someone who can protect them.

  34. johanna_brln
    January 21, 2018 / 3:13 pm

    Dear Ruth, I would always encourage mothers/families to address the suffering of a family member. In such a community, everyone is important, everyone needs to be considered and yes, sometimes one has to take one for the team.

    But what I really strongly disagree with is your assumption that the baby is crying for no real reason. You do not know this and I find it difficult that you think you do. How is feeling lonely or even feeling bored or missing Mummy or having had a bad dream not a real reason for crying? I am not saying that this was the case, but just because a baby can‘t tell you it still is a possibility.

    I am happy for you that all went down so smoothly! 🙂

    • January 21, 2018 / 4:34 pm

      By simple trial and error. Going back in and touching him, the tears instantly stop and he laughs. Not hungry, not wet, not ill…everything else ruled out. And it since this post he has slept through every single night – nothing has changed. In fact we’ve even cut out two feeds, so if anything he’d be MORE likely to cry. He also has a cold and is now teething again. But sleeping through. So I think you have to trust your instincts.

  35. Mercedes
    January 25, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    I did hard core controlled crying with my first son at about 7 months. He’s now nearly 4 years old. I was mentally and emotionally broken from the lack of sleep and the exclusive breastfeeding. I checked with the health visitor if he would be ok to go without the feeds. She’s checked his weight and suggested more food/ milk during the day. The maximum ( and don’t judge) i left him to cry was like 30 mins. After a week it was like a miracle!!! My second son ( now 17 months) self settled on his own. I didn’t need to do anything!!! Amazing. But his addicted to the dummy and he cries if he drops them I. The middle of the night. I leave about 3 dummies but they go everywhere. I’m cursed Enjoy your sleep!!! Whoohoo

  36. Sadie
    January 29, 2018 / 2:05 pm

    Congratulations on getting some sleep for your family! it always surprises me when people describe controlled crying as teaching your baby that you won’t come because surely it’s the opposite, you’re teaching them that you will come, every single time (after e.g. 10 minutes!), BUT that they have to go to sleep on their own.

    I did controlled crying with my first baby who then slept brilliantly after 2 nights and a total of about 60 minutes of frequently comforted crying. And I remember feeling terrible afterwards…that I hadn’t done it earlier. That I had made him reliant on me for endless rocking/shushing/cuddling in the night and made him cry out for me for me and lose sleep for what must have added up to so much more crying that the short time it took to teach him to self-settle.

    Am going to need to do something similar with my 7 month old I think, once I’m content she’s not hungry/teething etc…

    Anyway, lovely you and your family getting some rest…and thank you for sharing!

  37. Emma Mills
    February 9, 2018 / 12:29 am

    I’m going through the exact same thing with my six month old he does not sleep unless he is on me, I can’t put him down for a nap during the day and he usually ends up in my bed a night – the sleepless nights are becoming too much! The health visitor suggested I do exactly what you have done with Ted and she promised me it will work!

    It is nice read articles like this cause when you’re a new mum and going through this you feel like you’re the only one and it’s nice to know and see that you’re not alone!

  38. Gugi
    February 15, 2018 / 8:41 pm

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I’ll make my husband read it TONIGHT and starting to sleep train our 23 month old TOMORROW.

    Our baby (#3) slept through the night just fine until our youngest (#4) was about 8 weeks old and we transferred him from our bedroom into the nursery with him. He now demands a bottle about three times a night. We just give him a bottle because my little sleep deprived brain just cannot handle two babies keeping me up at several intervals during the night and because we’re afraid of the baby waking up and just want to go back to bed ourselves.
    That being said, my husband and I havent slept in the same bed for months. We take turns in sleeping in the guest bedroom. How absurd is that? It only came to me as I read your article.
    Thank you.

  39. Rosanna
    February 17, 2018 / 1:59 pm

    Or try aware parenting, ‘crying in arms’ for a gentler approach

  40. Hannah Heerey
    February 20, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    Oh Ruth, you have no idea how much I want to hug you right now! I felt like I was in exactly the same situation as you, my now 10 month old was waking every hour or two all night long and I was just shoving the boob in because 1) it was easier and 2) I was scared of her waking the toddler! It was just getting to the point where I could no longer function during the day. I followed these “instructions” pretty much step by step and a week later we now have a baby who is mostly sleeping 7-7. I never even dreamed this was possible and it sounds dramatic but I actually feel like it has changed my life! So THANK YOU! Thank you for being so bloody honest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *