Q: My 4 month old won’t nap unless I’m holding him. I’ve tried laying down with him for a bit but the longest he sleeps alone is 10 minutes and once he’s awake, he won’t go back to sleep even if I rock him or hold him. Most days I just rest with him, but I would like to be able to get some house work done. We co-sleep at night. Any advice? Any thoughts on the book “the no cry sleep solution”?
Thanks. For now I’ll just treasure these special moments because they are more important than laundry and won’t last forever.
A: First off, I’m thrilled you’re relishing the moments – before you know it, they’ll be over and you’ll be doing dishes wishing you were back cuddling with your little one! Because, seriously, how fun is house work?
I do, however, understand the desire to have a bit more freedom for whatever it is. I can say that my daughter was exactly the same! She would last five minutes out of my arms at 3 months and only at 6 months did she start napping right next to me, but I had to be in bed with her and she’d cuddle up next to my leg. Of course, personally this was fine because I had been itching to get some work done on papers and other writing so this was a fine arrangement (almost a forced work-time), but it won’t work for everyone.
I think for many babies, you’ll have to go through a period of adjustment. You start by putting them down and when they wake, lie with them again, feed them, and get them back to sleep. I know you said your son won’t go back to sleep, but one possibility is to try and anticipate it at first. Put him down, but don’t leave. Stay close and as soon as he start stirring, cuddle up and let him feed. This may get you another 10 minutes or another 30 minutes. As the time builds up, you can start moving away for longer and know when you may need to be present for a comfort feed or cuddle before your little one wakes too much and can’t get back down.
As to the book ‘The No-Cry Sleep Solution’, I haven’t read it. I have heard mixed reviews from people. Some cherish it, and others found it not-at-all helpful. As you’ve brought up to me, one of the suggestions is to put a stuffed animal in with your baby so he has something to cuddle. This makes sense as there is research showing that children who don’t sleep with their parents tend to have greater attachments to inanimate objects like dolls and stuffed animals. These objects serve as proxies for the comfort typically provided by the parent (which is also why many infants and children who co-sleep do not have the strong attachments to a single stuffed animal or doll that infants and children who sleep alone tend to have). It is possible that a child will accept a stuffed animal as a substitute for a parent, but I am also aware that a child may not accept this substitute. I believe this would be a case-by-case type of thing.
All-in-all, as frustrating as it might be, I think the best advice I can give is to enjoy it. Accept it’s a phase and know your child will grow out of it and then you’ll be wishing it were there again (and if your son is anything like my daughter, it will return and you’ll relish it). And when you start making transitions, you’ll need to accept it may not be a quick fix – it may take time for your infant to securely learn to sleep on his own. And that’s okay.
Hayes MJ, Roberts SM, & Stowe R. Early childhood co-sleeping: Parent-child and parent-infant nighttime interactions. Infant Mental Health Journal (1996); 17: 348-357.
Pantley E. The No-Cry Sleep Solution. USA: Better Beginnings, Inc. (2002).