I've been taking part in a few forums and parenting advice columns over the past months, and I thought I would post some of my answers as blog posts.
Our son wakes up several times a night. He has been eating solids for about 2 months now but I'm also still breastfeeding. It had been suggested to us from several sources that he could be hungry so we increased his food intake during the day. Anyhow, I've been told by many people to just put him in his own room and let him cry it out but that just doesn't feel right to me so I'm trying to find other ways. What do you think?
First I would like to commend you on following your instincts on the “crying out” technique. Some people seem to think that if you pick up a crying child you are spoiling them, but there’s no other way for a baby to let you know that his life is less than perfect at that moment.
If you believe it is hunger that keeps waking him up the best thing to do is to test it by stuffing him before bed. If he is over 4 months, oatmeal is great as a filler as is rice. If you eat it too, your milk will be more filling too, Hemp is actually breast milk’s greatest friend, you can get it as a butter or buy the seed hearts. It worked a dream on all my children.
The old school technique of letting a child “cry it out” is the result of seeing your child as a thing rather than a human being, If your child isn’t crying because of hunger, tummy ache or needing to be changed, then quite frankly, it’s an emotional problem and leaving him to deal with it on his own is planting a seed for a bigger problem down the road. It is the act of a parent who wants to control their children, rather than nurture and comfort them in their times of need.
There is a range of things that could have sparked your child’s sudden fitful nights. Teething, witnessing something that didn’t sit well with them, stress in your life that he’s sensing, even change in the weather, anything that is new can sometimes be scary. The important thing isn’t to figure out what is troubling him, rather it’s to provide him with security and a sense of wellbeing so he can explore his way through it.
This can start throughout the day. Pick your child up, even if he’s not crying or fussy. Make sure he’s getting a lot of playtime with you and laughs a lot. Then at night, settle him down quietly with his usual routine, without any stress from you about how he goes to sleep, and without wondering for how long. Just lull him off gently and let him sleep in his own crib if he has one. If he wakes up screaming, comfort him immediately. When he’s asleep you can try putting him back in his own bed if you like, but if your instincts tell you not to, then consider letting him sleep on the couch (with a barricade to stop any rolling off) or somewhere near you while you do whatever you do in your off time. Then put him in his bed when you go to bed yourself.
This sounds like a recipe for disaster according to many baby books however it worked wonders with our son.
When he was about 5 months, he started teething really bad and he also seemed to be insecure or frightened about something. I would put him back to sleep in my arms. However if I tried to put him down, he woke up right away. So he slept in my arms while I tried to work for about a week. After that week I was able to transfer him to the couch beside me and then I would bring him up when I went to bed. Then, a week later, I tried just taking him back to his bed when he went to sleep and by the middle of the third week he felt totally secure to be on his own again. He’s never looked back and there was no habit formed. Really all that happened was that our son was having a scary time of it and I made sure he knew that everything was alright, and when he was ready to move on from his fear, he was ready to go back to being alone in bed.
There was one trick. I had to follow my instincts and I had to be able to distinguish them from my own desire. Some nights I longed to put him straight back to bed, especially when I needed to get things done and he was in my arms, however I knew my arms was where he needed to be. So I shifted focus and enjoyed it. However, soon I was enjoying having him in my arms or beside me on the couch and again I knew he should be in his bed even if for some reason it was inconvenient. You and your child are connected. Therefore it is possible to connect in a way of understanding what he needs and follow that small voice within you that is truly the best of parents.
When you are dealing with a frustrating situation with an infant, such as wake ups, then it is always important to see him from where he came from. Your child is just getting use to being in a human in a physical environment. He needs time to adjust and to get use to the world we live in. Things that we take for granted may at first seem strange and scary to him.
It is my belief that if you follow your instincts then you won’t form any bad habits along the way and you will in no way be spoiling your child. Rather, you will be instilling within him the foundation of having a loving and caring parent, who understands him and will see him through the tough times and support him through the good. Now, doesn’t that feel good?