Hey Laura, how do I get my 8 month old to sleep longer?

Jaime writes:

I am staunch attachment parent advocate. Love the co-sleeping, baby-wearing, no CIO philosophy. That said-I have a 7.5 month old that seems to be no closer to sleeping through the night than he was at birth. I have put him in his own bed and he wakes up within an hour. Next to me he may make it 2 or sometimes 3. Help! I love my little chubbers, but mama needs some sleep!

Ironically, my progress in responding to this question has been interrupted 3 times now by my nearly-5 month old waking up! :)

I think I’ve linked to my favorite parenting advice blog of all time, AskMoxie.org. Man, she (along with her awesome community of commenters) has saved my sanity many a time! It was thanks to Moxie that I discovered The Wonder Weeks - one of my go-to parenting books.

So, AskMoxie has a post in her archives that very nearly could have been written by you. I’m going to send you there, first, to save myself a little time.

Basically, the weeks between about 7.5 to 9 months (who are we kidding; it’s really the first year!) are full of developmental changes that tend to affect sleep patterns. He’s most likely working on crawling right now - either just getting started with what I always refer to as the “beached seal” tummy crawl or progressing to the full-on hands and knees method. There’s probably also some teething issues involved.

AskMoxie talks about this in her What are Sleep Regressions post, and tells you what to look forward to when the 9 month old’s sleep goes to the crapper. Her commenters have some great advice and commiseration in this post, too.

So there are a lot of legitimate things between you and a good night’s sleep right now. Things that are totally out of your control. Things that most likely won’t respond to any form of “sleep training,” no matter how gentle a method you try.

Incidentally, your instincts about no “Cry It Out” are correct. Child psychotherapist and author Margot Sunderland asserts that “uncomforted distress may cause damage to the child’s developing brain” and this Harvard study found that “having babies cry unnecessarily…changes the nervous system so they’re overly sensitive to future trauma.”

So what’s my expert advice? Get as much sleep as you can, by any means possible. If this means sleeping with your boob in his mouth all night, then do it. Your sanity is more important right now than any potential “bad sleep habits” you could be creating right now.

I really like this article from Dr. Jay Gordon about Changing the Sleep Pattern in the Family Bed. He recommends no attempts at adjusting the baby’s sleep until he is a year old, and then he utilizes a very gentle method for weaning the baby away from the “All Night Milk Bar.”

Although we did not maintain a family bed for a full year, we did implement some of these ideas to improve our firstborn’s sleeping patterns when she was about 13 months old (after she learned how to walk, I felt she was in enough of a developmental lull to attempt such a thing!). You definitely don’t have to be co-sleeping to adopt some of Dr. Gordon’s techniques.

It may be a little early for you yet, but around 10 months was our sweet spot for transitioning our firstborn out of our bed and to her own room. She had crawling down pat, she wasn’t currently in teething pain, and she hadn’t started working on pulling up or walking yet.

We took it very slow! First she was in the Pack ‘n Play next to our bed, then at the foot of our bed. Then just outside our bedroom door (we had a wide hallway). Then finally into her own room. It took probably a good 6 weeks, but it worked great. I doubt it had to take that long, but it was also a big transition for me as well. I really disliked having to get up to nurse - multiple times a night still!

I’m sure this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but probably expected anyway. Just think of this rather arduous nighttime nurturing (as it truly is) as an investment in your child’s future mental and emotional health. Parenting well is hard work, but it will always pay off in the end!

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, how do I get my 8 month old to sleep longer?

comments powered by Disqus