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gradual retreat/withdrawal help please

(22 Posts)
Summerdays2014 Sun 11-Sep-16 19:27:08

My 8 month old son would only fall asleep in my arms for his naps and would wake up as soon as he was put down. For the past week I have been putting him down in his cot and sitting next to him whist he falls asleep, sometimes patting/shhhing. This has been going really well and he has been going to sleep like this usually in about 20 minutes (sometimes as long as 40) am also doing the same at night, tonight it took 15 minutes and there was no crying.

I'm really pleased with the progress but unsure about what to do next. When do I start to move away? When does it start to take less time for him to fall asleep?

I guess my 'big' question is will this help him sleep through the night and nap longer? And if so when will this happen? At the moment his naps are still only 30-40 minutes (see whole other thread about that!) and nights are still very unpredictable. He can sleep through (6.30/7 - 5.30/6.30) and did so twice this week. However, he also has nights where he wakes up every couple of hours, but settles straight away with the dummy, nights when he won't settle and nights when he's awake for hours at a time (last night he was awake between 9 and 12, fine when being held but cried everytime I put him down!)

Now I'm not expecting gradual withdrawal to work straight away, but should it, in theory, help him to sleep through? What am I meant to do in the middle of the night when he wakes? Put dummy back in or sit with him until he goes back to sleep (this did not work yesterday!)

Any advice on any of this would be much appreciated.

Many thanks.

welshgirlwannabe Sun 11-Sep-16 19:35:29


Sounds like you're making good progress. I'm interest in seeing if anyone has any good advice as we may need to do this too.

ItsNiceItsDifferentItsUnusual Sun 11-Sep-16 19:44:56

We did gradual retreat at about 10 months I think and went on the 3 day rule - so 3 days of patting then 3 days of no patting but you're right next to the cot, 3 days in middle of room, 3 days in doorway but visible, then the idea is that you're then able to leave the room but stay outside the doorway to shush if needed - ie to reassure dc you're still there. It worked for us and actually I've just had to do it again for ds who is almost 3 and got himself into a bedtime pickle.

I'm not entirely sure about night waking because ds was mostly sleeping through then but iirc you're meant to do the same stage that you did at bedtime - so if you're at the middle of the room stage you would go in during the night, settle, then stand in room.

We didn't do gradual retreat for naps so can't help with that, sorry - ds wouldn't sleep in his cot for naps!

I think the idea is that gradual retreat is a gentle way to teach your baby to fall asleep themselves and that once they've become comfortable with that, they should rely on you less for that and start sleeping longer/settling without you. But I'm not an expert and this is all going back a few years for me! But I would imagine you'll see an improvement soon.

Good luck!

Summerdays2014 Sun 11-Sep-16 20:20:06

Thanks ItsNice, it's encouraging to hear that it worked for you. I'll try the three day thing, so no patting/shhhing tomorrow as I've been doing that on and off all week!

Welsh, I do feel like I'm making progress, it feels really good to have him nap in the cot and not my arms, I just hope that this technique will lead to longer naps and more predictable nights!

firsttimemum15 Sun 11-Sep-16 20:24:42

My baby is exactly the same would happily nap in arms. Same age too and we haven't progressed to cot naps despite my plan To. I've come across this technique nlbut mentioned on an MN thread. Never heard of it before really so I'm interested

Summerdays2014 Sun 11-Sep-16 20:34:37

First, give it a go for naps. I didn't really think it would work and thought I'd be rocking him to sleep and holding him forever, but I've been amazed. Still only napping for 30 mins, but at least I can make a coffee and drink it in that time!

firsttimemum15 Sun 11-Sep-16 20:51:34

How do u start this

Pythonesque Sun 11-Sep-16 21:22:28

When I did something similar my daughter was 9 or 10 months I think. I added a wind-up music toy as a "sleep cue". (now nearly 14 she's been using radio 3 to help her sleep over the summer ...)

I would just go straight in and start withdrawing bit by bit after putting him down, with verbal reassurance - to my shock we went from "only goes to sleep in my arms" to being able to put her down and leave her in just 3 days [I say shock because it took me ages to psych myself up to do it and I was prepared for it to take as long as it took...]. I think you may find you've pretty much done the difficult bit already.

And yes, you should find that nights improve quite a lot; because my daughter couldn't self-settle at all, any time she stirred in the night she then needed soothing to get back to sleep. You'll still be up some of the time but more briefly or only when they genuinely need something.

Good luck and best wishes!

welshgirlwannabe Sun 11-Sep-16 21:32:54

For those that find this works - does or did your child cry when put down? I think my baby would be so upset at being put down awake that he would absolutely scream. And I don't know that hand holding or shushing would be enough to calm him. I'd probably have to pick him up and settle him with boob again.

Did you all shush through the screaming or were your babies okay about being put down?

welshgirlwannabe Sun 11-Sep-16 21:33:38

I'm a sleep training wimp!!

FATEdestiny Sun 11-Sep-16 21:58:11

OP - i wouldnt use 3 days as a rule. It's a reasonable estimate but depends on how gradual your withdrawal is.

I use GW from the viewpoint that each change is tiny and the next change happens only once the last change is accepted.

I also would not make changes as extreme as mentioned above. Some examples of step changes of use:

Sitting next to bed shushing and patting
Sitting next to bed just shushing with your hand in chest/back, patting only if distressed
Sitting next to bed with hand on chest/back shushing only if distressed
Sitting next to cot, place hand on chest/back only if needed, removing when calm
Settling in cot then just sitting next to the cot watching.
Settling in cot, standing next to cot
Settling, still standing next to cot with a quater turn away from cot (not face-on to cot)
Settling, standing half-facing the cot but a step away
Settling, half facing cot but other side of room
Settling, facing cot from doorway
Settling, facing out of room at doorway
Settling, waiting a minute or so at doorway then start moving away and coming back
Settle to sleep then mill around upstairs until asleep, checking into room periodically
Settle, mill around upstairs until asleep, close door
Settle, close door, mill around upstairs for 10 mind or so
Settle, close door, leave. You cracked it!

I am a massive advocate of GW . I used it as a parenting ethos from newborn. I never ever had to much of a grumble or cry from DD. Always gave the comfort she needed but always with a view to slowly, gradually, over time withdrawing so that she needed my presence.

It took until around 12 minus before she could consistantly be kissed, put into cot standing (with dummy) and if close the door and leave. She's do the rest. Up ubtil 12 months of always be happy reversing back thro the stsfes of ever she needed me, I wouldnt have any crying. I guess of you want to deal with some upset and distress then you coulddo it quicker.

FATEdestiny Sun 11-Sep-16 22:11:35

For those that find this works - does or did your child cry when put down?

Unless you are aiming to speed up the process so will tolerate upset, then any crying indicates too much withdrawal not gradual enough.

I assume you are currently bf to sleep welshgirl? So GW in its true dance for you starts with a simple decision - I am not going to BF to sleep for much longer and will make some little changes away from this.

The decision is a big deal - do you really want to stop bf to sleep? There is a lot more to bf your baby to sleep than just sleeping. There are many other factors at play to consider.

Decision made, then decide what tiny change your baby might cope with? Maybe unlatching just as dropping to sleep then cuddling/rocking to sleep.

Then unlatch sooner. Aim for the point where you just cuddle/rock to sleep. At this point congratulate yourself, you are no longer bf to sleep so have made huge progress.

Next tackle rocking. Gradually less movement until you are just cuddling to sleep.

Then tackle the poibt of putting into cot. Start when fully asleep with you cuddling right into the cot (bedside cot, side off). Then put down into cot sooner, just fractionally sooner, with you cuddling into her while lying right next to her.

Then get to point where she'll lie down in cot to go to sleep, with you lying right next to her cuddling, shushing, patting.

Then you are about at the point the op is, so you go from there.

Summerdays2014 Sun 11-Sep-16 23:09:56

Thank you all for your help, much appreciated.

welshgirlwannabe Sun 11-Sep-16 23:28:45

Thank you very much for your kind reply FATE. I think actually I don't want to stop bf-ing to sleep just yet. Thanks so much for asking me that question - no one has yet and the answer came so quickly that it feels right :-)

I'm going o refer back to your post when I am ready though.

Good luck OP, hope you get some more rest!

Nottalotta Mon 12-Sep-16 07:28:32

I am currently doing this with my 13 month old ds. He never liked being put down for naps, waking almost immediately. Bf to sleep at night then a very gentle transfer etc. I am pregnant again, so needed to make a change for when dc 2 arrives. Also, crucially for me, bf to sleep wasn't working anymore, so we had moved to cuddling etc.

We are going very gradually and as a result have not had any real crying. There's been a few minutes of tired grumbling at the start but that's all (I am also a sleep training wimp!)

He has always played nicely in his cot so that was a good start. For a few days before starting I introduced acup of milk at bedtime before bf. Then put him in the cot, mobile on and for a few nights had to stand over patting, stroking, singing etc. I'm about a month in and now he smiles and laughs when I put him in, rarely stands up, and lays finishing his milk and watching the lights Intel he's asleep. It does still take 15-30 minutes, but I am outside the room and he pays no attention to me at all.

My next step is to get a mobile that I dint have to reactivate after 10 minutes so I can move further away and down stairs.

When I started I wasn't sure if the aim was to fall asleep quicker, or without me. It's become apparent that it's to fall asleep without me.

He is now starting to settle himself again at night, without any help at all. He wakes, moves around, chats then lays and goes back to sleep. Although this has gone backwards this week due to teething and a cold.

Naps, well it hasn't worked for naps for me. I've tried a few times, it took an hour and there was crying. I'll come back to that.
Oh and timing - we've been at it about a month. The second night took 75 minutes and patting, stroking, singing etc. I have been poorly so spent about a week laying on the floor with my hand through the bars. Last night was 20, I sat on the landing reading, no interaction at all he was quite happy.

Pythonesque Mon 12-Sep-16 08:57:04

FateDestiny I love your list, that pretty much summarizes the approach I remember taking. The main thing was that I moved through it back and forth according to how my daughter was responding, if she started to get upset (at all) I moved back a step or two - I've heard people talk of imagining a piece of elastic between you and the cot and gradually letting it out. So I'd suggest it takes as long as your child needs it to, but don't assume it has to be exceedingly slow as they may surprise you.

Welshgirl you are exactly where I was - I couldn't bring myself to deal with things until I was absolutely on my knees with exhaustion / not coping / not coping with having gone back to work part time. And at that point clearly I needed to change something. There's no point trying to change something while it is working for you and your baby - it works, why change it? If you are aware of options, once there is a reason to change, then you have some ideas what to do. Depending on age the first step may be considering how/when you put them down for naps, or what you do if they stir in the night and don't really need feeding again at that point.

Best wishes all of you who are working on this.

Summerdays2014 Mon 12-Sep-16 09:58:29

Well after a terrible night (2nd in a row) where despite being able to get him to sleep initially in his cot with shhhing I have taken him into bed with me in the middle of the night as I couldn't get him back to sleep or stop him crying, the first nap of the day has been a disaster too.

He wouldn't settle at all this morning and was properly crying so I have picked him up and am sitting on the sofa with him. He fell asleep straight away. This is the first time I've had to do this for a week. Feels like a massive step backwards in terms of naps and gradual withdrawal.

FATEdestiny Mon 12-Sep-16 11:42:55

It sounds like the level of withdrawal for your little not us too much.

If you want to embrace Gradual Withdrawal then it would help if you dropped the idea of anything being 'a step backwards'.

GW is about always giving enough comfort so baby usnt upset. It may mean going back and forth through the steps often. That's not a problem, it'll happen often and isn't in any way a sign the process isn't working.

Summerdays2014 Mon 12-Sep-16 12:59:42

Thanks fate, that's a good way of thinking about it.

Nottalotta Mon 12-Sep-16 18:41:08

What do you normally do in the night summer I normally Co sleep after the first wake up, but have been putting him back in (asleep) as much as my exhaustion allows. Too easy to just lay down, bf and fall asleep. I swiftly realised that I had to tackle one thing at a time and decided to start with bedtime. I have a reliable pram nap routine which is quick and easy (would prefer cot naps but I'm sure we'll get there.....) However the night wakings have got better over the past few weeks with him often stirring, even sitting or standing up, then laying back down and going to sleep.

Pythonesque Mon 12-Sep-16 18:58:37

Another thing to remember (especially down the line when your "normal" has changed) is that babies and toddlers will always need you more if they are ill, and sometimes poor sleep or grumpiness will be the first clue you get that they are starting to come down with a cold, for instance.

Summerdays2014 Mon 12-Sep-16 19:26:56

Nottalotta, I change what I do every single night in order to get him to sleep as quickly as possible. The last week I have put the dummy back in, picked up and rocked and taken into my bed when nothing else worked. I half heartedly tried sitting next to the cot and just shhhing/patting but it's so hard when it's the middle of the night and your tired.

What I want is done steps to follow. This afternoons nap and tonight I got him to sleep with no crying by sitting next to the cot, so I'm pleased with that. I just have to work out what to do during the night and get my husband to do the same!

It's just confusing to me that my son IS able to sleep through he just doesn't do it every night! I might start keeping a log of what happens during the day and see if I can spot any patterns.

Thanks py, I'll keep that in mind. Actually suspect he is teething at the moment (though I've thought that for months and still no teeth!)

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