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How can I help 4 month DD fall alseep by herself?

(67 Posts)
Jun Tue 21-Oct-08 09:41:37

Hello I'm new here and would really like some advice.

My 4 month old DD has always fallen asleep on us either being fed or held and then put into bed asleep blush

We really want to help her fall alseep by herself but not sure how to achieve this. Last night we tried to pat and shush her in the cot but after about 45 mins of this she was so upset even cuddling couldn't calm her and I had to feed her.

I would be realy grateful for any help.....Thanks!

peachsmuggler Tue 21-Oct-08 09:53:35

Hi Jun - You could try pick up/put down now that she is 4 months. We did this with DD when she was 6 months. We can now put her in the cot almost asleep but not quite. We did a sort of watered down version though where the first night we picked her up when she started crying and put her down as soon as she stopped. Then we sort of moved onto cuddling her more in between. However the way the Baby Whisperer describes it is the way we did on the first night.

We weren't too bothered about her getting herself to sleep, the problem was she was waking up all the time and also it was a nightmare getting her into the cot once asleep as she kept waking up. We are now able to get her into the cot when she is half asleep and she is able to self soothe during the night (sometimes wink )

But if you really need her to fall asleep on her own then give it a go but do it the Baby Whisperer way

Good luck!

Jun Tue 21-Oct-08 12:03:30


I am also having the problem that she is now waking really easily whilst we are trying to sneak her into bed. Hence hoping we can put her down awake eventually!

TettyLouBar Tue 21-Oct-08 14:03:09

I started by putting DD (19wks) down for her naps gradually more awake. From about 12 weeks we decreased the amount walking, pacing, patting, shushing and rocking we did. The decrease was really gradual. Each week she became a little easier to put down.

She always cried alot when first put down, but I'd never let her cry for more than 10 mins before going in to shush her and have a quick cuddle, then we'd try again. The whole process took about 4 weeks.

We still have to make sure we pace around with her for atleast 2 mins in her room (its very dark in there and she usually takes this as a cue to start yawning) We use the 2 hour rule so she has 3 good naps a day.

She used to like lying in our arms and being walked around, but now as she gets older she makes a real fuss. So we've started to walk with her upright against our chest, she'll normally yawn twice, suck her thumb and put her head against my chest. I then wait about 2 mins. Put her down awake and she sucks her thumb til she's asleep. No crying whatsoever.
But she's only just found her thumb properly in the last few weeks, before that she did fuss a little and cry out a bit but it only ever lasts about 5 mins max before she's nodded off.

It took a lot of patience and will power from DH and I not to go into her when she was crying, but totally worth it. Night time is now much the same as the nap time, she goes down like a dream....I just wish she'd stay down!! hmm Not quite mastered sleeping through yet...

Good luck smile

meandmyjoe Tue 21-Oct-08 14:12:44

Tricky one, I always fed ds to sleep til he was 1 blush. she's very small to be settling herself though, I don't know any 4 month olds that can just doze off by themselves.

I'd be tempted to just keep doing what you are doing but not put her down til deeply asleep. People will say you are making a rod for your own back and all sorts but in my experience the more secure and loved they feel the better they sleep in the long run.

You can also try having a very structured bedtime routine, this helps them wind down and they get 'sllep signals' which after a while mean hey know what is going to hppen and that sllep time is coming so they feel tired and ready for bed. We bath ds at 6:15pm, take him upstairs wrspped in a towel and dry him off in his darkened bedroom, massage for a few mins with lavendar baby cream, dress him for bed whilst telling him 'the very hungry catapillar' story as it's short and easy to remember, then give him milk and put him in his cot. He was 12 months before he went to sleep alone but he did sleep through til 7am from 10 weeks which I largely credit to the routine. I never had any feeding or nap time routine and naps are still a challlenge now!

Wispabarsareback Tue 21-Oct-08 14:37:01

I think it's a myth that small babies can't fall asleep by themselves - it all depends on what they get used to. And I don't mean leaving them in their cots to cry endlessly! But four months is very young, so it shouldn't take long to get into a new way of doing things.

The Baby Whisperer advice quoted above is good. The trick is putting them down when they're sleepy but not over-tired. When DD1 was little I started putting her into her cot during the day when I wasn't expecting her to nap - just so she got used to being there awake. Then we got into the habit of noticing when she was getting tired, before she'd got to the stage of wailing with tiredness, and putting her down, with the curtains closed and her musical mobile. She got used to settling herself to sleep very quickly, and could resettle if she woke in the night. With DD2, we put her down awake quite often right from the very start - she was just in the habit of going awake into her moses basket, and she'd drift off to sleep. Like DD1, she can also resettle herself if she wakes in the night.

While there might be people on here whose DCs easily started settling themselves to sleep when they were older, having always been held til they were asleep as babies, there are plenty of people who find themselves endlessly having to rock, sing, pat, etc until their babies are toddlers and even older - not fun. Helping babies to realise that going to sleep in their own bed is a nice thing to do is an important part of parenting, and teaching them to self-settle (NB not cry inconsolably) is an important life-skill that they're not too young to learn!

Iloveautumn Tue 21-Oct-08 14:42:29

My personal view is why should a four-month old be able to fall asleep by themselves?

How unnatural is it to be left alone to go to sleep when you are tiny and unable to defend yourself or do anything for yourself?

I'm a grown adult and I don't like it if my dh is not there and I have to go to sleep on my own.

My own experience is that ds (now 2.5) was always fed or held to sleep as a baby and now at 2.5 always has one of us lie with him til he goes to sleep. It rarely takes him longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep and it is a really lovely time for him and us just to lie there while he drifts off.

I guess I'm saying I don't see why it is important for a baby (or a small child) to be able to go to sleep by themselves?

Wispabarsareback Tue 21-Oct-08 14:51:20

Iloveautumn - it isn't unnatural! At least, it doesn't seem unnatural for many babies I know, including my own two. DD2 used to lie in her moses basket blinking at her toys etc until she couldn't keep her eyes open - she was so sweet when she was dropping off that sometimes I used to watch her surreptitiously.

I think there's a danger of over-projecting our own grown-up fears and anxieties about being alone, being in the dark, etc - little babies don't seem to have the same fears.

Iloveautumn Tue 21-Oct-08 14:55:30

Wispa - but the OP's baby is clearly not happy with going to sleep by herself or she wouldn't be really upset after 45 minutes of them trying.

I guess my point is about forcing a child to go to sleep by itself if it doesn't want to or can't. Your dd sounds like she was very happy to sleep on her own. My ds certainly was not!!!

Wispabarsareback Tue 21-Oct-08 15:06:35

I guess that the OP's baby is protesting because of the sudden change. After four months of being cuddled to sleep, she's probably outraged at being put down awake - she's not used to it. But she could get used to it, if it was done gradually.

I have a friend who still rocks and cuddles her large two-year-old to sleep every night - for ages. Which is fine, if it's what parents want - but she really wishes it was a habit that they hadn't got into.

ches Tue 21-Oct-08 15:13:45

DS has never gone to sleep on his own, not when tiny, not when medium sized, not now at 20 mth. It's just not for some babies and we spent many frustrating months with long, tearful bedtimes because we felt we had to teach him not to fall asleep on the breast. Why? It's EASY! 4 months is a typical growth spurt time, so don't beat yourself up that you're causing your baby to wake up.

MrsMattie Tue 21-Oct-08 15:17:38

Agree with ches. All this 'making a rod for your own back' stuff isn't necessarily true. Sometimes we make it much harder on ourselves by expecting too much of very young babies - cue months and months of heartache as you try to establish 'self soothing'. Truth is, at 4 months, most babies do need to be rocked / cuddled / fed to sleep, and the ones that don't - well, it generally has very little to do with the 'experts' and the books and a lot to do with their general temperament.

Iloveautumn Tue 21-Oct-08 15:28:35

Wispa - but WHY should she get used to it?! What is wrong with just continuing as they are?

Also don't think that your friend's example is necessarily what always happens if you don't force your baby to go to sleep by itself. My ds who is now a large two-yearold does not need rocking and does not take ages to go to sleep, but he does need cuddling for half an hour - where's the big deal in that? It's a lovely time for him and for me/his dad.

Wispabarsareback Tue 21-Oct-08 15:43:17

Nothing's wrong with continuing as they are, if they're happy with it - but the OP says that she really wants to help her DD fall asleep by herself. That's what I was responding to - the OP asked for advice. I suppose it's valid to say to the OP that she's wrong to want that sort of advice, and that she shouldn't try to change anything, but I was taking the OP at face value.

MrsMattie Tue 21-Oct-08 15:49:51

The OP isn't 'wrong' - I would never say that to a new parent struggling with the whole baby sleep thing. It's like pulling teeth at times ( remmeber it well, and am about to be launched head first into it again...argh!)

I just think that on this type of thread you're bound to get more 'experienced' mums offering their 'wisdom' (grin) - some of whom might have had success with routines and baby guru books and 'sleep training', but many of whom learned the hard way that most babies don't go to sleep easily on their own all the time and don't sleep through the night every night.

Iloveautumn Tue 21-Oct-08 15:56:43

Yes true Wispa!
Sorry Jun, I didn't mean to say you should not want to change your dd's sleeping habits blush

All I'm saying is that maybe you are feeling like it is something you should change because there is a general feeling that babies should go to sleep by themselves and you are doing something wrong if they don't? (Hence your use of blush when saying that you feed to sleep and put her down asleep).

I felt the same and personally felt a lot happier when I realised that there is nothing actually wrong with not putting a baby down awake. It works for some babies (eg Wispa's) but not for others and it's not wrong if you don't do it for yours.

But if you do really want to put her down awake and leave her then ignore what I've been saying!!!

angelene Tue 21-Oct-08 16:00:27

Autumn - that's lovely for you, maybe I'm a heartless mother, but do you still see yourself doing this when he's 6? Or 11? That was the motivation for me to do cc when dd was 6 months. And I know it's not popular on here, but it worked, and after 1 night only.

Maybe I'm a complete cow, and I know my parenting skills leave a lot to be desired, but feeding to sleep, and then feeding to sleep several times in the night sent me round the twist and I was in a complete downward spiral. Then the days were awful because the nights were awful. I never want to go back to that horrible time.

TheMaskedPoster Tue 21-Oct-08 16:03:37

I agree with Wispabarsareback in respect that teaching a baby (no matter how young) to fall asleep by themselves is a very important part of parenting ... but that is just my opinion. We too taught our 2 girls to be comfortable, happy and secure in their cots (at a young age)and therefore able to self settle during the night. I think ANY baby would like to be cuddled/fed/rocked to sleep at the end of the day (what's not to like there) but teaching them to self settle helps both the children AND the parents in the long run (once again my opinion only).

I think this is what the OP is trying to say - she WANTS her lo to settle herself .. and there are ways of doing it... they just take a while to get the hang of it usually.

Wispabarsareback Tue 21-Oct-08 16:06:05

I think that babies probably aren't pre-programmed one way or the other - to fall asleep easily, or not - but that sleeping is something they learn. And I think parents' expectations have a lot to do with it. Just my observation - parents who expect their DCs to have trouble going to sleep often seem to have babies who are hard to settle, and vice versa.

If you think that it's 'unnatural' for babies to fall asleep by themselves, that's bound to be self-fulfilling - cos if you don't put the baby down to sleep, it won't know how to fall asleep without help.

The OP is quite reasonable to expect her DD to go to sleep by herself without major trauma all round - and if she wants her to do that and believes she can, I bet she'll get there without too much difficulty.

MrsMattie Tue 21-Oct-08 16:16:36

So, if you expect an 'easy' baby you get one? <hollow laugh>

Iloveautumn Tue 21-Oct-08 16:25:36

Angelene - it sounds like it was the right decision for you as you could not cope with the alternative - I wouldn't say you should have done it a different way.

Will I still be lying with him to sleep when he's 6 or 11, well I don't know, but I don't think it would be a big deal if I was.

Wispa - I can see where you're coming from with your self-fulfilling prophesy but actually I came to the "unnatural" conclusion only recently - with ds, feeding/holding him to sleep was a pure survival thing as he had reflux and colic and could barely be put down for months!!

Anyway, gotta go and not online til next week so have to bow out.

ches Tue 21-Oct-08 16:27:58

I'm sorry but I just don't like smug "oh we taught our baby to self-sooth, it's a parent's DUTY." Either you got lucky and your baby was happy to self-sooth or you taught your child learned helplessness through CC. It does not mean you've failed as a parent if your child is not happy self-soothing as an infant/toddler.

Minkus Tue 21-Oct-08 16:32:10

Oh wow hi Jun I was just about to post almost the exact same message about ds2, also 4 months. It's hard isn't it? I'm comfy about the feeding to sleep bit, seems fair to me, but it does mean that he doesn't know how to settle himself when he wakes prematurely (eg after only 40 mins, the max he sleeps for) and so is always tired and crabby. So would love some useful advice too on how to help him self settle.

fwiw, ds1 was always fed to sleep until about 15 months but never had an issue with self settling. but then unlike ds2 he was happy with a dummy. TettyLouBar it's encouraging that yours found the thumb late- still hoping this will happen here!

UmMwahahahaaaaa Tue 21-Oct-08 16:54:25

Oh wow, this is exactly what I needed to remind/reassure myself! Ds is just over 3 months and, unlike dd at this age, he can go to sleep by himself, no crying shock. Not always but occasionally. Dd never did, so has surprised me!
BUT guess what? he still wakes up 40 mins later and wants to suck to get back to sleep. Not what the books say at all hmm. So I pretty much agree with Iloveautumn, and think they are still very small and needy - he has only been out of me for 3 months!

My 'plan' is to keep trying in the cot, and giving the opportunity to sleep alone but
trying not to stress if he isn't ready. I am prepared for a lot more happy feeding/co-sleeping/holding to sleep for a good while yet as it seems that's what they need to do really. They are so small. I prefer to try to teach new skills positively and when they are able to understand (seems to have worked well and happily for dd now 2.5) smile

Enjoy your baby!

mookickkick Tue 21-Oct-08 19:50:38

Jun, I'd encourage you to continue with your pat/shush in combination with breastfeeding. My DD (15+ wks) has always been breastfed to sleep, but over the past few weeks, I've been trying to set her down earlier and earlier, and then shush/patting once in her cot. Usually it fails and I scoop her up to breastfeed again. I do this as soon as she cries, before she works herself into a frenzy. Anyway, tonight she has for the FIRST TIME EVER self-settled grin. When I put her in her cot, she woke up but didn't cry, so I just lay down on the bed next to her and watched. After some flailing and eye-rubbing and stroking her panda, she fell asleep! It took about 10-15 min. Knock me down with a feather! Perhaps I'm celebrating too soon, but just knowing she can do it is something.

Don't give up! I've been trying for ages!Your DD will do so when she is ready, and every baby is different.

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