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Our son is about to turn 3 months but he is yet to sleep on his own (as in we put him to sleep, put him down on the crib then he sleeps for few hours). He only sleeps when he is carried during the day, the moment we put him down he wakes up crying. At night, he sleeps with us on the bed where he is right next to his mommy. We blame ourselves for letting this happen but now my wife can't do anything during the day but carry him.

What can we do to break him out of this habit? Any pointers would be great appreciated.

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Could be related to temperature changes being away from your body heat. It seems pretty normal to me - our kids were similar at that age; just make sure they're warm and it'll help the transition away from being carried. –  Chris Oct 11 '13 at 4:03
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3 months isn't so bad. Our daughter is 20 months old and we're still in a similar situation. –  Dave Clarke Oct 13 '13 at 7:32
    
My son is two and a half and he almost always leaves his toddler bed every night to join us in our bed. Now he's also making excuses about a bug biting him on his bed. –  abhi Dec 13 '13 at 21:55
    
How'd it go? Are things any better now that a few months have passed? –  balanced mama Jan 1 at 15:20
    
Things are much better now. He is sleeping on his own during the day once we put him down. He is sleeping well at night as well. We did try the cry it out method for few days but I don't know if that really helped... –  Emon Jan 2 at 16:56
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6 Answers

As I see it, there are two ways to approach this one:

Approach Number One: Embrace your Snuggler My daughter was very much like this when she was a baby. Desperate for a break once in awhile I tried "crying it out" but since she also had reflux, she just got herself worked up so much she threw up all over her crib. It took less than a week for me to look at my husband and go, "this just isn't helping." I got a baby sling and learned how to wash dishes, fold laundry and all of it with a baby attached (I'd been avoiding bumping my big ol' belly for a few months already so in reality it didn't change much anyway). We let her fall asleep with us, and after checking she was truly all the way asleep (mouth slightly open, no fluttering eyelids, deep breaths and fully limp) we'd put her down in her crib and have a little time before she needed us (me) again. For night-time feedings, I'd feed her, stick her back in the co-sleeper and go back to sleep. I think I actually got MORE sleep this way while she still needed those night-time feedings.

When she was two we still had the rocking chair in her room and she would lay in her bed while one of us sat inn the chair reading or working on a lap-top till she fell asleep when we'd tip-toe out of the room. She still shows up in our room in the middle of the night to snuggle from time-to-time at age seven, but those nights are so rare now, I'm almost glad for them when they do come. Sometimes I miss the snuggling now that she needs so much less of it. Most nights she sleeps really well, and she is very flexible about where she sleeps when we travel too (she can sleep pretty much anywhere).

ADVANTAGES:

  • These babies can sleep anywhere as long as they have a little snuggle time.
  • You get to feel closely connected to baby and enjoy all the snuggles and so does baby.
  • If you also co-sleep, mom's sleep will feel less interrupted when breast-feeding than having to get up entirely etc. for the process.
  • I was also able to breast feed with her in the sling (once I got used to using it) so I could double up and grade students papers or do dishes or something if I was in a real crunch for time.
  • The sling is a much safer place for baby (when properly used) than many other places, AND the baby can sleep there as well as watch, learn and interact with you while in the sling it makes multi-tasking AND being totally tuned in to baby pretty easy to do.

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Having time alone with each-other can be awkward and difficult as child might wander in at any time iykwim.
  • It takes longer to put baby down which can mean lost time for all kinds of things.
  • While in the stage where snuggling is required, (which lasts awhile) it also makes it difficult to go out, being celebrating and other such things when you will be away at bedtime. Timing outings for before bedtime or only after bedtime is finished is necessary at times unless you have a family member or sitter everyone is very comfortable with available.

Approach Number Two: Teach Baby how to sleep with The Baby Sleep Training Solution (Or Perhaps, the NO-Cry Solution or other similar ones - though I have no experience with these what-so-ever) Cry it out methods are NOT good for kids under six months.

The book I recommend is by Suzy Giordano and although we did not use this method with our daughter, I know a family that has used it successfully with two baby boys quite well. The book goes over what is going on with kids at each age-level and what to do depending on the month range your child falls under. It is respectful of baby AND parents and from what I've seen works really well. It isn't as harsh as various "cry it out" methods I've seen even though there is an element of this after six months (but it really is a lot less painful with the pre-training that is offered up at the earlier ages.

With this method, at the stage/age you are at now, it goes over how to wake baby gently and put baby down in a settled calm way so that baby falls back to sleep again on his/her own and learns to settle him/herself so sleeping comes easier later as well.

ADVANTAGES

  • Once trained, it is SUPER EASY to put baby to sleep at night and if the routine is followed, ANYONE can do it.
  • Training steps are age appropriate and developmental steps with baby are actually considered so you can rest (or do chores or whatever while baby rests) peacefully knowing you aren't hurting baby's psyche.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Baby is somewhat constrained (and even toddler and pre-school aged child later on) to a very specific sleep environment and routine. This makes it harder to travel or let various other family members take over when they visit (as well as baby-sitters that are not trained in sleep training) Travel remains difficult even into the preschool years because they are not in their own sleep environment and have a hard time falling asleep.
  • When baby is sick and extra sleep is needed, it can be difficult to stick to the suggested routines and still allow for that extra sleep (in my experience with it though the book may address this better than I think - I've only read parts of it and used training from it as it applies to when I am with the boys).

Whatever others say, your baby's sleep as well as your own are closely intertwined either way you go. Sleep matters and it IS a big deal, but doing this "wrong" isn't really possible unless you just chuck all efforts to let your baby sleep all together. A few stalls now, won't hurt baby later. If baby needs you to fall asleep now - it doesn't mean baby will always have a hard time on his/her own. Likewise, a time or two of crying it out now isn't going to mean baby thinks you aren't there for him when he is older.

These things are never as "critical" as various camps like to think they are for later on in life really. For centuries moms and dads have been making it up as they go and for centuries most kids grow in to relatively well balanced and productive healthy adults - crying included or not. It is your job to find a system that works for your baby AND for you. If mom and dad aren't healthy, baby won't be either so taking care of yourselves (including considering what is convenient for you) Is important too.

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I lived through the same situation when my daughter was a baby. Some ideas that I found helpful were tightly swaddling her in a blanket (I think it helped minimize those jerky movements babies sometimes make when sleeping, inadvertently waking themselves up), using a fan to generate white noise in the bedroom, putting a warmed cherry-stone pillow in with her (a hot water bottle for infants also works), and waiting to put her down until she was deeply asleep - you should be able to pull his arm out from his body and let it go and it will fall limply.

I'm also wondering if your baby will sleep by himself somewhere outside of his crib. Mine would sleep ok in the baby swing, on a blanket on the floor or reclined in the stroller. She slept the best by herself on our bed - we put bolsters around her so she couldn't fall off. Later we ditched the crib and she slept on a futon on the floor. She just hated the crib.

For more ideas about helping your baby to sleep, I liked The No Cry Sleep Solution. Good luck.

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Someone on another question pointed out that sleep training is to make life better for the parent, rather than the child ... I agree with this, although in the modern world, that is not such a bad thing.

I was the same as you are describing and my son was the same. Your son is 3 months old; of course he wants to be cuddled up to his parent, make the most of it.

See it from your son's point of view. He will not be able to understand why he can't sleep with his mummy, so of course he will cry.

I you are not happy with co-sleeping, the only answer is to persevere with putting him in his cot and be prepared for a long stretch of sleepless nights (remember he is a baby though)

As a final thought, the gina ford approach does "break" the habits by breaking your baby's will. It works for some people, but not others.

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I don't see how your comment contradicts my answer ... i do say that perseverance is the only option to break the habit. –  Peter Jamieson Oct 28 '13 at 14:18
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Sleep training is about helping your child learn to sleep independently. It's the first of many things your child will need to learn to do on his own. It's also about gaining a few moments of time for yourself in the day - you deserve to shower in peace. We did sleep training with our children at about 6 months using the Ferber method, though you can start earlier. Basically, it works like this:

  • Put your child down for a nap, saying soothing and encouraging words. Leave the room.
  • The child will start to cry. Wait 30 seconds, then go in. Do not pick up the baby. Just repeat your soothing and encouraging words, add a quick hug or a kiss on the head. Then leave the room.
  • The child will start to cry. Probably more vehemently. This time wait one to two minutes. Repeat the soothing routine. Do not pick up the baby.
  • Continue increasing the time until the child falls asleep. Keep your self busy as the time frame increases, and keep reminding yourself that you are not inflicting tragedy on your child. Rather you are teaching your child to sleep independently.

The idea is that your child has to learn that you will not pick him up until he has slept and that you are still there (hence the visits). The visits also help the parent not feel like such a meanie.

The first time I tried this, the whole experience from putting the baby down to his falling asleep took about 1-1/2 hours (so lots of crying), and then he slept for 45 minutes! You have to be tough. The next nap, my encouraging visits only spanned 30 minutes and he had a proper 1-1/2 hour sleep. The third time, I put him down, said my encouraging words, and he lay down and went to sleep - no crying at all.

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This just sounds cruel. –  Dave Clarke Oct 13 '13 at 7:33
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It's not, really. The alternative is a child who has to depend on you to get to sleep because he cannot do it on his own. Every skill a child masters builds his confidence. Throughout the process he had his mother coming in to comfort him, expressing her confidence that he is such a big boy learning to sleep on his own. And when he wakes up from his nap, it is a joyous reunion, where she is telling him what a great job he did. It took only two naptimes. The baby who can't get to sleep on his own ends up with parents who can never even go out on a date. –  Mary Jo Finch Oct 13 '13 at 16:39
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We used the Ferber method, and it worked quite well within a few days. It's probably harder on the parents than the child, btw. However, I would not recommend trying this much before 6 months of age. –  Beofett Oct 14 '13 at 15:01
    
While it may not be as cruel as it sounds, "the only alternative" being a child that cannot sleep on his/her own is a bit of an exageration. There are a huge number of methods regarding how to sleep train children. Plus the Ferber Method specifies that this part of the method is for babies six months or older. –  balanced mama Nov 19 '13 at 20:45
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Foreword

First of all, one should be aware that parenting will lead to sleepless nights and other stressful situations. The only way to avoid that is not to make children — they are not dolls. Of course it doesn't mean you should not try to make things go smoother, but your main focus should be your child's mental health. It's a question of balance, since the lack of sleep will impact your mood, which in turns will affect the child's mental health as well.

On Ferber's method

Second, there are a few things to know about the Ferber method advertised by Mary Jo Finch. In particular, it's recommended by specialists not to be used before 6 months and in a few other cases (random link). But even more, let's quote Ferber himself, as in the preface of the 2006 reedition of his famous book :

Many people thought I recommended a single method to treat all sleep problems, regardless of the nature of the problems, their causes, or the parenting styles and wishes of the family. Even worse, the particular method they refer to (only one of many approaches described in this book) has sometimes been incorrectly described as the same "cry it out" method that my suggested techniques were meant to counter. Simply leaving a child in a crib to cry for long periods alone until he falls asleep, no matter how long it takes, is not an approach I approve of. On the contrary, many of the approaches I recommend are designed specifically to avoid unnecessary crying.

Advices

Now coming to advices. When you want to put him down make sure he's really in a deep sleep phase. My wife often fails at this stage because she's so eager to put our daughter down. Wait a few (actual) minutes after you think he's asleep. There may be signs which can help you. For instance once our daughter falls asleep in our arms, she will first open her mouth after a few minutes, and it will be easier to put her down if we wait after this moment. Then a few minutes later again she will have a kind of convulsion, and she will be even much more easier to put down.

Another thing is that a toddler won't cry without reason. For a 3 months old it may be difficult, but for an older child it's probably worth trying to identify the reason. Note that it doesn't mean that the reason is reasonable. But if it's not reasonable, at least you can argue against it. And if it is, simply meet the request. For instance, recently our almost 2 years old daughter started to become hysterical when we tried to put her in her bed. It took us days to figure out she just wanted us to put her flat on her stomach. The crying stopped immediately as soon as we did.

Also, we never owned one but maybe you can try putting your child in a balancing crib. I've seen some electrically (sector or battery I couldn't tell) powered.

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Welcome to the joys of parenting! It is committing and a challenge. Co-sleeping has been shown to be the best, healthiest way of managing your young children as long as the mother is breastfeeding.

It sounds to me like the adjustment that needs to take place is with you, the parents, and not with the child. There is a reason the market is flooded with devices like the Bjorn, the Ergo, slings, Moby wraps, etc... and also why historical drawings and pictures show native women from every region carrying their infants.

It is a challenge, I know. I have cooked countless dinners with an infant strapped to me, but I am happy to know my investment in doing what is right for my children will pay off in the long run.

Good luck!

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-1 from me. Note that answers that disagree with the premise of the question are discouraged here. The OP asked "What can we do to break him out of this habit?". Your answer is basically "you shouldn't", and therefore should be, at best, a comment. –  Beofett Oct 14 '13 at 15:04
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You make me look really mean but we actually love having him with us on the bed at night. We are just trying to figure out a way for him to sleep on his own during the day in the most smoothest way possible. I dont like the cry out method either - I dont think I can stomach him crying that much. I am just looking for easier sleep training methods. –  Emon Oct 14 '13 at 16:41
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I agree with Beofett here and answers like this one only serve to turn people off. This site is about helping, not judging. –  balanced mama Oct 25 '13 at 22:18
    
And a comment on a different issue: Co-sleeping has been shown to be the best, healthiest way of managing your young children as long as the mother is breastfeeding. Shown by whom? Where? I can't accept this as a universal fact for all children. This is probably based on statistics, which means that it is often not valid in case of a particular child. –  Dariusz Jan 1 at 18:23
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