We are working to try to help our 9 month old baby sleep better. I have read a lot of information online as well as baby sleep books such as Weissbluth, Ferber, Pantley. We are not interested in leaving our baby to cry at this stage but prefer to try more gentle methods and we understand this can take longer.
However, my question is, most of the sleep experts talk about sleep associations i.e. that the way the baby goes to sleep to start with is the way he will need to go back to sleep when he wakes at night. I am not convinced. A few examples why not:
- although I am breastfeeding, we have had some success with separating the feeding from baby going to sleep (e.g. as proposed in "the no cry sleep solution"). However, this doesn't mean he doesn't look for milk when he wakes at night. I think most sources agree that a 9 month old shouldn't need to feed at night so why is he still looking for milk? He eats reasonably well in the day.
- I know many people are not keen on the idea of co-sleeping but in the case that I am desperate for sleep and don't have the energy to try something else, if my baby can go to sleep with a cuddle and not be picked up, why does he not go back to sleep with a cuddle if I am sleeping next to him even when he has been recently fed?
- often during daytime naps, my baby wakes up after the first sleep cycle, crying and seemingly not ready to finish his nap. However whether this happens or not doesn't seem to relate to how he went to sleep.
- sometimes when our baby wakes at night, he can be settled easily with a little patting in his cot. Other times he cries a lot and needs to be picked up. This happens for different wakings in the same night or wakings at a similar stage of different nights and seems independent of how he went to sleep.
So are sleep associations as big a deal as everyone seems to say they are? Is there actual evidence for this or is it just something convenient that people have made up to try to explain the mysterious world of baby sleep? Does anyone know of any studies on baby sleep associations? How can we tell if sleep associations are causing our sleep difficulties or if it's something else?