My husband and I will be traveling overseas for a wedding separate from our 10-month-old when he is around 11.5 months; baby will be with my parents. At the time we made the decision, he was sleeping great through the night. For the past 2.5 months, although he goes down relatively easy (just a little walking for ~5 minutes), he wakes 3-5 times a night and will only nurse back to sleep. We have been very careful about not putting him down for bed anytime soon after nursing, and he goes down for naps without nursing, so the middle-of-the-night nursing puzzles us; he is a champion eater during the day, and our doctor has given us the OK to no longer nurse at night. Ordinarily, I think we would be OK with this and just ride it out, but the impending travel means we need to figure something out. It seems that our options are training him to go back to bed at night with something else (e.g., walking, rocking), or sleep train him. Is trying to modify his night behavior without sleep training him possible? Any suggestions on how to do it? Anytime I've tried to even cut him off from nursing early, he immediately cries and pushes away such that trying to rock him is a challenge. Baby is the definition of a tension increaser and even any sort of pick-up/put-down training method has been a failure in the past, although it has admittedly been about 4.5 months since we last tried.


It may sound naive but I honestly wouldn't worry about the travel. I would have when I had my 1st, but since then, no. I had to travel for work. Part of the deal I made was they allowed me to not travel until my 1st was closer to a year old. I had no clue what to do about him. He woke up 5 times a night at that time & my spouse was not used to waking, at all. I nursed, so I saw no point in waking us both.

So my point is this. I spent a month stressing about my first trip. I read all sorts of things, tried to find ways to soothe him back to sleep, etc. None of it worked, I deprived myself of much needed sleep on top of what already lacked & when I was gone, baby did great. He did wake, but one time per night, took a bottle (I wasn't sure he would) and went right back to sleep. Believe me, my husband isn't prone to trying to make me feel better, so I am sure this is true. With the other kids I've seen the same. They may wake a million times for me, but when I am not there, they seem to get that & prefer not to wake so much. I cannot explain it, they returned to exactly like they were the minute I was back, but even my mother has reported the same. None of my kids have ever woke more than once in a night when under someone else's care.

So that is why I wouldn't stress. I haven't met a gramma yet that would be annoyed to do one night waking and if I were taking bets on it, I would bet your child will likely sleep far better than you expect. I also would bet yo will somehow feel then like you have done something wrong if that happens but it doesn't happen for you. In talking to many moms, who have also had it happen, I just believe they are not motivated to wake when mom isn't around. They want you. If you aren't available, they may prefer to sleep than deal with someone else. I think that is all that it is.

I hope your trip goes well & hope any of that is helpful.

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4.5 months is an eternity in baby development time; just because sleep training didn't work for you at 5.5 months certainly doesn't mean it won't work at 10. Moreover, since you have six weeks before this trip, you have plenty of time to work on other, gentler strategies if your baby continues to be a tension increaser. (I'd suggest working on this regardless of the upcoming trip, by the way -- 3-5 nighttime nursing sessions at this point must be exhausting for you!)

As a starting-point, have you tried replacing some of these nighttime nursing sessions with bottle-feeds, given by your husband if possible? (I assume you are doing some bottle-feeding anyway given that you plan to leave in the near future.) This will help clarify whether what your baby wants is you specifically, or just milk; if he really is just seeking a drink (some kids get thirsty at night, especially in the warm summer months or if they're naturally hot/sweaty sleepers), well, having this option on the table will at least make life easier for your parents when they have him, not to mention help share the workload between you and your husband. And if you're lucky, a few days of nighttime bottles will teach your baby "hmm, nighttime eating isn't so much fun anymore," and he'll stop asking.

More broadly, the things you suggest like walking or rocking (instead of feeding) are definitely good steps to try. All of this is "sleep training," really -- there's much more to sleep training than just letting them cry, and I think you're constraining your thinking by defining sleep training as something different/separate to behavior change. Sleep training is ultimately about teaching babies what is and isn't an appropriate nighttime behavior. Whether you reach that goal using a classic cry-it-out method or by distracting/reorienting them is just a matter of strategy.

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