Honorio (5 weeks) and Maribel

Ça suffit, sleepy baby — no more nursing to sleep

Nursing an infant to sleep for the night sounds good, in theory. That’s theory for you. Our baby would appear to conk out while nursing, so I’d attempt to make my escape. I’d slip a pinkie finger into the corner of her mouth to unlatch her and gingerly attempt to transfer her into bed. Immediately, she’d pop awake and wail: Just where do you think you’re going?! We’d reassume our positions. Repeat. Repeat.

As the minutes dragged on, I grew resentful. I let her linger on the boob as long as I could stand, and then I’d stress out that I would fail, yet again, to unlatch her and transfer her to bed. It wasn’t that I minded being a 4-month-old’s pacifier, exactly. (No, she wasn’t eating.) The increasingly unbearable part was not knowing how long it would go on.

Ça suffit, as the French say: Enough! I had to find another way.

Every sleep book talks about how bedtime routines signal to baby that it’s time for sleep. Swaddling, our first step, was a success. The stuff in the middle, like telling a little story about our day, was sweet. But for “I’m going to lay you down in bed now,” we needed a better signal.

I decided I’d sing a lullaby three times, then hum it once. As I started humming, I’d lay baby into bed and casually walk out of the room, closing the door while finishing the song. I told baby my plan. I hoped she would get used to the idea that humming = being airlifted into bed, no big deal.

It didn’t work the first few times, of course, without protest. So I’d pick her back up, sing the song several times and hum again, and lay her down. I liked this routine so much better because it had a definite ending for me.

Soon enough, baby was down with the routine, too.

What cue works for you?

Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

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