9 month old doesn't know how to sleep on his own

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Re: 9 month old doesn't know how to sleep on his own

Postby NgalaOnline » Sat 08 Dec, 2012 10:57 pm

Hi Cassandrag

Thank you for your post.

As you have identified, if babies are not able to settle themselves to sleep it is quite common for them to wake fully between sleep cycles when they search for the things they associate with sleep (such as feeding, being held or rocked) and therefore they are less likely to be able to have long periods of sleep. For most babies, learning to become familiar and comfortable with being placed in their place of sleep awake and being able to perform some soothing activities for themselves to lull themselves into drowsiness and sleepiness gives the baby the skills they need to be able to resettle to sleep between sleep cycles. Learning these new skills and adapting to new settling strategies can at first be challenging for babies for several days, as they are unsure how to deal with their feelings of tiredness without the aid of their previous sleep associations. Most parents find, however, that within a week of consistent approach usually significant improvements in sleep and settling can be made. Particularly as you have older children to attend it is wise to sit down with your partner and work out a plan for how to tackle the first days of making these changes in a way that allows you to support one another and both get some rest.

As your baby is not used to falling asleep in his cot it would be wise to first spend some play times in his room and in his cot to help him become familiar with this space. It is best if you stay with him at this time and help it to be a positive experience for him. You may decide that you would like to focus first on making improvements to his daytime and evening settling, and to tackle night waking at a later time when he has mastered some self soothing strategies. Alternatively you may like to tackle days and nights all at once. Some parents do find that nights will automatically improve once self settling skills have been learnt in the day, others find that they still need to go on and work on night time settling. Ngala does not recommend leaving a baby to cry in distress for any length of time. For this reason, controlled crying (timed intervals of crying) are not recommended as research has shown that distressed crying without comforting can cause a significant stress response in the baby. Rather, it is best to listen to your baby and respond according to how he sounds. If you are able to put your baby in his bed at his early tired signs (looking away, avoiding eye contact, needing active entertainment to stay happy) your baby is much more likely to be able to have some settled period of time in his cot compared to if he is put to bed when he is already showing late signs of tiredness (eye rubbing, yawning, grizzling) which often means the baby is already overtired and likely to find it difficult to settle. If your baby is able to spend some time in his cot either happy or just lightly grizzling in a way that doesn't sound distressed to you it is ok to leave the room for as long as he remains in this state. If your baby becomes distressed it is important to come and give him some reassurance (avoiding picking him up if you can). You may find you can come and go from the room if he is not too upset, or you may find that you need to stay in the room with him.

If you remain in the room you can offer some hands-on soothing in the cot such as patting him or the mattress, or stroking his face. You may like to "sssshhhh" him but it is good to avoid conversation or a lot of eye contact. Some babies find physical contact stimulating or irritating rather than soothing and for these babies it is best to just stay close but without physical contact. If you do need to provide physical contact to help him soothe you can begin to draw this back over a few days, aiming to stop it before he falls asleep. Over the space of several days or a week you can move closer and closer to the doorway. It is likely that you will find the morning sleeps easier than later in the day sleeps - it is common that babies need more support with settling as they become more overtired. It is normal to find that some settling periods are better than others. It is best to go into this with the expectation that the first episodes of settling will probably take quite some time as your baby has not yet learnt soothing strategies to help himself (such as sucking his fingers, stroking his hair or his sheets) and will not know what to do or understand why things are different from usual. This is likely to be unsettling to your baby, and providing gentle and patient reassurance is important as he learns what he can do to fall asleep. Once he has begun to learn some soothing strategies the period of protesting will usually get shorter and stop. The Ngala helpline is available 7 days a week so you can ring the helpline any day for more support whilst you are making these changes.

With regards to your baby's inability to take nutrition from a bottle, this is quite a common scenario. If at all possible it would be very wise to look at whether it is possible to either postpone your travel or take your baby with you. It is quite likely that your baby will find abrupt weaning and separation from you to be quite distressing as breastfeeding is currently a significant source of comfort and security for him, particularly if it is currently his main tool for soothing and calming himself. It can be difficult to teach a breastfed baby to take a bottle and many parents find that they are not able to get their baby to take a bottle - the muscles used and the type of sucking required are very different between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. As a baby approaches a year of age it is often best to wean straight onto a sippy cup as it is recommended that bottles do not be used past 12 months of age due to their potential for negative impact on dental health and also on intake of solid food. At 9 or 10 months of age, however, your baby will still be very reliant on his milk intake as a primary source of his nutrition and it is quite likely that he will struggle to take enough milk from a sippy cup to meet his nutritional and fluid needs for a lengthy separation. If you would like to continue your breastfeeding relationship with your baby (which has many benefits for him) there is also a risk that your milk supply will deplete over a four day separation unless you are able to express regularly when away. These are all factors to consider when considering whether it is possible to delay your travel or take your baby.

If you do decide to continue with the plan to wean onto a bottle, some strategies you may like to try include offering the bottle to the baby when he is very drowsy or almost asleep, offering it in a position that is different to breastfeeding (such as sitting in a baby seat) or getting someone other than you to offer the bottle when you are not able to be seen by your baby. Many parents find that it is best to offer a bottle when the baby has a little bit of appetite, but it is best not to wait until your baby is exceedingly hungry as at this time he is likely to be more frantic and less able to be patient whilst trying to establish a milk flow. Walking around with your baby in your arms and providing some distractions can help a baby to take a bottle. It is important to remain patient and gentle and not to force the baby to take the bottle at all. Negative experiences with taking the bottle are more likely to make the baby show further resistance to taking the bottle.

I hope this information has been helpful. Please call the helpline if you would like more information or advice.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
http://www.ngala.com.au/You-and-Your-Family/Web-Based-Resources
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