Help – My Baby Will Only Sleep On Me!

***Today I am welcoming a guest post from Sam, creator of Love Parenting.org. Sam is sharing her personal journey from worries to decisions surrounding her first child’ sleep habits. ***

One of the most common concerns I hear from new parents is that their baby will only sleep
on them. On their chest, nursing or in a sling, they are happy but the moment they are gently placed
down in their basket, they awaken crying and desperate to be picked up again.
This is such a source of worry for a parent who loves their baby and wants to do things “right.”

So much advice is flying around it can be difficult to know what to do, our instincts become
so blurred. Should we “give in” and let them sleep on us? Is it ok for the first 3 months and
then we should put our foot down and set a routine as some experts will tell us? Or would it
be better to put a stop to it early, kinder on our babies if they know where they stand from
the start rather than having to break them of the habit later?

I was the victim of these worries when I became a mother too. My baby boy was a huge
comfort feeder and would stir as soon as I lay him down. The first few months were spent
camped out on the sofa with everything in reach and him feeding contentedly. Then I got
bored and wanted to get on with things. I began to worry that he would never be able to
sleep without me and friends with their own babies urged me to do something about it. The
popular choice for them was something called “shush pat” where you lay your baby down in
bed, making “shush” sounds over and over whilst rhythmically patting their backs.

I decided to give it a go. The first time I tried it my son clearly thought I had gone a bit mad.
He lay watching my face and smiling up at me while I shushed and patted and after no more
than five minutes he was asleep. That’s it, I’m on to a winner here I thought. But the next
nap came around and the moment I placed him on the mattress he began to cry with a
ferocity I had never seen before. I tried to calm him with the shushing and patting that had
worked so well before, but it was clear that he wanted to be picked up and I too wanted to
hold him and comfort him, so we abandoned it. I nursed him to sleep as usual and that was
the last time we ever tried any sort of sleep training. My friends laughed at my efforts when
they heard how easily I had given up, and they promised me that I would have to do it
eventually so why not now? I ignored their advice.

So, for the first 10 months of my sons life, he slept on or with me. We abandoned any
thought of a routine, he would sleep in a sling on my back if I wanted to do things, or
cuddled in my arms nursing if I wanted to rest. At night we quickly realised that he would
wake within 20 minutes if we put him up to bed, so he stayed downstairs with us until we
went up to bed, sleeping peacefully in my arms.

At around 10 months old he began to find it difficult to settle in the evenings so we decided
to start a loose bedtime routine. The times would vary depending on when he was tired but
the routine was always the same. We purposely kept it simple, teeth brushed, cream rubbed
in, pj’s on then a story cuddled up together. This was all done in a low light, then we would
go into the bedroom where either he would nurse to sleep or daddy would rock him to sleep
while a lullaby toy would play quietly. We waited until he was in a deep sleep before putting
him down, which again breaks all the rules in the baby books!

Establishing this routine really helped my son to form good habits, but waiting for the right
time in his life to start it was so important too. By the time he was 13 months old, not only
could he sleep comfortably out of my arms and without feeding through his naps, he no
longer needed (or wanted) to nurse or be rocked to sleep at bedtime. He would have a quick
feed when we went in to the bedroom then roll away and explore, play, roll and climb. After
a while he would lay down and go to sleep. One of us would always lay down in bed next to
him and sometimes he would come and cuddle up to us, other times he would want his own
space.

He is now 16 months old. He has never been left to cry it out, and never experienced
controlled crying. He naps on average for 3 hours during the day and it takes between 2 to 5
minutes of gentle rocking the buggy to get him to sleep. He can still take up to an hour to go
to sleep at night but that hour is a beautiful relaxing time. I often sing to him, we cuddle, I
still nurse him to sleep if he wants. That is becoming more and more rare. It is often over in
20 minutes or less.

And guess what? Those parents who told me that my baby would never sleep are the ones
having trouble now. Bedtime for them is something to be endured, a battle to dread. Their
babies don’t nap for long either. But even if they did, even if I was still needed to nurse and
rock and cuddle my baby to sleep, I would do it in a heartbeat. The trust my son has that I
will always be there for him, that I am on his side, is obvious in our interactions. And
actually, now that he is becoming more independent, I miss sitting on the sofa for hours on
end, holding my precious baby, watching him drift off to sleep.

So where should your baby sleep? The answer is up to you! Follow your baby’s lead, listen
to your instincts and shrug off advice that doesn’t sit right with you. Drink it in and enjoy
every moment, because it will be over before you know it. You have the choice on whether
your memories are of hours of sleep training, stress and tears or instead filled with sleepy
smiles, cuddles and the start of an unbreakable bond which will last a lifetime.

 

Related Resources

Mindful Nurturing Essential Parenting Collection

A gentle approach for sleep troubles

The Sears Baby Sleep Book

 

Sam is the creator of Love Parenting a site dedicated to natural parenting, non conformity and living life to the full. She describes herself as a mama to one spirited toddler, a wife, writer, traveler, childcare professional, dreamer, listener and serial cake eater! Find her here at www.loveparenting.org 

***

Join the Positive Parenting Connection page on Facebook for daily inspiration, resources and ideas.

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counseling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

29 thoughts on “Help – My Baby Will Only Sleep On Me!

  1. I did the exact same thing. I rocked and fed my son before every single nap and bedtime until he turned one. I never let him cry it out and I held him each and every time he needed me to. He slept with us, usually on me, for that first year. We kept a solid night time routine. Once he turned one I did a mild version of sleep training, which basically involved rocking him to sleep after his night feeding, then placing him in his crib. He never cried for me, he just stayed asleep, usually through the entire night. Ever since night time has never been a problem. He keep the same routine and he goes to sleep peacefully and easily. He is now two and has recently grown uncomfortable in the rocking chair and points to his bed when he is finished cuddling and wants to lay down.

    I’m very proud of myself for being there for him in that first year. Yes, there was so much more I could have gotten done around the house without him strapped to me during nap times, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. He is very secure and a truly happy little boy. That first year is so important and I know I did the right thing by being there for him the way he needed me to be.. despite what others advised me to do.

    • thank you so much for sharing your experience, it sounds like you and your son have a wonderful connection :)

  2. Every child and parents’ decisions are different and no one is right or wrong. I have three children and I nursed my son until he was around 18 months and I had the same type of experiences with him, not wanting to go to sleep without me. However, I let him cry and I had a consistent routine with him as well and it didn’t take long to “train him” to be able to sleep without us. We just stayed consistent in what we had decided to do and he is fine today and so is our relationship and he is now 13 years old. The same was with my other children, breastfed all three and they slept in their own bassinet/crib from when they were a couple of months old and again, all three are fine and it didn’t take them long to adjust.

    There is nothing wrong with letting your child cry a little and you are not considered to be a “bad” parent and on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with your choice of letting your child sleep with you either, but there is no right or wrong method to it and there is no need to judge one parent’s decision over the other. It is what works the best for the family. No love is lost either way. God Bless!

    • Bernita, thank you for sharing your story and your experience here. Allowing children to cry or not cry to sleep can be a touchy and difficult topic/decision for parents to make. It often comes down to balance and what feels right for each family while understanding what is healthy for the baby. I appreciate you taking the time to share your personal story.

  3. I too struggled against all the comments and sniggers when I refused to ‘control cry’ my first boy to sleep. He sleep on my chest for the first 3 months and co slept until 4.5 years. My second boy slept on my chest day and night whilst I sat up on the lounge until he was 7 months old. At just under 2 he is finally sleeping through the night without a feed. I was able to break the overnight feeds by waiting until he was old enough to be encouraged to be a ‘big boy’. Both now happily take themselves off to bed when they are tired. As hard as it was I am really proud of us for sticking it out.

  4. I love this post as it reminds so much of the feelings I had as a young mother. The only doubt that creeps in centers around the idea that co-sleeping is being touted as dangerous because of the risk of infant death from parents rolling over onto their children. Far and wide, we educate parents to put babies to sleep in a crib and on their backs. Will this go out of vogue the way that strict formula feeding did thirty years ago?

  5. It is so refreshing to find your article buried in a sea of online sleep training advice. As I sit here holding my six month old during his afternoon nap I feel reassured to know that “going with my gut” and holding him tight when he needs me is never the wrong thing to do!

  6. I’ve been feeling like I need to get my 5 month old son to start sleeping in his crib (he currently sleeps with us and naps in our bed during the day). I like getting the cuddles with him but I figure the longer I wait the harder it will be.
    So today I started putting him in his crib for naps….omg what a disaster. He wakes up the instant I put him down. At first he would look up and smile at me, hey mama whats going on! He wouldnt go back to sleep. Each nap time I would try to put him back in there and he got more and more upset and I had less and less patience.
    I was looking up articles for getting baby to sleep in their crib when I came across this! I dont know why I was pressuring myself to get him out. He’s currently (finally) sleeping in our bed and thats where he’ll stay for the forseeable future!
    Now I wish there was wine in the house lol

      • Well we are almost at 15 months and….he still sleeps with us lol I’ll put him in his crib for a nap and he will wake up within 30-60 minutes. Then he will sleep for another hour with me in the rocker. Any attempt to put him back in his crib after that first wake up and that’s it, nap time over. At night I put him in his crib at the beginning of the evening and he usually wakes up when we are going to bed so he comes to bed with us.
        Some improvement…still not where I would like to be, which is him in his own room. But we’ll get there!

  7. Hello, my daughter is 8 days o,d and will only sleep on me or my husband. I don’t want this for I’m afraid of the obvious things that could go wrong as we doze off with her. We have tried every baby device out there. She freaks when we swaddle her i just dont know what else to do. Any advice would be helpful. I was thnkingof getting a baby nurse to come in and put her to sleep inbetween her feedings which I am breastfeeding on average every 2 hours. Thanks

    • Amy, I see that you want to do what’s right for your new baby, I would encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician with questions and to look into all the safety information about co-sleeping so you can make the decision that works best for your family. The early days with a newborn are often challenging but also truly special. Best wishes and welcome to parenthood!

  8. Thank you so much for this post. This had be me feel so much better about my decision to put all the “advice” to not co sleep, and let my daughter cry it out or train her because “ill regret it some day” has been killing me inside. I refuse to let her cry it out despite what my well meaning family have advised and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for doing it. So seeing your post and the comments of other mothers out there who feel exactly like I do gives me a lot of reassurance!

  9. Hi, that sounds like the situation I am currently experiencing. I just wanted to know if your husband was on board? And what about going to work as well?
    I think that is one of the biggest stresses I am facing.
    It is actually causing me quite a bit of anxiety. And it turns out I will be needing to go back to work soon (financially unfortunately), so how do you do all that, and the housework :$
    Sorry about all the questions, I am getting very overwhelmed by it all.
    Thanks

  10. Sounds lovely and I would love to be able to provide that to my baby, only problem is my baby does not “peacefully drift off to sleep” despite being nursed to sleep every single sleep in her entire 4 months life. She screams because she does not want to sleep. If fact it is a battle to get her to close her eyes that I have to put a small piece of cloth over her eyes so she can’t see, otherwise she will not close her eyes. She also sleeps in my bed, so basically I do not get a single minute to myself all day, it is exhausting. I don’t believe in CIO or comforted crying – however there has to be another way which doesn’t involve me not getting any sleep or space.

    • Christina,
      That sounds ever so tiring and frustrating for both you and baby. As I read about your challenges I immediately thought about Alanna McGinn because she is a very gentle minded, healthy and knowlegeable non cio sleep consultant for parents. I have zero affiliations with her so I’m truly just sharing her site and name with you in case you want to see what she has to offer. I hope you have some support so you are not dealing with this on your own. This is Alanna’s site:

  11. Wow, after another day of researching i came across this article. I have a gorgeous nearly 6 month old who is ebf. We have always had sleep issues but have been able to put him in his crib or cot. However since he got his teeth at four months he will not last longer than 20mins.We have co-shared in the past during the early weeks (otherwise i may have given up after an exhausting end of pregnancy and labour) so many people say you’ll ruin him or spoil him if you let him sleep with you.I will hopefully go to bed tonight without the guilt. Thank you and if you have any studies i can read on the subject that would be excellent. Xx

  12. Thank you for writing on this difficult topic. I feel that there is a lot of judgment around, whichever path you go down! My boy is 5 months old and, until recently, would only sleep in a sling in the day. I have joint problems and it was getting pretty painful for me as he grew! I also sleep very deeply and am very active in my sleep, so we decided co-sleeping was not a safe option in our case. So really, all that’s left is sleep training. We’ve looked into a few methods but have landed on our own version of shush-pat now, combined with a little book-music-cuddle routine before each nap. It’s helping but hard work, and posts like this make me worry that perhaps I’m not doing the right thing, as the bond with my baby means the world to me. Ultimately though I wasn’t previously able to enjoy the time when he was awake because I was exhausted and in pain. I feel that, as long as you’re not traumatizing your child, there are not really any hard and fast rules, and everyone should try to be a little more sensitive to the needs and insecurities of other parents. It’s not a competition, after all!

    • Hi I’m a mother of four and each of my babies where different. My first bottle fed and nursed. She would eat and sleep and that was it. Only time she has issues where dirty diapers. My second my boy only wanted to be held and slept on me or a sling. My third baby swing. My fourth is only taking naps while I hold him but at night he sleeps fine in a crib or co sleeping. Every child is different and my relationship with each of them is priceless. My boys loves me so much and wanted me all the time but once they get older the only want dad. Go figure.I have a sister in law who tries the cry out method and now her little boy now 3 won’t let her out of his sight he’ll scream and cry if she leaves or he can’t see her.

      • Rosie, thank you for sharing your story. It’s amazing and beautiful how each child can be different, which personally I think is a great thing, otherwise how boring would life be if we were all the same!!

  13. My first baby took all naps until about 8 months. I enjoyed it. My challenge now is that my second child appears to be the same and I have my 2.5 year old who wants and needs me. If I don’t lay down our sit/carry my second she naps for 20 minutes. Any tips?

  14. Thank for this! Every baby and every parent is unique. Your experience is the closest to my own that I’ve found online and I find this post very comforting. My 6 month old is happy, sweet, intelligent and stubborn. He wants to nurse to sleep and keep nursing through naps and all night co sleeping. Sometimes I worry I’m doing the wrong thing and try other things. “Maybe I can roll away once he’s deeply asleep…” “Today I’ll try putting him in the pack & play after he’s asleep…” “Will the swing work?”
    He’s not having it. If he’s at daycare or alone with daddy he’ll sleep in the swing, but if I’m there he wants to nurse. I’ve finally decided not to fight it or CIO. I just can’t help but think he’s telling me what he needs and I have no reason not to accommodate it. This post helps me feel more secure about that choice.
    Even though he’s only 6 months, I can already see him outgrowing some of those intense needs. His independence is exerting itself in small ways while he’s awake so I imagine he’ll eventually become independent in sleep as well.
    I’ve chosen to cherish this time–it already feels so short. Everything that is meant to happen will happen and someday, probably sooner then I’ll be ready for it, he won’t need me for sleep. When that time comes I’ll revel in all the time to relax or (snicker) get chores done. But I’ll also miss it so much–the sweet smiles, cuddles & baby breath.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m bookmarking it to read it in those moments when I forget myself and start to doubt.

  15. I needed this today! My 6 month old sleeps on my chest all night. I put him down for 30-45 minutes at a time before he stirs and wants to be held or nursed again. Same thing for naps. My friends all tell me to let him cry. It’s so refreshing to read something that says what I am doing is ok!

  16. My son is 3 months old and “still” sleeping on my for day naps.
    Thank you for the assurance that this is normal (for some of us) and perfectly ok. After many tears today, I needed that!
    Thanks!

    • I have an 8 month old who has been sleeping on me for every nap. I nurse and rock her to sleep and let her sleep on me for her naps. If I try to put her down she’ll wake up or she’ll only sleep for 30 minutes. She’s a wonderful and happy baby when she gets her sleep. She’ll wake up smiling And babbling. Her night time consists of nursing and falling asleep into arms and then being put down in her play yard in our room. She usually sleeps 8-7. However lately she has been waking up more at night wanting to be picked up. She’ll scream and cry until I pick her up. Everytime it happens I feel like I’m reinforcing this negative behaviour and teaching her that by crying she gets what she wants. But I also feel horrible and guilty letting her cry it out. She’s still not sleeping in her crib and I feel like she’ll have a really hard time adjusting once we try to put her in there. I am also afraid that as she gets older she’ll protest more and more to being put down and sleeping on her own at night. Everyone says it’s my fault that I got her used to being held in my arms. I don’t know how to change this now as she’s older and it breaks my heart to let her cry it out. Please give me some advice!!

      • It’s going to be ok:)
        My son was like that but it just there attached to you. I’m a mom of 4 beautiful kids and their all different. My two youngest where very attached to me and its due to nursing and going to sleep together. Eventually they replaced me with a blanket and I miss the times they cuddled me.They are very happy and independent of me. So cherish it because they grow up fast. ONCE she starts walking around you’re going to miss these days and another issue will begin. Lol

  17. I had commented on here a long time ago. I think my baby was around 6 months maybe? Well he is 20 months now. He sleeps in his big boy bed all by himself. At nap time he falls asleep with me in our chair and I move him to his bed. At bedtime I lay in his bed and snuggle him until he falls asleep. Sometimes he makes it all the way through the night, sometimes not. But usually he makes it at least most of the way. When he wakes up he comes to bed with us. We did it without crying, we did it slowly over time, gently encouraging him to push a little further. I realize now as we are thinking about another child and people are already telling us not to let him sleep with us or we’ll have to go through it all again, and I want to. If I hadnt stressed so much about what he “should” be doing by a certain point I couldve just enjoyed our time so much more. I just wanted to give everyone an update. One day all those snuggles will lessen. It changes little by little and one day you will realize that they dont need you quite as much. Cherish it.

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