Is Bed Sharing the Cause of Sleep Problems in my 7 Month Old?

Hi Laura,

My now seven month old wakes often at night (usually to nurse). She slept through the night from seven weeks to about 4 3/4 months old then suddenly started waking. Now it is sometimes every hour. We now bedshare, as we used to co-sleep with a side car but it became easier for both of us to bedshare with her wakings. Now, I am to the point where I need sleep because my exaustion has started to effect everything in my life. Would putting her in her own crib next to my bed eventually improve her sleep? Are her constant wakings normal? Thank you!

Mountain Ma

Mountain Ma,

How wonderful that your daughter slept through the night at seven weeks! Her constant wakings are certainly normal, especially for a breast-fed baby, since breast milk is not designed to "hold" kids for long. And she may well be waking because she is hungry. BUT nursing every hour is certainly not necessary for a seven month old. So almost certainly, she is waking because she uses nursing to put herself back to sleep. As you probably know, when she gets to the light part of her sleep cycle, she can either wake up looking for you, or go back into a deeper sleep. If she has been nursed to sleep, then she is likely to need to nurse to get back into a deeper sleep when she wakes slightly.

You're asking if bedsharing might be waking her. It is certainly possible. But I suspect that moving her to a crib next to your bed will not really help, since it seems to me that her frequent waking is not being caused by the bedsharing, but preceded the bedsharing. It sounds more likely that she is waking every hour because she can't get herself to the next deeper sleep cycle without nursing.

My advice would be to help her to learn to fall asleep without nursing. You do this by nursing her before bed as usual, but popping the nipple out of her mouth before she is fully asleep. She will protest. You will give her back the nipple, and then before she falls asleep, pop it out again. This may take 50 tries, but eventually she will give up and just settle to sleep without he nipple in her mouth. As you repeat this daily over time, she will begin to just roll over and fall asleep without the nipple, of her own volition. You will remove the nipple earlier and earlier, so she is more and more conscious of simply settling down to sleep without the nipple.

This is a terrific habit to develop for many reasons. First, she won't wake up looking to nurse just to go back to sleep. If she does wake at night, it will be because she is hungry, so she won't wake as often. Over time, she won't wake at all. Second, you empower her so that she is not depending on something outside her as a sleep aid. Finally, as she gets older it will be harder for her to fall asleep nursing, so she is learning early how to fall asleep without depending on nursing.

Best of luck to you, and Sweet Dreams!
Dr. Laura

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

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