Having an 8 months old baby means sleep has been a big issue in our family for a couple of months now. But lately it became an even bigger issue. So I thought as I am surely not the only mother out here that has to cope with little resting time, I might share my lately won knowledge with you.
I have asked many people, like other mothers, fathers ....grannies & grandads....nurses..anyone I could think might have a viable suggestion to our problem, that did not just say...let the baby cry on its own until it falls asleep. (later in this post, these people are referred to as my Sources. I just mention this so you don't think I should have given you the links with the source...unfortunately there are no links to real life people yet )
I also have read a lot online and in books and magazines about this topic.
Months back when the topic first came up, and a lot of the older folks seem to tell me at 4-5 month a baby should be able to fall asleep in its own bed and at its own...just let it cry. I got very frustrated, every fibre of mummy hormone injected body seemed to scream DO NOT DO THAT. That time one of the sites that really assured me that going by my guts wasn't totally wrong was this one.
Also in one of my baby groups I attended, there was this lovely and gentle old pediatric nurse supervising, she told us that her own kids, may not have always slept through the nights until they where 2 and 3 but she did it in a gentle way. And her kids are by no means badly behaved or act like spoiled little brats. Rather the opposite, the whole family has a lovely gentle way of interacting with each other...this was my goal! So that time, I came to the conclusion to just stick to our sleeping pattern that worked so far well for us.
This meant for our baby to wake me every two hours for a feed...fall asleep while feeding, and then remain in our bed until the two hours where up and it was time for the next feed...I just shifted him over to the other side and we repeated our routine...
Now at 8 months we had a phase where he woke me nearly every hour for a feed, the cause could be that he infected all of us with norovirus two weeks ago, and feeling like a sick puppy I probably didn't come up with the normal milk supply...I got so exhausted, that finally I felt like it was time to do something. I still didn't want to let him cry for hours on his own until he fell asleep...Those mummy-hormones are just a too strong drug for me...and I am sure there are more gentle ways of doing this!
First we made his cot into a big co-sleeper, we replaced one of the bar-sided sides with a board, and attached it to our bed. This happened mainly not for the babies comfort, but plainly for my own, it is so much nicer as a nursing mum, if you just don't have to get up at night...but I am also sure that for our little man it is nicer to gently move out of our bed...still having the comfort of being close, but starting to have his own sleeping-zone, too.
Next step: I started to teach him, that there are other ways of falling asleep. I wanted him to learn that a baby does not necessarily need to nurse himself into sleep at 8 months..
I started with the first nap in the morning (ours is around 10am). Waited until he was obviously very tired (showing signs like yawning, rubbing eyes, being cranky, no concentration for his toys...). I took off his tights, tucked him into his sleeping bag ( one of my Sources idea, set obvious signs for sleeping) turned on one of his favourite lullabies (another obvious sign!).
I made sure I had something warm to drink for him, as I know for myself, having something warm in my belly makes me sleepy. Our little man does not drink the baby milk powder products that are available on the market, I think we have pretty much tried all the ones available in our local stores. But he likes banana juice, and out of curiosity I mixed powdered baby milk and the juice the other day, and let me tell you he is absolutely mad about it! (I have found my weaning juice...yeeaaahh). (okay eventually, once he has his teeth (so far he has none) I will have to have him used to just warm water! As any kind of sugar will obviously be bad for his teeth...)
Another source suggested to put a big thick cushion between yourself and the baby so he doesn't smell the milk. I didn't need to do that, but I thought I mention it for you guys just in case you need stronger measures...
Once he had served his hunger and thirst with the bottle, I put the bottle aside, rocked him in my arms and hummed the lullaby.
(The first time he cried himself into sleep in my arms but it only took half an hour!)
Once he slept I shifted him into his bed. A lot of times when I do that he wakes up but I just keep humming that lullaby and he goes back to sleep, sometimes it takes a little patience other times its less than a minute..
The afternoon nap of that day, already seemed easier than the morning one, and the evening one easier again (in the evening for another obvious sign, we also read a bed time story!)
Next step during the week became him falling asleep lying in our bed, my arms wrapped around him (not me rocking him into sleep...) and today (nearly a fortnight after I started) for the first time I had him in his own bed and just lay in my bed humming a lullaby and he went to sleep there. He kept turning a good bit, but it only took him 10 minutes and he was sound asleep. Today not even one TEAR! I know it wont always be like this, but still!
And if you now ask and what is with all the waking up at night? Well I now only feed him at 11pm, 2am, 4.30am and 7am. My next goal is to minimize these. One of my sources suggested to only nurse him at 11pm and 7am and just keep a bottle with milk (or in my case banana milk) beside the bed, and see if that will do him at two and half four, and maybe if he doesn't get nursed at night, he will finally just sleep through, but I haven't got that far yet, I will let you know if that worked for me.
Other Tips I found helpful, where:
Having a used shirt that smells of mummy or daddy covering the sheet in the cot.
Rocking the Baby in a blanket to sleep, and lifting him in the blanket into his bed (baby heats up in your arms and cools out in his bed, and then wakes up again)
Making sure the Baby has a lot of exercise during his awake time, also fresh air helps!
A night time bath with a night time bath lotion with lavender essences.
Calming him down before bed time rather than making exciting games to tire him out even more.
And the most important advice I can give any parent out there: Always GO WITH YOUR OWN GUTS! DO NOT listen to what anyone else who doesn't know your baby as well as you do, tells you is right or wrong for YOUR baby!
I hope I could be of any help!