Q&A: baby keeping herself awake to fall asleep with her father

New magazine The Father Life is out now, and looks pretty testosterone-intense.

Jesse writes:

"Our baby girl is almost 14 months.  For the past week we have been
trying to put her to bed in her crib, which is next to our bed.  She
has coslept with us 90% of the time since birth.  She is desperately
tired, especially as time wears on, of course.  We started this course
of action after a year or more of sleep regressions, difficult sleep,
night nursing, etc– she has never been a great sleeper.  We have
always rocked and nursed her to sleep.  After the i love to walk
regression and the 11 month regression and the xmas cheer regression
and the i got a new toy at 4 pm today and i am stoked regression, with
a few days of easy sleep inbtween, we were at the end of our rope with
trying to nurse and rock her to sleep.  The nursing and rocking, and
then me in the family bed nursing her some more has in the past two
months NOT been working anymore, unless it is 60-90-even sometimes 120
minutes of continuous rocking or nursing until the clock strikes about
10:30 when her body is so tired she finally falls asleep out of
exhaustion.  No fun.  So we decided to try putting her in the crib
after about 30 -45 minutes of her usual rocking/nursing at about 8:30,
then coming up every so often to comfort (and gradually tapering that
off) her until it was time for bed for the adults, who bring her into
the bed with them.  Well, actually, I night weaned around xmas, and
that has gone ok– but i am afraid to come back into the family bed
from the extra bedroom, because i love my sleep SO MUCH, after a year
of not having it.  So E goes to bed with her dad at the moment.
thing is, she is getting into a routine of just sitting there,
clutching her bear, in relative silence (with an occasionaly yelp of
protest) after pissed off crying for about the first 5-10 minutes, for
up to 2 HOURS until her Dad comes up to bed.  He and I both work, and
he loves this cuddle/sleep time with her, and they have really gotten
in sync since I have been downstairs.  Since I have the almighty
breast, it is a special bond and special time for them to have the
sleeping together.  I don’t want to suggest that he not take her into
the bed, but I am afraid she is training herself to tough it out and
stay awake and wait it out for Daddy.  I can’t even go back to rocking
and nursing because it wasn’t working (in the true sense of putting her
to sleep at a reasonable hour) anymore.   She is simply not getting
enough sleep for a 13 months–10 or 11 pm til 6 or 7 am is NOT

I am out of ideas.   Any thoughts???"

So now we know that there’s no guarantee that a child will actually fall asleep if you leave the child alone in the crib, contrary to what your MIL might say. Two hours? That’s some serious determination to stay awake and wait.

I don’t think it’s uncommon for nursing kids to stop falling asleep on the breast by 11 months. Neither of mine would nurse to sleep by that point, and I’ve heard it from other moms that the babies wanted the other parent to go to sleep by then. So that part doesn’t sound at all unusual, and it sounds nice that you get to sleep all night and your daughter and husband get to snuggle.

I think if you could figure out why she’s staying awake you might be able to fix things. Is she afraid that  she’s missing something if she goes to sleep? Is she afraid that if she goes to sleep she won’t get to go in with your husband?

Maybe a little reinforcement during the day and right before bed will help. During the day, you can talk about how she’s a girl who falls asleep in her crib but then sleeps the rest of the night with Daddy. While you’re getting her pajamas on, talk about how she’ll go to sleep in her crib and then Daddy will bring her in to sleep with him. The more you rehearse it with her, the more she’ll understand that first she goes to sleep in the crib, and then Daddy will get her, so she can let herself fall asleep and not risk missing out on sleeping with Daddy.

I’m not sure what else to suggest. It seems clear that she’s keeping herself awake on purpose, not because of any physical issue or spurt. Identifying and assuaging the fear that’s keeping her up is probably the only thing that will resolve this situation.

Anyone else have this problem? What did you do about it?

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