Sleeping FAQ: 4-6 months – Settling/Sleep Associations

I can’t get my baby of almost 6 mths to settle without his dummy

How can I get my baby who has been recently weaned from the dummy to
sleep more easily at nap times without creating another sleep association
problem? Every nap and bed time involves a lot of crying. He is missing naps because he is finding it hard to get to sleep and this in turn making it difficult to keep to the routine.
Harrison is almost 6 months. He wakes at 7am, then is sleepy. We have problems going to sleep for naps. He is often sleepy throughout the day but difficult to get to sleep. He seems to need all 3 naps – but I can’t get him to go down for them.
He used to have a dummy and went off to sleep really well, but woke up to
10 times a night for the dummy! So I took the dummy away and after 3 days he
started sleeping through at night. However, it takes a long time to get to sleep. I have to rock him to sleep at night (which is not great either I know) now but this does not seem to work at nap time. I have tried leaving him to cry but he is capable of crying for hours – even though it is clear that the only thing wrong is that he is sleepy. As a result he is really tired, and can’t stay up until a 7pm bedtime. It’s also very distressing to hear him cry like this.
A mother from France

By six months your son will have learnt to associate going to sleep with his dummy. As you rightly state you don’t want another sleep association to take its place so will have to “cold turkey” him. This will mean some periods of crying in the beginning as he has to learn to settle himself. Although your baby’s sleep will be affected for a few days it is better to eliminate the dummy from all sleeps.

You do need to eliminate hunger as a possible reason for his not settling well. A baby of six months should be on the way to three solid meals a day, depending on when you weaned him to solids. He should have some cereal or toast for breakfast, some protein such as chicken, beef or lentils at lunchtime and a tea of pasta or mini sandwiches. In addition he needs four full milk feeds a day.

If you are confident that he is not hungry and that the problems are sleep association, then you could use the controlled crying technique. Put him down for his sleep at 6.30pm if you feel he is ready to go then and leave him 10 mins before going in to reassure him by stroking but do not take him out of his cot or speak excessively. Continue with this every 10 mins until he settles to sleep. You have to be committed to the technique and be prepared for several days of crying but it will work if you are consistent and practice it at every nap as well as at night.

If possible take your son out in his stroller during the day when it should be a nap time. He may be able to settle easier with the motion and this will help him catch up on his sleep until he is settling well in the evening and night. Once he is able to do this begin to put him in his cot for daytime naps as well.

Does your baby have a soft toy he seems attracted to? Between six to nine months many babies become attached to a certain toy or item of linen such as a muslin. This “comforter” helps the baby feel secure. If kept in the cot for night and rest times only such an object can help him settle alone. Sometimes a t-shirt worn by yourself and then given to him at bedtime will work. He could be comforted by its smell, which reminds him of you. Small soft toys, especially animals with long ears can work; small blankets with silk edges and muslin squares often end up being a comforter.