Wondering if anyone has any suggestions for my current sleep challenges. I'll elaborate below, but in short, what are your thoughts and experiences with interfering with nap length to lengthen and improve night sleep?
My DS is 27 mos. old, has almost always been a difficult sleeper, and continues to wake 3 to 5 times per night, almost on a schedule, usually requesting a bottle of milk, occasionally requesting a brief snuggle time, and at least once to use the potty. His naps, however, have long been solid. He currently naps every day from noon to 2:15 or 3pm. Might his night sleep improve (as his doctor suggests) if I wake him from nap after 45 mins or 1.5 hrs? I've always followed his lead on the times and duration of naps and rarely been let down, but is it time to interfere to help "reset his clock?"
I think he wakes at night (right now) mostly out of habit for milk because it's like clockwork...down at 8pm, milk at 11 pm, milk at 2am, pee and sometimes milk at 3 or 4am, milk at 5 am, up at 7am. Also, he doesn't fuss and then eventually ask for milk, he seems to wake up asking for it. I try to up his calories during the day but it seems a difficult task as he is in a picky phase and I prefer to let him follow his body's cues.
EBF vs Bottle:
He was EBF until gradually semi-self-weaning at 18 mos. (6 mos. after I had to go back to work full time for 1 year. I'm currently SAH but will work P/T come the new year). After hanging with Daddy that year, he came to use milk/the bottle as a soother, requesting it whenever he wants to chill out/take a break during the day. He won't drink it out of a cup. At night, he usually finishes the bottle and then either tucks it under his arm or tosses it aside. Occasionally he'll try to sleep with it in mouth. I've allowed him to re-explore the breast whenever he shows any interest but he seems to have forgotten how to nurse and does not seem to want to pursue it. Of course, he does know that I now no longer have flowing milk.
I had some previous success with limiting the bottle to 1/night by using gentle weaning methods/providing other forms of comfort, but after a season of various changes leading to my sense that he temporarily needed the comfort of the bottle at night, it all went to pot and he began this frequent waking again. Six weeks ago I tried to apply my previous weaning technique but more than 3 weeks later he was still waking just as frequently, only now I was holding him in the rocker for 10 plus mins at a time, so I concluded he was not ready and went back to giving milk as requested. Now he tends to tantrum if I try to say it is not time for milk yet and offer water and snuggles instead.
I deeply value attachment theory and DH and I aim to practice AP. We shared a family bed for the first six months but then made an easy transition to his room in a crib after it became apparent that he always slept better with more space on his own (even now, we try cosleeping whenever he asks but he always sleeps poorly and eventually asks to go back to his bed).
Also, I've recently begun implementing a suggestion posted elsewhere of slowly weaning him off of milk at night by gradually watering it down in hopes that less milk will help with the frequency of night waking (also concerned about possibility of tooth decay). Not convinced he's going to go for this, but we'll see.
BTW, I'm new around here, but I have recently begun to browse this wonderful forum and glean some real nuggets of wisdom. I look forward to contributing when I can, as well.
Thank you in advance!