We have co-slept since my son was born and are attachment parents. Around 4 months we started putting him down by himself in the family bed and then joining him a couple hours later. Since he's become mobile, we put a small mattress on the floor where he sleeps whenever we don't go to bed with him, then bring him to the family bed when we all go to sleep. The problem is he has always woken up frequently (sometimes every 30 min!) until I just give up and go to bed with him (he sleeps very soundly then). I haven't found a correlation with food...he doesn't eat much, but is a nursing champ! Is he constantly teething? Am I too close to him? I really enjoy co-sleeping, but I'm concerned that he hasn't gotten more accustom to sleeping on his own...I am open to any suggestions!
Hunter is 15 months old and we also did family bed and at 13 months put his previously unused crib mattress on the floor next to our mattress (which is also on the floor). Hunter is a good eater of solids, but also a champion nurser. He has never slept through the night, but what we did have success with is Dad night weaning. I will describe what worked for us below. But first, I wanted to let you know that Hunter woke up a LOT in his 14th month and it was because he had incisors and molars coming in. He got 4 molars that month. I think you are right on target suspecting that your son's teeth may be his reason for more waking this month.
How we night weaned (sort of night weaned): This is also outlined in Dr. Sear's books. After 12 months of Hunter waking every 30 minutes to 2 hours I knew he was old enough and had enough understanding of language to begin night weaning him. My goal was to get him to nurse only once during the night. For 3 weeks we tried having my husband bring him out of our room into another dark quiet room of the house and soothe him back to sleep and once asleep bring him back into our room and bed. Hunter had no problem falling asleep right away on Daddy's chest and being transfered to bed, he also never cried for more than a minute or two. Once I was not in his line of vision, he stopped crying. Daddy said, "No nurse now, it's time to sleep. Soothing but not insistent "shhh shhh shhh shhh shhh" until he fell asleep (usually 5-10 minutes). The problem is even after 3 weeks Hunter was still waking up every 2 hours. I nursed him once a night, but we wanted to stop such frequent waking. I slept in the guest room for a week. That really helped. Daddy stayed in our room with him whenever he woke and soothed him back to sleep. He started waking every 4 hours instead. I went back into the room and that is when we created the "sidecar" (crib mattress attached to our bed). Hunter sleeps on my husband's side of the bed and soothes him back to sleep if it has been less than 4 hours since his last nurse.
I nurse Hunter downstairs at 7:15/7:30 and my husband puts him to bed. Hunter usually wakes up at 11:00 and my husband soothes him back to sleep. Hunter wakes again at 2am and I nurse him then put him in his bed asleep or keep him next to me in our bed. He wakes again at 6:00, I nurse him and then we are up at 8:00. I know my goal is to only nurse him once a night, but he empties both breasts both times so I really think he wants to nurse. We can work on eliminating the 6 am in the future. I am happy that we made it this far. From every 30 minutes to 4 or more hours is a huge success for us.
I hope you will find a gentle and compassionate method that works for your baby and family.
Too close?? Crazy concept developed in the early 20th century by the first pediatricians --- male doctors who had never been mothers and who were simply agents of the newly developing formula industry. I think it's quite clear that babies have not been created to sleep alone; they universally try every way they know how to tell us this. They respond powerfully in so many ways to the nearness of a parent, and regular satisfaction of this instinctual need is powerfully confirmed to create more independent, secure adults. A refreshing relief from archaic Freudian psychology, these neuro-hormonal-psychology findings create the basis of attachment parenting.
It's entirely common for any baby who has access to their natural source for protection and comforting to rely on it to satisfy their needs. Babies also clearly prefer to eat often, day and night. This concept of "sleeping through the night" is a terrible term constantly batted around by pediatricians, giving parents unnatural goals.
All this said, having lost easy, close access to the rest of our tribe, many parents find it difficult to be the whole village to their child and should not feel guilty for this. I suggest you first look at your own needs and baby's needs, independent of outside concepts and judgments, and see whether you still really need to reduce your baby's requests for regular nourishment, comforting, closeness, and protection. Remember that these early years are incredibly short and sweet and you will soon be longing for them. If the truth is that you just plain need more sleep, yes, you will want to try for some changes, as attachment parenting is nothing if the parents cannot also have their needs met.
Many cosleeping families find it easier when one or both parents go to sleep with the baby; family bedtime being maybe 9:30 to 11pm. This later bedtime for baby sometimes develops naturally with child-led sleep schedules, as children typically have a long nap in the afternoon. This practice prevents the frequent returns to the baby in the late evening and then having to get up again, already partly sleepy now yourself. I know that many parents wish for some alone time before going to bed themselves and they usually need to work a little harder to gain some of this time. I don't want to be telling you that you have to follow any certain practices. You need to find what is best for yourselves, giving baby a little priority. I just wish to encourage you to look at the situation through different glasses before deciding whether changes are needed.
If available, father is a great tool for encouraging some night weaning. Your baby is also old enough to understand things you say to him, and frequent repetition of gentle messages will often sink in over time. Let him know that you are very close and that he is very safe. A gradual transition toward a schedule that works better for all of you should be doable with most babies, if needed.
Linda F. Palmer, DC
"The Baby Bond"