Before having a baby I thought putting a baby to sleep was a pretty simple and easy process. However, once my son was born I quickly found out that it was a lot harder than we imagined. As an infant he would fall asleep on almost anyone who was holding him but once they tried to put him down he'd quickly wake up crying. He seriously was sound asleep but even the motion of putting him down startled him such that he'd wake up. I'm a big researcher and try and seek advice when I don't know the answer.
Since I wanted to breastfeed at least the first six months we had our son sleep in a bassinet in our bedroom for the first 3 months. During the day I would try and put him in his crib for his naps and sometimes I would hold him while he napped and read a book. It wasn't too long before I realized I had to put him in his crib to nap at least part of the time because there is so much to get done at home.
While I was pregnant, I discovered The Happiest Baby on the Block and we swaddling him. That worked really well and we swaddled him at night for the first 3 months. Some days I would swaddle him for his naps too. As he got bigger he started preferring to sleep without being swaddled.
After a month of being home with him we started getting on a pretty regular bedtime routine. Bath, baby massage, story time, feeding, bed. However, if he wasn't asleep he'd cry. My husband and I felt bad so we'd pick him up and hold him until he fell asleep. Many books and people tell you not to do this. But we honestly didn't have the heart to let him cry it out. Also being our first and only child we tirelessly took turns when he was having difficulty falling asleep. Several books say it's important for your child to fall asleep in their crib and on their own. Some suggest at 4 months they are old enough to "cry it out" and others suggested between 6 and 8 months. But like I said we were never able to do this.
Now that my son is a year and I want to start the weaning process, we decided about a month ago it was time to do more research on getting your child to fall asleep. There are not many books that promote no cry solutions so I wanted to share what has and is working for us and hope it can be of help to you.
First of all, our son was able to sleep through the night (5+ hours) from about 3.5 months. He had only had breast milk, no formula. So despite what some say, a breastfed baby can sleep through the night. We did not introduce solids until he was 5.5 months. Also, when I was still feeding him at night half the time after the middle of the night feeding I would bring him to bed with me. I was exhausted and like I said he was easily startled. He'd fall asleep but wake up when I put him down and I didn't always feel like re-swaddling him after we changed his diaper. There are a lot of great resources that say co-sleeping can actual reduce the risk of SIDS if you're breastfeeding. However, you should talk to your doctor before deciding to do that because there are also risks. Especially if your husband moves around a lot. You don't want to put your baby in harm's way. But for us, it worked out fine. Even up until he was a year old if he was having a bad night, he sometimes has night terrors and will wake up screaming, we'll bring him to bed with us. When we travel, usually the first night or two it's easier if he falls asleep with us. However, once he is asleep we usually transfer him to his crib because neither my husband nor I get a good night's sleep if our son is sleeping with us.
Which reminds me of another thing. I've read countless stories of people saying if they fall asleep somewhere besides their crib they wake up scared. I think if you are consistent in them sleeping in their crib it won't be frightening for them when they wake up. Also according to the Baby Whisperer (Tracy Hogg's books are great), it's important to let them play everyday in their crib. That way it becomes a familiar and fun place to be. Our son usually now wakes up happy and talks. Also considering the fact that he never "learned" to self-sooth at night, he knows how to put himself back to sleep for the most part in the middle of the night. I sometimes hear him babbling two or three times a night. If he starts crying I go in there immediately, but more often than not, he goes back to sleep.
Now back to getting him to sleep through the night. The Baby Whisperer says we did "accidental parenting" because I nurse him and then rock him to sleep. Honestly, I wish I would have read her book earlier. Because if he's not close to being asleep he will stand up in his crib and cry. Therefore, we had to change our ways. The past two days we have gotten him to fall asleep on his own. We continue with the bedtime routine, bath, lotion, story, nursing. Except now when either he seems like he's about to fall asleep or the 10 minutes are up, I remove him and immediately put him in his bed. I always kiss him and say "night, night." He usually turns to his tummy so I pat his back and say, "night, night, Mommy loves you." Then I hold off and stand a minute or two where he can't see me. If he looks like he's going to get up, I pat him again. If he does stand up, I pick him up, tell him I love him again and night night, then put him back down. We've been doing this for a few weeks. But the last two nights have been easier. Two nights ago I put him down, he babbled some then fell asleep. Last night I left the room and heard him give a little cry so I went back in his room. He was standing up. I picked him up, sat in the rocking chair for two minutes, then put him back to bed saying "night night" again while he was still awake. He rolled over to his tummy, I patted his back, waited about 30 seconds then left. He fell asleep again.
Now I know two easy days does not mean we have successfully taught him to fall asleep on his own yet. However, we have come a long way. At least there is not more loud crying. Even though we did everything "wrong" according to a lot of baby sleep books, I think it's going to work out fine. Obviously, every parent and child is different and your family has to decide how they want to teach their child to sleep. My husband and I parent like what Dr. Sears calls "attached parenting." Except, I don't plan on nursing my child until he's 3 or 4 and we don't really co-sleep. However, if it's a bad night, we are not opposed to our son coming to our bed with us. We just never felt right about letting him cry himself to sleep. If you heard his cry, it would be hard for you too. I hope this helps anyone who is in a similar boat that we are in. It is okay to go with your motherly or fatherly instinct on parenting. Also, some books said that naturally many children cannot put themselves to sleep until they are 3 years old. I think with our child, if God blesses us with another one, we will try this earlier. As our no cry sleep progresses, I will let you know how it goes.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you have any suggestions on getting your child to sleep on their own without crying, please feel free to share.