Principle: Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Frequently Asked Questions

My one-year-old toddler wants to nurse a lot at night, and I'm extremely tired. How can I encourage him to stop nursing at night?

There can be many reasons why a one-year-old toddler wants to nurse a lot at night. For instance, he may be going through a normal developmental stage, such as when learning to walk or talk. During these times, he needs reassurance and extra touch before he can begin this gradual separation process toward greater independence. If a child is frequently waking during the night, it may be wise to rule out physical causes for the waking such as teething, earache, reflux, or other illnesses.

My three-year-old still nurses to sleep, and I'm pregnant. Should I be looking for alternative methods to parent my toddler to sleep? Do you have any suggestions on tandem nursing at night?

This will be a real balancing act. It will be very helpful to have your partner's help and cooperation during this time of transition for your three-year-old. It never hurts to try other methods to help your older child to sleep if he is ready for them. Reading stories, rubbing his back, and singing softly are all good things to try before the new baby comes, and may work on occasion, especially if it's someone else besides mom who is doing them!

I have a two-year-old, and I'm almost due with my second child. Is there a way to encourage them to nap at the same time without resorting to sleep training?

Our best advice is to try not to worry in advance. It's good to anticipate and seek strategies, but the secret to parenting is being flexible and going with the flow. Parenting is unpredictable, so the more flexible you are, the more relaxed you'll be. Enjoy getting to know your newborn, and when he is sleeping you can give your older son some individual attention. If you find yourself becoming exhausted, call in reinforcements. A mother's helper (or a teenager or trusted friend) can be of tremendous help during the early weeks.

I'm pregnant with my second child, and my son no longer naps. How can I survive if I'm up all night with the baby and up all day with my son?

First, you might have a very different experience with your second baby—you may find that you are more relaxed, and that both of you sleep better at night. If the baby is in close proximity, and you can meet her needs without too much disruption, you might get a better night's sleep than you had with your first. It's best to keep an open, positive attitude, but, at the same time, prepare ahead!

My daughter is starting to try to crawl out of our family bed. Would you recommend we purchase a bed rail and, if so, from which company?

Attachment Parenting International doesn't endorse a specific brand of bed rails. The most important thing we emphasize is to keep safety in mind and do your own product research before making a purchase.

I am having a second baby and am concerned about sharing our king-sized bed with a two-year-old and a newborn. Is this safe?

Most families find many creative ways of making the family bed work for them. Some parents will not have a problem with everyone in the bed, especially if it's king-sized. Others may find that the older toddler starts to "wean away" from the bed very gradually, and during your pregnancy you might be able to start this process. If he has his own room, you can make a big deal of picking out a "big boy" bed with fun sheets and décor that he picks out. Then you can start a bedtime ritual of reading to him and lying down with him in his bed.

How can my wife and I have intimate time together with a baby in our bed?

Be creative! A family bed should not prevent parents from being intimate. It just takes a little ingenuity. For example, parents can steal away to another room or have children become accustomed to napping in a different room. Make weekend naptimes your special time to reconnect as a couple. The key is flexibility and spontaneity! Although a family bed changes things, it should not deter couples from nurturing their own relationship.

What is API's position on night weaning?

API does not have an official position on night weaning. Night nursing, like all nursing, is a special relationship between mother and child, and both must be happy and willing to continue this aspect of their relationship. With that said, night weaning should ideally occur when a child is developmentally ready. In general, readiness for weaning may naturally go through spurts and regressions, and it is natural for babies and toddlers to go through phases where they suddenly nurse more at night, perhaps in reaction to teething or reaching a developmental milestone during the day.

Our six-month-old baby is unable to fall asleep on his own. He needs to be nursed or held to fall asleep. My family says it's time for him to soothe himself, but I'm unsure how to go about it.

It is very normal for your son to fall asleep at the breast. In fact, just about all babies will do this if they are allowed to, as breastfeeding is very soothing and calming. Please rest assured that your son will eventually be ready, willing, and able to fall asleep on his own, but usually not at the age of six months. Your son gets a lot of comfort and reassurance from your presence, from being held, and from breastfeeding, so it is natural that these things help him relax and go to sleep. As he matures, he will gradually need this less and less.

My daughter is three and has always enjoyed sleeping in our bed. Now that our second child has arrived and is also sleeping with us, my daughter wakes up constantly due to the baby waking. What can I do to help her get enough rest?

Some families have temporarily used the "musical beds" solution when they've had a new baby. It might work for your partner and daughter to sleep together in one room and you and the baby in another until your daughter adjusts to having a new little person in the house. Some families sleep on a large futon on the floor rather than a bed that tends to make more noises. Another possible solution is having white noise in the room, like a fan or soft music, so the baby noises aren't so obvious.

We have a two-and-a-half-year-old who is still sleeping in our bed. People are advising us that it is time for her to move to her own bed, but we aren't sure what's best for her.

API supports emotional responsiveness and responsive nighttime parenting practices regardless of the age of the child. Most children move away from the family bed situation around the age of five years. Many parents find the option of a toddler bed at the end of their own bed a great transitional tool. If the child herself is ready to transition to a bed in her own room, many parents will lie with the child while she falls asleep and welcome her into the family bed during the night if she chooses to return.

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