Why Won’t You Sleep? Breaking the Binky Habit

They were predicting the storm of the century this week. Little did they know the storm would be raging inside my house.

Last week, all of a sudden, Tommy wouldn’t sleep. We had been doing so well lately. He was the happiest baby and he almost never cried. Even when we were traveling a ton, he were so good. He could even go into his crib awake and drift off to sleep within minutes. We just got home, and we were settling into a routine, so things should have been smooth sailing, right? So why did he pick this time to fall apart?

I figured out what the problem was. He was stuck in the middle of things. He’s strong, but he still feels vulnerable. He figured out how to use his hands, but only sort of. So whenever I swaddled him in a blanket he broke free, when I put him in a Halo sack, he wiggled his arms out, and when I zipped him in a Zipadee-zip his hands, although covered and with a limited range of motion, were able to reach his face. He’d rub his face and knock out his pacifier. And he couldn’t sleep without his pacifier.

So I began to wonder, is it time to break him of these habits? Is he ready for that? Am I?

We’d tried a few times, but I’d never been able to stick to a break from the swaddle and binky. It seems so cruel. He’d never go to sleep if I didn’t give him his binky, and he needs to sleep. I need him to sleep.

Tommy Robot Concerned

Among other things, I finally got around to playing with Robin’s fancy camera. These pictures all show a very grumpy baby, but at least they’re high-quality pictures of a grumpy baby, right?


Friday 5am: He wakes me up for the fourth time of the night because his binky fell out. This has to stop.

 Friday 9am: I’m trying to get the house semi-clean for when my in-laws come stay this weekend, so I’m really looking forward to naptime. We start the routine when he starts to fuss and look sleepy. I put him in the Zipadee-zip and put his binky in his mouth, then rock a little. When he looks sleepy enough, I leave the room.

Friday 9:15am: He has knocked the binky out of his mouth and is squawking.

 Friday 9:30am: After we’ve gone back and forth with the binky bit for a while, I just decide to let him try and go without it. So he sucks on his fingers through the sleep sack and groans.

 Friday 9:35am: He begins crying in earnest. I figure maybe if he has his hands free to get into his mouth he’ll be able to soothe himself better. I unzip the sack just enough to let his hand free. He sucks on it and grunts for a while.

Friday 9:45am: He’s grunting and whining loudly, rolling around, still not sleeping.

Friday 10am: Crying. Maybe if I hold him? Will that work? Nope. He wiggles and squirms and cries harder. And he spits up on me. Dang it. I wipe him off with a dry part of my shirt. I rock and shush him, but we’re both getting so frustrated. I zip him back up, put the pacifier back in his mouth, and keep rocking. Still kicking, still crying.

Friday 10:10am: I start to cry. I’m doing everything I can think of. I’m trying to help him, but I don’t know what he wants. He’s fighting being in my arms like he’s telling me I’m getting it wrong. We’re both wet and smelly from his drool and spit-up. I want to squeeze him to keep his little limbs from fighting me and yell at him to stop. It’s time to walk away for a minute. I’ve got him on the monitor.

 Friday 10:15am: The dog keeps following me around, her nails clacking on the ground, her tail banging into everything, her huge body always in my way. I yell at her and she slinks away. The cat is sleeping on the guest bed that I just got all the fur off of, so I pick her up by the scruff and toss her into the hallway. Sorry, guys, I don’t really mean it!

 Friday 10:20am: He’s still grunting and rolling around. He’s struggling with his covered fingers in his mouth. Maybe if I unzip him? I pat and shush him. I try to rock him, but he wants none of it. I put him down, unwrapped without the binky, and read to him.

Friday 10:30am: He’s not crying anymore, in fact, he looks pretty happy, but he’s wide awake. I’ve read two of his books and four chapters of my book. Still wide awake. Just like me, he can’t sleep when there’s an interesting story. Shit, shit, shit.

Friday 10:35am: I walk away again and send a complaining text to my husband. I furiously do the dishes, trying to ignore the not-quite-crying-but-still-pitiful whine I hear on the monitor. I glare at my messy living room. This is somehow his fault. I go upstairs and into his room every few minutes to pat and shush, but nothing. At least I’m getting some exercise in, running up and down the stairs all day.

Friday 10:40am: We’ve been playing this game for an hour and a half. We’re so done with each other. Finally, I figure maybe if I swaddle him in a blanket tight enough he’ll be tired enough that he won’t break free before he falls asleep. I wrap him up and stick the binky in his mouth.

 Friday 10:42am: Sweet jeesus, it worked.

Tommy and Giraffe

Friday afternoon–Sunday: I read all the sleep books I can get my hands on. The No-Cry Sleep Solution doesn’t seem to solve jack shit. Ok, why didn’t I read more sleep books before now? I found one book at a discount used-book sale and read some online articles and thought I was all set. What an idiot. The next kid is getting the Twelve Hours by Twelve Weeks treatment.

Sleeping Through the Night looks like it could work. It’s a modified cry-it-out type of technique, which I never thought I’d do, but I’m ready to try it. First thing’s first, apparently he’s old enough to wean off of night feedings. He’s just doing it out of habit at this point. And I’ve got to wean him off of his night feeding before I can start, so we’ll spend the next few nights while his grandparents are here doing that.

He’s still fighting naps, and even though he’s fairly used to his grandma, she’s still just enough different and out of our routine to throw him off even further.

Tommy hasn’t been eating much at night anyways, so this is fairly simple. I take him down to 4 ounces one night, then two ounces, then he’s ready to be off eating at night. Throughout the process he’s still unable to fall asleep without a binky in his mouth, so I have to find it and get it into his mouth at least twice every nap and four times a night. This sucks, but I have hope for the future to get me through.

Sunday afternoon: Okay, I’m ready to start this thing. Here’s what the book says to do:

  1. Bedtime. Have a consistent bedtime, and have naps at the same time every day. Okay, cool.
  2. Routine. Do the same routine before naps and sleep every time. Diaper-story-bed. We’ve got this.
  3. Environment. Make sure the view from the crib and the sounds in the room are exactly the same every time. Done.
  4. Walk away. Put him down, say good night, walk away, and shut the door. I go to my room down the hall to watch the video monitor and wait.
  5. Check in. Wait a few minutes, then go check, pat, shush, and leave. Repeat at increasing intervals. He doesn’t cry immediately because he doesn’t understand what’s happening. But then he does cry. I wait just a few minutes, and then I go back in. I rub his tummy and tell him it’s okay. I don’t pick him up. I walk away again. He’s still crying. He rolls over and gets stuck on his tummy, so I flip him over and walk right back out. Five minutes, seven minutes, ten minutes, fifteen.
  6. Sleep. At last, he figures out that his fingers are there to be sucked on and that he enjoys rolling onto his side. He calms down by the 40-minute mark and only grunts and whines a little bit. Another few minutes and he’s completely asleep. This is exactly the time-frame that the book told me to expect, and the fact that it proved to be true makes me feel a thousand percent better about this. Tomorrow is supposed to take longer, but I feel like I can handle it, because he will supposedly be able to put himself to sleep and be happy in his crib without his binky and swaddle by the end of the week.


Somehow this is easier than when I was holding him and rocking him when he was crying before. He’s crying more, he’s crying harder, but I know that this will only last a little while. And I know that this method has a purpose. I trust the author of the book, who has a PhD and works in a sleep institute and has tested this method a lot. So I feel like I’m doing what’s best for him by setting a limit for his behavior. And I’m doing the best thing by getting rid of these sleep crutches (the swaddle and the pacifier), that aren’t even working anymore, before he’ll really know what he’s missing. I’m so proud of us.

Tommy feet

Sunday evening: He cries for almost an hour with his evening nap.

Sunday bedtime: He lets out a single, solitary whimper, then rolls onto his side and goes to sleep. What the what!?

He sleeps straight through until 5:30am. He wakes up and babbles to himself for a while. I think he might be up for the morning, but I’m hoping I can get two more hours out of him, so I pick him up and rock him for about five minutes. He sleeps until I wake him at 7:30 for breakfast. AMAZING!

Monday: He cries for somewhere between twenty and forty minutes before falling asleep for each nap. I’ve taken up a furniture-painting project to try and take my mind off of the stress of dealing with it. He sleeps for maybe 40 minutes or an hour each nap, not even half of a decent nap. It has snowed quite a bit (but not quite the blizzard they predicted), and the neighbor kids are sledding down the hill right outside his window. I want to yell at them to STOP IT! But I can’t. He has light diarrhea, but nothing really worrying. No fever. He’s stressed out and exhausted. This feels like I’m legit torturing him. When I put him down at bedtime he passes out in five minutes.

I’m not sure who is more stressed out by this ordeal, the baby or me. I have to endure him crying more than he’s ever cried before. It’s a good thing we’re snowed in anyways, because there’s no way I could deal with going anywhere or doing anything important while we’re dealing with this. I feel like I’m being terrible, and he seems to be angry at me. I can see why people think this method is cruel, but I can’t really see an alternative in which either of us comes out with our sanity intact.

Tommy Robot Close

Tuesday: Much of the same as Monday, but the crying time is lessening with each nap, and the naps are getting longer. I’ve been putting a few drops of lavender oil in his humidifier, which seems to help. He looks like he really misses his pacifier, and he’s frustrated with all of his toys that aren’t the pacifier, but he’s getting more used to sucking on his fingers. The mild stress-pooping continues, and he even pukes on me (out of vengeance?) before bed, but he’s still not showing any other signs of being actually sick. But bedtime is a breeze, and I think we’re over the hump.

Tuesday 3am: The husband wakes up with food poisoning or something and pukes all night. I realize the gods are telling me that my nights will never again be smooth no matter what I do. But Tommy is still sleeping. Small victories.


4 thoughts on “Why Won’t You Sleep? Breaking the Binky Habit

  1. Pingback: The Dead of Fucking Winter | What Do I Do with My Hands?

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  3. Pingback: Life Update: Tommy is Six Months Old | What Do I Do with My Hands?

  4. Pingback: Is This a Superpower? | What Do I Do with My Hands?

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