Q&A: Mom's hand is the human lovey

And now back to an old-fashioned sleep question. This one is a classic. Priyanka writes:

"I am a mother of a 10.5 months old girl. She is a good baby and doesn't trouble me much. She's been STTN [Ed. note: sleeping through the night] in her crib since she was 2 months old and I have never faced much sleep deprivation. I had to do mild CIO when she was around 4 months old to transition her naps from swing to crib and to teach her to sleep by herself mostly for naps. Her naps and night sleep has been going perfectly well until I had to take this vacation. She knew how to put herself back to sleep if she woke up in the middle of the night.

When she was around 7.5 months old I went to India to spend sometime with my parents. Over there I had to make her sleep on bed. So I had to stay with her in the bed until she is asleep (both for naps and at night) so that she doesn't fall. She would sleep fine and sleep through the night but she got in a habit of holding/ caressing/ pinching my hand while she tried to put herself to sleep. I was unaware of the fact that it's becoming a habit because of which I am suffering after coming back.

I was in India for about 2.5 months. After coming back, here she sleeps in her crib but she is obsessed about my hand. Initially I gave her my hand and she would fall asleep within seconds. But when she wakes up in the middle of the night she needs my hand again. She now wakes up multiple times in the night and after a while she just ends up in our bed because I am tired of putting her to sleep by giving her my hand.

I tried to do CIO but it's just not working this time. Even after a month she just wants my hand or my husband's. I tried giving her stuffed toys, blanket, etc. but she just takes it and throws it out of the crib. Whenever I leave her to cry she just keeps standing in the crib holding the rail and keeps on crying without sitting down even for a second. So now I am abandoning the idea of CIO. But I do not have any more ideas. Do you? Any thoughts, suggestions, advice? Please help. Thanks!"

Gah! I think this happens to a lot of people, with a parent's hand, or mole (I hear a lot of mole stories). Remember the one we had a few years ago with the mom's hair?

In an ideal world you could fill a surgical glove with dishwashing soap so it felt like a hand, and leave that in her crib. But I think that would get messy in real life, plus she probably wouldn't be fooled.

My first suggestion, and I know I say this every single time, but it's surprising how much it seems to help, is to talk to her during daytime hours about what should be happening at night. If you tell her and help her rehearse the plan in her head then she'll have a better idea of what to do in the nighttime. I know she can't talk yet, but almost-1-year-olds have a ton of receptive language. If you keep telling her that when she wakes up she can go back to sleep by lying down and closing her eyes, etc. then she will be better able to actually do that in the middle of the night.

My second suggestion is to understand that this period (from the 9-month sleep regression through the 13-month sleep regression) can be one whole long period of crappy sleep and general disease and willfullness for some kids. The absolute nadir of my parenting experience was when my older one was 10-11 months. I just felt like I couldn't do anything right, and he was sleeping like crap, and I couldn't understand how I was getting it so wrong when I'd been doing it for almost a year at that point! He and his sleep and rhythm and everything just seemed really opaque at that point, almost like I was starting over with a different kid and nothing I'd done before was working.

And then it just seemed to kind of slowly click back into place over the course of a few weeks. I've heard this from many people, that some children seem to just go through a few months of chaos right around this age. It's extremely frustrating. And makes you feel like you're out of ideas. But just knowing that this is something that happens with some kids can help, I think, because you know it's not just you, and you can try to ride the wave a bit and not be so concerned that you're not steering at the moment.

And now I'm out of suggestions, because my other suggestion would have been to try to substitute in some other lovey for your hand. But you've done that, and it just makes her angry. (Good news: She knows quality and won't accept cheap imitations. Good life skill.) So I'm going to see if the readers have anything. And otherwise I'll hope that talking to her about it will help her calm down and get herself back to sleep when she wakes up. And that the next few weeks go by quickly until she ages out of this chaos and back into sleeping again.

Readers? Did anyone successfully wean their kids off a human lovey without trauma to anyone involved? Tell us what you did.