Help us help our toddler sleep better at night?

Our daughter is 14.5 months old. Since about 6 months of age she consistently woke up 1-2 times per night, and we’d change her diaper, feed her, and she’d nod off to sleep within about 15 minutes or so.

At around 12-13 months of age, she started waking up more often, and we were able to successfully implement a cry-it-out plan. After 3 minutes of crying, either my husband or I would stick our head in her room, gently tell her to go back to sleep, and then shut the door. Then if she was still crying, we’d wait 5 minutes, then 10, then 15, 15, 15 (that was the maximum length of time). After two nights, she started sleeping straight through.

But a couple of months later it was Christmas time and with the travelling, the excitement, and then a bout of diarrhea, and then a new tooth, well, it all added up to a week of mostly sleepless nights. We tried the cry-it-out but it broke our hearts and after an hour and a half, we broke down, gave her a bottle and rocked her to sleep.

I know that when it comes to sleep training, consistency is the key with whichever method is chosen, so we’re unsure if we will be able to stick to the cry-it-out, no matter how strong we try to be.

I’m looking to the Doper Parents for advice. We will try anything but co-sleeping - that just won’t work for us. Help?

Cry-it-out is bullshit. Babies need comfort and security.

We just bring the baby in the bed with us. If you don’t want to do that, at least move the crib into your room. If you can’t do that, try sitting in her room and watching her (not holding her, just being in there) until she falls asleep. This will work temporarily at least until she wakes up alone and starts crying again.

I’m also of the opinion that cry-it-out doesn’t work and is cruel. A 14.5 month old is still a little baby. She may still need to be fed during the night (especially if she’s going through a growth spurt). What we do (even with my 3.5 year old who still very occassionally wakes up in the night) is to go in, soothe with words (sssh, it’s okay, etc.), and pat or rub their backs. With my little guy (9.5 months), if that doesn’t work, we pick him up and try to rock or bounce him to sleep. If THAT doesn’t work, we go with a bottle. Your daughter is going to wake up during the night…you do, don’t you? What you need her to do is to get herself back to sleep. If she feels abandoned and scared, that probably isn’t going to happen. If she knows that when she really needs you, you’re just a few seconds away, she’ll eventually feel secure enough to doze back off on her own. With my older son, that started happening consistently at about a year and a half.

I’d go back to rocking her. How about music?

Thanks, but the problem isn’t getting her to fall asleep initially at bedtime, it is with getting her BACK to sleep once she wakes up.

Do you mean when she wakes up, we should go in to her room and just sit beside her crib? I would think that would confuse and upset her at least as much as crying it out did.

(We have tried out of desperation to bring her into bed with us, but ever since she was tiny, our bed somehow signals playtime and she REFUSES to settle down and sleep in our room).

As emotional and sad as it is, the cry-it-out method is really the only thing I know of to implement an ultimately quick and easy sleep schedule. Yes, it’s heart-breaking, I know. However, going to sleep and staying asleep is an important skill that everyone should have, and you should look at it as doing her a favor in the long run. Over the night, we wake several times and go back to sleep. Helping her to learn to do this as a small child will benefit her, as well as teaching her to self-comfort to get herself to sleep after she goes to bed instead of relying on you, music, television, etc.

You may find it more comforting to sit in her room with her until she falls asleep, and that’s fine, but she needs to stay in her bed/crib, and you need to not directly look at or communicate with her. This may take up to a week, but I’d think not since she has had experience with this.
I implemented a sleep regimen practically with my third child practically as soon as I brought him home from the hospital, and it was awesome- he slept wonderfully. Then at 18 months, he had skull surgery, and I felt sorry for him, and started letting him sleep in my bed for a while. He got used to it and the sleeping-by-himself thing was ruined. I had to do the crying it out thing, and it took a week or so, and he was very angry with me for a couple of weeks, but now 6 years later he’s still eager to go to bed by himself at a decent time, which is invaluable, in my opinion.

There is nothing wrong with a child learning to fall asleep on her own. Let her cry it out, go on the opposite side of the house, turn up the TV, do whatever you need to do. Check on her periodically, of course. First night, bad. Second night, not quite as bad. This will steadily improve rather quickly, but do expect a temporary relapse or two every once in a while for the next 17 years. If you think this is heartrending now, just imagine when she is 3 or 4, and has higher levels of thought and vocabulary. It’s amazing to me how many times I have heard parents (not you, OP) bemoan how difficult it is to get their child to sleep on their own in their own bed, but yet when they have another child, all of a sudden they develop the will to train their child in.

Family beds aren’t for everyone Diogenes. I like a small amount of freedom from incessant child rearing. I would prefer not having 5 kids sprawled, kicking and squirming, and fighting on top of me when I sleep. I also like sex rather often. Do I mind if one of them is sick, or has a nightmare to crawl in bed? No, and I like them coming in to bed in the morning. But it is voluntary, not necessary. Big difference.

Set up the environment to be amenable to your goals. One thing I have learned about child rearing is that just when you think you’ve got it licked, checked off one milestone/ developmental phase, they either relapse, or find a new one for you to solve. Be flexible, be consistent, and love them to pieces.

We have lullabies playing very softly in her room, and also a noisemaker that simulates the sound of rain - unfortunately our home has very squeaky noisy floors and not much soundproofing, and our neighbours are noisy as well, so we have used these two noises in her room to try to drown out disturbances.

As for rocking her, the problem has been that it can take literally hours to get her back to sleep - it’s like when she sees us, she thinks it is time to play and party, and it is very hard to get her to settle down again.

I’m wondering if maybe a few nights though of cuddling and rocking, with no talking, and no “fun”, might help her to realize that (a) we will be there if she needs us, and (b) although we are there, it is kinda boring just sitting quietly, and maybe she might as well fall asleep.

I wish I had more of an idea how her little brain is working these days …

So, to clarify, you mean when she wakes in the night, just to go into her room, sit by her crib, and hope that our presence comforts her enough for her to go back to sleep? I guess that is what DtC said as well …

Hmmm … thanks for the idea! My husband and I will have to review this thread before bedtime tonight and see what “clicks” and what we can stick to.

I saw it on Supernanny :slight_smile:

Try it, it works. The first time you do it, it may take a little while if she expects you to pick her up, but just be patient and wait it out. After the first time or two, it should only tke five or ten minutes for her to fall back asleep. They just want to know that someone is there and they’re not alone. After a while, just poking a head in the room should do the trick.

Oh…and night lights are good as well. Some babies get really scared and disoriented at waking up in the dark.

I would get rid of the lullabyes and noisemakers to help her to fall asleep and definitely don’t rock her to sleep, or even be in the room as she’s falling asleep. Maybe the reason she can’t get back to sleep if she wakes up is because those sounds aren’t there?

Good luck- it’s usually a short and simple process, and it’ll be worth it in the end.

Yes! That’s exactly what we do. The lights stay off, voices are kept at whispers, there is no playing - just rocking or patting.

A hot water bottle ( not with slightly warmer than usual but not scalding water) is a wonderful way to calm down and settle children and infants ( and adults).
I’ve given them to every new parent I know to receive a " WTF is this?" look and I tell them, " When they are not sick or hungry and they are fussing, stick one of these on their backs or tummies, and it is better than anything else."
My children are addicted to hot water bottles now.

Nice to see you back C3. I hope that the move back to the US went smoothly.

This is what we do, too. Making eye contact with our eight-month-old baby is frequently the kiss of death, or at least marks the beginning of a 3-hour battle to get him back to sleep. We’ve tried letting him cry it out, too, but after the third hour of screaming, we just couldn’t do it anymore. However, making things as boring as possible works really well.

Still, take all sleep advice (or most parenting advice, for that matter, particularly when it’s related to the “controversial” issues) you get with a grain of salt. There’s no one solution that works for every kid. If it doesn’t work for yours, it’s probably not because you’re not doing it right - it just doesn’t work for your child.

Thanks! It went as well as can be expected. I am now qualified to answer any questions about travelling 10,000+ miles on four different airplanes with a toddler, a baby and a dog, in case anyone is interested in Xtreme parenting.

We did nearly everything at different times with our two kids.

For a long time my son had a futon in his room. He’d fall asleep in his bed and I’d sleep on the futon on the floor next to him if he woke in the middle of the night. Eventually, he grew out of waking. He also coslept for a while. He responded to the “cry with reassurance” method (the wait one minute before going in, then two, then four…) at bedtime.

My daughter outlasted us with the cry with reassurance method, and ended up needing to be “cuddled down.” One of us would crawl in bed with her.

Stainz, I don’t know if you’ve already checked this book out, but we’re working with “The No Cry Sleep Solution” right now. My four-and-a-half month old has gone from napping halfway decently and sleeping through the night (he slept from 8 PM until 7 AM from nine weeks old on) to taking 30 minute naps and waking in the middle of the night around 4 AM for a bottle. We thought it might be a growth spurt, but it’s gone on for almost a month now.

We’re just starting to implement things from TNCSS right now - our goal is to get him to take better naps because I really do think that’s one major reason he’s waking at night. The book’s not a quick fix - in fact, she even says in the beginning that it will take about a month to get baby to sleep through, but once they sleep through, it’s easier to get them to maintain that when you’re traveling or they’re not feeling well or teething, unlike CIO.

My son is too young for CIO, and honestly, I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do it - I don’t rush in to pick him up if he’s just ‘talking’ in his crib (like he was at 1:30 AM this morning - he put himself back to sleep after a chat with himself), and even if he’s just a tiny bit fussy, I don’t go get him. If he cries, though, I need to get to him - I can’t let him cry himself to sleep. But he is like your daughter - unless we get in there and get him back to sleep before he wakes up fully, he sees Mom and Dad and thinks it’s playtime, even if it’s 3 AM. I’m really hoping TNCSS will help us - I know a bunch of people who’ve had success with it.

Good luck. I wish I had a magic solution, but we’re dealing with something very similar, so I can just commiserate.


Thanks all! Elza B - if you have time, can you tell me a bit more about the NCSS methods?

I have several baby/toddler books that I’ve bought mainly for help with sleep issues: The Baby Whisperer (pick-up/put-down method doesn’t work for us), Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (I agree with his theories and philosophies but he is an advocate of strict Cry It Out), The Happiest Toddler On The Block (unfortunately just a small section on sleep).

To answer other points above, the noisemaker & lullabies are kept on all night, and she has a nice nightlight in her room. Oh, and Shirley - we have a little beanbag thingie for babies - maybe I will try it - it is a little flat stuffed animal that you can put in the microwave to gently warm it up - thanks for the tip!

I think she has reached the age where she is really enjoying trying things out to see what the results will be - “what will happen if I throw food off my high chair tray?”, for example. So I admit I am a bit torn because while I want her to feel absolutely secure in the knowledge that if she needs us, we will be there … I also don’t want her to be acting up at night just to get extra attention.

sigh … I KNOW why babies are made so cute! :slight_smile:

The bed still signals playtime for me, but for different reasons.