Trouble Falling Asleep - Toddlers

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  • We have a 22 month old daughter who is very clingy with dad (he stays at home and is the primary care giver). Most days she mainly wants to be held by him, and if she doesn't get her way, she starts crying uncontrollably/throwing a tantrum. This leaves him little emotional energy to deal with her at night, and makes it almost impossible for him to put her to bed because she won't let him go. I (the mother) am the one that has to do her bedtime routine and put her to bed. It had been going okay for about a week, but then she got sick and everything went out the window. Now things are worse than ever before.

    She was previously a very good sleeper, and slept 12 hours through the night from about 5-6 months old until recently. She went through the usual 4, 8, and 12 month regressions, but those lasted only a few weeks, then she went back to her "normal" self. This new sleep pattern started in February, and since that time she has fought bedtime, and every night wakes up at least once. When she wakes, she's instantly crying and/or screaming. We don't think it is night terrors because she cries that she wants to be held and is aware of our presence when we come in to soothe her. Most recently, she won't even let me put her down to sleep unless I'm cuddling/holding her, and then I have to wait until she falls asleep to sneak out of her room. We tried putting her bed in our room, but that was a disaster because she saw Daddy and just screamed for him to hold her the whole time. We can't co-sleep in the same bed (we've tried) because she constantly moves around and kicks and neither of the adults can get any sleep. 

    We are pretty much at our wits' end and don't know what to do. We are starting her at day care part-time starting next week, but are unsure of what other steps we can take to help with the clinginess and sleep problems? The usual sleep training stuff we have tried (Increasing time away, checking back in, etc.). We are uncomfortable with cry it out because there have been a couple times that she has cried so hard that she has vomited. Are sleep consultants actually helpful? Are there any child therapists that might provide some help? Any help/advice would be appreciated, thank you. 

    The only advice I have ever found helpful about parenting and sleep issues is that this too shall pass. It sounds like a phase and I can tell you that I found age 18-24 months absolutely the most difficult for many of the reasons you have shared here. As soon as my son could start to talk and vocalize, he got more of his "power" back and things are much easier now. That said there are still tantrums from time to time and still mama only or dada only phases. This is just them trying to have control.

    You could consider only having mom put kiddo to bed and having dad actually leave or not be in the house, and not give in. Once you give in, it becomes a game. It sounds like your husband needs a break and I too emphasize with this as even though I am not a stay at home parent I am the primary caregiver once I am off work and it absolutely sucks the energy out of me. I'm working with my husband on more balance so that I can be more emotionally present. It is not fair that I have to do everything just because our son has decided I'm his personal assistant.

    Best of luck to you, and just remember, this too shall pass. What some describe as "terrible twos" you may be experiencing now. We certainly did and it faded at age 2.

    I highly recommend our sleep consultant, Darrah Torres. She is extremely knowledgeable, has exceptional customer service, and has worked with families with kids of all ages. Our daughter sleeps 7pm-7am with a regular nap because of her! Additionally, she herself is a mom of 2 kids + she is a pediatric speech & language pathologist. My 9th friend just hired her :) Worth every penny!

    Yep, been there. Our first child (now 12) drove us crazy with such sleep issues. One thing that helped around age 2 was taking him to the track and having him run--easily 1/2 or a full mile each day. I am not kidding. We'd make it a game, use a timer, set goals, etc.  He was happy to do so, and it helped his emotional state by evening so that he'd crash. (**Warning** do not let your kid fall asleep in the late afternoon in a car seat or stroller. That will just ruin the WHOLE night for you.) At some point we just embraced the fact that we have a better behaved kid when focusing on the active time (and making sure it is ACTIVE) rather than wishing for sleep that never seems to come. Good luck.

    Sleep issues are always tough.  My toddler daughter went through a similar phase of always needing dad (me) and waking up nightly.  I know it doesn't help now, but all things are temporary and this shall pass too.  One idea would be for dad to sleep on a camp mat/airbed on the floor of her room for the next few weeks.  Not ideal, but it might allow him to at least get some sleep (your daughter would hopefully be comforted by his presence in the room). Otherwise, just try to exhaust her your daughter during the day with lots of outdoor play so that she's very tired.   

    I’ve recommended Eileen Henry of Compassionate Sleep Solutions before and I’ll give her another enthusiastic recommendation. She is a true sleep magician and we found her to be enormously helpful with our sons sleep struggles. We have multiple friends who’ve worked with her too with great success. She helps with babies, young toddlers, older toddlers and even early school age kids. Good luck!

    Sorry I don't have more helpful advice, but in case it's comforting my daughter was similar. I decided the most important thing was to prioritize everyone sleeping. So I would just sleep with her whenever was most comfortable. And parents took turns napping on the weekends. It was not a fun period in our lives, but eventually she was older and more rational (slightly) and we could discuss why we needed changes in the sleeping arrangements because parents have other things to do. Kids change every month at that age and sometimes trying again in a few weeks is all it takes. I would avoid changes to sleep routine when making other life changes if at all possible. Best to change one thing at a time. Now my daughter is 13 and there's no way I could snuggle her to sleep and she wouldn't want me to. So it won't help you, but for her dad it's nice to try to remember that these years go quickly. I had a much better time of it when I abandoned the idea of sneaking out or trying to get something done and just laid down intending to enjoy the snuggle and fall asleep myself as soon as possible.

    Wow you've just described our 21 month old daughter - every single thing. I wish I had the answer, following in case anyone else does. 

    My son is now 16 … but YES sleep consultants are actually helpful. This problem will be 90% solved in a week or two, but a little crying and fussing will be involved. I am not a cry it out fan, but children will command every moment of your life and sanity unless you establish boundaries. This is the first of many many challenges you will face where you need to establish rules of the house that work for everyone in the family, not the one who screams the loudest. Hire help. It works. 

    Cry it out didn’t work for us, but co-sleeping did. I wonder if playing bedtime routine with a toy would work. Like if you wanted her to sleep on a futon in your room, together you could “teach” the toy about the bedtime routine. One thing to keep in mind is there wouldn’t be hundreds of books about baby/toddler sleep if it was easy. 

    May be worth a consult with a child sleep specialist, in our case it was a medical cause and all the sleep consultants in the world didn't suspect that. It was my son's ENT that referred us to one and sure enough it helped so much. 

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16-month-old can't fall asleep on her own


I am sure this topic has been discussed before. However, we are fairly new to the newsletter. We are looking for advice on success, methods, warnings, etc. relating to helping our one-year old learn to fall asleep on her own. My wife breast fed her to sleep for the first twelve months. She is no longer breast feeding. We can get her to sleep with a bottle, but want to be able to put her down awake and have her fall asleep on her own. We are aware of the numerous cry it out methods and already have the books. In addition, our daughter has found her way into our bed and now wakes up 30min after being put down and wants to sleep with us. This is a huge problem because she is a big-time thrasher and we are afraid of hurting her or ourselves. We love the idea of having her sleep with us, but we also want our time together. Further complicating this is that our daughter's crib is in our room. We will be moving her to another room. We are committed to teaching her how to fall asleep on her own for our sake and her own. Any help/advice on trying this with a one-year old would be appreciated.

My daughter just had her first birthday last week and has just started sleeping through the night. My husband and I thought it would never happen but it finally did. Of course, we're now experiencing a minor set back because some new teeth are erupting and she has a cold, but nevertheless after she turned one, she gave us 2 weeks of 6-8 hours sleep a night.

We've got a routine that we follow and it seems to work for us, thought I pass this along - feel free to try anything.

Part of the problem I discovered, is that if my daughter didn't get her fill of dinner (and babies don't or can't tell you at this age), she'd wake up hungry. Nursing or the bottle will only curb the hunger for a couple of hours. So, try to really stuff your baby before bedtime. Basically, my daughter gets 4 and a half meals a day. Cereal, lunch, and snack at daycare. Regular baby food when we get home, then dinner with us.

Then we have a couple of hours of playtime, if your baby is crawling or walking, hide-n-seek in the house works. Keep them on the move to wear them out. After playtime, we give her a nice warm bath to unwind, be sure to give them plenty of time to play in the water, otherwise they'll be cranky if you pull them out too soon (not a pretty sight).

Then she gets whisked to a quiet, dimly lit bedroom to nurse. If your baby has a favorite blanket/toy/thing to hold, let them hold/finger it now. I like to stroke my daughter's hair or rub her hands and fingers while I nurse. Once I get her really relaxed I can try to lay her down in her crib. If she starts to protest, then I cuddle her next to me on our bed and stroke her head until she's asleep (5-10 minutes and she out), then I put her in her own crib and she's usually out until 5am. Of course, right now this is not working because of the cold, but in general it does work. With our baby, I've figured out that she really just misses us and just needs reassurance that I/we'd be there when she wakes up. Sometimes its just enough to just let her lay cuddled in my arms until she goes to sleep.

We tried the let her cry thing too, but both of us were wimps and didn't let it go too long. Our routine works for us and patience really goes a long way too. Hope this helps some of you. Mitzi

16-month-old can't fall asleep on her own

July 2004

Every night, my husband and I must sit with our 16 month-old daughter in her room until she falls asleep. If she hears us tiptoeing away, she will stand up in her crib and cry. Sometimes it takes her 45 minutes to an hour to fall asleep. We're expecting a second baby in a few months and I fear I won't have the time nor energy to do this every night. We'd like to be able to do her usual bedtime ritual, put her in her crib, kiss her good night and walk away. Is this reasonable? How can we train her to fall asleep by herself? Sleepy mom

Your fears are correct. You have to stop staying with her - immediately. I would get a copy of Penelope Leach's ''Your Baby from Birth to Age Five'' at the library and read the section on getting babies/toddlers to sleep. Basically, you stick to a normal routine - bath, toothbrushing, books and songs, etc - and then tell her it's time to sleep and you're leaving. Then LEAVE. When she cries, come right away but stay for only 30 seconds MAX. Tell her again that it's time for sleeping and that when she cries again you will take longer to come back. LEAVE. She will cry. After 5 minutes, go in and tell her again , in only 30 seconds that it's time to sleep and that you won't be back in if she cries - for 5 minutes. And, do that. This will take about 45 minutes or so the first night. A little less the second, etc. It should only last for a week or two - is quite difficult while it's happening, but truly works. It's not ''crying it out'' as Ferber recommends, rather helping her to be alone with you near by, visiting occasionally and BRIEFLY. Remind her that you love her on each visit. And, stay happy and upbeat on the visits, not sad and concerned. But, be quick! 30 seconds at each visit. In my 4 y.o.'s life, we've had to do this routine about once a year - new fears, etc. It always works. Sleeping at last.

Have you tried fiddling with her bed time? Maybe she just isn't tired yet. My 16 month old has been having a similar issue the past few weeks, so I have started to move her bed time to 8 o'clock which seems to be taking care of the problem. That said, she had a great routine until recently hence my adjustment.

If that doesn't work, perhaps try some white noise in her room (fan or something else) to allow you a bit more freedom of movement.

And lastly, you may just have to let her cry it out. I went through about a week of the 45 minute cry sessions (I made visits in between) several months ago to get her into her routine.

Although we never wanted to ''Ferberize'' our child we did and it worked in three nights! Abbie

Go about it very gradually...move farther and farther away from the crib each night. Establish a fun bedtime routine. We went through the same thing with my now-2.5 year old. It took about 2 months to get him having a good routine, but he was over two when we started. Now he does just go to bed like you desire. Be patient, and gradual. Heather

Just had to respond to a previous message that suggested a gradual approach to teaching your child to sleep. The post-er credited Penelope Leach (whose book is great for many reasons) for this approach, but then wrote ''It's not 'crying it out' as Ferber recommends...'' In fact this approach is EXACTLY what Ferber recommends. Ferber actually developed this approach as a more humane alternative to ''letting the baby cry it out,'' meaning putting the baby down and letting him/her cry until they fall asleep. Ferber instead came up with this gradual process of going in to reassure the baby at progressively longer intervals until they give up and go to sleep. Now don't get me wrong, this does involve a lot of crying. When the parent goes in to reassure the baby, without picking her up, the baby cries even harder. But eventually the baby not only goes to sleep but learns how to go to sleep by herself. I used this approach on my 1st child when she was 14 months or so, and just like everyone says it involves about 45 min of crying the first night and 3 nights until you are done, but after that you can put the baby down awake and they will go to sleep! Another thing though that I didn't know ahead of time is that it is not a ''once and for all'' kind of thing. We had to do a little ''refresher course'' after travelling, illness, and the like, but it was never as bad as the first time. You can check out an overview at: btw, Ferber also has a gradual process for night weaning that doesn't involve a lot of crying. --found Ferber useful, not heartless

Helping 18-month-old fall asleep

July 1999

We have an 18 month girl. Since she was a newborn we've always helped her to fall asleep by first nursing and then rocking & singing songs or walking & singing songs. She usually falls asleep in five to twenty minutes or two to four songs. Our general routine now-a-days is that I nurse her and then my husband picks her up, walks around the room holding her & singing to her until she falls asleep. He's finding this increasingly difficult because she squirms and seems to want to lay down, even though she's not asleep yet. We think she might be outgrowing it. But when we lay her down and try to sing to her she just flops around and eventually sits up and then gets frustrated and cries. We read to her, but she likes to sit up and look at the pictures and is usually very engaged in the experience. We can't just lay her down and walk out of the room because she sleeps on a futon next to ours and she would just crawl off and come and find us. We also don't want to have to make her cry it out. We know that we're going to have deal with some protesting, but we want to be there beside her until she falls asleep and gets used to the new routine (what ever that might be!). Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone has any advice for weening a child from being walked or rocked to sleep to just laying her down and somehow soothing her to sleep another way.

I had a similar experience with my now 23 mo. old son when he was about your daughter's age in that he seemed restless when I held him and it seemed clear he would be more comfortable lying down. Since I was rocking him to sleep, I began the process of moving towards having him fall asleep on his crib by telling him for a few nights that soon we were going to try having a short cuddle time in the rocking chair and then I would put him in his nice cozy crib to go to sleep, but that I would sit in the chair next to his bed until he fell asleep. To my amazement, this transition went very well. The first night was a disaster, I think because I let him get too drowsy in my arms and so it was a shock to him when I set him down. I ended up holding him until he was deeply asleep because I knew I couldn't let him cry it out. I tried again the next night, setting him down when he was sleeping, but clearly aware that he was being put in the crib. Initially, he didn't cry, but decided he would sit up and play. Knowing that he was tired and ready to sleep if he would just relax, I told him I would only sit in the chair if he kept his head down and was quiet. I did have to leave the room several times (just for a minute or two) over several nights, and he did cry or yell at me when I left, but he immediately put his head down when I came back. (Obviously, this will be harder for you with your baby on a futon, but I guess you could just close the doors so she can't leave the room even if she crawls off the futon). Within three or four days, I did not have to leave the room at all, and now lots of time he tells me crib time when he's ready to go to sleep. (Of course, there are occasional nights where he tries playing, but now it is usually enough for me to just say to him if you want mommy to stay in the room, you need to lie quietly in your bed. Also, I made a point of not singing or patting him when I started this as I wanted his faaling asleep to be as much like it will be when I'm not in the room, whenever we get around to making that transition.

By the way, don't feel bad if an approach like this doesn't work for you and don't do anything you're not comfortable with. Every child and situation is different. I tried something like this with my first child to wean him from our family bed and he literally jumped out of the crib. He was over three before I was able to wean him out of our bed and get him to fall asleep on his own, which we did very gradually, by checking him every 3, 5, etc.minutes until he fell asleep without someone in the room with him, and he still comes into our bed when he wakes at night (which is okay with us). Our second child, who is now happily going to crib time never wanted anything to do with our family bed and got very angry whenever I tried to bring him there. A book I found helpful for ideas re sleep is Sleep: how to teach your child to sleep like a baby by Tamara Eberlein - ISBN # 0-671-88038-1. You can get it from It covers the gamut from crying it out to constant reassurance without being judgemental about any approach. Another book which I believe had a sensitive approach, but I haven't looked at it for a while is Winning Bedtime Battles - How to help your child develop good sleep habits by Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D., and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, M.E.D. Good luck!

I had the same experience: what I learned is that singing rocking and walking were all keeping my little one awake. He needed real quiet and to be put down, sat next to for a while. It took a while for the ajustment to happen, but it worked. Good Luck!

You could try stroking her hair or rubbing or lightly scratching her back in a soothing rhythm after putting her down on her bed. soothing rhythm after putting her down on her bed. Make sure that she knows it's a special treat. The element of ritual may help. Our baby has a musical windup toy that helps him get into a sleepy mood. We start lowering the lights and talking more quietly well before the actual bedtime, so that he can get into a sleepy mood more easily. We try not to vary the routine too much as bedtime approaches, and especially not to get him excited anywhere near bedtime. We also keep his sleep area very dark, which helps him orient himself to his sleep/wake cycle.

My experience, and I must note I get flack for it from family, but I don't care. I had the same problem with my son wanting me there while he fell asleep. He used to have a tot-bed pushed up against my bed, but needed me there to fall asleep. What I started doing was lying him down, lying down next to him and reading to him where he could see the pictures without sitting up (with a very low light). The limit was one or two books and then I would pick up my own book and read. He would toss and turn, crawl around sometimes, but would eventually fall asleep. He is now 8 years old and we still do this except now we read chapter books that are a little too hard for him to read by himself. When I'm done reading the chapter, I still pick up my own book. If he has been good about taking his shower and getting himself to bed on time he will have time to read from his own book too. Then he falls asleep feeling secure and happy. Some people think it's horrible - I get comments from family members about how spoiled this makes him. Sometimes I could use the time for something else and sometimes I fall asleep with him and don't get to do things I needed to do, but - because I work full time we have so little time together I don't care. This is quality time! You would not believe the precious conversations we've had during this quiet together time. Oh, and his reading level is way up there for his age!

Advice for helping child fall asleep: I'm a One Family Bed person, so my perspective comes from that direction. When I found myself at your point (my child is now 10 years old), I simply laid down next to her until she fell asleep. I timed it so I had a nice rest, and then got up and had a second evening. Sometimes it took a long time (1/2 hour), but in retrospect, that was a time I very much enjoyed. I had another older child, so it gave me a rest to then have a better evening time with her instead of being worn out from the day. Eventually, and I truly can't remember exactly when (although it may have been a whole year later) my littlest one would then simly go to sleep on her own. I think what's important is not engaging in conversation, etc., but being there and being very quiet and still while they settle down and go to sleep. I remember a 2-month period where she wanted to go to sleep on my stomach. So I let her, and then gently turned and rolled her over onto the bed. After the two months, she then wanted to go to sleep on her own. The other key is finding the right bedtime for your child -- my daughter's slowly moved from 7:30-8:20 -- don't know why, but 8:20 was the point at which she was quite ready to go to sleep for at least 2 years. Not 8:15, not 8:30. It does no more good to put a child in bed when they're not tired than it does to do so for yourself. Good luck. It's really nice to hear about other people who are working with their child instead of focusing on separating. The American society is alone. The American society is alone in its separatist attitude towards its young. I still don't understand it.

Here's a piece of advise on this one. When you're reading in order to get them to go to sleep, don't be very animated about it. Read verrrrry slowly and verrry softly. I found Dr. Suess' _Sleep Book_ to be perfect for the task. The sing-song repetition of nonsense always worked for us.

I haven't been following the whole thread on putting a child to sleep, but more power to the person (woman?) who puts child to sleep by reading to/with him at night. That quality time *is* very special. I do something similiar with my five year old son. And I too don't care about the flack either.

19-month-old takes 1-2 hours to fall asleep

March 2008

I have a 19-month old son whose sleep pattern has become such that he is often awake in his crib for over 1 hour (even up to 2 hours) after we put him down to sleep in the evenings. (We usually start the bedtime routine at 7:30pm, and he's in his crib by 8-8:15pm). He doesn't cry (or if he does, it's just once after about an hour, and we go in to reassure him), but he's awake...playing with his stuffed animals. He naps about 2 to 2 1/2 hours in the afternoons (I've been trying to have his nap be between 1 and 4 so he doesn't wake up too late). There are two times that he fell asleep at 11pm, slept til 9am, and didn't nap in the afternoon, but fell asleep at 7pm out of sheer exhaustion.

I'd love to hear from people who have been through this with their children. My son definitely gets enough exercise during the day (in morning and afternoon) that I don't think that's an issue. I'm definitely not thrilled with him being alone in his crib for that time, but I'm hesitant to push his bedtime later. We've had the same bedtime for months, and it's only been the past 3-4 weeks that this pattern of being awake in his crib has emerged. His dad is a night-owl, so I recognize he may have those tendencies, but at this early age? I've thought about severely shortening his afternoon nap, but he seems pretty tired in the afternoons and in need of those naps (and is pretty cranky if he gets woken up earlier). Thoughts on changing nap times, sleep times around would be appreciated. Also, for those who have gone through this, is this a phase, or does it mean a real , more 'permanent', shift in sleep pattern. Thanks Anon

Just COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!! Don't change a thing. He's just winding down at the end of the day, processing, thinking about things, relaxing, and PUTTING HIMSELF TO SLEEP! Hooray! We need to wind down, and so do babies. Babies need to learn to put themselves to sleep. If you change anything, he'll probably end up over-tired and cranky, and then you'll train him that it's not okay to fall asleep unless his parents are around. Trust me, you don't want that. Because then you have to train him back out of it. Calm yourself by remembering that babies are experiencing the equivalent of Disneyland just in living every day. He's happy, rethinking the day. Maybe in those moments when he's crying, he is remembering something unpleasant, or just realized that he's awake and by himself. Then it goes away, and he goes back to sleep. You are very lucky that he already knows that falling asleep is something that he can do by himself!

You shouldn't be too concerned. Your son just needs time to digest the events of the day/week and this usually happens in a quiet, safe setting such as his bed. I suggest that you stick to your routine (nap at 1 and bed by 8) and allow him time to unwind/digest. You could build a bit of time into the routine to help ensure that he's asleep long enough if you need to wake him at a particular time. If you have the luxury of allowing his natural sleep cycle to be the reason he wakes up, that would be best.

My almost two year old went through (and continues to do) the same thing. The duration of the ''talk to digest'' time varies significantly and we've actually built a half hour into the bed time routine to accommodate for it. Even when he chatters for an hour, he'll still take a normal length nap (3+ hrs) and get a full night sleep (11+ hrs). But we've found that sticking to the routine makes a world of difference. Stick to the routine.

Hi, while I am not sure why your child is not falling asleep right away, I think this is pretty normal. My oldest one, who just turned 4, while being an amazing sleeper from the beginning, has had periods of not falling asleep right away as well. More so, my youngest is doing the same thing right now! I am at the point now that this doesn;t bother me a bit, so i just let him be!

I have read ''Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Child'' by Mark Wiessbluth three years ago and has been basically living by it ever since. Simple things - maintain the right bed time, have a routine, and make sure your child doesn't get overtired -seem to work magic. Maybe because your child is so active now that this gets him way too excited and overtired and therefore he simply can not fall asleep right away. Instead of moving his bed time later, i would actully try and move it earlier by some 20-30 minutes and see what happens. I know it sounds like an inverted logic, but it worked for me (up unitl 21 months, my oldest was in bed by - ready?! - 5:30pm! And slept till 7am every day) and still does. My kids are in bed between 6:30 for the youngest and 7:30pm for the 4 year old; but if i see that my oldest one is cranky at dinner and/or didn';t take a nap at preschool, his bedtime get automatically moved by 15min earlier. Same goes for the younger one. They sleep better and longer. Hope this helps. Good luck! anon

My 27 month old daughter has done what you have described for about the a year now. About twice a week when we put her down for bed (bet 7:30 and 7:45pm) we hear her talking/singing to herself in bed. In the beginning we went in but she does not seem to want us in there. It's almost like it's her time. Sometimes this goes on for an hour off and on. Occasionally, she goes to sleep right away and wakes around 10 pm to talk/sing. I actually tell sitters about this since they seem to think it's unusual. She normally sleeps until 7 am and naps for about two hours from 1-3 pm. We do a bed time routine from 6:45 to 7:30 which includes reading and other quiet activities. Frankly, I have just gotten used to it. She is an active, happy girl so I feel that she is doing ok. I have tried changing bed time and bedtime activities but it has not worked so I roll with it and am always listening carefully... judy

My son went through this at different stages. He was never quiet for an hour, though! I think as they walk and develop language, they sometimes will act out what they did during the day in their crib. I remember my son babbling to his stuffed toys. You cannot make your child sleep, but you can give them a routine and teach them that bedtime is now. It sounds like you have done this very well. If he lays in his crib without much fuss, then you're fine. I wouldn't worry about it. He sounds content to me. lynn

From the numbers you give, I see that your little boy is sleeping 12 hours a day and that sounds about right. I get the impression that he is healthy and not cranky during the day, so he is probably doing a good job meeting his need for sleep. You really really really can't make a kid sleep. You can only make it easy for him to sleep. You seem to want him to not be awake in his crib so you don't feel guilty about him being alone or you are worried about him being safe. Since he is not crying, he is probably not unhappy having some alone time and if you are worried about safety, address that by the standard methods-a monitor or a tent to prevent him from crawling out and wandering. Then count yourself lucky that you were blessed with a good sleeper. This is not a sleeping problem in my book! anon

My son often does what you are describing at nap time and sometimes at bedtime. I understand your feelings of not having him be in the crib alone, because I have pangs of this, but I have decided that as long as he is content and playing or resting without a lot of fuss, that it's okay to leave him in there. And, maybe it's even a good thing for him. He may need/enjoy that down time, and it's not a bad thing for him to learn to entertain himself. He often sings, plays with his stuffed animals, talks to himself. That seems like good coping and self-soothing strategy to me. Remember that kids don't fake being content. If your son were unhappy in his bed, you'd hear about it. Let content kids lie...

Hi. I have twin 18 month olds and one of them just started doing that too. For naps and at night. She'll stay awake for 30-60 minutes after being put into her crib. Her sister, in the same room, falls asleep almost immediately. This gives me some comfort that it isn't anyting I've done. One just needs more sleep than the other one.

One thing I might suggest is actually moving bedtime up (not back). Through my three kids and talking with other moms, when bedtime is moved up, sleep usually improves. Lots of parents don't want to move it up for fear of bad naps or partners not being able to spend time with them, but each time I've done it or my friends have done it, it works. You can try for a few days and forget it if it doesn't work. Good luck. Sleep is good!

20-month-old can't fall asleep

I am seeking advice on our 20-month-old's sleep problems. At daycare she will lie down for her nap (with binky) without being rocked to sleep. At home, it's a different story. She is rocked to sleep at naptime (I've tried to just put her down, but she won't go to sleep - and yes, she is tired), to go to sleep at night, and if she wakes up in the middle of the night (I know! I know!). My daughter, for those on the list a while now, is the one who used to vomit if she cried for 5 minutes so we didn't let her cry it out and rocked her to sleep to avoid the vomiting. Our pediatrician even said it was OK at the time (she was sleeping through the night no problem - just needed to be rocked to sleep). Anyway, so now we have created a very difficult situation for my husband and me, who are very sleepshort particularly of late, as she gets up several times in the middle of the night (and falls asleep instantly in our arms when we pick her up and sit with her in the rocking chair, but jumps up and cries as soon as we put her back in her crib - aren't you glad you don't live at our house?!?!). Eventually she's out enough that we can put her down again and she sleeps through it. Last night, for example, she went to sleep at 7:40, woke up at 10pm, it took my husband about 45 minutes to get her down again and then she was up at 11pm again. It took me, miraculously, only 15 minutes to get her down again and then she slept through the night and was still sleeping at 6:20am this morning when I left to go to work (my husband does drop off at daycare in the morning). The past two nights have been nightmares of being up for hours with her (2.5-3 hours). So, what type of behavior modification can we do at this late stage to set things on track? Any and all advice appreciated. I realize it will no doubt get worse before it gets better, but we are ready to make it better. By the way, she no longer vomits if she cries for a while, thank goodness

Our 4 year old is a very good sleeper once she is asleep but she has terrible time settling down every night. It usually takes her 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep. Any strategies from parents who have dealt with this situation would be appreciated, including herbal/ homeopathic remedies (like Calms) that are effective.

My 5-year-old takes a long time to fall asleep, easily an hour. She's very active & intense & gets so wound up during the day that she can't go straight to sleep, even after a soothing bath and being read to. However, it isn't a problem for either of us. I put her to bed around 8 p.m., she has a small night light by her bed, and a basket with various toys, books, etc. I say good-night & close her door, and the rules are that 1) she must stay in her bed (or at least in her room), 2) she must be fairly quiet, and 3) I am not available anymore until morning. But she doesn't have to go to sleep until she is ready (after all, you can't *make* them sleep (oooh, if only they designed these critters with off switches!!), you can only set up a situation conducive to sleeping). She plays with her little toys or pretends to read her books or sings to herself. I'll hear her faintly for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour, eventually she drifts off. She just needs that much quiet time alone to unwind.

To the woman whose five year old plays by herself until she falls asleep How do you get her to stay in her room without you? No matter what I've tried my just turned 5 year old will not stay in his room by himself after his bedtime routine. How do you handle it when he shares the room with his 15 month old brother?

Someone asked how I get my five-year-old daughter to stay in her room after I put her to bed. Well, I don't get her to do it, she just does it & I don't know why, it's a mystery and a blessing (as she is a very challenging child in other areas of behavior). However, my older daughter was terrible about staying in her room when she was around 4 or 5. Not only would she think of a million excuses to come out, one time she actually came out without even pretending to have an excuse, five minutes after I'd said good night, and presented herself to me in the living room saying Here I am! The next day I started the star routine. For every night that she stayed in her room after I said good night, she'd get a star the next morning. After 10 stars she'd get a prize, some little toy or treat. She loved getting stars, and while it wasn't 100% successful right away, it did motivate her to form a new habit. Each star she earned was stuck on the wall over her bed, and as they accumulated it was something she could point to with pride & I could take comfort in seeing how many peaceful evenings I'd had. After maybe 3 or 4 months she had gotten so good at staying in her room that I started forgetting to give her a star each day, and eventually we decided that she didn't need stars anymore because she had done such a good job of learning to stay in her room.

We have a similar problem. Lately our two year old has trouble falling asleep. We do our routine of bath, and then stories/singing songs. He always insists that we stay with him until he falls asleep. He sleeps in a toddler bed, and if we leave the room before he is almost asleep, he hops out of bed and follows us. So leaving him to cry it out is not a realistic option. Lately, he just doesn't fall asleep. He lies down quietly, and really tries, but stays awake. We found out he falls asleep at 9:30 no matter when we put him in bed. Since the change of clock he also wakes up earlier, before 7:00. Last week we told his teachers to wake him up from his nap after he had slept for an hour and a half (he used to sleep for two hours or more). So far, we haven't seen any changes. Does anyone have suggestions?

2-y-o lies in bed without falling asleep

April 2006

What do you do with a kid that goes to bed at 9:00 and stays in bed without complaining for over 2 hours without sleeping? After finally going to sleep, she almost always wakes up at or before 8:30. She tries laying quiet and still with us but when sleep doesn't happen we'll leave. She will ''read'' books and play with a few stuffed animals and maybe do a puzzle or two. Sometimes she will eventually fall asleep on her own and other times she will call one of us in to lay down with her and will fall asleep within a couple of minutes. Her light is dim, she has a regular sleeping CD playing .... We wake her up from her nap after an hour (though she would love to sleep 2-3 hours) because the problem gets worse with too much of a nap. We never let her nap past 2:00. We tried to get rid of the nap all together but she just can't last without it. She gets hyper and has an even harder time settling down for sleep. She doesn't get anything sweet (not even fruit) after 5:00 because it makes her wired. She doesn't like the idea of sleeping and even when tired says she doesn't want to. She doesn't have bad dreams, has warm milk before bed, has her two year molars coming in and fluid in her ears (according to Dr.) We give her Tylenol to deal with any pain she might be having, but she doesn't complain about any pain (she is very verbal). This sleeping habit existed before the physical issues anyway. Since she doesn't bother us when she isn't sleeping, it isn't a horrible problem, except she really seems like she is happier when she can get more sleep. So, what can we do? She isn't a great eater - could diet be a part of this? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

We've been through the same thing with both our kids to varying degrees at varying times. If they are just quietly sitting in bed reading, the instinct is to leave them be and let them get tired and go to sleep when they want. But I know with myself, that I will stay up reading until all hours and not notice being tired. If I force myself to put down the book I will go right to sleep even if I think I am not tired yet. I figure it is the same with kids. So I let them have a book, and check in every 5 to 10 minutes, telling them it is time to put it away and go to sleep. After two or three trips, I take the book away, sit with them, rub their back, tell them a quiet simple story, or something to calm them and get them into sleep mode. I am hoping that soon they will learn to do it themselves, but I figure sleep is too important to leave it up to a preschooler. Also, I notice a big difference when they are in bed by 8:15 or 8:30 and 9:00. Just that extra half hour later gets them more wired and it takes them longer to fall asleep Mom of 2 and 4 year old

I also have a 2yo who has never been much for sleep. And I think we are currently living in this culture where everyone is trying to get their kids to sleep some specified amount vs accepting that all kids are different with different needs. My kid likes to be up - and sure, it would be great for all of us if he could sleep a bit more but you can't make a kid sleep. It sounds like you all have put a lot of thoughtful time and energy in to your child's sleep and I can't imagine there's much more to do than to accept that perhaps she's not a kid that needs as much as others (mine will sleep a max of 9hs/night, naps an hr in the day). And certainly from my own experience, being anxious about some aspect of my kid only seems to further the problem vs help them feel that things are really OK. Good Luck

I don't think you said how old your daughter is but I'm guessing she's somewhere in the two year range. It sounds to me like she needs to go to sleep at least an hour earlier and needs to get her full nap without being awoken. It shouldn't be too difficult changing her bedtime with the sun going down earlier now Sweet dreams!

One of my kids has always had a hrder time than the other in falling asleep. It is like she has a difficult time turning her brain off. When she was an infant and toddler it was as if she was insulted by us asking her to sleep. At times when she had great difficulties falling asleep, we would rub her back and sing calmly to her, and tell her that after two songs we would leave the room. As she got older, we would ask her to count backwards in her head, or count by twos or fives so that she could calm her brain. When we say goodnight to her now, we usually take her current book out of the room with us to reduce the temptation to keep reading (those horrible habits they develop!). We have tried to help her learn to fall asleep by herself. She would chat with us all night long if she could, and that won't benefit anyone. could try reducing some of the stimulation in your child's bed/crib/room. Or you could take the approach that if she is happy, then she is doing well. (my late night girl never sleeps as much as her sibling, and that's just who she is.) Anon

Helping 2-yr-old to go to bed w/o mom

December 2002

Due to a series of minor events (i.e. sickness, fatigue, relocation) during the last year, I have developed a consistent habit of lying down on a futon with my now 2-year-old daughter when she goes to bed. Because this has been going on for so long, she is unable (unwilling?) to be put down by herself. She also needs to touch my arm or elbow to help her sleep (i.e. my skin instead of a security blanket) and gets upset if I don't let her. pI am expecting a second child in a few months and am looking for suggestions for steps to take now that will put me in a better place come spring. I could use some help on how to ''wean'' my daughter from this bedtime ritual, as well as myself since I rather enjoy being with my daughter in this way. Should I change cold turkey or gradually? Is Ferberizing possible with a 2-year-old who sleeps on a futon? Am I worrying too much? Should I wait-and-see until #2 comes along? Early to bed

I say enjoy that special bonding time with your child as long as you can. Some of my favorite memories as a child are when my mom came to stay with me. And the older they get, the more it becomes a time to open up and share. That said, when the 2nd comes you will need to be able to skip or shorten the ritual occasionally so find some rules that work for your child. My first always fell asleep quickly so I would stay as long as her eyes were closed and she was trying to sleep. My second only falls asleep quickly when he hasn't had a nap, so if he had a nap that day, I stay for 10 minutes then he's on his own. Figure out ways to shortcut now that work for your child but then enjoy it as often as you can! Julie K.

Two-year-old never sleeps

I have a healthy, active 2 year old who never wants to go to sleep. My daughter has been sleeping with us since she was born, and we're just now trying to get her to sleep in her crib. But we have almost always (barring a few short periods earlier) had trouble putting her to bed. She is so full of energy at all times, even late at night she wants to read (more) and play or listen to songs or just keep awake somehow. She is a healthy, active 2 year old, but she just never wants to go to sleep. We have fun all day, she's usually not cranky or whiny but never seems to need any sleep. Putting her to bed at night drives me up the wall. I've tried reading to her, nursing her, singing to her, cuddling, walking around holding her, rocking her, keeping her out all day so she's exhausted, giving her a snack before bedtime, just about everything me or my husband could think of. But nothing works. It takes a minimum of an hour to put her to sleep, mostly more.

People have suggested trying the ferber method but i hate the idea of letting her cry for hours, by herself, before she falls asleep. I also fear that at 2 years and 2 months of age, she's too old for it and it will take months of crying herself to sleep to get her used to putting herslef to sleep.

I read through the archives for sleep issues and as far as I could tell, people who wrote in dealt with this while their children were younger than my daughter.

I hope someone out there has some advice about something I could try. Any suggestions would be a big help. Thank you

I have no advice, but my 2 and a half year old son is just the same way! He take a 2 hour nap at daycare (I wish they would cut this down to an hour- but they are reluctant), and he sleeps 8 hours at night. He never seems tired- he rarely gets cranky, etc. Needless to say, my husband and I don't get the hours that some parents get between the time the child goes to bed, and the time the parents go to bed. We are tired by 11, when my son is getting tired, so we all go to bed together. I also have tried everything, but my son is just not tired. My husband and his whole family sleep less than average, and my mother in law says she had the same issue with her three boys. So I am looking for ways to deal with it rather than fighting it. I often let him watch a calming video, like baby songs or the hungry caterpiller before we start reading books, to give me a little time to wind down. I hope some parents out there can give you (us) some good tips!

The most important thing I've heard for going to bed is having a regular ritual/routine, that you stick to (ie bath, pajamas, book, bed). That allows the child to know what to expect and helps them comply.

I'm reading a book Sleeping Through the Night by psychologist Jodi A. Mindell. I haven't finished it, nor started the complete Basic bedtime Method she suggests, but just by understanding more about sleep issues and by following a few hints (e.g. on establishing positive bedtime associations) my life has gotten considerably better. Now I know it can improve even more and as soon as I finish the book I am going to try the full method, which seemed to have changed the life of many parents and babies in an average of 2 weeks. Another thing I like in this method is that your baby will never be abandoned to his/her crying, you have to check on them every few minutes (no pick up or nursing, but ensuring them that you are there and care for them). And no, your baby is not too old for this method. Good luck.

I, too, have a very active 2 year 3 month old daughter. We are done with naps (she sleeps in a bed so there is no way to keep her 'trapped' even for quiet time. However, she seems to accept the night time sleep thing and will (usually) go to sleep within 15-25 minutes. When I was still nursing, my husband would lay down with our daughter, read a few books (we have now limited it to 2 nighttime books) and then sing to her (these were songs that I used to sing as I nursed her to sleep so she was familiar with them). I can now put her to sleep, using this same ritual. It took some crying but we didn't let her cry it out alone - I'm sure you are consistent in your parenting, but once you decide to try a routine, stick to it. It is the only way your daughter will know that you mean business.

I don't suggest the Ferber method to you since you aren't interested in it but do suggest that you may need to let her cry for short, 5 minute intervals. At each interval, you can go in, remind her it is time to sleep and that you love her and then leave the room. You are right that it will take a while because she is older but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Try reading a book called, Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night. It has sections broken down by age so you aren't limited to information on 9 month-olds. I don't know if this helps. Good luck to you.

Some children need closeness and cuddling with a parent to relax and fall asleep; other children stimulate themselves into wakefulness with the same kind of care. It may be your daughter is the latter sort of child. Since your daughter is old enough to understand some of what you say to her, you can try telling her that she needs to learn to go to sleep by herself, and that you will help her. This means gradually reducing and ritualizing your bedtime routines, then leaving her. Most likely, she won't like it and will cry, maybe even for a long time at first. This is hard for a parent to listen to, but most children only cry for a few bedtimes. Some children (like my son) will cry routinely for 10 minutes, then fall asleep; and, over time, give up the crying part of the bedtime ritual.

I think we parents want to be loving and responsive to our children, and so we go to great lengths sometimes to keep them contented. While this is generally a very good thing, it can work against the child's real needs when it comes to helping children learn to regulate themselves. In a situation in which a child is not settling to sleep easily no matter what the parent tries, it is worthwhile for the parent to consider whether he or she is part of the problem.

We also have an active child who doesn't seem sleepy at night. Ever. She's three now, but has been like this since birth. Some days as a newborn she would sleep only 20 minutes in the whole day. Even now, she sleeps less than her 7 year old sister. I have to say, Ferber may be your answer. Yes, it is really hard, but the truth is, spending over an hour helping your child get to sleep is probably just making the problem worse, getting you frustrated and angry, and not helping your kid at all. We did Ferber at 2 (after trying and failing many many times) and it made a big difference. Remember, you do get to go in to the room to reassure them. And the advantage of this age is that you can lay the ground work and TELL them what you are going to do in advance and work out the whole ritual ahead of time. That really worked for us. Now, she still can take an hour to go to sleep, but it's relatively quiet and on her own. The thing I found with Ferber is that I had to be absolutely consistent with the method and not fudge it at all. These little guys can sense weakness and ruin the whole effort. I psyched myself up for it by thinking of it as the classic testing phase and that I had to be absolutely consistent. It was either that or a nervous breakdown. Now, we can slip back a bit, but I can talk to her and get it back to a reasonable number of going back in through non-Ferber methods. It does get better!

2 1/2 yr old won't go to bed!

Jan 2006

My 2.9 year old will not go to bed. She sleeps in her own room in a toddler bed. She has always gone right to sleep. Now once she goes to bed, she gets up and plays with her toys, or sneaks into the hallway or goes into other rooms until we notice. I tell her to go to bed and she just laughs. I've tried bribing her, I've tried reasoning with her, I've tried threatening to take things away, I've tried actually taking things away, I've tried closing her door. We have a bedtime routine. I know she needs the sleep b.c if I wait until later to put her down, she gets cranky and irritable. I have a 4 month-old and she goes to bed at 6:00 every night. But I put my older daughter to bed at 8:00 and she's still awake now at 10:00! I could have gone to bed 2 hours ago if she would just go to sleep! I am worried she will get up and roam the house with me asleep. It has gotten to the point where I have to yell at her to get her to finally go down. I don't want to yell and I don't want to have to do it this way, but nothing else seems to work. HATE yelling

We have been just going through the same thing and it has started getting better so I've got a few suggestions you can try. Our kids have also mostly gone down previously without much fuss and now the youngest (2.9) has been really difficult the last couple of months. He shares a room with his older sister so they started playing together when we put them to bed. The problem seemed to start because he became scared of the dark and would turn on the light in their room. We couldn't figure it out at first because he didn't tell us about his fear and he just seemed like he was acting out. So, we ended up getting a nightlight for his room and that helped a little. We also have a babygate on their room so (only when needed) we close that. He hates that so we can always just use it as a threat to get him to stay in bed.

Also, we still have a pack n play so we also sometimes take him out of their room and put him in our room in the pack n play... he can climb out of it but many times he just goes to sleep. I also just attended a parenting class and the instructor suggested that when you child gets out of bed that you steer them back to their room silently by putting your hand on their lower back and guiding them back. She suggested starting this tactic on a weekend night when both parents are at home because you could be doing this over and over again for a long time. Eventually they are supposed to get the idea that no matter what they do you will just respond the same way. After two kids who on the whole have been good sleepers, I've also just come to the conclusion that sometimes they go through difficult periods where they seem to lose all their good sleep habits but if you just remain consistent and insistent on the importance of good sleep habits, then eventually they get into a new rhythmn.... but it can take awhile :) Good luck! Roxanne

This may sound mean but it worked great. We put one of those wooden baby gates across the bottom of my son's door. After doing his whole night night routine, if he didn't stay in bed, we would give a warning, then the next time hook the gate. You can leave the main door open or shut it as you wish. He howled for a while (you have to ignore it and also withdraw attention) but looking back (he is now 8) I think it gave him the boundary he needed, to start learning to settle himself down for the night. We didn't need it all that long. He's a fabulous sleeper now. jkdm

We had the same problem with our daughter when she moved to a big girl bed. We ended up just getting a safety gate to put across the door. We took the position that when she got tired, she would go to sleep, so as long as she stayed in her room, she could do whatever she wanted. I will admit, there was sometimes crying at the gate, la-la-la, but we ignored it unless it got really extreme. Now, at almost-3, she has gotten with the program at bedtime and we can leave the door open and no gate and she doeasn't come out. Erin

When our 2 yr old climbed out of his crib, we spent 5 hours repeatedly putting him to bed (he would get out the second we closed the door). After that, we got a lock for the door, and a camera for the room. Sometimes he goofs around a bit, but it gets boring pretty fast in a dark room. Now we can monitor him, and not worry about him leaving the room, or getting into things when we are asleep. Whatever works ya know? Steph

Try a gate on the door. We open ours when our son is asleep, but it keeps him from wandering. We've also always told him that he could play in his room if he wasn't ready for sleeping. -Works for us

Well, my daughter isn't of age yet, but what my mom did with me seemed to work: she had an agreement with me that I ''went to bed'' at a certain time, but that didn't mean I had to go to sleep! I could play (or read when I was old enough), or whatever, I just had to stay in my room. Bed time wasn't an issue after that. Anonymous

There is a great book you should read - John Rosemond's ''Making the Terrible Twos Terrific''. Talks alot of understanding a toddler and remaining the boss - there is a chapter devoted to sleep & bedtime.

My suggestions - get a door, cut it in half, put a lock from the outside on the bottom half, lock her in her room. Explain that she can play in her room (quietly, but coming out is unacceptable. In the begining, routinely go in & check on her from the outside so she knows you are there. There will be screaming & protest, but over time it will subside. You need to be in charge.

A close friend - with 3 kids - has always said very wisely when her children challenge going to bed: ''I can't make you go to sleep, but I can make you go to bed.'' Don't Let the Toddler Run the House

We had the very same problem as you with our daughter at about the same age. It is so frustrating!!! And it's really hard to remain patient when you're tired and need the little one to go to sleep. We went through everything you've tried, and none of it worked. Finally I remembered reading somewhere how to solve this problem. You do the bedtime routine, and during it you tell your daughter that it will be bedtime soon, and that you expect her to go to bed without a fuss. You tell her that if she gets out of bed you or her father will put her back into bed. And then of course she will, and every time she gets out of bed you immediately, calmly, lead her back to bed and firmly but calmly tell her it's bedtime. No other conversation or attention should occur, no threats, no pleading, no arguing. We had a few nights in the beginning where we wouldn't even get out of the hallway before she was back out of bed, and I think several nights we put her back in bed dozens of times. It's hard to not lose your cool, and that's where teamwork with the other parent (if available) really helps. Eventually, after a few nights, our persistent daughter learned that she would always and immediately get put back into bed, without any further attention, and bedtime got easier. We also had a few short relapses, where it seemed our daughter was testing to see if the rules had changed. I really think the key to this method is being consistent, completely calm, and saying nothing other than ''it's bedtime now'' while leading (or carrying if necessary) the child back to bed. Then, when the behavior starts to improve, you can praise her the next morning for going to bed without a fuss. Good luck, stick with your 8 pm bedtime, and things will improve soon. Good luck! Lived through it

I had the same situation with my younger child when we moved her to a bed from her crib - ''Hey! I can escape!''. Drove me absolutely crazy - ''calmly put child back to bed without comment, without emotion'' - for an HOUR or more every night?? Yeah, right... Oh, there was emotion all right.

It was a lot harder because the two kids shared a room, so the older was suffering too. I couldn't close the door, turn off the soft music, sit on the bed, sit at the door, without affecting the other.

What I wish I had tried: charts - stars for every night staying in bed, perhaps with more demonstration - ''look at teddy here - this is how he goes to bed, look how happy he is!'', and maybe even recruited big brother ''Now your brother will show you how to go and STAY in bed...''. But despite my not doing such a great job, it did stop. Good luck! Tired Is a State of Mind...

My 2.5 year old has trouble going to sleep at night too - He has been popping up from his crib reglarly since August. Man is this getting old! I am anxious to hear others responses but I can also tell you what we have done that has worked. (As a note, our 2.5 year old shares a room with his almost 5 year old sister - yet another wrinkle). Our tactics are 3 fold:

1)I explain to him every night that it is bed time and say ''What do big boys do at bed time?'' He usually answers ''get out of bed!'' and I say ''No, big boys stay in bed, roll over, close their eyes and fall asleep. I know you are a big boy and I EXPECT you to do this.'' Recently this has been helpful in shortening the amount of time it takes him to fall asleep. I think using the word Expect is important.

2)Many nights I sit in his room, without talking or looking at him and put him back to bed when he gets up or stands in his crib. I explain to him before hand that this is what I am going to do until he falls asleep. This can take 30 min - 1.5 hours. :(

3) At our wits end and our doctor's advice we changed the doorknob on the bedroom so it locks from the outside. EASY to do! Some evenings when I just need some space I will lock him in. Again, I tell him before hand what I am doing. If he gets out of bed and starts banging at the door, I put him back in bed without talking or looking at him. Most times he only gets out once when the door is locked. If you change your door knob make sure you have akey or some way to open it from the inside. Locking mommy in the kids' bedroom is now a fun game for them but I have my hidden key that gets me out.

Like I said, we are still struggling with this but these 3 methods all work some times so we pick and choose based on the evening.

Good luck! Jennifer

We were having a lot of trouble with our 3 yo getting out of bed and the ''silently putting him back in bed'' method was NOT working -- I counted 50 tries before I lost my temper about that. What DID work was childproof handles on the inside of his door (easier than replacing/changing door/locks.) We said, if you stay in bed, the door stays open, but if you get out, I have to close the door and the special handle will keep the door closed/keep you safe (He had been running around downstairs at 2 am--a little scary!).

The first night, he cried about 20 min then fell asleep, the second, only about 3 min., and then after that, he's been able to sleep with the door open and stay in bed all night long. Sleeping is beautiful

There is really good advice somewhere in the archive on this. The recommendation was to check on your child in ever increasing intervals. This solution worked instantly and 6 months later my son no longer has any anxiety about going to bed (we're still checking every 5 minutes or so). Good luck. susannah

2.5 year old cannot fall asleep by himself

August 2002

My 2.5 year old does not go to sleep by himself. For the first year+ I always nursed him to sleep, then rocked him to sleep and now he still likes me to lay in his bed until he falls asleep. I have never let him ''cry it out'' or did any kind of ''sleep training'' because It didn't feel right.I wanted to know if anyone else out there has done this with their child, and what age I might expect him to want to go to sleep on his own? His Doctor was very critical of this when he was one year, and while I did and do not feel like I am making a mistake, I would like to hear other opinions on this matter. Thanks! Lisa

I didn't want to do the cry it out thing either, but we finally did and it only took three nights with every 5, then 10 minute pats on the back, and our kids finally sleep on their own. I must say, I believe my kids are as happy about as we are. I. S.

Our 4 year old still needs someone to lie down with him in bed until he falls asleep at night. Totally normal. Naps are hard, though, especially at 2.5. We didn't do the cry it out thing but we didn't give him any tools to work with either, which I regret. Our son stopped napping when he was around 3 years old so it might be that your kid is moving on from napdom (if so, sorry!). If he still needs a nap, you can always walk him in the stroller and transfer him into bed; drive him in the car and transfer him into bed; lie down with him until he falls asleep. I think it's perfectly normal for a kid to want someone to be with them until they are asleep -- it's not as convenient for us parents, but that's our tough luck, I guess. Good luck. Laurel

I tthink it depends more on what you want, and are willing to do, than on the child. I have seen the full spectrum - some parents always put the children to bed at a regular time in their own bed, starting as a baby, and some parents have children in 2nd or 3rd grade and still not able to fall asleep on their own. Personally, by 8pm I am tired, and I'm ready for some adult time and I don't have the patience to spend a long time coaxing my kids to sleep. So I started at about 6 months on in their own bed at a regular time. Then when they were about 12 mos, settled on a nice ritual -- brush teeth, 2 books, 2 songs, kiss goodnight, passy & blanket, and it's night night time. There are always bumps in the road, some backsliding, some exceptions, but we try to stick to it. I have been to friends' houses where bedtime took an hour or two, required one parent to be with the child during that whole time. I think this is OK if it works for your family but it's good to be aware that it may continue for a long long time, so if it's not something you want to do, then you may have to just roll up your sleeves up and get with it. It isn't too easy to change a bedtime habit but it is doable and the sooner you get working on it, the easier it is. It's harder to do at 3 than at 2, and it's harder at 2 than at one, and so on. What I have seen with my friends is this: if it ain't happening at about 2 or 3 years, then it ain't gonna happen on its own for a while. A Mom

I have been in your situation about my children not falling asleep by themselves. Both my boys were nursed to sleep up to toddlerhood. Even after weaning, they still needed my company to be able to fall asleep (laying down next to them, sitting on their beds). Despite criticisms around me, I still felt that I did the right thing by allowing my children to feel secure. Eventually, they outgrew that need and go to sleep on their own. There are no sleeping problems to speak of for years (they are now 7 and 9). Of course, this is my personal experience and opinion on this. But I just want to assure you that the sleep issue will eventually work itself out. anonymous

I just wanted to add to the discussion about toddlers not falling asleep on their own. My 2 1/4 year old daughter doesn't really fall asleep totally on her own yet, but there has been much improvement in recent months. Like the original poster, I have nursed my child to sleep since birth, and still nurse her at night. She also sleeps with us for much of the night, but she * starts out* in her own crib, and is learning to fall asleep on her own. I've also never been willing or able to totally let her cry it out, but I certainly let her cry now and then to release tension and tire herself out. Here's what I do to help her fall asleep by herself: first, we do our bedtime ritual (bath, stories, milk/nurse). Then I put her in her crib, pat her and/or sing to her for a few minutes, and then I sit in the rocking chair next to her crib. I've put a blanket on the crib rails so she actually can't see me, but she periodically asks if ''mama's here.'' I reassure her that mama's here, but she has to go to sleep. Sometimes I sit in the chair until she falls asleep, other times I tiptoe out. It doesn't work perfectly, and it took at least a month to work without all the crying/picking up/patting, but it's much better than holding her for hours or going to bed with her. And after a month or 6 weeks, she was falling asleep more quickly--like she was getting the hang of things. As I said, it is not perfect, but it has helped make bedtime a less stressful affair. Christine

I'm not sure what ''this'' you're talking about (has anyone else done this with their child) but I'm assuming you mean parent their child to sleep' (I keep trying to fix this - there is a question mark here. I promise! :)) I guess we qualify. I have an 8yo, 6yo, 2yo and 10mo. The 2yo will be 3 in a few weeks. She is either nursed or read to sleep. The 10mo (obviously) is nursed to sleep. The older children don't ''need'' to be parented to sleep but we frequently do - just holding them as they fall asleep, or read to them or read silently to ourselves while they fall asleep. I think that both the older children stopped needing the presence of someone else with them to fall asleep around 5ish. kathy

I think what you are doing is great and your son will let you know when he's ready to go to sleep by himself. Judging by your post, your son is basically sleeping through the night and waking at a normal time. As long as you feel ok about the routine, why not continue. My child wasn't really ready to go to sleep by herself until age four and then some serious family problems caused a setback for about a year. Usually I found laying down with her relaxing for me as well. But at five, the routine became very easy with some discussions about what would be a good solution. Together we came up with a routine that worked-- getting ready for bed (teeth, etc.), and two stories and goodnight. She handles all her night waking needs (going to the bathroom, or wanting a nightlight) except the occasional nightmare. I think some ''experts'' want us to have convenient children, but children take different paths to greater independence. anon

Hi, Lisa. This may not be helpful, but my 3.5 year old still doesn't like to go to sleep by herself. Unfortunately, she doesn't fall asleep until 10:30 or 11:00 at night, so we're really tired of it. We're getting ready to put a clock in her room (she has the rudiments of time-telling) and we're going to start setting a time when we'll be leaving -- she can be awake or asleep, lying down or playing, at her choice -- but we'll be going. We hope this works, but can't give you a success story yet. (We also have never let her cry it out.) Good luck. Laurel

After dealing with sleep issues of my two kids (and my husband :) ) I came to the conclusion that the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep also depends on personality and temperament of the person.

We always put our daughter to sleep into her crib and she cried every night for 15 min to fall asleep. And would wake up every night at 3-4am and cry forever, unless we came to her and comfort her. Every book told us that eventually she will cry less and less and will fall asleep by herself without crying, and stop waking up. Never happened. When she was 1 year old we visited relatives and slept in the same bed for the first time. That was the first night she fell asleep without crying and didn't wake up. OK, probably she did wake up, but didn't cry, so we slept till morning. We were so happy at last to sleep through the night, that when we came home we got a full size bed for her and since then lay down with her until she fell asleep, then when she would wake up at night me or my husband just went to sleep for the rest of the night in her bed. We explicitely decided not to take her to our bed but sleep in her bed. When she was 3 years old she decided that she wants to sleep in toddler bed. We bought one in Target very cheaply and that was it, she started to sleep alone in her bed.

She didn't fall asleep by herself though, but after hearing her crying every night for a whole year we were happy to stay with her and with time it became easier and easier. We had different routines with my husband, but it was never a problem. To make a long story short, even now, when she is nine, she needs one of us to walk with her to her bed, talk for 5 min, and say her good night. She simply cannot fall asleep without this short ritual. We tried. She would just stay awake for hours (even if she is very sleepy). So we gave up, and actually enjoy those night talks. She also started to sleep much better when her baby brother started to sleep in her room.

On the contrary our second child is a great sleeper, loves his crib, and does not care for anybody sitting near him if he is sleepy. And was like that since he was born.

BTW, my husband is very much like my daughter: he hates falling asleep on his own. If he is tired and wants to sleep before I do, he prefers to have me around, even if I just read a book in the same room. Anon.

My husband and I also do not believe in letting a child cry himself/ herself to sleep. We rocked our daughter to sleep until she was two years old, actually, at which point she was ready to fall asleep on her own. It took a few days of tentativeness, but she got the hang of it quickly and we never let her lie there crying. It might be helpful to know that our daughter also would vomit if she would cry for 5 minutes or longer, so we would always do what we could to stop her crying as quickly as possible. We did run the issue of falling asleep on her own by her pediatrician when she was about a year old, and she asked if our daughter, once rocked to sleep, would sleep through the night. The answer was yes, and our pediatrician didn't see any harm in rocking her to sleep if she was then sleeping through the night without needing us. We are blessed because our daughter started sleeping through the night at 10 weeks and has always been a rock solid sleeper (she's 4 now). But falling asleep on her own took a while. To be honest, we always loved rocking her, but I have to admit it was reassuring to have the backing of our pediatrician. Lori

My 5 yr old son still does not usually fall asleep by himself, but I have made much peace with it. Night time, in the dark, is a very special time with kids to share and process their experiences. As my son has gotten older, this time for sharing is invaluable and so sweet. However, when he was younger and it would take him up to 1.5 hours to fall asleep, I did sneak in reading a book by booklight, meditating, or thinking about what I needed to do for the next day. I would also leave for 5 minute breaks when he could handle it. I don't remember what age, but at some point he began to fall asleep faster at night. I wasn't always graceful about my staying with him til he fell asleep every night, but now 5 years later I am so, so grateful that I invested in him. I would also add, get a lot of support from parents who parent like you do. The pressure to follow the ''book's way'' can get intense and make you feel like you're doing something wrong, instead of something very right! Wendy