13 answers

Help! My Son Won't Go to Sleep by Himself!

My son is almost 1 year old (will be on Nov. 2nd) and he won't put himself to sleep! I have to rock him until he's almost out and then put him in the crib, and then he still fights it. I've tried the cry-it-out method - I'm trying again at this very moment - he's been screaming for an hour and still going! I've tried the go-in-every-so-often-and-calm-him-back-down method, and all that does is make him mad. He used to put himself to sleep back when he had the pacifier (he's been off that for 4 months now), but ever since I took it away, I have to rock him to sleep. Any advice? Has anyone tried any of these methods with success? I've tried both (I gave each one 2 weeks and then decided his nap was more important than him putting himself to sleep!) Please help!

Updated 10-21-06 noon:
Thanks for all the advice. Here's a little more info. This only happens at naptime. During the night, he puts himself to sleep without help. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, he puts himself back to sleep.

I have a routine in place for naptime. I have a music CD that we play, I rock him for the first two songs and then put him down. I also have a fan in the room that we turn on for white noise. I also stay in the room with him until he falls asleep - usually leaning into the crib with my hand on his back so he knows I'm there.

I will not be giving him back the pacifier after I already broke him of the habit. It took me two days to break that habit and I don't want to be dealing with it when he's three, besides the fact that I didn't really want him to have one in the first place, so that's not an option IMO.

When did people's kids start moving to only 1 nap? Maybe that's the problem - he's just not tired enough for two naps anymore. Any other thoughts on getting him to put himself to sleep for naps?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for your advice and help. I finally just got fed up with having to rock him for 1/2 hour - 45 min. and then laying him down and him waking up and screaming and having to go through the entire process again. So I decided that I was just going to let him cry. I took him into his room when it was nap time, rocked him for the first 2 songs on the CD and then layed him down and told him "night-night, mommy loves you, go to sleep" and walked out. He screamed for 1 1/2 hours the first time, then went to sleep. Yesterday, it took 45 minutes the first nap and 40 the second nap. Then today he was out in like 10 minutes, but they tested the stupid tornado siren that's like right around the corner, and it woke him back up! Grrrrr. I decided not to go in, and it took him 45 min. to put himself back to sleep. This may take a while. Oh well, I think it will be worth it in the end. Thanks again for the help!

More Answers

You may just have to let him cry longer. If there isn't anything physically wrong with him, he will eventually fall asleep. It may be hard, but trust me, it will work and it will probably only last one night. A good routine can also help, one that doesn't entail rocking every night...maybe singing, a book, etc in a darkened room, then tell him it's time for bed, kiss him goodnight, then leave. I know it won't be easy, but he will be just fine. If all else fails, give him a pacifier. At his age, a pacifier won't hurt him. You can always take it away when he's older and used to falling asleep on his own.

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Hello E.,

my son is 20 months and he started taking one nap a day around 8-9 months. I would suggest maybe to try that. If he is getting a decent amount of sleep at night and takes one 2-3 hour afternoon nap that is sufficient for a 1 yr old.

I always had the opposite problem, my son would not let me rock him to sleep after he was about 3-4 months old..he wanted to do it himself. We took him out of his crib and moved him to a toddler bed a couple months ago and since then he now needs to be rocked. We are working on doing it on his own again but it is taking sometime. So in a way it nice to have a baby that wants the cuddling.

i hope things get better for you and your son.


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Hi E.! Sorry to hear about the sleeping issue. I wanted to let you know that when my son was younger we tried the cry-it-out method and it worked...but only at bedtime. At naps, he would just stand in his crib and cry for an hour if I'd let him. I started giving him a sippy cup with water and that seems to do the trick. Most of the time he doesn't even drink the water, I think it's more of a "security blanket". HOpe this helps!

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Try a routine that you always do before it is time for naps, or bedtime, and try to put him down at about the same times every day. Kids thrive on routine, and once they get used to it, they usually don't fight as much. Another thing to consider- if he is still taking two naps a day, he may be ready to transition to one nap in the afternoon. If he isn't tired, he's going to fight a nap. When you put him down for naps, put him down still awake. Don't give him any toys in crib to keep him awake (except for music to help him sleep). After all that, let him cry unless there is something wrong. If you try all that for a couple weeks and he is still crying for over an hour afterward, you may want to consider giving him the pacifier just for bedtime/naps. He may still need it to help him get to sleep, and as long as you can ditch it around age 2, you should be okay. Good luck.

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This is extremely common at this age. I had to lay down with my daughters for naps until about 2 1/2 years old. It was worse when I stopped breastfeeding. I nursed my first child until 3 years old and could get her to sleep so much quicker, but my second child was weaned at 20 months. It took forever to get her to nap. We resorted to driving her around in the car with the bass turned up. Seemed to work.

Maybe if he's been crying for more than about 15 minutes, he's just not tired yet. I know it can mess with bed time to let him stay up past nap time, but kids frequently don't follow our schedules. Just be a little flexible and it will work itself out.

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Maybe you should give him the pacifier back, he's not too old for one. Honestly I had one until I was almost 3 years old and I remember deciding to give them up on my own. If crying it out doesn't work after 2 weeks, I would give that method up. People I know who tried the cry out thing had it work in 2-4 days, past that I think it too long. If he's teething give him baby tylenol or something that may help, it could be why he's having trouble sleeping. But we still can't just lay our child down and have her go to sleep on her own either, so I can't give too much advice, but she has started teething, and the tylenol has really helped her stay sleeping and she's falling to sleep within 5-15 mins. instead of 1/2 hour or longer and stays sleeping.

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Try reading The No Cry Sleep Solution for toddlers and preschoolers. There's some good info in that book, and its worked well for us. I still rock my 16 month old daughter, but not for more than 10 minutes. I view it as our cuddle time instead of a chore I MUST do. I look at it this way, I don't know any teenagers who have to be rocked to be put to sleep..

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Hi. I have a 14 month old boy. My little guy started taking one nap instead of two around 10 months. Of course every child is different. To switch him from two to one.. I kept him really busy around his first nap time and then put him down in between the two times he usually would go down... so if his nap times are 10 and 3 try like 1:00. My guy puts himself down at night as well but doesn't for nap time either. He never had, so I don't even try anymore. But he is really easy to put down. I just rock with him sitting in my lap watching blues clues or some other cartoon he likes.. this makes my guy sleepier and then he will roll over and let me put him to sleep. Another thing is that you want make sure he is ready to go to sleep... my guys starts to get fussy and is asking to be held, so thats how I know he is ready - it lands about the same time everyday. I have to admit though my guy does use a pacifier at naptime... its the only time he gets it. But if don't want to resort to that I would say trying to find something else he trusts and soothes him, like a blanket or stuffy. Another thing, is make sure he if full and not hungry. Try to make his lunch right before his naptime. Sometimes my guy does decide to give me problems, like fights sleep big time by throwing fits and such, when he does this I put him in time out for one minute (you put a child in timeout according their age, so a two year old would go for two minutes) - well anyways timeout calms him down because he just happy that he being held again and doesn't fight me anymore. If that doesn't work try walking around holding him in the cradle position with a blanket over his face to make him want to close his eyes, and just give him a light shake or bounce as you are walking. If he likes you singing, this is good time to try that. I always am either singing to calm him down or have a tv on to block out any loud noises, such as a car honking its horn, or kids screaming outside, dogs barking; stuff like that. Well I hope something here helps. I firmly believe in schedules, and it sounds like you are doing that. I thnk your problem will be fixed by cutting him down to one nap... if you need more advice on how to that just let me know.

-J. (full time mother of 14 month-old)

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I do not think I would last more than 20 minutes myself. I think I would suggest trying some different things at bedtime. We are always having to change our bedtime routine with Jack who is now 2 1/2. Once he figures out the routine, then he fights it.

We used to to the rocking thing, but it kept taking longer and longer. We then were able to just put him in bed. Here are some other things that we have done prior to bedtime:

Sit in the living room and watch a show - he would either fall asleep during the show or get drowsy enough to put to bed.

Lay in our bedroom with the lights out and watch a show. Again he would fall asleep or get drowsy enough to put to bed.

Read books. We would read 4 or 5 books before bed.

You might try putting him to bed with some books to look at himself. You might also try playing a quiet music CD for him. He is probably having a harder time with seperation then napping. You might also try laying down in his room, so he is not afraid of you leaving until he falls asleep.

There are lots of things to try. Just remember - they will not go off to high school needing you to rock then to sleep. It will not last forever! Trust me - I know this. I am a mom to 7 children.

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I would try giving him the pacifier ONLY at bedtime. Sometimes children need that pacifier to soothe themselves-its a natural thing. My son is 2 and still has his pacifier ONLY in bed-trust me-HE WAS ADDICTED!! However, only having at night since he was about 15 months old has been great!! Do what you have to do to make things easier for both of you. Good Luck!!

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I felt horrible doing this but it worked....I let me son cry it out for an hour and a half one night. His dad and I weren't together but we were getting along (much better then than now lol) and he was there with me and he just supported me through it all. He said you are teaching him what he needs to learn. It took ONE night, that was it, one night of him screaming for that long. The next night he went in, cried for about 5 minutes and layed down and went to sleep. It was hard. You just have to be careful though cause we back tracked alot. Like every time I gave in, if he wasn't feeling good (which any mom would do!) when he got better it was like starting over. I wish you luck, it's hard. They say as long as they are dry, safe and not hungery then they can cry a lil while. BUT it's a lot easier to help them to sleep than to let it go!

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My son will be one on Nov. 5. Let me start by saying that I never wanted my son to use a pacifier but once he started teething (around 3 months) I saw the necessity of it. He is working on tooth #8 right now. There are times when he doesn't have his pacifier and is fine but at other times if he doesn't have it then his fingers or whatever he finds on the floor is in his mouth. I much prefer that it is the pacifier. Why did you take away the pacifier? I agree that I don't want a 3 or 4 year old walking around with a pacifer but a 1 year old seems acceptable to me. My story.... my son is very good about going to sleep without being rocked, without a bottle and usually only crys out once or twice during the night. Mostly because he has crawled into the corner of the crib. He started getting extremely fussy and I told my husband that we had to let him cry it out. Well after two nights of letting him cry for over and hour he broke out in a fever, stuffy nose, was teething and eventually was dianosed with an ear infection. The poor baby just wanted to be comforted. I felt like the worst mother in the world for letting him cry. It doesn't sound as if your son is sick. It sounds as if this is directly related to taking the pacifier away. If he is teething he may need it to sooth his gums.

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Hi E., I co~slept with my son until about a month or so ago (he's 31 months, or 2 1/2) because he refused to go to sleep by himself. The way it happened was almost on accident, but it worked and I kept it going. I was staying with a family member and she and I were busy doing other things at bedtime. So we put my son on the couch with his bear, a pillow, blanket and watching a movie. He's very stubborn and stayed awake during the whole movie, but afterwards he kind of fussed some and asked me to lay down with him. I told him that I couldn't because God Mimi needed my help and he layed there and watched and listened to us until he went to sleep. I think him being able to see me helped some. When we came back home, I put him in my bed (where he's used to sleeping) with my pillow, our blankets and his bear and lamb. I gave him a hug and a kiss and told him it was night night time and that I loved him and left the room leaving the door open just a crack with the light in the room on (he's afraid of the dark). The first few nights he cried for a long time and eventually he quieted down and fell asleep. It took about a week and a half for him to get that I wasn't going to lay down with him anymore and he doesn't usually fight me to go to bed anymore. It helps if you keep his usual routine except for laying down with him (ie. reading to him, bottle, etc.). If you can help it, DON'T check on him at all, or if you need to, only once or twice. When I did that, my son got upset all over again and now that I don't, he goes to sleep much faster. We're working on getting him used to going to sleep in his own bed now that he can go to sleep by himself. It's going to take some time, but don't lose hope, it WILL happen. :)

I hope this has helped!

~{@ J.

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