19 answers

My 22 Month Old Now Cries for 10-20 Minutes at Bedtime, After We Leave Her Room

My daughter has slept through the night, with very few problems, since she was 5 months old. Throughout that time, when we would first lay her down and leave the room, she would cry for maybe 1 minute, and then drift off to sleep.

She recently turned 22 months old, and now we notice that she cries for a longer period of time when we leave the room -- usually for 10-20 minutes. We do not go back in. She is very smart, and we believe that if we go back in, she will know that her game is working, and there will be even more crying, in order for us to go back in.

We've also noticed that she cries out a few times during the night. And she is waking up an hour earlier in the morning. This all began happening at the same time. Nothing in her room has changed. I should also note that she is in good spirits leading up to bedtime. She likes the bath. She likes her story time. (We have always done a relaxing 30 minute bedtime routine.) She even says goodnight cheerfully. We sing one song as we are turning off the lights and laying her down, and she is fine then too. But, when we open her door to leave, she begins wailing.

I should also note that her room is very dark (we've not put a nightlight in there, because we thought she might be too intrigued by seeing all of the things in her room, and would want to play, rather than sleep).... But I wonder if maybe she is afraid of the dark?

I wonder if this has happened to other moms when their children approached the age of two. Is there anything else we can be doing? Do you think a nightlight would help?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

In the few days since I posted this question, we've noticed that the crying has stopped when we leave the room. Although, she is beginning to cry out a few times during the night. If it continues longer than a few minutes, I go in and tell her that it is still night time, and she needs to go back to bed, which seems to be ok with her most of the time. Thank you to everyone, except for Anita K, who decided to tell me she is sad for my baby, because apparently I am a terrible mother. Mamapedia really isn't a place for you to belittle other moms. Why don't you read the comments of some of other women who answered the question - many of them don't believe in CIO, but found a respectful way to communicate that.

Featured Answers

I would try a nightlight. They don't have fears when they are younger, but she may be developing them now. I don't use CIO so I would go in and comfort her so it does not escalate. I think that is too long to leave a child crying, but that is just me. Best of luck to you.

It sounds like you're doing all the right things. I wouldn't get a nightlight because I've heard kids don't get a fully good night sleep with one. Just keep doing what you're doing and don't give in. Good luck!

More Answers

You might considering checking her gums and see if she's cutting her two-year molars. Both of my daughters got theirs around this time. With the second one, it was quite a drawn out process and definitely made her more irritable and affected her sleep. If this is what's going on, there's not much you can do, but it might give you some more understanding of the reason for the crying and changes in sleep behavior and affect how you choose to deal with it.

1 mom found this helpful

Yes, at around two years old toddlers start to get a better awareness of things around them. She may have a very real fear of the dark that has developed, or perhaps a fear of being left alone. A very small night light might help to assuage her fears (they make some really neat ones now), and also the knowledge that you are nearby. When my son was first sleeping in his own bed, we counted the steps between our rooms, as a way to make him feel better ("only ten steps to Mommy and Daddy's room!"). As she gets older, she will change her fears and worries according to her new and heightened awareness of things, and also your perceptions that she picks up on. Also, just as a side note, her sleep needs will probably change around now, she might not want to nap anymore, and getting up earlier is par for the course-she doesn;t want to miss a single thing! Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I would go back into her room, pick her up, give her a hug, cradle her for a minute to reassure her that you're still there for her. While you're holding her, explain that everyone's going to sleep. Pick a doll or stuffed animal to snuggle with her and say good night to the doll, say good night to all the things in the room. We put my daughter in a big girl bed (with a guard rail) when she was 16 months old and she's been great, now she's 28 months. As they get older, they need things explained more as she understands more. The cry it out method never appealed to me.?!

1 mom found this helpful

my son went through a similar thing around 2.
We ended up getting a very dim night light, that he turns on when we head into the room for bed, and he helps turn on his relaxing music. He now runs right into bed, and says nigh night and blows kisses as i leave the room.

so im thinking he was more aware of how dark it was and maybe he was scared.

1 mom found this helpful

my 35 month old does almost EXACTLY what you described! I tell myself I will go into his room after 30 min IF he is hysterical - he then needs consoling, then he's fine. I do not know how to assess the scared of the dark thing though - he is a preemie and we have 4 noise type things (aquarium & turtle etc) that will calm him down as well. Maybe get something that goes for 2 minutes or so them shuts off. i also use that as a marker, as in, "mommy will snuggle you until birdies are done"...try it!


What do you think will happen if you respond to her and comfort her? She will not need you forever, why not meet her needs now?
My daughter does cry out occasionally after she goes to bed, and then in the middle of the night, I go to her, pat her back and leave when she falls asleep. Then there are periods of time where she sleeps right through and doesn't need me at all at night.
Their needs change so much during these early years - I really do not believe that comforting our children when they need it is a bad thing. It models compassion and shows them you are always there for them. Parenting is not about "convenience."

Hi A.,
Sounds like things are awesome (and normal), good job!

My personal thoughts for my own children was that their crying actually was a "release" of energy; a way for them to relax, get rid of the day's excitement, and fall asleep. My two also still call out or wake in the middle of the night. I also consider this normal (for us: lol!)


I agree with D.M. no night light, let her cry it out. The good news is she is persistent, and she knows what she wants! Great quality to behold! As adults we also suggest fear and teach our children fear. Safe places like the bed at night don't need to be fearful. Lots of parents get the fear suggestion wrong like looking at their children with a concerned look and saying, "Are you afraid?" Next thing you know the fear card is played over and over through manipulation. Consistency is the key and it sounds like you are doing all the right things. Parenting can be exhausting, welcome!
Good luck,

It sounds to me like she loves you very much and she's just sad that she can't stay with you. I think you're doing just fine. It's just sweet that she's sad to have your time together end. I don't think a nightlight is necessary. When I was younger and my parents put a nightlight in my room I started having problems with the shadows it caused because I'd imagine monsters. I refuse to use nightlights also because they've been linked to nearsightedness. Good luck!

I have 11month old twins and we purchased them a "Twilight Turtle" when they were about 8 months old. We were afraid they may be afraid of the dark so we wanted to get them a nightlight that wouldn't hold their interest but rather just give them a soothing and subtle light source. It's really cool! The shell of the turltle is plastic with severel star-shaped holes cut into it and the body is plush. There are 3 light colors to choose from; green, blue and amber. It stays on for 45 minutes and then automatically shuts off. Also, when lit, the stars make out constellations on the walls and ceiling of the room. Very cool. If you are interested just Google "Twilight Turtle" and it will come up. Hope this helps.

I think it's pretty common around this age... if she's been a good sleeper, hopefully it's just a phase. It was for us- and we were also afraid it would turn into a game. Especially as potty training comes in- it becomes "I have to go potty, I need a drink...." etc for hours. We had this issue for a while and I would let her look at a book in her bed and snuggle a couple of stufffed animals with a dim light until she fell asleep. I have many pictures of her with a book on her while she's sleeping :) I know many will think this is bad, but it worked well for us... she never fought us about bed time and she enjoyed looking at her books and pretending to read stories to her "friends" (stuffed animals). We just had the rule that she couldn't get out of bed or turn on the big light. I would go in in just a little while and turn out the light- and if she wasn't asleep I would try again to tell her it's bedtime. I figured as long as she was being good and settling in I was okay with her being up a little later- made less stress on her and us. We did start using night lights around that age too because she said she was afraid- the automatic led ones are very dim. You will get mixed opinions about everything from everyone, but this worked for us and I have a 5 yr old and a 3 yr old that go to bed happily (and early!) without much effort on our part. Oh, we also use soft music too.

Just a note about nightlights; if she doesn't use one now, don't start. There may be a correlation between light at night and breast cancer. You can google it, but I've seen a few studies on it. If she hasn't said she's scared, she's probably not. When our daughter said something about a light at night (grandma has one in her bedroom when she spends the night over there occasionally), we purchased her a tiny battery-operated flashlight that she has next to her on her bed. She'll turn it on, then turn it off (I always check after she's fallen asleep)

It sounds like you're doing all the right things. I wouldn't get a nightlight because I've heard kids don't get a fully good night sleep with one. Just keep doing what you're doing and don't give in. Good luck!

I have never believed in Cry it Out. My sons are 4 and 6 and they sleep fine. I can't believe anyone would allow their child to cry for 20 minutes without finding out why -- all they learn is that it's useless to communicate with someone because no one will listen.

I do have a great resource for you: "The No-cry Sleep Solution" by E. Pantley. It has worked wonders for us in setting limits and getting our boys to sleep, without making them cry it out. I think it could help you too.

Sleep patterns change as they grow. You just have to roll with it. So much good luck to you.

Trust your instincts. There are many phases with children and you know what is best for your daughter. I know you will do a great job. Hang in there. Cheers, B

my son used to do that actually he still does do that every now and then. Its ok. She just wants your attention and to keep playing i think. As for being afraid of the dark...you could put a cute nitelight of her fave character r something. I do believe that would help. we have 2 for our sons room one is just a regular nitelight another is a glowing globe of kai-lan..his fave cartoon. might be something worth trying. At this age the sleep schedule changes too. Our lil noodies cries out sometimes as well. I think hes having a bad dream which can happen. dont worry about it too much. just give plenty of x's n o's

We use a nightlight. When my daughter turned 19 months she started having what I think is separation anxiety. I read it's very common at 18 months. We use to be able to just put her down after reading books but now she wants us to stay in there for a little bit. It's been going on for a couple months now. We just do it. Maybe that is wrong. I don't know. I guess you have to find out what works for you. We did do cry it out when she was younger because we tried everything else. I am working on her crying in the morning now between 5-6. I think eventually your daughter will stop. You just have to see how long this goes on and may have to re-evaluate what you are doing. I also read that two year molars can start at 23 months. I especially wanted to comment on your what happened. It drives me FING nuts when people do use Mamapedia to belittle other moms. Thanks for saying that!

Hi A.,

I think you are right about her hoping that by crying, you'll change your way of ending night-night time and cmoe back in. And I think you are right to not go back in.

Since she had a good bedtime routine before this, she is probably going through some changes in her development, which partly makes her test you at bedtime. It could also be a reason she is waking early, unless the issue stems from no longer needing an afternoon nap.

Stand firm in your expectation of her self-soothing without your coming back in the room. I don't think there's anything wrong with a nightlight - how about finding some in a store that you are willing to buy, then take her with you and show them to her. If she wants one, let her pick between the ones you would let her have. If she has even more trouble going down once you put it in her room, you can always tell her it has to go if she doesn't go to sleep.

It is good to get this handled now, before potty training starts. Then things might change again. A potty chair in her room at night so that she doesn't go outside her room might help you then. (Of course, unless she sleeps through the night and has wonderful dry nights! Oh, we can dream!!)

All my best,

I would try a nightlight. They don't have fears when they are younger, but she may be developing them now. I don't use CIO so I would go in and comfort her so it does not escalate. I think that is too long to leave a child crying, but that is just me. Best of luck to you.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.