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Putting Toddler to Sleep Question to 'No Cry' Moms

Hi Moms,

This question goes out to 'No Cry' Moms. I would like to know how/when you transitioned your toddler to going to sleep on their own. The easiest way for me to get my little one down to sleep is by holding him in my arms and walking him back and forth in a room (it takes me about 3 minutes to get him to sleep). In situations when I am too tired to walk him, I lay down and in his own time he lays down next to me and falls asleep (this can take a 1/2 hour or so). My husband thinks my little guy is too old for me to walk him to sleep which is why my question goes out to Moms for advice. Thanks!

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks to all the Moms that responded. Based on the recommendations I got I have changed our nap/sleep routine. Now, I say 'it's nap time' or 'bed time' and my little one knows to go up stairs and hop into bed with his book. To my surprise the transition was super easy. He only cried the first night (I was directly next to him). Because I already transitioned him out of his crib and into a full size bed, I can lay next to him and go through a book with him and help the sleep process along. Thanks a bunch!

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I think my daughter was about 18 months to 2 when she started sleeping somewhat on her own. We didn't really get her fully incorporated into her own bed/ down time until she was about 3-1/2 to 4. So, good luck with that! LOL I found once she was too big to hold, then it was easy to lie her down in her bed and stand beside her and rub her back/ pat her back till she fell asleep. ALSO helps if you can start to give them something to cuddle with at this transition, something they come to recognize with sleep only.

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Hi J.,
I don't have any advice for you, but I'm glad you posted this question. I don't walk, but I rock my 16 month old to sleep or lay down with her, too. However, it usually takes much longer than 3 minutes! My husband thinks she's WAY too big for this. So, I'm interested to see the responses you get. I cannot and will not let her stand in her crib and cry for Mama either. :)

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Hi J.,

First, I don't think that 1 is too old to rock to sleep at all. I was still nursing both my boys to sleep at 1. My younger son (not including the one in my belly) is 2 and we just recently (in the last few months) started the process that worked really well with my older son when he was 2 (now 5 years old).

First, make sure you have a consistent bedtime routine. At the same time every night, brush teeth (or tooth, or just gums) ;o), put PJ's on, then read a couple of books snuggled together in a chair or in bed (or whatever you want to do). Some kids (maybe needing to be slightly older?), also really like having visuals to help them understand their bedtime routine. For example, print or color or cut out pictures of specific steps (brushing teeth, putting on PJ's, reading, sleeping.) If you talk about them before you start the routine, they get into it. The routine also really helps the little ones understand what's to come.

Sometimes my boys would fall asleep during reading time, but if not, we started with snuggling with them in their bed until they fell asleep for a few months. In the last week or so, we would talk about taking the next "big boy" step (to prepare them for a change), then we would stay in their bed for a specific amount of time, then move to the floor right next to their bed (usually keeping a hand up on the bed touching them) for a few months. This transition usually includes some whining and a little crying, but you are right there and if you stay firm, yet assure them that you're right there, it will probably only take a few nights for him to get used to the idea. For the next few months, we would again start talking a week or so before the change about the next step, which was to stay and cuddle for the specific amount of time, then leave the room. (We starting with 30 minutes and worked it down to 15.) We have stayed with the 15 minutes for several years with my 5yo because we both really enjoy that time that we have together to snuggle, and he usually falls asleep before the 15 minutes is up anyway.

Around 3yo, we also started doing a 5 minute "talking time" after reading time where my oldest could talk and "clear his head" before cuddling to fall asleep - but then it was "quiet time" and time to go to sleep. This helps get all the thoughts out to help him relax, but that's not until he gets a bit older obviously. Explaining the time thing might not work too well with a 1 year old yet either, since they have little to no concept of it at this point, but the idea is to figure out some sort of similar gradual process. Again, it did involve a little bit of whining/crying, but nothing like the CIO method. (This all is only if YOU'RE really wanting to do this, not just your husband.) I know having a "lovey" helps with some kids too, though it never worked with mine. I've heard the key is to wear stuff it in your shirt about 5 - 10 minutes before bedtime so it gets your scent on it. Another thought is to add to the routine, something like "we get to have 10 kisses, then it's bed time."

Another thought to share is to have your husband help put him to bed at night. My husband and I switched off every other night when we had one, and have switched off with each child with 2 every other night (he puts one to bed and I put the other to bed). I have no idea what we're going to do when the 3rd comes. We'll be outnumbered! ;o) I realize that some hubby's are better about night-time involvement than others, but it's not only reasonable and fair - it also helps the separation for night time, so if you're husband wants to participate in taking the steps to help make what he thinks is necessary possible, then that will be a huge helping factor.

As a final note, ENJOY THIS TIME! I still get to have it with both of my boys, but I know that it will be soon enough that they won't want me there anymore.

Also, never doubt your own feelings/instincts as a mother! :o)

Best of luck to you!

4 moms found this helpful

We had a similar situation where we would give our daughter milk and rock her to sleep. How we did the transition to help her go to sleep on her own was 2 things:

We got her a lovey, or more accurately she was given a pre-loved bear blanky (the little Carters ones) by the son of our friend who was 3 and apparently ready to fly solo :-) I left it with her in her crib and after about 2 weeks I noticed that she wanted it when it was bedtime or naptime. It's made a HUGE difference in how well she can sooth herself back to sleep and it gives her a piece of home when she has to stay at nanas or a babysitter. Studies have actually shown that toddlers with loveys were as secure in new or unfamiliar situations as if their mothers were with them.

Second we used sort of a "WIO" Whine It Out method rather than "CIO" Cry It Out method. I began by rocking my daughter with her milk, then putting her in her crib drowsy but still awake. She would inevitably start crying when I left and I would only stay out for a few minutes. Then I would go back in and put her back in my lap for as long as she stayed quiet. If she fell asleep, that was fine...but if she wanted to get down or play or anything but quietly sleep I would put her back in her crib for another 1-2 minutes of crying. Then I would go back in and repeat the process. After about 3 days of her falling asleep on my lap every night still, I left her and she didn't cry she just kind of whined for about 15 minutes then fell asleep on her own! I think part of the key is to separate crying from whining. I only went back in if she was all out crying, not for just whining or "complaining".

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My daughter was ready to go down by herself shortly before her 2nd birthday. We transitioned her to her own room and bed at about 21 months, but I would nurse her to sleep most of the time. It took 2-3 months for her to transition from nursing to sleep, to falling asleep on her own. Before bed, we still read her a book, cuddle, and nurse. It usually takes about 30 minutes total. She's usually awake when I leave her room, but at 1, it's totally reasonable that your son would need or want you to help him fall asleep.

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Hi J.,
If I could get my toddler to sleep in 3 minutes I would be ecstatic. He's almost three now, but has always been a little hard to get down for the night. However, at the same time, I just love the cozy, relaxed time we are spending together in the process. I treasure it because it is a special one on one intimate time for us, for me it is a break from the hectic multi-tasking life of my days, and I know it is a brief time in our lives together. In fact I know that this may be part of the problem with him not dozing off more quickly, but I don't care too much! The only thing left for me after he goes to bed is chores and a shower and bed myself.

But, if you want him to be able to fall asleep without the walking, I think a gradual process will help. All of our sleep transitions have only worked when done gradually (a week or two). So, walk until he's almost asleep, then lay him down, you can pat or rub his back after laying him down until he falls asleep. But if he fusses to the point of waking himself all the way up again, pick him up and walk him to the point of being almost asleep again. It seems like a chore, but it should work out.

Sorry to say but I just disagree with your husband. I don't know of any 1 year olds who you can just lay down and have them fall asleep. Maybe there are some, but there's no *should* about it.

Best wishes.

3 moms found this helpful

Hi J.,
I don't have any advice for you, but I'm glad you posted this question. I don't walk, but I rock my 16 month old to sleep or lay down with her, too. However, it usually takes much longer than 3 minutes! My husband thinks she's WAY too big for this. So, I'm interested to see the responses you get. I cannot and will not let her stand in her crib and cry for Mama either. :)

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I don't think that he is too old to walk to sleep. If it is only a few minutes what is the harm? I think it is nice to cuddle with the kids for a few minutes when the day is over, and it is much better than having them cry for a half hour. My two year old still needs that too. I would say as long as it's not a burden for you or you have a lot of back pain ;) why not.

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Our son turned two last week, and we rocked him to sleep at nap and bedtime until he was about 18 months, but he wasn't sleeping through - and so I'd be up rocking him back to sleep once or twice (or more!!) in the middle of the night, too! I decided to transition him to going to sleep in his crib by lying down on the floor next to him and slipping my hand through the bars of the crib. He'd hold my hand (or my husbands) until he fell asleep. This technique also worked in the middle of the night. After two or so months of this, we stopped holding his band and would simply lie down hext to him, and then we started sitting in the rocking chair scross the room from his crib until he's asleep. This has been working great, though I'm ready to move on to the next step - moving the chair across the room close to the bedroom door, and then into the doorway and then out into the hall... I'd like to move him into a toddler bed in the next few months, but I want him to be able to put himself to sleep alone before then (or at least be comfortable lying in his bed awake!) Good luck to you. Transitioning him will probably go more smoothly than you think it will.

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I am probably no help, but If you love the time that you get with your boy by holding him, then do it. These times are so short and it is nice when you can snuggle with them. Before you know it, they are big and don't want you to be close. My daughter, the oldest, has autism and she really never wanted to snuggle much, so when my son came along and loves to snuggle with me for sleepy time, I totally cherish and take in every min... Good luck!

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I rocked my little ones, and I also would lay down with them to get them to sleep when they were little. I think it ended at about 4 years old. The older they get, the harder it gets for them sometimes to make the transition to being alone when they go to bed, but if you have the time, then by all means enjoy the time. I would caution you however, that it is *in my opinion* not a good idea to start laying down and having your child when they will eventually come lay down for bed. He/she needs to learn that bedtime is bedtime, and you are the adult. He's way to young to have that kind of control over those decisions. It breeds problems down the road because kids today feel "entitled" and come to expect that they run the show. They need to earn those priviledges as they mature.

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Enjoy it !!!! they grow so fast

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3 minutes???

Wow. My kids took like 20 or 30, most nights, when they were babies (I think still around age 1), or me laying down with them.

I coslept at some level with the kids (eg., falling asleep with them in their bed before moving to my own) until at least age two in I think all four cases. Sometimes I still do, if a kid had a bad day or wakes up nightmaring or something.

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I rock my son in a rocking chair. The rocking time got shorter gradually. He used to want to fall asleep in my arms, however, now I rock him for a few minutes until he is drowsy, then put him to his crib awake (that's the key) & he finishes falling asleep on his own. Leaving his room is usually not a problem, but when he protests occasionally, I lay down on a carpet next to his crib & once he is sure I am still there he falls asleep quickly. I found falling asleep on his own is easier if we spent a whole day together, however, on days that I work & he misses me, I have to hold him longer. He determines how long he wants to be held. I avoid cry-it-out & power struggles altogether. The No-Cry Sleep Solution is a great resource for teaching your son to fall asleep on his own. We make sure to put him to bed at the same time every day - 8 pm. He also has a stuffed bear & blanket for comfort (he carries those everywhere with him). We have a routine going: watch the good night show (cartoon of various animals falling asleep), change into his pajamas, drink his bottle of milk, brush teeth, rock with Mommy, & then go to his crib.

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I think my daughter was about 18 months to 2 when she started sleeping somewhat on her own. We didn't really get her fully incorporated into her own bed/ down time until she was about 3-1/2 to 4. So, good luck with that! LOL I found once she was too big to hold, then it was easy to lie her down in her bed and stand beside her and rub her back/ pat her back till she fell asleep. ALSO helps if you can start to give them something to cuddle with at this transition, something they come to recognize with sleep only.

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When my boys were younger I used to walk them around my dining room table for up to a hour every night, on nights I was to exhausted my husband would do it. Then I would very carefully and slowly slip into bed with my baby in my arms and breathe a sigh of relief when he wouldn't wake up, It was tough at the time, but now that my kids are 12 and 14 I have to say I would do anything to have that experience one more time with them. When I finally put my oldest in his crib it was hard on both of us, he did cry the first night but after that he did fairly well.

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I tend to agree with your husband. If you read Weissbluth's book (which, yes does have its faults) one of the important points he makes is that; we will set limits for our kids in so many ways, why do we feel bad about doing it for sleep? For example, you aren't going to let him eat only junk food because he will whine and cry about it otherwise, will you? You aren't going to let him walk alone in a parking lot because he refuses to hold your hand, are you? Why would you allow him to develop unhealthy sleep habits?

As a grown-up who had terrible sleep habits as a child, and still deals with sleep issues, I would try to find what works best for helping your son learn to sleep on his own. Being sleep deprived is one of the absolute worst ways to grow up! As a parent who was very concerned about "training" my toddler to have bad sleep habits, I think what you are doing now (only 3 minutes? that hardly seems like an issue) would be easy to transition him to doing alone.

I tried the "no cry" methods, but it seemed like as soon as we were having some tangible progress, something would derail it. We eventually resorted to CIO, and it took 2 nights of tears before she figured it out. I'm not suggesting that is the route you go, but as someone who was completely opposed to it with every ounce of my being, it ended up being what worked. Our pediatrician said it's much easier to do before they turn one though.

I find a gazillion other ways to snuggle and get quiet time and love with my daughters other than when it's time for them to fall asleep. Sure, it's an easy time to do it, but if it's more for *my* emotional needs, than theirs--it's selfish and detrimental.

Best luck!

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I want to reiterate that you have a good thing going. I don't know many toddlers that go to sleep on their own at two, let alone at one. This includes people who have done the CIO method, now that their kids are in toddler beds and can get out.

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We taught our daughter to fall asleep on her own when she was about 4 months old. Yes, there was some crying involved for the first 1.5 weeks or so, but after that she was just fine. Now we have a 20 months old who knows her bedtime and actually walks over to us, takes us by the hand and leads us to her bed so we can tuck her in and she goes to sleep all by herself. Teaching your kid independence early is very important and we're glad we did it the way we did.

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I nursed mine to sleep as long as they nursed (2-1/2 & 4-1/2 years) and then snuggled them to sleep as long as they wanted after that (a couple more years, off and on). It sounds like it's no problem at all for him to fall asleep with you, so why make it into a problem? They grow up so fast, and this time is so special!

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Well, at that age I still nursed my daughter to sleep, but after weaning I changed our routine to holding her until she fell asleep and slowly transitioned to story time and cuddling. Now she is 2 and we have a bedtime routine of laying down together (in our bed, since she is still in a crib), reading a book, turning off the light and then I lay her down in her own room when she gets tired but is not yet asleep. The time has gone down from about 45 min at the beginning to now about 5-15 minutes.

Now, I work full time and for me, this snuggle and "talk" time is extremely important, more so than "teaching her how to fall asleep alone". Even now I use this time to recount the events of the day and establish a routine for sharing our thoughts (of course it's more babbling right now).

I actually hope to keep this going as long as I can, (hopefully well into her teenage years) and having the time before bedtime as a time to share what's happening in our lives and have a mom - daughter conversation time.

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When my son turned one, he decided he just wasn't going to fall asleep with me just rocking him. So, I started reading to him at that age. I would sit and rock and read Winnie The Pooh and he was soon fast asleep. A time did come when he didn't fall alseep rocking and I would just lay him in bed (crib) and turn on his music (Ocean Wonders Aquarium) and he'd go to sleep on his own with maybe just a little comforting from me. But, I highly suggest starting to read him to sleep now. It works great and definately helps them to love story time :) Once he was in a big boy bed then I'd lay next to him and read him his stories instead of rocking him.
Editing to say... I do have a daughter who is 8 months old and has gone to sleep by herself (her choice) since 8 weeks old. For her, I just lay her in her bed, give her her binkie and blankie, turn on her rainforest music thing and pretty soon she goes to sleep. Occasionally I do have to go in and soothe her if she starts to cry but that is rare. I think if you give a baby the tools to soothe themsleves then they can learn. It just takes patients and the desire to find what it is that is going to work for the child.

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