13 answers

Sleep Issues - San Diego,CA

So, I have this wonderful, very strong-willed and independant 2 1/2 year old daughter, that has had a habit of waking once or twice in the night (she is in her own room-we leave the door open) crying in a fit. When this happens we have tried going in and soothing her, but she ulitmately insists on my husband or myself staying until she falls back asleep. Sometimes she will only allow myself and others it's only daddy that will do. She often wants milk at those times too. We have tried everything from the above to "tougher love" which breaks my heart. We feel she is trying to get her way, so to speak, and have tried breaking the cycle. This has gone on for at least a year. Our Dr. thinks it may be night terrors and he thinks it should pass. Another issue is that most mornings she wakes up crying too. Almost as though she is angry she woke up! Other days she is sweet as pie upon waking. On top of all of that we have a really hard time getting her to sleep as well. We have watched her on the monitor and she just lays there looking around the room for at least an hour or so. She does have a nightlight and this falling alseep will sometimes happen as late as 11:00 or so. She is not a great napper, but she will take one most days. Any ideas? Or are we just being to soft?

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Featured Answers

You know it sounds like you're little one doesn't need a nap. As hard as it will be on you.... try eliminating the nap. I struggled with a similar situation and it improved when I let go of my "sanity" time (nap time).

Best Wishes!

More Answers

I think you are being too "hard." If this has been going on for a year, what you have doing hasn't been working.

I had the same "problem" with my children, but I just went to them at night and stayed with them until they fell asleep (so the problem was solved - it did not last a year +).

The real issue is that MOST human babies/young children expect/need human contact at night. (The other real issue is that we Western parents don't see this coming, and do not expect it. We expect them to sleep contently in their crib/bed alone the first few years without a peep. That's not really realistic.) Unfortunately, our culture (which encourages independence training since birth, encourages sleeping apart, separate sleeping rooms) does not encourage nighttime closeness. Yet babies, wake up terrified at night (it's dark! What's in the dark? Some animal that is going to "get me"? Where is my mother?) seek comfort, and we basically shut the door on them (mainstream books and magazines do not help).

My 8 yr old son used to wake up SCREAMING hysterically when he was that age. It wasn't night terrors. I always went to him and just stayed in his twin bed because I was tired and wanted to sleep and not get back up. He usually woke up at 2am and woke up a lot after that.

My now 4 yr old daughter basically slept through the night, but would wake up at 5-6am, quietly walk through a very long hallway, quietly knock at my door and I would just stay "hi sweetie" take her hand, walk her back and cuddle with her. She was grateful (for the immediate kind response) and so was I was for the way she handled it.

Children cannot fall back to sleep easily if their body is in a HIGH STRESS situation. That's why the screaming is going on (hysterics/panic). Really, if you are little and a night light is on, it's not enough. If you just really want/need human reassurance that you are safe, a night light ain't gonna cut it.

(Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's SLEEPLESS IN AMERICA has a great chapter on explaining that topic.


So, to help my children get back to a very relaxed state, for their bodies to feel really, really relaxed, I lie next to them. (I'm not stressed or angry either. If I am, they pick up on it and stay wide awake.) They fall asleep in 5-10 minutes. No screaming, no begging for this or that (when I know what they really want is one thing - human touch.)

If your daughter just wants you to stay with her, go for it. If she doesn't need you to lie next to her to relax to go to sleep (rejoice) and do it. Help her to relax her body. But it is essential if you do this NOT to get angry about it, because if you are (and I speak from experience) it will keep her awake). Slowly, she will learn that nighttime is safe, she can count on her parents (she is ALWAYS safe, but she needs to learn this first) and eventually she won't need you in the room. But don't push this issue now. Be gentle with her.


3 moms found this helpful

Hi U.

Poor you! Don't worry... exactly the same thing happened with me and my daughter who is now 2 and a quarter. She too wakes through the night, always wanting milk, and whinges and whines, rather than screams and sobs.

We don't have a nightlight, but I have left the hallway light on, on occasion, but find she sleeps better/faster in a darkened room.

So - what we did was we moved her room around, moved her bed, put a bedside table next to it, so it was a 'grown up girls room'. Then we gave her a bottle of milk (or a sippy cup) to go to bed with, which she puts on the bedside table when she's finished, and then when I go to bed, I fill the bottle again and leave it for her, for when she wakes in the night. It took a bit of getting used to, but now she just reaches for the bottle, has a drink, puts it back and goes back to sleep.

I hope you find a solution - try not to worry too much, it's pretty normal for children to have peaks and troughs in terms of sleeping through the night. Perhaps she has her big back teeth coming through (they come around 2-3years), and they are giving her pain, waking her and then she's looking for something comforting - milk!

Good luck!
C. x

1 mom found this helpful

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1 mom found this helpful

if she's wanting to be carried and asking for milk, it's not night terrors. when your child has night terrors, they scream and cry and do not want to be picked up. they're really still asleep and only they can stop themselves. while it's horrible to have to wait it out, that's all you can do. if it's not night terrors, just check on her to make sure that she's safe and not hurt, reassure her briefly, and leave the room. she doesn't need to drink milk. my son (21 months) used to a grumpy boy upon waking, but has slowly, but surely learned to wake up a little happier. it's a personality thing, no big deal. you don't say what time she's being put to bed, but it's important that she have a consistent bedtime.

Hi U. :) Have you tried waiting until your daughter has been awake for several hrs. then letting her play in a nice warm bath or swimming for about an hr.? It works wonders for my 2 1/2 yr. daughter at naptime as well as before bedtime. If we go swimming, I'll usually give her a bath/shower afterwards. That really knocks her out! Also, if you don't already do this, try reading alot of books together at bedtime & singing songs after turning off the lights. Sometimes she'll wiggle around for abit but might fall asleep shortly there after. Keep having fun being a mom, even enjoy the challenges. Best of luck to you.

Hi U., what alarms me a little is that you used words like she insists, or allows,? sweetie you and your husband have given this child power that she should not have. I have told peobably 50 to 60 young moms that if your child is waking up at night and you keep getting up and going in the room you are creatng the cycle/habit not stopping it,kids that way up and behave in this manner is because they know someone will come in, it's a form a manipulation, and if its not niped in bud now in will get worse, especially cause she is a girl. As a mom I know it breaks your heart when she cries
thats the manipulation, it will work everytime, just pull on the heart strings of a mom and get your way, I know I had 3 kids of course it tool we awhile to learn and catch on, but see I was the softy, daddy was the disipline person, so at least my kids had a balance, but one thing we always made sure of and that our kids knew we were the parents and they the children. J.

Does she snore? Does she have allergies or other breathing problems? If so, look into sleep apnea. Its actually pretty common in children and could explain waking up a lot. Poor baby! My heart goes out to her and you. If its night terrors, can you do anything for her? I would try to see a sleep specialist, there's got to be something.


Both my boys at just that age went through bad night terrors and nightmares. The night terrors were just terrifying because they aren't awake even though they seem to be. There is nothing you can do to console them. All you can do is keep them from getting hurt until the episode passes. At that age we started lots of soothing things to encourage non-scariness for lack of a better word. We walked their room and the rest of the upstairs saying good night to everything they needed too-pictures on the wall, books, nicknacks, the windows, the moon shining in the bathroom window..Anything. We made dream pillows and they have dream catchers about their beds. Nightlights, blankies and various sleeping buddies. My youngest had it so bad that we ended up with him sleeping in our bed most nights with my husband and I trying to calmly talk down a screaming, crying, thrashing and hitting child.
This is a great resource on night terrors on Dr Sears' web site http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/T071300.asp
I have the book this was in and once I read it after my son's first episode I was so relieved.
They weren't always as severe all the time, sometimes it would be no more than a nightmare they woke up to and didn't want to go back to sleep from for a while. Sleep deprivation is a cause.
There are some other great sections on Dr Sears' page about sleep issues. He has been my greatest inspiration in the way I parent and my kids are turning out great and I've been able to deal with everything they've thrown at me so far ^_~
Best of luck! I'm sure you'll work it out and it'll pass :)

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