I Can't Get My 16 Month Old to Go to Sleep on His Own!

Updated on August 17, 2009
A.S. asks from Ellerslie, GA
11 answers

My 16 month old son has been waking up for several weeks in the middle of the night and will not go back to sleep unless I just give in and put him in the bed with my husband and I. July was a stressful month and he has been teething badly so I thought that was all it was. It isn't stopping. I think my biggest problem is that I rock him to sleep every night and he cannot get to sleep on his own now. I have been trying for the past couple of days to put him down awake and let him cry it out. I hate it, but I know this is my fault and it will be better for him in the long run. The problem is that now he starts to panic whenever you go into his room and gets himself all worked up. I have tried everything I can think of. He panics being in the crib on his own. I am not being dramatic. He was so upset last night his pj's were soaked with sweet and he was starting to hyperventalate. I even tried laying on the floor last night so I was close, but still letting him fall back to sleep on his own. He screamed less, but still didn't go to sleep. Does anyone have any advice on how to transition him to fall asleep on his own? I am tired and I really want to do what is best for him, but I don't feel like this is working.

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answers from Atlanta on

Think of it from his perspective: you're terrified of being alone in the dark, and when you scream no one comes to help you.

Crying it out doesn't teach them anything except that you don't come when they need you. Most of the experts--including Ferber--have now recanted their support of CIO. In repeated instances, it's been known to cause brain damage. It's not something you want to do.

He's a baby. He still needs you. Who cares if he can't put himself to bed yet? Unless you're planning to go out and leave him on his own, rock him to sleep. I promise you won't still be doing it when he's 10. Children learn independence when they know someone is there to support them; they learn clinginess when they have to beg for that same support. What's best for him is getting him to sleep happily, and teaching him that his bed is not a scary place where he is abandoned.

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answers from Atlanta on

We just went through this with our 15 month old. He had started getting up every night - I thought it would pass, because at 6 months he did it for 2 weeks and then stopped. But it went on for a month. As much as I knew it would cause us problems, we had begun rocking him to sleep because it seemed that nothing else would work. Otherwise he would immediately stand up and scream. I read a lot and had decided he'd just have to cry it out.

He cried for 15 minutes, and I swear he was going to hyperventilate. We decided that that method just wasn't right for us. Sure, it's worked for plenty of people, but we decided to start small and work our way up. So our game plan was to lay him down while he was still awake but drowsy, and every time he stood up, lay him back down, and in a very matter of fact tone and showing no emotion say "it's time for night night, lay down and go night night". As soon as he stood up (within seconds), do the same thing. No stimulation at all. Each night only one of us would do it. My husband took on the first night.

In the monitor I watched as he carried it out, but sang to him the whole time. I was out of my mind, and came so close to running in and asking what the heck he was doing! But I have to say that it worked. He struggled, but the first night he was asleep within an hour or so, the second maybe half an hour. And he's only woken up once during the night since (a couple of months)! I truly believe that the problem was twofold: falling asleep in one place and waking up in another, and we took from him the ability to comfort himself back to sleep.

At first we did sit in the glider until he fell asleep, but we have been leaving increasingly early and can usually just walk out. Another thing that we were going to try but never needed to was to use one of the sound machines that have a little projector that cycles fish and other kiddie images on the ceiling (or wherever). A friend used it and her son would lay and stare at it until he finally fell asleep.

I hope this helps somewhat. I felt like everything I read was very cookie cutter, and that with my child bordering on hyperventilation, it wasn't as simple as some made it out to be. Hopefully you will find options that work for you and your child.

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answers from Charleston on

Susanna and Lynn said it better than I. Babies are not designed to sleep without their parents. Historically sleeping alone is a relatively NEW approach to child rearing.

He'll fall asleep on his own when he's ready. It's like potty training, each child is different.



answers from Savannah on

Hey there! I have two kids, and I didn't do anything differently w/either...one sleeps wonderfully, always has...the other (my now almost six year old)NEVER has. As an infant he only slept if a warm body was near him...my oldest wanted complete space to spread her legs and slept wonderfully in her own bed. Anyhow, I tried EVERYTHING, and it only got worse (he started catapulting himself out of his crib in the middle of the night and screaming so loudly the entire house would awaken) then, one day when my son was almost three decided I did not care where he slept at 3am, as long as we were all sleeping. I was getting less and less sleep by trying different methods to make him sleep in his own bed and it wasn't as if I had to go and sleep in his room to get him to fall asleep (so he wasn't affecting my time alone w/my husband). He is nearly six now, still comes in our room in the very early am hours on occasion, sometimes he doesn't. If I've learned anything, it's that I am alot happier when I've had sleep...I don't really think it's anything you are doing, you just have a little one that loves a warm body.



answers from Atlanta on

Snuggling your baby to sleep is not a "bad habit" - you are being an awesome mom when you do that so PLEASE don't feel guilty for doing anything wrong. You certainly aren't hurting your baby - when he learns that you will comfort him and take care of him when he's lonely or scared, it makes him *more* secure, not less. Lynn Z. (below) had great advice. (Not only will you not be rocking them to sleep when they're 10 as Lynn mentioned, you'll be *missing* not being able to do that.)

Someone said "Babies are wise....they will get conditioned to having you react to their crying...that is how they know to get your attention." As if that were a bad thing.
Yes, babies ARE wise. They know what they need and they know how to ask for it - this is GOOD! When he learns that you will respond to his needs, he learns that the world is a secure place and maybe he won't be devoured by wolves. Whereas, if left to cry it out, "the child stops crying because he learns that he can no longer hope for the caregiver to provide comfort, not because his distress has been alleviated." Ouch!

And as far as "crying never hurt a baby...," researchers at Harvard and Yale Medical schools say otherwise:

Here's 10 MORE reasons why you have no reason to feel guilty for your "bad habit." Science is on your side!

Plenty of parents not only rock or snuggle their kids until they fall asleep, they share their beds with their young children and often in those families, everyone sleeps better because of it. (Not saying you have to, just that there's nothing wrong with it and it's there's a lower risk of SIDS - contrary to popular opinion, it's SAFER than leaving a baby to sleep all alone, assuming you can keep them from rolling off and you're not stone drunk.) For some people this puts too much strain on their marriage and would lead to divorce - it's not for everyone. But if the parents are comfortable with it, the only effects on children are positive. THE GOAL IS THAT EVERYONE GETS THE SLEEP THEY NEED AND EVERYONE'S NEEDS ARE RESPECTED.

PLEASE beware of "sleep trainers" for the reasons above - there is the assumption that babies "need" to learn to sleep alone by some certain age or "they'll NEVER learn", which is complete hogwash. With sleep trainers, everything is skewed to parental convenience rather than listening to what your baby is TELLING you he needs. (Sleep trainers, in case you aren't aware of the term, focus on making the baby sleep alone through the night no matter what, people like Ferber, the "baby whisperer", the Ezzos <cringe>, moms on call.) They also have unrealistic expectations of "normal infant sleep." See
<a href="http://www.kellymom.com/parenting/sleep/sleep.html&quot;&... infant sleep. </a>

When you hold your baby or rock him to sleep, or snuggle him down or nurse or whatever, think about how quickly this stage will pass, how every single day he gets a little bigger, how wonderful it is to feel his warm body and hear his breathing gradually slow down as he drifts off to sleep and how you'll want to remember that sound and that feeling for the rest of your life, and how you won't be able to snuggle him in a few short years. Cherish his babyhood while you can.



answers from Athens on

Hi, I'm new on this site, so I don't know if I have to go somewhere else to see the other responses that you have received because I don't want to repeat what other people are saying.
If you truly want to break this habit it is probably going to be a long hard road because of the habits you have taught him, but it can be done. Do you read a lot?
There is a book called The Baby Whisper, by Tracy Hogg. It is a life saver. It was for me, and it was for every person I have ever recommended it to.
Because your problem is pretty extensive you might want to pick up The Baby Whisperer Solves all your Problems. In that book she goes into extensive detail about these exact cases.
I know Cry it out Works for some kids, but I tried it with mine too and I ended up in the same boat you are, but luckily my son was younger so it took less time to get over the problem.
What she would recommended it sleeping in his room for awhile and then gradually removing your self. She lays out the whole plan.
I've had to do this and it really worked, but it is time consuming.
There is a great website also babywhisperer.com where there are a ton of people who would be willing to talk you through it. But unfortunately the site is down right now. I don't know what happened. Hopefully it will be back up soon.
You should be able to get these books from your library. But truly they are worth buying and you can get them for 1.99 on discount book sites.
I hope that helps.

After I posted yesterday I was sent to the page with all the other responses and they really got me thinking last night.
One mom mentioned repeatedly laying her son back down. That is a great technique and I have done that myself. I have also done what you call walk in, walk out. But I think you have to rebuild your sons trust, and first work on getting him to sleep in his own bed with causing him the least amount of frustration.
So I think you are going to have to do something more drastic first. No matter what you decide you have to stay consistent.



answers from Atlanta on

I have had similar issues off and on with my three children (4, 2, and 4 months). Currently, it is with our 2 year old. She used to be so easy. Now she seems really scared and was waking up at 3 after making us stay with her at night until she fell asleep. The thing that has worked best with her (2 nights of all night sleep and counting) is praying for her. I prayed she would have peace and comfort and not be afraid. We also talked about her fears and she is seeming to feel less tense and afraid. Take it to the creator of your 16 month old! Also, read Isaiah 40:11. He is aware of how hard this all is.



answers from Atlanta on

Hi A.,
Perhaps gastrointestional pain? If motrin calms and eliminates the problem for 4 hours, you can perhaps know that it is teething.
Gastrointestional can be made substantially better with the removal of cows milk/ casein and additionally gluten, and perhaps egg. Egg is a big one, but he may not even eat eggs yet. You can add proibotics (1 capsule per day added into juice or rice milk). and cod liver oil (1/2 tsp a day). Was he vaccinated at 15 months and this started after?
The one thing I would say strongly is your baby is trying to tell you something, try to find out what he is telling you. Watch and try until you make a change. Think about when it started and what you changed. Best way to solve the problem.



answers from Atlanta on

Hi A.,

I don't know if you'll find this helpful. However, I suggest visiting www.MomsOnCall.com. This is two pediatric nurses with decades of experience and they specialize in helping babies (AND parents) sleep through the night. I was a bit skeptic at first. However, within a week, their suggestions and advice helped my 8 month old sleep through the night with no problems. They also have suggestions for munchkins your son's age. Make sure you read the testimonials and see if it might be the right method for you.

Good Luck!



answers from Savannah on

Hello A...I remember those days well. Omg.thinking your about to loose your mind and about to snap. Your mind and body feel like your on Jetlag and start hearing hummy in your head. It will pass. Amen At this age, I was rocking,singing for 2hrs some nights. So.. by night light only I happen to have a a simple Mother Goose big picture poems and short stories..And read that book over and over again while my child was sometimes just keeping them on the changing table for a few mins after rock with a sm. soft toy for them to hold ..give your rocking arms a rest as I kept reading standing next to them. Then over the shoulder rock and walk around. What then I started to do was in the Day..important put them in the crib, with that book and soft toy and read for a few, then say..Mommy be right back..Take advantage and go to the bathroom or whatever.. but keep going back to the room, So how is the story..and read a few more with great expression, then tell them be right back again..etc..Bottle if need be or pacifier..Eventually what worked for me was they started looking at the book on their own..and had their comfort things with them too. Try it before their day nap, but before they are at their cranky part..Go in the room earlier then let it be fun and exciting..At this age they are coming into independence, and you cant keep them still..But, keep them occupied. Eventually, may take a few days, but then follow the routine at night too..A few times before this started I was laying on the sofa with a 2 hr. kid movie on in the dark..I was falling asleep not child. I had child in bed too for awhile, like you...Keep loving them..maybe after dinner go for a stroller walk and keep the discovery going, tree, flowers, sky, birds..and name things. That discovery time will be fun and tire them..have that same voice and discovery with the book in the crib routine. Guess what..after having three children, now a grandma of a 4mo. old. They all turned out to be A/B students in school. Wonder if the books early in the crib days got them started. Best Wishes L.



answers from Atlanta on

Good Morning A.. I am sure you have heard this from other mothers but I thought I would offer my opinion to you. Try not to let him sleep in bed with you. This is a habit that is incredibly hard to break. You must tough it out and let him cry himself back to sleep. Crying never harmed a baby (that is what everyone always told me. The best advice I ever received.
It sounds like he may be having night terrors. My daughter had those for a while.
Do you put on soothing music? Give him a little tylenol for the teething - Babies are wise....they will get conditioned to having you react to their crying...that is how they know to get your attention.
Have you asked your pediatrician for some advice?
If he is crying - you have to go somewhere that you can't hear it (put headphones on). He will cry himself to sleep. If you are consistent with the same behavior - he should eventually fall asleep. I wish you the best of luck. I have 2 little girls - 17 months apart.

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