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My 14-month-old son has always had difficulty falling asleep. He has mild to severe eczema. He sleeps with us and we usually pat or rock him to sleep. Every night he cries for at least 5 mins before he stops fighting and drifts off to sleep. We have to hold him firm for him to finally settle and sleep. If we try and let him be (still present in the room), he rolls around the bed lying down and waking up - but ends up crying again.

He does get up once or more on some days - but he also sleeps till the morning on some days. I would really like not to have to fight him every night on this. I don't mind patting or rocking longer as long as he doesn't seem so distressed with the idea of sleeping.

How can I get him to wind down slowly and be comfortable with the idea of going to bed?

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    Welcome to Parenting.SE! I am wondering whether the situation in this Question sounds similar and/or helpful; since you're co-sleeping, however, your son's reason for crying may be different. – Acire Apr 18 '15 at 23:31
  • Slightly different Erica - being in the room with him doesn't calm him down. Only taking him out of the bedroom and stopping all attempts to put him to sleep gets him calm. I will keep looking at similar posts to see if something works. Thank you. – divyas Apr 20 '15 at 4:36
  • We have this issue with our 4-month-old daughter. The answers we get have amounted to "cry it out" (which we are confident would not work for her) and "wait it out" (which seemed bad enough before reading this question and hearing that the waiting could last week over another year!) If you find something that works, please let us know! – Jeffrey Blake Sep 20 '15 at 22:45
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I had this problem with my son as well. For us, the problem was that all of us got very stressed before going to sleep. Us anticipating yet another day of crying and hard work, him, on top of his own anticipation, feeling our stress.

It is still hard for him to get to sleep but we fixed the stress problem by creating a routine that involves the usual suspects (bath, brushing teeth, reading and such) plus, telling each other what we did that day, and then singing songs. When he says he doesn't want to sleep (he's now 20 months old and talks a lot), we tell him it's not necesary to sleep, we are just going to lay down toghether in the dark and sing songs, or listen to music.

He now is anticipating the moment of going to bed together, and even if it still takes a long time, it's a shared very happy time together.

Good luck!

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We have plenty of sleep problems with our son but I'm pleased to say this isn't one of them (at the moment!). We have a similar approach to you in that we don't leave him alone to go to sleep, we stay with him to avoid him getting upset and he usually goes to sleep quite easily.

We have occassionally had difficulties like this in the past and it tends to have been because he is not tired enough. It has been worse when I've repeatedly tried to get him to sleep too soon, for example when he was smaller, if I got used to him being sleepy after a certain amount of time and didn't adjust when he could stay awake longer. Then he would get very upset if I tried to take him for his nap too early.

Therefore, I would suggest to look at his schedule. If he's taking a nap too close to bedtime, then he may not feel tired when you put him to bed. It won't be much fun for him if he feels energetic and ready to play and then he gets taken to a dark room and expected to sleep. If he has a nap too close to bedtime, which can be common at this age as many babies are adjusting to one nap, then you may need to have bedtime a bit later for a while or limit the length of his nap (or possibly drop a nap completely if he's still having two).

My other suggestion is to make sure you have a nice bedtime routine, if you don't already, to let him know that it's bedtime and help him wind down for sleep. A bath, a book and possibly a bedtime drink tends to work well.

Finally, easier said than done, but try not to get upset and frustrated with him - babies pick up on their parents' moods a lot and this can upset him when he's supposed to be relaxing and that will not help him to fall asleep.

  • Thank you MiniMum. It could be the schedule - it does vary between 8 and 9 on most days and you are also correct about the nap transition. Will work on that. – divyas Apr 23 '15 at 5:44
  • As the bedtime is on the late side, it's probably best to adjust the naps. Limiting the length of the last one may be easiest until you can drop it, otherwise you can make the first a bit shorter so the second one is earlier – MiniMum Apr 23 '15 at 8:26
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Glad you mentioned the eczema. This could be a factor. Perhaps you could work on this -- let us know if you'd like some suggestions.

I would expect a 14mo old to be taking only one nap per day. Dr Spock has a great section on helping a baby go from two naps to one.

You might want to try a Didymos-type wrap -- here are some images: http://www.sabcollective.com/?p=1259 One of my children had a great deal of difficulty ramping down to go to sleep, and on a really difficult day I would wrap him up in this way, close the "curtains" of the wrap, sing, and walk up and down the hall for a few minutes. He did cry for a couple of minutes -- he wanted to stay awake and not miss a moment of action! -- but this method was the most painless for all concerned. Once he was asleep I could kneel down, lean forward until he was lying on his back on the low bed, and untie in the back, until we were untangled enough for me to stand up. The tie would remain tangled with him on the bed.

Another idea is, if he's lying on his side, jiggle his shoulder, vigorously if necessary. It will be kind of like how some adults love falling asleep on a moving train.

Perhaps some ambient sound will be helpful. We have a Sound Scape; you press a different button and get a different sound loop, such as white noise, heartbeat, waves on a beach, etc.

You might like to read about sensory integration, and try to figure out if there's some sensory defensiveness or sensory seeking going on. That could give you some ideas about how to satisfy his sensory needs.

As he gets older, you may be able to help him learn to release his tension before falling asleep in a less frightening way, by letting out a long, audible sigh during the exhale. I'm not sure how old he'll need to be to start learning this, but when the time comes, model it for him, and hope that he copies you.

Do you notice any patterns in terms of what increases or reduces the crying before sleeping? For example, being short on sleep, having had a lot of stimulation or frustration, fresh air, exercise, boredom, and so on.

Does your toddler get screen time? If so, how much, and what sort?

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If you haven't already looked into it, I suggest checking into Elizabeth Pantley's book: No Cry Sleep Solution. My library had it available, so you might not even have to buy it.

We face a similar issue with getting our 4-month-old to sleep (naps included) and it started to seem like we were seeing some success with techniques like some of those she describes, until the 4-month sleep regression reared it's head. In a few weeks, we are probably headed down that path again.

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5 minutes of protest crying because he's not allowed to play anymore? Not a big deal.

As for waking himself up a bit later, he's 14 months, for all your sakes, he has to learn to soothe himself to sleep on his own, and you have to give him the opportunity to learn that.

Restraining him every night is not a viable routine, and his sleep patterns won't change on their own for a long time, you need to do something.

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Infants and toddlers crave predictability and comfort, it makes them feel safe and happy and teaches them that things are okay even if sometimes unexpected events happen or changes in the routine happen. There are so many factors that could be at play, but if you're ready to try anything to help everyone sleep better:

  • Cut all screen time (TV, tablet, everything) until he is at least 24 months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages media use by children younger than 2 years.
  • Cut all foods containing sugar except raw fruits and a small glass of juice in the morning.
  • Take an appointment at a Naturopathy Clinic about the eczema.
  • Figure out a routine that fits with your needs, make it realistic and rock solid, and - VERY IMPORTANT - tell him step by step what this routine is, before it starts, as you are starting it, and at every step while you are going through it.

Example : "You're going to have a bath, then go put on pajamas. We'll read two stories (make sure you stick to two if that's what you decide:), then we'll rock and sing a lullaby and then you'll go to sleep."

You repeat this at every step, modifying it to say what has been done, what is now happening, and what is coming.

At the end of the routine, you leave quietly and let him figure out how to fall asleep. 5 minutes of crying before falling asleep is totally normal for a toddler who is in general happy and healthy. It's not worth fighting every night because he will grow into different phases anyway.

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