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My toddler boy is 2.5yrs old. He never sleeps throughout the night.

He has a steady bed-time pattern:

9:00pm : Dinner (with Cartoons)
9:30pm : Shower w/ Mom
9:45pm: Simple Play
10:00pm: 2 Bedtime Stories

1:00 am : He wakes up asking for his milk or just mom.
(When we try to use the CryItOut Method, he either cries for 15min then passes out, or gets very upset and mom takes him into her bed, which is in the same room just one level up.)

5:00 am : (same as above)

This has been happening for two years! And before that we admittedly had even less of a steady program.

Besides the impact it has had on our work performance and relationship, I'm starting to really get worried about his mental health.

Can someone provide a step-by-step solution?

He has a full day of school from 9-4pm and then goes to play outdoors at a kids park for one hour. He also watches an hour of YouTube every day. *Which he's very addicted to (but that's for another post)

I'm losing my mind.

  • Is the half-hour of cartoons at dinner in addition to the hour a day on Youtube? What does he eat for dinner? (aka, is he hungry and that is why he wants milk, or it the milk just a ritual to get back to sleep?). If he needs the milk to go back to sleep, would it be feasible to have it somewhere where he can get it himself? Out of the blue, I would not be worried for his mental health, though, he sounds more in need of a new strategy to get back to sleep after waking up at night. – Layna Jul 7 '15 at 8:15
  • re: total screen time = 1hr Dinner is always different..but there are nights he simply doesnt want to eat anything..and just prefers milk. We keep the milk nearby where he can get it. But perhaps he cant find it in the dark.. he has a huge bed. But im going to try to change it from milk to water. My theory is that he isnt thoroughly tired when he goes to bed and/or doesnt go to bed with a full stomach. – Arturino Jul 7 '15 at 15:09
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    Whatever the "solution", it's going to call for consistency. Those times he "gets very upset and mom takes him into her bed" are counterproductive to any sleep training regimen I've ever read. Every time that happens, it's reinforcing his behavior: if I get upset enough, then I get what I want. For another question, I wrote a step-by-step solution I used for my child, when younger, that you may be able to adapt to your toddler: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/18226/… – user11394 Jul 7 '15 at 19:37
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    I would: a) No screen time while eating. (It can be hard to focus on eating while watching something). b) ration his milk. Our youngest, at 14 months, had 16 oz milk at bedtime + 1 am. We simply removed it as part of the bedtime ritual, and night time. It took about 1-2 weeks of frustration, but he ate better after. as for sleeping, either let him always go with mom to bed, or never. We are not consistent enough for never, which means it might as well be always. Both our 4 and 2 year old gets up (on their own) in the middle of the night, and go to our bed, in practice co-sleeping->no crying – Ida Jul 7 '15 at 20:56
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I can only provide my opinion and (so far) experience about that. I have son (almost 4) and a daughter (15 months), and both sleep fine. I can't say how much depends on their characters, genetics, etc. But nevertheless, one advice that I have read, that we followed, and turned out quite successful for us:

Never take your child in your bed.

In the very first month up to three months, it might help, but for us, starting from 4 months on, it was very rare. From 6 months on they were sleeping in their own room.

If they wake up crying during the night, you go to their bed, try to tranquilize them. When they are very young, most of the time just seeing you or hearing you is enough. Maybe stay a bit until they calm down. If that really does not work, take them in your arms. And if they need to eat something or so, do provide, of course. But try as best as you can NOT to bring them in your bed. Your bed is yours and his bed is his. He has to learn to separate individuals and the space of each and everyone.

On a related note, I once read a book about what is the importance of the father in the first months/years of life of their children. Babyies are born with a feeling that they and their mother form a single entity. The fathers are there to cut the tie (cut the cord is, in that sense very symbolic), and help the child to learn a conscience of self. By bringing your child in your bed, you are slowing that learning.

Now, back to your case, I don't think (not an expert, remember), that your son has any mental health issue. But if they can stay with their beloved parents, they will. I know quite a few children who do that. Now, how to go from where you stand? I would recommend the following steps

  1. Explain (he will eventually understand), that he has to sleep in his bed, and that his parents sleep in theirs.
  2. Make sure he has enough to eat at dinners. I know some parents who always stop their child before he was full. That doesn't help children to sleep too well.
  3. When he wakes up, go to him, talk to him, and possibly stay with him until he falls asleep again, but do not let him in your bed.
  4. I would expect that the previous steps are enough, but you might want to limit his food intake in the middle of the night: provide less progressively so that he looses the custom to eat at those hours. Consider replacing milk with water. But it has to be progressive, right now, his body is used to a night intake of food.
  5. Be patient and be consistent. If the rules change all the time it will destabilize the child's routine.

This will not be done in two days, I can guarantee. To change a habit, you need at least a few weeks, and it can quite easily stretch for two months. So that won't solve your immediate problems of strained work and relationships, but it will eventually solve that part of it.

And for the relationship part, my suggestion is that you sit down together and decide together on the best course to follow.

A note on the TV part that appears in the comments. We are very relaxed about that, having ourselves watched much TV in our days (and still do). It might not help, but that is certainly not the only factor for the sleepless nights.

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You are doing all of this way too late at night.

At 2 he needs to be going to bed around 8 o'clock because children need more sleep than adults. It's also not a good idea to have him watching TV up to an hour before bed.

Make sure he uses the bathroom before bed. I suggest that when he does wake up like that you don't take him to your bed, leave him be. He may cry for a while then pass out, but after a while he'll get the message. If he asks for milk tell him no, if you give it to him at 1 o'clock he's going to wake up later to use the bathroom and then is going to wake you up to put him back to bed.

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