My son is 2 years and 4 months now.

Since he was born he has developed habits of sleeping in our arms and strolling into our room in the middle of the night. After we hold him for about 15-20 minutes, he will fall asleep and we can lay him on bed. But after 2-3 hours he will wake up again and demand the same.

When he was an infant, we thought he was hungry and that was the reason he kept waking up. But nowadays this is not the case. We make sure he has his tummy full before he goes to bed. But still he won't sleep on his own; he keep waking up during the night. Sometimes he asks for drinking water and goes back to sleep.

How can we change this so that he goes to bed and sleeps without our intervention?


3 Answers 3


They (pediatricians, other baby experts) will tell you that a baby should be sleeping through the night at 6 months, which is about the same time you can begin transitioning to mushy foods like cereals, which will keep him or her fuller longer than milk. What they don't tell you is that 6 hours is considered "through the night" for infants up to 2 years, so if you're trying to put L.O. down at 8 PM you can expect to be woken up at 2 AM every so often for quite some time.

At 28 months, your child should be long used to genuinely sleeping through the night (8-10 hours) on his own. He seems to be stuck in the same sleep patterns a young infant has, sleeping hard for two to three hours, waking up from light Stage 1 or 2 sleep and not knowing how to fall back asleep on his own (because he never learned; he always fell asleep in Mommy's arms).

At first, I said Dr Ferber could kiss my first-time-parent ass; infants need to know that Mommy and Daddy are there when they're needed, or they don't learn how to trust, which can haunt them for life. However, there comes a time when love has to get a little tougher, and boundaries must be set. This typically starts about the year mark, or as soon as your baby's standing and cruising (and so can cause damage), whichever comes first. One of the boundaries is bedtime. He needs to learn that nighttime is Mommy and Daddy's time to sleep without him. If he needs them, they're there, but not at his every beck and call.

I still don't advise ignoring his cries outright. I advise going to him (or responding to him if he's old enough to get out of the crib or toddler bed and come to you), seeing if he's all right, and if there's no emergency like a dirty diaper or he's really hungry or thirsty, laying him back down in his crib (don't pick him up if he never left), tucking him in, and saying he needs to go back to sleep. He's not going to like this; it's not the reaction he's used to getting from you, which is to take him into the bedroom and let him fall asleep there. He'll wail; now you ignore it, at least for 15-30 minutes, before repeating the process. You're establishing a new cause-and-effect; crying or yelling for Mommy gets a response, but not the one he was after, and continuing to cry after Mommy's been in isn't doing anything for him except giving him a headache, sore throat and tiring him out.

Soon enough, he'll realize that there's nothing he can do while it's dark outside that will get him back into Mommy and Daddy's bed, and he'll adapt; he'll eventually learn to "self-soothe" when he wakes up, allowing him to fall back asleep after waking in a more adult sleep pattern, and for you to stay asleep.

Once this occurs, or as it's happening, you need to make sure you respond when your L.O. wakes up with more than a couple of perfunctory cries. My wife originally thought that our daughter, after the year mark, should be fine from sundown to sunup and that all crying was to be ignored. One night, after 45 minutes of persistent, "angry" crying, and against her sleepy command not to go, I went in to find her in soaked PJs, shivering and crying herself hoarse, because the cheap diapers we were trying couldn't handle overnight use (especially when bedtime was prefaced with a 10-ounce bottle). We resolved that night to differentiate between the sleepy "I'm awake, anyone gonna start my day?" crying and the "something is seriously wrong" crying (and to switch to better name-brand diapers for nighttime, and use up the cheap ones during the day).


I always do it like this:

  • Say to him he is going to bed. He doesn't want to because he is playing (somethings he wants to himself). I let him put down his toys by himself, telling him to do so. I have a moment of patience, but when it takes too long, i pick him up and put his toys down for him. Most of the time he chooses to do it him self.
  • I let him kiss his mother and younger brother good night. Which he always does, even when he is upset because he was playing with his toys. He always has the rest to gently kiss his baby brother and his mother.
    • I brush his teeth first, then let him play with the brush for a moment.
    • I put him to bed and prepare his room, give him his pacifier, close his curtains and so own. NOTE: During all of this I try to be cheerful and playful, and he is as wel.
    • I tuck him in his sleeping bag, give him some well ment kisses, and trust him to go to sleep.
    • I walk out the room, not looking at him anymore, while I say: "Have a good night of rest and beautifull dreams".

I did it like this from the start, and its never a problem. Whe he cries at night, I go check right away. He never cries for attention. Or he is too hot/cold, wants to drink, lost all of his pacifiers, etc.

I would suggest a similar approach. Just do it. It might cost a couple of days for it to start working. But it will. He WILL respond to you with crying and all, being mad with you and such. Thats normal, you suddenly change behavior and he is clueless why. Let him feel its all right and be confident. Being confident in what you are doing is key here. Because you are the one he relies on, if you are not confident, how can he go to sleep feeling restful and confident?

  • 1
    Rather than leaving him clueless why, why not explain it? Perhaps make up a little book, or just discuss it for the 3 days in advance. An almost 2.5 year old can understand an awful lot and a reminder at the moment "Remember, Daddy's leaving now and you are sleeping here. I will come if you need me," will drive it home.
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:50

It may be worth trying controlled crying. I'm told this is often effective from about a year onwards.

Trying this with our one-year old we had to endure 1 terrible night, 1 bad night, 1 ok night, then she was sleeping through. It feels cruel, but it does seem to work.

Now when she cries in the night we know there's something really wrong, like a dirty nappy or a cold.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .