Young toddlers at around 18-months-old are in a so-called development stage. Their mind is expanding and their sleep is often disturbed. Too bad for Mom and Dad who thought the worst was finally over… 😉 This stage will pass too, but there are things we can do to help our little toddlers feel a bit more secure and sleep better.
Here is a mom’s question, my answer and many parents comments and testimonies. I’d love to hear about your situation too! Leave a comment at the bottom of the post!
I have an 18-month-old son who just won’t go to sleep alone. He was in a good routine and he did go to sleep alone, but this last month or so he just won’t.
We have tried story tapes, music, and reading, everything I can think of. But it takes for me or my partner to lay next to his cot for him to go. We have now put him in a bed as he didn’t like his cot anymore, but this hasn’t helped either.
Any advice would be greatly received.
Thanks, LeanneBaby Helpline:
How To Handle Toddler That Won’t Sleep Alone
For a start, 18 months is a development period and it is very common that even really good sleepers start waking up at night or refuse to go to bed alone all of a sudden. So your son is normal and you haven’t done anything wrong at all. Rather, you seem to be doing a lot of good things to help him!
What is often missing in all those “sleep-through-the-night-miracle-methods” is that the authors fail to inform their readers that just because a baby learns to fall asleep and stay asleep alone, there are no guarantees that this will continue.
Actually, as children go through their development stages, it is more likely than not that they will have periods when their sleep in not so good; they are scared, have nightmares or simply need to test their parents’ limits. Tough but true!
That said, there are still things we parents can do to make these shaky periods pass as fast as possible.
In your case, my suggestion would be a slow transition to slowly getting him used to fall asleep further away from you. Here’s how to do it:
- Continue reading him a bedtime story and maybe sing a lullaby. First, you move away in his bed just slightly for a couple of days.
- Then you sit up, still in the bed or very close to it
- Then you continue to move a little further away from it until he has learned to fall asleep on his own again.
- Don’t make it into a power struggle, but rather let him get used to the new situation slowly. Within a few weeks, you are likely to sit close to the door, reading a book. Not an awful way to spend 30 minutes…
- Then you can try to get out of his sight, but make sure he can still hear you. And maybe that is enough of an ambition. Most children prefer to hear their parents talking or doing things while falling asleep.
In my experience, this works much better (and is much quicker!) with older babies and toddlers than trying to play hardball and using some version of cry-it-out.
Try it and remember the reason why he is fussing – his mind is expanding and he really can’t help it. Within a couple of months, he will be calmer again and easier to put to bed. (Only to become fussier again later on…)
Which brings me to another way of handling the situation… You can simply let your toddler share your bed! No child will want to sleep in their parents’ bed forever, and if your bed is big enough to comfortable for all of you, there is no harm in meeting your toddler’s need to be close to you by actually letting him have it!
With our first child, we were so strict with routines, making him sleep in his own bed, going to sleep on his own and so on. But the more children we had, the more relaxed we became. And when you think about it – adults often share beds and find quite lonesome to sleep alone, but we expect our kids, even when they are very young to sleep alone. So, bedsharing is a possibility too. 🙂
No matter if you work to help your son fall asleep alone or decide to share beds, one thing to definitely tick off to help your toddler get the best sleep, is to make sure he gets lots of fresh air, daylight, fun, and love during the day. Toddlers have lots of energy and need to climb, crawl, run, dance, talk play and investigate their surroundings. Research suggests that screen time of any kind may affect children’s sleep negatively, for children younger than 3 years. So at least take away any screens including TV well before bedtime.
Good luck, and please let me know how things develop.
For a book that targets toddler sleep issues without recommending to let your baby just cry until falling asleep, check out The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years. (Link to Amazon)
More Toddlers That Won’t Sleep
- Screaming Toddler In The Middle Of The Night – Night Terror or Nightmares?
- Why Isn’t My 18 Months Old Sleeping Through The Night?
- 2 Year Old Won’t Sleep At Night
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