I have a 1-year-old daughter who is perfect in every way except the way she sleeps. Her bad sleeping habits, I’ll admit, are my fault. When I went back to work I got lazy and after her midnight feedings, I’d put her in my bed to sleep with me and her daddy. Now, every time she wakes up in her room in the middle of the night she expects me to get her and put her in our bed. I’ve tried to reassure her and let her cry it out, but she gets hysterical, to the point that she’s having difficulty breathing and standing up in her crib. It just seems dangerous, so then I cave and put her back in our bed. How can I break this terrible habit that is all my fault in the first place? Please help!
One sleepy Mommy
You do have a problem on your hands. But the good news is, it can be fixed and you are not alone. Sometimes we do what we must to survive.
Here’s what’s happened. Your daughter is in the habit of waking you up at night. I say “you” because most 1-year-old children awaken in the night, look around, chatter, play and then go back to sleep. Your daughter, on the other hand, isn’t content with these – she wants you awake too! So she stands up, grabs the bars on her crib and has a major temper tantrum. If she could speak, you would hear, “Mom or Dad – you get in here right now! This isn’t fair, I’m awake and you should be too!”
Honestly, she doesn’t have anything psychologically wrong. I know it feels like she is being hurt when she screams, but she isn’t. She’s having a temper tantrum. And – she has forgotten how to self-soothe. But you can retrain her.
Here’s what you need to do:
Begin helping her learn self-soothing techniques during her naps in the daytime. If she is at daycare, ask them to do this (but I’ll bet she sleeps just fine there!) Put her in her crib and make the light as close to nighttime light as possible.
Put two or three new toys in her crib and find ones that either make noise or that she can have fun with on her own. Always have those toys in her daytime and nighttime crib. Also – you can put a blanket in her crib that smells like you. Wash it with your detergent. This may calm her.
When you (or the daycare folks) put her down for a nap, take her to her room, feed her, sing or read a short story and then put her in her crib. This should all be 15 minutes or less. The routine for the daytime should be exactly like the nighttime routine.
When you put her in her crib, show her the new toys. Then, show her how to use them. Wind up something that plays a song (you can use a sound machine or stuffed toy that plays a song.) This is her auditory cue that it is sleep time.
Kiss her and leave the room. Close her door part way so that she knows you (or they) are on the other side of the door and leave.
At first, she may scream but don’t get her out. She may cry for 45 minutes and then lie down for a few minutes but not sleep. Once she is quiet, get her up and go back to your day. Only pick her up after she has stopped crying.