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Helping 18 month old go to sleep on her own

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  • Helping 18 month old go to sleep on her own

    My daughter L is nearly 18 months old. She has never been a great sleeper and we have been co-sleeping pretty much constantly since she was born. She has been in her own room since she was 13 months and I sleep with her as needed. My husband and I are fine about this but I am feeling ready for a change and think it would be better for L if she was happy to go to sleep on her own as I am concerned that she is overly dependent on me for going to sleep.
    I gave up nursing three weeks ago after cutting down very gradually over the last few months and now she hardly asks for a feed before sleep. Initially she seemed to be sleeping much better but that didn’t last very long and now she is waking up several times through the evening as well as through the night. Some of that is definitely down to teething as she is cutting some new ones but I think she would sleep better if I wasn’t with her until she went to sleep, and I would like to find a nice gentle way to leave her to settle herself.
    At the moment I literally lie down next to her (she has a little futon bed next to the single bed I sleep in when I’m there) and I have tried even just lying on my back rather that to face her and she goes crazy. Right now I can’t imagine how I am gradually going to move away from her as she seems to notice any tiny movement. What do other co-sleepers or part-time co-sleepers do? I am happy for this to be a very gradual process (even if it takes 6 months!) but I want her to know that she is safe to fall asleep on her own and know that we will respond if she needs us.
    I also want to change things because sometimes it can take a very long time (an hour or more, although its not so often) for her to fall asleep and I realised I am feeling a bit resentful of that time. If she was happy with her comfort object and her teddy without mummy there then I could get on with my evening and some precious time with my husband. I want to be fair to L and ultimately do what is best for her.
    Any advice would be great!
    Thanks x

  • #2
    19 mo old daughter is napping in my lap so I'm typing one handed .... get an air filter to drown out noise. also involve daddy as much as possible. If we are late getting her down at night she is far more difficult so consider an earlier bedtime. We brush teeth bathe and nurse then daddy wraps her like a burrito and gently bounces and sings her to sleep. If she doesn't go down in 20 then he reads her a story and if that doesn't work then I come back in and nurse her to sleep. After she is asleep for a few minutes i shuffle around to see if she notices then i pop up ... MUCH easier with an air filter running already. we are still co sleeping so maybe the bed smells like us. No joke but get some of your body scent on a blanket and keep it by her so she can transition. <3


    • #3
      Here are some responses form the Facebook page:

      1. I am on night #2 of doing this with my 16 month old! Just lying next to him for bed and nap time -- not nursing, just singing. I get complaining, intermittent crying, playing, singing, banging me on the face, and then eventually sleep. I was so worried about it and it's really not been that difficult! Hopefully once he can fall asleep on his own without nursing/rocking/physical touch I can start sitting next to the bed rather than IN bed, and then at the door, and then out the door. It'll be a long haul, but I'm so excited to NOT be doing CIO when I started to think that was the only option...

      2.This might be a long shot but try giving her a photo book with photos of mom in it that she can look at once you leave the room, if she lets you leave. My youngest was the same way...still is and is going on three soon...the only thing that makes it a bit easier is a busy schedule followed by a strict bedtime routine. Bath, story, sing him the same song every night and then gently tell him to close his eyes and sleep tight so he can have energy to go SUPER FAST in the morning lol. Every morning both boys run circles of the house going super fast because they slept well :P

      3.My daughter did not fall asleep alone until she was five. I would just bring a book and sit with her. It is a wonderful time to sit together. She would often open up and tell me things at this time of night, good conversations were had. I try to sit with her a few times a week still, she is almost six and still so little. No need to rush this, snuggle them for a long time.

      4.Although I remember how amazingly exhausting it was to have an 18 month old who's sole mission seemed to be to evade sleep, at one and a half I just don't know that it is practical to think there's some secret to getting a little one to self soothe. They do it when they're ready. And if they are not ready, forcing them will only create some regression in another area, if not more than one. As Megan suggested, finding a way to tolerate, even enjoy that time is probably the most practical solution. Try sharing the burden with your coparent, an older sibling, or grandparent so you at least have a few quiet moments to yourself. And remember the Mommy Mantra.... this, too, shall pass. Before you know it, they'll be closing their doors at night and we'll be lucky if we get a good night kiss!

      5. I night weaned first, then my husband and I laid with him, then I would suggest that he snuggle his daddy and I quietly explain that I'm going to work on school work and that i will join him later. Sometimes he does wake up and come out, but is quiet and happy to doze on the couch while I finish working. If I'm done working, we raid the fridge. Some of my fave times with him is whispering and giggling over a 2am bowl of cereal! So that is my best advise- explain to your baby what you will be doing, what your expectations are, and lots and lots of love! My guy is 33 months, and sometimes I have to compromise and snuggle him to sleep still. If he had a hectic day, I can understand that and give him some extra bedtime attention that is not the norm. Even still, I explain that after he is asleep, I am going to get out of bed, and I'll be in the living room if he needs me.

      6. I personally love night time parenting, and I have 3 little ones, we do bath time, story time, then they each get rocked to sleep. I tuck my 7 year old in bed. My 3 year old still needs me to rock her until she is completely asleep, then I nurse my 11 month old to sleep. Maybe my kids are the exception but my kids were not ready at 18 months to put themselves to sleep.

      7.Ever since weaning at 2.5 years, my son is 3 next week, I have simply laid next to him and we read up to three or four books then I tell him it's sleepy time and we need to close eyes. He falls asleep shortly thereafter and I get back up, which can be SO hard, and go to sleep in my room later. 25% of the time he wakes at night and comes to sleep in bed with us. That night time routine is special and it's the most calm and loving time I have with my son since weaning, I am pregnant and still plan to do it while hubby watches baby. I agree with those who don't think the self soothe is necessary and who realize this time is fleeting and should be cherished.

      8.I'm so glad I read your comments fellow mummies- my little man is 18 months, has only ever nursed to sleep, lately I've been feeling that I really ought to encourage him to go to sleep without me. I don't personally agree with sleep training but I do sometimes feel a bit resentful, I'm in the bedroom with him for hours before he'll give up and go to sleep, its frustrating sometimes. But then this is such precious and special time while they're little. I wanted to thank you all because I'd started to get sucked into a cycle of feeling resentful and then feeling guilty for feeling resentful. Knowing I'm not the only mum out there who feels like that is very reassuring xxx

      9.Download audiobooks, poetry, children's stories to iPhone and listen to it while u snuggle and fall fast asleep. Intellectual curiosity and literacy can be explored even at bedtime!!! My son and I listened to most of "The Help" on audiobook together as he fell asleep I got to enjoy an amazing book and contribute to my child's vocabulary, appreciation of stories, understanding of history (as I answered any questions in an age appropriate way). A fun time for all.

      10.If it is taking hours of nurturing to gentle a child to sleep, the child is either not tired yet or you missed that window of tired and they hit second wind. LOL I find that when you do not watch a clock but instead watch your child for cues of being ready, label the time.."you look tired, that's what tired feels like, lets go to bed" and then do whatever it is you do. In my house it was a rocking chair and nursing or laying beside them and nursing. But whatever you do that is nurturing works. I don't buy the Supernanny crap that a helpless being should be able to care for himself or herself. I dont' buy the nonsense that our kids need alone time, self soothing crap, or any such thing tht assumes a being who is completely defenseless against any and all predators would be safe without an adult and survive. And since I think children are biology and need gentling into culture, I trust them more than I do the "experts". When in doubt I ask myself, if this was 1000 years ago, how would I keep my child safe. I figure we survived for a reason.


      • #4
        Thanks so much for all your wonderful responses. It is so affirming to hear all your stories and I agree with as much nurturing as possible. If I listened to all the people that say an 18 month old "should" settle on their own and sleep through then I would go crazy!

        Thanks again to all

        Marisa x


        • #5
          I truly understand.. I was so tired, and hate to admit it, resentful and quite angry at times too - but, it was because I was exhausted.... I night weaned at 22 months with great success and then she relapsed after some major changes and disruptions and moves at around 2yrs mnths.. and so we went back to every 2-3 hrs waking and then 4 1/2 months after that, I night weaned again which had some dramatic moments, but I validated and was completely emotionally available and hugged etc etc... still slept in the same (small) room next to one another... now at almost 3 (in 10days) she sleeps in another room just fine.... BEST WISHES and know you are not alone, keep talking about it and reaching out xxx


          • #6
            Thanks for your reply. Just so great to hear when I am tired and doubting myself. X


            • #7
              I agree that children this age can and shoudn't need to 'self sooth'. I am having the same issue with my 13 month old son. Its gotten to the point where the only way we can get him to sleep is to take him for a ride in the car. Im getting quite concerned because I live in Canada and winter is coming so going out for a drive is not ideal. I have been trying to lie down with him while he falls asleep but it only works about one time out of ten, and when it does work it takes an hour or more and he spends much of that crying. I feel like i might as well be doing the CIO method if he is screaming in my ear anyway. Should I continue trying to lie down with him even if he's screaming? Should I just take him for a drive everyday for the next two years?? Anyone have any suggestions? When I try for a few minutes and then give up and let him come downstairs with us he doesnt end up going to be until about 11, then he is very tired and grumpy the next day.


              • #8
                Thank you so much for these helpful posts.
                I am currently pregnant again (yay!) and Ben (no 18 months) will be 23 months old when the new arrival comes; I am worried about getting him to sleep with another baby around, esp as he can sometimes take an hour to fall asleep and now insists that my husband and I are both in the room with him!
                He has also been waking up a bazillion times in the night and then only falls asleep in my arms, when I have located his pacifier and/or bottle (we cosleep, but are not breastfeeding anymore)
                I love, love, love cosleeping and having him close, but I am very tired as a result of this new pattern. I woudl like for him to be able to fall asleep with less intervention from us, and to sleep for longer stretches at night.
                I am also worried about cosleeping with a bigger baby and a new baby, so it looks like Ben will have to move into his own room and/or bed soon...
                I think the post answered most of my questions; I basically just wanted to vent, because I am not willing to do CIO, but feel that soe changes do need to be made!