Every night, it is almost impossible for me to get my 19-month-old down for bed because she cries and cries. What is the best way for me to get her to sleep? Should I put her in the crib even when she is sobbing?
DR. BLUM’S ANSWER
Sleep issues can be some of the most difficult trials that parents face. It is amazing how a small child can run a whole household ragged when it comes to bedtime. Sorry to say that creating good sleepers begins when they are newborns but there is still hope at any age.
First, you have to decide who is in charge of the home, you or the baby. If you decide that you are in charge then you ready to begin to fix this problem. What you have to choose is what your ultimate goal is for the nighttime pattern of your home. If there are two parents in the home, discuss this issue because often parents have different opinions of what they think is happening in the home. One parent may be perfectly fine with the child having a two-hour bedtime routine and the child ending up in the parent’s bed, while the other may want things to be different. If you decide as a couple that you want to control the bedtime here is what I recommend.
Begin with outlining and performing a bedtime routine. Routines will help develop habits in young children, either good or bad. I suggest bedtime should begin at about 7:30 p.m. I recommend a nightly bath, then a story or two, then possible a small snack or drink (by 19 months I would not give a snack but if you do then you should brush the child’s teeth after the snack) and then put the child in the crib while awake. Then give a quick happy sounding "good night" and walk out of the room. The child should be in a crib and in her own room. Once you walk out of the room you should not go back in to see that child until morning – no matter what. The first few nights you will get a lot of crying. Some children will cry for an hour. You have to tough it out. Some children will even make themselves throw up. Don’t go in for that either. If they get you to come in by crying or vomiting, they have won. If you can withstand the crying of the first few nights it will rapidly get shorter and by the end of the first week you should have no problems. The child will sleep all night, you will be well rested, you will have passed a significant test of parenthood and all will be well with the world.
Dr. Robert M. Blum is a pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics in Bingham Farms and West Bloomfield. Email him questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.