Rockabye Baby ….

Dear Mamas,
We have a 15 month old little boy and have been struggling with nap time recently. Our normal routine is to rock him until he is asleep and then put him in his crib. Well, the transfer part isn’t working anymore, and he wakes up as soon as we put him down. For awhile he would fall asleep and stay asleep in our laps, so at least he was getting some rest, but that’s getting old. I recently tried the cry it out method for 4 days and there was no improvement, so I stopped because we were all exhausted! I’m OK with rocking him, but just want to know if there are any tips on how to transfer him to him to his crib? Can you HELP?

Cranky and Tired

Dear Cranky,

No kidding! This routine you’ve gotten into doesn’t sound like much fun — for you or for him. But the good news is that your little guy is sending a message loud and clear. “Hey guys, it’s time I learned to put myself to sleep!”

From what you’ve told us I’d guess that bedtime is no picnic either, so let’s come up with a new strategy that can help the whole family get to sleep. I know you say you’ve tried the “cry it out method”, but I’m not sure what that entailed. What follows is the “Dr. Mama Method”, and it is fully guaranteed if followed to the letter, so here goes:

1) Create a consistent routine. Choose a bedtime (or naptime) and wind-down activities and stick to them. Don’t start the training at a time when your family is out of their usual environment or going through a major upheaval. Familiarity and repetition are critical to success.

2) After a meal or bedtime snack choose a pre-crib ritual like a quiet story or lullaby. Never put your little guy in the crib with a bottle. Milk or juice will sit on the teeth during sleep and cause decay. Plain water is OK.

3) Say goodnight, leave the room, and close the door. Let him cry for a full 10 minutes (you’ll need to time it). If he’s still crying, go to the closed door and repeat your soothing goodnights. DO NOT ENTER THE ROOM. Repeat until he falls asleep. The first night (or nap) this may take up to an hour.

4) If he wakes during the night and cries go to the door and give gentle reassurance. DO NOT ENTER THE ROOM. Let him cry for 10 minutes before repeating. Continue to repeat as above.

This technique will be hard for you. You’ll feel guilty and want to comfort him and rock him like the old days. Stay strong. You’re teaching your guy an important skill. By night (or nap) 2 or 3 he’ll cry for 1/2 the time. By night 5 your lives will be transformed. I guarantee it.

Good luck and good sleep!

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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One response to “Rockabye Baby ….”

  1. Sleep Train 101

    […] To take a look at our answer for the mom of another rockin’ toddler, click here. […]

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