Help! My Toddler Has Started to Scream When It’s Time To Sleep!

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  • December 04, 2014

Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady and in this vlog, I’m going to answer this parent’s question:

“My daughter is almost 23 months old and hasn’t napped or slept through the night in a week. She’ll sleep in my arms but as soon as I put her down, she wakes up and screams until I come back to her. Tonight, she ran away from her room and screamed and cried when she realized I was trying to put her to bed. Is this the 2-year-old sleep regression? And if so, how do we get through it? Is it okay to bring her in to my bed? When she wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, do I go in to her room? I feel like she may be scared of her room. Is that possible? If so, what should we do? I would appreciate any advice. Thanks.”

I have to make a few assumptions here. It sounds like she’s in a bed and not a crib because you said she ran out. Since s he’s not even 2 years old, , you might want to consider (if you have a crib set up) transitioning her back to a crib because she does not have the cognitive ability to understand “stay in your bed all night long.” It’s really hard for children this age. They don’t have the impulse control so they tend to wake up and go flying out of the room and they just don’t understand what you’re asking them to do.


Understand Your Child’s Limits


Question of the week (2)If you’re hesitant to do that and you want her to sleep in a bed and in her own room, then I would go ahead and try. Just know that if it’s really not going anywhere and you’re exhausted after 10 or 12 days, maximum of 14 days, and you say, “Wow, you know, my daughter just doesn’t understand what I’m asking her to do.” Then it will make it easier to say, “I am going to get the crib out because this isn’t fair to her.” That might be something you have to consider.


Decide Where Your Child Will Sleep


The other question you had, “Should I bring her in to my bed?” Well, that’s completely up to you. If you don’t mind it and your partner doesn’t mind it, and everybody sleeps well, then you’d really just need to focus on bedtime or starting the night in her bed and then in the middle of the night when she wakes she comes and sleeps with you, it’s completely your choice. Eventually I find that parents get to the point where they want their own bed back, or they want their child to be in their own bed. But you have to make that decision on your own. Of course, I would talk to the other parent about it too.

If you’re only bringing her into your bed out of desperation, and not because you want to practice a family bed, then that’s a very different situation. If this is the case, I would encourage you not to bring her back to your bed. If you’re doing what they call reactive co-sleeping meaning, “I am bringing her in to my bed and sleeping with her because I don’t know any other way to get her to sleep,” then I would rather you return her to her bed and I would go through The Sleep Lady Shuffle, where you gradually reduce your intervention while offering physical and verbal reassurance as you slowly move out of the room.


Have Realistic Expectations


Because of her age, you’re more than likely going to have to gate her room so that you’re not chasing her around the house. And again, you can start the bedtime routine in her room and then sit next to her bed, patting and shushing until she’s asleep. Respond the same way at night for three nights and then you’re going to sit by the door, and then the other side of the gate and then out of view. Again, all the details on The Shuffle are outlined in my book and in the course I have available on my site.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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