My Toddler Wakes At Night and Will Not Go Back to Sleep Without Nursing

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  • February 23, 2019
will not go back to sleep

will not go back to sleep

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

“My 11-month-old wakes up routinely at 1 or 2:00 a.m. and again at 5:00 a.m. I tried “cry it out” but he will not go back to sleep until I come in and nurse him.”

In your note, you told me something very important, which is that you’ve tried “cry it out.”  That means you let him cry until you hope he goes back to sleep. Then you eventually give in and you go in and nurse him.

What you’re doing is called intermittent reinforcement. It’s one of the most powerful behavioral reinforcements and this is a very common example. Often, we inadvertently train our children to cry until we change a behavior, and they learn quickly. Children are very smart. So he’s figured out that eventually you will just nurse him.

Consistency is Important

Start sleep training when you are ready to be consistent. When you are, start at bedtime after a great day of two naps. At 11 months old, he needs an average of 3 hours of sleep during the day, and 11 hours of sleep at night. Bedtime is should between 7 to 7:30 p.m. at his age. Once you’ve gotten a good day of as close to 3 hours of naps as you can, start his bedtime routine. Make sure that he’s awake, well-fed, loved, dried, warmed, kisses, then in to bed.

Choose Which Sleep Training Method You Will Use

Pick a method that you can follow through with be consistent with. If you want to do timed checks or “cry it out”, you certainly can. If you’re just not sure, then you have nothing to lose by starting gradually and sitting next to the crib, then slowly moving out of the room. Consistency is the key to sleep training.

The Shuffle

The details of The Shuffle are outlined in my book and my courses. Whatever you pick, choose the method that’s going to be the right match for your parenting style and beliefs, as well as your child’s temperament, and make sure that you can follow through with consistency. Make sure that you respond the same way to all night awakenings whether they’re at 1:00, 2:00 or 5:00 a.m. Don’t start your day until 6:00 a.m. and then the next day, you’ll probably have to start nap coaching.

As always, please check with your pediatrician to make sure your child does not need to be fed during the night given his age, weight and health.

It’s all doable, and really this is a great age, so it should take about 7 to 10 nights until he’s largely sleeping through the night.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

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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