Toddler Sleep Problems: My 15 Month Old Cries to Hold My Hand to Sleep

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  • February 12, 2013

Would you like to have me answer your toddler 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!

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep problem video:

Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady and today I’m going to answer Sarah’s question. This is what she wrote in:

“Shortly after birth, my daughter Lacy began holding my hand during nursing and when going to sleep. Foolishly, I gave her my hand and by now at 15 months old, she depends on me holding her hand when falling asleep three times a day. When she realizes my hand isn’t there anymore, she wakes up almost immediately crying for me and my hand. We have always tried to encourage a doll at bedtime but in the end the doll just doesn’t mean anything. She wants my hand. I put stuffed animals around the house and blankets next to her on the crib in hopes that she’ll attach to something other than my hand. How do I get her to have any interest in a lovey? The hand thing is not working anymore for my tired family. Please help me with this toddler sleep problem. Sarah.”

Sarah, the most popular sleep crutches besides feeding to sleep and holding to sleep are twirling of mom’s hair and hand holding! So, you’re not alone. It was very sweet that she would hold your finger when you were nursing her as a baby. Your story reminds me of one mom I worked with whose 11 month old son liked to hold her finger, in particular her pinky, when he was nursing. And so she found this little stuff animal, it was small, no dangerous parts could be removed and she made the decision to have  him sleep with it. It was a cow with these little horns that he held on to when nursing and later to go to sleep. Each horn was  the size of her pinky which I thought was very creative of the mom. Did it take time? Absolutely, he had to attach to something other than her hand and it took some time but it did work out.

So, first things first, what I would do is to make sure you start after a day of  great naps. Let her hold your hand during the nap time to make sure she is well napped. Set yourself up for a good bedtime and then if you’re still nursing, nurse before bedtime with the light on.  Allow her to hold your finger and then when you are  done nursing, kisses and in to the crib and start the Shuffle. Be careful because she’s probably going to reach out to try and hold your hand!  You can touch her hand or even  kiss her hand, but don’t let her grab your fingers. Control the touch which is one of my rules of the Shuffle. Reassure her and redirect her to the lovey or whatever you are picking as the possible lovey. Feel free to give her a hug and a kiss if she gets very upset and gently remind her that you “all done” with hand and now it is sleepy time. Stay with her and offer reassurance.

During the day if she gets upset and starts  saying, “Hand, hand, hand” , hug her and hold her and say, “Well, let’s go get blankie,” or “Let’s go get cow,” or whatever you choose as the stuffed animal. Constantly redirect away from holding your hand as her primary soother.

It should probably take about a week for her to no longer need your hand to go to sleep. You could focus on night first and not naps. Eventually hand holding will stop working for naps and that might be your cue to start nap coaching without holding your hand. If you want to do it all at once, that’s of course your choice. Don’t do it unless you’re going to be consistent because you don’t want to train her to cry until you give her your hand. All right good luck.

Sweet dreams,
Kim
The Sleep Lady

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have helped your toddler learn to go to sleep and back to sleep without holding your hand or twirling your hair, please send Sarah a supportive word or two!Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

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2 Comments

  • Marilene says:

    I would read her a book at night or get something with soft music to take her attention away from your hands. The idea that you replace it with something else in my experience has been the better parenting choice. To just stop touching with your hand is a form of rejection and I would be worried that it would affect her.  Here is link to a music mobile, which is also a toy you could play with her for creating the toy bond of familiarity.  http://www.babyridesafe.com/babymoov_Magic_Jungle_Mobile_p/a104408.htm

  • Marilene says:

    I would read her a book at night or get something with soft music to take her attention away from your hands. The idea that you replace it with something else in my experience has been the better parenting choice. To just stop touching with your hand is a form of rejection and I would be worried that it would affect her.  Here is link to a music mobile, which is also a toy you could play with her for creating the toy bond of familiarity.  http://www.babyridesafe.com/babymoov_Magic_Jungle_Mobile_p/a104408.htm