Dear Annie. Congratulations for your website, it is very helpful! I have a question for you. My child sleeps with me. Lately I am having problems as my 15 month old son wakes up crying during the night. At start I thought he was having teething pains but then I have discovered that if I picked him up from his crib and put him to sleep in our bed, he hugs me tightly and sleeps peacefully in our bed hugged to me.
Sometimes I put him back to sleep in his crib after some time but then again I have to wake up once again and in the morning I have to go to work.
What I can tell you is that I am trying to follow some routine with him like play time, bath, TV on bed with mummy and daddy, feeding and sleep. Even then when it comes to sleeping, he prefers to sleep on me while watching TV. It has been like that from day one. Around 3 in the morning he wakes up for his bottle and then goes back to sleep. For me the feeding is ok but lately he is not getting to sleep after his feeding like he used to do. After some minutes he wakes up crying for us to pick him up and let him sleep in our bed. Sometimes he wakes up crying before feeding time.
I must admit that I enjoy having him sleeping on me and sometimes I enjoy him sleeping in our bed during night even though I don’t show this to him. We have tried leaving him to cry during the night before picking him up, hoping he would stop and get back to sleep but he remained crying and never seemed to stop.
Is it ok for a 15 month old to want to sleep with parents? Will he change when he is older? If not, what can I do to solve this situation?
Thanks for your nice comments about my site and it’s good to know it’s been helping you out. In terms of what you’re dealing with, it occurs to me when reading your letter that there are several issues that may be affecting your son’s sleeping pattern.
Switch all the cuddles he needs to daytime
Number one: First, the most fundamental. Your little boy seems naturally huggy and that’s great. He’s also looking for attention and cuddles and that’s totally normal. Having said that, he’s still capable of sleeping on his own as long as he gets the cuddles and attention he needs during the day. Right now, he seems to be getting a lot of attention at night but I wonder whether we couldn’t try and switch more of that attention to daytime.
Make an informed decision
In terms of whether you should let him to sleep with you, ask yourself what you can cope with, as you are the one that’s going to be sleeping with him. Personally, I would advise against it but irrespective, the important thing to keep in mind is consistency, so don’t go down this road unless you accept and relish all it’s implications. If you allow him to sleep with you, he will likely need you or your partner to settle him for naps and bedtime for a long time to come. Keep in mind that falling asleep from a wakeful state is a learned habit which he will not learn while you provide the crutch necessary for him to go to sleep. You asked me whether he’s likely to change the habit as he grows? My answer is that he will sleep with you until he outgrows the idea and how long that will go on, obviously varies from child to child.
There are some other things that struck me from your letter. One is that you’re watching TV close to bedtime. This really isn’t a good idea. Even if they’re children’s programs, he is very young and TV is full of disturbing images for one so young. Try hugging and reading a book together instead. These pre-bed images may be disturbing his sleep more than you realize.
He doesn’t need the night time feeding
Next, he really should not be eating in the night. At his age, he does not need it from a nutritional standpoint and unless you’re giving him water in the night you are actually contributing to his sleep disruption by giving him something to wake up for. The same goes for the attention he receives in the night. I’ve written a ton of letters about how to end sleep problems including ones with nighttime feeding issues so I won’t reiterate that. I’d instead draw your attention to my letter archive which gives advice on sleep training as well as many other factors that affect getting your kids to sleep.
People in general sleep a good night’s sleep because they need a good night’s sleep. I don’t know about you but I feel a whole lot better when my night is uninterrupted. If I’m up too many times, I’m cranky and irritable and probably none too fun to live with. Your choice really comes down to whether or not both you and he can get a decent night’s sleep together or a whether you’d prefer him to sleep on his own.
Determine wants versus needs
All I can say to you is that children do cry and you have to distinguish his crying from wants versus needs. That’s part of what I go through in detail with my behaviour intervention service. It’s natural for him to want you. The question is does he need you? Right now, I think he wants more of you but if he gets more of you during the day, there’s no reason why he can’t settle at night. Here’s my suggestion in terms of what I think what you should do. Try and get some time off from work to deal with this. Implement a sleep training program at the same time as you give him the companionship and cuddles that he needs during the day. Recognize too that when you start sleep training, he will cry and it will be difficult. You are saying ‘no’ as you’re likely to do many times as a parent. If you decide to go ahead with this, make sure you stick with it. It may be several uncomfortable nights in the process but I think after you’ve gone through it, you’ll be glad you did.
For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.
All the best,