There's a sleep problem here but, as is often the case and especially with sleep issues, it belies another issue: What happens when parents disagree about how to solve it?
Hi Barbara, My question to you is this, I have an 18 month old daughter who will NOT fall asleep at night on her own. She has to be held by either my wife or myself. I have told my wife that though it is cute that she falls asleep on me and I do love it, I am forseeing a problem down the road or even now.
I have put her in her crib and let her cry but my wife only lets it go on for a minute or two before she picks her up. My mother used to let me and my sisters cry ourselves to sleep at night and I don't think I suffer from any ill-effects from it, How do I (we) break a bad habit we started ?
From: Luigi, Woburn
There is good news here that you may not realize. Since what you are describing is only the bedtime process, it sounds like she sleeps through the night, or at least doesn’t need your help during the night. That means she is waking up – all children do, in fact they wake up many times during the night – and getting back to sleep on her own. That means it will be easier than you might imagine to get her to fall asleep on her own because she already knows how to do it.
Here’s what pediatric sleep researcher and pediatrician Richard Ferber of Children’s Hospital Boston recommends:
"You want to make it as easy for her as possible, so start on an evening when you can delay her bedtime by at least half an hour; That's in a zone where her body really wants to sleep," he says. In fact, you may even have to keep her awake. “Put her down in the crib. She may cry but she may be so sleepy that it will last only a very short time.”
Voila, problem solved. Maybe. The real problem is if mom can’t tolerate even a short amount of crying. Here's Ferber's advice on that:
Sit by the crib with your hand on her back, rubbing gently and saying soothing things to her, including something like, “I know you can fall asleep on your own.”
“Because she’s so tired – and the later the bedtime, the shorter the crying will be – this will be very short,” he says. Repeat this the next night, but by the third night, you should be able to sit there and not rub her back. Over the course of a week or more, you will be able to withdraw more and more so that eventually you are sitting next to the door and the sound of your voice is enough to soothe her.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Ferber says. “If [letting her cry even a short time] is something your wife can’t do, there is no point in trying it. Only do what you can do.”
But there’s also this to consider: There will be many issues along the parenting road about which both parents do not agree. Your marriage and your child will be better off if you learn early how to manage those parenting disagreements.
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