A recent family holiday set off a change in the bedtime behaviour of reader Helen’s 9 month old son - formerly a good sleeper - and getting him back on track is proving to be a challenge. Helen writes:
I have a 9 month old boy who was good at going to bed and sleeping through (most of the time) until we went on holiday and he slept in a travel cot, which he hated and cried for hours each night the entire week we were away.
Now at home we are experiencing the same behaviour each evening and it is getting really difficult, as he is now waking our 22 month old daughter.
We are currently trying controlled crying, but he is crying for up to 2 hours and gets in such a state he’s made himself sick. We go in and try to settle him, but the only way to calm him down is to pick him up and cuddle him, then when we put him back down and leave the room he’s screaming.
Please can you suggest any ideas? Before controlled crying we tried holding him until he went to sleep, also tried to put him down awake but nothing works.
Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.
I can imagine this is very tiring for everyone.
I’m not sure how long you’ve been leaving your baby to cry uninterrupted, but bear in mind that the point of controlled crying isn’t really to leave them to cry for long periods of time - it’s to help your baby learn to self-soothe. It doesn’t sound as though your little boy has a problem self-soothing, as you mentioned he used to go to bed quite well. It’s also quite typical for children’s sleep patterns to change at this age, as they are more alert and mobile. Also, around this age they can start to develop separation anxieties.
Leaving the baby to cry, as I’m sure you have experienced, just makes them become hot, anxious and overtired – and sometimes even results, as you mentioned, in vomiting. Once this has happened, there is no hope of them settling. Even if they do eventually fall asleep, it is usually broken naps. Also, they may start to get distressed about bedtime approaching.
At night, Helen, when you put your baby to bed, try to make sure that he is really calm. Perhaps give him a bath, or just sit in a low-lit bedroom talking very gently to him. Then, when it is finally bedtime, just give him a kiss, tell him you love him, put him into his cot and walk out of the room. Even if he is crying, just wait five minutes and then go back into the bedroom. Keeping interaction to a minimum, soothe him for a moment by using a gentle but firm voice, say “It’s bedtime now, see you in the morning, love you” and walk out of the room again. Repeat this two or three times, then increase it to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes, each time using the same procedure. As the intervals get longer, try reducing the amount of interaction each time.
If you notice that there is a pause between his cries, wait a little longer, as he might be starting to fall asleep and by going in you could disturb him again.
This could take a couple of days or several weeks, but it should start getting easier. In the meantime, it is going to take all your resources to stick to it – but if you do, I expect you will all get a better night’s sleep. Feel free to check back in and let me know how you’re both coming along!