The Nanny Godmother was delighted to hear again recently from reader Michelle, who writes:
Hi Nanny Godmother,
It’s me again. I have another question. My son is 3 years old and still has a nighttime bottle when he gets into bed. I’ve tried weaning him off it by reducing the amount by 10ml every night but when we get about halfway (125ml) he starts asking for water when the milk is finished and carries on until I give him a little water (10ml). How do I wean him off the nighttime bottle? Or am I being too hasty?
Another question, going to bed is simple, he gets in and stays in and falls asleep, but most nights he still wakes up anything from once a night to countless times, and each time he wants some milk. I think the once or twice a night is purely out of habit. Generally when he wakes up more, something is bugging him. How do I get him to stop the nighttime wakings? The only time I have a good night’s sleep is when he is with his granny. I feel like I’m undergoing sleep deprivation torture. Please help.
Hi Michelle, welcome back!
It really does sound like he’s gotten into a bad habit. I don’t think you’re being hasty at all. It’s not advisable for children, certainly of this age, to go to bed with a bottle. It’s bad for their teeth and can even contribute to ear infections, among other problems.
To start with, let’s work on the bedtime bottle. Try to make sure your son has a drink before he goes to bed so you are sure he is not thirsty. I suspect he likes the comfort of the bottle, so what you could try doing is give him a sippy cup with just water in it. If he still makes a fuss about the milk, give a mixture of equal parts milk and water, gradually add more water than milk until he is just drinking water. I cover the dilution strategy and a couple of other ideas here.
You say that if your little boy wakes, something is bugging him; if it is something that occurs often then try to remove or avoid that happening if you can identify what it is. Rather trying to wean him off the milk he asks for when he wakes in the middle of the night, I would suggest that you simply put your foot down and say no. You could try the water in the sippy cup, and simply just go in and tell him he can’t have any more milk until the morning but that he can have water. Keep the same sippy cup next to his bed, so he can help himself. This will minimize fuss and disruption for both of you in the night.
I know this sounds like a pain at 4 o’clock in the morning, but I’m confident that once he learns that there is no benefit to asking for milk each time he wakes up, the habit will lessen.
Does he sleep through the night when he goes to granny’s house?
I wish you luck, Michelle, and sleep tight.
A number of readers have told me of their struggles to ensure a good night’s sleep for their children and themselves. Summer writes:
Hello Nanny Godmother! I hope you can help me. My two-year-old son has always been a terrible sleeper. We bedshared from the age of 3 months to twenty months. He was sleeping in his own bed for four months relatively ok – waking up once or twice a night. Around Christmas time he began waking up all night and it is still happening. We’ve moved him to a pallet on the floor next to my side of the bed. He will only fall asleep if I hold his hands. It seems that separation anxiety is in full swing which was never a problem before. How can I make him fall asleep without all this new anxiety he is feeling? If you can tell me how to get him to sleep all night you’d truly be my Nanny Godmother!
Tammy, whose almost two year old boy is having a related problem, writes:
My son was sleeping real well in his toddler bed for about 3 months and then all of a sudden he has started waking up each and every night around 12 or 1 a.m. and crawling into bed with me. How do I get him to stay in his own bed? For now we have to sleep in the same room. Please help.
Ladies, most children go through this phase. It’s normally just attention-seeking behaviour. You need to nip it in the bud before it becomes a bad habit. As soon as you hear your little boy get up, put him straight back to bed. Try not to make too much of a fuss over him; just take his hand, say “Bedtime now, mummy’s right here.” Give a kiss and get back into bed. If you stick to this routine for the first couple of nights, then after that when he wakes just take his hand and put him back to bed; don’t say a word. He just wants to know you are there. Try to avoid anything before bedtime that could overstimulate him, e.g. TV, scary books or lots of noise.
It should only last a couple of weeks if you manage to stick to the routine.
Summer, as for the hand-holding problem, you could try the following technique. First night, just sitting next to his bed until he falls asleep, but no touching; second night, sit with your back to him next to the bed; then as the nights go on, try to move farther and farther away from the bed until the point where you are sitting outside the bedroom door. It might take a little while for him to get used to not holding your hand, but I am confident that if you stick to this method you’ll get some sleep.
Good luck, mums, sleep well!