How do you eliminate night waking in a 3.5 year old?


I have a question. My 3.5 year old has been a great sleeper since 13 months (after having to cry it out for sleep training). We switched him to a bed about two months ago. At first things were fine, but the last few weeks he has been getting up several nights a week, usually 2-3 times a night. He isn’t sick or scared – he usually tells me he loves and misses me and wants to get in my bed. Last night he was up because he couldn’t find his bear, and then wanted to be covered bya blanket. We tried a bunny sleep clock, but he said the light is scary and he hides it in his closet.

I usually go in and then quickly leave after telling him to go back to bed. But I am exhausted – I have a 20 month old and am 6 months pregnant. I have tried talking to him, taking toys away the mornings he wakes a lot, and today I had a long talk where I made it clear I was disappointed and tired because of him being up. I tried letting him pick his pjs and sleep animals if he stays in bed quietly all night and taking that away the mornings he doesn’t. I am about to buy a child proof door handle cover and then just stop going in. I don’t want to make him cry it out again, but I really feel he doesn’t need me and I am so tired. I also feel so guilty the days I lose it and yell at him to go to bed. Help!!

Yes, we get it! Sleep deprivation (or the fear of it) makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do as a mom! The GREAT news is he’s old enough to learn from some sleep training now. Locking the door is extreme, and for extremely desperate situations and we do prefer you try other strategies first. It’s a little homework, but try this:

1. Make a picture chart the two of you can follow before bed. The last step is “stay in bed until morning sound”

2. set a “morning sound” (pleasant music or chimes) and tell your son it will be time to play when he hears his morning music. make sure you are asking him to do an age appropriate amount of sleep by checking our our blog on age/stage expectations. 3. From the time bedtime routine ends, to the time morning sound plays turn into “night Mommy”. This step is CRITICAL!! REmind yourself that intermittant reinforcement (saying no, no, no, no FINE, yes) is the most powerful kind of reinforcement for your child!!! So be super consistent. Each time he gets up, calmly and gently place him back in his bed. That’s it. No talking, no reminding, no scolding. Just be nautral, calm mommy over and over and over. The first two nights are hard but you will be amazed at how he learns to wait for that morning sound! As soon as it goes off – you need to change your behavior. Now you are “day Mommy” – happy, playful and you start his day!!

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