Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/1 1/2 yr old DD not sleeping


DD has been a bottled baby since the beginning.  We currently live with family and also have 2 1/2 year old (DS) all sleeping in the same vicinity.  So when the baby wakes we soothe her back to sleep with a bottle.  This usually happens between 2-5 times a night.  We planned on breaking the bottle habit when we get out and she is in her own room.  Recently she has refused her bottle and fights us soothing her, rocking her, feeding her.  She screams and cries and flails and it's nearly impossible to even hold her, more less put her back to bed.  When my Dad comes in the offer help she immediately calms and he is able to get her to sleep with him in his bed.  I've attempted to let her sleep with me, and it seems to help some... but less and less.  She's fighting that now too.  I am exhausted and need help.  Between mommying a 1 and 2 year old and working 40+ hours, I just need any advice that can help.

Hello Nichole,
 I can understand the exhaustion and frustration. And, of course, adding to the complications of your situation is living with your family. When others are around, it creates more stress for you in terms of being that "good parent" you'd probably like to be. And being a good -- or even great -- parent would obviously mean that you have children who sleep through the night; and if they don't, then you know exactly how to deal with it.
I have good news and bad news for you, though. First, the bad news.You are establishing some bad habits in your child that will be difficult to change in the future. The first one is "rewarding" her for waking up during the night. By giving her a bottle and allowing her to sleep with someone else, you are reinforcing her waking up. In effect, you are training her to awaken in the night and cry until she gets what she wants. The other piece of bad news is that there will be no quick and easy solution. To train her will take some time and you will lose more sleep.
However, the good news is that there is a way of teaching her to stay asleep.

The first thing is to stop the rewards at night when she awakens. Your goal is to teach her to go back to sleep on her own #without a bottle or sleeping with anyone else#. She must learn to self-soothe. So, the way to do this is to first not reinforce her when she awakens. You should not go to her when she awakens and starts to cry. Give her a chance to calm herself and go back to sleep. Of course, this won't happen at first. Only go to her if the crying becomes too intense. Then, when you go to her, do not pick her up. You can talk to her softly and comfort her through patting her or rubbing her back. She will cry for a long time in the beginning -- and be prepared to lose some sleep in the early stages. But don't give in to a short-term solution #a bottle, rocking her, letting her sleep with you, etc.#.
You will have to follow these instructions consistently over a few weeks before she starts soothing herself and going back to sleep on her own.
 Any questions?
 Hang in there.

James Windell  


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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