Helpful Tips on How to Get Your 1-Year-Old to Sleep
As a parent, you are always exhausted it seems, and when it comes to sleep training, things can definitely get harder. As a first-time mother, I tried a million ways to get my child to go to bed at a reasonable hour and to sleep through the night. I tried millions of ways to get my 1-year-old daughter to sleep and to not wake up several times a night, and I found that when other mothers and doctors said it would be impossible, they were right. Nothing seemed to help. That is until I found my own method.
Each child is different. They have different needs and wants, and there are different ways to calm them down. I will be discussing a few methods others had suggest to me, as well as, methods that actually ended up working for getting my daughter to end her crazy sleep schedule. As a first-time mother, I was concerned that my child, at 9 months at the time, was never going to let me go to bed at 10pm or earlier. Even with my husband helping out, he still had a schedule to adhere to for his work. However, he had learned to go to bed at 2am to help get our little one to bed. When she was 11 months old, we decided to try some of the methods others suggested to try to get her to bed earlier than 2am. We still have issues from time to time, but that is usually our fault or nightmares. Before you can ask, yes, babies can have nightmares and we will discuss that too.
At first our daughter hated her crib and bedtime. We thought it was because she was afraid of the dark, and to some extent, that was true, so we left a hall light on so the room was never too dark for her, but she still hated bedtime. She would nap during the day at weird hours and stay up until 2am before she would even let us carry her into her room. As soon as she was in the crib by herself, she would begin screaming. At first we didn't understand what could be causing this issue and did some homework. Here are a few things we found that sadly didn't help.
Methods to Try to Put a Baby to Sleep
Cry It Out Method
At first glance, it sounds like a good idea. Especially since it has ways to let the child know they are okay, while trying to teach them to self soothe. My child was always good at self soothing when she would stumble when learning to walk or if something upset her. She was very independent, until bed time. With the cry it out method, you place your child in their crib (or playpen depending on the situation you are in) and tell them you love them and its time for bed or naptime and walk out of the room while they cry. At first you only stay out of the room and let them cry for 5 minutes before checking on them. Then when you go in there you would let the child know everything is fine but they should go to bed and get some sleep, tell them goodnight and leave again, but this time for ten minutes and repeat.
So we tried it and sadly it was the hardest thing I even did. Hearing her cry constantly like that broke my heart every time. I couldn't let her cry and after weeks of trying this, nothing changed. After an hour of this method, we would give up and bring her out. We were both always tired and it seemed easier to stop with the cry it out method after an hour. Than deal with it all night, but I wanted my bed back. Being around your child 24/7 can be exhausting, and as most parents will agree, you can't even take a shower or use the bathroom without your child wanting in. So something had to change. That's when we started unwind time before bed.
Children especially infants and toddlers, are always stimulated by the things around them. All the new sounds, foods, smells, toy and everything else that we don't seem to notice, excited them and gets their brains working. So a lot of articles and people suggested some unwind time before bed. So we would sit together and try to just relax, whether it was watching her favorite music videos or reading books, or just simply talking in soothing voices with her. I would do this for an hour every night at 9pm since I had wanted her in bed at ten. I had even changed it so she didn't sleep past 5pm for her nap times. I enjoyed the unwind time. Just telling her about different things I did while she napped and the silly things her dad said that happened at work seemed to please he. She would hold onto me and try to tickle me and what not, but we would talk and enjoy the time of relaxtion together. However, going to bed was not allowed.
We even tried the cry it out method while doing this and we were still up to 2am. At this point we got desperate. What else could be going wrong? She wasn't teething or ill, so what else could we be not understanding.
Children thrive on routine. Luckily, I do too. So I set up a routine where we got up earlier than she would like, ate, played, napped, then learning activities and so on. Maybe she just didn't have enough play time or something. This routine last all of a week before she started napping more when she would be in her play room or while I cooked dinner. The naps were short lived and very frequent. I thought at first it was because she was growing or I didn't give her enough nap times. Turns out getting up at 9am and going to bed at 10pm, with 2 2 hour naps a day was not cutting it. She would take her naps and still try to nap at 7 pm while I cooked dinner and then still want to play and move until 2am. It wasn't like I didn't play a ton with her, or even make her stay up all day. She had just grown into the habit of bedtime was at 2am when her father would go to bed. It was driving me crazy. We would do the same thing every night ; a bottle of milk, a story, a song then in the crib. But it failed every time. Then we finally decided to try to trick our child into sleeping.
My Own Method
Now tricking my child was going to be tough. I had to learn her signs for being tired and teach her a new way of going to bed. At first it was rough, but soon I could recognize the way she would act before she became overtired and would refuse bed altogether. Every child has signs—you just have to know to look for them. At first, we still couldn't get her in her crib, but we found out she could go in her crib if she fell into a deep sleep before hand. So we started holding her when she would get tired and let her fall asleep while we played video games, watched movies, or tried to settle into bed ourselves. After holding her asleep for 20 minutes, we would slowly carry her to her crib and lay her down in it, and she would stay asleep. We were so happy. Combined with earlier naps, and regular heavy play times closer to when we wanted her to sleep, we found ourselves getting her closer to that 10pm time area.
After about 2 weeks of doing this, we decided to skip having her fall asleep with us and then putting her in her crib to just putting her to bed. The problem started again. Turned out, she didn't want the silence when she slept. Now she has a television in her room so she can watch her shows while she plays in there or listen to her baby songs during the day. I never thought to have it on at bedtime. Seeing as we used to have sound on while I was pregnant with her, I had grown accustomed to listening to things when I try to sleep as well. Even not I still put on some music or a show I can listen to until I fall asleep. So if it works for me, why wouldn't it for her?
Sure enough. She would go to sleep in the drop of a dime in her crib by herself if we left a phone near by playing her music. Sadly, that ended quickly because there are now available outlets where we could charge our phones to keep them from dying and needing charge in the morning. Then we got the Amazon fire stick and had that connected to her tv and would play her music there. Sure enough with the sound she would pass out, and with the light, we wouldn't need the hall light anymore. Once she started sleeping through the night, our lives became simple. However, this led to a new problem and sadly it was one I was hoping she wouldn't suffer: nightmares.
It seems silly that a child who hasn't experienced much of anything outside the house would have nightmares, but I can assure you this is the case. Like myself, my daughter not only laughs and talks in her sleep but has nightmares that cause her to scream and cry, and sometimes she doesn't even wake through them. Those nights are the hardest. I find getting her to go back to sleep after a terrifying dream is hard and I usually end up let her sleep with me. As I am a light sleeper, I never worry about crushing her. I wake up just to switch sleeping positions when its just me and my husband. So when it comes to the nightmares, I bring her into bed with me and let her sleep on my chest, usually if she sleeps without movement for 30 minutes, I will then move her back to her crib. I know nightmares are a way of your brain working things out or showing its stress, but its cruel that a 1 year old would have to go through this. What could be bothering her?
I am still unsure of the answer to that question, but I know how heart wrenching it is to have to try to calm her down after one. It has gotten better and she doesn't always needs to come to bed with me. I found talking in soothing tones really help calm her down. I don't mean for a minute or two either. My husband does that and goes back to sleep and she will still be upset. I found talking to her until she is breathing regularly again and it less panicked before putting her in her crib again really helps. Unfortunately it is the times she doesn't wake up that now worries me, and I will be bringing it up again to her doctor.
I was told not to wake them up if they are screaming and crying in their sleep, and yes after a period of time, they do settle down into a peaceful sleep once more, but as you may know, its not easy listening to them scream and cry for more than a minute and not do anything to help them. I did find out that is you softly talk to them during this time, it can help them calm down faster. My child gets these horrid nightmares that she can't wake from at least once a month and they can go on for as long as an hour. It hurts me to see her suffer, but I have found when I softly tell her it’s a dream, that it can't hurt her, or just tell her about something I had thought about that day, as long as I was talking, it would end up only being a few minutes to 20 minutes. Much better than an hour. No one is completely sure what may cause these horrid dreams in such small children. I have asked and tried to figure it out myself. But what I do know, is with patience, love, and a soothing voice, sometimes those after affects will disappear.
As I stated in the beginning, each child is different and how you handle your child should be unique to them. I have mention a few things we tried based on others and I mentioned how we ended up getting things to work. I know the above mentioned may not work for you, but I hope it helps you find your own way of helping your child get the sleep they deserve while allowing you the sleep you are being deprived of. It never hurts to talk to your doctor or family for some help if you feel like your losing your mind. I just want to make sure you understand we all have been there and we all have different ways to finding solutions to what works. After all, you need to find out what is best for your child and for yourself.
© 2019 Chrissy