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Helpful Tips on How to Get Your 1-Year-Old to Sleep

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Chrissy is a new mother who struggles with motherhood as most women do. She is always trying new things and wants to help others like her.

Tips and tricks for helping your little one fall asleep.

Tips and tricks for helping your little one fall asleep.

For the Babies That Hate Bedtime

As a parent, it seems you are always exhausted, and when it comes to sleep training, things can definitely get harder. As a first-time mother, I tried millions of ways to get my 1-year-old daughter to go to sleep early, 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 suggested to me, as well as methods that actually worked for getting my daughter to end her crazy sleep schedule. For a long time, I was concerned that my child was never going to let me go to bed before 10 PM. Even with my husband helping out, he still had a schedule to adhere to for his work. Eventually, he learned to go to sleep at 2 AM 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 2 AM. We still have issues from time to time, but that is usually our fault or because of 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 it. She would nap during the day at weird hours and stay up until 2 AM 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 we decided to do some homework. Here are a few things we found.

My daughter at 7 months. Bedtime is play time.

My daughter at 7 months. Bedtime is play time.

Methods to Try to Put a Baby to Sleep

These were some of the popular methods we found in our search for a solution.

The 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 bedtime. With the cry-it-out method, you place your child in their crib (or playpen, depending on the situation you are in), tell them you love them and that it's time for them to lay down, and then 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 returning to check on them. Then, when you go in there, you 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. Repeat this until they are officially asleep.

So we tried it, and sadly, it was the hardest thing I ever 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 it was to 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 trying the unwind time method.

By playing earlier in the day, we were able to practice a calmer "unwind time" closer to when we wanted our baby in bed.

By playing earlier in the day, we were able to practice a calmer "unwind time" closer to when we wanted our baby in bed.

Unwind Time

Children, especially infants and toddlers, are always stimulated by the things around them. All the new sounds, foods, smells, toys, and everything else that excites them and gets their brains working. So a lot of articles and people suggested some unwind time before bed. 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 9 PM since I had wanted her in bed at ten. I had even changed her schedule, so she didn't sleep past 5 PM 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 her. She would hold onto me and try to tickle me and whatnot, but we would talk and enjoy the time of relaxation together. However, going to bed was not allowed.

We even tried the cry-it-out method while doing this, and we were still up until 2 AM. 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?

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Stricter Routines

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, did learning activities, and so on. Maybe she just didn't have enough playtime or something. This routine lasted all of a week before she started napping more when she would be in her playroom 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. It turns out, getting up at 9 AM and going to bed at 10 PM, with two 2-hour naps a day, was not cutting it. She would take her naps and still try to sleep at 7 PM while I cooked dinner and then still want to play and move until 2 AM. 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 going to sleep at 2 AM 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.

Trying to sleep train, but ended up using our own method, letting her fall asleep with us before being moved to crib. No, she doesn't do this anymore.

Trying to sleep train, but ended up using our own method, letting her fall asleep with us before being moved to crib. No, she doesn't do this anymore.

The Method That Finally Worked

Now, tricking my child was going to be tough. I had to learn her signs of being tired and teach her a new way of going to bed. At first, it was difficult, 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 beforehand. 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 10 PM time area.

After about two weeks of doing this, we decided to skip having her fall asleep with us and tried putting her directly in her crib. 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, sometimes, she listens 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 now, 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 at the drop of a dime in her crib by herself if we left a phone nearby, playing her music. Sadly, that ended quickly because there were no available outlets where we could charge our phones to keep them from dying and needing a charge in the morning. Then we got the Amazon fire stick, which connected to her tv and would play her music there. Sure enough, with the sound, she would pass out, and with the TV light, we wouldn't need the hall light anymore. Once she started sleeping through the night, our lives became simple.

However, all of this led to a new problem, and sadly it was one I was hoping she wouldn't suffer: nightmares.

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 letting 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 it's just my husband and me. 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 it's 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 need to come to bed with me. I found talking in soothing tones really helped 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 and is less panicked before putting her in her crib again really helps. Unfortunately, it is the times she doesn't wake up that now worry me, and I will be bringing it up again to her doctor.

What to Do if Your Baby Is Having a Nightmare

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. However, as you may know, it's not easy listening to them scream and cry for more than a minute without doing anything to help them. I did find out that if 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-effects will disappear.

Hopefully, with the help of these tips, your child will be able to fall asleep earlier.

Hopefully, with the help of these tips, your child will be able to fall asleep earlier.

Good Luck!

As I stated in the beginning, each child is different, and how you handle your child should be unique to them. I have mentioned 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 rest you are being deprived of.

It never hurts to talk to your doctor or family for some help if you feel like you're losing your mind. I just want to make sure you understand we all have been there, and we all have different ways of finding solutions to what works. After all, you need to find out what is best for your child and for yourself.

© 2019 Chrissy

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