Q&A: How can I help my 14-month-old son sleep through the night?
My son is 14 months old and I am having a very difficult time with getting him to sleep in his own crib, in his own room, the entire night through. On occasion, he has slept with Mommy and Daddy, though he's mainly restricted to his crib at night. I've read and heard from his pediatrician that he is required to have between 10 and 13 hours of sleep at night, with two naps ranging from one to two hours throughout the day. My son sleeps around seven to nine hours at night, and occasionally takes a "power nap" during the day. He just does not sleep very solidly at night. He wakes up screaming or constantly crying every two to four hours, until he's picked up and held. Then he falls asleep again. This is a constant battle. I just cannot discover a way to get my son to sleep the entire night through, and I am constantly so sleepy! My son is a very energetic, hyperactive (no prescriptions or medication required, he's just hyper!), and handsome little baby boy.
At first he had a night-light in his room. Now he sleeps in complete darkness, which seems to calm him down a little, then all of a sudden within a few hours he wakes up!
At night I have a strict bedtime ritual that includes a bubble bath and faithful reading with my son, then it's bedtime. Please advise me.
The issue boils down to what are called “sleep associations,” the people or objects that young children use as comfort, and to trigger sleep. As children awaken during the night (and all do to some degree) they seek that familiar person or object to help them drift back off again. Your son is using you and his dad as his sleep association, and the key goal should be to get him to “learn” to use a different object instead.
So, after that nice pre-bedtime ritual you have set up, put him in his crib, sleepy but not asleep, with a comforting object, and train him to make that last step into full sleep without you. When he awakens and cries out for you, reassure him with a brief presence (but as little contact as possible), then leave. You can follow the Ferber Plan, (outlined in a book called How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber) where parents wait progressively longer intervals before going in, eventually training their children to fall asleep by themselves.
This all probably sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but usually for no more than a week or two. The key to making it work is absolute consistency from night to night, as well as between both parents.
Lastly, though you are right about the average toddler sleeping a 12-hour night, sleep requirements vary greatly among children (and adults), so if your son isn’t acting tired during his day and you are putting him to sleep when you sense he needs it, then his amount of sleep may be right for him.