Q&A: My 2-year-old is off the bottle during the day, but screams at night. What should I do?
I got my 2-year-old son off the bottle during the day. However in the the middle of the night, my son wakes up screaming and crying for a bottle and won't stop till he gets one. Please help. What should I do?
Your son has developed what is known as a sleep association: an object, person or ritual that the child uses either to get to sleep or to get back to sleep. We all awaken to some degree during the night. Most of us have learned to roll over and fall back asleep, but some children are tied to a specific association that they use to settle back down. The longer the bottle (or whatever the object is) has been used, the stronger the association will be. What you need to do to get a decent night’s sleep is to retrain him, either by going “cold turkey” and ignoring him, or, more realistically, by substituting another object that doesn’t require your presence. This can be a favorite toy or stuffed animal, or a bottle of water that he can reach for when he awakens. The important part of this is to introduce the object with the bottle for a few days, then phase the bottle, and yourself, out of the picture. He’ll scream at first, but you will need to let him. Backing down will only teach him that if he screams longer, he’ll get what he wants. If you don’t, he’ll learn to accept the substitute and the trick of settling himself back to sleep. For most children, this happens within one week.