In the past two months my 18-month-old has been waking up two or three times each night and crying. I must carry him in my arms to stop his crying and he becomes very angry and anxious when I try to put him in his bed. I can spend one or two hours holding him in my arms every night. He also prefers me to carry him while I am standing (he gets very angry when I try to sit). What can I do to break him from this habit? I think he is too old to be carried like this.
Most children his age will wake several times during the night. Some will settle themselves. Others will cry and then go back to sleep. Your son has trained you to hold him while you are standing up for several hours when he wakes.
He is not abnormal. He did not plot this out. You are not abnormal. You responded to his crying as a caring mom.
But the result is a disaster for you and for him. Your evenings are out of control. His sleep is very disrupted. Your relationship with him may be suffering. It may be interfering with your relationship with your partner.
The quickest way to help him has been termed the cry it out method:
- Make sure his crib is safe.
- Have a nice bed time routine.
- When he wakes and starts to cry. Ignore it.
- He will cry more and more. Ignore it.
- He may cry for 30 minutes or longer. Ignore it.
- He will eventually stop crying and fall asleep.
- Over a week or 10 days if you continue to ignore his crying, it will lessen.
Eventually, he will wake, give a snort or two and go back to sleep.
Likely, he will start the crying again in a few weeks or months when he is stressed or ill. Let him cry it out again.
Do not start this strategy unless you are committed to letting him cry it out. If you are inconsistent, you will make his problem worse. You may need social support.
My wife and I used this with our daughter who is now an adult. It was about 40 minutes of crying the first night. It was hard. We persisted and in a week she was sleeping well and much more rested in the morning.