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Getting baby to sleep with another on the way
Q: My 19-month-old son doesn't sleep through the night and hasn't since he was born. He consistently wakes at 2:30 and 5:30 a.m. He's just up a few minutes, and a bottle or pacifier usually puts him back down. But with another on the way, I'm trying hard to remove the bottles and get him to sleep a full night. Any help would be much appreciated.
Lisa in New Milford
Have him checked for acid reflux. My baby was waking at 4:30 a.m. religiously, and I would give him a bottle, assuming he was hungry. He was actually in pain. Since he was put on medication he sleeps from his night bottle to 8 a.m.

Tabitha in New Orleans, LA
At 19 months it is time to wean your baby from a bottle and give him a cup. Some parents I know have made this a game, or have said something like, "Bottles are for babies. You're a big boy, so let's put the (not 'your') bottles away until the baby needs them." If he likes the paci just as well, leave a few extras in his bed where he can find them when he needs them. Then you will gradually not have to go in to help him anymore.

Lori in Joliet
My first child was the same way. I asked her doctor for suggestions and he said to let her work through it herself. She cried herself to back to sleep the first three nights, and after that she slept through the night. The first three nights it was really hard, but it was worth it.

Jennifer in Dayton
"Sleep cues" help kids go back to sleep. The sleep cues I use are a beautiful, colorful angel light and a classical lullaby CD. I turn these on at night and turn them off when my son wakes in the morning. He's almost 2 months old and only wakes up once a night. When he does wake up I quietly change his diaper in his room and feed him. I have been doing this for a couple weeks now and am amazed at how quickly he falls asleep, and how long he stays asleep.

Mel in Newark
Have you tried feeding him before he goes to bed? I do that and my daughter doesn't get up until around 6 a.m.

Jessica in Elkhorn
Try fewer naps during the day and playing hard for three hours before bed. Also, fresh air helps a lot. Take baby for a bike ride before bed.

Mandy in Berlin Center, Ohio
I find that if I feed my 21-month-old son some protein before bath time and bed, he does not wake up for that night feeding.

Chicken Little in Bellflower
With another one on the way his timing is perfect. You'll be up with the newborn for feeding and changing, anyway. So try not to push him to grow too fast. He's still your first baby. Trust me—it gets easier with the second one. You might not think so, but soon you will see that their timing just seems to blend.

Tonji in Suisun City
First, you should take him off the bottle. Let him use a sippy cup instead. (Check with your pediatrician, who will probably recommend the same thing). At dinner time, try to get him to eat a little more. Right before bedtime give him a warm bath and gently brush his hair for a few minutes.

Crystal in W. Chicago, IL
When my daughter turned 1, I made the decision to take her off the bottle. She used a pacifier at that time, but I wanted to get her off the bottle first. Six months later it was time to take her off the pacifier. I had to live with her crying in the middle of night.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, M.D., M.P.H.
It’s a good idea to try to help your 19-month-old sleep through the night so you can get more sleep during your pregnancy and prepare yourself physically and emotionally for your new baby.

Toddlers typically need 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day, including a daytime nap of one to three hours and nine to 13 hours of sleep at night. At 19 months of age, your son should be able to learn to sleep through the night. But because children have sleep cycles of deep sleep and lighter sleep, when they briefly wake up during the night, getting your son to “sleep through the night” means helping him learn to settle himself back to sleep when he awakens. Here are some tips:
  • Make sure your son gets physical activity each day. This will help him be ready for sleep.
  • If he’s still taking two naps a day, try to switch him to one so he sleeps longer at night.
  • Make sure he eats well before bed so he doesn’t wake up because he’s hungry.
  • Have a bedtime routine that helps your son relax and get ready for sleep. This could include a bath, book, song and cuddling with you and a blanket or stuffed animal.
  • Put your son to sleep when he’s just drowsy, not sound asleep, so he learns how to fall asleep on his own.
  • When he wakes up at 2:30 a.m., wait a few minutes to see if he’s just fussing and can put himself back to sleep. If he continues to cry, check on him. It can be helpful to have your husband do it, because he might want you more. Don’t turn on the light, pick up your son or feed him. Reassure him in a soft voice or pat him gently and leave. Continue this pattern of waiting and checking on him until he falls asleep. It can be difficult to listen to him cry, but if you’re reassured that he’s OK, try to stick to the plan. Consistency will pay off for you and him. Each night, extend the amount of time you wait a little more, until he learns to settle himself back to sleep. For many babies it takes only three days of consistent waiting and checking; for some it takes a little more.
  • When your son wakes up at 5:30 a.m., try the same technique. If you find that this doesn’t work, it may be that your son is an early riser and ready for the day. If you or your husband is an early riser, this may be OK. If not, and you need your son to stay in bed a little longer, you can try different strategies, such as putting him to bed a little later, leaving safe toys in his crib to play with when he wakes up or bringing him into your bed to cuddle for a while before getting up.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician