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Cher, Teacher
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 20862
Experience:  Extensive Experience working with Children/Teens; M.A. Teacher/Tutor 40+ yrs.; Parent of 2
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I have a 20month old who is not going to sleep without holding

Resolved Question:

I have a 20month old who is not going to sleep without holding our hand, what can we do break this routine. We have made the room more fun and she likes playing and reading in her cot. once she is asleep generally she sleeps but some weeks has woken up at 3.30am (ish) She sleeps in the day for 1.5 to 2.0 hrs between 12.30 and 2.30pm (at nursery) please help!
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Cher replied 7 years ago.

How did this habit begin? Have you been holding her hand as she falls asleep since she was an infant?

When she wakes up about 3:30AM, do you have to hold her hand until she falls asleep again? How long does it take for her to fall asleep initially, and when she wakes up at 3:30AM?

Is she your only child?

Thanks for all your additional information.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Dear Cher

Thanks for your response

She is our only child
As an infant she used to fall asleep in her cot without holding our hand, then she started holding our hand and then stopped and just recently has started again (last 2 to 3 months)

If she holds our hand she falls asleep initially within 10-40mins (usually about 25-30mins)
At 3.30am if she wakes she will go back to sleep once she see me (Dad) rather than mummy, she actually cries for daddy when she wakes. she doesnt need to hold our hand most of the time but sometimes she does. She sometimes just does not settle and then we have to put her into our bed (i know its no no but it lets us all sleep!) generally settles quite quickly at 3.30am if she sees me.


Expert:  Cher replied 7 years ago.
Hello Amit, and you're most welcome.

Thanks very much for your reply with additional and helpful information.

It's alright that you bring her into your bed, for the moment, and there are those who believe in 'the family bed', but if you don't want her to get into the habit of sleeping with you, you can gradually stop that practice as she gets older. I understand you're doing it now so all can get back to sleep. Believe me, I've been there/done that, with an infant daughter who was not a good sleeper from birth, and you get desperate to do ANYTHING to help her and yourselves get your rest! : )

From your description, if this habit had stopped, and now just started again recently, I don't think it will be too difficult to get her out of it. Try to establish a bedtime routine, like a bath to relax her, story time and cuddle time before bed, hold her hand if she requests it, for a short time, and try to decrease the hand- holding time gradually, until she no longer needs it or asks for it. In addition, if she is mature enough to understand positive reinforcement, you can promise her a 'reward' the next day, like shopping for something she really likes/wants, or something you've pre-chosen like a toy (doesn't have to be costly), or even a favorite healthy treat or visit to a relative, zoo, etc., if she *doesn't* hold your hand to fall asleep.

Also, you can give her a nice sized stuffed animal, like a teddy bear, etc., and try to transition her from holding YOUR hand to holding the teddy's 'paw', if this is a habit borne out of wanting to feel more secure when she falls asleep. Also, if you don't have one already, put a nightlight in her room, so it's not completely dark; you can also put a radio with soft music on low volume, in her room, to help relax her to sleep.

Keep reassuring her that you and her mum will always be in the next room and she's getting to be 'big' girl now, and big girls don't need to hold daddy's or mummy's hand to fall asleep. If she wants to do this because she has a fear of being in her room alone, see if you can also transition the holding of the hand, to just being 'close by' in her room until she falls asleep, but again, that will have to be gradually phased out. Place a chair near her cot, and every two days, place it a little further away from the cot and closer to the door, and then place it outside the door and tell her that's where you'll be. I'm assuming you have a baby monitor, so you can hear her cry or whenever she awakens, and you can go back into her room to soothe her if she's upset.

I hope some of these suggestions will be helpful, and she outgrows this habit, soon.

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