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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 5087
Experience:  Dr.Mark is a psychologist in private practice who works with parents and children in resolving family issues.
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sleep regression with my 2.5 year old.

Customer Question

hi, i am experiencing a sleep regression with my 2.5 year old. it started about 2 months ago when she started resisting nap and bed and climbed out of her crib. we switched her into a toddler bed but she refused to sleep on her own. she would scream and cry and that is very out of character for her. the one time we pushed her for 40 minutes and she was drenched in sweat from head to toe from the stress- i felt terrible and have not pushed since. we sleep with her now (until she falls asleep) for nap and bedtime. i thought it might just be a phase but i am worring now that we may be enabling a long term pattern. would love any advice. she had been a great sleeper up until then and she is a mild mannered little girl


also, she is not afraid of her room or being by herself.  she will go up there and play on her own- just not for sleep times

Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.

Hi! I'll be glad to help you with this issue.


First, let me say I can imagine how distressing this situation must be for you. On the surface it seems like a small problem. But in reality I'm sure it is disrupting the family's functioning. This is not an uncommon problem at your daughter's age. This is an age where there are so many developmental leaps and surges happening that anxiety is very prevalent.

After a while, the soothing/comforting activity that was found becomes the "normal" for the child. Waiting it out is not a great idea because it will reinforce the behavior that you do NOT want to reinforce: needing you near or next to her in order to fall asleep.


Rather, you want to reward the positive behavior, sleeping and napping on her own. But you have to help her get to the positive behavior. So let me give you a good behavioral technique for accomplishing that.

Right now, every night or at least very often you have someone sleeping with her or she sleeps in your bed or you in hers; the same at nap time. Now I want you the next time this happens to have a blanket or a sweatshirt that the main comforting parent who she sleeps with wears. It needs to be not your favorite. You'll see why.

You (assuming it's you, but if not then your husband, or both of you) wear that sweatshirt or use that blanket each night for the next 4-6 nights. After that, when it's time to go to bed, you tell her how much you love her, how she's your precious one. You repeat it. You then tell her that it's not the time for you to be asleep right now, but that doesn't mean you don't love her. And you want her to know how close you are to her so here's the sweatshirt/blanket that you want her to have next to her that will comfort her and help her know that she's safe. That she's loved. You repeat this whole speech. Very childish language. Speak in sweet, childish ways about how this blanket or shirt is like your love for her and like how good everything is.

And you kiss the sweatshirt or blanket and you give it to her and hug her. Then you tell her how in the morning if she sleeps in his room with your blanket/sweatshirt, when she gets up there'll be a special breakfast for her. And then you do NOT give in. Again, you do NOT give in. You just repeat that the sweatshirt/blanket will help her know how much you love her and that she is safe and that you are all protected. Then when she succeeds that next day, you make her the breakfast AND you give her a special toy for having succeeded that you have ready and waiting in secret.

This is the behavioral program. You have just learned the basic technique of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You are rewarding the desired behavior and you are helping her with tools (blanket) for getting past the negative behavior. So make sure to not give in. This is how parents fail in the CBT techniques, by not following through long enough. So don't give up.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 5087
Experience: Dr.Mark is a psychologist in private practice who works with parents and children in resolving family issues.
Dr. Mark and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

ok, so just to clarify-


it is usually me at naptime and my husband at bedtime but we can get two shirts or blankets of course.


so for the next week we do the speech every night about the love and the blanket and protection etc.


and then after 6 nights we give her the blanket do the same speech and leave her alone? when you say dont give up do you mean let her cry? do we lock her in her room!? yikes...

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
No. Do not lock her in the room.You can come in a couple of times the first couple of nights/days to remind her of the treats. And to kiss the blanket again with her. But don't lie down with her after that first week.


Yes, it's scary. I recall one couple I worked with. They were sent by their pediatrician. The mother looked so tired and haggard, the doctor asked what was wrong. She said she hadn't slept since she couldn't remember when because their toddler was getting up at least twice in the night.


We had to work on these same principles. Your child hasn't gotten this used to it like theirs did. But you have to be careful. Some families are okay with the kids sleeping in their beds or they laying down with their kids until sleep. You realize this is not what you want, so you're acting now which is good.


If you don't want to do this all at once, I understand. I remember myself as a young parent, these issues were so heartwrenching. And we also had to let crying happen. But you could consider starting with naptime first. Using this with naptime and getting her used to that switchover.


Then afterwards you can tackle night time. That I imagine would be less daunting, right?


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

ok, i like the idea of starting at night time.


so allow her to cry/ fuss and i can go in and console her. or if she comes out of her room take her back up and repeat the process. just keep trying to console but DO NOT lie back down with her. even if this means missing the whole nap? just keep consistent and compassionate but dont show frustration - correct. just gently reaffirm until she lays down on her own

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
Right. Remember the positive treat.


You may need to let her have a sample of the treat one of the days during the preparatory week so you can remind her of it, that she'll get this great snack after a nap with her blanket. Make it fun, that you are looking forward to the treat for when she finishes her nap.


All the best,


Dr. Mark
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

my only concern is that she will not lay down and nap and will get overly tired which will make it all harder... but i am going to give it a try! i know the perfect special treat for her. thank you for your help

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
Well, yes, that is going to happen to some degree. Remember: the behavior started as a response to anxiety. It was a soothing activity for her to have you lie down with her. So, the anxiety will be raised when that is taken away. You're correct. But that's how we're built as humans: we build up bad habits because of anxiety, right? From cigarettes to whatever...And stopping is tough.


But she's young and resilient and so she'll adapt. If you're worried, make it a 10 day training period with the blanket. I don't think you'll need to. If you are sweet with the replacement, and there's no underlying problem going on, she'll recognize the love in the blanket.


Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 10 months ago.

thank you!

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
Have a wonderful time during training week!


Dr. Mark
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this and thank you for your positive rating. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


All the best,
Dr. Mark

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