or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Toddler › Life with a Toddler › questions about CIO with toddlers; Update post 19
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

questions about CIO with toddlers; Update post 19

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I have a 21 month old son, who we are desperately trying to get to fall asleep by himself since the addition of his baby sister has made bedtime extremely difficult for me to do alone (and I often am alone for bedtime).  I have NEVER left him to cry it out before, but the past few days my husband has been leaving the room after the bedtime routine, which causes my son to immediately freak out, but only for a few minutes.  If my son doesn't calm down, my husband will go back up and comfort him, then leave again.  So far, he's done this the past 3 nights, and my son has gone to sleep by himself, but has cried alone in his room for 5-10 minutes each night (Not in a row..my husband would go up to comfort him after a minute or two of crying if he didn't calm down.  After the second or third time he would go up, my son would calm down and then fall asleep).  I feel like this is letting him CIO, and it feels kind of wrong to me, but at the same time, I need him to go to sleep on his own and he's not really that upset and never for very long...


I know the problems with letting an infant CIO and how it releases stress hormones and is bad for their development.  Does this hold true for toddlers as well? Is a few minutes of crying by himself damaging to him emotionally do you think?  Has anyone else done this sort of thing with a toddler and can tell me how they felt/what the results where/if they regret it?


I'm really not into "sleep training" and that's what it feels like we're doing.  But I think I'm so desperate to have him fall asleep on his own that I'm willing to think it's an OK parenting practice if it yields results.  Can anyone offer advice on this?  Am I being oversensitive about my son's few minutes of crying each night or is this a valid concern that I need to talk to my husband about and keep him from doing?  Any other recommendations on how to get him to fall asleep more independently without leaving him to cry?

post #2 of 20



I don't have any answers for you, but I just wanted to let you know you are not alone!  I have been trying to figure out the same thing.  My son is also 21 months old, and we are expecting baby #2 in April.  I know that we need to get him to fall asleep on his own now, because once baby is born, I won't have the time to stay in there with him at nap time or bed time until he falls asleep.  One of our issues though, is that in the few minutes he is alone and crying, he ends up pooping.  So then we have to change his diaper and start over.  And I feel horrible about it.  But like you, I have no idea how else to go about it.  I figured he would do so when he was ready, but now we don't really have the luxury of waiting.  We have given up for the time being, but it is something we have to deal with soon, so I will be watching to see what other mama's think.  And I don't think you are being oversensitive.  It breaks my heart to hear my son cry, whether it's for a few seconds or for minutes. 

post #3 of 20

this is one of the problems with having children so close in age. sorry if that's not helpful, since there's nothing you can do about it now.


i have been alone at bedtime for every bedtime for both of my kids. granted, my older one was 3 years old when #2 arrived. but i still didn't (and don't) leave her to put herself to sleep.


timing is everything. since you are the one doing bedtimes, set it up the way you need it to be. for me, i give baths together every night. it's a ritual that says it's going-to-bed time. after PJs are on, they get a few minutes of "free play" to do whatever they like. when #2 was a newborn, i nursed him down during this time. once he was asleep, i laid him down, and went to work on getting big sister to bed. she knew that we had to do her bedtime NOW while little brother was already asleep. then i had a chance to read her books, nurse and snuggle her too. for my older one, having those 10-15 minutes of snuggle time before bed makes ALL the difference between whether she will sleep through the night, or wake up at 3 am wanting some snuggles and love. i would WAY rather invest the 10-15 minutes with her AT BEDTIME than to be awakened during my sleep because she is feeling needy.


of course you figure on being waked up overnight with the newborn. but at least you can time the older one's going to bed for after you get baby to sleep. if nothing else, put on a PBS video for the big one during the time that you are focused on getting baby to sleep. you pretty much have to get the baby to sleep first; you can't get the newborn to "wait," but with a bit of juggling, you might be able to get a 2 year old to wait a bit for the baby to fall asleep, especially if they know that if they are quiet and patient, "good things" will come to those who wait and are quiet.


good luck!

post #4 of 20

I also dont have any answers for you, just my own experience.

My two are 20mos apart & it is tough in this respect. My DS still doesnt go to sleep on his own & the little one is now 8mos old.


In the beginning my DH would stay with DS while I put the baby to sleep. Of course that wound up being right at DSs bed time. So, he ended up staying awake 1/2hr - 1 hr later & being very cranky. My DH also is not around often at bed time. Believe me we had many terrible nights, but now 8mos later things have fallen into a nice groove. I also think DS being 28mos he understands more about the situation & accepts his sister now (thats a whole other story).


When home alone with them I would put on the TV for DS with his favorite show in the bedroom & in the next bedroom over put DD to sleep. I had to really listen to make sure he was not getting into anything. There were many times he would come running in & wake her just as she was falling asleep & I had to start over. There were many times I got so frustrated I lost it & yelled (screamed actually). I just kept telling myself that I was doing the best I could at the time & to hang in there.


Now my DS will get some books & lay dow quietly next to me as I nurse DD to sleep & usually remember to whisper. He is also better at playing alone in his room & quietly checking in on me.


If what you are doing doesnt feel right to you, it probably isnt. Listen to your inner Mama. There are challenges with having two close in age. Remember your older one is still just a little one too.

post #5 of 20

I have no idea, but I'm subscribing in case anybody offers some super awesome alternate plans. DS"s current sleep  habits are beginning to drive me totally bonkers. DS is 14.5 months and only nurses to sleep, and that would be ok, except that it never takes less than 45 minutes to nurse to sleep for a nap, or less than 60 at bedtime.  DD is home for one nap and at bedtime and often must fend for herself while I'm nursing, and this routine is just getting really, really old for everyone.  DD started putting herself to sleep for  naps around 6 months and at bedtime around 9-10 months, and I'm just stumped as to how to help DS develop the same ability.

post #6 of 20

I totally feel you!  It's so hard, but if what you're doing doesn't feel right, stop doing it.  Can your DH stay until he falls asleep?  With my ds I found that if I sit in the room with him, and do something else and completely disengage, he gets bored with me pretty quickly and falls asleep.  I also found that once I established a rock solid routine he went to sleep much easier - after several weeks it didn't disrupt him too much if we varied from the routine, but the first several weeks I had to do it at exactly the same time, the exact same way, etc.  That helped get rid of the bedtime drama pretty quickly.

post #7 of 20

No easy answers -- but honestly, having 2 so close in age -- I feel like you make some sacrifices to make the whole family work, even if it's not your ideal for the individual.  As long as DS isn't frantic and Dh goes to comfort him and it isn't long, I feel much more comfortable with a 21mo crying before bed than a 4mo.  Check in during the day -- is he well rested?  seeming more clingy and needy?  I feel like that's the best way to tell if something is ok or not.


I'm preparing for #4 this spring, and so 17mo DD3 gets put in her crib at bedtime and sometimes she cries, we go in and comfort her, and she goes to sleep on her own.  I was sitting with her in the room, singing and rocking, but it did not help her go to sleep although she was clearly very tired.  She's gotten very comfortable with the routine and now only cries if she's sick or teething.  It's not a cold plop her in the crib routine, but a warm, loving bedtime ritual, even though I'm not nursing her to sleep every night like I did with DD1.  And she's a much better sleeper than DD1, who kept us awake all night through her 2nd year. I'm not saying one is necessarily better than the other, just different, based on the needs of the whole family.


(I wanted to add that it has been miraculous to have Dh take over bedtime with DD3 -- he leaves the light on, talks to her, keeps the door open even though our house is very noisy -- but it works for DD3.  I didn't have the luxury of his help most evenings when it was just DD1 and DD2, so I really appreciate how Daddy's way can really work!  When he's gone, I just copy his routine...)

post #8 of 20

I'm not there yet, but my two will be 16 mos apart. I guess I'm not understanding-- if your dh is handling dc#1's bedtime, and you are doing dc#2's bedtime, what is the need for cio?


My son still wakes 3-4 times a night. We feel v. strongly about no cio. Our plan is to have me handle the smaller baby, and dh will handle the bigger baby.

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for the replies.  I'm glad I'm not alone with this problem!


Let me clarify: we have a very solid bedtime routine.  Most nights Wyatt takes a bath, then we always brush teeth, read books for 15-30 minutes, "blow out" the light, and I sing a few lullabies.  I can do all of that with my newborn daughter in the moby or nursing or sitting in a swing, and if she fusses it's not a big deal.  But after I sing lullabies, Wyatt takes another 15-60 minutes to fall asleep if I just sit in there with him.  Before my daughter was born, I would snuggle him to sleep or rock him.  But I cannot snuggle or rock with my daughter in the moby, and it just so happens that Wyatt's bedtime happens to be Emma's needy time, so she tends to fuss if I leave her for too long in order to put him to bed.  If Wyatt could fall asleep in a few minutes with me rocking him, I'm sure I could get Emma to sleep or occupied without fussing long enough to put him to sleep without crying.  The problem is, he needs me for way longer than that most nights, and I just can't keep Emma quiet and happy for long enough unless she's in the moby, and even then if we're up there for an hour waiting for him to go to sleep, she might still get fussy.  Which leads to him waking back up and us starting all over. 


Bedtime is usually 7-7:30pm.  I've had nights where we're all up and frustrated at 9:30pm.  It's just not good for anyone.  And I guess I'm feeling like maybe my son crying a bit for a few nights is worth it for the whole family to be better off.  But I hate thinking that way and feel awful for not being able to meet his needs better.  This is definitely the most difficult thing with having two close in age.  Like someone else said, he's still a little one, and I don't like making him do things (like fall asleep on his own) before he's ready.  But it's not good for anyone to continue with the way things are.  And that's my dilemma right now.


My husband is home this and last week, which is why he's been doing bedtime.  He knows the difficulties I've been having, which is why he's trying to get Wyatt to fall asleep on his own.  Because in a few weeks, he'll be working nights again, and I will be alone with two kids.  If Wyatt can fall asleep on his own, I will still do the 45-60 minute bedtime routine with him (bath, reading, etc.) but then leave him to fall asleep so I'm not up there with a fussy baby for another hour.


I have not noticed much difference in Wyatt's behavior the last three days/nights since he's been by himself to sleep.  Actually, the one thing that was different last night is my husband slept in bed with me (he usually sleeps with Wyatt so he doesn't have to get up and switch rooms when Wyatt wakes in the middle of the night) and Wyatt slept through the night without waking!  He usually only wakes once, and just for comfort.  But I don't think he's ever slept through the whole night without myself or my husband sleeping with him.  He's still sleeping his normal 11ish hours at night, and seems well rested and takes a good nap in the afternoon.  So I'm not seeing any negative consequences from this, but I could be missing something.  I just don't like to hear him cry at night and am feeling like I'm not taking care of his needs.  Parenting is so hard!

post #10 of 20

My DS is one day younger than your son :). I want to give you a suggestion of another method of sleep "shaping" (I don't believe in "training," but I do think we can guide them to be better sleepers). I don't have a newborn, but DS's horrible sleep patterns were starting to take a toll on my marriage after 14 months of waking every 45 min to nurse. We picked up a book that used a method called the Sleep Lady Shuffle. This worked SOOO well for us, and he is now sleeping through the night consistently and bedtimes are so much more peaceful. He has recently started needing me in the room again to fall asleep since having an ear infection, but we can start over with the Shuffle whenever we're all feeling healthy again. The gist of the method is that you sit in a chair right next to him, patting him/singing/whatever while he falls asleep. Every few nights you do less and less and move your chair further and further away from him, each night staying in the chair until he is asleep. Eventually, you have the chair in the hallway, and you tell him you are right there listening until he is asleep. After a few nights of that, you tell him you are close by listening, and soon he no longer needs you right with him to fall asleep. 


It doesn't work for everyone, and I don't think this would have worked for my son when he was younger, but since he can now reason a little bit and understand what I'm saying to him, it has worked well. He would cry a little bit each time I would move the chair further away, but it was just a whiney kind of fuss and he would settle quickly when he realized I was still there with him. I hope this helps!

post #11 of 20

Mine are 2.5 years apart so it's a bit different but we all cosleep so bedtime is, DS1's bedtime ritual (potty, teeth, pjs, book) and then he snuggles with DH or my back while DS2 nurses to sleep.  This only works because he gets that bedtime is lay down and be quiet, don't bug your brother.  There were a few nights when he was getting the hang of it when he ended up in his sidecarred toddler bed because he couldn't stay still and he was keeping his brother awake but he gets it now and I get to snuggle with both my boys.

post #12 of 20

That honestly doesn't sound like CIO to me. That sounds like family life changing with the addition of a second child...your son knows he is loved, knows comfort is close at hand, knows he is not being left alone. It sounds like he's settling in fairly quickly. DH and I feel like having a second is showing us how much healthier it is to share attention with a sibling, and not have the focused attention of 2 parents to meet 180% of all needs before DD#1 even has them. You have a clear routine, you are giving DS attention, love, caring, and support - and a framework in which he can figure out how to do things a little bit differently. He's old enough to be settling in by himself a lot of the time...this does not even a little bit sounds like CIO - it sounds like parenting reality! Hang in there mama - they change so much between 18 months and 3...just keep loving that little man and following his lead.

post #13 of 20

for my DD, we reached a point where she was always taking an hour to fall asleep if I was in the room, so after her bedtime routine and tucking her in I would leave the room. for a couple of weeks she would fuss for a few minutes and then go to sleep within 5-10 minutes. after that she stopped fussing and talks to her baby until she falls asleep. I think for her my being present was actually preventing her from falling asleep, and while having her cry for a few minutes was hard on both of us, she was old enough to understand that if she really needed me I was still nearby. but I'm not there and I don't know how distressed your DS is getting. if it seems like it's really upsetting him, then maybe he isn't ready, if it's more of a not sure about this rather than an upset cry, then it may be that he's ready to fall asleep on his own and just needs some time to get used to the idea. 

post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for all the replies.  I really appreciate hearing everyone's experiences with this.

Originally Posted by slgt View Post

That honestly doesn't sound like CIO to me. That sounds like family life changing with the addition of a second child...your son knows he is loved, knows comfort is close at hand, knows he is not being left alone. It sounds like he's settling in fairly quickly. DH and I feel like having a second is showing us how much healthier it is to share attention with a sibling, and not have the focused attention of 2 parents to meet 180% of all needs before DD#1 even has them. You have a clear routine, you are giving DS attention, love, caring, and support - and a framework in which he can figure out how to do things a little bit differently. He's old enough to be settling in by himself a lot of the time...this does not even a little bit sounds like CIO - it sounds like parenting reality! Hang in there mama - they change so much between 18 months and 3...just keep loving that little man and following his lead.

Thank you so much for this reply.  My good friend and my mom (who both share my parenting philosophies) said pretty much the same thing.  I really appreciate hearing that, because I do think it's true, it's just hard to hear my little man crying for mama and not go to him!


I honestly think more of my issue with feeling bad that he's crying is my issue with feeling bad for having to split my attention between two kids now.  I know it's normal and natural to have the family change and it will be great for him to have a sibling, but I just know he used to be my only and now he's not and it's a little sad sometimes.  Plus I'm only 5 weeks postpartum, so maybe the hormones have something to do with it too!

post #15 of 20

To me "fussing" is not CIO, but "freaking out" is.   I do think that the older the child, the more easily they can handle life's upsets, but only you know what your own child's limit is.  And if you are worrying about the situation, your gut may be telling you that the limit is pretty close.


Do you REALLY need him to fall asleep on his own or do you just need him to fall asleep in a way that doesn't disturb the baby?  Maybe  you and the baby can develop a bedtime routine that involves your son.  Maybe the two children sleep in the same room until its time for you to go to bed and then you put everyone in their permanent night time spot.  Maybe you nurse/feed the baby while your son is falling asleep and you read him a story or hold his hand or whatever it is that will help him.  That way both children are receiving what they need and you aren't mentally and physically trying to run back and forth between them.


For our family - we booted my son out of the family bed a few months before the baby was born.  But he was only moved to a toddler bed next to our bed.  Then both kids went to bed at the same time and I could take care of both. 

post #16 of 20

Ooops - somehow I missed a bunch of posts before posting my response!  So after reading the additional posts you (OP) wrote, I'd add in that it sounds like you really are doing a heck of a lot of togetherness already.  Maybe just see if keeping the baby happy while DS is falling asleep in the same room would work?  Talking to your son about the situation may help - something like telling him that you are there while he falls asleep, and that the baby might fuss, but he should still go to sleep. 

post #17 of 20

i've done it with one 15 month old and i would have never done "CIO" as a babe. although i realize that she's still very very little and needs her parents very much i also realize that i can tell the difference between her "i know how to get you back in here" cries and her "i'm feeling really horrible/needy/scared" cries. 

in the case of the former, yep, i've let her cry for 5-10 minutes and it never escalates and she usually puts herself to sleep, it's pretty obvious that she's winding down. if not, then i know that i need to go in. but i've also found that going in too much just starts the whole process over again. IMO i'd rather she cry for 5 minutes then cry for 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes, then another, etc... etc... she's also the kid who would never be able to fall asleep by rocking or by even having one of us present in the room....for her, people=social time, all the time.

i know alot of people would never let their toddler cry for even that long but i think i've taken her abilities, her personality, and her need for good sleep into account. i think we have to give kids credit for being capable and able and not just when it comes to the "good times" but also when it comes to the difficult stuff. but it's also tough to find the balance between giving kids the credit they deserve and expecting too much.....i know, i know. for some kids 5 minutes might be too much for others it might be what they need to self-soothe. it's hard.


(p.s. mine also sleeps way better when we're not in the room)


good luck. i think you just have to go with your gut although it's hard to know what your gut is actually telling you when hormones are getting in the way!

Edited by tzs - 1/1/11 at 7:25pm
post #18 of 20

I don't think this sounds like CIO to me.  But I totally understand your situation.  Although our scenario was a little different, a lot of similarities ring true in our family:  

My son is now 27 months.  He has always been the better sleeper than my DD.  We always coslept, nursed on demand, etc etc.  BUT at a little before 2 yrs old, it really seemed like he was "capable" of GOING to sleep on his own.  He was already sleeping much of the night through.  We did basically what you are doing..."shaping" (as a pp stated) his sleep routine.  Instead of nursing him all the way to sleep, OR standing next to him while he fell sleep - after our routine and I put him down I left the room and it was time for sleep.  Some nts he went right to sleep. Some nights he called out for me, talked to his bear, or even fussed a bit.  Unless he is frantic and REALLY crying, we let it be and minutes later he was sleeping.  It was hard because we had never heard our children "cry" for even seconds.  I am SO THANKFUL that I did it though because he is a solid sleeper and unless he is sick, teething, etc. he can fall asleep by himself.  I regret not doing the same with my first DD because she is FOUR And STILL cannot fall asleep without me !  It's like bizarro world over here !  


Anyway, not much info here...just a vote of confidence for you !  You are his mom and you know what is best.  Keep us updated !  


post #19 of 20

Have you read the No Cry Toddler Sleep Solution?  I find all of her books helpful and she has a no CIO philosophy that I appreciate.

post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 

So, after just one week of my son crying a bit, he's peacefully falling asleep completely on his own.  We do our bedtime routine, tuck him in, say good night and blow him a kiss, then leave the room.  He's fallen asleep within 15 minutes every night without any crying the past 3 nights in a row, and slept through the night and woken up fine.  I definitely think he was ready for this step, and I was just being a bit oversensitive. 


I appreciate all the replies and advice!  I definitely think it's dependent on the child, but in my son's case, he was ready for this change that will be SO much better for our whole family :)

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Life with a Toddler
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Toddler › Life with a Toddler › questions about CIO with toddlers; Update post 19