Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How I Got My Daughter to Sleep Through the Night

Let me start off this post by telling you that I am a softy when it comes to my daughter.  I was not very good at letting her cry for long periods of time, and hearing her cry always made me cringe.  My baby is 18 months old now, a toddler really, and she has been sleeping through the night for about a year.
Before I share my strategy, I want to tell you that there are, and will always be stages in my daughter's childhood when she reverts.  Life is not predictable, and children go through many changes during their development.  Let me also share a few circumstances when my baby had a hard time sleeping, regardless of strategy; teething, being sick, night terrors, and a change in routine like sleeping out of the house.
I also want to admit that my strategy took consistency, patience, and time; like most child rearing advice, this idea will work as a general rule.

At or about six months old, I started a bedtime routine with my daughter.  I made up the routine, which I will explain later in the post.  No matter the time, or where we were, I did the same exact set of actions in the same order right before putting her to sleep.  Of course, there are times when certain aspects of the routine did not work, like not being in our own home.  However, doing as much of the routine as possible is still important on those nights.

During this time, my little one has changed her bed time, and the items she sleeps with.  We have added things like brushing her teeth and letting her pick her own pajamas.  None of these are of importance.  The significant aspect is having a set of familiar motions.

  The following is the routine I created with my baby:

1.  Go upstairs to her bedroom
2.  Change her diaper, and put on pajamas
3.  Go to my bedroom and get a book from a basket of books in the corner
4.  Sit on rocking chair and read book to my daughter
5.  After finishing the book, close it and put it down
6.  Get up, turn the light off, and then return to rocker
7.  Say the following, "Good night mommy, good night daddy, good night (my dog's name), and good night (my child's name).  Sweet dreams everybody."
8.  Give her a hug and kiss.
9.  Say, "Time to go to your crib."
10.  Put my daughter in her crib
11.  Close her curtains
12.  Say, "I love you.  I will see you in the morning."

A few things.  First, you can use my routine, or create one that is comfortable to you.  The only important features of a bedtime ritual are that the motions are of a calming and soothing nature.  Also, the routine should be simple enough so that you can learn it quickly.  Last, it needs to be taken seriously.  The point of a bedtime ritual is to let your child know it is time to end the day.

At this time, I feel it is necessary to mention that there were nights, especially in the beginning, when I would repeat steps 7-11 more than one time in a night.  At times, my daughter and I would go through these motions, and she would still cry in her crib.  As I mentioned earlier, I was not good at letting her cry through it.  I used to pick her up, bring her back to my room, and go through some of the routine again.  It was my way of letting her know that it was time to go to sleep.

In addition, I will give some examples of calming and soothing activities that can be used as part of a bedtime routine, so that you can create one enjoyable to you and your child:

  • listening to a lullaby together
  • massage
  • stroking hair, back, or forehead
  • humming
  • rocking
  • singing a relaxing song
  • reading a book

Good luck :)


  1. I need to add something. Initially, when my daughter would cry in her crib, I would let her try to work it out for a couple of minutes. I then proceeded to rub her back if she was still upset. I tried not to take her out of her crib unless I felt that she was not going to fall asleep. If rubbing her back did not work, I did take her out, and repeat some steps in our bedtime routine, as I said in my post :)

  2. Hey! Why no mention of the caring husband? I help out too ;)

    In all seriousness though we learned it was general consistency that was key.

    There were some nights early on when we were suckers and the moment we heard her crying we leaped up to rescue her. Those nights she ended up sleeping in our bed which did result in a good night's sleep for her but the inverse for us. I mean that literally, I had to invert myself in the bed because Shana and my daughter took over!

    I'd also like to mention that she seemed to prefer slight deviations from her routine with regard to who was involved. For example, I did all of the same motions as Shana, but she (our daughter) would get very upset with me at line 7. So I switched it to something else and she seemed to be at ease. I think that certain aspects of the routine are given ownership to people (i.e. my mom says that, not you!).

    That being said, a structured routine as Shana outlines above is definitely the way to go!

    Great post!

  3. I think you made a very important point, CJB! It's very important that Mom allow others nighttime duty fairly frequently because if it's always Mom then no one else will do for bedtime--thus never giving Mom a break. I also must say that having such a routine works great for any Grammies that have the opportunity for putting the little one to bed.