Teaching 2-year-old to sleep alone

Parent Q&A

June 21, 1998|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q.My daughter is 2 years old and I'm still rocking her to sleep. I've read about different things to do to help her get to sleep on her own, but all the advice seems to be for babies 12 months or younger.

Do I use the same procedures for a 2-year-old -- i.e., put her to bed, leave her to cry for five minutes, go in to comfort her, leave for five more minutes, etc.?

I really can't stand to hear her cry, and I know if I try this method JTC she will cry for 20 to 30 minutes. Thanks for your advice.

A. The goal is to help your daughter learn to get herself to sleep. Since you have waited this long, you have missed easier opportunities for this. But all is not lost.

It may be more difficult now for you to extract yourself from your daughter's pattern of getting herself to sleep.

But you can do it, and it is time to do it.

This is an autonomy issue for her and a separation issue for you. Hence, be sure you do it gradually.

Introduce a "lovey," such as a stuffed animal, that she can use as a substitute for you -- first in the daytime.

Let her see that she can dare to rely on her lovey and can comfort herself.

Then, at bedtime, rock her to calm her but not to sleep. Put her in her bed with her lovey when she is quiet but not yet asleep.

Sit by her to help her get down to sleep.

You may be there quite awhile, and she may well protest, but if she knows you mean it, she can and will learn to be independent.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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