How do I get my 20 month old to sleep through the night?

Q: She started to sleep through the night at 16-19 months and then recently (the past 3 weeks) we put her into daycare where they give her 1 long nap a day around 12:30; she sleeps for almost 2 hours. We put her to bed by 9:30pm but she will wake up 2-4 times a night and want a drink or her diaper changed. We are getting no sleep...please help

A: Daycare can put a glitch into the routines of both the child and the parent. At 20 months old she should be able to sleep through the night without attention. Unfortunately the change in caregivers during the day may be causing her to be more needy at other times. A nighttime routine (namely that we stay in bed all night without adult interaction) needs to be reestablished as soon as possible. Have a consistent bedtime plan (dinner, teeth brushing, bath, clean diaper, story, then into the bed). Feel free to put a sippy cup of water (not milk or juice as they are bad for children’s developing teeth) into the bed with her and tell her that if she needs a drink she has one right there with her as you tuck her in. Make it very clear that you will not be coming into the room for drinks or diaper changes once you leave. Then stick to your plan and do not turn on the lights or touch her if she awakens. For the first few nights go in and confirm to yourself and to her by saying “you are ok and need to go back to sleep” then leave the room. After the first few nights if she is still awakening, go in and be sure she is ok but say nothing. After that look into the room from the doorway but do not go in. Generally if you can stand the crying for a few night she should go back to sleeping all night within two weeks.

Answered by Dr. Carrie M. Brown

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