Dear Helen, I recently noticed that lately my baby is nervous before going to sleep. Before, my son would fall asleep within a few minutes, but he is now crying and really loudly. He is 15 months old. Do you have any advice?
Under the assumption that all doubts about potential health problems are removed (such as teeth growth, infection, etc.) which, according to an unwritten rule, generally amplify during night, the mentioned behavior is quite normal and a perfectly natural reaction for a child of his age. At this age, most children are reluctant to go to sleep. The underlying reasons are the child's fear that he will not be with parents, that he is wasting his playing time, fear of the dark and that parents will not be there when he wakes up. If allowed, the child will hold off sleep in hundreds of ways all night. However, if a daily rhythm is established and there is a certain time for going to sleep, there will be less of a problem. In other words, consistency will provide a child with a comforting sense of security, so if you establish a regular rhythm in his life, he will learn that there is an appropriate place, time and procedure for everything. Although there are many methods for getting the baby to fall asleep, the method of establishing a sleeping routine is considered one of the most effective, but it requires the most time and effort. This method implies introducing an evening ritual of going to bed, eventually making it clear to the child when it is time for sleep. The usual evening ritual, which has good results, is bathing, dressing, feeding, a good night story, kissing and putting to bed. The preparation itself needs to be conducted in a calm atmosphere. In order to somehow overcome the child's distress and give him a certain sense of self-control, as a part of the ritual, have him choose his pajamas, the bedtime story or the toy he will bring to bed. By satisfying your child needs, you will help him overcome the anxiety of separating from you. If your baby continues to cry even after you leave the room, stay beside your child for an additional amount of time, until he calms down and falls asleep. If the crying reoccurs after a few minutes, go and kiss him, tell him that you are there, but it's time to sleep. You must not allow yourself to be frustrated, angry with your child, nor to punish him. Of course, you must have a sense of balance and can’t let the child be the boss. Be gentle and warm, but firm. The moment he realizes that you have set clear boundaries and you are not giving up, he will feel that he can have more confidence and therefore security in you. Also, it is important to know that the child's sleeping habits largely depend on the entire family. Your little one will certainly not fall asleep for a while if it is still busy in the house at that time. It is therefore essential that it is silent during the evenings and nights, so that the child can learn to do nothing but sleep at night. If you remain consistent and continue to follow your procedures from night to night, your child will gradually begin to give up this behavior and accept sleep in a way that suits both him and you.