Contrary to how you feel when your 1 year old wakes and wails at night, he's not trying to punish you. Babies naturally wake up throughout the night, but a baby who's never learned to fall asleep on his own doesn't know how to transition himself from being awake to asleep without a parent.
1 Read stories, cuddle and rock your baby in his room. Include his special blanket or stuffed animal in your pre-sleep snuggle session so that your baby associates this object with safety and parental comfort. Place a white noise machine in his room and turn it on in the background. Wind down your nighttime routine while he's still awake. He can't learn to put himself to sleep if he always falls asleep with you nearby.
2 Place your sleepy, but not asleep, baby in his crib on his back. Don't aim for him to be standing and screaming when you leave, but leave anyway if he is. Once you've placed him in his crib, quickly and quietly exit his room and close the door. Rubbing his back or stroking his head, while loving gestures, won't help him transition on his own. Ideally, he should fall asleep quietly within a few minutes of your exit, but if he's never done this before, brace yourself for some crying.
3 Return to his room only after he's cried for 10 to 15 minutes, and then return every 10 to 15 minutes thereafter. Make your visit comforting, but short. Don't turn on the lights and don't remove him from his crib or his room. You want him to know you haven't abandoned him, but that you're not going to sing, rock or cradle him to sleep. Each time you visit, calmly and reassuringly tell him, "Shhh, it's night-night time now," or something similar, and then promptly leave. Expect several check-ups throughout the first several nights as he learns to put himself to sleep.
Items you will need
- Stuffed animal
- White noise machine
- Wait until you have a few days free to attempt this process. Depending on your baby's personality and how long you soothed him to sleep, you and your little guy are going to be tired for a few days. Don't set yourself up for failure by starting the process the night, or week, before an important presentation at work.
- Take turns. Remaining calm for each follow-up visit is exhausting. If possible, enlist the help of your spouse and take turns throughout the night.
- Take your baby to your pediatrician if, after four days, he still has difficulty falling asleep on his own.
- Don't attempt this major transition when he's getting over a cold or an ear infection. His pain will make everything more severe, including his crying.
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