Sleep Training Disaster! Should I just give up?

Jodi - posted on 09/08/2010 ( 34 moms have responded )

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My husband and I are trying to sleep train my 18 month old daughter,it is NOT going well. We've been working at it for about 3 months now with nearly no success. First, we tried the whole sitting by her bed, pat her back and over time move away. We tried that for about a month, every time we tried to move, even if she's asleep, she starts screaming. Then we tried leading her back to her bed everytime she gets up. 4 hours of that every night for about a week and she finally would fall asleep...for about an hour. Then it would start all over. We tried that for about 2 and a half weeks with no luck. I even tried controlled crying. After about an hour of this she just stands at her gate, doesn't cry or anything, just stands there, awake, for hours. She will be awake until 2 or 3 in the morning just standing at her gate. Now we try a combination of everything, sitting by her bed, moving away despite screaming, controlled crying for a while, lead her back to bed hundreds of time each night. She might fall asleep for an hour...at best 2 hours...but when she wakes up, it takes 3 or 4 hours to get her back to sleep. I am at my wits end.
I am nearly 5 months pregnant, I cannot be doing this now and I certainly can't be doing it once the baby comes. We all need sleep and no one is getting it, but she simply cannot sleep with me anymore!
PLEASE, any advice, encouragement, support or suggestions may very well save my sanity!

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Honestly I'd just ignore her. It sounds horrible but after a point there isn't anything you can do. I would read her a book in bed, kiss her goodnight, leave and not come back until morning.

Joan - posted on 09/08/2010

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when my son was young we had a terrible time trying to get him to sleep i went to a friends one day she had a walkman he put it on and went to sleep. ! a light bulb went off so i went out and bought him a tape recorder with headphones. i put these on him every night with some soothing music and he would fall asleep. it seemed that he was afraid to miss something . with the headphones he couldn't hear whatever was going on and would go into a nice relaxed sleep.

Candy - posted on 09/08/2010

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Have you tried maybe putting a matress or making a spot for her to sleep in your room but not in your bed? Maybe that would help if she is just in the room. Maybe she dosnt have to be in the bed. Good Luck

Ivy - posted on 09/13/2010

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My daughter is the same age. We had a problem with her sleeping, but it was enough to make me let her cry instead of cuddling her to sleep and rocking her every night. Some nights she needs extra cuddling which may take an hour but that is rarely now. What has helped us was to have music on that she listened to when she was in the womb (my mp3s), we have a night light on and we put a blanket on the end of her crib so when we walk out the door, she can't really see us. Have the light in the hallway off and if your door makes noise when you open, leave it a crack open so you can exit quietly as possible. I also love having my fan on at night, so we sleep with that on, she sleeps in our room. She sleeps fine in her own room when we have one available but for now she is stuck in our room till we can get her a room permanently.



We have a routine with our daughter. She knows when it is bedtime and often tells us now when she is ready for bed. When your daughter starts doing things that irritate you, like getting into everything even though you have told her several times to leave it alone, then it is bed time. If she is overtired, then she will stay up all night. Been there done that. Have a morning routine as well. Get her up at the same time no matter what times she goes to sleep unless she is sick. Stick to the same naps until she switches over to the new night schedule. It took me awhile to figure this out for us.



It will be hard, but after a few nights of her hardly getting any sleep, she will crash one night and hopefully start to sleep better like our daughter. I stand outside the room and if she cries, I wait. Only when she really is screaming and wailing do I go in. She is old enough to sleep on her own and you will have stick with it.



Some constant noise may be very beneficial for her as she could be lonely and scared in a room by herself. This everything I have done with our daughter. It use to be terrible where I was only getting 4 hours of broken sleep on a good night, but now I can get 8 hours of broken sleep only because of my bladder instead of my child.

Charlotte - posted on 09/12/2010

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It is a problem. My son is 4 years old. We did the controlling crying method when he was about 9 months old. However, now, he has fears: the dark and his room. When my dad had his heart attack, I had to take care of him. When my son got into trouble, my dad would send him to his room, making him afraid of it. Now, he will not sleep in his room unless I have the light on the whole night; he must be buried with toys; and he must have his blankie with him. Any of the three things missing, and he will not go to sleep for hours. I guess, bottom line is are you sure your daughter does not have fears that keep her up, beside missing you, that is? Maybe having a walkie talkie in her room will allow her to sleep knowing you are close by? She hears your voice and she can talk to you without being in the same room. Oh, I hope everything will get better for you. Good luck.

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Michelle - posted on 01/03/2013

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My son is 18mnths we have been trying controlled sleeping for 5mnths and believe me I'm ready to give up cause he will scream for hours. Cobey was breast feed till 9mnths but still wakes up for milk about 3times a night for cows milk he has always sleep in a bed cause he hated his cot so I no it's not the bed?? Somebody please help cause I feel so cruel letting him cry all the time ... Micelle

Loret - posted on 09/17/2010

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hi Jodi my heart goes out to you as i can just imagine what you're going through. my son is 13mnths now and we just started sending him to creche. he goes from 8am to 2pm. he takes a nap there from 12-2pm. he then comes home and we play with him till 6pm the he has a bath, eat and goes to bed at about 7pm. he is sooooooo tired that he just fall asleep. i also put a cd player in his room and play lullabies for him. this seems to be working as he sleep right through to 5am then i put him in my bed. maybe she needs more stimulation during the day? and only 2hrs sleep. good luck it sounds like you need it. also is she eating well at night?

Kristi - posted on 09/16/2010

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Why are you killing yourselves? Do whatever gets you the most sleep. At 18 months she is still a baby herself. Go with the flow and let her fall to sleep snuggling with you. When she falls asleep, move her gently to a mattress on the floor near your bed or a crib next to your bed (if you are worried about where she'll sleep when the baby comes - that arrangement will still work then). She probably senses all the changes coming and is definitely sensing your anxiety, which makes her want to be all the closer to you and dad. If you are bound and determined to have her sleep in her room, sleep there with her. The whole goal is sleep, right?? The most for everyone?? Don't worry about four months down the road. Worry about today. Each day. Take care of your needs. And if any well-meaning idiot has the gall to comment about it, do what any self-respecting five-month-pregnant woman would do... tell them to shove it. Nicely. :) When your little one senses that she doesn't have to stress over separation, she will settle down. With all of this messing about, you are giving her reason to stress out! Relax, sleep where it works. Cuddle her and enjoy it! You won't get to as much in the foreseeable future. You are also helping to build her self confidence in knowing her parents are there for her, which will do WONDERS for her excitement about a sibling. Push her out before she is ready and you will have resentment on your hands. That's no fun when you want to enjoy your new family... Good luck - go easy on you!

Jodi - posted on 09/14/2010

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When we thought we were having just one baby, I was going to bedshare for the first month or so for breastfeeding purposes then move the baby to a crib in our room. Now, I won't sleep with two babies, it's not safe!!! They will be room sharing with us though, but hopefully we can still avoid the problems we're having with our daughter right now!!!!

Renae - posted on 09/14/2010

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Congratulations Jodi - on the twins and the waking up once!

Just remember with those twins, the sooner they learn to put themselves to sleep, the better chance of getting good sleepers. But unfortunately you cant guarantee a good sleeper - I thought you could, but you cant. My baby put himself to sleep from the day he was born, I did everything "right" and I was certain I was going to create myself a good sleeper; but boy did he have other ideas!

Jodi - posted on 09/14/2010

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We took our daughter out of her crib and moved her to a pack n' play when she learned to crawl out and had a couple of scary falls. She can get out of the pack n' play also, so we felt it was safer for her to sleep in a toddler bed. She is very proud of her bed and helps me put the blankets back every morning! I will definately check out that website! It's doubly important to get her falling asleep on her own and going back to sleep easily since we just found out that we're expecting TWINS! Thank you everyone for the wonderful advice, last night she only woke up ONCE after going to sleep. It still took her about an hour and half to fall asleep, but all I had to do was sit by her bed! Improvement is intoxicating!!!!

M. Rose - posted on 09/14/2010

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If you really want another opinion (you've gotten a lot)... I'm going thru the same thing except he never has slept with us or in our room. He just decides ever 3 or 4 months to have a sleep problem. I am reading this book the Sleepeasy Solution (google it)... also this site has been some help to me: http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-train... This particular page is about getting from co-sleeping to baby alone sleeping. I find it odd a lot of ppl on here seem to have their 15-22 month olds' already in a bed. My 18 month old is still sleeping in his crib and can't get out. So even tho he screams and cries like crazy, I don't have to worry about him getting out and into our bed at night. I know that is coming soon, but it just seems like before 20 or 22 months is too early for a toddler bed. Not that that's your solution. You should seek out more resources (like the above) and seriously pray about it

Laura - posted on 09/14/2010

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i done controlled crying within a month my daughter was sleeping from 7 till 7 every night i takes time but u will get there whateva method u use bt u need 2 stick to the same method as u cud confuse her hope this helps a bath and a bedtime story might help within the hour ur settling her to bed

Renae - posted on 09/13/2010

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Hi Jodi,

An hour is a long time to take to go to sleep, my baby is the same so I understand. Most toddlers take 15-20 minutes. Just make sure she is getting a good nap during the day and asleep by 7-7.30pm (so bed at 6pm) as overtiredness makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep. After about 3-4 years of age this changes and they just pass out when very tired just like an adult so you have that to look forward to. I suspect that once she is sleeping on her own, and she therefore no longer has any anxiety attached to sleep time, she will fall asleep more easily.

It does actually sound like you are making progress. When it feels hopeless, think back to 2 weeks ago and 2 months ago and remind yourself what you were doing then so you can see that you are making progress. Many sleep consultants say to record what happens one night every 10 days, so you can look back and see your progress.

Yes gradual reduction in a 3-6 month old usually takes at best 2 weeks, normally 3-4 weeks. All methods take longer as they get older and understand more of what's going on. By 12 months it can take up to 12 weeks.

Just remember that you need to be consciously reducing the amount of time you pat her back for by a few minutes at a time, every 3-7 days. I know with my toddler in the middle of the night I would forget what I was supposed to be doing and where I was up to in the process! lol

With leaving the room - yes this is a hard one. Its usually done by you first sleeping on a mattress in the toddlers room all night for a couple of weeks. Then you start getting up and leaving when they are fast asleep. Then you leave sooner and sooner until you can walk out as soon as they are asleep. But you might be beyond the mattress on the floor stage, so maybe just stay until she is fast asleep and gradually leave sooner. At the same time you are patting for less time so you have a few modifications going on all at once - all at different stages - but that's normal, that's what happens with behaviour modification.

Well done for doing such a good job at behaviour modification and by the sounds of it not realising that's what you were doing. People go to school to learn how to do that! :)

Lauren - posted on 09/13/2010

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I rocked my toddler to sleep at that age, then laid her down. Do you do that? In time she'll put herself to bed; my oldest is nearly 4 and has not needed to be rocked to sleep in AGES. Good luck!

Shannon - posted on 09/13/2010

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My oldest (now 10) was like this, no amout of Dr recommended sleep teclniques worked, Eventually what i did was to start with the regular routine that we had (her in my bed) and when we would get near the time for her to wake up (about an hour before) we would move to her bed....eventually it became a norm for her her to be in her bed ( with me0 so then i would move out of her bed on the same type of scheduel that got her in there...after a few weeks of this i would oly lay with her for a short snuggle at bedtime, she would still move herself to our bed, but as soon as she was asleep i would move her back to hers...a big help for her was a warm snuggle buddy ( water bottle filles stuffy or warming bead stuffy) it took about 2-3 months to get her out of my bed, and thats not to say its foolproof either. But consistancy that allows for her needs to be met, and a scheduel that is comfortable for both works well....She still sleep walks but i trained her to bring a blankie and pillow and sleep on the floor beside my bed. Good luck!

Jodi - posted on 09/12/2010

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Ranae, I did not know that gradual reduction can take so long in a toddler!!! I just assumed that like all other methods it would take 2 or 3 weeks. She has gotten better, she will go to sleep with me sitting by her bed and patting her back (it takes easily an hour, but hey,,,she sleeps!), the problem is in the leaving the room, for whatever reason, this usually wakes her up. I'm thinking maybe I need to sit and wait longer until she's completely passed out or something.



It has been so frustrating, but I can't give up! I cannot sacrifice my husbands spot in our bed to sleep with two children, which isn't safe anyways. Thank you everyone for you advice, suggestions and support, I really needed to hear that it can be done if I just persevere and she really has gotten better over the last week or so. Albeit, we are far from sleep trained!!!! Thank you again, and I think I will keep at the gradual reduction as we have a rocking chair in the room and I can easily nurse a baby while sitting and waiting for Jaelyn to fall asleep...assuming we get to that point in the next few months here. *crossing my fingers it works well!*

Danelle - posted on 09/12/2010

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I am so sorry to hear of your trouble. Things like this are never fun. Our situation isn't quite so bad in some ways. We are dealing with a similar issue here. A few months back our daughter's crib broke so we put her in a big girl bed. It's been about three months and she still goes to sleep terrible. The real sad thing is she keeps her four year old brother up (they currently share a room).

We tried all the methods that are recommended and now we put up a baby gate and leave her be. After a couple of hours she usually ends up in her bed and asleep, but she is tired all the time and so is her brother. He is really good about going to bed and sometimes he ends up yelling at her, "Go to bed, I am trying to sleep!" or something similar.

We don't feel like we are fighting with her as much since putting up the gate and letting her be and the time it takes for her to fall asleep seems to be decreasing. Hoping it doesn't take much longer!

I would recommend the same thing. As long as she is safe it isn't worth you losing sleep while she is losing sleep. It isn't worth the fight either.

Good luck!

Renae - posted on 09/11/2010

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There is a chance I can help, but I need a bit more information. Firstly, good on you for persisting as far as you have. Many people give up when it doesn't work immediately.

Lets first talk about the sitting by the bed and then gradually moving away one. That is called gradual withdrawal or gradual reduction. The first thing to know about this method is it takes minimum 3 weeks with a young baby, sometimes 12 weeks with an older toddler. So you do need to stick with it. You also need to make sure you are doing it properly. You need to move in very small steps. So if you start by sitting next to the bed patting her, you do it until she is asleep and every time she wakes during the night. The next step would probably be to pat her until she is just asleep, but not fast asleep. The next step would be to pat until she is just falling asleep and so on. Eventually you get to the point where you just have a hand on her but are not patting. Then you have a hand or arm right next to her, etc, until you are just sitting by the bed. Then you start to move away from the bed, literally inches at a time to start with. You MUST wait until she is completely comfortable with each step before trying the next step, which means 3-7 days PER STEP. Some steps may take longer. Now you see why this method takes so long. But if done properly I believe it will work. If you want to talk further you are welcome to message me. I need to know exactly what you have been doing in detail.

Have you tried leaving her all night? If so how long did you do it for? And at the end was she still standing at the gate at until 2 or 3am? This method has a very high success rate, something like 98%, so works with almost all babies (except mine!). It usually takes 1-2 weeks for a toddler.

I have heard many many times before that leading them back to bed doesn't work. I know someone who did it for a year! And her boy was still getting up and coming to their bed 7-8 times per night.

Katie - posted on 09/10/2010

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I started sleep training with my daughter when she was 4 months old. It went really well. She's only 5 months old now, but I think that the best advise that I could give would be to not give in. I know it's hard, but if you stop the sleep training, then all you have done up to this point would be totally pointless. I think that it probably is much easier to do sleep training when they're young because they don't have too many bad habits that you have to break them of. The main one that was probably the most difficult for my DD was nursing her to sleep. Now sometimes she still cry's and I still make check-in's with her, but for the most part she goes to sleep on her own. We got the book "the sleep easy solution" that helped us. We would go in the 1st time after she cried for 5 minutes, and just tell her we're there and that we love her and we'll check in on her in a little bit. You don't touch them unless you're putting them back in they're bed. The 2nd time is after 10 min, you talk to them again, and then every 15 minutes until they fall asleep. You don't stay any longer than 30 sec max. If you have a child that can get out of they're bed, then you put a baby gate in they're doorway and leave it open and explain if they come out of they're room you will have to close the gate for they're protection, and if they come out explain that you have to close the gate. Hope this helps some.

Stephanie - posted on 09/10/2010

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My Son has been going to bed everynight at 8:00 since the very begining. The best and most successful way to get your child to go to sleep when you put them down for the night is to have a routine and to stick with it every night. We had our son in his sleeping habit within 3 days. Ferberize it might sound bad but it isnt. Put your child to bed and let them cry go in there 1 time every 5 minutes only if they continue to cry. If you go in the room do not speak to them only cover them back up and give them a conferting rub in the back. This does work but the key is to not speak or pick them up. Good luck!

Ronda - posted on 09/10/2010

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Dont give up! One rule is consistency! With my 3 DD's we had a nightly routine that was very young. About 30 min before bedtime we would read a book, then I would put them in their crib with a music box one and a night light. It is not going to hurt them if you let them cry. If they were still crying after 5min, I would go in and check, It is very hard at first but don't pick them back up! I would just pat her back and tell her I loved her and walk out of the room. After a few times she would fall asleep. Once they were in a toddler bed, every once in awhile they would get back up. This is what is trying..the first time they got up, I would place them back in bed and tuck them back in, after that, if theygot up, I would pick them up but not say anything to them..They maybe crying but you cant let them know they are getting the best of the you. Consistency once again is the key factor. Remember, letting her cry does not mean you are a bad mom. Good Luck

Aimee - posted on 09/10/2010

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it sounds like she is attention seeking. have you tried telling her you love her give her a kiss and say good night as you put her to bed?? the leave the room and sit outside her door leave her to cry for bout 5mins then get further away and make the time longer x

Megan - posted on 09/10/2010

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I started my kids off in there own beds so it was never a problem for me. She is a little young to just put in the bed and close the door and leave her. I would speak to her doctor, sometimes they have some really good ideas about what you can try.

Rebecca - posted on 09/09/2010

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I'm definitely of the "stick with it" camp. The bedtime routine is a good idea. I would NIX the mattress in your room. (I agree with your husband -- you'll have a new baby in your bed soon enough! lol)

My suggestion: Right after dinner or right when your husband comes home from work or at some point during the day, you and your husband need to sit on the couch and cuddle for about 15 minutes in sight of your daughter. If she wants to join you, either tell her "Not right now. You go play." or let her sit on the floor by your feet. The important thing is that she see you and Dad together and that she not be the center of attention at that time. Without doing anything else -- no punishment or cajoling at bedtime -- I think your problem might solve itself within the week.

I'll be really interested to hear your results!!! Hang in there!!!

Brittany - posted on 09/09/2010

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please dont give up! consistancy is a must in parenting. i was in a really bad relationship with my now ex husband and everytime he would leave me i would let my daughter sleep in my bed because i thought that it would help her and me with our loss. but every couple of months he would pop back into our lives and then i would have to do it all over again. i started to relise the going back and forth wasnt good for either of us. she would screem bloody murder when i would make her sleep in her own room, so i talked with her about what would help her. it started with leaving the light on but when she would still get out of bed i would turn it off and close the door til she stopped screaming. she learned that the longer she screamed the longer she sat in the dark with the door closed. some mornings i would wake up with her on the floor of her room right by the door but she learned to stay in her room finally she would stay in her bed but it was a long long process. you just cant give up eventually (she is 4 now) it will be something that you will look back on and say thank god i stuck to it. Try anything you can think of if its just turning on the light or playing music, a bath with lavender soap b4 you lay her down, or dare i say bribery kids love candy lol do what works for you, but dont give up privacy is something you and your husband need. oh and the candy thing dont give that til the morning after she does the full night sleep as a reward. thats how i got my daughter to stop peeing her bed, she looks forward to her morning treat. good luck hope this helps

Heidi - posted on 09/09/2010

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I know it sounds awful too but i would put her to bed with a story, kiis and cuddle and then leave. Her room is safe and even is she stands at the gate for hours it's only cause she knows she is getting your attention and will eventually give up. Probably fall asleep at the gate at first. good luck and hope you get some sleep x

Brittany - posted on 09/09/2010

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I have a 22 mth old and I will put him to sleep by reading a book and turning on his projector. but he would wake up at 3 in the morning screaming bloody murder and banging on his door. What I did recently was put his bed with my 6 yr old. I dont think he liked being alone. Dont give up and I hope you get a good nights rest soon.

Ashley - posted on 09/08/2010

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This may sound silly but we have a noise maker. It has different setting to make different sounds( heartbeat, summer night, rainfall, ocean wave). It can play for 15min, 30min, 60min or until you turn it off. I turn on the noise maker, read our son about 5 short books, turn on the cieling fan and then lay him down. It is a routine that works for him. Have you tried really wearing your child out after dinner time...playing alot or running around.

It sounds like you are at your wits end and I understand it is very stressfull. Just keep in mind that she is not doing this on purpose. At her age, she requires different amounts of sleep, maybe try putting her to bed at a later time. Try to stay calm, children can sense stress. And remember you are a GREAT MOMMY AND SHE LOVE YOU, with or without sleep!

Maria - posted on 09/08/2010

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I am in the process of this right now as well, except im 9 mo pregnant and my son is nearly 12 months old. I didnt do the controlled crying. I put him in his crib, told him i love him and walk out and close the door. He is doing awesome. we are on week 2 and he only cries for 5-10 minutes now before he accepts his fate and goes to sleep! THANK GOD. Good Luck!!!

Heather - posted on 09/08/2010

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Jodi, DON'T GIVE UP!!! I was in exactly the same boat 2 1/2 yrs ago with DD. When she was my only and daddy worked odd hrs I would let her fall asleep with me and then move her when daddy got home, however being 5 mths preggo and unable to sleep even by myself I needed to change it. We had the same problem. DD refused to sleep in her own bed. I didn't give up. I came to the conclusion that as long as she was safe in her bedroom there was nothing more that I could do except let her know I loved her. We put a child safety gate in front of her door, made sure we got a regular bed time routine in order, and let her have after it. I won't lie, there were some nights that were agony. But pretty soon she would just stand at the door and look for us, if she called we would let her know we were there but would NOT go back in the room (DD is very smart and figured out real quick what might get us back in the room). By the time DS was born we went through our bedtime routine, sometimes with me nursing a newborn, and then she was asleep for the night.....It doesn't happen sometimes in a week or 2, for us it took the whole end of my pregnancy, but it was SOOOOO worth it! Good Luck momma and if you wanna chat send me a mssg.

Jodi - posted on 09/08/2010

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My husband doesn't want her in our room at all, but at this point, it may be our only option! I will definately bring up the idea when I get to see him once again (he works odd hours). Thanks ladies!
And keep the advice coming please!

Stifler's - posted on 09/08/2010

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Isn't 18 months too old for controlled crying really, they are mobile. They can get out of bed and walk around. I agree with the others, a mattress on the floor or something, that's what my parents did with my brother because they were over him taking over the bed and coming in the middle of the night and waking them up. He would also sleep on the floor in my room or one of my sisters rooms lol it was so funny and now he sleeps in the lounge room on the floor on a mattress even though he has his own room. I don't think he's ever slept a night in his own room alone.

Catherine - posted on 09/08/2010

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If I were you, I would definitely stop the sleep training since it's not working, and after this long, I doubt continuing is going to be any better. I like Candy's idea of putting someplace for her to sleep in your room. Also, have you tried having someone lie down with her in her bed until she falls asleep? That seems to work well for some kids who are used to sleeping with their parents. Good luck!

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