Childhood Diseases

Posted by: Anon | 2010/03/10


Three Year Old

I have a three year and a half year old who is still waking up for a night bottle. If I refuse he will scream down the house and I really need some guide lines as to how to stop this habit. He has one or sometimes two bottles a night. As well as waking up for a bottle he insists on going to the kitchen with me to prepare the bottle and if I offer him a ready prepared bottle he will scream until I take him to the kitchen for a new one.
Some history, he became very ill when he was 15 months. Before this he was sleeping through. He had infection after infection from gastro to tonsillitis to pneumonia and it was a year of constant medication, doctors visits, blood tests and injections. A very traumatic year. He was waking during the night and I would console him with a bottle as I knew he was hungry as he was not eating. So I started a bad habit. He is now doing much better and is only sick every few months with mild coughs and colds but waking up for a bottle persists. Can you offer any advise?
Thank you

Expert's Reply



You have made your own diagnosis of your son's problem.His night bottle is a very entrenched habit with him.. It is only going to end when you decide to stop it. You will then need to go through the rather difficult controlled crying programme which is going to be hard on your nerves but will be effective.

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user comments


Posted by: Purple | 2010/03/10

At this age he should respond well to a bit of sleep training.

Yes, he will scream the house down, but after 3 or 4 nights he will realise that it is not getting any response and will stop doing it (though initially it might just be less and less crying before it stops completely).

I know the thought of nearly a week of hell is a bit off putting, but after a week you will all be back to sleeping soundly again.
Remember that the lack of sleep affects your ability to cope the next day, makes you and your husband grumpy (if your husband is waking up too), and your child is also not functioning at his full capacity the next day if he''s not getting enough sleep.

It is quite common for children who slept well to regress a bit after a period of illness - don''t we all love comfort.

Just think about it though - if you demanded that your husband wake up at all hours and make you hot chocolate and a snack - how long would he put up with it for? Your house is not a 5 star hotel with room service all night.

On the first night, you explain to your child that you love him dearly, but that nobody is getting any sleep. He must drink his last bottle for the night before bed or as he goes to sleep and you will be giving him a non-spill cup or bottle of water on his bed side cabinet or tucked between the matrass and corner of the cot.
Explain that you will not be making up any bottles of milk during the night.
Then, when he wakes, go in, stroke his back and give him a bit of comfort and then leave the room. After two minutes of howling go in for a bit of comfort agian. Then leave for 4 minutes, repeat and leave for 6 minutes and so on.
When you get to twenty minutes go back to about 5 minutes again.
On the first night you will likely be up all night, so perhaps start it on a Friday night and hopefully the monday will be your last night of hell.

You have to be consistent. If your husband is about to crack, get him ear plugs. If you live in a townhouse, warn your neighbours first so that they don''t phone child welfare because they think you are hurting your child. You can also give something like Stopayne just before bed time for about 5 nights so that he eventually just can''t fight off the sleep. Don''t exceed the recommended dosage and don''t do this to avoid sorting out a sleep problem.

No, this isn''t pleasant for anyone, but it will make things better for all of you in the long run.

The other option is to boil the water before bed and keep it in a flask so that you don''t have to boil the kettle while you are making up bottles through the night.

We all start some sort of bad habbit with our children that we regret - we always do them with the best of intentions though.
I''m not in favour of sleep training babies, but toddlers are another matter.
Always respond when your child is sick, but then back into routine again when they are well, even if it involves a night of crying.

Ensure you have a good bedtime routine with supper, bath, story or song or prayers before bed and that there is a good understanding that bed time means you stay in that room and don''t come out and if you do the door will be closed.

Reply to Purple

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