Crying at Night

I have a 22 month old daughter who goes to bed at 8:30 p.m. We read a story book first, give her kisses, and then tuck her in. She usually whines and cries until 9pm. When the clock strikes 2:30 a.m. she starts to screech and cry as if she is in pain. I go in, and she is fine. I try to soothe her and leave, then after 20 minutes to an hour she is up again screeching. This goes on most nights and I’m exhausted as I have to be up at 5:00 a.m. for work. Should I check on her…make sure she is all right and then let her cry? Do I give her a bottle? Advil? Is it her teeth? She has just had tubes put in her ears due to a lot of ear infections (which I do not feel is the current reason).

Every infant needs to know that her parents are available and responsive to her needs. All night is a long time to be separated from the people you love. Many parents subscribe to a view called Attachment Parenting. This perspective sees the close attachment between the child and parent as basic to the child’s emotional health and survival. They advocate the “family bed” while the child is still very young.

While I don’t believe in sleeping with nine-year-olds, it is really good for a little one to know that her mother is close and available at night. She may well be teething this does go on at this age. But even if she isn’t, loneliness and the desire to feel safe and close are legitimate needs. Children learn to soothe themselves when they have been soothed, not when they have been abandoned. When my children were this age, they fell asleep in someone’s arms, not alone, even though their parents were working.

I note that you have to go to work at 5 a.m. This means your daughter doesn’t have you available during much of the day. I had to go back to work when my youngest son was six months old, and he began waking in the night just to spend time with me. He needed that close loving touch that a mother provides. I got a “nursing chair” which I kept in his bedroom, and I’d spend half the night in there, sleeping with him in my arms. Even if you aren’t nursing your daughter you can still hold her with a bottle. If you can’t sleep in a chair, you can bring her into your bed, or can have a bed in her room which you can share with her.

If you go to the website you will find an article on “the family bed” and another article on not letting infants “cry it out.” I recommend these. Children are little for a very short time, and how safe and cared for they feel in the world is a result of how much physical and emotional caring you give to them when they are little.