27/12/2010 13:19 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne: My Toddler Gets Up At 3am

What's your biggest challenge when it comes to family life? Send your questions and dilemmas to experienced life coach Joanne Mallon via this confidential form. Your name can be changed on request.

Vicky asks:

My 21-month-old goes to bed at 7pm, wakes at 3 or 4am for a bottle and then won't go back in her cot. She ends up in my bed, and I then have to stay awake until she's in a deep sleep to put her back in her cot. She doesn't sleep during the day and eats proper meals with her three bottles a day, although she's still on powdered milk because she refuses to drink whole milk. How can I get her to sleep through the night?

Here's the life coach's reply:

Dear Vicky

It sounds like your child has got into the habit of waking up ready to start the day at 3am. Has she been watching too much Postman Pat and is hankering after a career as an early riser?

Unfortunately many children of this age do still wake up at night, so this is more likely to be a natural part of her development rather than anything you're doing or not doing. However, there are still lots of things you can look at in this situation, so think about:

  • Aim to reintroduce a nap after lunch. She's very young to have dropped all daytime naps, and could be getting too over-tired during the day. Daytime and night time sleep are connected. Even if she won't have a nap, some quiet settled down time in the afternoon is a good idea.

  • If you want to switch to ordinary milk, start by mixing a little of it in to the formula. The two have very different tastes, so gradually up the proportion of milk until your child has got used to the taste.

  • Four bottles in 24 hours is a lot for a 21-month old, so it's probably also worth looking at her food intake and seeing if she needs more solids. Around a pint of milk a day (so 20 ounces) is recommended for this age group. If she is getting more of her calorie requirements during the day, she is less likely to need them at night. Remember that her milk intake doesn't all have to be in liquid form – you can also use it in cooking or for milky puddings.

I have to say that if I were you I would be taking the baby in to sleep with me at 3am and not bothering with waiting to put her back in the cot. But then I am pretty grumpy when woken in the early hours and I tended to go for the easiest solution! Each of us as parents has to do what we feel is right for our family, but if you do decide to start taking her in with you it's not the end of the world.

Good luck,


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