Worried that your 2 year old still wakes up at night for milk? Learn how to stop your toddler from waking up at night for milk.
You’re feeling so defeated.
Two years later, and you find yourself still not sleeping through the night… all because your child wakes up crying for night time feeds. He eats dinner, has a last bedtime bottle of milk, and goes to sleep in the crib just fine. But within a few hours, he’ll wake up and ask—sometimes even scream—for milk.
No wonder you feel like you’re the only one this is happening to. That no one else still has a toddler who won’t sleep through the night or needs a cup of milk to fall back asleep. He’d never been a great sleeper, but two years of this is wearing you out.
How can you stop him from waking up for a night feeding?
When your 2 year old still wakes up at night for milk
You’ve heard many good reasons to stop giving your 2 year old a cup of milk at night. He might get cavities from falling asleep with milk in his mouth. He’s relying on milk as a crutch to fall asleep. And of course, no one is getting a full night of sleep this way.
But how do you get rid of this habit when he throws a fit otherwise?
In most cases, kids won’t simply accept the circumstances if you decide to forgo milk for the night. Nope, they’ll cry and feel confused about why you’re suddenly departing from your usual sleep routine.
But in order for night weaning to be successful, you need to break the habit by not rewarding the demand. Moms, you’ve come to the right place. This blog article will share a few sleep training steps you can take to wean your child off of nighttime feedings:
1. Let your child know beforehand
It’s frustrating to hear your 2 year old cry when you try not to give him milk, but you can also understand why he gets upset. After all, this has been your sleep schedule for a while—to not give it to him out of the blue can feel upsetting.
That’s why it’s important to give him a head’s up long before the middle of the night. Throughout the day time, and especially as he settles in for the bedtime routine, let him know about “the plan.”
Talk about how he needs his sleep to feel rested, and that waking up for milk doesn’t let him do that. Let him know what to expect—that you’ll check on him if he cries, but that he’ll only get his milk in the early morning.
That way, when he does wake up asking for milk, the situation won’t feel as unfamiliar to him as if you had never brought it up in the first place.
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2. Feed your child more during the day
Not all toddlers wake up for milk out of habit—some truly are hungry for a middle-of-the-night snack. And even if night waking happens out of habit, you’ll still need to switch those calories and nutrition from being consumed at night to during the day.
One way to ease your child’s hunger at night is to give him more food during the day. In fact, you can offer what would’ve been his middle-of-the-night milk while he’s still awake. You can say, “Remember how you’re not going to drink milk at night anymore? You can drink it right now instead.”
You can also offer the milk the following morning as a “reward” for learning how to sleep through the night.
And another option is to offer him a light snack of solids after dinner but before bed, with plenty of time to brush teeth after. A cup of yogurt or crackers can work. That way, he feels full before he heads to bed and will hopefully sleep through the night.
3. Prepare for rough nights
Caving in and handing your child a cup of milk is tempting when you’re sleep deprived and want the crying to end. While waking up to the sound of screaming is never easy, preparing yourself mentally can help you cope much better.
So, remind yourself that this is a temporary process to help him sleep through the night and not rely on milk. Take turns with your partner, whether each time you check in or by alternating nights. Treat it like a “boot camp” of sorts, where you’re putting in major grunt work for a big payoff in the end.
By preparing yourself for what’s to come, you’ll be more likely to stay consistent with your plan as well as show compassion toward your child.
4. Check in strategically
Once your child cries for milk in the middle of the night, calmly and kindly let him know that he’ll have his milk in the morning, just like you talked about. Then, set your timer for about 10-15 minutes and, should he still be crying, go into his room again bearing the same message.
Repeat as needed until he calms down, at which point you don’t need to check in on him. But should he cry again at night, repeat the same process, checking in on him at set intervals.
And keep these check-ins short, at around 30 seconds or so. Don’t engage in further reasoning or logic. He’s simply not in the state to understand what you’re saying (you’re also probably sleepy yourself, too).
5. Be consistent
Be consistent while you’re weaning your child off of night-time milk. Going back and forth will only confuse and frustrate him, and set your progress back further. He might wonder why you didn’t give him milk one night, but decided to give it to him the next.
Keep in mind too that this may not resolve itself in a single night. You might feel your willpower waver a few nights in, but this can send the wrong message.
Instead, be consistent, both with not giving him milk as well as with how often you check in on him. The more consistent your approach, the quicker he’ll catch on.
Check out these 2 year sleep regression signs to look out for.
6. Congratulate your child the next morning
No matter how rough your night was, start the following morning off by congratulating him for a job well done.
Yup, even if it meant he woke up five times crying for milk, or that no one in the family got any sleep. Give him a hug and praise him for being a trooper and succeeding in the ultimate goal: going through a whole night without milk.
Point out how he was able to put himself to sleep without milk, or how he’s making progress overall. These signs of encouragement can help him understand that he’s doing a good job.
Learn what to do when your toddler wakes up crying every morning.
At 2 years old, your child can sleep through the night without relying on milk to fall back asleep. He’s fed enough milk during the day, won’t run the risk of cavities or tooth decay, and can learn to soothe himself to sleep for any reason.
As difficult as it might be to break this habit, know that it pays off down the line. Start by filling him in on the plan and letting him know what to expect. Feed him more during the day, whether a late evening snack or giving him what would’ve been his middle-of-the-night milk.
Expect a few rough nights so that you’re mentally prepared and more likely to stay calm and compassionate. When he wakes up, check in at set times until he calms down and falls asleep. Despite the challenges, be consistent with your method so that progress isn’t hindered by changes in your plan.
And lastly, congratulate him the following morning, reminding the both of you of what you were able to accomplish.
No more feeling defeated, friend! Here’s to a full night of sleep for the family.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your 2 Year Old Wakes Up at Night for Hours
- Top 6 Tips to Get Through the Toddler Sleep Regression
- 8 Mistakes You’re Making When Your 2 Year Old Refuses to Sleep
- How to Establish a Solid 2 Year Old Bedtime
- 6 Ways to Resolve Your 2 Year Old’s Sleep Problems
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