What to Do When Your 2 Year Old Still Wakes Up at Night for Milk

If your 2 year old still wakes up at night for milk and you aren’t sure what to do, I have some great advice to set you on the right path. In this article, I’ll share some of the hurdles you might run into and how to turn things around.

My 2 Year Old Still Wakes Up at Night for Milk

Two years later, and you find yourself still not sleeping through the night… all because your child wakes up crying for milk. 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.

So, how do you get rid of this habit when he throws a fit otherwise?

You’ve come to the right place, friend. I’ll share a few steps you can take to break the habit once and for all:

Let your child know beforehand

It’s understandable that your 2 year old wakes up at night for hours demanding milk. After all, this has been your routine for a while.

That’s why it’s important to give him a head’s up long before the middle of the night. Throughout the day, and especially as he settles in at bedtime, 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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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

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 these wake-ups happen 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 the hunger at night is to give more food during the day. Here are three options to try:

  • Give him a light snack after dinner but before your 2 year old’s bedtime, with plenty of time to brush his teeth after. That way, he feels full before he heads to bed and will hopefully sleep through the night.
  • Offer what would’ve been his middle-of-the-night milk during the day. You can say, “Remember how you’re not going to drink milk at night anymore? You can drink it right now instead.”
  • Offer the milk the following morning as a “reward” for learning how to sleep through the night.
2 Year Old Bedtime

Prepare for rough nights

Caving in is tempting when your 2 year old refuses to sleep unless she has a cup of milk. It doesn’t help when you’re sleep-deprived and delirious, desperate for the crying to end. Knowing what you’re up against and preparing yourself mentally can help you cope much better.

Remind yourself that this is a temporary process to help her sleep through the night and not rely on milk any longer. 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.

2 Year Old Refuses to Sleep

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. How often should you check in? 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 later on, repeat the same process, checking in on him at those set intervals.

Remember to be consistent while you’re weaning 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.

It’s especially important to be consistent with these check-ins because 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.

Congratulate your child the next morning

No matter how rough your night was, start the following morning off with plenty of congratulations for a job well done.

Yup, even if your 2 year old didn’t go to sleep until 11pm or that no one in the family got any rest. Give her a hug and praise her for being a trooper and succeeding in the ultimate goal: going through a whole night without milk.

Point out how she was able to put herself to sleep without milk, or how she’s making progress overall. And of course, remind her that she’ll get to drink her milk in the morning (or at some point in the day). These signs of encouragement can help her understand that she’s doing a good job.

2 Year Old Not Going to Sleep Until 11pm

Frequently asked questions

What are the downsides of kids waking up at night for milk?

There are 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 no one is getting a full night of sleep this way.

Should I try to calm my child down during the check-ins?

No—the goal is to reassure him that you’re here and that it’s still time to sleep, not to calm him down. Keep these check-ins short, at around 30 seconds or so, and 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).

What if I have other kids at home? How do I keep them from getting woken up if my 2 year old cries?

One way to prevent your other kids from waking up is to put a white noise machine in their room so that they don’t get started awake if they hear their sibling cry.

If your 2 year old shares a room with a sibling, create a temporary sleeping arrangement where the sibling sleeps elsewhere—in your room, in another sibling’s room—while your 2 year old gets used to sleeping without waking up crying for milk. Once your toddler has gotten used to it, then you can bring the other sibling back to their room.

The bottom line

At 2 years old, your child can sleep through the night without relying on milk to fall back asleep. As difficult as it might be to break this habit, know that it pays off down the line. No more feeling defeated, friend! Here’s to a full night of sleep for the family.

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

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