SLEEP TRAINING NIGHTMARE. . . CAN ANYONE PLEASE HELP?

Prima - posted on 05/26/2011 ( 20 moms have responded )

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My husband and I are trying to sleep train my 20 month old daughter,it is NOT going well at all. First of all, let me say that she is a happy, loving, and very sweet little girl. I feel terrible for all the suffering this has caused her and everyone in our family. To give you some background, we successfully sleep trained her at 3 months, and she used to be a wonderful sleeper. Then, we moved, and everything went haywire.

After the move, she reverted to needing to rock & nurse to sleep, and wakes up between 2-3 times per night. To make matters worse, sometimes she gets herself too awake in the middle of the night, and can take up to four hours to fall back to sleep. She shares a room with her older sister (who needs to get up for school in the morning), so I had been rushing into her so she didn't wake her sister. But, after 9 months of this routine, I was exhausted. My husband and I decided it was time to take action.

So, we began sleep training. We've been at it for nearly a month now, with no success. She has a consisted bedtime and routine (bath, pj's, teeth, stories, & snuggles). Then I put her in her crib, kiss her, and tell her goodnight. Then the adventure begins. Blood curdling screams for about 30 minutes until she falls asleep, during which I check on her every 5-10 minutes. This I can handle. But the fallout of this process is that she has now become afraid to sleep, or even go anywhere near her room. During story and snuggle time, she cries and screams in anticipation of being put in her crib. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, she absolutely refuses to go back to sleep. She screams for me to take her downstairs, and no matter how calm and reassuring I am with her, she will not be soothed. This goes on for about 4 hours of this every night and she finally exhausts herself and falls asleep...for about an hour. Then it starts all over. Crying and awake, for hours. She will be awake until 5 in the morning. This is obviously a problem for us, but it is a bigger problem because she has two older siblings who need their rest for school, and there has been several nights that her crying has kept her brother and sister awake (even with fans on). The only way she sleeps now is if I lie down with her and nurse her for hours.

On top of this, she is also refusing to nap. If she does crash & take a nap, she will sleep for 15 minutes, and then wake up screaming. I find the only way to get her to nap is to take her for a drive in the car.

I've spoken with her pediatrician, who recommended the book "How to Raise Your Spirited Child". But it didn't really offer any concrete advice. I am at my wits end. The whole point of sleep training was to teach her to fall asleep on her own while weaning her from nursing. I feel we have reverted right back to where we began, and worse. We all need sleep and no one is getting it, but she simply cannot sleep with me anymore!

PLEASE, any advice, encouragement, support or suggestions to help us get some sleep! Thank you so much!

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Jennifer - posted on 05/30/2011

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First off, my sympathies. Sleep issues are the worst, I know.
My advice is this: You're going to have to get her trust back on the sleeping. The move and the CIO have shattered her trust that sleeping is a safe, nuturing thing. I hate CIO as much as I've wanted desperately to do it. I know you said she can't sleep with you anymore but it sounds like she's going to have to. Either that, or you stick to your guns on the CIO and get through the worst of it. Right now, you're in a limbo, neither going forward to a solution or back.
The first thing is to get her out of the other kid's room. They need their sleep for school. Contain the misery, so to speak. ;) Then, cuddle her, nurse her, sleep with her...whatever it takes to earn back that broken trust. This will set her up for the future much better than the trying anything-and-the-kitchen-sink to get her to go to sleep NOW. It's so hard to remember that when it's 3 am and your'e exhausted, but they are only babies once. They need comfort and safety. If they don't have this, they can become anxious, neurotic teenagers always looking to fufill a need they didn't get fulfilled as babies. Fill that need with comfort and nursing and love so that they don't grow up and fill it with something else (worse) later.
Don't listen to the crap about "if you don't get them to sleep on their own, they never will" It's b.s. My oldest daughter is living proof. She's advanced and can operate on ridiculously low amounts of sleep. She would never tolerate a CIO approach so we nurtured her. You have never seen a more self-assured, confident kid in your life.
Start over. Bring the baby back into your bed. Trust me, she won't start highschool sleeping in your bed. ;) And remember this too, she is SUFFERING. Her crying is not done to irritate you, make you mad, or to purposefully keep you awake out of spite. She is crying because she is suffering and she needs your HELP. This is the hardest thing you will ever do but in the years to come you will look back and be proud that you stuck it out for the sake of your little baby.
Good luck.

Christine - posted on 05/26/2011

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Hi,
Moves can be tough on kids and it sounds like she really doesn't like her new space at all. Have you tried putting her crib in another room? Or, even in your room for awhile so she'll sleep? It won't be forever, but it seems like she really needs the closeness to you right now and could be getting worse because she feels you are pushing her away.
With my boys we didn't move, but had friends who did and they had to try these things with their kids until they figured it out.
I would also try taking one of her things she has in her bed -a blanket or bear and you cuddle it and get your scent on it, then after she falls asleep cuddling with you put this item in her bed -if she partially wakes and smells you, she may go back to sleep again and not get up. This worked for my boys at times, although when they were little neither slept through the night until 15-16 months. Both kids went through a much needier stage around the same age as your daughter -they just really felt insecure without us with them, but each got over it in a month or two. We found it was worse to fight it and was better for everyone to give them the comfort they needed. Many nights after they were in deep sleep (after about a month of keeping them in our bed all night) my husband was able to move them to their own beds and they would stay there the rest of the night with the item that had my scent on it. Even now one of my boys like to cuddle with a sweatshirt of mine if he is feeling insecure at all during the night, or when we go out and he knows we'll be home after bedtime he asks to take it to bed and it helps him sleep better. He's six now and told me when I asked him why he likes my sweatshirt so much, "I like to cuddle it because it smells like you and I feel like I have you with me if I get scared." Anything to get everyone to sleep is worth a shot. I remember those days all too well!!

Jessica - posted on 06/04/2011

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Hey I don't have advice on this since we are also struggling with this with our 20 month old son. We don't know what to do either. Jeremiah is terrified of his room as well, cries while getting his PJs on etc. My husband has been going in his room at night and sitting in his rocking chair until he falls alseep in his crib, the problem with this is that if he wakes up before or after my husband leaves the room we start all over. I will follow your post to see if you have any success

Rebekah - posted on 06/02/2011

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Hm, if she's scared of her room, maybe spend more time in there during the day with her -- make her feel comfortable, knowing what is there in the room, that she can feel secure, etc.

But sounds to me like she has YOU trained - the harder she screams, the more you'll respond to her.

I'd try a big girl bed - maybe she's done with the crib. Just a thought. :)

Katie - posted on 05/30/2011

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I'm sorry your family is suffering. The move, combined with weaning, and sleep training kicked off feelings of insecurity and fear in your baby. You didn't do anything wrong and you are doing awesome IMO that you are willing to try so many avenues and seek help. Awesome mommy. These "bad" feelings are easily resolved to, but that will involve some backtracking a bit. Like Jennifer said, you child is desperate for security, safety, nurturing, love, and YOU. So yeah, I would have her sleep in your room for awhile, either do longer snuggles before bed, or just have her sleep with you. Another point I agree with is that having her sleep with you will give her "sleep problems" or make it harder later to get her to sleep on her own. On the contrary, it will make it easier. My son (4) needed "snuggle time" before bed, me snuggling him on his bed until he fell asleep when my husband and I split (He was 2 at the time). He kicked me out of bed ( I was the one not ready!) after a couple of months, and has recently started again after his father moved homes. I have no worries that when he is ready to sleep on his own, he will let me know. That is what I suggest, because it worked for me. When it is time to "wean" from sleeping with you, I suggest doing what the other Jennifer suggested; moving farther away until you are out of sight. I also would continue nursing as much as she needs. My guess would be that she will naturally wean herself when she feels more secure and confident. Hope something in that essay helps! Best of luck.

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Carmina - posted on 06/04/2011

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hey i can some what understand what you are going through. my son is going to be 20 months in 2 weeks. after moving house 2 times in 2 months he lost his routine also. he started sleeping with us in our bed EVERY night. this was perfect except he would stay up later with me until i went to bed and i got so sick of being pushed to the edge of the matress lol! we recently converted his cot into a toddler bed. he would not sleep in it still. so we went out and bought some extra things for his room including a nice toy basket, wall stickers and kept some of his teddies out. we have made it more inviting and fun. in the last 3 days i have a new routine which is working PERFECT.
-afternoon nap from 230-330.
-tea at 6.00
-bath 7pm followed by teeth then stories in bed.
he is not always lying down when i read to him but its still helping him to settle a little.
we bought a new toy from leapfrog its a book that reads to him and it also has a setting for 5 or 10 min lullabyes. i put the 10min on, turn off the light and have him lie down on his back so he is facing me. i tell him to close his eyes and go to sleep while the music is playing. this has been working! he is asleep between 10-20 mins and i stay with him sitting at the end of his bed watching until he is out :)
the only issue im having atm is he is waking up around 12pm at night and i try to get him back to sleep the same way and im stuck also for about 2-1/2 hours he refuses to go back to sleep. last night i brought him into our bed it i was too exhausted. =
but during the day the routine works for his afternoon nap too. im not sure what else to do! i pray it passes and he soon sleeps right through!
GOODLUCK TO YOU x

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As many others have said, sleep issues are tough, but they all outgrow them. 20 months is still a baby. By giving her what she needs (you) she will get more secure and will sleep again!! my son was very very needy and always required at least a couple of hours to get to sleep every night. I was so happy when around age 2 he started going to sleep on his own and didn't have to nurse until completely asleep anymore. It felt great to know I had met his needs until he outgrew them and never left him to cry. My current baby is 16 mo old and is up with me most nights until about 10 pm and then nurses to sleep in my lap and usually spends most of the night in bed with my husband and I. Does this always feel ideal? no way. but I know she will grow out of it soon and someday I will miss her little snuggly body. I have to believe we will never regret meeting our children's need and leaving them to cry does not ever do this. There is a book (actually 2) by Elizabeth Pantley called the no cry sleep solution and then also the no cry toddler sleep solution. They are very detailed in steps you can take. good luck!!

Rebekah - posted on 06/02/2011

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Hm, if she's scared of her room, maybe spend more time in there during the day with her -- make her feel comfortable, knowing what is there in the room, that she can feel secure, etc.

But sounds to me like she has YOU trained - the harder she screams, the more you'll respond to her.

I'd try a big girl bed - maybe she's done with the crib. Just a thought. :)

Samantha - posted on 06/02/2011

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my son went through that at 14 months I moved him to a toddler bed and it stopped then he went through it again at 2 so i moved him to a twin bed with a more sturdy mattress and it was not until just recently he started again but i know the problem is not his bed this time....Monsters under the bed and in the closet.

Destiny - posted on 06/01/2011

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Oh geez I went thru the same thing after I moved with my daughter. I totally agree with the others and there advice. I ended up putting a single mattress in my room but not right beside my bed. I put it on the other side and got her in the routine of sleeping in that bed and not mine. After a few months I ended up taking her into her room and we would read or watch her movies before bed and I would just lay with her and scratch her back till she went to sleep then I would go in my room. For a few months she would wake up and come in my room but I never let her get in my bed, I know it's so exhausting on you but I constantly would walk her back in her room and lay back in her bed with her. Eventually i think she started exhausting herself and she slept all nite till the morning. It takes some time but she will get there eventually. I think it's worse on us mommies because we worry so much about upsetting them but in the end it comes down to us finally putting our foot down and letting them kno we aren't going to let them have there way every night. They are too smart and they know when they cry mommy is gonna rush to there side lol. I'm almost 8 months pregnant with another girl and my 1st daughter is 5 so I'm praying that this one will be a good sleeper lol!!! Good luck hun!

Christy - posted on 05/31/2011

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Can you move a cot or something into your room and have her sleep there? Pain, I know. But just so your other daughter can get some sleep at night.

What about a pacifier or small sippy cup of water to fall asleep with? Or a larger meal at night so it sticks with her through most of the night. Just throwing ideas out there. Good luck!

As far as the refusal to nap, I put my kids in their bed for an hour, even if they didn't sleep so I can get some things done and regroup.

Lisa - posted on 05/31/2011

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I used to nurse my son to sleep, but as he got older, this didn't always work, or sometimes it worked but then he'd wake up again - he wasn't in a deep enough sleep. He also used to be a good sleeper, but as he got older he got needier, and it was getting very difficult. So, I hired a sleep trainer, and we did the Cry It Out method, and it worked. I know you said you don't think it's for you, and I don't want to push my opinion... the thing is that it's hard to not nurse the baby to sleep without teaching the baby how to sleep on her own. Maybe she'll learn how to fall asleep on her own through this withdrawal method - I don't know. I found that when I used to do 5-10 minute checks, my son just waited for me, determined to wait for me to pat him to sleep. But maybe that won't be your case. I used the Dream Team to sleep train, and it really worked. If you're interested.

Prima - posted on 05/31/2011

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Thank you all for your advice. We've temporarily moved her bed into our room so she can be close to us & her sister can get some sleep. For now we are working on her getting over her fears of sleeping. I think CIO o
Is just not the way to go with her, so we may try the gradual withdrawal method. I'm afraid I won't be strong enough to not respond, though. Also, does anyone have advice on combining the gradual withdrawal method with teaching her to fall asleep without nursing? Thanks again for all your great comments, this is a hard time for us & your advice is really helpful.

Karli - posted on 05/29/2011

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I had some trouble getting my daughter to sleep in her own bed. I found a really great book called healthy sleep habits, healthy babies by Marc Weissbluth...Great book and I highly recommend you give it a read.

Sarah - posted on 05/29/2011

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When my son was about this age, he had a similar problem with fear of sleeping alone after he was woken up several times during his nap from a train whistle. He wouldn't take naps or stay in his bed. I let him take his naps on the couch after that with music on so he wouldn't hear the train, which solved the napping problem but not the fear at night. After several months of very frustrating failures, I decided that if he fell asleep in his own bed it was ok for him to come down to my room at night. At first I would sit outside his door where he could see me as he fell asleep and then I moved around the corner where I was out of sight, but could still talk to him and reassure him that I was there. After several nights of this, he started to go to sleep on his own but would still wake up in the night. He was in a toddler bed and could come down to my room on his own so I just started setting out a sleeping bag on the floor and he would come and lay on that during the night. Sometimes he wouldn't even wake me up! Everybody got enough sleep and I figured we could try the sleeping by himself thing again when he got over being scared. When he turned 3 we got him a full sized big boy bed and encouraged him to sleep in it like a big boy and he made the transition pretty smoothly. I think that fear is something that kids grow out of so it may be easier to just wait for a few months and try again. Try to find a middle ground where you're not giving in but that makes her feel comfortable.

Lisa - posted on 05/28/2011

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Did you wean your baby off breastfeeding at the same time as sleep training? I've heard that it's not good to sleep train at the same time as stopping breastfeeding because it's too traumatic. Also, you wrote that you were checking in on your daughter every 5 to 10 minutes. I had tried this with my son when I was first trying to sleep train him, and it didn't work because he would just wait for me to come in and pat him to sleep. Unfortunately, I had to let him cry it out all the way for him to learn not to wait for me and to fall asleep. Now he falls asleep anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes after I put him bed. I have a video monitor so I watch him. And if I think something is unusual in his pattern, I go in to check on him. I read that post on here about lying next to him and not responding to him - sounds good, but for me, I don't know if I could resist responding. That's tough!

Jennifer - posted on 05/28/2011

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Hello....I would have also suggested a few of the ones that others have already mentioned. I wonder what got her afraid....both of my daughters were CIO'd and now, unless my 20 month old wants to play instead of sleep or something lol she doesn't cry when it's bed time. Even then it won't even last a minute.
A night light wouldn't hurt. I can't say I would have any idea why she reacted to it that way after the move, but! I do have another suggestion. I saw it on Supper Nanny lol. I figure it's worth a shot and that you'd be willing to try just about anything lol. To me, it seems like a variation of CIO, with a minor twist.
At night, when you lay her down to sleep, sit at her cribside with the side of your body facing her, but do not interact with her. Continue to do this every night, but with each night move slightly further and further away and as the distance increases eventually the time spent crying herself to sleep should also decrease as well until you are out the door. It's worth a try!
Also, I think maybe they could have been onto something. I know there's a certain side of my bed that I sleep on. I have a Queen size bed and no matter if I am alone in it or not I only sleep on one side. When I lay down I have to lay down on the side of the bed where if I turn to my left there's either more of the bed or the wall and if I turn to my right there's the edge of the bed. I remember having a harder time falling asleep and sometimes getting a restful sleep if I am not on the correct side.
I'd say try the bedside thing, though. (:

Prima - posted on 05/27/2011

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Thank you both for your advice. I agree that moves are difficult for children, especially small ones. That's why we've waited so long to sleep train her in the first place. We have now been in our new house for 9 months, and she is used to our new house as "home". Also, prior to the sleep training fiasco, she played and slept in her room just fine with no fear or crying (she just woke herself up 3 times a night). It's just since the onset of the sleep training that the fear has set in. She already shares a room with her sister, so there really isn't room for a mattress on the floor, although I could certainly consider getting her a toddler bed and lying next to her until she falls asleep. But I also don't want her to feel like she needs mommy's presence every time she needs to go to sleep.

In regards to sleep training, I'm wondering if there is something I'm doing wrong? Are there some kids who just don't respond to CIO training? Should I stick with it and hope she outgrows the fear? Should I try a different method of training? Has anyone else had similar reactions to sleep training? What did you do to overcome it? Thanks so much for your advice!

Amanda - posted on 05/27/2011

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Christine has some great advice. She is right, moves can be really tough on kids. If there is enough room and you are able to, I might suggest putting a single bed or mattress in her room for awihle. You might need to snuggle with her and lay down with her while she falls asleep so that she stays calm. She is probably afraid of being in a new space and freaked out because she is being left by herself, locked in her crib. It can take months for a child to acclimate to a new space. It sounds like the sleep training isn't working and if you continue it will only get worse. My daughter actually refuses to take naps now because when her grandma was babysitting and it was "nap time" she was put in her crib and left to cry herself asleep...even though she wasn't tired. Now whenever my mother is babysitting she refuses to nap and won't calm down enough to take one for hours after she's left.

Keep up with the regular routines so that she knows it is coming, but ask if she wants you to stay until she falls asleep. You could give her control by asking if she wants to sleep with the lights on (or a nightlight) or off, if she wants teddy with her or her blankie, things like that. Is her crib facing a different direction in the new place? Sometimes even adjusting to facing north-south when the crib used to be east-west can have an effect as well. It isn't something most people think of, but think about how well you sleep at someone else's house or if you've rearranged your bedroom.

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