What sleep issues does your toddler have? How are you solving them?

Colleen - posted on 03/11/2012 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I should’ve known we were in for it when everyone kept telling us how “alert” our four-day old, then one-week old, then [insert appropriate age]-week old was. And while EmmaRose did appear alert, after 2 years of sleep torture (her not sleeping, us being tortured), I believe it was less a case of “alertness” and more her 8-pound spirited self setting the record straight, once and for all: these lids are staying open and your days of rest are over, people.



When I asked our first pediatrician what we could do to help our four month old sleep for longer than 2 hours at a clip – and perhaps even this rumored thing called "through the night" – his response: “Everybody wakes up at different intervals all night long. Nobody sleeps through.” Translation: stop your whining and deal with it, kids. Had I not been so shocked at this lack of helpfulness, I might’ve reminded him that while we all wake up briefly, not all of us screams bloody murder until a cold, sore, hardworking breast is inserted. At 2 hour intervals. E-V-E-R-Y night.



Two months later, our second pediatrician had different advice: “If you want to change that, you really need to Ferberize her.” Ferberize? Sounded all too much like microwave for my liking. Too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what this Ferberizing was, I looked it up when I got home. Ah. The cry it out method.



Unwilling (read: not yet desperate enough) to leave EmmaRose to scream it out in the dark, I asked the other moms in my parent/baby class how they dealt with night wakings. Their advice: “close her door and yours and if there’s really a problem, she’ll cry loud enough to wake you up.”



?



At least with the Ferber Method, I was aware that EmmaRose was awake and upset. If I couldn’t hear her, I’d be wondering all night long if everything was okay. But mainly, I didn’t like this one because I wanted EmmaRose AND us to sleep through the night. Minus the bloodcurdling yells. Minus the sore boob.



Oh, and did I mention that I began sleeping with her on a full-sized mattress we’d dragged into her room? And that soon she needed to nurse allllllthetime to remain asleep? Mistakes #1042 and #1042, at your service. I could go into detail about how and why that happened, but let’s just say I was tired. Very tired. Tracy Hogg calls this "accidental parenting," but at some point I started to view it more as survival.



So here we are, two years and 726 rest-less nights later. (yes, I believe the math is right but hey, I’m an English person) We’ve had 3 glorious nights of uninterrupted sleep, one of which can be attributed to a combination of injected drugs including but not limited to polio, rotavirus, hib and dtap vaccines. Unfortunately they could only give these at 2 to 6 month intervals. As for the other two nights…I guess miracles do happen! We’ve Ferberized, tried “gentle ways” to keep her asleep…..and we currently share a family bed from around 3:30 on (she sleeps in her crib until then on most nights).



While I believe the family bed must be a great fit for some families, it was more of a 3am oh-yeah-sleep-here-I-come default than a well-planned choice. I imagine there are husbands out there who don’t toss and turn and get up a million times a night, and toddlers who don’t kick said husband’s belly as a means of falling back to sleep. Among other issues.



I have a sleep book on every bookshelf (and I’ve got lots of shelves, I used to be an English teacher), the most helpful of which were Sleepless in America, Raising Your Spirited Child, and The Baby Whisperer for toddlers. Last month we got rid of all chocolate and television watching, which are supposed to be big sleep busters (killing me more than her. I actually hid from my 2 year old the other day and wolfed down a Hershey’s bar. Well worth it.) Don’t even ask me about naps.



Anyways, the point of this very long intro is, have any of you have found things, big or small, that work for your toddlers, which might work for mine, and where did you hear about them? And if not, what issues are you dealing with? It’s always satisfying to exchange stories with the other cranky, sleep-deprived people out there.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Anna - posted on 03/13/2012

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I suggest reading Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers. There are a lot of great ideas that you can use to help your toddler sleep better such as having a set routine (especially set bedtime routine - she suggests including reading books as part of it), early bedtime (around 7 PM), quiete time one hour prior to bedtime, encouraging day time naps, keeping the child's sleep area the same throughout the whole night as when the child falls asleep, etc. I don't follow her advice to the dot but there are a lot of great tips that I incorporated.



And by the way, someone mentioned TV in the child's room, according to Pantley, Debrah Tillman (America's Super Nanny), and a lot of other child sleep specialists, TV is the worse thing to let your child fall asleep to.

Katherine - posted on 03/12/2012

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Ok here are some REAL ones:



Eliminate distractions

Have a bedtime routine

Minimize your presence

Establish a sense of security

Take it slow: Many parents prefer to put their child to bed and tell her that they'll come back in a bit to check on her. Keep your promise, but wait for successively longer intervals of time. Ideally, she'll fall asleep during one of these intervals. Dr. Judith Owens suggests starting with a 5-to 10-minute waiting period. If you return in less than 5 minutes, she'll likely be awake. But if you wait too long, "the child might become anxious and agitated, which makes the situation worse," she says.



Be consistent: If your child slips into your bed in the middle of the night, accompany her right back to her room without much interaction, Dr. Judith Owens says. Simply say, "You need to stay in bed." It's important to be firm about returning your child to her bed every time this happens. "If you don't do this every time, it teaches your child to be more persistent," she says.



Reward good behavior: And ignore undesirable behavior such as crying. After a good night, let your little one choose her favorite cereal or pick out her outfit the next morning. "This helps them associate the behavior with the reward," Dr. Judith Owens says.

Kelsey - posted on 03/12/2012

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Ok... I know some of you mothers will disagree with this suggestion but a TV in the childs room could def help with the sleeping problem. My son had terrible colic and screamed about 15 hours a day until he was almost 8 mths old (complete nightmare), once the colic was over he was so used to being held and being in the bed with us he simply would not console himself or go to sleep on his own. He eventually tried the TV in room (mother in laws suggestion I fought it for about 3 mths). It worked like a charm. The low volume made him think somebody was in the room with him and when he would wake up he would hear the TV and put himself back to sleep. We do not allow him to watch TV whenever he feels like it and we put different musical/learning DVDs on for him at night time not just any kind of cartoon.

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Colleen - posted on 03/13/2012

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My toddler wouldn't do well with a tv in her room either, but I do believe there are exceptions to that along with most things!

[deleted account]

my son sleeps perfectly at daycare, takes his nap no problem every day but on weekends or if he doesn't go to daycare he refuses to nap at all then wants to fall asleep at 6 pm. i deal with it by not letting him fall asleep. i try and put him down for a nap at the regular time he would go for at daycare but if, after an hour, he has not fallen asleep he gets up and gets no sleep till bedtime

Colleen - posted on 03/12/2012

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Hi Jessica, I'm also considering a specialist. Sometimes you just get this feeling that there's something more going on, beyond needing a bedtime routine or white noise. I've read a bit about restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea in kids, as both run in our family. Two more possiblities...

Jessica - posted on 03/12/2012

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Hi there! My 23 month old son has always been a troubled sleeper. He used to not go down in the crib without a major screaming fit. Now he goes down fine but wakes up screaming several times a night for no reason I can see and is pretty inconsolable. When I go in there he is awake and thrashes around the crib, kicking the sides, hitting his head and throwing whatever blankets or stuffe animals that are in there around. It usually takes an hour plus to settle him. I'll climb back in bed and twenty minutes later he is screaming again. I'm not talking whining or wimpering, no, this is full-on screeching/screaming/blood curdling/gutteral noise.



I'm exhausted! I've tried nightlights - didn't work. A favorite stuffed animal - didn't work. White noise - nope. I'll let him cry for a few minutes - he never settles himself.



Any suggestions would be appreciated. His pediatrician thinks it may be teeth related (second year molars) however, I'm inclined to see a sleep disorder specialist.

Colleen - posted on 03/12/2012

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I wish I were that daring :) The family bed is definitely the craziest thing for me. I did escape to spend a few days away with my sister, over a year ago. I always thought it was a cliche, but my husband really did meet me in the driveway when I got home.

Katherine - posted on 03/12/2012

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I'm in the same boat as you, Colleen, been there done that. I just found something really funny:



Climb into the crib with your child. Sometimes walking out of the room only to have them lose their mind and start wailing the moment you lie down is simply not worth the time and effort to walk across the hallway.



Ask a Grandparent to come into town overnight so that you and your husband can rent a hotel room... to sleep.



Tell your kid that there are magical, crazy chickens that live under their bed, and if they get out of bed during the night, said chickens will peck their ankles off. *Warning: have magical Chicken spray on hand to end the madness.



Pick a "fight" with your husband, walk away (don't look back) go to your bedroom, slam the door (for effect) cover up and sleep. He'll think he upset you so badly that he won't bother you. Two hours of uninterrupted sleep.



Play an elaborate game of hide and seek, hide in the closet and take a power nap.



Ask your neighbor if the kids can come over after school, because you have an appointment, pull your car around the block and army crawl through the back yard and climb through the kitchen window, leave all the lights off and take a 2-hour nap.



Tell your mom who is visiting from out of town that you are going to take a bath, lock the door and take a nap in an empty tub. I promise it will be better than any bubble bath you've ever had.



Set up a play date with a lady and her child from your Kindermusic class, send yourself a text and tell your host that you just got a text from your neighbor alerting you that your alarm was going off. Ask her to watch the kid while you run home to turn it off. Take a nap.



On a plane, call the flight attendant over, tell her that you are having an emergency of the irritable bowel type and could she please keep an eye on your little angel. Hit the bathroom and join the mile high power nap club.

If all else fails, put in some earplugs, invest in some room darkening blinds, put on a night mask, promise your husband unspeakable sexual favors, pay a sitter and then pop an Ambien. Enjoy your sleep.



What's the craziest thing you have done as a parent to get some much needed sleep?

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