What To Do When Your Toddler Replaces Sleeping With Screaming
A has always been an average sleeper; he certainly didn't sleep through from 6 weeks old, but he's always progressed as I imagine he should and responded well to sleep training (well, some techniques anyway). When he was a year old, we thought we'd finally cracked it; he'd happily natter to himself, and eventually drift off to the land of nod, the majority of the time he'd sleep through until around 6am. Of course, we had a few bumps in the road, teething, growth spurts etc. but it would only be a few days until he'd be back on track.
Finally, we had our blissful child-free evenings back, sponsored by wine and don't tell the bride. Then he turned two.
The day Archie turned two, he started screaming at bedtime, I mean hysterically wailing the minute we'd leave the room; it was a complete 180 - only the night before he'd gone off to sleep as he always had. We put it down to the excitement of his birthday and his brother coming to stay and we were lenient with him for a while; we let him sit downstairs with us, play a little later and fall asleep on the sofa, but then it became clear that this wasn't just a bump in the road, something fundamental had just changed.
The weeks passed and the phase didn't end, peace wasn't restored; we tried everything from later naps, earlier naps, shortening and (reluctantly) cutting the nap to a calmer routine, no TV, more books, calming music, a night-light and reward charts but nothing worked. We finally gave in to A's demands and took it in turns to sit with him every night until he'd finally fall asleep.
As the days went on, it started taking longer for A to go off, sometimes over an hour, and we found ourselves losing our relaxing evenings, our time together as a couple, hungry and desperately hoping A would fall asleep a little quicker each time, but he didn't. I even wrote 6 Ways a Sleep Regression is Like a Zombie Apocalypse at the peak of my frustration (you've got to laugh or you'll cry, right?).
After 5 weeks of bedtime failures, things started to get even worse when A learned how to climb out of his cot. Not only were we becoming a sleep crutch for him, but leaving him at all was now dangerous, as he would constantly clamber over the bars, no matter how tired he would get.
We ordered him a bed as soon as we could and decided we were going to have to accept that things weren't going to get better on their own; this wasn't just a phase that was simply going to end one day resulting in our previous serene routine. We were going to have to pick a sleep training method and stick to it, so not only was our big boy transitioning to a bed, but also a whole new bedtime routine.
We decided to use the Supernanny 'stay in bed' technique, where we'd sit outside A's room and every time he'd get up, place him back into bed without speaking or eye contact. The first night, I returned him 50 times and he fell asleep within an hour (I was expecting at least 100 put-backs that first time), the second night, 26, then 7, then 3. Finally, we were getting somewhere, yet A was still taking around 50 minutes to an hour to fall asleep each time.
And we finally arrive to where we are now, after 7 weeks, A is finally falling asleep on his own again (sort of), with a little practice.
We've recently been able to tuck A in bed, shut his gate and leave him, regularly checking on him (mostly if we hear crying or banging); otherwise we let him unwind however he'd like. He will usually get out of bed, read his books, play a little with his cars, occasionally stand at the gate waving his teddy, but he doesn't tend to cry or shout for us and he'll always go off in his bed. We've also found that the last few nights, he's been starting to fall asleep quicker, in around 25-40 minutes.
There are still nights things don't go according to plan and I'll have to revert to the 'stay in bed' technique again before he drifts off, or it'll take him over an hour to finally succumb to sleep, but things are better than before and that's all we can hope for. A has also become extremely clingy with me, wanting me as close as possible at bedtime and even getting upset when I drop him at nursery which I think may be to do with the impending baby, so we're still battling new obstacles all the time.
It's been a tough couple of months, we really value our evenings as a couple and as much as I adore my baby, I love refuelling and having a little time to myself so losing that space for a while was hard. It also threw me back to the time he was a newborn, when sleep deprivation was rife and times were tough (and being pregnant, that's not something I really need to be reminded of just yet!). I'm just happy that A is finally starting to fall asleep on his own again, happy, not upset and Mr J and I finally have our baby-free evenings back. For now anyway..
Did your toddler start to experience sleep struggles again at age 2? How did you deal with them?
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