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Toddler bedtime

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Ds has never settled into a regular sleep schedule. We've tried at various times but now at 19 months I feel like I'm missing something altogether.

Right now he consistently wakes up at 8:30. Most days he naps from 1:45ish to no later than 4:00 (if he is asleep at 4 I wake him up). He goes down for naps very easily 90% of the time.

But bedtime is a gamble every. single. night. When he is ready to go to sleep he lays down, nurses & is down within 10-15 minutes. After that he sleeps well through most of the night waking up once, sometimes twice.

When he's not ready to sleep he'll either fight us tooth & nail or just lay there nursing with his eyes wide open wide awake for an hour or more.

We've tried doing the whole bath, teeth, pj's, book, bed thing & it does nothing for us. The bath just stimulates him & he's got no interest in books right now (except to throw them). We do have a short getting ready for bed routine.

Lately he's been going to bed anywhere between 9:30 & 1:00!!! 9:30 is sort of ideal in my mind (yes, I realize over all this is a shifted schedule than many lo's).

This weekend we decided we would start approaching bedtime more like nap since naps go so well. In the morning we are usually out of the house doing stuff, come home for lunch & then straight to bed. So tonight I purposely brought him out for a bike ride, came home for a snack & then straight to bed. He went down well at 9:15. But then he woke up a half hour later & has been up ever since. He's done this before when he does get to sleep at a more normal time.

I guess my question is, at what age do you stop going by their sleep cues & simply go by the clock? And how do you make that transition?
post #2 of 17
Great question! I will be anxiously awaiting more responses with various experiences!

We are in a similar position as you - our 15 month old usually does well for naps, but bedtime is sometimes a big struggle, and it's hard to get a consistent time. I went back to work three months ago, and we have been working hard at consistency the entire time, and sometimes she's asleep by 9:30, sometimes 11:30 (haven't had a 1:00AM since before I started working again, luckily!) She usually gets up somewhere around 8 in the morning, but every once in a while it's 6 or 10, for no particular reason that we can find. When I am home with her I would get her up by 9, but sitters have let her sleep until 10. Friday was my last day of work for a couple of months so it won't be as important to be on a schedule over the summer, but it sure would be nice! I guess, one hard thing for us is that neither my husband nor I are super routine-oriented ourselves. We do a minimum of a routine with our DD that includes bath, nursing, and lullabyes, and she either nurses to sleep with me or rocks to sleep in DH's arms. A lot of people swear by the routine but there have been times we have skipped one or two things and she fell asleep fine, and other times we do everything the exact same for weeks in a row and every night is different in terms of how easily she falls asleep. How common is this?
post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lifeguard View Post
Most days he naps from 1:45ish to no later than 4:00 (if he is asleep at 4 I wake him up).
Is there variation in this? Does it make a difference?
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
newmomrose - I'm so glad we're not the only ones in this boat.

kelly - there is some variation in nap length. MOST days it's 2 hours but occassionally it is 45 minutes & occassionally it's closer to 3 hours but I have not been able to correspond the nap length to any difference in bedtime. I wake him up by 4 (although he's usually awake by then) but when I have let him sleep longer it hasn't made it any easier/harder to put him to bed.
post #5 of 17
Could you try moving the nap earlier in the day? Here we usually nap by noon, with everyone up by 2 or 2:30. Most evenings my DD goes to bed by 7:30 without any fuss.

I run a home daycare and I have had a number of parents comment on how much easier it is to get their kids to bed in the evening once they have switched to an earlier nap at my home. I am a huge advocate of earlier naps!
post #6 of 17
I'd move the nap up to 12-1ish. 1:45 seems on the later end especially if he is waking up at 4 sometimes. I know when DD sleeps that late, regardless of when she has fallen asleep for nap, if she is still asleep at 4, she will be up for hours and hours.
post #7 of 17
I agree about moving the nap up if that works in your house. I am not in a position to do that although dd would love to go down earlier. I have to pick up the little one I Nanny for at noon from school so it is usually 1 or 1:30 before she goes down. And summer is even worse now with swimming lessons and what not. If DD has a crazy night (10:30 is our craziest) she will nap once in the morning and then again in the afternoon, but ideally she'd like to go down between 11-12 and sleep her whole nap then I just cannot accomodate her. Let us know if moving up the nap helps. Other than that my only suggestion is consistency to an almost rigid degree and not varying from the routine/time at all until he is done with the late nights. DD just started really wanting read stories but before that I would lay and read them anyway and she would wander over and eventually settle down a little bit.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
I could see how an earlier nap might work but I can't imagine him falling asleep that early. Even on days he seems overly tired & I've tried to get him down before 1:00 he won't. He gets up at 8:30 so 12 is pretty early in his day. Getting up earlier in the morning just is not an option in our house.

I guess I should add that it's not so much the time that is distressing me but the variability of it. If I could put him to bed at the SAME time EVERY night I'd be much happier - regardless of what that time was.
post #9 of 17
I really hear you on the variable bedtime. DD is like that as well and it drives me bonkers some nights, especially because she usually wants to stay up late when I want to go to bed! Other than just starting teh whole day earlier (which really is the only thing that will work with DD sometimes), I'm not sure what to tell you since we still struggle with the same problem.
post #10 of 17
It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes they have a hard time falling asleep when they're overtired. Your comment about the nursing with the eyes wide open stuck out at me, because my kids definitely did that when they were just so wired on their second wind it was like they were physically incapable of closing them.

It's the same feeling that adults get when you're exhausted and just lay in bed with your eyes wide open and all manner of random thoughts rushing through your head and you can't sleep at all.

If you think this might be a valid theory, I guess my suggestion would just be to watch for signs that he's getting sleepy and start bedtime early. With the nicer weather, my kids are going to bed much earlier than they were a few months ago, because we spend so much time being active outside and swimming and taking long walks. But it's definitely not every day, which is the tricky part. I just try to watch really carefully and play it by ear. My son has always been the Ace Champion Sleeper of the Universe, but my daughter definitely has a window and if she's not in bed at the right time for her particular mood, she'll stay up all night.
post #11 of 17
Okay, this is just my experience. Every child is different.

I had a hard time sticking to a routine when she was nursing and I'd read on MDC it would all happen "naturally" so at 19 months we were more or less where you are. It never happened for me until I had a new baby and in order to survive (literally, I was risking falling asleep at the wheel). Then I just had to be a hard-ass.

I should mention that I weaned her before the baby for health reasons, so she was not nursing to sleep by that time, but I was lying down with her.

In short, being with me stimulated her.
Being awake too long stimulated her--as lach says of her daughter.
She had to learn to fall asleep in her own bed, with me standing nearby.

I basically took a number from Babycenter's recommended sleep (the average) and planned a sleep schedule, under the assumption that my child was not one of the one or two percent that "really doesn't need that much sleep." I was also working under the assumption that sleep hygiene is as important for her health and development as nutrition, so treating it like it was really important. I wouldn't give her Pop Tarts for breakfast, so why let her skip sleep?

The schedule I chose was routine begins at seven, stories are finished by 7:45 at the absolute latest. She wakes when she wants--in reality that ends up being between 6:30 and 7:30, depending on when she nods off. She MUST get up by 7:30. Nap begins at one p.m. and finishes NO LATER THAN THREE. She is three now but technically your child should need at least that much sleep.

Pantley suggests that most kids are tired by 6:30 - 7:00 and I think she's more or less right, if they are waking at 6:30 - 7:00 too.

My approach may sound AR, but the fact is that if we do not stick to the schedule, it gets insane (like, 1 a.m. bedtimes, cranky days, no naps, pure insanity) really freaking quick. And then I can't drive, I can't think, I can't hold my temper. It's bad.

But if we just treat this schedule like we treat our meal schedule, and just say, that is HAPPENING, no. matter. what. It works.

"Getting up earlier in the morning just is not an option in our house."

In that case, I'd plan around a twelve or thirteen-hour day, meaning 8 - 9:30 bedtime with a one-hour nap right smack-dab in the middle.

However, if it's not an option because YOU are tired (which I totally understand as I'm presently dealing with night-waking and can't get up early enough either...) I will suggest that after you've got your routine, you may find that six months into it or perhaps even earlier, you may be able to start moving it up in 15-minute increments on a weekly basis so that after one month, you will have him in bed by 7:30.

That's what I did with mine. I think it took two months.

It sounds hard but it was worth it. I am so glad knowing that we can go to the park in the morning, that we can sign older DD up for lessons in the morning, that she can go to pre-school, etc. I cannot imagine if we were still in total sleep hell. It's so awesome to have time with my husband!

The No-Cry Sleep Solution may work for you since all you need is a routine. Good luck. I know how hard it is and your son is still a baby but even if you can make a quick, gentle routine work (maybe he just needs a no-nonsense patting to sleep?) at any time, that will work for you.
post #12 of 17
I have an almost 2 year old who is doing the same thing. She's presently not falling asleep until 10-10:30pm, waking at 8am, and napping anywhere from 1-3 hrs between 1:30 and 5:00pm. I'm trying to do an earlier nap as she seems to want that, but I do childcare in the home and my 10 month old that I watch does 2 naps a day with the 2nd beginning at 2pm or later Since I still nurse my daughter to sleep I can't put her down until the 10 month old is napping.

Naptime is a breeze as she nurses down or nurses and falls asleep readily in my arms. For whatever reason, this is not working at night. We've had to sit in a chair in the corner instead of snuggling her since she seems to get overstimulated. An earlier bedtime (jammies at 8:30, nursing by 9:00) did not help tonight. How much earlier can you push it? My husband doesn't even get home from work until 6:30pm.

I swear that no one told me how difficult this part of parenting was going to be!!!
post #13 of 17
How much physical activity is he getting in the afternoon? I've noticed that days where our afternoons are just errand running and staying home DD fights bedtime more, but when we go to the pool or park or on a loooong walk she goes pretty easily. I didn't even think about it until someone asked me that in an earlier thread.
post #14 of 17
I wanted to also recommend the book Sleepless in America. I thought it was very AP-friendly, but she encourages the same hard-line sort of thinking that EdnaMarie does, about sleep being just as important as good food and fresh air.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the great thought out replies - I really appreciate the time it takes to read & reply.

I try really hard to keep a busy schedule because ds is SO active. I've really upped that this week & he does seem to be sleeping deeper through the night but it hasn't been affecting his falling asleep.

Overall I'm happy with our time line. And if I'm honest with myself the concern is more about having my own time in the evening than it is about ds' health & wellbeing 'cause he is doing well. He's a very happy boy who rarely cries or gets upset. I'm pretty certain he's getting enough sleep.

Tonight we had a bit of an ah-ha. I had noticed he would no longer fall asleep on me in the livingroom (something he very occassionally did before) but I didn't think it went further than that. I keep trying to figure out why he goes to sleep SOOOO easily at naptime but not at bedtime. We're pretty certain it's the room. Many nights when it just gets too late & I get too tired I bring him to my room & let him fall asleep beside me there. That is also where we nap during the day 'cause his room gets too hot during the day.

So tonight I tried to put him down in his bed & nothing doing. We got up & came down & he was still obviously ready so 20 minutes later I brought him back up but to my room & he was asleep in 5 minutes. I'm not necessarily happy about this but I am pretty excited to find the problem. Hopefully we can get the a/c installed in his room soon & then try to transition back to sleeping in there for naps. We have a/c in our room & we think it is the sound of it that is the big difference.
post #16 of 17
Wow, that sounds great. So glad you had that a-ha moment. I know a fan helps my daughter sleep. Fans are cheap and also make that white noise. I point my child's at the wall so it doesn't cause a draft.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
My ah-ha went down the drain tonight. I was so sure that I had it all figured it out but tonight was the same as it has been all along & I didn't even try to put him down in his room to start with like I usually do.
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