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2.5 year old sleep issues

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Dear Jessica,


I have read some of your other posts and really like your approach.  I feel like I have read every sleep book out there and can't resolve our sleep issues with my daughter.


My daughter is 2.5 years old and has always had trouble transitioning to sleep, even as a newborn I spent most of my day trying to put her to sleep.  It takes us, on average, an hour to get her to sleep AFTER all the bedtime rituals.  Naptime was easy until a few months ago.  After trying for 20-30 minutes, I now let go of naptime so that I don't get overly frustrated (plus I've tried in the past for 2 hours and it still wouldn't work some days).  Those nights are easy to get her to sleep for the night, but she sleeps even less soundly than usual (she still wakes regularly one to five times in the middle of the night).


A few other details:

*I am almost a week into night weaning right now. She has taken to the night weaning quite well, with some crying, but mostly an understanding that we nurse when the sun comes up because Mommy doesn't have very much milk.  Sleep problems have preceded the night weaning and I am hoping it will help.  My husband does one or two night wakings and I do the rest as he works outside the home while I'm a stay at home mom, plus my daughter prefers and is accustomed to me being her "sleep parent".

*My daughter has her own bed which she happily transitioned to at 21 months old, but I have been co-sleeping and night nursing in her bed half the night since she moved out of our bed.


Here are the issues:


1.  If she naps, she has a hard time falling asleep and usually won't go down until 9:30 up to 11pm (she'll wake up around 8am on late nights and earlier nights her wake up is closer to 7 or 7:30am).  


2.  If she doesn't nap, she is obviously tired in the late afternoon and doesn't sleep as soundly, though she'll sleep an overall 12 to 13 hours (with at least 3 to 5 wakings).  Plus with night weaning, it was harder for her to fall back asleep with as many night wakings as happened last night with our first day of no nap in over a week.


3.  Bedtime is a time when my husband and I have the least amount of energy and we both procrastinate the whole thing.  I went through different periods of being strict about it but it always takes that hour AFTER bedtime rituals unless she is completely exhausted and it is late.


I have heard the idea that she just needs to get to sleep earlier, but there are nights when we have tried this only to end up in the bedroom with her for hours on end... plus my husband doesn't agree with this thinking so it takes a lot of pushing on my part to make it happen.


Our current general bedtime routine is this:


7:45 start

Bedtime snack

Brush teeth


Books in bed

Rock with Mommy in Rocking Chair to sleep


My husband has been able to get her to sleep by lying next to her in bed and singing "Old MacDonald" but she won't let me do so. Last night she did let me lie in the bed with her after a night waking while she tried to fall asleep without nursing... that was a big step though she didn't fall back asleep until I got up and walked her to sleep.


Our house is quite small and I am not sure we could do the two different rooms idea for preparing for sleep, especially when my 12 year old stepson is with us (summers and every few weeks on weekends).  I guess I could propose it to my husband but it would probably require him to either do the bedtime rituals or be quiet and not watch TV while I did (which he hates the idea of as he feels it encroaches on his adult space).


Some days she will nap for 2 to 3 hours and she really needs it!  I try to not let her nap more than 1.5 hours but some days she fights waking up and then I know she just needs the sleep too much for me to wake her.  The problem is that we then get sent on a cycle of late nights and late mornings and later naps.  


Any advice would be welcomed.  Including how to get my husband on board with bedtime without my having to bug him about it:)

post #2 of 4

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for your question, your appreciation and for writing in. I will respond within a few days. 




post #3 of 4

Dear Friend,


I thank you for writing and I appreciate your love, care and attention to this matter. I think the answer is in your post.


Your daughter gets in this cycle of late bedtimes, and then she is overtired, finding her sleep in a 2-3 hour nap which she desperately needs. To clean up sleep in your home, it will take a commitment on your part.


  • As with any change, I would start by presenting the change in words, leaving space for feelings of grief and guilt.
  • Then prepare for the change with a count-down chart and any other support needed (in your scheduling & planning, etc.)
  • Then, implement the change
  • Follow through


So, in this case: in a moment away from the pressing issue, as in during a stress-free moment with your husband, sit and talk with  him about sleep. Talk about how you feel it has gotten away from you and that you recognize you both put it off (bedtime routine) because it feels so arduous but now you are in this cycle of late nights. Tell him you'd like to implement a change and you'd like a week of the new routine taking precedence. After the new routine is established, he will have time and space to stretch out into his well-deserved "adulthood" and watch t.v. and kick back after a long day's work; you're asking for a week.


Then process any of your own lingering feelings that your daughter hasn't gotten all the sleep she may need, that you've had to wake her cranky from a nap, etc. Write a letter to sleep in your household and include your feelings of frustration, as well as an image of "hope" of what you'd like to walk towards...how sleep could be in your household.


Next, tell your daughter about the new routine, and follow my 2-locations for bedtime plan (again, small houses are fine for this, and tell your husband this will be one hour in the early evening for one week with no t.v. during the bedtime routine, and that you can revisit it after a week of consistency.) Committing to this bedtime routine and starting it around 6pm may cramp your style, but at this age of your daughter and given the other information, I think you would be well-served by a week of the 7:30-7:30 sleep cycle and see what happens. Given the opportunity (well fed, and a nap environment created) she could easily nap around 11:30-1:30 and that wouldn't interfere with bedtime.


Follow through with a week dedicated to honoring sleep; this means meal times and meal prep and driving (at high-risk times like 4-5pm avoided,) and media (stimulus,) and nutrition (sugars, dyes, etc.) are all considered in terms of their affect on your daughter's ability to drop down into SLEEP. For one week, make EACH DECISION with your daughter's sleep in mind. 



Update me after another week of night-weaning and after trying this plan!


With love,







post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your response.  I was not able to view it until today... not sure why.


In any case, we "successfully" practiced nightweaning for 3 weeks upon which time I completely fell off the wagon.  My husband got sick and then was on travel for business and I couldn't shoulder the burden of being up with her for often 1-2 hours in the middle of the night walking and rocking her to sleep.  Plus she was still begging to nurse some nights and I finally gave in.  I tried to restart the nightweaning a week later only to be met with cries and screams for an entire week until Thanksgiving came and I gave up once again.  I have just been eating a lot to keep up with the nursing and still sometimes I walk or rock her to sleep when it's too much nursing for me.


I plan to discuss the bedtime routine with my husband this weekend.  I like your ideas.  Being a non-routine person, it seems rather daunting, but I think we can commit to a week.  Tonight I walked/nursed/rocked her to sleep for 2 hours at the end of which I was crying, so I know we need a change.  I think the bedtime routine should come first then maybe in a few months we will try nightweaning again.


Thank you!



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