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Don't know what to do with 16 month old

post #1 of 99
Thread Starter 

I'm posting this here b/c I don't know if it's Special Needs, or LWAB, or Gentle Discipline, but the main factor is that this is about my 16 month old foster-to-adopt baby who has only been with us for 3 months, so attachment issues etc are a factor. And he has sensory issues due to major in utero drug exposure/addiction at birth. So this seems to be the best forum for people who "get it."


He's driving me insane. He's generally a very happy kid, but MUST EAT ALL. THE. TIME. Because of his sensory issues, we were told to put him on a schedule so he could learn how it feels to have his stomach empty and then full after he eats so he will know when to stop eating on his own. I am doing the best I can, I think he's eating enough, but he complains ALL DAY LONG unless he's eating or sleeping. And sleeping is not one of his strong suits lately....


So right now, he has been in his crib, crying/complaining/whining/playing/thrashing around/laughing for over an hour. He cannot settle himself. I cannot settle him. His former foster home left him various places like hs crib, playpen, and high chair to keep him contained. Sadly, this made it pretty easy in the beginning b/c I could just put him down for nap and he'd be quiet and fall asleep. Well, now that's not working so well. He's waking up in the middle of the night for 2+ hours and instead of "playing" like the former foster home reported, he's crying and waking everyone up. And then I can't get back to sleep so I'm going on 3 hours' sleep, and then waking up to him complaining nonstop til the next meal, and now he's so overstimulated I can't even rest during naptime b/c he's being loud again. And I feel awful leaving him in his crib for so long, but I don't know what else to do. If I take him out, he gets no nap and is even more overstimulated, and I can't get a moment's peace. If I leave him in there to CIO, well, you know....


So what do I do??? I have little to no experience with sensory issues, he's in therapy but no one has any recommendations on improving his sleep, and my licensing worker and parent aide both say, "Leave him in his crib." But it feels like he's spending an awful lot of time in his crib, trying to sleep and that just doesn't sit well with me.


I'm at a loss. I can't stop the complaining when he's up, and can't get him to sleep when it's time. I feel like I'm turning this happy little baby into a miserable monster, but I don't know how to break the cycle we're in.

post #2 of 99

Do you get him outside to play and burn off energy? I can see a big difference in my 16 month old when she gets outside even for a short walk.

post #3 of 99
Thread Starter 

Ugh, no, you're right. That's probably a large part of the problem. His food/nap schedule just doesn't work well with the rest of the day's schedule (we have two other kids) and with it being so cold and everyone is sick, i haven't even thought about going outside. But you are right -- he probably needs much more stimulation than he's been getting.


I played hard with him tonight and read him a book four times, bounced around a lot, and tickled him a lot. I'm hoping that will help him sleep tonight.


I still feel horrible when he cries and wants me to pick him up and I have SO many other things to do instead. And then when I do pick him up, he just complains and wiggles away, then wants up again..... It's maddening. At least if holding him made him happy, I'd know I could do something to soothe him instead of having to listen to his incessant whining no matter what.

post #4 of 99
Thread Starter 

.... and he's been up since 430 am AGAIN. Whining, crying, complaining, whimpering, babbling. I feel terrible not going in there. Just when he starts to convince me he needs help or is in pain, he stops. Then he starts up again a few minutes later. So between early morning/middle of the night episodes and naptime, he's whining, crying, complaining in his crib for several hours a day. Plus the whining, crying and complaining when he's awake and not eating. Is this normal for the age?? 

post #5 of 99

I have an idea of how frustrated you are, my 23 month old has sensory issues and had had some of the same behaviors in the past. I am far from the point of having a solution, but I do find the idea of a 'sensory diet' helpful. Giving her the sensory input she needs helps her regulate her behavior more of the day. In my (very small!) living room I have a trampoline, rody horse, wheely bug and plastic slide. These things help, and I make sure to give her at least half hour of water play time in the bath a day. I can tell when she needs another sensory fix because her behavior starts getting all over the place again , so I make sure to provide her with some sort of sensory activity to help her reset.

post #6 of 99
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

.... and he's been up since 430 am AGAIN. Whining, crying, complaining, whimpering, babbling. I feel terrible not going in there. Just when he starts to convince me he needs help or is in pain, he stops. Then he starts up again a few minutes later. So between early morning/middle of the night episodes and naptime, he's whining, crying, complaining in his crib for several hours a day. Plus the whining, crying and complaining when he's awake and not eating. Is this normal for the age?? 


It doesnt sound typical to me. My youngest son came to me at 16.5 months old and didnt do anything close to that. He slept all night except he still liked bottles of milk at night (i didnt break him of the milk bottle "addiction" til he was like 3.5 or older)but as long as i gave him a bottle he'd go right to sleep (he slept with me)....he doesnt have any other special needs (he's very bouncy but im not sure it rises to the level of ADHD, time will tell i guess...) My other adopted son came at 3 weeks old and would night wake but go right back down if i laid down with him (he also coslept) He is kind of an OCD type kid, everything has to be just so, doesnt like lots of smells (we went to a petting zoo and he about died from how "stinky" he thought it was), wont eat from certain color dishes, very particular about his likes/dislikes (right now he's in a phase where he will only wear black sweats not gray sweats, for more than a year he would only wear a specific type of bluejean--i had like 12 pairs of the same kind---he would insist on sleeping in them too, then he went through a short sleeves only phase then a long sleeves only phase....) but he didnt do anything like what you're describing. I think i would lose my mind operating on that little sleep. :(

post #7 of 99

This might sound off the wall, but have all possible physical causes been ruled out? Such as metabolic disorders, parasites (with nutritional impact), food allergies, that kind of thing?  Also, did you say he doesn't even like to be held? I was wondering if he was small enough still to do kind of a kangaroo thing in a sling or snuggly, on your back, meeting his need for both attachment and perhaps soothing?

post #8 of 99

Did you check for incoming molars?  My daughter gets extremely whinny, and clingy and does not sleep well when her teeth are coming in.  She never took a pacifier until she started teething (10 months) and now she won't sleep without one.  Her whole personality changes when her teeth are bothering her.  I checked the other day and she had 2 molars I didn't even know came through.  Unfortunately at this age they aren't able to communicate their wants and needs clearly when something is bothering them so frustration kicks in and makes life miserable for everyone. 


Also do you have extra room or a basement?  We set up some of her outside toys in our basement for the winter.  On really cold days she may not get fresh air but she does get to play on her slide and swing and burn off some energy.

post #9 of 99

Food and nap schedules can be altered, it takes some time and patience but its not hard to do.  I'm currently in my second trimester so I know how frustrating it is when they want up and you just can't do it.  I find that by giving my daughter little "chores" to help when I'm busy that it distracts her enough that I can get things done.  Its amazing how much they want to help. 


Like when cleaning the kitchen after meals she helps to load/unload the dishwasher, and her job is to put the soap tab in, close the door and press the buttons.  She also cleans her tray.  When general cleaning she has a small children's broom that she helps sweep, and if I give her a cloth she helps dust. She enjoys loading and unloading the laundry and usually when folding clothes I spend more time picking clothes off the floor than actually folding them but I look at these things as quality time spent together when they need to be done. She is also responsible for giving the dogs and cat a treat each day, brushing her teeth in the morning and before bed, washing her face and hands and combing her hair. 


Of course there is no expectations that she will do these things to an adult standard and some days she doesn't do any of them, but the main thing is to keep her busy so I can get things done and she isn't following me around whining.  I'm sure with a little research and trial and error you can find something that works for your family, and help you keep your sanity.  Perhaps if your other children are older they can do something with him to help you out.

post #10 of 99
Thread Starter 

My son helped me out today, played with him, chased him around, etc. They had a blast. Then my parents came over and watched him while DH and I went out to dinner just the two of us. I nearly fell asleep at the table b/c as soon as I manage to relax, I fall asleep. It was nice....


Until midnight. He woke up and has been YELLING intermittently along with the crying, vocalizing, whining, etc. It's now 130 am. My parents played with him, he bounced in his bouncy thing and had a blast. He should be worn out. There is no way on earth he should be this keyed up. Yes, there were differences in the routine, but nothing overstimulating.Just activity.

DH is going to lose his mind. I couldn't even go in there beyond the first time I checked him b/c I was so mad. I know if I go in there again he's going to get yelled at, and I also know that's not fair or helpful. But even the DOG is up and annoyed!


It could be molars. But I know I've given him Tylenol at night before and it doesn't always work. I can't give it to him every night, and the homeopathics don't seem to work at all. It could be diet -- he was checked for allergies before he was placed with us, and has a lactose intolerance, but that's it. But maybe his gut is still messed up from the drugs, I don't know. We're taking him to a GI eval.


In the meantime, this is just way too much.


ETA: I finally took him out of his crib for awhile. I don't like doing that at night b/c I don't want it to become a game for him, but he was really yelling/crying, not just the usual vocalizing. He stopped immediately when I got him out and didn't make a sound the entire time he was out. Now he's back in, much quieter, making some happy noises. Can that really be something physical, like molar pain?? Wouldn't he continue to complain regardless (like he does during the day)? Argh.

Edited by swd12422 - 1/20/13 at 1:15am
post #11 of 99

You definitely need to get some answers here. Is there something like a child development clinic in your state where you could get a good thorough evaluation authorized? There could be something about his drug exposure and his hard wiring that just really needs some help here.

post #12 of 99

If his weight is high enough you can try Advil, it lasts 8 hrs vice 4 for Tylenol.  All children react differently to teething pain. My daughter gets cranky and whiny and doesn't sleep well, but my niece screams non stop, so it depends on the child.  My daughter also suffered from reflux when she was younger...it was pure hell.  The specialist put her on Prevacid and we saw near immediate results.  Does he have a special toy or blanket that he sleeps with?  It sounds like he's having a difficult time with self soothing.  If he doesn't have something, pick a toy he plays with during the day and put him to bed with it, that may help.  I know the feeling when you just can't deal with it and you are afraid to go in their room at night.  It is an awful feeling, but you know your limits better than anyone else. 


Hopefully things will look up soon.  I'd say just keep trying different things and maybe lots of play during the day, that's what I would do anyway.  All I can suggest is what worked for us smile.gif

post #13 of 99
Thread Starter 

He has OT and speech therapy once a week. They are happy with how he has progressed since he started last year, but have nothing to say about helping him sleep. We have tried weighted blankets, loveys, rocking, nothing works to keep him asleep all night. The only thing that has worked was not letting him nap while we were on vacation. Then he slept from 9 til 7. But by the end of our 4 day trip, he was a mess, so that's not something he can sustain for the long haul. Plus, he was sick the whole time, so that may have helped him sleep better since he was exhausted.


I'm afraid to give him Advil b/c of his stomach issues. I have no idea what kind of pain/discomfort he might have, but his poop is GROSS. And frequent. So maybe an elimination diet is in order, too? This is all so overwhelming. I know there is an answer somewhere, but I can't find it. The idea of an elimination diet is too much for me. He doesn't stop eating as it is, how am I going to feed him enough when he's only eating a few things? And what do I eliminate? Dairy, gluten.... apples may be an issue. I can't fill him up without bread!!


If I try an amber necklace, he can't wear it at night, so that wouldn't help much anyway, right?


I know I'm all over the map here. I'm just so tired and so frustrated and so sad for him that he feels like this. I ended up practically spanking him back to sleep. When our older son came home at 4 months, he was a TERRIBLE sleeper (couldn't fall asleep) and the foster mom said, "You have to really pat him hard, like you're spanking him. Believe it or not, it soothes him." It never worked too well for me, but I pinned the baby down so he couldn't flail and startle himself, then I patted him and he stopped almost immediately. But seriously, when I'm that mad and tired, hitting a baby to calm him isn't really my first choice, even if it works for him. I know it's "firm pressure" or whatever he needs in his hips, but it feels like hitting. :(

post #14 of 99

A one year old baby is too young for a restricted eating schedule.  Feed him on demand.


Also, he probably has major attachment issues from being abandoned in a crib for hours on end.  Try to get him use to being worn.  Start with putting him in a frame backpack and go for a walk or do your housework.  Also give him lots of face time.  Sound like he hasn't had enough of it.


My sensory boy who was a constant eater (and still is now as a tween) could be distracted by things that took a long time to eat, like a frozen tube yogurt.  Later on, I gave him aquarium tubing to chew on.  But really, just have lots of calorie-dense snacks availab;e and feed him when he wants it.  It will help biuld his trust in you as his mother/provider.

post #15 of 99

If its teething, have you tried offering a pain reliever like advil or tylenol? My daughter could not stay asleep when her molars were coming in. It was horrible for her. 

post #16 of 99

Much love to you.  Sleep deprivation is a huge mountain to climb when you have children to care for.  


I would definitely check into parasites in addition to food sensitivities.  Pinworms are endemic in our school and I know to start looking for signs when my youngest starts waking multiple times a night and thrashing around, whining and crying.  She also cannot sit still (especially at meal time) and wants to eat constantly when hosting these critters.  When the pinworms are gone she sleeps well, eats well and is MUCH less irritable.


While I think the in-utero drug exposure has a lot to do with digestive and neurological development, I wouldn't rule out parasites.


Best wishes!

post #17 of 99
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the responses...


Re: Wearing him, I can't. He's too heavy I pick him up and hold him as much as I can, but I cannot wear him at all. I play with him on my lap or on the floor as much as possible, but with 3 kids I kind of have a lot of work to get done during the day too! And if he's not sleeping well at night, then I have to use his napping time to rest or I won't be able to be nice to the older kids later. Sorry, but it's true. My patience is THIN.


Feeding on demand: Normally, I would do this. I'm all for following a child's natural cues and going with them. But it's not working well for him due to his exposure. He had to be started on solids at 4 months old b/c he was always ravenous. He doesn't have a "full" meter and will just eat and eat til there's nothing left. The therapists are telling me he has to have a schedule so he can learn the different feelings of hungry and full, and he can't do that if he's always eating and always has food in his belly. I do try to let him eat a huge dinner and then give him milk before bed to make sure he feels full at night. He doesn't always finish the bottle, so there are signs that he's starting to recognize that full feeling, but at the same time, he's always asking for food.


Parasites: How do I get him tested for that?

post #18 of 99

I just saw this. I bought diatomaceous earth off the internet for pinworms (and other parasites).(there are some threads here that could help with more information) He does sound symptomatic for parasites, but he probably has a whole host of issues related to food and good health given his background and sensory issues. 

I recently took my son off gluten. Some of the behaviors you describe are symptomatic of gluten sensitivity.  My sons behaviors were not as extreme as what you describe, but taking him off gluten made all the difference. When he ate gluten he was always saying he was hungry, never felt full,  became a sugar addict and tolerated milk less well, and  his sensory issues were  greater. 


Playground...i know its hard with other kids.  I have 3 and do my best to make playground our first morning activity. With my first this was easy, and he benefited greatly,with my 2nd, less so, but we still managed. With my third, im doing my best. At 16mths, the the playground is a great thing for them.


Wearing him-you could try one of those structured backpacks, they are designed to carry heavier children.  I would recommend back carrying him with any carrier. (i dont bother with the front myself, its too uncomfortable for me)

post #19 of 99

Your doctor should be able to help rule out parasites. It is basically a clinical exam plus a stool sample that a laboratory tests to see if there is evidence of any type of worms--usually larvae are detected microscopically, more easily than adult worms.

post #20 of 99
Thread Starter 

Well, he was up again last night, but happy noises ruled. DH got up with him anyway though, so IDK if that's encouraging him to keep this pattern established, or if that's what prevented the happy noises from becoming extremely unhappy...


Calling the doctor(s) TODAY.

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