tightly holding 2 1/2 yo in bed till he falls asleep -- is this a bad thing? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 04-04-2011, 02:42 PM - Thread Starter
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My son, 2 1/2, is SUPER DUPER active. When I was helping him to sleep (for his whole life before new baby was born) I actually had to physically hold him in bed or else he'd crawl out lickety split, run around the room, jump on the bed, crawl under the bed, thrash about, kick the walls, throw his stuffed animals around, hide under the covers, etc. He just does not settle down. Even after I did the same bedtime routine every single night: stories, yogurt on the couch, lights dim, quiet music; potty and teeth; in bedroom, quiet music and dim light, same 4 stories, same 4 songs, lights out, then ... HELLO! UP again, totally wound up, bouncing off the walls. So I'd hold him while lying down next to me, he'd SCREAM and yell at me, crying, sobbing. I'd say, "If you can lie down quietly on the bed next to mommy I can stop holding you." I'd loosen my bear hug, and if he started jumping around again I'd hold him, he'd cry and scream, and we'd repeat this till he settled down and fell asleep. This usually took about 20-30 minutes. I tried all sorts of bed times from 6:30 - 9:30. Same deal no matter what. I worked on this for about 6 months, till we got an 8 - 8:30 bedtime dialed in - but it still needed the bear hug.


My husband, however, doesn't like this. He came from a fairly tyranical childhood and refuses to do anything which seems too authoritarian to him. So when he puts our son to bed, he waits till DS chooses to settle down. This means that DS usually won't sleep till utterly exhausted around 10pm. 1-2 hours of stories with lights on, then at least another 30 mins-1 hour of storytelling with lights off. But DS wakes up at 7am no matter what time he gets to sleep, and after 10pm bedtimes he's not himself during the day, crying at the drop of the hat, frustrated easily, etc. He NEEDS 11 hours of sleep each night, plus 1 1/2-2 hours nap each day. So now that my newborn has a super fussy time right smack in the middle of DS's bedtime and I am nursing nursing nursing, my husband puts DS to sleep every night. Which means that he's not getting nearly enough sleep.


Is there a middle ground? How to keep him in bed without the bear hug? How to get his 8 - 8:30pm bedtime without restraining him and all those tears? Or is the bear hug not such a bad thing? If not, how would I convince my husband of this? Btw, in other ways as well my husband refuses to take a firm stand - he wants DS's "buy in" on everything. Which means that there are few rules or boundaries with DH. But see, even with my firmer hand he STILL needed the bear hug to get to sleep every night.


Thank you for any thoughts! So grateful.

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#2 of 13 Old 04-04-2011, 05:11 PM
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How about getting a weighted blanket or wrapping him up tight with a blanket? It seems pretty clear he needs the sensory input to settle down.

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#3 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 12:09 AM
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Our daughter is 15 months and 3-4 nights a week we need to bounce her (on a ball) to sleep. If she is really tired I can usually just nurse her to sleep.


But sometimes she gets up and zings around the room touching everything. We co-sleep and have the mattress on the floor so it isn't like we can keep her there. Sometimes I get uncomfortable about how we "should" be getting her to sleep and I worry about her dependence but she is a work in progress. Sometimes she lets me rub her back and she rubs my arms until she falls asleep ... but it is not as common as her late night frenzies. I figure if she does it SOME of the time we are going to be ok.


I would suggest letting your husband do the natural wind down when he can then work in an extra daytime nap the next day if possible. Then do the bear hug routine. If you are still nursing maybe try that, too. I hold my daughter pretty firmly for her daytime naps (on the ball in front of my computer) and it is very similar to your bear hug. I do feel a bit odd restraining her but she is in my arms and I usually sing and bounce and shush her rhythmically until she just passes out. Her dad does this too and it really seems to work. I don't have the experience of a 2 1/2 year old yet but soothing a child to sleep in your arms isn't exactly tyrannical in my book. My husband and I both discussed it and agreed it is like she is just fighting going to sleep, not us. So long as we are loving and calm I think we are still doing good.


Here is a totally whacky idea but what if you tried hypnosis? Or an air filter? Or a white noise machine? Maybe try telling a story while in the bear hug or singing?


Maybe can you elaborate on the tears and restraint methods? I'm trying to picture it but am a little unclear about what you say and do during the bear hug.



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#4 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 02:34 AM
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I nursed ds to sleep pretty much every night until this January (26 months) when we started the weaning process because we thought we were taking the next step in fertility treatments. Anyway, ds had a ridiculously hard time falling asleep without nursing & in large part I feel that was because when he nursed I didn't tolerate much moving around. If he wouldn't lie still while nursing then we stopped. But once we stopped nursing to sleep there was suddenly nothing to keep him lying still & he was like you describe & wouldn't fall asleep.


The solution that worked for us was simply: mommy will stay with you ONLY if you are lying on the bed. When you get up mommy leaves. I think I had to leave the room 2 or 3 times (for about 3 minutes) before he accepted the new rule. After that I would generally need to remind him a couple times each night & he would stay lying down.

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#5 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 04:12 AM
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Yeah....your bedtime routine would make me a bit hyper too, not everybody is wired for the same type of wind-down.  Have you tried some fairly loud music with lots of base instead of the soothing stuff?  Or at least leaving an audiobook playing?  Or maybe have a dance party and then snuggle in bed listening to an audiobook in the dark?

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#6 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 11:58 AM
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OP, this is more common than you think.  I've got a child just like yours, and I've posted in agony over the same thing several times in Nighttime Parenting.  I swear. Search "pushing" in that subforum.


So your kid needs sensory imput to settle down.  No big deal.  You provide that input by letting him push against you, helping him keep his arms and legs still.    He NEEDS it.  My DD did too for the longest time.  About 2 months ago (she's 26 mos.) I started asking her if she wants me to hold her.  Sometimes she says yes, sometimes she says no and lays down on her pillow. Sometimes I tell her that if she doesn't lay down with mommy, mommy will have to help her keep her legs and arms still.   Either way, she needs to scream a little.  IT'S OKAY.  I promise, we are just some of the lucky ones that have to do something a little different.  I remember one poster in Nighttime Parenting did this with her LO, and she called it "screaming the baby."  It feels awful, but some kids just need it.


For the PP that asked, my bear hold is like spooning DD, with one arm across her arms like a bear hug.


OP, could you read up on sensory seeking behaviors and convince your DH that it's not bad to provide the input that your child needs?  Could he take over with the nursling while you put DS down? 


Feel free to PM me about it, I totally know where you're coming from.  Hugs to you mama.

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#7 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 02:13 PM
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This is like every bedtime at my house with my oldest, now 6.5, until he was around 4.5 years. He was diagnosed with sensory issues and ADHD at age 5. That diagnosis made everything click for us. It made the crazy nap times and bed times make sense after years of feeling like maybe I was just a bad mama.


I cried many a nap and bed time over the course of 4 years. I admit that. I was exhausted. We co-slept and I resented that I usually ended up having to go to bed at 7pm too. My son needed the sensory input to fall asleep. He needed firm touch. He COULD NOT fall asleep without. Eventually, he grew out of it and was able to go to bed on his own. I would have to literally bear hug that boy to sleep every night from the time he could move, and he crawled at 4.5 months. It was exhausting. I did get mad sometimes. I did struggle with it at times. But! IT GOT BETTER!


I am thrilled to say that after a short story, a hug, and a kiss my son can sleep on his own. He does need layers and layers of blankets though. I think the weight of that soothes him the same way being held did.


Do some reading online about sensory issues and see if that could help convince your DP that your child does indeed need that input to calm down.


Good luck mama!!!

Anarchist Mama to Micah born 09/22/04, Zola born 01/24/10, and Dalia born at home on 08/02/12. Trying my best to raise radical and amazing humans. Labor doula and full-time Women's Studies student trying to make it all work!

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#8 of 13 Old 04-07-2011, 05:41 PM
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My 11 month old DD will frequently squirm and try to crawl while I want to nurse her to sleep.  Many times I will physically restrain her (in a one arm cradle position) for 30 seconds or so until she gives in an just nurses.  She only does it when she is overtired and during her most intense sleep fighting nights.  I am thankful that it only lasts a short time, but during that time, she cries and struggles soooo hard.  


If I were you, I might consider changing up the bedtime routine though - theres a lot going on.  Maybe shorten it? Good luck, you are not alone. 

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#9 of 13 Old 04-08-2011, 01:51 PM
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You might consider a weighted blanket, too.  I made one, and it wasn't hard if you can sew a little.  It helped DD stay asleep by providing the pressure she needed once I got up.

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#10 of 13 Old 04-09-2011, 06:38 PM
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I've been struggling with this same issue, but in our case, it is my husband's technique, and I'm the one that is troubled by it.  It makes me feel better that there are other people who have to do this, too.

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#11 of 13 Old 04-09-2011, 07:07 PM
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maybe you've already tried this & didn't mention it. do you think your LO is ready to drop his nap? he's around the age that our ds stopped taking a nap and WOW did it make a difference in his bedtime routine. he wasn't falling asleep until 10 or later and the bedtime routine was an hour or longer of trying to get him to stay in the bed,etc. after dropping his nap he is in bed and ready for 1-3 stories before 8 and once lights are off i sit with him and he's out in about 5-10 min. i also do the same thing a pp said as far as telling him that i will not sit with him if he's not quiet and still once lights are out. i will admit that some evenings he can be a bit to deal with because he's tired, but i'd rather deal with that occas. than have him going to bed at 10!!! he also does soooo much better getting LOTS of outside time to really tire him out.

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#12 of 13 Old 04-09-2011, 09:16 PM
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My dd is 20 months old and we still have to swaddle her for naps about half the time. I swaddle her very tightly in a big blanket, lay her on her tummy, and then lay next to her with my leg over her bottom to hold her down, and then nurse her. It's a little ridiculous, but it works. She needed swaddling all the time until about a year, and then she's gradually dropped it, but when we miss the nap window and she's getting wound up again, it's all that calms her. She can fight for an hour, and then as soon as she's swaddled, she just visibly relaxes and is out in 5 minutes. It's not exactly the same thing, but I think it's pretty similar to what you're describing. I don't really have any advice (my dh isn't thrilled about it either, but we've at least come to agreement that he can't just come in and "rescue" her, which was a major improvement!), but I just wanted to say that you're not alone and I really don't think there's anything wrong with it. If that's what works, then that must be what your son needs right now. 

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#13 of 13 Old 04-10-2011, 06:43 PM
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when DS stopped nursing to sleep, this is exactly what we did to get him to fall asleep without nursing. luckily he only screamed about it for the first week or so, but i too feel much better reading that others have done this too!

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