Trouble getting 26 month-old to sleep - Mothering Forums
Life with a Toddler > Trouble getting 26 month-old to sleep
brambleberry's Avatar brambleberry 07:31 PM 04-21-2012

We are spending over an hour sometimes getting DD to sleep - this is after her bedtime routine which takes about 45 minutes.  So from the time we finish reading and turn the lights out it can take anywhere from 30 min to an hour to get her to sleep.  The minute her head hits the mattress she's suddenly wide awake and it's driving me crazy!  


She nursed to sleep until sometime this past fall she started taking longer and longer to nurse to sleep and my nipples couldn't take it anymore.  So we transitioned into a more limited nursing time and then she would go to sleep snuggled between me and DH.  That went pretty well, but then it started to take longer and longer for her to fall asleep that way.  Then daylight savings time hit and it's just been a total mess since then.  


Our sleep setup: her crib has the toddler rail on it and is side-car-ed up to our bed.  She has mostly slept in the crib for most of the night since she was maybe 6 months old, but has usually gone to sleep with us in our bed, and would stay in our bed after 5 am nursings.  Lately she's been wanting to go to sleep on her own in her crib sometimes, and we've starting really encouraging it, but if she can't get to sleep in the crib I'll have her come snuggle with me to sleep.


So here's our current routine:

1. Jammies starting at 6:45

2. teeth

3. book reading until 7:30 or 7:45

4. Turn out the lights and nurse, prayer while nursing (DH comes and lies down with us at this point if he wasn't the one to do the book reading)

5. (since nursing no longer makes her drowsy !?) we then tell a special story about a little kitten (or mouse or puppy, etc.) that decides to crawl into her own special bed next to Mama and Papa cat and go to sleep on her own.  The little kitten sleeps through the night without nursing and then the alarm goes off and it's time to nurse and snuggle with Mama and Papa cat.

6. We ask her if she wants to crawl into the crib and go to sleep on her own or snuggle with Mama and Papa to go to sleep and she almost always chooses to crawl into the crib.

7. I sing her a song and continue to hum it until she's asleep...

unless... here's where the "consistent routine" breaks down


At least half the time she does not go right to sleep on her own.  so she crawls back into our bed and tries to snuggle to sleep.  Lately this hasn't been working either.  So I'll try to rock her to sleep in the rocking chair (this is a new thing for us), or DH will walk her around the house like an infant.  We bought a sound machine last week and tried that for a few nights and it caused more problems than it solved so we stopped that.  I was trying progressive relaxation with her for a while and she just would wiggle or kick whatever body part I told her to relax so we just stopped that.  There's also a lot of trouble with her being picky about what songs I sing too.


I recognize that we need more consistency here but I can't see how to achieve it.  We have no way of keeping her on the bed if she's decided she doesn't want to go to sleep, and we actually just have a curtain for a bedroom door, so there's no way to even keep her from leaving the room, so we feel like we have to just keep trying everything we can think of to get her to sleep.  We've tried just going with a later bedtime and it was just as bad, plus she was more sleep deprived.  


I think the biggest issue is that our previous method of getting her drowsy (nursing) doesn't get her drowsy anymore.


Any insights?  HELP!

newmamalizzy's Avatar newmamalizzy 11:23 AM 04-22-2012

I hear what you're saying about not being able to keep her in bed or her room, but it does sound to me like you're doing too much of the falling asleep work for her.  My DD (just turned 2) has a very similar set-up to yours - side-carred toddler bed.  We also do a similar routine of teeth, PJs, books, then I turn out the lights and give her a bottle in the rocker while singing to her.  Like yours, she no longer falls right to sleep from the bottle, so I put her in her bed and tuck her in, give her one last kiss, and that's it.  After that I don't really interact with her, but I do still sit on my bed right next to her for as long as it takes her to go to sleep.  We only recently weaned from her needing my touch to fall asleep, and her sleep has been much better since we did that.  She sings and jibber jabbers away in her bed until she falls asleep.  I try not to react to anything she does, even if she's jumping around and playing with her baby.  If she leaves the bed, I put her back in with a kiss.  If I got the bedtime timing wrong, it can take almost an hour for her to fall asleep - but at least all I have to do is lie there!  I guess what I'm saying is, even if you can't reduce the time it takes for her to fall asleep, you can probably take away a lot of the effort you're putting into it, which is almost as good. 


I do find that for us it's really a matter of getting the timing right.  If I start her bedtime bottle at 6:30 or so, she's usually asleep in 15 minutes.  If I start later, it takes much longer for her to fall asleep.  AND she only takes a 40 minute nap at noon, so she's generally tired at night.  Is it possible that your LO's nap might be getting in the way of her bedtime?  Or perhaps she stopped napping and she might be getting overtired? 

greenemami's Avatar greenemami 11:33 AM 04-22-2012

I agree with the PP-try backing off and not interacting so much after you put her to bed.  WIth dd, I remember struggling and struggling to get her to sleep at that age-I tried all the same things, including carrying her around the house like a baby :) Then, when I reached the end of my rope, I finally got myself a book light and sat and read a book near her while she wound down.  guess what? Eventually she came over and snuggled in my lap and nursed to sleep without the previous screaming and frustration.  I think it had turned into a power struggle between us and when she saw that I wasn't going to engage in it anymore, it kind of lost its fun to her. 


Ds is about the same age now and he likes to squiggle and wiggle all over the bed too while he is getting ready to fall asleep.  He still nurses to sleep, but it is taking longer and longer and I find that I really just have to let the wiggles happen because my getting frustrated and trying to rush the process almost always makes it take longer and makes it more difficult on all of us. 


Good luck!

hasya's Avatar hasya 01:36 PM 04-22-2012

Phew! I came on her to ask about my almost 2 year old's naps. She has been fighting them very hard. She always did. Nursing does it for her on some days. On some days, it just spurs her on. It is truly becoming a power struggle with my getting angrier and angrier. Because that is the only time that I have to do the dishes and tidy up and she's refusing to go down. I don't mind cleaning up with her awake, but most of her waking time goes into my cooking or playing with her and she doesn't go down until about 8.30 or even 9 at night. 2 days ago, I took her to bed at about 8.30. By the time she fell asleep, it was 10 and she was up at 6 am. 


If I use the time after she goes down at night to clean up, I get hardly any sleep, because she still wakes up at night at times. It is so unpredictable.


The only thing that works consistently for nap time is stroller. It is still cold here, so if I take her out and bring her back in when she falls asleep, I end up disturbing her to take her out of her warm clothes so that she doesn't overheat. I end up having to stay outside. So, I cannot catch up with my sleep even at night.


It is a lose-lose situation.


My real question is, is it normal for her to drop her afternoon nap completely? She goes to daycare 2x a week and only naps for about an hour, if that. Even that, she only started doing recently. If she doesn't have a nap at all there, she falls asleep on the way home. That sounds like she needs naps. On the other hand, daycare is a lot more stimulating than at home.


Any thoughts?

brambleberry's Avatar brambleberry 07:43 PM 04-22-2012

hasya, it sounds like you're in a vicious cycle of too little sleep making it harder for her to get to sleep.  I certainly can't claim to have all the answers, because obviously we're still having issues...  I've found "the No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers" really helpful.  You're in a really tough situation and it's hard to break that cycle, but it can be done and she will sleep better eventually.  I would focus your energy on getting bedtime earlier, and the nap will improve once she's getting better night time sleep.  


AFM, Just writing that post was a real eye-opener to how out-of-control our bedtime routine has gotten.  We've decided to pare it down and simplify things.  No more of both parents doing the whole routine together - it's just too stimulating.  No more rocking, walking or progressive relaxation techniques.  Just two options for her: go to sleep in your crib or snuggle with Mama.  We'll work on getting that down to just the crib in a few weeks.  It went pretty well this evening, but I did end up humming her to sleep, which I'd like to drop.  I think one song after she gets in her crib is a good thing, but not this singing and humming for half an hour or more.  I'll give it two more nights for the new rules to stick and then cut out the humming.

newmamalizzy's Avatar newmamalizzy 07:49 PM 04-22-2012

Glad things were easier tonight.  I was thinking about your post some more while putting DD to bed, and I think it definitely seems to be a control thing.  DD started trying to control the way I "put" her to sleep, so I had to stop doing it altogether.  I think she really was trying to say that she wanted to control her falling asleep - by doing it herself.  Puzzling little beings, these toddlers. 

hasya's Avatar hasya 02:52 PM 04-24-2012

Brambleberry, she isn't cranky during the day though, and is quite active. I am confused. But I'll look for this book. I've never wanted to read about sleep-trainers, because a lot of it seems to involve letting them cry for us in bed. Doesn't work for us. Or me, at least. No cry, eh? I should look it up. Take her to the bookstore during her nap and try to read it. 2 birds with one shot.

brambleberry's Avatar brambleberry 04:50 PM 04-24-2012

The No-Cry Sleep Solution does have a list of signs to look for to tell if they're sleep deprived.  Also a chart with how much sleep (on average) toddlers of different ages should be getting.

Tags: Toddlers