I am completely at my wits end!!!! I have a 2 year old (25 mos) DS and he is the most difficult child to ever put to sleep!!! He has been impossible since he was an infant, and I have always been patient (usually), until now. I do not believe in CIO and have nursed, rocked and would lay with him until he falls asleep........and yes, many people would think I'm nuts, but it takes an average of 1.5-2 hours EVERY night for about 1.5 years now. I lie there quietly, rubbing his back, singing etc etc etc until he FINALLY falls asleep. But I am now completely done with this. I have tried EVERYTHING and do not know what to do. Books etc. I am so jealous of everyone else I know whose kids just go to sleep. But my child since he was a baby, about 8 months or so takes hours to put to sleep. Even naps are a struggle. Better then the night, but still 30-45 minutes every day. I have tried skipping naps completely, putting him down earlier, later etc, but NOTHING works. I know how extremely important it is for a child to get appropriate amounts of sleep for development and brain growth, but my DS is just so difficult with sleep that I need to start putting him to bed at 6:30/7 and he falls asleep at about 8:30. He only sleeps to 6 am like clockwork, so it's only about 9, max 9.5 hours of sleep a night. If he napped well during the day I wouldn't be so worried, but daytime nap is only about 1.5 hours. I am AT MY WITS END and I just can't do it anymore, laying there and waiting for him to settle. I am also 3.5 months pregnant so I really need to figure something out because I can't do this with him and a newborn. We co-sleep and I just don't know how this is going to work??? PLEASE anyone out there, is there anything I could do? I'm about to let him CIO, but I know I just couldn't stick to it, and he just climbs out of bed and comes to the top of the stairs. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, but he's tried everything too with me, but my DS only wants me to put him to sleep or he cries. PLEASE anyone out there, what can I do?
Well, if you've done something for a long time, and it's no longer working for you, then it's time for a change. But you should understand that your son may put out a lot of effort fighting that change, and it may take some time for your change to have the effect you want. So have strength--other parents have taught their children to sleep on their own and you can too.
First, I would say, have a talk with your son. You can explain to him that now that he's a "big boy," he'll have a big boy bed, and let him pick out some part of it--if you're going to do a futon on the floor of your room, let him pick out a blanket or comforter cover, or make him a pillowcase. If he's going to get his own bed in his own room, make a big deal out of it. He's graduating to sleeping on his own, and that's a big step. It's OK to celebrate it. Then, let him know what the new sleep rules are. For my daughter, at about that age, we had three: Lay in bed, Close your eyes, Fall asleep. Then, make sure your bedtime routine is clear and not too long--brush teeth, two books in bed, five minutes of back rubbing (use a timer or a song that you can stand to hear every night so that he understands how long you will stay.) Then, kiss him goodnight and go out.
The secret weapon in the fight to get kids of this age to stay in bed is called "the silent return to sleep." No matter how many times your son comes out of his room, you silently take his hand and return him to his bed. Help him lay down, cover him up, and leave the room. Don't talk to him at all, and don't stay longer than it takes to cover him back up. If he yells and screams, ignore that. If he runs back out of the room, follow him, silently take his hand, and return him to bed. Kids at this age can easily get up 50 times or more on the first few nights of the new routine. Don't yell and scream, don't lose your patience, don't reinforce the behavior. You are showing him with your calm demeanor that going to bed isn't scary, isn't upsetting, and isn't negotiable. Even better, especially as a newly pregnant mama, would be if your husband could take over the silent return to bed task, after you do the bedtime routine.
I know there are parents who recommend locking the door, holding it open one inch, or cutting the door in half (like a Dutch door) and preventing the kid from getting out. But I think that many parents won't have the ability to lock their toddler away from them in the dark and listen to them scream--with good reason! So 'allowing' the child to get out of bed, but silently and calmly returning him to his bed is the best way to go--you're not engaging with a power struggle or getting emotionally riled up. But it can take a few LONG evenings before it sinks in. Hang in there!
Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I appreciate it! :) I am familiar with this sleep training routine, and I am at this point in time, not opposed to it, but I do not think that it will at all solve my problem, which is my son taking hours to fall asleep. Though there are many opinions on co-sleeping/rocking to sleep and demanding sleep babies, but I am sure that this is unfortunately not a behavioral sleep problem and most likely not be cured from a change in sleep routine. My DS has taken over an hour to put to sleep since he was an infant. Besides on 2 occasions, he has never fallen asleep in a car (even at 10 or 11pm at night as a little baby), and no matter what we've tried, nothing works to get him to settle down and fall asleep. Putting him to bed at 8:30 or 9 makes NO difference still taking an average of 1.5 hrs, and he still like clockwork wakes up at 6am, making him even more sleep deprived:(
Bird Girl, I appreciate your response and my husband and I am willing to give this a shot for a few weeks, but is there anyone out there who has had a similar issue and their child is now better as a preschooler? Is there any light at the end of this tunnel to become better naturally? Any techniques that work? I am a strong believer in the family bed and will continue to co-sleep with my DS until he is ready to transition. He is not at all afraid to be alone, or to go to sleep...he just prefers for me to lie there next to him, and I feel guilty to leave him alone for hours, which is why I would lie next to him for so long. Will he ever stop taking SO long to fall asleep???
I'm going to say something pretty completely different. My child was also a horrendous sleeper, took hours to put to sleep, and then often woke up several times and took hours to put to sleep AGAIN. From birth 'til she was 2 1/2 years old. (And no, we never, ever cried it out, though goodness knows there was enough crying going round.) At which point, we figured out that she was gluten intolerant, cut gluten out of her diet, and within a week, she slept like all those other children I'd been so envious of. I'm not saying this is what's happening for you, but I am saying that you never know--when a child's sleeping patterns really lie well outside the "normal" range, it's worth investigating real biological causes.
Can you do something else in the room so you don't feel trapped but he has company? Your husband could do that as well. If he's fine being in bed alone, he just takes forever to fall asleep, can you sit in the room and knit, or read, or look at the computer, etc? I did that as an interim step in getting my daughter to sleep in her own room. We rarely had hours-long trials to get her to sleep, but she did (and does) sleep in short stretches. She's seven and she was telling me recently that she gets up and watches the sun come up, and reads, and then gets back in bed to sleep more. She does it all on her own though, just coming in for early morning cuddle on ocassion. Which is obviously easier!
Do you think he gets enough sleep overall? 11 hours total doesn't sound bad for his age in my opinion (9.5 hours night and 1.5 hours nap) but behavior is the key. If you think he isn't getting enough sleep total, then I agree with Squrrl that an allergy or food cause might be involved.
I will say that I took quite a long time to fall asleep as a child--I was a natural night owl, and I had a very active imagination. I would just lie in bed and imagine all sorts of adventures. I slept in my own bed in my own room, but I never worried about that--I had an early bedtime, but would fall asleep an hour or more later. My own DD is a natural night owl, too. We usually let her listen to a story on CD or some music that she likes for an hour or so after bedtime. She shares a room with her brother (only the baby is in our room currently) but they both stay in bed.
I would say that it's OK for your son to fall asleep on his own, in your bed or bedroom if that's what you both still want. You could let him know how long you will stay, and then just go out, and if you like, you can tell him that he can come and get you if he needs you, but that otherwise, he can fall asleep when he is ready. Some children just need a long time to unwind at night, and if he's not upset, I see no reason why he can't unwind on his own. It isn't necessarily bad for children to learn to be by themselves and it doesn't have to be traumatic.
If he learns to fall asleep without your presence, it will make things much easier when your baby arrives. If (god forbid!) your new baby should have colic or a fussy spell at night, you may have your hands full at that time.
Have you considered that he's having trouble sleeping BECAUSE you're there? My DD is like that.. more and more as she gets older. She has to be alone to fall asleep.
My ds1 has never been a good sleeper. He still takes a very long time to fall asleep. He gets it from me as I am the same way. What you are doing now isn't working, so that is a good indicator that it is time to change things. If you are feeling frustrated then it isn't a beneficial situation for either of you. It is time to find another way that leaves you both feeling good about the situation.
Since it seems likely that your child is going to be a person who needs a long time to unwind at the end of the day it might be a good idea to find ways to support that now so he can eventually learn to do it on his own. There will be a time he no longer wants you to lie with him for so long yet he will still need to figure out how to get to sleep at the end of the day.
People who take a while to unwind do better with very little stimulation before bed. No tv or active play toward the end of the day can help. Develop a relaxing routine that helps him calm down. An epsom salt bath, a lavender oil back rub, or even a cal/mag supplement before bed work for a lot of kids. If you don't want to leave him alone for a long time maybe you could try giving him some quiet time alone FIRST, then snuggle him to sleep toward the end. Maybe you could tuck him in with some soothing music and some books and tell him when the music is over you will be there to lay down with him. Start with one song and work your way up to longer and longer periods. That way he can learn to settle himself for a while, but you will still be there for him when he needs you for the actual falling asleep part. He will have a chance to unwind and get sleepy, but you will still get a break before you go in for the final stretch.
My non-sleeper is 10 now. He still takes a while to get to sleep at night, but he does it on his own. He needs a consistent night time routine, not too much stimulation before bed, and lots of pressure on him. Now that he is older he can verbalize what he needs, he discovered that he only sleeps well with several heavy blankets as the pressure is soothing. Until that discovery it was hit and miss. Developing strategies to help himself off to sleep has really helped us over the years.
I really feel it is important to develop positive associations around sleep. Bed time should be a positive experience for kids. I think it is fabulous that you have worked so hard to meet his sleep needs up until now! That will be so much more helpful to him in the long run. Leaving him to cry and fuss would not have guided him toward better sleep, he isn't wired that way. Teaching him strategies (now by example and later with words) to sleep well will carry him into adulthood!
Good luck Mama! I know how hard it can be to face the sleep battle night after night.
Definitely true with my ds. He first started on the road to better sleep when he got out of our bed. Then I finally clued in that my being in his room after reading time was just keeping him awake.
FreeRangeMama, great advice. You described my daughter. She's 16 y.o. and we never did get a good handle on her sleep habits.