My 29 month old is a high needs child. She was a high needs baby and is now a high needs toddler. She is very bright and challenges us every second of the day. I now have a 3 week old infant to care for in addition to DD1, and I'm doing a terrible job.
DD1 has never been a good sleeper, but now she flat out refuses to sleep. She fights us every night and every nap. She wakes up 4-6 times per night. She has been in her own bed since she turned 2 and until baby was born she woke 1-2x per night max. I know she is transitioning, but I am having difficulty keeping it together. DH is working tonight so I have both girls by myself, and DD1 won't sleep. I got her down once, but then she woke up 15 minutes later. I went in to get her back down twice but both times she refuses to sleep. I cannot be held hostage by a 2 1/2 year old.
So now she's in her room crying because she won't sleep and I won't sit with her for hours waiting. I feel like a horrid mother because I just don't care anymore. She tantrums at the drop of a hat the second she doesn't get what she wants the second she wants it. IO can't take any more right now. We never did CIO with her because I don't believe in it, and I'm not leaving her in her room for sleep training now but I don't know what else to do. Letting her stay up isn't an option because she gets violent and destructive when she is overtired. Me staying in her room isn't an option because she won't go to sleep when I have the baby with me. I can't leave the baby alone either because if she wakes up I need to be able to get her, and if DD1 sees me leave, we are back at square one.
I am so angry and sad that I don't have any idea how to parent this child.
X-posted in parenting a toddler.
Oh, mama!! This sounds so, so hard. I'm sorry that I don't have any wise words for you -- when my DC was 2.5, she was a pretty terrible sleeper too. It DOES pass, but that's probably no help to you right now. Are you able to drastically adjust your schedule? If so, I may consider something like letting her listen to tapes or play quietly in the evening if she wants to stay up. Would that help, or is she too young for that?
Maybe you can do some sort of hybrid thing where you tell her she has to go to sleep alone if she can't fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time but tell her she can leave the door open and come down if she needs a hug? Maybe she can sleep on a mat in the living area -- I know that sounds nuts but it's something.
Big hugs to you! I hope you get some good suggestions...
This was us. DD was 31 months old when DS was born. DD was super high needs, and had slept through the night for about 3 months. Then, it all went to hell....she would wake at 4 am for the day, take 3 hours to go to sleep at night, wake 15 times, and be so overtired that she was a tantrum-ing mess. Literally, hours long all-out screaming, because she wanted the blue cup, even though she said she wanted the pink cup. My DH often worked during bedtime.
The only advice I have is to do what you need to do to get through the immediate time frame. If that means your big girl watches a movie for an hour so that you can get little one to sleep (or you take a shower while little one sleeps), than so be it. I tried to go to the playground every day with DS in the moby, so that DD got her bugs out. I tried to remember that this was just how hard and stressful it was for her, and that she had no other ways of expressing it. It was really really hard. It got better, I'm not sure when. After a while, I was able to focus on trying to get DD more sleep, instead of just getting through the minutes and dealing with each crisis. It was so hard, and I just wanted to be able to enjoy the little guy a bit, and not have a screaming, demanding, hitting, whirling dervish taking up every bit of my energy and sanity.
For bedtimes, I tried to start super early, hoping for catch-up sleep, but if DD wouldn't go to sleep, we would go for a walk, she could play by herself in the playroom, just change the scenery. I found that there were 2 issues. 1 issue was her need for sleep, and the other issue was my frustration. I had to manage my frustration any way I could, because when I got frustrated or angry, then she wouldn't sleep at all. Vicious circle. It didn't help anything for me to be there saying, "lay down, don't move" etc because she couldn't. She was so overtired that she was wired, and she didn't know how to manage that. One of the few things that did work was to say, ok, well, you do what you want, but I'm going to sleep. Not that I can actually sleep with a crazed toddler wandering the (child-proofed) house. But, I could lay with DS and snuggle and meditate a bit. Or, alternately, I would say it's bedtime. I'm going to read and you let me know when you want to go to sleep. And then be super boring.
Something will work, you will figure it out. Hugs and luck, and much strength wished your way.
I can only speak for my own experience, and 2 things helped me survive: 1) perspective, 2) sleep. Without getting enough sleep, I became the tantrum toddler. To achieve perspective, I needed to step away from mama-role for at least 30 minutes each day (though 1-2 hours is ideal). I would take an early morning walk while everyone else slept, hire a sitter for a brief date night, grab a book like "Operating Instructions" (Anne LaMott) and read even just 3 pages during the madness if there was no one I could hand the kids off to, make myself sing or laugh to lift me into a higher state (and somehow, through this, be reminded that someday this hell would be a hilarious story), or "sit" in mediation for just 5 minutes to let some of the fury and frustration pass through. Many times I failed to do any of these things, and I lost it, because I'm just human. Try to be gentle with yourself when you lose it--you deserve as much gentle love, compassion and patience as your children.
Even when you feel most alone in this, know you are not. Many women---thousands if not millions--are with you, right now, finding their own path through the tunnel. You are so much stronger than you know, and this, all this, will pass. Hard to believe, and I don't blame you for perhaps wanting to slug out the parent-of-older-children who say, "Oh, just enjoy it!! Next thing you know, they'll be teenagers, so savor every second!!!" No. It sucks. They've forgotten, and you will too, but not now. You have every right to lose it, and wish it would all go away. Maybe recalling some time, before, in our cultures when you wouldn't be the only adult in your living room, lonely among babies, but you would have been able to hand the children over to one of many nearby aunties, so you could tend to your self, be someone other than mother for a time. Nowadays, we must use our imaginations to feel the connection to other women, physically apart but psychically still linked. We're here for you, so call on us, anytime anytime!
I second the suggestion of getting out for some time away from her to get some perspective. If she's staying up to all hours while your husband is working can she just stay up longer so he cane her consistent bedtime person or is he away all night? I would be inclined to put a sleeping bag or something on the floor in your room and let her be there if she is quiet, show her out to a childproof room if she's not.
What are you doing during her bedtime? I've found that it's impossible to get the kids to bed if I'm working around the house or watching tv, they don't want to miss out on anything. They're more likely to go to bed if I'm going to bed at the same time.
What are you doing for her when she wakes up during the night? I would think a firm 'it's time to sleep, go back to bed' would be enough at that age. If you're going to her, not making her come to you, she doesn't have a reason to stop since she wants the attention of having someone spend time with her. Even if she's coming to you telling her to go back to bed then ignoring her (even if a resulting tantrum wakes the baby up). I'm constantly surprised by how often my kids stop doing an annoying behavior when I stop paying attention to them.
My suppport goes out to you!! I am in a very similar situation...my DS1 is 3.5-high needs baby/toddler/preschooler who was a terrible sleeper since birth. He too finally started sleeping through the night just before DS2 was born, but then after baby was born started waking up at all hours of the night and not going back to sleep for hours. I remember one night sitting in his bed, nursing the baby, and listening to DS1 whine and cry for 2 hours thinking "what have I done?" and sitting there crying right along with him. It was a very tough few weeks, as the lack of sleep turned both of us into raging crazy people who yelled and cried at the drop of a hat. The night waking phase is over for the most part, and although at the time it seemed like it was never going to end and I would not make it through it with my sanity, I did. Well, for the most part. It really helped to have him go out, or even have someone come over and play with him in our house (grandparents in our case) so that I could get some sleep or at least do some things for me to help me stay relaxed. Someone else mentioned keeping it in perspective, that it won't last forever, and it won't, although in a sleep deprived state even 15 minutes feels like an eternity, so perspective is hard. Try to seek some outside help if possible, even for a few hours. I really feel that this was a lifesaver for me.
I'm trying to imagine myself in your situation. I guess I'd try letting both kids sleep in the room with me-- maybe put the baby in a co-sleeper and let the toddler be with me on a mattress on the floor. If the toddler is secure, maybe she'll sleep better. Maybe you could also *research* giving melatonin to toddlers. Maybe she's too young, but maybe not... I think I read that melatonin is routinley given to kids on the autism spectrum; I just don't know how old they have to be to take it. Melatonin definitely makes me sleep... and it's natural...
Lovely post, Kacifay!
So here is the update. The night I wrote that post was the bottom. It went up from there - it got so much better that I don't really trust that it's going to stay. What we were able to do after that one awful night is go through her normal bedtime routine and then I sit in the dark with her NOT IN HER BED like I used to do. Instead, now I sit on the floor and we hold hands and talk. Then after maybe five minutes of that, I move to the door and sit by the door. After 2-3 minutes, I move outside the door and sit in the hall. In the hall, she can't directly see me from her bed, but when she gets out of bed (which she does about 2-4 times before she finally goes to sleep) she sees that I am there, and that she cannot leave her room. Because she can't see me from her bed, I am free to use my laptop/tablet, fold laundry, read/write etc. During this whole routine, I have been able to do it while still holding the baby - which really is the best way since it ensures that the baby won't cry and interrupt the bedtime routine. The biggest change is that I am not frustrated at all with DD1 when she gets out of bed. I realize now that I was the one really triggering her escalation when I got angry. If I react calmly and compassionately, the whole thing goes so much smoother. I have been doing this routine for a week or so now, and DD1 is now really putting herself to bed for the first time in her life. She has never in her life gone to bed so easily - not even when she was a newborn. Clearly she was ready for this, but I feel like such a much better parent now that we found something that works for all of us and DD1 doesn't feel so neglected. Thank you all so much for your replies, they were very much appreciated.
Glad to hear things got better and I am going to have to bookmark this for something else to try in the near future. I was going to briefly tell about a recent breakthrough we had with my toddler. I was in a very similar situation, though she had been a challenging sleeper before and after my son was born. When my son was eight weeks we traveled back east to visit my family for a few weeks. I thought the sleeping situation was going to be a nightmare because we would all be sleeping in the same room. Turned out be a miracle. My son went to sleep about 7 or so each night. Around 9 I would bring my exhausted daughter into the room, where the lights were off, and tell her we had to be very quiet because her brother was sleeping. We would tiptoe in the room, go right to her little bed made on the floor, and I would lie with her until she fell asleep. As opposed to the hour to two hours it was taking at home, she would fall asleep within minutes! I couldn't believe it. At home, I had begun her bedtime routine starting at 7:30. We would spend time in her room reading books and trying to settle down in there. She would, however, be always getting up and wandering around, and then would take forever to fall asleep once the lights were off. It drove me insane! I was so frustrated, and felt like an awful mom. So, I decided to try and mimic what had been going on during vacation. We now read downstairs, and enter into a dark bedroom, and try and be quiet because her brother is in the room next door. It does not work as well as it did on vacation, but things are still way better. I really had to let go of ideas of how I thought things "should be" and focused more on what her needs seemed to be.