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-   -   18mo needing more help to sleep than we seem to have patience to offer (

twylacat 08-12-2013 06:45 AM




I haven't spent a lot of time in the forums so I apologise if this sort of question has been discussed a lot before. I'm honestly too tired and fussy-headed to try and see if my answer is already out there (after browsing through the first couple topics). And I would just love to know I'm not alone.


My 18 month old has never been a great sleeper - naps have always been short and he needs a lot of help falling asleep. During the day I'm sometimes lucky when he'll just nurse to sleep (and we're still in a transition from 2 to 1 nap since he so often seems to still need 2 when the rest of his sleep doesn't seem to be enough - although he is starting parttime daycare in a week and will be on 1 nap then).


Nighttimes are a different story though. I nurse him but he never just falls asleep and it feels like we are just fighting him for upwards of an hour.  We do a lot of bouncing/rocking but I am finding myself feeling angry with how much he fights sleep and worry that my gentle, attachment approach is becoming more harmful than good.  And my partner believes that we have "sleep trained" him to need us to fall asleep (even when I try to explain he needs us for everything still at this stage - to help him get dressed, eat, go to the potty...). He somehow thinks that if we just put him in a crib in another room, things will be solved. So it's challenging we're not on the same page even if I've explained that a child sleeping in a separate space still needs help falling asleep. But he's more influenced by mainstream beliefs that babies should learn to sleep on their own.


I do not want to move my child out of our bed. I had considered night-weaning but since it'll be a big shift for him to be in daycare (and have less nursing during the day), I have decided to wait until he's settled into the new routine and perhaps try then if necessary. Dr. Gordon's method sounds like a good one for us.


But the problem continues to be (and would probably be more so if I wasn't nursing as much) how much time and effort of what feels like fighting him to get him to sleep (even when he's so obviously tired). I am admittedly not a great sleeper and I fight sleep myself so I can't blame him. 


Are there ideas out there of how to better help him sleep without losing our sanity (and increasing the fighting between my partner and I)?


Perhaps a separate topic but I suspect they're related - he is also hitting more. Especially in bed (for example when he was up at 5am today and we did not want to get out of bed, he began hitting us with books).


A long post but thank you in advance for reading it and any thoughts or advice you have!!





twylacat 08-12-2013 07:06 AM

I just wanted to add that DS has only 1 nap a day most days although the days with 2 naps, he has longer naps and I don't really see any difference with his bedtime and how easily he goes to sleep at night with more or less naps (but I feel saner when he sleeps more in the day!)

LLQ1011 08-12-2013 07:20 AM

I used to have this same problem. I finally just realized my sons bed times is 10:30 pm.. period. It sucks sometimes but no amount of nursing or playing or napping or early waking has changed it. Even when he was small he would fight sleep until 10:30. But now I just clean up we read books and eat some healthy snacks and by 10:23 every night he comes and gets me from where ever he is to where ever I am and says "Up" and we go nurse to sleep. Sometimes he doesn't nurse to sleep and just falls asleep on his own.


He has always been a good sleeper aside from his 2am nursing session that he has always had since he was born as long as I look at it like "My kid's bedtime is 10:30"


Our late nights can be a bummer and he might be the exception as no amount of anything we have tried has made him sleep earlier. Plus his dad goes to bed at like 9pm so its like mommy son/ bond time aside from our daily routine of play, eat, diaper, clean up, play eat diaper clean up.

EnviroBecca 08-12-2013 10:12 AM

Yeah, I also had a little night owl.  He was rarely asleep before 10:00 until he was getting ready to start kindergarten and we had to get onto an earlier schedule so he'd get to school on time--by then he was old enough to understand.  In your situation, I would just start the bedtime routine half an hour later and see how that goes.


You didn't mention if you are reading stories at bedtime.  18 months was when my son first became really interested in being read to.  Alternating stories with nursing helped me feel more patient.  (Right away I set a rule that I read any given book only once a night--that helped, too!  Reading the same book over and over drives me NUTS!!!)


Could you reduce the bouncing/rocking by just having him lie next to you on the bed, while you read silently to yourself or act like you are falling asleep?


Is your partner's objection to continuing the family bed connected at all to your son disrupting your partner's sleep?  If so, is it possible to set up a bed in your son's room where you can nurse him down, or to have your partner sleep in another room for a while?  Well-rested parents are more compassionate.  In my family, my partner is a LOT more affected by sleep disruption than I am, so we had the family bed in the kid's room from the beginning, and my partner was out of there by the time the baby was a month old; I gradually began spending more of the night in the master bedroom as the night nursings became less frequent.

MichelleZB 08-12-2013 07:01 PM

I also have a night owl! If he won't go to sleep, I just get up and play with him for another half an hour and try again. All conventional wisdom seems to be against this approach. Why? It's fuss free.

newmamalizzy 08-12-2013 08:42 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Are you doing the bouncing/rocking thing because he's demanding it, or because you are actively trying to get him to sleep? What happens if you don't do it, but stay with him?

twylacat 08-15-2013 09:18 AM

Thanks for your responses!


I don't think I have a night owl. He's clearly very tired and gets very silly the later it gets. Last night his dad was out of town and we went from dinner to bath, to nursing to sleep and he was asleep by 7:15. With 3 wakings to nurse, he slept until 7:15 this morning!  I'm wondering if having his dad around is keeping him up because he wants to play with him?  My partner doesn't get home until at least 6:30 so we eat after that and it's felt a little late for bedtime routine but want my son to be able to spend time with his father. Maybe it's not the best option for us right now?


We bounce him because he'll usually fall asleep faster but he doesn't usually want to be bounced unless he's really really tired and climbs onto us. My partner has stopped bouncing him but then he'll continue to want to play on the bed for hours. I had been wondering before if playing in bed wasn't such a great idea since DP plays with him a lot more there and has a much harder time with helping him to sleep. He tries to read quiet stories to him but often the little one just wants to horse around.


I wonder if having a separate sleep and play space may be a way to start (we all sleep in our bedroom with a large family bed but my son also has a room that no one's ever slept in...)

kaypea 08-19-2013 03:19 PM

My DD was impossible to get to sleep, but she did go to sleep better once I realized that 7pm was her bedtime, and any later meant she was overtired and squirrelly. White noise really helped her, and later recorded lullabies, and she also needed the room pitch black to sleep.

Playing/talking or any other stimulation after bed time is a BIG no-no. And for toddlers "bed time needs to be very clearly defined. The best way to do that is have a bedtime routine that starts at the same time every day, and is exactly the same every night. So bath, pajamas, teeth, 2 books, 2 lullabies (or whatever your routine is) in the same order. Then lights out and no more talking/playing. That's what worked for my DD.

kaypea 08-19-2013 03:21 PM

And by worked I mean it took 1 hour to get her to sleep instead of 4. But it still took an hour, and I just had to learn that was just the way she was.

When she gave up on all naps, it took more like 15 minutes.

Jessimaca 08-23-2013 09:36 PM

Twylacat~ I'm anxiously watching this threat as my LO sounds a lot like your kiddo! I'm hoping to gleam some wisdom. She has pretty much always been hard to get to sleep-- never a great napper and must sleep right next to me (not that I'm opposed to bed sharing, but my body has just had it). We have to feed and rock her to sleep. The only time she ever falls alseep on her own (since she was born) is occasionally in the car if it happens to be nap time. And even that's sketchy sometimes. Anyway, I totally feel your pain! It can be soooooooooooooo frustrating. I have also felt angry after rocking and rocking and rocking exhausted and my back hurting etc.

mamawithtwins 10-22-2013 07:31 AM

I have four kiddoes :)  They are older than yours now...the eldest is 9, then there is a 5 and a set of newly-two-year-old twins.  They were all pretty miserable sleepers.  As a co-sleeping, baby-wearing, exclusively BF-ing mama, sleep was pretty much absent.  Even more so when the twins came along.  I slept only when they both were asleep...which didn't happen too often.  After the first couple of months I realized I needed to figure out a way to get them to sleep better, or I was going to end up sick myself.  I tried a bunch of stuff:


1.  Warm bath with lavender oil about an hour before bed.

2.  Baby massage with scented oil after the bath

3.  Quiet books and snuggles

4.  Gentle joint compression at foot and wrist

5.  Assorted homeopathics (vomica nux, camomila)


The babies were very content with all of this, and started to settle a little faster, but they were still up constantly.  I started doing research on herbals, but my naturopath was not a big fan of herbals and babies.  The homeopathics were not really helping either.  I ended up trying out an audio system that worked very well for us.  The babies still fell asleep nicely, but they also stayed asleep for much longer stretches.  If you want to read about their effectiveness, this is where I got my info:  We still use it now, two years later.  Combined with the bathing and massage routine, I now have babies that sleep through the night - one occasionally still wakes to nurse, but the other sleeps through nightly unless he is sick.


Best of luck!  Sleep issues are a real beast!

Skyler 10-26-2013 11:31 AM

My 18 mo still nurses through the night in bed with me, but at about a year we started putting her in her crib for naps and to start the night, then pulling her into bed around her first night-waking.  It did take some CIO through the transition, and she still cries a little sometimes while she is falling asleep, but sometimes I think the release of crying actually helps them relax to fall asleep when they are fighting it.  So far it has been a nice balance that works for us.  Before that it would take her soooo long laying in bed and nursing her to sleep, but she wouldn't just peacefully fall asleep nursing, she wanted to play and crawled around laughing so it really was not working.  I think you have to do what works, rather that being tied to a strict philosophy, otherwise I think mom and baby start to feel anxious about sleep time.

twylacat 11-08-2013 01:25 PM

Thanks so much for all the responses!


Now that my 18 months old is almost 21 months, it's such a good reminder for me that all these challenges are temporary and constantly changing!


Listening to what works for others and feeling into what is best for us led us to make some changes and we've all shifted over the past 3 months.


The first important shift for me was a perceptual one.  It had felt so draining for my partner and myself to be having to get our child to sleep and with this idea that we were solely responsible for it, meant the need for our active participation (such as hours of bouncing) and the resentment of having to do it all for what felt like such large chunks of time.  When I started to thinking of bedtime as helping my son develop the skills he needs to go to sleep (similarly how every day I'm helping him to learn to eat on his own, go to the potty on his own, etc. etc.), I became more of a facilitator of his development.  So that led to no more bouncing. Which was a big relief (although every now and then he's really upset and asks for the ball, but it's rare). Then to me thinking about how I can help him learn to fall asleep (which is a feat, since I have troubles myself! so in some ways, I'm helping us both develop better skills...). I do progressive body relaxation with him, find closure on our day, breathing and lie together with him in the dark (after bath, nursing, books). It still takes time but it feels easier mentally.


We also night-weaned a month ago, which has been a helpful shift in sleeping. He now regularly sleeps straight until 4 or so. and the other night he slept all the way through until 6:30 - a first for us!


I'm still tired and I still have frustration and resentment and all sorts of other things come up. But it's always helpful to remember that this too shall pass. And then I'll miss all the beautiful things.  We used to bounce our son on our chests and when I started the night-weaning, he would crawl onto my chest.  Now he's stopped and as much as I was frustrated then, I now miss the closeness!  Another lesson to find joy in all our time together!


Wishing everyone else perspective and ease in your journeys!

Jaxy 12-01-2013 08:36 PM

Thanks for coming back and letting us know about your progress!


"I do progressive body relaxation with him, find closure on our day, breathing and lie together with him in the dark (after bath, nursing, books)"

That seems very interesting to me! That's pretty much what we do... with a bottle. And I really want to eliminate the bottle!


While I was scrolling down the forum, your post appealed to me - you got me at patience. I think this is the problem for both my DH and I. I know he thinks about the game he's missing when he's trying to put DS to sleep. And I think about what I could be doing instead of lying there for what seems forever. Just tonight, I started having a discussion with DH about one of the stories I wrote (DH and I have a real communication problem, we barely talk about anything anymore, so I was very excited that he was interested in knowing what the story was about), a minute into the discussion, DS woke up... After I got him to sleep, we were both too tired to resume the discussion. He went to sleep and... I'm here.


But anyway, what I meant to say is that like you said I have to change my perception of his bedtime, and then I might be more at peace with it.


Feel free to post updates :)

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