My ‘baby’ is almost two. Although he has always been a great sleeper, the last month or so has been really tough. Not tough in comparison to you reading this, whose child hasn’t slept since 2009, and whose kid is regularly up for 30 hours at a time, and dropped their nap at 5 and a half weeks, and spends the hours of 2-6 am playing the steel drum through your bedroom wall…. but tough for us, who are used to a baby who goes down at 7ish and wakes up at 7.30ish.
The facts are as following. We put him into bed as usual at 7-7.30. He has had his bath, milk, story/ies and we have sung him his night-time songs. We put him in the cot, turn his mobile on, and say goodnight. Before the last month, that would have been it, and the next we would hear is lively chattering at about 7 in the morning, followed by annoyed moaning at about 7.45. But now, the very second the door closes we are met with pitifully angry and upset screaming, which escalates in decibel level and seriousness of tantrum the longer it’s left.
I believe in controlled crying, to a point. Sometimes a toddler just has to be allowed to scream it out, and nothing that you do will make a difference, they just don’t want to go to bed. But I also believe in checking all the other boxes first before you leave them to basically cry themselves to sleep.
So that’s what we’ve been doing. But the resulting checklist is confusing and inconsistent.
I always leave him to ‘cry it out’ for fifteen/twenty minutes first. Then, a number of possibilities cross my mind.
Maybe he’s hungry…
Whether he didn’t eat a proper supper, or didn’t finish his milk, or it’s just been three hours since supper so why shouldn’t he be hungry, I often find myself going in with a snack, like a cracker or raisins. He always takes it hungrily, (but that proves nothing because he always takes ANY food hungrily) and mostly falls asleep after eating it.
Problems: Firstly, that i am “making a rod for my own back” as he will come to expect the snack, and get hungrier b/c he is used to eating then. Secondly that there is a niggle in my mind as to whether he is actually hungry at all, in which case I’m just feeding him to ‘shut him up’ so to speak. I’ve tried giving bigger suppers or a yoghurt/fruit pot after dinner. No change.
Maybe he’s scared…
I have read that this age is a common one for developing fears of being alone/ the dark/ nightmares etc. If this is the problem, I’m not sure what the answer is. If I stay with him, how does that help the underlying problem when I leave again? I could buy him a nightlight, or glow in the dark stars or a projector, but I’m not overly keen on making him reliant on something to sleep with, especially as up to this point he has been fabulous at falling asleep in travel cots and other peoples homes and the like, with nothing more familiar than his baby bear.
Maybe he’s over-tired…
In my experience, an over-tired baby can scream for hours. And hours. And I’m just not that strong to listen to the tears and chokes. 😦 I’ve tried making his nap longer during the day, sometimes it works, other times, not being tired yet- he plays in his cot for so long that he never ends up sleeping at all. In addition, being at a childminder some of the week means I’m not always in charge of how long he sleeps in the day. Just to confuse matters, on Friday night he stays up with us until about 9pm, and always always drops off instantly afterwards.
Maybe something is wrong…
One of the reasons I find extended controlled crying hard is that you dont know whats going on in there. Twice I have gone in to shrieking noises, only to find my son’s leg trapped in the cot bars red and sore looking, and sometimes (less dramatically) it is as simple as giving back his baby bear who has escaped from the bed. If the problem can be solved easily, why not give yourself that chance? Short of buying a baby monitor for my 2 year old… I have to poke my head in ocassionally, dont I?
Maybe he’s lonely…
When I go in after the 15 minutes, he never tries to get up out of the cot, rather lying down and staring at me forlornly. I bend down and shh shh quietly, stroking his hair and making calming sounds. And he lies there, watching me. He is perfectly happy as long as me or C are there with him, but he doesnt close his eyes. If I pick him up, he nestles into my shoulder and lies still on me, giving the best cuddles ever, eyes open, and stays there as long as I’ll let him. Generally as soon as I put him down again and leave the room, the crying starts up again. Eventually after two or three of these cycles, the crying stops and he falls asleep until morning. The whole thing generally lasts no longer than 1.5/2 hours, on a bad night. and I wont pretend I dont love the cuddles.
The longest I have left him to cry is about an hour, and by that point he was so worked up that he could hardly breathe, and it took two hours to get him to settle. It’s been a month, so i don’t think the answer is as simple as “he’s probably getting ill” or “his teeth are bothering him.”
Is this just a rite of passage in having a 2 year old?
I miss my evenings, so all advice and sympathy gratefully recieved.