I was that annoying, gloating mother. B has never really been a bad sleeper but from 10 months to 18 months, she was fantastic. A shining beacon of a baby at bedtime. Tears of pride/joy may have even been shed. We used to pop her in her bed and then, goodnight, that was her for at least 11 hours. 11 hours of glorious, undisturbed sleep. The best part, for me, was the calmness bedtime brought. Having your young child fall asleep effortlessly whilst all your facebook friends posted of their 2/3/4am rises was, I hate to gloat but, bliss. B wouldn’t sleep with us through her own choice. We were exceptionally proud
smug parents. That was until around 18 months. This is where this post is going to get a bit long winded and lengthy, so please bear with me.
Due to have a weekend away with some family members and the room we were to stay in was small, not much room for a travel cot. So filled with worry, I started lying down in bed with B to see if she would doze off with me there, to prepare for the bedtimes in case a cot didn’t fit in the rooms. Anyway – come the weekend away the cot did fit, but being 2 months pregnant, exhausted and filled with nausea I wasn’t up for late night socialising with the other adults. I happily spent my nights in bed with my little lady. I put her in bed with me, even though she was happy enough to go down in a cot. Why? I don’t know. Craving attention? Wanting some beloved cuddles? My own selfish reasons? Probably. The weekend went hitch free. Sleep was great. Coming home, sleep was still fine. Until about a week later.
B had been in a toddler bed since 1, absolutely loved it too I might add. She enjoyed the freedom. Being a ‘big girl’ and happily wandering into her parents room in the morning, beaming, full of smiles, refreshed and ready for morning cuddles. But things started to change. Our once undisturbed nights started gently becoming disturbed with her coming into the bedroom, angelically tapping us, wanting us to pull her into bed, (which being the fantastic sleeper she
is was, we did so without a moments thought). Purely thinking she was re-adapting into her normal routine (as I read a holiday can switch up routine) and to be honest, making the most of sleepy, loving cuddles we didn’t think a problem was unfolding. The gentle wake ups started becoming more frequent, then came the ‘not wanting to lie in bed’ phase. Then the ‘crying if we left the room’ phase. Then the ‘trying to get to sleep in our bed, just to grab a few hours’ phase. You know where this is going. Worse and worse. Bad habit after bad habit. We went from almost 12 hours a night, to averaging 5-7 hours, with wake ups in between (not just wake ups, but full on crying/angry/temper tantrums which I don’t believe are nightmare/fear related). Now 6/7 hours of broken sleep may sound a lot to some, and those are probably cursing me as reading, but for our once fabulous lover of sleep – we were feeling more like zombies with everyday.
B started to scream more each day before even getting into her bedroom. Demanding I lie in bed with her/next to her in bed until she sleeps, which of course I did if it meant me grabbing a few winks. This week though, it took a turn for the worst. This past week broke us. B started to refuse to sleep all together, sometimes not sleeping until near midnight – which I know only fuels her overtired, ratty, none sleeping state. Constant waking up crying. She didn’t want to be in her bed, in our bed, awake, asleep, to be picked up, to be put down. Nothing. Nothing soothed her. She’d sit up next to me whaling ‘mumma’, and the occasional ‘don’t like it’ in response to me reasoning. Me and hub-to-be became irritated with each other. We became narky with B. The shear confusion of how to handle the situation was effecting us each day.
BUT we have taken action. After slowly regressing for almost three months. We have made a plan. From now the bedtime routine (teeth/wash or bathtime/story time/milk/wind down period) is massively reinforced. We have chose to do the gradual retreat method, as I feel this sleep regression is massively linked to seperation aniexty that can come at this age. So basically, once bedtime hour is done, we take her to bed, lie her down, say goodnight/tuck her in/give her comforters etc, and we sit in the room. Close enough to her that she can see us but far away from reach. I feel mean when she is saying ‘mumma’ and waiting for me to answer but my little one is clever. She knows how to try to delay bedtime. So basically I don’t respond. That sounds really mean but I assure you it’s not. Anyway, we continue that, lying her back down every so often if needs be with a reassuring cuddle but no talking or eye contact – reinforcing the time is for sleep now, not playing.
- Night 1: trying this method took 1 hour and 20 minutes before B slept. But there was 0 crying and she let me be a little out of sight, which is HUGE improvement from our refent bedtimes. She woke up once at 4:30am and we had an upset period of the usual ‘mumma’ ‘don’t like it’ for around 30 minutes but super Dad managed to get her to sleep in her own room (again is an improvement as she point blank refuses to have anyone but me) after having a calming cuddle.
- Nap time Day 1: took just 20 minutes, again no crying.
- Bedtime night 2: second night took a shorter time of 55 minutes (compared to previous night). There was a little crying and I needed to be firmly in eyesight at all times but I still take it as a victory as I haven’t had to fight with her or lie with her. Successful night. 1 wake up at 5:50, fell back to sleep alone within 10 minutes and then woke up at 8:15am. Massively happy with this.
- Nap time day 2: some ‘fake’ crying and trying to find excuse to stay awake such as ‘mummy socks off’ but took a total of 20 minutes.
I know I made a lot of bad habits for her and I am a lot to blame for the sudden shift. But after it seemingly getting worse for months, and finding out I am expecting baby number 2, we are really keen to support her and help re-sleep train her in a gentle, calm way. The part I struggle with is the waking up in the night as I don’t know the ‘protocol’ to follow and I find this is where I refer to as habits. I’m hoping that the more comfortable she feels going to sleep back on her own in her own bed will influence and reduce her night wake ups.
Final note: things seem to be going smoothly. We are being consistent and positive with our plan, and small victories are greatly celebrated. I will update on the journey/improvements/struggles in a weeks time. Hopefully she isn’t luring us into a false sense of security and comes back with a sleep regression vengeance.
Did you experience sleep regression at this age? Was your child a good sleeper and suddenly shifted? What worked for you?