A toddler sleep clustercuss

Do the sleep challenges ever end? We’re having a rough day over here.

After our delightful time away in Colorado, aka my soul place, J has adopted all sorts of different sleeping patterns. When we were away, J said he wanted to sleep in the “flat bed” and since the room where he stayed had one, we gave it a try, instead of using his travel crib. It worked great and we really enjoyed being able to snuggle with him while he went to sleep. So much so that we would sometimes fall asleep too or just lay there watching his little eyes droop and cheeks bloom into that sweet, rosy napping boy color.

…not to mention the sweet, sweaty curls…

Now that we’re back at home, in the land of the room with no flat bed and only a crib, things have been pretty topsy turvy. In short, over the past 2 weeks, he got pretty used to having someone lay down with him while he was falling asleep. So now he’s been screaming maybe 70% of the time when we leave him awake for night-time or nap. I’m able to write at this very moment because our nap battle, which began at 1 and ended a few minutes ago at 2:15, has ended with victory for me. I have a sleeper. But here’s how it went down:

  • We read 3 books, sang 2 songs, then “boo boos,” our very secret code for “boobs,” the typical routine.
  • J cries when I put him in his crib, wants me to snuggle with him and leave the door open.
  • I don’t want to, so I don’t.
  • He yells. Then climbs out of his crib and plays with toys.
  • Then opens his door every few minutes, sticks his hand out, holding a random object — a rubber band, then a dragon wing — and saying “Here, Momma.”
  • I go in, tell him that if he doesn’t want to sleep he needs to have quiet time.
  • He announces he has to poop.
  • He poops.
  • He announces that he wants to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • I say that if he takes a nap, he can.
  • I deposit him in his crib and he screams.
  • I walk out.
  • He climbs out of his crib.
  • I walk in, make no eye contact and put him silently back into bed.
  • Repeat these last 2 steps 15 times.
  • He climbs out, plays quietly on his floor for 20 minutes, then begins the “Here’s a random toy I’m gonna thrust through a crack in the door, Momma” routine again and says “I wanna watch Thomas.”
  • I say he needs to have more quiet time if he’s gonna watch Thomas.
  • And then somehow, I wound up in there holding him on the rocking chair and he nursed himself to sleep.

I know that this is, as one Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, a complete cluster-cuss.

I know I was not consistent. I know I tried a jillion different strategies (and I didn’t even mention when I went in, grabbed his crib mattress, blankets, stuffed animals and pillows and put them on his floor–in all my wisdom, I was trying to simulate the “flat bed.”). And after all that, I ended up “caving” by nursing him to sleep.

Here’s the deal: J is almost 3. The same strategies that used to work just don’t any more. And a lot of the good resources I’ve found for sleep drop off after the first couple of years. Like this one my friend B, mom of a 3-month-old, emailed me, with the endorsement, “I just found it and I am like yes finally the answers in plain English!” If you have a 0-12 month old, go forth and enjoy.

I also read and re-read choice sections of the Weissbluth sleep book when we go through a period like this. I’ll be the first to admit that I credit the Weissbluth sleep book as one of the things that saved our lives in J’s 5th month. I’ll also be the first to admit that his book will probably push your buttons if you take your place on the “anti-cry-it-out” side of the firestorm that is the baby sleep debate. Regardless of his opinions in the cry-it-out department, I think Weissbluth has some very useful things to say about naps, and sleep cycles and typical sleep patterns for infants in particular. Again, though, I’m kinda coming up empty now that I have a willful boy who can climb out of cribs, open doors and hit, kick and scratch.

So kids, what are your recommendations?

11 thoughts on “A toddler sleep clustercuss

  1. When Chloe was this age, at nap time we would shut the door to her room, and she would climb out of her crib and play in her room, alone, for maybe like… an hour. Then when she was tired she would climb back into her crib and go to sleep! So this gave me an extra hour or so of time to myself! (: Sorry I don’t have any advice, just that little story.

    It was great to see you and your kiddo in person and give you a squeeze! Sounds like you had a great trip! xoxo

    1. At this very moment, J is playing quietly in his room. Though I’ve never known him to voluntarily go from that and then get back in bed and go to sleep. Go Chloe! It was awesome to see you briefly when we were in town! Love your website!

  2. I feel you! I have very very similar issues with my 4 year old, with nap she doesn’t go to bed till 10:30, without nap she goes bunkers (biting/scratching etc). From having a 10 year old that goes to bed ok, I know that it will get better, but the “when” is a different question (and I have no memory as to how we did it with him!). Just go with the flow and make sure to take some time for yourself and have your hubby take over half of the bed time battles. A routine helps, just make sure to do the same thing in the same order (but you have heard that before!) Even though it is super hard for me to stick to a routine… btw – I enjoy reading this blog (and this entry specifically) even though she can be a little harsh at times… http://dooce.com/2012/07/16/she-drew-first-blood

  3. Get him a big boy bed. It sounds like he’s over the crib. Our little man refused to be in the crib right before he turned two. We couldn’t afford a new bed right away so we put his crib mattress on the floor. He doesn’t take naps, but at bedtime he gets a 30 minute warning before “jimmy jam” time. About the last ten minutes of that we brush teeth. He can have two stories or songs but not both. We turn on his sleep turtle (lights up the ceiling with stars and the moon) and after a few sips from the water in the sippy we always leave on the nightstand, night night kisses and good nights to all pets, family members and favorite stuffed animals, we shut the door. That’s it. Works for us. He HATED the crib. Good luck.

      1. I just read your updated post. I so agree with your friend. I could give two hoots what he does in there as long as it does not involve poop. He sometimes gets up and plays with trains but he’s almost always asleep within 20 minutes and he knows not to come out. When he did try to come out, I would calmly walk him back in there without saying a word, kiss him on the cheek and leave. This was advice pieced together from friends, t.v. shows, books, and what worked for us. Hope it gets easier. I totally here you about the fear of getting rid of the crib. But after Jack adjusted to his big boy bed, he actually slept longer and better into the morning and we really don’t budge on bedtime or the routine and so he knows there is no wiggle room. What was happening before this was all established was about to drive me to an insane asylum, ruin my marriage, and I swear, even the dog wanted to run away. Sleep transitions suck so bad, man. I feel your pain. Sounds like you are on your way, my friend. 😉

  4. We had them both in big boys beds with a stair Gate on their doors and stopped even returning them, just ignore them and shout ‘get back to bed and we will come up for a cuddle’ then it was in their control and they had to be good to get any meaningful attention. It meant they couldn’t get out and we got some space and they got bored and eventually (about two years later) we got results, noooo I jest it took a few months!!

  5. Crib tent. It’s 70.00 but he’ll never be able to climb out again. Then he can sleep, not sleep, cry, not cry, whatever but you have him trapped in there for as long as you need. 🙂 Not very sensitive, but effective and with a willful child, you need all the help you can get. If you don’t get the net, then you have to put him back in his crib consistently every time he gets out. No “quiet time” in his room. No toys, no chances, no mercy. He gets out, you put him back in. You may need to push his nap time out an hour to 2:00. Might be less of a battle if he’s really tired.

  6. Um, at 2 mine didn’t nap any more during the day. Just thought I’d mention it…

    Nor did he want to sleep at night. We used controlled crying and It Worked. He was not scarred for life (in fact he’s grown up to be a very loving, responsible and successful man). The anti-cry-it-out brigade have failed to understand that the thing that gives babies brain damage is sustained neglect, not the last-resort please-god-I-need-some-sleep methods of caring parents.

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