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Toddler sleep advice - desperate for help

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#1 *mylittleprince*

Posted 24 April 2012 - 11:26 AM

Just realised I posted this in the baby section so reposting it here.


I have a two and a half year old DS.

DS has slept through the night from 9 months old. He has always slept well and had the routine of dinner/bed/bath and then we turned off the light and he went to sleep. Around November we took the side of his cot off to create a toddler bed and around January we moved him to a new room in a single bed (proper wooden frame and mattress). He slept well in the toddler bed and well in the single bed. Initally he climbed out of the single bed but after a few nights of being consistent and putting him back, he fell asleep and didn't get out.

About 2 months ago DS started waking up through the night saying he is scared. We gave him a touch nightlight and if necessary comforted him back to sleep. He started coming into our room and sleeping on kids couch with a pull out mattress. It looked uncomfortable so we put his cot mattress on the floor. If he came in, lay down and slept, wouldn't mind but he is waking up around 5 - 6 times a night talking, asking for water, saying random things like "it's dark in here", crying, etc. DH who is usually super gentle, calm and kind is at his wits end and exhausted. I am pregnant with twins and up a lot due to toilet visits and a runny nose and beyond exhausted. I am really battling to cope during the day.

Other info
  1. I'm a SAHM and we go out a lot in the day (playdates/park/library/playcentre) and do craft/puzzles, etc at home BUT DS has been watching a lot of TV (around 2 hours a day). Do you think this could be affecting his sleep?
  2. DS has a muslin blanky that he 'chews' to sleep but also asks for in the day. Would it be good to use it only for sleep time?
  3. DS dropped his day sleep around two months ago. He will fall asleep on the way home if we're out at lunch time but otherwise won't sleep. The problem is at 4pm or so he will then fall asleep (on the floor/couch, etc) if I leave him for 5 minutes or in the car if we go out. I have been driving him to sleep as I think he still needs a day sleep. Do you think I should not drive him to sleep? I.e if he falls asleep while out, transfer him to his bed but don't go for a drive if we're home?

What would you do in this situation. I've phoned today to see the local childhood nurse but they can only see us in two and a half weeks. Thanks so much.

At this stage I'm leaning towards removing the mattress from our room, going in when he calls, settling him and walking out (even if it takes ages) or putting his cot in his room and telling him if he calls out/gets out of bed, etc he goes in the cot (don't like threatening, etc but feeling desperate). Not sure what to do if he calls out? Do you ignore and wait for him to go back to sleep or go in and settle every time.

#2 Natttmumm

Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:40 PM

Sounds like he doesnt have any consistency around sleeping habits. Here is what I would do:

1. Explain to him that he is a big boy and needs to sleep in his own big bed all night. Set up some new teddies or special toy that he picks as his bedtime toy. Put a small light in his room that stays on all night and leave his door open all night just a bit. For the first few nights set up a reward that he will get if he stays in his room all night.
He might be too young to understand the reward but worth a try. Our DD2 is 2.5 and doesnt understand that yet.

2. On the first night very time he gets out or cries comfort him without making too much of it and keep putting him back but stay calm. After a few nights he should be ok.
Its not easy but if you stick to it it does work.

3. for the day sleep I did drive DD around at about 1pm but if she was still awake at 2pm i gave up. If he is really tired at 4pm try giving him early dinner and bath and bed at 6pm. Its a tough transition and for us it took ages for DD to be ok without a sleep. If I was at home I pulled out her little lounge and she wached a DVD for an hr rest time. Half the time she fell asleep but often she didnt.

#3 VintageEyes

Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:54 PM

It seems like the issues for you started around the time he dropped his day sleep.
Being over tired can cause nightmares & night terrors.
I would try to reintroduce a day sleep. Start by getting him to sit quietly in his bed for 1/2 hour. Sit by his bed. If he gets out of bed, give him one warning the next time leave the room for 2mins, shutting the door.
It took a couple of days for DS to stay in his bed. The first day he didn't go to sleep at all, the next day it took an hour, now only 10mins.

Every couple of days move further away from his bed until you are out the door all together.
Good luck!

#4 Phoenix Blue

Posted 24 April 2012 - 12:59 PM

Only my opinion, but I would...

Remove mattress from your room. He sleeps in his bed. Put a night light in his room that is on all night. Do a combination of the returning to bed if he gets out in the night, and ignoring call outs. He is old enough.

I would continue with day sleeps. I know I maybe biased or uninformed in this, but my 4 and 5 yo still have day sleeps some (or most for the 4yo) days. Don't tie yourself in knots trying to 'make' them sleep. Have a consistent routine. 1pm is sleep time. They go into bed, and they are not allowed out until at least 2pm. If they sleep, they sleep, if they don't, then they lay there 'resting'. Mostly they will sleep. Wake them by 3pm. Some suggest letting them 'read' books in rest time, or listening to music. Personally, I don't allow that. I believe that it is routine that allows my 2 to continue having day sleeps, I've never given the option of dropping it for good. But I also understand that it may not work for everyone. I definitely think a 2 and 1/2 yo needs a day sleep still. If you can get a routine in place before your twins arrive too, it will make it easier on you to have that 1-2 block in the middle of each day.

I'd also have blanky as only allowed at bedtime and naptime. Often it can be an incentive for nap time. Don't take out, don't give on the couch while watching TV etc.

Anyway, just my advice, take it or leave it. Hope you find something that works for you soon.


#5 Lucygoosey1

Posted 24 April 2012 - 01:00 PM

I'd be making him have a lie down in bed at around 1pm.  I think this will be pretty hard, but doing the 'quiet time' by himself with the door shut or gate on his room?  Give a few books or quiet toys.  I think if you worked on him either sleeping or occupying himself quietly for 1hr- he may just fall asleep & it'll give you a break once your babies are here.  The driving is a short term solution, but really you want to fix things.  At night I think the problem is the mattress on the floor.  Put him straight back to bed and leave.  The hard thing is once he realizes you bring him in and give him attention when he is 'scared' that will be the excuse all the time!  My DD doesn't say scared but she does bring out other excuses -mostly wee & poo as we've toilet trained during the day.  My DD does these sorts of things at bedtime rather than during the night.  But we are shutting the door if she carrys on.  I go in once she stops crying, and put her back to bed.  She gets the door open if she stays in bed nicely.  I try not to give any attention/talk etc.  It is definitely improving.  If she comes in to our room during the night she just gets put back.  It's hard but worth being tough now.  My DD1 is 2yrs2mths,  but I also have my DD2 who is 8mths, so I know how important it is that you be a little hard now for when your twins arrive.

#6 libbylu

Posted 24 April 2012 - 01:06 PM

Don't rule out a medical issue.  Is a good meat eater?  Low iron levels will often cause toddlers to be wakeful in the middle of the night.

#7 Guest_Dinah_Harris_*

Posted 24 April 2012 - 01:06 PM

Hi OP,
Just thought I'd share what we did when we needed to take DD1's bottles off her at about 2.5.  We promised her a very special gift if she could give up her bottles for a whole week.  Maybe try some variation of this?  e.g.: if you stay in bed all night tonight, tomorrow you can have x.  If you do it for a whole week, you can have y. She cried a few times the first few days, but I would go in and remind her about the special toy she could have.  By the third night, there were no issues and a week later, she got her bicycle helmet very excitedly.
About the same age, DD1 also began to have nightmares and worry about a monster.  We keep her door wide open and leave the hallway light on all night.  We've also had to explain to her a million times that monsters aren't real and that mummy and daddy don't let monsters even come near our house, and our dog also makes sure there are no monsters anywhere near.
We leave a water bottle full of water on her nightstand and she drinks that throughout the night when she is thirsty.
Similar to a PP'er, if my DD1 doesn't go down for a nap by about 2:30pm, I don't try.  If she sleeps past about 3pm she is very hard to get into bed at night.  I second making your DS have "quiet time" in the afternoon to lie in his bed with some books and a soft toy.  My DD1 often does this and I hear her chatting to herself and making up stories, but it is a good wind down.
My DD1 also has a muslin blanky which she takes to her bed.  I don't let her take it anywhere else or use it except in bed.  She has such a strong sleep association with it that the minute she touches it her eyes get heavy.  So maybe try this with DS too?

Don't know if this helps at all - but the current situation can't continue particularly when you've got new babies coming soon and you and your DH are so exhausted, poor things!

#8 *mylittleprince*

Posted 24 April 2012 - 02:14 PM

Thank you SO much for the advice, it is really helpful and has given me great ideas to implement.

Will definately take the matress away and resettle him in his bed instead.

Will look at rest time/quiet time so he has an afternoon break. Someone told me today to just climb into bed with him to get him to sleep so I did and he fell asleep in about 20 minutes and slept for 1 hour and woke up super happy so going to try this. The only problem is he wakes up at different times (between 6:00 and 7:00am) so is tired at different times. Will try 12:30 rest time as we'll definately be home so maybe light lunch, book and then rest.

Thanks for the iron suggestion. DS doesn't eat much meat at all (will eat steak and fish) which he used to have every night (one or the other) but now we're serving the family meals plus veg. Only on day 3 and he hasn't eaten any of the meat part (cottage pie, etc). Will see if I can find a supplement or introduce iron in other forms.

#9 miss*k

Posted 24 April 2012 - 05:45 PM

We had the SAME prob with DD only a month or so ago.

DD started to get scared of the dark and "monsters".

What has worked for us, we use a lavener spray with glitter in it in a trigger bottle. We spray for monsters and shoo them out the door every night before bed.  I also have a nightlight on for her all night so she can see.

I also bought DD one of those starlight turle things that project stars all over the room. It's an AWESOME distraction before sleep time.  DD has been sleeping great with no wakeups since the monster spray and shooing them out the door. I also have made she she is not watching anything she shouldn't (ie my tv shows that I thought were harmless...she thought one of the men was a monster).

#10 miss*k

Posted 24 April 2012 - 05:47 PM

P.S we have dropped our day sleeps. We find DD doesn't sleep as well at night when she has had a daysleep. If she naps on the way home in the car we wake her up as soon as we get home.

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