22/23 MONTH TODDLER SLEEP ANXIETY

Is it just me or is everybody having trouble with their little ones getting a good night’s sleep right now?

It’s as if our children have all gotten together at some sort of meeting and decided that sleep is a premium us parents no longer deserve, or at least not much past their recommended level so we can, you know, survive so as to provide them with poorly-presented meals three times a day and be too tired to resist when they whack us around the head with toy trucks.

I feel like such a whiny cow writing this but I haven’t slept properly for almost 2 years (yes, get our your violin) and I’m told it’s not a given going forwards either, the end isn’t nigh! *smacks head on table*

22/23 Month Sleep Anxiety

Lily has never been a good sleeper, either during the day or at night, but we’d started to settle in to a happy routine where she wouldn’t always sleep through the night (in fact that was few and far between) but she would wake up whenever (once, twice or more if it wasn’t a good night), we’d comfort her or give her a drink and she’d go back to sleep quite quickly. It was often known for her to blow kisses and wish us goodnight/goodbye once she was back in her cot/bed as well. We knew she was OK, happy and just called when she needed us.

We moved home at the end of September. She slept through for weeks. It was a miracle. I felt a bit cocky. The dark circles under my eyes started to fade away and I practically sing-songed through the easy, un-sleep-deprived days. It had ended. My hard work had paid off. I was given the gift of sleep and it was bloody amazing, better than all of the expensive make-up palettes or other fancy things I secretly lusted for. I was finally part of the coveted ‘sleeping through’ club.

Then it happened. One cold Monday in November.

The night before I was due to start my new job and had to be up at crazy o’clock.

She was awake.

There was no sleeping. There was no calm. She wouldn’t even get in her bed. She didn’t want a soother. She didn’t want water or milk. She didn’t want food or a nappy change. She was hysterical, words creeping out through her tears ‘Mummy, lay down’ as she patted her pillow motioning for me to do as she asked. ‘Mummy lay down, mummy lay down’ over and over until I did, my head sharing her little pillow and the rest of my body contorted at a funny angle as I lay down on the floor next to her bed.

I waited for her to be sound asleep, stroking her hair and holding her hand. After about 40 minutes I thought about getting up and going back to bed. I very carefully lifted my arm.

Her eyes blinked open immediately. There was a loud cry, her lip wobbled and she again repeated that I should lay down.

‘Don’t worry’ I said. ‘I’m just in the next room and I’ll see you very soon.’

I started to walk towards the door.

All hell broke loose.

She stomped her feet, one leg twitching back and forth in anger as she pointed at her bed, wailing and crying and screeching in frustration.

She didn’t want to be hugged until I went back to the bed with her. I lay down, as before, and eventually I was asleep too.

And so it began.

She used to cry when we left before the brief ‘good sleep’ period but it was just for a minute or two and then she’d settle herself straight away. If she didn’t I’d go in and give her a cuddle and after a couple of tries it usually worked.

She’s grown since then though and the little munckin can now open her door. She’s still scuppered by the stair gate over the entrance so she can’t get in to the family bathroom or try and attempt the stairs unattended and so she’ll hang over it, crying and screaming and having a paddy until I return.

Some of you might say ‘cry it out’ and whilst we thought it wasn’t for us we have tried leaving her to settle herself again (like she used to) but she doesn’t give in. She has my stubbornness unfortunately.

Plus it’s so frigging hard. It’s really heartbreaking and not answering my body’s natural call to respond to her crying was harder than hearing her cry.

Some of you might say she’s trying it on. Hmm, maybe we could have gone with that at the beginning but 8 weeks on it’s clear that she’s isn’t comfortable sleeping without me being there with her. Yes she’s angry, I guess she does want to be in control but this is more than that, I’m sure of it.

All toddlers push the boundaries as they learn and start to understand things but this is more than her just merely wanting it to be that way. She is desperate for it to be that way. I think it’s separation anxiety if I’m honest and I think, from what I’ve read of other people’s experiences, it’ll just end one day. She’ll just sleep through again and that’ll be that, right? (please tell me that’s right?)

She shouts ‘Mummy Daddy gone, Mummy gone, they’re gone, please come back, come back Mummy Daddy’. It is rough, both physically and emotionally, it’s completely draining and exhausting. I feel constantly heartbroken because I just want her to be content, happy and feeling safe/secure like she does during the day.

I’ve taken the view that ‘this too shall pass’. If it is separation anxiety then reinforcing her fears isn’t going to work and I’d much rather reassure her that I am always here, I will always be there for her and that she doesn’t need to worry.

So here’s where we are right now.

(1) We try to put Lily down to bed as we used to before this all began in the hope that something suddenly clicks somewhere and we’re magically transported back to those days where she was happy going to bed. It doesn’t work so we move on to A and B…

(A) I’ll be completely honest, we often hold her bedroom door closed whilst she tries the handle for about a minute or two. Most days she’ll quickly realise that it’s bedtime and go to her bed and try and get some sleep. When she stops trying the door I count to sixty and then I try and creep away. Sometimes she hears me and jumps out of bed again (we can see her on the monitor) so I give her a cuddle and try again, sometimes that’s all there is to it and she’s asleep (for now). I hated this idea at first but when my boyfriend tried it seemed to work better than anything else we’d done so far. I was just glad she’d gone to sleep, she walks around with these dark circles under her eyes looking exhausted and for her sake I want her to sleep well.

(B) If A doesn’t work, I end up staying with her until she reaches a deep sleep so I can leave quietly without disturbing her. I *may* fall asleep about 90% of the time so Mike ends up coming upstairs and prodding me in the side until I wake up. Don’t judge him, he’s usually made tea and knows I’m a bitch when I’m hungry so it’s all good.

A and B can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours. We’ll start with A and if it doesn’t work we’ll move on to B. The only problem with B is if I gauge her sleeping state wrong and try to move too soon and she wakes up. Then we’re back to the beginning again.

(2) She’ll sleep for a few hours until about 12/1. Then she’s up, she stomps across her floor and flings her door open shouting for us. Mike is nearly always up at 4.30am at the moment so I’ll go in without a fuss and get in her bed (it’s now a single bed so I don’t have to lay on the floor, yay!)

I have tried to get her to go to sleep in her bed by herself in the night but it doesn’t work and when we’re all tired it’s often the easiest and best solution for everyone if I pop in with her.

We’ve tried having her in our bed but my goodness that doesn’t work at all. She thinks our bed is ‘fun’ and just jumps around – ‘bouncy bed’ – and kicks the life out of us.

(3) Around 3-4 she’ll wake up again asking to go downstairs. She’ll turn on the light (arghhh) and say ‘come on Mummy’ or ‘wake up Mummy’. I talk her out of it (most of the time) and get her back in bed with me for cuddles and strokes until I deem it an acceptable time to get up (at least 5am).

When I’m in with Lily I have hardly any room (she is like a starfish sometimes!) and the wall I’m squished up against is super cold but I really don’t mind at all. I’ve got a rubbish back after getting run over a few years ago and her mattress is soft and squishy so I wake up feeling like it’s about to fall apart but I still don’t mind.

I do miss sleeping next to Mike and I miss waking up next to him in the morning but we’ve got years and years ahead of us for little things like that.

Al from The Dad Network shared a quote he’d seen recently the other day whilst a few of us were talking about these sleep troubles we’re all going through and it was ‘I’d rather have sleepless nights with you than a night without you‘. How beautiful is that? I mean, my word, how true is that?

I thank my lucky stars when I wake up in the night and see her conked out beside me. Seriously, is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby/toddler? She is so beautiful, peaceful and content, it’s just lovely.

You know when we’re trying to get to sleep after she’s gotten up and I get in there with her she strokes my hair or my arm. This girl actually soothes ME to sleep, bless her!

So it’s not that bad really. I might rant at Mike and say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ but I can and I will. This is parenting and I’m deep in the midst of one of those hard times (which has its silver linings) that everyone goes through.

Sleep deprivation is killer and I’m trying to forgive myself if I’m not everything I think I should be every day.

I’m on call 24/7, I’m doing my absolute best and I’m being what she needs. That’s all I can do.

If you’re in the same sort of situation I can’t give you any advice I’m afraid other than to just go with it. Be what they need. Do what works for you and for them. Scour the internet, pour over books, see if there’s anything you’ve not tried. Every child is different, don’t listen to advice you’re not comfortable with, do what comes naturally, change things up and see if it helps, hold their hands and remember ‘this too shall pass’.

2 Comments

  1. January 9, 2017 / 10:15 PM

    Oh Lucy I really feel for you, it’s so hard isn’t it?
    I was so cocky when Aria slept through from two months old, but we can pretty much guarantee at least one wake up in the middle of the night, every night, now.
    Thankfully it is usually a case of giving her a bottle and she goes straight back down, but sometimes all hell breaks loose and she will not settle. I end up bringing her in our bed with us as every time I think I’ve settled her and walk off, like you say, she wakes up screaming. She is still in a cot for now so I can’t get in there with her haha!
    We find she is worse for me too, I’m not sure if Spencer has more patience than me or if she sees me and that’s it, she wants me, but he manages to settle her more often than I do.

    The quote is lovely though and it is so right. I may be sleep deprived but I have my little girl and she is so worth it 🙂
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  2. January 9, 2017 / 11:47 PM

    What a beautiful post and so relatable! My little girl went through the exact same thing from about 20 months, now she is 27 months and is sleeping so well again! (90% of the time) We pretty much did the same as you. So there is some hope my lovely! X

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