Ask SIFTW: toddler sleep problems

Just as we’re dipping a shivering toe into the shark-infested waters of Toddler World, along comes a question from Jasi:

We’re struggling with sleep (among other things) over here.  We have a wonderful 22 m/o daughter and another child due in June.  We’re panicking a little. 

I’ve breastfed and co-slept our daughter since birth.  It was amazing for the first 9 months but has since tumbled into complete chaos.  Child really does not want to sleep… ever.  She cries if I place her in her single bed, she cries when I take her to mine, she cries if the night-nursing stops at all, she cries even when she asks for her father to walk her down.  She screams and tantrums wildly more nights than not and then wakes anywhere from 6 to 9 times thereafter.  She has taken to nursing TONS since I have become pregnant, when she was nearly done with it on her own.  My husband wishes she slept in her own bed (and he in mine), but supports any arrangement that would make baby and I happy.  Sadly, this current situation makes no one happy.  How do you gently put a passionate 22 m/o to bed?  How do you avoid tears and drama? 

On the aside, she nurses down to nap beautifully every day with minimal fuss.  Though I’d prefer she didn’t nurse to sleep, I’m grateful for the break.  The same routine does not work for nighttime, however.

Any ideas?

Crikey.  My first thought is that you are (counting on fingers) 4 months pregnant with a demanding toddler and broken nights.  I think you need to address getting some rest yourself.  It’s great that you have a supportive husband: my suggestion is get him to take over the night duty completely for a night or two (or three if you can manage it), invest in some earplugs and get some sleep.  Or rope in family to help.  You might need to express some milk if your daughter is really dependent on her night feeds and for your own comfort.  Yes, she may be upset, but from what you are saying she’s getting upset anyway so I don’t think a couple of nights with her Dad is going to cause any long-term trauma.

The best-case scenario is that your husband works out a fanstastic routine of his own and your daughter starts sleeping better of her own accord.  I know on the few occasions I have been away overnight Loudboy has slept like a dream with his dad.  Most advice on night-weaning involves getting someone else to take over the night wakings, so it might be the answer.  If not, at least you’ll feel better able to cope.

On the tantrums (and I’m not sure whether this is 100% a sleep issue or a toddler tantrum issue), this is a confusing time for children (and their parents).  How is your daughter at communicating?  Loudboy isn’t talking yet and I think a lot of his frustration comes from this communication gap.  If she is communicating well, I’d recommend this book: How to talk so kids will listen… which has some great ideas on getting your kids to do what you want communicate well.

There are lots of things that could be going on here: changes in the taste of your milk due to pregnancy hormones, night terrors, developmental changes.  I don’t think there are any easy answers in Toddler World, unfortunately.  Can anyone with more experience of these strange beasts help?

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4 Responses to Ask SIFTW: toddler sleep problems

  1. jasileet says:

    Thanks so much. Hubby’s willing to give it a go. He’ll try co-sleeping with her tonight and use my routine. I think at nearly 2 she should(?) be able to go the night without milk? That’s a guess here, but worth a try. We can give her a sippy with water and a good snack before bed. A lot of her night wakings seemed to be boob/diaper/boob related. Maybe having no mid-night snacks and milk-smell will give her some well deserved rest.

    Great answer and so prompt. I’ll keep you updated.
    Thanks again.

  2. swizzler says:

    Good luck! We’re also tackling night weaning, starting tonight…

  3. amberjee says:

    blardy night weaning! let me know how you get on. i can imagine that i’ll be in your position in a years time (well maybe not pregnant, but definitely wondering how the hell to get my boobs back in the night). due to withholding boobs last night, we endured 4 hours of screaming before i gave in. i can’t believe we successfully night weaned last year, only to stuff it up completely by going travelling. ah, sleep is always so short lived in our world.

  4. […] going to be entirely ”no-cry” but nor are they “cry it out” either. (Also, I know Jasi has visited this friendly little site, Sleep is for the Weak but for anyone else reading this post and […]

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