Ok I am not really sure if I am posting to vent or for advice. I am 26 weeks pregnant with our 7th baby, and I cannot get my 19 month old to sleep through the night. He gets up 1-3X every single night. Last night he went to bed at 9 and then woke up at 12:30. I laid with him in our spare bed and gave him some of a bottle. Then again at 3:30 - same thing. He then woke up again at 4:30. I didn’t know what else to do with him so let him fuss as I laid there and listened tortuously until about 5:30. Then my 5 other kids are up around 7!!! This is affecting me soooo much in sooo many ways. Generally my kids are all sleeping decently by 1 year old. At that time, I resume rising early in the morning around 6 for some quiet prayer time and exercise. Now I am fighting for every minute of sleep that I never get up until my kids force me to. I wake up grouchy. I don’t exercise like I used to and tend to make worse food choices since I am just so exhausted. As a result, I am gaining more weight this pregnancy than usual. I am bitter towards my husband because he does not help at all and when he does, he complains that he has to work. I am a stay at home mom. Obviously, I am not interested in any relations with him because I go to bed as early as I can, which is not helping things either!! I feel so lazy and can’t keep up around the house. My kids are watching too much TV so i can rest or catch up with housework. I just NEED him to sleep before this baby comes in March or I will really be in trouble. He had tubes put in his ears in August, but his doctor says that tubes are draining well and there is no physical reason for night wakings - just habit!! We have a 3 bedroom home with 5 kids in one room so he doesn’t wake anyone else up.
I know in the whole scheme of life this is a relatively minor issue, but please pray for me. I feel like such a different person, and I don’t know what else to do. I know I should not be letting him go to sleep with a bottle, but I don’t know how else to get him back to sleep?? I just keep thinking he will grow out of this but so far no luck!!!
My answer will not go over well with a lot of other moms on this board, but I’ll give it to you anyway. You have the freedom to reject my advice.
My answer is based on the fact that your child is an intelligent human being capable of understanding when you ask him to do something. If he has any kind of developmental delay or some kind of syndrome that manifests itself in reduced intelligence, then it might be a good idea to ignore or greatly modify my advice. Tubes in the ears is not a developmental delay.
My answer is also based on the fact that your child is old enough to defy you and try to thwart you when you want him to do something that he doesn’t want to do. He’s not a little baby anymore. He doesn’t need to eat every few hours at night to grow normally. Unless there is a developmental issue, he’s capable of learning how to soothe himself to sleep. But he would rather wake you up and get some attention and cuddling and maybe a snack and some fun times. So you must be capable of telling him, “This is NOT attention time, or cuddling time or snack time or fun time. It’s SLEEPY time.”
At the bedtime that you desire him to go to sleep, tell him that it’s sleepy time and that he has to sleep now. Kiss him goodnight, tell him that you will see him in the morning, and then walk away. He will scream bloody murder, but ignore him until there is a break in the crying. Then peek into the room and say, “Sleepy time! Nighty night, honey. See you in the morning.” Then walk away.
Stay calm and quiet. Do NOT pick him up. In fact, don’t approach the bed. Just peek in the door.
Try to wait at least 15 minutes between the screaming. Use a timer, or you will cave.
The first night, he will scream all night long, and you will get no sleep, and you will be checking his room room many times. You will feel like a monster. You are not. Remember this–if he cannot learn to sleep through the night, you will get so exhausted that you might do something that WILL be monstrous, like falling asleep and letting the house catch on fire, or letting one of your children be hurt in a household accident, or getting into a car accident.
The second night, he will scream for a few minutes, and then he will realize that you are serious when you say, “It’s sleepy time,” and he will sleep.
By the third night, he will say, “It’s sleepy time! Me go sleepy!” And he will lie down and sleep.
It would be nice if your husband would help you out during this long night of screaming, but if he won’t, that’s the way it goes. At least you know that he won’t get any sleep either. I suggest that you get a few movies that you just love or that you’ve been dying to see, and watch them in between visits to your son’s room.
Could you put the 19mo child in a room with at least one other sibling? That really helped my baby that never slept. Over a period of a couple of months, starting in her toddlerhood, she discovered that her older sister was happier with her if she was quiet. If she was too loud, the older sister retreated to another bedroom. So the toddler learned to be quiet and then she wouldn’t be lonely. The night wakings disappeared, or if she still woke up, she quietly went back to sleep. Eventually, that toddler began sleeping in the same bed with her older sister and they now have a special bond. Even today, two years later, she has the impetus for good behavior, because she wants her older sister to let her cuddle while she falls asleep. We now have bunks, but they still share the bottom bunk unless she is being loud or obnoxious. I guess what happened is that some of that neediness that my toddler had began to diminish as she got some of her needs met by her siblings, and she became more well-adjusted.
Edited to add: I second Cat’s advice, too. Very good. With infants, we use the Ferber method for sleep training, but for toddlers, who were no longer in our room, the peer pressure of a beloved older sibling really helped.
yup. This will work. This, and not allowing him to have naps. I cut my two off from naps when they started having trouble sleeping. Many of my friends put their kids down for 2 or 3 naps and then wondered why their children woke often.
But yeah…let him cry. it’s only bad once because in the past crying has WORKED.
Bless your heart. Being a good mom means sometimes you have to say “no”.
I agree that something like this needs to be done. It just seems like the going in every 15 minutes to say “night night - it’s sleepy time” would just get him all wound up again. Wouldn’t it be better to just let him fuss until he goes back to sleep? He usually goes to bed around 9 pretty good. He just won’t stay asleep. I have always given him a bottle and cuddled because then I get to sleep faster too. Thinking he would grow out of it soon like my older kids. However, he does not seem to be growing out of this. So do you think it would be effective to just let him go? I know he is safe in his crib. It just makes my skin crawl to hear him cry for so long. My husband and kids don’t even seem to notice it. What exactly is the reason for going in every 15 minutes? I have heard this before but it seems like he would see me and then get more upset!!
On the flip side, I have been wanting to watch The Heat with Sandra Bullock but know it is not appropriate for my kids so I have not found a time to watch it!! Maybe tonight at 2 am will work!!!
We have thought about moving the two older boys in there as that will eventually be the arrangement but they are 12 and 5 and will go to bed later and get up earlier than the 19 month old who we DO NOT want to wake. I will have to think about that one!!! My 5 year old sleeps like a log but the 12 year old is more finicky and also gets migraines that seem to be associated with sleep. I doubt the 5 year old would sleep in there with just the baby.
Among the other tips brought up by previous posters, my pedi told us not to give a bottle when little one woke during the night (once he was older, of course). He gets a bedtime warm milk as part of the routine, but he doesn’t get any more during the night. It could be contributing to the cycle of waking.
Every cup of whole milk has about 105 calories. His body is used to taking in that many calories at night. If they aren’t extra calories, he probably is waking up hungry…
Does he like water? I would replace a bottle at a time with water until he isn’t having any milk at all at night. During the day, make sure he’s eating enough. Sometime little people his age are so busy learning about their world, they forget to eat enough.
I wouldn’t eliminate naps. An overtired little guy is going to have a harder time sleeping. I also would have him wake with everyone else, so around sevenish, if everyone is getting up at that time.
Unless really desperate, I only give him one bottle a night. Half the first waking, the rest second time, and if he wakes up a third time, I don’t go in. I know he doesn’t need a bottle and shouldn’t have one, but I am desperate to get back to sleep. I am concerned for his teeth and have tried replacing with water. That really made him mad. So I have started diluting it but that is a fine balance because if there is a little too much water, he chucks it across the room!
The option would be to talk to a pediatrician, since it’s to a point where the entire family is suffering.
Well, I once knew a mother who had a child who was only sleeping 3 hours/night, ended up having hyperactivity, and she was to a point of looking up in homeopathic books for herbs to help That’s how desperate she got.
I’m not saying it’s hyperactivity, necessarily, but what if this is physical?
Also, kids can’t articulate well even when something is wrong, even major, so it might be prudent to rule out something physical and get advice.
Pediatricians know what clues to look for. Say, if a child had an ear infection, young kids will sometimes cry, pull on their ears, say. Parent might overlook it, but pediatrician probably wouldn’t. Again, not saying it’s an ear infection, either, but just examples to illustrate what I mean.
Or, it could be all about attention. Again, seek advice from a doctor.
Most dentists will advise you to discontinue bottle feeding long before 19 mo. Talk to yours, but I’m guessing he will strongly advise that you switch him to water only as his nighttime and “stroll around” beverage. (If you see any brownish or whitish spots on his teeth, see a dentist immediately.)
My guess is that the desire to eat is primarily a social call, part habit and partly because he doesn’t know what else to do when he can’t sleep. I agree sith those who suggest cutting out naps.
He may actually do quite well with siblings in the room. If that doesn’t work, consider leaving him alone with a low-volume book on tape. That will probably put him out. If his future bedroom has roommates in it, though, he will have another pleasant habit to break later. Still, it could be a way to help him learn to get himself back to sleep. That is your goal.
He seems to sleep worse at night when he misses his nap, usually 1-4 or 2-5. Plus I need that time during the day to get some housework done. Otherwise, I am running around in circles just cleaning up one mess after another.
And yes his doctor does say no bottles anymore. But that is easier said than done. It is very soothing for him when he has his blankie and baba! We are trying to switch to water though. My mom is a dental hygienist so I am we’ll aware of the teeth concerns!
I would not be able to follow through with some of the sleep training advice, as I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from doing a diaper check as part of the 15-minute visit. I would feel like such a moron if the reason the baby was crying was poopy pants and I’d left her in them for hours.
I would add:
How are the baby’s molars doing? I have a 14-month-old with molars on the move, and I generally give her a dose of Tylenol at bedtime just to cover possible teething pain. (Check with doctor, of course.)
I like a crib aquarium with music and lights that the baby can control. They use a lot of batteries, but it’s very comforting. This one runs for 18 whole minutes, with bubbles and music and swishing fishies and a dim blue light.
You can get one off of eBay (my husband had to refill ours–there are how to videos on youtube). It even has a remote control, which might be very handy in your situation.
How about introducing special bedtime music? My 11-year-old has been using the same freebie CD of Motown hits from BabyGap at bedtime for the past 9 years. Her younger brother also goes to sleep to a CD, but he accepts more variety–opera duets, Bach, Gregorian chant, etc.
How about a safe, heavy sippy in bed with just a little water?
Starting with the milk thing: Our kids had a thing for juice. Our dentist suggested very gradually diluting and diluting it until it wasn’t that great any more. Most beverages are not very good when they’re diluted too much, and milk among them. The other strategy is to put an odd taste in the milk but only when it is in a bottle, not in a glass, as if it is the bottle that has picked up the odd flavor. Another friend of mine accidentally “ruined” all her daughter’s binkies, then never “got around” to buying new ones. You do have most of the leverage. If actively make changes won’t work, give the question a little time and then start working in passive ways. Whatever it takes–you need some sleep!!
When I gave our boys water during the day, BTW, I also made sure there was always an ice cube in their sippies. My reasoning was that I don’t like warm water, so why should they? That did the trick. They are in high school, and they still take ice water to bed and to school. Between that and other advances in dental care, they have never (knock on wood) had a cavity, even though both my husband and I had cavities as children.
Our boys, who are in high school now, have Camelbak insulated bottles–expensive, but they don’t leak! (They take them everywhere, so they have the stainless kind.) If you get your son a fancy new insulated water bottle, he might think this is very cool. The deal is, only water in the new bottle, no milk. Milk is for baby bottles; big boy bottles are for water. Whatever you decide to buy, check the reviews on the internet, to see if anyone complains about that model leaking.
The nap thing is definitely an on-the-ground call. I’m guessing that he just does not know how to get himself back to sleep. Our twins were not good about that. I got a “social call” from one of them nearly every night, on the pretext that they had had a bad dream. (I was reasonably sure from their demeanor that this was almost never true, but I elected not to call them on it.)
The thing I found was to keep the trip to their room very short. I couldn’t sit in the chair with them or I’d be sleeping in there for several hours, because of course I always went to sleep faster than they did! Still, every child expert in the world puts a “how to get them to sleep” chapter in their book, and they don’t all say the same thing. As you know very well by now, what works with some children doesn’t necessarily work with siblings.
I’m so sorry about what you’re going through–I hated sleep deprivation!! Hang in there!! They do grow out of babyhood, and then you get more sleep. (When they start to drive and keep their own social calendar, tell your husband it is HIS turn to lose sleep! :D)
You “peek in” every 15 min. or so because you want to assure your child that he has not been abandoned. This is one of the most basic fears of children, and one of the objections that people have to “Cry it Out” sleep training is that children are terrified that they have been abandoned.
BUT…very very important! You wait patiently for a break in the crying, and THEN you go peek in and say, “Nighty night!” The reason you do this is to reinforce the “quiet” behavior. In fact, if the child is lying in the crib quietly between screaming jags, I would peek in and say, “Mommy likes it when you are so quiet at night during sleepy time! Nighty nite, lovey!”
Do NOT equate “being quiet” with “being a good boy.” A child isn’t “bad” because they are crying at night. They just have to be trained NOT to cry unless they are hurt or sick. I know that many moms (and dads) disagree with this, and say that a child should be allowed to cry if they “want mommy”. These parents think that “independence” will come naturally as a child feels secure. If you feel that way, fine. I don’t. I think that we do our children no favors by allowing them to be “clingy” or “babyish” once they are no longer babies. When a child is able to soothe himself/herself to sleep, and feel comfortable being alone and not be afraid in the night, the whole family is happier, and the child is happier because he feels like he has “control”. JMO, and I recognize others disagree with me and I respect their opinions.
We tried the peeking in every 15 minutes technique for months and it just never worked for our son. He screamed for a solid hour to the point of vomiting almost nightly. There was never a break in the crying to reinforce the preferred behavior. Checking in on him to soothe him only brought up the energy level higher.
What finally worked was just letting him fall asleep playing (which ends up being around 10pm) and put him to bed where he stays for the rest of the night and only occasionally wakes up. It seems so late, but I was the same way throughout childhood. Rarely went to bed before 10 and even now I am usually up until 1.
Everyone has provided the OP good ideas, but sometimes you just need to find your own routine even if it’s unconventional.
I agree with pretty much everything you and many others say–except for one thing.
I hate to be a debbie downer, but no, they don’t grow out of it. My sister-in-law has boys who are now 8 and 10, and they have never learned how to go to sleep by themselves. She has no spine, and caves at the slightest “peep” of crying, and babies them, and they are allowed to stay up until they literally fall asleep on the floor. And then they sleep with mom. At age 8 and 10, almost 11.
Maybe some of you call that “normal.” I would, if we lived in a part of the world where danger is everywhere, snakes are on the ground, wild animals outside the hut, and terrorists are lying in wait for new little “slaves.”
But this is the United States. A child who can’t sleep without mom or dad or grandma or grandpa is essentially handicapped. He/she can’t go to camp, go to overnights at friends’ houses, go to a boy scout or girl scout sleepover, or even go spend the night with other relatives/cousins/aunts/uncles, etc. They can’t join a sports team that travels, because if there is a hotel stay, they won’t be able to sleep unless they are in a room with mom or dad.
So I say, sleep train from an early age. There are all kinds of exceptions. One poster above described a child who vomited if they were left to cry. If that happens, you have to go with a different plan than the one I described. Most kids aren’t like that. Most kids need to be TRAINED to sleep.
Think about it–when an adult has sleeping issues, they have to be TRAINED to sleep! It’s not a “natural” thing, any more than it’s a natural thing to eat fruits and vegetables instead of chips and candy! We have to “be trained” to eat a healthy diet–even if our bodies NEED it, we fight it and eat what’s FUN instead of what our bodies need.
Many kids do this with sleep. Sleeping isn’t as “fun” as playing, cuddling, watching TV, eating (!), etc. As parents, we have to be willing to put up with the crying, fussing, tantrums, etc. and train our children to do what is good for them, not what is fun.
Poor Mommy! I have 7 and my youngest is 19 months.
A nice wise woman told me this for child #3. At 1 year of age - cut off the bottles at night. She said, “You will suffer three nights of misery, then your child will sleep much better”
Guess what? She was right. Those bottles at night are really a problem. They get used to having them, so if they drop them or can’t find them in the covers - that will get them up. Plus by about 18 months they become a little more aware of when they urinate, so that wakes them up, too.
So, it’s really tough for a few days, but I highly recommend trying it. No sleep will make you nuts.
Another thing is, if you don’t have a regular waking and bedtime, you need to do this. I wake my littlest up at 7am. She has a 2 or so hour nap from 12-2 and then she is back to bed at 7pm. It’s not too much sleep for the age, and then you have the extra time for your older kids and husband, and gee maybe even yourself (I know, easier said than done!)
I hope that helps! I know how hopeless I feel with no sleep, and it’s much worse when you battle the fatigue of pregnancy on top of it. Take care!
“I hate to be a debbie downer, but no, they don’t grow out of it. My sister-in-law has boys who are now 8 and 10, and they have never learned how to go to sleep by themselves. She has no spine, and caves at the slightest “peep” of crying, and babies them, and they are allowed to stay up until they literally fall asleep on the floor. And then they sleep with mom. At age 8 and 10, almost 11.”
Or worse, they can grow out of being good sleepers.
My kids have always (knock on wood!) been excellent sleepers as babies. However, the last couple years, our 11-year-old has been needing a later and later bedtime and has been popping out of bed to come share her existential concerns with us. She didn’t used to do that. I am bowing to a later bedtime for her, as it does her no good to lie awake THINKING in the dark. We also ask her to listen to her music all the way through twice before coming and complaining of insomnia.
The baby, however, sleeps a solid 8 PM to 7 AM, God bless her.