toddler sleep issues (revisited)

Sit tight, guys.  This post is a long one…

I sat down tonight to feed Miles, opened up my iPad, and just so happened to look at the time.  8:10 PM.  “Did we actually get her to bed by 8 o’clock?!” I commented to Matt.  Why, yes.  Yes, we did.

You may remember several months ago, after our annual summer trip to Branson, that we spent several nights having to retrain our once great sleeper on how to sleep again.  I researched the Ferber Method for sleep training, used it for maybe 2 or 3 nights, and sure enough, MacKenna was again going to bed easily and sleeping through the night.  Not only that, but she was also taking naps well again, even though they were on the floor until she returned to the babysitter when school started back up.  (Oh, thank God for Stacy!  I wish Kenna would act for us like she does for her!)

We were worried that we might go through another sleep regression once we moved into the new house and put her in a twin bed instead of her toddler bed, but we were fortunate enough that she had absolutely no issues, except for one night when she fell out of bed.

One of the things that made it even easier for us is that MacKenna was still too short and little to open the door to her room.  Until about a month ago when she finally figured it out.  But, I didn’t really think much of it because she was still sleeping so well, even if she was making several requests every night and extending our bedtime routine by several more minutes.

But, all of that changed this past week.  File this under “Things They Don’t Tell You Happen After a Second Child.”  Because of all the things I expected from MacKenna, losing sleep because of HER was not one of them.  (Side Note:  Miles is waking up about twice a night and goes back down fairly easily.  He is sleeping in our room currently, but mostly because of MacKenna and the fact that we don’t want his crying to be fed to wake her up.)

Late last week, Miles had been crying in his crib to be fed and ended up waking MacKenna.  I think this was right around 5:45 AM, so we allowed her to come hang out in bed with us while I fed the baby and Matt got a few more minutes of sleep.  The next morning, MacKenna was again up at 5:45.  I wouldn’t typically be upset about this, except that MacKenna usually sleeps until 7 AM, so I knew we were starting to have some problems.  Sure enough, the next several nights, MacKenna was up in the middle of the night or awake super early and ended up in bed with us.

It wasn’t until Monday night into Tuesday did it get really bad.  Miles woke up at 1:30 AM to be fed.  I got him back down at 2, only to be awoken by MacKenna just 20 minutes later at our door wanting to get in bed with us.  It wasn’t until close to 4 AM that we finally got her back to bed for the remainder of the night, only for Miles to wake up 30 minutes later to be fed.  Two tired parents definitely does not equal 2 happy parents, and we were at wits end.  (In addition, she did not take a nap on Monday either, which made it super hard for me.)

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Yes, that’s a giant bruise on her forehead. She hit her head on Matt’s nightstand bending down to pick up her chapstick.  This is why toddlers need sleep…

I spent those waking hours on my phone, searching on Pinterest and Googling how to fix toddler sleep problems for kids who won’t stay in their rooms.  But, with the success we had with the Ferber Method this summer, I knew it was the way to go to get her to sleep again.

I started with her nap time yesterday, hoping and praying to at least get a few minutes of time without a toddler in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, I knew that without being able to lock her in her room and the fact that she figured out how to climb over a gate the night before I was going to have to hold her door closed.  I went in knowing that it was going to be hard and that I would give her 30 minutes to fall asleep and then give up (which is what Ferber suggests at nap times – night time is a whole different story).  To top it off, Miles decided that he no longer wanted to sleep either and would rather be held, so I was holding him in one arm and holding MacKenna’s door shut with my other hand, with my phone resting on Miles’ tummy so that I could watcher Kenna on the monitor as well as keep track of time.  I was really wishing Matt was home to help me, but I know I keep my cool a little better than he does (sorry Babe).

I worked in much shorter cry-it-out intervals than what we did this summer.  Instead of waiting 3 minutes the first time around, I started with 1 minute.  After 1 minute was up, I went into her room, got her back in bed, sang her a song, give her a kiss, and left.  Next was 2 minutes, then 3, then 5, then 10 minutes until my 30 minute time limit was reached.  MacKenna screamed at the top of her lungs, tried to open the door, threw things off her bed, turned off her nightlight and fan, and made a billion requests, all just to get me to come into her room.  Every time I went in, I did the same thing, until the last 10 minute interval, where I thanked her for listening when I asked her to get into her bed (multiple times, she tried to force her way out when I went in to get her) and then repeated my process.

I closed the door that final time, knowing that it most likely would be another day without a nap and would make for a very looooong afternoon for Mama.  But, to my surprise, after 2 minutes of crying, she went into her bed and laid down.  I still stood there, holding her door closed, for those 10 minutes, but to my surprise, she didn’t move and had actually fallen asleep!  Success!  She only slept for an hour for her nap time, but it was just enough time for me to get in a PiYo workout and hang out with Miles for a little while.

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I was anxious putting her to bed last night as well, but not nearly as nervous as I was at her nap, mostly because I wouldn’t be doing it alone since Matt was home.  Amazingly, she made no extra requests when we were leaving her room (something that we have gotten in a bad habit of giving in to recently) and did not even get out of her bed!  Her only request was that we set a timer on the microwave, which is just us pressing buttons so she thinks that she has a time limit (yes, we are probably horrible parents for doing this, but if it keeps her in bed, I don’t care).

I’m praying that as this posts this morning that I got a fairly refreshing night of sleep, only having to wake up with the baby a few times to feed him.  (EVERYONE, KNOCK ON WOOD RIGHT NOW FOR US!)  But, I want all those moms who are as desperate as we are to get a good night’s sleep (bed sharing with MacKenna just isn’t an option for us) that this worked for us and staying strong and consistent will be your best bet!  Hang in there!  It DOES get easier!  And yes, I fully plan to use this to sleep train Miles when he is old enough…

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If only we could all sleep this peacefully…

  • Melanie

    Thanks for sharing this. I have a 3 year old, and she is notorious for giving us trouble at bed time. She has had a sinus infection/ear infections for several weeks, so we have been giving in to her waaaay too much to keep her from crying, and getting even more snotty/goopy from the infections. But I swear, once they clear up – your way is the way to go! You give them an inch, and they are instantly ready to take a mile … and then another mile … and then another mile … and then …

  • KariC

    You are so not alone in the struggles! I’m exhausted trying to deal with my 3 year old’s sleep issues, and I don’t have a newborn. I can only imagine how much more tiring that must be! Our two main issues are her struggling to fall asleep at night (we put her down around 8pm, and some nights she doesn’t fall asleep until 11pm) and waking at night. She’s a “head banger” and has been since she was 8 months old–meaning that her soothing mechanism is to hit her head against the headboard of her bed (rocking back and forth) when she wakes at night–it’s a joy to listen to. I’m at the point where I’ve given in, and I have her come sleep on our floor when the head banging starts in the middle of the night. It’s the only way we all get some sleep. I’m hoping to have some resolution to these issues by the time baby #2 arrives in June/July.

  • Carlee

    FYI: We use this item called a door monkey. It keeps Gregory’s door shut with just a crack of an opening. His door isn’t aligned quite right so it doesn’t stay shut period. We originally got it to keep the cats out of his room when I thought they might suffocate him as a baby, but now it’s so useful with in him a toddler bed. http://www.amazon.com/Door-Monkey-Lock-Pinch-Guard/dp/B004ECJWK4