toddler sleep issues

Who would’ve thought that my toddler would be the one reminding what it is like to have a newborn again?

If you aren’t friends with me on Facebook or don’t “Like” my Facebook page (which you really should…) or if you haven’t read my last 3 posts, then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.  But, most likely you do, and you’re probably sick of hearing me complain about it for the past week.  So, sorry I’m not sorry, but here I go complaining about it a little bit more…

MacKenna has been sleeping through the night since she was 10 months old, so for 2 years straight, I can basically count on one hand the number of times she’s woken up in the middle of the night.  That’s how good of a sleeper she is.  Beyond that, she also goes down for naps and bedtime really well because we have a great routine established:  brush teeth, change diaper + clothes, read books, say prayers, kisses, and sweet dreams.  Rarely do we hear a peep from her.

So, when we got back from vacation and she refused to fall asleep on her own without one of us being in the room with her (thanks to sleeping in bed with us for 6 nights), we knew we had a major problem.

The first few nights, Matt and I would have to lay down in the room with her until she fell asleep and then sneak out.  At first, she would sleep through the night all night, but since then, she has been up frequently throughout the night and we have trouble getting her back to sleep unless one of us is in there.  Not only is this a bad habit for her to be in, but it is also horrible for our sleep, which I so desperately want and need right now.


Thank goodness she’s cute and good for the most part, otherwise I’d be going more crazy than I already am…

I’ve been researching as much as I can via the Internet and decided that we needed to try the Ferber Method.  In short, the Ferber Method is crying it out, but at progressively longer intervals.  I figured from what I had read on the internet, this would probably be our best bet since we didn’t want to be in the room with her anymore (it’s hard to get anything done with a kid who doesn’t sleep) and we were OK with her crying (sorry to my parents).

Last night, we decided to try it out, letting her cry from 3 minutes the first time, 6 minutes the next, 9 minutes, then 10 minutes every subsequent time we had to go in there.  We did our nightly routine and as soon as we were getting ready to leave the room, she was screaming.  The 3 and 6 minute wait periods, we kept the door to her room open and had a gate up to keep her in.  After a brief chat during the 9 minute wait, Matt and I decided that we needed to close the door.


Naptime on Wednesday – she finds ways to keep herself entertained.  She didn’t cry for an hour but she didn’t sleep either.

I’ll admit, I lost track of how many times we ended up having to go in there.  But, it took over an hour for her to finally fall asleep.  And she ended up falling asleep on the floor with a pillow and blanket.  She also fell asleep after a desperate run to the library right before they closed to pick up the actual Ferber Method book (“Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” is the official title).

We’ve had hundreds of suggestions so far on what to do to help our situation – seriously, I’m desperate – but feel that this might be the right way to go for us.  We don’t want to put the crib back up because we don’t believe the toddler bed is the problem (yes, she’s getting out of bed, but that’s not the reason why she’s crying – she just wants us in there).  And we seriously cannot sleep in there every night – as teachers, we have work to do after she goes to bed, so it just isn’t an option as of next week.

So, that’s where we stand right now.  I’m hopeful and praying as hard as I can that this works for us.  My other option is to just let her cry until she falls asleep without going back in there (don’t worry, I’ve picked up her room to make sure it is safe for her).  But, I know Matt likes to check on her to make sure she’s OK, so this seems best for us.  (I’m considering buying a video monitor off Amazon so we have something to keep an eye on her).  We are waiting until we know this isn’t working before we actually see a specialist (but thank you to those of you who have sent me names of sleep specialists!).  However, ANY and ALL advice is definitely appreciated – especially if you have been through this before or have use the Ferber or other cry it out method…

Ugh.  This is when I really wish I could have a beer…

  • Sleep problems are SO hard! I’ve never used the Ferber method but we do let them cry. Be strong and hopefully she’ll be back on track soon! ((HUG))
    Verna recently posted..Peeper

    • Kristen

      Thanks Verna!

  • Jenn

    My toddler started doing the same thing! He will be 3 in November. We went away for the 4th of July weekend and he had to sleep in bed with us for 3 nights. We had about 1-1.5 weeks where he wouldn’t go to bed without lengthy crying fits. We did the same thing you are doing – just let him cry it out. I found that if I went in his room in intervals it would just upset him all over again, so I basically just left him to cry it out on his own. After a few nights he’s back to going to with only a little bit of normal whining. However, he’s still getting up in the middle of the night to look for us, and it has been a month now! It’s so much harder not to give in during the middle of the night when everyone is exhausted.
    I don’t have any great advice, just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone!! I’m 30 weeks pregnant, so I know how much you need sleep right now! Good luck!!!!

    • Kristen

      Middle of the night is tough. It just makes me wonder if she’s just preparing me for training the next kid! Congrats and good luck!

  • Ashley

    I can related to you right now as I think we just overcame this. Last week my son (who is two) started fighting sleep. Like your daughter he has always gone to bed no problem. He started wanting to lay in our bed, which we rarely let him do, or wanting us to stay in his room with him. He would make up every excuse to stay awake…eat, read more books, brush his teeth again, etc. We decide to just letting him cry it out. Once we buckled down and said we were going to fix this the first night was the worst, an hour and 15 mins of screaming and three times to change his sheets since he throws up from getting himself so worked up. Next night was 30 mins, then 15 mins followed by no crying the fourth night. He was also doing the same thing at nap time, which kept getting better and better each day with letting him cry too. We have a video monitor, which I love since we can check on him and see if he is crying laying down or standing up screaming, he is also still in his crib. That way we knew if we really needed to go in too.

    All I can recommend is to keep it consistent and no matter how hard it is don’t give in. Their were many times I wanted to give him what he wanted food, more books, etc. but I just would tell him we already did that. Also, when you do go in talk in the most calming, nice way. I found that if I quietly told him “I know you want that but it’s time to lay down now” worked much better than. “No, we aren’t doing that. It is bed time now” just talking to them rather than down to them. I was guilty of that.

    Hope some of that helped. Hang in there!!

    • Kristen

      Thank you so much Ashley! I bought a video monitor today so that will be very helpful – we just want to make sure she’s safe since there is a lot of furniture and things in her room she can get in to. She did ask for another song (that we have NEVER sang) at her nap today and I just told her it was time to go to sleep. She fell asleep within 5 minutes – unfortunately, I think it was still on the floor. Can’t wait to get the video monitor set up so I can see where she’s sleeping!

  • marie

    We leave for vacation in two weeks. Thanks for the heads-up. We rented our own family cottage just so she would have a bedroom, right now, I’m so glad we did. Claire is still in her crib right now (at 2 years 8 months) but we are thinking toddler bed maybe around 3. We are wondering how do you keep the door shut? Doesn’t she get up, and come out? Please advise. Thanks. Hang in there!

    • Kristen

      Well, thankfully MacKenna is still too short/little to actually open the door (she can barely reach the knob and it’s too hard for her to turn). They suggest holding the door shut or just putting a baby gate up. We’ve ALWAYS closed the door so I wanted to stick with what she knew (and the fact that she can see us going up and down the stairs from her room and that would not help the situation). You can always put a baby “lock” on the doorknob so she can’t get out. Just a suggestion!

  • Jen C.

    My dd is just a bit older than yours. We went through this, too. We ended up silently walking her back to bed. We took the book case out of her room to remove some distractions. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And totally tag team with your hisband. It makes it a little more bearable.

    • Kristen

      Tag teaming has been the best thing so far!

  • Angela

    I feel your pain! We have been going through the 2 year old sleep regressions too with our daughter. It first showed up two nights before my full marathon in beginning of May. How convenient!

    We have also transitioned our daughter into the toddler bed. However, we had also been dealing with her climbing out of her crib like an acrobat. Our thought was we wanted to transition to the “big bed” before potty training, mainly for safety purposes.

    I have found it also hard, but there were a few things that play part. First of all, it’s most likely to show up when you have big events (like vacations away or lot of family) – ours was when both my mom and sister showed up to stay with us for a week, and the bedtime schedule went sideways because of the extra activity and excitement. Developmentally, they are going through some extraordinary things, like speech, new skills, etc., and that always seems to show up in sleep as they work on mastering the skills. I have also found that during this time, the kids almost have to relearn to self soothe and fall back asleep on their own. Sleep training doesn’t end when they are babies.

    Unlike McKenna, my daughter is tall enough to open the door. We have resorted to staying in her room, usually sitting in a chair in front of the door to prevent her from getting out of her room until she falls asleep. We stay pretty much silent and just repeat for her to go back to bed. It’s like she needed the reassurance that you are not going to leave her.

    Apparently at this age, is when they develop fears, and it can show up at night. You are doing the right things in comforting her and encouraging her to go back to sleep in her own bed.

    We were able to get her back into relatively sleep-filled nights, but we did experience night wakings that ranged in 5 minutes to 3 hours in length, starting at any random hour during the night. And we also went through the part of her waking at 3am and UP for the rest of the day.

    As you can tell, I am obsessed with my daughter’s sleep to the point of having kept a sleep log since she was 8 months old (at first round of sleep training). And like you, I had to move my daughter this evening @ 3:30am from sleeping on the floor to her bed.

    This is a tough stage to deal with, but you are doing the right things and being consistent, which is everything right to deal with it. She’ll get sorted and back on some schedule, but this will give you the knowledge knowing that it will pass, like all stages.

    We used the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child as our reference book, but it does have similar thoughts to Ferber.

    Good luck!


    • Kristen

      Thanks for all the helpful tips! We sat in her room until she fell asleep for a few days but neither of us can sacrifice our time in the evenings since we tend to need to do work at home after she goes to sleep. For right now, we’re just happy she is sleeping and aren’t too worried about her sleeping on the floor, especially since we will be moving next month and transitioning her to a twin bed instead of just a toddler bed.