15 month old cant go to sleep without me holding him - argh!!

(18 Posts)
blearyeyes101 Wed 20-Aug-14 13:39:16

Please help. My little man is pretty awesome, but bedtime and sleep in general are a living hell. I have never managed to get him to settle to sleep at night without either a) taking him for a drive or b) standing up holding him in a very quiet room until he dozes off. At the moment this means bedtime can take up to an hour and a half, and nap times are all over the place. Plus my back is killing me.

After eventually dropping off he wakes at least once in the evening and at least once at night, probably because he is dependent on me being there to get off to sleep. I resorted to trying controlled crying when he was 9 months old on the advice of my heath visitor, because at that point he was waking every 30-40 minutes all night. Thankfully that hideous phase passed after a few nights of letting him cry, but I found myself unable to stay with the approach longer term because it didn't sit comfortably with me at all (and often he would make himself sick, which was distressing for both of us).

We follow a bedtime routine where he has his dinner, then a bath, then pjs, stories and then milk before I take him to bed.

Any advice would be hugely appreciated.

Reepits Wed 20-Aug-14 15:03:37

6 years old....the same. Some are cuddle monkeys.

Iggly Wed 20-Aug-14 21:50:39

Firstly I would get him into a nap routine. Doesn't matter how he gets to sleep.

Does he still wake at night or is it just the holding him until he sleeps bit which is the bother?

Can you try holding him until he's drowsy then lay him on his tummy and stroke his back? I.e. a gradual transition to get him to lie down?

murphy36 Thu 21-Aug-14 07:11:57

Mine was like this for a while, I got a poang chair to sit in which stopped my back dying.

He doesn't do it now. We tried putting him in his cot and then putting hands on him which kinda worked. When he woke up we'd pick him up if he cried then put him back down when he started crying, leaving him bit longer each time. Also did controlled crying, not ridgedly just if he was crying down rather than distressed. We had a sloped bed at one point, but the cot in its own room. I'd sit next to his bed and then get progressively further away as he dropped off. Oh, and we got a comfort blanket thing going, he loves those muslin squares...

Anyway, the bit where he needed me to hold him to sleep was probably the easy bit, it was something that worked! I miss it a bit, it was nice that he needed me.

If you can save your back somehow I wouldn't be in a rush. Although, I would make sure your partner if possible takes part.

blearyeyes101 Thu 21-Aug-14 08:11:50

He does wake in the night, which is pretty exhausting. Last night we decided to try keeping him up a bit longer so that he was really tired when I took him up. He did fall asleep in his little bed, rather than in my arms, but I did have to lie next to him so that he could stroke my hair as he went off!

Until recently his nap time was quite predictable, assuming that I didn't take him out somewhere in the car before nap time. I think teething has thrown everything into chaos. He has been drooling like mad for weeks and he has cut two molars and two bottom teeth. Last night he didn't seem able to settle and eventually I gave him extra milk at about 3.30am, so he may also be going through a growth spurt. Certainly he has had to go up a shoe size this week.

Iggly - I did try putting him down when drowsy when he was smaller and he would just stand straight back up no matter how sleepy he seemed, but it might work better now that he is in a little bed.

JoandMax Thu 21-Aug-14 08:17:47

How do you feel about co-sleeping? My DS2 was a horrific sleeper so after nearly going crazy with sleep deprivation we moved him into our bed, he's now 4.5 and will go to sleep without me holding him as long as I'm in the room. He will wake briefly in the night, pat around til he can feel me then goes straight back off. He has now started occasionally sleeping til around 4am in his own bed so I think we only have a few more months left, I feel a bit sad about that!

He just needs the extra security and closeness, he has a great bedtime routine and always has. DS1 is a fab sleeper and happily goes off to bed and to sleep by himself so it's just their personalities.......

Iggly Thu 21-Aug-14 09:26:12

I had to lie next to both of mine to get them to settle at night instead of holding. So worth a shot.

Also has he ever slept through? Mine were dreadful sleepers due to dairy intolerances and others (even now my ds gets terrible stomach cramps and diarrhoea if he eats milky foods - he's 4 and can tell me - waking them at night). What is his diet like?

blearyeyes101 Thu 21-Aug-14 11:34:43

He has slept through occasionally, in short bursts. I was keeping a food diary for a while to see if there was any pattern to bad nights, because he did seem to be waking because of trapped wind at least some of the time. Some contenders were obvious, e.g. beans on toast for team but other days I couldn't see any pattern to it. I haven't tried alternatives to dairy.

The lady next door to me works in paediatrics and advised me to tilt his mattress and reduce his milk before bed. The mattress didn't really help (he just slid down it!) but the smaller amount of milk did seem to make a difference for a little while, so maybe the milk is a factor?

We bought him a toddler bed last week, because if he woke in the evening or night he would go straight back off and sleep soundly if I put him on our bed, but would wake as soon as I put him in the cot. Before buying his own bed, I had got into a bit of a pattern of taking him into our spare bed at night if he woke, rather than spending ages trying to get him to settle by himself. In theory I wouldn't have a problem with co-sleeping, but in practice it doesn't feel like there is enough room for the three of us to sleep comfortably in our bed (and we have an equally clingy miniature dachshund who sleeps on the bed as compensation for no longer being the baby of the family). I don't really want to stop sleeping in the same room as hubby altogether.

madamweasel Thu 21-Aug-14 11:42:21

We have a 2yo old who is the same. Needs mummy to cuddle to sleep. Doesn't sleep through. Shares our bed from waking at 2am because he won't settle by himself. I'm hoping he'll grow out of it. I don't have the will power or desire to make him cry it out. We've tried all sorts of techniques but nothing sticks and everything takes hours every night. At the moment we just accept that cuddles is yet thing that works.

strawberrybubblegum Thu 21-Aug-14 11:56:01

Development stage (i.e. age) makes all the difference to whether any kind of sleep training works, whether it's controlled crying or something gentler. 9 months - when you last did CC - is classic sleep regression time, but also unfortunately one of the worst times developmentally to do sleep training. That's almost certainly why you found CC so hellish and why it didn't work fully - i.e. it got him past the worst of the sleep regression waking, but didn't actually improve his sleeping much long term.

Bed timing is a book which explains the different stages. You're currently in a good window for doing sleep training (from 12-16 months, when they've just learned to walk and are focused more on discovering the external world than on relationships) but that window will only last about another month so I'd really urge you to consider trying some kind of sleep training again. There's another window from about 22-27 months, but the one you're in just now is a really good one. Also, there's another sleep regression at about 18 months, and it's good to have it cracked by then.

CC doesn't have to be awful, although I know it does depend on the baby. fwiw, my DD is also a big cuddler and we had a really hard time with sleep too. Our experience was very similar to yours: we had a similarly awful time at 9 months and tried Controlled Crying in desperation. And exactly like you found it pretty awful and found that it got us past the crazy phase of waking every 45 mins, but didn't really fix things. But when we tried again at about 14 months, using the advice in the amazing Millpond book to make sure we did it right, it worked like a dream. We started at 1 minute, and increased by 30 secs each time, and we didn't have to go past 3 minutes of waiting before going in (i.e. 10 mins total). It didn't take many days of doing it before she was sleeping MUCH better. Now, at 19 months, she goes to bed completely happily (often chats away to herself for half an hour or so before dropping off, which is really sweet!) and sleeps through the night almost every time. Hope I haven't jinxed it!

Key things which I think made the difference were:
- You MUST increase the interval each time. Consistency is crucial, otherwise you make things worse
- Use your voice to calm him and tell him to lie down if he's standing up. Any physical contact is enough reward to keep him going
- Hopefully he'll calm when you speak to him (it surprised me how well that actually works), but even if he doesn't then you still leave after a few minutes - even if he's still standing up (assuming he's able to lie down himself!)

We have had a few times since then when sleep has got worse again (teething, holidays, or just her feeling a bit insecure). It doesn't fix everything forever. When that happens our first thing to try is CC again - but because we now know that if she's upset for more than 10 mins then it means something is really wrong, and because she's used to going to sleep by herself normally, we can be more flexible when she needs it (e.g. lying down beside her until she's asleep).

Good luck. I really hope you manage to improve his sleep - it makes a huge difference.

strawberrybubblegum Thu 21-Aug-14 12:09:38

Btw, I don't mean to imply that you can always sort out sleep with 10 minutes of CC. I know that it does depend on the child, and for those who have tried all the different methods and failed, you have my heartfelt sympathy.

But I just want to make sure you don't write-off controlled crying without trying it at the right development stage, and following the right guidelines (definitely read the Millpond book, rather than just my abbreviated suggestions).

My DD was a really awful sleeper, and while we were going through it I couldn't imagine that it would ever get better. And I was so against any kind of sleep training initially that I didn't even consider it until the hell of 9 month sleep regression. So I actually can't quite believe that DD is now sleeping - and I want to share our experience in the hope that it will help other people.

chocolatemartini Thu 21-Aug-14 12:11:59

I cuddle my 2.5 yo to sleep. Do it lying down though, much easier. Not planning on stopping till he's at least 15 I think needing cuddles at bedtime is very normal unless completely impractical for you

blearyeyes101 Thu 21-Aug-14 13:01:58

Thanks for that. I'll have a look for the Millpond book. My plan was to make a graded move from standing to lying on his bed, to sitting beside him with a hand on his back, if he would ever allow that. I think he is under the impression that sleep prevents him from participating in something really fun, when in truth I just want to do some ironing and maybe eat dinner before half nine at night for once!

SweetPea3 Thu 21-Aug-14 14:15:24

My daughter is generally good at settling herself to sleep and great once she's fast asleep, but when she is teething or sick, all bets are off and she will scream for ages in her cot at bedtime and wake at 11pm and then be up early in the morning. It can continue for a few weeks. I think you just have to do whatever you have to do during that time (including Calpol always before bed) and then try to get them into some form of sleep training once they are feeling better. I really feel for you - it must be exhausting and stressful sad

murphy36 Thu 21-Aug-14 19:59:40

Some babies aren't born with some innate ability to fall asleep. They need to be helped and taught, same as some need help to breastfeed or walk...

Ours sounds similar to yours. As well as the zillion things we tried we really think a bed time routine really helped too.

Iggly Thu 21-Aug-14 20:45:35

If you suspect an issue with milk then you really need to tackle that. Cut down his milk to the minimum he needs. If you see an improvement then tackle the dairy issue. Sleep training isn't really fair if he's in discomfort.

blearyeyes101 Thu 21-Aug-14 20:46:26

He does have a routine which we always try to stick with. I have tried my best to stick to the same sort of time frame for bed time and wind down regardless of whether he is with me for the day or with grandparents (they have him when I am in work), so he has his tea with them for consistency. He was doing much better, going down fairly easily and then only waking once in the night or not at all. I think it probably is teeth throwing everything off, but I just feel absolutely shattered and really emotional, and it feels like it has been all to cock for ages (although in truth it probably hasn't been as long as my weary body is telling me).

murphy36 Thu 21-Aug-14 21:18:18

You obviously need to look after your own health - like a chair to save standing and get someone to help share the holding burden if possible.

The days when your baby needs you in such a direct and intimate way wont last forever and these days are probably ones you'll cherish most in years to come. That's what kept me going anyway at 4am getting up again for a cuddle smile

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