My two year old sleeps like a newborn and I can't cope anymore

(47 Posts)
LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 06:11:20

Except I've been saying I can't cope for two and a half years now and I don't have any choice but to carry on anyway. He has always, always woken multiple times in the night every night and it has never got any better. We co slept for two years, which I hated. He woke me just as frequently and I couldn't sleep well with him wriggling around all night and I'd ache all over in the morning from lying so still not daring to move when he was actually asleep. But he is exactly the same now he's in his own room and now one of us has to get out of bed to go to him - all he wants is a cuddle and sometimes for us to retrieve his dummy and he falls back asleep straight away but it's so frequent, it feels like every time I fall asleep he drags me out of it. I have a stressful job and I'm exhausted. My memory and functioning during the day is in shreds. I'm slow and stupid and so, so angry all the time. I have a permanent headache.

We live in a tiny terraced house and have a five year old (who sleeps perfectly) and I don't see how we could try anything like controlled crying without waking him as well.

I just don't see an end to this. I wish away his childhood every day, desperate for him to be older so that even if he doesn't sleep it won't be my problem anymore. I love him so very much, but I have wished so many times that I hadn't had a second child - obviously I wouldn't be without him now but I have found life so difficult since he was born. I'm no good at the toddler stage anyway and the tantrums and relentless unreasonableness of a two year old just grind me down - I have so little tether remaining that I'm constantly at the end of it. My job is very hard work but I'm so relieved to go there and have actually increased my hours recently because I'd rather be at work than looking after my own child. If I could sleep, I could handle it. If he would just sleep, everything would be manageable.

He has a daytime nap most days - never, ever in his bed - always in the buggy or the sofa when he just conks out. I make sure he is awake by 3pm at the latest, usually before, and that he doesn't nap for more than two hours maximum in the day. There is no difference to his sleep at night that I have ever been able to discern whether he has the nap or not or however long it is. Don't bath him every night but always do his eczema cream (which he hates and screams and cries about), pjs, teeth, a million stories after about an hour of which he will fall asleep. Only falls asleep with one of us in the room, preferably he likes to be cuddling up to whichever of us has the misfortune to be doing bedtime.

I just keep thinking that it has to get better and it never does. I don't know what to do. I have elaborate fantasies of winning the lottery and buying a massive house where he can have his own wing and a team of night nannies who can bring him to me in the morning when I will feel like I can be a decent mother because I have slept all night every night and I feel like an actual human being again. In the event of that not happening, what can I do? Will controlled crying work or will it just wake up my other child and cause even more misery? We don't have any spare money but shall we get a sleep consultant somehow, using a credit card or something? I really can't carry on like this, except I will have to because there isn't any alternative.

(I have always indulged in that fantasy of a hospital stay so that I could have a break, by the way and I did get it, a few months ago. It was as joyous as I've always dreamed and after two weeks of lovely, uninterrupted rest I was like a new woman - so full of zest and energy and capable of everything. Unfortunately, that's just a distant memory now but it's depressing to realise that the best I have felt in two and a half years was when I was recovering from surgery).

HumphreyCobblers Sun 02-Oct-16 06:27:25

oh this rings so many bells

I have been awake since four as my co-sleeping toddler started thrashing around the bed, waking me up. He stayed asleep but I couldn't manage to go back off, what with the snoring and kicking.

Have you tried doing alternate night settling with your partner? One person would then get a better night, you could try ear plugs? I expect you have tried this though.

I can identify with being angry all the time. I feel my relationship with my other dc has really suffered. I hate it.

Sorry I am not more help but I am truly sympathetic.

BingBongBingBong Sun 02-Oct-16 06:28:13

I know you say you have an older child and it's a terraced house so controlled crying wouldn't be a great option but is there a way you could try it? If you keep going in to cuddle him he will not learn how to settle himself back to sleep so controlled crying might help? It doesn't need to mean leaving him to cry but give it 10 then 20 then 30 etc minutes before you go in. It would save your sanity tbh. A few nights so short term pain for long term gain.

With regards to napping he may benefit from not napping - however it would take a few days to see if it makes a difference to his night time sleep.

Also, does he get a lot of exercise? As in properly running around? I find my 2yo is much better at bedtime if we have worn him out during the day and he needs a lot of exercise. I'm sorry if any of this sound patronising, I really don't mean it to!

I really feel for you OP because sleep deprivation is genuine torture, my first slept like your son til he was about 14 months and that was long enough for me, if he was still sleeping like that I'd be in a bad way.

GizmoFrisby Sun 02-Oct-16 06:38:25

I feel your pain. I have been awake from 1.15 till 4.30 with my 17mo then up since 5.15 with her. We did controlled crying and she was sleeping very well so I'm putting this down to teeth. I'm exhausted and full of cold and earache and feel like throwing a bucket of water over my partner who slept through it all and is still in bed now. hmm sorry not useful but we all go through it flowers
Controlled crying was the only way we got her to sleep through. My 7yo coped quite well as we explained to him the situation and after 4 nights she was sleeping through. I'm putting these past few bad nights down to teeth.

Eeeek686 Sun 02-Oct-16 06:40:48

I have/had this - DS (21m) is boobing whilst playing with his postman pat can even as I write - and had it with DD also and can tell you now (from my experience at least) that a good deal of it is habit/sleep associations and can actually be broken with not that much time it difficulty altho an putting it off myself as am a non-confrontational lazy bugger who enjoys ds boobing while I'm on MN grin.... If your son goes to sleep with you cuddling he will want/expect it Every Time wakes up (& human children wake/sleep cycle is 1.5-2 hourly) so That's what you need to stop; we had Exactly the same with DD (now 3.5 and a great sleeper). Best thing I think for you guys would be Gradual Retreat method (Google is your friend for this) which worked well for us - basically reducing down from cuddling to sleep to hand holding, then just being in the room, then just outside door etc... Took a little while with DD (esp outside Room stage,) but she got there and now even serious settles while I "tidy up the lounge"...

Don't give up hope!! brewflowerswine
[Grin]

Also, from my experience as long as they are not in the same room a sleeping child is Rarely woken by a crying baby (although make sure older child door is shut!)

Good luck....

BastardGoDarkly Sun 02-Oct-16 06:40:52

Is your 5 year old in a different room? Are they a sound sleeper?

I think for the sake of your health you need to throw everything at this.

Get rid of the dummy first, then do rapid return, read a story (each?) Then that's it, no staying in the room till he falls asleep. When he wakes, leave him for a while, and if you must go in, tuck blankets in and say, it's nighttime now, goodnight.

I'm not going to lie, it'll be hellish at first, I had the same with my 4 year old! Yep, 4, they don't get better on their own with age unless you make them.

Wake him up after 45 minutes in the day, and yes, exercise him until he's exhausted.

It'll be hard, but in a couple of months you'll have your sleep back.

Eeeek686 Sun 02-Oct-16 06:58:48

Re poster above, I think rapid return works better on older/more developed children which might not be as successful with a 2yr old recently used to co-sleeping? I know if I'd have done "it's sleepy time now, ta-ta" with either of mine they worked l would've completely freaked out! It did/does work with 3.5yr old as she able to understand verbal reassurance, but at 2, or with DD - no chance!

Also Op have you tried a dummy clip? DS can Always find his dummy as ours stuck to his PJs!

LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 07:20:08

Thanks for all the replies and sorry to all who are suffering too!

Dummy wise - we got him a sleepy tot rabbit. He's not losing the dummy as much but still waking - it's cuddles that he's after. The idea of getting rid of the dummy horrifies me - I just can't face the tantrums, I know that sounds pathetic but I cannot do it. I haven't got the strength.

5yo in separate room and a sound sleeper. Maybe he could sleep through controlled crying. Toddler is quite a volcanic personality- older son very gentle and he responded well to the gradual retreat style, but toddler gets so worked up so quickly that I feel tactics like that stress him out as he gets so frustrated and it's a prolonged process. Even with me in the room cuddling him, he cries - full on proper loud crying - before he sleeps. It always lifts my heart when he starts the crying at bedtime because I know he will fall asleep soon. Basically, I think he just cannot get himself to sleep, he's exhausted and upset but he can't go to sleep until he physically can't stay awake any longer. As a pp said, he's definitely waking up every sleep cycle and needs us to put him back to sleep again.

Exercise - you are all absolutely right. His energy levels are amazing (and exhausting). He walks miles, hates the buggy (and is a bolter who hates holding hands and refuses to walk a step with reins on angry) and he needs such a lot of wearing out! I know our days are easier when I take him out and do a lot with him but I am so shattered, it's really hard - plus, he tantrums and I find that stressful in public as well. Today dh is at work and I know that it would be better for all of us if I spend hours in a freezing park or noisy soft play but getting the mental and physical energy for it is draining (dh has to take car and public transport round us is not great on a Sunday so it involves extra hassle of buses), plus there is all the laundry and tasks to get us ready for the week. However, I know it is actually worth the effort when we get out.

I think all the ordinary day to day business of parenting just seems so hard on broken sleep. I get frustrated with myself for not managing, for getting angry all the time, for finding the basic mechanics of day to day life so overwhelming because I know I could do all of this if I got good sleep. It just makes everything so much harder.

joellevandyne Sun 02-Oct-16 07:23:36

I can really sympathize as my 2.4yo DD had just started sleeping through in the last month.

I hate to say it, but Eeeeek is right; it's a sleep association issue. The good news is that you can solve it. The bad news is that the process can be a bit crap/requires some patience.

But having been through that experience of feeling shit and shitty all day because of sleep deprivation, it's absolutely worth going through the process. When DD got down to one or two wake ups a night, it was a revelation to realise that motherhood hadn't turned me into an unreasonable bitch, it was just chronic sleep deprivation. With a full night's sleep every night, I'm practically a Zen master. I had the most stressful week of my working life last week, and I didn't yell or cry once.

So get rid of the dummy, cut down on the nap and endless stories, start working away from cuddling to sitting beside the bed, and once you're down to one wake up, get the most boring parent (probably dad) to tough out the wakeups solo for a couple of weeks to see if your son gives up and starts sleeping through.

Puppymouse Sun 02-Oct-16 07:34:55

No advice I'm afraid but couldn't read and run. Masses of sympathy and am in awe of you for being able to work in a pressured job and keep going. Hope you can sort this flowers

joellevandyne Sun 02-Oct-16 07:38:26

Cross-posted with OP so just want to add two things!

1. Preparation is key. I had to wean my DD off breastfeeding, and she's very strong-willed, so I foresaw a battle similar to your dummy one. I picked a date a month away and started telling her that would be the last BF. I explained what we would do instead (cuddle and rub back). I talked her through the last one. (You could incorporate a Dummy Fairy reward). And in the end she accepted it with extraordinarily little resistance.

2. This is linked to the above - your mindset makes a huge difference. Kids seem to know when you are not 100 percent committed to a course of action, and will try to push as hard as possible to find your breaking point. But if you are resolved in your own mind, and you know there will be no wiggle room, I find they seem to sense that, and stop resisting much faster.

LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 07:47:40

So true - he behaves differently for others, so the childminder praises how sensibly he walks with her, always holding hands or holding onto the buggy. But for me he runs off and screams when I hold his hand. She has a calm but indomitable front, decades of experience with toddlers and he just knows that he has to comply so he does, very happily! He also behaves beautifully for my dad, which I suspect is related to Grandad's ever-ready supply of biscuits. He definitely knows I am weak and that he can keep pressing until I give in. In my professional life, I'm the opposite, but somehow my own toddler defeats me all the time. I know I make things worse by giving in and being inconsistent. I think dh and I have known for two years now that we had to grit our teeth and get through the short term pain of sleep training in one form or another and we have been too sodding tired to see it through. It's gone on too long though. Getting him into his own bed in his own room seemed like such a victory but to still be having newborn-type sleep patterns is unbearable.

LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 07:54:08

And as for keeping on going at work - I'm successful at work and that keeps me going. I can see that I'm good at my job and it's recognised. At home I fail every day. I went up from three days to four recently and it's tiring but not as draining as being at home, getting everything wrong!

ImogenTubbs Sun 02-Oct-16 08:14:36

OP - I could have written your post. I don't really have the answer. DD recently turned three and we have just recently begun a 'no cuddles at night' rule. We explained to her why and promised her a new toy the first night she goes all the way through without waking us up for cuddles. We still go in if she cries but don't cuddle her, we hold her hand, or sit with her and then explain again the next day. And last night.... SHE WENT ALL THE WAY THROUGH WITHOUT WAKING US UP!!! She is so proud today and got her new toy this morning. Fingers crossed it's not just a one off. Ha ha ha. Good luck xxx

LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 08:18:14

Imogen I think that's what I've been holding out for - the age of bribery! I'm so heartened to hear it's worked for you! My plan for dummy removal has been exactly that - to wait til he is a bit older and can understand and then do dummy fairy/new toy for going without the dummy and similar approach for sleep.

Gmbk Sun 02-Oct-16 08:26:03

Your child's sleep is destroying you yet you basically can't be bothered to do anything about it.

You need to get tough and teach him to self settle. All children can if they learn (barring SEN). Controlled crying is probably the way to go.
Reading loads of stories til he cries and then falls asleep is madness. Bedtime routine, then a story or 2, then night night ds it's time to sleep. Then you leave the room.

HalfStar Sun 02-Oct-16 08:29:44

Hi OP

We don't have any spare money but shall we get a sleep consultant somehow, using a credit card or something?

Yes. This is what to do if I'm being totally honest. Or at least, it's the path we took. You are chronically exhausted and so is he, and when we were at that stage we simply weren't going to be able to implement any plan we'd come up with ourselves, we were too angry and too tired. So sleep consultant on credit card was what we did. (Once your head is functioning normally, I bet you could save back the money on a cheaper Christmas or something with some careful planning.)

This is all going to get so much better OP, you're going to enjoy your child's childhood again. You're going to feel free and normal. The sleep training won't be as bad as you think - promise. Good luck.

HalfStar Sun 02-Oct-16 08:31:41

It's not about can't be bothered to do anything about it! Anyone who's ever been there knows that lack of sleep damages your brain, you can't think straight, you become fearful and negative. It takes a long time to work up the energy required to put a plan in motion.

ageingrunner Sun 02-Oct-16 08:37:51

You've done well to get him to go from co-sleeping to sleeping in his own bed. I have no advice, sorry, but if you can do that then I'm sure you will be able to get him to self-settle

kenicka Sun 02-Oct-16 08:42:56

Save your money. Pick a routine that takes about 30 mins. Tell him in the day in simple terms what it is and how amazing he is that now he is a big boy he is goign to do this. Tell everyone you meet what an amazing boy he is because he's going to sleep all night. he will believe his own hype
Then do the routine and stick to it. when he comes out of bed or cries the first time, give him a quick kiss, and say it's bedtime now. when he does it again, take him back to bed and just say bedtime. Third time say nothing, don't look at him, make faces anything just be boring as anything. Then repeat ad finium all bloody night, and the next night and the next night. It will be knackering for a couple of nights but well worth it. Then stick to it. Don't slip. Make a huge fuss of him the first time he sleeps through.

kenicka Sun 02-Oct-16 08:44:17

I've done the above four times. Always worked. Many of my friends have tried it. The only wants it failed, the ones that didn't stick to it.

LaserShark Sun 02-Oct-16 08:47:54

I do feel like it is definitely due to my ineptness - not exactly that I can't be bothered but that I haven't tried hard enough, I do agree with that assessment. It's the short-term pain I can't get past but I realise that makes no sense - if it took a week or a month of agony but then it was done, we could have saved ourselves so much more suffering so why can't I just get on and do it? It's like dieting (I weigh three stone more than when I got pregnant due to surviving on sugary crap for the energy/comfort). I take the easiest route every time and it makes life harder overall - but somehow in the moment I can't get hold of the big perspective. Getting a sleep consultant might be like when I hired a personal trainer so that I had no choice but to get it done!

In my defence, we didn't sleep train earlier because he suffers with severe eczema and all sleep training has the mantra that you don't do it if the child is ill or in pain. Sometimes he wakes himself up scratching and is bleeding, so obviously we couldn't leave him to cry then. It took the first year to get his eczema reasonably under control - and even now if he is having a flare up, we have to just get through it. So I have always felt like any kind of sleep training would be disrupted by that - I still have to try it though, I know.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Sun 02-Oct-16 08:52:56

Bath,story,bed and rapid return every single time he gets up.

Brace yourself for him to be very cross but it took 3 days for ds to turn into the best sleeper ever. Wish I'd done it sooner.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Sun 02-Oct-16 08:54:11

Sorry x posted,i think you might find sleep training might help as he won't be over tired .

HalfStar Sun 02-Oct-16 08:59:21

The short term pain thing makes perfect sense to me, I've been there. You kind of get rooted to the spot with dismay/helplessness at the thought of the angst that will ensue that night, and so in the face of long term sleep deprivation, you end up doing what you've always done? Again I think this is due to lack of sleep affecting your decision making and motivation and tolerance for noise. You know what needs to be done but you cant make yourself get there.

On the medical issue- mine also had a medical issue that affected sleep. It is probably why you ended up in this situation in the first place. My first was a bad sleeper so once id put the work in to fix that i vowed I'd never let it happen with the second. But the second had the medical issues which made things so difficult. I've no experience of eczema, but I believe you can still make huge progress on the sleep front through a new routine etc. It's still worth doing.

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