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Is this a normal toddler bedtime?

(26 Posts)
mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 21:48:24

My daughter was 2 in January. This is what bedtime looks like:

* CBeebies bedtime story
* Tell daddy (or me) night night
* Cheerfully go up the stairs to brush teeth
* Cheerfully go up the stairs from there to go to bedroom
* Happily put on pajamas
* Happily crawl in bed to have a book or two read.
* Scream ABSOLUTELY BLOODY MURDER as soon as Daddy or I leave the room confused -- usually this lasts around 10 minutes.

This has been happening since LAST AUGUST. At first I just left her to it, but it seemed to get worse.

We have tried everything: no CBeebies/TV at all (makes no appreciable difference), more light (she categorically says TURN IT OFF), music (makes no appreciable difference), staying with her for a while (keeps her awake and then simply delays the screaming), staying with her until she is asleep (meaning she won't sleep for around an hour and a half, making the next day harder), altering bedtime to be earlier and later (neither makes any difference), and shortening/skipping daytime nap (screaming still happens, but is shorter in duration).

What seems to result in the least screaming and earliest sleep time is going back to the original scheme of just leaving her to it. She gets out of bed, screams and cries at her doorway (which we ignore), then gets in bed and goes to sleep.

Now, this is a child who I never let "cry it out" or anything when she was a baby. I remember the specific date she started doing this (it was the August bank holiday) and it happened overnight. Before that she was a beautiful sleeper who happily let me out her down in bed awake and walk away without a sound. In August she hit 20 months, and when I have googled about this, it appears there is some sort of sleep regression then, but most people seem to get over the hump within a few weeks.

Sometimes the screaming is so heartrending that it makes me cry too--but I know if I go up, it ultimately always makes it worse for her one way or another. And, as I say, it's 10 minutes.

Basically I am wondering how normal or abnormal this is, and whether I should just be sitting with her so she doesn't cry, even though that does badly impact her overall amount of sleep. I don't want to damage her tiny psyche and make her feel abandoned, yet leaving her, on the face of it, seems to have the best outcome.

Any thoughts welcome.

odyssey2001 Sun 06-Apr-14 21:52:22

Try moving story to downstairs. It is something to do with overstimulation and then no transition to break from that state that causes the problem.

This worked with our LO, who is then carried upstairs after story in his dressing gown and put to bed. Might not work but it is worth a try.

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 21:53:28

Oh I meant to say also that she has her cot and her big girl bed in her room. She chooses which one she wants, and it is increasingly the bed, but the security of the cot seems to make no difference on the nights she chooses it.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 06-Apr-14 21:53:48

It doesn't sound abnormal to me. We have gone through phases with both of ours where we've had to sit when them while they drop off.

IME, the harder you push back against it the more it escalates and the longer it goes on. A few nights of reassurance has them falling asleep happily again.

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 21:54:28

Oh thank you! That is a good idea. Also she loves her dressing gown so might enjoy that.

odyssey2001 Sun 06-Apr-14 21:56:33

In regards to staying or going, have you tried the gradual removal method? Each night you get a little further away from her bed until you are sitting in her doorway. Then you move to sitting outside her room etc until you don't need to wait at all.

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 21:58:25

The "sitting with her" option I tried for about a month. Ultimately I had to abandon it because she just wasn't going to sleep until 10, I wasn't getting any dinner or time to spend with my husband, and she was getting more and more tired and horrible in the daytimes (yet still not settling at night). Add to that the creaking floorboards--the contortions and gymnastics of leaving the room were something to see. So it didn't really work for us, though that is what seems to work for most of the people I found when googling (which is part of why this is frustrating).

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 21:59:51

Yes! By the time I got to her doorway (kind of behind her and the door when open blocks her view of the doorway) she was getting up and down out of bed to make sure I was there.

odyssey2001 Sun 06-Apr-14 22:00:05

Bugger. Glad to have helped with the story idea. Let us know how it goes.

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 22:01:46

I will. I like the story idea (and at least it's a new thing to try!). I think it has potential.

MrTumblesCrackWhore Sun 06-Apr-14 22:07:05

I know you said music didn't work, but what about an audio book? You could start by listening to it together, next night start again but then say you need to go to the loo or leave the room for something and come back straight away, next night, make excuse to leave but stay away a little longer, etc, until she gets used to you not being there for most of the story.

Smartiepants79 Sun 06-Apr-14 22:13:23

Is it maybe just her way of winding down? The way some kids chatter to themselves. What happens if you just go and return her to bed.? No interacting just back in bed. Would she get back out.
Sounds like a bit of a habit she's got herself into.

Purplehonesty Sun 06-Apr-14 22:21:48

Does she have any siblings? Dd the same age went from happily settling to going crazy when left alone at bedtime and waking all hours of the night crying for us.
We moved her in with her older brother and now they chat and giggle at bedtime and drift off to sleep happily. She hardly ever wakes at night.
If you don't I second the idea of the audio book as then she may not feel so alone. Horrid to hear them cry isn't it so I hope you can resolve it.
Was giggling at the bedroom gymnastics and floorboards routine - we did weeks of that and watching dh tiptoeing backwards wincing was hilarious!

breatheslowly Sun 06-Apr-14 22:28:02

I wonder what would happen if you got rid of the cot so that there isn't any choice about where to sleep. I am not sure that bedtime is a good time to have any choice. How light/dark is her room?

DubBgoodToMe Sun 06-Apr-14 22:35:32

Haven't read other peoples replies so sorry of repeating. I stay with DD cuddled up until she's asleep. When she was teeny this could take ages and I was getting extremely annoyed but now I make sure she's knackered and she's asleep within ten mins. praying admitting that doesn't jinx it

I like that she goes to sleep feeling happy and comfortable and I get extra cuddles grin

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 22:56:54

I love the audiobook idea. If bedtime story downstairs doesn't work, I'll look for one she knows and loves (Stick Man etc) and see if that helps.

Returning her to bed with no interaction (a la Supernanny) was the worst of the options I tried. It seemed to maximize screaming (multiple times leaving the room) while also increasing awake time (I guess the stimulation of my presence even without interaction). I tried it for a while, probably a couple of weeks, hoping for the magic night when there would be no up-getting, but the upset was horrendous and there seemed no improvement in sight.

She does now have a new baby brother but no older sibling. That's part of why I haven't removed the cot entirely yet--I didn't want to cause a lot of big change in her life unnecessarily. But yes, choice is probably not a great thing; I hadn't considered that.

I'd absolutely love to snuggle her to sleep, no joke. It's not hugely practical as an option but would be so lovely if I knew she would just go to sleep within 10 minutes. With me, she won't, but she will with her dad sometimes (for example, daytime naps at weekends are easy for him when he just goes up and lies down with her; if I try it she just "fixes" my hair, makes "cups of tea", demands stories etc.). If only he could be at home every night for bedtime life would be easier.

I appreciate all the supportive comments. I hope I don't come across as dismissive of any ideas; it's just been 8 months so we have tried lots of stuff. There are great ideas we haven't thought of here, though.

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 22:58:32

And yes SmartiePants--it does feel awfully like just a bad habit she's developed sad

mangomom Sun 06-Apr-14 23:12:38

Sorry I missed one question: her room is very dark, which is why I added a nightlight, but she hates it and actually gets out of bed to unplug it. I'm sure I couldn't have slept without a nightlight as a child, but it doesn't work for her (not now anyway). HOWEVER I've just remembered her star projector thing, which needs new batteries. It's touch-activated and she might like having it in with her.

DubBgoodToMe Mon 07-Apr-14 06:06:22

My DD used to put herself on Her mat and put herself to sleep at nursery and then not sleep at night for hours. It was so annoying as it was purely habitual and routine. Could you all (you,DD and DS) snuggle in bed to get her to sleep? I suppose that still doesn't help if she's there for hours.

What time are you putting her to bed? I find unless she's truly tired, it's useless even trying!

There's no way anything would have worked with my DD. She cannot be left alone in a room unless she's too bust playing to notice.

What I started to do, instead of snuggling if I sit on the end of her bed and eventually start the whole affair slightly further away each night.

Nothing worked until she was truly tired tho so I don't really have advice. Just a sympathetic ear

SpookyLady Tue 15-Apr-14 00:56:08

It could be 12am before my lil one went off to sleep and i put my footdown when it got later and later. First thing i did was stop him from having the afternoon nap. My DS is 3.2 hes been going to bed at 7.30 since he was 2.5 it usually takes us between 7 & 10 mins . We sing a few songs which calms him and we lay next to him til hes off. What i have noticed is if hes late going to bed then he has almighty tantrums which also effect him the following day. The key is routine and keep it to the exact time even on weekends and holidays.

MiaowTheCat Tue 15-Apr-14 08:56:50

We have this little bendy torch figure thing on DD1's bed

You just press his tummy and the LED light goes on/flash/off plus it's got an auto-off timer as well so it gives her control over the light in there. She tends to just unhook him off the top of her bed and discuss the day's events with him before going to sleep though!

For what it's worth we do pyjamas and story downstairs and then straight up to bed via toothbrushing. Just how things have evolved for working best with us. Found story in bed was just a nightmare as she'd be making a bloody run for it and she does not like sharing her bed with mum and dad to have a story!

HearMyRoar Tue 15-Apr-14 21:48:24

I don't know how good her communication is but have you talked to get about reasons she might be afraid our upset on her own at night?

Its only that dd went through a phase of waking and screaming blue murder for ages and nothing would calm her. I finally realized it was nightmares. Her communication is pretty good so I could ask her about it and talk about what was scaring her (frogs and dreams about frogs mainly). We then had lots of conversations about things that seem scary but aren't and what she might do that would help if she saw a scary frog (she came up with tea and hugs). It took a while but she did get over it thankfully and I think understanding what the problem was helped us all deal with it.

Of course it might not be any thing so simple but worth a thought.

lonesomeBiscuit Tue 15-Apr-14 23:10:54

What do you to after story and before leaving room? Agree with poster above re easing transition being important. Our routine is stories then tuck up in bed with soft toy, lights off, then cuddle (me kneeling on floor while LO in bed) and sing lullabies then leave room. There is a set no of repetitions of lullabŷ as certainty is important Regarding timing of parent leaving room, ie it is secure and part of the routine not up for negotiation. But the cuddle and lullaby eases the transition and helps to get LO all sleepy before I leave.

mangomom Tue 29-Apr-14 19:47:42

Thank you all again! I missed the few posts after my last reply BUT I think they have good questions/info for anyone else who has a similar problem.

Storytime downstairs made no difference for us unfortunately, odyssey2001, but what HAS worked was MrTumblesCrackWhore's excellent suggestion of an audiobook. We now have absolutely no objection to bed; she says "I want Stick Man on the radio and leave the door open!" and that's the last I hear from her all night.

If only I had known all that was required was a bloody Stick Man CD! Oh well, thanks to v helpful suggestions I was able to find something that worked for us, and also new ideas/questions to consider if my son ends up doing something similar.

Hurrah for scream-free bedtimes once again. (FOR NOW)

Pushpantpush Tue 29-Apr-14 22:43:03

We had a the same thing when DD was about 18 months to 2 years. We also tried the letting her cry/staying with her till she fell asleep/waiting by her door and saying "mummy here" when she cried out for us
In the end the only thing thay did the trick was to tell her that if she did not shout out we would check on her in five mins. I'd then leave but importantly I would come back five mins later. She would normally be awake and I would just stroke her head and then tell her again I would check on her in five minutes.
It took a good few weeks but it got to to the stage where she would be asleep when I'd check on her after the first 5 minutes.
I feel your pain though. It was very stressful and hard bloody work but she will get there. Good luck! !

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