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terrified I am emotionally damaging DD with sleep training tactics, can anyone reassure?

(52 Posts)
Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 18:55:19

I will probably sound neurotic as hell which I am, a bit but having had a very cold and un-demonstrative mum myself I am adamant DD will not have the same experience. I've found myself to be much more of an 'attachment' parent than I ever thought I was capable of and my approach in all things DD-related is very softly-softly, letting myself be guided by her needs. That's just what works for me.

She was a diabolical sleeper until 13m when I (very successfully) did a gradual retreat form of sleep training, never left her to cry (in fact it was so gradual she barely cried even once!) and she is now 20, sttn reliably every single night and able to self-settle at bedtime (I put her into her cot, leave the room and she happily and quietly goes to sleep about 15 min later).

BUT we have been having a terrible early waking problem for months (5am) and it is having a bad effect on me, on DH (I am exhausted and get grumpy with him) but most of all on DD who is painfully tired a lot of the time, she is one of those children who doesn't 'make up' her sleep, she just gets more and more tired and sleeps less and less well and deeply)

I have spent months getting her into bed with me at 5am but she doesn't go back to sleep, she is too excited by having the cuddle, she fights sleep (despite yawning and crying with tiredness) until we give up and get up at 6.30ish and then she is falling asleep in breakfast an hour later.

In desperation I am now refusing to get her into bed with me at 5am and have spent the last few nights instead going into her room at 5am when she wakes, lying down on the floor, telling her 'it's still night time, night night' and feigning sleep.

So far this has also not got her back to sleep and she has SCREAMED about it. Pointing at the door, saying (in her 20m way) 'out, out' as in she wants to get out of the cot, and 'bed bed' as in she wants to get into bed with me.

My tactic is just to keep repeating gently that it's still sleep time; if she gets VERY upset I go and give her a quick cuddle in the cot and tell her I'm here and that everything is OK. But she has still screamed (intermittently) and I am losing confidence. How do I know she doesn't feel horribly abandoned by me?? That is the last thing I would ever want her to feel, having had a very detached mother myself. Yes I am staying in the room and making sure she knows I will stay until she is asleep and that everything is ok, it is just not time to get up yet. But I am worrying and worrying that I should just give in and accept the hideous early mornings, despite her chronic tiredness, because I don't want to solve the problem (if indeed it even works, eventually) at the expense of her trust in me.

Sorry for the long and rambling post but if anyone could give any advice that would be so welcome! I read a thread on MN the other day about people remembering being left in their cots to cry as small children (admittedly CIO techniques and not what I've been doing) but it has triggered this worry in me that i am doing untold damage to DD.

The logical part of me thinks that she is screaming through annoyance and frustration at not getting what she wants (to come into bed with me) and that actually, as long as I am there with her telling her it's all OK, there's nothing so very terrible about letting a toddler experience frustration, we can't all have everything we want in life when it's not actually helping us.

But the less logical part of me thinks she is confused and thinks I've abandoned her.

zippyandbungle Sun 23-Nov-14 19:07:50

There is a technique where you wake her before she would naturally wake, say 4.30. Hopefully she will be still too tired to wake up properly but, her sleep cycle will be reset so she will fall back and sleep a bit longer. It worked for my early riser and got to 6.30 most mornings. Dd was fine and us now a healthy teenager who I can't get out if bed in the morning.

Hakluyt Sun 23-Nov-14 19:12:25

If you're happy with bed sharing (I am- I think it's fantastic,) I would try to to get her into your bed as fast as possible- maybe even try to wake up a bit before she does and scoop her in before she wakes up. That might keep her asleep.

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:14:08

oh zippy, yes, thank you foe reminding me about that!! Wake-to-sleep yes? did it work well for you?? (sorry I now see that you have said that it did!!) I ama little scared to try it in case she wakes fully but I guess she is waking anyway so what the hell, right?

I should add btw (though I expect it's pretty obvious from my post...) that she is a pfb!! She also tends towards the histrionic in her personality type (eg falls to the floor with gried when Peppa Pig is turned off and screams for a full minute before getting up and carrying on as if nothing has happened) so although I absolutely don't want to minimise her feelings and pretend they're not 'real', which I know they are, her yelling at 5am has to be put in the context of the fact that she yells about pretty much everything she doesn't agree with, as though her world is ending.

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:16:20

Hakluyt, thank so much for post, I loved bed-sharing with her (did it for months and miss it) but for the last few months unfortunately it's been impossible to do as you describe, no matter how fast I get to her (sprinting at 5am!!) she is wide awake on getting into bed with me and just wants to play (until exhuastion kicks in about 45 mins later... when she starts screaming anyway it's just that I felt less bad about that because I was actually cuddling her while she screamed)

NancyRaygun Sun 23-Nov-14 19:18:01

I always read that 4/5am wakings were often due to bring cold or conversely from the hearing coming on and waking them, could this be a factor? For what it's worth I remember this with dd1 and we did try wake to sleep but I invariably slept hrough my alarm! She just sort of grew out of it tbh! not very helpful!

NancyRaygun Sun 23-Nov-14 19:18:52

BEING cold and the HEATING coming on - gah!

zippyandbungle Sun 23-Nov-14 19:19:56

Yes worked pretty much from the beginning. Dd was always do happy at 5.30 which made it worse as I was soooo grumpy, the guilt at not being happy playful mummy I was sure she would feel the bad mood and be scarred but thankfully after a week or two she was sleeping long enough that I was nearly human when she woke.

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:21:28

HI Nancy, thank you too - have considered the cold factor but it's a v tricky one to solve as she kicks off all her blankets in the night and wont' tolerate one of those sleeping bags (she gets tangled and infuriated!), I guess I could go in at about 4am and put blankets back on her... or we could keep the heating on all night for a few nights and see if it makes a difference... annoyingly we have very creaky heating (clicks as it warms up) which I have wondered about being a problem too... will have a heating brainstorm and see what I can come up with smile

Do any of you v kind and helpful ladies have any opinion on my whole neurotic is-it-really-upsetting her worries...?

Thanks hugely for advice btw

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:22:50

ah right, now I am thinking that I could combine two things here... wake-to-sleep and putting on a couple of extra blankets... if I can deal with my alarm going off at 4.30am it might work I guess... zippy, can I ask exactly how you roused your DD?

zippyandbungle Sun 23-Nov-14 19:27:45

Of all my DCs, dd is the most independent, sociable and the most loving. She was always happy to be left with, well, anyone to be fair. So in my experience she was absolutely fine, but it's perfectly normal for you to feel the guilt.

zippyandbungle Sun 23-Nov-14 19:29:54

Just a gently kiss and I would say "mummy's just checking your nappy/ warm enough / blanket" it was just enough to get her to open her eyes and shift position.

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:33:45

Thank you so much zippy... so do you think that after a couple of weeks of this she just sort of 'got' it...? tbh I think a lot of our problem now is that DD is waking at that time through overtiredness, I feel as if if we could just have a week or two of her sleeping to sane o'clock (6.30am would be fine) we might have a chance of cracking that, and also of breaking our current everything-too-early cycle. I know this is more stuff for the Sleep boards now but basically she has to have her nap at about 11.30am as she is crashing with tiredness all morning, which means she is awake again at 1.30pm (at best) and then we have to do a very early bedtime otherwise she has a bedtime meltdown through tiredness and the overtiredness leaves to an even EARLIER wake...

MonoNoAware Sun 23-Nov-14 19:35:00

I'm going to completely bypass the "is it damaging her" bit, and jump to the one thing that did work for my early wakers (disclaimer: it worked most of the time and for my children): early to bed. I worked out that my children only woke early when they were overtired (which then becomes a self perpetuating cycle of course). Bizarrely, when I put them to bed an hour earlier, they tended to sleep an hour later.

No idea if this is the case for anyone else?!

Also, early waking tended to coincide with development milestones, so might pass by itself soon (fingers crossed...)

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:40:30

Mono, I absolutely agree with you, in our case I think we have EXACTLY the same problem right now (hence we put DD to bed at 6pm tonight in an attempt to get back on track).

Her latest wake-ups have ALWAYS coincided with a good long daytime nap and come off the back of a couple of days of really good sleep.

A missed nap, an early wake, and we get locked into a cycle of the whole thing again...

The advice on here has been so helpful, thank you... a bit worried that I'm not getting any repsonse on the whole is-it-damaging-her thing blush which might be because people are being far too nice to tell me that they think I am (or because they think I'm just being hopelessly neurotic, I'm not sure which!)

But a huge thanks, this is all terrific advice re the sleep.

scallopsrgreat Sun 23-Nov-14 19:47:32

Why don't you get your DH to go to her? You'll get some sleep and she may behave differently with him.

scallopsrgreat Sun 23-Nov-14 19:49:32

And I think you are doing fine smile. She's also fine smile. Don't worry! (Easier said than done!)

NCIS Sun 23-Nov-14 19:50:43

I sleep trained my DD when she was 18 months old when she suddenly stopped going to sleep on her own after always doing that. I used CC, going back in every minute to start with and then extending it by 30 seconds each time. She reverted to a good sleep pattern within three days and surprise surprise she never looked back. As she is now aged 22 and a paediatric nurse with lots of friends and a very close relationship with both me and her Dad plus her brothers I can only conclude I didn't damage her emotionally.
She'll be fine OP, you're not abandoning her and she knows you love her.

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:52:45

scallops, more good advice thank you.
Iit's weird isnt it how you don't see the wood for the trees when you're in the situation?
Yes, maybe trying DH going to her would work. Certainly worth a try. I sort of imagine it would just lead to her getting more upset and more 'mumma, mumma, mumma" (for various reasons too boring to go into here I am ALWAYS the one who goes to her at night, did every single night feed when she was tiny etc, not because DH is a lazy arsehole but because circumstances just meant he wasn't able to do the nights) as she's just so used to it being me.
But absolutely no reason now why DH can't give it a try and we can see if it works. What's the worst that can happen, really?

MonoNoAware Sun 23-Nov-14 19:53:46

On the "is it damaging her" bit, it's one tiny piece of a massive jigsaw puzzle. You're there in the room with her. I spent many evenings sitting next to a cot, hand through the bars half-comforting a sobbing child. Felt awful at the time but, some years later (they're 4 and 6 now) I don't feel bad about it. I think it's called 'good enough' parenting wink

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:55:57

thank you NCIS (also you posted v nicely on my fire-fighters and Christmas cookies thread on Chat yday, so hello again!!), I know I'm super-neurotic here blush and loads of friends have used CC with v good results and their children are just FINE; it just never was an option for me I think partly due to my issues about my own upbringing. Hence all my tiptoey gradual retreat, which was a lifesaver for all of us. It's just not working for the early wakes and I am rubbish at hearing DD cry (which is hopeless because she does quite a lot of it!)

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 19:58:43

Thank you Mono smile
The thing is I work from home (basically I am trying to do a full time job in part time hours at the mo as I am home with DD, no nursery yet) so I need to work quite late into the evenings and I just can't be starting my day at 5am every day, I am grumpy with DD about it too which I know is even worse for her than a few minutes of upset in the early mornings. We may want to try for another baby soon as well and I just wouldn't be able to manage any of it with this constant level of tiredness.

alpacasosoft Sun 23-Nov-14 20:01:35

Is she wearing pjs with bare feet?

Best advice I ever had was to put them to bed in a sleep suit with socks over as well.
Bare feet-cold sheets = waking up!

worth a try.

Heels99 Sun 23-Nov-14 20:04:10

I would stop lying down on the floor, what is that teaching her?

How much napping is she doing in the day? Have you tried cutting day time naps down?
Have you got black out blinds

Emeraldgirl2 Sun 23-Nov-14 20:13:48

Heels, cutting naps is an absolute disaster unfortunately, she gets worse and worse the less sleep she gets. In fact this current cycle of early waking all began when for various reasons she had very scanty naps or too short naps for a few days and it just knocks her out of whack. I know plenty of children 'catch up' on sleep but DD isn't one f them unfortunately.
Her curtains are black out lined and anyway right now it is SO dark at 5am that I don't think light is the problem?
I agree 100 percent that lying on the floor isn't really working and in all honesty I think it it making her less likely to go back to sleep. But if I just pop my head round the door and say night night or go and give her a quick kiss and then leave... Oh my god the screams will wake the who,e street!!!

Good advice re socks! Will try anything!

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