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I need your help with a clingy/non-sleeping 2 year old before I start to really hate him

(30 Posts)
NorkyButNice Fri 09-Oct-09 11:37:11

Apologies in advance if this is a long one, but I'm desperately in need of some advice, or reassurance at least that this too will pass.

DS turned 2 last month, and around the same time became incredibly clingy around me. He literally follows me around the room, hanging onto my trousers or shirt tails, pleading "hug Mummy" or "Mummy up". It doesn't matter what we're doing - reading books, painting, playing with Lego - he's got to be sat on my knee hugging at the same time or he's not happy.

If I'm trying to cook dinner (still fully visible from where he's playing), he cries till I come back into the play area, or follows me and demands to be picked up - obviously not possible while I'm opening the oven, or draining hot pans.

The worst time is bedtime. He's never been a good sleeper (he slept through for about a week 6 months ago and that's it), but things have just become terrible in the last month. We go up to his room at 7.30, do the pyjamas/brush teeth routine, but he becomes hysterical as soon as I try to leave the room. I've tried the gradual withdrawal method (sitting in chair in his room, then sitting outside the door, then in the next room) but it's not working.

Last night it was 8.45 before he finally stopped climbing out of bed after DH shouted at him. I'm then up 3 or 4 times a night with him during the night.

Part of the problem is that DH works late a lot, so DS is dependent on me alone most of the week (when he's not at nursery). When DH is around in the mornings, DS still insists that I do everything - nappy changes, getting him dressed etc, or we get the same hysterics.

I'm starting to hate the sight and sound of him sad. It sounds awful, but the constant whinging, along with having to get up to deal with him 4 times a night is making it unbearable. DH and I were planning on TTC from this month, but I feel like I've still got a newborn what with having to carry him around and get up during the night.

Has anyone any experience of the whining/clinginess and the nighttime problems? Should I just leave him to cry?

LilRedWG Fri 09-Oct-09 11:40:29

No good advice I'm afraid, but the experts will be here soon no doubt.

One thing I will say however is that you need a break!

Is DH working this weekend? If not, get yourself out for the day - just you. Oka,y it may not be pretty, but they'll be okay. Go shopping/to a friends/for a haircut. Anything, but have a day off and treat yourself.

LilRedWG Fri 09-Oct-09 11:41:20

And bring a nice bottle of wine home for you and DH to share once DS is in bed.

StealthPolarBear Fri 09-Oct-09 11:45:27

you poor thing DS was like this, has got a lot better recently, but I don't know why!
Can you maybe leave him for a day over the weekend with your DH so they have no choice but to get on with it? Until DD arrived 3 weeks ago I did DS's bedtime routine, and saw to him in the night, this has now changed and DH is doing more/ most of it and it's not been anywhere near as bad as I feared.

NorkyButNice Fri 09-Oct-09 11:47:24

I have to restrain myself from pouring myself a glass of wine at 5 at the moment! By 9 o clock I'm ready for bed myself, knowing that I'm going to be up all night.

DH is working on Saturday but should be around Sunday - I'll suggest he manages solo and see what he says!

LilRedWG Fri 09-Oct-09 11:49:08

Tell him what you've told us - that you really, really, need a break from DS. And plan something nice for yourself.

StealthPolarBear Fri 09-Oct-09 11:59:21

what happens if you stay till he's asleep then leave?

Stigaloid Fri 09-Oct-09 12:05:06

My DS can be like this sometimes. Doesn't help now i am heavily pregnant and can't always pick him up so i just say 'i can't right now - mummy's tummy is too big'. If he asks for cuddles when i am cooking i say 'i can't right now, i am cooking dinner and we can't pick you up but why don't you....' I then get him to do something, i have a very small play kitchen in the corner and ask him to do his cooking, or i get out some tupperware boxes and ask him to organise them, just giving him something do in the same room seems to work.

swanriver Fri 09-Oct-09 12:06:22

He sounds very overtired. Does he still have a nap; if not he needs one. I think he's waking up in the night because he is so tired.
I would do the opposite of LilRedWG - smother him with love, so that he is completely confident you won't leave him. If necessarily put him to bed in your bed and lie down with him at naptime. There could be a case for co-sleeping at night too, if that is not unbearable (fidgets can be hmm
Has something changed in his life to make him feel very uneasy? Is he used to dh being around more - all you can do then is make everything utterly consistent and reassuring.
Also, this sound patronising, but imo it is easy to let the child decide how the day goes - the toddler demanding what happens next. I don't think they like being "in charge". You should decide what you are going to do each day (in child friendly fashion) and let him know what's coming next, ie: walk, lunch, quiet time, play, tea, bed etc. You could do things at a slower pace that involve him, whilst making it clear that there are some things that grownups need to do as well as just play, ie: laundry, cooking, shopping.

I think they are super super sensitive to our moods, and the minute you find him annoying he will attach himself to you like a leech because he senses something is wrong. The more you try and push him away the worse he will behave, well that is my experience of a very demanding dd anyway blush.

Alicious Fri 09-Oct-09 12:09:46

Hi, mine's a bit like that too (22mo)! I am also in a similar situation- DH is at work day and night (chef) so all the donkey work is down to me!
I don't have a lot of advice to give, but here are a couple of things that have worked for me:
Bedtime: be v calm and quiet, have a proper routine so he knows what to expect-we do bath, bottle of milk and cuddle, teeth, story, lights out, cuddle, bed. You could also try wearing him out in the daytime with a long walk or a trip to the pool!
I don't leave my DS to cry for long periods at night but when I go to him I avoid putting on lights and taking him in my arms if possible-generally I stroke his face or back and it seems to settle him down.
For the clinginess I go with it to a certain extent-even when he's driving me mad- sometimes I have to take a few deep breaths and go to a happy place in my head to help me calm down but generally if I hug my DS back he ends up trotting off of his own accord.
When I'm cooking I just tell him firmly that I'm busy and put him on the floor, or I put him on a chair beside me so that he can see what's going on.
Other good thing to do is to pile on the praise when he does stuff by himself-keeping positive builds their confidence and helped me to see the good things about my little one-I was so stressed with him all the time that I wasn't enjoying our time together, and as soon as he started whining I could feel my whole body tense up!
Firm but loving is my new mantra!
I'll be following this post for more advice-hope I have helped a bit...

LilRedWG Fri 09-Oct-09 12:11:03

I do agree with the smothering in love principle too (if not the co-cleeping - I like my space) but I sense for the OP's original post that she really needs some space and time to herself to recharge her batteries first.

Alicious Fri 09-Oct-09 12:12:16

Cross-posted with Swanriver and Stigaloid-I totally agree with them too!

SeasideLil Fri 09-Oct-09 12:14:19

You poor thing, it's just so tiring when they won't let go of you for a moment. My daughter was pretty clingy around that age, probably worse than when she was tiny. They suddenly seem to get to an age where they realise how important you are and it's at a time when you think they should be getting more independent and so resist the constant clinging so they cling more out of fear and so on. Then you go to a nursery or playpark and see all the other children not clinging on and playing happily and wonder if your child is destined to be attached to your leg forever.

My few tips are: if you can take a break for a couple of hours do, but bear in mind he might just scream the whole time you are away and then you have to deal with that when you get back. You might be made of stearner stuff than me, but I found it terrible hearing my daughter sobbing after an hour visit to the shops as I walked up the path. So perhaps in the day at least, you will have to accept he's pretty clingy for now but that it WILL pass. My daughter was a clingon til the day she went to nursery aged three and never looked back. I also found my second really liked soft toys to cling onto as an emotional thing, does he have a special bear or toy that he can start to get attached to and can be taken everywhere? When you need to do cooking or cleaning, you don't really have a choice, I used to put the telly on and give them some raisins or a bowl of Cheerios or whatever (something that means they have to use their hands, ha, ha no clinging). Yes, it's bribery, but who cares? I do agree getting your DH more involved might work in the long run, but I'd start him off doing things like taking him to the park on his own for a couple of hours. If you just try to get him to do, say, the putting to bed when your DS knows you are in the house, you will just end up with a hysterical child. Hope it goes ok for you.

StealthPolarBear Fri 09-Oct-09 12:16:49

I sometimes think when it gets to this stage you just need to do whatever you can to make life easier for you and worry about long term habits in a couple of weeks when things will have changed. So if it makes life easier, co sleep, feed him to sleep (is he bf?) use CBeebies during the day if you need to...

NorkyButNice Fri 09-Oct-09 12:28:20

Thanks for all the replies.

If I stay in his room till he falls asleep, it's still a constant battle to get him to actually stay in his bed, as he gets out every 5 minutes to come and get a kiss or a cuddle. Each time he gets out I put him back in the bed without speaking to him - he'll normally fall asleep between 8.30 and 9 then I'll creep out. The problem is that when he wakes up he's then surprised I'm not there and starts crying again.

He never sleeps past 5am, and I'm normally so desperate for some rest at that point that he does come into our bed then - cue wriggling/fidgetting/knees in stomach as he climbs all over me.

He does still have a nap during the day - about an hour and a half, but getting him to go down for that is an equal battle. Often it gets to 1.30 and I'm still trying to persuade him to sleep, by which point I wonder whether to bother.

He spends one day and night a week at my Mum's, and he sleeps like an angel. Goes to sleep without a fight, and sleeps through to 8am. I'm glad he gets a good night's sleep there, but I could honestly cry at the fact that I'm failing him so badly.

He's a really clever, loving little boy, and I thought I was praising good behaviour, but I'll try harder!

At the moment he goes to nursery 3 days a week, as I'm doing work from home or attending doctors appointments (for an ongoing neurological condition) on those days. I could work things so he spends an extra day at home with me - maybe this would help.

He does love nursery though, and is thriving there so I didn't feel bad about sending him. Just don't know what to do.

StealthPolarBear Fri 09-Oct-09 12:35:21

Sorry, was just wondering if that was easy, but it sounds like it's not.
I wouldn't keep him back from nursery - I've found that made DS clingier when he went from 3 days to 2, although that might have been the arrival of DD.
Interesting that he sleeps well at your mums - DS didn't until he started sleeping better here. COuld you arrange to spend a night away to let your DH deal with him as I bet he'd be OK then too - it might break the cycle (or the two of you go away for a night and ask your mum to look after him at yours)?
You will be doing fine with the praise - I'm also trying to make an effort to do that as we seem to spend a lot of time telling him off.

bondgirl77 Fri 09-Oct-09 13:10:29

Norky, I feel for you, I really do. I've got a very early waker and it's the worst! Know exactly what you mean by wanting to get into bed at 9pm!!

You mention the word 'persuade' in your most recent post, what is your method of putting him down? How does it differ from your mum's methods? I think it's not an understatement to say that they will do literally anything to keep having your attention - and especially if you are the main carer, I'm like this as my DH is disabled so can't lift/help out in that way. My DS is very reliant on me for that reason. What has worked for me is exactly what everyone has said about routine, they love having a special routine. I also got a nightlight for my DS and from about 30 mins before bed I put it on in his room so it creates a nice calming light whilst we do the last nappy/read a story/get pyjamas on. Also what has worked (not for everyone) is leaving him to cry. It is horrid for the first couple of nights, but if he knows you will come back and try to 'persuade' him to get to sleep he will keep calling. I also never talk to my DS if he wakes during the night, just replace dummy, put on his Twinkle Twinkle tune on his baby monitor and 'shhh' him. Also have you considered investing in maybe a morning session at a local nursery just to give you a bit of a break? I know it's an extra expense but might put another angle on the separation thing - going to have some fun with little pals, playing etc. Good luck, it's so difficult!

bondgirl77 Fri 09-Oct-09 13:12:14

Sorry just read that he does go to nursery 3 days a week, sorry about that!

NorkyButNice Fri 09-Oct-09 13:22:42

Thanks again - it's nice to know that we're not the only ones going through this (although not nice for you obviously!).

Bedtime routine - he has his milk downstairs just after 7 and we read a couple of stories. Then upstairs to bed where he HAS to be the one who switches the lights on (he's obsessive about this - if he's not allowed to do it, he'll cry hysterically all the way through bedtime routine until he's allowed to switch them off again). We do nappy, pyjamas, brush teeth, then he gets a 5 minute cuddle in the chair with me while we talk about his day. Then I try to persuade him to climb into bed which he'll do if I then sit back in the chair.

At my mums they do the same routine, but he sleeps in a travel cot there and happily lets her lift him in, and falls straight asleep. She's never sat in the room with him so he just accepts it as normal I think.

As for waking during the night, he knows that there are certain things I'll go into the room for, eg if he says "poo" I'll go to check his nappy as I can't leave him sat in a dirty nappy. Or he'll say "cream" as he has eczema and knows I'll go to put more cream on his sore patches. Otherwise it's just "Mummy hug" over and over while crying.

My mum thinks I should just leave him to cry, and after a couple of nights he'll realise that I'm not going to pander to his requests.

Mumsnuttier Fri 09-Oct-09 13:35:33

I wonder if ditching the nap would help with the nights (though I imagine that you are desperate for that 1.5 hr break).

If it is any comfort, my dd hardly ever slept through until she was 2 and a half; then it was as if someone had waved a magic wand. She had always put up a HUGE fight at bed-time, too - an hour or more of yelling, crying, shaking the baby gate. That has all disappeared and now she just croons to herself and bosses her toys for a while, then dozes off. I have heard from others that 2.5 is a 'magic' cut-off, too. I hope you can last that long if so!

mumcah Fri 09-Oct-09 13:59:06

I don't think ditching the daytime nap will help.Basically he can't get himself back to sleep when he wakes in the night without your presence or reassurance,not because he's having too much sleep in the day.
I think controlled crying would help,but make sure you read up on it properly first.You do leave them to cry but go in regularly(which angers them cos you're not picking them up)and they learn this quickly.
Have a read of the Millpond Sleep Clinic book,very interesting reading.
Also,if you sort out his sleeping I think it may help with the daytime clinginess and he'll be a lot happier all round.

NorkyButNice Fri 09-Oct-09 14:26:55

I did controlled crying when he was 6 months to get him to take his midday nap. It worked well then, so I think we will give it a go.

It's the way he screams Mummy at the top of his voice, or worse "No Mummy" when I try to leave. The neighbours must think I'm killing him.

One of my friends has just had a baby (8 weeks now) who sleeps through. How inferior do I feel?

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I'll look forward to 2.5!

pigletmania Fri 09-Oct-09 15:06:33

My 2.7year old was like that in August, sorry no advice really she sudenly screamed like a pain scream when we did the bedtime routine thought it was illness, same happened the next night would take her to bed at about 8.30 by the time she had settled and would wake up at 2-am then i would eventually get her to sleep at about 5am by that time i was exhausted and like a zombie. She started to leap out of her cot so we swapped it for a proper bed and after about 2-3 weeks it peteredd out, dont know what caused it. She would get hysterical even when i was in the room and there.

Recently she was started nursery and has become a bit clingy saying 'mummy here' even when i am in the room, she is getting better as she gets more used to nursery.

amberflower Fri 09-Oct-09 21:18:43

I had something similar with DS at 2 - he is now 5 - I do think they go through a very very clingy stage at this kind of age and the odd disrupted night or phase of disrupted nights is inevitable. We used to have battles about DH doing anything for him, for example.

BUT - and I mean this in the nicest possible way, as someone who has most definitely pandered to my DS in the past (and present blush and is well aware how easy it is to do - I suspect he is also playing you up at bedtime. Your description of his behaviour sounds to me as if he knows exactly which buttons to press and so of course he is pressing them, bless him, because he's two and he adores you and that's what they do! But that does NOT mean you are failing him - it just means that you have unwittingly fallen into a pattern of behaviour, probably because you are exhausted and run down, which is reinforcing how he then behaves at bedtime and during the night. You have my huge sympathies, as there is nothing worse than sleep deprivation, but I honestly think that if you could sort the bedtime stuff then a lot of the other issues would improve.

The thing is that if he really and truly had severe separation issues then your mum would be getting exactly the same treatment - the same issues both putting him down and through the night - and she isn't. Which suggests that he knows how to get a certain reaction from you and plays up accordingly.

The other thing that stands out for me is the fact that you say he sleeps at a travel cot at your mums - and sleeps brilliantly - but in a bed at yours - and doesn't. Do you think this could be part of the problem? When did he move to a bed? Personally I am a big fan of keeping them in a cot nearer to 3, although accept this is not for everyone. Could it be that as well as the other clinging to Mummy stuff going on he is just a bit freaked out by the bed thing? And if so could you move him back to a cot (or borrow your mum's travelcot?) or if neither of these is an option get him a bedguard? I may be barking up completely the wrong tree, and if so I apologise...but it might be something to think about.

If the softly softly methods aren't working then yes, controlled crying might be your best bet; you are going to need to be absolutely consistent and committed to it AND you will need your DH to be totally supportive as well. The clingy stage will, eventually, pass, as all these phases do - but you are obviously at the end of your tether and it really does sound as if you need a break and some regular injections of 'me time'.

Oh - and whatever you do, don't feel inferior to the parents of the soundly sleeping 8 week old. Both my DS and my nephew were sleeping through the night at that age too, but this didn't stop both sets of parents having similar clinginess/occasional sleep issues at the toddler stage! Their time will come wink

Squiglet Fri 09-Oct-09 21:53:31

OP - I think swanriver's post made a lot of sense and esp the co-sleeping or even just moving his bed to your room for a while. He will grow out of it. Smothering with love will help reassure him. I dont think the CC is a good idea personally as might increase his anxiety. He does sound like he is feeling insecure and is likely sensing your feelings of claustrophobia and therefore clinging more (understandabley). He cant make sense of his own emotions let alone comprehend yours or your needs. Be patient (hard i know) and keep him close.

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