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A big failure, I've let my DS down and it's my fault we have a problem

(26 Posts)
fluffyanimal Thu 24-Jan-13 15:44:31

Sorry this will probably be a rather long self-pitying moan, but I'm just so down about it all and don't see how to fix things.

It's a sleep issue. DS2 is 3 and he's got into some terrible habits, and it's my fault because I've not been tough enough on him, so I've got a lovely rod for my own back.

So the first problem is this: for comfort, and for falling asleep, he sucks my finger. This started when weaning him off the breast. I did it with DS1, and he sucked my finger for a few months, and then decided he would rather suck his own thumb, and all was fine. I thought it would be like that for DS2. But he has shown no interest in any other type of comfort item, either his own thumb or a dummy or a cuddly toy or blanket - it has to be Mummy Finger. I Am So Stupid.
However, I know he can fall asleep without it, because when DH puts him to bed he falls asleep without sucking anything.

Secondly, we have to sit with him when he falls asleep. This is just our own fault, I never liked the idea of controlled crying and we've never been able to give it up. Again, Stupid Me.

Now this much I could have lived with, and until the autumn we would put DS2 to bed, sit with him for a couple of minutes, he'd be asleep really quickly and then that would be it for the whole night. But then he got a bad cough, and after that chicken pox, and both of these disturbed his sleep and I often ended up going into the spare room to sleep with him. This started a pattern of him waking up at night and coming to get me. At first I could take him back to bed, tuck him in, ignore any pesterings to suck my finger with just a "shhh, go to sleep", and after a few minutes he'd go back to sleep. But he began waking more and more frequently, so that eventually I would usually crack and either let him sleep in our bed while I went to sleep in his, or sleep with him in the spare room.

Now, he wakes up about 2 hours after we put him to bed. If we are still up, he'll just go and put himself into our bed, where we'll find him when we come up to bed. If he falls asleep there, I can usually lift him and put him in his own bed without waking him up. But if we are already in bed when he comes, then I take him awake back to his bed, and he pesters to come back to our room and/or to suck my finger. Ignoring him and quiet "shhs" don't work any more, he gets increasingly hysterical. Eventually, he will drop off, but sleeps very lightly so that it is a nightmare trying to get my finger away from him and sneak out of the room. Usually, he wakes up again within the hour, and the whole thing starts again.

I've tried having him in with both of us, but then nobody sleeps because we all find it too cramped and too hot, so I usually give up and go elsewhere. I've tried not minding about not sleeping in my own bed with DH, telling myself just to relax and that it's just a phase and he will grow out of it. But I do mind. I mind very much. I miss my husband. I don't feel at ease in a different bed. Also, it's affecting our sex life as we never know if DS is about to walk in on us (we've had some very near misses).

You're probably wondering where my DH is in all this. Well, he barely notices me getting up all the time, or not being there, and doesn't seem as bothered as me about us effectively sleeping in separate rooms. I've never asked him to get up to DS, because I know he wouldn't have the patience to sit there for ages while DS goes to sleep, ignoring his protestations. He'd either get cross with him, which wouldn't help, or he'd just cave in and let him sleep in our bed. But anyway, he wasn't the stupid sap that initiated the finger-sucking habit or the sitting until they fall asleep habit. That was all me.

I'm so tired. DS is tired too. My heart sinks as each day draws to a close and I know I've got another miserable night to look forward to. I don't know how to fix this. I burst into tears for no reason, and feel it's affecting my joy in DS2 who is otherwise such a delight.

I've thought about toughing out the crying and hysterics: I don't feel that's the right way to go, I don't want DS to get unpleasant associations with going to sleep in his own room.

I've thought about sticker charts: I'm not convinced, DS is so stubborn that I can quite easily see that in the middle of the night he will not care about a sticker or getting enough stickers to get a reward, he'll only care about what he wants right at that moment (sleep in our bed/suck my finger).

I've thought about making a camp bed in our bedroom for him to sleep on; firstly, there is barely any room and secondly again, I can see DS liking the idea during the day, but at the moment of night waking will just keep getting out of the camp bed and into ours.

Please help me find a way out of this. sad sad sad

fluffyanimal Thu 24-Jan-13 15:53:19

Gosh that was long sorry. thanks to anyone who reads to the end.

fedupwithdeployment Thu 24-Jan-13 16:05:33

It sounds pretty terrible and I am sorry you are having such a tough time. However, I think that you are right when you say that it is the way you have dealt with DS that has lead to the current situation. He is calling ALL the shots! I have always thought that the earlier you tackle things, the easier life will be in the future...and I suppose my mantra is "avoid making a rod for your own back."

I don't like controlled crying, but tried it when I was beginning to lose the plot when DS1 was v the advanced age of 3 weeks, I needed a bit of time to myself...and so put him down at 7pm so that I could have dinner and a bit of telly. DH was working away (for about a year at this point so I had no support). After 3 days he accepted that and learned to go down on his own. I think we are very lucky, but he was always good, and DS2 is almost as good.

You are a long way down the road, and I know you don't want controlled crying, but I think you need to remind him who is in charge. For the sake of your own health and your marriage as much as his behaviour.

Whether it is appropriate for you to jump straight to bed and controlled crying, I don't know - I hope someone with more experience comes along to help. I would suggest weaning him off your finger (stop and grow??) and a rule that he never comes into your bed. I think the camp bed would be a bad idea.

Good luck.

fluffyanimal Thu 24-Jan-13 16:12:07

Thanks fedup. I don't know what to tackle first, the sleeping or the finger sucking. I have contemplated Stop and Grow - if by that you mean the stuff that you use to stop biting nails, but I wondered if that was simply mean. Methods for getting rid of dummies, e.g. dummy fairy, are so much more positive.

I wish I could just take time off work, send DH and DS1 off somewhere for a week or two and tackle the problem, so that if there was crying and hysterics, it wouldn't disturb anyone else and it woudn't matter if I was tired during the day. But that's not an optiion.

ShhhhhGoBackToSleep Thu 24-Jan-13 16:18:31

We had a similar problem with DS when he was about 2, and a bad run of illnesses left him getting used to sleeping with us. I couldn't bear to do cc (plus, the issue wasn't that we had to be there to get him to go to sleep as he self settled, he just didn't want to)

We used a gro clock and took him to buy an expensive bribe he chose himself. If he could stay until the sun came back he got a sticker on the chart and we went downstairs to make whatever treat breakfast he wanted. When he had five he got the bribe. If he woke up we told him he could come in our bed if he really really wanted, but then he wouldnt get the fire engine and made a massive fuss of him when he went back to bed. It took about 2 weeks to get 5 stars, but then he suddenly got it and has been brilliant ever since.

There weren't any tears, and (as our DS is very stubborn too) there wasn't any "you must do this", it worked really well


Susan2kids Thu 24-Jan-13 16:28:20

The way out of is it to STOP doing it. Dont set up a camp bed. Behave like your don't put up with it. Yes he'll cry, thats because YOU stop and he'll stop other than that everythng fedup said

fedupwithdeployment Thu 24-Jan-13 16:42:25

Hi OP, I took the rod for back thing to dummies either (I had to think what the dummy fairy was!!)

I think cold turkey is probably the way ahead. You will have some battles ahead, but life will be a LOT better in the end. I do sound like evil mummy here, but my DSs (now 6 and 8) are lovely well behaved boys (not just me saying that - I nearly blubbed at parents' evening when the teachers were talking about them). Your DS will not be permanently damaged.

Tell him (when he is calm) that mummy's finger is not going to work. He is a big boy and he can't have it. If you think that is too hardcore, tell him that mummy's finger is a bit poorly (it doesn't hurt, but it has a funny taste so he can't have it). And then see what the reaction is.

Susan is spot on.

Almostfifty Thu 24-Jan-13 16:44:39

He's 3. You can leave him. You have to, for your own sake.

Start by sitting by the bed as he goes to sleep. Tell him your fingers are sore (put elastoplast on them at bedtime) but you'll be by him. Get some story tapes and let him listen to one as he's going to sleep. After a couple of nights, move nearer to the door. Keep on doing this till you're outside.

Start this one weekend when your DH can get up to him during the night, putting him back to bed every time telling him that Mummy isn't coming, she's too tired.

My youngest was like this, would only go to sleep on me, but after a week of doing the above, he went to sleep himself and slept through.

Ds2 was very similar. In the end we had to be tough and let him shout and rant til he learned we weren't going to cave... He was 3.7 when we got to th at point though. He still ends up in our bed occasionally though, he's like a ninja and creeps in. I wake up with him snuggled up to me! We have a huge bed though so I shove him over and steal a bit of dps side and it's grand.

Ninetyninepercent Thu 24-Jan-13 16:58:00

Its the sleep deprivation making you feel so down and teary. Don't beat yourself up about the choices you made - there's no manual and all you can do is the best you can with what you're faced with. I made the rod for my own back with my first DS - fed or cuddled to sleep, or with me lying on the floor singing 80s tunes until he got more and more awake and I got more and more desperate. But you know what....there are plenty of people who have fed to sleep or done all manner of things to get their DC to sleep and whose DC then outgrew without any crying. Just some don't. Probably best not to start the habits in the first place...but those methods were the things that felt right at the time - and it could've worked, just it didn't!

Controlled crying was the most heinous thing I could ever imagine. Plus mine had reflux so I rushed in (my rod was gninormus too!). At 18mo I did CC with limited success, then CIO with phenomenal success (after 2 nights remarkable improvement, 5 days sleeping through, 3 weeks later I wasn't a nervous wreck every night waiting for the inevitable cry). CIO and CC went against every fibre of my body, but I was so desperate by that stage. And after night 1...woke up fine, no ill effects. But the beneficial effects of him being happier during the day, me being happier all the time too, were plain to see.

Now....I'm not suggesting that's the right approach for you. You just have to do what's right for you and what you can manage. A colleague used to have a camp bed set up and had to hold his DC's finger all night, every night until he was 5 (and he and his wife are doctors!)! Grew out of it eventually.

At 3 he might be up for a bit of bribery? To get rid of the dummy (I think that was around 3 or so blush ) we had him give him dummy's to the dummy fairy and in return he got a special toy to cuddle. Made it sort of magical. Might be worth trying to think up some sort of Sandman tale where if he sleeps in his own bed he gets a special gift. Could even build it up in stages, like every time he spends half the night in his bed the sandman has left some sort of golden crumb (like a sugar puff....just something to pique his interest) and then he might leave something else small, and then something bigger to keep him safe. I don't know....maybe my DC are just slightly guillable. I remember him saying on day 3 post-dummy that he wanted his dummy back, but I said the dummy fairy would then come in the night and take his beloved toy away (felt so mean!), so he said he'd do without the dummy. Heard him whispering....I love you so much, so I'm not going to have my dummy. And was dummy free from then on! Anyway, might be worth something like that!

Good luck...its never an easy thing is it?!

stargirl1701 Thu 24-Jan-13 17:21:16

Have you read 'the no cry sleep solution'? There are loads of great ideas in there.

Tryharder Thu 24-Jan-13 18:17:16

I am reading your post trying to find anything that justifies you describing yourself as a failure as you do and blaming yourself.

Nothing you describe regarding your child's behaviour or your parenting would bother me unduly.

He will grow out of wanting to co sleep even if you tackle it or not.

If you are hot in bed with 3 of you there, then open a window, turn down the heating or use fewer blankets.

If you want more sex, then have sex with your husband downstairs before you go to bed.

I honestly believe that this is only a problem if you make it into one.

Ninetyninepercent Thu 24-Jan-13 20:23:51

As my lovely DM used to say to me (and I'll paraphrase for your situation)....'he's not going to be sucking your finger to sleep when he's at university, you know! Don't woooorrrry!'.

(DM used to lie down with my elder DB until he was 5 to get him off to sleep!!! Lol....I come from a family of softies! DB doesn't need my DM to get to sleep now in his 40s either!!! smile ) DH was always nagging me to go and have a night away to recoup my batteries and I completely resisted thinking he'd never cope and I'd just worry the whole time and not sleep. Finally went to bessy mate, went to bed at 8pm, DS/DH survived fine. You might not think it would make a difference but really just one good night sleep every now and again is worth its weight in gold for your sanity! Its really difficult to have any perspective or hope when the tank is completely and utterly empty.

HilaryClinton Thu 24-Jan-13 20:48:55

Oh My Goodness. Are you me...nearly, my 3 year old prefers to go to sleep with her hand in my armpit confused. And always, but always either ends up in our bed or I end up in hers.
CC/CIO cannot happen because we live in an apartment. So when I'm told 'you just have to' or it's equivalents my reflex thought is 'No I don't'

But I don't take this as personally as you seem to be. This little minx and her twin sister regressed very badly, sleepwise, when we moved home. The other one took six months or so to get herself sorted..and at one stage I restarted nursing to sleep for night wakings shock. She started sleeping through by herself though with no tears, all in good time, and at her own pace.

And this one will too. I definitely see that when the pressure is put on her to go to asleep alone and/or stay in her bed it just makes it worse. So I de-escalate and believe in her.

Some abject failures we've had are: star charts (and so so divisive amonst siblings); a camp bed beside ours; grow clock; punishment; telling her she has to stay in her bed; telling her to get into siblings bed and bringing back to her own bed asleep.
Some limited successes we've had are "I'll be back in 5 minutes." and sitting on the end of her bed.

I know, know this is hard. But both these kids will grow out of it...but pm me if you find a quick fix.

Smudging Thu 24-Jan-13 21:05:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Iggly Thu 24-Jan-13 21:19:01

You could tackle it in stages.

So keep him in his room by staying with him in there.

Then once he's used to that, stop the finger sucking. Take it out just as he falls asleep. Keep trying then slowly work backwards from there.

Then work on leaving him when he's drowsy by gradual withdrawal or by doing the old "I'll be back in five mins trick"

Shelby2010 Thu 24-Jan-13 21:56:18

Tell DS he can't suck your finger anymore because they are sore - put plasters & Stop n Grow on, just in case he doesn't fall for it. And get DH to put him to bed for a week or so, to help get him out of the finger-sucking habit.

I wouldn't tell him that you won't stay whilst he goes to sleep, instead stay for a couple of mins then make an excuse to pop out eg Mummy needs a wee, but I'll be back in a minute. But make sure you do go back, wait a few more mins then have to check the dinner, ask Daddy something etc

Hope you get a decent sleep soon!

fluffyanimal Fri 25-Jan-13 10:18:00

Thanks everyone for the replies, wise words and good ideas, especially ninetyninepercent and HilaryClinton who have been/are going through similar. I'm feeling more positive today as I got some sleep. Everything is trial and error, isn't it? I made him an Octonauts sticker chart yesterday, (only 10 spaces to fill), told him that if he stayed in his own bed all night he would get a sticker and when the chart was full we would take him to buy a special toy. He seemed really enthusiastic, DH bigged it up too and put him to bed, and I was full of hope. Like clockwork, at 11pm, there he was. I took him back to bed, tried everything not to let him suck my finger (Smudging you were right that stroking and shhing etc just didn't work). Got him back to sleep by 11.30. Back again at 11.45. This time I said to DH "You take him back, he might settle better with you" but DH just groaned and let DS into our bed hmm with strict instructions not to pester me. Well, amazingly, he dropped off straight away and so did I and we all slept fine until morning.

So what I'm thinking now is this, and do please all tell me what you think of this idea. If we can all manage to sleep well enough in our bed, then I'll put up with that. Hilary what you said about putting pressure on seems instinctively right to me. However, I think I need to start tackling the problem at the front end, i.e. the finger sucking in general and the staying with him at bed time. I am hoping that if I can get the actual bedtime sorted, with him learning to go to sleep by himself, then the night wakings will follow in their own time.

SquidgersMummy Fri 25-Jan-13 11:05:26

I would just like to say that it's hard. Being a mum is tough and we tend to do most of the work. We comfort children because we love them. Attachment theory is wise - new studies are all the time show how essential a nurturing mum is for prefrontal cortex brain development. (The bits of the brain we have and animals don't.) Evolutionary-wise it would be stupid to be a baby and let yourself be left alone overnight. Sorry I know its not feasible for many, but I just don't get how we are often surprised when children don't want to sleep on their own when they are little with limited language and comprehension. I just wanted to say I think it's easy to inadvertently set up a soothing routine that you later regret. It's sounds like you both did fantastic last night. Too much change too soon might be unrealistic. If you can cosleep WITHOUT reverting back to the habits you want to break it might help consolidate your gains. Don't give yourself a hard time. You've just done what you thought was best at the time. That's all any of us can do when we are bloody knackered. Hugs X

BR44 Fri 25-Jan-13 11:20:45

I don't have much to add in the way of advice, but I just wanted to say that I don't think you've made any stupid 'rods', I think you've responded to the situation by wanting to minimise distress and anxiety for your child and what on earth is wrong with that?

My DS only started putting himself to sleep at 2 (he is now 2.4) and for a while after that he slept through the night beautifully. I was utterly astonished, as up until then he had been a horrible sleeper and I had not had an unbroken night since he was born. Now he's started waking again and we do bring him in to bed with us quite often as leaving him to cry in his own room while we're all wide awake makes literally no sense to me. However, ask me again in 6 months and I'm sure the landscape will have changed again, not least because we'll also have a small baby in the mix by then. I try very hard to just go with the flow and follow my instincts these days, not easy when you're exhausted (4.45 start to the day today, for God's sake...) but I certainly don't waste time blaming myself anymore, and neither should you. Best of luck with whatever he throws at you next!

HilaryClinton Sat 26-Jan-13 08:46:12

Well we've had a very interesting two nights. On Thursday I was trying to write the above post after I had first got Twin1 to sleep. But she was in and out with me putting her back to bed saying "I'll be back in 5 minutes". Eventually she got into bed with her twin and slept until after six. Last night they went to sleep together (in an Ikea toddler bed!) and she slept until almost seven.
Just feels like she got it. Not sure how long it will last but she is very proud of herself and I am so much less tired.

yawningmonster Sat 26-Jan-13 09:10:42

ah yes, I have a ninja bed hopper too. Our problem is she is so stealthy that I do'nt even know she has popped in beside me until morning. I keep thinking I should do something about it but in the last 6 months it has tailed off ever so slightly so maybe one or two nights a week she has stayed in her bed and I have made much fuss. I am hoping that the more we make a big deal of her staying in her bed the more she will do it and we just ignore the rest.

That said we did have a need for contact to go to sleep for a long time. She just needed to be able to touch me. We did the gradual reduction method.
She started needing a hand on her chest under her jammas just rested there. So the first night I did the gradual reduction I said that my hand was there but I needed it sometimes to brush my hair out of my eyes or scratch an itchy bit etc and it needed to be on top of her. We gradually moved the hand to resting on the blanket to just sitting beside her to quick popping out of room to go to the toilet or check on ds to now when she goes in to bed, we tuck her in, we turn on an audio book and we leave and she goes to sleep. She is 3.9,

fluffyanimal Mon 28-Jan-13 13:26:42

Thanks for additional replies/updates. Hilary I hope you have cracked it! yawningmonster I hope you make headway with your ninja bedhopper. I'm finding that actually making a big deal of staying in his own bed is making matters worse with DS, so I hope this doesn't happen for you too. If my DS was a ninja and we didn't notice him coming in, I wouldn't mind so much.

My update: I tried to persevere with the sticker chart idea as when we were out shopping this weekend, DS spotted a Mike the Knight toy he really liked, so I said we would get it for him if he stayed in his own bed and got the stickers. But he clearly realised this was beyond him because he got quite upset. So I've taken all pressure off on that front.

But the attempts to live with all of us in one bed are not working, he simply fidgets too much, and he's getting up earlier and earlier to come into our bed. So I have a new plan! He needs to learn to sleep in his own bed, but clearly needs the comfort/company at the moment. Since I'm sleeping elsewhere from DH at the moment anyway, I may as well sleep in DS's room. There's a fold out guest bed in there, so I'm going to sleep there and hopefully reaccustom DS to his own bed/room. Then over the nights, I'll put my phone on vibrate under my pillow to wake me up at successively earlier points to go and finish the night off in my own bed and wean him off my presence in the room. Here's hoping!

waterrat Mon 28-Jan-13 14:49:44
have you read this? I can't specifically offer thoughts as my child is younger - but I did find the book helpful in one really important regard - it says that it is okay to want to sleep!

your needs are important too - and you will be a better happier parent when you are getting the sleep and privacy that you need. The comment above that it is not a problem to co sleep is unhelpful I think - it is fine cosleeping if you enjoy it, if you don't then it is not in anyone's interests to continue.

She also says you have to write down your aims - and break them down, so you can see if you achieve one thing - and that way you don't get overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

It sounds like you are wise to focus firstly on him staying in his room - if you made that your first aim, then you will feel you are getting somewhere.

Just a thought - (and remember only you know what is best) - but if he can fall asleep without the finger with his dad - then it might be good to be tough on that one. Crying with you lying next to him because he wants to suck a finger is not the same as crying alone in a room - I think the idea of saying it is sore is a good one.

Basically - the finger is a dummy - and people get rid of dummies the same way - cold turkey.......painful for a few days but remember it's not actually cruel!

TrucksAndDinosaurs Mon 28-Jan-13 14:58:33

Can you talk about it and do stories where people go to bed without sucking fingers? Peppa Pig 'the Sleepy Princess' and Peppa Pig 'bedtime' both show the piglets dropping off after goodnight from parents. Talk about how he is a big boy now,make a scrapbook of his big boy achievements compared to little babies - so when he was a baby he wore nappies, couldn't kick a ball but now he can etc and make sleeping without finger sucking a big boy thing and give stickers and stars when he tries it?

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