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Tears at bedtime - I need serious help

(19 Posts)
Zwitterion Tue 19-Jul-11 20:19:11

My 18 month old DD screams at bedtime. We have a good settling routine, milk, bath, story, then into her cot. Then she will cry and cry for at least an hour before going to sleep. We're in the room with her the whole time, soothing her, singing etc. It's so upsetting to see her so distressed and we're stressed too. By 8 or 9 when she's finally asleep we're exhausted and irritable and it's really affecting our relationship.

She's never been a brilliant sleeper and only started to sleep through at 14 months.

Any advice - I'm at the end of my tether.

Flisspaps Tue 19-Jul-11 20:22:17

DD did this before she started to sleep through - at 14mo, like your DD.

She screamed and screamed and screamed one bedtime and in the end I gave up and left her to it - within minutes she went off. The same thing the next night - put her down, she cried, I went off and she settled. It took a few nights to get it to putting her down and her going straight off, but she did. Whether our presence confused her because she wanted to play or whatever, I don't know, but leaving her to it worked.

I'd never ever have advocated CC or CIO before that point, but she was old enough to understand and something about us being there was keeping her awake and distressing her.

Iggly Tue 19-Jul-11 20:55:05

Does she reach for you? Does she want a cuddle?
If not, it's worth trying to leave her. Tell her firmly after a cuddle and kiss that it's bedtime, lie her down and then leave the room saying night night sleep time. You can always go back in after a few minutes - well DS needed 10 minutes although if he sounded really upset, I would go back in. Soon he got used to it and he settles incredibly quickly. I think being there wound him up unless something was wrong then he needed me.

ChunkyBrewster Tue 19-Jul-11 21:02:49

We had the exact same thing - our DD was never a brilliant sleeper and it got to the stage where bedtimes were taking HOURS. It was the worst because it's the end of the day and you are exhausted and just want some peace and quiet!

I also had a good routine: bath, bottle, bed and it drove me crazy that all the books seems to say if you have a good routine, they will go straight to sleep. Yeah, okay well my DD for one musn't have read that memo.

What I did in the end, was put DD down into her crib, then would sit on the floor. I wouldn't say anything, just sit there. She would cry and cry but because I was there with her, I knew she was safe and I didn't feel as bad as full on controlled crying. If she got truly hysterical, I would give her a quick cuddle or pat on the back. Each evening I moved further and further towards the door and she settled more quickly. It took a good week but it worked.

Hope you find something that works for you, I know how tiring it is!

sittinginthesun Tue 19-Jul-11 21:05:50

Exactly the same as Chunky - I moved a bit closer to the door each night, no eye contact. It took 10 nights to crack.

Stase Tue 19-Jul-11 21:19:51

We had the same thing with DS1 now 4.5. Like the first two posters we came to the conclusion that our presence was confusing him and left him to it. He was out like a light in minutes. I am not naturally in favour of CC etc, but I felt so silly afterwards for all the picking up, rocking, cuddling, singing, when actually he seemed to just want us to leave him alone and let him sleep! DS2 was a dream after that, really hoping DC3 is a good sleeper - it's the hardest part for sure. Hope she mellows out soon.

Zwitterion Wed 20-Jul-11 07:08:37

Thank you everyone for your really helpful replies.

She does reach for us and tries to climb out of her cot and if we leave the room she screams blue murder. But we can't go on like this.

I'm going to try the sitting on the floor and gradually moving towards the door approach - starting tonight.

Thanks again.

onionlove Wed 20-Jul-11 08:29:57

Hi Zwitterion,
I have also tried this technique and it improved bedtimes for us, I put DS in his cot and he lies there for a while then invariably gets up and starts monkeying around, if he stands up I tend to leave the room and then come back after a minute and lie him down and tell him its bedtime. I have to stand up as DS starts to cry if I sit down but at least it makes for a quick getaway when he does go to sleep. I find it much easier to do when it is completely dark in his room so although I enjoy the summer, roll on the short days when it will be dark at bedtime. He is taking about 40 minutes to go to sleep now which is a vast improvement, I'm hoping we can shorten that with time though.
Best of luck
Onion x

Flisspaps Wed 20-Jul-11 08:43:05

Hope it works for you Zwitterion smile

Sitting with out backs to the cot doing patting/shushing if DD got upset was something we'd tried previously without success - it's just a matter of what works for each individual baby.

thehairybabysmum Wed 20-Jul-11 08:58:27

Just a thought....can you put her to bed a bit earlier?

Also could the bath be stimulating her after the milk. At that age i would do bath/story/milk, so that the milk and sleepy cuddling that goes with that is the last thing you do not the first.

Im not into CC but would leave the room after putting DS2 down for a max of 5 minutes...i would time this with my watch. 5 mins feels like ages when they are crying, 9/10 times he would be asleep before the 5 mins.

He defo got over-stimulated as the other poster said and i think the rocking/shushing/soothing that i had been doing was actually making him worse. He would also go down at 6:30 most days as he was v. tired by then as didnt nap much in the day.

icd Wed 20-Jul-11 09:25:22

It might be quite stressful for a child to see his parents in the room whilst he is crying who are not reacting to him and sitting on the floor.... Would definitely say goodnight, then leave and come back from time to time to calm him down if needed. Good luck!

Zwitterion Wed 20-Jul-11 09:41:30

I just can't bear hearing her cry like this.....it's worse than newborn crying for me. When we leave the room she cranks it up again, it's just awful. So, I don't think I can bring myself to leave her to it - maybe after a week of trying the gradual withdrawal method I'll change my mind though!

EvelynBakerLang Wed 20-Jul-11 09:49:55

We have tried most of the the things on this thread and most of them have been successful (but then come unravelled at some later date due to illness/holiday/grandma visiting/whatever) but I have one extra suggestion...

We used to read one final story outside the door. It got us out of her room (so we weren't winding her up and over-stimulating her) and it persuaded her to lie down quietly so she could hear the story. Worth trying if she will let you leave on the promise of a story outside...? We read her a story outside the door every night from about 18 months to 2 years. We eventually managed to wean her off it and can now just give her a kiss and say night-night.

Iggly Wed 20-Jul-11 14:16:45

Honestly I'm not convinced by gradual withdrawal at all. Better to pick her up, give her a cuddle and reassure her. Otherwise it's mean (IMO) to just stand there out of reach.

If you give a cuddle to let her know its ok then put her down once she calms down it'll be easier.

Zwitterion Thu 21-Jul-11 07:38:34

Well. I tried the staying in the room thing, but she screamed and wouldn't settle at all. She was holding up her arms, but not for a cuddle, just to get a foot up so she could escape the cot.

So I said goodnight and left her for 10 minutes, she cried and cried, I went back in, left again, she cried for another 5 minutes and then went to sleep.

I am feeling really guilty this morning though, it was awful to hear her so upset. DH reckons her cries were 'I want to be up playing' cries rather than 'I'm scared and need a cuddle' cries, but I'm not convinced.

Still, it cut the crying down by 45 minutes at least, and she went to bed earlier.

Thanks for all your help.

Iggly Thu 21-Jul-11 19:20:41

Glad it was a bit better. I remember the first time I did this with DS - a similar age. Used to hate it but knew it was the best option. After a while I could tell the difference in cries much better. I also snuck back in once he was asleep to make sure he was ok.

sittinginthesun Thu 21-Jul-11 20:11:35

How did it go tonight? The other thing I used to do was to say I was just popping into the other room to put some washing away. I would potter around upstairs until he settled.

I also agree you pick up the difference in cries very quickly. It seems a long long time ago now - DS1 is 7, and still had tears tonight when I told him it was bedtime, but that was because he was watching athletics on telly.

Malvapoeding Thu 21-Jul-11 20:18:11

Zwitter - we had to do what you did, DD will just scream and scream if we are in the room with her but after 2 days (one of 10 mins then 5 mins and one of 5 mins then 5 mins) DD went to bed tonight with no fuss, a little whimper but has now been sleeping soundly for the last hour.

Zwitterion Fri 22-Jul-11 08:06:11

Thanks for all your support. smile

Last night was a little better. Really screaming for 10 minutes, went back in, then out and she went to sleep within a couple of minutes. We'll persevere with this!

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