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Toddler crying herself to sleep - hate it, but can't see another option

(20 Posts)
blushingmare Sat 29-Mar-14 07:34:54

DD (21 months) has always been a tricky sleeper and it's particularly settling that she finds hard. Up until now we've just sat in with her, or even just stood in the doorway of her room til she drops off. It normally takes about half an hour, but since about 16 months she's been sleeping through and doesn't wake too early so we really consider it a small price to pay and have never wanted to let her cry.

However in the last 2 weeks she's been a real nightmare. She's obviously tired and ready for bed, but we do the normal bedtime routine and hang around her room and she's perfectly happy, lying down and quiet, but still awake! As soon as we try to creep out she starts to cry. It's been ridiculous - she's often still been awake 2 hours later.

Yesterday for her nap and at bedtime I left her to cry. I'm a real wuss with her crying at bedtime, but even I could tell that it wasn't really upset crying, but even so it still made me hmm That said, it took her 12 mins to drop off at nap time and 8 at bedtime, even though it felt much longer.

DH and I both feel really sad about her crying herself to sleep - it just seems to go against the grain and we feel like we're abandoning her hmm. But I can't see another way - is there? I'm 35 weeks pregnant and can't be spending 2 hours getting her to sleep with a newborn to tend to!

I know there'll be polar opposite views on this - some who think I'm ridiculous for fussing over a a few inconsequential tears that are "normal" and others who think you should never ever leave a child to cry under any circumstances. I'd love there to be a middle way, but I don't think there is. We were already doing a form of gradual retreat and going back to reassure her every couple of minutes just wakes her up and draws the process out. I suppose I'm looking for some reassurance and wondering if she will get to the point where there won't be any crying?

rachyconks Sat 29-Mar-14 07:46:12

Stick at it. She'll be fine in a couple of nights. We've just had to go through this with our 16 mth old (DC2 also due any day now!) and after two nights she got the idea and that was her. It's horrible, I absolutely hate it. Me & DH just sit on the edge of the bed waiting on her stopping crying. Not talking. Lol.

tiredoftrains Sat 29-Mar-14 08:09:30

I'm sure it won't take long for her to stop crying - I had to do similar with DS as he was still waking several times a night and wanted stroking to sleep each time- no way I could keep that up once back at work! It only took a few days for him to start settling quietly and happily, and more importantly for us sleeping through the night! It's so hard to listen to, but stick with it, it will be worth it!

ExcuseTypos Sat 29-Mar-14 08:18:58

I never left my DDs to cry ever however I was very lucky in that dd1 would drop off after only 10 mins- so i just stayed with her and with dd2, dh would take turns so i felt it wasn't all on me.
I think in your situation I would leave her to cry.
You say her cry wasn't a real, upset cry, and as she's dropping off pretty quickly I would just carry on with it. However if the crying gets longer or she sounds very upset, I would go in.

You're just about to have a baby so if she can learn to drop off by herself, then that's for to be good for everyone.

cheekyfunkymonkey Sat 29-Mar-14 08:31:56

Of course there's another option. At 21 months she's perfectly capable of understanding things like bedtime. If the crying makes you uncomfortable why not try a grow click comes with a little book explaining that she sleeps at night (when the stars are on the clock)can get up in the morning. It'll take a few days but does work.

MissWimpyDimple Sat 29-Mar-14 08:35:46

Perhaps she is getting ready to drop her nap? She sounds like she just isn't tired enough at bedtime if she is laying awake for 2 hours?

blushingmare Sat 29-Mar-14 13:06:58

Thanks all. Helpful to have some support! She is definitely tired. Sometimes at lunchtime she's actually falling asleep in her highchair! And it's the same problem
at bedtime too. She has always had this amazing ability to keep powering through regardless of the tiredness and seems to get a second wind once she gets in her cot, no matter how quickly I put her in it.

Will persevere. Have just put her down for her nap and am next door - no crying yet!

DoNotDisturb Sat 29-Mar-14 13:10:24

It sounds daft but is she too tired? Try putting her to bed thirty mins earlier maybe? My kids cry and fuss when they are overtired and an earlier bedtime fixes it..

cheekyfunkymonkey Sat 29-Mar-14 14:24:25

If you are letting her cry it out and feel uncomfortable, you can always reassure her via the monitor, but make it clear that you won't be going in until she's asleep/ has been quiet for 10 mins (same difference).

blushingmare Sat 29-Mar-14 18:52:31

Ha ha! cheeky - talking to her on the monitor totally freaks her out - it really scares her! She must think it's the "voice of God" or something!! blush

blushingmare Mon 31-Mar-14 04:55:25

Oh it's not going well and I think I'm losing faith. I thought we were doing ok, with her last bedtime with me she only whinged for 2 minutes before settling. But DH has been doing bedtimes over the weekend and he can't seem to leave her. On Saturday night he sat with her for over an hour before trying to creep out, but of course she noticed and started to cry. I was quite cross by that time and made him leave her and it took 26 mins for her to settle. Then tonight he faffed around trying to leave but not just walking out for about 20 minutes before picking her up and bringing her downstairs. I then had to put her to bed and just settled her down and walked out and she took 32 mins to settle. It's still not really distressed crying. She's still lying down and doing a mix of crying and chanting to herself ("Mummy where are you?" - just to really pull at the heart strings!), but I find it so hard to hear for all that time and really worry that I'm doing her some kind of damage. Her life's going to change so much already when the new baby comes along and maybe it's just not fair to do this now after having never left her to cry and always been with her at bedtimes.

I really felt like she was going to get it before, but now I feel like we're being cruel hmm

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtle Mon 31-Mar-14 05:07:33

We found with our dd that sitting with her would actually keep her awake because she would constantly check we were still there.

So we now put her to bed, read a story and then tell her it's sleep time and that we're going downstairs to "do chores" but we'll check on her later. She fusses and I usually go back once or twice but tell her the same thing and then leave.

I agree with previous poster, the more tired she is, the more difficult she is at bed time. But sitting in with her has always been counterproductive....

carcassonne Mon 31-Mar-14 05:20:50

We went through a similar thing with our DD around 2. Bedtime had started to take about 2/3 hrs after previously self -settling.was driving us mad. Anyhow we found a magic (for us) solution.
I let DD choose online her own CD player. I spent about a week before telling her that on Monday she would choose a CD player and I think the jet to this was the repetition and advance warning.
She loved choosing it along with some story and music CDs. We then spent another week telling her that the next Monday the CD played would arrive and that when it did there would be a new bedtime routine: bath, 2 stories from us, cuddle then mummy & daddy would go downstairs for grown- up time and she would listen to stories while she fell asleep. We also added an explanation that it was making us tired and cross to spend all evening putting her to bed and that after 7 mummy & daddy needed grown up time so we could get ready to be fun parents the next day.
Monday came, made sure she went over the plan a few times in the day with excitement about setting up the CD player. Couldn't believe how well it worked - not a word of complaint, totally accepted it (after about 6 months of nightmare bedtimes), no crying, asleep in 20 mins.
She has been fine almost every night since and she just turned 4! grin
She does sometimes like the CD on repeat all night but sometimes doesn't use it at all.
Hope this helps.

carcassonne Mon 31-Mar-14 05:21:34

* the key to this not 'the jet'!

blushingmare Mon 31-Mar-14 05:33:23

Yes Teenage, I think that's the stage we've got to with her. Sitting in with her used to be helpful, but now just keeps her awake. I think I can recognise that, but DH is finding it harder, I guess because he doesn't do it as much as I do.

blushingmare Mon 31-Mar-14 05:33:55

Yes Teenage, I think that's the stage we've got to with her. Sitting in with her used to be helpful, but now just keeps her awake. I think I can recognise that, but DH is finding it harder, I guess because he doesn't do it as much as I do.

blushingmare Mon 31-Mar-14 05:37:29

That's interesting carcasonne. Did she really understand it that well at 2? I'm just not sure dd could really understand that much right now, but maybe I underestimate her!

TeenageMutantNinjaTurtle Mon 31-Mar-14 05:42:57

Ahhh yes, you have to both be consistent!

Whenever we go through a bad phase with dd's sleeping, we always decide on the strategy together and agree how long we're going to try it for... Say a week of not sitting with her etc. Then you know that you've given it a try and given it long enough to work (cause nothing generally works the 1st/2nd night) but because it's only a week, you don't feel like you're ruining your child.

I could never ever leave her to cry, so we had to try a lot of different things when she was a baby but there is a difference between 6month old crying and 2 year old just not wanting to go to bed!!

carcassonne Mon 31-Mar-14 13:58:49

She did understand but then she was a few months past 2 & v verbal. I think the repetition and preparing her over a fortnight was what made it sink it though.

blushingmare Fri 04-Apr-14 22:32:04

Thanks again for all your advice. Just had to update to say that for the last 2 nights, I've put DD down in her cot and she's said "Mummy downstairs", snuggled up with her toys and hasn't made a peep! It's nothing short of miraculous I can tell you - I never thought it would happen at all, and certainly not so quickly. She actually seems to quite like bring left on her own! Here's hoping it continues!

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