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18 month old sleep and separation anxiety- help!

(11 Posts)
Diggum Tue 03-Nov-15 16:04:07

18 mo DD's sleep has gone to pot in the past 2 weeks and I can't think clearly enough to know what to do.

She used to go down happily after bedtime routine- wave me off and settle herself to sleep. Might wake once for a BF or just a cuddle, but mostly slept through.

In the past fortnight this has gone haywire- she'll ask to go into the cot but then bawl her eyes out for me to pick her back up, and it'll escalate if I try to leave the room. Initially she seemed to be trying things on a bit, looking for one more feed, one more story, one more cuddle etc, but she now seems to be more upset than tantrummy if I leave her.

I'm now having to stay in the room with her till she falls asleep, and this is taking up to an hour. This morning she woke at 5.30 and I had to stay in sleeping on the couch, with her in the cot. Every 30-40mins she'd stir and call for me to make sure I was still there.

I've at least now managed to draw the line at bedtime and once she goes in the cot after her story I won't lift her out again, but I don't know where to go from here. I had been giving her a quick feed if she woke at night but now she's more or less demanding 2 feeds a night and I'm exhausted!

I did gradual retreat successfully with her at 11 months but will it work again now? She was NOT up for me sitting by the door last night- I had to be closer. And if I do try that should I be implementing it for night wakings too and ditching the comfort feeds?

I know CIO is an option but I've always shied from that approach as I felt if it was separation anxiety causing the problem then effectively leaving her to it alone would make things worse?

She's reasonable during the day- no problem with me leaving for work, but she definitely is my little shadow recently and more clingy of late.

Sorry for epic post but I could really do with guidance from anyone who has been here before. I'm happy to get a bit tougher but want to be sure I'm doing the right thing!

mintbiscuit Tue 03-Nov-15 20:59:58

18 month sleep regression! Mine went through this. Assuming napping is ok during the day so no overtiredness?

mintbiscuit Tue 03-Nov-15 21:05:45

Oh and meant to add that it wasn't separation anxiety for us. It was more that they had got to the stage of 'protesting' and asserting themselves.

Mummamayhem Tue 03-Nov-15 21:06:22

I think you're right that if it's separation anxiety CIO is not the right decision.

Having just experienced it myself (although not such a shock as he's always been a very clingy baby and bad sleeper) I'd say to go to her, reassure her but offer her no incentive to keep waking - no feeds/cuddles etc just tuck her in and shhhh her briefly then escape as quickly as possible (I also ended up sitting next to DS silently willing him to go back to sleep on a few occasions) he is now sleeping through the night long may it last!

Diggum Tue 03-Nov-15 22:25:23

Ah crap. I just posted a reply and lost the bloody thing!

Thanks for the replies though and yes, it does seem it is more a battle of wills than separation anxiety. 18month regression eh? Well that's a kick in the teeth! Just when you think you've escaped to sleep-through-the-night City.

Having spoken to DH I made a more firm plan than I ever thought I could cope with prior to this.

I explained to DD she'd be falling asleep on her own tonight after a lovely feed and a lovely story etc etc but that I'd be just downstairs. And that there'd be no booby if she woke in the night.

No idea if she took much from that but I think she did as her response was "No!".

So when the time came I popped her in the cot and left with door ajar and she kicked right off. DH came to retrieve me after a minute or so of me "pottering" outside and calling to reassure her which only seemed to inflame the crying.

I sat listening to her crying from downstairs and decided I'd go back up to pat and reassure her very briefly in exactly 2 minutes. She fell asleep before I could.

Thank Jebus! But God the guilt! Still, it does feel like the right decision for us.

I realise this is merely round 1 but I was relieved it wasn't as traumatic as I anticipated. I feel I have a plan I can stick to now and I'm going to love-bomb her big time tomorrow to salve my conscience.

Have to get through the night first though! Fingers crossed.

mintbiscuit Tue 03-Nov-15 23:05:43

Keep us posted and good luck! smile

appletree100 Thu 05-Nov-15 12:44:59

Going to try this with my 16 month old xxxx I resorted to bringing her to bed with me the past month coz her sleeping has gone to pot also.

Love and Luck - keep us posted

Diggum Thu 05-Nov-15 21:40:50

Well, night three and the bedtime's are definitely improving.

After that last post she slept till 5.30am. I went into her and she seemed to accept just being cuddled but when I put her back down the crying started. If DH hadn't been there I totally would have caved.
She cried for 8 minutes (yes, I counted every second.), then paused for 4 minutes, then started again for maybe another 4 or 5 minutes with some gaps as she was obviously fighting exhaustion. It all lasted about 20 minutes total but it was hell.

About 20 mins later she woke and cried again but settled that time within 5 minutes without me going in.

She woke for the day at 7.30 bright and cheery as anything. I was wracked with guilt but felt I now had to stick to my guns!

Last night she agreed to go in to her cot but then did cry when I left. Not as intense as the first night and she settled after maybe 5 minutes. Phew!

But she seemed to have figured out that prolonged crying was fruitless so instead she went for frequent wakes. Four in total through the night. I went in, picked up and cuddled or patted her while in the cot, Gave some words of reassurance and left. She didn't cry at all the first time, then cried briefly the next time, then for about 5 mins the third time, and less the last time.

I was tired but much less emotionally drained this morning!

Tonight the bedtime routine was lovely and she actually waved me goodbye, but then recollected herself and had a cry. It lasted till I got downstairs and put the kettle on.

Nothing since but I'm reserving judgement till we get through tonight. Going to try to keep her in the cot tonight and keep the visits very brief and boring but still let her know I'm there.

I still can't quite believe it's come to this after over a year of being a complete softy with her, and having it eventually work, but the element of toddler assertiveness and boundary testing has been a game-changer this time.

Sorry for another epic post. Will keep you updated and good luck to you appletree!

Diggum Thu 05-Nov-15 21:42:14

Errant apostrophe in the first line!

I'm clearly still tiredshock

Queendedede Fri 06-Nov-15 08:08:12

I'm going through this with my 18mo, he goes to bed like a dream and settles without me but waking 4+ times a night calling 'Mummy, where is Mummy, where has Mummy gone?' I can go in, tuck him in and he will go to sleep again but wake up a short while later (sometimes only 30 minutes but usually 2hrs) and the whole thing repeats itself. I'm not sure what to do to help? He will not accept DH at all. He is like it in the day as well, if I'm not there he is looking for me. He has never been a good sleeper, but this is something else!

Diggum Fri 06-Nov-15 16:02:52

It's a tough one Queendedede. My DD is definitely more clingy of late too.

My baby monitor is on the blink at the minute but DD used to settle if I just spoke to her over the intercom- "Mummy's here. Sleepy time pet" etc. It was still a form of settling but didn't require me getting out of bed! Like your DS she was a star for going to sleep in the first place.

She woke once last night and I heard her calling but I just decided to sit tight for a minute or two and lo and behold she settled herself. Might be worth deciding on a set amount of time you'll stall going into him for and see if he might just sort himself out.

I've also been leaving some books at the end of DD's bed in recent months and they'll usually have been moved about by morning so I suspect she was sometimes having a flick and settling back to sleep in my absence.

I'm also playing lots of hide and seek with her in the daytime now so she gets the "I'm here even when you can't see me" message, and just generally giving her lots of unasked for cuddles, requesting kisses and cuddles from her when she's pottering so she gets a chance to deny me and I roll around dramatically on the floor "but pleeeeeease, I love DD cuddles!!"

The things we do, eh?!

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