2 year old hysterical crying at 4am every day until we take him downstairs. How do we fix this?

(52 Posts)
Swaddleblanket Wed 30-Dec-20 07:25:46

He is 25 months and wakes up every single day between 3.30 and 4.30 - on average it’s around 4am.

We think it’s a habit now because he’s woken at this time for a year or so. Give or take a few weeks here and there of waking around 5. But never later.

All the research and advice leads me to think the best thing is to treat his 4am wake up as middle of the night and leave him in his cot or room until 6 or as close to as possible,

However, despite being very prepared for this, he cries to the point of hyperventilating and he starts throwing himself around his cot banging his head in the process which gets him more worked up. If I try to pick him up to comfort him, he throws himself around in my arms so much I can hardly keep hold of him. The only thing he wants is to get up and leave his room, ideally to go downstairs.

I don’t know how to manage his crying and meltdown at 4am because it feels no matter what we try with him nothing works. Can’t leave him cos he just gets so worked up and scream cries continuously until he is panting.

This morning we have been up since 2,30 although he did sleep on and off from 2,30 until 4.30 but only in my arms or holding my hand.

He seems to have bad separation anxiety because he won’t let my husband near him when he needs comforting and loses it if I leave the room. And we have gone back to him needed to hold our hand to fall asleep, where previously we left him in the cot and walked out and he would fall asleep.

Not sure if this is factor in the crying but please help if you have any experience of this or advice.

OP’s posts: |
GenevaMaybe Wed 30-Dec-20 07:28:38

What’s his overall routine like?

Helpmummysleep Wed 30-Dec-20 07:29:21

I can’t offer any advice, but I had just come onto Mumsnet to ask a very similar question about my 8 month old who wakes every day at 4am and I have no idea why. Just wanted to post to say you’re not on your own with this one!

fitzbilly Wed 30-Dec-20 07:29:37

I can relate totally. So if mine went through similar at this age.

A gro clock helped. And sitting down and talking to him about what my expectations were and why also helped.

My name younge

fitzbilly Wed 30-Dec-20 07:32:21

Sorry posted too soon.

My youngest is 27 months now and I have to regularly talk to him as he has a few good night's and then goes back to wanting me in the night, needing me to hold his hand, screaming hysterically if I don't.

Good luck. It will pass. By three my older children slept through so it won't last forever.

Swaddleblanket Wed 30-Dec-20 07:39:34

His routine is

4am wake up
5-6am milk and breakfast
9ish snack
11 bottle and cot
Sleeps 11.15 -1.15
Lunch 1.45
Snack 3.30
Bath 6.15
Bed 6.30 asleep by 7

This is very new as I posted on here last week because I was giving him a 8.30 cat nap then full nap at 1ish meaning bath was 7pm and bed 8pm and it felt too late

I am broken honestly so tired all the time, so is he and it makes me sad. Some people get their kids sleeping 7-7 from 6 months and never look back and I do feel like I’ve failed him a bit not teaching him to sleep properly. We never did sleep training and only recently did a very gentle sleep retreat training which helped him self settle.

OP’s posts: |
ladygracie Wed 30-Dec-20 07:42:15

Is he hungry? Could you add extra food before he goes to bed to see if that helps?


Swaddleblanket Wed 30-Dec-20 07:43:16

I could try that as he wakes up and immediately wants to eat everything

OP’s posts: |
IRememberMySpaceBabe Wed 30-Dec-20 07:44:06

We had this with my DS, who is now 6. Identical. The head banging made me want to cry, you’d have to grab him quick as he’s just smash his forehead on the edge of the cot. His sleep was just awful - we used to call it the trifecta of terrible sleep because as a baby/toddler he napped for a maximum of 20 minutes, woke hourly at night, and was up for the day at 4am. Then he’d be so tired he’d have an unsatisfying nap at 6am or fall asleep on the way to nursery in the pushchair.

It was a hugely exhausting and stressful time so I do completely sympathise. He’s much better now (he started sleeping through at the age of 4) but occasionally he does still wake up and want to go downstairs at some ungodly hour (4.45am say), and immediately bursts into tears and sobs when we growl at him ask him to try go back to sleep for an hour or so - now he’s older we do insist he returns to lie in bed until at least 6am. But once he’s awake that’s that - he has never been able to go back to sleep again.

I never tried it but I do remember reading at the time that waking him half an hour before he usually wakes up can work, as he’ll fall back to sleep and ‘should’ then wake up later than he has been - but if it doesn’t work you run the risk of getting even less sleep. We tried all the usual things of white noise, bringing him in with us, but ultimately nothing really worked other than time. I really hope it’s different for you!

Oreservoir Wed 30-Dec-20 07:44:49

Was your dc waking at 4 when he was going to bed later?
If not perhaps go back to 8pm bed for a while and then he may not wake until 5/6 ish.
It will pass but it's shattering while you're going through it.
My friends dc hardly needed any sleep.

Zampa Wed 30-Dec-20 07:46:15

Could you limit his lunchtime nap? At around the same age as your LO, we reduced the lunchtime nap for our DD to only an hour as bedtimes were becoming difficult.

Swaddleblanket Wed 30-Dec-20 07:46:31

We found no matter what time he goes to bed he wakes at 4am, I do think it’s a habit now 😩

OP’s posts: |
GenevaMaybe Wed 30-Dec-20 07:47:35

I think he is hungry and overtired and in a habit wake.
So this is what I would do:
4am wake up -> treat as a night wake. Offer milk if necessary in the dark and then leave the room. No leaving the bedroom and no lights on. Minimal interaction.

5-6am milk and breakfast -> move to 6am earliest.

9ish snack

11 bottle and cot -> drop this bottle. Instead offer a proper lunch at 11.30 that includes protein such as fish or meat, and a natural yoghurt for dessert.

Sleeps 11.15 -1.15 -> push back to 12-2

Snack 3.30 -> move to 2.30 when he wakes up. Banana is perfect here

Does he have dinner? If not introduce a substantial dinner at 5pm, plenty of carbs eg spaghetti bolognese or cottage pie

Bath 6.15
Bed 6.30 asleep by 7 -> if he starts messing at bedtime then cut the nap to 1.5 hrs max

Iflyaway Wed 30-Dec-20 07:51:15

I would suggest Bach Rescue Remedy. It's magic! You and your husband will benefit from it too.


Amrythings Wed 30-Dec-20 07:52:32

I know you feel like 7/8 is too late, but at the moment 6 is clearly too early, and the poor kid isn't getting any dinner! No wonder he's up hungry at four.

Mine is 18 months and we try to do dinner at 6/6.30 (nursery pickup is five, so feeding everyone around six works most of the time), start bedtime routine at 7, bed by 8. Then he's up between 6.30 and 7.30, which is reasonably civilised. I mean he does have at least one 4/5am session a week but overall, he'll go 8-7 most nights.

Vindo Wed 30-Dec-20 07:53:09

My oldest had a phase of this. I agree it just became a habit.

I think we started giving porrige before bed for supper at around this age which helped a bit.

Swaddleblanket Wed 30-Dec-20 07:55:02

Sorry he does have dinner he has dinner at 5pm didn’t realise I missed it off

OP’s posts: |
AdultHumanFemale Wed 30-Dec-20 07:57:04

This may be way off for you as a family, but having had similar, very testing sleep issues with DC1, I wonded whether cosleeping might help. Would your DS go back to sleep if you came in to his room when he wakes and the two of you snuggled up together on a floorbed? Cosleeping in various forms saved my sanity but I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Best of luck, OP.

monkeypuzzeltree Wed 30-Dec-20 07:58:12

Firstly, be kind to yourself, it's all too easy to miss the obvious sometimes just when you think you've got a routine. One of mine used to wake up in a similar way and it was hunger, a total panic took over. I had to reduce daytime nap, have tea little earlier and introduce bedtime porridge- just a small serving after last milk.
Best of luck on getting some sleep for you all.

formulaquestion Wed 30-Dec-20 08:01:26

Following.. I am in EXACTLY the same situation. Fucking awful 😞

Cotti Wed 30-Dec-20 08:04:35

Can you post what he's eating and how much?

LutherRalph1 Wed 30-Dec-20 08:05:49

The gap between wake up and nap is far too long. The more sleep they have the better quality it is and they will sleep
More ( rather than them getting so
Tired and us thinking they'll sleep better)

My Ds is 3 in April and although he is about to drop his nap, this has been his routine since March:

Wake up between 6-7

Nap 11-1 ish sometimes more sometimes less

Bedtime at 6.45 and he chats away to himself for a bit, usually asleep by 7

There was a spell when he was up at 5 am and we moved his bedtime earlier by 15 mins and it really helped

inquietant Wed 30-Dec-20 08:10:34

I might assume they are hungry and try that. Or just set up a bed so you can sleep in their room or they in yours.

Some kids like to be near their parents, it's normal. By offering a choice of sleep alone Vs get up fully, you may be missing out on the compromise of 'all sleep in the same space'.

Breastfeedingworries Wed 30-Dec-20 08:14:05

If he’s waking and eating everything do you ever give milk in bed? When my dd used to wake at 4am when she was 7/8 months I used to give bottle. I had to wean her off as would worry it became habit too. I really stuffed her up at dinner and I (controversially) let her have milk in bed.

She goes to bed around 7 now with story ect, but i leave night light in give her book and toys and she listens to radio. Doesn’t actually sleep until 8 ish, wakes 8/9! She’s not made any noise yet grin

Most important advice I got was to make bedtime enjoyable and fun. If she wakes in the night she plays and sings. Also does your dc have a comforter? Mine has rabbits she’s had since birth.

Hill1991 Wed 30-Dec-20 08:14:51

My DS did this at about the same age got a proper bed so if he wakes up in the middle off the night or early in the morning we can get into bed with him and he generally went straight back to sleep till 6:30- 7am, only did that for a week or so and he stopped waking up until morning I think it was that he needed some reassurance that we were there

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