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20 month old just won't go to sleep! Help please!

(18 Posts)
weasle Thu 20-Aug-09 13:01:29

My ds2 has always been a rubbish sleeper. Velcro baby, couldn't put him down, hates pram/car, woke hourly to feed for months.

Finally (in the last few months) he sleeps through the night most nights unless ill or on holiday or the week or two after that (if he wakes i have huge problem getting him back to sleep, usually up for 2 hours minimum)

But it is getting him to sleep that is such hard work. He just doesn't seem tired, or sometimes he is but can't seem to unwind and relax and drop off. Usually takes 1-2hours a night of breastfeeding before he will sleep. I usually start feeding him at 7.30 and often he will be almost asleep quickly but then suddenly waken and be smiling and wanting to play. i think my supply has always been borderline, sometimes i wonder if he isn't getting a good flow and that irritates him and re-arouses him.

Often if i am desperate, angry and hungry i leave him in cot for 10 -20 mins whilst i get some space after an hour or so in a dark room, i find it very difficult. then when i return he will usually feed to sleep within 20 mins. when left in cot he sometimes plays and sometimes cries or both.

I tried CIO in desperation 2 months ago at DH insistence and totally hated it, seems against all mothering instincts and didn't work. he cried so hard he vomited a couple of times, and after 2 weeks was still screaming his head off for 30 mins every night.

I have tried to cut back his nap but doesn't seem to help strangely. he will bf to sleep within 5 mins normally at nap time and sleep for 2+ hours if allowed to.

last week was worst ever, he had 2 nights going to sleep at 11pm and 1 night at 1am. I need some time in evenings for chores and a life and no idea what to do!

TIA, sorry so long, hope someone can bare to read it all and respond!

crokky Thu 20-Aug-09 13:06:48

I would cut the nap out entirely. Both of mine are terrible sleepers. I am in the process of cutting out DD's nap (she's 17m and doesn't nap every day) and DS has not had a nap in the day in a very long time (he's 3.5).

I would also put him to bed later - 7.30pm sounds very early to start putting him to bed - I would not attempt either of mine until at least 8.30pm.

Something else that may or may not help (it helped me with DD a bit) is to stop breastfeeding at night and stop breastfeeding to sleep. If you continue breastfeeding, I would just do it in the day so that it is never associated with sleep. No falling asleep on boob, ever, unless ill!

weasle Thu 20-Aug-09 13:38:56


He's never managed to go the whole day without a nap as if i try he will not last, sleep at 5pm- 6pm and not go to bed at night til 11!

I am of course reluctant to cut it out as it is a bit of peace in the day and nice time with ds1 (also 3.5yrs, great sleeper thank goodness). But i think you are probably right and i need to try; then i might have an evening instead of time in the day which is probably better.

No idea how to stop bf to sleep. i try NCSS but no success. he will just scream for hours and can't settle himself at all.

sometimes i do try and put them to bed later, but by 9pm i am hungry and tired and cope less well with it all.

thanks again, will try things and see how we get on.

crokky Thu 20-Aug-09 18:44:51

I think stopping bf at night with a toddler is quite hard - I stopped at 13m with my kids, but I have a friend who is giving up night bfeeding with a 20m old atm. She is only going to bfeed in the day with him now - the only way to give up feeding to sleep IME is to go on and on until they physically drop with exhaustion.

Re getting through the 5/6pm tiredness, I have found that if I see the tiredness coming, getting out something that they find really exciting (like glitter to do glue pictures with in my case!) helps them through the temporary tiredness patch and then it goes away until they are ready to drop (for the whole night) later on.

Although both of mine are not good sleepers, only one one of them was a velcro baby and for those, I just don't think anything in the books works, you just need to go on until they drop, but work through tiredness that is not late enough.

thisisyesterday Thu 20-Aug-09 18:50:04

what time does he have his nap?
have you tried putting bedtime back a bit? or forward a bit>
perhaps he is getting overtired and that's why he can't sleep?mine are a nightmare to get down if they are too tired.

persevere with ncss, it helped us. keep doing the pantley pull-off.

ches Fri 21-Aug-09 02:25:39

I would absolutely NOT drop the nap. Overtiredness leads to horrendous bedtimes. It is far more likely that he's getting molars or canines and they hurt.

Pantley Pulloff never worked for me, but I didn't have to keep my DS up until he dropped to stop him nursing to sleep. He was older, and in 3yo clothes, so it was very hard, but basically I did pick up/put down with him and after a few nights of 2 hour bedtimes the bedtimes took less and less time. (It was him getting out of bed and me not having an established routine that made it take longer.) HOWEVER, stopping feeding to sleep made ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE to night waking, etc. It just meant that I had a longer bedtime every night.

weasle Sun 23-Aug-09 11:49:20


he goes to sleep so easily at nap time at home so maybe he needs it. only at home though, if we are out he won't sleep at all, so i am resigned to coming home every day for naps.

last night was horrendous - eventually got him to sleep at 11pm so missed most of the evening with friends here for dinner. All of this not helped by my dh's rather unhelpful and unsupportive attitude - he's is not a baby anymore, i am being ridiculous, just let him scream to sleep every night. Difficult as i don't feel i can really discuss this issue with him to come up with a better plan.

perhaps i need to be more organised at getting him to nap earlier and a bit shorter and see if that helps the evening.

ches Sun 23-Aug-09 14:31:55

I'm sorry you had such a crap time last night and missed your evening with your friends. My DH does come up with some corkers when things go pearshaped. His usual retort is "this is your fault, just stop breastfeeding him." Because deeply upsetting our child and giving myself mastitis in both boobs will definitely make the situation better. wink

biggernow Sun 23-Aug-09 20:50:28

hey weasle. i really sympathise- i used to have very similar problems with my DS. Infact, he was an appaling sleeper until I changed things at 14 months. Basically I was breastfeeding to sleep- he woke several times a night, then would get wind etc and it was SUCH a hard time, and being in that dark room can be so hard- and missing so many evenings, and the silly comments from the DH- I really understand- it can be SO distressing and turn the most sane person insane.
So, everyone is different but our desperate action worked beautifully and I wish I had done something sooner. First of all- I stopped the night breastfeed. I had been slowly weaning him and he had given up morning feed himself as I just didn't have enought milk. For about a month I would only offer bottle of cowsmilk and get him to drink that- the top him with Breast (or he would go CRAZY) until one day I got a whole cowsmilk down him and just didn't offer breast and decided that was that. He protested for 3 nights and it was SO hard not to give in- but I just HAD too- for SO many reasons and it was the right thing to do. Anyway, I then still had multiple night wakings and was a total zombie- arguing with DH etc etc- ghastly. So, decided controlled crying would be an option for me at this stage. Could never do CIO- am useless and soft- but CC for some reason felt for me I could do a softer approach, take it slowly and still make sure I was there to comfort and talk him through it. Anyway, first few nights were very hard but within 4 nights he was taking about 40 mins to settle and was SLEEPING THROUGH- AMAZING as in 14 months HAD NEVER. Then, he would go down no fuss for every sleep and every nap. Was a miracle for us. He was SO much more content too- and I started to feel normal again and things were better with DH and I felt like a better Mum if that makes sense.

I know there are so many people who hate idea of CC and I really understand that- it is hard to hear your child cry- but some people just don't understand the effect severe sleep problems can have on so many levels- the abilty to function normally, relationships with DH and family and also how if can effect your ability to be the best Mum you can- you can get so resentful and feel so desperate when you are getting 2-3 hours sleep a night.

For me it was a life saver and since then he has been amazing. We are having a blip at the moment but it's teething and age related (he is nearly 2 now) but I know I can get things sorted. CC dosen't have to be cruel- the child always knows you are close by. And I used much shorter times away and longer times in etc. It was hard but the results were positive all round.

As for stopping BFing- of course you don't want to get mastitis or distress you child too much- but doing it slowly really worked for us and although there were protests- my avid little breastfeeder was OK and we are still very close and he is a very happy little man.

Anyway, hope this helps. It is just my experience but I wanted to share it with you.

jkklpu Sun 23-Aug-09 20:56:52

Lots of good advice here. Agree that the key is breaking the link between going to sleep and bf. Is there any chance that your dh could do the bed-time for a few nights with you physically out of the house and, therefore, not an option in the slightest? Even after I broke the going-to-sleep-on-the-boob thing with ds2, he'd still wake in the night for a comfort feed (or 3) until we eventually tried me sleeping downstairs and dh getting him up, bringing him into bed with him and nothing on offer. Took only 3 nights before he stopped bothering to wake up. he now wakes up for the day any time from 5, which feels grim, but a million times better than multiple wake-ups every night.

Good luck.

jkklpu Sun 23-Aug-09 20:58:16

PS Do you read stories with your elder lo? Have you tried including ds2 in this routine and putting them to bed at the same time, or giving ds1 just one extra story so ds2 knows that he won't be on his own for very long? This was another major advance with getting ds2 to go to bed without a complaint. I think he just didn't like being on his own.

AngryWasp Sun 23-Aug-09 23:36:24

What's wrong with a lovely bfing-sleep link?

The baby is tiny. They cluster feed in the evening it is normal.

There is a wierd developmental thing going on at this age where life is too exciting to take proper feeds in the day so they only take enough to keep them going not to sustain them for long, - then, - at night time they are starving and want to feed lots. It's normal.

biggernow Mon 24-Aug-09 08:43:51

hi angry wasp- 20 month old not exactly tiny- I so agree that a little baby being fed to sleep is fine- but when they get to nearly 2, I can see why the link may not be the best thing for some!

weasle Mon 24-Aug-09 12:03:02

thanks all.

ches - ^"this is your fault, just stop breastfeeding him."^ these are words from my dh's mouth too!

last night getting him to sleep was fine, but then had huge row with dh as he again insists 'it can't go on'. I too am fed up (hence this thread!) but he is not really willing to help much, just says to leave him to cry and he will sleep eventually, it doesn't matter how many hours that is. I disagree, but then can't come up with a plan i like!

On saturday i eventually got him to sleep by lying next to his cot (and falling asleep myself - not a good dinner hostess!) so maybe a gradual retreat kind of thing would work. Regarding CC, i would find it hard to constantly go in and out as he wouldn't stop crying unles i picked him up +/- fed him. and i can't understand how he could get to sleep with all that cortisol racing around.

tonight ds2 was almost asleep when ds1 dropped a book out of bed and he woke up and was giggling and playing. i gave him some cows milk and he drank 125ml and was then sleepy and took the breast and sucked for 10 mins and fell asleep. i am quite upset about him downing the cows milk - perhaps my low confidence in my milk supply is justified? i am interested that you found similar biggernow. not ready to wean him totally yet - we have a 24hr flight next month, hope i can keep going for that.

jkklpu - the ds already share a room (at ds1's request a few months ago) and do stories together.

AngryWasp Mon 24-Aug-09 12:35:50

Oh I read 20weeks - sorry. Still a lovely thing though.

Could you try some cows milk in a cup before bed to reduce the amount of time/milk needed for the bf?

preggersplayspop Mon 24-Aug-09 12:48:17

Hi, this could be my DS. He falls asleep so easily at nap time but nightime is frequently a battle. I am also reluctant to drop his nap (he is 27mo) as when he doesn't sleep in the day he is just bad tempered and so we are all grumpy for most of the day and it doesn't seem to make a jot of difference to when he wakes up.

He has slept through a few times since he turned 2 and I swear it makes it harder, once you have had a full night sleep you feel resentful of when you have to get up again. I'm used to getting up a few times and I think them you are mentally prepared for that its a lot easier!

I have been reading the NCSS for pre-schoolers and toddlers which has a lot of the original NCSS in it, but is more relevant to my DS. Again I found it really supportive and useful. DS will now feed for a (long) while but I have been introducing an evening snack and a cup of cows milk and he is drinking a lot of that which does seem to help. I think my supply is low as I am pg so have been trying to supplement as much as possible with cows milk.

Last night was a success at 15 mins to get him down (as opposed to an hour the night before), but it was still 8.45pm before he went to sleep. I read to him for half an hour which seemed to work in getting him ready for sleep, he also had a late nap. I've figured out there is no point trying to get him down before 8pm (unless his nap is severely curtailed or missed) as he's just not tired before then. Up at 6am like a lark normally as well!

The other thing I reckon really helps, and I need to be more disciplined about, is cutting down his TV watching. Yesterday we really limited it and he played a lot more independently and I'm sure it helped him be more ready for bed in the evening. I am really trying to stop him watching telly in the evenings, but sometimes its hard when you have come in from a days work and you need a break too!

weasle Mon 24-Aug-09 14:30:19

good to know it's not just us with this!

i think i will offer cow's milk before the bf, but am upset as i see it reducing my supply and bf ending.

might get the ncss for toddlers i hadn't thought of that. my friend has lost my copy of the original one.

I try to tire my boys out lots in the day too, but they rarely get so tired they actually want to go to bed!

FuriousofTunbridgeWells Mon 24-Aug-09 14:35:19

Can't DH do bedtimes? I stopped BFing to sleep by getting DP to give DS milk in a cup with a story. I know it was mostly luck but DS was fine with it, DP and I could not have done anything harsh like CC or CIO, tried once at 14 months and never again.

Also DP would just sit in a chair next to the cot and wait for DS to go to sleep - at first this was a good hour... then gradually move further away each night and leave slightly earlier - now at 22 months DP tucks him in, says goodnight, gives him a kiss and says he'll be back in a minute - 5/10 minutes later and he is asleep.

Usually! <touches wood>

Still the odd crap night but that's alright when they're the minority.

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