Something happens with baby sleep in the second year. It all goes to shit, and your baby either just can't get to sleep, or wakes up in the middle of the night for a play.
Here's what I learnt from living through it, and how I learnt to cope.
I had a sleep hating child. Honestly I swear he was actually afraid of sleep until he was 9 months old. Then that finally cleared and for a month or so everything was great. Then 11 months happened.
I don't know weather anyone has written about a second year sleep regression, and I don't remember reading that this issue would go on as long as it did in the Wonder Weeks. But I do remember tearing my hair out night after night trying to get my son to go to sleep.
3 hours of rocking, and singing, and stories. Baby wearing whilst doing laps of the house or bouncing on the yoga ball. The car, aromatherapy, meditation music, acupressure, you name it - I tried it. One night in Rockhampton on holidays, after an hour and a half of trying to get him to sleep, I went "screw it, we're going for a drive". I got all the way to the beach and over half way back before he finally conked out. That's 80KM!!!!!!! Most of which was on unsealed, or one lane unlit roads. I have no idea how long we were gone for. The next week, we were visiting replies in Newcastle, and he was asleep in 10 mins before 8 pm every night and had a 1.5 hr nap every day. For 5 days in a row!!!! I was like "who is this child!!!!!?". Then our flight home got delayed. Sigh. We boarded the plane, he was so ready to sleep, planes are the one place he tends to sleep easily, then they discovered engine problems. 4 hours later, we finally get back on, he did fall asleep........just before landing.
anyway. I know the pain. I remember those intrusive thoughts of harming your child. I remember the times i thought "maybe sleep training isn't such a bad idea". I remember the eyes that needed toothpicks to hold them open, I remember the desperate bargaining trying to convince him to sleep, and the sitting on the floor in tears of exhaustion and anger with no one to be able to take over from me.
And I see so many people posting about the same thing. An 11-24 month old child who takes hours to get get to sleep.
So here's what I learnt, from walking this path before you.
1: If they are not asleep within 15 minutes of you actively parenting them to sleep, or doing whatever routine normally puts them to sleep. It's not happening. Change tactics. Your anger and stress levels will thank you.
2: It feels like it will never end, that this problem will go on forever. I promise you it won't. It *may* take a whole year to resolve. Not gonna lie. But it will resolve. By 2.2years we'd gone from 9/10 night being 3 hours of hell, to 6/10 nights. By 2.5 it was down to around 4/10 and by 3 it's like one or two nights in a couple of months. By 2 he was starting to finally show signs of self monitoring his tiredness. Going to the bedroom and pointing at the bed. By 2.5 he would say "ok" when I saw he was ready and said it was time to go to bed. At 3, he often asks to go to bed.
No sleep training required
Age does it for you.
4: Know your child. What are their tired signs? And (this is super important) how long is their sleep window? That's the window of opportunity between them showing tired signs and going into energiser bunny mode.
For my son, that window of opportunity lasted about 3-5 minutes.You don't have time to go to the toilet first, you don't have time to finish what you are doing. Act IMMEDIATELY!!
Because I know from experience that if you are off by even 1 minute, you'll have this on your hands.
Now if you are lucky enough to actually have a puppy. That might come in handy!!! Let the puppy wear the baby out!
4: Why it happens. One day when my son was about 2.5 he finally had the ability to answer my question. The question was "Why won't you go to sleep??!!!!!!??". His answer. "I'm trying mummy"
The reason I eventually figured out was that his brain couldn't switch off. Initially I thought this was just my child. He's the third generation to show the same sleep patterns and I have anxiety and often can't switch my brain off either. But then I kept seeing more and more parents complain about the same behaviour and always around the same age. So most likely it's developmental. Their brain can't switch off.
There were also two common secondary reasons. 1, he had a poo building. 2, he was hungry. Once those obstacles were overcome, then he'd go to sleep fine.
When I was in the throes of this, there was no such book as "The Little Rabbit who wanted to sleep". Now there is. I've used it, it works. I'ts now my emergency back up instead of the angry drives in the car. Yes it's hypnosis. You need to decide how you feel about that. Personally I use meditation and hypnosis as therapies myself to help keep my anxiety and stress under control. And I always planned to teach C to do the same. So I don't see hypnosis as scary. I do however ask his permission to read him "the special bunny book that helps you go to sleep" because hypnotising someone without permission is unethical.
If C was really upset about going to sleep and just crying and hysterical. I'd wrap him, with boob access and walk laps of the house singing, or bounce on the yoga ball.
If not: Play.
I hear you thinking "what play! surely that's rewarding them for staying up?" - think about it. If you - an adult can't sleep what does ALL the sleep literature tell you to do? Get up, go do something and try again later. Are we rewarding ourselves for not sleeping if we get up and go do some work, or write in our journals or get a snack? NOPE. We are simply not continuing to do something that's not working.
If you think it's a hunger or bowel issue keeping them awake then treat the issue. If it's most likely a brain stimulation issue here is the plan I eventually developed.
- If not asleep by 15 minutes. I would get him up, go to his room and he would play whilst I either rested or played with him. (I didn't have anyone to tag team with. If you do, this is where you take turns. One rests while one plays. Hey Dad......you don't get much play time in the day. Your turn.)
- set up a safe play area with the following. Red or orange based low lighting. Somewhere you and bub can lie down. somewhere contained so that they can't run all through the house. Somewhere you can make normal amount of noise.
- in the play area you want sensory play. At this age children are in a Sensitive Period for sensorial activities. Activities that wear out their brain, not their body. Now when you look up Sensory play on Pinterest, you tend to get a lot of messy stuff. This is great to include during the day, or as part of a Sensory diet before bath. But for "I can't sleep-itis" we want cleanish activities.
So Pouring, Stacking, Sorting, Matching, Finding, Classifying, Hiding, Transferring, Observing reactions, Feeling textures, and posting.
If you look at the sensorial activities specific to Montessori - they all achieve one of these aims. You don't need specialist equipment though. Just create an activity shelf set up with activities that do those things, and then let your little scientist do it over and over and over and over again until they have had enough and can therefore shut of their brain.
Some Ideas can be found here, and here, or by checking out Montessori equipment and working out what skills they promote.
Hi I'm Nicole