Bedtime Blues


If you've noticed that I haven't been able to blog as much lately, you're right. A lot of factors are involved, but one of the big ones would be our new bedtime 'routine' here at the H-Haus. I usually do the majority of my blogging after Violet goes to bed. The problem is that since we switched Violet from her crib to a big girl bed our night time world has been turned upside down.

Violet's never been one to drift off to sleep peacefully at night. We never 'sleep trained' her for a variety of reasons (some related to her health issues, some because of my personal feelings), but she did eventually learn to self soothe. Sometime after she was a year old (and finally able to eat solids) she started sleeping through the night, and we were thrilled. While bedtime was never easy per say, she would probably only cry for about five to ten minutes at the most before settling down at night. While I didn't like listening to her cry, it seemed to be the only way for her to get to sleep besides being rocked (which I'll admit I sometimes still did on particularly rough nights, or when I wanted a little more cuddle time with my babe) Sometimes we got lucky and she'd sing herself to sleep or talk to herself, but often there was at least a little crying involved. Despite a consistent bedtime routine of bath, books, bed, she's not the type of child that gets calm and heavy-lidded before bedtime. Actually the more tired my child gets, the more manic her behavior becomes.

So while bedtime was never a cake walk at our house, she did fall asleep fairly quickly and stayed asleep until morning. Then we made the big switch from the crib to her 'big girl bed' and it was a whole new ballgame. Our routine was the same; the room and bed were not. Because of the style of her new bed (no boxspring) it was difficult to find a bedrail so we ended up dismantling her bed and putting the mattress directly on the floor. We placed a gate at the top of the stairs (which are extremely steep and dangerous) to prevent any accidents at night. She seemed to be excited about the switch...and happened. She just wouldn't stay in her bed. The freedom was just too overwhelming. She'd run out the minute we left the room, stand at the gate, and scream and cry bloody murder.

After nights and nights of sleep deprivation on all of our parts, we've pretty much tried everything:
  • Sitting on the end of her bed. She'd fall asleep but would wake up in a panic multiple times a night when she realized that we weren't still sitting there, and couldn't fall back asleep without us. Many, many, many times a night.
  • Sitting at the door of her room. She wouldn't even fall asleep because she felt the need to sit up and check to make sure we were there every few minutes.
  • The Super Nanny method of leading her back to her bed without speaking or cuddling her. She soon caught onto that and it became a game. Better to walk back and forth with Mom and Dad than not see them at all, right? 
  • We bought books about big kid beds and read them to her.
  • We went in to comfort her after five minutes, then ten, then fifteen, and so on. But it would go on for hours. All night. She just wouldn't give up! 
  • Offering to let her sleep in a pack n play in her new room (Considered for about thirty seconds before flatly refusing)
  • (In a moment of desperation) Offering to let her go back to her nursery and sleep in her old crib (A resounding 'No thank you Mommy, me big girl bed!')
  • Letting her sleep in her spot of choice - on the rug in her new room. (Don't ask me) (Lasted for a couple of nights before we were back to the same deal)
  • Gating the door to her room. 
  • Threatening to close the door if she got out of her bed. And following through by closing the door. (AHHH the guilt!!!)

Nothing worked. I felt like I was in a constant battle with myself. It felt completely unnatural for me to let her cry for long periods of time. Everything I read said that I shouldn't lay down with her - she'd never learn to do it on her own. Even a lot of the methods we had tried felt wrong to me - it felt like we were making the new bed into a negative thing, but really we just didn't know what else to do. We were just desperate. I'm guessing most people don't make the best decisions on two minutes of sleep per night. I know I don't. I feel like we've really screwed this one up despite our best intentions. This quote from Teresa Strasser on Mom Guilt pretty much sums up how I've felt over the past few weeks:

I feel guilty when I let her cry it out in the dark of night. I feel guilty when I run in to soothe her, because I should be letting her soothe herself.

Such a vicious circle. Eventually I'll admit we gave up. Exhaustion defeated us (our toddler defeated us) and we began laying down with her at night. For the past few nights I have been laying with her until she falls asleep and when she wakes calling for me in the night, Kevin goes in and sleeps with her for the last couple of hours until morning. It's kind of working. We're all mostly sleeping and most importantly we can function during the day.

I never thought we'd be here. But here we are. Co-sleeping in our bed just isn't an option. We've tried it and while Violet gets sleep, Kevin and I get feet in the face. And I for one can't sleep while being repeatedly kicked in the nose. What can I say, my kid is a thrasher :) (Apparently she gets it from me, or so my husband says)

One suggestion that we haven't tried yet is shortening her naps. She currently naps for about two hours in the afternoon. She is very very active during the day, running around with three other children around her own age and we keep her pretty active in the evening as well. She goes to bed around 8:00 PM and wakes around 6:15 AM (on weekdays). Sometimes earlier if she rouses before I wake her. I've also heard about reward charts, but I just don't know if she is old enough to really get that concept.

While our current method is kind of working for us, and I know that she will one day sleep on her own again, I'm just wondering if anyone has any suggestions, advice, words of support? How long does your two-year-old nap during the day? Everyone tells you that sleep is tough to get with a baby, but no one really talks about it with toddlers. Maybe it's just us??? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

xo, Lauren

*Update: Last night after I wrote this post (Kevin laid down with her at bedtime), she ended up sleeping until 5:45 this morning! Maybe she knew I was writing about her :)

P.S. A couple of posts on sleep + little ones that I've enjoyed reading lately: one, two


  1. I don't really have any advice other than to say that you are doing a great job! This is a tricky age (my daughter is just a few weeks younger) and you are not alone in feeling waves of mom guilt.

  2. Love your blog!!

    We just transitioned our daughter (a few weeks younger than Violet) to her big girl bed and I was filled with so much anxiety before we finally pulled the trigger. She had been sleeping horribly in her crib, climbing out, screaming, throwing things, etc., so we had been co-sleeping (not my cup of tea) for months.

    We started out by sleeping with her in the bed until she fell asleep and gradually transitioned to rocking her for a few minutes and then putting her in the bed awake. She is doing surprisingly well and sleeping so much better than when she was in he crib or our bed.

    I don't think that Violet is too young for a reward system. We use chocolate chips or M&Ms as a reward in the morning. If she stays in bed all night, she gets her reward. Now, when we open the door to get her in the AM, she immediately says "chocolate chips?". Obviously, you don't need to use food but it definitely motivates our little one. We also bought a Cloud B Twilight Ladybug which she loves to look at as she falls asleep. In addition we use a video monitor that has a talk-back option and if she does wake up we can tell her to get back into bed and go back to sleep without going into her room and she obliges in seconds. We were amazed.

    It is certainly a process but you are doing great. It will get better with time. I always have to tell myself that sleep is an evolution and has peaks and valleys. I just hope we stay in the peaks for a bit!!

  3. My oldest was a horrible sleeper until she was 5 and then she decided she was fine. My youngest still co-sleeps (he's 6). He goes to bed in his bed, but gets up and comes in ours around 1 am. My husband then gets up and goes to sleep in his (we have a loft space) so we can all have enough room. Its a little crazy, but it achieves the goal of everyone sleeping. I know one day he'll decide he's had enough of this arrangement, he's very independent in everything else he does and part of me thinks its because he gets the support he needs here rather than a push.

  4. If I gave my 5 year old the option of getting out of bed, she would be up all night. Your kids will play you if you let them. They are very smart and they know how to get what they want. But you know that getting a good night's sleep is what's best for both of you. Do not feel guilty for enforcing bedtime rules. Yes, she will cry, but she is not in any danger. It's okay if she cries. I know you are at work all day and you hate for this to be your interaction with her when you are home. It will get worse before it gets better, but if you let Violet know that she must stay in bed and that it is not okay to keep getting up and then enforce it, she will catch on faster than you think. With all of my kids (4) I have taken the approach of, "it's bed time. You are to get in bed and not get up. You may read in bed. You can even play with toys, but you are not to get up (going to the bathroom is okay, of course)." If they did, they would get in trouble. Usually, a stern warning was all I needed. I am not saying this to brag, but I have never had a problem with my kids staying in bed. I also have always shut the door. They know the rules, they understand them, they know I mean business. My kids napped until they were in school full time. I hope this doesn't sound harsh. I am not the type to give unsolicited advice, especially on parenting, but I truly felt for you when I read your post. That is exhausting and any time we go through problems with our kids it is very taxing because that relationship is so important to us. We worry if we are doing the right thing, if we are screwing our kids up. Don' let doubt creep in. Stay strong, You are a good mom and you can do this.

  5. We are going through this exact same situation with our two year old. We bought her this sound machine about a month ago that projects a rotating image on the ceiling:

    After we go through our normal routine we turn this on when we leave the room and tell her to count the stars, or monkeys, or birds (there are several projected options). This way she feels like she has permission to stay awake a few minutes longer, a little entertainment, and a little company. I don't know how long it will last but for now it's working. Good luck. I know how agonizing these last few months have been. Total torture!

  6. Thank you ladies for the words of encouragement and suggestions so far! Lots of great ideas that I hadn't thought of :)

  7. we had this problem with our daughter. I ended up sleeping for about 4 months on the rug in her room (messed up my shoulder and back like crazy). Than on a rug in the hallway, just outside her room (so she could see me). Than I sat in the next room (with lights on) and talk to her through the wall until she would fall asleep. Than she somehow started sleeping on her own. I don't know how or why this was happening, but we also tried everything and nothing else worked.

    I guess what I"m trying to say is, sometimes things like this happen, and sometimes you all just need to get some sleep, however that works out. Just don't give up the goal of getting her to fall asleep on her own. It might take months at a snail's pace, but stick to your guns, you'll get there.

  8. My daughter (same age as Violet) is still in a crib but lately has been having more flip outs at bedtime. We usually just give her a bunch of books and tell her she doesn't have to fall asleep, that she can stay up and read, but she has to be quiet. It works 50% of the time, she's usually asleep before the first book is done. If she continues to have a fit, I take the books away and say that they are privilege that she needs to earn by being quiet. I also sometimes yell "PLEASE SHUT UP!" and that goes over really well.

  9. We've had the same issue since going to a big girl bed and taking away the pacifier. Seems like you've tried it all, but how many nights have you tried each method? It is hard to keep going without results, but I've noticed most times we need a solid week of trying for anything to work.
    We've had the most luck with the method where you sit next to the bed until she falls asleep (quiet, no eye contact, no touching) and the move closer to the door each night. Then outside the door. Worked amazingly well for us. We've had to "redo" it after vacations, etc. (Actually, we are redoing it right now!)
    If she gets out of bed, you have to put her back in (no talking, no cuddle). I've put her back in her bed 15 times one very stubborn night. Feels like torture, but the next night is SO much easier.
    We were lucky for her to have always been an AMAZING sleeper (with sleep training at an early age), so this big girl bed revolt really was hard on us.
    Hang in there, she will get it!

  10. My daughter just turned two at the end of August and just Monday bedtime started to become a production (and never had been before so we're definitely going taking some steps backward it seems). I don't know if this has to do with all the changes going on with her or what (potty training on the horizon) - one thing I know is as hard as this may seem it will pass (hopefully soon). I hope your bedtime routine improves in your house - it is so hard.

  11. Ohmigosh I could have written this post. My little guy is 26 months and at this point we have his mattress on the ground and I sit next to him and read on the kindle ap on my phone for the 90 minutes it takes him to wind down to sleep (post bedtime routine). We tried losing the afternoon nap which in our case accomplished nothing but an over tired toddler who had an even tougher time going to sleep. Hang in there and know that you're not alone!

  12. Oh my goodness, I have this to look forward to?? Wow, that sounds awful. Like you said, you can feel guilty that you are 'not doing it right' all day, but the bottom line is that not getting sleep will not help do what you have to do!



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