Help – My Toddler Keeps Waking During The Night
It happens to the best of us. You think you’ve got over the sleepless nights, with baby finally sleeping through, lulling us into this false sense of security. When suddenly, wham! Your baby becomes a toddler and the sleepless nights start up all over again.
It’s completely normal for toddlers to have a sleep regression at this age. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest for parents to deal with (sorry!).
What does 'sleep regression' mean?
Sleep regression refers to when a baby or toddler, who’s been sleeping well, suddenly starts to wake up frequently at night. They can also start refusing to nap during the day. Joy! This can last for up to six weeks, however it completely depends on your child and also how you, the parent, deal with this regression.
Sleep regression is heavily connected to your baby’s mental and physical development. Toddlers of this age are going through an awful lot and, unfortunately, it can have a negative impact on their sleep routine. Put yourself in their shoes – when you are going through lots of change in your personal life or work is challenging you mentally, you might have a sleepless night or two.
Teething could also be partially to blame. Toddlers cut their four canine teeth around 18 months, along with their first molars. The discomfort from this can certainly lead to a broken night’s sleep.
Toddlers are extremely independent little creatures. They are their own little person and like to think that they make the rules. Their growing independence can lead to a newfound confidence which could see them downright refusing to sleep when you would like them too. It’s this defiant behaviour that makes this sleep regression the hardest to handle. You’re not battling a cooing little baby anymore; you’re battling an opinionated, independent little person!
Separation anxiety could also be a factor. Your toddler may resist naps because he doesn’t want to be away from you. His hysterical crying at 3am could be down to the fact that he has woken up and you’re not there with him.
Is there anything I can do about it?
One of our moms left a message on our Facebook page, asking for advice with her son's night-time waking:
I have a 16-month-old boy. He goes to sleep every night without any problems at 7pm. He then wakes every night around 11pm and will not settle back to sleep. We ended up bringing him into our bed and he would go straight back to sleep. It’s a bad habit, I know, but both myself and my husband work and would just do anything to get sleep. He has now also started waking up around 4am and he twists and turns and moans and groans for about an hour and then eventually falls back to sleep. Please does anyone have any advice or suggestions to help us get him back into the routine of sleeping in his cot all night?
We had some great feedback and advice from the eumom community, so here is a selection to help other moms dealing with the same issue.
Advice from moms:
"There is nothing wrong with co-sleeping if done safely. I co-slept with my daughter and she went into her own bed just fine and slept through the night. If it means you all get sleep, then do it."
"We were co-sleeping with our little girl, but after we got a nasty fright – couldn’t find daughter in the morning, found her at the bottom of the bed, under the duvet – we decided enough was enough. It took over a week to get her back in her cot, but it was worth it. Each time she wakes up crying or screaming, one of us goes in to her room. We quietly tell her it’s bed time and that it's time to close her eyes and go to sleep. We don't wait for her to calm down; we walk out of the room immediately. We wait for five minutes and go back in and do the same. Wait 7 minutes, then 9 minutes and so on. The first two nights, she screamed like she was dying. It took two and a half hours the second night. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But at least now she can sleep a full night. She is so much happier during the day. She’s less crabby and she smiles and talks more."
"Our little boy went through the same thing at 15 months. We would take him into the bed as well. Then we decided we had to try train him to sleep all night. The first night he woke up, we went into him told him it was bedtime and that he needed to go back to sleep. We left the room and he cried for about an hour and then fell off to sleep. We only went into him once. The following night, we did the same thing. We went in and told him it was bedtime and gave him a hug, and then we walked out of the room. He cried for about 45 minutes and then he went to sleep. We kept going with this and on the fourth night he slept all night. He is now 19 months and sleeps from 7.30pm to 7am. Hopefully this will work for you. They say it takes one night to make a habit and three nights to break it. Good luck!"
"The tough love and cry out methods make my stomach turn. Maybe co-sleeping is the way to go. Trust me, many families do it. You should look up a book called The No Cry Sleep Solution. You should maybe read up on the criticism of the cry out method. I am a believer of information; you want to know exactly what you are doing to your child before you show some tough love."
"Maybe get him a bed with a bed-guard? He might feel restricted in the cot after being in your bed."
"I know what you're going through. We went through it twice! We did whatever we could to get sleep as we both work. My husband would get out of bed to make more room for a busy night with the toddler. We now have two girls that sleep on their own through the night."
"It is tough love and I hated doing it, but going in and telling them it is bed time and leaving them to cry it out for two or three nights does work. They will get into a much better pattern."
"My 17-month-old has been through phases of the same. We’ve had him in our bed for half the night and then back in the cot for a couple more hours when he's asleep. We figured out that it’s usually teething when his sleep is disrupted like this."
"My 18-month-old started waking up at 3 in the morning and not settling until 6! I found out that he was teething so I started to bring him to our bed, but he would kick us, scratch our faces, and put his feet on our mouths! So the following nights, I decided to lie beside his cot and sleep on a mattress so every time he would cry, I’d just pat his back and he would fall asleep straight away. After the second night, he started sleeping all night long again. I hope he sleeps for you soon....good luck!"
It's safe to say, there’s no quick fix, but there are certainly a few things you can do to help. As your child is starting to show signs of the 'terrible twos', now is the time to set limits for your toddler and begin setting some ground rules.
Always remember that this is a phase. It may feel like an eternity when you’re dealing with frantic screams at 4am, but it won’t last forever. They’ll probably move out when they turn 18...
Does your toddler wake during the night? How do you tackle the problem? Leave a comment below and you could help other moms dealing with the same issue.