• 10 Reasons Your Toddler Isn’t Sleeping & 1 Solution

    Posted on June 24, 2014 by Stephens Family Daycare in Crib Notes, Parenting.

    We had it too good for too long. After “Ferberizing” our daughter at three months, we had over a year of full, uninterrupted nights of sleep. Not to say there weren’t rough patches here and there, like when our daughter was sick, but for the most part we had it GOOD. And then one day, it all went to crap, and crap it has been for the last month.

    I’ve been analyzing, re-analyzing and doubting myself trying to figure out why my once-perfect sleeper no longer wants to sleep and narrowed it down to just 10 possible reasons. So basically, I have gotten nowhere as to the cause of the sleep issues and I am bringing you there with me.

    Toddler Not Sleeping

    1. Sickness. It’s possible that some of the sleep disturbance may have been caused by a cold.
    2. Vacation. We went away for two weekends out of the past four and new surroundings = no sleep.
    3. Growth Spurt. That probably happens at 18 months, right?
    4. Teething. My daughter is very advanced in the teeth department and only seems to be missing the dreaded two-year molars. I am afraid to check though in case she bites my finger off.
    5. Poop. It’s a chicken and egg thing with this one – is my toddler screaming for me to change her poopy diaper OR did she scream so hard that a poop came out? We may never know.
    6. FOMO. I get that my toddler doesn’t want to nap when family is visiting; she gets that if she screams while family is visiting, I will take her out of her crib so they don’t judge me. Touché!
    7. Over-Stimulation. It’s probably hard to go to sleep after the whole family has been visiting.
    8. Nightmares. I imagine these are something like Elmo lost his voice or the world stopped producing cheese.
    9. She Hates Me. Totally kidding, although it feels that way sometimes. Perhaps she just loves me too much to be away from me (aka separation anxiety).
    10. Sleep Regression. This just seems to be a general term for any of the above reasons why a young child won’t sleep but it sounds very scientific and it happens at 18 months, so it’s on my list.

    In all of this mess I have found that there are a few differences between sleep training a baby and sleep training a toddler, the first being that toddlers are old enough to realize that you will be coming in to check on them at scheduled intervals (so scratch Ferber). The second difference between baby and toddler sleep training is that babies cry out of a need – they are hungry or tired or have a wet diaper – but toddlers, toddlers have wants. Sure they have needs too but now they also want things – toys, sweets and anything BUT sleep. And the last, and most difficult difference in sleep training, is that toddlers are able to stand and scream “Mommy and Daddy” for so long and so loud, that you really just feel like the worst human being alive.

    So now that Ferber doesn’t work, what are poor, tired parents supposed to do? Enter Dr. Weissbluth and the “Extinction Method“, which is basically a fancy way of saying goodnight to your toddler, shutting the door and letting them cry until they fall asleep on their own. I tell you, it’s absolute TORTURE, but toddlers need their sleep and so do you! Now is the time where you really want to establish healthy sleep habits because the habits you establish now are the habits they will keep for most of their young lives.

    It can be a little un-nerving to shut the door and leave your toddler to cry for an unknown period of time, so we have created our own variation of the “Extinction Method” where we go in five minutes after our toddler starts crying to check for poop, vomit, nightmares, etc. After we make sure that all of our daughter’s needs are met, we just let her go and we sit on our deck with the monitor so we can escape the cries and the guilt. You will also probably want to find some sort of distraction during this sleep training – think wine, earplugs, bad TV, wine.

    The good news is that even though the whole toddler sleep training process has been incredibly hard, it has been working. And guess what? Our toddler doesn’t hate us in the morning.

29 Responses so far.

  1. Amanda says:

    This sounds like my daughter. She slept the entire night SINCE WE BROUGHT HER HOME. Ceazy, I know. Now she’s 20 months old and has been in our bed for a few months already. I’m pregnant and a working Mom so I thought she was feeling all emotional or missing me and it was hard for me to not let her. But, it’s getting so hard. We seriously need to do something. We’ve tried putting her in her crib and letting her cry and she cried for 3 HOURS straight. No joke. Uh I’m so lost!

  2. Megan says:

    I will try this tonight- we are on night 8 with my 18 month old and still not making progress with Ferber. Do you follow the same idea for night wakings?

    • Noa says:

      Good luck! Yeah we did and it worked. It took a few days and it was pretty much torture, but as long as you know nothing is wrong (they aren’t sick, teething, whatever) there really isn’t much you can do but let them get it out of their system. This is how they learn that bedtime is bedtime.

  3. justine says:

    You just described what’s going on with my daughter. She was an amazing sleeper. Suddenly it all changed. We converted her crib to a toddler bed to see if it would improve but so far it hasn’t. I’m worried about trying the Ferber method again with her being able to be mobile now. Is your success with the Ferber method with a crib or toddler bed?

    • Noa says:

      Hi Justine – we are keeping our daughter in a crib as long as possible because we had heard the transition can be tough (and I worry she will not stay in in and just play in her room all night). Ferber worked for us when our daughter was a baby but we had to invoke Weissbluth to solve her sleep issues as a toddler. Weissbluth is just a fancy term for letting them cry until they fall asleep – toddlers are too smart for Ferber so unfortunately you just need to leave them be. If it’s not too late, I would convert the bed back to a crib. Maybe she’s just not ready for it yet? And then, tough as it is, you just need to leave them to cry after you check that everything is ok (diaper, fever, etc). It takes a few nights but then everything goes back to normal for all of you. Good luck!!

  4. the says:

    I miss my boys being little but not when it comes to sleeping. You shared some great tips!

  5. Elayna says:

    All parents are different, all kids are too. We do what works. That’s the beauty of it. For me, I could never do the “let her cry” thing. The guilt would have eaten me alive. LOL

    • Noa says:

      Yeah it really does depend on the kid too. I feel so guilty but then when I go in to check on my “crying” daughter and she asks for Elmo to read a book, I know that she is smarter than I give her credit for hahah.

  6. Jaime says:

    I don’t have a toddler and it’s been so long I don’t remember but I am sure these are helpful to parents of toddlers.

    • Noa says:

      Thanks! Well I am hopeful that the fact that you don’t have a toddler means you are getting some sleep 🙂

  7. Sojourner says:

    I can totally relate to toddler sleep problems. My almost three year old is a mess. It was so much easier when he was a baby, I swear! He insists that there is a “dinosaur robot” in his room and refuses to spend the night there. The pediatrician says to give it time. See where he goes with it. In the meantime….we’re pretty sleep deprived.

    • Noa says:

      These toddlers are so cute when they start to get personalities, but then they use their cuteness to convince you they don’t need sleep. Sneaky!! I am surprised your son isn’t enamored with a dinosaur robot, hahah, I would think all boys would love that. Lots to learn as I get ready for my baby boy!! Good luck and get some sleep!

  8. Lexie says:

    I’m sorry but I could never do that to my little guy. If he wants me, he gets me. I know it’s hard but I think they absolutely will remember. Luckily we are just a little passed the toddler crazy ness and still have the not sleeping tantrums just once in a while but I still couldn’t just ignore him like that. He’s crying because he’s uncomfortable and I think I just need to comfort him 🙁

    • Noa says:

      It really is very hard and I don’t blame you. He probably appreciates the comforting a ton and he won’t want to cuddle forever, now is the time to enjoy! I get it.

  9. That's says:

    Baby Mash has been giving a hard time to go to sleep some days recently. But then again all the summer fun has us off schedule.

    • Noa says:

      Yeah I feel like the fact that it is light out, and they have SO MUCH fun outdoors during the day, is certainly not helping our cause.

  10. Marya says:

    It’s been so long since we had little ones around dealing with sleep issues. But now that they are older, they’re having trouble staying asleep!! 🙁

    • Noa says:

      See I was hoping that once they get older, and then become teenagers, that I would have trouble waking them up! I remember sleeping like a teenager, ahhhh to be young 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    My toddler has been acting up at bedtime and it is definitely the FOMO. I have done the same thing, but to bed, say goodnight and leave. If five minutes later he is still upset, I go in, tell him to lay down, cover him and say goodnight again. That is always the end of it.

    I’m in for “whatever works” as long as it actually works. And by works, the toddler has to know how to put himself to sleep and get back to sleep and stay asleep. Kids need there sleep — it affects diet, health, mood. Not teaching your child to sleep is much more cruel than having them cry for a few minutes each night.

    • Noa says:

      Yeah I agree, obviously. Sleep is so important! Finally, finally we seem to be at a place where our daughter cries for 1 minute before going to bed. Which also means it is FOMO. Little does she know all she is missing out on is me and my husband sitting on the couch ignoring each other.

  12. Robin says:

    My six year old ha trouble sleeping to this day when he grows. Growing pains hurt.

  13. Kung says:

    We have never had an issue with the kids sleeping.. Really the only time is when they have problems is when they are sick..

  14. Anna says:

    We found putting a gate up at their door instead of closing it to be helpful. I also let them stay up to play for a little bit if they want. As long as the light is off and they are being quiet, we’ve found that they will eventually get back in bed and go to sleep without any issues. Occasionally they stay up late, but usually the play only lasts 30 minutes or so.

    • Noa says:

      Thanks for the suggestions! I love the idea of the gate near the door – so it doesn’t get too dark. We’ve been stretching bedtime out a little but but I have a feeling my daughter would never go to bed if it were up to her 🙂 Maybe once she is a little older.

  15. tara says:

    I could never do the crying out method. My last two, they were 16 months apart, I let them fall asleep in my bed and they put them in their beds once they did. You do what works for you

    • Noa says:

      I hear you, it isn’t easy! Just no one wants to be around me if I haven’t slept. My two will be 19 months apart so it’s great to hear from other mothers with kids close in age.

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