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.
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.