Help! My Toddler May Never Sleep Again!

I expected sleep regressions, I did. I was prepared for them when my son was six weeks old and didn’t really have a sleep schedule yet. I expected it at three months, six months, eight months, 12 months and even 18 months, just like Google and the books told me. But I did not expect him to have the worst sleep regression yet at two years and two months.

Some background: My son has always been a great sleeper. I got lucky and from the time he was a newborn, he was sleeping in four-hour stretches. I can’t clearly remember anymore when he had the bedtime routine down pat, but it was well before his first birthday.

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The bedtime routine went a little something like this: bath time, pjs, FaceTime goodnight with Daddy (because he works way past my son’s bedtime), read the same book a few hundred times, cuddles, a night sippy cup with milk, kisses from all his favorite Sesame Street friends, kisses and love yous from me and then bedtime.

★★★

The first night I thought was a fluke. I was wrong and I’m pretty sure my actions that night started a domino effect. I heard my son screaming in the middle of the night and like all moms, I jumped up, ran to get him and brought him to my bed.

I heard my son screaming in the middle of the night and like all moms, I jumped up, ran to get him and brought him to my bed.

He asked for milk so I ran to get him some and he fell asleep within minutes. Knowing it takes him about 15-20 minutes to get into a deep sleep, I stayed up and waited, and then took him back into his room. He must not have been in a deep enough sleep because he felt me laying him back down in his crib and woke up.

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I brought him back to my bed, waited another 15 minutes and failed again. He ended up sleeping in my bed that night. The next night was much of the same. I spent a lot of time Googling and chalked it up to night terrors.

The third night got so much worse.

On the third night, once the bedtime routine ended and I started putting him in his crib, he started to cling onto me and scream. I took him out of the crib and cuddled with him for a bit longer. My thinking was that maybe he wasn’t that tired yet. After about 20 minutes, I tried again but the same thing happened. I put him down anyways and that’s when the screaming started.

I’m all for the crying it out method. I let him cry it out and check on him every five minutes to make sure he’s okay. But this was more than that. This was a screaming match that ended in projectile vomit. He screamed so hard when I put him in his crib that he made himself throw up. And by then, putting him in his crib was pointless because I’d have to take him out, put him in the bath, change his sheets, clean up all the puke and start the routine all over again because he’d be wide awake.

Nap times became just like bedtime. All the routines we had established in the past became pointless. The weirdest part was that his daycare teacher said she had no problem getting him down for his nap and nothing had changed on her end; it was just at home. I was having such a hard time finding any moms in the same exact situations as me online. Sure, I was finding ones almost similar, but the one thing that was missing was the puke.

All the routines we had established in the past became pointless.

shutterstock_193443200.jpgAfter a week, I said screw this and started letting him fall asleep for both nap and bed time in my bed. It took him a lot longer to fall asleep, about 45 minutes to an hour. It messed with my time to get things done around the house and my ‘me time’, like showering and getting ready for work the next day. But this way, he didn’t scream, didn’t puke, and he went to bed smiling.

★★★

A few days later, I decided he must be doing this on purpose because he started telling me ‘night night’ when it was time for bed and running to my room. I decided I would start re-introducing him into a bedtime routine again but around this time, he started to get his back molars in and teething for him results in a fever, runny nose and a phlegmy cough.

After two weeks,  I realized that this wasn’t just the run of the mill teething. The phlegm was so thick, vomiting was becoming a daily occurrence. My husband took our son to the doctor one morning and was told that this was the beginning stages of pneumonia and he had fluid in his left ear. The reason for the pneumonia diagnosis was because of the on and off fever from the teething. He was put on antibiotics and was back to normal in about 10 days.

After he was cleared and good as new, I decided I couldn’t keep letting him sleep in my bed anymore. I talked to some co-workers and moms who gave some advice on sleep regression. Maybe he needed a night light, maybe he developed a fear of something in his room, maybe he was just never going to sleep again, it was hard to say at this point.

Maybe he needed a night light, maybe he developed a fear of something in his room, maybe he was just never going to sleep again, it was hard to say at this point.

★★★

I was told to print out step by step pictures of the bedtime routine, try a sticker chart, maybe even switch from a crib to a toddler bed. Converting into a toddler bed wasn’t going to happen; my kid moves around like Tarzan at night.

I ended up starting from scratch. My mother-in-law bought my son a night light, and I created a modified bedtime routine consisting of bath time every other night, pjs and FaceTime with Daddy, story time with one book, read two times max (ok maybe four times), kisses and I love yous and bed.

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The night time sippy full of milk came two hours before bedtime so he would have time to digest it and not throw up. The first night I put him down to sleep, he clung to me and screamed but didn’t throw up. It took him a good 12 minutes to stop screaming and crying. I kept the door cracked so I was able to check on him without him seeing me and eventually he fell asleep.

The second night the screaming only lasted about nine minutes and the third night it lasted six. It took about a full week before he stopped crying and screaming completely and went down without a fuss.

At the end of this rough patch, I came to realize that this sleep regression was probably the worst yet because it was a combination of night terrors, teething, the onset on penumonia and sleep regression. On top of that, I’m not sure what exactly worked to help him overcome this regression. Whether it was creating a new bedtime routine, letting him cry it out, getting a night light, or the simple fact the the sleep regression and sickness ran its course. I’m just glad its over and we are back to our regular schedule, which includes more sleep and less puke.★

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Joanna Bavilacqua is a full-time work from home mom. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, two-year-old son and 13-year-old Yorkie. When she’s not working or hanging out with her family, she likes to plan vacations, try new restaurants, scroll through her favorite Instagram accounts and then go on unnecessary shopping

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