Well mamas, we've officially reached the end of our "One Year and Beyond" toddler blogging series. It was a lot of work, but a ton of fun and I'm sad to see it go. I had such a great time participating in this series, writing the posts, reading about other mama's experiences and responding to all your comments. I thought the topics were really great and forced me to finally sit down and write about some of the things I hadn't had the chance to address yet, but wanted to. Since I use this blog as an online journal for our family and baby book for the kids, I'm so glad I had the chance to write about this stuff while it's fresh in my mind so I can look back on it years from now while I'm crying in my coffee about my babies no longer being babies. I hope you've enjoyed it as well, whether you linked up along with us or just read along with the series. We're considering doing a Part 2, with all new topics in a few months, so if you have any topics in mind, we're all ears (leave them in the comments below).
Today's topic is the motherload of all toddler topics - Bedtime Battles. I think every new parent in the world must be bonded by the shared experience of sleep deprivation. We are all just walking around in this zombie-like state together, hoping and praying it eventually gets better. It has to get better, right? Well, I'm here to tell you that yes, it gets better...sometimes. I've written about our battles in the sleep department a number of times (here, here, here), so it's no surprise when I tell you that Mac has never been the greatest sleeper. I feel like at one time or another over the course of the last two years we've struggled with every aspect of sleeping (fighting naps, needing to be rocked to sleep, middle of the night wake ups, dream feeds, too early wakeups, etc.). Each issue presents its own set of problems and has a different solution, which has taken us a while to figure out, but we've battled through and are still here to tell the story. And with all that being said, it could be MUCH worse, so I'll take what we get.
Since I've already blogged about Mac's sleep issues as a baby, I figured it best to keep this post limited to what we're doing with him as a toddler. Otherwise, this post would be about 45 pages long with lots of whining and bitching (like I did here). So let's just skip over that. Right now (with Mac at 25 months old), I feel like we're in a pretty good (although not perfect) place. Most nights he goes down relatively easily and sleeps through the night. Most, not all. Lately, it seems like every other week is good/bad. A few weeks ago (when he was fighting a summer cold), he was up at least 5 different times a night, crying, needing to be held and rocked back to sleep. It was miserable. Then all of a sudden, he went back to sleeping through the night (from 8:30 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.) like nothing happened at all. A week later, same thing with multiple wake-ups a night, but he wasn't sick. Seriously, what is going on? (more on this below)
Well, since this is supposed to be an informative and helpful blogging series (although I've just told you that we obviously suck at this topic), I'll try to give you all a few bits of advice I've heard about toddler sleep and whether or not they've worked for us. Feel free to disregard everything I say.
1. Establish a good bedtime routine.
Toddlers are creatures of habit and love routines/schedules. I think Mac can be more go with the flow than some other toddlers I know, which is nice, but he does love consistency and knowing what's coming next. We always do bedtime (and naptime) exactly the same every night. For bedtime, we do dinner at 6:30 followed by a bit of playtime (either outside or downstairs), then bath at 7:30 (he bathes every night because he's a dirtball covered in sunscreen, bug spray, dirt and sand). Bath is followed by pajamas, 10 minutes of a movie and snuggle time with mom and dad on the couch, then upstairs for 2 books, talk about our day, one bedtime song and rocking. Then he goes into his crib with all his babies and blankets and usually sings himself to sleep. We very rarely deviate from this schedule, even when traveling. If we do, he can handle it, but I think it helps prepare him for bedtime without struggles.
2. Limit naptime, if necessary.
A couple months ago, Mac was having a very difficult time going down for bedtime. He just didn't seem tired when it was time to go to bed. He would implement all his stall tactics, fight us on books, refuse to get in his crib, beg for "more rocking" every night and have the hardest time getting himself to sleep. We talked with our nanny and decided to try moving his afternoon nap up earlier in the day and limiting it to 2 hours (on days where he might sleep longer). And what do you know, that helped tremendously. Even just moving up his nap by 30-45 minutes made a huge difference. He was more tired and ready for bedtime in the evenings, which lead to less fighting and better sleep for everyone. So, if you're struggling with a similar issue, try changing things up a bit - maybe a later bedtime (we moved his bedtime back by 30 minutes when he was around 22 months old), an earlier wake-up time (much easier for those of us that don't have to get the kids up and ready for daycare), a shorter/longer afternoon nap, earlier/later naptime, etc.
3. Wear them out during the day
I know what you're thinking...duh Sara, but I've found that this is a KEY element in whether or not Mac sleeps well at night. And this is one more reason why summer is AWESOME! The harder they play, the better they sleep. I first realized this last year on our annual Florida trip. All the sunshine and swimming and beach time would wear Mac out to the point of him taking 3+ hour naps during the day and sleeping through the night consistently for the first time in his life. I never wanted to leave Florida after that week! Now I know that outdoor time, sunshine and fresh air are essential to a good night's sleep for my kid. If he's cooped up in the house all day, we know we're in for a long night. He needs that outdoor time to burn energy, use his imagination, get his Vitamin D and whatever other positive things come from being outside. I truly think that kids need to be outdoors as much as possible for a multitude of reasons, not just to ensure good sleep (but that sure doesn't hurt). Of course, I know it's not always possible, but for us, we sure try to make it a priority to get out of the house, rain, snow or sunshine.
4. Try reasoning with them
Ok, now you probably really think I'm crazy. Can you ever reason with a toddler? They're crazy and by definition, unreasonable. However, I think sometimes we underestimate how smart our kids are (ok, we know they're geniuses, but we still don't trust their reasoning). But sometimes, every now and then, once upon a blue moon, I think they can be reasoned with, so why not try. I first heard about this tactic from my blogger friend Julia, who mentioned that when they were having problems with CeCe waking up too early, her husband would go in her room and "reason" with the baby and convince her she was still tired and to go back to bed. WHAT?!! I was pretty blown away when I read that because Mac's the exact same age and I thought there was no way in hell he'd ever reason with me. But in the few times I've tried it, it's actually worked. I admit that most of the time I don't even think about doing it, but occasionally I'll give it a shot and am sometimes very pleasantly surprised at the outcome. So, what do I mean? For example, remember how I said that lately we've been dealing with multiple middle of the night wake-ups (for no reason) where Mac wants to be rocked back to sleep? Last night I told Ryan we needed to put an end to this, so during the "talk about our day" portion of our bedtime routine I told Mac that mommy and daddy needed sleep and if he cried tonight we'd come give him a hug and a kiss, but no more rocking. And I repeated it three or four times. No more rocking! No holding. Time to sleep. He woke up at his normal time, cried out for us, Ryan went in, gave him a hug and kiss, told him daddy needed to sleep and there would be no rocking, put him back in bed and that was it. No more wake-ups. A one-time 2 minute ordeal instead of multiple 20 minute ones. Hallelujah! Of course this could be a total fluke and maybe tonight will be a 10 wake-up night where he screams bloody murder if we leave the room without rocking him, but we got one semi-decent night of sleep from it, so I'll consider it a victory.
5. If it's really bad, get help
Yeah, I complain all the time about Mac not being a good sleeper, but the truth is, he is SO much better than I know some of you mamas have it. I cringe upon hearing stories about how there are some kids that (at 2 or beyond) have NEVER slept through the night. You poor mamas! How are you guys still functioning? I'd be dead. In serious cases like this, I'd highly encourage you to seek out a sleep specialist. I'm not talking about the occasional non-sleeper, but that kid that just can't seem to figure it out despite trying every scenario under the sun. Every kid is different and even though they will probably eventually figure it out, you shouldn't have to suffer so much in the meantime. There are so many different approaches and methods to "sleep training" that it's completely overwhelming to most moms (especially the exhausted sleep deprived ones). But the good news is there are also many specialists out there that can help. From Moms on Call to local sleep specialists (like this one in St. Louis), these sleep consultants will work with you one-on-one to come up with a plan that works for you, your schedule, your preferences and your child's personality. They usually make themselves available for calls when you're at your wits ends, consults on how things are going and can even do home visits to help with environmental factors. Sleep is so important! Not only to your kid, but to you, mama! If you need it, get help!
So that's all I've got! I hope you've enjoyed these last 8 weeks of toddler topics. Like I said, if you have ideas for Round 2, please leave them in the comment section below. I also hope you'll consider sharing your story and linking up with us!
May 8: Taming the temper tantrums
May 15: Weaning from breastfeeding or from formula to cow’s milk
May 22: Dealing with "Mommy Guilt"
May 29: When people share their opinions and how to lovingly handle it
June 5: Traveling with your toddler
June 12: How to get your toddler to eat their veggies…or their food at all
June 19: How to make time to blog in the busyness of motherhood
June 26: Bedtime battles (nap or bedtime)
An InLinkz Link-up
Anyone else out there dealing with toddler bedtime battles right now?
Spill...misery loves company!
Anyone else out there dealing with toddler bedtime battles right now?
Spill...misery loves company!