Toddler Sleep

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Toddler Sleep

Postby emsimpson77 » Tue 30 Apr, 2013 10:12 am

Hi there,

Over the past few months we have had on/off problems with our 2 year old daughter's sleep, especially since she worked out she can reach the door (and now light switch). We've tried several methods of settling including a week sleeping in her room on the floor (not ideal obviously). 5 nights ago we went back to the normal sleep routine, & walking her back to bed. It was only a half hour fight the first night going down and since then we had 4 great night sleeps from 7pm - 6am. She has a set bedtime routine which seems to work for her most nights. Last night we had hysterics at 2.30am. It's almost what I'd call a rage. She took of her pyjama pants & nappy (she's been doing this most mornings actually). She turned the light on, she was climbing on her chest of drawers, pulling books out and hysterically screaming things like "Asher awake mummy!" "Get up mummy". I tried to consistently put her back to bed every 10mins, turning off the light again each time (and removing the drawers so she couldn't climb up them on her chest). But she just kept screaming. I stayed calm & reassuring telling her it was still dark and night time and to go back to sleep. At 4am I gave up, took her downstairs and put her on the couch where she promptly fell asleep. After about half an hour I tried taking her back up to her bed but on the 4th step she said "No mummy, sleep on couch". Exhausted by this point I put her back on the couch and crashed myself on the other one. She woke just after 6am singing and happy.

I guess I'm after some technique of how to nip this behaviour in the middle of the night in the bud so it doesn't become such a rage (keeping her nappy on would be great too!). I'm really hoping it's just one bad night and she'll return to sleeping through tonight, but given our past history over the last few months I'm not holding much hope.

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Re: Toddler Sleep

Postby NgalaOnline » Tue 30 Apr, 2013 9:45 pm

Hi Emsimpson77

Thank you for your post. Congratulations on the improvements you have been able to bring to your daughter's sleep in the last week. It sounds as though you did very well in putting together a plan that worked for your daughter and your family, and as though she is well on the way to successful sleeping.

At 2 years old it is very common for toddlers to be testing all of their boundaries and seeing what behaviours will and won’t be accepted. This, as well as exploration of her environment and delight at discovering things she can do independently, is likely to be why she has discovered an interest in turning on her light and opening her door. Some parents find that a baby gate across their child's bedroom can help to keep the child in the bedroom, but may not make the child feel as enclosed or "shut away" as their bedroom door being closed. The rage that your daughter experienced in the night could possibly have originated as a night terror. During a night terror children will often thrash around and be very upset and unsettled. Whilst they have their eyes open, talk and appear to be awake they will often say or do things that are unusual behaviour for them. They may appear to be somewhat disorientated and can resist comforting or physical touch. The night terror can last quite a length of time, but the child will have no memory of it the next day. Often a night terror will arise if a child has overheated in bed. It is also possible that your child just awoke at this time and was testing the boundaries about what behaviour would be accepted at this time of night. Many parents do notice that when they resolve a sleeping issue with their baby or toddler, their child may have another session of testing the boundaries and needing some consistent reapplication of the established settling methods a week or so after the initial sleep improvements have been reached. It is understandable that it is very exhausting and frustrating to be awoken from a deep sleep and then kept awake for a long period of time in the middle of the night, with challenging behaviour on display from your child. As much as possible though, it is important to remain calm and consistent with the same approach you use to settle your child at the beginning of the night. Your approach of continuing to return to her room, give reassurance, ensuring her safety and turning out the light sounds very sensible. You can calmly repeat to your daughter each time you return to her that it is sleep time and not play time. It is helpful to try not to introduce new methods of settling that may be construed by your child to be a payoff or reward that she may seek again on another night, such as taking her to another room to sleep on the couch. This type of protesting may last for a lengthy and exhausting period of time the first time or two that she does it, but by remaining calm and consistent with your approach your child is likely to develop an understanding that nothing rewarding will arise from this type of behaviour at night, and that it is not worth trying the same behaviour on other nights. If there are similar episodes of behaviour on other nights they are likely to last a shorter duration after the initial first few nights of standing your ground. Getting support from your partner can help during this time. Many parents also find it less frustrating if they get up, dress warmly, and do not return to bed until the child has gone to sleep - this can often be easier to manage than continually getting out of a warm bed.

Taking the nappy off is a common toddler behaviour. In some instances it can indicate an interest in toilet training, but often it is just a type of exploration and the child delighting in a new skill. Giving lots of attention (even negative attention) to the behaviour can often cause the child to keep repeating the behaviour, so putting the nappy back on with little discussion or attention given to the matter can often help. Some parents find that putting the nappy on backwards, putting tape over the tabs, or dressing the child in overalls or onesies can help. Some parents even find that putting a one piece bathing suit or body suit (that doesn’t have studs in the crotch) with a pair of leggings or tights on underneath can be helpful if a child pulls the nappy out from the leg hole. If your child is skilled at undressing all her clothes as well as the nappy these types of strategies are less likely to be successful. Ignoring the behaviour is often the best solution in this case, and usually the phase does pass when it loses it's novelty.

I hope that the sleepless night encountered last night was a one off and that you will return to peaceful night's sleep soon. Please ring the Ngala helpline if you would like further help or support.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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