The nightmare before bedtime

It’s no secret that Lelan has been an excellent sleeper most of his life… From the day we brought him home to shortly after he turned 18 months, we’ve had no issues whatsoever. Sure, there were a few bad nights here and there, and perhaps a week when he was teething and when we quit the pacifier, but nothing like what we’ve been dealing with lately…

My dear boy is experiencing a trifecta of environmental changes, developmental milestones and illnesses, and suddenly sleep times have turned into complete chaos. Last night it took me almost 3 hours to get him to sleep! THREE HOURS! No amount of rocking or rubbing his back seemed to help and for the first time I had a serious moment of self doubt. He was overtired, yet refusing to wind down. I was beyond exhausted and at my wits end. I needed to take care of two babies and neither of them were getting the best of me. We were all miserable.

When I googled 18 month sleep regression, there were literally hundreds of articles from other moms warning against it. These parents lived to tell the tale. Supposedly, this is the worst one of them and I was totally caught off guard. I missed all the tell tale signs… sudden frequent night wakings, taking longer than usual to wind down, shortened naps or no naps even, unusual fussiness, extreme clinginess… I chalked it all up to other factors like the new baby, or change in routine, daycare or sickness etc. And, though they may all very well be contributing factors, the core of our issue seems to be this 18 month sleep regression resulting from developmental milestones.

You see, it is around this time that toddlers develop a sense of autonomy and experience a level of control over their lives. They are starting to say no and learning to push boundaries. Throw in separation anxiety and language development and you have yourself the perfect storm, so to speak. If my math is correct, this regression started around the beginning of the month, shortly after Lelan started daycare. That was a huge change for him. It was around the same time that he got his first cold, his first ear infection and his first trip to the ER. (He had a respiratory obstruction from the underlying cold. Poor kid!) Here he was being hit hard on all cylinders and I haven’t really understood the totality of it until I started writing this blog. And to tell you the truth, I have been a little annoyed with him for disrupting my plans to catch up on work by logging in a few hours at night. But, when your child keeps waking up every few hours, not only is he miserable and sleep deprived, but the whole household is too. And when you’re not functioning at an optimal level, your work and personal relationships suffer. And, when the bread and butter of your daily life takes a hit, it’s time to take a breather or else this vicious cycle might get the best of you.

Tonight, I did precisely that. I mentally regrouped for the long haul. I put Ravina down first and let Lelan play/watch tv in our room until almost 7.30pm. I was able to give Ravina my undivided attention until she fell asleep. At least I was winning with one kid! I’d hoped by this time Lelan would have started winding down on his own, but that didn’t happen. He didn’t seem tired at all and wanted to keep playing. I tried everything, rocking, reasoning (why?!?!), pleading, being stern. Again, nothing worked. So, I kicked into survival mode and let him cry it out for 5 minute at a time- because there comes a point in one’s life when a good night’s sleep is more important than everything else… After the second time, he seemed ready to sleep. I rocked him for a minute and put him down on his bed. He rolled around for several minutes before falling asleep on his own. When I walked out of his room, the time was 8.53pm. It still took me an hour and a half, but it wasn’t 3hrs like the night before and now, I had a possible blueprint for how to get him to sleep on his own.

Controlled crying or the Ferber method isn’t for everyone but, we’ve had success with it in the past. I can’t tell you if it will work again, but everything I’ve read says this regression shouldn’t last more than 6 weeks. By my calculations were already in week 4, so we just have to ride it out. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that Ravina has been sleeping through it all. She is a sound sleeper like her mama and dada used to be. Sigh!

Writing this has given me a kind of clarity that I simply didn’t have before today. I honestly came here to vent. But, I see now that these are just growing pains. Lelan is still a baby… and, he won’t be one for too long. If he needs his mama a little extra for a few weeks, then I’m more than happy to indulge him. If that means I’m more tired than usual, then so be it. It will all be a aching memory soon and one day I’m sure I’ll be wishing I could still hold that sweet little boy in my arms again!

Have you dealt with the dreaded 18 month regression? How did you handle it? Share with me what worked and didn’t work for you!

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