17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Toddler Bed Nightmare

Just wondering if any of you have ever dealt with this problem.  Maybe you can help me put a stop to it... fast.

Two and a half year old T has been in his toddler bed for two months now. Suddenly (meaning this week) he is waking up in the middle of the night, coming into our bedroom, and declaring "I'm awake". We get him a drink of water and put him back to bed explaining that it is still nighttime, we are sleeping, and he has to stay in bed. He comes out again, and again, and again, and again, and again (get the picture?) until he completely loses it, falling out, and eventually crying himself to sleep after at least an hour of hysterics. Last night this happened from 3:53am until 5:20am.

The worst is that in the middle of the night you do not have your wits about you to completely deal with this "tantrum" rationally. I feel myself getting angry, resentful, impatient, and obviously desperate for sleep. To top it off he's not even the child who is supposed to keep me sleep-deprived. His little sis is only three months old, so add a feeding or two to my night and I think I get about three or four hours of sleep a night. No sleep = Grumpy Mom in the morning. Ugh! Is it just a phase? Please say it will only last a couple more nights (if that) and be over. It's taking all the restrain I have to not throw him back in the crib (obviously not the answer though). I'm about to go surf the net for a strategy, but I'm throwing it out to this forum hoping for some answers from all the more experienced parents out there. Anyone have advice for this sleep-deprived mama?


  • everyone is going to hate what we did, but we've been there. at that age, none of our kids slept all of the way through the night consistently. we just let them come into our room and sleep there. once they were a bit bigger, they just stopped coming in and stayed in their own bed. i know what you mean about being irrational at that hour... that's when MY temper flares, too. it wasn't worth the frustration, anger, and tears for us. we just realized "this, too, shall pass," snuggled up, and all went back to sleep.
    posted by Anonymous makakona at 8/21/2008 10:51:00 PM  

  • Our kids switched to toddler beds much earlier than yours (17mo and 15mo), and we never had much of a problem, so take this advice for what it's worth.

    I know our older son likes to feel enclosed and secure (those are the best adjectives I can come up with this late at night, though they're not exactly what I'm looking for). Even in his sleep he kicks out a lot, and he wants to feel the side of the bed closing him in. We have this toddler bed, and to begin with we had a mattress pad in the bottom of it. He did much better when we took the mattress pad out and let the mattress fall down into the bed (the bottom half of it at least). It gives him about a 4 inch lip that he can kick out at and roll into, and I think he sleeps a lot better feeling he's more secure.
    posted by Anonymous Vada at 8/21/2008 11:36:00 PM  

  • It's going to sound mean and cruel, and people will scream at me, but you need to "lock" the door. You can do it several ways. You can actually lock it if you have one, or put one of those handles on it that make it so adults can open it but kids can't.

    Or, and I like this one the best, you can get a baby gate and put it up in the doorway so he can see out the door but can't get out. This works really well. He'll either fall asleep on the floor (happened all the time to us) or play for a while in his room and then go back to bed.

    Seriously, though, I HATE this transition more than anything, and I finally decided it was a safety issue, since we would find our daughter out playing in the living room completely unsupervised at 20 months in the middle of the night. NOT OK.

    Good luck
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 8/22/2008 12:04:00 AM  

  • Well, I made the mistake of letting my angel sleep in the bed with us until she was 3! Big mistake. She completely skipped her bassinett, crib and toddler bed because she became attached to my body heat. When I finally put up her twin bed and decided enough was enough I knew it would be a battle. She went to bed easily but was up every hour back in my room. I had to grit my teeth and just walk her back in her bed every hour until the visits to my room lessened. The best thing to do is not to conversate with him. Just walk (don't carry) him back to his room and put him in his bed each and everytime. It will take a week (2 at the most) and he will get the hang of it. My baby is almost 5 and she still has a night here and there where somehow she ends up in my bed but when I wake I put her right back in hers.

    Good Luck and hang in there!
    posted by Blogger Not the Norm at 8/22/2008 05:53:00 AM  

  • I have no experience in this, but I'm with Wiz...lock it. As a mom you need your sleep and you're no good to anyone if you don't get your rest.
    posted by Blogger miggy at 8/22/2008 06:26:00 AM  

  • We taught ours that it was OK to bring a blanket and pillows and sleep on the floor of our room, but they couldn't wake us up. That seemed to satisfy them and we didn't care if they slept on our floor. Eventually they got over it.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 8/22/2008 06:46:00 AM  

  • We just switched our almost two year old to toddler bed. She was able to climb out and kept waking up in the night wanting to come in our bed. We made the switch and put door handles on the door. The first night she cried for an hour a half. We went in and comforted her and then she was good to go. Once she knew she could not get out, she didn't put up a fight. She still sometimes wakes up in the night and we hear her on her monitor. We go in and tuck her in again and she does so without complaint. For us it was awesome because it was one bad night and now we sleep much better as parents! It may take a couple weeks of rough nights for you but it will so be worth it in the long run.
    posted by Blogger Linz at 8/22/2008 07:57:00 AM  

  • Okay. I don't have a lot of advice on this one - not because I don't have experience, because believe me, I do. But mostly because every stinkin' think I tried didn't work. With us it wasn't a middle of the night waking up thing, but a going to bed thing, but they are very similar in the end.

    BUT, I'm not here to be the voice of doom! What I am here to say is that even if none of these work, you are still a good mother. :-) Even if you are tired and cranky and desperate and sad, you are still a good mother. The best thing I can tell you is to pick a technique and stick with it for a week to ten days. If no progress is made in that time, try something else. There's no foolproof technique, you just have to find the one that works for you and your child. And if none of the ones suggested here work, hit the library or the bookstore. ANd if those don't work, head to the pediatrician. Eventually, no matter what, this will end. The goal is to move eventually a little closer to now!
    posted by Blogger marian at 8/22/2008 08:15:00 AM  

  • I just saw what appeared to be the silliest thing on thinkgeek.com. It was an alarm clock that glows. It teaches them how to tell time, and the niftiest feature is that it turns green once they are allowed to get up. We joked that we might have to get one if our 8 month old becomes one of those that can't stay in bed.
    posted by Blogger Becca at 8/22/2008 08:16:00 AM  

  • We moved The Boy into a bed at 23 months, The Girl at 19 months. We put doorknob covers on their side of the door - it was a great deterrant and they learned to stay in their beds. It was much safer than locking the door and took each of them less than a week to "get the picture".

    We've never encouraged coming in bed with mom and dad - it's not our thing and I think that it sets up a really bad pattern for the future. The goal here is to find a solution that 1) teaches T to stay in bed and 2) enables you and your dh to get some quality sleep! Good luck, my friend :)
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 8/22/2008 09:01:00 AM  

  • My 2 1/2 yr old has been in a toddler bed for about 7 months. We had to use a baby gate blocking off the living room (where we moved all of her toys expect for books), kitchen & we have a child proof lock on the inside of her door (& on the bathroom doors to keep her out if she wanders at night). I was not comfortable with 'locking' her in there long term but luckily she got with the program after a few weeks. We now only 'lock' her in there until we go to sleep.
    If she does wake up I never let her go beyond the gate (even if she's screaming for me while I go get milk) & I do my best not to talk. Just don't make the mistake that I am still paying for... DO NOT LAY DOWN WITH HER! I do lock her in there the rest of the night & turn up the monitor so I can hear when she wakes up so I can let her out. I have never had guilt about 'locking' her in because I am a better mother to her when I have had a moderate amount of sleep so do what works & don't let anyone else make you feel guilty. Good luck!
    posted by Blogger Jenn at 8/22/2008 09:16:00 AM  

  • I can picture you sitting on the edge of your bed at 3 in the morning wondering if you are ever going to get any sleep (because that is what I did). We had our toddler's toddler bed in our room while Grandma and Grandpa were visiting. He went to bed fine, but woke up in the middle of the night and was WIDE AWAKE. It wasn't that he wanted to sleep with us, because he has never really slept in our bed. But we could not get him to go to sleep. He would play around in the dark room for a few hours and talk and sing. Finally, the last night that our visitors were there we kicked them out of the nursery, put the bed back, and he slept through the night. It was a stressful and exhausting few days, so I know how you feel. You are doing the right thing reaching out for advice. You aren't alone and I am sure that some of the advice here will work for you.
    posted by Blogger danyelly at 8/22/2008 09:20:00 AM  

  • I'm with Makakona...we just let our son come sleep with us when he got up in the middle of the night. Or, one of us would lay down in his bed (it wasn't a toddler bed, though). We are just too tired at night to be up for more than about 2 seconds. He went through phases--sometimes he would sleep all night in his own bed for weeks on end, other times he would be crawling in with us regularly. I don't think it's a big deal, but I have always been comfortable with a "family bed" sort of arrangement anyway. If you do let your child in your bed, I think you have to be prepared for that to be a long-term pattern. If you aren't OK with that, then it's probably not the right answer for you. But if it's not a big deal to you, I think it can make night time life easier on everyone.
    posted by Blogger Lisa at 8/22/2008 02:38:00 PM  

  • After our second child was born our then 2 1/2 year old was sleeping okay in her bed and then suddenly started this stage. We would cuddle with her in her bed (she was already in a twin bed) and then when it got too frequent we would put one of those plastic doorknob covers on the inside doorknob. Once she realized she couldn't get out she'd usually go back to bed.
    posted by Blogger Ash at 8/22/2008 06:41:00 PM  

  • The problem I had with my third was she was getting out of bed and ruining her big sister's stuff. After a particularly bad naptime where she "played with the fishy" and then put it back in the tank.....
    I had to spank her for getting out of bed during naptime after that. You can't have your daughter murdering her sister's fish, and destroying all her big sister's things. It's not right.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 8/22/2008 09:33:00 PM  

  • OK, I have ZERO experience, so figure that in to this advice.

    What about letting him stay up later at night? Then maybe he would sleep through?
    posted by Blogger Kathi D at 8/22/2008 09:57:00 PM  

  • Ladies, thanks so much for all of the advice. It's interesting to see what works for other families. And it is definitely nice to know that many others have been through this.

    The update is that we decided we would do the "Super Nanny" type strategy of just taking T back to bed, with no conversation/argument. Like not the norm said. The first night we did it over and over and over again. The next night, only twice. Last night he didn't even come in our room (although he did wake up earlier than usual, but I'll take that over the 3am hysterics!).

    I wouldn't have too much of a problem with him in our bed as long as he actually wanted to sleep, but we did try that one night and no, he wanted to play. We're not out of the woods, but I think our nights are going to be a bit more peaceful.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 8/23/2008 01:46:00 PM  

  • And marian.... thanks! I totally needed that comment. It was awesome and much appreciated.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 8/23/2008 01:47:00 PM  

  • we've never had a problem with any "really bad patterns" just because we allowed our kids into our room. like vada, ours were all in toddler beds much earlier (one year, 15 months, and 17 months), but even though they usually slept in them just fine, they did sometimes wander in, especially when they were new to no-diapers-at-night (which happened at 18 months and about 21 months for the oldest ones). i don't know... just didn't seem like a big enough deal to resort to spanking or letting them cry-it-out in a locked room.
    posted by Anonymous makakona at 8/23/2008 11:57:00 PM  

  • Why would anyone ever lock a child into a room. First of all that would scare me so why wouldn't it scare a toddler and second of all what if they become sick in the middle of the night and need to get to mom or dad. To me that idea just seem cruel. If I were you I would never resort to that and believe me I know where you are coming from. I have a two year old that has gotten to the point where he gets up every night around 3:30 and tries to get into my bed but I would NEVER lock him in his room. Some nights I walk him back to his room and sit with him for a little bit until he goes to sleep and other nights when I'm exhausted I just let him lay in my bed until he goes to sleep then I carry him back to his bed.
    posted by Blogger Jason and Megan at 3/02/2009 12:52:00 PM  

  • Ooh! Those are awesome! Spacify offers Toddler Beds and more at reasonable prices.
    posted by Blogger Susan at 4/15/2009 09:31:00 PM  

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