We’ve always had this fantastic sleeper on our hands. All we had to do was put him in bed, kisses and cuddles, and leave the room. No long drawn-out process and no bed-sharing. Not that I’m totally against it … we just didn’t have to use this method.
Until 2 weeks ago, when all hell broke loose and it took 1.5 hours of him coming out with a variety of reasons: to pee, to have a drink, that he wasn’t tired, that he didn’t want to sleep. He’s very verbal so I immediately started asking questions to find out why he didn’t want to sleep, but couldn’t come up with anything that was a clear reason (I expected him to say “bad dreams” or something like that). The worst night was 2.5 hours! Second worst was 1.5 hours at bedtime and then another 1.5 hours at 2am (until 3:30)!
Many people have advised me that this means he is “done” with naps, but my gut just doesn’t agree. There are some days that he does miss the nap, but I still insist on some quiet time. Most days, though, he naps for 1 – 1.5 hours. Not enough to interfere with bedtime, in my opinion, but crucial to his physical and mental development.
So, here’s what we tried … to no avail: gently return him to bed, stand at the door and count to 3 while he puts himself back to bed, explain that he is NOT to get up again until morning, give him a flashlight (which he handed to us the next time he walked out, knowing that was the consequence), put up baby gate (which he just stands at and yells), install a self-controlled light so he can read himself to sleep, play lullaby music, give him a stuffed bear to cuddle, and when I reached my wits end ..pretend to lock his door (not a real lock – I held the knob – he yelled and knocked loudly on the door, so not helpful for my sleeping hubby).
Was I jumping the gun at only just over a week of this? I might have agreed, except that it was SO completely out of character and SO opposite to life as we knew it only a week ago.
A few days into this behaviour, I was trying to explain to him that sleep was very important for his tired body. He replied, “Yes, my body is tired, but my brain is not tired, Mummy!” How great that he could verbalize exactly what he was feeling, but that didn’t help things any.
Then, a few nights ago, we seem to have hit on the magic process. The first time he came out of his room, we took away his music (with no words), second time he lost his light (again, no words), and third time his door was “locked” (us holding the door knob). He HATED this consequence and eventually tired himself out from screaming and crying and I was finally able to (without words) walk him to bed and he was asleep in moments. This whole process took about 1.5 hours.
The next night, he told us in advance exactly what would happen (so sweet!) and the same process occurred but only took half an hour … and the third night was PERFECT!!! He did not get out of bed once! I checked on him after an hour, assuming I would just turn off his light, but he was just-awake, quietly reading his books and said, “I’m not asleep yet, Mummy.” I said, “OK, one more book and then turn off your light,” and closed the door. No screams, no cries – it was wonderful The next time I checked, half an hour later, he was fast asleep (with the light still on).
That was 4 nights ago, so I feel fairly confident we’ve made it through this phase! Yay!! He still might get up in the night to ask to pee, but goes straight back to bed afterwards – it’s wonderful! So, to anyone else suffering through this phase … hang in there, it does eventually end. We’re just blessed that it didn’t last very long.
Update 2 weeks later: bedtime has remained “normal”, with only the occasional very small issue, but nothing like what we were dealing with during that horrible 2-week period. And just for the record, he has definitely NOT dropped his nap, so I’m afraid all the advice I received about that was wrong. Interesting that so many people were so adamant that would be the “fix” and it had nothing at all to do with naps.