11 answers

20 Month Old Still Waking up at Night Crying

My toddler has been waking up screaming and crying for months now. At first, I would let him cry it out a bit until he got out of control, and then he started throwing his beloved "bun-bun" (a bunny he has had since birth). Once that bunny is out of his reach, he screams and cries for it...if I don't go get it immediately, he screams until his whole face is beet red...he has literally screamed for over an hour before when I wouldn't pick it up.

So I have been holding him now to get him to sleep, while we watch something boring on tv. Then he finally goes to sleep, and I put him in his crib. Later that night, he wakes up about 3 times. I have to take him to bed with me, wait until he falls asleep, and then put him in his crib...over and over. It's a cycle, every night.

I know this is a bad idea...I just don't know what to do! I'm 36 weeks pregnant with our next son and this nightly ritual is very hard on me, as I can barely even roll over in bed, much less pick him up! I really don't know what I'm going to do once the next baby gets here. Help!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

One question: what is dad doing? Is he present? If he is, he should be the one to get up and deal with the screaming toddler, barring physical disability or a job that won't allow sleep interruption. Especially as you're 36 weeks pregnant with the next one!

More Answers

Dear T., First I am a mother of five, the last two were twins. This is going to be the hardest thing for you to do but you have to let him learn how to comfort himself back to sleep. With twins, at the same age as your son they started doing the same thing. This is what worked for us. When they would wake up, we would do the normal thing, make sure they were not wet, knew they were not hungry as they had eaten plenty. We got a cd player that played soft music over and over again. We started playing this when they napped in the afternoons so they were already used to it. We would put them in the bed, big kisses and leave the room. We would not return to the room again. The first night was 3 hours of crying, but you could tell that they were getting tired. By the 5th night they slept all through the night. If you start to put them in bed with you, you will have a hard time of breaking that. Especially in your situation with another one on the way. Always do what works best for you, but letting them into your room to find comfort creates a hole other issue. Soon there will be two sleeping with you.
Good luck and have a blessed day.
Mother of Five

1 mom found this helpful

T.,
have you gotten his ears checked lately? my son used to go through this and it turned out that the screaming and waking throughout the night was caused by an ear infection.
Another thing could be that something in his room at night is scaring him. does he have a night light? shadows on the wall can do it and I'm guessing he probably doesn't yet have the vocabulary to tell you if this were it.
Also have you tried doing the same routine each night, maybe a bath and then a book while holding him? My son always craved the rooutine and I would tell him what came next and that after x, y, & z we would go to bed. He fought it in the beginning, but I finally figured out that what he wanted was a bit of soft music playing and a night light.
Is there someone else in the house that you can take turns with on the bedtime thing? you sound completely exhausted already and having a newborn will only add to it. is it possible that he senses the impending birth and is trying what he can to get and hold on to your attention? maybe giving him some things he can do when the baby comes will give him something to look forward to, he might be a bit young but a disposable camera helped with my daughter. If all else fails stickers for going to bed with a reward after x amount might help.
Anything you can do to break this pattern before the new baby is going to help keep your sanity. I wish you the best of luck and hope you get some suggestions that might help.

One question: what is dad doing? Is he present? If he is, he should be the one to get up and deal with the screaming toddler, barring physical disability or a job that won't allow sleep interruption. Especially as you're 36 weeks pregnant with the next one!

My little boy is 10 now but I still remember this! I found out he had acid reflux and was in pain when he laid down. His pediatrician put him on zantac drops and he started sleeping! I layed with him and told him a couple of stories, then it was time to be quiet. I turned a fan on for white noise. He did great after that! I'm so glad I didn't try to "be tough." Your motherly instincts tell you when something isn't right. At 10, he talks to me about things and we are very close. I'm glad I responded when he needed me instead of letting him cry. Good luck! God bless you!

do you think it would help if he was in a toddler bed instead of a crib? declan hated his crib and woke up frequently but when he moved to a bigger bed, he slept through instantly.

Hi T.,

Have you tried a white noise machine or turn a TV on in his room, turn it to face the wall and put it on something uninteresting? Sometmes, there's something waking them up and the noise helps to cover it and it allows them to sleep better. I'm guilty of bribing my older one to stay in his room by letting him watch TV to go to sleep when he was younger. Sometimes, you have to do whatever works for you and your family.

Good luck!

T., I am so sorry you are going through this while pregnant. I made a mistake with my 2 year old son while I was pregnant with my second, by laying down with him until he went to sleep. Then I couldn't stop doing it without him screaming for an hour and trying to come into my bed throughout the night. Here's what I think you should do, now before the baby comes. Take him to the store with you to buy a "big boy's bed", toddler bed, regular twin bed with rails, whatever fits your child's and your needs. Give him a "big boy bedroom" complete with all his toys and books. He shouldn't be sharing the room with the baby unless you have no alternative. Let him help pick the sheets and comforter. He is now too old to be in the crib and needs to be able to pick up his bunny himself. That's why the big boy bed is so important. Night time routine should include quiet before bed reading a book or two, a nightlight in the room and even soft gentle music on the tape recorder (just one side of the tape one time per night) and you firmly saying goodnight and leaving the room when you turn on the recorder. If he refuses to stay in the room, you'll have to lock your own door to keep him from coming into your room. I know it's hard but you must do this if you want the ability to take care of the baby without him horning in all night long. Let him sleep in the hallway if he wants - when he figures out that he won't get his way, he'll end up in his own bed eventually. If he's wandering the house, you'll need to lock him into his room. Don't think I'm bad for saying that - my own doctor gave me that advice. I didn't end up having to do it after all because after just a few nights, he went back to his room (first in the floor, then in his bed) but I'll tell you what, my son made the transition and now he's 15 years old and has slept in his own bed ever since. You can do this - just don't give in. He needs to be able to sleep without using you as a crutch. Hope this helps.

Hi T.,
I can only imagine how hard this must be for you!
I too suggest a white noise machine for his room. I post this over and over, but I think it really helps. My son was extremely colicky, and white noise has been a must since day one. We have the Marpac Sleepmate 980, which is a small machine with a sound similar to a box fan that produces no wind. My son knows that when this thing is on or is turned on, its time for sleep until it is turned off. Since we have been using this, bedtime and naps have been no problem (except when sick or teething).
Cry-it-out is so painful to listen to (take it from this colic survivor), but at his age, is necessary sometimes. I did a modified version of CIO- When he started crying, I would let him cry for a bit, then go in and lay him back down without saying a word or picking him up, and then let him cry for a little while- repeat. Eventually, he will learn that you are not going to pick him up, he is not going to get snuggles with mom, and that its time for sleep. Also, I would take "bun-bun" away during sleep times- I wouldn't even lay him down with it. My son has his "lambity-lamb" which he likes to throw out of the crib, as well. Lambity-lamb is no longer a sleep companion now.
Good luck!

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