21 Month Old Fights Sleep like None Other

Updated on August 19, 2019
K.K. asks from San Antonio, TX
20 answers

My husband and I both work in the service industry so early bedtimes aren't always an option seeing as how we currently only have one car, working opposite shifts so when he works nights i drop him off and pick him up meaning when it's time to go i have to get little one and load him up for the drive. If he wakes he will usually fall asleep in the car but as we arrive home (sometimes as late as 2 am) he either wakes as soon as we get home because he knows we have daddy or as soon as i lay him back in his crib. He will treat the time he was asleep like it was a nap and refuse to go back to bed (staying up as late as 5 am). Crying it out isnt really an option because he screams ( not cries loudly, actually screams, screeches, yells and throws everything.) I have tried getting him to eat a late night snack but it just ends up on the floor (as do a large amount of his meals, he likes to feed the dog (even if he's outside, it's so he can have it when he comes back in an no, telling him no does not work. That results in more screaming throwing and slamming his hands down on his high chair tray)) so with our hectic schedules and no babysitter a routine bedtime is nearly impossible. When he wakes it's either put him back in bed and him scream until he has a headache ( which WILL make him scream and cry more or let him come out and run circles around the house until 4:30 or 5 am. He generally first falls asleep around 10-10:30 he naps during the day at random. Set nap time also results in ear piercing screaming. We co-slept until he was 13 months. After he got his own bed he slept well for the most part but was restless at times but ever since he became accustomed to sleeping alone he will not co sleep. As soon as we lay on the couch or bed he's climbing out. He will fight and scream if you try to cuddle him and calm him and he is abnormally strong and i don't feel restraining him is beneficial. Need to figure something out. My older son slept through the bough night with little to no issue until he was 4 so this battle is new to us.

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So What Happened?

So I appreciate the few offering some helpful tips but I am appalled at the negativity. No, my husband does not have a liscense. My 10 year old does not watch my LO ever. We are limited income because my husband's chuld support for his daughter eats up a large amount of the pay. Neither of us get sleep at this rate. He is going back to morings but currently stay at home dad until the job gives him his schedule. When you have been in the restaurant industry for 15 years finding "other work" isn't as simple as you may think. I am currently working 2 jobs to maintain for the time being and using the car so he doesn't have to drop off and pick up. We don't have a new car. My car is almost 17 years old so i already have a no nice junk car. We cannot afford uber and no one at his job had been willing to give him a ride. We are very limited on income as our apartments are eating us alive. Our rent alone is 900 and they have hit us with $230 allocated water bills for. the last 6 months. We can't just move to something more affordable because 1. We have 6 months left on this lease and 2. It's San Antonio. These are considered " nice apartments" and are falling apart and filled with pests. I wish things were as simple as some of you make it out to be. This is not suburban territory with good neighbors and trustworthy teens to let babysit...and again can't even afford to pay one. We have no family here...none willing to help at least...my mother is a nurse and is filled with " i have a full time job..." And " i can't" the only time she ever watched the LO was when she offered to give my husband and i a night off to go to dinner and before my plate even hit the table she called telling me i needed to come get him. My 10 yo is ADHD and ODD. He takes medication to focus didn't the day and his doctor has him take melatonin gummies at night to help him get to sleep. He is smart, and much better behaved than a lot of kids his age so i dont need parenting classes, i need a solution. My husband has been home for 2 weeks now so no late night trips to pick him up. I work at 9am for job #1 and 4pm for job 2. lo gets up with me to take 10yo to the bus stop, we come home and i get ready for work. My children get three home cooked meals a day. I do not feed them fast food. LO eats what he can and his late night "snack" is usually toast, a slice of cheese ( not processed ) and a piece of fruit to fill his tummy so he will sleep better. He hasn't co-slept since he was 13 months and will be 22 months this coming Friday. He only gets one nap during the day around 1 pm and sleeps until 3 pm. We have tried very hard to set him on an earlier bed time but he wakes up after a couple of hours thinking it was just another nap and will not go back to sleep. No toys in the crib just him and his pillow and lightweight blanket. He will no longer let me cuddle with him to calm him back to sleep. He doesn't get sugar unless it naturally occurs in the food he is eating. I am working to low wage jobs on 3-5 hours of sleep a night. The neighbors have complained to apartment management and called the courtesy officer over letting him scream it out so it really isn't an option to allow it. Going on a walk before bed doesn't do much either because it's TEXAS and even after the sun breaks at 7pm it's still 95 with a "real feel" of 103 which is too hot to take him out in. (The dog is to strong to be able walk with the stroller so taking doggy for a walk isn't the best example as he is a 90lb bullboxer. Tonight for example was my first night off this week and LO and i were up by 8:30, napped from 2:30-4 and even though i had him in bed by 9 he JUST fell asleep (2:20 a.m.) I believe this is called sleep regression but i am uncertain of where to go from here. I cannot finish school because I have run out of student loans to do so. Rehoming the dog is not an option as he is my 10 year olds emotional support animal for his behavioral health disorders and gwttong rid of his dog would destroy him. The dog was only 8 weeks old when my little viking was born so they are also very attached to one another. In Texas we do receive SNAP benefits but not much. With our income and being a two parent househole we do not qualify for TANF (must make under $285/mo...not after bills but in all...even if youre only able to keep 50 out of each paycheck after paying for only the necessities. We don't have cable, internet, or other expenses after our phone bill ( minimum plan for 2 lines ). Power which runs about 130-150 depending on the weather) rent @ $900 for a 2/2 and allocated utilities strangling us. Allocated utilities for those unaware are where the apartment complex pays the utilities as a whole and divides the bill among the residents based on how many occupants are in each unit. Most places do not count children under 16 towards this bill...my complex does apparently) So on top of all of the units where they haven't informed the manages of how many people actually reside in the unit we are being forced to pay for leaks on the property grounds. That's just another mess we are having to deal with though. I have to repay my student loans before i can complete my Business degree. Some people just aren't made for office work. I focused on restaurant management because it's where i grew up. I was born to a server and a bartender so that's what i ended up doing with my life because i had grown up in it. My husband doesn't just cook on a line in a chain restaurant. He works for a locally owned restaurant and aside from losing 450/ mo in cs to a child he hasn't seen since she was 3 months old that will be 10 in February ( or son will be 11 in April) makes good pay for what most places here are willing to pay.

More Answers



answers from Atlanta on

This obviously isn't working for your family. Stop saying something is "impossible" that's a cop-out. You're caving and catering to your son. You are creating this mess.

Hire a nanny to be there at night.
Buy a second car.
Ride share with someone from your husband's work.
Public transportation
Change jobs.

If you say any of those are "impossible" I call BS on you. So public transportation might not work. but there is UBER or Lyft. Stop making excuses. Stop this crappy schedule. You're not helping ANYONE.

Your son needs to on a schedule. He can't scream and get his way. You are allowing him to basically train you. He screams, throws a fit and you cave because you don't want him screaming. Sorry. Your son needs to be told NO. And YOU, mama, need to MEAN NO. Your son needs a schedule. Children THRIVE on schedules. As it stands? Your son's life is chaos.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I don't think that your child is fighting sleep. What he's fighting is chaos, instability, insecurity, and a complete lack of predictable schedules. He's being fed a late night snack instead of a regular age-appropriate supper, at a regular time. He goes to bed much MUCH too late for a two year old, then wakes halfway through his sleep cycle, has to go for a car ride, comes home, has no idea if he'll get woken up again to be fed or packed into the car or what.

Children need security. You have created the total opposite.

Sit down with your husband and look at your work schedules. I appreciate that you're both working, but you need to create a predictable, secure, stable home environment. There are 4 rides involved: 2 jobs, both to and from work. And there's one car. It might mean that one of you is home without a car while the other is at work for the shift. Figure out if one of the 4 trips can be on a bus, with Uber, walking, car-pooling. Or buy a cheapo ugly 2nd car.

And then figure out a schedule for the home. A good bedtime for the 2 year old (like 7 or 8 pm), a reasonable nap, supper at 5 or 6, a snack mid-afternoon, etc. It's going to take time to instill this new schedule in your toddler and family. Your older child needs a secure home, too. Do you leave him sleeping at home alone while you go get your husband? That shouldn't be.

Figure out how to tell your younger child no, in an effective way. You need to reward good behavior and ignore the undesired behavior. And rewards don't mean toys or treats. The rewards are smiles from mommy/daddy, talking, being able to sit at the table with family, eye contact. If your child throws food on the floor, you remove the child from the kitchen or dining room table or high chair, you don't make eye contact, you don't react in anger or despair, you don't yell, you don't scold. You take the child to a quiet boring corner for a time out. But it's just as important, when your child is NOT throwing food, that you interact with him, sing a silly song, play a counting game, take about your day, etc. The instant food is thrown, that stops COLD.

You may need to talk to a professional counselor about how to establish an orderly, secure, stable home for your children, and for yourselves.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you are in Texas you don’t have to worry about the snow so maybe your husband could take a bike or buy a used scooter or the bus one way and bike the other. (You can put your bike on the bus in my area.) If you have a college in your area you could hire a college girl to come over. They usually don’t mind the late hours. He could pay a coworker for rides. He could try and change shifts or better yet, change jobs. Just get creative in your thinking.

This issue is not about your baby being a poor sleeper. It’s about you as parents not giving him a good sleep routine. This isn’t good for you either. You need your sleep.

Added: what do you do with your older child for all of this?

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

You son is not consistently getting a full night's sleep. He is getting woken up out of a deep sleep, and then he cannot adjust to relax and go back to sleep. Maybe your older son tolerated this schedule better, but this little guy cannot.

You need to find an alternative plan.

Maybe you guys need to buy a second car (even a really old car that still runs and will get one of you from point A to point B. Maybe your husband needs to start suing Uber. Maybe one of you needs to adjust your schedule. Maybe you need to find a way to hire a sitter who can simply be in the house so that you are not waking your kids at night.

You need to do something different, because waking your son out of a deep sleep is clearly not working for him. He needs uninterrupted sleep.

This is not about how to make your son accept the current conditions. That is asking too much of most adults. I wouldn't want to sleep for a few hours, wake up and run an errand, then try to go back to sleep for a few more hours. That is not going to feel as good as 8 hours of sleep.

The problem isn't your son.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Having kids often means that you can not continue on as you have before.
All this screaming can't be good for anyone - your son, your other kid(s), you, your pets, your neighbors.
You and husband need to figure out alternate commuting.
Ride shares are popular.
When your kids are old enough for school you will be working with the schools schedule and you will need different work schedules and/or some sort of daycare.
If you can't afford another car right now then maybe a small motorcycle will get your husband to work and back without waking the kids up in the middle of the night.
Perhaps re-homing the dog will get you enough money to manage another vehicle.
Tough choices need to be made but your youngest needs a better schedule and you need to make it happen for him.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Why isn't your husband just driving himself to and from work, did he lose his license? If yes then maybe you can drive him there but he needs to get a ride home from a coworker or uber. This can't possibly be good for your son.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

He is fighting sleep because he is not tired. You put him to bed and he sleeps - then you wake him up to go get daddy - he has had just enough sleep to be refreshed and ready to play.
I suggest you make other arrangements for your husband to get home from work or find someone who can come over to your house to watch him while you go to get him.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

What you’re describing is just not healthy for your son. You need to find a different system.

Your son should not be napping “at random”. At 21 months he should pretty much have one daytime nap (a popular choice of napping time would be after his lunch, for about two hours) and then he should have a solid night of sleep from about 8pm until whenever he wakes up (maybe around 6am).

You need to figure out a way to put him down for sleep at a normal evening time and leave him sleeping in one place until morning.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

welcome to mamapedia, Viking Monster Mommy.

You need to get a sitter. Sorry - you need to find someone who can be there to allow your son to sleep while you drive to pick up your husband.

If there is no public transportation offered at the hours you need? Consider buying a second car so your son can sleep.

Your son is teaching you and training you. he's not even 2 yet and you are losing control over your household. So what do you do when he has a fit? You give in to him. Sorry. He is training YOU not the other way around. Your son needs discipline - he doesn't need to be spanked - when you say NO. You mean NO and no amount of screaming will change your mind. He can go sit in his room for 2 minutes. But the answer is still NO. You give in? He wins and knows that the next time the same thing will work. You allow this to happen. You allow him to have control. Sorry. Your son needs to know that NO MEANS NO.

You have options. You just need to explore them.
1. Buy another car.
2. Find a sitter who can be at your home over night (doesn't matter if you don't need them overnight) to get your son into a schedule, pattern, etc. and give him stabilty.
3. Find a new job.

I am sure there are others here who will tell you your son is on the spectrum. don't label him. Give him boundaries and ensure that he knows that no means no.

Good luck

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Why are you dropping off and picking up your husband? If he takes the car then this problem is solved. Stay home with your kid and get a good night's sleep!!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

First of all you have to figure out a way to get your husband home from work without you having to wake the family and drive to pick him up. (People on here have suggested many options...from carpooling with co-workers, uber, another used car, the bus, or he drives both ways...you guys need to figure that out.)

Second you have to get your control back. Your little one has figured out that if he screams long enough you will cave in to his demands from food to sleep. It takes three days of screaming to "cry it out" or in your case scream it out. If you are apartment dwellers you can leave a pair of cheap ear plugs and a small Starbucks gift card on your neighbor's door(s) with a nice note letting them know you are going to be sleep training and apologize for the inconvenience. Super Nanny is a great show that does show walking them calmly back to bed though the screaming will work...it might take hours but finally they will stay put and go to sleep when they realize the crying will not sway you.

Screaming at meals...if he throws food or screams then the meal is over. Put away the food wipe his hands and take him out of the chair. Try again at next meal or snack time. He will learn you are in charge and he isn't...because he doesn't know what is best for him yet at only two years old.

So, a sleep schedule and feeding schedule need to get in place ASAP. For all of you guys sanity. Hugs Mama, each child is different but they all thrive on a schedule.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

How far away does your husband work? You need to figure out how many more years of this you can expect - and what you're going to do about it. Be realistic. When we're tired, exhausted and stressed - we look for quick fixes. There isn't one. You need to change the work/drive situation.

Because the answer is to stop waking your child up in the middle of the night, in the middle of his sleep.

You could do a mix of public transportation/get drives from coworker (pay them) on days you need to share vehicle. You could buy a second affordable car just for getting to work purposes, even with insurance, it is doable. My kids are doing this very thing - saving from fast food job over summer.

If you have a relative willing to stay over those nights, do that.

Think long term, because really you shouldn't be leaving your kids (even older one) to go get hubby in night.

Once he gets on routine, he will be fine. You say your older one did ok, but all kids are different. You can't compare. None of mine were same. Irrelevant. This one needs his sleep - uninterrupted. Follow his cues. He wants a regular bedtime mom. Make it happen.

10 pm is too late for a bedtime at that age. Move it up bit by bit.

I wouldn't try to co-sleep at this point. Going back and forth is probably confusing. Just stick to a regular routine.

Naps in afternoon - important. His natural rhythm and internal clock need to be set. One of mine konked out on couch - where they sleep for naps (as long as undisturbed) is not as important as bedtime.

The important thing I found was - when I listened to their 'cues' (just actually paid attention to what they were telling me) it went so much easier. When they show signs of being tired (wayyy before the crying, the meltdowns, etc.) like when droopy eyelids, yawns, slightly grumpy, etc. that's when you tuck down for nap. Day before, make sure you give lunch well before that, so they get a full nap in. Schedule your day a bit around that ... then, there's your routine. I would have downtime too. I'd do one thing but also have a rest myself.

Bedtime, I'd start earlier - I got mine ready wayyy early so that if they honked out early, bath, teeth, food, jammies, etc. was all taken care of. We did that soon after dinner here. Then they played (low key) books, etc. and when they were ready - showing signs of being tired, up to bed they went. I didn't like to rush jammies and teeth etc. at last minute and rev them all up again. I was usually tired and crabby at that point, so I did it when I still had energy.

That way, bedtime is relaxed and fun and enjoyable. Kids pick up on that. They settle much more easily.

Good luck. Keep us posted. Hopefully you can find something that works out :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

That’s hard, but you guys created this.. sorry for honestly.

But a baby must have set hours of sleep and nap times. This will go on until he goes. Get a sitter, some local lady that can come, or friends or family member.. but this kid doesn’t have a steady normal schedule that’s why he is acting out. And this will get worse!

Child should go to bed at 8 pm and wake up at around 7-8 am. Naps should be around 12:30 to 3 or so. ( going by my 4 kids schedules)

And if you guys can not provide a sitter maybe you need to get a new job. Or you can work from home and have hubby take the car. Or move back to parents until you can stand up on your feet and provide a stable home for the baby.
Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When I was a high school senior, I babysat a young boy and his baby brother in the evenings and often overnight. The parents worked evenings late into the night managing an all night coffee shop. I put the kids to bed and slept until parents got home.

As an adult, I watched a nearly year old baby starting when one parent was still at work and the other left for work for about 3 hours. I suggest that you can find a babysitter for not too much money.
Or, as others have suggested, you could make arrangements for different transportation.

Where is the 10 yo during this time? Does he also go with you? It's not safe for him.to be alone even if he's.sleeping. How long is he alone. You said he sleot well until.he was 4. What kind of sleep does he get now?

Who watches the baby during the day so that the night time worker gets some sleep. Sounds like the night time worker doesn't get sleep. He's taking care of the kids in the daytime. Or does he have the 10 yo watch the baby? If so, how do you provide for his need for play? At 10, he is immature. He isn't able to provide consistency or know what your baby needs to mature. He is too young for that amount of responsibility. From experience, I know that responsibility for a 2 yo will result in difficulty managing responsibility now.will impact how he functions as.a teen and an adult. What happens when he's back in school?

All of you consistently needs at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The children more hours.

I had difficulty getting enough sleep when I worked swing and graveyard shifts. I was single. You have 2 children. You need 8 hours of sleep so that you, your children and people encountered on the road and at work are safe. Your children need a daily routine to be safe and able to develop at a healthy pace. Reality is that they do not have a
strong base on which to build.

I also wonder if you are able to have a positive relationship with each other. Are you able to share joyfull times together? Are you able to spend times with your children in a non-stressful way.

I hesitate to suggest this knowing it's not ideal. Have you considered one of you not working until you figure out a more balanced time with each other and your kids? Perhaps your family would qualify for some state assistance. During this time perhaps one of you could could get more education to qualify you for more workable hours.

Parenting.your children should be the most important part of your life. Please find a way to end this chaotic life. Your children need you now.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Wow, that's really hard! One of my kids was a terrible sleeper and fought it all the time...it was not fun. I guess I would make some changes so that he sleeps a totally normal schedule. If it were me I would want both my husband and I to find normal hour jobs that work in the daytime -- even if this takes a couple years! Is this a possibility for you guys? For now I think you should do all you can to get your son on a normal sleep schedule where he is not woken up. And also on a normal nap schedule where he has his 1 nap a day. This means having someone there at your home when you go pick up your husband at 2am. Or it means getting a second car. Or it means your husband gets a ride home or finds another way home at 2am.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

what a tough situation! it's so hard when you're both working and have one car. BTDT, but at least we weren't on completely opposite shifts.

if finding a babysitter (even one for when you're home, just so you can both sleep) isn't an option, i suggest you work out who can best put off sleep for a bit and stay up with him. but no playing, or chasing around the house. the Awake Parent needs to not engage any more than necessary to prevent damage and injury. keep everything super quiet and zero energy until he gets bored enough to go sleep.

it's not ideal. it means you have to take turns being sleep-deprived, and it doesn't help your little guy get into a good sleep routine. i hope you can find a better solution soon.

but i also remember what it was like to be a young parent in a tough situation in which we just couldn't do what was ideal.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

That sounds so stressful for everyone. I'm sorry you are going through his, but there won't be any easy advice given your schedule.

First, you either need to find someone to stay with him while you go to pick up your husband, get a second car, or he needs to use public transportation or uber/lyft, You’re asking too much of your little guy, and it isn’t working for him.

Get him on a regular schedule with a consistent nap time after lunch, and a consistent bedtime where he can sleep uninterrupted for at least 10 hours. At this age a child should be getting about 12-14 hours of sleep total, and it sounds like your son is getting significantly less, and it is impacting his overall development which is, I think, why you are seeing all the screaming. Make sure you have a good routine, like a snack/bath/story or song before you say goodnight.

Then, if you are still having trouble helping him stay asleep, you can request an Early Childhood Intervention assessment. They will look at his overall development including his behavior, and offer therapy if he is showing any delays. Therapies are usually provided in the home, and are usually free for low income families.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm not sure what to do about the late night pickups - I've not been there/done that and it sounds like a difficult situation.

For the temper tantrums - does he tantrum during the day over other things when you tell him no? Or is this only at night when his sleep is disrupted? My advice changes based on whether this is standard terrible-twos tantrums or if this is a reaction specific to disrupted sleep. If you want to add more details in the "So What Happened" box, I might be able to give you some ideas.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

You son needs a routine and waking him up is not really ok. He needs to go to bed and stay there for the night. See if your husband can get a ride home. Uber?

He needs a regular nap time. Put him in bed and let him fall asleep on his own. ***Take the dog for a walk and put him in the stroller to get fresh air and tire him out. Make sure the pavement isn't too hot for the dog's pads....Your child should have reg naps. So, get the leash out and take them out.

On the flip side, some kids do indeed have neurological issues and cannot sleep. I am not sure this is the case. Co-sleeping has prob taught him to rely on that. Yet, kids with neurological issues need help. You need to talk to the doctor about this,

Twenty one months is an ENERGY filled age, too. Tell him ahead of time what is going to take place. This may help. He needs routine.

Parenting is not easy when the child is more spirited. Esp after your other son was a piece of cake when it came to sleeping. Tantrums during the day are normal and healthy. Do not give in. Let him cry and do not give in to meals, etc,,,,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

I agree completely with Retta. Mom, you gotta get a grip here or you are going to have one unruly teenager who terrorizes the family with his demands and outbursts. All this screaming and pounding of the high chair tray etc...has got to stop. Your job is to civilize him and instead you are training him to be a spoiled, demanding brat...sorry to say. When the screaming starts whether it be in the night or during the day, out in public or visiting family...you act firm with a "No screaming!" and either walk away and ignore (and say nothing more), leave or put him in his room alone (not in bed)
If you cannot let your husband have the car or find some other solution (like your husband finding another job for the sake of the family) your little boy can get used to be woken up in the night. And once he is back in his bed, door shut...do not go back in...ever. Consistency is important otherwise you confuse the child. "Is she coming or is she not this time?..."...which isn't fair to him.
In no time all these fits of rage will stop as he sees they do not work. Examine other ways you give in such as getting what he wants after you have already said no. Ignoring if he hits you or throws food or hurts the dog etc.. All these anti-social behaviours need to be addressed with firmness and time out.
Now to the positive: Praise him when he is being good. Give him more attention; singing, reading books with him, going for walks and pointing out and talking about birds, flowers, trucks etc.., responding with cheerfulness and enthusiasm to his chatter with you, chasing him and catching and hugging him for more ways to be affectionate etc.. Make your principal aim in life to raise a happy, well adjusted, bright, little boy that everyone loves to be around.
Good luck Viking Monster Mommy (funny name...lol)

1 mom found this helpful
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