When I saw the topic for this month’s installment of our Real Talk with Real Moms series I’m pretty sure I actually laughed out loud. As a point of order, I have about zero tips for children and sleep these days, but surviving toddler sleep regression? That I can speak to! So buckle up. It’s about the get real.
Before I tell my tale of woe, I’ll point you to the other moms helping to hold down the fort. I’m sure they have much better tips for you than I do right now. I’m hoping to learn a lot from them myself!
For a super quick back story, Emerson was always historically a champion sleeper. From about six weeks on she settled into a solid routine which I reinforced, and by six months she was sleeping through the night for 10 – 12 hours. We’d read books, rock, lay her down, walk out and she’d put herself to sleep and stay asleep.
Fast forward a couple years to just shy of her third birthday. And, friends, I don’t swear on the internet much, but HOLY $HIT! Why did no one prepare me for toddler sleep regression?! One day my kid was fine, EVERYTHING WAS FINE, and literally the next day it all fell apart.
We are now about six months into this prolonged regression. She refuses to put herself to sleep, she’s waking up constantly, she wants to be in our room or have us sit in her rocking chair and watch her sleep, and generally all our great habits and patterns have gone to utter shit.
Unfortunately we haven’t been able to figure her out or solve things yet. To say it’s exhausting [and deeply frustrating] is an understatement. However, I have a few things I’ve implemented to keep myself sane and to make sure I’m getting some measure of sleep myself. That’s what I’m sharing today because I’ve got nothing else, friends!
How to Survive Toddler Sleep Regression
So first thing first, I have not messed with our bedtime routine much at all. We still brush teeth, put on cozy pjs, and then read books. Recently we’ve been reading through the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls books, which she adores. Then we sing a few songs and I tuck her into bed.
I feel like it might come up so I’ll mention that here in the extreme cold and dry of winter in the Northeast, we can’t do daily baths or her skin gets out of control. A few days a week she does also get a bubble bath before bed. In the hot and humid months she does get daily baths before bed.
At that point things fall apart. She doesn’t want to be left alone, she seems like she’s afraid a lot of the time, although she doesn’t mention or seem to be having bad dreams. She wakes up regularly throughout the night and she has extreme separation anxiety.
For weeks I tried bringing her back to her room a million times a night. It didn’t work. She still woke up. She still came crying into our room. And I was miserable. Sleep deprived, feeling like I had a newborn, exhausted and miserable.
So at this point I transitioned her to her big girl bed hoping it would excite her about bedtime and her room and be enough to keep her in her bedroom it flat out didn’t work. We incentivized sleeping all night in her big girl bed. It didn’t work.
Eventually a mommy has to sleep. So I stuck her old crib mattress under my bed, and when she inevitably comes into our room at night, I pull it out and she sleeps on our floor on the mattress. Yes, I know long term I’m not solving anything. But I do keep a couple of boundaries that I do not waver on.
- We always go about our bedtime routine and she always has to start the night, tucked into bed and sleeping in her own bed.
- She does not get to sleep in our bed even though that is absolutely where she wants to be.
- Every morning I make her bring her blankets and bears back to her room and stress that they live in her room, not Mommy and Daddy’s room so she needs to remove her things from our room.
And honestly, that’s it friends. That’s how I’m doing it and not losing my damn mind. I do feel like she’s probably winning the war right now, but I try to at least keep her from totally taking over our room and our bed.
She still wakes up regularly and I have to reassure her that I’m nearby and she settles right back down. I’m still exhausted from being up multiple times a night, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was when I was trying to force her back into her own bed 109 times each and every night. Also, my kid has slept through the night a grand total of 3 times in over six months, friends, and I am not ok.
So that’s that! I’m surviving. I’m making it work. And maybe someday I’ll sleep for real again. Now, who has the magic solution for me? I’m all ears!