Please tell me it's just a phase

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Categories Development, Sleep, Toddlers

Deep breath.  Deep breath.  Deep breath.

My 15-month-old daughter is working my very last nerve these days.  The screeching, the frantic foot-stomping, the attempts at biting her brother (who is having his own cranky times, of course).  And the sleep, oh, the sleep.  Come back, sleep!

We Ferberized both kids at 6.5 months.  Rebecca took to it reasonably well, Daniel fought it tooth and nail.  But, not long thereafter, he became my really solid sleeper.  Longer naps, totally silent all night long.  Rebecca has long persisted in briefly waking up and crying (not hard, just a bit) pretty much once a night.  But 95 times out of 100, it lasts less than two minutes, and she goes right back to sleep.  No idea what causes it, but it didn’t seem to have any lasting effects.

Rebecca in pajamasA month or so ago, she started periodically waking up and, instead of a momentary whine, it was a sudden, hysterical scream-fest.  As though she had a bad dream and woke up too quickly.  We broke our usual rule of non-intervention, and discovered there was almost no calming her.  If you picked her up, she’d quiet down.  But the moment you turn back toward the crib, the breathing gets fast and she loses it again.  A few times, we went way outside our normal mode of operations and brought her into bed.  Safe to say none of us slept particularly well on those nights.

My husband finally discovered he can get her to go back to sleep in her own crib if he doesn’t pick her up, but instead just rubs her back until she calms down, and then sits next to the crib (where she can just barely see him) until she’s asleep. God help you if you try to leave the room before she’s all the way out.

As I say, we’re generally of the do-not-intervene school of kids and sleep.  But there was a certain hysteria in her screaming that told us it was the right time to break our own rules.  Still, I worried.  My little girl is a clever one, and is quick to exploit weaknesses in the system.  Now, all of a sudden, she’s waking up and screaming again… but it’s different.  It’s not the scared, hysterical variety.  It’s the cranky, come-visit-me type.  Hrmph.

Anyways, I wish I knew what was behind the waking and screaming.  I’m hoping it’s one of those disturbances you see before a big developmental leap (and I’m hoping that leap involves spoken language), and that it will pass soon. (That would also probably account for the daytime crabbiness and frustration, too – lack of communication.)  Just goes to show… for as much as I spout off about the wonder that is Ferber and all of that, sleep remains forever a tricky mystery.

[update: I started this post a few days ago, on a night when Rebecca was up and screaming no fewer than four times.  Last night, I’m fairly certain she didn’t make a peep.  Let’s hope we’re seeing the other side of this…]

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9 thoughts on “Please tell me it's just a phase”

  1. first off, that is an adorable picture of rebecca. she just looks so sweet and innocent! just what you want to hear, i’m sure!

    has she gotten those god-forsaken molars yet? that could be a reason for the sudden wake-up-screaming moments. i’ve also found that in those times when the rules go out the window because you think your kids are either terrified, in pain, or worse, it does take a little re-training to get them back to where they used to be. oz won’t go to sleep by himself for naps anymore because i indulged him too long. it’s not a big deal – i just have to pat his back for a minute or two until he drifts off. and i actually don’t want to give it up now because it’s that extra little time i get with him. but this all started with the 18-month sleep regression business and now it’s 3 months later. hmph…

  2. Good point on the molars. It’s possible, of course. They’re nowhere near the surface, but she always was crankier well in advance of the teeth actually appearing. By the time they crack the surface, she’s fine.

  3. We also did Ferber CIO and we’ve had mixed results. Nate has NEVER woken unless he is very ill. He has all four molars now and even vomited in his sleep without waking up. He has to be running an extremely high fever or massive double ear infection to wake *once* kind of whimpering.

    Alex remains a mystery. Canines caused a couple of weeks of night wakings. Molars were an entire month of NO sleep unless he slept in our bed. The 18 month sleep regression was hellish. I would say 1 night a week, he wakes up crying about something. Or talking about something. Or whining about something. Sometimes he wakes once and sometimes he wakes a few times.

    We go in when we feel it is necessary (again, playing the ‘should we’ game) but I don’t feel like he is playing us. I’ve just come to accept that he needs more nighttime parenting than Nate needs. And sometimes “giving in” to him when he’s going through some big stuff – verbal explosions, learning to deal with emotions, etc – is easier on all of us.

    Actually it makes me glad I have twins. If Nate were my only kid, I would say CIO is the perfect answer for every kid. If Alex were my only kid, I would say CIO doesn’t work.

    (Btw, Nate fought CIO and almost made me give in. Alex was fine after a day or so. Sounds like your situation.)

    Anyway Alex definitely goes through phases where the night waking is a lot worse. I certainly remember the 15-21 month phase as very difficult in sleep, temperament, and general getting-into-stuff-all-the-time-and-tantrums for Alex.

    I’m just waiting for his second set of molars, walking on pins and needles.

  4. What a sweet photo! I could have written most of your post only talking about Maddie. She has NEVER been a good sleeper. Neither of them slept through the night AT THE SAME TIME until they hit 15 months. I seriously lost my mind from lack of sleep. I actually blacked out and crashed my car – but that’s a whole other story. Regardless, we hit an 18 months sleep regression and it lasted until 20 months – almost to the day. And still, Maddie will only go to sleep if one of us is sitting in the “ga ga chair” (rocking chair). And like you said GOD FORBID you try to sneal out before she is totally out. And the damn chair squeaks so we’re pretty much stuck for a good hour after bed time. We can’t do CIO with her because after about ten minutes she throws up all over the place – every time. Sleep has always been an issue with us!

  5. I’m going to say it’s just a phase. In fact I’m going to say that to myself over and over when one of my twins screams at the affront of being put to bed tonight . . .

  6. It is just phase, but I’m afraid that at our house it’s been a long one.

    LauraC’s comment really resonated with me. Maddie is a great sleeper, but Riley needs a lot of nighttime love. I often find it very hard to give, but I try.

    Sleeping has not been good at our house since the 18m. sleep regression hit a year ago. Yup. On average, I’d say that I’m up with Riley and/or Maddie (b/c sometimes he wakes her up with his screaming–they share a room) six nights out of seven, sometimes more than once. We did Ferber when the kids were 6m. and it worked great until the 18m. regression; since then, no dice.

    I don’t really have any advice, just a lot of empathy. In the middle of the night, I find myself fantasizing about the days to come when I’m prying them out of bed in the morning to get them to school on time. I’m sure I’ll complain about it when it happens, but for now, it sounds like a wonderful problem to have!

  7. having spent the last few nights comforting (oh, i mean getting kicked by) mace due to his 2 year molars starting now at his 18th month…well, phase, yes. just that his phase has never ended.

    he does the screaming at night and what i do is go to him, hold/pat until he either sleeps or does not and then i go back to my room and get an hour or two of follow up sleep. usually he will cry himself down after my ‘visit’ if it is molar time. if it is just ‘regular’ ‘no teething’ time he just goes right back down after a little love. but he has always needed that.

    o is totally different and now he sleeps solid unless teething (and then he just moans and grumbles a lot) or if mace is screaming he sits up and tells him ‘no no no’ and goes back to bed.

    no solutions here, just commiseration and the hope that it does eventually phase out for us when all teeth are in. but i do love the cuddles, as long as i am not getting kicked.

    now off to nap for me…i sense a long night ahead.

  8. i say trust your gut if the cry doesn’t sound right, too often we are told we are just being “women” and too soft blah blah blah. BS. One thing I have learned sense I had my girl, trust my instincts… because often I will later regret it weather it be guilt or something that is revealed.

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