(Almost) 16 Month Bedtime Boot Camp

Spencer woke up at 10:30 last night sans any discernible discomfort, hunger, or any other issue. After 2 noble but failed attempts by Jonathan to get him back to sleep and after Motrin was administered for the teething pain I'd imagined must be unbearable, it was my turn. I rocked him for no less than 2 minutes before he was clawing his way out of the glider and saying, "Mmmm Mmmm" (translation: Movie).

So as any no nonsense, well-seasoned, "love must be tough" parent would do, I let him pull me into the living room by my finger and then proceeded to turn on a dvd for him to watch--still imaging his teeth were hurting so excruciatingly as to keep him from sleeping. Also, I reasoned, I really needed to watch him for a little bit longer to make sure he didn't seem to be sick in any other way. Halfway into the first movie, it became crystal clear that he felt fine. He would have watched movies all night if I'd let him.

An hour later--once the Motrin should have been in full-force to treat all the imagined maladies plaguing my innocent toddler--I took him back to his room. He threw a fit and tried to get down. I've decided it's ridiculous to hold him down to rock him. So, I put him in his crib, told him it was time for "night night," walked out, and braced myself for the ensuing temper tantrum. He fussed, yelped, and cried for forty-five minutes until he finally fell asleep. There were a couple of times that he was quiet for about 5 minutes, where I'd be almost positive he'd given it up, but noooo. When the whole ordeal came to a close, it was 1 am.

Now, he'd been demanding curtain calls from Jonathan at nights rather frequently lately. I would tuck him in, and then he'd fuss pretty hard for ten minutes or so. Our main concern is not the fussing, but the fact that every now and then he won't go to sleep and it's because he's had a dirty diaper. I can't bear the thought of him having to fall asleep with feces all over his bottom--and remaining there all night! So, neither of us were loving the extra tuck-in time, but it seemed worth it to safeguard against the dreaded physical and psychological damage that must certainly ensue if your child sleeps all night in a dirty diaper.

However, Spencer unknowingly sealed his fate when he started refusing to nap at his regular time. He's been doing it off and on for a couple of weeks now. He'd fuss and push and play and scream for as long as he possibly could before he'd finally crash (way too late in the day) for a nap--further complicating his night time routine. We'd had this down pat for so long, that at first I was looking at certain days as isolated events, instead of seeing them as a behavioral trend. Either I'd worked the day before, or we had company over and he wanted to be in on it, or Jonathan put him down and he was waiting 'til I got home so I would do it, etc. etc. But in the middle of our midnight viewing of Veggie Tales, I saw the light--this had to end.

I think the sudden sleep-aversion must be part of a bunch of new developmental milestones. He also started shaking his head "no," this week, and apparently he'd decided to "just say no" to sleeping as well. Jonathan and I were just talking about how he seemed so much older almost over night. Apparently it was time to re-learn how this whole sleeping thing goes at the Kelley house.

So, nap time today was no problem due to the hangover from our impromptu bunkin' party last night. For good measure we also took him to the park this morning, to get him good and worn out. Nap time was on time, no fighting, no problem. Tonight bed time was set up to model the atonement--once for all. Spencer did cry and fuss for about fifteen or twenty minutes. (This from my child who hasn't cried at bedtime ever...now staying asleep was always a different story). It was reminiscent of last night's theatrics, but not nearly as bad. Then, all of a sudden, right on cue, rang the sound of silence. I'm hopeful that he's "cured," but willing to do this for as long as it takes.

Even as I'm typing I'm telling myself that he does not have a dirty diaper. If he does, a much different, penitent, anguished-mother post will follow tomorrow. But only time will tell. I hold this truth to be self-evident: it is important for all of us to have our alone time. More now than ever. I don't claim to "know" many things for sure, but this is one thing that you can't persuade me otherwise. I need sleep, in my bed, for many hours at a time. And he needs the same thing at this point in his life. So, and I know this is no surprise to many of you, I'm fightin' for it.

PS--I know Spencer very well. I am not only his mother, but his primary care-giver since birth. In his short fifteen months, we've spent a great quantity of time together. Some of it could be called "quality" I guess...I don't know how you'd label the rest of it. But it's always met minimum standards. I know how he acts when he does not feel good, even when I can't tell exactly what is wrong, and I would never ignore that sort of behavior to get him to take a nap or go to bed at a certain time.


  1. Be strong Lauren! I never was able to stick with it with Thomas, and at nearly 3 years old, we still deal with an awful sleeper who dictates us around at bedtime and refuses naps at his own will. UGH!

    We did CIO with Graham and he has been a much better sleeper always. Now, he would cry for HOURS for I think a week or so, before he finally started sleeping all night on his own. So I hope you have it easier...sounds like it. :)

  2. Oh, goodness! Penny had to do that boot camp. I'm pretty sure the story she'll tell her future therapist is that one day her parents just decided to ignore her for days on end but she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and made the best of it. After punishing them for two weeks by screaming, astonishingly, 26 hours a day.
    But since Spencer has had experience being a good sleeper, it shouldn't be too hard for him to get back in the habit.
    Good luck!

  3. Ahh, crying it out. I'm a big fan. I don't buy the "emotionally damaging" angle. In my mind there are so many things that could be emotionally damaging-putting your baby to bed after spending the entire day playing, feeding and caring for them is not one of them. I would wager you even put him in a deliciously comfortable bed in a tastefully decorated room after a warm, relaxing bath and sweet story (or Veggie Tales movie). Pat yourself on the back and hang in there as Spencer will certainly learn how to put himself to sleep. I brag on Owen-he sleeps 12 hours a night, naps in the afternoon and will play quietly in his bed after he wakes up in the morning giving me time to slowly drift from my state of unconsciousness. I give all the credit to some torturous nights of CIO. Oh, and I laughed a lot about the sleeping in feces guilt and preventative pain meds. It's spooky how alike we moms are. :)


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