Why Didn’t Anyone Warn Me About Toddler Sleep Regression?

Image Source: Leah Cambell
Image Source: Leah Cambell

You know when you’re in the throes of new babyhood and you happen across another mother who seems all glowy and well-rested, even though she is holding a child just about the same age as your own? You know how you kind of want to punch her in the throat when she brags about how well her baby is sleeping, even though you are being woken up every two hours and can’t remember what it feels like to not need coffee for survival?

Yeah … I feel like this is the place where I should probably apologize because I was totally that mother.

My kiddo has always been a good sleeper. I swear I’m not bragging when I say that — it’s just the truth. And I really don’t think it had a whole lot to do with me. She was just a natural at the whole sleep thing.

By six weeks of age, she was giving me a little over eight straight hours of sleep a night. Somewhere between 3 and 4 months, she started putting herself to sleep. We never had to “cry it out,” she just went for it. I put her down awake and she cooed softly for a few minutes until she dozed off. That simple.

For the last two years, she’s pretty consistently slept from eight at night to somewhere between nine and ten in the morning. Naps have never really been her thing, but she can usually be counted on for about an hour to an hour and a half there. And bedtimes are a breeze. We read books, cuddle for a few minutes, then I turn the light off and she passes out. No fuss, no muss.

Or at least that’s how it used to be. Before my great sleeper was abducted by aliens and replaced by a tiny little insomniac.

It’s currently 10:30 PM. My daughter, who was put in bed at 8 PM, is in her room kicking the wall and singing some song she seems to have made up on the spot. I’m watching her on the Dropcam above her bed, as I have been periodically since I put her down. She’s showing no signs of being anywhere near ready to fall asleep.

If tonight is anything like last night, or the night before that, once she does fall asleep — she won’t stay that way. We’ve been averaging three wake-ups a night lately. Usually at least one is the result of a nightmare, with lots of tears and a need for mommy’s comfort. But the others just seem to be a result of restlessness — I don’t even need to go in to check on her, though I can hear and see her moving around. And once she’s up, it will take her another hour or two to fall back asleep.

She’ll wake up for good sometime between six and seven in the morning.

They say that toddlers need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day — including naps. Right now, I would estimate my kiddo is getting about seven hours total, never in stretches of more than three hours a time.

This has been going on for most of the summer, though it’s been at its peak this last month or so. It started with her waking up earlier and earlier, then extended to fighting the bedtimes. The middle of the night wake-ups appeared in the last few weeks.

I feel like she’s got to be exhausted (I mean, I’m exhausted) but still, the sleeplessness continues.

I almost feel bad now for all the times I bragged about my amazing sleeper, but this drastic shift in her sleeping patterns has me singing a different tune. I thought we were home free. I thought the fact that we had made it past 2 with her being such a great sleeper, meant that was never going to change. That this would just be an enduring part of her personality; my kiddo who was so easy when it came to sleep.

I thought wrong.

In one of my nights spent desperately searching for answers regarding the cause of her restlessness, I came across a few articles about Toddler Sleep Regression and I realized — this is actually a thing. This is one of those normal stages of development that plenty of other toddlers go through as well. But no one ever warned me about it.

Maybe it was because of all my smugness about my easy sleeper. Other mothers listened to me brag and thought ruefully, “Oh, you’ll see … that toddler sleep regression is still to come.” I probably deserved it, but I still feel like someone should have given me a heads up.

The bigger issue is that I’m not really sure what to do now. Everything I’ve read has said that this is temporary and to just ride it out but … I’m tired. And I don’t understand why she isn’t too.

Will I ever get my good sleeper back? Will there ever be a day when she lets me sleep in until 9 again? Or did I squander those peaceful nights when I had them, never realizing they could just one day up and disappear?

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