Damien has been struggling with bedtime for the past month or so. While he’s generally been a decent sleeper, he’s gone back to waking in the night (yay teething!) and struggling at bedtime, wanting someone to stay with him or crying when he was always content to sing or play until tired. Typical 2 year old stuff.
Since the summer has been hot, Damien hasn’t worn his sleep sac. Aiden preferred to wear a sleep sac with a diaper under it, with a fan or the air conditioner on, but Damien doesn’t like the fan and so sleeps in shorts or just a diaper. As such, his legs are pretty much free. While Aiden never climbed out of the crib even once before we converted it to a toddler bed (at 33 months), Damien is now able to lift himself out.
Caught in the act, as you can see. He is more likely to do this if I am not at home, since he is really mad when anyone else puts him to bed right now. He learned this about a week ago. We have the video monitor, so we’ve been watching him close by to make sure he isn’t climbing out. So far, he only attempts this if he is mad, never when he wakes up.
We need to convert his crib to a bed, we know. It’s been a busy week. But I am not looking forward to these bedtime antics being exacerbated by the lack of physical boundaries. Bedtime is going to soon become a disaster.
We have already slightly pushed back bedtime to help him be more tired. The next step, sadly, will likely be to cut out his nap (if antics continue). He’s a good napper, generally sleeping for about 2 hours or so, but I’ve known for a while that he could do without it. He wakes too damn early in the morning, so without a nap I know he’d extend his night and that would be great. And he’s generally not grumpy around nap time, though he is for sure tired.
The reason I haven’t dropped his nap so far is that during nap time I have a short window to work (about 40 minutes), followed by some time with Aiden. When Aiden begins school, my work time would extend even further. I kind of don’t want to lose that just when I finally have an opportunity to work more during the day!! So, it’s selfish.
Aside from periods of teething or illness, Damien has generally been a good sleeper. Any regressions he’s hit, he’s recovered from without parental intervention. We’ve only ever had to re-enforce his good sleep habits when he was dealing with some crying at bedtime we thought was separation anxiety, but was probably also a too-early bedtime.
Lately, however, we’ve hit a new issue. His self-soothing has turned to self-injury. He picks at his face constantly and it’s been a real challenge to get him to stop.
Several months ago, he fell and had a scrape on his nose and on his cheek. He began fiddling with the scabs, often while sucking his thumb. The nose one, in particular, was convenient to him, given he could rub his finger on the scab as he sucked his thumb. It took many weeks for them to heal, as he was constantly rubbing them.
Once healed, we thought we were in the clear. Until he dug his nails into his cheek to create a new scab. He’s done this twice now (each side), and one side in particular is quite bad. We’ve resorted to covering them in band-aids, but unfortunately those give him a bit of a rash (allergy? eczema?) and so, when they come off, he has more bumps to fiddle with. While the bandage is on, he rubs the bandage, so the comfort he gets from rubbing is still there – not the best solution.
He knows how to pull bandages off his fingers, though that did buy us a few days. Currently, I’m wrapping two fingers of each hand in medical tape for nap / bedtime (though he sometimes picks in the carseat too). Unfortunately, he uses either thumb to self-soothe, and has begun using the other thumb to pick. Since he sucks both thumbs, I cannot cover either with tape.
Parenting can be challenging. I hope we can get him to break this habit soon!
Aiden has suffered from night terrors since he was about 6 months old, which is apparently quite young for terrors to begin. He wakes with a night terror 1-3 times each week, and we’ve learned a lot about them since. Each night terror involves Aiden waking and screaming, often with him sitting but facing the wall or acting confused. If he talks, it’s usually gibberish or makes no sense. There’s a lot of calling for “Mommy,” even if I’m the one hold him. He seems to see you, and sometimes respond with a “No!”, but often is not really responding. He never remembers them.
We know that Aiden’s night terrors are often predictable, based on how he seems during the day. Night terrors, for him, are triggered by being overtired, which can come from a late night or a series of grumpy days where it’s apparent he’s feeling a sleep deficit, despite a 11.5-12 hour night on a regular basis. When he was younger, a longer awake period was also a trigger for him. He’s more likely to have a night terror if he’s dealing with anything on an emotional level. Now that he’s older, he’ll also have a night terror if he needs to pee.
Aiden’s night terrors are always 1-1.5 hours from when he goes to sleep, but not at a consistent time. We don’t know how many are related to a full bladder, or how far back that goes, but that’s definitely been a pattern we’ve established lately. Aiden doesn’t hold his bladder for long periods of time, so his body is trying to get him out of a deep sleep to pee and it’s resulting in a night terror. Aiden feels everything very passionately, and there has been one night terror where he was lucid enough to tell me he felt “mad”, but for no reason, so it’s obviously his body’s way of releasing pent up emotions as well.
To get Aiden back to sleep, we have to wait out the most irrational point of his night terrors. We quickly take him pee, since that solves his body’s issue as well as gets the screaming further from Damien. We didn’t used to do this, but have found it shortens the duration of the night terror. Offering water or asking a question that requires an answer (vs a yes/no), can sometimes shake him out of it. Waiting them out without engaging doesn’t shorten the terror, in our experience.
Whether you are expecting a baby or are purchasing for a new family, there are many (too many) choices when it comes to sleep. According to the Safe Sleep guidelines, the safest way for your baby to sleep is on his/her back in a safe sleep environment that is firm and free of extra items: no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads. Now that we’ve had 2 kids, difficult sleep journeys aside, I wanted to share the items that worked best for our family:
Infant Sleep Necessities
- Bassinet – Although not necessary, we found it easier to have baby in our room from the start, allowing for easy access to breastfeed throughout the night. We found it more comforting to have baby close, and studies have shown it to be beneficial to baby as well. We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista, making it a great all-around purchase that we still use 4 years later!
- Bassinet Sheet – These were hard to find, but make it easier to keep the bassinet clean – babies spit up a lot!
- Rocking Bassinet Stand – We used the Jolly Jumper stand and had it rigged up to a belt to rock more easily without the parent having to sit up. Our boys were both rough sleepers, but it helped in the very early days.
- White Noise – I’d call this absolutely essential, although we didn’t believe it at first. You can buy white noise machines; we used an iPad playing a waterfall track from iTunes in the early days, or an iPhone if we were on the go. In the first few weeks, the sound alone sent Damien to sleep. Now that he’s older, we still play white noise on an old iPod Speaker Dock to minimize the number of times his older brother disrupts his sleep.
- Miracle Blanket – The recommendations on swaddling vs not swaddling keep changing. For our two boys, it was essential, but not long lasting. We tried regular blankets of many sorts and several specialty items. The longest one to last was the Miracle Blanket, since it was the hardest to “escape” from. Our boys both rolled early and were very mobile at night, so we stopped swaddling each before 6 weeks old.
Baby Sleep and Beyond Necessities
Our kids moved to their own rooms at 4 months, for Aiden, and 2 months, for Damien. I wish we had made the move earlier for Aiden, who struggled a great deal with the distractions of our room. For both of our boys, we have found the ideal set-up to be:
- Convertible Crib / Bedroom Set – We made the unconventional decision to buy convertible cribs for both boys, instead of using a crib for both. Our logic is that we are buying not just baby furniture, but furniture for their whole lives. Ideally, you would buy a whole set: crib (with conversion kit to make it a toddler bed and/or double bed), dresser, bookshelf, side table. By buying all items early, we ensured the items will never go out of stock. Tip: when buying a whole set, envision the style that would be appropriate for a teenager, not just an infant!
- Crib Mattress – Choose a mattress that is firm and ideally water resistant, eliminating the need for a waterproof mattress protector. Who wants to do extra laundry? Not me!
- Sleep Sack – A wearable blanket in the appropriate weight and size for the season. Aiden wore these until he was almost 3, when he switched to a blanket. You never have to worry about tucking in with one of these! Tip: choose one with a hidden zipper at the front or side. Avoid ones with snaps at the top, which come loose easily.
- Crib Sheet – Choose a sheet that fits snug and still has some softness to it. We have foundmany too loose. Our favourite crib sheet is from Skip Hop.
- Breathable Bumper – Although bumpers pose a suffocation / SIDS hazard for young babies, and a climbing hazard for older ones, babies have a habit of getting arms and legs stuck in the bars of their cribs! We solved this with a breathable bumper.
- Crib Rail – If your convertible crib doesn’t come with a safety rail for use in the toddler bed setting, a safety rail is essential. My 4-year-old still needs his (he rolls a lot) and we plan at least one more year in the toddler bed setting.
- Video Monitor – Although not essential, it is so helpful to see your baby to know if they are crying in their sleep (totally unaware) or if they maybe need your help. Plus, for older kids, you can spot when they’re not in bed! We personally use wireless cameras we connect to our phones, but if you’re not tech savvy, any baby video monitor should work.
- Toddler Bedding – For older kids, choosing bedding is not easy. Depending on how much your kid tosses and turns and the temperature of your room, you could choose a quilt or a comforter. Since top sheets cause an unnecessary amount of “can you tuck me in?” requests, we use a blanket only. We learned the hard way to ensure that the blanket is larger than the bed area, so it doesn’t come off too easily. We now use a thick quilt from Pottery Barn Kids that mimics a comforter, but without the need to wash a separate cover.
- Toddler Pillow – Pillows are very personal. The recommendation is to wait until age 2-3 before introducing a pillow, and then introducing one that is toddler-sized. Pillow cases can be hard to find (Pottery Barn Kids has them). Aiden at age 4 still doesn’t want a thicker pillow, as he still sometimes sleeps on his tummy.
- Blackout Curtains – You need to block out the light to get babies to sleep a decent night, and particularly for naps. Aiden has blackout curtains behind his nicer curtains, though Damien has a thicker curtain with blackout sewn into the lining (from Pottery Barn Kids).
Those lists seem exhaustive, but if you’ve been to any baby store, you’ll know that you are pitched far more that you don’t need. You don’t need teddy bears that play heartbeats or fancy night lights or mobiles (distracting) or toys for the crib. Bedrooms are for sleeping – keep it simple!
Aiden isn’t going to sleep tonight for some reason, so he’s babbling. And this is just one of the adventures he’s made up:
I’m a new racing car. Vroom Vroom
Why are you called Vroom Vroom?
Because that’s what my name is.
Why are you called Vroom Vroom?
That’s because I like being Vroom Vroom. That means I’m a race car. All race cars vroom vroom and their names are all Vroom Vroom. Because because weeeee aaaaarrrrreee so big. Gianter than a giant kid. Or than a grown up. Or than a little giant. Or than a big giant. Or a bigger giant.
We are bigger than houses. We are bigger than airplanes.