Sometimes a baby/kiddo that goes down without a fight 99% of the time.... puts up a fight! Or wakes up in the middle of the night randomly crying... so what do you do? For me, personally, it is very hard to emotionally deal with unexpected sleep problems with my toddler. Hearing my baby cry in his crib is so rare for us now that it causes me physical pain and anxiety almost immediately.
It happened this past weekend. After a fun people-(and of course gift)-filled birthday, our little boy cried when we put him down for bedtime. **If you're like me and hate stories before recipes (seriously I don't need to know your Great Aunt Lucy loved to play the guitar and this recipe always makes you think of her, just tell me how to make the Mac N Cheese!) just skip to the list... if you'd like to read about my own struggle, go right ahead:
My first instinct was to FREAK out. LETS GET HIM OUT AND CUDDLE HIM UNTIL HE HAS FALLEN ASLEEP!!!! But then I calmed down, reached my rational side, and acted in a slightly calmer manner. I went into his room, calmed him down, spoke with him, waited until he was ready to go back into his crib, and then sang his goodnight song (ok it's Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley's version... I've been singing it for two years now), and scratched his neck until he was breathing slowly. This wasn't easy. (Definitely not easy on my 32-week pregnant back). It also wasn't easy because I wanted to be back in my living room playing board games with my sisters and in-laws... but it's what I knew my little boy needed. After a long time he was asleep in his crib and didn't wake up until 6:30 the next morning. Now - This was our specific situation. If I went into your baby's room and sang Hallelujah and tried to scratch their neck, they would probably freak out... but that's why it's important to have routines, to know our kiddo's preferences, and to be consistent. See the tips below to see what to do when your perfect sleeper has a rough night:
Don't create unsustainable habits
It's easy to freak out when a baby or toddler won't stop crying, but the worst thing to do is come up with a solution in the moment, mid-freak out. If you have decided baby/toddler/kiddo will not be sharing your bed, for example, then don't resort to that. Be very clear with yourself and anyone else involved- there's no need to bend the rules because of a bad night -- a quick solution one night can lead to very long nights for a very long time. This is why it's crucial to have a specific sleep plan, even with "perfect sleepers." Talk with the adults in the family about what you should do if anything is off.
While trying to figure out what went wrong ask yourself if maybe baby is crying because they need a shift in their schedule. Check out this post to see if maybe they need to drop a nap, and ask yourself if maybe they needed more time to be awake before bedtime, or if they've been awake for too long and have reached an overtired stage.
Think about other possible causes
If your usually great sleeper is crying, there is a chance that perhaps their tummy hurts or is affected by what they ate that day. Think about how much sugar they had that day, or if they accidentally ate too much dairy, or something they're sensitive to. In this case just help them settle down, give them some water if needed, and watch their diet the next day. Take time to think about their activities that day too, did they do something very different? Something Hyper-stimulating? Scary? If your child is especially sensitive, even just new people could affect their sleep.
And then... talk it through
When you go into crying baby's room - talk to them! Tell them you know something feels wrong, but that you're there for them and everything is ok. That they are ok, they need to fall asleep in their room, but today you can help them do that. Talking is SO much more important than we realize, even with the tiniest babies.
In some cases, it could be an actual sleep regression. The most common ones come at 4, 9, 12, and 18 months. Stay posted for my blog on sleep regressions coming soon-ish ;). But in any case, hold on to good habits, routines, and consistency, even in the face of real regressions.
If you stick to what you usually do, a random bump in the road will be just that.
If you've accidentally created bad habits, send me a message and let's see how we can get your great sleeper back on track!