WHY are you still awake? Sleep regression? Sneaking lattes?
February 21, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

*Baby filter* Our 11ish month old has had two super weird bedtimes ("happy happy party time! Hey, did you know I can make farting noises with my mouth? woohoo!") this week and I'm trying to figure out what might be going on, and more importantly what our options are for dealing with it. All the gory details inside.

So our status quo (as much as there is one with a baby) is:
  • Start evening routine about 6pm, dinner (solids/mash), bath, pj's, read a stories while having a bottle, read good night moon, lights out, pacifier, white noise machine on, rock with mom or dad, songs, sleep. We've been doing almost this exact routine since he was a couple of months old, except for nursing vs. nursing and bottle vs. bottle solo (which changed by combined dwindling supply and his choice about a month ago).
  • He sometimes fusses, sometimes not, but usually falls asleep in 10-20min. If he's sleeping lightly, it might take a couple of tries to get him in his crib, but usually another 10-20min. This part of the routine has been pretty much unchanged for 4ish months. Before that he was usually cool going down drowsy but awake, but that's neither here nor there.
  • He sleeps in his crib till we're ready for bed, usually a couple of hours. He'll usually wake up once or twice and we go in, pick him up, hold him for a minute and put him back in his crib, or if we're ready for bed, he comes to bed with us.
  • He'll wake up a couple of times at night, once to nurse, but otherwise a little pat on the back, pacifier or a snuggle and he's back out.
We are good with this right now, it's usually not that time consuming (once the bedtime ritual is done) and it allows us to all get decent sleep at night.

The problem:
  • Tuesday and Thursday nights this week, little one was wide awake long after he normally sleeps. He wasn't fussy or upset, just awake, eyes wide open in the (near) dark, making noises, playing with his mouth, hands, face, pacifier, everything. Tuesday it took an hour and a half to get him to sleep. Thursday THREE and a HALF hours.
  • Once he got to sleep he slept fine.
  • Tuesday and Thursday he's with a Nanny, who's awesome with him, does all kinds of cool activities (beach on Tuesday, finger painting for the first time on Thursday), and who he naps well for (2 naps a day), though we've asked her to try and wake him when he hits an hour and a half (so often, and this week, a total of 3 hrs of naps each day). She's been taking care of him for almost two months now, and I don't think anything has changed there.
  • Wednesday he is usually with his 1year old cousin, either with me or Auntie, and so sleeps less during the day, sometimes a lot less. This Wednesday he got two half hour naps. That night he cried like a banshee (could have been my leaving, he's in a bit of a mommy phase, and it was dad's turn) for 5minutes and then was out and slept deeply and well all night.
So, my questions:
  1. What do you think his deal is? I think this sounds like a developmental leap, and he has been exhibiting new behaviors during the day as well (how he's playing with his toys, waving, playing chase, etc.) so there's definitely some cognitive stuff happening. Does this sound right?
  2. If this continues, what can we do (other than CIO) to mitigate the life disturbing effect? Reduce his nap time or number? Move his bed time later and let him get his wiggles out? Let him play in his crib in the darkish, while we hang out and play on our phones?
Oh, and he is 11 months old, but was 6 weeks premature, so his corrected age is between 9 and a 1/2 to 10 months old. Not sure how relevant this is but I think developmentally he is still somewhere between corrected and chronological age.
posted by pennypiper to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a cognative leap. Let him amuse himself in his crib if he will. Can he stay there all night? (I'm not sure if he's in a different room than you are, or if he's actually coming to bed with you when you retire.)

It may be time for him to have his own bed in his own room. He might like this.

Some folks just like to have a place to themselves.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:58 AM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The nanny-day naps seem like a real contender, although one week of data is not really enough to go on! It's not impossible that he's ready for a single afternoon nap, although it's a bit early. You could ask his nanny to see if it's possible to give it a try.

Question: do you actually have to hang out with him if he's playing in his crib? Unless he flips out when you leave, I would just leave well-enough alone and go do stuff. (on preview, agreeing with Ruthless Bunny there).
posted by chocotaco at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2014

Personally I have just decided (after three years of constant change and sleep disruption) that babies and toddlers are simply inexplicable creatures of mischief and mystery and I will never know why they do most of what they do. And I drink a lot of coffee.
posted by celtalitha at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2014 [14 favorites]

You said he was awake and playing, as opposed to screaming bloody murder for someone to come and pay attention to him. One thing I have learned is that it's okay for baby to be awake in bed. This is when they think about their day and process what they've experienced and learned. You can go in once or twice to ask "are you okay?" or "do you need a cuddle?", but I actually discourage that if baby seems content (it can set up an expectation and sleep problems later). This is where a video monitor is a god-send.

One good piece of advice I got was "don't make a permanent change for a temporary issue". So give it a few days, it may very well be a short-lived phase.

(Just wait until he starts talking! If he's anything like my LO, you'll listen to him chatter to himself in bed for hours before he falls asleep. Just keep wakeup time the same, it will sort itself out in a few days.)
posted by vignettist at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

If he's not in distress and needing your intervention, just leave him be and go on with your life. He'll sleep when he's tired.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2014

I agree with vignettist. Twice in one week may seem like it's a change, but it could just be a blip. Our 21-month-old will have a night like that maybe once a month and Mr. Bibbit and I usually just look at each and roll our eyes, but otherwise let him be (unless he's making a racket by kicking the crib, in which case he gets a talking to).
posted by bibbit at 10:11 AM on February 21, 2014

My vote is for sleep regression, probably tied to some cognitive or physical leap he's making (or is preparing to make).

Also, if he's not upset, then leave him be. Being able to be awake and amuse himself in his crib when he's not sleepy is a valuable, valuable life skill. He's got it. Don't mess with it.
posted by anastasiav at 10:13 AM on February 21, 2014

Just a few quick clarifications, his crib is in a separate room and he's usually in there for 2-3 hours and then comes into our room to sleep with us.

And he was happy but almost the whole time was in our company or being held. I did try just letting him play in his crib, and I just laid down on the floor next to it (and pretended to sleep : ). He was happy for about 10 minutes then started trying to get out, fussing and crying crying. BUT, it was dark, and he only had two stuffed animals to fling out of the crib (and what fun is that?), so perhaps with a night light and a few more things to occupy him we could try leaving him to play, and come in when he cries, to give him a cuddle.

And I do realize this could be a blip. I'm hoping so. I'm wanting a million (or at least one) contingency plan in place though just in case because I'm out of town for the first time this coming Mon-Wed, so the Mr. and Jr. will be on their own for the first time, and I want to leave him with options.

This is all great so far, thank you all!
posted by pennypiper at 10:16 AM on February 21, 2014

If it helps, all infant sleep issues are a blip. All children learn to sleep through the night, at some point, so the ups and downs of infant sleep are a temporary thing. Though they don't feel like it when you're in the middle.

I think the problem we have as parents is that there's so many charts and graphs and books telling us what normal sleep is/how to make your baby sleep that way. For some kids it works. For at least some children, at some times (or if it's mine, at all times), controlling their sleep through some combination of activity/food/napping control is complete bullshit. Or possibly just too complex and ever-changing to get on top of for an exhausted parent.

Go with the flow as much as you can. Try different things till something works or he changes on his own. Regardless, you are not going to ruin your baby or his ability to sleep if you flail about for a while. Neither will your husband.

At some point it becomes less of a roller-coaster and smooths out, and you'll both sleep again.
posted by emjaybee at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know you said you don't want to CIO, but unless you take the upper hand it is going to be really tough to get your baby to sleep through the night on his own - if that's your goal. Developmentally, most babies are able to sleep through the night by the time they are 11 months old. Maybe do some reading - the Ferber book is very instructive even if you chose not to follow it. Your baby is still a baby now, but before you know it he will be a toddler and very set in his way. Think a tiny, irrational, drunk teenager. Hard to reason with! Babies are actually much easier to teach new sleep habits and rules.

That said, it sounds like he may be going through some developmental stuff or tweaks to his schedule, so I would wait until those settle down to so any sleep training.
posted by yarly at 10:58 AM on February 21, 2014

We had a bunch of those around that age, though with an early wakeup rather than a late bedtime. (We'd go into the babyproofed guest room with him and doze from 4-6am while he cheerfully did his thing.) A week after he learned to walk it went back to normal. I would definitely vote for developmental leap.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:03 AM on February 21, 2014

All baby sleep advice is baby specific, so I will just say that for my baby, my presence in the room is too exciting for her to be able to fall asleep. If I stayed in there, even pretending to sleep, she'd be trying to get my attention, talking to me, getting upset that I wasn't paying her any mind, and so forth.

Since it sounds like you're OK with him fussing a bit (but don't want to officially Cry It Out), what about doing what you would normally do for bedtime and just leaving the room, then if he does start fussing or crying, you let that happen for as long as you would let it happen if you were in the room and then go in to check and console? Rinse and repeat?

I personally would not go with the idea of putting more toys in and lighting up the room. It's bedtime, it should seem like bedtime if you want him to go to sleep. It should be dark and there shouldn't be a lot of activity/playing expected. When you try to console you would do sleepy-type things, like sing lullabies or rock, and if he tries to engage with chatting/laughing/fart noise time, just keep singing/rocking. My experience with 11 month olds is that even when they act most active/awake, that can mean they are actually most tired, and if they want to stay up and fool around, they will do so without toys or light, just blowing raspberries, rolling around and talking to themselves. Your baby's mileage may vary, etc.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:05 AM on February 21, 2014

Oh and to add on, when my baby tries to get me engaged in play time or interaction when it's supposed to be bedtime, I do the singing and rocking and avoid eye contact. Something about making direct eye contact seems to be too stimulating and really get her more revved up or agitated about the situation.

I would try your best to engage him in vigorous activity up until 6pm when the bedtime routine starts. For my baby that means we do laps around the house as many times as she wants, she runs around with her walking toys, she climbs up the stairs as many times as she wants to (I crawl behind her holding her while she crawls up, she loves this).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2014

pennypiper: "he comes to bed with us."

I know there are a multitude of theories about this, but our anecdata indicates that all of our friends who allowed their little ones to sleep in the beds with them regularly are still dealing with after effects 5-6 years later. They still constantly battle keeping them in their beds. Unless they're sick or otherwise some special scenario is going on our little ones sleep in their own beds. They both went from cribs to toddler beds early (I can't remember when).

Our 2+ year old has turned into a terror when trying to get her down. She gets out of bed, opens the door, runs down the hall crying. We get up, put her back in bed, tell her to go to sleep. Rinse repeat. The one thing I've found that seems to keep her in bed - tickling. I can't for the life of me figure out why this works. But then our other one (now almost 6) would never ever get out of bed. She would cry/yell for you until you came in to get her or even get her water for her which was sitting on her nightstand.

TLDR: Kiddos are a world of contrasts.
posted by Big_B at 11:27 AM on February 21, 2014

Your little one might just be going through a phase, but I think that there is no time like the present to help your little one become self-reliant when it comes to sleeping. My wife and I are in the "separate beds for baby and parents" camp, and I think we're all happier for it. For quite a while now, our little guy could sort of relax in bed with us, but he won't fall sleep. If he does, my wife and I end up sleeping poorly, as we shift to give him room, and he'll expand in surprising ways, sprawling out every which way.

Getting him to sleep initially by himself set him up to get himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. Our pediatrician at the time told us it was quite common for babies to wake up multiple times in the night, but they should be able to sooth themselves back to sleep. If you sooth them to sleep, they will come to depend on that whenever they're awake and need to sleep. Our pediatrician suggested something you could attach to the side of the crib and push buttons to play a bit of soft music, something little people could do themselves if they wanted. Adults can then set their little one down in the crib at the end of the bedtime routine, push the button, and say good night. If the little one wakes up, they can push the button and play for a bit, but it's something associated with getting back to sleep they can do themselves.

Our little guy doesn't like to go to bed. Early on, we had routines where we'd lull him to sleep, but when he got older, we couldn't rock him to sleep any more, so we turned to an instrumental lullaby CD on repeat. We'd cuddle on the be together and sing to him, moving him only after he was asleep, but often he's only be drowsing and would wake up as soon as we tried to move him.

So we started a routine of dinner, brush teeth, go into his room to change him into bedtime clothes and a night diaper, read some stories then put him in his crib, sing some songs, then leave the room, and let him cry. Finally my wife came upon a 2-4-6-8 method: leave his room after singing a few songs, let him fuss for two minutes, then go back in and speak softly, say good night, and leave again. Don't pick him up or really interact directly with him, and tell him we'll be right back. Return in 4 minutes if he's crying. Repeat, the in-room process, leave, and return in 6 minutes. Repeat, and return in 8 minutes. Repeat, and return in 2 minutes if necessary. This was a trying process for a while, but it saved our sanity in the long run. Before this process, we'd spend up to an hour and a half with him, trying to get him to bed. We'd be exhausted, and so would he, but he wouldn't give in or give up and sleep on his own.

Our little guy, now two and a half, still doesn't want to go to bed. And when we're done reading stories, he always says "one more story," but we say no. Then when we finish songs, he'll ask for one more song, and here's where we give in more often than not, because he's usually happy with just one more song. Then we leave his room, and turn on the baby monitor to listen to him.

Sometimes he talks to himself for a while, but now he usually shifts around for a bit and goes to sleep. He's not a consistent at nap time even though he does a lot better with naps, so when he doesn't nap, we try to get him to bed a bit earlier. But at nap time, we'll let him talk to himself for at least an hour, though if he's talking for more than 30 minutes, he usually won't nap. At least he gets some quiet time, and we get some down time.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2014

Could be a lot of things. Less daytime nap time could be worth a test, definitely.

Re. cognitive leap, here's Anecdote Corner: incredibly, my daughter recently told me that she, around that same age, started to pretend to sleep to see what I would do, and when I would try to sneak out of the room, and then she "woke up" and started to make a fuss. I SO recall those situations myself, had no idea that it was a strategical thing. I am a little baffled that she would remember that far back, but that's another story...

Other than that, one word: teeth.
posted by Namlit at 12:25 PM on February 21, 2014

Thanks all, I marked the answers that were most relevant to my actual question and that seemed to throw some potential light on the situation.

I probably should have been a little clearer that other than this weird anomaly of not going to bed, we are very happy with the rest of our routine/status quo - that's not the problem. We really don't want to do CIO, we've done a lot of reading and research and gut examinations and are very positive about this and in total agreement. We of course reserve the right to change our minds, but it's not something we are interested in now. Also, co-sleeping is working really well for us, it's not only a practical solution for us, but I love it :) I waited a long time to have my little one, and thought for a number of years that it wasn't going to happen, and it gives me great joy to have him nearby. Totally worth the occasional 2am head butt. Plus, I didn't sleep through the night for years before he came along, so I have low expectations when it comes to 'sleeping through the night', and those midnight wake ups are so much sweeter.

Sorry if I wasn't clear that I really was looking for coping strategies for sudden-party-time-(seriously he waves his glow in the dark pacifier around like a little raver)-bedtime-baby.

I have to talk to my husband but I think, if he does this sort of thing again, we'll try treehorn+bunny's recommendations, which overlap with a lot of the recommendations.
posted by pennypiper at 4:21 PM on February 21, 2014

What do you think his deal is?

He's a brand-new human being who is still discovering himself and the world around him. He's doing his job, and doing it like a pro.

If this continues, what can we do (other than CIO) to mitigate the life disturbing effect?

There's a good reason why the stereotypical image of new parents is of ragged, sleep-deprived shells. The good news is that this, too, shall pass. Honest.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 AM on February 22, 2014

My kids tend not to get super fussy when they are teething or are sick, but they will be AWAKE all the time. I would consider, if this doesn't clear up on its own, bringing your baby to the dr, just to check.
posted by freezer cake at 11:44 AM on February 25, 2014

Just wanted to add a quick note about how this panned out. These blips did turn out to be just that, temporary aberrations, and he did very well while I was out of town and he and dad were flying solo. There was definitely a cognitive leap happening (shortly after this he started trying to fit things together, eating with utensils, pointing, and the like), so I think the way his sleeplessness manifested was definitely part of that. But we also started reducing the length of his naps, and that made a big difference in how bed times go. We went back to our normal pretty quickly. So I think a combo of needing less daytime sleep and at the same time discovering great new interesting things. Thanks again to all who posted!
posted by pennypiper at 7:23 PM on March 23, 2014

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