When Lil Miss Wagon was 19 months old, we took a trip to visit family about 4 hours away. Before our trip, LMW was sleeping beautifully: going to bed around 6:15pm and falling asleep on her own every night, sleeping all night long. Plus she took a 2-3 hour nap every day. Her 5am wakeups were pretty brutal, but we could handle them if we went to bed early. Plus, her getting us up that early gave us plenty of time to get ready and out the door. It was beautiful, and she was getting older, so I was optimistic about her sleep on our 2 night trip.
But I totally forgot about the 18 month sleep regression.
See, I did NOT know how easy I had it with Wagon Jr. and sleep. Every time he hit a regression or we came back from travel, or if his sleep was bad because of illness or teething, it would only take him maybe one or two nights to bounce back. He was a much more easygoing baby, so even if we had to let him cry, he’d only cry for a few minutes at a time and after a night or two he would go back to not crying at all when we put him to bed.
LMW is… different. Not quite as easygoing as her big brother, that’s for sure. If you’ve read about The Standoff, you know my little baby girl has an iron will.
On our trip, we put WJ and LMW to bed in the same room: WJ on the twin sized bed and LMW in a pack and play at the foot of his bed. LMW wouldn’t let Wagon Sr. leave the room, so he had to sit on the floor of the room until she was asleep, which was relatively quick the first night but took almost an hour the second night. And she’d wake up periodically and start crying again, so we’d have to go back in and shush her until she fell back asleep. We also slept in the same room, and both kids stayed asleep when we crept in and went to bed, but she woke both mornings around 4 or 5am, screaming. We pulled her into the bed with us and she fell back asleep both times.
The experience was pretty bad, but nothing I didn’t expect, so I couldn’t wait to get back home so she could be in her own crib again. We figured she missed her room and her crib, and after a night or two of readjustment, her sleep would be back to normal. Boy, were we wrong…
For a week she would stand in her crib and cry until she vomited. Then we’d have to go in, turn on the lights, clean her up, change the crib sheets, and put her back down. We tried to wait at the 5, 10, and 15 minute intervals that we used when we sleep trained WJ at 4 months… but she never fell back asleep on her own. We had to go in every time, calm her down, then stand over her crib until she was asleep. This would happen about every 3-4 hours all night long. It felt like we had a newborn all over again. There were several nights (or early mornings) when Wagon Sr. dozed in her glider for hours with her sleeping over his shoulder. We were at a total loss. As seasoned, second-time parents, we totally didn’t see this coming. How do you sleep train an incredibly headstrong 19 month old who had never been sleep trained as a baby?
We eventually figured out that if we got her calm enough, she would let us walk away and sit in her doorway until she fell asleep. She’d stand and start to cry, but we’d poke our head in and shush her and say, “it’s ok, I’m here, lay back down” and she would. We just had to be in view and ready to shush her, so we took turns sitting by her door and then creeping away once she fell asleep.
One night she woke crying around midnight, and I looked through the monitor and decided she hadn’t vomited (she gagged and coughed, but it was just spit that had come out), so I let her cry for a while. She cried on and off in slowing waves for almost an hour, and then stopped. I watched her standing in the corner of her crib, quietly leaning in the corner and head down on the top rail with her blankie as her pillow, and eventually I drifted off to sleep… then snapped awake at 6am to find her IN THE SAME POSITION. Yes, she stayed standing in the corner of her crib, leaning on the crib rails, for almost SIX HOURS. (Yes, The Standoff Part 2!) She cried when I entered the room, but quickly turned happy and goofy and had a totally normal day. What?? Had she really slept standing up??
Then, a few nights after that epic night, she slept through the night for two nights in a row. Yay!! Even though she was still waking once or twice in the early evening and we had to sit in her doorway a few times, at least it was before we went to bed and we could get a full night’s sleep. We could definitely live with this.
As with many things in parenting, we learned the painful lesson to not celebrate too early. After those two nights, LMW’s sleep got worse than ever. She was waking every 1-2 hours ALL NIGHT LONG. And now she vomited within 5 seconds of waking. So she would be totally asleep, then she’d SCREAM and stand up, and 0-5 seconds later she would cough, gag, then vomit everywhere. Not just that spit vomit from before… it was always real vomit now. So unless we wanted to be cleaning her up and changing crib sheets 10 times a night, we had to go to her right away and at least get her to calm down before she threw up.
This was the worst period of all. We started doing a shift system that we had in place when she was a newborn: Wagon Sr. would go to bed early around 9pm and I would stay up, going to her door when she cried and creeping away when she was asleep. Then around 1am I would go to bed and Wagon Sr. would get out of bed every time she cried from 1am-6am. Of course, I couldn’t sleep through her cries, so I got almost no sleep at all.
We tried bringing her into our bed one night, thinking that she had triumphed and all she wanted was to sleep with us nearby. But all she did was roll and squirm around as we tried to pat and rub her back. When we both turned our backs to her and ignored her, she stood up, started banging on our headboard and laughing out loud. Big fat fail. Back into the crib.
We decided that all we could do was to continue to go to her and sit in her doorway, shushing her until she fell back asleep. We tried to do it over our video monitor (it has a speaker, and the handset has a microphone) but that didn’t work. So we continued with our shift system and she gradually started to sleep longer stretches. We started leaving her door open a crack instead of staying sitting in the doorway because after a while, she stopped looking for us after she laid back down. Finally, Wagon Sr. started closing the door after putting her to bed, and when she cried, he shushed her through the closed door. When she woke crying during the night, we would open the door, poke our head in, shush her, and close the door behind us again, shushing her through the door. Sometimes she’d let us close the door, and sometimes she’d keep crying and we would sit in the doorway again.
Finally, one night we put her to bed as usual, closing the door and shushing her through the door. We went to bed early, and we woke up the next morning… at 7am! We had long since stopped setting our alarm clocks, and thankfully I woke naturally in the morning because we were going to be late for work… because she had slept through the night and was still asleep!!! It was a MIRACLE!!!
The sleep regression was over, but we did not celebrate, and lo and behold her sleep stayed great.
The entire ordeal lasted for almost a month and I literally thought I was going to die from lack of sleep. But now, a couple of weeks later, her sleep is better than ever. She goes to bed around 6:15pm, is asleep by 6:30pm, wakes between 6am-8am, and takes 2-3 hour naps every day. We even moved to a new house (just five days after she had started sleeping through the night again… I almost wanted to postpone the move so that we wouldn’t have to mess with her sleep again!!!) but we set up her new room exactly like her old room, and she did beautifully. I was so afraid she’d have another regression with the disruption of the move to the new house, but she went right to sleep the first night and slept all night. She even sleeps so late in the mornings that we usually have to wake her up. And the biggest difference of all: when she wakes in the morning, she rolls around quietly and plays with her blankie. She used to wake with a SCREAM! And our day started. But now she’ll roll around happily for quite a while before she stands up and lets it be known that she must be tended to immediately.
So many fingers crossed that this is the last sleep issue we have to deal with. I’m getting too old for this!
Did your LO go through an 18 month sleep regression? How long did it last?