So you’re well through the baby phase, and you firmly have a toddler in your hands. Those cheeks are still chubby but baby-face looks more and more like a little adult everyday.
When you first had your beautiful baby you were sure that by now the sleepless nights would be over and your little person would be sleeping off their daily learning for approximately 10-12 hours a night, and possibly a little in between.
That’s what the books say.
Well, as I have been reminded regularly during my journey through parenthood, baby hasn’t read the books, even if you have. That means if you have a toddler for whom night time sleep can be...ahem...allusive, you’re not alone! Even if your toddler is a champ when it’s comes sleeping, I bet you recognise some of these from time to time. Here are some different types of the sleepless toddler. All frustrating, all impossible to handle, all exhausting.
1) Won’t go to bed toddler.
This little guy is so full of the excitement of the day that he can’t turn his brain off. He babbals incoherentlay about nothing much, he sings to himself, he talks to his toys. He decides he is hungry and asks for food he refused earlier and produces the very best language you have ever heard comes from his mouth. He talks about things that happened months ago that you never knew he remembered, and he recites poems, books and songs that he normally can’t sing more then 3 words from. You have no idea where this burst of energy comes from because 20 mins ago he was falling asleep in his spaghetti, but he: Will. Not. Stop. It will be late before he goes to bed, so strap in, and watch something with less swearing in then normal, before you beg him to go to bed because it is past your bedtime now!
2) The poorly toddler.
This toddler is snotty as hell. You can’t imagine where all the snot in her nose has come from. She seems to be manufacturing it herself, and no amounts of vicks, plug-ins or nose spray will make a blind bit of difference. Everything you wore today has a snail-trail of snot on it and there is no signs of stopping now. She’ll probably go to bed ok, because she’s shattered, but rest assured she’s will wake up again, and in the half-light of the vapo-plug night light it will take you a few seconds to work out what the soggy patches on her pillow is (snot, obvs). She will then wail loudly, and despite the fact that she doesn't have a temperature, you will likely resort to calpol after the tying Vicks (chest and feet, because anything is worth a try), nose spray, propping her mattress up, steam, milk, water....anti-histamine (that’s to do with noses right? And it makes them drowsy? Will that help...?) Anything, because you know sleep will help them and you can’t give them Lemsip! If you find anything that works here let us know!
3) The split night
This chap goes to bed like a charm. Settles down with a story and falls a sleep in no time at all. Don’t be fooled however, because this is a tricky coustmer....about 4 hours later however, he is wide awake and ready to party. There is no crying, his light is on and all his toys are out. Like the ‘won’t go to bed‘ guy, this chap wants to tell you all about his day, and the last few days, and suddenly remembers lyrics to songs or rhymes long forgotten in babyhood. There is little to be done here. Engaging with him might result in demands for dressing up box items (I want to be Spider-Man!) demands to be taken somewhere else (more fun). Like a drunk, desperate to go on to a club, he will employ all sorts of tatics, from charm to tears, to persuade you to get his iPad out or give him a haircut. There is little to be done here but wait him out and try to be as dull as possible. He will be fine in the morning, he has the option of a nap, you-less so!
4) The dreamer
Sometimes referred to as night terrors when they are very young, this little sleep-dodger doesn’t actually wake up, although you could be forgiven for thinking she was awake at times because she can engage in fully-blown conversations. She is terrified of something random in her room, or close by, that she can see and you can’t. A little surreal this one, you resort to shoueing imaginary crocodiles from rooms or blocking invisible doors so that no one can get through. Sometimes it isn’t obvious that they are still asleep until you reflect on the episode afterward, and there is zero chance of then remembering a thing about it themselves. Often this charmer can be persuaded to go back to bed quite quickly, and will just as suddenly as she woke up, be sound asleep and snoring, but she can just as easily become fully awake and disoriented and then you have to explain why mummy has lost her mind and is looking under the door for a green two headed monster, which is almost as scary as the nightmare itself.
5) The phantom cryer.
This one is fraudulent, because technically he’s still asleep. I however, if you have one of these he will sabotage your sleep night after a night. He will stir and cry, loud enough and long enough for you to consider going in to him. Then, just as you stand at his door poised to go in, he setts down. You wait. And wait. Then you breathe, in a a sort of sigh of relief because you feel the danger has passed, and as you shift your weight to move you hit floorboard you never knew creeked and freeze in panic. Silence, then a slow whine grows in volume and intensity, you wait, hand on the door handle to see if it calms down...do you go in, do you let him self soothe..? You never knew of which way this will go, and you are destined to spend night after night in edge wondering if you caved too soon and maybe tonight was the night he was going to learn to self soothe. There will never be a right answer to this. Good luck!
6) The early riser
This diva needs to be up early, she’s got stuff to do. Probably jumping, or something quite you likely to wake up the whole house. She goes to bed with little protest and sleeps through the night soundly, but she’s is a trickster and is lulling you into false sense of security. At some point after 4am she will stir, and stir again, and then she will be up. Now some days this will be close to 6am, so it’s ok, (6am being well known by most parents as ‘not too bad I supose’ for a wake up time). Some days this will be close to 4am, this magic threshold being the time after which children think it’s just normal ‘wakey up time!’ Most days it will be some time around 5am. It’s disheartening seeing 4.45am on your phone as you are roused from sleep by a wakeful and ready to start the day toddler, especially when you know that there will be no going back to bed after this...toddler is fine, they went to bed long before you did, you however, morning after morning, will regret staying up to watch Love Island when your morning ‘alarm’ goes off before 5am.
7) The bodily fluid factory.
If you don’t have one of these, well done, congratulate yourself in that and hope nothing changes. This subheading could be split into sub-categories but it’s too confusing so I’m doing them all together.
In life, you are either a puker, or your not. If you have a puker in your hands you’ll know about it. He will have been such all his life. Prone to random expeltion of entire bottles (or breastfeed) for no real reason as a teeny baby the vomiter will always be capable of unwelcome acts of removal. Sometimes waking to sit bolt upright and throw up all over the bedroom, sometimes not even bothering to sit up or even wake up. You either get a weird feeling and shoot into toddlers room to find them covered in vom or you don’t even get that vibe and find them in the morning, dried chunks stuck to their hair. Sounds implausible, I promise it’s not.
In a similar way, the bed wetter can wet the bed through a nappy and several layers of clothing. Long before potty training, if you have a bedwetter he can soak through several sets of bedding and nightclothes in one evening. Somehow he can get wee to escape a nappy and doesn't really mind sleeping in it, unless he gets cold of course, then he will let you know, don’t worry!
Of course, all of these versions of the sleepless toddler can appear in isolation, or as a fun pick-&-mix for everyone, so you could easily get more then one at once. In my experience the poorly toddler is usually the dreamer or the phantom crier as well, just to keep us on our toes, but any or all combinations are possible. If they wake the dog up as well in one of these episodes, or other children in the house, then it becomes a whole other ball-game, and often for us, a game for two (adults), not just one! Also, it always surprises me how the toddlers do not seem affected by the lack of sleep the following day, where as we, on the other hand, turn into slightly grumpy, clumsy, forgetful zombies.
The thing is though, toddlers are also expert charmers, (I think they have to be in order to survive!) and somehow they get away with it.