Motherhood, Olive

An update on toddler sleep, and other assorted miscellany

An update on toddler sleep, and other miscellany by Sweet Madeleine

We are in a new zone with Olive these days, and I have mentioned that this zone involves Tantrums that can range from fascinating (from a sociological point of view) to tremendously exhausting (from a WHAT DO YOU WANT?! point of view).

What I didn’t mention, for fear of jinxing the whole thing, was that it also involves something called sleeping through the night. As in all night, without any wake ups ever.

Oh god. I can’t believe I just acknowledged that out loud, in public. I need to go burn sage or sacrifice something to appease the unruly Sleep Gods for this, the most mighty of transgressions.

Olive slept through the night regularly in delicious 8-10 hour stretches until she was about 5.5 months old, at which point The Universe had just about enough of our bragging and shut the whole thing down. Big time. For the next almost 12 months, sleep was a bit of an issue. Sometimes she’d wake up once, sometimes four or five times. It seemed to vary with developmental milestones like crawling, walking and signing, as well as teething, moon phases, and the whims of ancient Norse gods.

Every so often she’d sleep all night and I would analyze the previous days activities for any minute clue as to why: “We went for a walk by the beach, she had chicken for dinner and then we used the lavender soap instead of the goats milk soap at bathtime.”

And we would overdose on beach walks and purchase chicken in bulk and vow to always ALWAYS use the lavender soap and she’d still be up again that night. It was frustrating sometimes, but to be honest I just sort of tried to roll with it. It helped that she slept well in the beginning, because I just sort of figured that she would sleep well again someday.

In the meantime we did what we had to. Some nights she ended up in bed with me for the last part of the night, some night she never made it to her crib in the first place. I tried to be patient, respond to her needs, and understand that sleeping through the night was just another developmental milestone like walking or talking, and she’d hit it in her own time.

I know that many of you found this blog from my infant sleep post, so I will mention a few of the specifics that might be relevant to you fellow sleep-interested folk (read: parents) at the risk of boring others.

We still nurse to sleep for her nap and at bedtime, but I do think that night-weaning her had a huge impact on how she slept. I think we night weaned around 13-14 months. I felt comfortable making the decision to do it at this point because:

– she understood simple instructions and explanations, so I felt confident that I could explain it to her and have her comprehend what was happening

– when you breastfeed you can tell the difference between hunger nursing and comfort nursing, and hers over the preceding few months had turned more and more into comfort nursing

– I figured we’d give it a try and if it was really horrible, we would just call the whole thing off.

In the beginning when she woke up and signed for milk, I’d tell her that the milk was sleeping and she could nurse in the morning. (Repeating “Milk has gone night-night!” over and over again to a crying toddler is one of those situations I never would have thought I’d find myself in, by the way.)

Initially she would protest a bit, but I would cuddle her and offer water in case she was really thirsty. It took about a week for the wake-ups to start decreasing, and when she did wake up I was able to start putting her back to sleep with a back rub instead of nursing her.

BY around 15 months she was waking up once a night around 4-5 AM. She’d sign for water, have a drink and then go back to sleep. Then, THEN the holy grail. She started regularly sleeping through the night again about a month ago and it is fantastic. I love it, and I’m really proud that she got there on her own with my support, and encouragement, and, yes, occasional bouts of self doubt and frustration.

The next step, I think, is weaning altogether. I honestly never thought I’d be breastfeeding a toddler, I think I was one of those lovely people who flippantly said things like, “When they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old!”. Olive nurses 2-3 times a day (sometimes when she wakes up in the morning, and before her nap and bedtime). I’ve talked about weaning before, but we need to make the transition into going to bed without nursing first, and I think we need to be a little more settled before we begin that particular endeavor.

She’s had a lot of change lately, this girl. She’s moved, and I know she really missed her grandparents who she used to see virtually all day, every day. She has to share her mama while we’re at work with the other toddlers, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she is currently cutting her eye teeth, which, if the drooling, moods and finger-chewing are any indication, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

We are also working hard on manners with this one – she’s such a friendly little thing, saying hiiii and byeee to every single person and animal she sees, and is great with please and thank you, but not so great with learning to share instead of bulldozing over the younger kids to get what she wants. I think one of the best ways for kids to learn is to model the behavior you expect from them so Adam and I have begun to conduct elaborate scenarios around conversations like the following:

Can I have that please?

Oh yes! I have been using it for a while, it’s your turn now! Here you go.

Why THANK you!

You’re welcome.

Would you like it back?

Yes please, it’s my turn again and I am asking nicely!

Here you go!

THANK you!

It is truly ridiculous. But actually, probably kind of a good thing for Adam and I too – refreshing those manners that we sometimes lose amongst the rush and fuss of  every day life.


I am adjusting too, I think, to this new life. We went to a farmer’s market in the heart of the city this past weekend and we accidentally ended up there at the peak of the rush. The place was packed and for all of my love for farmers markets and local veggies I hardly bought a single thing. I just couldn’t focus with all of the noise and all of the people, I stood there crammed elbow to elbow with what felt like thousands of other people in a huge human traffic jam and I think I started to have a bit of a panic attack. I keep getting lost in the city, and I forgot just how much time gets eaten up by driving here and there when things are so spread out.

BUT even through these adjustments, I find myself grinning. Adam loves his new job and is really excelling at it, too. We are so happy to be here, so happy to be closer to my brother and my sister, not to mention the fact that we are house hunting, and it is pretty much the most exciting thing ever. On Monday I got to see a house with a refrigerator closet (the pantry opened up into the backside of the refrigerator…?) and another one whose bathroom had a medieval theme, right down to the stone-surrounded “throne”.

One of these times though, I will walk through the doors of the house that will become our home, and I keep focusing on that goal to get me past all of the weirdo houses we will see in between.

In the meantime – I SERIOUSLY need to go to sleep earlier.

P.S. If you are a leggings-wearer (card-carrying member of the Leggings-4-Lyfe club right here) these are THE leggings.

There aren’t many items of clothing that I always buy new, but leggings are one of them. I bought these tonight and they are the best pair I have ever owned. Soft, the perfect amount of stretch, wide waistband, and super long too.

I don’t intend to wear them with snakeskin heels and a belted sweater like the classy lady in the advert, but I thought I would share for any other pantsless ladies out there who might be searching for the perfect pair.

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  • Reply Jennifer April 24, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    Glad to hear you are all getting restful sleep once again! I’m envious as I have a 9 month old now so yeah…sleep? What’s that? At least this time I know that this too shall pass. My firstborn was a great sleeper until around 4 months, then it went to hell in a handbasket for about a year and a half. But by the time he was 2, he was sleeping all night & I actually never night weaned him (he nursed to sleep until he was almost 3). Breaking that suck to sleep pattern does seem to help some babes though, I just wasn’t willing to give that up as it was a special time for me! Your post made me think of this…. That was the best link I could find for the topic but since you brought up sharing, I thought I’d share! We seem to have many parenting/lifestyle beliefs in common and this was a new concept to me when my son’s co-op preschool introduced it to us but definitely something to consider! Still raising a well mannered child, but I’m the last parent you’ll hear around the playground commanding my kid, “share…SHAAARE…. SHAAAARRRE!” And when the ball is in their court, they generally DO share. 🙂

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:18 PM

      I think that article is fantastic! Totally great advice – I like how they relate it back to adult behaviour (just try to pry my phone from my hands! 😉

  • Reply Adrienne April 24, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    I always enjoy reading your posts on Olive’s development (expecting my own wee one in- eeek!- six weeks) but I have a follow up question about leggings. I’d love to see a post on what a person actually WEARS with leggings. Like, to make an outfit that acknowledges that leggings are not in fact pants. I have been wearing them a ton now that it’s warming up where I live (slooooowly, but it is happening) but I’m 8 months pregnant, so all my tops are maternity tops. I have exactly NO idea how I’m going to transition from my pre-pregnancy standard outfit of jeans-tank-cardigan, but leggings are too comfy to give up once I’m a mom. Maybe you could write a post about it? Help? Please?

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:19 PM

      I am the farthest thing from a fashion person, but I know leggings make people nervous so maybe I can convince Adam to take some photos of my leggings outfits. I have a few, given that I’ve barely taken them off since I bought them!

  • Reply Jenny Somerville April 24, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Thank you! Thank you! You’ve given me hope! My daughter Emma slept through the night until 4 months then decided she was done with that shit and now wakes anywhere from 4-10 times a night depending on teething, milestones, etc……. She’s almost 14 months now. I also always knew these little beings would figure out this crazy sleep thing when ready but there are moments when I wonder if she will still be sleeping with me and I’ll still be nursing her all night when she’s a teenager 😉 I now have hope so thank you!! I also think its time to start thinking about night weaning…. I’m a little terrified and not entirely sure I’m ready though….

  • Reply Fee April 24, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Oh your post made me laugh when you talked about the beach walks and chicken. My 7.5 month is a cat napper for her day sleeps. and when she pulled out a long day nap recently I put her in the same cardigan (that she had successfully slept in) for the next 3 days (even though by then it was covered in blueberries) convinced that it was the answer to good sleep… It wasn’t!!!!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      Nothing is crazier than a parent desperately searching for sleep!

  • Reply Kirstie MacGowan April 24, 2014 at 8:18 PM

    Honestly sleep with a toddler is a drag. It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that it was just a “phase” it still totally sucked. We are lucky now that our daughter sleeps through the night most nights and I fully admit to experiencing a wave of nausea when I hear her starting to cry in the middle of the night. :-/ then I know I’m going to be up for at least an hour. 🙁

  • Reply thais623 April 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    thanks for the optimistic sleep update!
    Have you ever thought of switching to organic cotton clothes? They don’t expose you, the cotton workers, and the environment to pesticides 🙂 Whole Foods has organic leggings by threads for thought and lots of yoga stores have them too

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:22 PM

      You know, I haven’t explored this option a ton in the past because selection has been limited in my town, and I typically shop secondhand. Now that I am in a city with larger selection I should do some investigating! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  • Reply Laurice April 25, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    I’m not even done reading this article and I’m loving it already! Thank you so much for the insight!

  • Reply femmefrugality April 25, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    Oh, sleeping through the night! It’s such an amazing thing. One of mine really struggled with it. I think I may have been literally insane for the latter 8 months of that whole episode from sleep deprivation. Good job, Olive! I hope adjusting to city life gets easier. We live in one that has just okay, but not really even okay, public transport. It can be a pain sometimes. But also really inspiring to see farmers markets in the heart of all of that bustle.

  • Reply annie April 26, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the only parent whose kids don’t sleep through the night! My oldest is 3.5 and sleeps well now, but when she was up at least once/night until she was about 18m. When she stopped napping at 2.75y, the transisition was brutal and resulted in a lot of night waking. My youngest just turned a year old and teases me with the odd 4 or 5 hour sleep, but still prefers sleeping in 3 hour stretches. It is rough, but I know it isn’t forever. I enjoy the cuddles and try to be present in that moment. They are only little for a short time!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:24 PM

      Oh god, dropping the last nap – I forgot about that! Hoping it goes easier on this end! We have a while before that hurdle, I’m hoping..

  • Reply Dover April 27, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    Yay! I remember when you were so worried that she would never get to this point. It’s no fun to worry that you’re making the wrong choices for your children (re: nursing to sleep, bedsharing), and so nice when they grow up and show you that your decisions were a-ok. Eleanor (once a big time night waker and the kind of baby who took forever to go down) is now a great sleeper, but she still has flare-ups now and then when she reverts to having trouble putting herself to sleep and waking often during the night, usually as a result of some sort of change in schedule, like traveling. It always really freaks me out and I have flashbacks to the days where bedtime was a horrible, stressful ordeal, but now that she’s got it down she always reverts back to an easy bedtime after a few days. This long rambly comment is just to say, don’t worry if she regresses from time to time. Things should continue getting better from here on out. 🙂

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      Thank you for the reminder! It is so disheartening when those setbacks happen, but you’re right, patience is the key!

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