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The Toddler Who Won’t Sleep {Update}

toddler, toddler won't sleep, toddlers and melatonin, toddler sleep issues, is melatonin safe for a toddler

Apollo has never slept through the night. Well, he has, a time or two, slept for five or six hours…but he’s never Slept-Throught-The-Night. He began taking Melatonin at the recommendation of a sleep specialist back in March 2012, after his first heart surgery.

Back in December I wrote about Apollo having nightmares several nights a week. These were no doubt directly related to the second major heart surgery in eight months. Back in December I was beyond exhausted. Shortly after that post Kalina began taking Apollo to bed with her a couple of nights a weeks. She likes that he keeps her warm and he feels secure with her. I get a break every few nights and Kalina enjoys the time with Apollo. It’s a win-win situation. Finally, finally I’m getting more than a couple of hours of sleep (for the first time in two and a half years). toddler, toddler won't sleep, toddlers and melatonin, toddler sleep issues, is melatonin safe for a toddler

A while back we removed Apollo’s toddler bed (the one he never spent more than a couple of hours in) and replaced it with a twin sized mattress on the floor. Our theory was sound: someone could lie down with Apollo as he fell asleep. Great theory, except for the whole waking-up-screaming-in-utter-terror partAfter a few weeks we abandoned that plan and began just taking him to bed with us.

Now, he simply goes to bed with Kalina or me and Chuck. If  he falls asleep before we go to bed we stick him in our bed. Not a great plan, I realize. I know a thing or two about toddlers and healthy sleep habits. And our bedtime routine isn’t one. But you know what? Now he is no longer terrified that he will wake alone and he seems somewhat more settled. He will often cry out in the night and search for one of us. He puts a hand on our cheek, realizes we are there, and all is well.

He’s not sleeping well, but he is sleeping better than he ever has before. And today, that is enough.




  1. Ellen

    We are big proponents of the Family Bed (I think the term now is co-sleeping). What we discovered through the years with our three birth kids is that they wean from the bed in a similar way that they wean from the breast . . . slowly, and at their own pace. There really was no rhyme nor reason, and all three were different. I remember reading once that a baby/toddler doesn’t know whether it’s 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., only that she or he has a need at that moment. You know this better than most Mom’s! I’m so glad that Apollo will sleep with Kalina some nights, giving you a chance to “catch up” on sleep (although I don’t think there really is such a thing!). Especially with Apollo’s health challenges, this might be an interesting read:

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      We’ve slept with *all* of our babies. The difference with Apollo is he doesn’t sleep well anywhere. Up until the last month or so, he was still waking every hour or to crying. He kicks and thrashes. It’s not anything like it was with my other kids. I am, however, just happy to finally be getting some sleep and happy that he is sleeping better.

  2. radmama

    Can I tell you a ‘secret’? My youngest son, who was adopted from foster care and has fairly significant special needs still sleeps with a pacifier in our bed! He’s 4. (and I’m a pediatrician)

    We all so what works for our families. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you and yours. And I appreciate your willingness to share.

  3. Rachel

    What a dear-heart Kalina is. So glad you are finally getting a bit of sleep at night.

    The “rules” don’t always apply to Apollo so do what works for your family.

  4. Heidi Wilson

    What a wonderful big sister Kalina is… and truly they must have a special bond! What he NEEDS is security at night and what EVERYONE needs is some sleep. How you go about ensuring security for Apollo and sleep for everyone is your choice. We also have a non-sleeper (who will be 13 months old next week) and I can count on one hand the number of times he has slept through the night (or even longer than 2 hours). He does NOT have any medical issues so I can only imagine how exhausted you must be! Keep doing what works and one day Apollo will be ready to sleep on his own, alone!!

    • Sara

      If you have not done so yet, please check whether your 13 month old is suffering from sleep apnea. My otherwise completely healthy daughter also woke up constantly all night long. Once we discovered she had severe sleep apnea, and helped solve the apnea problem, she has become a great sleeper. (And, of course, sleep apena is a health issue beyond the actual not sleeping through the night)

  5. Marianne

    My first born slept with us till she was 6 1/2 years old…she screamed when she could not see me…She’s 16 yrs old now and sometimes I miss the snuggling.

  6. Jessica

    It’s small victories. If you found a way for everyone to get SOME sleep, that’s a victory. There’s no rules for when your child isn’t the ‘typical’. I hope things continue to get more manageable.

  7. Sally

    I am so thankful for the improvement! What a sweet relief to have Kalina :) Sometimes you just have to do what works for now and ‘fix’ the habit later when it’s no longer needed… The great thing about habits is they change… Maybe the more he is able to sleep without worrying the easier it will get. Praying for you all, for strength through the sleepless nights, and for wisdom for knowing what’s going to help most :)

  8. Christine @

    In Korea, where we lived when our oldest daughter was small, and in many other countries, it’s routine for children to sleep with their parents until they are 9-10. Our daughter slept with us when we lived in Korean. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was five, and even then she still woke up often with nighttime anxieties. At that time we didn’t have enough room in our tiny bedroom to put a mattress for her in there, but I wish that’s what we had done.

    I think having Apollo sleep with someone is a natural and sensible solution to everyone’s need for sleep and security. I really don’t think it will undermine his development or independence to be with you. It’s the way most people have slept through most of history.

  9. Nicole

    Our sons certainly make us parent outside our normal box. I thank God for bringing you through that season of very little sleep. And I pray that season really is over. HUGS!

  10. Aks

    I saw a definite difference in the ‘mom time’ that my daughter (youngest) recoeved from me than her brothers. While she was not a needy kid during the day, it felt like sharing a bed was ‘catch up time’ for her. In a busy house, she was getting dragged to her siblings activities, or other things constantly. Yes, she was happy about all of this and a very nice toddler, but she needed the contact at night. Even if she was sleeping, it seemed to make a difference on a subconscious level. Moving to her own room/bed wasn’t a big deal. She realized that it was uncomfortable sharing a bed. No Big Deal.

    So with a kid who has had all this medical intervention, plus a large family, it makes sense to me that continuing a ‘family’ bed for just a bit longer is beneficial. A kid is only small for a short period of time. Plus, sleep is probably more important to the health of the Whole Family than anything else.

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