My husband, 16-month-old son and I were up for hours last night, something that has been happening a few times a week for the last month or so.
We have coslept since my son's birth, and for the majority of his life he has been an excellent, sound sleeper. It has only been recently that nights have become incredibly trying. Although the Kiddo is his usual happy self during the day and goes to bed easily, he will start screaming abruptly in the middle of the night seemingly without provocation. He will nurse rather fitfully, but for the most part spends hours tossing and turning and hollering at the top of his lungs. He becomes very averse to being touched or held, buckling his back away from me and DH, and flailing around in general. It is a very disorienting and disheartening thing to experience, and we hurt so much for him, knowing that whatever is bothering him is SO intense. Meanwhile, of course, we are left completely drained.
Usually after a rough night the Kiddo falls asleep at dawn and sleeps solidly for several hours (he is doing so as I type this). By the time he wakes up he's back to his old cheerful, playful self but I'm left exhausted and worn out.
I am not sure what is causing the issue, but I have a couple of theories:
1) Teething. Although most days pass without any extreme teething symptoms (i.e. fever, runny nose, fussing), it is hard to deny that the Kiddo has new teeth popping in like crazy. I can't help but think that this is contributing to his nighttime angst. Maybe the pain is there during the day as well but it intensifies at night? Or maybe it's just that DS is more distracted during the day, busy playing and engaging with the world, whereas at night the teething is front and center and impossible to ignore.
2) General developmental stage. I am amazed by how much the Kiddo is growing every day -- both physically and mentally. Every day is like an explosion of discoveries: language, interpersonal skills, mastering of new concepts. Plus, he's totally developing his own clear identity in a whole new way, with major new tactics of asserting himself and his desires. Every day I look at him and see the baby slipping away and a little boy emerging. It is amazing and exciting for all of us, but it must be quite taxing on him on a deep level at the same time. I've been thinking that the nighttime experiences could be a reflection of that. A kind of release of the tensions that come along with living inside a body/mind that is becoming something entirely new every day.
All that being said, I would love to get back to a peaceful sleep pattern, and soon! The only two things that have provided any kind of relief from the screaming so far are kind of impractical and disruptive in themselves (although preferable to hours of outright violent screaming!) They are:
1) Me getting out of bed and wearing the Kiddo in a wrap. If I do this while bouncing on our yoga ball, he chills out and goes back to sleep. But then, obviously, there I am wide awake, bouncing on a yoga ball, so it doesn't solve the problem of ME getting sleep. Occasionally I am able to lay him back down after a while, but often he just goes berserk again when I start to get him out of the wrap.
2) Last night we actually resorted to playing the Kiddo's favorite movie (Annie) on my laptop in bed. Extreme, I know, and not really a long-term liveable solution, but man did it reverse the agony! Almost instantly those tears were drying and the Kiddo was smiling through It's a Hard Knock Life. This was a desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures kind of moment, but after so many sleepless nights I'm not really sorry we did it.
Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that I don't have any solid answers, I just felt like sharing and inviting people to advise me on how to cope with this difficult phase. If you have insights, comment away!