For about a month, Sophie was letting me sleep through the night. Then she got sick and I went to her in the night, since she was coughing and snot-covered. And then she didn’t want to let go of my nightly reassurances. So, instead of just crying boo-boo and uh-oh to get my attention at night, Sophie has escalated to actually hurting herself.

She bangs her head against the side of the crib.

All week, she has had a bruise on the center of her forehead, growing nightly. All week for Sophie has been Ash Wednesday.

The sleep-books actually say that head-banging is a normal sleep-strategy used by many toddlers, so it shouldn’t bother me. But it does bother me. My daughter is in such distress when she wakes up at night that she physicalizes her distress.

Sara says I should not go to Sophie at night; It only encourages more headbanging. But I can’t listen to Sophie injuring herself and not respond. I’ve been going to her, all week — and she still has this growing bruise, because she keeps summoning me with violent headbanging.

Wednesday, I wrapped a fleece scarf around the top rail of the crib, so that she would at least be banging her head on something soft. But the scarf was black, and her crib is white, and she was fiercely, screamingly opposed. We relented and removed it. I don’t think she would have gone to sleep with that scarf on her crib.

Today, Thursday, I wrapped plastic bubble-wrap around the top crib-rail. She has accepted it so far. It’s probably dangerous to leave her sleeping so close to plastic, but it seems dangerous to allow her to cause herself this giant bruise, too.

Dear blog-readers, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

UPDATE: Dino suggests a crib-bumper, or involving Sophie in picking out fabric for a quilted crib-protector. My mother suggests that, since the crib is hurting Sophie, it might be time to move to a plain mattress on the floor.  Wayne suggests involving Sophie in trying to solve the problem of what to do when she wakes up at night. It’s a challenge, since she only knows 75 words or so, but we might play-act some scenarios tomorrow and see how it goes. Terri suggests giving her alternate ways to express distress. Karen L. suggests not letting her control me by her own self-injury. My friends are wise.

Last night, I didn’t have enough bubble-wrap to cover the whole crib-rail, so I had left six or eight inches exposed. Sophie moved to those six inches and banged her head there. Her bruise this morning was heart-shaped and giant. Tonight, I put the fleece scarf back on the exposed part of the crib and this time she didn’t make a big deal out of it. Tonight, I’m hoping, may be bruise-free. But that’s because I’m an optimist.

I thought that I wouldn’t be facing a self-injuring child until age 12 or so, but she’s self-injuring now, and we will work through it. Or she’ll grow out of it. I’ll keep you all updated. Thanks for your concern.


One response to “Headbanging

  1. Tracy

    Wow! Sounds like Sophie is really frustrated. I’m with your Mom, although I can hardly believe I’m siding with anyone’s Mom! Meghan was 1 1/2 when I put her in the futon bed up against the wall and Finn is sleeping on the futon as of last week. (With me, but that’s my choice. Eventually, once it’s familiar to him, I will sneak away and sleep in my own bed.) The reason I would recommend the mattress on the floor is that when she calls out in distress or comes to get you, you can cuddle with her on the bed and sneak away easily once she has dozed off.

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