Q&A: weird whining on wakeup

Emily writes:

"Our daughter Maia was a pretty good sleeper from I'd say 7 or 8 months through her first year. Then, around 13 or 14 months, she suddenly started waking once during the night. Part of this was sickness - since daycare started she's gotten sick at least once a month. Part of it was also cognitive, at times (wanting to read, just wanting to be held) and I am sure teeth came/come into play, as well (she got her first two at 14 months, the second two have been pushing out for the past 3 weeks).

But then in the last month she has not only been waking once a night but shifted her morning waking from 7:30 to nearly 5:30 at times. She also wakes differently. I'm sure it's her normal pattern (we all wake up in the night) but she can't soothe herself down for whatever reason. So she starts to whine. It's a weird whining-yodel and it can last for over an hour. If we don't go in, it generally turns into full blown crying and screaming. We've tried ignoring it and we've also tried some modified CIO but nothing has worked.

All I can think of is that she simply needs us right now - that's my gut. A lot of the time she does need Tylenol for her teeth...but then also wants a bottle, which is something she's totally grown out of at this point. But yikes, the wakeups are killing us and I'm starting to worry that we're just fostering her screwy schedule.

Any advice?"

The 13-month waking thing is very common. It's a Wonder Week and happens to lots of kids. Many of them go back to sleeping after a few weeks, but if she's got teething on top of it it wouldn't be super-unusual for it to continue. Add in new kinds of movement, weird weather, holidays and all that hubub, and it's infuriating but not unusual.

It's the whine that makes me interested. This stretch from 15-18 months is kind of crazy because it's really when kids start to realize that they are not you, but are, in fact, separate. Which is why there are so many crazy power struggles at this time, and they suddenly want to do everything themselves, and have full-on temper tantrums, etc. (Often it manifests particularly in refusing to eat certain foods or all foods, because sometimes the only control kids feel is over what they put in their mouths or what they swallow.)

So I wonder if the whine is kind of her barbaric yawp at knowing she's she and not you. And also her way of getting you close because it's really effing scary to realize you're an individual. You feel like she needs you, and I think she does, because otherwise she's staring down the barrel of the nothingness that comes from being alone in the world. Aside from Elmo, of course.

I am always going to tell you to trust your instinct. If you feel like she needs you for some reason, go with it. Soon she'll turn 18 months and it'll all go to hell anyway. It will all change soon enough anyway, and you'll know when you need to respond differently.

The early wakings I've truly got nothing on. Five years of Ask Moxie and I can't get a handle on it for love or money.

Anyone else feel like their child was having an existential crisis at this age?