And this has been going on for months. Close to a year, with a short 2-3 month break in the middle there. It started in the playpen. He would literally rock himself to sleep, but if I tried to rock him to sleep he wouldn't sleep at all. When we moved him to his floor mattress (he absolutely hated his crib, so we threw the mattress on the floor and he loves it) it temporarily stopped. After a few months it slowly started to happen again, only this time he didn't have the soft flexible sides of the play pen. He had hard walls to bang on. The last 2 - 3 months it has gotten worse. He will bang his head on the wall until he falls asleep and slumps over onto his side. If he is lucky he is awake enough to crawl to his bed.
|Ok so this wasn't taken after a head banging episode, but it is an example of his barely being in bed asleep... flip him around so his head in in bed and that is as close as he gets after banging his head to sleep.|
We didn't know what to do about it. We knew it was his way of soothing himself, and releasing any pent up energy for bed. But we weren't sure what to do, other than stopping him when he starts banging so hard it sounds like he's going to punch a hole in the wall.
About a week ago Zach finally looked it up online. (Why didn't I think to do that sooner?) According to pretty much the whole first page of Google's search "toddler bangs head on wall" it is a soothing/attention getting/pain coping mechanism. 20% of all toddlers do this, with boys being 3 times more likely to do it than girls. And it peaks between 18 - 24 months.
One of the suggestions was to provide some sort of soothing rhythm to serve as an alternative to head banging. Rocking, massage, music, metronome, etc. We tried turning on classical music for him, but it didn't slow him down one little bit. I finally downloaded a metronome app on my Kindle and put that right outside his door. As soon as I turned it on the head banging stopped. Didn't happen all night. Same thing the next night. Then that next morning when he woke up at 5:50 and started banging his head I turned it on again. Within about 2 minutes the banging stopped. It has been amazing how just having that rhythmic clicking is enough for him. It totally soothes and comforts him.
The thing about James is that he has always loved rhythm. He loves music, especially when it has a good strong rhythm to it. The has been thumping rhythms on tables and boxes since he turned about 1. When I think about it, it doesn't surprise me at all that the metronome comforts him at night. But I was amazed at how simple a solution it was. I found the faster he is banging his head the faster the metronome needs to be going, so I can't just leave it on the same setting every single night.
If you have a head banger I suggest trying something similar.