Despite both babies sleeping through since the age of around 4 to 5 months, there have been hiccups along the way with our eldest. As we were in the process of moving house (which dragged on for one very stressful year), Lil Man’s sleep, for a few months, was completely disrupted and some nights we were lucky to get 3 hours sleep.
Throughout this period it made us evaluate what made him such a good sleeper in the first place. But it also became apparent that our stress levels had projected onto him.
These are the things that we have tried and tested through the good times and bad and found they work best for us.
Keep bedtimes as consistent as possible. If babies and children are going to bed at 9pm one night and 7pm another, they will be getting up at all sorts of times during the night and in the morning. By shifting their bedtime, they will either be not tired enough or past it and still not wanting to go to bed.
Having a whole bedtime ritual helps too, whether its having a bath every night or a story. Children love routine, it probably makes them feel secure. They like to know what will happen next.
For about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, make sure the TV goes off and you take part in some quieter activities to wind down so that bedtime isn’t such an abrupt stopping of fun. When Lil Man was even littler, I would put on some chill or classical music and switch on his stars projector, kind of like our own baby sensory.
Following on from the baby sensory idea, make sure their bedroom is a peaceful, relaxing environment. Black out blinds or dark curtains help in, not only, keeping out light but keeping the room cool in those humid summer nights. Keep decor and colours muted and technology in the room to a minimum (TVs and Playstations best avoided if possible).
When I was pregnant with Lil Man, we watched a series on Channel 4 called Bedtime Live, where parents of children with sleep issues would receive live advice. IT was great. One of the phrases they used a lot was the ‘Rapid Return’.
So if you have done all you can trying to calm them and stick to a routine, and they still wake up or get up at ridiculous times, use this method. Put your child back into bed and the first time just say good night and walk out. Keep putting them back to bed and wait by the door, after a couple of times you shouldn’t interact with them at all. Positive reactions could validate their behaviour and negative could cause them to rebel.
If you are relentless enough, they should eventually give up or tire out. We tried this through the tougher times, and as cruel as you feel at first, keeping calm or emotionless did seem to do the trick.
Different to bribes, you could reward positive behaviour after the event. In other words, if they stayed in bed all night, the next morning you could reward with a sticker. All kids loves stickers, as I discovered through teaching, even the Sixth Formers love a sticker. People in general love praise, so why not use it to your advantage? Maybe try to avoid giving sweets, as that might blow up in your face come bed time.
I am no expert in the field, but I find these tactics have worked very well with my two children. What techniques do you adopt? Have you tried these tactics before and were they successful?