Another Bedtime Story

August 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Bedtime & Sleep, Readers' Enquiries

Jessica writes:

Hi, I have a 14 month old baby girl and recently she has started to not want to fall asleep in her cot.  From when she was born, I and my mum didn’t have a stable home and my daughter was always sleeping in the bed with me from the time she grew out of her Moses basket.  But now we have been settled in our own house and she now has her own room.

When we first got the cot she loved sleeping in her cot; during the day and nighttime she would sleep right through without a peep from her!  But recently when I go to put her to bed, before I even reach her bedroom door she starts stiffening up and crying hysterically.  I’ve tried putting her in bed and giving her a bottle, soothing her by stroking her head, singing, giving her nighttime baths and even taking her swimming at nights to tire her out.  But as soon as I go to leave she bounces straight up and cries for ages.  I don’t like to let her cry for too long; she would cry all night as she never gives in!  Hope you can help me!  Thanks x

Hi Jessica,

As I have mentioned before in other posts, around this age childrens’ sleep routines can start to change.  They are more aware of their surroundings, more active, and have more anxieties and fears.  You must also take into account that if she is not napping, she will become overtired at bedtime, which can cause her to have trouble sleeping at night.  In addition, while I think physical exercise during the day is helpful for this purpose, if done too close to bedtime it can be counterproductive.  Your daughter needs to be calm in order to be ready for bed; if she is overstimulated in the evening, it will make it harder for her to settle and self-soothe.

Although it sounds as if you’ve already tried some good methods, have you applied them consistently? If you’ve only tried them once or twice and she still cries, and you’ve given in and tried something else instead, then you are sending mixed signals to your daughter.  I would advise you to pick one routine and try to stick to it.  If you don’t like to leave her to cry out, then we need to find a routine that can work for the both of you, but you will have to stick to it.  For the first couple of days – maybe even up to a week – your daughter might still cry in the beginning, but with a bit of luck and persistence it will become less and less.

The first step, I think, is to encourage your daughter to become more accustomed to spending time in the bedroom and to think of it as a happy and relaxed place; at least that way you can get her into the room without a scene.  You can probably manage that by making the bedroom a play area and spending some time playing and reading there during the day.  At the same time, refrain from using the actual cot except for her sleeping (not as a playpen or for “time out”, for example).

Try to keep to the same bedtime every night.  Start your routine with a bath, all the time preparing her for bed and interacting with her by saying things like “Shall we go have a bath and get ready for bed?  Which pyjamas do you want to put on?  Shall we brush your teeth before we go to bed?”  Then take her to her room and sit on the floor and play with her for about 15 minutes.  Before you get her to help you tidy the toys away “because it is bedtime”, have her choose a book, which is the last step before bed.  During storytime turn the lights down low, and talk in a very low voice.  Finally, give her a little kiss and put her in bed.  Don’t hang around the bedroom if she stands and starts to cry, just walk out of the room.  I am almost certain that at least for the first week she will cry; you don’t have to let her cry out, but I do advise controlled crying in this situation.  Check out my post “Getting Baby’s Bedtime Back on Track“, which explains how this works.

If you do manage to stick to the routine, obviously you can change a few things here and there as you know your child best.  But most importantly, make it a routine; children at any age respond better to consistency.


NannyLili

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Getting Baby’s Bedtime Back on Track

A recent family holiday set off a change in the bedtime behaviour of reader Helen’s 9 month old son - formerly a good sleeper - and getting him back on track is proving to be a challenge.  Helen writes:

I have a 9 month old boy who was good at going to bed and sleeping through (most of the time) until we went on holiday and he slept in a travel cot, which he hated and cried for hours each night the entire week we were away.

Now at home we are experiencing the same behaviour each evening and it is getting really difficult, as he is now waking our 22 month old daughter.

We are currently trying controlled crying, but he is crying for up to 2 hours and gets in such a state he’s made himself sick.  We go in and try to settle him, but the only way to calm him down is to pick him up and cuddle him, then when we put him back down and leave the room he’s screaming.

Please can you suggest any ideas?  Before controlled crying we tried holding him until he went to sleep, also tried to put him down awake but nothing works.

Thanks, any advice would be appreciated.

Hi Helen,

I can imagine this is very tiring for everyone.

I’m not sure how long you’ve been leaving your baby to cry uninterrupted, but bear in mind that the point of controlled crying isn’t really to leave them to cry for long periods of time - it’s to help your baby learn to self-soothe.  It doesn’t sound as though your little boy has a problem self-soothing, as you mentioned he used to go to bed quite well.  It’s also quite typical for children’s sleep patterns to change at this age, as they are more alert and mobile.  Also, around this age they can start to develop separation anxieties.

Leaving the baby to cry, as I’m sure you have experienced, just makes them become hot, anxious and overtired – and sometimes even results, as you mentioned, in vomiting.  Once this has happened, there is no hope of them settling.  Even if they do eventually fall asleep, it is usually broken naps.  Also, they may start to get distressed about bedtime approaching.

At night, Helen, when you put your baby to bed, try to make sure that he is really calm.  Perhaps give him a bath, or just sit in a low-lit bedroom talking very gently to him.  Then, when it is finally bedtime, just give him a kiss, tell him you love him, put him into his cot and walk out of the room.  Even if he is crying, just wait five minutes and then go back into the bedroom.  Keeping interaction to a minimum, soothe him for a moment by using a gentle but firm voice, say “It’s bedtime now, see you in the morning, love you” and walk out of the room again.  Repeat this two or three times, then increase it to 10 minutes and then to 15 minutes, each time using the same procedure.  As the intervals get longer, try reducing the amount of interaction each time.

If you notice that there is a pause between his cries, wait a little longer, as he might be starting to fall asleep and by going in you could disturb him again.

This could take a couple of days or several weeks, but it should start getting easier.  In the meantime, it is going to take all your resources to stick to it – but if you do, I expect you will all get a better night’s sleep.  Feel free to check back in and let me know how you’re both coming along!


NannyLili

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