When I spoke to Scarlett’s mum on a free 15-minute chat, she was at her wits end. She had not slept a full night since her twins were born nearly 4 years ago. One of her twins was a great sleeper, whilst Scarlett was not. They had been on a long journey to try and get Scarlett to sleep – even attending sleep school at 6 months with no success.
Scarlett’s mum booked me in for an evening home consult and was very nervous and not sure what to expect, but she had hope that I could help her, and I gave her the confidence that I could!
When I arrived at their home, Scarlett’s twin ran to the door when I knocked. As the door opened he said to me “Thank you for coming here! My sister wakes me up all night”. The whole family had been affected by Scarlett’s difficulty sleeping, and they all needed a full night’s sleep.
I sat down with Mum, Dad and the twins at the table. We made Bedtime Rules posters for both of the twins (as we didn’t want Scarlett to feel singled out). I consulted with Mum and Dad and we came up with 3 rules that suited their situation, and the children chose 1 rule each. The rules included that Scarlett was allowed to call her parents and they would come once only in the night, and that she could go to the toilet on her own whenever she needed to. I wrote the rules on their posters and the children decorated their posters beautifully with markers and stickers.
While the children decorated their posters, Mum, Dad and I discussed their options with sleep training techniques. Mum wasn’t sure and wanted to think about it. We had an hour or so until bedtime, so that was fine.
We then went and looked at the children’s bedrooms. The sleep environments were great! Nice and dark, dull night-lights and they used fans for white noise. After we had looked at the bedrooms, Mum and I talked in the hallway about sleep training. She had mulled over the different methods and decided that in-room techniques would be too over-stimulating for her daughter, and after further discussion, Mum decided that Extinction was going to be the quickest and most consistent method for her. We also discussed using Silent Returns if Scarlett decided to come out of her bed at night.
After dinner, it was time to start the children’s wind down routine. Scarlett’s Mum already had a fantastic wind down routine in place – being a mum of twins, she already knew that routine was the key to success with multiples. We included the children’s cuddly toys in the bedtime routine to role-play what we expected of Scarlett (and her brother) at bedtime.
Finally it was bedtime. Mum and Dad gave both of the children one more hug and one more kiss and said goodnight. We went out to the kitchen and sat at the table to finish going through Scarlett’s sleep assessment and ensure that Mum and Dad were clear about our plan and most importantly comfortable with what we had put in place. Scarlett was going well. So far, so good.
Then Scarlett started to call out that she needed to go to the toilet. This was a common stalling tactic for Scarlett, and she had just been to the toilet only minutes before hand. Now that Scarlett’s bedtime rules included that she could go to the toilet on her own any time she needed to, Mum and Dad were no longer required to come and help her. Because Mum and Dad weren’t coming, Scarlett started to kick the wall next to her bed. Then she started to yell louder. Dad decided to pop his head in to Scarlett’s room and remind her of the bedtime rule that she could go any time she needed to on her own, then he came straight back to the kitchen.
Scarlett then realised that what she was trying to do was no longer working. She started to cry, and within 10 minutes, she was asleep. That night she woke once in the night, and grizzled for 10 minutes and went straight back to sleep. The next night, she didn’t even get up out of bed to use the toilet after she had been tucked in for the night, and she woke to use the toilet at 4am on her own and went straight back to bed! This continued for the next night too. Every night that Scarlett followed the Bedtime Rules, the ‘Sleep Fairy’ came and gave her a sparkly note to tell her how proud she was!
On the fourth night, Scarlett had her extinction burst. An extinction burst is a common regression that happens 3 or 4 nights in to sleep training because the child realises that what you are doing is working, and has even more of the behavior you are trying to eliminate to try return circumstances to their previous state. Mum and Dad ‘gave in’ and took Scarlett to the toilet once that night – but in reality they still did very well and I made sure that they knew that they certainly didn’t fail because it can be incredibly difficult on extinction burst night and we’re all human!
After that, Scarlett’s sleep was like a dream that mum couldn’t believe had happened after nearly 4 years! Well done Mum, Dad and especially Scarlett!