toddlerI had the pleasure this week of working with the lovely Sophie who at 2.5 years old was enjoying having her mum or dad lie down with her for every sleep.

Sophie had recently been separated from her mum unexpectedly for a few weeks and her parents had since felt she needed the reassurance of them lying with her to sleep, to re develop that bond and make sure Sophie felt confident and like she could trust her parents.

Then Sophie started waking more and more at night and her parents had to lie with her once more to go to sleep. This was fine until the weeks ticked on and mum and dad became more and more tired. Mum was dealing with a newborn and Dad had a job to do during the day and his concentration was at an all time low due to his severe sleep deprivation as he was on night time toddler duty while mum was on new-born duty.

By this stage the 2 week old new-born was sleeping better than the 2.5 year old!

I could see a family who had supported their toddler beautifully and she was now content, and comfortable that her mum was not leaving her. Mum and Dad could not carry on like this and were very ready to teach Sophie to sleep by herself and sleep through the night.

After explaining to mum that her and her husband had become Sophie’s new sleep props and this is why she was appearing at there beds at night, she was simply looking for the thing which got her to sleep in the first place they completely understood Sophie’s need to go to sleep without them lying down with her.

I gave them a huge range of techniques to chose from, including but not limited to gradually having a parent leave the room over 2 weeks, through to shut the door and don’t go back in. After much discussion around the pro’s and con’s, yes they all have pro’s and con’s, we decided to establish some clear bed time boundaries and role play this to Sophie. We then popped in and out of the room checking on Sophie and praising her for being so clever and staying in bed.

She got up after around 20-30 minutes and needed to have her door shut for a few minutes as this was her agreed consequence for getting out of bed.

Sophie did really well and showed huge will power staying in bed, obviously understanding her new bed time rules and being driven by wanting her reward.

She started calling in what I call a mantra cry for her mum, and then her dad and then a bottle, the parents like all parents struggled with this, as she was so vocal and articulate in her requests. Really different to a baby crying. But the important thing is to actually not engage in that conversation with Toddlers. There is no point reasoning at this stage.

Phrases like

“Mummy is busy with the baby she can’t come”

“Daddy has to do some work, he can’t come and lie down”

“You already had a bottle, you need to wait until morning for a bottle, we have already brushed your teeth”

These sound reasonable but are actually very engaging and exactly what we don’t want to do, they prolong the process and do not encourage settling.

Toddlers are very persistent and their requests can be very reasonable and very unreasonable, its important to look at the context of the request and consider whether its genuine and reasonable or a sleep delay tactic. Request for a glass of water – reasonable, request for another glass of water at bed time? A sleep delay tactic. A cuddle before sleep, very reasonable, 50 cuddle requests between 7pm-9pm? A delay sleep tactic.

Sophie settled by 9pm and only woke once throughout the night, she was escorted back to bed and slept until 7am.

Tonight she settled in 10 minutes.

Win for everyone after just two night!

Toddler’s can sleep better.

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