Consistency key to a calmer toddler at bedtime
Sometimes it seems that parents of intelligent children have their work cut out for them – that was certainly the case with Austin!
This wee two year old was a clever cookie and, despite having previously been a good sleeper, nap times and bedtimes had become a disaster.
Austin was having a hard time settling for bed – insisting that Mum or Dad lie in his room with him until he fell asleep and often crying so hard that he vomited (especially once he started getting a reaction!)
For his daytime sleep, Austin’s parents would have to drive him or walk him in the pushchair until he nodded off. Austin was testing the boundaries, and because he was so well able to verbalise his requests, his parents were left thinking he needed a lot of support to sleep.
The ‘boundaries’ were not the only thing in the household being tested; Austin’s parents were in a bad place.
While Austin’s Dad was strongly opposed to leaving Austin alone to cry, spending time in the room to get Austin settled was stressful for his Mum, as it was reminiscent of the trying times she’d had while suffering postnatal depression and anxiety in the early days.
Dad had taken to sleeping in a bed in Austin’s room, which was just the start of the divide; they couldn’t agree on how to tackle things, nor were they able to achieve any sort of consistency.
Austin’s behaviour was reflecting that.
A considered approach
Austin’s parents reached out to one of our South Island sleep consultants, Sophie.
They knew that they didn’t want to engage in an overnight consult; they understood that it wasn’t going to be easy and they wanted to be able to talk about, and work through, a plan in stages without having all the pressure on the first night.
They engaged with Sophie for a phone consult, with a total of six calls over a two week period. Sophie recalls that first call clearly. “My heart went out to them,” she explains. “They were so desperately hanging on.”
Fortunately, both parents had the same goal – just wanting Austin to be able to go to sleep happily – so they were open to whatever Sophie’s recommendations were.
Not only was Sophie able to talk through a plan with them during that first phone call, the full assessment she sent through had a range of options they could try.
Austin’s parents worked through the steps slowly – tweaking his day nap routine and the timing of meals for a few days, as well as getting their head around the plan – before employing the suggested settling techniques.
Because Austin was so bright, they engaged him in some positive role playing during the day and use stickers and stamps as reward for lying down in his cot successfully.
They removed the bed from the room, so there was no temptation (for anyone!) and got Austin a nightlight.
Austin’s parents allayed much of the anxiety around bedtime and took the pressure off by positively reinforcing him just lying down and closing his eyes. As a smart kid, Austin grasped these ideas very quickly.
Putting the plan into action
Following the daytime changes and initiatives, Austin’s parents – on Sophie’s recommendation – agreed on a ‘gradual withdrawal’ technique; sitting beside the cot initially to help Austin fall asleep.
Because she knew it wasn’t forever – just a stop-gap to solve the sleep challenges, with them working their way out of the room shortly – Austin’s Mum was able to get on board with the initial in-room settling method.
The plan was to be as boring and repetitive as possible while they were in there: not talking, helping Austin lie back down if he stood up in his cot, and not adding any fuel to the fire if Austin did make himself unwell – simply changing his bedding and pyjamas and carrying on.
The first night
That first night, Austin went to sleep in just ten minutes and woke once through the night, at which time they knew exactly how to handle it.
Twice that first week they had to go in and repeat the gradual withdrawal technique in the room, but Austin responded so well overall that they didn’t need to see through all the stages usually involved. Instead, by that second week, only a few minutes of ‘spaced soothing’ were required.
The turnaround in Austin was incredible. He was back to napping in his cot, which he hadn’t done successfully in close to six months.
Not only that but he was so much happier. Austin’s parents couldn’t get over how much better behaved he was generally too. They had achieved their initial goal and more!
Consistency is key
Austin’s parents had fallen into the all-too-common trap of doing anything and everything – whatever will work! – when they were tired.
Unfortunately, trying a hundred different things, and changing which parent went in and out throughout the evening, was disorienting for Austin.
With the confidence that came from having an agreed plan, and the support of knowing they weren’t doing it alone, Austin’s parents were able to get on the same page and be consistent and clear in showing Austin what needed to happen.
Austin was so much calmer, and more settled, as a result.
Austin’s parents maintain that the consult was “the best money we have ever, ever spent!” and are even now considering having a second child; something that was very far from the realms of consideration just a short time ago.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
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My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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