Toddler techniques get Lincoln back on track – just in time!
Originally published here
Two and a half year old Lincoln had generally been a pretty good sleeper; he thrived on routine and his mum, Tash, was good at sticking to one. However, partway through Tash’s second pregnancy, Lincoln’s sleep regressed.
Tired and feeling sick, Tash reached for quick fixes to soothe Lincoln and get him back to sleep as quickly as she was able to.
“Lincoln had been weaned off any sort of bottle for some time, but when he started waking up in the middle of the night and demanding cuddles, I gave him a bottle because it seemed easier and I needed to get him settled and back to sleep,” Tash explains.
Unfortunately, it was a slippery slope to then giving Lincoln a bottle again before bedtime.
“Soon he was also waking every night for that middle of the night milk,” Tash adds.
“He would demand we lie in bed with him until he fell asleep – but he’d be busy trying to talk to us and engage.”
This process could take up to an hour some nights!
Needless to say, this new nightly routine was getting tiring for Tash and her husband.
“When I look back on that time now, I wonder how we were surviving it,” Tash admits.
“We hung in like that for a few months, but as we got closer to our due date for baby number two, I knew something needed to change.”
It was then – when she was 8 months pregnant – that Tash reached out to Auckland-based baby sleep consultant, Sophie for a phone consult with two weeks of follow up.
Keeping us on course
Tash knew that the techniques she had relied on in the earlier days had created habits that they were finding hard to break. “Luckily Sophie didn’t make me feel bad about that!” Tash laughs. “She helped me see that I’d simply been in survival mode and doing what I needed to. But she also helped us make a plan to move forward.”
Sophie’s first suggestion was to throw a “goodbye bottle party” with Lincoln to farewell his bottles once and for all.
Tash went all out – buying glitter, and decorating at home for the celebration and send off and the bottle got traded for a monster truck. Lincoln loved it! The bottle was soon forgotten and he’s never asked for it since.
“I had been really fearing Lincoln’s reaction to getting rid of his bottle – which I anticipated to be far worse than anything that actually happened. I didn’t want to upset him, but was really surprised at how immediately and effectively this worked!”
“I’d done a lot of research and found lots of ideas and information on Google, but it made such a difference to have someone there and available to us to keep us on course. Working through things with Sophie kept me accountable, but I was also more committed to following through when I had paid money for a solution too!” Tash laughs.
Getting us out of the bed
The next challenge, which was bound to take a bit more work, was getting Tash and her husband out of the bed – and getting Lincoln used to going back to sleep in the night by himself.
“Lincoln had always gone to sleep ok initially at bedtime – and we’d always had a strict routine around bedtime – but he was starting to employ delay tactics to keep us in there with him. And in the middle of the night it was impossible to leave him until he’d gone back to sleep,” Tash explains.
“Sophie suggested we not start snuggled in bed with him but instead sitting on a chair next to his bed to read his bedtime stories. From here, we moved to the middle of the room before eventually we could read the books, kiss him and say goodnight and walk out of the room.”
That wasn’t all though; Sophie encouraged Tash to find out what Lincoln’s currency was, and set up a sticker chart to reward him in the morning if he’d slept all night.
Within nights the spell was broken!
“Already Lincoln now barely wakes up in the night,” Tash enthuses. “The few times that he has and has called out for me, I go in, pull his blankets up, kiss him and walk out again – without saying anything or engaging, which Sophie explained was also rewarding the waking. When we wake up again those mornings he doesn’t get a sticker and we explain that’s because he woke up and woke me up too.”
It worked so quickly that Tash still had follow up time with Sophie left in which she was able to soak in some additional value.
“We talked about his daytime nap and then I just picked her brains on other things like toilet training and mealtimes too – the latter of which we also made a few small tweaks to!”
Consistency in the collaboration
As well as giving her the confidence to try some new techniques, Tash credits working with Sophie with helping her and her husband to become more consistent in their approaches.
“We would always take turns and do alternate nights putting Lincoln to bed,” Tash explains. “We still do that now – but now we’re doing the same thing. And it’s so nice not to be woken every night during the night anymore…”
“At least for a few weeks – until we have a newborn in the house again!” Tash laughs.
A timely turnaround
With Lincoln’s baby sister’s arrival just days away, it was prime time for an improvement in Lincoln’s sleep. And it’s not just a previously over-tired Tash who is benefitting either!
“Lincoln’s behaviour during the day has improved since he’s been having a full night’s sleep again,” Tash observes. “I can’t say for sure that it’s related but the development that he’s had in the weeks since has been huge. He seems better able to manage his emotions, his vocabulary has increased and he seems to have improved his ability to listen.”
Tash and her husband are enjoying not having to crawl into bed quite so early each evening in preparation for their night of broken sleep and are instead enjoying having a bit more time in the evening to spend together… at least until their new arrival joins the household any day now!
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