Parenting expert Kathryn Mewes, answers one reader’s question about her baby who won’t sleep in her own room
Q.) I am struggling to get my eight and a half month old daughter to sleep in her own room. When she was in our room, her cot was next to my bed and if she was fussing or upset I would put my hand on her cheek or she would hold my finger (sometimes all night). Now she wakes up, up to 10 times a night putting her arms out to be picked up and won’t settle with any of the old ways. I’m going back to work soon and I really need sleep, please help.
Firstly, I want you to know that you are not alone. The situation you are in is probably the most common struggle I hear about.
We tend to do ‘anything’ for our children but there are certain things that are not sustainable and deprivation of sleep is one of them.
Children tend to fall to sleep at night and will sleep solidly for the first four hours. After this point they come into a light sleep and wake six times a night. It occurs every 90 minutes.
So a child falling to sleep at 7pm will sleep soundly until 11pm and then wake at: 11pm, 12.30, 2am, 3.30am, 5am and 6.30am. The fact is simple. The way in which you settle your child to sleep at the beginning of the night will be expected up to six times a night when they wake.
You are in a situation where it is happening more than this. You and your daughter must be simply exhausted. Now, I must be honest with you, there is no simple and easy way to teach a child to self-settle to sleep other than to let them do this on their own.
This means that you are going to hear your child shout for a period of time before they learn to settle to sleep on their own. First ensure that your child’s bedroom is very dark, pitch black if possible. Light is a stimulant and the more they can see around them the longer it will take them to relax and fall to sleep.
Looking for the window of tiredness from when your daughter has her dinner to leaving her room at night needs to be 90 minutes. So if dinner is at 5pm you need to have bathed, given milk and read stories by 6.30/7pm.
This is known as ‘the window of tiredness’. If you miss it you will notice your daughter ‘getting her second wind’. You then need to wait a further 90 minutes until she is tired again. This would mean bedtime became 8.30pm.
Work on a child’s day being 12 hours and the night being the same. Secondly you need a clear bedtime routine involving dinner, bath, bottle/breast then books followed by a song in the dark and then into bed.
From stories to leaving the room should take no longer than 10 minutes at this age. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave – for you both. When you leave, close the door. Your daughter will shout. Now listen for the pauses in noise. Try not to focus on the sound.
Step away from her bedroom door. Distance yourself from the shout. Make yourself busy to try and distract yourself. The pauses will initially be very short but they will become longer and eventually your daughter will fall to sleep on her own – hooray!
Through the night your daughter is likely to wake again. Please have the confidence to leave her to self-settle.
If you can leave her to re settle through the night, you will find the second night is better and by the third night she will be sleeping through the night.
The key is to remember that by going into her bedroom, you are ‘interfering’ with her trying to sleep. You will not be helping. If she sees you, she will expect something and there isn’t anything you can give her other than the space and time she needs.
NOTE: Only make this change when YOU are ready and your daughter is in 100% good health.
This is a hard change to make and you need to feel supported by someone, whether this be your husband / partner or a friend you need someone reassuring you that this is the right thing to do.
I wish you lots of luck. It is an emotional rollercoaster for you but it is well worth it!
Parenting expert Kathryn Mewes is brought to Baby London in conjunction with Milton. Well known as C4’s Three Day Nanny, Kathryn’s expertise covers sleep problems, eating and weaning, behavior and discipline. I hope this helps!
bespokenanny.com | facebook.com/MiltonBaby