Question: Hi Heidi, I posted a question on your website about 2 months ago about my 15 month old daughter that has never slept through the night. I followed your advise and it worked well for about a week and it has just gotten worse?
She just refuses to sleep, I have run out of patience now? I have tried everything, letting her go to bed late, putting her to bed early, keeping her up during the day, making her sleep during the day, sticking to a routine, not sticking to a routine, keeping calm, shouting like a maniac? Nothing works. And now to get her to fall asleep is nearly impossible? She does not want to sleep and I have to be in the room, if I walk out she cries and she does not stop, she cries until she vomits. I am going mad!! I don't know what to do with her anymore, and she still wakes up continuously during the night.
I have taken her to the doctor and they say there is nothing wrong with her I must just put up with it. I spoke to the crèche, they say they have no problem with her when it is her nap time, they give her her bottle and she goes straight to sleep. So it seems that it is only at home that it is a problem, even over the week ends I have to force her to have a nap during the day, and she will only nap for 30 mins if I am lucky. At night it takes nothing less then an hour of tears and frustration and sometimes vomiting before she falls asleep, and then she is awake every 1 to 2 hours at night.
She is also now eating a good dinner and she still has 2 naps at creche, 10am & 2pm. Home at 5, dinner around 6, bath 6.30 bed and bottle at 7. I have kept her sleeping in her cot, in our room. I also have not given her dummy back it has been 3 months now that she has not had her dummy
What else can I do? Please help
Kind regards Chanel Long
Heidi's Answer: Dear Chanel, Sorry to hear sleep only improved in the first week. Is there anything that happened at the end of that week, or any difference in what you did?
I totally understand that you are losing your patience and must feel frustrated. Trying different things is good as long as you give them enough time to set. Giving a later bedtime just once will not have any effect straight away, only when you do it consistently for about a week. I trust that you did give each experiment enough time, but I mention it because I know how we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of trying things quickly, desperate for success ... but often with an averse affect.
The fact that she sleeps well at crèche tells us that she is able to sleep well for naps and that is a good thing. Please do not see it as a sign that her poor sleep at home is because of you. Many babies are easier at crèche, simply because they are in a regime, with other babies, with carers who are totally relaxed about whether or not they sleep (meaning that, as caring as they are, they do not worry as much as we do about our own). All of this makes many a baby sleep like an angel at crèche but quite differently at home ...
We can simulate a few things from crèche though. Adapt your bedtime routine to theirs if it is different. Keep strict nap times. Ask your husband to put her down for naps (and don't be around). Check for any differences between home and crèche: sleeping bag, lighter or darker room, different cuddly animal, …
As for being relaxed, that is a tricky one. Feeling frustrated, tired and out of patience does not make you want to relax I'm sure. But do try, try to let go. And it's OK to let go: your daughter is healthy, she is able to sleep well and will learn again, ... It's amazing how many moms have told me that simply by letting go, their child started sleeping better.
Whenever bedtime comes, or when she wakes at night, take a few moments to yourself. Breathe deeply, smile and think of your kind, beautiful daughter, ... Little things like these help you relax, and can only have a positive effect on her sleep.
- Do try to shift the 2pm nap to later, say 3.30pm. A tiny change like this can completely change the sight of her sleep patterns.
- Why not try the dummy again? If she'll still have it, it may be a good soother?
- Does she doze off at the bottle? Then keep working with the self soothing technique. Otherwise, see below.
- Have you learnt anything from the sleep logs I suggested? You are most welcome to email them to me so I can have a look at them.
I would like to add to have her dad help whenever possible: with bringing to bed at naps or night time, soothing at night, … You can take turns, or set up a sort of schedule (makes it easier than having to decide at night who is to get up).
And finally, she is becoming a bigger girl now so you can really start working on setting some simple ‘rules’. One rule will be that bedtime is quiet time – you want to avoid the scenes with the screaming and vomiting.
Whether it is you or her dad, make sure to be relaxed (or act in a relaxed way :)), talk to her and announce bedtime. Tell her she will be a good girl and go to sleep nicely, you are always near, … all while getting her ready for bed and doing your bedtime routine. Be clear and sound determined.
Then when putting her down, you tell her that when she stays nice and quiet, you will come back quickly. Then walk out of the room, and when she is quiet for say even 5-10 seconds, you walk in and praise her. Tell her how well she did and how proud you are. All of this in soft voices and in dim lights of course.
Then repeat, tell her that you will come back quickly but only when she’s quiet and goes to sleep, … Little by little you can then make your time away longer, until she sleeps. Whenever she has slept well (even if it wasn’t as long as you’d hoped for) praise her when you pick her up, tell her she did great sleeping so nicely …).
Again, it may not work from the first time, and you'll need all the patience you have, but it can be very rewarding if you stick to it. If she cries even before the first 5 seconds you are out of the room, don't get angry but take a deep breath, explain it to her again, and repeat ...
Good luck! Kindly, Heidi
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