How to cope if your toddler doesn’t sleep

Gabe is 22 and a half months old, and I don’t want to shout to loudly about it, but his sleep seems to finally be improving. In fact as I write this he has slept all night, in his own bed, until at least 6:30 am for four nights in a row! Unfortunately he didn’t make it to five nights but this is very much new territory for Gabe. Everyone expects a lot of sleepless nights when they have a new baby, but when that baby gets to 6, 12, then 18 months old and they still aren’t sleeping it gets harder and harder, so how do you cope if your toddler doesn’t sleep?

I’m going to start this post by saying I only have one piece of advice to give you, and I pretty much guarantee it will work. It may not be the advice that you want to hear but after having two babies who became toddlers who didn’t sleep it is the only thing I know that will help. Read more

I cuddle my children to sleep // Bedtime with a baby and a toddler

I cuddle my children to sleep. I hold them until they fall asleep and then I give them a kiss and put them gently into bed. And as long as they want me to I’m going to carry on doing it.

Cuddling Toby to sleep

When Toby was a baby I read all the books, all the advice, about how you should put your baby in bed in that elusive ‘sleepy but awake’ state. As it turned out from a few months old I could put Toby into bed wide awake, say ‘sleepy time now Toby’, shut the door and leave him to happily go to sleep by himself.

Somewhere along the line though that changed. He would happily go in his cot but start screaming as soon as we tried to leave the room. It was about the same time that he started refusing to let his daddy put him to bed and so I always had to do it. I lost count of the number of hours I spent, heavily pregnant, sat on his bedroom floor, slowly inching towards the door as he fell asleep before I could eventually make it out of the room. In that stage no amount of cuddling seemed to help – he wouldn’t fall asleep on me but wouldn’t fall asleep without me there either. This happened in the middle of the night too and I spent quite a lot of time sleeping on his bedroom floor too.

And then when Toby was two we decided that his nap had to go. About the same time he also stopped having a bottle at bedtime. And without a nap he would get ready for bed, sit on my knee and quite often before I had even got to the end of Somewhere over the Rainbow (my bedtime song of choice) he would be fast asleep. When he was two and a half he moved from his cot to a bed and for some reason I decided I should be putting in him bed awake rather than cuddling him to sleep but after a couple of nights when we were back to the sitting on the bedroom floor until he fell asleep routine I suddenly thought ‘why I am doing this?’ Toby is happiest falling asleep on my lap, it makes absolutely no difference to whether or not he will wake up in the night or not, so why am I putting us both through this? Just because that’s what the ‘experts’ tell me I should be doing.

So now we’re back to our bedtime cuddles. Usually I do it but Toby is happy for his daddy to put him to bed these days too. And I will keep on cuddling Toby to sleep for as long as he wants me too but I fear our days are numbered. Some nights Toby decides he wants to get in bed to fall asleep, although for now he still wants one of us to sit in the chair until he does. I guess those nights will become more frequent and one day he won’t want bedtime cuddles at all.

But I’ll still have Gabe. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been put in bed awake and gone to sleep by himself. In the very early days he would fall asleep after feeding and I couldn’t put him down straight away because he was very likely to be sick. We moved onto bottles and he would still often fall asleep while feeding or straight after but would need to be held for a while before he could safely be put down. And now, we have to wait until he’s fast asleep before trying the tricky manoeuvre of getting him in bed, on his tummy, without him waking up. Because if he does wake up then you usually have to pick him up and settle him all over again. It’s not always ideal but I know it won’t last forever.

Cuddles with sleepy Gabe

One day neither of my boys will want me to cuddle them to sleep so no one is going to make me stop until they decide they’re ready to go to sleep by themselves.

Do you cuddle your children to sleep or do they go to sleep by themselves? I’d love to know if my experience is similar to other people’s.

 

 

 

JOHNSON’S 3 step bedtime routine challenge

I’m sure you have all heard of Johnson’s, they are a brand synonymous with babies – I know that the smell of Johnson’s baby lotion will forever remind me of childhood bath times. Well, those clever people at Johnson’s have come up with a clinically proven bedtime routine that can help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. And they’ve challenged me to try it with Gabe and see if it actually works for us.

Johnsons bedtime

For the next week I will be following our normal bedtime routine with Gabe and recording some information about it in a special sleep diary. Then next week we will be using some of the products from Johnson’s Bedtime range and following their 3 step bedtime routine. We’ll be recording the same information as for week one in the sleep diary and hopefully we’ll see by the end of the two weeks if the 3 step routine does help Gabe get to sleep more easily and stay asleep longer.

At the moment Gabe’s bedtime routine is quite short and sweet. He only has a bath twice a week so on the days when he’s not having a bath I take him upstairs at about 6 pm, get him changed for bed in Toby’s room, then we sit on our bed while he has his bedtime bottle. Some nights he will fall asleep having his milk but some nights he can take a while to fall asleep, and occasionally he can have a complete meltdown and take ages to calm down and settle. After he has fallen asleep I usually sit with him fairly upright for about half an hour – because of his reflux he can quite easily be sick if I put him down straight away. The transfer to his crib is always a bit tricky and I’m always worried he’s going to wake up. He then tends to sleep until between 4 and 5 am and it will usually be at least an hour if not longer before I can get him back to sleep again.

The Johnson’s 3 step bedtime routine contains, as you would imagine, three easy to follow steps;

  • Step 1 – Bath using Johnson’s Bedtime Bath or Wash. Bath time isn’t just about washing, it is also about playing, learning, and giving parents and babies opportunities to connect and bond.
  • Step 2 – Massage using Johnson’s Bedtime Oil or Lotion. Massage is great for making babies relaxed and comfortable before bed.
  • Step 3 – Quiet time. In the time before bed reading, singing or listening to music can help babies wind down and fall asleep.

I’m eager to try this new routine with Gabe; if it can help us to avoid those bedtime meltdowns or get him to stay asleep for an extra hour in the mornings then I will be a very happy mama! Do check back in a couple of weeks to see how we’ve got on. I’d love to hear about your bedtime routines too – what works for your little ones?

You can read about how we got on with our new bedtime routine here.

**Sponsored blog post by the JOHNSON’S® brand. I have received payment incentive and samples but all opinions are my own. JOHNSON’S® clinically proven bedtime routine consists of bath, massage and quiet time, tested on babies 7 months+, 1 week+ use.

Four month sleep regression?

Four month sleep regression

Four month sleep regression. Is that even a real thing? I heard about it but naively thought that I have a baby who sleeps, it won’t affect us. Oh how quickly things can change. It was only two weeks ago that I was writing on this very blog, smug as you like, about my wonderful baby who regularly sleeps 14 hours a night.

Then last week Toby had his third set of immunisations. No problem, I thought. He was fine after the first two lots, why should this time be any different? So we put him to bed as usual. And then he woke up and wouldn’t settle until he was fed. Then he woke up again. A cuddle this time and he went back to sleep. Then he woke up again. Another feed, some Calpol, and the snot sucked out of his nose. Back to sleep. Awake again. Dad settled him with a cuddle and a bit of rocking. 5 am. Awake again, a dirty nappy. Another feed. More snot. Eventually back to sleep. Then my alarm goes off. Of all the days, I was going to work for my first Keeping In Touch day!

Suffice to say we had a bit of a bad night. I just thought though that it was a combination of his injections and a cold. So while I went to work Toby had a quiet day at home with his dad. We bought a Calpol plug in vapour thingy and for the next three nights normal service was resumed. But then on Monday night Toby woke at 3:30 am and wouldn’t go back to sleep without a feed. Last night he woke up at 12:30 am and I ended up feeding him again. And he’s been properly hungry, finishing whole bottles. Last night he woke up crying again at about half three but by the time I had got up to go to him he was back asleep again. We are lucky that when he does properly wake up he does tend to go straight back to sleep on his own once he’s been fed so I’m usually only up for about 20 minutes at the most. But it’s 20 minutes I’d rather be in bed! Especially seeing as Toby was kind enough to pass on his cold to me! On the plus side the napping situation has improved quite a lot over the last few weeks and we’re usually getting a decent afternoon nap in now (sometimes both of us!).

So what’s happening? Is it a growth spurt? A sleep regression? A wonder week? Who knows?! Toby does seem to be making more developments at the moment. He sat up on his own without toppling over on Monday. He’s almost found his feet. (He also found his willy getting changed after swimming today!). He’s babbling a lot more than before too. So hopefully this is just a bit of a developmental phase he’s going through and soon things will go back to normal. For now I’m just going to try and go with it. I’m going to try and get some more milk in him during the day, although that’s sometimes easier said than done. Toby can be quite stubborn if he doesn’t want to eat. And if he wakes up in the night hungry I’ll feed him and put him back to bed. I’m reluctant to introduce a dream feed when he was managing fine without before. When we tried it before it never made him sleep any longer anyway and I’m of the mind that waking a baby when you want him to be asleep is just counter-intuitive.

Anyway, any advice or even reassurance that things can get back to normal would be gratefully received at this point. After six weeks of full nights’ sleep all this getting up business really is making for a tired and grumpy mummy!

Toby goes to sleep (or not!)

Toby goes to sleep
Nap time

Sleep. That illusive beast that all new parents seem to obsess about. I have to admit, I love my sleep. Before I was a mum it wasn’t unheard of for me to sleep for 12 hours or more (at least at the weekends when I didn’t have to go to work). I can nap pretty much anywhere and any time. Long car journeys or flights are no problem for me – I just sleep. So sleep, or lack of it, was one of the things that worried me most about being a new parent.

In in the early days there definitely was a lot of sleep deprivation…

BUT…

I’m going to get this bit out up front, and if you hate me for it then I totally understand if you don’t carry on reading. Toby is almost 17 weeks old and has been sleeping through the night for the last 5 weeks or so. And when I say he sleeps through the night I mean from about 6:30pm until about 8am (or sometimes even later). No waking up. No dream feeds. Just sleeping. And then he doesn’t even cry when he wakes up. Just lies there sucking his thumb and chilling out until one of us goes to get him up. This is what we are usually greeted by in the morning…

Baby sleep
Morning mum!

To be honest I think most of this is just down to good luck. We did start a bedtime routine of bath, feed, bed quite early on and we moved him into his own room when he was about 6 weeks old which helped us stop disturbing one another. We have always tried to put Toby into his cot awake so he has learnt to go to sleep on his own but apart from that I think we have just been lucky to have a baby who sleeps.

This wasn’t always the case though. Until we got Toby’s reflux under control with the proper medication his feeding and sleeping were all over the place. He wouldn’t feed very much in one go and so needed to be fed every couple of hours day and night. But once he could feed comfortably and take more at each feed he could go longer between feeds and his night time sleep started getting better. We did briefly experiment with a dream feed when we went to bed but then I read The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan** by Alison Scott-Wright which pointed out that waking a baby to feed him when you are trying to get him to sleep is somewhat counter-productive. I know dream feeds work for some people and I’m all for doing whatever works for you but it never seemed to make Toby sleep any longer anyway.

So, however we managed it (or rather Toby managed it!) we have a baby who sleeps fantastically at night. We have our evenings to ourselves and we get a full night’s sleep. And for that I am eternally grateful. But now we need to work on the aspects of Toby’s sleep that aren’t so great…the day time naps.

We do quite a lot of different activities during the week – Baby Sensory on a Monday, Bookbug at the library on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, meet another mum for a walk and coffee on Thursday – and this has meant that I haven’t really given Toby any consistency in his day time naps. He sleeps really well in his buggy or in the car but I really struggle to get him to nap for more that half an hour or so at home. Seeing as how his night time sleeping seems pretty sorted (although I am prepared for the fact that we might well go back to square one when teething starts) I’ve decided to try and get some sort of regularity into day time naps. We are starting with a post-lunch nap at about 12pm. My plan is to feed Toby, take him upstairs, clean nappy, curtains closed, into sleeping bag and then hopefully sleep! I was prepared for this to be quite hard work but actually for the last two days the plan has gone like a dream. Yesterday I put Toby down and he slept without any fuss for 90 minutes. As I write this he has been asleep for just over an hour! I’m sure there must be something wrong though – it can’t be this easy! Fingers crossed though that he is just going to accept this new nap and I’ll actually get an hour or two during the day to get stuff done.

So does sleep come easy in your house? Do you have a routine of bedtime and nap times or do you just let your little one take the lead? I don’t want to get into such a rigid routine that we can never go anywhere or do anything but I think I need some structure to the day and Toby needs to be given the best possible chance of sleeping when he needs it.

**I picked this book up in a charity shop and bought it because it has a great chapter about reflux but the sleep advice is pretty common sense and I found it quite useful too.