Our toddler Willow had always been brilliant at going to bed, bedtime was always a dream, until last summer when she suddenly decided that she no longer loved going to bed. We hadn’t changed her routine, we were taking her to bed at the same time and doing everything in the same way but she wasn’t happy. We would take her to bed and instead of saying ‘Night Night’ and snuggling down to sleep she would scream blue murder. Then if we did leave her, it wouldn’t be long before she would sneak back downstairs and appear in the living room with a cheeky grin on her face.
Being heavily pregnant and very hormonal left me having my very own meltdown if I left her to cry, I couldn’t handle seeing her in such a state. I would try climbing into her toddler bed, however it turns out there isn’t quite enough space for a pregnant woman and a toddler. I would try our bed but unless both Ed and I were in the bed she would just thrash around and scream. So, for some sort of peace and quiet, most nights would end with her sat downstairs with us, wide awake until gone 9pm. To make matter worse she was waking as a very crabby and tired toddler around 5:30am.
Our little Allana then arrived on the 12th November, at this point I didn’t want Willow thinking we were kicking her out in favour of her baby sister so just carried on as we were. A week later we moved into our new home, by now I was terrified of trying anything with Willow as I really couldn’t cope with the idea of a howling toddler and a ‘colicy’ baby.
A few more weeks passed and we were all exhausted, we were unpacking boxes by day and battling a toddler by night. Hubby was having to work on little to no sleep whilst I fought with a testy and sleepy toddler all day at home. We needed ‘grown-up’ time, we needed Willow to go to bed and sleep.
After hours studying articles on sleep and a few conversations with health visitors we decided the cause was lots of change in a short period combined with the general ‘terrible’ behaviour of a two year old. We came up with game plan. We were going to have to ‘ignore’ her.
- Step one, it turns out that toddlers have a strangely acute sense of hearing and can tell whether you are still upstairs or if you’ve left the floor completely. So we would tuck Willow into bed, kiss her goodnight and get downstairs as quickly as humanly possible.
- Step two, when she started calling for us or crying, we would wait a few minutes before going up. We would try to leave longer between each time, toddlers are also surprisingly good at timing too. They will look out for a pattern as to how long they need to shout or cry in order for you to come running.
- Step three, put her back into bed, this is probably the hardest yet funniest part. We ignore her, we literally pick her up and put her straight back into bed, no eye contact, no talking and no smiling- I find this this last one particularly hard as our Willow has a tendency of pulling the silliest faces or saying the funniest things when I go up to her.
- Step four, we take it in turns to repeat step three until she’s asleep. Sometimes, Willow would fall asleep after only a few visits, other nights we would go up over 10 times however within a week we had it sussed.
It wasn’t the easiest week and she does still have the odd bad bedtime, we do get the occasional wake up at night but she now goes back to sleep in her own bed. Most importantly we have got both our evenings and bed back. Now, we’ve just got the 5am wake ups to work on.
Thank you for reading, and for any sleep deprived parents, I promise it does get better- consistency is the key. See you in my next post.