We don't promise it'll be as easy, but this sleep technique really works
Our hearts melted when Rochelle Humes posted a video of 18-month-old daughter Alaia-Mai calling for her on the baby monitor. But the comment below: ‘Someone didn’t get the lie in memo’ struck a chord with me.
Unlike Amanda Holden (who told Now both her daughters were sleeping peacefully through the night at two month – damn that woman, but watch her vid here if you must), Bibi, my almost three year old, who was once a great sleeper, has turned into a tiny terror at bedtime.
Before now, she was confined to her room by the baby gate so boredom and sleep soon set in. But growing strength and tenacity meant she started pulling really quite heavy pieces of furniture over to the doorway to build a dangerous (if ingenious) escape route. So her gate had to go and, with a million and one other things to do come 7pm, I’ve been leaving her upstairs to settle herself – usually at about 8:30pm after a rampage.
Here are a few of the things she’s got up to: she marker penned all over our newly white-washed walls; she got everything, and I mean everything out of her wardrobe and put most of it on – I found her asleep and sweating in three pairs of trousers, socks and a couple of tops; she found my iPad, somehow managed to download Toy Story, and was watching it at full volume under the covers at the end of her slumbering sister’s bed. And worst of all, in some sort of dirty protest, while she was still in nappies, she did a poo, took off her nappy and smeared it ALL OVER her room. Like everywhere. We were having a dinner party downstairs when I heard my nervous husband Reuben call, ‘Er, Jess… could you just pop up here for a second…’ Yeah. It took more than a second.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t really relax in the evenings until I know the kids are out for the count, so these episodes have been irking me. Us mums need our down time. Whether it’s to sleep through until 7am, or to have them settled at a reasonable hour so we can have some child-free downtime.
The spark of inspiration came from my mum over Christmas. ‘You rant about people letting their kids stay up watching TV until they collapse on the sofa. So how is this much different?’ she asked me. Not one to mince her words, Mum.
But she was right and after huffing and puffing I realised I’d have to do a toddler-updated version of exactly what I did with both of them as bubbas. I’d followed Baby Whisperer Tracy Hogg’s pick up/put down technique, which seemed like a really happy middle road between, cry it out Gina Ford and hippy dippy have-them-in-your-bed Dr Sears.
The rules are simple when they are babies. If they cry, pick them up. When they stop, put them down. Repeat and repeat until you are so bored you want to scream. Then repeat some more. What it does is show your child you are always there for them, but also teaches them that they are safe in their own beds, and now is time to go to sleep, and no, mummy won’t be rocking and singing and reading you Spot Goes to the Farm for the 85th time. Basically you bore them into submission.
If you can muster the grit and determination to hang on in there night after night, it works like a charm and means, serious illness aside, from about four months old, my kids have always slept in their own beds.
So, for the past seven nights, I’ve done a big kid version of pick up and put down. I’ve sat on the landing with my phone. Surfed the net, done an online shop, played Angry Birds on silent. And every time either child has stepped out of bed, without any fuss, I’ve gently put them back in, and tucked them up. No fuss. No discussion.
The first night, Bibi was still going at 8:35pm, but since then it’s been a faster and faster drop-off time. And tonight I didn’t have to sit outside their rooms at all.
What have I learned? What I’m calling my ABCs. Absolute Boring Consistency. It’s a rule you can apply to loads of things. Sitting nicely at the table. Saying please and thank you. Not smearing poo all over the walls.
Frankly I’d be doing a victory dance if I wasn’t afeared it would wake them up. Hang on a minute… what’s that I hear…?