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The bedtime routine: part 2 in which I attempt to impart some wisdom

Long ago, in a galaxy far away (yes I’ve used that line before, but the old ones are the best), I was a carefree young woman, who suffered occasionally from insomnia.  I know.  Crazy to think that now isn’t it.  Insomnia is a condition whereby your mind and/or body prevents you sleeping and getting your much needed natural rest Now I just have 2 small children.  I have a similar condition, only it’s not my mind and body causing the problem.

 

Still I am nothing if not hopeful that a solution will present itself.  So I have tried a great many techniques for getting my girls to sleep and stay asleep. And now being the sharing, caring type that I am I am going to give you the benefit of my trial and error wisdom.

 

Bedtime, dummies and boobs or bottles.

  

Babies under 1 year old:

 

Bath, bottle, bed routine really is a cracker.  Never failed me, but you do have to work at it.  You have to give any sort of routine at least a week before you give up and move on to the next thing.  So giving your baby a nice warm bath, then a nice massage (or just rub some cream in their yummy skin if you haven’t done a posh baby massage course and lets face it if you have more than one baby you probably haven’t had time).  Then give them their bottle or boob, whichever you are using, I tend to do this in front of the Night Garden or equivalent TV programme because I have a toddler too, but when the toddler was a baby we’d do it in her room.  Nice and peaceful.  Now the baby gets a few high speed toys whizzing narrowly close to her head as she frantically finishes her bottle. 

 

I have put both my babies down with dummies.  It gives them something to suck on and also something to think about while they fall asleep.  There is also some suggestion that it can help prevent cot death but I’m no expert that’s just something I have read.  I never held much with the ‘let them settle themselves’ theory as it never worked for me with either girls.  They never settled, just cried and cried and it broke my heart.  So the dummy came in handy.  But I would also stand over the cot or basket and gently rub their backs and bottoms.  I’d put them on their sides sandwiched between a special bumper or just use two towels.  This was a trick a maternity nurse taught me and I think the babies preferred it as any wind could come up easily and not hurt them but they were safe on their sides.  I also swaddled both of mine until they were 14 weeks.  This gave them pressure on their tummies and also prevented their arms waving around and waking them.

Again I’m no expert and there’s no doubt lots of conflicting studies on this, but this is my blog, my opinion (so there!).

 

As it happens my second baby became a tummy sleeper, Eliza, the toddler will sleep in all sorts of positions now, but prefers her back.

 

Now the question most mums ask.  If you use a dummy don’t they get addicted to it?  How do you get rid of it?  Personally I only ever used them for sleep, and I have used the Soothe-Along for both girls.  It’s a wristband with the dummy attached.  After about 5 months they can work out how to find it for themselves in the night, rather than waking.  With both of ours we started to get full night’s sleep after about 5 months.

 

Eliza lost the dummy at 18 months, because she worked out how to take it off the wristband and I was breastfeeding the baby so was unable to go to her and replace it.  So she worked out pretty quickly that the dummy had gone and that was that.  The following night I put her down sans dummy and bingo, she was ‘cured’. 

 

I will do the same for the baby, although her need of it is far less than Eliza’s.  She really does only use it to sleep and even then I’m not sure how much really.

 

So do the bedtime routine, help them settle to sleep by whatever means you choose and then gently retreat.  They may wake up in the night, but if you stick to doing what you did to get them off ie: rub their back gently you will find they wake up less and need you less.  I don’t really know why I just know this is my experience.  And both my children are, by and large (and those of you on Twitter, please don’t spoil this illusion!) good sleepers.  But I will say this.  It’s not easy, it takes time and committment and devotion and patience and resolve.  But if you keep doing the same thing EVERY night it will eventually work.  Promise.

 

The human yo-yo routine

 

Toddlers over 18 months.

 

The biggest challenge for me has been a good sleeper turned bad.  I know this is common as I know a fair few mums who experience this too.  I think that as they become more aware of the world and the fact that they can control elements of it, sleep is a natural function to test.  And toddlers are all about testing.  Testing things, testing you, testing patience, testing the natural rhythm of the world. 

 

I have had many many awful nights with the toddler.  She seems to be marginally better now and I want to just share what I’ve done, because if I can help you bypass my problems then I’ll feel better about the sleep we’ve all lost.

 

I tried controlled crying.  It worked for a bit but I found that inevitably after any changes in her routine, mostly brought about by me being away due to work she’d be back to square one and I just couldn’t face the crying again.  I just don’t believe it works with her to be honest.  However she’s a smart cookie and knows that if she cries I’ll stay with her so I was a bit flummoxed.

 

I read somewhere about the ‘disapearing chair’ technique.  So I did a sort of variation on this and mixed in a few other things too.

 

She was given a CD player for Christmas and I remembered a friend saying they used to put their boys to bed listening to audio books.  So I got a lullaby CD.  Now here’s the routine.

 
  1. Bath, milk, teeth.
  2. Into bed.
  3. Read her a story – she chooses it.
  4. Then I put on the lullabies and I lie down next to her and cuddle her alot and have a little chat then I get up and leave.
  5. Last night was the first night this worked.  I have been persevering for a very LONG time.

 

The steps I took were like this:

 

First night I’d sit on her bed and stroke her head.

 

Then a week later, I’d just sit on her bed, then retreat to the middle of the room, then retreat to the door, then leave the room.

 

I did that for about a week.

 

Finally I did the get-in-the-bed-thing because I reasoned that she wanted closeness and cuddles, so if I did lots of that, then she’d be happy.

 

It was gentle but it took ages and it needs real consistency.  But maybe, just maybe it’s worked.

 

The next step of course will be to just leave the room (like I used to 6 months ago -sigh), but until then I’ll use this ‘method’.

 

The one thing I have learnt above all else is that you never quite crack it.  Even when you think you have, they go to sleep and sleep through for ages, something will happen to change it all.  It’s just life and it’s an ever changing dynamic.  Children are people and they have different needs and you have to adapt and change with them.  Still it’s a bit bloody hard going when you think you have it sorted and then they both start waking up!  Still that’s what Twitter’s for.  To offload your pain!

 

Anyway if you are experiencing problems, then good luck and I hope it sorts itself out soon.  If you are not having any problems then good for you and long may it last.

 

Happy sleeping!

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