From the first day, we arrived home as a family of three, my daughter Adriana slept in her own bedroom.
You read that right, day one!
Yes, I was breastfeeding and yes, I had a c-section. It didn’t stop me from getting up countless times in the night. It worked.
My husband and I agreed that as much as we love our daughter, she is safe in her bedroom. We as parents sleep better too. It is easier to have our bedroom to ourselves when we need to shower or get dressed, so we never disturbed the sleeping baby.
Fast forward to now, 2021, we are still trying to keep this rule.
The older your child is, they are susceptible to nightmares. Their imaginations kick into overdrive and they can be afraid about something so they quickly retreat to their parents’ bed.
The problem with this is that your little one may find any excuse to be in your bed. Granted they are only small for such a short time but sleeping together every night with a star-fished child pushing her parents to the ledge of the bed has left it in its wake, a restless child, and two grumpy parents in need of trips to the chiropractor for stiff necks and limbs.
Step 1: Find the underlying issue.
First, see if your child is unwell. Often your child seeks solace and comfort in your bed when they are feeling ill. Monitor their symptoms, take them to the doctor and medicate them. A sickly child needs to be treated with the correct medication or antibiotics. Don’t let her or him ride it out, if they feel crappy no one will benefit.
It has happened, a busy child is too interested in playing and having fun than eating. Nibbling on little snacks throughout the day does not suffice for a growing child if the snacks are not energy-laden. Often children wake up during the night and say “I’m hungry mommy”.
Ensure that your child is eating foods that are high in protein throughout the day. Also think of adding foods to his diet that are low G.I. the slower release of energy, helps keep little tummies fuller for longer.
Here are foods to consider for fuller tummies
- Eggs (boiled eggs for breakfast, or as a side for school lunch)
- Sweet potatoes (think baked sweet potato chips)
- Peanut butter (a peanut butter sandwich on low G.I. bread is always a winner for us).
- Dried fruit (great snack for lunchboxes)
- Cheese and crackers (We love the cheese sticks from Woolworths).
Monitor their screentime, perhaps a cute, lovable show isn’t as innocent or spurs on a wild imagination. Think about shows that focus on scary situations that might scare your child.
Something that might be a simple object to you, may cause anxiety for your child when the lights are switched off. A little shadow may turn the most innocent object into the scariest thing for their little minds.
Have a conversation with your child and move things around to not scare them.
Also invest in a nightmare or monster spray to help ease your little one’s fears. A spray bottle with a mist nozzle and add a drop of lavender to it. Allow them to walk around their bedroom to scare the monsters away.
“Mommy, I need to wee”.
Sometimes a child’s sleep is disrupted by nighttime trips to the bathroom. It’s unsettling when they wake up and can find it difficult to fall asleep again.
Try to limit their water consumption before bedtime and ensure that they go to the bathroom so that they can have a better night’s sleep.
Children become aware that they are alone in their bedrooms. My daughter has reached this age.
They realise the term “lonely” and think about being left behind or forgotten about. Reassure your child that your bedroom door is always open and that you are never too far away. Maybe count the steps to your bedroom and show them how fast it is to reach your room.
At bedtime, often I do lie down with my daughter until she falls asleep. It helps calm her down.
STEP 2: PLAN your move
“BIG ROOM” MAKEOVER
If you child hasn’t permanently moved to their room yet, put some effort into a Big Room Makeover. I’m not talking about breaking through or spending a fortune.
Take your child along to choose items for their “big room”. A cartoon character pillow or new curtains. Try to create excitement for their big room so they’ll want to spend time in it.
Creating a bedtime routine helps your child ease into their bedroom. Have a strict bedtime as it creates stability and your child knows what to expect to settle down into bed.
Starting off with bathtime then followed by a story. Read an actual book to your child as watching videos of stories does not help put your child to bed.
Every device emits artificial light which is disruptive to a person’s internal clock. Think about the times that you have fallen asleep in front of the tv, think about how grumpy or tired you feel when you go to bed. The same applies to your child.
If a nightlight is needed, choose one that emits a warm light that is not disruptive to your child’s sleep. (We really love our Tommee Tippee Penguin night light).
STEp 3: follow-through
In the early hours of the morning, it is easy to just give in, to open the covers and hope that sleep overcomes everyone in the bed. Reality check, you’ll toss and turn while your back will be kicked in, we don’t live in a storytale.
Instead you need to be firm with yourself so that you can all sleep soundly.
If you have followed through with a good diet, a bedtime routine and now it’s time to follow through with how to move your child out of your bed.
When my daughter wakes up during the night and calls out to me, I do get up in a slumber stupor and stumble to her room. I check up on her to see if she’s thirsty or needs the loo. Sometimes, she walks into our bedroom and climbs into our bed. I let her fall asleep and carry her back to her bed.
As tiring as it is, persist and everyone will soon have a better night’s sleep.
APPLICATION: Does it work?
It’s been a month and a half since we’ve put this in action in our home. My daughter has slept better and I think her return to school has helped because she’s more active. It’s not a foolproof science, there have been a couple of nights that she’s woken up during the night.
But the good nights are outweighing the bad nights, nowadays she comes to our bed at five in the morning which is an effective alarm clock for us.