What Amelia is great at, is eating, when it comes to sleep, it’s always been a battle. We get months of her being a great sleeper and then she starts sliding down the slippery slope, taking us all with her and the early morning wakenings get early and early. Now firstly, I have to add, we have never had a problem with Amelia going to sleep. We have a set routine of bath (every other night), teeth brushed, into her pj’s, story and asleep by 7pm. She is always happy to go to bed,and never comes back downstairs. Her problem is that she is ready to take on the world before the birds have even woken, meaning the whole house is awake, and many times Mummy and daddy loosing their shit in the hallway with her at 5am…..trying to whisper in order not to wake Harry, while her “No,no, no’s” get louder and louder as we take her back to her room. If Amelia was to come into our bed and ACTUALLY go back to sleep, I’d quite happily welcome her in for a cuddle, but she was looking for an apple and a movie every morning!
We have had 3 solid months of being woken up at 5am. I can’t blame the clocks going back, I can’t blame that she has had too much sleep during the day,as WE dropped her nap a few weeks into the persistent early morning rising. However I do feel things got increasingly worse after we dropped those naps. If we left her sleep on the sofa or in the car mid afternoon, she would fall into a deep sleep.
I think I must have spoken about it on social media a dozen times. A few weeks ago, I reached out for help. I felt we had tried everything. The Gro clock that promised us our child wouldn’t get up until the sun did too, was abandoned in a box, and I felt completely lost as how we were going to regain the power of sleep, and have a house less cranky come 5pm.
The lovely Niamh O’Reilly from The Nursery.ie a fully qualified and highly experienced Nursery Nurse and Sleep Specialist for babies and toddlers, and the author of “No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep” got in touch. Through email I explained our routine, sleep schedules, dropping naps and so on. She devised a plan….and it’s worked. I’ve added a few things of my own, like bringing back out the Gro Clock. I realised Amelia doesn’t care about the sun, or telling her that she can’t get up until 7am. She’s 3,she can’t tell the time. But what she does recognise is numbers. I set up her gro clock, set it for 7am, wrote the number 7 on a piece of card and placed a wooden #7 by that. I told her when all 3 numbers matched she could get up. She still wakes up earlier, but anything after 6am is completely acceptable to me. With Niamh’s help, she will now sleep until 6/6:30, I bring her back to her room and she will stay in bed until 7am. I also try and give her dinner early at 4:30 and then a bowl of cereal before bed.It wasn’t a quick process and did take us a few days, and there is still the odd early wake up,but we are a much happier and rested house and Harry now sleeps until we have to wake him….typical lazy boy.
So how did we do it? What was Niamh’s secret that I was missing? Below is a little of the plan she devised for us. Each child is different, this may or may not work for you. I would encourage you to get in touch with Niamh if you are having trouble with your kids sleeping through the night, sleeping in their own beds or waking up too early.
Firstly Niamh recommended we put Amelia to bed even earlier at 6:30pm rather than 7pm. Something I was a little taken aback by. Most people think our kids go to bed too early as it is….Her reason for this was that she felt since dropping Amelia’s naps, she was exhausted and over-tired going to bed. Meaning she wasn’t falling into a natural calm sleep. This in turn led to her not entering the third phase of the sleep cycle which occurs around 5am. The time she was ready to get up. We have done this on a few occasions, it’s not always possible with work etc, but it makes a huge difference to her nights sleep.
She advised me that when or if she woke up early, take her back calmly by the hand and tuck her back in. She will, more than likely, look for communication from me each time, but try not to fall into this trap. Don’t get into it with her– it’s neither the time nor the place. Amelia shouldn’t need anything else other than to go to sleep.
Your tone of voice is important during the steps when you are communicating with, not raising your voice or shouting (something I was doing) but delivering your message nonetheless. When you are addressing your child , your tone must be confident and matter of fact.
She advised me when putting Amelia back to bed, try to keep the atmosphere quiet and calm. She is likely to be drowsy (particularly during middle-of-the-night episodes). If you engage in a conversation, it could further wake her.
Niamh also suggested that while reward charts can be a great help with older kids, even at 3 they mightn’t get it!
Rather than these charts, she gave me a great idea for a prize bag. Amelia, like any other 3 year old wants instant gratification. Sometimes reward charts don’t work because you have to wait for your prize and thats not ideal (in Amelia’s eyes!)
So, her advice was to get a clear plastic bag, I used a zip lock bag. Took a trip to the Euro shop and bought lots of little toys and bits that she would love. I hung the bag inside a glass cabinet where she could see it but couldn’t reach it. Each morning that she stays in bed until 7am she gets to choose 1 prize. It’s bribery in it’s finest form, /!; I don’t care one single bit. Using it with the tips above, means we are now winning and for the most part, no longer #teamnosleep. There’s still quite a few left, because she is stubborn and some mornings NOTHING will bribe her to stay out. However it has been a brilliant incentive. We remind her about the bag at bedtime and have had to become strict with ourselves and not give in if she doesn’t stay in bed.
In her clear bag I put:
1. A box of beads and string to make brackets and necklaces together
2.A mermaid for the bath
3. Bubble Mixture
5. Paint Pots
6. Fun straws
I have also found our Elf Bobby a great way of bribing her into staying in bed….but he is seasonal!
Hope this comes to some help for any of you out there struggling like we were. There’s no quick fix, but it will work with persistence and determination (from the parents not the kids….they are already first class at doing both of those….) don’t let them break you. You are in control. X
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T, A & H xxx