How can we get our 18-month-old daughter back into a normal sleep routine?
UP until four or five weeks ago our 18-month-old daughter was very consistent and went down for the night easily. We normally have her down by 8pm but now this can drag out to 9 or 10pm depending on
YES is the short answer, it is possible to get her back into a routine. It may well be a phase for her, since children’s sleeping can often be disrupted by things like growth spurts, teething, changes in home or crèche, brighter summer evenings, heat and so on. It doesn’t often take much to disturb our sleep.
The key thing when children’s sleep seems disrupted is not to panic and also to try not to adjust too many things all at once. Sticking with the how well she settles. At first we thought the warm evenings were influencing the problems, making her restless. But in recent weeks she has also been vomiting in her cot shortly after we put her down. Is it some sort of separation anxiety or just some phase she is going through? Can we get her back into a normal routine?
basics of creating or maintaining a very solid bedtime routine will always help.
That routine should include some winding down time in the evenings. You might plan something like snuggle-time on the sofa, reading books, listening to story CDs (or downloads). You might even be allowed do a little foot rub, or massage, depending on your daughter’s mood.
Do start the routine early, so that actually being in bed is attained by 7.30pm. Most toddlers are well ready for sleep by then, and leaving it later may let her get a second wind, meaning she is overtired when you are trying to do the last bits of the routine and actually settling her into her cot/ bed.
When bedtime comes, follow the same nightly habit of bath, nappy change, getting into PJs, tooth brushing and then bed. Try to follow the routine in the same place, so that she gets ready for bed in her room, or your room or wherever, consistently. Try to avoid things like sometimes getting ready in the bathroom, then coming back downstairs and so on.
The idea is that she picks up the cues, from the consistency of the routine, that going to bed is the inevitable (and welcome) next step.
Once in her cot or her bed, perhaps you might read her a story (if you haven’t already had that time on the sofa earlier), or you might like to say a prayer (even if you aren’t religious it is nice to give thanks for the goodness in our lives), or some little end of day saying.
Then you need to decide whether you will sit with her while she settles to sleep, or whether you will leave her to self-soothe. You mention that she has been vomiting lately. You also query separation anxiety, when you have put her to bed. Is that vomiting occurring because she has been so upset when you left her in her room?
If the vomiting appears more random, then it is worth going to the GP to get it checked out in case she has some kind of low-level bug, or some digestive issue. If it is consistently happening after she has been crying or been distressed after you leave her to sleep, then it may be that she is, in fact, finding the separation too hard. Remember that your daughter needs to feel fully safe, secure and comfortable in order to fall asleep. So the heat, for example, may have initially caused her to be more restless, taking longer to fall asleep, during which time, she may have become more aware that she was “on her own” in the room.
In that case, it may be appropriate to sit quietly in the room with her, while she falls asleep, so that she regains that sense of security that your presence will bring. You will, of course, be able to wean her off your presence in due course.
Or, if you don’t want to get in the habit of sitting with her, arrange to come for regular “checking visits”, so that she can come to rely on the fact that you will keep coming back to her. By regularly checking on her you reduce the need for her to call out (or cry out) for you.