14 month old - Changing sleeping habits

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14 month old - Changing sleeping habits

Postby Rosanna » Tue 21 May, 2013 6:37 pm

Until about a week ago our 14 month old would sleep from 8pm and wake between 7am-8am, during this time she would wake up briefly but we were able to re-settle her quite quickly. Recently she has been waking between 4am-5am and doesn't want to go back to sleep until about 7am.
She doesn't resettle herself alone and up to recently we were having to rock her to sleep however, as I am 6 months pregnant I can no longer do this. We have found that she will only go to sleep if I am lying next to her and this would occur within 10 minutes of her laying down next to me. We have tried the settling methods suggested to get her to sleep in her cot but to date we have had no luck and have found our current method to be our best solution.
Any information to help understand her current awakenings and any tips to move her from falling asleep in my bed before bubs number two arrives would be greatly appreciated. Thank-you!
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Re: 14 month old - Changing sleeping habits

Postby NgalaOnline » Wed 22 May, 2013 5:54 pm

Hi Rosanna

Thank you for your post. I am unsure from your post whether you are lying next to your daughter for her to fall asleep and then remaining next to her throughout the night, or whether you are lying with her to fall asleep but then moving away (or moving her) once she is asleep. I am writing this post on the presumption that she is falling asleep with you but then you are not sleeping together during the night. If this is not correct and your daughter is waking frequently whilst cosleeping with you and you need more advice then please reply or ring the helpline.

It is known that children develop sleep associations, or learned ways of falling asleep. Babies and toddlers sleep in short sleep cycles of around 40 minutes long. Between these sleep cycles they will often come up into a light period of sleep where they will check to make sure that the environment is still the same as it was when they went to sleep. If your baby is falling asleep in your bed or with you and then rousing to find out that things have changed since she went to sleep, then she is likely to be alarmed and fully wake. If she is using these external sleep associations (such as physical contact with you) to help herself fall asleep then she will feel that she is unable to fall back to sleep without the presence of the sleep associations, and she will call for you to attend in order to be able to go back to sleep. If she continues to wake fully between sleep cycles to check for the presence of her sleep associations, by early morning it can be difficult to get the child to resettle as she will have had quite a lot of sleep and will feel like she does not need to return to sleep. Many parents find that helping their child to learn independent sleep associations that they can perform for themselves (such as stroking their hair or their bedsheets, sucking their thumb or cuddling a teddy) then the child will not fully wake or call for attention when they move between sleep cycles as they will perform their own sleep association and quickly drift into the next sleep cycles. Adults also do this during the night (such as rolling back into their favourite sleeping position) and are not aware of these brief awakenings during the night.

Cosleeping is an option that works well for many people, and many parents are happy to continue with it until the child outgrows the desire to sleep with their parents. This often seems to be around 4-5 years of age. If you feel that cosleeping is not working for your family and you would like to work towards teaching your toddler to settle herself to sleep, you may like to gradually work on removing the sleep associations she currently has (such as you lying with her) whilst supporting her through a period in which she is likely to protest about the changes. It is normal for children to show some signs of protest as they adjust to a new way of settling, as they were happy with methods that were previously used and do not understand why the parent is bringing a change. A lot of their protesting will also be about the fact that they are tired but do not know how to go to sleep or remain asleep without their usual sleep associations. You might like to approach getting your child to fall asleep independently step by step over a period of around 1-2 weeks. If you are currently providing a lot of body contact as she falls asleep you may like to begin by lying next to her but without the same amount of body contact, or touching her initially but then moving away a bit before she falls asleep. Next you might like to try sitting on a chair or on the floor next to her cot. You can still have a hand on her or even pat or stroke her for the first few days, before beginning to withdraw this. If she is not very familiar with her cot you may like to spend some time during the day playing in her room and staying with her whilst she plays in the cot so she can learn that the cot is a safe and happy environment. If a child has been sleeping on an bed and is resistant being contained in the cot some parents prefer to create a safe environment in her room (which includes anchoring any heavy furniture to the wall and covering electrical circuits), putting a baby gate across the door and then putting their baby to bed on a mattress on the floor. Some parents find that having their child not contained to a cot at this young age can be problematic, but for other parents this solution works well if it is easier accepted by the toddler.

It is likely that at first she will not be happy about this change and that the first 3 - 7 days will be likely to involve some lengthy periods of protesting and settling. This may occur several times during the night at first, and can be exhausting and frustrating. Usually, however, parents find that if they can remain consistent the child will have learned new sleep associations and adjusted to the change by the end of the week, and that night waking has usually significantly improved. It is helpful to prepare for the initial 3 - 4 days to be challenging, such as by beginning at a time that you have support available, rest during the day and go to bed early in anticipation of spending time awake soothing your baby in the night. Sometimes toddlers are aggravated or overstimulated rather than soothed by patting or hands-on soothing, and in this case you may find it preferable to just sit with your child and "sssshhh" her. Although she is likely to still protest, you are supporting her and showing her that you are there to comfort her, but that you are teaching her something new. If she repetitively stands up it is best to ignore this for some time before trying to lay her back down, to avoid it becoming a game where she is standing repeatedly and you are continually having to lay her back down. If you do lay her down and she stands back up it is best to ignore this and wait for another 10 minutes or so before again attempting to lie her down. It is helpful to remember that you are trying to teach these new sleep skills because you feel that it will be beneficial for her and for the whole family if she is able to sleep for longer blocks at night.

The Ngala helpline is available 7 days a week so you may like to ring the Ngala helpline whilst you are going through the processes of making the changes to settling, to talk through how it is going. I hope that this information has been helpful, and I wish you the best of luck.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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