21 month old- doesn't self settle

(4 Posts)
LittleMissPear Wed 01-Jun-16 13:08:24

So, I have a 21 month lb, he sleeps in a bed as he could get out of the cot from 17 months. The novelty of being in a grown up bed has worn off! My DH and I don't cope well with disrupted sleep and we have always taken the path of least resistance when it comes to sleep issues. The situation we are in now is that he won't self settle, one of us stays with him until he falls asleep in his bed, with me this involves him having his had down my bra (since I weaned him from BF-ing he's always put his hand down there for comfort). When he wakes in the night he needs us to sit with him again until he falls back asleep. More often than not we bring him in to bed with us so that we all get more sleep. We did have a period of time when he slept well in his bed and we didn't let him co-sleep, this involved DH camping out on his bedroom floor a lot though.
Also bedtimes have become much harder recently, he wants to run around and play rather than settle to sleep. Any advice on getting him to self settle and then stay in bed? Thanks

FATEdestiny Thu 02-Jun-16 17:42:42

A child can get a suprising amount of comfort from the enclosed feeling the cot bars provide. A bed is quite exposed and much less 'nest like'.

Personally I find the transition from cot to bed is much smoother if done at a time when parents feel the child is emotionally and behaviourally ready, rather than when forced before the child is ready. So if possible, I'd recommend going back to a cot and teaching him not to climb. If that is not possible, you could try to recreate the cot-like feeling by using a bed tent and/or bed guard.

A drastic alternate solution would be the family floor bed - a double mattress on the floor.

In terms of self settling, the path of least resistance is all very well, but teaches the child very little. Teaching a child to sleep independently doesn't need to be distressing, but it is short-term hard work so wouldn't qualify as the path of least resistance.

(having said that, when you think about it, 9 months of parental hard work to get baby to sleep independently verses several years of dealing with a child who cant sleep independently - makes you question which option actually is "easiest")

So the gentlest approach would be simple acceptance. By around school age it is reasonable to expect that a child can generate his own comfort and wont need external means to gain the comfort needed to feel secure enough to sleep. You could simply accept that your DS will need your help to get to sleep for a long time yet and in your ethos of taking the path of least resistance, just work out how you can all have the most sleep and the least stress by accepting this will be the way of things.

Or you could decide to start working on self settling. From what you describe it sounds like Gradual Withdrawal would work for you. It is gentle and slow, so is not a quick fix.

GW involves making small, gradual changes towards independent sleeping. Ideally you want to encourage him to bond with something that he can use as a comforter in place of his hands on your boobs. Maybe you could start shoving a muslin square in your cleavage and encourage him to thumb that with his hands buried down there. Then slowly, gradually, have the muslin square less buried in your cleavage until it is the muslin that gives the comfort rather than his hands in your boobs.

Then encourage lying down with the comforter, with you snuggling next to him. When he's OK with that, start turning away from him slightly, but still stay until asleep. Then turned away but slightly away from the bed, stay until asleep. Then further from the bed. And so on.

LittleMissPear Fri 03-Jun-16 07:25:20

Thanks FATE. Your advise is very helpful. I do want to make more progress with the self settling than simply accepting the current situation. So the GW might be the way to go. I need to work on it myself as I have zero will power and need to not give in when I/ he wants me to!

FATEdestiny Fri 03-Jun-16 09:30:27

need to not give in when I/ he wants me to!

No, no. Give in as much as he wants you to. The ethos of GW done in the true, gentle sense is to never create any distress or upset.

So if he gets upset and needs you or something specific, I'd do it immediately and without question. Then when calm try going back to encouraging a tiny bit of extra independence.

Remember to keep the change tiny, it should go unnoticed and not cause any upset whatsoever.

The basis of Gradual Withdrawal done properly is that if it causes distress to anyone then too much emphasis is on withdrawal and not enough emphasis on gradual.

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