Our little one just turned 18 months and looking back over the past few weeks, the development in speech, motor-skills and understanding has been significant. With this extra awareness has also come a lengthened bedtime routine with Charlotte clinging to us and trying to distract us from putting her in her bed. As a result of going away on holiday and being out of our usual environment, we realised we had defaulted to rocking her to sleep - which worked beautifully, but was not a habit we wanted to continue at home. We really wanted to get to the stage of just being able to say goodnight to her and let herself self-settle to a beautiful full nights sleep (too much to ask?!) We tried putting her in her cot and leaving quickly, but this really wasn't working anymore, as she worked herself up into a crying state that we didn’t feel was conducive to quality sleep. She also started waking in the night at irregular hours, so we felt like it might be time to think about her sleep habits again. We have never chosen ‘cry it out’ as a sleep training method, alternatively choosing a gentle approach where we hold her until she is calm, before leaving the room. I decided to talk to Alexandra Bartscht at The Restful Nest to see if she had more advice on this.
“Many parents will contact me about their child’s sleep to say they were sleeping beautifully until the 4 month, 6 month, 8 month, 9 month, 12-month (and so on!) sleep regression hit. I’m here to share a little secret with you about these so-called “regressions”. A child regressing is not due to a specific age, but rather a developmental milestone being met around that age mark. For that reason, I choose to call it a progression, not a sleep regression. One of the most noticeable progressions typically occurs around four months of age, when a child goes from four sleep stages to two, just like an adult. This reorganization of sleep can be a lot of work for babies’ brains and bodies, and for some babies, sleep can start to become a bit of a challenge".
"Another progression happens around six months of age, when a child has more physical strength and starts crawling. And again, around 9 to 12 months, when a child is learning to stand up in the crib, couch surf and walk, and finally, around 2 years of age, when a child’s vocabulary is developing and he or she is learning to talk. While these developmental milestones may affect sleep, don’t forget that they are beautiful developmental progressions. The important thing to remember is to not panic! All the hard work you’ve put in to help your baby or toddler sleep soundly through the night, has not been undone. As long as your child previously had healthy sleep habits and independent sleep skills, the progressions won’t last long. Simply stick to your normal sleep routine / schedule and ride it out!"
"If your child was lacking independent sleep skills before the developmental milestones hit, I would encourage you to chat with a certified children’s sleep consultant to teach your child the sleep skills they need to sleep soundly through the night without assistance from Mom or Dad”.
Bolstered with confidence from Alexandra, we utilised the method that had worked for us previously as we knew Charlotte had the skills to settle herself to sleep. As she is so more aware now, we were a little slower to leave the room, so we knew she was settled lying comfortably in her bed. Furthermore, we decided to leave the bedroom door open for a bit when she first settled. This worked really well - we told her we were outside her room, and then just went about our evening tidy-up and dinner prep. She just lay in bed chatting to herself and after about 20 mins when all was quiet, we gently shut the door. We were so happy that this worked - and aligned with our goal of wanting to be able to put her down (like a big girl!) and say goodnight without the endless jigging and re-entering the room. She also gradually stopped waking at night - but when she did wake we just went in and gently shhhhh'd her without picking her up. Again this worked, and gradually she stopped waking. So happy to have got through this blip, and here's to many more peaceful nights coming our way!
If you have any concerns about your little one’s sleeping habits please contact Alexandra on email@example.com