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How to teach toddler to self-settle?


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#1 ~Kylie~

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:13 PM

Do you have any advice for training a toddler to self-settle to sleep?

My daughter is 23mo, she turns 2 next month, and we have set aside this weekend to teach her to fall asleep on her own. What we are doing is not working for us.

Currently after dinner/bath/brush teeth, we read stories quietly for 10-20mins (while I keep watching her for tired signs – usually a yawn & eye rubbing), and then we have some cuddles with her blankie & dummy. We talk briefly about what we did that day (sometimes, not every night), then I tell her we love her, and put her into the cot. And… this is where it goes downhill, we then sit by the cot, with our arm in, where she holds our hand or plays with her foot on our arm, until she falls asleep (which could be 10 mins to an hour+ later). Then we carefully extract our hand, put the cot rail up, turn off the lamp and tip-toe out. We were at a stage where she wanted to be picked up & held to sleep, but we phased her out of that behaviour over a few nights (a few months ago). Of course when she wakes in the night, we repeat the process, because we are tired, and it works. OR, we (mostly me) just go in half asleep, pick her up and take her back to our bed where she (90% of the time), goes straight back to sleep. While touching/pinching/kicking us for comfort. Once she (accidentally) kicked my DH in the face blink.gif He has said now she is NOT to come into our bed anymore, and I have to agree.

I guess I have struggled because I’m uncertain what my ‘parenting approach’ really is when it comes to co-sleeping. I have enjoyed the extra cuddles when she is in bed with us, and waking to her saying ‘hello mummy’, but I also acknowledge that she needs to learn to fall asleep without assistance. I’ve also read that any behaviour is only a problem when it is no longer working for you, i.e. it wasn’t a problem before, but now it is not cool. (Does that even make sense? wacko.gif ) I've also read that you have to be strong, and firm in your approach, and I'm worried I'll crack under the pressure of listening to her cry & cry.

We plan to take the cot rail off in the next 4-5 months, and then move her into a big bed later in the year, and need her to be able to self-settle, instead of coming to find us all the time (though we will probably use a gate at her door, but still).

My thoughts are to do everything as per above, but put her in the cot, say goodnight, we love you, and then walk out of the room. She will then lose it, and I (or one of us) would go back in after a few mins and comfort her until she has started to settle down (without picking her up), and then leave the room again (and stay out for 1 extra minute). And repeat for as long as it takes until she is asleep. The same again for her day sleep.

Oh I am so not looking forward to this sad.gif sad.gif

I’m embarrassed, and not sure how it came to this, I wish I’d done something different and we weren't in this position. Some friends of ours had to hold & rock their son to sleep and they did something similar, and phrased it as ‘3 nights of hell’, until he could fall asleep on his own.

What do you think?
Has anyone been to a sleep school (or similar), and can share some advice?
What to do/ What NOT to do...?
I don’t want to upset my child, but we cannot continue doing what we’ve been doing. sad.gif

Should we do a more gradual approach? Like sit in her room (but not beside the cot) for a while.. and when she is OK with that, just stand by the door...?
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#2 Baby Bambini

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:37 PM

Sorry I'm not at that stage yet so I haven't got much helpful advice, but is there a favourite toy or blanket that she could take to bed instead? Maybe you could phase it so your arm is covered in the blanket etc until she associates pinching or kicking the blanket instead of you, then take your arm away but stay near the cot etc then leave the blanket in there and you leave the room.

Also, just wanted to say how much I admire you for having such a wonderful parenting style with your daughter over these past couple of years. It will hurt hearing your daughter cry (which she will as soon as you change her sleep routine) but she'll still love you in the morning and you can shower her with love for the rest of the day.

I love the saying "this too shall pass" when it comes to kids. Just trust your instincts and I'm sure you'll get there.
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#3 Kerala

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:42 PM

I am sure you will get lots more useful advice that what I will give, but I just wanted to send you my support. Our DD is 15 months, 14 of which she was feed through the night and rocked to sleep during the day, patted to sleep at night. She did a lot of coming into our bed and the final straw was the 5th night DH had on the couch.

I stopped feeding at night and rocked her to sleep, for a few nights and she managed to accept that absolutely fine - now if she wakes I go in and say it is ok and sleepy time, maybe a quick back pat - she has gone from 3 - 8 times a night up to, between once or twice a night and sleeping through quite a bit. DH spend a lot of time prior to that laying her down in the cot and saying lie down (or something) as she knew to lie down in the cot (although she flops about etc), Anyway - re parenting styles, I agree with if you resent it change it. I do feel for us that I just stick to one plan for 10 days and do it then tweak it. I do a bit of reading about different techniques, but for us we steer away from CCrying of CComforting really. Elizabeth Pantly has some gentle no cry style stuff, that might work with your little one.

Anyway - am keen to hear what you try and how it goes, all the best! I think there could be some crying, but it doesn't need to be nights of hell I don't think (but maybe when our DD is 2 I will understand - she is already determined!!)

I think you can be firm strong and gentle. I think what you have describe is perfectly normal, from what I can gather an extremely common story. Go with your gut, you had success in the past. Try your plan out and see how you go, I think transitioning to the door overtime sounds like a nice plan. I actually find with our DD we extend the crying by going in and out, she just gets more and more upset each time, she is better if we just leave, maybe go in once to say her key words, "Lie down S, it's sleepy time" - no other chatting, same message everytime. I usually only go in if she is rocking on the cot rail, if she is just chattering to herself I let her go for it. She only does a tiny bit of whinging. Not the fully blown crying like the day time! We also find a bit of light into her room from the hall and overhearing the TV is better than the absolute silence and dark we first started with.

Good luck!
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#4 kisma

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:03 PM

QUOTE(Baby Bambini @ Apr 17 2012, 09:37 PM) View Post

Sorry I'm not at that stage yet so I haven't got much helpful advice, but is there a favourite toy or blanket that she could take to bed instead? Maybe you could phase it so your arm is covered in the blanket etc until she associates pinching or kicking the blanket instead of you, then take your arm away but stay near the cot etc then leave the blanket in there and you leave the room.


Im not really into CIO or CC as such (whinging I can handle ignoring for a few minutes lol), and this is the type of thing I would try and do. Make it so you get to a point of sitting next to the cot, then sitting near the cot, then out the door. If your not too worried on the routine of books etc, you could try tiring her to the point she will be happy to have a bath and go straight to the cot for sleep?

And at night if you dont mind co sleeping, keep it up - I love a good nights sleep lol. But if your keen to change, maybe try a similar thing in reducing how long she is in your room. So first wake resettle her in her room, and then second wake take her into your room. Then the next night, two wakes she is settled in her room etc etc. This was she gets used to it and its not cold turkey as such and you will be less likely to crack after lots of crying etc. Plus kids can be into routines (not times as such but order of things) so slowly changing things might work much better than changing everything at once. All kids are different so its hard to say lol.

Really I think it comes down to you doing what you feel comfortable with and what sits right with you. Best of luck
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#5 *MrsW*

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:49 AM

First I want you to know that you are a wonderful mummy! Do not feel guilty for the way things are. We need to do whatever we can to get that wonderful thing called sleep!

As you know, we were laying with D for up to an hour and a half before he would go to sleep. After Christmas I could take no more and decides to get tough. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Our tough love approach started when he started sleeping in his new bed. We decided to kill two birds with one stone. So rather than get him sleeping well first and then movin him to his new bed. We decided to introduce the new bed and new sleep routine at the same time.

How we did it was, normal bed time routine, so bath, milk and books. I then went and popped him in yo bed, turned on a musical night light mobile and left the room (which I had put a child gate on). As soon as I hear him cry I went back in gave him a kiss and said bed time. It took 20 minutes of going in and out saying goodnight, but he was finally asleep. Hooray!!

The next few nights were easy!! He climbed out a few times, I'd go put him back in bed and voila! He'd go to sleep.

So much easier than having to lay with him for hours.

Then he was horrible for a few nights, I felt like I was constantly going in and out of his room
to put him back to bed.

But then it got easy again and I can now happily put him
to bed and he stays there and doesn't get out.

If you are ready to do it, stay strong and remember it is the best thing for your family.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I know not everyone is for the safety gate, but it worked for us.

P.s Sorry for the typos an spelling errors!! Typing on my iPhone is hard work!
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#6 jt2b

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:46 AM

This may not be as gentle as some of the other approaches/suggestions, but it's what I would do/have done with my 2.5 year old DD.
Put her in a 'big girl bed' (toddler bed). Let her help set it all up, make the bed etc (make it very exciting!), then do normal routine, put her in bed, kisses and cuddles, then good night. Leave the door ajar. If she cries or comes out of the room go back in, explain it's bed time, sleep time, etc, kisses and cuddles, leave the room. Slowly reduce the amount of interaction each time so it dwindles down to just taking her back to bed with no interaction, no eye contact, just holding hands to go back into her room, lie her down and leave the room. She will then understand that crying or getting out of bed does not get any reaction from mum or dad, so it's easier to just go to sleep in the first place.
My DD started getting out of her bed and coming out to see us as she 'didn't want to go to sleep'. It took about 2 weeks of her coming out after initially being put in bed, for her to stay in bed.
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#7 ~Kylie~

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 07:01 PM

Baby Bambini, thankyou, I think the same re: instincts. She does have a comforter, the Tizzie Hall lamb, we call it 'blankie'. Sometimes she shows attachment to it, other times she throws it away! I’ve thought perhaps to introduce another of her cuddly toys as a comforter, but she plays with those during the day, so the ‘special toy just for sleeps’ factor is not so much.

This too shall pass! Love it. The first night (a few months back) I refused to pick her up, she was not happy, flopping all over the place in tears. I just kept thinking, 5 more minutes, 5 more minutes, and eventually she settled. Still clung to my hand though.

Kerala, thankyou. We do the same with key phrases ‘it’s time for sleep’ and ‘lie down’. I will definitely check out Elizabeth Pantley. Yep, the slow transition plan sits much more comfortably with me. Although sometimes when we leave the room for a few minutes and come back, she then knows we 'mean business' and can settle faster than if we didn't leave iykwim.

Kisma, me neither, I'm not really into it, but I may try it and if it works, great! She’s been staying the whole night in her room for the last few nights, except for this morning where she & I had snuggles for about 30 minutes. She was awake twice overnight, and it took me about 20 minutes each time to get her back to sleep in her cot. While I have let her cry at times when nothing else appears to be working, it’s usually just to take a few deep breaths for a few minutes before going back in again.

Mrs W, thankyou! wub.gif That’s what I’m telling myself, it’s tough love – not easy but it has to be done. We won’t be able to purchase her bed until later in the year, so it’s the cot (with/without the rail) for the time being.

So DH has taken tomorrow off work, so we can start tonight. I don’t feel 100% prepared, but I don’t think I ever will! Tonight we will just do bath, stories, cuddles and then into bed, where I will then sit beside the cot, but won’t put my arm in. I'll encourage her to cuddle her blankie, and lots of shhh-ing. Depending on how that goes, in a few days I’ll move to the poang chair in her room (on the opposite wall).

Thanks everyone for your advice, I’ll keep you posted smile.gif
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#8 ~Kylie~

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 08:52 PM

Right then. So that was a bit of a fail..

I lasted 30 minutes listening to her cry and get more and more upset, while shhh-ing and saying 'Mummy's here, it's time for sleep', until she was frantic and throwing herself toward the sides, reaching for me through the rails, and trying to climb out, saying 'cuddles cuddles' and 'up'.

Then the niggling thought I had that she is overtired and tonight is not a good time to make changes got louder and louder and louder. (She only slept 40 minutes all day: 36 at 9:30, and about 4 in the car at 5pm). When her screaming went up even another level, we decided to do whatever needed to get her to sleep.

Did I give up too easily? I don't think so. I hope not. Though I do believe we should have got her into bed earlier than we did. sad.gif Even after I held her and comforted her, she screamed blue murder when I tried to put her back into the cot, even with my arm in.

So she fell asleep in my arms, totally the opposite of my intentions. But tomorrow is another day. sleep.gif
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#9 Maxi

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 08:59 PM

QUOTE(~Kylie~ @ Apr 17 2012, 09:13 PM) View Post

I keep watching her for tired signs – usually a yawn & eye rubbing), and then we have some cuddles with her blankie & dummy. We talk briefly about what we did that day (sometimes, not every night), then I tell her we love her, and put her into the cot.

I wonder if you could talk about things you've done that day, cuddles etc before the tired signs show. That way you can take her straight to her cot, while she's still riding the "tired" wave and not being stimulated by conversation?
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#10 jantastic

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:05 PM

You tried, and you're doing a great job.
You will have some successes, and some not-so-successful nights, today was a not-so-successful, but you learnt something from it, so tomorrow will be better smile.gif

development is a journey, not a race

#11 Kerala

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 09:21 PM

I say you did well, you tried, knew it wouldn't work without being terrible for everyone and pulled the pin - it is sensitive parenting and I think in the long run it will serve you well. No good her having an absolutely horrible experience of trying something new whilst being overtired - better to wait until she has a better day to help with the new transition. At least you know what might be coming tomorrow, with cuddles and up and can maybe plan around some of that. Thinking of you and hoping things go well tomorrow!
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#12 tastebud

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 10:39 PM

Not much time but agree with j2tb and then jantastic.

It's rough, hang in there sad.gif
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#13 kisma

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 10:55 PM

I think lasting 30 minutes with an overtired child is great. Hopefully tomorrow night goes much better and there is a good day sleep in the mix.
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#14 Myst

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 01:33 AM

My DD is almost 19 months and up until about a week ago we were still rocking her to sleep but she seemed to have just reached a stage where she would fight sleep (and being rocked) and she is getting too heavy for me to rock for a long time so we had to make some changes.

I personally believe that children need help getting to sleep and also through the night until they are much older than most people feel is the norm. For me I found that when I shifted my expectations of my child it made me feel better that she was needing so much assistance. I stopped expecting her to do everything on her own and acknowledged that she needed me at night and that was ok by me.

I thought really hard about what it was that I wanted and whether I felt that I was expecting too much. To expect my DD to go to sleep on her own and stay asleep all night without any contact with us I felt was unreasonable. For us, we wanted her to learn that bed time is not optional, we have to sleep. I am happy to stay with her until she falls asleep and I am happy to go to her if she needs me during the night but I am not happy to muck about with her for hours at a time because she doesn't want to sleep.

So, instead of rocking her, after her bedtime routine we put her in her cot, lay her down and rub her back. If she gets up, starts talking, playing or mucking about then I just calmly say "it's time to sleep so I will come back when you are ready to sleep" and then I leave the room. Generally she starts crying then so I usually walk in to our kitchen and then go straight back in and repeat the process. The first night took an hour to get her to sleep but now a week later as soon as she is put in her cot she lays down and is still. We don't rub her back anymore but just sit next to her cot. Sometimes she still mucks about but because we have been super consistent with this she now only tests it once if she is really cheeky. Now she is usually asleep in 10 mins.

It seems that she has now learnt that bed time is not optional and that if she wants us to be with her while she is going to sleep (which she does) then she cannot muck about. She has a choice to stay in her cot alone and play etc or have us with her and lay down and go to sleep, the choice is hers (and yes, I do think that toddlers are old enough to make choices smile.gif ). She still wakes 1-2 times a night and will go back to sleep after a cuddle and I am happy with that. I cannot deal with the crying, I don't like it and that's just the way I am so this has worked really well for us.

You have to do what works for you and what feels right. IMO if your child is distressed at what is happening then it is not the right choice but that is just me and you have to make the decision of what is best for you and your child. Try not to make it in to a control issue though, you cannot force a child to sleep but you can teach them what you will help them with and what you wont (i.e I will help you get to sleep by staying with you but I will not stay and play). Good Luck - I hope that things have been better tonight smile.gif
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#15 greenwich

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 12:51 PM

I don't think you should use the phrase 'giving up' or 'giving in' at all. I think 30 minutes with an overtired child is amazing. It is a tough road, so baby steps ok?

My now 23 month old is not and never has been a good sleeper. I too had the mantra 'this too will pass', and 'its only a problem if it's a problem for me'. Basically she started sleeping through at about 1, and her main teething sign is overnight waking. She also was cuddled or rocked in the rocking chair until she was about 14 or 15 or so months when I decided to change it as #2 was due in a few months after that and I couldn't cuddle both of them for hours on end.

I am another one who can't leave my kids to cry, so we opted for a gradual approach, at my daughters pace. It was similar to what Myst described.

What we did was do our normal routine - bath, books, bed - all the while talking about how I was going to give her a little cuddle and then she was going to go to sleep in her cot. That is exactly what I did and I told her I'd stay with her while she laid down nicely. Not laying down nicely meant leaving the room, which inevitably brought screaming, which I then picked her up, gave her a cuddle until she'd calmed down, and started again. One day she was fiddling around, I left the room and didn't hear boo. It took a few weeks though. We then had about a month of perfect self settling (pop her in and walk out and she'd go to sleep biggrin.gif ).

We then moved her to a big girl bed at 16 ish months, and the first few nights I'd stay with her as it was all new. This caused a bit of regression, so we had to start again. We didn't need to cuddle this time, so we stayed in her room as she fell asleep but did not interact and moved further towards the door (gradually), until we were sitting outside the door but she could see us (Her room comes off the kitchen) to me being in the kitchen and she'll stay in bed, to being in another room of the house and she'll stay in bed and go to sleep.

Now she's fighting her day nap so when she has one she's difficult to get to bed and keeps coming out of her bedroom, so we just keep putting her back there and explaining our expectations. I'm happy sit with her for 5-10 minutes but once she starts being silly, I leave. But generally, once you can get her still for 5 or so minutes, if she's tired she'll go to sleep.

It's silly but I also checked out 3 or 4 baby books from the library and she started self settling before I gotto read them ( so I returned them and then she regressed rolleyes.gif ).

I hope that helps. Oh, also I would pick your battles, on a day when things are out of whack, just do what you've got to do to get them to sleep, tomorrow is a new day.

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