OPINION: How do you get your child to sleep?
HOW do you get your child to sleep?
No honestly, I am asking this question - how do you?
Because we have only, just successfully, got our three-closer-to-four-year-old son to go to sleep on his own, in his own bed and stay there all night until 5.30am.
And this was a mission.
When we upgraded him from a cot to his own fancy king single bed, I thought this was the answer to our prayers of a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
But he still woke two or three times and now he could easily get in and out of bed so I kept waking up to him standing at my bedside.
And he still needed one of us to lie with him until he fell asleep. Problem was, I'd always fall asleep too.
I found this was the hardest habit to break because let's face it, who doesn't like being cuddled to sleep?
But we broke it by having a strict bedtime routine.
I've written before about visual timetables and up until bed, these are handy. But when it came to getting our son to bed and putting himself to sleep, here's what we did:
- 7pm: Start getting ready for bed - socks on, brush teeth, have a glass of water
- 7.15pm: In bed, read a book, good night kiss and cuddle
- 7.30pm: Lights out, leave room
Same thing every night at the same time for a week.
At first he cried and we treated him like a baby, going in and giving him a quick pat before walking out again.
But he's smart, he didn't carry this on for long. He knew it wasn't going to get him anywhere.
So instead he came up with tactics to stall the going to be process instead. And he still tries these on, every night but once the book is read and he's tucked in, cuddled, kissed and snuggled up with his teddy bears, he happily goes to sleep.
Oh, and having a night light helped. Immensely.
Putting himself to sleep - tick. Then came tackling getting him to sleep in his bed all night.
Again we were just consistent. If he got up and came into our room, we took him back. Time and time again.
He only did this for a few days and then he stopped getting up.
Of course he'll come in if he's not feeling well and that's different but just coming in so he can get into our bed and cuddle - we're already sharing our bed with our seven month old.
Now this is a different problem all together.
Our daughter will sleep all night - but only if she is in bed with us. She has been this way since she was born.
At first, sleep deprived - running around after a toddler and then back at work full time at eight weeks - I let her because it meant I got a semi-decent sleep.
But now seven months down the track I really need to break this habit.
She is good, at night I can feed her and then put her in her cot and she'll put herself to sleep - champion! - but usually wakes about 10pm.
By this time I've been in bed for half an hour or so or am just getting into bed so I put her in with me to breastfeed her and then find I fall asleep.
So she stays there, snuggled in, all night. And I get six to seven hours of pretty decent sleep.
I know what I need to do. I need to treat her like my son: put her in her cot, let her put herself to sleep. If she wakes in the night, get up and pat her but leave her in her bed so she learns waking up and crying does not get her into our bed.
But I also want to get some sleep as I have to start work at 6am, five mornings a week...
What did you do? How have you successfully got your children to sleep? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Share them with me below.
Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.