If I had a pound for every time a friend or a client said, “oh your children must be amazing sleepers,” I would be a very rich lady! The truth is that ALL children will go through bouts of sleep problems, and mine have been no exception. In fact, when I was in the process of completing my sleep consultancy training my second child Poppy went through a sleep regression phase that left me sleeping huddled under a blanket on her floor – something I had sworn in the past I would NEVER EVER do!
Poppy started having difficulty settling to sleep almost to the day she turned 18 months. Out of nowhere she was suddenly screaming for me at bedtime and in the middle of the night too – it was a nightmare. This sleep regression is actually quite common and you can read more about it here.
Ok I thought – deep breath – I am meant to be the expert – I can fix this easily right? I want to be honest with you, it was a struggle for me, just as it can be for the parents I support. All my training, my knowledge and instincts were telling me to stay with her, to relieve her anxiety, show her I am there for her and to help her through this “phase”. But something was stopping me – external voices saying: “tough love“, “you don’t want her to get used to sleeping with you“, “don’t be so silly, you are her parent, just show her she has to sleep alone“.
I’m sure there are some people reading this who believe that parents who choose gentle sleep-training methods and sleep with their children are weak. I believe the opposite is true. It was hard giving up my evenings to be with Poppy, sleeping on her floor when she needed me to. It was hard sitting so close to her and hearing her cry. Perhaps it would have been easier (on me at least) to be downstairs, to turn off the monitor and leave her to it.
So I spent around two weeks laying on Poppy’s floor while she fell asleep. I gradually built up her confidence, lessened her anxiety and removed myself slowly out of her room. It took two weeks (two hellish weeks!) but then she was back to her normal happy self, settling on her own again at bedtime and sleeping through the night. Phew!
So why am I telling you this? I want parents to understand that when babies or children go through difficult sleeping phases it’s not a reflection on them. ALL children will have a difficult sleeping phase at one time or another. Actually the term “sleep regression” is misleading. Sleep problems caused by issues such as separation anxiety actually show a progression and are natural stages in cognitive development, If anyone reading this is having a tough time with their little ones sleep and is looking for sleep support using gentle methods, please get in touch.