Before I had children, I thought sleep is one of those things that we can just do – but as I learnt as a parent, sleeping through the night is something that we need to help a child learn (once they are old enough) and it’s not actually that easy! At least it wasn’t for me.
I don’t know about you, but I found tackling sleep one of the hardest things to do. I found it incredibly difficult to find that balance between helping my children to learn to love their own beds and allowing them to settle themselves happily and securely there. The journey to achieving that was often tricky, as my children did not want to be on their own in their beds or rooms. They wanted to be with me or my husband. Still today there are some nights when they struggle to go to bed. Or I can tell that they are not quite ready to be on their own and fall asleep: they want to talk or snuggle, or just have ‘one more story’.
That is fine when I don’t have work deadlines or am exhausted myself, from a hard day, or previous sleepless/ disturbed nights. When I don’t have the patience to help them or all three of them seem to need me at the same time – that is when things get tricky.
Don’t you find it can become a vicious circle too? You need extra energy to create a peaceful bedtime routine and support them in the night to fall back asleep – but that is the time when you need your own sleep most as well? As a result for many years my children would often just come into the big bed at night and snuggle back to sleep there.
As they grew older and bigger though, that started to become a bit of a problem. They would lie in the middle and do their best star fish impression, and then wriggle and kick the covers off for everyone. So we’d spend the entire night trying to wrestle the covers back on and then off again. And that was if just one child came into the bed – if the other two also ventured into the big bed, it felt like Grand Central Station – with me or my husband moving to the children’s beds – and then they’d sometimes follow us and we’d end up moving back again…
Needless to say, none of us slept very well and we all got more and more sleep deprived and grumpy.
But what to do? I just didn’t agree with sending them back to bed, especially if they’d had a bad dream, or were just searching for closeness. But at the same time, I was worried it was becoming a habit and one that was actually not very helpful, as nobody slept well anymore – including the children.
So – this is what we came up with. It was based on something a friend’s mother shared a number of years ago (thank you Mignon! ;-)) We were at a family party and she was telling the story of how her son used to come into her bedroom when he was little every night and how she’d then put a day bed at the bottom of her bed for him to come in to whenever he needed some extra closeness to his parents. He got what he needed, plus he slept well and so did the parents.
Our bedroom isn’t big enough for an additional day bed to be in there, so this is what we came up with instead and it has worked wonders!
When one of the children come to our bed in the night, I quickly put down 3 or 4 pillows side by side on the floor next to my side of the bed. Cover them with a thin blanket (from IKEA) to keep them from pushing apart and then get the child’s duvet and pillow. The child snuggles in next to me (I can even hold their hand if they need that extra level of closeness) and we all go back to sleep peacefully for the rest of the night.
The added bonus is that it seems to give just enough closeness and connection without creating a dependency on needing me to help them sleep through the night. Or maybe it is just the fact their need for closeness is met without the negative side effects of everyone not sleeping well and getting grumpy? Who knows?! Bottom line is, it has worked a treat. The children come far less than they used to, and often now sleep through the night without the need for their impromptu camp bed to be set up. The other thing that is great about the camp bed, is that it is suitable even for 2 or 3 year olds, as even if they do roll ‘out of their beds’ and onto the floor, they won’t roll far and you can easily scoop them back up onto the pillows.
If you are struggling with sleepless nights with your toddler, pre-schooler or even primary school child, maybe give it a try. It took us a few weeks to get into and see changes in terms of better nights all round, but boy, has it been worth it! It's so often the really simple things that work the best, passed down from one parent to another. Especially if they require very little thinking power when you are half asleep in the middle of the night. ;-)
I’d love to hear if this helps you as much as it has helped us. Let me know your comments and do share any topic suggestions that you might have – what would you like to talk about next week for example? Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or respond to me on Instagram or FB at mummymadethis.
If you’ve missed any past videos and would like to take a look, go to my You Tube channel at Mummy Made this, or join the Monday Night Mailing list at www.mummymadethis.co.uk/mondaynight
If you’d like to receive the blog to your inbox, go to the direct link www.mummymadethis.co.uk/mailinglist to be added and you will receive a weekly email with the latest blog posts
I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation in our Facebook group too. You can find the direct link to this in the top right hand corner of this page (the blue link). Or search on FB under MMT Parenting Community.
See you next Monday at 8pm on FB and YouTube.