We all know there’ll be plenty of interrupted and wakeful nights once we have kids – it’s part of the deal when you sign up as parents. But if your child generally sleeps well and suddenly starts waking in the night, it can be tough – especially if they struggle to settle again.
It’s something Christa is finding hard to deal with – especially as she also has an older child and a demanding job as a receptionist in a busy medical centre.
“My two-year-old has always been a really good sleeper, ever since she was about ten weeks. We’ve never had any trouble at bedtime, either. Over the past few weeks, though, she’s started waking up in the night again. I don’t know why – she’s not hungry and doesn’t seem to be having bad dreams. We’re hoping it’s just a phase, but we’ve never had to cope with a baby or child that won’t go back to sleep – so any tips would be appreciated.”
Jessica Baxter – Real Home Truths
Jessica is an experienced writer and editor living in Cape Town, South Africa, where her two toddlers provide all the inspiration she needs for her blog. She enjoys sharing her no-filter views and experiences of motherhood – both the mess and the magic. You can read more at Real Home Truths or find her on Instagram as @realhometruths.
While you try to get your nights back to normal, beware of ‘rewarding’ wakefulness, cautions Jessica – or the problem will be prolonged.
“Sleep is the biggest challenge a parent faces. What most of us forget is that sleep is not linear – it changes. Often when a child has a leap in development their sleep pattern is disrupted, so this may be what’s causing her to wake. You should also consider if anything in her routine has changed – has she started a new day care, have you moved house, have you had people come to stay etc? Change can also affect sleep.
“You’ll obviously need to settle her back to sleep, but I caution against using things like warm milk or bringing her to your bed. I say this because she’ll quickly fall into a habit of waking, knowing she gets something nice or, even better, gets to life with mom and dad when she does. Try to go in and sit with for a short while to soothe her back to sleep.
“I’m afraid you’ll just need to ride this out for as long as it takes – it is a phase and hopefully it won’t last long!”
Petia Hak is a busy mum of two very different, independent girls and a young son who likes to display his artistic talent on the walls at home. As part of KinBox, she is dedicated to offering parents a place to share parenting strategies, stories and advice. She loves travelling with her family and discovering new places and cultures.
It’s important to stay calm, says Petia, and you might also have to leave her to settle herself.
“Having to deal with a child waking up in the middle of the night is never easy, but having to deal with one that has always slept well might seem like an impossible task – I understand that! Keep in mind that this is just a phase, part of growing up.
“Remember to stay calm. Go and see her, calm her down if she needs it, and explain that it’s still sleeping time. Don’t force her to sleep, but explain she needs to stay in bed, that there are other members of the family who are still asleep and she needs to be really quiet. Give her a book or a favourite toy to play with, lower the lights, and leave. This might take some time to perfect and you might need to return to her room a few times, but she will eventually learn to fall back to sleep on her own.”