Please watch my video on teething, illness, and sleep in children.
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Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
Has illness or teething disrupted your toddler’s good sleep habits? Here are some quick and easy tips
for getting back on track!
Sarah wrote in recently with this question:
“My 19-month-old was a great sleeper. During a spell of teething and illness, the bedtime ritual was broken and my son was brought into our bed. Initially, this was when he woke in the night, but now he starts the night there too. Do you have any advice on how to re-establish a good sleep pattern in his own room?”
That’s a good question and a common problem. I get a lot of comments from people that say everything was going great until their child gets sick and ends up in bed with them. The important thing to remember is that it’s always a better idea for you to go to your child instead of bringing your child to you.
If you’re concerned about them during the night when they’re ill, if they’re having trouble breathing for instance, its better if you “camp out” in their room with an air mattress or cot or something, instead of moving them to your room. It’s much easier to transition you out of their room than it is to get your toddler back to theirs. Just a few nights in bed with you and your child might want to be there every night. Taking them to your bed is a huge change in their sleep routine and it might cause you to have to basically start from scratch in establishing a good sleep routine.
The good news is if this child used to be a good sleeper, if he fell asleep on his own at bedtime and slept through the night, he knows how to do it. He has the skills he needs for sleeping well but perhaps needs to be reminded of them as well as having some boundaries re-established.
Start with the bedtime routine. A good routine might start with a bath, then jammies, maybe read a couple of stories or sing a song in their room, then into the crib.
Because they’ve become accustomed to sleeping with you, it might be a trying transition for them to fall asleep alone in their room. I’d suggest you try the “stay-in-the-room” method to ease the changes.
For three nights, a parent sits next to the crib, laying them down a few times while comforting them with a key phrase like “its sleepy time.” If they resist, and they may, then let them stand up and just wait them out until they fall asleep in their own bed.
You’ll do the same thing for any night wakings. You’ll go into their room, sit next to the crib in a chair, repeating your key phrase, laying them back down and perhaps gently touching them for support until they fall asleep.
There will probably be a couple of rough nights for both of you until the patterns are re-established. But like I said earlier, if they had good sleep habits before it’s just a matter of reminding them. But because they’ve become used to sleeping in your bed, you can be sure that there’s going to be some protest to the change. By staying with them, you’re providing some much-needed comfort and support, “cheering” them on as they fall asleep in their own bed in their own room.
Every three nights, you’ll want to move your chair further away from the crib. You don’t want them thinking that you need to watch them all night; that causes a bunch of new problems. Again, every three days you’ll move closer to the door until eventually you’re out of the room altogether.
You and your husband should work together as a team, taking shifts or switching nights, whatever you need to do to stay committed to the plan and get your little one to sleep in his own bed again.
Remember that when they get sick, you’ll go to them in their room. That will make things easier next time, easier for all of you to sleep well.
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