A child's cry is one of the most heartbreaking sounds you'll ever hear, made worse if it's your child and if the reason they are crying is because they want you. It's absolutely heart-wrenching and we've all been there. You've just placed your toddler in bed, given them their favourite teddy and tucked them in and just as you're creeping out of the room - much like you would creep out of a den of sleeping lions - your child lets out a whimper, then a cry, then a scream. Sounds familiar? Well, momma, I have the solution for you.
My 2-year-old went through the majority of her tiny life with a structured sleep routine that I was very proud of - might I say so myself - and so it came as a shock to me when one day, out of the blue, she refused to sleep in her bed. She screamed as soon as I put her in her crib and screamed more as I left the room. I was very confused and instantly thought she'd had a nightmare and that has caused her to be frightened to sleep in her room alone and so naturally the first thing I did is scoop her up in my arms and give her the tightest hug I could and told her "It'll be okay" thinking that was the end of that and she will sleep. Little did I know that this was only the beginning and that my angelic little sleeper will turn into a screamer every night at the first sign of bedtime. I was not prepared.
I took the advice of all mothers around me and tried their various techniques even though I had no idea what has caused this sudden change and could only really go by tackling each theory. But nothing worked. I tried sleeping on the floor, reading books to her, singing lullabies, warm baths, new cuddly toy, new blanket, postponing bedtime and finally, the one thing I had been dreading! The one thing I vowed never to do! I let her sleep in our room. Now you might not agree with me, you might say that's where a child belongs but I was worried, very worried, that it'll be a habit and she'd never sleep in her room again. after two nights of unsuccessful sleep, we had given up hope. Until I came across a site that advised me to clear out all toys with faces from her room, to clear the theory that she is frightened of her room.
So together we put all her toys away. Then I was to see how she does during the day, does she sit in her room? Play with the remaining toys? And she did! Much to my surprise, which meant one thing; that she was not frightened of her room. Good news right? Wrong! I was still lost and didn't know why she was crying. I then remembered that this started the minute she turned 2 and there might be a connection, I looked online and sure enough found that some toddlers develop Separation Anxiety around the time they turned 2...And suddenly everything made sense! All those times when she would cry if I went to the bathroom or if I snuck out of her room, if I did anything that would mean I'm not in her sight. I was elated at the thought of possibly finding the problem. Now to find the cure. I had realised that I had made so many mistakes that contributed to her anxiety and possibly made it worse, one of which was sneaking out; if you think from the mind of the child, they are worried that you will disappear if they look away. And sure enough, as soon as they close their eyes you're gone! That doesn't sound too reassuring, does it? I felt a twinge of guilt and I needed to find a way to solve this. So I developed the Minute Method. It's probably been done before but I couldn't find it online. Here's how it works.
Develop a NEW ROUTINE
Forget your old routine, throw it out of the window and develop a completely new routine. My one was simple:
5 MINUTE WARNING "Sweetie, we'll be going to bed in 5 minutes"
HANDS AND FACE WASHED
NAPPY CHANGED, PJ'S ON
WARM MILK TO DRINK
STORY TIME WITH MUMMY
INTO BED, HUGS AND KISSES
Simple, effective, easy.
The next part is the hard part.
This is slightly confusing so I need you to focus.
As soon as you've done the last step of your routine, and put your child to bed, you walk towards the door. You stand at the door and you say "Good boy/girl, mummy will go now but I will come back and see you very soon. Good night." And you leave. Make it quick! Don't linger.
Then you leave for 2 min. If your child is crying you can make it 1 minute instead.
You go back in, stand at the door, and say the same thing as before,
"Good boy/girl, mummy will go now but I will come back and see you very soon. Good night."
Then you wait 4 min before going back in (or 2 min if you started with 1 min) and again you say the same thing at the door, quick, boring, clear and you leave.
Every time you leave you add 2 minutes to the gap, so now you leave a gap of 6 min, then 8 min, then 10. Every time you do and say the same thing. No hugs, kisses, singing. I know it sounds harsh but this is only temporary. this is to teach your child that when you say you will be back, that you will actually come back and this relieves their anxiety. It worked for my daughter on the first night, believe be when I say I was very shocked. You can give your child all the hugs and kisses and love before you leave but after you leave and every time you come back you need to convey to them the message that it's bedtime and they need to sleep. They will try and get you stay for longer, "Mum I'm cold, Mum I need water, food, milk" But be strong, be persistent and you will see results. This is the same for nighttime disturbances. Every time your child wakes up you do the same thing, and time 2 min, 4, 6, 8, 10 min till they sleep.
PERSISTENCE IS KEY!
What your child needs now more than ever is stability and reassurance that mummy won't vanish. And so you need to be persistence with the routine and the timing. Soon your child will get the idea and can start eliminating one of the gaps
E.g. Instead of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 you can take away the 4 min gap and go straight to 6 min, then eliminate that and go straight to 8 min gap until you don't need to go back anymore. I promise you it'll work and I promise you it'll be worth it.
Good luck momma, you got this!
Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you might have.