Briar has never been a good sleeper. We are very against sleep training, believing it only teaches babies that mum and dad aren’t coming so give up, rather than teaching true self settling. So since she was born, we’ve spent countless hours rocking, cuddling, singing, reading books and helping her to sleep. I’ve always been strongly opposed to ending our day on a negative note, so am really unhappy when bedtime becomes a battle.
Over the last few weeks, bed time has been becoming a bigger battle than ever before. At first I just put it down to being overtired and overstimulated due to travel, being out of a routine, missing daddy, sleeping in unfamiliar places etc. Whilst I am sure that all these things contributed, when we arrived home almost a week ago, sleep got worse not better.
Again, we put it down to pushing boundaries and being out of sync with routines and the familiar. Briar wakes with night terrors and screams out for daddy, sometimes as often as 5 times a night. This has gotten much worse since Baby Gabe was born. Whilst it’s common for toddler siblings to have sleep regressions when a new baby comes home, it’s distressing to see our happy girl so distressed.
To add a final complication to the mix, Briar is now dropping her afternoon nap. This means by the time bedtime rolls around, she’s often exhausted. My sister told me that my nephew Jack would generally get night terrors when he was overtired, and I would agree that most nights by the time we get our bright little girl to sleep, she is definitely overtired.
After two nights of Briar not falling asleep until almost midnight, and weeks of tears and screaming at bed time, Warwick and I were tearing our hair out. Not only were we drained and exhausted, but our bright little girl was hysterical and unhappy and this is not how we did bed time.
On Thursday night, as I was holding Briar in the rocking chair in her room, whilst she screamed that she didn’t want to go to bed, she finally told me “My bed is scary.” I repeated this to her and said “Briar are you scared to go to bed?” and her crying immediately stopped. She quietly sobbed “My bed is scary” and finally relaxed. We talked about her bed being safe. She asked if her dog Elly would come and keep her safe and warm. She asked for extra teddies. Suddenly it was all coming together. I can only conclude that the additional night terrors had truly made her afraid to go to bed.
Warwick and I needed a plan. Whilst we don’t believe in stringent routines that are put in place only for the convenience of the adults, if adding additional structure would decrease my daughters distress, then I was all for it.
We also needed to help make Briars room feel safer. She’s always had a nightlight but lately I’ve felt its too bright so have been turning it off. I wanted a new way to dimly light her room and found the perfect solution with some cloud shaped fairy lights on special for $4.80 from Big W! They match her bunting made by Aunty Tria and they provide soft lighting that Briar loves.
When we were in Brisbane, Briar loved looking at the glow in the dark stars on the roof of the room we slept in, so I also went looking for a star projector night light to provide some calming distraction at night time. We ended up picking out a sweet hippo toy designed for babies but with some added features we hope will bring some comfort. It plays music or white noise and has a timer.
We also made the drastic change of moving bed time two whole hours earlier. Without an afternoon nap, Briar clearly needs to be settled in bed much earlier to avoid the overtired distress.
So how did it go? Well, not easy. But our beautiful Baby lady never is. It still took a full two hours to get Briar to sleep, but her level of distress was hugely decreased and seeings as we started so much earlier, she was definitely asleep hours earlier than the nights before.
Warwick felt a bit discouraged by it still taking two hours to get her to sleep however I’m trying to be positive. It was only the first night of our new routine and she only woke once during the night. I’m really hopeful things will continue to improve.
If it doesn’t, I think we need to get Gabriel to teach his big sister how to sleep!!