Tuesday 11 December 2018

Dear David Coleman: Our daughter's sleep has become really disrupted since we relocated back from Australia. She used to sleep 12 hours straight.

Stock image
Stock image

Question: We relocated from Australia back to Ireland in January this year, with our daughter who was 14 months old at the time. She was a great sleeper in Australia, sleeping 12 hours straight, but she has got into really bad habits since we got back. She wakes for hours in the night and wants bottles, TV, stories. It is exhausting and we have run out of options. What else can we do?

David replies: Change is unsettling for anyone, but especially for toddlers who can't really express it clearly in words. It is not unusual, therefore, for disruption in their lives to lead to disruption in their sleep. Teething and other developmental changes can also sometimes disrupt sleep.

When your daughter's sleep was first disrupted, it sounds like you may have allowed a few things, which have since become those bad habits you mention. If you have been giving her a bottle, or facilitating her to watch TV, or even reading her stories, you may have set-up expectations for her that she will get these things every, or any, night.

I think she needs to re-learn that the night time is for sleeping. That means that once she goes to bed, she then doesn't leave it until the morning. One or other of you will have to go to her, to help soothe her back to sleep. Even lying in bed with her at this time is preferable to her being up and about with bottles, stories and stimulation.

She needs firm but gentle reassurance that she is okay, that you will be with her, but that sleep is the only thing on the agenda.

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