As we discussed in the chapters ‘Types of Attachments and Separation Anxiety’ and ‘Transitioning to Daycare or School’, these two elements are huge in the life of your little one. Going to sleep independently, in their own room without you, for 10-12 hours at night is a huge separation. It’s actually longer than they are at daycare or school. So if you think about it that way, of course your little one may feel anxious. On top of that, add in the darkness, no concept of telling the time or time passing etc., and it can be truly frightening. 

Self reflection Activity:

Firstly examine what bedtime triggers in you. 

  • What do you feel when you can’t get your little one to sleep when you desperately want them to (out of control, helpless, alone, it’s never ending etc.)? 
  • What are your ‘shoulds’ – what do you think they ‘should’ be doing, and why? Is this really your belief or has it been passed down to you by your family or by society or the mothers group you attend etc.? 
  • What are your views on co-sleeping? What is your ideal scenario for your dream bedtime? Does this match your partners’ views (if you have one)? It’s a lot to think about but this is the first step to successful bedtimes as it is you Mama that sets the tone and vibe of the family. If you feel anxious about putting your little one into a big bed in their own room because deep down you really want to co-sleep, then the big bed transition will never work. Your little one will feel your anxiety and be resistant.

Investigation time:

  • Is the household relatively quiet at bedtime? It’s a bit unfair to expect them to sleep easily if a tv is blaring loudly outside their room. Treat them as you would treat a guest staying with you.
  • Is their room safe and comfortable to them? Mirrors, certain toys etc. can look spooky at night. Ask your child for their input and feelings on this.
  • Do they have a comfort item that makes them feel safe? Sleeping with that is a good idea. Make it something they can locate and replace on their own at night. A lot of babies with dummies struggle because they wake in the night with their dummy out and cannot locate it, and put it back in their mouths independently, therefore needing to wake you to come do it for them. It is for this reason I do not advocate for using dummies/pacifiers. I much rather have bub access their own thumb that cannot get lost!
  • Temperature in the room is important. Children often can’t pull up their own blankets in the night if they get cold. This is a skill to teach them in itself as they get older. Go for cotton or bamboo bedding as it allows better regulation and wicks away moisture.
  • Light: Our bodies are designed to be sensitive to light. I have always used blackout blinds for my children which creates a dark cosy environment, and helps to alleviate early rising.
  • White noise/songs: I personally don’t advocate for using either of these simply because the child may start to associate them with sleep. They may use them as a self soothing technique, which is great for when those things are playing, but they won’t always have that song/white noise machine with them, and they need to be able to fall asleep without it. This is also true for if they wake in the night, and those things are off. They won’t be able to self soothe without you coming in and turning it back on.
  • Texture: a lot of autistic children or children with sensory processing disorder will have aversions to certain textures. Have you tried experimenting with different fabrics e.g. cotton, bamboo, weighted blankets, types of clothing (loose fitting nightie, onesie, tops and bottoms etc.). It could literally be as simple as they don’t like the feel of one of their blankets, and once you take that away the problem is solved!

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