How to help your child sleep through the night

How we got our now 5 years old little girl to sleep through the night is a battle that took us years to figure out. In the aim of helping those parents that are struggling to help their children sleep through the night we will share with you our experience. Hopefully if you put it into practise at home it will be as successful as it has been for us.

First of all, let us give you a bit of background for this. We moved from Barcelona to UK when J was a bit older than 18 months old, still breastfed and almost potty trained. When we arrived to UK the only place we could afford was a small bedsit accommodation where we had to share the bathroom with the other rooms that were in the same floor. Back at home we used to live in a two-bedroom flat, so when J turned 18 months we moved her to her own room, or that’s what we tried. But, as I said, we were in the UK, facing the situation of having to share bed with her again because that was the only space we had. So, we decided to put it back until we got a bigger house.

The time came and we moved to a two bedroom flat, by then she was 2 years old, but her room was quite cold in winter, so we decided to wait til spring. Then her vovo (grandpa) moved in with us while he was looking for a job in UK. He stayed in J’s bedroom for 6 months or so, meaning she was back to our room.

siblings sleeping

After that, we had a few attempts of encouraging her to sleep on her own but nothing worked. New decoration, more toys, nice bed covers, we tried to make her room as cosy as possible. None of that helped really. She wanted to sleep with us and would cry and cry if she didn’t get to do so. I got pregnant when she was 4 so we decided we needed to start looking for more ideas on how to help her overcome this situation. A few months before giving birth to our second child we got to move to a two-bedroom house. This time, it was a more comfortable and a better equipped place than where we were. We decided that of any times that would be the ideal one to take some action. We explained to her than when E turned 6 months he would go to his own bed and that she, as a big sister, would have to share room with him and keep an eye on him. 😉

The time arrived, we moved them both to their own room. All the excitement lasted for a couple of weeks. After that she started crying, waking up more than 5 times at night and coming to our bed. It was an exhausting terrible experience for all of us!

Our first attempt  to help her sleep through the night was the “Reward Calendar”.

reward calendar

For every night she slept on her own bed without going to ours in the middle of the night she would get a sticker in the morning. After 1 week of daily stickers she would get a little surprise. After a whole month the surprise would be “bigger”. (We have a sad story about that that will share with you some other time) Anyway. The stickers worked, but only for a while. We were constant in doing it though. And regardless of the family visits we had at home she would always sleep on her bed. Constancy is key throughout all this process. But this wasn’t to last forever…

star quote

So here our second attempt and definite solution on how we got to help her sleep through the night.

We read about the matter and found different approaches. You could let her cry, for a few minutes, then come back, then leave the room again, and so on, or you could accept she was a child and she needed your comfort at night and therefore just let her come to your room whenever she felt like it. I’m not going to criticise any of them, cause I think that every family is unique and you know what is best for them. We knew that none of them were completely right for us, nor especially for her. Then one day, after actually praying a lot about this, I came across an article that explained the importance of the previous routine before going to bed. Many talk about bath time, bedtime story…I know, but this one had a slightly different thing. When I was going to tell Sam about it he suggested exactly the same idea that I had read, without having heard it before. I knew it then! That wasn’t a coincidence. We found our solution!

So what we did to help our 5 year old sleep through the night? Now she goes to bed always around the same time, which is 8pm (we’re Spanish you see, no way I can put them in bed at 6 or 7…I wish though! 😛 )  At 7.30 we stop doing whatever we’re doing, whether it be watching a movie, YouTube videos, or playing in the iPad, and we start our “relaxing family activity” This is an activity that will entertain her but at the same time will also help her to relax and settle down in preparation of going to sleep. Sometimes we do some colouring, others we play cards, sometimes it’s a jigsaw or even role playing with her little people and dolls house.

toys playing

After that, when it’s almost 8pm we go upstairs and it’s time then to go to the toilet, brush her teeth, I do a bun on her hair and we go to bed. I sit right next to her and read some stories, and then sing a few songs. If E needs some breast milk I might swap the order just for convenience. She sleeps all through the night, goes to bed quite happy and relax and wakes up with energy and a cheerful attitude, most morning unless she’s ill, of course.

It has worked quite well for us. She appreciates that family time where we don’t juggle life but actually just focus only on her and playing with her.  We have gone through many sleepless nights, countless hours of singing, reading, getting impatient,but I am happy to say now that we were inspired to put this method into practise and it has been our answer. Even when we do it for ourselves and leave apart any screens for half an hour before going to bed we sleep much better. We totally recommend you to give it a try if you’re going through a similar situation. Obviously we’re talking about a toddler age, not really for a baby. But we will follow the same approach with E when the time comes.

Have you gone through something similar? Do you have any other recommendations on how to help the children sleep through the night? Tell us about it 🙂

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