After 1 am he would wake every half hour, come into our room or cry until we went to him. Louis only slept properly when finally exhausted – usually at around 6am.
Problem – Demanding a feed every 20 minutes.
Amanda and Michael , both 37, suffered years of sleepless nights with their youngest son’s sleep problems, Louis four. Amanda, a full-time mum, and Michael, also have a daughter, Daisy, two.
Until he was about 18 months Louis refused to go to his cot and spent most nights in bed with Michael and me. I was eager to get him used to sleeping alone before Daisy – a good sleeper – was born but failed miserably.The nightly ritual went something like this: Louis fell asleep in bed with me or Michael lying next to him at about 7.30pm. About half an hour later he woke and came downstairs just as we were sitting down to dinner. One of us would bounce him on our knee until about 9pm when we’d try to get him back to bed.
Between then and 1am he would shout from his bed at least twice until we went to him. After 1 am he would wake every half hour, come into our room or cry until we went to him. Louis only slept properly when finally exhausted – usually at around 6am.
We took him to Millpond sleep clinic when he was four.
Mandy drew up a tailor-made plan which began with us putting Louis to bed at 9pm. This was his natural falling asleep time but eventually, as he adjusted to the programme, the time was brought forward until he was asleep by 7pm.In Louis’ case , the main problem seemed to be that he didn’t seem to be able to get himself back to sleep when he woke without us stroking his hair and soothing him back to sleep.
When Louis shouted out in the night or came into us we were advised not to converse with him,pick him up or take him back to bed,but merely to say: “Go back to bed”. Mandy said the communication and and physical contact made it worth his while getting up, and without it he would go back to sleep.
As a reward for not shouting in the night or getting up Louis was rewarded stars on a chart. Three stars entitled him to a trip to the cinema or swimming pool.
The first few nights were horrendous. He cried and shouted out: “Mummy I love you. Don’t you love me?” I had to put a pillow over my head so I couldn’t hear him. He responded well to the reward system and quickly realised it was worth his while to stay in bed. Within a week Louis was sleeping from 9pm to 6am.
That was a year ago and we were cautious at first, fearful it was just a phase, but we’ve brought his bedtime forward to 7pm and he’s managing 11 unbroken hours.