We took it in turns to sit on a chair singing and telling stories. When they finally closed their eyes we would creep out, but the moment we shut the door they would cry until we came back.
Beth and Tom, both 30, live in London with twins, India and Georgia, three, who were both poor sleepers. Beth, a fulltime mum, and Tom, a wine merchant, also have a son, Freddie, six, and another baby on the way. Freddie slept through the night from eight months, so we never bargained for the terrible trouble we had with the twins.
When they were 22 months India became dangerously ill with tonsillitis and had to have an emergency operation to remove them. As they are identical, the doctor said Georgia was an accident waiting to happen and did a tonsillectomy on her too.We were told their enlarged tonsils made it difficult to breathe, which was probably why they woke crying several times a night.
The thought that we had almost lost our precious babies made it very hard for us to get firm with them about sleep routines. So we would put them in their cots at 7pm and were lucky if they were asleep by 9pm. During those two hours one of us would be at their side.
We took it in turns to sit on a chair singing and telling stories. When they finally closed their eyes we would creep out, but the moment we shut the door they would cry until we came back.Around midnight the girls would insist on coming into our bed. This went on for 18 months until, utterly exhausted, we looked for help with our children’s sleep problems and turned to Millpond Sleep Clinic.
Our sleep therapist said the girls were using us as comfort blankets, and we were incapable of getting to sleep without being able to see us.
Our therapist at MillPond suggested we used a gradual retreat method which meant we had to gradually move out of the bedroom until India and Georgia were happy to go to sleep at bedtime and take themselves back to sleep in the night without our presence. So we continued to sit on the chair but every fourth night we gradually moved the chair closer to the door. The girls accepted the changes well.Moving out of the room made me feel a little anxious, I wasn’t sure how they would react.
We told the girls what we were doing and explained that, while they were unable to see us, we were pottering around in our bedroom next door.
When they shouted out we would simply say, “Yes” so they could hear us, but not engage in conversation. Incredibly, considering all the trauma caused by 18 months of sleep deprivation, within 10 days they were falling asleep alone.