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, 30, are parents to twins, Jack and George, three, who were both poor sleepers. They also have 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 Jack became dangerously ill with tonsillitis and had to have an emergency operation to remove them. As they are identical, the doctor said George was an accident waiting to happen and did a tonsillectomy on him 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 7.00pm and were lucky if they were asleep by 9.00pm. 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 boys 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 boys were getting too excited at bedtime and as a consequence had a second wind when we tried to put them to bed. They had also become dependent on us being there not only at bedtime and also in the night to get back to sleep. We had become their sleep prop!
Our sleep consultant Juliet suggested we quieten the bedtime routine so it was less stimulating and that we used the gradual retreat method to sort out the night waking problem.
This meant after a much quicker, calmer and more focused bedtime routine, we settled our tired boys into bed and sat on the chair until they fell asleep. However every few nights we were to move the chair, very gradually, closer and closer to the door until we were out of their bedroom. If they woke in the night we were to go to them straight away and repeat the same steps. Amazingly, over time, they happily went to sleep without us!
Even though we were doing this slowly, the fact we were moving out of the room made me feel a little anxious, I wasn’t sure how they would react. But surprisingly they accepted the changes well.
Eventually we were able to leave their bedroom with them happily awake and we 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 2 weeks they were falling asleep alone and sleeping through the night in their own beds!