Bedtime Secrets – Toddlers

Written by admin on April 15th, 2011. Posted in Sleep Challenges

Beating the Bedtime Blues

Our twin girls are now 22 months old and I’m happy to say have a pretty broad vocabulary. I’m happy because they have a greater understanding of what we’re telling them and grasp positive perspectives far more easily, which comes in handy at the nightly emotional separation of bed time.

When you put children in their cots at night they may fret as they feel the routine of the day draw to a close. Here’s what I’ve found helps our girls push past the separation anxiety. After giving them their cuddle blanket and teddies saying “Here’s your teddies. They’ve been waiting for you! Tell them what you did today.” I make up a voice for the bear saying “I heard you went on a slippery slide today. And walked to the mailbox and watched Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom. Did you have fun today? Tell me more.” And they start yakking away to teddy. I believe that way they don’t feel they’re being left in their cot alone. They have someone to talk with till they nod off. If you just hand them their bear they have to use their own imagination to open a dialogue and at that time of night they’re very tired and it won’t come too easily. They’ll then get frustrated or panicky that you’re about to leave and the waterworks begin.

After teddies and kisses goodnight I walk the room picking up the bath towels and their day clothes and straighten up the curtains, adjust our windows and then pick up their bottles to leave. They know this routine and they enjoy me walking around their room before I go. I think they feel safer because I’ve gone to every corner of the room and our adjoining room before leaving. In the dark I suppose it feels like I’ve checked and secured everything for them. I believe this an important part of a successful (ie. no panic crying) bedtime.

Up until about a month ago I’d sing a little made-up ditty to the tune of the Big Ben chime “sleepy time, sleepy time. Time for a sleepy time” repetitively as I walked the room preparing to leave and they even started singing along to this song. Lately though I noticed they started to dislike it and whined when I started singing, so I made adjustments. They now find great comfort in these words said slowly a couple of times in a soothing voice before I leave “Mummy’s here. Daddy’s here. It’s allllllllright”. I asked my other half to also say it to them when he kisses them goodnight to affirm it.

The most beautiful part of this new method of calming was being downstairs one night and hearing them say to themselves, “Mummy’s here, Daddy’s here. It’s allllllllright. There, there“. Especially Leila who is a little more emotional (read ‘sooky’ between the lines) having this as a self-consoling tool and settling herself down in the knowledge that beyond their dark room mummy & daddy are here, is invaluable. There’s rarely a sooky tantrum these days.

If you can arm your older toddlers with the ability to settle themselves with an “Affirmation Statement” like this one they’ll be far more relaxed because even though you’re not the room, they know you’re here for them. You’ve told them so.

To cement this knowledge as truth I use it during the daytime when the girls get scared of something (say a noisy truck outside). I used to use a logical approach repeating “We’re ‘inside’. The truck is ‘outside’. It’s alllllright” and did so for a long time but found they still ran and cowered somewhere that felt ‘safe’. (Of course, I’d already taught them the difference between outside and inside or this would have been a foolish attempt).

It wasn’t until I thought more about it and said to them soothingly “Mummy’s here. Daddy’s here. It’s allllright” that it sunk in with them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Mummy & Daddy are our protectors and if they’re calm, we’re calm. I learned that day that logical explanations, simple as they are, don’t work on kids. Emotional affirmation works on kids! Now when they hear a noise they look over at me and say ‘bye truck’ (almost as if they’re telling it to leave) although now and then they do squat down where they are and look to me to see what my face is telling them. I ensure it’s always calmly acknowledging the sound, naming it: truck/plane/helicopter/motorbike, and their concerns, with the same verbal response. When they feel you are connected and responsive to their emotional situation they’re much more likely to get past it quickly. Don’t dispense it off-handedly without focus while you’re going about your daily chores or it will very quickly become valueless. We had a helicopter doing very low fly by’s our house this morning and the girls barely flinched. It’s worth investing the time and focus. Night time fretting then falls into place. You’re building a tower of trust.

There’s also a great need for them to feel they’ve had enough time with you before you instruct them it’s time to go to bed. If you try and separate from them before they feel they’ve received the closeness they need to feel calm leaving you then you’ll get a LOT of push back at bedtime. It’s very important to give them 20 minutes of your time either sitting down together reading a book or watching their last program on TV sitting together. There’s no point cleaning the kitchen while they watch it on the couch alone.  I build ‘Story Corner’ with cushions on the loungeroom floor which is inspired by another ABC cartoon. We watch Giggle & Hoot on ABC2 and then a Baby Einstein clip on YouTube which plays through the TV via a Mac Mini (or laptop with connector). I mix it up showing them different clips on different nights and talk them through what they’re seeing.

I find spending this time together before bath time makes the shutdown sequence easier. We do bookreading through the day so there’s not the inevitable “one more?” and at night time it’s Baby Einstein. Our girls do ask for “one more” video but it’s out of their control (unlike books which are within easy reach). When I say bath time and turn off the TV they say very maturely “tomorrow. tomorrow”and run to the gate to climb the stairs to the bathroom. They know the routine so well and are confident they’ll see it again ‘tomorrow’ so let go quite easily. This is the tower of trust.

Visit me again in another year and I’m sure I’ll have needed to change tact again but that’s the challenge of finding the right language for children at different stages and building a strong relationship together. Keep building that tower of trust and you’ll find “negotiations” with your kids flows pretty easily.

Good luck!

Implementing a Sleep & Feed Routine

Written by admin on April 5th, 2011. Posted in Sleep Challenges

My mother came and stayed with us for the first 7 weeks which I thank her from the bottom of my heart. She helped with burping and readying bottles throughout the night and we’d burp the girls together but when I was almost falling off the rocker asleep she’d take over and send me to bed.

After those 7 weeks when she went home I had a long cry. Having your mother or a mother figure there to inspire you and be a rock of calm when you’re tired and frazzled helps you see motherhood in a marvelous way and stay serene. I’m a better mother because of her and the time she shared with us.

During that time our babies’ sleep routine was mum and myself feeding them a combination of breast and bottle feeds every 1 1/2 – 2 hours. There was no real “routine”. When they woke at night they were fed and changed if needed. We rocked them to sleep every time night & day. That approach was tiring, a little frustrating when they wouldn’t settle (we understood ‘Triggers for Sleep Problems” later with thanks to Tizzie Hall. During the day they were catnapping but not tired enough to have a full sleep so we could rock all day long and we weren’t going to get anywhere!) In this link you’ll see that dummy’s are a bad idea too, which we had started but stopped inside of a month. We just didn’t like how it looked to be honest. It’s not a natural thing for a child to do, constantly sucking on something that will alter the growth of their jaw. Sucking on something while they go to sleep was also something we didn’t like. Luckily both my partner and I agreed on that so we stopped it just as quickly as we started. As Tizzie explains, I’m glad we did.

At the seventh week when mum went home this was the scene: Picture you and your husband sleeping in separate beds. One: the matrimonial bed with the door shut stealing 5-6 hours sleep. The other grabbing naps in a single bed next to the babies’ cots. This happened in two shifts Mummy sleeps from 8pm – 2am with the door shut, and Dad does the bottle feeding in between his home-based business work; 2am till 8am mummy gets up and does the feeds dozing uneasily next to them on the single bed while daddy shuts the door and gets 6 solid hours sleep.

From 7 weeks of age, this was our life for THREE months. The first four grueling months of life with multiples. We found that if we divvied up the feeding shifts we could each get just enough sleep to function throughout the day. Gerard on most nights worked on his new internet solutions business Velocity Host before going to bed at 2am sometimes crashing on the couch beforehand but that was rare. I would get extra broken sleep on the bed next to the girls from 2am till 4 or 5am but I likened it to a scene from Aliens.


You know the one. Sigourney Weaver is standing in the room with the mother alien and all those little alien eggs when she realises just what she’s walked in on. And as the alien eggs peel open from the top the camera zooms in on Sigourney’s face and you feel the anxiety wash over her (and you). I was 13 when I watched this film and it scared the daylights out of me. Laying next to our girls awaiting those cries 4 times a night I was in that state of perpetual anxiety. How do I juggle them both if they cry together? I’ll race them downstairs one by one and put them in the car capsules for their feed. (TIP: Got multiples and need to feed them at the same time? Car capsules on the lounge room floor, brilliant!) But the bottles need to be ready straight away. When should I jump up? Is it now? No. Is it now? No. Eeeek! Too late one of them has launched into screams. I have to get her downstairs before she wakes her father and sister. Get the bottles ready. Come back for the other one…. Yes. That was my life for 3 months….every night. Anxiety that makes me feel icky even now remembering it.

So at 4 months of age our girls were still going down around 7:00pm and waking at about 10-11pm, 12am, 2-3am, and up for the day at 4:00-5:00am. This dear people, is what we call, babies training their parents. When they cried at night, we fed them (we were on night time formula at this point). We answered their calls in the night assuming they were hungry. They weren’t as we discovered later with Tizzie Hall’s ‘Save our Sleep’ advice. So in the absence of any disciplined routine from us, we inadvertently encouraged them to continue waking up every 2 hours for a bottle because that’s what we assumed they needed! Even if they didn’t want the bottle after time, waking every couple of hours being given a bottle your system establishes that that’s the right sleep pattern. Make sense?

This very unpleasant ‘routine’ thankfully came to a halt when we bumped into our onsite managers in our residential complex. She said didn’t your GP give you sleep routines or any information? My response was “Sleep routines? She measured the babies and sent us on our way!” Luckily she still had her baby’s sleep routine information and emailed it through to me that afternoon. (You’ve gotta love women who keep information purely for the sake of others. Her youngest is now 5). So without hesitation we started the routine from Tizzie Hall. And darn it if it didn’t work in 2 days flat! The girls cried and protested (There is a difference. See Tizzie’s video) When they ‘protested’ we ignored them. (Which is hard! But necessary. My previous viewpoint was “I’m their mother it’s my job to go to them when they cry“…..WRONG!!) If they ‘cried’ with a really emotional sounding cry we of course went back to check that they had everything they needed: weren’t too cold, weren’t hungry, hadn’t dropped their beddy-bye blanket out of their cot (which was usually the problem) and were comfortable in their clothing. Be assured, it’s hard. Very hard to listen to your babies crying. Listening to them ‘protesting’ isn’t so hard because you know they aren’t actually stressed and sobbing uncontrollably. The big hint is when it goes quiet for a couple of seconds juuuuust long enough for them to listen out to hear if you’re coming. They’re saying “we want OUT!” But if you stand firm and don’t mix messages your bub will go to bed when you say so. The kindest thing you can do for your baby is not to go and pick her up and try to soothe her only to put her back in the cot and start the rejuvenated crying all over from the beginning again. That’s just inciting a feeling of rejection in them and he/she will switch from a protest cry to an ‘emotional’ cry because you’ve abandoned them again.

Commit yourself to giving it a try, to the letter, for a week and then assess if it’s working for you and your baby. We started our routine from the morning nap session so this gave the girls two sleep sessions to get used to the fact we weren’t going to respond to their protests. That way by the evening we figured they’d have 2 sessions of experience and the night time sleep time would be less stressful because they knew what to expect. Keep in mind our girls were 4 1/2 months old by this time and had behaviour to correct. It’s a different scenario again for younger babies. The younger you implement it the better, though personally I wouldn’t try it till they’re at least 10 weeks old.  They really need as much milk as possible to grow well in the first couple of months. On the flipside I couldn’t fathom trying to break a 1 or 2 year old of a bad routine. Best wishes to mums out there in that boat!

At afternoon naptime encourage your baby to sleep in places other than their bed - Tizzie Hall

There are a lot of sleep routines out there and a lot of different settling techniques including controlled crying which I agree with Tizzie Hall, is BAD news and setting your child up for a mammoth feeling of repetitive rejection and unnecessary stress. But I can say from our own experience with Tizzie’s advice that at the age of 4 1/2 months, our girls went from waking 4 times a night to just one dreamfeed at 10.30pm and rising for the day between 6am-7am (11-12hours). Then, by adhering to Tizzie’s routine, at 9 months of age they were sleeping from 7pm till 6am. 11 hours of bliss….and sometimes 12! This was in conjunction with the set daily routine of feeds and naps so don’t expect that even if you’re not following the day routine, the night time routine will simply fall in your lap. It is a 24 hour routine that should be followed expressly. We did it, and since then I have thanked our managers every time I see them. They changed our lives with one conversation and an email. I hope I can do the same for you.

Interviews with Tizzie Hall

Baby Routines by



Kindest Positions for Sleep

Written by admin on February 5th, 2011. Posted in Sleep Challenges

In any of the literature you’ll read on pregnancy you’ll see that laying on your left side is best for circulation of your blood to your baby. But even if you read nothing at all your baby will tell you, left is best. Wow did our twins kick up a fuss if I tried laying on my right side or back for more than a minute. They disliked it intensely! Go with what your body and your baby tells you in addition to heeding what the books say.

Towards the 30th week with the extra weight pressing me into the bed my hip bones became so sore that I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour or two. I found laying on my left side suspended on top of two pillows, one under my bump and one under my bottom to be the most supportive. I put two pillows down side by side in the bed with about a 2 inch gap between them and that’s where I centered myself. It creates a lift which reduces the pressure on your hips while you sleep. This was the only relief I found worked for me. For daytime naps I lay like this but positioned my feet higher than my heart to help drain the fluid from my feet. I had a LOT of fluid retention (30kg weight gain by the birth) and although raising my feet didn’t show any physical signs of improvement, internally it eased the pain. The skin on my feet were stretched so fat with fluid they stung with pain. My partner massaged them most nights and tried pushing the fluid back up into my legs but alas, all it achieved were trenches of dents in my fluid soaked shins.

Legs up on the walls ladies!

New Mums’ Sleep Challenge

Written by admin on January 20th, 2011. Posted in Sleep Challenges

Wow. Where to begin on this topic! If you’re truly lucky like one of my friends, you’re in the elite few and your baby may be sleeping in 5 hour bursts at the age of 4 weeks. Or if you’re like most of us you’re in the same dinky boat as nearly everyone else and your little one is waking every 2 hours, give/take. This is ‘normal’. I say normal loosely because what’s normal for one baby is not normal for another. Let’s say ‘average’.

We were blessed with twins so we had the usual issues of one waking the other. We found they woke every 1.5 – 2 hours throughout the night. I breastfed the girls perched on a twin feeding pillow with the help of my mum who stayed with us for the first six weeks. Sometimes they would wake about a half hour apart and I fed them separately one by one. This made it easy not having to rip off all my clothes from the waist up in the middle of winter to don the sexy (but cold) twin feeding pillow but it meant I had only a 1/2 hour chance to grab a wink or two before the next feed. Usually I had a 30-45min window to sleep every 2 hours. I can tell you after a few weeks of having shallow, broken sleep, you may be feeling slightly lost, foggy or irritable. The classic and well known catchphrase “Baby Brain” is thrown around. It’s not Baby Brain. When I was dossing on a mate’s floor in London years ago, woken up constantly throughout the night by flatmates coming and going, I had the same lost, foggy feeling trying to function throughout the day. It isn’t baby brain. It’s sleep deprivation! I couldn’t find files at work or get my head together to be anywhere half as efficient as normal. You need sleep. Period. So don’t decide to mop the floor or hang washing out when you have the golden opportunity for a half hour nap with your baby during the day. Women push, push, push and we think we have this vast untapped reserve of energy that will never run out. Oh faux pas! It will, and when you need it most, like wind-down for night time and making dinner. 4:00pm was my brick wall. I didn’t know whether I was Arthur or Shirley Temple! NAP. Nap every single chance you can get without a morsel of guilt!