Still co-sleeping at 5 years old
Elliot was happiest cuddling up next to her Mum at night. However this worried Elliot’s Mum, because her daughter was nearly 5 years old and showing no signs of wanting to sleep in her own bed. Since Elliot’s parents had separated, the situation had become increasingly challenging. There was no consistency between the two households at bedtime and Elliot was getting mixed messages. Elliot knew that she was allowed to sleep in Dad’s bed every night, so she’d try to do the same when staying at Mum’s house. Initially, Elliot’s Mum tried to roll with it, but exhausted by having to go to work every day after a rough night of sleep, Elliot’s Mum eventually accepted that something needed to change.
A call for change
Elliot’s Mum felt quite a sense of guilt calling a baby sleep consultant. For a long time, she had rationalised the sleeping situation by telling herself that she should feel grateful to have such a wonderful child, and that the sleep issue wasn’t a big deal in comparison. Those feelings intensified during the separation, and she wondered if Elliot might need to sleep in her bed as a result of the upheaval.
But at the same time, she was utterly exhausted. In desperation, Elliot’s Mum picked up the phone and gave Cherene a call. During their hour-long phone call, Cherene listened to the situation, and with her characteristically warm and upbeat tone, assured her that it would be possible to change some of Elliot’s habits around sleep.
As a 5-year-old, Elliot could understand what was happening, so Cherene wanted to help her see the intrinsic value of sleeping in her own bed. With Cherene’s guidance, Elliot’s Mum explained to her daughter: “I know this is how it has been, but we’re making a change now. If we sleep in our own beds, then we will both have more energy the next day. Rather than feel so tired, we can go out and do more fun things, like go for a bike ride.”
Consistency is key
Cherene also suggested a plan using several techniques to help Elliot settle around bedtime. The “silent return” technique worked best for Elliot and her Mum. Each time Elliot got up, her Mum would nonchalantly put her back to bed until Elliot learnt to stay there. Cherene explains that with this technique “There’s no drama, no game. The key is to be consistent with it, which I understand is hard for parents. But that’s what kids need, that consistency and boundary.”
After the initial consultation, Cherene and Elliot’s Mum had another shorter phone call three days later to see how things were progressing. The first week of implementing new sleep solutions is always the hardest, so it’s crucial to have that extra support. Cherene also made a couple of follow-up calls over the subsequent weeks to check in on how well Elliot (and her Mum!) were sleeping.
A very cute ending
Within a couple of weeks, Elliot had formed a new habit of settling in her own room and staying there throughout the night. Even though Elliot still sleeps in Dad’s bed, she happily sleeps in her own bed at Mum’s house. She understands that her new bedtime habits give Mum the energy to take her out and spend time doing fun things with her. And Mum, in turn, no longer feels any guilt over having Elliot sleep on her own.
After a successful night during the process, Cherene was thrilled to receive a very cute photo of Elliot fast asleep in her bed, surrounded by all of her teddy bears. “It may seem hard to implement techniques that will work from just over the phone, but as long as parents are ready for a change, it’s possible and very rewarding and worthwhile when you achieve such fantastic results,” adds Cherene.
Are you ready for a change like Elliot's Mum?
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