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My baby wakes up screaming – how can I get her back to sleep?
Is my 19-month-old daughter having nightmares already? She’s been waking in the middle of the night, not crying but screaming and won’t calm down with anything less than being in bed with me. Is this what I’ve heard referred to as ‘night terrors’ and is there a better way of helping her other than bringing her into bed with me as I don’t get a good night’s sleep. I once left her to howl, but it upset me so much I can’t do it again. L Campbell, Glasgow

At 19 months your daughter’s imagination is really beginning to develop, so the occurrence of vivid dreams is very likely. If she is having a nightmare she will wake up screaming, but with reassurance she will calm down. In contrast, with ‘night terrors’ she will look like she is awake and be screaming loudly and maybe clawing or pushing at some imaginary object (this is very frightening for parents to witness). You will be unable to calm her down while she is going through a night terror.

The fact that your daughter is waking most nights and crying out to you and then refusing to go to sleep anywhere else but in your bed, is probably a learned habit. Each time you either try to put her back in her cot or attempt to leave the room, she will become very angry and continue to make a fuss until she achieves her goal, which is to come into bed with you.

I understand that leaving her to cry is upsetting for you. However, you do need to break the habit. You have said leaving her to cry distresses you, so try meeting her half way. Take a mattress into her bedroom and lay it at the side of her cot, tell her that if she wakes up in the night you will come to her and sleep on the mattress, but you will not get her out of her cot. When she wakes go in to her, tell her it’s night time and she has to go back to sleep, then lie down on the mattress. If she continues to scream and make a fuss, tell her that you will go out of the room until she stops crying. Leave the room and after two minutes pop your head into her room, remind her to stop crying and then you will come back. Once she stops crying go back in and lie on the mattress. Keep on doing this until she goes to sleep.

Once she has done this for four nights, move the mattress halfway across the room. After another four nights move the mattress to the bedroom door and then into the hall. Then go back to your own bed.
Remember the best way to reassure your daughter is to be firm, but kind, don’t shout or get cross.
This article:
Last updated: 10-Feb-07 01:24 BST

CHRISTINA AND STEVE had the perfect marriage. They would wine, they would dine, it was all about quality time. And then they had kids. The nightly interruptions began innocently enough, the usual feeds, changes and occasional nightmares. But as time went on, things got worse. By last Christmas, their daughter was waking around 12 times a night and Christina was struggling.

The little girl hated sleeping by herself and so, at 2am, 3am and 4am, she would come into her parents’ room for a cuddle. As soon as she nodded off, it would only be a matter of time before two-year-old Louis would wake up, and the night would progress.  By January, Christina, 30, had been hospitalised because her migraines – brought on by sleep deprivation – had become too much to bear. The Edinburgh-based couple, who run their own electrical business, decided it was time to get help. That help came in the form of Linda Russell, a parent coach.
For Christina and Steve, that hands-on support was vital.

After calling in Russell’s services, they had Sophia sleeping the whole night through within a month. Six months on, they are a changed family. “We really had reached breaking point,” says Christina. “I was so exhausted and we had no time left to be a couple.  Now, we have our bedtime routine and both children are happy.

Christina is now the picture of health and enjoying something of a renewed marriage. With the evenings to themselves, they can sit and discuss the day or watch a film together for the first time in years.
Russell could not be more removed from what some might describe as the domineering figure of supernanny we have seen on TV. With a softly-softly approach, she is more akin to a fairy godmother, and it is easy to see she has developed a personal, almost familial, relationship with Christina. “I really am not going in to judge the parents. You are not a bad parent just because your child isn’t sleeping, or refuses to eat at meal times, or even bites other children.  I go there to help them become the parent they want to be, and they decide how they want to achieve that.”
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Article from the Herald Newspaper

Can’t sleep, won’t sleep


WHEN Robert Strang first started waking again during the night, aged 14 months, his mother, Alice, put it down to the upheaval of settling into nursery. As the months rolled by, she told herself the night wakenings were due to teething, his recent illness, the family move or his father being away with work. But more than a year later, with Robert waking between six and 12 times a night before starting his day at 5am, she was running out of excuses.

Strang, 35, had gone back to work part-time as a National Gallery of Scotland curator when her son was five months old, at which point he was sleeping through the night until 5am. Now, along with her husband, a director of an auction house, she was not only exhausted but also desperate for her little boy to get a full night’s sleep.

“It had become habitual behaviour,” she says. “We tried controlled crying but it’s very hard as a parent to see your child in distress.” They tried adjusting bedtimes and naptimes, took advice from the health visitor and failed to get a referral to a sleep clinic. The couple felt helpless and alone.

Strang was now pregnant again and her health was suffering. “I was anaemic and had low blood pressure,” she remembers. “And when my husband had a migraine for the first time due to sleep deprivation, I decided we had to do something. But we were so exhausted we were in no state to be strong and imaginative, and stick to a plan of attack.”

On the recommendation of a friend, she called sleep consultant and parent coach Linda Russell – known to clients as “the Sleep Lady” – who raced to the rescue the following evening and devised an approach.

On her advice, night wakenings were no longer “rewarded” with cuddles and attention – instead one parent was to sit on a chair in his line of sight and tell him gently but firmly to go back to bed every time he got up. After just four long and difficult nights, it started to work, with wakenings reduced to just two. A couple of months on, the whole family sleeps through the night.

But many families do not. Though the message from glossy parenting magazines and celebrity-endorsed manuals is that sleepless nights are over within a matter of months, they remain a reality for many children and their parents far beyond babyhood. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 20% to 30% of children from infancy to adolescence have sleep problems that are considered significant by them or their parents.

Daily Record March 16 2009
Handy tips to getting some shut-eye if your baby refuses to sleep

Mar 16 2009 By Maggie Mallon

SLEEPLESS nights can be a curse for the parents of young children. Losing a good night’s shut-eye leaves mums and dads worn out, tetchy and desperate for rest.

Linda Russell – known as The Sleep Lady – is a maternity nurse with 30 years’ experience who works with families in Scotland.

She says: “If you’re not getting your sleep, you’re not being the parent you want to be. Your self-esteem, confidence and your social skills go – and your relationship with your partner suffers.”

Here, Linda shares her practical tips to tackle the five most common sleep problems in babies and toddlers.


Scenario: It’s 5am, you’re sound asleep and suddenly your little darling decides it’s time to start the day… Linda says: “If you’ve had a good sleeper and your child is waking up early, you’ll probably find that tends to be somewhere between 10 and 12 months.”

“This is linked to having too much sleep during the day, so cut down naps by 15-minute increments every three days.

“For children from 10 months upwards, if they start to wake up early cut out the first early morning nap and concentrate on giving them a good lunchtime nap.

“For older children who become early risers, you’ll have to reduce their lunchtime sleep. By the time a child is two years old, they should be having no more than an hour and a half sleep if they are waking early.”


Scenario: It’s bedtime but your toddler, who is now in a bed rather than a cot, doesn’t see it that way – it’s time to give mum and dad the run around by jumping in and out of bed and asking for one more story, or a drink, or a cuddle… Linda says: “You really have to think about what happens at bedtime. Are they over-tired or over-stimulated? You should concentrate on giving them a nice, gentle, quiet bedtime routine.

“Once your child has moved into a bed, introduce a quiet box. Put concentrationtype toys such as jigsaws, puzzles and books into it and once you’ve left the living roomand had a bath, don’t go back into the room for more TV.

“Go into the child’s bedroom and have 15 or 20 minutes of quiet play before story time.”


Scenario: Your child suddenly starts waking during the night and takes ages to go back to sleep.

Linda says: “Are they going to bed too late or are they having too long a nap during the day?

“If your child is over the age of two and waking up shouting, they’re probably having a nightmare or night terror. In this instance, always go in and reassure them.

“But if they want to jump in and out of bed and come into bed with you, you have to be firmand say no and sit by their bed until they’ve gone to sleep.

Be firmand consistent in your approach. Don’t have any chatting or cuddling, just reassure them with your presence.

“For children over the age of 18 months, a magic lamp is a good idea. You set it on timer to come on at a certain time in the morning and you tell the child not to get out of their bed or come into mummy’s bed for a cuddle until the magic light comes on.

“The magic lamp also works for early risers over the age of 18 months, as it’s a good cue to tell a child when morning has arrived.”


Scenario: A baby over six months old wakes up two or three times in the middle of the night and wants to be fed back to sleep… Linda says: “You have to decide whether you are going to keep feeding on demand or if you’re going to make them go longer between feeds and benchmark those feeds.

“If you decide to make them wait longer, then don’t try to go cold turkey.

While you’re making them wait between feeds, rock, reassure or do whatever you can so the baby’s tummy clock learns to wait. After the dream feed at 10.30pm, make the baby wait two and a half hours before his next feed, then as soon as he is going happily for that amount of time between feeds, extend it to three hours, then three and a half hours, four hours, until gradually you are going through the night. Make the extension every three nights.

“You also have to look at your baby’s daytime routine and his sleep associations. Try to put the baby into his cot after a feed before he goes to sleep.

“If you also have a toddler and you’re worried about the baby’s crying disturbing them during the night, then explain, ‘If you wake up and hear your little brother or sister crying, don’t worry, mummy and daddy can hear but are teaching the baby how to go to sleep.’”


SHARON Campbell’s daughter Neave, four, and son Aiden, 17 months, are now good sleepers, but 10 months ago she and her husband Ross were at their wits’ end.

“Neave wouldn’t stay in her bed but would come into ours and then be up at the crack of dawn,” said Sharon, 37, who works in an insurance firm. “And Aiden used to bang his head against his cot and scream when he woke several times during the night demanding to be fed.

“We were all shattered.”

Linda Russell came up with a plan for each child. Neave’s bedtime was brought forward, she was given a “quiet box” and a magic lamp to let her know when it was morning.

Ross sat by her bed in a chair until she went to sleep and if she woke in the middle of the night.

Every three nights he moved the chair further away from the bed until he was out of the room.

“Now we put her to bed, give her a kiss and she sleeps through. It was like a miracle,” said Sharon.

For Aiden, Linda suggested taping blankets round his cot rails to prevent him injuring himself and his mum started stretching out the time between feeds until he was sleeping through.

“Sometimes, it took hours to settle him and it was upsetting, so it was great to be able to phone Linda for more support and reassurance,” said Sharon.

For more information, call Linda Russell on 07827 930 830 or 0131 317 1270 or visit

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