Dr. Harvey Karp is probably best known as the guy who wants to help you get your baby to sleep. Author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, Karp gifted us with “The Five S’s” for soothing—swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking—to help us calm even the un-calmest of babies. But Karp, a paediatrician and child development expert, has a trick for getting toddlers to sleep, too. Particularly when they want someone to lie with them until they fall asleep.
He tells Scary Mummy that his method—called the “Twinkle Interruptus,” which is a perfect name—teaches children to be more patient and is a little bit sneaky. What more could we ask for?
You go in the room with them, and then you go out, and then you come back, and then you go out, and you come back. And over the course of a couple of days, you end up going out for a minute or two or three, and they fall asleep while they’re waiting for you. And that usually solves the problem without any crying or struggle.
How it works
1. Little Annie begs for you to lie with her until she falls asleep. And maybe you do this but as soon as she falls asleep and you try to extract yourself from her bed, she wakes up and cries for you to lie back down. And this goes on for enough nights in a row that it’s screwing with your sanity and you need Annie to go to sleep on her own—preferably without you snapping at her to do so.
2. You go all “Twinkle Interruptus” on Annie by pretending to suddenly remember something you have to do real quick. “Oh, wait! I forgot to turn the bathroom light off. Wait here, I’ll be right back!”
3. You leave for a few seconds and come back. (This builds trust that when you say you’ll be back soon, you mean it.) When you re-enter, you say, “Good waiting! Good waiting!” and then go back to whatever song you were singing on repeat before you left the room.
4. After a few minutes, you “remember” something else you have to do, but this time it takes you 15 seconds instead of five (“Good waiting!”).
5. Over the next night or two, you repeat this but with longer intervals of time away (30 seconds, then a full minute, and so on).
6. They fall asleep while they’re waiting for you.
Karp details this method on his blog, where he estimates that it works on about 75% of kids over the age of 18 months (and sometimes with kids as young as 12 months old).
For kids who have more separation anxiety and begin crying the moment you leave the room, he suggests you immediately return to comfort. For these kids, parents can start the Twinkle Interruptus in the room by “searching” for something on the other side of the room and working your way up to actually leaving the room as they become comfortable and trusting that you’ll return.
“Please don’t think of this as devious,” Karp writes. “But everyone is tired and has low frustration tolerance at bedtime, so this is a better time to be a little tricky than to enter into a battle of wills.”