Ask AF: Years of Sleep Struggles

It's one thing if a newly adopted child needs a little help falling asleep, but what if sleep disorders drag on for years? The AF team explains how to cope.

Q: My seven-year-old daughter, adopted at age three, can’t fall sleep without skin-to-skin contact (stroking her arm or back). We’ve taken numerous steps (a solid bedtime routine, a consultation with a sleep specialist, and more) but unless I’m physically present, she can’t fall asleep. Melatonin helped her for a few weeks but my doctor scolded me for “drugging” her, so we are back to co-sleeping. What should we do?

A:  Melatonin is a natural hormone, so there is no “drugging” involved. If a small dose helps your daughter fall asleep, it should be safe to resume it. Given the persistence of these sleep disorders, I’d advise you to consult a therapist experienced in adoption, attachment, and early childhood trauma. Your daughter is clearly very anxious about separating from you, and bedtime is the biggest, scariest separation of all. Good luck!

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