You sleep trained your sweet little baby months or even a couple of years ago. Now your determined little toddler is back to waking you up at all hours of the night. You’re tired in the middle of the night so when he or she comes walking into your bed, you have very little energy to fight back. Instead, you roll back the covers, scoop them up and all go back to sleep. Unfortunately, toddlers usually sleep like octopuses and in the middle of the night, you’ll swear they have an extra arm and leg. You and your partner are now a part of a game of Twister and you’re losing. It’s time to take back your bed and help your sweet little one drift off to sleep on their own. Here are some quick tips to help you win the bed-sharing battle.
Toddler sleep 101
First and foremost, let’s go over some bedtime basics to help you and your child be set up for success. Your bedtime routine should always be a routine. Kids and babies thrive on regular, routine schedules. They find them comfortable in a world of chaos and the more consistent you are the better. Get your child to bed before they are overtired. Getting them down earlier may help your kiddo stay asleep. After the consistent bedtime routine that may consist of some sort of washing up or bath, a story, and some snuggles, it’s time to get them to fall asleep on their own.
Getting your child to stay asleep in their own bed starts with them falling asleep on their own. If it helps, you can think about when they were a smaller baby and you strived to put them in their crib, drowsy but awake. You want them sleepy and comfortable but awake enough to understand you’re leaving the room and that’s OK. If they are always used to you staying with them until they fall asleep, when they wake up in the middle of the night, they won’t be able to fall back asleep because you aren’t there. This is why it’s crucial that you get them to fall asleep on their own.
You’re probably thinking, getting them to stay in their bed after you walk out is going to be impossible. Know that this may take some time and patience but if you stick to it, you should all be sleeping alone in about two weeks. To start getting them to stay in their room after you leave, you need to prep them for this change. Begin by talking to your child about the new routine as early as possible. Discuss how they will need to start falling asleep without you and staying in their own bed. Come from a place of encouragement and excitement. Let them know that they can take their time and that you are all in this together. Be prepared for plenty of resistance but If they know you’re by their side for this right of passage, they will be more eager to try it.
Next, set your kid up for success by making sure you can stick to the routine. If you’re traveling, in the middle of potty training or expecting another child any day, you’ll want to wait for a less turbulent time. These changes may be what’s making your kid stroll into your room in the first place. Once you can commit to two to three weeks of consistency, it’s a good time to start.
Now for the hard part. You’ve set the stage by talking with your kiddo about their new routine and your expectations. Now it’s time to put your plan into action. For week one, start by implementing the earlier bedtime and consistent routine. You don’t want your little one to be overtired and you need to give yourself enough time before you’re too tired. During this first week, you can stay in their room but you should gradually move out of their bed if you’re laying with them and into a chair or further away. Every couple of days move a little further so that by the end of the week you’re not laying with them anymore but you may still be in the room. If you’re met with resistance, stay calm, patient, and consistent. Don’t give up too easily.
Next, you need to start leaving the room. Start by going in the hallway and then eventually leaving them altogether. You may see them right behind you for the first few nights. This second week is where you’ll really have to commit. Every time they follow you out, bring them right back to their bed. You can sit in a chair in their room again for a few minutes to calm them down but then move to the hallway. This may go on for a week or even two but they will get it. The same thing goes for the middle of the night. Walk them back to their room each time.
Every time your kiddo has a good night, reward them with praise and a special treat of some kind. You can make up a special rewards bag that they can pull from in the morning if they stayed in their bed. Gradually decrease these rewards as this becomes the norm so you aren’t treating them until they are twelve but they’ll get the idea. Remember that you and your child need sleep. Sleep is vital to their health and development and your own sanity. Stay strong.