Do you feel like you cannot get your child to stay in his own bed at night? Has it just become a normal part of the nighttime routine for him to climb in between you and your husband?
I have been there. Trust me. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to be a perfect mom when you are low on sleep.
I began suffering from insomnia at a young age and learned fairly quickly that without proper rest, I am just unable to function the next day.
When your child appears at the doorway at 3:00am and begs to sleep in your bed, the easiest way out is saying yes, especially when you have dealt with tantrums all week.
But, I am happy to tell you that there is a better way! A way for you to sleep with your husband throughout the night and for your child to learn independence and stay in their own bed ALL night long.
I have read almost every baby book out there and applied so many methods to my own girls when they were young.
And here is what I have learned and what worked for me:
- Make a plan
The most important step is the first one. Make a plan with your husband during the day before the exhausted parent takes over and discuss what the bedtime routine will be for that night, who will be the one to get up, and what will be said to the child.
This plan should include a consistent bedtime routine (reading a book, singing a song, saying a prayer, etc.). Toddlers understand consistency and will be triggered to sleep once the routine has finished.
- Make sure all 3 of you know the plan
Most young children rely on routine and they react horribly to change. By now, you have seen the waterworks and know the difference when your child is being melodramatic and when she is actually frightened or hurt. Explain to your child, during the day, that at night she will be sleeping in her own bed.
Let her know that she is safe, and you two will be just down the hall. That way, when she sneaks into your room, she will not be taken by surprise when you deny her entrance and escort her back to her own room.
- Practice the plan during daytime naps
It is so important for your child to think of his bed as the only place to sleep. During daytime naps, make sure he only sleeps in his own bed. If he tries to leave during his normal nap time take him back to his room, just like at night time.
His bedroom should be a relaxed, comfortable space. Give your child a teddy bear or blanket to cuddle with, use only red or orange colored night lights (to allow sleep), and make sure it is warm and cosy.
- Be consistent whenever they try to sleep in your bed
There are several methods parents use to encourage their children to sleep independently. Whichever, you choose, you must remain consistent. No matter how loud the temper tantrums and cries, stay strong. The first week is the hardest.
Methods to stop the madness
Method 1: Phase-Out Method – For children who struggle with separation anxiety (or for parents who do) this is a better method to use. When putting your child to bed the first night, sit beside them and hold their hand until they fall asleep.
This way they are reassured of your presence. Then after a couple nights, move the chair to the other side of the room. Then stand by the door, until eventually they have adjusted to falling asleep without you beside them.
Method 2: Excuse Me Method – One mom found this method the most successful with chatty children. She would set them in their bed and perform the nighttime routine. Then would say “excuse me, I will be back…” and leave the room for a short time and return.
These excuses could be anything from cleaning up dinner to turning off the oven. For each excuse each night, leave for longer intervals. The key is to get them to fall asleep when you are out of the room, so eventually they will no longer need you to sleep.
Method 3: Break the Cycle Method – This is the method that worked with my first born daughter, so it is the one I would recommend the most. Each time your child walks into your room in the middle of the night, get up and escort her back to her room. Do not speak with her except to say: “You need to stay in your room tonight.” She will know why because you explained it to her earlier that day.
Be consistent, be serious, and ignore her flair for theatrics. It may be every hour or it may be every 10 minutes. But it is vital to maintain this routine (that you discussed with your husband that day) or they will never learn. Make sure to establish a reasonable, switch-off delegation beforehand as well, as in you put them back the first time, your husband does the second, etc. This way you both can catch some shut-eye.
The end goal is to try and teach your children to self soothe, so that they no longer need you in the middle of the night. They will learn after a consistent routine is in place. The first week is the most tough, but after 2-3 weeks they should be sleeping in their own beds most of the night.
What worked for other moms?
- Cutting out sugar before the evening time can make a HUGE difference. One mom made that small change, and it changed everything for her children. She and her kids were able to sleep peacefully throughout the whole night.
- Waking them up before their usual disturbance time was the only thing that worked for this mom. Her boy awoke around 2:00am every morning, so she set her alarm for 1:30am, went into his room, and gently shook him enough so that he transitioned into a light sleep. This resets his REM cycle, so he would sleep until morning. Try this for a few days and eventually their bodies will adjust to normal sleeping hours.
- Using a chart is great for children who learn better through visual aids. Some moms use bedtime routine cards with each task on them while others prefer to use charts, labeling each time their child went to bed and woke up. This way the child can see how he has got to sleep in mommy’s bed the past 7 nights and understand it is fair for him to have his own bed, after he checks off his nightly routine (brushing teeth, pajamas, etc.)
Tips to Keep in Mind
What if they use the nightmare excuse?
Sometimes, our kids get terrifying nightmares, and it is perfectly reasonable to let them crawl into their parents bed that night. However, we know that nightmares don’t happen every night. Make sure you acknowledge your child’s anxieties, and reassure them that you are nearby. But it is important for them to stay in their own bed.
What if they are acting out for attention?
During bed time, we love to cuddle and read to our children. They could be missing this during the day, so they act out at night to receive more of this attention. Make sure to offer extra comfort and cuddles during daytime so that they are receiving enough attention by the time night comes.
What if my child is older and already set in a routine of sleeping in my bed?
Older children respond better to discussions and rewards. I would suggest making a chart for them and each night they sleep in their own bed for longer amounts of time, they get a treat (privileges, sweets, or whatever works). Over time, this will become normalised, and they will grow used to their own bed.
Make sure to determine the right time to start implementing change into your child’s life. There should be nothing else going on (death of a family member or friend, etc.).
–Bribe your child at night to listen to you. Then he will know that this is a way to get what he wants. Instead, be firm but fair and say “back to your bed,” sticking with the established plan.
–Shout when you are frustrated. Children often seek safety in their parents’ room. Instead of shouting, speak monotone with urgency. If you remain calm, they will see that their temper tantrum will not work.
–Ignore them completely. Your child needs to feel listened to and acknowledged. If your child follows you immediately after you leave, try sitting in his room with him but do not fall asleep. I know it will be hard! But stay awake and try the phase-out method.
So there you have it! Some methods to end the overtired madness. Also, it is vital that each time your child listens and sleeps in his own bed that you praise him and tell him how proud you are.
Have any more questions or tips that worked for your children? Comment below.