Do your kids prefer to sleep in your bed, instead of their own? Here's six tips to help them adjust to their own bed.
Tip #4: Start with Baby Steps
You may need to start with baby steps in order for this new transition to be as least stressful as possible.
It may not be reasonable to demand that a child who's accustomed to sleeping in your bed suddenly stay in her own room all night. So try making the separation more gradual. Sleep expert Professor James J. McKenna is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant cosleeping in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS. McKenna says, "Some parents have told me that they've had their children sleep alongside their bed in a sleeping bag. Or decide that they can have 15 minutes in your bed and then they go back."
The sleeping bag is the way I got my two co-sleepers to stay out of our bed and eventually get back to theirs. I kept it on the chaise lounge and told my son that if he did come into our bedroom, he would have to sleep in the sleeping bag beside our bed, not in the bed. Both my kids loved this, and felt they had the best of both worlds, access to mom and dad and a fun place to camp out. We didn’t want it to be too much fun, however, so we limited it to only a couple of weeks while implementing the rest of our middle of the night routine.
Putting night lights in the room can help make it not as scary. Some parents have had great success by also giving them a flashlight that they can keep close to their beds.
Dr. Owens suggests instead of simply telling your child not to get out of bed, teach her how to fall back asleep. Tell them to stay in bed, close their eyes, and think about something fun, like what they want to do on their birthdays. Giving them something to think about is a great tool to help them fall back asleep.
Tip #5: Have a Consistent Middle of the Night Plan
Like with any new habit, consistency is key. So now that you’re committed to seeing this through, create a plan in advance, like when you’re awake and can think reasonably, rather than at 2 AM when your child pays you a visit.
Like with any new habit, consistency is key.
Your plan might be something like this:
When your child enters your room in the middle of the night, get up, give her a hug and walk her back to her room.
Tuck her back under her covers. Pat her back for a few seconds, tell her to think of something relaxing like playing in the yard with mommy and daddy, and tell her you’ll see her in the morning for a yummy breakfast.
Leave the room and go back to your own bed, alone.
Be prepared for resistance, crying, whining and deal making from your child. This is when you need to stay strong and invest in this commitment.
If she tries to come back after all of this, gently escort her back to bed and repeat what you’ve just done.
If your child has been sleeping in your bed for weeks or months now, you’ll have to expect that this is going to take some time. It took me over three weeks to get my daughter to sleep in her own bed throughout the night, and many nights were long and sleepless, but we stuck with it and finally, she stayed put all night long.
Tip #6: Praise Progress the Next Morning
By nature, kids are people pleasers especially when it comes to pleasing their parents. How’d it go last night? If no progress was made and it was the never-ending night that brought you both to tears, give a pleasant reminder at breakfast about the new rules and that you’ll be trying again tonight.
If any small gains were made, he stayed in his own bed for 10 minutes after you tucked him in again, praise him for his efforts and let him know how proud you are of him for this accomplishment. Don’t dwell on what he’s not doing yet, focus on any positive gain he made.
Janie Peterson, author of The Sleep Fairy, suggests letting your child pick a small "sleep treat" from a grab bag in the morning or leave one under his pillow. This little incentive should only be used if he is actually making some progress, however.
It may take more than one tactic to entice your child into his bed. But whatever you do, be consistent and don’t fall back into the habit of letting your child back into your bed once you’ve invested all the time, energy and effort to make it happen. Your reward will be the entire family getting a healthy night’s sleep.
How have you helped your child stay in his own bed for the entire night? Share your thoughts in the Comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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