It is likely in the first year, your child sleeps with you as it offers convenience in terms of nursing or simply, the baby sleeps better when being close to parent. However, at some point, parents need to regain their own bed. This usually happens around toddler age for most families, where the child may no longer be nursing or another sibling is coming along.
Getting your toddler to sleep in her own bed may be fraught with challenges, the top ones being:
(i) crying and pleading from the child and
(ii) frequent jumping into parents’ bed in the middle of the night.
The likely scenario is the more the parents give in, the longer is the process to have the child sleep in her own bed. Let’s explore ten handy tips parents can use!
1. Transition in Stages
If your child has been sleeping in your bed, you may want to transition in stages by first sleeping on a separate bed before being in a separate room. The idea is to increase the distance gradually for the child to build up his security of being away from his parents.
2. Praise each Baby Step
Parents are likely not going to have the best sleep in the beginning. However, if your child is able to sleep longer in his own bed or have increased the ‘sleep’ distance between parent and child, it is praise-worthy. A reward chart can also be implemented to reward each step! Remember to communicate positively with your child on this, instead of using shaming language or punishment.
3. Be Consistent
It is important to stick to the desired progress. Avoid being inconsistent whereby the child gets to sleep with you some nights, while they are banned, reprimanded or punished for doing so on other nights. Have a bedtime routine for your child and resist skipping steps as your child may wake up asking you to read that book you missed.
4. Same Tune for Both Parents
Both mom and dad have to stick to the same desired ‘game plan’ that you have designed and decided on to get your child to bed. Avoid sabotaging one parent’s effort to get the child to sleep on his own by saying ‘It’s OK, you can sleep tonight.’ or worse, ‘I know it’s tough, Mom/Dad has been too strict.’
5. Help your Child to Fall Back Asleep
It is expected that your child will get up during the night (be realistic on this, since adults get up in middle of night too!), thus the other part is helping your child to learn to fall back asleep on his own. The bedtime routine can be shortened to a quick tuck-in and goodnight kiss.
6. No Pressure, No Rush
Some parents feel pressured to get the child to sleep in her own bed, after all, didn’t Couple A, B and C just rave about how much time they have to themselves without their children in their bed? Didn’t your BFF say you absolutely have to sleep with your spouse in order to secure your marriage? However, each marriage and family is different and there’s no pressure. Moreover, having your child who is toilet trained before sleeping in her own bed also have advantages, at least she can potty at night and no diaper change is required.
7. Night Light
Even if your child is not scared of the dark, he may need some lights in order to find his potty or to get a sip of water. Buy a fun night light that can be installed at a height for your toddler and one that is easy to use. Do not use the TV as a source of light, it should not even be in the bedroom.
8. Safety is Priority
Ensure that the bed is safe and that there is still a way for you to hear and attend to your child if he is hurt and truly needs help. If your child is fond of wondering into the kitchen in the middle of the night, do install safety gate.
9. Fear Not
Some children may wake up many times at night due to nightmares or fears. Find out what these are and help your child overcome his fear. Try buying a stuff toy that will protect the child and see if that works. Some parents buy a few stuff animals, each representing a different family member that protects the child!
10. Be Patient
It is a big step for your child, but take heart, your child will not be in your bed forever. Expect crying and many rounds of putting your child back to bed. There are many experts who warn of side effects of babies left to cry it out. However, it is different as your child is older (toddler) and knows that you are around and helping him to sleep (although in his own bed). Be patient, loving and reassuring throughout the day.
Bedtime is a time to rest and enjoy family warmth, look forward to that daily whichever sleep arrangement you decide on.