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This post is brought to you by Sara Crytzer of Curious Little Kid. See her bio at the end of the article!
When he was an infant, I savored the little moments of quiet bliss when my little guy laid his head down quietly next to me while we drifted off to sleep. “Sleep sharing,” as it is often referred to in parenting journals, is a natural practice between a mother and baby. When mothers sleep next to their babies it establishes a bond of trust and intimacy.
They grow up so quickly, don’t they? Night after night, I was battling feet burrowing under my back, getting kicked in the face and perpetually finding myself sleeping in a tiny corner on the bed. By his second birthday, our sleeping arrangement was becoming less than desirable. It was time for a change.
Tired of Being Tired
When my son turned 2-years-old, the time felt right to encourage him to start sleeping in his own bed. Only one catch- he wasn’t having it. The idea of sleeping in his own bed was met with complete opposition, screaming and tantrums. I began questioning what was worse – sleepless nights or stressful evenings?
Every night for about a year, I would begin our night time routine with a couple books, turn out the light and then lay down next to my son until he fell asleep; which took anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I would then sneak out into my own bed where I would enjoy feet free sleep… for about 3 hours, or however long it took him to find his way back into my bed. Honestly, I thought it was something he’d grow out of. However, after a year of it, I was growing increasingly tired of being tired.
At nearly 3-years-old, he had certainly outgrown the little spot I had once reserved for him as an infant. I spent some time researching the “sleeping in your own bed” issue and was surprised to see it was a popular issue among parents of young children. I was also a little nervous when I found out there was no easy or quick solution. Nonetheless, it had come to a point where sleeping in separate beds was the right decision for both of us. We both needed our sleep!
It took three long, crazy, tearful nights (and a lot of willpower on both ends) to get him to finally stay (and sleep) in his own bed by himself.
Before you Begin
Are YOU ready for your child to start sleeping in their own bed? It takes commitment. Just a warning: it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better! Pick a weekend you can commit to imposing the new sleeping routine to. There’s a good chance you (and your child) may have a couple terrible nights of sleep; plan accordingly. Keep in mind, the reward (a good nights sleep) is worth the effort!
4 Tips for Getting Kids to Sleep in Their Own Bed
1. Give them them a pep talk.
Getting your child to sleep in their own bed in a process that begins at least a few days before they’ll transition into their own bed. Lay out your expectations and build up their confidence. Try remarking about what a “big girl/boy” they are and how exciting it is that they’ll be sleeping in their own bed. Explain the new bedtime routine.
Instead of laying down with my son until he fell asleep, he was allowed to pick out three books we would read together before bedtime. It has been and continues to be a good way to spend quality time together in the evening and settle down before bed.
2. Gather the right tools.
Identify your child’s fears about bedtime. Maybe it’s sleeping in the dark, monsters, or just being alone in general. Gather some stuffed animals, a favorite blanket and a trusty night light. You can also get them excited by introducing new sheets or even a new “big girl/boy bed” (you can even let them help pick it out).
Before my son would go to bed, we sprayed his room with some homemade “Monster Spray” (a small generic spray bottle with a homemade label filled with water) and assured him that this particular spray was guaranteed to keep any and all monsters away; he absolutely loved it. We started with a small lamp, transitioned to a fish tank light and recently moved onto a regular night light.
3. Tough love – stick with it!
There is no quick and easy way to transition them into sleeping in their own bed. For most children, there will be a few terrible night of crying and getting out of bed.
On our first attempt, I must have put him back in bed at least a couple dozen times. He even tried sleeping in the hallway outside our door. I was tired, he was tired but I stuck with it and continued to place him back in his bed. My heart broke every time my son cried out “mommy.” I had to remind myself that while he may have been afraid, he was safe. This is where it gets tough.
The first time they get out of bed pick them up, remind them they’ll be sleeping in their own bed, give them a kiss and place them back in bed. Any time after that (there may be MANY times), pick them up and place them back in their bed without saying anything.
4. Give Praise
When your child has made it through a night in their bed by themselves make sure you show how proud you are! Some parents reward their children with small prizes, others with simple praise, but you have to figure out what works for you and your child. Surely, your little one with feel such a sense of pride in themselves for sleeping in their own bed.
Even after you’ve established a consistent routine, you might find little midnight wanderers finding their way back into your bed. If you’re serious about them sleeping in their own bed, I would strongly suggest putting them back in their own beds; no matter how tempting it is to snuggle up next to them! Save it for the morning when everyone wakes up after a good nights sleep. For the first few months the decision to sleep independently takes commitment so they have an understanding or clearly defined boundaries and rules.
Remember, the choice to have your child sleep in their own bed should come when you’re ready.
Sara Crytzer recently took a leap from a career in early childhood education to pursue a her passions as a work-at-home mompreneur. Using what she’s learned as an early childhood educator, Sara blogs about her dabblings in crafts, parenting issues, photography, health, and recipes. One of her biggest passions is providing hands on education that develops mind, body and soul. For lesson plans, parenting tips, seasonal crafts and more visit www.CuriousLittleKid.com