Please watch my video on how to get your toddler out of your bed (and sleeping in his/her own).
To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question is from Tasha. She writes:
“Anthony is 17 months old and still sleeps in my bed. I try putting him in his crib once he is asleep, but he will end up waking up at 2:00 or 3:00 AM and coming back to our bed. I can probably count the times he has slept through the night in his crib on one hand. Lately, he does not go to bed until really late, sometimes 10:00 or 11:00 PM. It is like he is waiting for us to go to sleep. I am expecting our second child in July and really want to get him into his own crib. Any suggestions?”
I get a lot of questions and calls from people when they are expecting a second baby, because they are realizing that they are going to be up in the night a lot with their newborn and also with their toddler. I think now is a good time to start making some changes; you’ve got a couple months, so you should be able to get those problems solved before your new baby comes. I would consider Anthony a toddler, so he has really got those habits in place and he probably knows what to do, to get his own way. Making changes can be a little trickier because toddlers tend to be more persistent in what they want, but it is definitely something that can be done.
If you want him in his own room, which it sounds like you do, I would start working on that and I think the crib is the way to go. I know a lot of people think, “Well, he has never really slept in his crib. Maybe we should just move him to a bed. He seems to like the bed. Maybe the bed is better option.” It is not; he just likes your bed. He is not going to care half as much about his own bed and really, for his age, he needs to be in a crib. It is the safest place for him to be.
I recommend starting with looking at his bed time routine. You haven’t written much about what his schedule looks like, but it does sound like he goes to bed very late. I am not sure what time he is waking up in the morning or when he is napping but here is a possible schedule. If he wakes around 7:00AM and is napping once a day around 12:30PM until about 2:00 or 2:30PM, then he should be going to bed by 7:00 or 7:30PM. If bedtime is anything past 8:00PM your toddler is going to catch a second wind and then they get a renewed burst of energy. If they were tired and then pushed through their tiredness, they will then be overtired. With toddlers that looks exactly like hyperactivity. They appear energetic and are often in a great mood but also a little wired and then it is harder to get them to go to sleep.
I am guessing on the nights that he is going to bed at 10:00 or 11:00PM, it is more case of being over tired and now; the second wind is kicking and he is really ready to go.
Start bedtime with a nice half-hour or so routine. I am not exactly sure how he gets himself to sleep at bedtime, but it sounds like one of you lies down with him until he falls asleep and then you try to leave for a little bit. If that is the case, he definitely has created an association between being with you and sleep. I’m not sure if he has any other prop or uses nursing, bottle feeding or a pacifier to fall asleep. If so, all of those things should be eliminated as well. No point in replacing one problem with another. A good routine is to give him a 10-minute bath, get his pajamas on and brush his teeth. Then go into his room for story time in a chair or even on pillows on the floor in a little story corner. Read two or three books together and then it’s time for bed and into the crib he goes. Kiss him goodnight and turn off the lights.
He is seems parent-dependent when it comes to sleep, so I think it would be too much of a transition to just leave the room. That might be really anxiety-causing for him because he is so used to your presence while he sleeps. I would have one of you sit in a chair, in the room with him, beside his crib. If he is standing, try laying him down a few times and if he is not responding well or staying down, just let him stand. If he crawls around the crib a little, you can try coaxing him down by patting the mattress and saying, “Anthony lay down, it’s nighty-night”. You can also do a little bit of careful touch. If he does lie down say “Thank you for lying down.” and give him a few pats or stroke his cheek a little. Be careful not to allow him to fall asleep with patting because that too, would just be replacing one problem with another. Stay until he is asleep; however long that takes.
If it is a really long time, you can try switching off with your partner. Maybe you stay for 15 minutes and then your partner comes in for 15 and then you can alternate back and forth. It is a tough job to be the only one that sits in the room with the child. It can be really exhausting physically and emotionally, so use your partner as much as you can. If a child’s focus is always Mom in the night, letting Dad take a turn at being the one who stays present while you make this transition, is a good idea. I find that nine times out of 10 this transition goes a lot better for Dad. He might initially be less happy to see dad in the night but I have found that the results come about a lot faster. If you are in the room he might sort be fussing and whining and it could on for 45 minutes. With Dad in the room, Anthony may be pretty upset initially, but he is likely to go back to sleep in 10 minutes.
Let your partner take turns with this because you do want Anthony to know that these are the new rules and they apply to Mom and Dad, as well as a baby sitter or grandma. That way, regardless of who the person putting him to bed is, the rules are the same. The stay-in-the-room method is outlined in the book in more detail but in program. In general, you are going to stay for three nights by his crib and then move four or five feet further for a few nights. Be less interactive and do a little less touching when you move; you can still go over to the crib, but then go back to your chair. After three nights move closer to the door and then, depending on how things are going by night 10, try leaving altogether. Just come back every five or 10 minutes if he is still uncomfortable or just sit slightly out of view for a couple of nights. It’s a slow transition from being in the room to being slightly out of view, to all the way out.
You should handle night waking exactly the same. One of you goes in sits in the chair with no changes or surprises, for every night waking until morning. I would not consider morning anything before 6:00 AM. Hang in there until least 6:00 AM and get up and start your day with him.
You might notice that because it is a fairly substantial change to his bedtime or night time environment, that he needs a little more cuddling during the day or a little more attention from you and just lay it on thick. Be really supportive and understanding that he is going through fairly major change to his sleep habits and be as supportive as you can throughout the day. Once he is sleeping better and well rested, that will resolve itself.
Also, one little side note. When the new baby arrives, you might find that you go through a week or two of regression with Anthony. He might be protesting bed time or begin fighting you when you start your routine. Those are all in response to the new baby. I know it is a tricky situation because you want to be supportive and understanding of the fact that he is going through another new change. However, if you let boundaries shift and slide all over the place, it will ultimately make him feel even more insecure. You want to be really clear with boundaries surrounding bed time and do not budge from routines or bedtime. If you start letting him know that things are random and depend on his mood, he knows he can get whatever he wants. . After the new baby arrives try to schedule an hour in the day where it is just the two of you, to really give him the attention he is looking for, without letting that affect his bed time.
I wish you the best of luck with this and good luck with your new baby!
Thanks Tasha and sleep well.
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