Tips for getting your child to fall asleep alone.

PSP member tips for getting your child to fall asleep alone.

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A PSP member asks the PSP community:

"Just wondering if any of you have been in the situation where you had to stay in your toddler's bed with him/her until they fell asleep at night and found a way to get him/her to put herself to sleep?
I actually never minded it. I enjoyed the time relaxing together. But in the last week or so it takes him forEVER to fall asleep. It started a few days before the time change so it's not that. Now we aren't getting out of there until 9:30!
I have two friends who were in the same situation and they both said once their son turned 4 they started asking to put themselves to sleep.
I can't wait another year and a half!
Any tips on how to change things? I don't think I could stand CIO for this."

 

Summary:

 

Distract your child:

"I was recently in the same situation with my 3 year old. What worked for us was this "odd jobs" technique where you: lie down with your toddler, then say, "Oh, I have to go to the bathroom to brush my teeth/go to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher/ etc. for 5 minutes- Ill be right back". then, come back and snuggle them again for a few minutes and then do another "odd job," but be sure to tell them exactly where you'll be. Eventually the odd jobs can get longer and longer and my son started falling asleep on his own during an odd job. If he asks for you during an odd job, you can just say, "it will be another minute (or two or three)". Then, even if you think he has fallen asleep, go check on him in his bed.
Another thing I did after the whole odd jobs thing worked, was I just explained very simply and logically (to my toddler) that I was going to snuggle Henry right before bed, but then I was going into my bed and I would be close, but I wasn't going to snuggle him for a long time. Henry seems to understand this and it works now at night- he falls asleep on his own. But, we do have to turn out all the lights in our house and be very quiet (we live in a small apt)- so that he doesn't think he's missing out on something fun!"
Good luck!

 

Slowly break contact:

"I started by slowly breaking contact. I started sitting on his bed instead of laying with him till he fell asleep. Then sitting next to his bed, then slowly making my way towards the door. I would give each stage a few nights. I finally worked up to being in the other room where he couldn't see me but could hear me if he called out. After he got used to that, I would sneak out of the adjacent room and just listen for him on the monitor. I won't say it was a fast process, but we are able to read a story, kiss goodnight and leave the room now. Every night it seems like a miracle! I've also used the, "I have to go do (enter some chore) for a minute. I'll be right back." Like anything, it was a combination of techniques that worked on some nights and not others. Sometimes he still needs one more time of one of us coming in, but for the most part he's comfortable going to sleep alone now.
Let's hope I'm not jinxing myself!"


Establish parameters and patterns:

This is a hard transition.  Two useful things for us were (1) staying long enough to allow them to get settled, but having some parameter for when we would leave.  Usually we would play one lullaby song (or two -- as long as you are consistent) on their music player.  The first couple of nights did involve a lot of protest, but I popped my head in every few minutes to be reassuring, and they were not scared, just angry.  We did this when they were about two years old.  Until then we had always stayed and held their hands until they were asleep.  (2) These days if my daughter is having a hard time, I explain nicely that I would like to go to the kitchen (or somewhere else specific and close by) and say that she can call me if she needs me and ask if that is OK.  I was surprised this worked.  She was 2.5 when I tried it, and she frequently does call me after 5-10 minutes of quiet, but I feel she is learning to relax and stay quiet without me
there.  There's also a cute book, Lama Lama Red Pajama, that you might try reading together.

 

Assure your child you are nearby:

"I had the same problem and I was so tired I was falling asleep with my 3 years old boy. After the 3rd time this happened I just decided to do something. So I lay in bed with him, tell him 2 or 3 bed time stories of his choice and then say goodnight, kiss and leave. Got a lot of complaints the first and second night, went back and assured him I was very close to him on the couch reading a book. Some crying of course, but I just answered from the couch that everything was ok, and I was there. Now after the 3rd story he asks me to leave!"

 

Cry it out and close the bedroom door:

"Your child is testing you.  We used to read to our daughter and then stay on the floor next to her twin bed until she fell asleep.  We hated the routine beacuse we have that many hours during the night when we can unwind. Most times we were not done with the routine until 9- 9:30 PM.  When my mom was visiting she told us that the nanny puts her down for a nap, closes the door, and does not deal with all the fusiness. It took us few nights of just reading to her, kissisng good night and a lot of protesting, but now she falls asleep without an adult being next to her.  She was very upset initially, screamed and threw a big tantrum.  Everytime she got out of bed we put her back in, held the door closed and reasurred her that we'll do fun stuff in the morning. "

 

In contrast, one parent suggests to not close the bedroom door:

"My daughter is still young enough to be in a crib, so I have never been in her bed with her, but we definitely went through a phase of my not being able to leave until she was asleep. The big thing that I found was that it was about the physical doorway.  If I was just inside the doorway, that was fine.  But if I was outside the doorway, that was too far.  So I started just doing the exact same thing from outside.  Like I said, I was never in her bed, but I used to sing her to sleep.  I started singing just outside the doorway.  She would cry, but not in a paniced way (I couldn't do CIO.  I don't mind "I am not happy" crying, but I can't stand "OH MY GOD" crying) and only for a bit.  After that, we moved to having my husband and I sit in the den just outside of her door with the lights off and have a quiet conversation.  It let her know that we were still there, but in the background.  Over the course of a couple of weeks we moved further away. I think the big secret was that we never closed the door until she was deeply asleep.  That way there was always a little light and noise from another part of the house and she wasn't completely alone.  She is just about to turn two years old and, for the moment, she is going to sleep like a champ.  Of course there is still the pacificer to deal with and I realize that this is probably just as much a phase as the more challenging phases were.  Its only a matter of time until the next one..."

 

Don't give in:

"We too have to stay with our son until he is asleep. I fear that once you start, it is hard to go back. Our son used to be able to go on his own after a story or song. After we moved, to give him a sense of security, we started staying with him. Big mistake. He is now 4, and we are still there with him. I would recommend bringing him in later. Trust me I know how frustrating it can be sometimes. I seem to remember at around 2 and a half my son did the same thing."

 

Do a gentle version of "cry it out":

"I have always stayed with my daughter til she falls asleep.  She's turning four and I plan to keep doing it til she says she doesn't want me to.  She usually falls asleep within 10 minutes, but for a little while when she was still napping she would sometimes take a very long time to fall asleep.  I think this happened because she wasn't tired yet and didn't need to sleep yet!  It stopped happening completely when we dropped her nap.I say, enjoy the snuggles, don't worry about what "people" think, and if bedtime is getting too late, consider revising nap times and wake up times.
We recently went through this with our daughter (2.5 yrs).  She sleeps in her own bed, but someone would have to sit next to the bed until she falls asleep and most nights it took 30-60 minutes.  Also she would wake up in the middle of the night screaming for someone to come and we would have to stay until she falls asleep again.
So a couple of months ago, I finally just couldn't do it anymore.  We have a younger baby that was still waking up at night, so sitting with our toddler for an hour every evening and waking up to stay with her every night was just too much and I just couldn't function anymore.
So we did a combination of the "gentler" method and CIO.  For about two weeks, I started to move further and further away from the bed.  So for the first three days, instead of sitting next to her bed, I moved to the middle of the room.  Then for the next three days, I moved closer to the door.  Then three days at the door.  Then three days just outside the door.  I think this really prepared her for the final step.  The final step was basically me reading a couple of stories (which we always did), then a quick kiss, good night.  I told her that mommmy is very tired and will go to bed now and I just walked out.  The first night, she cried for quite a bit.  I had my husband go in to check on her periodically to make sure she was ok.  So the first night was very tough.  But second night, she cried only for a few minutes.  By third night, she went to bed without any problems.  Also she stopped looking for us in the middle of the night when she
wakes up, so we are all getting the sleep we need.
Before going through this process, I read the "Good night, Sleep tight" book which was very helpful for me.
At least for my daughter, I don't think it was possible to completely avoid crying, since it was changing a routine she was so used to for the last two years.  I think the process prepared her somewhat and reduced the crying.
Good luck.  Sleep training is just so hard."