As a pediatrician, one of the most common questions I get from my parents besides how to sleep train their newborn, is how to get their toddlers to sleep in their own beds.
Now, let me start by saying that the best way to get your toddler to sleep in their own beds is by training them to sleep in their own beds starting from infancy! (I know, I know should’ve told you that a few years ago right?)
But, if you’re already past that point DON’T WORRY! There’s still a way for you to get your toddler into their own bed and reclaim your sleep…. It won’t be easy, but hey most things in parenting aren’t. But trust me, it will definitely be worth it.
Lucky for you, I have the blueprint that will help you get your child into their own beds and you back into your blissful sleep (minus the little fists and feet in your back).
So, if you’re ready to learn how to improve sleep for the entire family and set the foundation for a lifetime of good sleep habits for your child, keep reading below…
Tip #1: Set the Stage
Transitioning from your bed to their own is a big transition for your little one. And just like with any other big transition it’s important to talk to them on their level and let them know what to expect.
You should let them know that from now on they will be sleeping in their big girl/boy beds and that that will be an expectation moving forward. The earlier you do this the better so that they know what’s coming and what to expect.
Tip #2: Develop A Relaxing and Consistent Bedtime Routine
Now, this tip is super important. No matter what age you are, (from infant to adults) a bedtime routine is so important when it comes to mentally
Your routine should last no more than 20-45 minutes and should include three to four low stimulation activities such as taking a bath, changing into pajamas and reading a story.
Remember not to include any activities that could be too stimulating for your toddler such as playing with toys, watching television or playing with cell phones or iPads.
While it might be tempting to give your little one an iPad to watch his or her favorite cartoon, this could set up an unhealthy cycle of negative sleep associations (which we will discuss more in the next tip).
It’s also exposing them to that nasty blue light we discussed in previous posts that can interfere with the body’s natural melatonin production.
Having the same bedtime routine every night will help the child connect the routine to going to sleep, and will help them to fall asleep more quickly and easily.
Tip #3: Create Healthy Sleep Associations
Speaking of connecting things to sleep, remember those sleep associations we talked about in Sleep training 101: A Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night, those things that kids associate with falling asleep? Well, they’re back! And more important than ever.
Now, if your toddler is currently sleeping in your bed, they probably have a sleep association between mommy and daddy and falling asleep. Unfortunately, that’s no good for you or their long-term sleep health and is what we call a negative sleep association.
What you have to work on is creating new, positive associations that don’t require mommy and daddy (or mommy and daddy’s bed).
The good news is that you have several more options available to you in terms of creating sleep associations with a toddler than you did when they were newborns as you no longer have to maintain a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) friendly environment
So, get creative! Some of the common positive sleep associations are a child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal or toy. As long as it’s safe, it’s okay!
Tip #4: Put Them to Bed and Leave The Room!
Now time to get down to business. For most parents, this will be the hardest part. But don’t worry you can do it!
After you’ve completed your soothing bedtime routine and your child has their new favorite positive sleep association, time to tuck them in, let them know that they will sleep in their bed tonight and you will sleep in yours and leave the room.
I have to warn you, this is where the battle will come in. There will probably be some crying, maybe even some kicking and screaming. But I warned you about this, so you’ll be prepared.
This just comes with the territory and no, it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible parent. It’s just how children adjust.
It is not harmful to a child to allow them to cry and lucky for you they are toddlers now so they have the mental maturity to calm themselves… and eventually, they will.
Until that happens, they will likely get out of bed and come into yours. It may be right away or several hours into the night.
This is when you have to garner that super parent strength that every parent has deep down inside and stand firm in your decision.
The best way to do this is by gently walking them back into their bedroom and putting them back into their beds.
Feel free to give them loving reassurances like “M
Also, be sure to keep the conversation brief with no back and forths, and
Be firm but gentle and remember DO NOT give in to the temptation to break those positive sleep associations you tried so hard to build. Meaning, no getting into bed with them, no allowing them to get into bed with you and no stimulating activities.
Simply put them back into bed and get back into yours. (Easier said than done right? I know, but remember this is for the best)
Now, there are some hardcore kids out there who won’t give up that easily. And that’s okay, it shows resilience!
There are several ways that you as a parent can deal with that. You can continue to walk them back into their rooms (and it will eventually work, I promise)
Or you can decide to take it up a notch and use a baby gate (like the ones you use to close off the stairs) to keep them in their rooms so that they have no choice but to get back into their beds like the one shown below:
Or you can use a handy dandy Door monkey
which is a door latch that allows the child to crack the door open but not open it completely and again serves the purpose of physically keeping your child in their rooms.
Again, neither of these methods are harmful to your child either psychologically or physically but just serve as a physical barrier. They
Tip # 5: Be CONSISTENT!!!
I cannot tell you enough how important it is to be consistent! Children learn very quickly and are wired to test their limits, which is okay because you set the limits and as long as you are consistent they will learn that pretty quickly.
So decide what day your toddler will start sleeping in their own beds, then have them sleep in their own beds. You have to make up your mind beforehand or your battle will be much longer than anticipated.
You also have to make sure that everyone in the household is on the same page so that you child doesn’t get inconsistent messages from different people.
No matter how many times you have to walk your child back to their beds, decide that you will do it and eventually it will become the new norm. Because hey, everything worth having is worth working hard for right?
Tip #7: Use Positive Reinforcement
Kids LOVE to be rewarded and praised for things so use that to your advantage! You can use sticker charts, treats in the morning, whatever you have up your sleeve!
Let them know how proud you are of them and that they are big boys/girls. They will be so happy about the reward and making you happy that they will be practically jumping in their beds at night.
Bonus tip: Be sure to set up a kid friendly sleep environment in their rooms. Let them pick out their sheets and decorations and try using a little light night like this one
if your little one is afraid of the dark. That way you have involved them in the process and alleviated some of the most common potential barriers.
So there you have it! 6 easy (well sorta) tips to get your toddler into their own beds and better sleep for the both of you. Remember you can do this and your toddler (and you) will be better off for it.
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