What was that? Oh a small foot kicked me in the head! We’ve all been there- somehow, some way our already walking toddler or preschooler ends up in our adult bed. As a parents of two sets of twins, my husband and I have been through all permutations this issue and learned the hard way: (finally…) we only let our kids in the bed if they are (really) sick…which means temperature, vomiting, (aka- we’re not really sleeping, we’re all up anyway). Sometimes the little ones walk (or run!) in all by their own little self, and sometimes out of sheer exhaustion, we offer the invitation. Either way, there is a solution. It all comes down to that one little parenting word we all know deep inside, but may find challenging to stick to: CONSISTENCY.
Here are Dr. Jen’s Tips!
1. Pick a good day to start. This may be a challenging experience! Make sure to choose a day where you have the best chance at some rest the following day.
2. Explain What’s Going To Happen. Before the bedtime routine (we’ll get to that), make a point to sit down with your little one and say something like this: “Mommy (and Daddy) have our room and our bed, and you have your room and your bed. We love you and love being with you. But, we all need a good night of sleep in our own room- Mommy (and Daddy) in our room, and you in YOUR room. “
3. Pick a consistent bedtime. Try your best to pick a sensible bedtime- taking in account your family’s schedule and your child’s age. For example, choosing a 7pm bedtime (and missing seeing a working parent) vs. an 8pm bedtime (and saying goodnight) is not necessary. Do what works- but do it regularly.
4. Choose a routine with your child. Every family has their own unique night-time wind down. For our children, it was baths, a bit of horsing around (tickling, silly chasing, rolling on the floor) followed by more quiet play/reading and- always- snuggles. Let your child guide you into what he/she loves- and use those cues to design a routine that’s best! Try and do your routine in a room outside of the child’s bedroom.
5. Put you child to bed: AWAKE. This is a key point in sleep training. Keep time in the bedroom to a minimum. Tell your child, “We’re going to bed now! Mommy in my bed, and you in your bed! I love you. We’re done with snuggles & tuck-ins now and I’ll see you tomorrow!” A kiss, a hug, a tuck in and then- LEAVE. Use a small nightlight if this comforts you child.
6. Don’t give in! It is incredibly hard when you are totally exhausted, isn’t it? Commit to consistency. If/when you child comes into your room, WITHOUT TALKING, either guide him/her back to the room, or carry him/her back into bed.
7. Keep it going. If your child comes back again (now this is the hard part!) keep it up. Again, WITHOUT TALKING, either guide him/her back to the room, or carry him/her back into bed. No talking, no kisses, no snuggles. It’s not easy! But this is the key- our 7th tip is the lucky one! If you can do this you are golden!
8. Praise your child. No matter how brutal the night was for you, praise your child by saying something like, “I am proud of you for trying to sleep in your own bed and we’re going to do this together again tonight”. Have a special treat, do a fun dance or art project, and celebrate his/her accomplishment together!
9. Expect Crying! This is one of those “this too shall pass” phases in parenting- expect a crying as your child becomes more comfortable with self-soothing. Each day will get better.
10. Give Yourself A Break. We’ve all been there- we’ve all done that! Pat yourself on the back.