Trips to the parent's bed: The night visitor
on 28th May 2013 |Has the patter of little feet running down the hall in the middle of the night or being poked awake by little arms and legs become a nightly habit in your home? If so, you should know that you are far from alone. Many toddlers seek out the comfort of their parent's beds in the middle of the night, and to their benefit it is a sign of their deep love and trust for you. You should also know that it is completely normal for you to allow your child to sleep in your bed or to sleep beside them in their own bed. |
Generally, there comes a time when parents feel that it necessary for their children to sleep in a bed of their own at night though. There are many different reasons for feeling this way and some questions you might want to consider are as follows: Are you, your partner, and your child all getting a good and comfortable night's sleep? If no one outside of your home knew about your sleeping habits would you still want to change them? Is your child climbing into bed with you each night affecting your intimacy with your partner? Are you trying to make this change in sleeping habits because it is what you or your partner want or are outside influences (relatives, well-meaning friends, grandparents) pressuring you to make a change? If tonight your child magically spent the night in their own bed without you having to do anything to encourage it how would you feel? Would you be happy, sad, depressed, or anxious? Why does your child seek you out in the middle of the night? Is it simply habit or is it something more complex like night terrors or separation anxiety?
Once you have pondered these questions with your partner you can plan a course of action. You may want to set a goal of having your child sleep in their own bed within a set period of time, or you may want to go ahead and start taking actions to accomplish your goal more quickly. There are several different steps that you can take on your journey to having your child sleep in their own bed the whole night through.
Keep in mind that there is no one size fits all solution to this problem, just as there is no "right" age or time for your child to stop sleeping with you. You can choose to make gradual changes to get your child to sleep in their own bed, or you can take a couple of big steps to get you there faster. Make sure to consider your child's reaction to change before you decide which route to take.
If you are trying for a gradual approach and you don't mind your toddler sleeping in your room, but want them to stay out of your bed make a space for them in your room. This can be in a toddler bed or simply a pallet on the floor. Just give them their own place to sleep, and if they crawl into bed with you in the middle of the night gently place them back in their space. Remind them quietly that they are to sleep there. It is perfectly acceptable for you to sit with them or rub their back until they fall back asleep.
Another approach is to shift snuggle time from the middle of the night to the mornings. Establish new boundaries where your toddler sleeps in their own bed at night, but is allowed to come snuggle in the bed with you and your partner after the sun comes up. If "when the sun comes up" is a little early for you there is another method you can try. Try setting an alarm with white noise or light classical music and tell your toddler that when they hear that they can come and get in your bed. If they wake-up before they hear the music they need to go back to sleep or play quietly in their room until they do.
Some parents choose to let their toddler sleep in the bed with them on the weekends if they sleep in their own beds all week. To accomplish this they use a calendar and stickers to mark the days of the week they sleep in their own bed, and then a different kind of sticker or design so that they can see when the weekend is here. This may work well for some children, but it should be noted that many children may find this method too confusing. They are unable to understand why sometimes it is okay and other times it is not.
If you are hoping to have your child sleeping in their own bed through the night quickly then you may need to resign yourself to a few sleepless nights. As you begin your bedtime routine tell your child that she is a big girl and that you expect her to stay in her bed all night. You can tell her that when she climbs in bed with you it wakes you up and makes you feel tired the next day. Every time she gets out of bed and climbs into yours take her gently by the hand and place her back in her own bed. Tell her that it is bedtime and she needs to sleep in her own bed like a big girl. Remember that you have to do this every time she climbs into your bed, you can't give in after four or five tries or you will have to start all over again the next night. It may take several days before she sleeps in her own bed all night but she will get there.
Having your child snuggle in the bed with you is a precious experience, but particularly as they get larger and take up more room, there comes a time when they need to sleep in their own bed. How long the process of getting them to sleep in their own bed takes depends largely on the method you choose and the individual child. Stick with your plan and be patient and soon you will all be getting a better night's sleep.
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