Whilst many families remain happy to co-sleep with their children at all stages of development, others find that it’s not restful or sustainable. A Sydney-based sleep expert has revealed some simple tricks parents can use to get their children to stay in their own beds at night.
Getting your child to sleep in their own bed (and stay there!) is possible with a few strategies a considerable amount of patience.
Cheryl Fingleson of Cheryl the Sleep Coach coaches families who are eager to establish young children in their own beds. She says ‘It’s crucial that parents establish a routine that will put a stop to the late-night migration and the spare-bedroom-musical-bed-palaver that so many households face.’
Here are some expert tips to cope with the transition.
How to get your child to sleep in their own bed
Talk it through before hand
Explain to your child (in age appropriate language) what will happen when they wake and come into your bed in the middle of the night. Let them know, clearly and gently, that they will be put back in their own room.
Repeat and emphasise this information several times during the day so that it’s not a massive shock at night-time.
Let them play in their room during the day
A child’s bedroom often becomes a night-time only venue if all they do there is sleep. This can lead to them associating it with being alone or being in the dark.
By allowing them to spend an hour or so in there a day, they’ll begin to relax and associate it with positive things. Make sure you spend daylight quality time in there together, and consult your child on some aspects of the room like the choice of wall colour or the purchase of a new night light. ‘Soothing nightlights can be a big help for anxious children who are scared of the dark and come though to escape it’ Cheryl Fingleson says.
Play it out
Try role playing the scenario with your little one. Choose a calm, daytime moment to “pretend” that its night-time and to tuck them back into their big boy or girl bed. Emphasise that this is what is going to happen from now on, regardless of the time of day.
Listen to your child
Listen to what your child says when you put them to bed. They will tell you why they are coming to your room. Try not to have any negative talks. Always have happy chats or read a happy book before bedtime. If your child says it is too dark, get a night light. If thy prefer the door open that is ok. Solve these problems during the day to put your youngster at ease.
Their bed and your bed
Explain to your child that their special big bed belongs to them and mum is not allowed to sleep in their bed. Mum has her own bed which is especially for her.
Don’t be tempted to let them sleep in your bed in the early morning (even for a cuddle), young children can not tell the time and they will start coming to your bed earlier and earlier.
Consistency is key to get your child to sleep in their own bed
Routine is very important for young children, and a new one is likely to fail if you start something but don’t carry it through.
Like most big changes, things take time. Allow up to three weeks for the change to take hold and do not stray from your resolve. If your son or daughter throws a tantrum and ends up back in your bed after the second night, they’ll know you never really meant business.
Remain calm and be supportive to get your child to sleep in their own bed
For some little ones, the first few nights alone in a big bed might induce a bit of separation anxiety in your child, or even some rather upsetting tantrums. In these emotional moments children don’t readily process instruction or rational thought and so you don’t need to say much. ‘I’m close,’ or ‘you are safe,’ are simple and supportive words that you might try as you remain close by.
It’s important to remain patient and consistent. If you stick to this you’ll find your little ones consistently becoming calmer about you leaving and more able to fall asleep easily. This will ultimately lead to your child developing good sleep habits.
Make sure you take care of yourself as well
Believe it or not, this like any major milestone in your child’s life, can have an impact on the parents and carers too. If your child cries or becomes fearful you may find it impacting you in unexpected ways, and it may induce powerful feelings of mummy guilt or worry. Note these feelings down and talk them through with the good listeners with friends, family or a support group.
Cheryl Fingleson advises all her clients to take charge of their children’s wellness and embrace good sleep habits. Teaching little ones to stay in their own bed is a common struggle amongst parents. “’t’s important to know that some tantrums at bedtime, night waking and wanting to come into your bed are all normal behaviours. But it’s the adult’s response that can change the outcome,’ says Fingleson. ‘If you feel stuck and you are looking for some sleep solutions, there are plenty of online and in-person resources available. Its important that you get the help you need to cope with this critical family milestone.’