Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting Your 2 Year Old to Sleep in His Own Bed ( with ease)

May 18, 2012
UPDATE::  Natey has been sleeping in his bed easily and comfortable for a couple months now.  He likes his "big boy" bed, as he lovingly calls it.  Things are much much better than I expected them to be at this point.  He is sleeping through the night consistently now on his own for the last 2 weeks.  After lying down with him in dim lighting and reading a few books, and then telling him what's going to happen next after each step... "ok last book and them I am turning the lights out".  The little twilight turtle is on giving off just very very little light... sometimes we have light sleep music in the background, sometimes none.  I snuggle with him about 5 minutes and usually just kiss him and tell him goodnight.  I purposely have been leaving while he is still awake.  He doesn't like this and tells me "no and to get back in bed with him".  I calmly tell him "now it's bedtime, I'll see you in the morning and I will leave the door open for you".  He very rarely fusses for more than about 20 seconds now.  As soon as I'm gone he pretty much stops.  A couple of times when we first started this he came out of his room, but I just take him back and put him back in bed without talking saying much or giving too much positive reinforcement.  It really works nicely.  I must say I am shocked that it has been working... but it's great!  I think kids KNOW if you mean it or not.  You have to stick to your guns and be consistent, or they will take advantage of your weakness.  If he actually cried or fussed often I would just go in every 5 minutes for a reassuring pat and tell him he's ok and that it's bedtime.  I never really needed to do it... he just goes to sleep. yayayaya!


Original Post:

The amount of hours I used to spend researching the best ways to get my baby to sleep in his crib with the least trauma was crazy.  I thought I had finally got it down to a beautiful system that was working just about perfectly for nearly a year.  Ah but eventually it all changes.  Mounting paranoia of him eventually climbing out of his crib right at the exact same time I was nursing a newborn in another room with a debilitating c section has spurred me to get it done now.  Because of the new baby on the way we switched him out of his crib last month to give us a little time to deal with the transition now while we have the stamina.  After contemplating the toddler bed... I decided with the help of my amazing parents and our neighbors who donated a sweet loft bed with a twin mattresses.  This thing is so cool... copied from the Kura bed at Ikea (see pics below) but better because up one side is the stairs and the other side has option to put a slide.  It will be so fun to see my little guys enjoying their bunk beds as they get older.  We made it such a cool little reading nook with lights and stars and pockets for books.  The most comfortable blankets, sheets and pillows of course win out over character sheets anything in our house.  It's now been a month of turning off the lights after the last book is read and looking at the stars from his twilight turtle. We've opted to lay down and chill with him till he falls asleep.  Knowing this will need to change at some point though because as our pediatrician pointed out last week at his 2 year check up -- he is waking up at 4am ish 3 x's a week and needs one of us to go back in there and lay down with him to fall back asleep. "This cycle will continue until you get him to go to sleep on his own" Doc said. She urged us to get it together before this baby is here because it's going to be hard.  Ugh.. so much harder now since he calls for you "mama mama mama".  Real, full tears rolling down the face.  Damn I just can't do it.   Sparing the details for now...I have basically been following Supernanny techniques on this... but I loved this women's reply on a post I found on BabyCenter.  The Goodnight Moon analogy hits home nicely since he loves that book so much.  Hope this helps if anyone is going through the same thing.

Reply to post:  by   ( found this on babycenter)


  First, I have seven kids so I have a lot of experience getting them to sleep in their own beds. :-)  I know that this age can be difficult (I had 2 ADHD kids, tell me about it!) but that doesn't mean that you have to use harsh methods to teach them how to sleep alone. 
What worked for me was to put them in bed and sit down in a chair in the room with them with only a reading light on.  I either read to them (stories without pictures, so they wouldn't keep their eyes open), sang to them, or just sat and entertained myself by doing needlework or reading a book to myself or just humming softly. They were free to wiggle around as long as they didn't get out of bed.  If they did, I just put them back in bed gently and sat with them until they calmed down and started over.  Sometimes I talked to them in a quiet voice about their day, their favorite foods, their favorite TV characters. (you love Elmo, don't you? Who else do you like? Blue? Big Bird? Dora? Diego? Boots?)  Sometimes I told them a story from memory like The Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This worked especially well once they became really familiar with the story, so they weren't listening to find out what was going to happen, they just liked the familiar words.  The key is to keep their minds occupied so their bodies can start to relax. Keep your voice very mellow and low and don't let yourself get frustrated or anxious, because that will make your child more alert. 
After they got used to falling asleep with me there, I would do it with the door open.  Then I would do the story and/or song and then find excuses to leave the room while my child was still half awake, reassuring them that I would be right back. (I just have to put this book in the living room, I'll be right back!  I just have to run to the bathroom, I'll be right back!  I have to get something, just a minute.)  I would make plenty of noise (not loud, but enough that they could tell where I was) so they would be less likely to follow me to see where I went.  If they did follow me, I would just put them back and we would practice staying in bed with me in the room for a few more days and try again.  YES, it is a time consuming practice, but the idea is to help your child make good associations with bedtime so they will become comfortable with going to sleep on their own.  Eventually they will get used to the idea and forget how things used to be, but that does require TIME and PATIENCE on the parents' part.  For a child who needs extra physical contact, sitting on the foot of the bed or even right next to them while you read, talk or sing may be necessary in the beginning, then as they get used to being in their own room you can transition to the chair, then to leaving and returning, then eventually you will be able to just read the story, say goodnight and they will go to sleep on their own.
When I think about putting little ones to sleep, I always think of the "quiet old lady whispering 'hush'" in the Goodnight Moon story ....its an image of an adult staying with a child until they started to fall asleep, going through a bedtime routine (saying goodnight to everything in the room), then leaving when the child was ready to nod off.  You could see by the pictures that it took some time, the fire had slowly died down before it was over, making the room gradually darker. :-)  Yes, this is just a storybook, but I decided that this was going to be my personal goal.
I have to admit, I have used harsh methods myself in the past, I tried CIO, I tried swatting them or threatening them if they got out of bed. I was the hallway police for a long time, standing outside bedroom doors and growling threats at naughty children who would not go to sleep.  I even did the "don't look at them, don't talk to them, just put them back in bed" thing. It was MISERABLE, and I hated every minute of it. It made me dread nighttime and resent my own children.  I was so relieved when I started finding more gentle, respectful ways to get them to bed. I don't try to FORCE my kids to go to sleep, I try to find ways to HELP them go to sleep. It works 100 times better, even though it takes more time for some kids.  I'm not looking for a quick fix, I'm trying to do what is healthiest and most respectul for my kids. Sometimes that means that I have to give up my evenings for a few weeks... or even longer.  I don't regret it at all. 
I'm 42 years old, and most of my kids have been going to bed on their own for years (I still have a 4yo and 2yo to work with)  I did not lose anything vitally important during those time I spent helping my kids learn to sleep, and I believe that I invested some very important things in them by giving them my love, time and patience in this area.  Life goes by a lot more quickly than you think, and before you know it your kids will be grown up and gone. Take it from someone who has been there.  My oldest is almost 22, and I still remember fighting with him when he was a toddler about going to bed.  Looking back, it seems like such a sad use of my time, it would not have killed me to just spend a little more time and effort to help him learn gently. I feel stupid for thinking that if I didn't make him do it, he would "never learn", and I would never sleep again. :-P  If I could go back and do it over, I would take my little boy in my arms, kiss his curly head and spend as much time as it took to help him learn how to fall asleep.  I turned something that could have been pleasant and sweet into something bitter and regretful because I would not be patient.  I will not make that mistake with my youngest two.
Just some thoughts from an old veteran mom.  

original post:

I'll post pics of his bed soon! But here is the similar one we copied form Ikea... we blocked off the stairs with a dresser so he doesn't even know that there is an option to sleep up there or climb up there yet.  The mattress is right on the floor which is great in that if he rolls out of bed he rolls onto a body pillow.  The hard part is my big pregnant self getting up off of the floor when sneaking out of his room when he's asleep.  It's hard and hurts my back.  If I have another C-section it will for sure be impossible for a few months.  just sayin.

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