You finally got your baby to sleep six hours straight through the night. Yay, no more sleepless nights and the worst is really over, right? Well, if you’re one of the lucky ones. Though you may be in the clear for some time, it’s very common for toddlers to start climbing into your bed. That means you may be working the graveyard shift all over again, trying to train your child to sleep alone. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 24% of parents still have children sleeping in their beds for at least part of the night.
Get Your Child to Sleep Alone with These 7 Tips
Train Early: A crib is a great tool to train your child to sleep alone. He won’t be able to get out of bed whenever he wants to play or wander to your room. As much as possible, you want to avoid turning bedtime into a game or a power struggle. You can try getting your child into a consistent sleep routine before transitioning to a toddler bed.
Bedtime Rituals: There are many benefits to setting routines for your child. For example, your routine may involve bathing, brushing teeth, reading a book, then winding down for sleep. It’s whatever process works for your family. Establishing a routine will help your child understand time and the rhythm of the day.
Minimize Exposure to Light: Studies have shown that melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles by making you feel sleepy, lasts 90 minutes less when a person is exposed to light before bedtime. So, it’s important that you dim any lights in your kid’s room and even in the hallway. Also, don’t allow them any screen time an hour before bedtime.
Their Room, Not Yours: If your child simply refuses to sleep without you, it’s better to sleep in their room, not yours. This is so they get to be comfortable in their room and bed, rather than yours. Instead of snuggling up in their bed with them, sit beside them until they fall asleep. You can even have a mat or sleeping bag ready in their room for longer nights.
Baby Steps: Some children will learn to sleep on their own pretty easily. But parents shouldn’t worry if their kids are having a harder time—it’s actually pretty common. You may need to slowly wean your child from needing you to fall asleep. When they’re tucked in, tell them you are going to brush your teeth and you’ll be right back. If they manage to stay in bed, start increasing the time you are gone night after night. If they keep getting out of bed while you’re gone, bring them back and wait until they nod off. You can always try the same routine the next evening.
Encouragement and Consistency: As difficult as it may be at times, you want to try to keep an encouraging, positive tone with your child. That way, your child doesn’t become resentful or rebellious about bedtime. You can even incent them with stickers or a treat the next morning. It may seem like bribery, but just think of it as positive reinforcement. Whatever strategy you choose, be consistent so they know you mean business.