The moment when your child should start to sleep alone (if she was used to sleeping with you), is always an arduous task. She won’t understand that it is a way to become more independent. She will probably believe that she is abandoned, punished for something or that you don’t love her anymore.
Anyway, this is not something you should solve when your child is sleepy and tired. The better option is to find an adequate moment during daytime cuddles and start to talk about the issue.
The most important is that your child understands how proud you are of her when she takes next step toward sleeping in her own bed. It is very likely that your toddler will enjoy the fact that you are proud of her. It is natural because many kids find it very surprising that they are able to accomplish tasks which seemed too hard for them in the first place.
Table of Contents
- Children Like Sleeping With Parents
- Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep Alone
- 1 – Talk to your child
- 2 – Preparation time
- 3 – Evening routine
- 4 – A sleeping association
- 5 – Minimize your presence in the child’s room
- 6 – Be consistent
- 7 – Help your child to regulate her ‘biological clock’
- 8 – A cozy bed is a key
- 9 – Make your child tired during the day
- 10 – Show your toddler that you are proud of her
- 11 – Reward her good will
- Help Your Child with Bad Dreams
- What to Do If Your Kid Cries?
- What If Your Toddler Still Needs Afternoon Naps?
Children Like Sleeping With Parents
In some cases, the family bed (co-sleeping) can be perfectly healthy and safe, but it is not the ideal choice at all. Your child can disrupt your sleep habits, and sometimes both you and your partner won’t get enough sleep. On the other hand, an adult sleep schedule is not acceptable for a child. An average toddler needs a minimum of 12 hours of sleep during the night. If she sleeps according to your schedule, she won’t get enough sleeping hours, and she will be sleepy, moody, and nervous during the day.
You should be aware that there is no ‘the right’ moment when your child should start to sleep alone. It can be any time after your little one turns four months. In fact, it should be an individual decision, but it seems that it will be harder for you to explain to an older child why she needs to change established habits.
Ways to Get Your Child to Sleep Alone
Have you ever asked yourself: ‘How can I teach my child to sleep alone’? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you are in the right place. There are a lot of practical ways how to get your toddler to sleep alone, and I will show you the most effective ones. Let’s see.
1 – Talk to your child
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of talking to your child and preparing her for the necessity of sleeping alone. You should explain to your toddler why it is nice and cozy for a little kid to sleep alone in her bed. Perhaps you should consider buying a ‘big bed’ just for her. It will make her feel she is ready to sleep all by herself.
Explain to your child the benefits of sleeping in her own bed, but avoid telling her that you will miss her because she might be confused and feel some unnecessary guilty.
2 – Preparation time
Start with preparation for sleeping early in the evening. You should find a way to calm down your child gradually before a bedtime. The best option is to determine the exact time each evening when the child needs to stop daily activities slowly.
The last two hours before sleeping time should be quiet and calm. Turn off the music, TV, computer, and all other electronic devices. Start with stacking the toys into the box, and after a while, this ritual will be a clear sign for the child that time to sleep comes.
3 – Evening routine
If it is possible, you should establish the same routine every evening. It is a good idea to have ‘a trigger’ for bedtime. For example, let a child watch a short cartoon, which will be a sign that day is over. Serve dinner and bathe the child right after a meal. When your child goes to bed, read her a story for a good night, kiss and bless her, and give her a favorite stuffed animal. Turning lights off should be a clear signal that your little one needs to sleep.
Some toddlers can resist the bedtime routine. Maybe the best response will be to find a way to show your child that routine is not imposed, but that it represents the time you can spend together. She needs to realize that this time is the best part of the day. You know your child best, and you are the only one who will be able to find a way that is most appropriate for her.
4 – A sleeping association
Discover the thing which is important to your kid and make it ‘a sleeping association’ for her. It can be anything including favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Giving your toddler a choice to pick out a blanket or a toy to sleep with can help her feel like she controls the situation. It is an excellent choice. Some parents use a pacifier, but I don’t recommend it because it will affect kid’s teeth in the long run.
Some of the rituals can also be a ‘sleeping association’. You should choose healthy ones such as teeth brushing, taking a bath, reading a story, or singing a song. It is a way to set up a bedtime routine in preparing your kid’s mind and body for sleep in an adequate way.
Some other things can make a problem. For example, if your child has a habit of using a bottle before fall asleep, it is fine at first, but over time it will become an unhealthy routine. It will affect her teeth, diet habits, and can lead to overweight.
5 – Minimize your presence in the child’s room
Teach your child how to sleep alone and that it is OK that mom leaves the room before she falls asleep. In the beginning, you can stay for a while, but you should refuse to be next to her in the same bed. Sit at a chair next to her bed and explain to the child that it is more comfortable for you that way.
Slowly move the chair each night farther and farther away from her bed. Take ‘a break’ for the toilet and give her the chance to get used to your short absence. After a while, she will fall asleep by the time you return to the room. You will probably need about two weeks or less to work on this, but don’t worry if your child needs a little more time. In the end, your patience will pay off.
6 – Be consistent
Even though your toddler accepts to fall asleep without your presence, it is likely that she will keep waking up during the night. You can expect that your child will try to slip into your bed during the night. Don’t let her do that, and accompany her to her bed without much explanation and interaction. Sometimes you will need to be firm for days, but don’t give up.
If you allow the child to carry out her will, be prepared that she will become more and more demanding, persistent, and stubborn over time. And this won’t be her fault. You are the one who should let her know that your word has weight. If you tell your child that she has to do something, you need to be persistent in your demand. Just be careful and make all the changes gradually and with a lot of support.
7 – Help your child to regulate her ‘biological clock’
Your child will probably need to regulate time to go to bed at the same time every night. Her body ‘needs to expect’ time for a night of sleep. It depends on you to find a way to establish her sleeping time around 7.00 PM. If your kid stays up later, she is usually over-tired, and stress hormones (Cortisol and Adrenalin) will ‘force’ her to try to stay awake as long as possible. It is the sure way to make your child going to sleep more difficult.
8 – A cozy bed is a key
Make sleeping comfortable for your toddler, and she will like sleeping in bed alone. There is no need to teach the child to sleep in complete silence because it will make it difficult for her to sleep calm later in life when conditions change. Anyway, it is always better to turn off the TV and exclude loud music at the time your child should go to sleep.
Blackout curtains or room-darkening shades will also be helpful especially during the summer. Make sure that your child’s pajamas are warm and cozy. Cover her and make her feet warm. One more thing! When she doesn’t use diapers anymore, encourage her to go to the bathroom before going to sleep.
9 – Make your child tired during the day
It is the reality that your toddler will sleep more soundly if she is exhausted after a lot of laughter, crying, and outdoor activities. Sunshine and fresh air will make a miracle, and your kid will be satisfied and adequately prepared for the bed routine after a day spent outdoors. Just avoid too much excitement on the eve of the bedtime. You certainly don’t want to re-energize your toddler when she needs to be calm, relaxed, and prepared for sleep.
10 – Show your toddler that you are proud of her
Don’t hesitate to show your little one how proud you are because she sleeps in her bed alone. Your child will get extra motivation to make that step which is actually very hard for the most toddlers. It may sound funny to you, but the crucial thing for your child can be the knowledge that her stuffed animals are proud of her too. Make some effort to arrange this.
11 – Reward her good will
Some kids will respond to small morning prizes. Try to make her a favorite breakfast, give her some extra hugs, or sing her a song instead of the classic wake-up method. You will be surprised when you discover how such little things can make a difference. Just be patient, and you will eventually find your kid sleeping in bed alone without any complaint.
Help Your Child with Bad Dreams
Your child needs to feel safe in her room. When she has bad dreams, try to soothe her. If there is a ‘monster’ in the room, ‘kill’ it and prevent all possible additional nightmares. If your little one wakes up because of a bad dream, don’t just say that it is not real. It is entirely real for your child!
Instead, tell her that it is over. You can give a child a big stuffed toy as a ‘protector’ or install some night light in child’s room to prevent fear of darkness. Just try to put the light somewhere in the corner. You don’t want it to disturb your kid’s sleep or to make any scary shadows on the walls.
What to Do If Your Kid Cries?
Keep in mind that it is hard for your little one to accept new routines including new sleep habits, which most challenging part is sleeping alone. You can expect your kid to cry and beg because she obviously feels comfortable doing things the old way. It is just a way to show you that she is scared of staying alone.
It is your job to talk to your child and explain to her that you will always be there for her after a bedtime. Tell her that all of you need to have your own bed for sleeping and that it is OK. If your toddler gets hysterical, you should slow down. If she needs a little more time, help her. Hold her and be there for her. In some cases, she will need to take her time, and you can try with establishing the new habit later again.
What If Your Toddler Still Needs Afternoon Naps?
Be careful with your kid’s afternoon nap. Lack of sleep will lead to tantrums, disagreeable demeanor, and crankiness. Therefore be prepared that your kid may still need to sleep during the day and won’t be ready to give up naps until age two to three.
Anyway, every child is an individual for herself and don’t be surprised if your toddler has different habits about sleeping than your elder child. If she needs to nap, let her. In many cases, the afternoon nap can even help your child to accept the evening routine more easily. Plus, you may find that it is an excellent opportunity to sleep along with your daughter. If you think twice, it is actually not a bad idea at all.
Every time you are tired and irritated by the persistent child’s refusal to sleep alone, remember that the first nights will be the hardest, but that they will pass. Just do everything gradually. If your child is accustomed to the swinging before bedtime, try to explain to her that hugging and holding her hand is even better for the ‘mom’s big girl’.
Also, include your dearest child’s favorite stuffed animals in a bed routine. You can tell your little one that she can keep a few of them in her bed during the night too and show her how to hold her toy to make the sleeping time more comfortable and safe. In the beginning, the whole process will probably last more than an hour, but after a few days, you can expect her to fall asleep as soon as she goes to bed.