Child Sleep Solutions (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have a 2-year-old, my last child, and he has slept in the bed with us for his whole life. I breastfed him at night for the first 14 months and got lazy because I have two other children to tend to at 6:00 in the morning. I want to get him in his own bed for the night and have him stay there.

PANTLEY:
The brand new Sleep in America polls showed us that up to 40% of children end up in their parents' bed at some point during the night.

For lots of families, like yours, it's OK for a time. But at some point parents may decide it's time to move their little one to independent sleep. There are so many ways to do this that are gentle and easy! I'll quickly cover a few of them. Again, since all families are different you won't use all of these ideas. Just pick the ones that make sense for YOUR family. And before I even do that, I need to say that make sure this is what your family wants to do, not what the neighbor, your doctor or Aunt Matilda tells you that you should be doing. It's OK to make the change, but only do it if it's the right thing for you.

First idea: A little at a time. Put a small mattress in your room next to your bed and have your child fall asleep there. You can do the bedtime reading in "the little bed". Even stay until your child is asleep. But don't YOU fall asleep! You need to go up into "the big bed". During the night, if your child calls to you, go to him in the little bed and then return to your big bed. Over time, move the little bed farther away from your big bed, and eventually, down the hall to his own room.

Here's another idea. I said that there are lots. Redecorate his bedroom to make it inviting for sleep. Get new bedding, glow stars on the ceiling, and a bedside pet (like a fish or turtle) to keep him company. Then encourage him to sleep in his new room.

It's important that you have a joyful, quiet bedtime routine the hour before bed so that it ends peacefully in his room. You can invite the "morning fairy" into your house -- she is the tooth fairy's sister. She leaves small prizes outside the hall of young children who sleep in their beds all night and don't wake Mommy and Daddy. She does this for a few weeks, until new habits are in place, then she goes off to visit other children who need her help. You might even line the hallway outside his bedroom with little wrapped prizes as a midnight reminder. This is a fun idea that you can use for lots of issues.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How can I get my 2-year-old excited to go to sleep in his own bed? His 3- and 4-year-old brothers are also in the same room.

PANTLEY:
What a nice family! There are several different issues here. One is siblings in the same room. I think it is WONDERFUL and helps them be lifelong friends, but it can also make bedtime too much like playtime, so a good bedtime routine is critical. Children thrive on routine and if you can have an enjoyable bedtime routine that they all are involved in then they will all look forward to bedtime, and so will you.

Also, I love sibling co-sleeping. Kids love to cuddle, and sometimes they will sleep better in a bunch. So, put the mattresses on the floor, side-by-side and make a sleeping place.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have an 8-, 6- and 4-year-old. The 8- and 4-year-olds share a room and the 6-year-old sleeps in his own room. My 4-year-old creates problems at bedtime and makes a lot of noise so the others can't go to sleep. My husband and I usually give in and let her stay up. Even when we go to bed, she'll cry and say she's not tired and will keep talking to us -- shouting from room to room. If we don't answer, she cries and screams. How do we control the situation and get her to bed on time?

PANTLEY:
A few ideas for you and your chatty little one:

Use music (lullabies) or white noise like the hum of a fan, or a white noise machine that plays ocean waves or other sounds. These sounds can mask noises from one child that keep the other ones awake.

Also, look at the 4-year-old's nap schedule. A nap that is too long or too late in the day will prevent a child from being tired at bedtime. Or maybe it's an opposite problem -- no nap, or a short nap, means your 4-year-old may be overtired and wired and can't sleep. So try having a quiet time after lunch. Put your child in a dark room with soft music, white noise or an audio book and perhaps she'll fall asleep.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I have a 5-year-old that does not want to sleep in his bed. He winds up on the loveseat or couch and sometimes in our bedroom. I nursed him until he was 14 months and now I have a 5-month-old that I am nursing. One more little one in our bed with arms, elbows and kicks is just too much. What can we do to help him go to bed in his room? Giving in is not helping. I really don't think he will sleep with us forever, but I want a way to help him get a good night's sleep, not to mention us. Jealousy over the new baby has been addressed and this is not the issue, he is a very well rounded and happy, he just doesn't want to sleep alone.

PANTLEY:
You have your hand's full! And here we are again to that one concept: routine.

Lots of us have routines; they are just unplanned and not so fun! The key is to purposely create an hour-long, specific and gentle bedtime routine that invites sleep. You may need to purposely make things very different so that new routines can take their place.

If your child normally falls asleep on the couch, then do a nice session of bedside reading, or play an audio book in bed so that he's very sleepy in his own bed.

Be gentle though. Having a new sibling takes some getting used to, but all will be well for you, I'm sure.

"When I surveyed children about sleep, a surprising 97% of kids gave the same answer to the question, "How do you know its bedtime?" The answer was "Mommy tells me." Or "Daddy tells me." This gives parents more power than they realized."

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