A photo popped up in my Facebook feed the other day that looked all too familiar. My friend's toddler had taken to popping out of his bed at night and setting himself up -- blanket and all -- in front of their refrigerator. His desperate parents were turning to the Internets with a question as old as time: how do I get my toddler to sleep in his own bed?
Of course, I had to stop mid-scrolling and throw my two cents in. I've been there. Ohhhh, have I been there! For months, my daughter slept in a tent rather than in her perfectly comfortable bed!
Yes, it's a long story, but it was better than my bed!
The thing is, I never really planned to be a co-sleeping mom. My daughter roomed in with my husband and me as an infant, but I worried about one of us rolling over on her, so she had her own bassinet. After a few months, she transitioned into her own crib, and I thought she'd be sleeping in her room up until she went off to college.
Oh, silly, silly Mom.
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Of course then teething started, and what kind of awful, cruel, horrible meanie could leave a baby to cry in the middle of the night in her own room? Yup, she got me. I started bringing her into our bed at night to give her loving Mommy cuddles to make her feel better, and it just sort of became ... habit.
So how do you break them of that kind of habit? Or keep them from taking up residence in front of the fridge?
The Stir talked to real moms (and dads!) about their little sleepers, and asked them to reveal their best tricks for keeping them in bed:
1. Transition With a Tent -- Yup, this is mine. My daughter really didn't want to leave my room, but I desperately wanted to sleep without taking a foot to the nose every night. So we started with a compromise; she could stay in our room but couldn't sleep in our bed. We set up a kid's tent at the foot of our bed and let her "camp" out each night. After she'd started to get used to it, we moved the tent out of our room and into hers. She continued to sleep there for a few weeks, but each day I would move her stuffies and blankets into her bed. She'd move them back into the tent each night until the day she realized that was a huge pain and just stayed in bed with them.
2. Banish the Monsters -- Some kids don't want to sleep in their room because they're scared; so find out what it is they're afraid of! Sometimes it's as simple as spraying the room with "monster spray" (a spray bottle of water works or some calming linen spray). My cousin and his wife actually moved the furniture around in their son's room to get rid of spooky shadows. Another mom whose daughter was afraid of the dark compromised with a soft light that wouldn't interrupt her sleep but made her feel a little more comfortable.
3. Make a Reward Chart -- Hey, it works for potty training, right? Reward each night spent in bed with a sticker, and after a full week of sleeping in their own room, they win a prize.
4. Put Them Back in Bed -- This is a tough one, but several parents I know swear it works. Each time they get out of bed, carry them back and calmly place them in their bed. The key word here is calmly. Don't yell. Don't nag. In fact, don't say a WORD. Realizing they aren't getting your attention -- even negative attention -- can really cut down on night-time wandering.
5. Stay in the Room Until They Fall Asleep -- This is a trick that takes a lot of time, but several moms I know would stay in their child's room until the toddler fell asleep. The trick? Each night, they would move farther and farther away from the child's bed. So night one, they were right there by their side. Night two, halfway across the room. Night three, in the doorway. Night four, outside the room with the door open. And so on. With this process, it's also key NOT to yell or engage with your tot. They need to know it's bedtime, not talk to Mommy time.
6. Shut the Darn Door -- Now, I don't mean lock it (that's mean), but one mom admitted she kept the door to her son's room open because she thought it would make him feel better. But after weeks of him coming out over and over, she realized the open door was distracting him from sleeping! He could see shadows from the TV down the hall and hear his parents talking (even when they thought they were keeping it down).
Did you have a toddler who wouldn't sleep in bed? What'd you do to get them back in their own room?
Image via Ocean/Corbis