”Our two-and-a-half-year old has always been a great sleeper until two weeks ago. He’s been in his bed for nearly two months with no problems at all. But now he’s waking in the early hours usually around 2:00 a.m. He is not settling back to sleep unless he’s in our bed or one of us is in his bed, which is not comfortable at all as it’s a junior kid’s bed.
“More recently he started not wanting to go into his bed at all. After his bedtime story he starts screaming- he’s very insecure at night. Tonight I managed to get him to stay in his bed by sitting near his bed for an hour until he was asleep. Right now, it’s just after 4:00 a.m. and Daddy is now in his bed. He’s been up for nearly two hours. It wasn’t even like this when he was a newborn. Help!
Karen, I have a couple of thoughts about this.
I sometimes wonder, when we transition our children from cribs to beds, whether they sometimes miss safety and coziness their crib provided them? Look at the placement of his new bed:
- Is it in the corner (the corner feels more secure)?
- Does it have a railing?
- Does it feel safe and secure?
- Are there new shadows created from furniture that has been shifted or curtains that have been changed?
- Does the room look different at night to him than it did before?
Sometimes the smallest thing can really throw off our children when they transition to a bed.
Start The Shuffle
You’ve already started The Shuffle without meaning to by sitting next to his bed. Until he’s asleep I would go ahead and keep doing The Shuffle. In a nutshell, the Shuffle involves putting your child down awake and comforting your child while you sit next to the crib. Every few nights, you move farther away, while continuing to soothe from afar, until you’re eventually outside the door.
Finally, you will be back in your own bed. Within a couple of weeks, you should be able to put your child down, say good night, and walk out the door knowing that he’ll be able to fall asleep without crutches such as laying with him, rocking, or patting.
Consider Using a Wake-Up Light or Toddler Clock
A wake up light can help or toddler clock helps your child know when it’s time to “get up”. Most 2 year olds will not be able to read a clock, so look for one with both nap and night settings that either lights up or changes color.
Sleep Manner Chart
If he is fairly articulate for a two-and-a-half-year old, I would do a very simple sleep manner chart. Include these categories:
- Cooperates at bedtime
- Lies quietly in bed
- Puts self to sleep without mommy and daddy lying down with you
- Puts self back to sleep without mommy or daddy lying down with you
- Stays in own bed quietly until the wake-up light comes on
Remember Your Sleep Manners
Go over the Sleep Manner Chart every night and then go over it again in the morning. Talk gently and positively about what he may need to work on more. Of course, if he comes out of his room at night, then bring him right back to his room, reminding him that his wake-up light is not on yet. Remind him then to lie quietly in his bed and remember his sleep manners. You or your husband will sit wherever you are in The Sleep Lady Shuffle position until he is asleep.
Stay The Course
At his age, it may take a little bit longer than it does with a baby because not only can he get out of his bed, he also may have a longer history of an inconsistent routine when he wakes. I realize that he was a great sleeper until the last two months; so that’s good news.
Maybe it won’t take longer and it’s a matter of “reminding” him of his good sleep habits and manners. But just in case it does take a while, I want you to be prepared so that you will be able to follow through consistently.
Explain The Change
You can see why he’s now fighting bedtime. When you began sporadically going in and laying down with him he did not understand why you don’t just start the night like that every night! You will need to say to him that there’s going to be no more of mommy and daddy lying down with him and everybody is going to sleep in their own beds. Then follow through consistently.
I have a whole chapter in my book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, that outlines all of the details so that you can successfully sleep coach your child. Hope this helps!
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If you have experienced a similar situation, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!