D.S. asks from Germantown, MD on July 20, 2008
4 Year Old Not Sleeping in Own Room or Bed
I know I got myself into this fix by keeping my youngest in our bed when she was a baby. There is an 9 year difference between my toddler and my next oldest child, and I was way too tired to do the midnight feedings and then back to her room and crib etc.
That being said, I have tried every suggestion, method and rule out there to get her to sleep on her own, even spent weeks sleeping on the floor of her room while she was in her bed to make the transition easier, but nothing works.I would try all the methods all over again since it is summer and I have time to lose sleep (I am a teacher), but it is my toddler's reaction that scares me.
Whenever we even mention sleeping in her room, not even by herself, just her room, she goes into immediate panic. She sweats, has shortened breathing, keeps asking over and over in the most pitiful voice to please not sleep there, or sleep by herself. It almost seems as if this is a major form of separation anxiety, but it only shows up when she is with me, not anyone else. She has spent weekends at grandparents etc, but has to sleep with her sister or brother, she could not go to sleep by herself. I'm at my wits end and I really don't know what to do!
Can anyone help? I've read the books, talked to the pediatrician (who gave me more books!) and yes, I know and take full blame for this happening in the first place (especially since I didn't do the co-sleep thing with my older two), but nothing works. I would like my bed back and I would like to have her go to bed without me. We've done the routine, the me lying in her bed next to her until she falls asleep (usually after I leave she is awake and back at my side), the Ferber method of leaving and coming back to check, etc.
I really am desperate! Does anyone have any suggestions or am I making it worse by trying different methods? I also don't know if the bedtime trouble is being made worse because she is going through the "terrible twos" at four.
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So What Happened?™
Thank you all for such wonderful wishes and advice. As you all said, its all about picking a plan and consistency! (I'm such a chicken!) But, we began this past Monday with a strict bedtime routine that we are continuing even as we travel, and set up a reward chart for each night that she spends "most" of the night in her room. So far, only the first two nights have been totally hysterical, but I know it will take some time before she settles in an really makes this her own time.
Wish me luck!
C.P. answers from Washington DC on July 23, 2008
Have you thought about changing her room around or repainting and decorating with her helping chose the decor. Make the soace personal to her as if it is her very own sanctuary.
A.T. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
We let our daughter sleep with us till a little over a month ago. She turned 3 in March and did not want to sleep anywhere without me holding her. To get to the point, I was like you and was really stress because I knew I started the whole thing since she was born.
Well, I enrolled her in daycare to get more socialization and to see other kids trying new foods, sleeping by themselves, and not fighting going potty. That was just two months ago, and I am proud to say it worked for me! For the sleep thing, she know will go sleep in her own bed (and if she wants with a stuffy friend to hold, not me).
For the first week she would wake up during the night and cry to come in to my bed. I would just take her hand and walk her back to her room and tuck her in not saying hardly a thing. The key was just get her back in bed ASAP with a quick goodnight, do not turn on lights or talk much (will become more alert)or hold (can grab on to you).
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A.W. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
I did the same thing! By kid #3 I learned that they stay in their room. I had kids sleeping in my room until my oldest was 7. He and his brother (4 years old) would do the same thing you are experiencing. I started out by telling them that if they wanted to sleep in my room them they were getting the floor because they were too big (I did this hoping that it would be uncomfortable and discourage the behavior). It didn't work but at least I got my bed back - you just had to be careful getting out of bed in the morning.
I finally had a talk with my hubby and we decided we needed to get serious. With my boys I told them that we would do a story to fall asleep and I would be there with them while they fell asleep. Once they were asleep I went into my room and went to bed. I told them that if they needed something in the middle of the night or got scared they could crawl into bed with each other or come and get me and I would tuck them back in.
The key for us was consistency. If we ever had a night of exhaustion and just gave in we went back to square one. It was a very long road but I know that it is better for them to be able to sleep on their own.
Another thing that worked with my older son was the "priviledges" talk. For doing things that were considered "big boy behavior" he got a perk. His was staying up another 1/2 hour at night if he walks himself up to bed and goes to sleep on his own (no book or mommy laying with him). Since he feels like he is getting something out of it he sticks to it.
My middle son has recently gotten in the habit of falling asleep on the couch and we carry him up to bed. Although he stays there with no problem we do want to eventually start back on the reading ritual. We are getting ready to move in a few weeks so once we get through that we will start again.
Hang in there - you will get the bed back eventually!!!
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W.C. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
Hi D.. I'm a co-sleeping mom so I applaud you for co-sleeping with your youngest even if out of necessity.
Dr. Jack McKenna has well documented research regarding co-sleeping that you might be interested in (and later you may find yourself, patting yourself on the back rather than "blaming" yourself)
Also, a number of wonderful articles in Mothering Magazine
Perhaps your daughter is simply not ready to make the transition to solo sleeping. Societal pressures often force parents to push their children to the next milestone or benchmark before the child is ready. And as you know, children grow and develop in their own way, in their own time and their own terms.
A very wise woman (Karen Maezen Miller - author of Momma Zen) once told me "The grass grows by itself" and this has become my mothering mantra.
Trust your motherly instincts, and if you feel in your heart that she's truly ready, you may wish to bring her mattress into your room and make a slower transition. She won't want to sleep with your forever...eventually there won't be enough room.
When my son shows interest in a bed of his own, we plan to make a big deal of it...take him to a store and let him pick out a "big boy bed"...then give him the choice of putting it in our room first or his own. When the bed makes its way to his room, we will carry it together and have a celebration.
It will be bittersweet as we will miss him snuggling with us each night, yet we'll be proud of his independent leap.
Wishing you all a good night's sleep and peace of mind!
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M.D. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
Hi D. -
We are a co-sleeping family as well. My son is 2 1/2 and I am not sure when we he will sleep on his own. You are doing a good thing, your daughter will have many more advantages because she co-sleeps. Co-slseeping children have been shown to be much more confident as oder children and adults. A suggestion for you. we have a queen bed and up against our queen we have put a twin mattress that pushes against our bed and the wall. This is my sons bed, it is essentially the same as our bed at the moment except I put Elmo sheets on it for him. This gives all of us the room that we need and the idea is to slowly move the twin away from out bed until they are not touching and then to move it in his room. Maybe you could try something like that? Let your daughter pick special sheets out for "her bed" and the over time seperate the two and the eventually move her bed back to her room. Like the other poster said she really will move in her own time. I know it can be hard sometimes and you really do want your space and not to get kicked in the middle of the night. But just think before you know it she won't want to even come out of her room and you will always have these memories to treasure. good luck with everything.
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M.G. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
My 5 (almost 6) year-old still comes in with us every once in a while because we brought him in when he was a baby too. But for the most part, he's very good now about going to sleep by himself and staying in his room all night.
Don't get me wrong...I loved snuggling with him and still do, but sometimes we just don't get enough sleep. (I actually hadn't heard of "co-sleeping" until he was 2...so I was glad to hear that our unintentional co-sleeping had benefits.)
He also threw fits when he was younger. I too would wait by his bed until he fell asleep, but that wasn't enough.
The thing that worked me, was that after I would finally get him to sleep in his room, I had to make up my mind that no matter how tired I was that night, I would carry him back to his bed the second he crawled into bed with us. Sometimes he would come in after only 45 minutes, and sometimes a few hours in...but I would scoop him up and not let him lie down, carry him back to his room, and lull him back to sleep in his own bed. It was exhausting, but after a couple of nights, he would stay longer and longer in his own bed. If after a 3 or 4 days, I would give in, it seemed like I would have to redo it all over again, so the routine seemed to be the thing that worked best for him.
Best wishes on some sleep-filled nights soon!
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A.F. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
Will she sleep in the same room as her siblings? AF
R.H. answers from Norfolk on August 17, 2008
I believe at her age she is competely capable of sleeping the whole night in her bed. She is feeding off you. When she does the sweating and stuff she gets her way because you get scared... NOT HER. She's fine she has just realized that for whatever reason you have done this and it must have been done for a good reason. Not only has she realized that this stops you from making her sleep alone in her room but you get scared as well. So there must be some reason to be scared.. If there wasn't you wouldn't get scared You are the strongest person in the world to her. You need to stick to your plan. Put her to bed and don't allow her to leave her bed. Put her back EVERY time she gets up and if you choose to give stickers or what not for staying don't settle for anything less than a full night. Other wise you will be redoing it later for a full night. As i say don't allow them do things while they are young what your not willing to accept forever.
K.C. answers from Washington DC on July 21, 2008
First of all, co-sleeping is not to "blame" for her sleeping in your room. As you can see, plenty of parents have co-slept, and our kids sleep on their own.
That being said, I think you would do better if you picked one method and stuck to it. Talk to your daughter, see if you can come up with something that would help her. My kids use an actual light (a small lamp with a very low watt bulb in it) instead of a nightlight because they don't like the dark. We've used "monster spray" (an empty spray bottle), snuggly stuffed animals, and whatever else is needed. Maybe she needs to transition by sleeping on a mattress or sleeping bag in the floor of your bedroom and go gradually into her own room. Just look at all the issues, and decide what you are willing to do and what you think will be best for her and you, and make your own plan, and STICK TO IT!!!! :)