Transitioning 3 Year Old from Rocking to Sleep

Updated on January 07, 2011
H.D. asks from Marietta, GA
8 answers

I nanny for a little girl who will be 3 in February. She has been rocked to sleep since birth and while her parents are sometimes practicing not rocking her to sleep at bedtime, for me, she will not fall asleep for her nap unless I rock her completely to sleep. She still sleeps 2 hours and would sleep longer at times if I didn't wake her up, so it's not like she doesn't need the nap. Any suggestions on how to make the transition for nap? Keep in mind, she's three! I know it's an easier transition when they are babies. Thanks!

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answers from Albany on

Hi H., my daughter liked to be rocked (and hummed to) to sleep as well. I think she was about 3 1/2 (and in pre-school) when she told me abruptly she was "too big for that now", got into her bed, and closed her eyes and that was that.

BOY did I MISS it!! (She's the youngest) She's 13 and if she wanted me to rock her to sleep tonight I would gladly do so, sigh.

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answers from Gainesville on

Why does she need to be transitioned? She is falling asleep with comfort and security. Why does that need to stop because she is 3? This will not go on forever as she will not nap forever and you are being paid to care for her so it really shouldn't be an issue if you need to stay and rock her to sleep for her 2 hour+ nap.

Or is this the parents pushing to phase out the rocking as you said they sometimes don't rock her to sleep? This is something you need to discuss with her parents prior to doing any changes to her routine. If you changed things up on one of my kiddos that caused a pretty good amount of stress or tears I wouldn't be too happy when I got home.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

*As Dori said... it won't go on forever. As kids get older.... they tend to not nap.
AND, as Dori said.... if you do this, and it upsets the parents routines/sleep for their child and child ends up being all icky and stressed... at home because of it... they will not like that. I wouldn't either.

The main thing, is that she nap..... ?

Wow, she's 3... and heavier now not a baby, and is rocked to sleep?
Do you do that in a chair while sitting? Or while carrying her? For me, that would hurt my back....

IS the parents NOT wanting to rock her??? Do THEY want to stop this rocking her????
If not, then well... that is their choice....
BUT.... I would make SURE... that this is what the PARENTS want..... before you then 'change up' their child's sleep/nap routine....
as you said, the child naps well... and needs it....

Next, IF her parents want to stop this habit.... her parents ALSO have to be trying... to transition her.
They probably still rock her to sleep... because, it's always been done that way, thus maybe easier for them, because other methods, will just result in their child getting a hissy fit about sleep.

I would... gradually take yourself away from her (in body contact), in order to transition her.

- Maybe co-sleep with her. Initially. Then when she falls asleep... then you can get up.
- where does she sleep? In a bed or crib still?
- Tell her you will hold her.... only.
- then have her go in her bed.
- you can still be in the room, or sitting in a chair for "company"... while she settles down.... read to her, keep everything calm and dark. Tell her she is a BIG girl.... explain to her....
- make sure she has wind-down time, PRIOR to her actual nap time. Kids this age need to wind-down first, before hitting the hay...
- have her make her bed all comfy, get her stuffed animals in bed with her or whatever 'lovey(s)' she has.... make herself comfy.... my daughter would call it "making her nest....." before bed. Then she would settle in and get into her bed....
- Make another "ritual" of going to sleep..... for her. Something comforting.... or put on white noise etc.
- Or just pat her back.... instead of rocking....

Any transition like this and taking away a former routine/habit.... probably will result in a hissy fit or an upset 3 year old. But you just gotta try it.
Tell the parents.... to get on board too....

What are the parents wanting to do with her? STILL rock her? She's getting older and heavier... and it just is not practical... nor at this age for the child. She can't self-soothe yet.....

Just try different things.... another sleep/nap "ritual" before nap....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I transitioned my son at about 2 1/2. We would read a couple of books, then I would sit by his bed and sing or pretend to sleep. This went on for a couple of months until his brother was born and I had no choice but to force a better routine. Looking back, I did not give him enough credit. He could have transitioned more quickly if I had been a little more stern.

The one advantage you have is that you can talk to her and let her know that you will be starting new routine. I chose two books, kisses, I leave. We have a fan in his room, so the white noice really helps. At first we read two books, then I sat quietly in the room while he fell asleep. I did this so I could immediately put him back in bed if he got up. After a few days, I just started leaving after books and kisses. It really didn't take very long, and it was totally worth it to me.

I really think it won't be too bad. Just let her know what the new routine will be. Be very matter-of-fact about it. When she tries to resist, very calmly let her know that this is the new routine and continue. She might fight it for a few days, but she'll accept it.



answers from Milwaukee on

What do her parents do to start transitioning her? I'd do that if you think it would work.

Otherwise, at 3 you have to play hard ball a bit. What if you try something gradual like-prepping her constantly-reiterating excitedly-TODAY WE ARE GOING TO DO NAP TIME DIFFERENTLY!! Then explain that 3 yrs old don't need to be rocked-so moving forward you are going to read a book and then she will cozy up in her bed with her favorite animals and you'll stay close for a little bit. And ease her into it with something like that.

Don't be surprised if she fights it and gets out of bed and screams and cries and you want to cave--depending on how determined she is she'll get it after a few days or work you-but stay with it...:) Just be firm and loving and keep putting her back in bed.

Also-let her be in charge of what book to read, or her door open or closed, light on or off. She acquice more if she has some control.


answers from San Antonio on

My son will be 3 in April. I think it was easiest to not rock him to sleep when I just did-so cold-turkey. One day I just got so fed up with being tied to the rocking chair till he fell asleep that I said "no, go to your bed." so now our routine is to lay together/rock for a few minutes to help him relax, then he goes to his bed and I read him a book. At the beginning I would hear him playing in his room or singing to himself, but after a month or so of me going in there and telling him it was naptime, or just putting him in his bed w/o a word, he learned that it was his rest time and he needed to rest.

So I don't know if you want to rid her of the rocking chair, or rid her of the falling asleep in your arms. If you want to just get rid of the chair itself, then physically get rid of it. Take it out of the house. That or, have someone else sit in the chair when it's naptime/bedtime. Might get a whine/cry or two, but I often give my son two choices. So when someone was in his rocking chair, I said "You can lay on the couch with mom or you can go to your bed." Often, when we are laying on the couch or the rocking chair, we watch tv, so I'll say something like "next commercial you have to go to your bed." I put on something pretty boring to help him get bored/sleepy.



answers from Atlanta on

We used cds for naptime at that age. My kids loved audiobooks (Laura Ingalls' Little House series is great and sometimes available at libraries), but music would work, too. It helped them stay in their beds more happily. I figured if they were really tired enough, they just needed to be still long enough to fall asleep. However, sometimes they did get interested in the story and stay awake longer, I suppose.



answers from Washington DC on

Well, you have to do what the parents want since it is their child. But, we rocked my daughter until she was almost 3. We had to stop because I'm small and she is tall for her age and I just couldn't do it anymore. I continued our same night time routine, but explained that I couldn't rock her anymore and she had to lay down in her bed and go to sleep. I told her I would lay down next to her bed on the floor until she fell asleep. I would say it took her a week or so to adjust, I can't remember exactly how long, but it was quick. She had also given up a nap, so she was really tired by bed time. We still do this at age 3.5 and it works fine. One of us lays on the floor while she falls asleep. She just needs to have someone there. Ask the parents what they want to do, but that worked for us. Good luck.

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