Parent Tips: Falling Asleep in Your Toddler's Bed

At one and a half, we moved Sydney to a big girls’ bed because she’d started climbing out of her crib. The first time she did it, we hoped it was a fluke. The next time, we heard a THUMP and a WAIL, and we decided it was time to make the change. We started off with a mattress on the floor so if she rolled out, she wouldn’t have far to fall. She rolled out often for the first six months or so, but then settled in enough that we were comfortable putting the bed frame back in her room.

The issue with the new bed was that she wouldn’t stay in it unless one of us fell asleep with her. We tried many ways to get her to fall asleep on her own, but nothing worked (especially since we were really big wimps with our first!). And Sydney is a very strong-willed child. So, sometimes I’d bring my book in and enjoy some quiet reading time while she drifted off. But other times, I grumbled about taking an hour to lay in bed with her when I had so many other things to do. 

The worst part was that if she woke up in the night, she couldn’t get herself back to sleep without one of us sleeping next to her either. 

With Sabrina on the way, it was even more critical to get Sydney out of the habit. A friend suggested I try the “moving the chair" routine. I was very, very skeptical. Here are the steps:

Step 1 - Instead of lying in their bed, you start out by sitting in a chair next to their bed.   When Sydney asked about the chair, I told her that I knew she could fall asleep on her own and that I was going to prove it to her.

Step 2 – After 2-3 nights, you move the chair a little closer to the door and away from the bed. 

Step 3 – Keep moving the chair a little bit farther away until you’re literally in the doorway.

Step 4 – Move the chair outside the door into the hall.  This was Day 8 of our experiment, and Sydney was not happy about the fact she couldn’t see me anymore.  She called out for me and I popped my head back in and said, “I’m right outside the door in the chair, reading my book.” 

Step 5 – Remove the chair entirely. I reminded her that she could officially fall asleep all by herself. She knew it was true and didn’t fight it at all!  We implemented the “I’ll come back to check on you” language.  Eventually, I put the chair back into her room and for a couple more days, I hung out in the kitchen where she could hear me making noises putting the dishes away, etc.  I’d poke my head back in every 10 minutes or so. 

That was it.  I really couldn’t believe it worked. I’d been lying in bed with her to get her to sleep for nearly a year and it only took 10 days to break the habit. The best part was she could get back to sleep on her own in the night as well. Out of habit, I went to lie down on her bed one night after she woke up and she said, "Mommy, I don't need you here. Go back to your bed!"

Sometimes, daughters really do know best!