It’s been a long day, and you’ve worked tirelessly to make sure the environment is set up for success…sleep success. You’ve fed, bathed, and played, in that order, and now it’s time for nite-nite. The sofa has been cleared of toys, the blanket ready, popcorn almost popped, and the dishes are done. Adult time. You’ve been looking forward to it all day, and you just know that your little one had a big day and is plum-tuckered out. Surely she’ll fall into slumber in no time. Not.
You’re routine hasn’t changed, so why has she? The last few nights have been challenging, but you just knew tonight would be different. Fat chance. Babies and toddlers tend to change things up on us constantly, consistently throwing us into an imbalance of monumental nature with perplexing moods, cries, habits and demands. So how do we do it? How do we get them to stop crying when we put them to bed? Well, it depends what stage you’re at, Mom and Dad. Infants and toddlers are very different when it comes to bedtime.
Got a Toddler?
You may be ready for that big girl or big boy bed. If your curious one, the master procrastinator, refuses to stay in bed, asking for everything under the sun, even things they may generally not want or dislike, it’s probably safe to say that it may be time for a regular bed. Yes, its that time. The dreaded big kid bed. I went through it 3 times myself, and it was painful each time. No more babes in arms. They’re doing it. It’s the toddler rearing their ugly head. Game over parents, they’re growing up. Rule of thumb is that if your child can climb out of their crib, it’s time. They may not necessarily be mature enough, but it’s an option you should seriously consider since at this point it’s a safety issue.
If the idea of an actual bed scares you or your child, you can always opt to put the crib mattress on the floor. But first, before anything, you must tell them what’s going to happen. If you spring this on them you’ll have bigger issues. I’m not big on “telling”, but since it’s “safety first”, this is a must. Let them know days before, so everyone has tie to try it on. Then, have them help! Decorate the room, and have them pick out all the “stuff”. It’s their room, let them have fun making it their own. It’s an easy buy-in, and you may encounter less fuss at bedtime.
Got a Baby?
For the rest you who are sleepless because your beautiful babes just won’t go down, the rest of this article is for you. I’ve been here too. We tried all the conventional and popular methods, and nothing worked. Then I got smart and listened to myself, since this is what I do day in and day out. The method is easy. The commitment is easy too. Less stress, and less anxiety for everyone. Here’s how. Always follow your regular routine. Kids thrive on routine. But if at the second you go to leave they break out in screech, screams or wails, try this.
Here’s my How-To.
1. Night One.
Say your good nights as usual, and stay by the crib for 2-3 minutes. No touching, rubbing, cooing, singing… Sorry parents, but this is where physical connection is a no-no. We’re trying to foster independence here, so connecting until morning is off limits. At the 2-3 minute mark. begin your exit. Every 20 seconds or so, move further away, until you’re at the door by about a minute into it. This is the beginning of yo new nighttime routine. It may be difficult at first, but baby already knows that when Mommy or Daddy leaves, Mommy and Daddy always comes back.
They know this because you’ve been playing peek-a-boo with with. You can take this experience and lesson a step further, by practicing this with them during the day. While they’re in their high chair, or bouncy seat, or excer-saucer, you can say you’re leaving, but you’ll be right back. Leave. Count to 10 or 20, and come back. Make sure your words and tone are the always the same. They may not understand you rewords yet, but they do understand tone and rhythm, and this is what they have to go on. If your actions always match your words, you’ll be creating expectation, and they’ll know what’s happening.
2. Night Two.
Repeat night one above, reducing the time at the crib by 30 seconds, and by reducing the amount of time it takes you to get to the door, and out. That process should be reduced by about 20-30 seconds each night. Tonight may or may not be easier, but you’ll get there. Don’t go back in. You’re only teaching them that’s what they have to do in order to get you back. They can do it. You can do it. But it’s going to take commitment and knowing that this is for the greater good ad happiness of everyone.
3. Night Three.
Repeat Night two, with further incremental time reductions. If your little one wakes in the night for feeding or a diaper change, repeat the routine. Consistency is everything.
Every child is different, and this sleep training should take about a week, give or take. It also may not work for every one, but it has worked for many. Remember to keep your nerves in check. Babies have this amazing power (that we often forget about), to pick up on our emotions. If you’re nervous about leaving them, they’ll be nervous about you leaving them. Our role of parent is to empower, and yes parents, it starts this young.