If you’re reading this post, you’ve come to realize that the sleepless nights don’t go away for good after the “baby phase”. In fact, I might argue that the lack of sleep with a toddler is worse than even the newborn period. Because of this, I have a lot of first-hand experience and have spent hours researching online how to get your toddler to sleep in their own bed.
I was one of those moms that always prioritized sleep when my kids were babies. Then they become toddlers and my world was turned upside down. Once they are transitioned out of the crib? All bets are off.
The lack of sleep starts to wreak havoc on your life, your relationships, and your health. Their increased independence, stubbornness, and will-power can be maddening! I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I have finally figured it out – and wrote this post to help others out as well. Let’s discuss so you can get back to feeling like yourself again!
Best Advice On How To Get Your Toddler To Sleep In Their Own Bed
The best advice I can possibly give you to get your toddler to sleep in their own bed is this: don’t ever give in to them wanting to sleep with you. Period. Don’t sleep in their bed, and don’t let them into your bed.
As a type A person when it comes to my kids’ sleep, I had my kids on a schedule as young as 6 weeks old and I was pretty strict about it – this advice comes from mistakes I made once my oldest became a toddler.
I completely understand how hard this advice is. They freak out, they’re “scared”, or keep coming out of their room until you give in. It’s a place I’ve been many, many times.
What I have learned is this: once you start giving in, it’s SO much harder to break that habit. You give in more than once – they will learn that with just enough persistence and resistance it could happen again. And let me tell you – re-sleep training a toddler is so much harder than a baby.
It’s (sort of) simple – if you truly want to get your kid to sleep alone all night in their own bed, you have to be consistent and NEVER provide an opportunity for them not to.
How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep in Their Own Bed In 4 Steps
OK, so you’ve already made the mistakes and you’re ready to fix them. It usually comes down to changing their behavior, which can take time.
This plan is similar to the Goodnight Sleep Program, created by a licensed psychologist, with a few other tips sprinkled in. I do recommend reading that article after you’ve read through this one.
#1: Come Up With A Plan – The Check-In System
Essentially, this is very similar to the Ferber method – where the goal is to teach them how to fall asleep independently by providing 5-10 minute check-ins. You can start with a shorter amount of time, like 5 minutes, and increase it as needed – or just start right away with 10 minutes.
Set a timer and make sure to come back and do a quick check-in with your toddler after the specified amount of time – repeat until they are asleep. Your toddler should understand that they are to lie in bed until you come back.
If they don’t stay in their bed, calmly and firmly walk them back to their bed and say “I’ll check on you in x minutes”. This might mean that you are standing outside their room for the entire duration of the timer!
Once they realize that you WILL come back to check on them, your toddler might feel secure enough to fall asleep.
Perform 10 Minute Checks With Night Wakings As Well
Do you have a toddler who wakes in the middle of the night and won’t go back to sleep? Bring them back to their room, calmly and firmly, and start the 10 minute checks. If you need to sit next to them and rub their back for a little to calm them down, that’s ok.
Avoid getting upset or discussing anything with them in detail. Keep the conversation minimal – only saying things like “I’ll be back to check on you in 10 minutes”.
The first night might be absolutely horrendous, but it will work if you stay consistent with this plan. Show your toddler that you’re not going to give in!
Again, pick a night or weekend where it’s okay to get less sleep (because you might not get much). The first night we tried this I was awake for over 3 hours. The next night my daughter was asleep within minutes!
#2: Have A Family Meeting
It’s very important to lay out the rules and the guidelines to your toddler, and get everyone (like your spouse) on board with the plan prior to starting it. Explain why you’re doing it – “we all need to get a good night’s sleep”, or “it’s important that you learn to sleep on your own”.
Get your toddler’s approval and acceptance – or if they don’t approve, make sure they have somewhat of an idea what to expect.
Then pick a night to start, preferably one where it’s OK if you don’t get as much sleep. If you have a particularly stubborn child (like mine), then you might have a couple rough nights of sleep starting out.
#3. Figure Out a Reward System or Sticker Chart
Figure out what will motivate your toddler and use it as a reward system. It helps if there are both short-term and long-term rewards, so they see that immediate gratification and have more motivation to reinforce the plan.
For example, my oldest daughter was obsessed with temporary tattoos. So every night she slept in her bed alone, she woke up and got a temporary tattoo. We then did a sticker chart, and after so many days, she would earn something a little bigger.
It’s important to note that your child shouldn’t be punished or talked down to if they don’t succeed to your expectations, as this doesn’t seem to help the situation.
#4. Be Consistent, and Repeat The Plan As Many Times As You Need
Consistency is key here. Say it works for a few months and the check-ins don’t need to happen as often – until a new behavior arises.
Repeat these steps again so that the behavior doesn’t become a regular occurrence again. Remember what happened the last time you gave in!
Other Tips For Success
Make Sure Their Sleep Schedule Is Appropriate
Make adjustments to their sleep schedule, if needed – as naps that are too long or too short can affect their night sleep as well. We realized that our toddler was transitioning to no longer needing a nap, and this helped immensely.
Have An Ideal Bedtime Routine
Decrease screen time before bed, and make sure their bedtime routine is calm and relaxing. Keep things positive, and avoid conflict or discussing stressful situations if you can.
Ensure all their needs are anticipated prior to starting the check-ins – do they have their water at bedside? Favorite stuffed animal? Make sure they don’t have a reason to get up and out of their bed.
Try Different Strategies To Make Them Feel Safe In Their Bed
If you’re still met with a lot of resistance with this plan, get creative with how to make them feel more safe in their bed.
– A new nightlight or alarm clock
– Fun posters or stickers for their wall
– Give them a “special” object, like a wooden spoon, that helps to ward off any monsters
– Put a big stuffy next to them that they can cuddle in the night
– Walkie talkies so they can reach you without getting out of their bed
– A “cool new blanket”
Side note: We did most of these, and they didn’t seem to help – but worth a try!
Getting a toddler to sleep in their own bed is a complex situation that is not talked about enough! My daughter went from being sleep trained, and laying quietly in her bed until her “OK to wake” light came on – to throwing fits in the middle of the night if we didn’t sleep with her.
I hope that if you’re reading this, you will follow the “don’t let it happen” rule and avoid having to initiate this exhausting plan. I sure wish I did things differently – but now I have the knowledge and experience to not make the same mistakes with my youngest daughter!
Many parents want their child to feel safe and comfortable, and be the ones that provide that for their toddler. I get it, believe me – but teaching your child the skills to be able to sleep by themselves is invaluable.
Let me know if you try this, and any other advice that worked for you in the comments.