Let Them Cry It Out? Lisa from Wakarusa, Indiana:
Hi, my hubby and I have a 2-1/2-year-old son who we let sleep with us from 15 months to now. Now we have him trying to sleep in his own bed… without much success... he wakes up halfway through the night and cries... how do we do this? Do we just let him cry? Thanks so much... no one is sleeping well at our house.
Pantley's Answer: You've brought up a great point! If everyone is sleeping well, safe and happy, then there's no need to change what you're doing. But when no one is sleeping well, then --- it's time for a change!
I always vote against letting a child cry to sleep -- that can damage the trust between you, especially when you're changing a routine that's gone on for a long time. Since your child has spent most of his night sleep in your bed, he doesn't view his room as a place to spend the night.
It may help to redecorate and create an inviting sleep place. Allow your son to help choose new bedding (flannel sheets are especially nice), new curtains, wall decorations, or a new nightlight. Add a safe stuffed animal as a sleeping buddy. A fun addition to the "new" room is to string up blue Christmas lights, or glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on the ceiling. Playing sounds on a "white noise" machine (ocean waves or rainfall) can also be soothing. A more inviting room will make it a happier place to sleep.
Step-By-Step Weaning: Brooke from Lawrenceville, Georgia:
I have almost 22-month-old boy/girl twins. One is a great sleeper. The other child and I co-sleep in her room; she has never slept in her crib. How do I get her to sleep on her own? The crying-out method disturbs the other twin.
Pantley's Answer: Goes to show you -- children are unique when it comes to sleep, just like in every other area! Since your daughter has been sleeping with you since birth it's respectful to take the time to gently help her graduate to independent sleep.
Since the bed is in her room, I'd suggest a step-by-step weaning process. Begin by putting the bed snug against her crib -- put her in the crib and you can lie on the bed, close beside her, even putting an arm through the bars to soothe her. Once she is comfortable with this arrangement, move the bed just a foot away from the crib. Then, take the next step, by moving your bed to the other side of the room. Next, stay only until she falls asleep, and then move off to your own room. Finally, amend your bedtime routine to a peaceful tuck-in and a gentle parting.
Nighttime Visits: Sonya from Clinton, Washington State:
Our daughter will go to sleep in her own bed, but she stealthily comes into our bed sometime between 11pm and 2am every night. Any suggestions?
Pantley's Answer: This is no surprise, since almost half of babies and toddlers end up in their parents' bed at some point during the night. For any solution to work, though, the parents must decide that they really want to end the night visits. By allowing this to occur every night you actually give your approval to the process.