Toddler Sleep Problem: How Do I End Co-Sleeping With My Toddler?
If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s video:
Hi! Kim West, The Sleep Lady. And today, I’m going to answer Jordana’s question.
Jordana wrote in the following, “I have a toddler sleep problem. My son is now 15 months old and he does sleep through night and has been for about four to five months of age. My problem is that he sleeps with me in my bed and doesn’t sleep in his crib. And with naps, too, someone has to hold him to sleep. That is what I would like to change. I would like him to take naps in a crib at my house or at my parents’ house and I would like him to sleep there during the night, too. At night, he falls asleep with his bottle and if he doesn’t, I rock him until he is completely asleep. I can sometimes lie him in his crib for a bit but then he wakes up and he wants me. I have to either bring him downstairs where I have to hold him or lay next to him on the couch and he’ll go back to sleep. Is this something I can change without him screaming for hours wondering what’s going on? Please help. Jordana.”
Jordana, thank you so much for emailing in this question. You have a lot going on here and I’m going to do my best to address all of your points.
So, a couple of important things: it sounds like you either rock him or hold him to sleep at bedtime, during the night and for naps and he also has a bottle to sleep. I would check with your pediatrician and make sure that he/she wants him to continue with a bottle and if not, whether they want you to wean him. My guess is that they would want you to wean him from the bottle at night for multiple reasons, but the primary one is that you don’t want him going to sleep with milk on his teeth which I’m sure he has a few of them by now and they can get cavities at a very early age. It’s just like if you and I never brush our teeth when we went to bed, eventually we’re going to get some cavities. You can read my fuller article on how to wean from the bottle here.
And on top of it, he is saying to you, “you know what, my crutch isn’t working”, because sometimes, giving him a bottle to sleep doesn’t work and then you have to rock him. So, he doesn’t realize it but he is telling you, “please help me learn how to put myself to sleep without being rocked and held and bottle-fed to sleep”.
So, a couple of things we can do. One, is you can co-sleep in his room where his crib is for a little while if he has his own room. And then, when you’re ready, you have your first big night and you’re going to put him in his crib and you can sleep in his room, maybe three nights, so you can attend to him quickly when he wakes up. You’re going to have to put him into bed drowsy but awake so if you want to continue to give him a bottle, ideally I would give him a bottle with the light on, stories, kisses and into bed. If you want to quickly wean the bottle, I have lots of details in “Good Night, Sleep Tight” about that but you can start to reduce the ounces and then eventually transition to a sippy cup of water if that’s really necessary before bed and then into bed awake.
Stay with him and follow the guidelines of The Sleep Lady Shuffle. I encourage you to read all of the rules of the Shuffle and then slowly move out of the room. Attend to each of his wakenings offering physical and verbal reassurance, picking him up if he gets hysterical, all of the important things so that when he cries you will be attend to him and showing him that you’re there for him to help him go to sleep. You can also start to apply this to naps. Now, if there is something that works for him for naps, like stroller or car other than holding him then do that for naps if don’t want to nap and night sleep coach at the same time. It is hard to do night and nap training at the same time but sometimes, as parents, we have to because all of our sleep crutches are not working for the naps or night sleep!
Remember, we’re going to focus on weaning the bottle and talking to your pediatrician about that and co-sleeping in his room for a couple of days and then picking that first big night that you’re going to put him in the crib awake. Stay with him while he learns to put himself to sleep and back to sleep during the night and slowly move yourself out of the room.
I know I’m making it sound easier than it is but it is definitely possible and your life can be transformed within two weeks if you stay consistent.
Alright. Good luck, Jordana!
Video filmed by In Focus Studios