getting kids to fall asleep and stay asleep

September 15, 2015

getting kids to sleep

Hey hey, let’s talk about sleep, shall we? Specifically, how to get your kids to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Our basic situation was that both kids had been sleeping in our bed since they were born. I went to sleep at the same time as Meredith in our bed, David would take Liam on a drive until he fell asleep, and then he’d bring him to lay with me where Liam would nurse. He would end up nursing multiple times throughout the night, more if he was teething or sick. Half the time David would end up sleeping on the couch if there wasn’t room for him to crawl in.

So…we made a strong effort to get Meredith to sleep in her own bed. During the three weeks that we pushed for that, quality sleep was not happening, and I’m not going to go into it here, but currently Meredith is back in our bed but now when David brings Liam home he puts him in Meredith’s twin bed. Liam usually wakes up during the night and comes to our bed, but if David is still awake he will lie with him to get him back to sleep in his own bed.

So obviously, we don’t have anything figured out. But during the time when I was trying to make changes, I polled a lot of my friends for ideas and I got some great ones. So I wanted to share because maybe one of these will work for you!

  1. Don’t worry about it. This is the strategy we went with, basically. I became obsessed with the idea of reclaiming my bed and my bedtime, but my daughter just wasn’t ready. I decided to let it go for now, and I trust that in time we will be able to make the transition.
  2. Have a sleepover with Dad. If he is willing, make it into a fun thing where they have a sleepover in her own room. It will make the new situation less scary, and she will be less dependent on you to fall asleep at night.
  3. Grandparent camp. Send the kids to their grandparents’ house for a few nights where they have to sleep in their own beds. For some reason, they are usually more compliant there, and you can keep it up when they come home.
  4. Tart cherry juice. Apparently, this increases the body’s own melatonin levels allowing people to fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. I have not yet had success in getting my kids to drink it (it is very tart) but many people love it. Mix it in apple juice, or add it to La Croix with a generous squirt of liquid Stevia. You can buy it here or at a health food store. It comes concentrated and the dose is only 2 Tablespoons.
  5. Melatonin. There aren’t a ton of studies of melatonin in children, but it can really work. If no one is sleeping at all in your house, the negative effects from lack of sleep might be way worse than anything harmful that could come about from taking melatonin. Worth a shot.
  6. Cry it out (sort of). I’m not talking about with a baby, but with a toddler or preschooler. You may just have to sit with them until they fall asleep.
  7. “Excuse me.” I loved the strategy in this article: it’s definitely worth a read.
  8. Focused attention before bed. With Meredith, much of her difficulty was separation anxiety. We are apart for most of the day, and during the evening my attention is divided between dinner, my husband, baby brother, etc. I’m sure it’s similar for many of you. So giving them some one-on-one time before the bedtime routine may help with that.
  9. Special games as part of bedtime routine. This is kind of an extension of the special time, but this is for when they are in bed. Before you say goodnight and leave, have 1-2 special “games” together – as simple as saying the best part of your day, or do an actual little word or pretend play game. Here are some cute ideas.
  10. Music or white noise. Music can help especially with extroverted kids who aren’t used to being alone in a room. And white noise is soothing for almost anyone.
  11. Reward chart. This is not effective for my particular child, but for many it is! If you don’t want to spend money on a reward, it could be for “special time” and the child gets to choose what you do.
  12. Rail on the bed. Maybe it’s just a case of them being scared of falling off, subconsciously, and a rail will make them feel safe enough to relax.

I have to admit that I actually haven’t tried all of these, but in going over this list there are several that seem promising! Our current plan is to get Liam sleeping better on his own (he’s more independent in personality than Meredith which is why we decided to switch it up) and then we’ll work on her.

And now…share your tips! Or stories! Or just vent away at the lack of sleep going on in your house! I’m listening.

Posted in: motherhood

Comments on getting kids to fall asleep and stay asleep

  1. 1

    From Nora:

    When I was younger I had issues with sleep/sleep walking. My parents would play games with me in my room (Old Maid, Go Fish, etc.), gave me a radio so I could have music and told me that as long as I was in my room and quiet, I could do whatever I wanted. It worked!

    For my bonus kids, we took the fight out of bed time, a little bit thanks to Love & Logic, a little bit thanks to our experiences. We give them the list of what they have to do before bed each night, and otherwise they get to have “bedroom time,” and essentially do what my parents did: as long as you are in your room + we don’t hear or see you, then you can do whatever you want, stay up as long as you want. If they come and get us for anything (hug, water, etc) then the bedroom time is over and they both have to go to sleep. The result? The girls fall asleep within 30 minutes of bed time each night now, no one comes out of their room and the best part is we have no angst about it. It’s GLORIOUS.

    Sending you love and hoping your are granting yourself grace as you figure out what works for you and the kiddos!

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