7 Steps To Stop Your Child Coming Into Your Bed At Night
Getting a good night’s sleep can feel an impossible feat for many parents, especially if you’re regularly disturbed by a child coming into your bed in the middle of the night.
All that kicking, cold feet and spending the rest of the night clinging to the edge of the mattress, (which was definitely made for two humans, not three or more), can be enough to make you consider locking the door.
Of course if parents are happy to co-sleep then that is great, as Vicki Dawson, CEO of The Children’s Sleep Charity, tells HuffPost UK: “Many families choose to bed share and do have a good night’s sleep”.
But if you decide that it is not for you and you are trying to establish a sleep routine where your child remains in their own bed, the late night migration to your room can be a frustrating pattern to break.
So what should parents do if they just want some adult-only space back? We’ve asked the experts so you can make 2018 the year you reclaim your bed.
Explain what is going to happen.
Your child may know you don’t much appreciate their constant bed invasion, but they might not understand what is happening if you suddenly change a routine they’ve become accustomed to.
So you’ll need to tell them what you’re planning before putting it into action, if you want to avoid a tantrum.
Sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor, from The Sleep Works, a company that works with parents, says: “Once you have decided to tackle this, explain to your child (in age appropriate language) what will happen when they wake and come into your bed during the night so these changes don’t come as a bolt out of the blue.”
Ensure they know what you need from them.
Your child needs to understand this isn’t a temporary change, but is something you’ll be working towards permanently.
“The consistency of following through is essential in order to avoid confusion for your child,” says Taylor.
If you think that the idea of “never” might overwhelm them, then try explaining in terms of smaller goals that they can work towards - for example, only getting out of bed when prompted. You can use a lamp with a timer on for this purpose.
Dawson explains: “Teach them that when the light is on, it is morning and when it is off it is sleep time. How many times have you woken up in the night and had to check the clock to know whether to get up or not?”
Check whether they feel comfortable in their room.
If they don’t seem to be comfortable being put into their own bed, you might want to ask whether it is the dark, the room itself, or them being alone.
If it is the dark, Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum recommends a nightlight: “Soothing nightlights can be a big help for anxious children who are scared of the dark and come though to escape it. Choose one that plays soft music and dreamy patterns to aid their sleep.”
If it is the room itself then you might want to try putting up family photographs or asking your child’s opinion on the decoration for the room.
Or if it is just because you aren’t in the room with them all the time, try installing a “transitional object”.
“It may be that they sleep better on your pillow as it carries your scent and helps to make them feel more secure,” Dawson explains.
Spend time in the room during the day.
Once you’ve established that they feel comfortable in their room, but before you try to get them to stay in their room overnight, make sure they spend time here in the day - and not just when they are being punished for misbehaving, or being sent to bed, as the two will become associated in their mind.
Dawson says: “The bedroom should have positive associations with it, such as play, so don’t use it as a place to send a child when they’ve misbehaved.”
Decide whether you will sleep with them to begin with.
The first few nights will obviously be harder as your child gets used to the idea, so you might want to consider doing this gradually and with some sacrifice on your part - it will be a tough few nights, but worth it in the long run.
Dawson recommends staying in your child’s room with them until they are asleep: “We all sleep in cycles and it is highly likely they will wake a number of times in the night and need you to help to get them back to sleep in their own room”.
Taylor goes further and suggests moving a mattress into their room for the first few nights, so you sleep with them on the basis they stay in their own bed.
“This allows them to get used to waking up in their own bed in the morning,” Taylor explains.
But, do this for a maximum of two or three nights, so they don’t just adopt another bad sleep habit where they need you there to comfort them.
Keep bringing them back to their room.
Once you’ve got past the initial phase of sleeping with them, move back into your own bed and stay there. Then when your child appears (perhaps they won’t) you have to be consistent in returning them to their own room.
Freegard says: “Before you put your child back into their bed, check if they need a drink or nappy change as both are common reasons for waking.”
Taylor adds: “Each time your child appears in your room, bring them back into their room, let them climb into bed themselves and sit either by doorway of their room or just outside the doorway, until they go back to sleep.”
If you prefer, you can just start with this step and skip the mattress relocation.
Remain patient and consistent.
If your child has been coming into your bed for some time, making changes may take time, so patience and consistency are the two most important factors.
Dawson says: “It can take at least two weeks to see improvements in sleep patterns, so be consistent and ensure that you plan to carry out the transition when you feel you can see it through.”