How to Get Your Kid To Sleep in Her Own Bed

by Teri Cettina

How to Get Your Kid To Sleep in Her Own Bed
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Three’s a crowd! Are you tired because your toddler keeps getting out of bed in the middle of the night and joining you under the covers? The nightmare is over! Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting your toddler to sleep in her own bed.


Toddler won’t sleep? Relax, you’re not alone.


Colleen Mulder-Seward and her husband, Rob Seward, were dying for a good night’s sleep. Once their daughters got to ages 3 and 5, the Dexter, MI, couple fully (and perhaps foolishly, they now admit) expected they’d be enjoying eight hours of shut-eye again. Ah, the eternal optimism of parenthood!


In reality, Colleen and Rob would put their younger daughter, Jenna, to bed, only to see her again three hours later, throwing a queen-size fit and begging to sleep in their queen-size bed. They were way too tired to do anything but throw back the covers and invite her in.


Problem is, a threesome just wasn’t their speed. “Eventually, one of us would get fed up with being kicked in the back by Jenna and go sleep in the guest room. We were tired all the time,” says Colleen.


Tons of parents who didn’t plan on having a family bed are finding that’s exactly what they now have—and want to get rid of, says Jill Spivack, L.C.S.W., a family therapist and formerly sleep-deprived mom herself who is the cocreator of The Sleepeasy Solution. “When you’re exhausted, you follow the path of least resistance,” she says. “You may have tried other things, but in desperation, you pull your kid into your own bed. You may not get perfect sleep, but at least you get some sleep.”


The good news: You can get your child back in that toddler bed. The bad news: It may not be pretty. Your family’s sleep issues won’t get resolved in an hour or even a day. If you really want to make the change, though, and you’re prepared for tears, wails and cries of “Mommy, I want you!” you’ll make it through. Here’s how to pull the my-bed-to-your-bed switcheroo:


Before Bedtime


First things first: Is today a good day to start? If you’re in the midst of potty training, are going on vacation or are expecting a new baby, wait until things settle down. Yes, you’ll have to put up with your little bed partner longer, but the sleep training will go much faster if you wait until your routine is more regular.


Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, start talking about your new bedtime expectations in the afternoon—that way, she’ll know what to expect at lights-out. Try saying something like “Mommies and daddies sleep in their beds, and kids sleep in their own beds,” says Spivack.


It helps to establish a bedtime routine like a bath and lavender-scented lotion, cuddling and listening to toddler sleep music—lullabies you sing, or quiet kid-appropriate songs, or reading a book together.


Spivack suggests making a homemade “sleepytime book”—nothing fancy, just stapled-together paper illustrated with stick-figure pictures that your child can color. If your family recently moved, for instance, and your daughter started sleeping in your bed while she got used to the new house, your story would focus on that and end with how she finally started sleeping happily in her very own bed. A picture book can help young children understand their new sleeping situation in a very concrete way.


Do your usual bedtime routine, then get ready for the boot-camp—tough part.


After Lights-Out


Okay, reality check: This is where moms who couldn’t stand the cry-it-out method when their kids were babies may turn back and say “Forget it.” Hey, kids will eventually sleep alone. But if you’d rather yours go solo more like this month than this century, you can do it—you just need to brace yourself.


In general, both sleep consultants and parents who’ve been there say that once you decide to start this sleep training, bed sharing needs to end entirely. No “Well, just for five minutes” or “Maybe tonight because she had a long day.” That means midnight visitors get walked back to their rooms, tucked in, kissed and left behind. No extra snuggles, no drinks of water, as many times as it takes. There will be screams and sobs, rocking their toddler bed rails, wriggling and guilt-tripping. You will start to wonder if you will ever sleep again. You will; just maybe not tonight. Keep this up until the new rules sink in.


If your child has been starting out in your bed and sleeping there all night, every night, your job is even less fun (sorry). Take a comforter into your child’s room and sleep on the floor—not in her bed—all night long (double sorry). Even though a slumber party in your child’s room is probably not your idea of a good time, it’s a smart move in the long run if you’re trying to make your toddler sleep alone.


“If you’re in her room when she falls asleep and then not there when she wakes a couple of hours later, she will call out or come looking for you,” says Jennifer Waldburger, L.C.S.W., cocreator with Spivack of The Sleepeasy Solution. “Sleeping in her room all night pushes the reset button, so to speak, on whatever anxiety your child is having about being there alone. She can wake up and see Mom or Dad each time, then just go back to sleep.”


After two or three nights, switch to sitting quietly in a nearby chair until your child falls asleep. But no talking! You want to bore your child to sleep. If she kicks up a fuss, temporarily leave the room. She’ll settle down if she knows the reward is that you’ll rejoin her.


Each night, move yourself farther from your child’s bed—to the door, to the hallway and eventually back to your own bedroom. “If your child follows you, you want to calmly, unemotionally, walk her back to bed every time she gets up,” says Waldburger.


A secure door gate—or just the idea of it—can also work wonders for certain kids. When she was 3 years old, Monica and Ron Calderon’s daughter, Marquesa, started waking up around 4 a.m. and sneaking into bed with her parents. After a few nights of crowded quarters, the Tigard, OR, couple reminded little Marquesa of “the gate,” the one she knew from when she was a “baby” (a few months back). Marquesa hated being corralled, so that gentle threat was more than enough to coax her back to her own bed.


The Next Morning


How’d your kid do? If not so great, keep encouraging him and reminding him of the new rules. If he made it through the night—or even made some improvements—bring on the praise. He’s a big kid! He can do it! Toddlers and preschoolers, thank goodness, thrive on pleasing you.


Prizes are also generally welcomed by little kids. You could let your child pick a small “sleep treat” from a grab bag in the morning or leave one under his pillow. I admit it: I lured my younger daughter, Flora, back to her bed with prizes. Borrowing an idea from Janie Peterson, author of The Sleep Fairy, I told Flora that the Sleep Fairy (sort of like the Tooth Fairy) leaves stickers, small toys and other goodies under sleeping children’s pillows. It worked like a dream. Within a week, she was in the habit of staying in bed, and the prizes weren’t even a big issue.


It may take more than one tactic to get have your toddler sleep alone in their own bed. Whatever you do, be consistent and have faith! Colleen and Rob, the parents of bed-hog Jenna, stuck it out and report that now their problem is getting her up in the morning. Well, at least everyone’s getting some rest.


If you’re looking for some products to help you and your toddler get some rest, check out our bedtime-friendly picks below.



1 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Johnson & Johnson Bedtime Baby Lotion


Calming lavender scented lotion at bedtime can help your little one feel at ease as they fall asleep. Johnson & Johnson’s Bedtime lotion is made with NaturalCalm aromas—a special blend of gentle, soothing scents safe for babies and toddlers.

2 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Little Sleepy Head Essential Oil Spray


To help their bedroom feel like a safe, calm space, you can also try this lavender scented room and pillow mist. The formula in this Little Sleepy Head spray is made with lavender essential oil that helps your toddler feel relaxed and ready for bed.

3 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Bedtime Lullabies Playlist


Set the mood before bedtime by letting them listen to soothing, sleepy-time lullabies. This playlist is curated by Amazon’s music experts and has everything from kiddie classics to more contemporary selections. The whole playlist is over an hour long, so your little one has plenty of time to wind down.

4 of 8 Image Credits: Slumberkins

Slumberkins Slumber Sloth Snuggler Bundle


A cuddly stuffed animal and sweet bedtime story are the ingredients for a great night of toddler sleep. Help create a new bedtime routine (in their own bed!) with this Slumber Sloth Snuggler Relaxation Collection, which has a silk soft sloth stuffy that’s safe for toddler sleep, an affirmation card and an illustrated board book.

5 of 8 Image Credits: L.L. Bean

Yeti Rambler Junior Water Bottle


“I need a drink” is one of toddler’s signature sleep-avoiding moves. Keep those middle-of-the-night requests at bay by giving them their own toddler-friendly water bottle to keep in their bedroom at night. The Yeti Rambler Junior is insulated, durable and has a convenient straw for little ones.

6 of 8 Image Credits: Pottery Barn Kids

Pottery Barn Kids Ceramic Night Light


Too much light can be distracting at night, but a small nightlight can offer comfort without being too distracting. This sweet ceramic moon-shaped nightlight for Pottery Barn Kids is the perfect addition to your toddler’s bedroom, and the low light will help them see that they’re safe in their own room when they wake in the night.

7 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

Animal Stickers


Stickers are a classic kid reward, and a great way to praise your little one for making it through the night in their room. When your kiddo has a successful night of sleep in their own bed, start out the morning with a sticker or small toy as a treat.

8 of 8 Image Credits: Amazon

‘The Sleepeasy Solution’ by Jennifer Waldburger


To get more tips and tricks to help you sleep train your toddler, read Jennifer Waldburger’s book The Sleepeasy Solution. With a little patience and the right tools, you can finally get the rest you deserve.