Q. My 2-year-old doesn’t sleep well unless she’s next to me, but my husband wants her out of our bed. When I put her back in the crib she cries, and I’m the one who comforts her. How can I get her to sleep on her own — and get my husband to help?
A. He needs to pull his weight in helping your toddler become an independent sleeper. Sitting this one out isn’t an option, and you can very nicely tell him so (“Honey, I really need your help. I’m giving in to Sophie’s cries and bringing her back to bed because I’m desperate for sleep…”). Then draw up a plan together so that he’s part of the solution rather than the one griping about the problem.
With my own daughter, I found it best to wean a kid’s dependency on us and our warm bed by replacing her crutches with others that she — and you — can still live with. You might start by telling her in an upbeat way that now that she’s 2, she’s old enough to sleep in her own room for the whole night, and you and Dad will help her learn how. Then establish and stick to a bedtime routine — whether bath, book, and a song or backrub. From the get-go, take turns with your husband so that the two of you become interchangeable to your toddler during her presleep hour. That will help loosen her nighttime grip on you, and get your husband more involved to boot.
You might also give your daughter an old nightgown or T-shirt you or your husband slept in (unwashed, so your scent is on it) to take to bed and cuddle with. After you put her in the crib, pat her back for a few minutes, say good night, and leave when she’s drowsy but still half-awake, so she learns that she can fall asleep alone.
When our daughter, Ellie, got up or cried out in the night, my husband, Fred, and I alternated going into her room and repeating the standing-patting vigil for a few minutes (it was worth the investment of time).
Be resolute and Zen-like in your manner, and although it may take weeks or even a couple of months, your daughter will eventually adjust to the fact that this is the way she sleeps now. And your husband will see you’re serious about getting her out of your bed, plus you’ll feel like you’ve gotten some help to make it happen.
Even at age 2, kids will divide and conquer when they think they can. So it’s crucial that you and your husband present a united front. Maybe you’ve overindulged your toddler and Dad’s been a slacker, but now it’s time to stop pointing the finger and join forces to get your child peacefully asleep in her own bed.