Q&A: Sharing a Bed with Your Child

Michele Borba answers your parenting questions right here on her blog. If you have a parenting problem or question leave a comment on this post and you may have yours answered.

I created a situation. I have no idea how I am going to solve. My daughter is almost 2 years and still sleeps with me most nights. She will usually fall asleep in her crib for a couple of hours and then she is calling for me.I don't like to let her yell because she will wake up her sister. She has never been a good sleeper. Durning her first year I tried everything to get her to sleep. Finally I gave up and started bringing her to bed once I started back at work. I need a good nights sleep. She is a twister and a turner. She plays with my hair in the middle of the night if she can't sleep. Help!! -Lana

Oh, the trials and tribulations of co-sharing a bed with a 2-year-old.  It always seems like such a great idea in the beginning (after all, our kids do sleep better and so do we when we're all nestled in together). The problem hits when the kiddies start becoming movers and shakers and tossers and turners (or in your case hair twirlers and pullers). Then it's the parent who loses sleep. How to get them OUT of our bed and back into their own is one of the questions I'm asked most these days.

So know there isn't an easy answer. And the "bed switch" will take fortitude on your part. You MUST stick to the plan you choose and not back down. The trick to any behavior plan is to make the child know you are serious and mean business. They will test you so don't give in.

There are two basic techniques. You choose which works best for you and your situation.

The gradual wean.
  Get a sleeping bag and put it on the floor next to your bed. Each night you gradually pull the bag closer to the door and out of your room until the child is finally in her bed. This one takes a while.

Cold turkey.  You would need a set of ear plugs for this one. You matter-of-factly state, "You're sleeping in your own be." and then you put the child back in her own bed. Yes, you will hear her cry but what actually happens is a slow gradual decline of her crying once she knows you're serious. Do not go back into that room if she cries. Once she knows you will she wins and you lose. This is best to start on a Friday night, and not on a work night.

Some parents actually invite a sister or mother to "sit" in the house for two nights while they go and stay at a motel or the sitter's house to speed up the process.

Meanwhile for either one or two you make sure you are establishing clear and lovely nighttime routines (like I'm sure you are, right?). The soothing bath. The bedtime story. The massage. Research says those rituals prepare the child for bedtime. Stick to the routine. Also, make sure the bedroom and bed are seen as comforting and special to the child. Play up the "big girl room." Let her "decorate" by moving things around or add an inexpensive comforter. Reduce anything in the room (shadows, noises, light, temperature) that may rob sleep.

Fears start up around two and many parents actually move the bedroom to a small alcove or area closer to their room if the child's room is too far from their own (and increasing the scare factor).

I'd love to hear from readers as to your best techniques for ending bed sharing. When parents aren't getting a good night sleep and that lack of sleep impacts their parenting and work day then things have to change. Stress and fatigue aren't healthy for anyone: Especially parents.

Readers- send your best tips for how you got your child to sleep in his own bed. This has always been a hot button parenting issue.

***Footnote for those of you who are going to zap me about attachment theory: I know all about attachment theory, thank you. I've keynoting national attachment conferences, devoured the research, which is often misinterpreted, and written eight books on self-esteem. My concern is the impact lack of sleep and stress in troubled times has on families. And that research is clear.

Click here to read more of Michele Borba's Q&As, or leave a comment below with your own questions and it may be answered next week.

12Secrets_Borba.jpgDr. Michele Borba is the author of over 22 books including 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know .

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