Do you lie with your child at night until they’re asleep?
I did too.
With this little guy – for a very long time.
I never wanted him to cry at bedtime so after nursing and rocking to sleep as a baby, we ended up lying beside him until he was nearly three.
And I know now that lots of moms and dads do it for much longer.
Honestly, we were fine with it for quite a long while.
He needed us and we liked being there for him and giving him what he needed.
It’s natural for a little kid to want to be close to mom or dad and loads of parents do it.
But it got so that I wondered where it was going to end.
We had a new baby and I felt like I couldn’t stand to lie in the dark for half the evening for another three years.
Lying with your child at night is fine if it’s working for you
Lying in the dark was taking forever. It didn’t in the beginning.
He used to doze off pretty fast knowing we were there – but now it often took hours.
He’d want to chat and take a bit of settling and then I’d be lying there, wondering if that was sleep-breathing I could hear.
Trying to ninja out of the room only to see those big eyes looking at me in the dark and have to slink back to my spot and lay down again.
Often, I dozed off too and woke up again at ten or half ten with bed hair and a foggy head.
So I didn’t really feel like lying with my child at bedtime was working for me anymore.
It was working for him okay – but me? Not so much.
But how do you teach a child to fall asleep without you?
So those bedtime snuggles were becoming a problem.
But we just didn’t know how to move on – how to get our son to that point where he didn’t need us at bedtime any longer and could snuggle up and go to sleep happy on his own.
It seemed so far away.
I could see it was possible – most older kids do it, right? – but I didn’t know how to make that change.
What could I do to help my child fall asleep alone without crying?
It seemed like such a simple thing – like it should be obvious.
But it wasn’t.
And the only suggestion anyone seemed to have was that we should suck it up and let him cry.
Teaching a child to fall asleep alone
But the kind of toddler sleep training that asks you to just leave your child to cry for whatever period of time – well, that just wasn’t going to happen.
(Because what’s the point of nurturing every ouchy and listening to every worry all day – until bedtime when it becomes shut the door and mommy’s suddenly not there any longer?)
It’s about the kind of parent you want to be
I just wanted to be a loving, nurturing mom who met her little guy’s needs and let him fall asleep happy.
But I had needs of my own too – like some evening time.
That little bit of time to relax – or let’s be honest – probably catch up on stuff that never happened in another busy toddler day.
And to get that done without having to listen to him crying.
Yes – that’s it.
I wanted to FEEL GOOD about how I did it.
So we were stuck.
The turning point – what actually worked
So now, with the baby to put to bed too, I was dying to find a solution to help my boy learn to fall asleep alone.
If daddy wasn’t there, I took both kids into my bed and lay with them until they were asleep.
And right then – right when I had decided I could not take any more and would have to do a crying method – right then my friend Karen came to visit.
I saw that Karen’s kids went to sleep by themselves.
Karen just tucked them in and said goodnight – and there was no drama.
I was impressed and wondered how Karen did it.
So I told my friend about our bedtimes and about how I hated the idea of letting him cry but figured I was gonna have to.
You don’t need to CIO with a toddler or preschooler
And Karen said, “Don’t do that. You don’t need to do that. Let me show you how I put my kids to bed.
And she did – and I realised that putting an older toddler or preschooler to bed isn’t the same as putting a baby to bed.
(I know – this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news but somehow I’d never considered how much it mattered.)
Because watching what she did changed our lives.
And when I thought about it after she left, I realised it boils down to four steps.
None of them involve any crying.