Sleep training a toddler: Should we pick him up off the floor when asleep?
June 30, 2012 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Sleep training a toddler: Should we pick him up off the floor when asleep?

I've got a really simple question, but since this is a touchy subject, I'll start by saying this: After 26 months of being exhausted and trying just about every other solution, including several different no-cry books, we have decided to do a cry-it-out sleep training method. This is not up for debate, and while I appreciate that everyone has their opinion on this, I'm not interested in hearing the pro's and con's of sleep training. It is what it is, and if you are against it, please just move along.

OK, so we tried sleep training at 18 months for 1 night, and he climbed out of his crib, so we decided not to continue. Now, 10 months later, we've decided to do it again. He's got a toddler bed, and put him down in his bed (after the full bedtime routine), told him we loved him, and left the room. We closed the door (which he immediately came and opened), but we also have put up a baby gate in the doorway so that he couldn't get out (we did this months ago so he would stop leaving his room in the middle of the night. During that time he would ask for us, and one of us would come to his room and snuggle for an hour or so until he was asleep again. I'm saying this so that you know the gate is not a new thing for him).

We decided that for this week we are only going to let him cry when he first goes to bed, but as he wakes up throughout the night we are going to rock him back to sleep (this is for everyone's sanity). After a week we are going to start doing the sleep training even in the middle of the night.

Tonight he cried for about 25 minutes. I went to him every 5 minutes at first to tell him we loved him and he was OK, and after doing that 2 times started going every 10 minutes while he was crying. After 30 minutes total, he was asleep.

The problem is that he is asleep on the floor right in front of the door, and not in his bed.

Now, I know that when kids wake up somewhere other than where they fell asleep, they are more likely to stay awake, but at the same time, I don't know that I want to just leave him on the hardwood floor, since he'll probably wake up earlier than if I put him back in his bed.

So, I'm sure other people have gone through this. Should I put him in his bed while asleep, or leave him on the floor? My instinct is to put him in his bed, but if everyone things the best idea is to leave him than I'll do that. I'm also curious if the advice changes for next week, when we won't be rocking him to sleep at all through the night.
posted by markblasco to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
well, yes - I'd put him back in his bed. right now it's warm out, but if it was winter and cold you wouldn't want him on the floor, so I wouldn't let him get used to sleeping wherever he wants.

was he out of bed when you checked on him the first few times? If so, will he let you guide him back to his bed? We did the whole "no conversation, no lights, no fun" thing with our toddlers when they'd get out of bed at this age - just lead them back, tuck them back in, and head out the door. It does work, eventually.
posted by hms71 at 8:45 PM on June 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Every time I checked on him he was crying or asking for milk or to go to the park or one of the many random things he calls for when he doesn't get what he wants. After the last time I checked on him, he fussed for a few minutes and then was silent. 10 minutes later I find him asleep on the floor.

We tried guiding him back in the past, but it didn't work. After the 100th time with him showing no signs of giving up, we gave up ourselves. This is why we're doing the baby gate.

I know that when it gets cold things will be different. I've heard people say that their kids spent a few days sleeping on the floor, but when they finally realized that they weren't going to get rocked to sleep any more, they chose the bed instead.

I'm going to put him back in his bed now, and probably continue to do the same unless people think that's the wrong choice.
posted by markblasco at 8:55 PM on June 30, 2012

I think putting him back to bed is what I would do. You want to reinforce that the bed is where you sleep. I'm sure he's fallen asleep in the car and you've carried him through and put him into bed so in my mind it's really no different to that. He's sleeping in his room, you can always move onto the sleeping in the bed fight later if it were to become a habit, once you've got the ground work of going to sleep alone in place.
posted by wwax at 9:14 PM on June 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

We believed in the let the cry method. I would leave him where he falls if it is in his room. He will learn to get into his bed on his own or will sleep through the night on the floor. While that sounds uncomfortable to many, he will be fine. If you put him into the bed, you may be training him to go to sleep on the floor with the expectation that his mom or dad will fix it.

At nap time or not bedtime, if he falls asleep on the couch or some place inconvenient to the rest of you, I would move him.

We had two cardinal rules that worked well for us and our kids. One, don't wake a sleeping baby. Two, if you wake him, you take him. (Grandma wants to check on sleeping baby and wakes him, she deals. Etc.)

My kids are teenagers now and still have great sleep habits as they have had since about 6 months. They have very different sleep time frames, but they all get good 8 hrs+ per night. One goes to sleep at 9:00 and gets up at 5:30 to workout, while another goes to sleep at 11:00 and rushes out the door at 7:11. The other is in between those two. I think you are on the right path coming up with a way that works for your family to establish good sleep habits.

Let him sleep on the floor for a few nights to see if he changes that.

(We also used a gate with one of ours who was a climber out of his crib and a wanderer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:20 PM on June 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Have you tried picking him up and putting him in his bed? Does he remain asleep, or does it wake him up? My kids always wake up if I move them. If your kid stays asleep while you move him, then go ahead and move him if it makes you feel better. I don't really think there is a right or wrong answer here, it depends what works for your kid and your family. You just have to figure that out by experimentation. I realise you are probably feeling really stressed out by this and wishing it would hurry up and be over already! So try moving him one night, and see what happens. If all hell breaks loose, then you know not to do that again. Good luck!
posted by Joh at 9:34 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Put something soft on the floor, and put a blanket over him if he falls asleep there.

Choosing a different sleep location seems to be a power thing; the kid wants some say, even if he can't beat the "sleeptime is now, in your room," thing. Sleeping on a floor is harmless. Our kid has slept at various times on his bed, his floor, the loveseat in his room, the floor next to our bed (when he wakes up with a nightmare and is scared to stay in his room) and the couch in the living room. He's sleeping so we're fine with any of those. He got tired of the floor after a while so now it's a couch or his bed.
posted by emjaybee at 9:36 PM on June 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

I vote throw a blanket over him and leave him. I also think you should give the new bedtime method at least a week to sink in. When we've changed these routines with our kid, we promise each other to give it a week. Small adjustments are fine but 1 night is not a new routine, it's just a weird night.

In the morning, talk to him about sleeping in his bed. Is he sticker-motivated? Maybe he gets a sticker at wakeup for every night he sleeps in his bed?
posted by amanda at 10:25 PM on June 30, 2012

I would put him back in bed, as part of the "beds are for sleeping" idea you're trying to get into his little tired head.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:37 PM on June 30, 2012

Leave him alone -- put a blanket or something over him, and he'll be fine.
posted by spunweb at 12:25 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had similar issues when my daughter started climbing out of the crib at 22 months. The first few nights were a disaster as we couldn't decide what to do, and then we decided to go all Super Nanny on her butt. You need to commit to at least a couple of nights of very little sleep, so maybe pick a weekend to start working on this. Basically my husband posted himself outside her door and every time she climbed out, he put her back in the crib. The first couple of times he said something along the lines of "it's time for bed sweetie", but then he no longer spoke when putting her back in the crib. I think she climbed out (screaming and hysterical) 30 times that night before finally deciding it wasn't worth the effort any longer and went to sleep. The next night, she only climbed out five or six times and by the third night I think it was only once. You can read more about it here. If you decide to try this, try not to get discouraged if it takes your child an ungodly number of trips all night long to stay in bed. The night vision camera footage from Super Nanny episodes (sadistically hilarious to watch) would regularly show kids being led back to bed over a hundred times the first night before staying there. In subsequent days, the number would drop dramatically. Most of the kids were older than 2, so your results may be closer to ours.

Our daughter is now 30 months old and will call me when she wakes up in the morning, but doesn't try to get out of bed. With her the issue was more about initially staying in bed and not climbing out on her own in the morning rather than nighttime wakings, so you may have a different experience. We also had never done any kind of cry it out for bedtime before this, but decided that this was for her own safety and well-being and that she completely understood what she needed to do. Also for me there was a distinct difference between her being actually frightened or sad and just angry at me. I would feel terrible if she actually felt abandoned, but it was easier when I realized she was just pissed off. It was fairly ugly in the moment, but I'm really glad we decided to go through with it as life is so much more pleasant now that everyone is rested and happy and knows exactly what to expect at bedtime.
posted by defreckled at 12:31 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, night 2 he fussed for just a few minutes and then put himself in his bed, pulled a blanket over himself (which he has never done before), and went to sleep in about 15 minutes, so there's definite progress. Thanks for all the advice, I'm hoping that it won't take much longer before we have a fuss-free bedtime.
posted by markblasco at 8:13 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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