If we're taking the lazy way out, shouldn't it be easier than this?
August 26, 2018 4:00 PM   Subscribe

My daughter is 2 and after a lot of upheavals due to travel this summer, she is back to sleeping in our bed with us all night. The upside: baby cuddles! The downside is that we need to cuddle her to sleep and it takes up to an hour. I am not that patient.

Before the summer she was going to sleep in her crib regularly, after a few minutes of crying/fussing. Usually she woke up wanting to nurse in the middle of the night and would sleep with us after that.

Over the summer, we were travelling and often didn't have a place to put her by herself, and we got into the habit of having her sleep with us. I did, however, night wean her and she is no longer waking in the middle of the night wanting to nurse.

Now that we're getting back to our normal schedule, we are re-evaluating. I am in favor of sleep training because I hate the endless night time routine of her rolling around, squirming, asking for more stories, etc. Also, it's nice to be a bit more spontaneous about sex. My husband absolutely hates listening to her cry and feels bad making her sleep in a crib. We are both okay with her being in the bed at some point during the night, but I would really like to cut the bedtime routine short or get her back to falling asleep in her crib, with minimal crying.

Any suggestions for getting her to sleep faster, even without us but in our bed? Are we going to regret it if we keep letting her sleep in the bed with us? HALP.
posted by chaiminda to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Around that age, we started using short audiobooks (6-10 minutes) to help with the transition out of the bedroom. Also, white noise may fill the space after you put her to bed. We have also used a “ChildName Goes to Bed” book that we made with photos of our kid in the various phases of going to sleep.
posted by Amity at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't have a full answer for you, but I can say with some certainty that if your husband (and you, by extension) is making decisions based on not wanting to hear your daughter cry, you are going to have a real tough time of it starting right around when she turns three. Kids learn very early whether crying to get their way works, and it can kick off a pattern that is miserable to have to break.

There may be good reasons to keep your daughter in your bed, but "dad can't stand to hear her cry" is not one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2018 [24 favorites]

My next step was putting toddler bed at the end of our bed. She sleeps in her bed and I lie in the room quietly. I preferred this to toddler getting out of bed agetting completely awake while doing so and coming to find me and my bed. I also liked it for nightmare nights and when he was sick.

I read to kid. Kid gets in own bed and gets to read for 10 minutes. Lights down.
No talking or asking for stories is allowed.
posted by beccaj at 4:56 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

When my daughter was making that transition, the crying stopped pretty quickly as she realised what the new routine was. Snuggles, reading, and tucking; asks for more stories etc after that point just got her tucked back in. She got used to it fairly quick, and it was really important to me to have some evening time that wasn't trying to cajole her to sleep. My daughter liked her crib ok but transitioned to her own little bed around that age. You could perhaps do this too, paired with the new routine, and it could be part of a "big kid" thing?
posted by DTMFA at 5:10 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hopefully this is of some comfort: mine transitioned very easily from a big family bed with endless cuddles to their own floor bed in their own room at three. We didn't pitch it as a "big kid" thing, just "yay, now you have your own bed in your own room!" The only reason it happened around their birthday was that that was when I cautiously asked if they'd like their own space, just as an initial survey to kind of get the idea floating around in their brain, and was totally surprised when they enthusiastically latched on to to the suggestion and offered to help clean out the office.

I do think a floor bed is the way to go, if you can set it up safely. Two is old enough to resent the bars of a crib simply for existing, and that's going to complicate settling in. As far as I can tell, mine never actually gets out of their bed, even when they're calling for us, but the freedom to hypothetically do so seems paramount. Plus, if you don't actually mind a drowsy nighttime visitor, you should definitely focus on making the kid-bed situation as attractive as possible to the wakeful version of your kiddo so she wants bedtime to be there.
posted by teremala at 5:55 PM on August 26, 2018

If you want her to fall asleep faster that might mean letting her stay up later. If it's taking her an hour to fall asleep after she gets in bed it sounds like you might be putting her to bed too early. What if instead of putting her in bed at a set time and cuddling her to sleep you just let her stay up as long as she wants? Eventually she's going fall asleep on the floor or get into bed on her own or ask to go to bed (and probably fall asleep right away.) And meanwhile you can be washing dishes or posting on Metafilter or whatever instead of lying in bed with her wishing she would fall asleep.

If I were you I'd at least try that for a while and see what time she naturally tends to fall asleep. Then if you like the idea of a routine and a set bedtime you can go back to doing that at a time when you know she's actually going to be tired enough for it.
posted by Redstart at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

I sincerely request you try to not follow her cue for crying. I had the pleasure of being on an airplane with a 3-4 year old who was sincerely manipulative with her parents and cried to get them to do whatever they wanted, and they couldn't rest at all during the flight. I don't think the kid was well-rested either.

DTMFA's advice is pretty close to what my mother did with me, according to my mom, she just gently actioned out the routine and I ended up following and realized I was tired and fell asleep. It was pretty cute.
posted by yueliang at 11:30 PM on August 26, 2018

If she did it before, she can do it again. Per my sisters advice, you are always sleep training... As in, you will always be reinforcing the routine, it's never at the point where you don't have to work at it ever again.

When this happened to us (for exactly the same reason) we did a gradual routine change for a few weeks (reducing snuggles, putting in crib with back pats, staying in room but no back pats etc) until finally doing like 8 minutes of sleep training. Then he got it and it's been much easier since. (My mother in law practically had to hold me down Cuz I couldn't bear it either. Crying for snuggles is WAY different than tantrum cries which are easy to ignore.)

Your kid sounds like my kid, and having mom and dad at fall asleep time is more exciting than relaxing. So it's better for her to be alone. Stay strong!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:44 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'll say this. My husband and I are lazy, so lazy about our kid. But when she was about 3, we moved her out of her crib into her room. She hated it. I read a story somewhere about parents who just let their kids stay in their room when young, and the mother was recounting it as her now well adjusted adult kids came home and they bunked out on their parents' floor for old times sake.

That resonated with me, and I decided to give sleep training a pass. My mantra was 'no 16 year old is going to want to sleep with her parents,' got a soft mattress and made what we called a 'jungle bed' at the foot of our bed. She got to decorate it as she wished and have special dolls there. And that's where our daughter slept. Sometimes she began in her room and then came into her jungle bed. Other times she just wanted to start out in her jungle bed. The only rule was that in the Jungle bed she had to be quiet, or go back to her princess bed in her room. That ended the tears and calls for books.

I'd like to say I was absolutely cool about it, but I feared I was stunting her growth. Occasionally, I would talk to her about why she was sleeping at the foot of her bed, and she said that she was afraid of ghosts in her room. We tried books, talismans, etc., but nothing worked. Finally, one day when she was 3, she looked at me during one of these conversations where I was pressing her and said 'I'll sleep in my own room when I am five,' and she held up five fingers on her hand. "Okay, I said. I can live with that." "Or 63," she said. And then she went to sleep. After that conversation, I decided I was also done with gently pressuring her all together. If I let her sleep in her jungle bed there were no tears, we weren't getting kicked, and everyone was safe and sleeping. It wasn't perfect but it was a win.

In reality she moved out of our room when she was four. We had set up an ikea bunk bed with a 'play area' below which she loved. She started watching Monster High, so ghouls didn't scare her so much anymore. I don't know what it was; she just decided she was ready to go, though she does visit our bed on occasion. We still do treats if she is able to stay iin her bed all night for seven days in a row. Overall, I'm glad we didn't fight her too hard on this, but found something we could live with.

TLDR: we set up a space in our room for her to give her the choice to stay or go and that seemed to lower her anxiety, give her choices and let everyone sleep. May you find your way that works for you.
posted by anitanita at 12:22 AM on August 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

From a practical perspective: it’s a lot easier to let a kid cry while she adjusts to a new routine while she’s confined to a crib than when she will just cry AND walk out of her room to come back to yours.

Most kids only cry while they adjust. It might take a few nights, it might take a week, maybe two, but as long as you reassure them that you’re still there they will be absolutely fine. I promise. You can also reconsider if your kid is really resistant but I would at least give it a shot.

I would never survive with my kids sharing my bed because nobody gets restful sleep. And I desperately need not to be touched for at least part of the day. There is nothing wrong with wanting your own adult space and an easier bedtime routine.
posted by lydhre at 5:26 AM on August 27, 2018

I personally bought my kid a kitten and said my room was a kitten-free zone but hers could not be. But I’m not sure if that was a responsible thing to do or not. It was, however, super effective.
posted by corb at 5:43 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Remind yourself that everything changes and nothing lasts. The good times when they don't fight you over every goddamn thing, and the bad times when they keep you up all night.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2018

You have to decide (as a couple) if you can want to give up your cuddling time with your daughter and teach your daughter to fall asleep on her own. Almost every two year old is capable of laying down in their own bed and falling asleep after some amount of time (which may or may not include a bit of crying). You've spent some time training your daughter to sleep in this specific way (and she's spent some time training you and your husband).

But, before you do anything, the first thing you both need to do is to decide if this is something you both want - and that is a decision for grown-ups, not for 2 year old kids. Having a 2 year old in the bed and spending a hour a night cuddling with a two year old is a great thing for any parent who wants to avoid intimacy with their partner. If you can't come to a conclusion about this, then I would look more toward a marriage counselor and less towards a sleep trainer. Find out why either or both of you don't want to spend grown-up time together in the evening.

If you are both on board, then get started with the one million suggested sleep training methods. Everyone says it'll take a bit of self control, but everyone whose done it says it works. Of course you'll have to listen to a few tears, but you'll also teach your two year old that she can do something on her own, which is a great thing.
posted by jazh at 8:13 AM on August 27, 2018

We never really co-slept, so I don't have any specific advice about getting a kid out of your bed. But we have been through many phases with our almost 3-year-old, where sleep is easier or harder depending on what's going on in our lives.

She still sleeps in her crib. I know she could get out of it, she's tall enough to throw a leg over, but so far we have gotten her to buy the line that it's not safe for her to climb out by herself.

At 2, is yours still teething? We had one last bout of teething last year and it was HELL because I had forgotten about the waking up every two hours and screaming part... Check for molars!

We travelled this summer and there was a period when we came home where bedtime was really tough in general - lots of crying and lots of negotiation. She no longer wants to read books together, just wants stories, endless stories. I am terrible at making shit up, it turns out! But all our stories end with someone going to sleep, I am at least that clever. Now that we've been home a while, things are easier. I think routine is the key, and if you want a new routine you have to expect it to take some time to establish.

One thing I really recommend: take turns! My partner and I trade bedtime and bathtime, and something about knowing that I'm not always responsible for the whole thing makes it bearable. Once you are able to get the kid to sleep somewhere other than your bed, I think it should be easier to get her to accept that both parents don't have to be present for sleep to happen.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:15 AM on August 27, 2018

This idea of using a dog bed as a transitional child sleep space is similar to anitanita's "jungle bed" above.
posted by anotherthink at 6:27 PM on August 27, 2018

Haha, we also bribed our daughter with a kitten. It worked but only temporarily. So eventually I decided that for me, sleep training was stressful and exhausting and I preferred to just sleep with her in her bed when she came in in the middle of the night. I gave in to the love of cuddles. Now she's nearly 8, shes still climbing in bed with us most nights but I feel she's going to stop on her own soon.
posted by kitcat at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2018

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